French in the Canadian public sphere, 1763-1969

What were the obstacles to the use of French in a society dominated by Anglophones? Who spoke French in English Canada? This May 2019 work-in-progress study by Ged Martin is offered as a British historian's tribute to fifty years of Canada's Official Languages Act.

Canada is officially a bilingual country, yet the French language has often been inaudible in the public sphere. The fiftieth anniversary of the Official Languages Act of 1969 seems an appropriate moment to explore how far Canadian public life recognised the country's linguistic duality in earlier times. The primary purpose of this paper is to ask which English Canadian public figures could speak French, and were prepared to use French, either in the public, political domain or in private dealings with Francophone colleagues. It may seem a simple and obvious question, but it is one that is not always easy to answer.

A: General considerations

Defining language skills

Some definition of language skills is required to take account of gradations in understanding. For instance, Alexander Mackenzie, Canada's second prime minister, would not be instinctively regarded as a bilingual Anglophone. However, on a visit to Paris in retirement in 1881, he enjoyed disputes with cabmen. "My French vocabulary is neither large nor select but what is available I freely used." Where his command of the language faltered, he supplemented his indignation by swearing in Scottish Gaelic.[1] Mackenzie made no contribution to the use of French in Canadian public life. Similarly, basic grasp of the grammatical structure of the French language did not equate to an ability to use it for purposes of business or communication. Mackenzie King supplemented his income as a graduate student by giving tutorials in French to a Toronto policeman and his daughters, but (as discussed below) there is no way that he can be regarded as bilingual. During his brief career as a New Brunswick schoolteacher, R.B. Bennett had actually taught French. He, too, included occasional French passages when addressing Quebec audiences, but he did not feel confident in using the language.[2]

Examples of Anglophone linguistic tokenism are legion. As late as 1968, Liberal leadership aspirant Robert Winters thought a few remarks in "pre-Berlitz French" were sufficient to advance his cause at a party convention.[3] Lester Pearson's intermittent attempts were once described as "cute, like a Frenchman speaking in Brooklyn English."[4] Even when Anglo-Canadians were reasonably fluent in French, they were often hampered by their accent. University of Toronto historian Donald Creighton, who was an enthusiast for the novels of Émile Zola, began his career undertaking archival research in Paris on the French Revolution, but he spoke the language with a "west Toronto" accent.[5] A competent performance could even arouse suspicion: the young Eugene Forsey in the 1920s was identified as Polish by one French Canadian, who insisted "No English person ever spoke French as you do."[6]

One of the landmark enquiries in Canadian history, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, offered a sensible comment on language skills. "In practice, people who are considered bilingual know, more or less, two languages. We know that complete bilingualism – the equal command of two languages – is rare and perhaps impossible. Generally, the bilingual people one meets combine a knowledge of their mother tongue with a more or less extensive and active knowledge of the second language." Elsewhere, the Royal Commission more succinctly observed: "All bilingual persons are not bilingual in the same ways."[7] This study adopts a variety of approaches to disparate forms of evidence in an attempt to identify Anglophones who spoke or understood French and to assess their competence. It may serve to highlight the problem that Canada's English-speaking historians have too often ignored the language skills of the people they study. Equally, a brief concluding exploration of French Canadians who functioned in English will underline the extent to which their bilingualism has been taken for granted.

Defining a bilingual nation

One of the great paradoxes of Canadian Studies is that Canada is a bilingual country, most of whose people cannot speak both languages. It is therefore useful to set the definition in the context of numbers and legal status. It is revealing that the census did not ask Canadians for information about the languages they spoke until 1901.[8] In 1961, the raw and rounded figures returned 12.28 million (67.4%) who habitually spoke English only, 3.49 million (19.1%) who were unilingual in French, and 2.23 million (12.23%) who claimed to speak both languages.[9] At first sight, to have one eighth of the population capable of using both English and French might seem moderately encouraging. More closely examined, the statistics suggested a depressingly low level of Anglophone engagement with the country's other language: the 5.12 million who reported French as their mother tongue was very close to the combined total of 5.71 million who were either bilingual or spoke French only. As the historian J.L. Granatstein put it, "almost all the bilingues came from the francophone community."[10] A useful paper from Statistics Canada fills out the picture. Concentrating on the population over the age of five, it found that bilingualism had always been higher in Quebec – ranging from 33 percent in 1901 to 29 percent in 1961 – than in Canada as a whole, where the percentage hovered at or just below 15 percent. Within Quebec, around thirty percent of each language group claimed to be bilingual, with the French share falling slightly and the English increasing, the crossover point falling around 1940.[11] However, in the remaining provinces, the situation was stark. Across English Canada, it was Francophones who made the effort to communicate, while those who spoke the majority language mostly did not bother. In 1901, 67 percent of Canadians whose mother tongue was French also spoke English. By 1961, that proportion touched eighty percent. By contrast, the line on the Statistics Canada graph for Anglophone bilingualism bumped along below the three percent mark throughout.[12] Concentration on the population over the age of five may have slightly exaggerated the position: those who studied French at high school or college presumably did not become effectively proficient until their late teens. Nonetheless, there was no evidence of widespread bilingualism. Outside Quebec, no more than one Anglophone in twenty could communicate in French. Inside the country's only French province, seven English-speakers in every ten could not – or would not – speak the majority language.

In constitutional and legal terms, there was a similar ambiguity. For 102 years after the passage of the British North America Act in 1867,[13] Canada accorded recognised rights to both the English and French languages. However, those guarantees were specific and, in the case of French, limited, so that the Dominion fell short of operating as a fully bilingual State. Section 133 made English and French equal official languages in the debates, records and legislation of the Canadian parliament, and in all pleadings and processes in courts established under its authority. The only province covered by such arrangements in 1867 was Quebec, where similar provisions applied in relation to the local legislature and courts – in other words, the use of English was protected in one founding province, but French had no safeguards in the other three. The Quebec model was extended to Manitoba in 1870, but repealed by the local legislature twenty years later. For the rest, the British North America Acts simply assumed that English would be Canada's working language.[14]

Half a century ago, academics debated whether Canada's constitution should be viewed as an act or a pact, an arid document or a compact between two founding peoples. That controversy lies outside the scope of this study. The most that can be said is that the text did not create a partnership of equals. It remains reasonable to regard Canada between 1867 and 1969 as a bilingual country, but it needs to be emphasised that it was an asymmetrical bilingualism, in which neither the citizens nor its constitution accorded the two languages the same status. The fact that Anglophones generally accepted the legal settlement does not mean that they felt any great respect for the French language, still less that they saw its limited recognition as a step towards full-scale bilingualism. Charles Mair of Canada First called in 1870 for "strict justice to the French and nothing more – a fair field and no favour." This was the mindset that would call a campaign to restrict the use of the French language in western Canada "Equal Rights". An even more confrontational approach was taken by Ontario Conservative leader George Drew at a provincial by-election in 1936, when he reminded "the French" "that they are a defeated race, and that their rights are rights only because of the tolerance by the English element who, with all respect to the minority, must be regarded as the dominant race."[15]

Language and religion

One very basic point should be noted: tension over language in Canada was for long a sub-set of conflict over religion. Schools disputes in New Brunswick in the 1870s and Manitoba in the 1890s were primarily about the status of Catholic education, and only secondarily about the role of French. It was not until Ontario's Regulation 17 of 1912 that a major issue arose about language instruction per se, with a Catholic prelate, Michael Francis Fallon, bishop of London, a leading figure in the campaign to restrict French. Mackenzie King's alarm over the question of bilingual postage stamps in 1929 may now seem almost comically myopic, but his fears of "an anti-French & anti-Catholic agitation" were well rooted in recent Canadian history.[16] Donald Creighton's insistence upon viewing French Canada through "a series of stereotypes" was also fundamentally sectarian rather than linguistic. To Creighton, as to fellow textbook-writer Arthur Lower, French Canada's alleged rejection of the commercial economy was essentially the product of its suffocating clerical culture. In fact, Creighton could be ambivalent towards his own creation: when conservative French Canadian politicians dutifully accepted their Laurentian destiny in Confederation, their rejection of materialism became a positive quality.[17] Happy with the image of a Quebec that was playing its foreordained role in the realisation of Canada's destiny, Creighton refused to engage with Rouge opponents of British North American union, many of whom represented opinions independent of the Catholic Church. The result was that Creighton persuaded himself, and no doubt many of his readers, that grateful acceptance of subordinate partnership was Quebec's default position within Canada, a view that made it all the harder to adjust to the challenges of the more secular era of the 1960s.

Anglophone assumptions: the inevitable victory of English?

Lurking in the minds of many unilingual Anglophones was the assumption that the survival of the French language was merely a transitional phase, a temporary nuisance, which did not call for concessions on the part of English-speakers. It was argued that the people of Quebec hardly treated their ancestral language with any respect. "Suppose a foreigner, to have dropped from a balloon, into our house of assembly, during a sitting, how would he answer the question: what country are you in!", exclaimed the Montreal lawyer Ross Cuthbert in 1809. "Oh! Poor French language[,] how you are persecuted!" Cuthbert had received part of his education at the English College at Douai, in northern France, and no doubt felt himself entitled to sit in judgement on Canadian French. A century later, André Siegfried discovered that many English Canadians insisted that "the language of the French Canadians is only a patois", with the clear implication that it was not worth preserving, and certainly not worth learning.[18]

Lord Durham in 1839 dragged such assumptions into daylight: "before deciding which of the two races is now to be placed in the ascendant, it is but prudent to inquire which of them must ultimately prevail .... we must not look to the present alone." Durham was in no doubt about the outcome. "The whole interior of the British dominions must ere long, be filled with an English population, every year rapidly increasing its numerical superiority over the French. ... The English have already in their hands the majority of the larger masses of property in the country; they have the decided superiority of intelligence on their side; they have the certainty that colonization must swell their numbers to a majority; and they belong to the race which wields the Imperial Government, and predominates on the American Continent." By contrast, French Canadians were "but the remains of an ancient colonization, and are and ever must be isolated in the midst of an Anglo-Saxon world."[19] It would be difficult to exaggerate the damage caused by Durham's arrogance: a century later, in 1948, Marcel-Pierre Hamel described his Report as "l'arsenal où les hommes d'État canadiens vont puiser leur inspiration centralisatrice." More recently, Janet Ajzenstat has defended Durham as a mainstream nineteenth-century liberal who aimed to broaden opportunities for French Canadians, but there remains no doubt that assimilation lay at the centre of his strategy.[20] Indeed, he can be acquitted of seeking some forcible form of cultural genocide, and may even be appealed to as an advocate of official bilingualism. "A considerable time must, of course, elapse before the change of language can spread over a whole people; and justice and policy alike require, that while the people continue to use the French language, their Government should take no such means to force the English language upon them as would, in fact, deprive the great mass of the community of the protection of the laws." But this was merely a temporary expedient, and in no way conflicted with the overall aim, that the French language should die out. Durham had no problem with the fact that there were "about ten times the number of French children in Quebec learning English, as compared with the English children who learn French": Anglophone unilingualism was simply further evidence of an inevitable trend. One irony here was that Durham himself spoke fluent and elegant French, sufficient to have equipped him for his previous appointment, as British envoy to St Petersburg. (French was the language of international diplomacy and of the Russian Court.) He not only condemned French Canadians as "a people with no history, and no literature," but also dismissed the possibility that they might draw cultural sustenance from the "essentially foreign ... strange and incomprehensible" intellectual discourse of post-Revolutionary metropolitan France.[21] This contradiction would remain central to the priorities of educated English Canadians for over a hundred years: many felt a responsibility to study Parisian French, in the hope of gaining access to the culture of a country that few of them would ever have the opportunity to visit, but few sought to communicate with fellow citizens in a local form of the language whose eventual disappearance was tacitly assumed. As Eugene Forsey put it in 1962, most English Canadians had "grown up in the assumption that there isn't much in French Canada that is worth learning French to find out about."[22]

While English Canadians widely assumed that French was in retreat, some commentators wondered whether linguistic assimilation was really in the interests either of the British empire, or the mirage of a monoglot Canadian nation. "You may perhaps americanise, but, depend upon it, by methods of this description, you will never anglicise the French inhabitants of the Province," Lord Elgin warned in 1848. Henri Bourassa similarly assured imperial-minded cultural assimilationists in 1912 that "if they succeeded in anglicizing the French Canadians, they would not make Englishmen of them, but Americans."[23] If this were indeed true, then uniformity of language was anything but a precondition for a shared national identity. "French Canada may be ultimately absorbed in the English-speaking population of a vast Continent;" remarked Goldwin Smith in 1891, "amalgamate with British Canada so as to form a united nation it apparently never can."[24] In this view, as in so much else, Goldwin Smith was out of sympathy with the resilient imperial spirit of many late-nineteenth century English Canadians. "This is a British country, and the sooner we take up our French-Canadians and make them British the less trouble will we leave for posterity, for sooner or later must this matter be settled," D'Alton McCarthy proclaimed to the Orangemen of Stayner, Ontario, in July 1889. McCarthy's 1890 Commons motion to abolish the use of French in the Northwest Territories embodied a provocative statement that "it was expedient in the interest of unity that there should be community of language" in that region. By implication, the argument would extend to the whole of Canada.[25] It was a view echoed by the Manitoba Free Press: "here we are all Canadians, and when we speak the tongue and write the language of the Canadian Dominion – which is English – there is no call for any other."[26] Even apparent moderates on language issues could share assumptions of the inevitable triumph of English. The Ontario Minister of Education in 1887 refused to coerce Francophone students into using English, "leaving to time the work of assimilation or absorption".[27] However, this view assumed that French-speaking communities were open to outside influences, a notion that some doubted. Principal Austin of Alma College argued that French should be banned "because as used in the schools it is a barrier to the progress of Anglo-Saxon civilization".[28] The same attitude resurfaced in historian Donald Creighton's objection to the provision of bilingual education for Franco-Ontarians. The danger, as he saw it in 1966, was that bilingualism could become "a positive liability" since it "impairs a citizen's power of speaking fluent and idiomatic English". His biographer, Donald Wright, is surely right to point to the echo here of Durham's comment – at best naive, at worst crass and impolitic – that absorption into an English-speaking world would "elevate" French Canadians from their "inferiority".[29]

Gender and class

Gender and class elements may also be identified in English Canadian attitudes to the speaking of French. John A. Macdonald did not speak French, but his second wife, Agnes, took lessons from the Grey Nuns in Ottawa to improve her competence in the language, which, as an official hostess, she used to converse with a Quebec politician. "John was well pleased at my being able to speak French all dinner-time to Dr Beaubien," she recorded of an event in 1868.[30] Whether Joseph-Octave Beaubien was equally charmed with his evening at the prime minister's dinner table, we cannot know. He was not merely a member of the Dominion House of Commons but, in the crossed-wires of the early years of Confederation, a Quebec cabinet minister as well, and he might have hoped for more direct contact with Macdonald himself.[31] Agnes Macdonald could also give orders to Francophone Ottawa tradesmen – an interesting glimpse into social and linguistic hierarchy.[32] When asked to supply biographical information about Sir Allan MacNab, John A. Macdonald responded to a series of questions giving details of his three daughters, adding, "I am not aware whether the children speak French, but I should think in all probability they do." MacNab's daughters were young ladies (one married an English aristocrat), so – to Macdonald – it went with the turf that they spoke French.[33] MacNab himself did not understand the language at all.

Skill at languages formed one of those conventional attributes where Maud Montgomery found difficulty in conforming to stereotype. She endured French as a minor subject during her studies at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown, and later at Dalhousie in Halifax. She took an end-of-term examination at Prince of Wales College in May 1894 "with anything but a good conscience, seeing that I had never looked at the French." Foolishly, she responded to a note from a male student asking for advice on one question. Her reply was spotted by an invigilator as it was passed back to the enquirer and her handwriting recognised. When she refused to identify the culprit, marks were deducted from her script. At Dalhousie she was surprised to gain second class honours on a "very hard" French paper. She does not seem to have identified with the language, either on gender grounds or as a useful adjunct to her real enthusiasm, the study of English literature. There is no evidence that the language made much impact upon her in later life, while a couple of passing allusions suggest that distance and incomprehension characterised her attitude to Prince Edward Island's small Acadian community.[34]

At viceregal level, wives and daughters usually spoke French. Sir Charles Bagot was married to Lady Mary Wellesley-Pole, niece of the Duke of Wellington. When she arrived in Canada with her daughters, Le Canadien reported that the ladies of Quebec were "enchantées des aimables qualités de Lady Bagot et des demoiselles Bagot qui toutes parlent le Français avec élégance et facilité."[35] Princess Louise was considerably more fluent in French than her husband, Lord Lorne, while Lord Minto was easily outshone by his Countess.

One partial exception to the under-representation of women in the public sphere may be found in the activities of Frances Lovering (née Mahony), a devout Catholic who acquired fluent French at the bilingual Loretto Abbey School in Toronto, graduating in 1884. In 1915, she chaired a committee of Francophones and members of the Alliance Française in Hamilton, Ontario, raising funds to assist French civilians living in the Western Front war zone through a welfare organisation called Secours National. Her work led her further into political activism through the Catholic Women's League. Posthumously, the French government made her a chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.[36]

By contrast, the historian Arthur Lower recalled one reason for his lack of engagement with the study of French as a student at the University of Toronto shortly before the First World War. "French in those days was considered a lady's subject."[37] Lower himself would memorably, if embarrassingly, attribute female qualities to the entire French Canadian population. "It is as a very womanly woman that such a feminine people as the French [Canadians] should be treated; such a one could be wooed, but all the English Canadian can do is shout."[38] Perceptions of gender and language may have been largely subconscious. They were certainly unhelpful.

It is obvious that there was a class element in language competence. The fact that two thirds of Quebec Anglophones could ignore the local majority language was a by-product of their possession of economic power. In mirror image, the acquisition of English by a similar proportion of French Canadians living in the rest of Canada was a reflection of their economic vulnerability. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the language options open to and embraced by working-class English Canadians, especially outside Quebec. This is primarily because the type of evidence embraced by this study – memoirs, biographies, press and parliamentary reports – naturally privileges the literate elite. It may be suspected that the language-learning opportunities available to Anglophone manual workers were limited. In northern Ontario, for instance, French Canadians often operated in gangs. (Of course I use the term in the employment, not the criminal sense.) Even if outsiders had been welcome, it would have made little sense to hope to learn French "on the job" in activities as dangerous as lumberjacking. The fact that no more than three to four percent of Anglophones outside Quebec engaged with French suggests specialisation within a relatively narrow professional elite – just as, since the 1960s, French immersion has provided ambitious parents with a benign cover for seeking to give their children educational advantage.

Against the assimilationist tide: Tardivel and Veniot

While this paper generally emphasises the failure of English-speaking Canadians to engage with their country's alternative official language, it should be noted that a small number of Anglophones effectively transferred to the minority community. There seems good reason to assume that the Kentucky-born Julius (later Jules-Paul) Tardivel grew up in an entirely English-speaking environment, only switching to French when he was sent to the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe at the age of eighteen. (Curiously, his DCB/DBC biographer, Pierre Savard – himself a scholar highly sensitive to bilingual issues – did not explicitly mention Tardivel's shift in linguistic emphasis.)

In his 1879 address to Le Cercle Catholique in Quebec City, L'Anglicisme: Voilà l'Ennemi, Tardivel announced: "Il y a onze ans, je commençais à apprendre les rudiments de la langue français au collége [sic] de Saint-Hyacinthe. Au bout de des années d'études forces, je conversais avec assez de facilité". When he graduated in 1872, "tout le monde me disait que je possedais bien le français." He had shared that happy belief until 1878, when a crisis of confidence persuaded him "que je ne connaissais pas la langue française, que je ne l'ai jamais connue, et que je ne la connaîtrais probablement jamais." The shock had led him to read deeply in the most elegant French literature, and to listen to the way Quebec's lawyers and politicians used the language. He came to the reassuring conclusion that "si je connais guère la langue française, peu, très peu de personnes dans notre pays peuvent me jeter la pierre."

Rebounding, Tardivel denounced the intrusion of English terms, such as "steamer" and "fair-play", his wish to ring-fence the purity of the language becoming the first step towards championing the idea of a French-speaking state in North America. Perhaps there is some symbolism in the fact that Tardivel translated Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde into French.[39]

P.J. Veniot is remembered as the first Acadian premier of New Brunswick, and the first Acadian cabinet minister in Ottawa. Currently, he does not have a DCB biography, but there is a strong tradition that he too was raised solely in English, and only switched to French on marrying a New Brunswick Francophone [this was written in 2019: see note for update].[40] The fact that his baptismal names were Peter John, coupled with the information that he attended school at Pictou Academy, will tend to confirm this interpretation. Interestingly, his back-story was omitted from obituaries at the time of his death in 1936: it would no doubt have been inconvenient to have an Acadian who had made an impact upon both provincial and national politics redefined as a crossover from the majority language group.[41] It is striking that two defining figures in Francophone identity – Tardivel in Quebec separatism and Veniot in the Acadian renaissance – should have begun life as monoglot English-speakers. However, they were hardly typical. At the 1931 census, barely 0.6 percent of the population of Quebec who identified as habitually French-speaking – 12,653 people – reported English as their mother tongue.[42]

It is also worth noting a small number of Canadians who may seem difficult to assign to either of the founding peoples. John Jones Ross, premier of Quebec 1884-7, and Speaker of the Senate from 1891 to 1896, is generally regarded as a French Canadian, despite his name and Scots ancestry.[43] Similarly, Frederick Monk, who led the Conservative party in Quebec from 1901 to 1904, and briefly served in Borden's cabinet in 1911-12, was (in the words of the Toronto Globe) "a French-Canadian and a Nationalist", although "descended from English stock." His Anglophone father had been born in Nova Scotia, and Monk himself was baptised in the Anglican Church, but reared as a Catholic. His education was bilingual, in French at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal, and then through English at McGill. He was for a time a law professor at the Montreal campus of Laval University, where he lectured enthusiastically on the British constitution. His support for Canadian autonomy and sympathy for the ideas of Henri Bourassa made him an implausible Conservative, and he finally broke with Borden over the Naval issue. Of his identification with French Canada there can be no doubt, but he could hardly be classified as belonging to either community on the basis of his unusual and impressive language skills. "He was one of the few members of the House of Commons who was equally proficient in French and English," noted the Toronto Globe. The Montreal Gazette went further: Monk "could speak French better than the French and English better than the English." The Victoria Daily Colonist almost elevated him to the rank of bicultural icon: "he combined with the gracefulness of his French origin an absolutely correct English pronunciation and accent."[44] Tardivel and Veniot made conscious decisions to switch to Francophone identities in early adulthood. Ross and Monk were children of Anglophone fathers whose primary identity was shaped in childhood.

Talbot Mercer Papineau, grandson of the rebel leader of 1837, self-identified as a French Canadian, but has been viewed as primarily an Anglophone. He was killed serving in France in 1917.[45] In western Canada, the emergence of a Métis identity complicates attempts to label people as French or English. Thus Cuthbert Grant would strictly qualify as a Scots half-breed, but his knowledge of French, plus at least one relationship "according to the custom of the country" with a Francophone woman, place him in a hybrid category, one that traced its being to the special circumstances of the Red River.[46]

A note of humility

One reservation should also be offered. This paper implies that English-speaking Canadian political leaders ought at least to have attempted to communicate in their country's alternative language. As one who has sought to understand French Canada on the basis of a distant schoolboy experience in the suburbs of London, England, I should have the humility to acknowledge that the task is not always easy. In the Utopian world of student journalism, the young Vincent Massey issued in 1911 one of the earliest clarion calls for a Canada in which French and English would be taught on an equal basis from coast to coast. But even he accepted that it was "as unlikely that every one will properly speak the two languages as that all our citizens can be made ambidextrous". As a graduate student in social sciences, Mackenzie King felt the need to learn German, but after two months studying in Berlin in 1900, he found he could only speak "most frightful German & have not mastered the language at all." Some people just cannot learn languages. Hilda Neatby once grimly suggested that it would "most helpful" if the linguistic humiliation so routinely suffered by Francophones "could happen at least once to every English-speaking Canadian." As a British visitor to Canada, I can testify that I have experienced this character-building experience, and more than once.[47]

B: The Anglophone encounter with the French language, 1763-1888

Lower Canada, 1763-1841

The St Lawrence valley colony that fell under British control in 1763 was overwhelmingly a French-speaking society, and remained such for several decades. Consequently, we might expect incoming Anglophones to recognise the importance of speaking the language of the local community. This was not always the case.

Some early British administrators, such as the Swiss-born Frederick Haldimand, Francis Maseres, who was of Huguenot parentage and Sir George Prevost, whose parents were Swiss, owed their appointments to their ability to function in French. Maseres spoke French "with the utmost fluency and propriety, but it was the French of the age of Louis XIV". Although trained in English law, both Maseres and the chief justice, William Hey, found the local code "very difficult ... to understand from the great conciseness and the technicality or peculiarity of the French law-language". Another product of the Huguenot diaspora was William Smith, chief justice of Quebec from 1786 to 1793, whose mother came from New Rochelle in New York State, a community that remained predominantly Francophone for much of the eighteenth century. Visits to his mother's relatives made him bilingual. Unfortunately, his admiration for the elegance of the French tongue was counterbalanced by his fiercely Protestant dislike for French Canadians and their religion: linguistic competence was not always a key to better understanding. Nor is it always safe to assume that family background or location of birth ensured effective knowledge of French. Isaac Brock was born in Guernsey, where a version of Norman-French was widely spoken, but was sent as a teenager to Rotterdam "for the purpose of learning the French language" from an exiled Protestant clergyman. This may have been an attempt to exorcise the local patois spoken in the Channel Islands.[48]

But many appointments to senior posts were made by patronage from Britain, where concerns about the appointee's qualifications could be minimal. James Murray complained that both the chief justice, William Gregory, and the attorney-general, George Suckling, were "entirely ignorant of the Language of the Natives". Another official who could not read French was James Goldfrab. He held no fewer than six offices, several of which, such as provost marshal (sheriff), registrar and commissary of stores, brought him into contact with the general population. Goldfrab generally discharged his duties through deputies, who were partly remunerated by charging fees, which created more friction.[49] To some extent, these anomalies stemmed from the chaotic immediate aftermath of the Conquest, but – a decade later – Peter Livius briefly held office as chief justice from 1776 to 1778, despite the protest of Guy Carleton against the administration of justice to French Canadians by someone who "understands neither their laws, manners, customs nor their language."[50]

In one respect, bilingualism got off to a promising start soon after the Conquest, with the launching in 1764 of the Quebec Gazette, a newspaper whose proprietors explicitly intended to publish in both languages. This, they argued, would be "the most effectual Means of bringing about a thorough Knowledge of the English and French Language to those of the two Nations now happily united in one in this Part of the World . . . by which Means they will be enabled to ... communicate their Sentiments to each other as Brethren". One problem in achieving this idealistic intention was the difficulty of recruiting printers who could work in both languages. In 1768, the proprietors hit on the idea of seeking out a Black, who understood the trade, was honest and – an incidental requirement to ensure reliability – had had smallpox. They located a suitable candidate, Joe from Philadelphia, perhaps a runaway from the French Caribbean.[51]

Englishman John Bentley was one of the unlikely characters who turned up in late-eighteenth century Canada. He arrived as part of a chamber music group, in which he played the harpsichord. When that folded, he set up in Montreal as a teacher of his native language, praising English as "the most Sublime, Beautiful, Copious, Energetic and comprehensive Language now us’d on the Habitable Globe." Thus far, Bentley sounds like one of Montreal's typically insensitive Anglophones. However, his surprising career took further twists. In addition to working as organist and choirmaster at the Anglican cathedral, he took an official appointment – some alleged to pay for his preferred activities – as an inspector of roads, a post for which his qualifications were not evident. In 1810, he was forced to apologise to a contractor who objected to receiving tender documents for a road repairs contract in French. Bentley added that he was also "sorry that your education has been so much neglected as not to understand the French language, especially, being now in a part of the world where it is so universally spoken that I should suppose you must pass some of your hours unpleasantly without the knowledge of it."[52] It is difficult to say whether this superior attitude was typical.

Scotsman Hugh Finlay was bilingual but unsympathetic to Quebec's Francophone identity. With fluent French, he prospered in various jobs, as a merchant, postmaster and government official. "We might make the people entirely English," he advised a senior British government official in 1789. "This is to be done by free schools, and by ordaining that all suits in our Courts shall be carried on in English after a certain number of years."[53]

It is not easy to assess the language skills of many of the late-eighteenth century merchants and officials who settled in Quebec.[54] Samuel Jacobs, one of Canada's earliest Jewish residents, seems to have been capable of running his business in French, which is perhaps explained by the suggestion that he was of Alsatian origin. With a French Canadian wife, he was also one of the earliest Anglophones to entrust the education of his daughters to the nuns – in this case, the Ursulines in Quebec City – to make them bilingual: "write to me at least once a month in french [sic]", he enjoined one of them. North of Ireland merchant John McCord is an even more mysterious case. In 1773, he organised a campaign among the Quebec City British community in favour of an elected Assembly, and sought Francophone support for a joint petition to the Crown. As H.T. Cramahé took pleasure in reporting from Quebec, it was not until McCord took his draft "to a Canadian Gentleman of this Town to translate into French" that he became aware of widespread suspicion of the motives behind the initiative. McCord's son Thomas moved to Montreal, where he became the founder of a notable commercial dynasty. Thomas served for many years as police magistrate, which would have been a challenging assignment if he knew little French, but during a short career as a member of the Lower Canadian Assembly, he voted solidly with the English party. His language skills can only be guessed. Ross Cuthbert argued in 1809 that the British minority was entirely relaxed in its acceptance of two languages. "The children of the English residents babble the one as well as the other: and with some demonstration of pride, from the double acquisition."[55] Thirty years later, as noted above, Durham saw the acquisition of language skills by the children of Lower Canada as predominantly a one-way process.

The Lower Canadian Assembly naturally functioned largely in the majority local language, to which some Anglophones conformed. At its first meeting in 1792, the minority attempted without success to have English recognised as the sole language of record, but they also proposed William Grant for the office of Speaker, both on grounds of experience and his competence in French (it was an epoch, commented Fernand Ouellet, when "le bilinguisme est une prérogative des Anglophones"). Although born in Scotland, Grant had become fluent in French by the age of fifteen.[56]

Perhaps symbolic of the half century from 1791 to 1841 was John Neilson. Born in Scotland, this printer, bookseller and politician was "perfectly at ease" in both languages and even wrote poetry in French, thanks no doubt to his marriage to Marie-Ursule Hubert, niece of the bishop of Quebec. His DCB / DBC biographers conclude that "Neilson seems to have been one of the earliest exemplars of the 'Canadian' in the modern sense: bilingual, connected with people of various origins, optimistic about the country’s future." Yet they also point to his "relative failure and his inability to create solid and lasting links for himself in the French Canadian milieu". It would not be easy for Anglophones to establish deep roots in French Canada. Papineau's Irish-born ally, Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, was also bilingual. In 1835, he became chair of the Lower Canadian Assembly's pace-making Grievances Committee. E.B. O'Callaghan was an example of a cultured and committed reformer who might have made a positive contribution to post-rebellion politics. Unhappily, he fled to the United States in 1837, and never set foot in Canada again.[57]

Despite – or maybe, because – of their minority position, too many Lower Canadian Anglophones saw themselves, as they evidently persuaded Lord Durham, as monopolising the "intelligence" of the community, just as they sought to control political power. Contempt for the French language formed an integral part of this attitude. For a time, the only bilingual Tory in the Lower Canadian Assembly was Bartholomew Gugy. Of Swiss parentage, he spoke French "with fluency and ease", and used his skills to bait Louis-Joseph Papineau.[58] In 1825, the judge Edward Bowen, an Irish Protestant, refused to accept a writ written in French, although he had been previously employed to translate official documents into the language.[59]

Anglicisation – not just a question of language?

In an important study of British policy towards French Canada in the early nineteenth century, historian James Sturgis argued that anglicisation was about much more than language change. As an energetic (but, fortunately largely ineffectual) junior minister at the Colonial Office, Robert Wilmot-Horton explained in 1828 (by which time he had left office) that he had wished "to assimilate the Canadians to the language, manners and habits, and above all the laws and institutions of Great Britain." This was remarkably close to a celebrated and near-contemporary declaration by Thomas Babington Macaulay, who argued that the East India Company should abandon support for Arabic and Sanskrit, and fund education in the English language, with the aim of creating intermediaries "who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect."

There were two problems about this broadly conceived concept of anglicisation: it threatened not just the language but the religion of the population, and it was, quite simply, never going to happen. As Louis-Joseph Papineau protested in 1832, "Anglifying" Lower Canada "meant depriving the great majority of the people of this province of all that is dear to men; their laws, usages, institutions, and religion." The last, of course, was the key issue. Lord Dalhousie's 1819 speculation that it might have been possible decades earlier to have supported the imposition of the English language by the introduction of English priests was a sign of the intellectual desperation that hovered over all such schemes. (As Francis Maseres constantly pointed out, it was open to doubt whether the Catholic Church was even legal in England in 1763. And Dalhousie seems to have overlooked the point that an important priestly function is the hearing of confessions, which requires community of language.) The Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, founded in 1834, took as its motto: "Nos institutions, notre langue, nos lois". "Institutions" was a thinly coded reference to the Catholic Church and clerical control of education, but the key point was that the three elements were interwoven: tamper with one, and you challenged them all.

There was just enough anglicisation in the air to reinforce the defensive mentality of French Canada, but the policy was never applied, and could never be applied, with sufficient determination over a sufficient period of time to make an impact. As a form of colonial government, conciliation was cheaper than repression. In the proximity of the often turbulent United States, the goodwill of the Catholic Church and the acquiescence of the Francophone population were worth far more than any theoretical attachment to assimilation. "If the French Canadians are to be ruled to their satisfaction, and who could desire to rule them otherwise?", mused Sir Charles Metcalfe in 1843, "every attempt to metamorphose them systematically into English must be abandoned". Similar stark choices emerged from the dispute over Manitoba schools half a century later. In strict logic, there was still no reason why a policy of anglicisation, even one that was consistently applied, should have discouraged Anglophones from learning to speak French. Nobody expected assimilation to happen overnight. Even the abortive Union Bill of 1822, the high-water mark of official anglicisation, provided for parliamentary debates to be conducted exclusively in English after fifteen years (which would have added an interesting touch to the events of 1837). The miasma of anglicisation hovered over Canada from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth, unsettling Francophones on the one hand and encouraging false confidence in its inevitability among Anglophones on the other. For a policy that was difficult to define, invidious to impose and impossible to achieve, it exercised a remarkably pervasive and entirely negative influence on relations between the two official language groups.[60]

The Union of the Canadas, 1841 to 1867: the fight to recognise French

Although English was declared as the sole official language of the province of Canada in the Union Act of 1840, the prohibition on the use of French in the Assembly was deliberately flouted by Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine almost immediately. When challenged, he explained: "Je me défie de mon habileté à parler la langue anglaise", and proclaimed his intention of ignoring what he regarded as an unjust imposition. Jacques Monet concludes that LaFontaine pointedly used French for official purposes, although it is clear that he was indeed functionally fluent in English. (The wayward and provocative Colonel John Prince helpfully condemned LaFontaine for addressing the House in "that confounded French language".) One of LaFontaine's Anglophone allies, Wolfred Nelson, also made a point of speaking in French when he first addressed the Assembly in 1845, a political gesture as he does not seem to have been especially fluent in the language.[61]

LaFontaine's challenger in the 1842 debate, Charles Dewey Day, is an example of an Anglophone whose linguistic competence we need to know more about in order to understand his career. Historian Brian J. Young concludes that Day spoke little French when he became a judge in Montreal in 1842. Yet he was appointed a member of the three-person commission established to codify Lower Canadian civil law in 1856, and by then was capable of dealing with abstruse questions of technical translation. Some terms, such as "dommages et intérêts", caused headaches: Day eventually opted for "damages", explaining that the word "fully renders the idea in English."[62]

By making the prohibition of French the symbolic focus of all Lower Canadian grievances, LaFontaine effectively forced its repeal in 1848. When Lord Elgin opened parliament in both languages in January 1849, Denis-Benjamin Viger wept "d'entendre dans ma langue les paroles du trône!" Elgin's gesture drew a more muted response from the Montreal Herald. "Time alone will relieve the country from the great inconvenience attending the use of two languages in our Legislature; but, until its practical necessity has ceased, neither section of our population can, with justice, claim any exclusive preference for their language."[63] Colonel John Prince was less impressed. "It was amusing, it was funny ... to hear a Speech from the Throne, in a British Colony, delivered by the Representative of Her Majesty in a foreign tongue.... It was no doubt done to please the French Canadians". Prince was an outspoken maverick, but it is worth noting that he represented Essex County, which contained a Francophone population, from whom he drew electoral backing. Indeed, one of his supporters had recommended him to LaFontaine five years earlier: "le Col[onel] Prince peut être considéré comme Canadien français, car en tous temps il s'est montré le défenseur des Canadiens du District [sic] de l'Ouest." University of Toronto historian, George M. Wrong, an early biographer of Elgin claimed that the governor general cynically encouraged – or defied – extreme members of the "British" party to abuse his bilingualism, on the grounds that it would add to his credibility among the ever-suspicious French. Unfortunately, Wrong supplied no source, but he may have drawn upon political tradition – he was the son-in-law of Edward Blake, leader of the Liberal Party from 1880 to 1887, but active in public life for several decades before that.[64] Following the destruction of the Montreal parliament buildings by rioters in 1849, the capital was moved to Toronto, a British bastion in which French was rarely heard. Elgin ignored anonymous threats warning him that any repetition of his bilingual throne speech at the opening of the 1850 session would see the city razed to the ground.[65]

LaFontaine's chief Upper Canadian ally, Robert Baldwin, was the first of a line of Anglophone sectional leaders who relied upon a political alliance with the French Canadians without being able to speak their language. He encouraged his son to learn the language. "I must not expose him to the miserable embarrassment that I labour under myself from a want of French," he wrote in 1844. Baldwin did attempt to learn the language, but without success. The Lafontaine-Baldwin cabinet of 1848 included at least one fluently bilingual Anglophone. A third-generation resident of Quebec City, Thomas Cushing Aylwin was a combative politician with a "prodigious bilingual gift for words". However, Aylwin quickly retreated to the bench, where his drink problem was perceived to be less of a handicap.[66]

Problems of translation

Even for bilingual French Canadians, the relentlessly monoglot culture of Canadian politics imposed constraints. However, a series of exchanges in the Canadian Assembly in February 1853 indicated that Francophone politicians disagreed on their reponse to the problem.

Hippolyte Dubord, who represented the city of Quebec, demanded that all official documents be provided in French. A former member of the Lower Canada Assembly, he pointed out that all documentation had been translated into English in those days, even though few members spoke the language. But Dubord's demand seemed excessive to J.-E. Turcotte, member for Saint-Maurice, who had worked as a government translator of laws. A great deal of business, he argued, could only be conducted in English, and translating documents of little importance would be "de purs singeries" – an absurdity or, in the spirit of exact translation, monkey business. This gave a patriotic opening for Ulrich-Joseph Tessier, the member for Portneuf, who objected to the insulting term "singeries", and insisted that translation was an issue of principle. Some members of the Assembly did not understand English well, and – not surprisingly, given that the provincial parliament was meeting in Quebec City – most of the spectators in the galleries were Francophones. A.-N. Morin, the Lower Canada government leader, agreed with Dubord and Tessier that members were entitled in principle to complete translation of official documents – but he hoped the right would not be insisted upon. By this time, Turcotte realised that he faced a public relations disaster. Appealing to the press not to report him as opposed to the use of French in parliament, he changed tack to insist that all important business should be conducted in both languages.[67]

The quality of official translation from English to French was sometimes poor. The 1844 Lower Canada census sought to establish the number of people in each household, but the French version of the enumeration forms used "famille" for "household", when "maisonée" would have been more precise. Many farmers and merchants had live-in servants: there were fears that the loose translation would mean that the latter would be excluded from returns.

A French edition of the debates of the New Brunswick Assembly was denounced in 1858 as "abominable", a corrupt job for the printer whose methodology was to "translate literally, and of course ridiculously, English sentences into French ones."[68] Twenty years later, L-R. Masson made a similar complaint about the French versions of parliamentary debates at Ottawa. There had been years, he alleged – apparently speaking in colloquial English – when the translation was "something awful". Although there had been some improvement, there were still "parts that were really absurd". Essentially, it appeared from discussion, the problem arose from a clash between the two imperatives of speed and accuracy: members wanted their official reports as soon as possible for reference purposes, a demand which placed translators under pressure to deliver. Even when Francophones were translating into their own language, the preferred direction for language interpretation, the sheer bulk of material generated by an English-speaking continent and an English-speaking empire was daunting. Joseph Cauchon explained in 1865 why French Canada was a decade behind the cities of Upper Canada in establishing a daily newspaper. Editors, he said, spent inordinate time translating news items from English, "péniblement et longuement".[69]

Montreal: a mid-century bilingual oasis?

Montreal was characterised in the 1840s by outbursts of political violence between English and French, and there were certainly members of the former group who did not choose to cultivate the majority language of Lower Canada: for instance, the brewer William Molson, a candidate at the turbulent 1844 by-election, could not address Francophone voters in their own language.[70] Nevertheless, it proved to be an environment that did stimulate some Anglophones to become fluent in French, even though few of them made much impact in politics. Thomas Kennedy Ramsay became co-secretary to the commission for the codification of Lower Canadian civil law. An academic lawyer, in 1863, he published – in French – a treatise on the Coutume de Paris, the sixteenth-century code that had formed the basis of ancien régime civil law. "Il paraîtra peut-être étrange a [sic] quelques-uns de mes lecteurs que j'écrive ses notes en français: mais il m'a paru plus facile d'écrire en français que de traduire en anglais le texte de la coutume, et l'amalgame des deux langues modernes dans un même ouvrage offert des inconvénients sérieux." It may be hoped that this principled stance did not greatly reduce his readership. Ramsay ran twice for the legislature, but without success.[71]

Ramsay was succeeded in 1862 as English-language secretary to the codification commission by Thomas McCord, a member of a distinguished Montreal family, who had been sent as a youngster to the Petit Seminaire of Quebec to learn French. Another member of the family to benefit from an enlightened attitude to bilingualism was David Ross McCord, born in 1844 and educated in both languages. A lawyer, he was for a time from 1880 a partner in the law firm of Joseph Doutre and Moïse Branchaud. McCord read widely in French, and the works of François-Xavier Garneau and Henri-Raymond Casgrain inspired him with an idyllic view of pre-Conquest Quebec. He is remembered as the founder of a celebrated Montreal museum and gallery. Its full title is perhaps less widely appreciated: the McCord Museum of Canadian History. For David Ross McCord, Canada was the achievement of two founding peoples.[72]

Quebec City was also a community where some Anglophones managed to master both languages, as startlingly revealed at the public execution of 22 year-old John Meehan in 1864. On the scaffold, Meehan addressed the crowd in conventional terms, advising them to avoid evil company and wicked conduct, before invoking divine blessing upon them all. Then, in a nicely Canadian touch, he repeated his comments in fluent French, and obediently stepped back to be hanged.[73]

Resistance to bilingualism in the 1850s

Recognition of the right to use the French language in parliament was an important victory, but English Canadian hostility ensured that it did not create a fully functioning bilingual legislature. When Antoine-Aimé Dorion concluded a speech in French in October 1854, Edwin Larwill, member for Kent, commented that he was "glad the hon. member had done speaking for he did not understand a word of what he had said. As a far larger number of members could speak and understand English than French he hoped that members would more frequently speak English."[74] Far from accepting bilingualism, this mindset regarded insistence upon speaking French as at least irritating, if not provocative. Objecting to the attempt in 1856 to locate the seat of government for the province of Canada permanently at Quebec, the Toronto Globe resorted to an exclamation mark to indicate its outrage at "a population three-fourths of whom do not understand the English language!" Criticising a proposal in 1856 to train Francophone teachers for Lower Canadian schools entirely through French, the Globe's proprietor George Brown let slip the remark: "How can we hope to maintain the Union if we do not attempt to make some approximation to a common language?" A masterful personality who did not enjoy retraction, Brown was even capable of using his linguistic deficiency to cover an occasional retreat. In an Assembly debate in 1856, he accused government members of shouting down the opposition, adding that Sidney Smith, the Tory member for Northumberland, was "a mere claqueur". When Smith went through the outdated motions of threatening to fight a duel unless the insult was withdrawn, Brown replied that he was prepared to accept that the term might be unparliamentary, as he possessed "but a very imperfect knowledge of the French language."[75] It seems likely that only once did George Brown ever find himself in a situation where French could reasonably claim precedence in language hierarchy. In June 1865, visiting England as part of a high-level Canadian delegation on Confederation, Brown was entertained – along with Cartier and Galt – to dinner with the royal family of exiled House of Orléans. He wrote to his wife afterwards: "I did so wish I could speak French for one night, at any rate." The formulation tells a great deal about his attitude to the French language in Canada.[76]

Remarkably, the Canadian Assembly apparently functioned reasonably effectively, despite "one half of the hon. gentlemen being in blissful ignorance of what the remaining hal[f] said", as William Lyon Mackenzie put it, to laughter, in 1856.[77] More often, French members faced not so much hostility as incomprehension. John A. Macdonald, for instance, sat at his parliamentary desk writing letters during speeches in French.[78] Some French members resented the willingness of their own compatriots to accept the hegemony of the English language. P.-J.-O. Chauveau had acquired "an exceptional mastery" of English while working for the Quebec City law firm of George Okill Stuart. When, as provincial secretary for Lower Canada in 1854, he started to reply to Alexander Galt in English, the Rouge, Joseph Papin, shouted "parlez français!".[79] However, it was generally taken for granted that serious political business was conducted in the dominant language. A biographical sketch of 1865 tactfully attributed the failure of Jean Chabot as commissioner of works to the fact that he "never acquired any proficiency in English. The explanations which he gave, on some occasions ... failed to produce the desired effect on the English speaking portion of the House, partly from the defective manner in which they were given." The assumption that English was both practically, and even morally, the default language of Canadian public life could hardly have been made clearer. (Chabot held the portfolio twice, briefly in 1849-50 and again from 1852 to 1855, and encountered difficulties other than those of language. His first term of office came to an inglorious end when he was arrested for drunkenness and spent a night in a police cell.)[80]

Perhaps the most striking – if rarely noticed – example of a major public issue that evolved almost entirely through the English language was the achievement of Confederation. Although George-Étienne Cartier opened the Canadian presentation at the Charlottetown Conference in September 1864, we can be reasonably sure that not one word of French was spoken in open session either there or at the subsequent founding meeting in Quebec City, the heartland of Francophone Canada. Prominent Francophone politicians recognised the need to speak in English if they wished to influence the wider audience. When the Legislative Council of the province of Canada considered the Quebec Resolutions in 1865, the premier, Étienne-Paschal Taché, began speaking in French. He was interrupted by Letellier de St Just, who suggested that Taché should be followed by Alexander Campbell, the other Great Coalition minister in the upper house, who could repeat the explanation in English. Taché, however, "concluded that as there were English members who did not understand French at all, while the French members all understood English, it would be best for him to speak in the latter language, and proceeded to do so."[81]

Monsieur L'Orateur

One of the engaging peculiarities of the Westminster parliamentary system is that the presiding officer, who never contributes to debates, is termed the Speaker. The explanation for this anomalous term is that, from the fourteenth century, the Speaker was the mouthpiece of the Commons in its dealings with the Crown.[82] In the United States, the authority of the Speaker of the House of Representatives has developed in preference to ministerial government. Louis-Joseph Papineau pursued a similar role in the Lower Canadian Assembly during the fraught years before 1837. Sandfield Macdonald seems to have been the last Speaker who used his position to voice the grievances of the Commons to the Crown, in a memorable episode of 1854, discussed below. The use of the term "L'Orateur" is an example of the way that translation, even between two kindred languages, can produce bizarre effects. There are indications that the English word, Speaker, emerged in the thirteenth century from the law-French term "parlour", which would have been cognate with the idea of parliament as a place of negotiation between Crown and people. The decision to adopt a histrionic term for a taciturn office could only underline the anomaly that the Speaker was the one member who could not engage in debate. However, eccentric or not, it became accepted in Canada. In 1918, Louis-Philippe Geoffrion, Clerk of the Quebec Legislative Assembly, argued: "Il y a longtemps que l'Académie française a constaté que le mot orateur s'emploie en France pour désigner le Speaker des communes anglaises; pourquoi ne pourrait-il pas servir à dénommer le Speaker de nos assemblées?" The obvious alternative, président, had the advantage – or was it the disadvantage? – of being used in the French national legislature: Quebec elites were generally wary about associating themselves too closely with secular metropolitan France. It was not until Quebec renamed its provincial legislature l'Assemblée Nationale in 1969 that the change was made. At federal level, l'Orateur remained in standard use until the early 1980s, remarkably overlooked in the general Canadianisation of national symbols during the Pierre Trudeau era.[83]

However, while the office might have a translated French-language title, it did not follow that all Speakers could operate in both languages. True, Sir Allan MacNab was defeated in his 1841 bid for the Chair after it was "reasonably objected" that he "could scarcely understand, and certainly could not speak, one word of French". But much the same problem arose with his chief opponent, Augustin-Norbert Morin, whose "knowledge of English was only a shade more extensive than Sir Allan's of French". Eventually, the Assembly settled on Austin Cuvillier, who had become so deeply involved in the Anglophone world of commerce that he abbreviated his baptismal name, Augustin, to make himself sound less obviously French. MacNab was elected Speaker in 1844, at one of the few points in Canadian history where there was near-total polarisation on language grounds. However, his re-election was opposed by the incoming Reform majority in 1848, with Robert Baldwin arguing that "in a House where so many members were French, some of whom were unable to speak or understand English, it was a practical necessity that the Speaker should have a knowledge of both languages." MacNab was replaced by Morin, who was now regarded as possessing "familiarity with both French and English".[84] Language competence was still a tactical argument rather than a basic requirement.

Recognition of the French language in parliament made possible one of the greatest moments of parliamentary drama in Canadian history, when Lord Elgin unexpectedly dissolved the Assembly in 1854. This controversial decision drew a severe protest from the Speaker, Sandfield Macdonald. Having delivered a dressing down in English, the bilingual Sandfield (in fact, he was trilingual, also speaking Scottish Gaelic) repeated his comments in elegant French, to the governor's increasing fury. (Sandfield, whose wife was a Francophone from Louisiana, modestly claimed he spoke French "tolerably well".)[85]

Sandfield Macdonald's tour de force did not establish the principle that all Speakers should be capable of operating in both languages. A unilingual Upper Canadian Reformer, James Morris had held office as Speaker of the Legislative Council in 1853-4, and was briefly re-appointed during the two-day Brown-Dorion ministry in August 1858. A cabinet headed by Toronto protestant zealot George Brown was weak in Lower Canada and perceived to be unfriendly to French Canadian interests. When Morris could only process the upper house response to the incoming ministry's policy statement in English, he was assailed by Narcisse-Fortunat Belleau, who "asked why the usual practice of reading the reply in French as well as English had not been followed?" Morris confessed that he "was entirely ignorant of the French language .... He was brought up in western Canada, where the French language in the days of his boyhood was but little known". The veteran Reformer Adam Fergusson came to his defence, arguing that it was "perfectly well known that the French language was permitted for the convenience of members from the Eastern part of the Province," but it was "never a condition" that those who held office "should be bound to express themselves in both languages." This provoked a comment from Étienne Taché that "it was very desirable that the Speaker of each House should have mastered the French language."[86] The objection to Morris was almost certainly raised for political reasons, to embarrass an already insecure incoming ministry: it does not seem to have been pressed when he had occupied the chair before. In any case, Taché's wished-for principle soon evaporated under the pressures of factional politics.

The last Speaker of the Canadian Assembly before Confederation, Lewis Wallbridge, was attacked by his predecessor, J.-E. Turcotte, as anti-French and anti-Catholic. His nomination in 1863 triggered an angry debate, and something of a sectional split, but critics focused upon his association with the ministry, and his involvement in sanctioning a recent controversial execution. Wallbridge "regretted very much his inability to speak the French language as fluently as he desired", but somewhat illogically offered to compensate by being "easy of access" to all members.[87] The precedent was well set for the post-Confederation decades: the first two Speakers were unilingual Anglophones, too prominent to be overlooked in the distribution of offices, but regarded as unsuitable for cabinet posts.

The career of Lewis Wallbridge culminated in what, from the perspective of bilingualism, may be regarded as a happy ending. In 1882, he was appointed chief justice of Manitoba. Had historians been more interested in the linguistic competence of nineteenth-century public figures, this selection might have rung alarm bells. Manitoba had been created in 1870 as a bilingual province: the appointment of a unilingual judge would have seemed like a reversion to the unfeeling patronage appointments in Lower Canada a century earlier. In fact, Wallbridge had managed to learn French, or so he claimed. In what was probably a stage-managed episode, the Francophone residents of his home town of Belleville, Ontario – a place not noted for its French community – presented him with a congratulatory address on his elevation. Wallbridge replied to the deputation, "addressing a few words in French to those present", before switching into English. "I am, like yourself, a Canadian, and have endeavoured to learn to speak your language and succeeded so far as not be entirely at a loss when French alone is spoken," he assured his fellow citizens. Indeed, he believed that "a man can barely be said to possess a liberal education who has not a knowledge of the French language." Canada faced the challenge of building a national structure and sentiment on the basis of its inheritance from "two nations standing at the head of the civilized world in learning, art and literature". It was his hope that they could all "join in that beautiful song composed by Sir G.E. Cartier, 'Avant tous je suis Canadian [sic]'."[88]

Bilingual competence is one area where self-certification may prove unreliable. Sir John A. Macdonald's cabinet colleague Mackenzie Bowell, also a Belleville politician, took part in the ceremony to honour the new chief justice, and was amused by his "extreme egotism". Wallbridge revelled in adulation: "he was as proud and strutted about the platform like a Peacock with his tail spread." Still, if Wallbridge had indeed managed to master French in mid-life – and he seems to have encountered no problems in Manitoba – he was perhaps entitled to swank a little. Such doubts as were raised about his suitability related not to the power of his tongue but to the absence of his teeth. Like many of his contemporaries, Wallbridge had paid the price for poor dental hygiene. Sir John A. Macdonald commissioned Bowell to persuade him to acquire dentures. Bowell agreed that "it would add much to the appearance, and perhaps the dignity, of the Bench, if the Chief Justice had a mouth full of good teeth", it was difficult to find a tactful way of broaching "a subject of such gnashing importance".[89] It seems unlikely that Macdonald would have sent a senior judge to Manitoba without being satisfied that he could understand French, but – in contrast to the dental issue – no evidence survives.

The impact of Confederation

Lewis Wallbridge's decision to improve his French went against the tide of Anglophone attitudes to language in the early years of Confederation. Parliamentary usage of French seems to have declined after 1867, as the focus of much French Canadian political activity transferred to the newly created Quebec provincial legislature. When Richard Cartwright was first elected to the Canadian Assembly in 1863, he doubted whether there was a single Upper Canadian member who could address the legislature in French, "although the great majority of the French members spoke English very well and were quite able to address the House in either tongue." Cartwright himself recalled fifty years later that he "could read French and understand it when spoken pretty well ... I had fully intended to learn how to speak it if the two provinces had continued to be united, but after Confederation the House became so overwhelmingly English that the necessity or desirability of speaking French was but little felt, and I dropped it."[90]

The first complaint raised in the House of Commons of Canada, when it assembled in November 1867, was that the nominated Speaker, James Cockburn, "could not speak the French language." Pointing out that the new constitution recognised that "all official documents should be printed in both languages", Joseph Dufresne, a Bleu backbencher of some standing, insisted that the same principle should apply to the Speakership, and charged that Cockburn's nomination represented a lack of respect for Quebec. His challenge was potentially embarrassing. The sharing out of jobs in the new regime had been an awkward exercise. It had been necessary to provide for Cockburn, personally unpopular but a prominent voice for unbending Toryism. Hence the inconvenient fact that he was not qualified for the consolation prize that he had been offered could not be permitted to upset a careful patronage balance. (The even more unsavoury Joseph Cauchon had similarly been shunted off to preside over the new Senate.) Macdonald's chief Quebec ally, George-Étienne Cartier, loyally brushed Dufresne's objection aside, insisting that "though Mr Cockburn did not speak French, he understood it".[91]

In 1875, Louis Fréchette moved the reply to the Address, making a heartfelt point that was somewhat undermined by a hideous reporting error: "Il est assez rare que nous entendons une voix française s'élever dans cette assemblée, la nécessité forçant presque toujours mes compatriotes de même origine que moi à parler un language [sic] qui n'est pas le nôtre, pour mieux être compris de tout le monde."[92] The parliamentary career of François Bourassa extended over 42 years, from 1854 to 1896. He was once asked why he was so assiduous in his attendance in the chamber, given that his inability to speak even a word of English meant that he could not understand the vast majority of the proceedings. He replied that his ignorance of the predominant language was in fact the key to his attendance: "si je les comprenais je m'en irais."[93]

No objection had been raised to Timothy Warren Anglin's lack of French at his election as Speaker of the House of Commons in 1874. However, his shortcomings had become evident by 1877, when Quebec members queried his failure to read prayers in French at the start of each sitting. "If he could read French acceptably to the hon. members," Anglin pleaded, "he would have no hesitation in doing so." To cries of "Try!", he replied that any such attempt "would be ludicrous." The inconsequential nature of the discussion indicates the low priority given by the House of Commons to language issues at that time, even by Francophone MPs. David Mills, who would strongly defend the status of French in the North-West Territories in 1890, remarked that "as the prayer was addressed to the Almighty and not to the House, he did not see why any difficulty should arise." Similarly, the rising Quebec politician Wilfrid Laurier thought that "[t]he Divinity could be invoked as well in the English language as in the French." Several members opposed any suggestion that prayers might be read in French by the Clerk of the House: there was an issue of status involved, and French-language prayers should not be treated as if they were a mere translation from English. As Edward Blake put it, "it would be degrading the prayers to the level of a document or journal or something to be translated for the information of members, if they were to be read in one language by the Clerk." But Adolphe-Philippe Caron objected that "several members on his side of the House did not understand English, and of course the matter of addressing a prayer to the Almighty was a matter of such importance that these members should at least understand what they were doing." Eventually Anglin adopted a suggestion from the prime minister, Alexander Mackenzie, that the House should print prayers in both languages. Speakers might then read them in the language of their choice, while members followed the version that best suited them. An alternative suggestion of "quiet, individual, unseen and unheard prayer" did not find favour. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that most MPs assumed that God spoke English.[94] Members evidently took for granted that Alfred Patrick, Clerk of the Commons from 1873 to 1880, was bilingual. He had succeeded William Burns Lindsay, first been appointed to serve the Lower Canada Assembly in 1829, while Patrick's successor was John George Bourinot, son of a Jerseyman and himself a notable pioneer historian of French Canada.[95]

In the Senate, problems of communication were made worse by the fact that most cabinets included few ministers from the upper house. Joseph-Hyacinthe Bellerose complained in 1879 that "unless we have a Minister thoroughly acquainted with both official languages, or we have in each House two ministers, one speaking the one and another speaking the other language", Section 133 of the British North America Act had "no effect whatever" in Senate. It was a "daily occurrence" that Senators who knew no English would put questions to government spokesmen, only to be "met by an answer given in English, and prefaced by the words, 'I am sorry that I cannot give my answer to the hon. gentleman in his own language'." The questioner "has to listen to words which he cannot understand, and do without a reply or go to some of his friends in the Senate and ask them the translation of the answer given." Bellerose, who campaigned successfully for reports of Senate debates to be translated into French, possibly exaggerated the problem.[96] However, his complaint was echoed in 1887 by F.-X. Trudel, who elaborated various inconveniences encountered by Senators from Quebec. One irritant was the problem of dealing with the unilingual caretaker of the Senate's newspaper room: "those of us who are not very familiar with the English language find it difficult to converse with him ... the ability of an employé to speak the two languages is not sufficiently considered."[97]

John A. Macdonald and his contemporaries

The Conservative leader who most consistently won support in Quebec – as he often boasted – was John A. Macdonald, who also insisted that he did not understand the French language. His reluctance to attempt to use the language perhaps resulted in part from a determination to exercise control over his political environment, a consideration that almost certainly applies to the obstinate unilingualism of Mackenzie King. Indeed, Macdonald may have exaggerated his deficiencies. He had begun to study (and, let us hope, to learn) French shortly before his tenth birthday, and he seems to have retained his French grammar, presumably for reference, after he left school – although his biographer Donald Creighton thought it had "a suspiciously unused appearance." It is more likely that, for Macdonald, as for many of his Anglophone contemporaries, the challenge lay in converting a language studied in a book into a living form of speech. In 1856, Lewis Thomas Drummond objected to Macdonald's elevation to leadership of the Upper Canada section of the ministry because he had "not mastered [French] as to be able to speak in the house."[98]

However, at that stage of his career, Macdonald may have been capable of reading French. Étienne-Paschal Taché wrote at least two private letters in French to him, in 1858 and 1865. The first was a long commentary upon the political scene after the inconclusive midwinter provincial election of 1857-8. While its content was not necessarily confidential, it was obviously penned on the assumption that the recipient would be capable of understanding its message, without having to seek a translation from some third party. One clue suggesting that some knowledge of French was necessary for English Canadians working in government during the Canadian Union is the fact that Robert A. Harrison took lessons in the language for a short time in 1858, when he was employed (in Toronto) as Macdonald's private secretary. He found a Francophone tutor, and made sufficiently rapid progress to read de Tocqueville's L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution – a work published only two years earlier. However, Harrison – later an MP and an Ontario judge – does not seem to have maintained his interest in the language.[99]

In earlier years especially, Macdonald scattered French phrases through his correspondence. We cannot draw too much from this: he also referred to his first wife as his "cara sposa" and he certainly did not speak Italian. For instance, he often employed "entre nous" as an exotic device to flatter correspondents with the notion of confidential disclosure. However, it is revealing that we can learn something of interest from his admission that he admitted picking up the phrase "Nous verrons" from David Kinnear, an Edinburgh-born Scot who was editor of the Montreal Gazette. It is likely that whatever French Macdonald understood simply became rusty in the years after Confederation, when bilingualism was in retreat in Ottawa. Responding to Louis Fréchette's speech in 1875, he apologised that he could not comment on his remarks: "This arose from not being very familiar with the language." Macdonald was adept at polite hypocrisies: he might easily have sought a briefing on Fréchette's remarks from a Quebec ally, or simply have welcomed the use of the French language in the Commons. It is a revealing commentary on the Anglophone atmosphere of post-Confederation Ottawa that he felt able to be so blunt.[100]

During his sole speaking tour of rural Quebec in 1877, Macdonald relied upon his Francophone lieutenants to address the crowds. His response to an address of welcome at St-Hyacinthe was clumsily translated: "il regrettait de ne pouvoir répondre, dit-il, à cette trop flatteuse adresse dans la langue qu'elle lui était je reçois [sic] présentée". His handler, Louis-Rodrigue Masson, explained that he was "prié par Sir John de voulour bien parler en français pour lui."[101] Les rois nègres were happy to project themselves as the prime minister's puppet-masters.

In fact, when it suited him, Macdonald was perfectly prepared to hold forth, if not in French, then at least about how it should be interpreted. In 1878, the House of Commons debated the need for an authorised translation of the British North America Act: embarrassingly, as it was Westminster legislation, Canada's constitutional charter was not covered by its own bilingualism provisions in Section 133. A central issue was the appropriate term to render "Dominion", an official style for the new Confederation that had been adopted at a late stage in the drafting of the British North America, apparently without any consideration of a suitable French equivalent. The term adopted, "Puissance", was not universally popular. Luther Holton had criticised it in the first session of the new legislature as "an improper translation", one that implied sovereignty. Cartier ("himself a 'puissance'" as Holton put it) replied that he "would insist on keeping the word as long as he was in the House." It "simply meant power, and Canada was a power in North America."[102]

The 1878 debate resulted from another attempt by poet-politician Louis Fréchette to secure respectful treatment for the French language. He "asked to be permitted to make a few remarks in French", before criticising several clumsy word-for-word formulations used in the unofficial translation of the British North America Act as "not in conformity with the spirit of the French language". The term "salaire", for instance, should only be applied to payments made to "ordinary labourers", and was incorrectly used to refer to the remuneration (salary) of "high dignitaries" such as lieutenant-governors. Some English words had simply been transliterated: for instance, in setting conditions for appointment to government posts, "qualifications" should be "qualités requises". Cartier's preferred term for "Dominion" drew his particular fire. It was inappropriate: in Europe, "puissance" indicated a great power, but Canada was "still a colony". It did not sit easily in "such extraordinary phrases" as "Les canaux de la puissance" and "Les chemins de fer de la puissance", and he did not wish to see these embarrassing descriptors used in Canada's display at the forthcoming international exhibition in Paris. Fundamentally, "Dominion" conveyed the idea of "passive domination, of something which was dominated", whereas "puissance suggests the idea of power of active domination." Fréchette's fellow members from Quebec were naturally sympathetic to his criticisms, but caution was urged by influential figures such as Laurier and Masson, a critic of the quality of translation of parliamentary debates into French. Cleaning up the non-official version of the British North America Act would probably lead to pressure to remove Anglicisms from previous legislation. Quebec politicians no doubt recalled the lengthy project to codify Lower Canadian civil law, which had been predominantly thought and written in French. Cleaning up the criminal law statute book designed mainly in English could only lead to complications and inconsistencies.

In the circumstances, there was no obvious reason for John A. Macdonald to intervene. As a stubbornly self-proclaimed monoglot, the leader of the opposition might have sat back and left Liberal ministers to wrestle with the problem. Perhaps he spoke out of loyalty to his former ally, Cartier. More likely, he wished to capitalise on one of the few political strengths remaining to him after his ignominious fall from power in 1873, his status as the father Canada's constitution. Whatever his motive, the politician from Kingston who had the previous year sat mute on the platforms of Quebec now spoke as if he was an expert on technical translation. He agreed that "puissance" was not a precise equivalent, but while it might be "philologically inaccurate", it had "now acquired a technical and legal significance". John A. Macdonald, it seemed, understood French better than he chose to let on.[103]

Macdonald seems to have made only one public utterance in French, while speaking (extensively, and in English) at the inauguration of a statue to George-Étienne Cartier on Ottawa's Parliament Hill in 1885. He concluded with "the words of the song he used to sing to us so often when he was with us in society: Il y a longtemps que je t'aime / Jamais je ne t'oublierai." It was a pleasant gesture, but it was hardly bilingualism in action. In general, Quebecers do not seem to have minded that Macdonald could not, or would not, use their language. However, F-X. Trudel, who defected from the Tory party in 1887, did complain about Macdonald's inability to speak a word of French, despite depending upon his French Canadian alliance for thirty years. During the 1887 Dominion general election campaign, Joseph Adolphe Chapleau abruptly threatened to bolt the Conservative campaign unless he was granted complete control of patronage in the Montreal district. Sir John A. Macdonald surrendered, and Chapleau, who usually corresponded with his party leader in English, listed his detailed demands in French. Whether the language was chosen because he was writing in haste, or – perhaps more likely – to rub home his triumph, cannot be determined. Macdonald did once unleash a whole half-sentence in French in the House of Commons, taunting Laurier after the 1891 election with the words, "I tell my friends and I tell my foes, J'y suis, j'y reste". It was almost certainly his longest utterance in a 47-year parliamentary career. He died five weeks later.[104]

Alexander Campbell, generally overshadowed by his contemporary and sometimes ally Macdonald, is an example of an Anglophone public figure who was at least functionally bilingual. Thanks to a brief period studying at a seminary near Montreal in his early teens, he could understand French. However, it was perhaps an exaggeration to say that "he acquired a considerable knowledge of the French language": when he wrote to his alma mater in 1887, he arranged for the civil servant William Dawson Le Sueur to correct minor errors in his grammar.[105] Campbell sat in the pre-Confederation Legislative Council, and led the Conservatives in the Senate for the first twenty years of the Dominion, for three-quarters of that time as government leader in the upper house. His facility with French was crucial to managing the broad range of business that fell upon his shoulders. However, his strength probably lay primarily in his reading knowledge of the language: he was a devotee of French literature. One example of his competence comes from the early days of his ministerial career when, in March 1865, as Commissioner of Crown Lands, he introduced a major overhaul of fisheries legislation. In a pioneering conservation measure, Campbell proposed to ban fixed brushwood weirs in the estuaries of Lower Canadian rivers, so that salmon could swim upstream. The reform required legislation to curb the open-ended rights in centuries-old seigniorial grants. When one member suggested that the term "tackle" in the English version of the regulations already implied limitation of fishing rights to moveable gear, Campbell retorted that the charters specified "avec droit de toute pêche, à toutes sortes d'engins".[106] Few Anglophone politicians could have reacted so fast and flexibly in the midst of parliamentary debate. Yet Campbell was apparently reluctant to speak in French. "'On occasion, he could make a French speech in the Senate; though he rarely exercised the gift, and only perhaps to meet some playful challenge of the French members."[107]

Learning French – the key to political success?

We should note that Anglophone Canadian politicians who were fluent in French did not necessarily benefit from their linguistic skills. Examples already discussed include John Neilson, of the Quebec Gazette, a prominent figure before the rebellions of 1837-8, and John Sandfield Macdonald, first premier of Ontario, both of whom lived in French-speaking households. The example of Neilson has already been noted. The bilingual Sandfield Macdonald was politically located at the centre of the fissiparous Reform Party, and geographically based at the heart of the province of Canada. Yet, somehow, he was consistently outplayed by his wily and unilingual Conservative namesake.

Born in the north of Ireland, Lewis Thomas Drummond learned his French at the Séminaire de Nicolet, and used the language to correspond with LaFontaine on political tactics. A member of the Hincks-Morin ministry from 1851, he remained in office as part of the centrist MacNab-Morin coalition formed in 1854. As noted above, Drummond unsuccessfully contested the succession of John A. Macdonald to the premiership in 1856 "in consequence of his seniority compared with Mr. Macdonald, and his intimate acquaintance with the French language". In many ways, Drummond would have been the ideal political leader for the province of Canada, but John A. Macdonald easily out-manoeuvred him too, and Drummond's bilingual talents never secured him the premiership that he coveted.

During a spat in the Canadian Assembly in 1856 over the parliamentary representation of Lower Canada's English minority, T.-J.-J. Loranger cited a number of Anglophones who had been returned for Francophone ridings, but pointedly refused to include Drummond "for they claimed him as a Frenchman." However, there may be a clue that explains his failure in an enthusiastic tribute to him by Joseph-Édouard Cauchon, who said that Drummond combined "la richesse de l'imagination irlandaise à la froide raison de l'Allemand". Drummond was bilingual, he was impressive – but, in the last resort, he was still not a true French Canadian.[108]

The Montreal businessman and politician Luther H. Holton was bilingual, readily campaigning in both languages to win Chateauguay in 1867. A politician of considerable ability and integrity (he was unusual in never having business dealings with the unreliable John A. Macdonald), Holton was another able politician who somehow failed to reach the highest level in public life. Three months of French immersion living with a family in the early 1840s proved one of the foundations of the career of Alexander Morris, one of the prophets of Confederation. Although hampered by ill health, he survived five years as lieutenant-governor of Manitoba in the 1870s, a period before its French-speaking population was swamped by migration from Ontario and overseas. Morris steered provincial politics into an outline mould of responsible government, although leaving a less benign inheritance on Native issues. An enigmatic comment in a family letter of John A. Macdonald suggests that he sent his son to learn French near Rivière-du-Loup in 1866. Perhaps this explains why Hugh John Macdonald moved to Manitoba in 1882: as so often, his DCB entry throws no light upon his possible language skills. However, he supported Greenway's assault on the official status of French.[109] As leader of Manitoba's "English" party in opposition to Louis Riel, John Christian Schultz might have been expected to be a unilingual Anglophone. In fact, he arrived at the Red River in 1861"parlant assez bien le français pour converser avec le peuple". Communication did not foster understanding.[110]

Nicholas Flood Davin probably acquired his language skills as special correspondent covering the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1. As a journalist in Regina, he craved the scoop of an interview with Louis Riel in his death cell. Refused access, he adopted the disguise of a priest, with false beard, crucifix and robes. Presenting himself at the jail and speaking French, he claimed to be Père Bienveillée, ancien confesseur to the condemned man. He was admitted, and secured an interview which he published in an ungraciously hostile scoop. Davin generously hailed Louis Fréchette as "our first national poet ... the Canadian poet who sings in French", but his later ruminations on the need for a national literature assumed that it would evolve in the language of Shakespeare. It is probably for the best that he did not attempt to become a bilingual parliamentarian, since many of his fellow members thought he took up more than enough time in one language.[111]

It may come as a surprise to encounter George T. Denison as someone who could express himself in French. Indeed, what seems to be the sole available scrap of evidence suggests that his French was not very accurate. A visit to France as a young man confirmed his sense of Canadian nationalism. "In France I used to tell them, 'Je suis Canadien – de [sic] Haut Canada." He was irked by the frequent reply: "Oui, oui! Colonie Anglais [sic]". Denison may have imbibed a basic acquaintance with the language as a student at Upper Canada College, despite the fact that "his performance was unspectacular". His Canadian nationalism would later merge into enthusiasm for the British empire.[112]

It is likely that there were other English-speaking politicians in late-nineteenth century Canadian public life who could speak French, but found few opportunities to do so within the overwhelmingly unilingual culture of government. F.-X. Trudel regarded J.J.C. Abbott as competent in French, and even gave him the credit for using the language comfortably in private conversation. He added that Liberal leader Edward Blake was an enthusiast for the language, spoke it fluently and appreciated its subtleties. This may seem surprising, since Blake was widely regarded as stand-offish individual, who repelled polite interaction: perhaps he became a different personality when he switched to French.[113]

Solomon White, a late-nineteenth century Ontario public figure, is not easily classified. The son of James White, a Wyandot chief, and Angélique Fortier, from the Francophone enclave in south-western Ontario, he became fluent in both languages, and qualified as a barrister in 1865. Although he was not formally enfranchised under the terms of the Indian Act until 1877, Solomon White was already active in provincial politics, and would serve two terms in the Ontario legislature between 1878 and 1894. Officially a Conservative, his defence of French-language schools put him at odds with his party, while his call for clemency towards Aboriginal participants in the Riel rebellion cost him his seat in 1886. Support for the annexation of Canada to the United States was also at considerable variance with Conservative attitudes. His DCB/DBC biography is unusual in highlighting his competence in both French and English, although intriguingly it does not reveal whether he also had a command of any Aboriginal languages. In practical terms, it seems fair to regard him as an English Canadian who spoke French, and it may seem a matter for regret that the Dominion did not find more use for his talents.[114]

The office of governor-general

The often overlooked office of governor-general forms part of the story of Canada's elusive bilingualism. The British aristocrats who occupied Rideau Hall until 1952, and (even more so) their wives, more-or-less automatically spoke French, the badge of genteel culture, although several appointees felt the need to brush up their skills on arrival in Canada. Examining their various language competences may help assess the extent to which the office constituted a focus, or at least a hyphen, of national unity.

Although Sir Charles Bagot (governor-general, 1842-3) presided over the admission of LaFontaine and the Reformers to government, he was less sympathetic to French Canadians than has sometimes been portrayed. They "will always be troublesome if they can, by mere force of habit. ... It is despairing to see how they always take justice and kindness only as instalments of their own unreasonable pretensions wrung from our sense of their consequence". But Bagot was a professional diplomat, skilled in French, the language of international relations. He mobilised it in its most elegant form, and in his own longhand, to assure Archbishop Signay of Quebec of "mon désir ardent d'établir et de maintenir sur les bases les plus solides et les plus égales, cette harmonie qui doit toujours régner parmi les sujets de notre Auguste Souveraine". Unlike his predecessor, the anglicising Lord Sydenham, Bagot carried on most of his correspondence with Francophones in their language.[115]

On his arrival at Quebec, Lord Elgin (governor-general 1847-54) "made a most favourable impression on the French Canadian population by replying to them extemporaneously in their own language." He pressed for the repeal of the provision in the Union Act for the compulsory use of English, which he described in 1848 as "very impolitic & calculated to produce the very opposite effects from those intended." It would have been embarrassing had the first viceregal attempt to read the throne speech been marred by errors, but Hector-Louis Langevin enthusiastically reported that "Lord Elgin prononce le français aussi purement qu'un Parisien." Elgin's evident enthusiasm for French was not shared by Lord Monck (governor-general, 1861-8), who found the repetition of lengthy throne speeches an imposition: "Did I not wish 'notre langue' at the bottom of the sea," he remarked, of course privately, on one occasion.[116]

The shift away from the use of French in the new Dominion made viceregal language skills all the more important. Visiting London in 1868, George-Étienne Cartier met Monck's recently appointed successor, Sir John Young (governor-general 1869-72, later Lord Lisgar), and reported to Sir John A. Macdonald that both he and Lady Young spoke excellent French. In her published reminiscences of Canada, Lady Dufferin discreetly projected the viceregal couple as capable of socialising with French Canadians, while her husband (governor-general 1872-8) discharged the formal duties of his post in both languages. However, Barbara J. Messamore – the authority on the office at that period – believes that Lord Dufferin's claims to multilingual competence were based more upon showmanship than profundity. As he explained to his successor, Lord Lorne, "the French Canadians are not in a position to criticise my accent as their own is excerable [sic]."[117]

Lord Lorne (governor-general 1878-83) found two aspects of Canadian life daunting: one was mobility on ice, the other was speaking French. "I hope before I leave Canada to be a thoroughly good skater and Frenchman," he wrote, with jovial insecurity. His wife, Princess Louise, was out of place in Canadian society. One device by which she demonstrated her disdain was through exaggerated cultivation of members of the Francophone elite, who could be regarded as European transplants rather than American offshoots. On one occasion at Rideau Hall, she is said to have engaged in deep conversation with the cultivated wife of a Quebec Senator, ignoring and embarrassing the Anglophone women who were present. Eventually, one of them, on the verge of tears, begged an equerry to "take pity on us and talk to us in English."[118]

Lorne's successor, the Marquess of Lansdowne (governor-general 1883-8), got off to a flying start. His mother was half-French, and he had been encouraged to speak the language from early childhood. He received a civic welcome on his arrival at Quebec, and duly replied, first in English, which was politely received by the mainly Francophone audience, before switching into their own tongue: "before I had got out half a dozen words of the French reply, the whole audience burst into rapturous applause, which continued more or less until I had finished." Lansdowne seems to have suspected that the demonstration was a reprimand to the departing Lorne. "I suppose my French was less bad than some to which they have been used". He was unduly modest. In reality, Lansdowne operated in the highest circle of bilingualism, where practitioners have the confidence to adopt an alternative persona when they switch languages. An English visitor witnessed him at a farewell ceremony for the Canadian contingent heading for the Sudan in 1885. Addressing the English-speaking volunteers, he was "kindly, encouraging," praising their patriotism "in the strictest gubernatorial style without gesture or motion." Then he turned to the French Canadian voyageurs, who were charged with the romantic role of surfing the Nile rapids. They received substantially the same speech, delivered in "shorter and terser sentences; but in less than two minutes he spoke with all the animation of a born Frenchman, with all the gesticulation and vivacity of the race, and the staidness of his demeanour entirely disappeared. The genius of the French language had taken possession of him, and he concluded an impassioned oration in the most approved French style, both as regards language and movements." In discussion afterwards, Lansdowne himself appeared "quite unconscious of any difference in attitude or gestures in making the two speeches."[119]

Upon their arrival in Canada, Lord and Lady Aberdeen (he was governor-general 1893-8) were "desirous of polishing up our French", and consulted a Professor Lefebvre ("professor" seems to have been a fake honorific) whose "special system" involved "reading out loud some good conversational French book as fast as ever one can go". This proto-immersion system was supplemented by the target of conjugating verbs in less than fifteen seconds. Responding to a bilingual address of welcome in Montreal, Lord Aberdeen "made use of the two languages, which met with favour from his audience." He does not seem to have gone out of his way to characterise his term of office as bilingual, but there were occasions where the alternative official language could not be avoided. Unveiling a statue to Champlain in Quebec City in 1898, he spoke in French and "got through the ordeal in first-rate style".

Aberdeen's successor, Lord Minto (governor-general 1898-1904), arrived in 1898 to an address of welcome from the city of Quebec. He found replying in French "a great anxiety", and he was amused to be congratulated on his Parisian accent. "Upon my word I was better than the Mayor, whom I could scarcely follow at all."[120]

A later governor-general, Lord Tweedsmuir (the novelist John Buchan, who held office from 1935 to 1940), was a cosmopolitan intellectual. "On lit Proust à Rideau Hall!" was the admiring comment in Quebec. Tweedsmuir himself modestly insisted that claims he spoke "perfect French" were "notoriously untrue", but he made frequent speeches in the language. A 1937 speech in which he stated that the first loyalty of a Canadian must be to Canada drew strong support from the nationalist Le Devoir, but the key point here was the message and not the use of language – in any case, the governor-general spoke in English on that occasion, not least because it was a message that Anglo-Canadians especially needed to hear.

Tweedsmuir was also one of the last major figures to entertain the possibility that Quebecers might outbreed their partners in Confederation: "with the present increase in their population, in fifty years there may be a French majority in Canada." In such a scenario, the Dominion would have come to resemble South Africa, where he had spent an early portion of his career, in which Afrikaners constituted the majority of the white population, and the adherence of the Union to Britain's imperial system required negotiation.[121] The last British governor-general, Viscount Alexander of Tunis (1946-52) brushed up his French by taking lessons from the Mother Superior of the Maison Jeanne d'Arc convent in Ottawa.[122]

Shortly after his appointment as the first Canadian-born governor-general, Vincent Massey (1952-9) invited a friend from Quebec for a two-week visit to Rideau Hall "so that in daily conversation, he could sharpen his French, grown a little flabby from long disuse." In emphasising the country's bilingual nature, Massey was some distance in advance of most of its elected leaders. Remarkably, the biographers of the American-born C.D. Howe record that Louis St Laurent planned to appoint him to the office of governor-general. The scheme, which involved Howe's leaving politics and establishing his neutrality by taking up charity work, foundered because Alexander resigned unexpectedly early. When Howe had come to Ottawa, he had insisted on recruiting a Francophone secretary, but – so his biographers relate – he "never did try reviving his high-school French". We are not told how he could have represented all Canadians in Rideau Hall.[123]

French in the Maritimes

Canada's two principal European languages mostly came into contact – and sometimes confrontation – in the St Lawrence valley, and later in Manitoba. But, of course, there was an older Francophone presence in the Maritimes, usually isolated and invariably poorer than its English-speaking neighbours. A central issue in higher education policy for New Brunswick's Acadian community was whether its small colleges should be based firmly in French-language teaching, or operate as a means of equipping its emerging elite to function in an Anglophone world. Curiously enough, Bishop James Rogers, an Irishman regarded as unsympathetic to Acadian aspirations, could preach not only in French but also in Mi'kmaw. The predominant story of the Acadians is of a community on the defensive throughout the nineteenth century, sometimes even refused facilities to attend confession in their own language, and unable to secure the appointment of a Francophone bishop until 1912.[124] Accordingly, it would not be surprising if few Anglophones sought to become bilingual. Those who did may have aimed to associate themselves more with Paris than with Caraquet. "We think it no disadvantage if a Nova Scotian can speak two of the noblest European languages instead of one," Joseph Howe proclaimed, as he denounced the Francophobe violence of Montreal's Tory mob in 1849. Howe had taught himself to read French in his late teens, but he seems to have had few if any opportunities to speak the language.[125]

Acadian communities in the Maritime Provinces were barely visible for much of the nineteenth century, and only audible on the relatively rare occasions when they elected one of their number to a local legislature.[126] Amand Landry in New Brunswick was a trail-blazer, representing Westmorland County from 1853 to 1857, and again from 1861 to 1870. His successful return did not please one Saint John newspaper, which published a lampoon of one of his English-language election speeches. The Saint John Morning Freeman retorted that since there were New Brunswick politicians "who claim English as their mother tongue, and are belauded as orators, and yet can never utter a sentence without gross violations of Syntax, or most offensive solecisms and Provincialisms, it is, to say the least very ill judged to ridicule a Frenchman's pronunciation". Unfortunately, contemporary New Brunswick institutions of government gave Landry no opportunity to use his own language, a deficiency highlighted by a spoof debate mounted by several members of the Assembly one morning in 1868 before the start of formal proceedings. The chief participants were Landry and the Provincial Secretary, John Adolphus Beckwith, both of whom spoke volubly in French, "much to the astonishment, if not the enlightenment, of the galleries." The principal subject of their oratory was the prominent nose of a distinguished member. A Fredericton newspaper noted that Landry "spoke, by the way, quite fluently, and proved that it is only native modesty and inaptitude in the use of the general language that keeps him so silent." It would be a century before the New Brunswick Assembly introduced simultaneous translation. A representative of Anglophone York County, Beckwith had presumably acquired some knowledge of French while studying to become a surveyor in Quebec and Montreal as a young man.[127] Perhaps more Anglophone New Brunswick politicians could speak French than can now be traced. D'Arcy McGee claimed that Peter Mitchell was known as "Pierre Michel" in Acadian districts because he "could speak to his French constituents in their own language." Although a successful fisheries minister in the first years of the Dominion, Mitchell proved to be another bilingual politician who failed to establish himself as an independent force in politics.[128]

C: The Two Solitudes, 1888-1969

Fin de siècle: the resurgence of French and Anglophone resistance

In the later nineteenth century, some English Canadians began to see that they might confer advantages upon their children by giving them a bilingual education. In 1888, John Thompson told his son that French was going to "be very important in Canada." He also sent two of his daughters to convent school in Quebec, selecting the Sisters of the Sacred Heart as they were from metropolitan France, and could impart a Parisian accent. Thompson and his wife, Annie, also practised their own French. Although generally regarded as an Imperialist, George M. Grant had no problems with an emerging Canadian identity, based on two founding peoples and capable of absorbing other immigrant groups. It was, he claimed in 1896, "a most interesting experiment, and one that has already had a large measure of success." Just as French Canadians wanted their children to learn English, in order "not to be handicapped for life in America," so equally "the British Canadian, finding that the man who is master of two languages is often preferred to him, resolves that if he cannot speak French his children shall."[129]

It is indeed likely that Thompson and Grant were identifying a more positive attitude towards the French language among some English Canadians. Unfortunately, the trend can hardly be quantified, and was probably confined to a small section of middle class professionals. More seriously, those who quietly saw French as part of Canada's future were probably outnumbered by those who were determined to ensure that it was a future that deserved to be cut off in its prime. An Irish Protestant by birth, D'Alton McCarthy did not share Thompson's positive attitude to the resurgence of French. He led the campaign to overturn Quebec's Jesuit Estates Act of 1888, broadening his demand to restrict Catholic power into a wider assertion of the need for linguistic uniformity – in English, of course. In a major speech delivered in December 1889, he told an Ottawa audience: "I have only been in public life for twelve years, but to my certain knowledge the Frenchman is more French ... and more French is spoken in the House than when I first came here in 1876, and it is still growing." Not surprisingly, McCarthy's attempts to restrict the use of French were counter-productive. "It is somewhat of a burning question just now, this matter of languages," Lady Aberdeen noted on arriving in Canada in 1893. "The French are very tenacious about their language being recognized & look upon it as a concession to their nationality, & as such like its use even when perfectly understanding & speaking English. Since the movement for the abolishing of the custom has sprung up, much more French is spoken in the Dominion Parliament.... Sometimes for a day or two nothing but French may be heard, though many M.P.'s do not understand it & at other times the same speaker will speak first in one language, then in another."[130]

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the relationship between the two language communities across Canada was well captured in the title of Hugh MacLennan's 1945 novel, Two Solitudes. Only in two cities was there any large-scale possibility of a linguistic interface, but neither in the business world of Montreal nor at Ottawa, the seat of government, did the English language make many concessions to its French neighbours. André Siegfried, who visited Canada several times from France between 1898 and 1904, was struck by the Anglophone strategy of "ignoring deliberately the very presence of the French. ... You might spend many weeks among the English of Montreal without anyone letting you realise that the city is two-thirds French."[131]

At civic level, the Francophone majority gradually asserted itself, despite barriers to participation such as property and tax-paying qualifications for the franchise and, until 1889, open voting. In 1884, the City Council overcame Anglophone resistance and resolved to limit recruitment to the municipal police force to candidates who were bilingual. One Irish Canadian representative "feared that the next step would be to require the two languages from aldermen", waspishly adding that this would be a problem for those who found it difficult to express themselves in one. (Quebec's provincial police force only got around to demanding "connaissance raisonable" of both languages in 1922.) By 1896, Francophone aldermen had a 17-9 majority. Where hirings were concerned, the motto of machine politician Joseph Préfontaine, who achieved ascendancy in the 1890s, might well have been, "In Victory, Revenge." A longtime convention, sometimes bent a little, that the mayoralty should alternate between the language groups, was swept aside in the early twentieth century.[132]

Yet the trend towards Francophone political power did little to undermine English linguistic hegemony. In 1894, visiting Toronto Globe journalist John A. Ewan applauded the progress of bilingualism in Montreal – but he interpreted the concept entirely as an obligation by the French to learn English. Although Francophones constituted three-quarters of the city's population, English was dominant in the public sphere. "That language is heard everywhere – on the streets, in shops, in meetings, and wherever, indeed, two or three are gathered together. ... I have not yet met a man with whom I could not converse in English freely enough for all practical purposes." Self-interest led French Canadians to recognise the necessity to speak English in the search for employment. To some extent, Ewan admitted, the principle applied in reverse: "there can be no doubt that a knowledge of both languages is a powerful assistance" to career advancement, but the onward march of English would make this of less importance. For instance, "when the great majority of people understand English, the necessity for bi-lingual attendants in the stores will disappear." He expected that this process would spread outwards from the city, and gradually erode French throughout the entire province. Ewan may have exaggerated the dominance of English on the streets of Montreal. Four years earlier, the fifteen year-old Maud Montgomery, visiting from Prince Edward Island, had baldly noted: "You hear as much French as English here."[133]

In 1902, the Mintos tried to break down the social barriers between the Montreal elites with a series of bicultural soirées. As Lord Minto reported to King Edward VII, it was impossible to describe "the rigid line that exists between English and French society there." It was not even a case of language intersecting with social class, of top hat versus tuque, but rather one of Westmount ignoring Outremont: "the leaders of English society in Montreal are 'nouveaux riches', and are inclined to give the cold shoulder to the old French families, very proud of their often distinguished descent, but generally poor and devoid of the knack of making money." The viceregal couple invited "both French and English to our parties, and it was curious to see the leaders of either race not knowing one another by sight." Cultural segregation continued unabated. Eugene Forsey entered McGill University two decades later, in 1922. In four years as a student, he "scarcely ever set foot" in French Montreal. "I had no occasion to, nor as far as I could tell had most of the 'English'."[134] In the long run, Anglo-Quebecers would pay a high price for their "parlez blanche" mentality.

There was, however, one important example of cultural crossover from Montreal in that era. Several young men of Irish Catholic heritage who played ice hockey for the Montreal Shamrocks had studied at classical colleges and were bilingual: the best known of them, Arthur Farrell, who also wrote about the sport, had studied at Collège Sainte-Marie in Montreal. The Shamrocks became the first major team to recruit Francophone players, and this link between the two communities helped foster the spread of hockey in French Canada – making no small impact upon popular culture.[135]

Outside Montreal, there is no reason to doubt that similar incomprehension existed in other centres, such as Quebec City and Sherbrooke. Born in 1912, Northrop Frye spent his childhood in Sherbrooke and in Moncton, New Brunswick – as he acknowledged, both towns with substantial Francophone populations, which existed "in a state of more or less amiable Apartheid". Anglophones in Moncton, New Brunswick were especially resistant to recognise the existence of their French neighbours. "Bilingualism divides, not unites a country," argued the local Orange Lodge as late as 1968. "The solution lies in one language, English."[136]

In rural areas, separation of the language groups meant that there were few potential flashpoints. Nonetheless, by the late nineteenth century, migration from Quebec into eastern Ontario was fuelling Anglophone fears: in December 1885, the Toronto Mail predicted that the French front-line would reach Kingston within twenty-five years. These concerns underlay the long-running dispute over bilingual schools in Ontario.[137] More dramatic change overtook Quebec's Eastern Townships. A fiery petition of 1822 had declared the Townships to be the preserve of settlers "who have no other language than that of their British Ancestors", and complained that they suffered "the evil of subjection to foreign laws in a foreign language". However, this English-speaking enclave was gradually eroded by colonisation projects designed to stem French Canadian emigration to industrial New England.

The process was bitterly denounced in 1916 by Robert Sellar, a local newspaper editor. Sellar claimed to oppose not so much a Francophone province as a papal dependency. (In deploring the tone of his diatribe in their capacity as scholars, modern historians should note that they would not have wished, as citizens, to live under the influence of the Ultramontane Quebec Church of a century ago.) While ostensibly Sellar placed little emphasis upon language, it was nonetheless evident that it was the badge of unacceptable change. He wrote nostalgically of a vanished community where New England farmers, Irish Catholics, Highlanders and Lowland Scots had assisted each other, from farm to neighbouring farm. "To-day approach one of those homes, and with a polite gesture madam gives you to understand she does not speak English." In an echo of D'Alton McCarthy, he deplored the new-found linguistic assertiveness of the interlopers. "Nationalism has produced a type of Canadian unknown thirty years ago, who shouts French when he knows he who asks him a question speaks only English, telephones in French, demands what he wants in French, persists in using his mother-tongue as an instrument to humiliate his English neighbour."[138]

Sellar's position was extreme – his own family later attempted to suppress the book – but it reflected a continuing view that English was the default language of Canada, and that there was a moral obligation upon every citizen to speak it. The logical alternative had been argued by the young Vincent Massey in a University of Toronto student magazine five years earlier. Since it was impossible to make all Canadians adopt either language, the only solution was to "make Canada bi-lingual; to teach French and English throughout the Dominion; to concentrate on them and to teach them well." Unfortunately, political panaceas that seem self-evident to undergraduate journalists often prove surprisingly difficult to achieve in the real world.[139]

On the national stage, an attempt was made in 1916-17 to build bridges through the Bonne Entente movement. Two Toronto businessmen came up with the idea of exchanging goodwill visits between Ontario and Quebec, a project that was necessarily restricted to members of their respective elites (and to elites from central Canada). Although well-intentioned, Bonne Entente was a classic instance of an attempt to build a house from the roof down. Its Ontario backers saw it as a way of encouraging Quebec's commitment to the War effort; some Quebec respondents hoped to soften Ontario opposition to French-language schools. Notably, speeches made during the first fact-finding tour of Quebec were delivered almost entirely in English. The movement broke up in 1917 when some of its Toronto activists attempted to turn it into a vehicle for the support of Conscription.[140]

However, Bonne Entente did stimulate some positive thinking in one of its founders, Toronto businessman John M. Godfrey. In an address in 1918, he reflected on the fiftieth anniversary of Confederation, which he described as having been "celebrated" the previous year. (In reality, rejoicings in the bitterly divided Dominion had been muted, and official festivities were deferred until Canada's sixtieth birthday in 1927.) Godfrey argued that what he called the "second phase of Confederation" should be marked by "our devotion to the national rather than the provincial ideal." Moderation on issues regarding language should form part of that spirit.

Initially, Godfrey's endorsement of bilingual policies seemed to focus patronisingly upon conferring the benefits of English upon French Canadians. Referring to the Ontario Schools dispute, he asserted that "there can be no possible objection to the French Canadian being given adequate instruction in his own language so that he may speak and read it correctly and have an opportunity to become acquainted with its literature." (It is clear that he did not think much of the dialect spoken by the provincial minority.) But mother-tongue education should lead to the acquisition of English as a second language. Godfrey's experience of Bonne Entente had persuaded him that the people of Quebec wished "to know the language spoken by one hundred million people on this continent.... The French-Canadian knows that no career is ahead of him in this country or in the United States unless he can speak English." Hence, "if we only go about this question in the right way the French-Canadian minority in Ontario will learn English."

But Godfrey was not simply arguing for a policy of benign assimilation. He had undoubtedly learned some salutary lessons about language issues. "The one thing which the educated French-Canadian has a right to be proud of is his bilingualism. That which makes us feel stupid and uneducated in his presence is our unilingualism."[141] He believed it eminently possible to train bilingual teachers for Ontario schools. "English-speaking girls might be sent to some of the Seminaries in the Province of Quebec" to "become proficient in French". Young Canadian soldiers had fought alongside their gallant French allies, and billeted with French families. "Many of them will come home with a good working knowledge of French," and will help to "leaven the lump of unilingualism among the English-speaking people of Canada". Unfortunately, Protestant Ontario was unlikely to risk the souls of its young women by entrusting them to nuns, while Godfrey's view of military life overseas was a touch idealised. Nonetheless, his call for French language teaching to be "made compulsory in our schools and universities" was striking. Historians have not been kind to Bonne Entente, but its founder's challenge might have given Canada a new sense of purpose. "The curse of this country is not bilingualism, but unilingualism." Godfrey's speech was generously reported in the Toronto Globe, but nothing came of his clarion call.[142]

Perhaps unexpectedly, Godfrey's argument was echoed a few years later by an unlikely voice from the past. Charles Mair was in his eighties when he issued "A Message to the Youth of Canada". One of the members of Canada First, he had spent much of his career in western Canada, including a direct involvement with the Red River Troubles in 1868-70. It is likely that he spoke, or at least understood, French, but Louis Riel's destruction of a poem on which he had devoted five years of effort hardly added to his enthusiasm for the Franco-Manitoban identity. Advancing years seem to have mellowed him. Around 1925, he called for Canada's national partnership to become one of "brotherhood", telling his fellow Anglophones that "the Frenchman's love of this country is not second to our own." "I should like to see the French language taken up in the primary grades of every school throughout the Dominion, for to understand the language of a people is to understand that people's soul."[143]

Ottawa in the twentieth century

Official Ottawa remained stubbornly monoglot. André Siegfried noted the capital's formal commitment to bilingualism: official documents were "printed in both languages", and minority rights to use the language of choice were "very carefully safeguarded". Nonetheless, he was well aware that, in practice, it did not amount to much: "the French are almost always obliged to speak in English, for otherwise they would not be properly understood and their speeches would make no impression."[144] When Quebec Senator Philippe-Auguste Choquette commented, as an aside in 1918, that he would vote for any proposal that "no man can be elected to the House of Commons or appointed to the Senate unless he knows both official languages", he obviously knew that no such reform was remotely likely.[145]

Within the Ottawa bureaucracy, the Department of External Affairs was a particularly glaring example of Anglophone dominance. In 1912, Raoul Dandurand criticised the quality of documentation submitted to the French government. "Coming from this bilingual country, I felt somewhat humiliated when I was in Paris to learn that documents emanating from the Federal Government of Canada were so badly translated that the French Government asked that the English version be sent instead." The situation had not improved when Lester ("Mike") Pearson was recruited in 1927. "When Mike took the examinations, not a word was raised about the French language, and in External in those days scarcely a word of French was spoken, except by Francophones themselves. What is most astonishing is that Mike and most of his colleagues did not regard this situation as unusual or deplorable." Years later, Pearson himself did recall that it was "[s]urprising" that "there was no requirement, or even opportunity, to show any knowledge of French, the traditional language of diplomacy and of 30 percent of all Canadians."[146]

As its senior civil servant, Oscar D. Skelton ran External Affairs entirely in English. During his absence in 1937, his deputy, Laurent Beaudry, attempted to insist that correspondence passing through his hands should be submitted in French. The prime minister, Mackenzie King, treated this demand as a symptom of a nervous breakdown, and pressed Beaudry to take leave of absence. His attitude was considerably more enlightened than that of his cabinet colleagues, who wanted to have Beaudry disciplined for insubordination. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this unsavoury episode is that King's political antennae – always attuned to possible problems in Quebec – detected no warning signals in Beaudry's threat to resign over the issue.

King (who also held the external affairs portfolio) ruled that communications with the United States and Britain, still Canada's most important diplomatic interlocutors, should be conducted exclusively in English. Senator Raoul Dandurand was to take temporary charge of the department while King was overseas, and the prime minister conceded that there "could be no objection" to his correspondence with Beaudry in French, "or to any parties that were corresponding in French, or to the French legation". Of course, this did not tackle the fundamental problem that External Affairs attracted few staff capable of operating in French. J.L. Granatstein suggests that potential recruits were deterred by English Canada's reflex "Ready, aye, ready!" response to Britain's European crises. Skelton and Pearson might believe that they were carving out a distinctive Canadian international role, but their political masters were still programmed to rally to the imperial cause. Even in the late 1950s, External Affairs would pay for its staff to learn Russian or Chinese, but not French, because such a programme would have implied that French was a foreign language. This was a linguistic Catch 22.[147]

The Ministry of Finance was another Ottawa bastion that automatically functioned in English. It was taken for granted that its political head would come from the English-speaking community: Jean Chrétien in 1977 was Canada's first Francophone Minister of Finance. The people who ran the economy worked closely with the people who controlled the economy: when Ottawa dealt with Montreal, it talked to Westmount, not Le Plateau. In 1940, the Ministry of Finance counted not one single Francophone in the Deputy Minister's office, its policy-making core. In the nuts-and-bolts sections, Accounts and Administration, there were just 23 Francophones out of a staff of 202 – less than one-eighth of the workforce, and below half their share of the country's population. One limiting factor in the recruitment of Francophones to key policy-making position was that Finance understandably needed trained economists. Products of Quebec's classical curriculum could no doubt hold forth on the Greek derivation of the term, but the social sciences were conspicuously under-represented in the province's universities. Even so, External's mandarins seemed remarkably myopic about their own composition. Mitchell Sharp, drafted in from Manitoba to advise on wheat, praised the deputy minister, Clifford Clark, for attempting "a good geographic mix" in his "core group" – with Quebec represented by an Anglo-Montrealer. In Sharp's memories of wartime Ottawa, the province of Quebec featured merely as the convenient source of "magnificent ski hills and fishing lakes".[148]

French continued to be not only inaudible but also invisible in the public sphere. Even the Government of Quebec issued its cheques solely in English until 1925, and the first bilingual postage stamps appeared in 1927, the decision of P.J. Veniot, the Acadian Postmaster General – and the practice did not become standard for several years. According to Arthur Lower, the appearance of French words on their bank notes in the 1930s so horrified many English Canadians that "the horrid sight almost robbed the money of its value." Did the absence of French matter? In the House of Commons in 1934, one politician said that the people of Quebec would not care if their banknotes were printed in Chinese, so long as there was a sufficient supply of them. Half a century later, a similar allusion would cost Newfoundlander John Crosbie whatever chance he might have of becoming Conservative leader. The speaker in 1934 was none other than Henri Bourassa.

In his collective portrait of Ottawa's public service elite, J.L. Granatstein described the entire absence of Francophones from the most senior mandarin group as "shameful ... for one of the charter groups in a nation to be completely unrepresented at the top level of the bureaucracy was a true representation of the concentration of power in Canada: only English Canadians had it." Of his nineteen influential administrators, Granatstein identified only two who were fluent in French. The absence of French Canadians from the top ranks of the civil service is all the more astonishing when geography is factored in. Granatstein's mandarins were predominantly drawn from Queen's at Kingston and from the University of Toronto – in Canadian terms, relatively nearby recruiting grounds. The under-representation of the Maritimes and western Canada could be explained in terms of distance – but the province of Quebec was just across the river, and Montreal a relatively short 200-kilometre direct train ride away.[149] In the 1940s, the overall situation even deteriorated. The public service expanded in numbers and responsibilities. The rapid hirings tended to replicate the existing patterns in bureaucratic backgrounds, further entrenching the dominance of Canada's majority language group. The Francophone minority referred to themselves, in classical code, as "les Grecs": the imperial and insensitive Romans had created the empire, but the smart Hellenistic helots ran it for them.

By 1949, mandarin Gordon Robertson later recalled, the Privy Council Office – in effect, the prime minister's department – was "desperately poor in terms of Quebeckers". He welcomed the appearance of a young bilingual Montrealer, with qualifications in law and political science, and experience of studying at Harvard and the London School of Economics, as well as the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris. Pierre Trudeau's unusual mix of skills fast-tracked him into some important ringside seats, such as the 1950 Dominion-Provincial conference, where he contributed to the rebuttal of arguments advanced by Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis. But Trudeau also found himself acting as secretary to an unusually large number of committees, since few civil servants commanded the required bilingual skills, and it was always possible French might occasionally intrude in committee deliberations. In 1951, this prize recruit moved on to radical journalism in his home province. When he returned to Ottawa fourteen years later, Pierre Trudeau, keen to portray himself as an outsider, played down his interlude in the civil service. But his colleague Gérard Pelletier concluded that the fact that Trudeau knew his way around the power structure explained his instant success as Minister of Justice.[150]

As Eugene Forsey acknowledged in 1962, Ottawa did now try to broaden its recruitment of "competent French Canadians for the higher posts". He attributed the continuing under-representation of Francophones to "two good reasons". The first was "the spread of government activity into fields requiring scientific and technical training which, until recently, the Quebec educational system was rather short on" – a deficiency which, he pointed out, was not the fault of English Canada. The second was "the reluctance of many of the ablest and best-trained French Canadians to leave Quebec, especially now, when so many exciting things are happening there". Ottawa, it was clear, needed its own Quiet Revolution. The banality of Forsey's one practical suggestion stands out simply because he felt it necessary to make the point. "We could help by making the French Canadian feel more at home in Ottawa." Creating bilingual institutions in the nation's capital, even erecting French street signs, would be "a start". But the real answer was to "make the English-speaking officials, especially the top ones, as bilingual as we can as fast as we can." In 1962, Forsey acknowledged that this would be "a large order, and a stiff one."[151] Six years later, Pierre Trudeau became prime minister and set out to impose permanent change upon the linguistic culture of the nation's capital.

English Canadian historians

English Canada's intellectual community did little to build bridges. Founded in 1922, the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) conducted its business exclusively in English for its first forty years – even when considering the report of its French-language secretary. At one early meeting, the sole Francophone contributor was humiliated when English-speaking academics were permitted to read their prepared contributions aloud and at length, but his paper was brusquely taken as read. Francophone participation in the CHA was narrow and essentially token: in the first three decades, nineteen papers were given by just three favoured Quebec academics – who mostly spoke in English. Anglophone historians rarely if ever attempted the journey in reverse. At a CHA meeting in Toronto sometime in the 1930s, Arthur Lower decided to attempt a few sentences in French. "I wrote them out, so fearful was I of stumbling." After the ordeal, the historian and archivist Gustave Lanctôt congratulated him on his courage. (Lanctôt, a graduate of both Oxford and the Sorbonne, was one of the few Francophones who felt comfortable in its ranks.) Quebec's most prominent historian, Lionel Groulx, who would most certainly have disturbed the tranquillity, was firmly excluded from the annual programme (although it is by no means certain that he would have accepted an invitation). And there was no wider public pressure across English Canada for the academics to be more open. When the CHA commissioned a booklet on Louis Riel in 1953, the Ontario Department of Education cancelled its advance order for 1,000 copies for fear of the controversy that it might introduce into the province's classrooms.

Queen's University's Reginald G. Trotter regarded it as a matter of course that the demands of "bilingualism" were discharged by printing the title page of the annual conference programme in both languages, but with the actual schedule "set in English except for the title of the French papers." Trotter's 1924 history of Confederation, explicitly subtitled "A Study in Nation Building", had been an impressive analysis of available sources produced at an early stage of academic publishing in Canadian history. Yet it was overwhelmingly an English Canadian interpretation. Just eight lines were given J.C. Taché's 1857-8 series of newspaper articles in Le Courrier du Canada, and their subsequent republication as a book, a cursory allusion that failed to credit Taché with producing a blueprint that remarkably foreshadowed the structure designed in 1864 – fostered by a coalition headed by his uncle, Sir Étienne Taché. George-Étienne Cartier appeared in Trotter's narrative, but was awarded a final accolade: "He was reconciler of French Canada to the new scheme of things." A mindset that ignored French Canadians inevitably relegated them to a role that was merely reactive.[152]

Such attitudes might be written off as evidence of the rigidity of an older generation. Unfortunately, young Canada was not notably more successful at building bridges. By the 1920s, a privileged minority of graduate students advanced their studies in Europe, Anglophones mainly at Oxford, while Francophones headed for the Sorbonne. A university residence, the Maison Canadienne, was open to both cohorts – acting as a year-round residence for the Quebecers, and also providing Anglophones an inexpensive opportunity to explore Paris during the vacations. C.P. Stacey, at Oxford from 1927 to 1929, was one of those who headed for the French capital. He encountered an atmosphere in the residence that was "Canadian dualism at its worse". The majority of the residents were French Canadians, and most were extreme nationalists. The Anglophone minority felt threatened (an unusual experience for them in any Canadian context) and "reacted ... with very active hostility." Stacey recalled that "the English group had a sort of Bible", a well-thumbed copy of Robert Sellar's The Tragedy of Quebec, with its strident tale of ethnic cleansing in the Eastern Townships. Looking back half a century later, Stacey found it "something of a shock" to recall that there had been "little contact and no discussion with the French Canadians in the house; the Oxford contingent mingled only with the English-speaking group. ... I cannot report at first hand just what the views of those young Quebeckers were." The language frontier evidently formed part of a wider cultural incomprehension.[153]

In a speech delivered in 1963, Hilda Neatby echoed the complaint of Louis Fréchette in 1873, insisting that Canadians "who spoke the language of the majority can have only a slight idea of the sense of humiliation and frustration experienced by a person forced always to express himself in a language not his own." (Notably, Neatby, an assertive individual and a pioneer feminist, used the masculine pronoun.) "When a national committee meets today, English-speaking Canadians are always associated with French-speaking colleagues. What language do they use? English – and probably the French-speaking Canadian would not have been chosen unless he could speak English, although none of his English-speaking colleagues may be able to speak French." She argued that the effort of functioning in a second language was so exhausting that the token Francophone might be unable to "explain the intricacies of his point of view in comprehensible English."[154]

Yet even for well-intentioned Anglophones, the path to bilingualism was full of obstacles. In his mid-seventies, historian Arthur Lower reflected on the chequered saga of his engagement with Canada's alternative language. Born in 1889, a product of small-town Ontario, Lower began to study French at his local high school, Barrie Collegiate Institute. "I got a thorough grounding in French grammar, could read French fairly well, and, less perfectly, write it." However, no attempt was made to use the language in the classroom, and Lower acquired no ability to speak it. "There was not the slightest recognition that French was one of the languages of my country". Things were not much better at the University of Toronto, where on the eve of the First World War the language formed a minor element in the Arts degree. Nobody ever thought to drive home to students "that French was one of our Canadian languages, and that this imposed on all good Canadians the obligation of learning enough of it to prove to our compatriots our respect for their way of life." Nor did campus life offer opportunities to practise the language. Summer vacation jobs in Northern Ontario lumber camps brought him into contact with Francophone labourers, where he might have absorbed a "racier" version of the language, "less grammatical, but more idiomatic," but he guessed that it would have opened no doors in professional Montreal. "In general," he sagely remarked, "learning a language in Canada has been like learning to swim without going into the water."

Somehow, as a young man, he managed to achieve an approximation to functional bilingualism, although he recalled in 1967: "I used to speak French much more readily in my twenties and thirties than I have done since." The maintenance of conversational skills was difficult "unless you are constantly in French surroundings." In any case, he added, in what seems a characteristic Lower strategy of attempting to annoy as many groups of potential readers as possible, to maintain his fluency he needed "a sympathetic partner, preferably feminine!" But, in his senior years, he put flippancy aside to describe himself regretfully as "able to read French easily, more or less able to talk to people or to make a formal speech in it, but quite unable to understand more than a fraction of a conversation."[155]

In striking contrast, Canada did produce historians from unlikely backgrounds who immersed themselves in the country's other founding culture. George F.G. Stanley was born in Calgary in 1907. He became fluently bilingual while studying at Oxford (where, like Lanctôt, he also played ice hockey) and wrote a pioneering academic work on the Riel rebellions. A defender of French Canada, he is credited with having designed Canada's Maple Leaf flag, before creating one of the country's first Canadian Studies programmes, at Mount Allison University, where an academic colleague recalled him as "a stickler for French". Stanley ended his career by combining the editorship of the collected works of Louis Riel with the post of the lieutenant-governor of the bilingual province of New Brunswick. On the way, he had served as an officer in the Canadian Army, bringing a ramrod dignity to the lieutenant-governorship that led to his Fredericton friends nicknaming him George the Seventh.[156]

Raised in Ottawa during the Laurier years, Eugene Forsey modestly described himself in 1962 as one of the few senior academics in English Canada "who could make a respectable noise in French." (Forsey was a political scientist who drew heavily on constitutional history.) He considered delivering his 1962 presidential address to the Canadian Political Science Association in French, not least because "it would have forced me to be brief." The thought of "springing an entire speech in French on a predominantly English-speaking audience in the very heart of English-speaking Ontario appealed to my sense of fun." Instead, he settled for "qualified bilingualism", speaking predominantly in English but inserting passages of emphasis in French: that way, he joked, "the sufferings of my audience will at least be mitigated, since the English Canadians will understand my French and the French Canadians my English, and each will probably think that I do pretty well in the other language."[157] This pleasant exercise in self-deprecation heralded a landmark event, possibly the first major academic address to be delivered in what would become a distinctively Canadian form of patchwork bilingualism.

Hilda Neatby and Ramsay Cook both had roots in rural Saskatchewan, a part of Canada where legend claimed that the cadences of the King James Bible convinced some citizens that English had been the language of Jesus Christ. Neatby's family came to Canada in 1906 when she was two years of age. She improved her French during a year's postgraduate study in Paris in 1924-5, contributed a volume to the Centennial History series on late-eighteenth century Quebec and spoke out for a bilingual Canada when the idea seemed an impracticable vision. Ramsay Cook, born in 1931 in the tiny community of Alameda, an unlikely spot to produce a scholar whose Globe and Mail obituary credited him with "explaining French Canada to the English and English Canada to the French" (he contributed a column to Le Devoir) at a time in the 1960s "when Canada seemed on the brink of dissolution". His 1966 book, Canada and the French Canadian Question was followed three years later by a useful anthology of translated writing by Quebec intellectuals, French-Canadian Nationalism. It may be too soon after his much regretted death in 2016 for a full assessment of his career, but it may be confidently asserted that his contribution to Canada was massively beneficial.[158]

Twentieth-century politicians: the tongue-tied Tories

With English still so dominant on the national political scene throughout the first half of the twentieth century, it is hardly surprising that Conservative leaders made little effort to master or to use the language. The consistent weakness of their party in Quebec became part of a circular process by which it functioned largely as an English Canadian grouping, and was so perceived by Francophones.

Robert Borden (Conservative leader, 1901-20) began with good intentions, in 1903 addressing an audience of 1200 at a Montreal banquet in honour of the prominent Quebec Tory Frederick Monk, his first speech in French. He campaigned in both languages across Quebec in the 1904 election campaign, receiving enthusiastic welcomes but netting few votes. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography describes him as having "competent French". The irony of Borden's basic functional bilingualism is, of course, that he became the prime minister who most deeply divided Canada's two founding peoples, through the introduction of conscription in 1917. A year earlier, he had given a flinty reception to a challenge to establish the status of the French language from three of his Francophone ministers, Thomas Chase-Casgrain, Pierre Édouard Blondin and Esioff-Léon Patenaude. Backed by threats of resignation, the trio made the bizarre demand that the whole question of the status of French in Canada should be referred to an investigating committee of the British Privy Council. After consulting four English-speaking colleagues, Borden returned a flat refusal, not unreasonably pointing out that the proposed initiative would violate both provincial rights and Canadian self-government. "The results which might flow from the course which you propose have possibly escaped your consideration. ... If the Imperial Privy Council should advise that the use of the French language ought to be abolished in the administration of public affairs can it be imagined that the Province or people of Quebec would concur in any such conclusion?" He subsequently reduced Patenaude to tears and secured a retraction of the threatened resignations.[159]

If Borden's successor had possessed the wit of Voltaire, he would still have found difficulty in securing a sympathetic audience in Quebec. In fact, Arthur Meighen (Conservative leader, 1920-26, 1941-2) spoke almost no French at all. As prime minister, he hoped to persuade Patenaude to join his government in 1920, and actually invited him to suggest principles and policies that would rebuild trust between the two language groups. Patenaude wanted both official bilingualism ("in all acts emanating either from Parliament or from the Federal Government") within a bicultural framework, in which the two "races" would develop "in harmony – but without fusion and without assimilation." Specifically, he called upon the Dominion government to "encourage the diffusion of both languages throughout the country", of course respecting always provincial jurisdiction over education. In reply, Meighen was inclined to invert the priorities, arguing that "there will be required first a full and vivid recognition on the part of our French and English speaking people of the paramount need of concord." He saw provincial rights as the chief obstacle to any Ottawa campaign for a bilingual Canada. Meighen insisted that he personally favoured "to the utmost extent the acquaintance of our people with both English and French", passing over his own shortcomings in this regard. In the event, Patenaude was persuaded to re-draft his paper, omitting the proposal for the encouragement of bilingualism, although on this occasion it does not seem that he was reduced to tears for his temerity. However, as an initiative in grand policy, the exchange went nowhere, for Patenaude did not join the government.[160]

Although Meighen lacked fluent French, he was not deficient in courage. During the 1921 election campaign, he boldly addressed a Quebec City rally of 8,000 people, an overwhelmingly Francophone and distinctly boisterous gathering. Meighen "started out bravely with a few carefully rehearsed words in French which were well received". It was a token gesture that would become standard from visiting Anglophone speakers: thanks for a warm welcome, regrets that he could not address them in their preferred language. He then switched to a robust defence of his policies in English. Unluckily, Meighen was thrown by a heckler who shouted "Ton chien est mort quand même". (Colloquially, "Your goose is cooked anyway".) Explaining that "I don't understand French very well", he was obliged to request that questions be asked – and, by extension, heckles be hurled – in English. Meighen's performance in the free-for-all that followed won him the respect of his audience: L'Événement called it a "tour de force". But if his courage earned him admiration, his frankly admitted linguistic shortcomings probably help explain why he won few votes. However, Meighen's language skills may have improved. He irritated Mackenzie King in 1926 by delivering "quite a long speech in French", which his rival unkindly attributed to his power of memory.[161]

Peter B. Waite, biographer of R.B. Bennett (Conservative leader, 1927-38), notes that his brief experience of teaching French in a New Brunswick school system, "was a long way from reading it comfortably." Indeed, Waite – one of the few Canadian historians consistently to enquire about language skills – is unable to determine how far Bennett understood or could function in French. He did use the language on one occasion when addressing a Quebec Conservative convention in 1928, although even then he spoke mainly in English. Waite attributes Bennett's reliance upon translation into English to a lawyer's caution: on unfamiliar linguistic territory, he might accidentally commit himself to some proposition that he would later regret.[162] Bennett's successor Robert J. Manion (Conservative leader, 1938-40) was married to a French Canadian, and the couple had reared their children to be bilingual. But Manion himself was "not fluent in French": he used English to correspond with Georges Héon, the sole Francophone member of his caucus. However, he did speak in both languages in a CBC tribute broadcast on the death of Tweedsmuir in 1940, much to the annoyance of Mackenzie King.[163]

At the 1945 general election, a 29 year-old serving Army officer, E. Davie Fulton, narrowly won the Kamloops riding in British Columbia for the Conservatives. A former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, who certainly did not lack self-confidence, he was quick to make his maiden speech, criticising Mackenzie King's handling of the reinforcements issue the previous year. But what made the speech memorable was that Fulton launched into French, praising his Francophone comrades in the overseas campaigns, a gesture that reportedly "electrified" the House of Commons. He closed with a theme that would feature in many Anglophone ventures across the language divide: "Je demande de mes amis de langue française de ne pas juger de la sincérité de mes intentions par la mediocrité du français que je parle. J'espère améliorer mes connaissances de cette langue par l'étude et la pratique, jusqu'à ce que la qualité de mon français vaille la qualité de l’amitié que je désire voir s’établir entre nous."

Fulton's initiative was a splendid gesture, but unfortunately it led nowhere. Three days later, the Globe and Mail accorded his "refreshing" speech the unusual tribute of an editorial, but its praise for his "realism" made no mention of his speaking French: In the event, it was not even a three-day wonder. Nor did his protestation of friendship lead to any profound sympathy for Quebec sensitivities. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Fulton called for conscription, always an explosive issue in French Canada. Despite its immediate repudiation by the party leadership, Fulton's action added to the multiple burdens of the Conservatives in Quebec. In his later career, as Minister of Justice, Fulton worked closely with his Liberal counterpart, Guy Favreau, to establish the celebrated Fulton-Favreau formula for proposed constitutional amendments. He twice ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership, without success. Only in retrospect did his maiden speech assume importance: his Globe and Mail obituary in 2000 even claimed that he was the first Conservative MP to deliver part of his maiden speech in French, a formulation that unconsciously revealed the depth of popular assumptions that all Tories were English Canadians.[164]

John Diefenbaker (Progressive Conservative leader 1956-68) began his career as a young lawyer with an ingenious and successful defence of French-language schools in Saskatchewan. When he ran, without success, for the Progressive Conservative leadership in 1948, his Quebec nominator elaborated this episode to depict him as a "great champion of minority rights", somebody who would do justice to Quebec, notwithstanding his inability to speak French. When he won the leadership in 1956, Diefenbaker's victory speech did include a brief comment in French, but even that began with the symbolically provocative statement: "C'est mon intention d'unir tous les Canadiens de l'Atlantique au Pacifique". Diefenbaker had disregarded the usual practice of selecting nominators from both language groups, preferring instead to have his name placed in contention by Anglophone supporters from British Columbia and New Brunswick. Diefenbaker's vision of uniting Canada from sea to shining sea sounded inspirational, but it carried the thinly coded message that he would not make much allowance for any diversity in between. In the circumstances, the well-intentioned comment from his wife Olive said more about past deficiencies than future convergence. Unconsciously echoing Davie Fulton, she concluded with a well-meant pledge: "Je vous donne ma parole que, le [sic] prochaine fois que je vous verrai, je parlerai mieux votre belle langue." During the 1957 election campaign, Diefenbaker "struggled through one campaign speech in his execrable French", but largely ignored Quebec. Allan Fotheringham related the tale of a radio broadcast early in Diefenbaker's term as prime minister, which included a few words thanking the people of Quebec for their gestures of goodwill to the new government. His speech-writers included the sentiment, "J'espère que mes voeux seront appréciés", but this came out as "J'espère que mes veaux sauront après shiés" which loosely translates as "I hope my young cattle will know how to defecate afterwards". Diefenbaker may be given the credit of at least trying to use French. Unfortunately, the flip side of his superficial comprehension was his total misunderstanding of the meaning of at least one key term in Quebec discourse. CBC reporter Norman Depoe commented that Diefenbaker did not know the meaning of the word "nation" in French but he did know that he was opposed to having two of them in Canada.[165]

Twentieth-century Liberal leaders

Mackenzie King: the inaudible Canadian

Whether by ill luck or bad judgement, the Conservatives acquired the reputation of an overwhelmingly English Canadian party that was unsympathetic to Quebec and to its language. It is perhaps hardly surprising that Tory leaders were deficient in their ability to communicate in French. More remarkable is the fact that the two Anglophone leaders of the Liberal party between 1919 and 1968 should have been to all intents and purpose unilingual.

Mackenzie King took a course in French during his third year at the University of Toronto. He started his celebrated diary during the Fall term, and we can follow him through its pages, sometimes "translating a little French" and reading set books with a fellow student, Charlie Cross.[166] The University of Toronto course apparently focused on the history of French literature, but King makes no reference to lectures or classes, nor is there any mention of W.H. Fraser or John Squair, the University of Toronto's two overworked language instructors. This suggests that the two young men based their studies on previously acquired school French, which must have been good enough to enable them to read Bossuet (whose name King had problems spelling), Corneille and Molière, sometimes in chunks of as many as 35 pages at a time. However, King seems to have given the subject no attention at all from Christmas 1893 until the eve of the examinations in May 1894, when he met with Cross again to revise Molière and to cram French irregular verbs. Assessment was in two parts, beginning with a French dictation test ("I do not think I made much on [sic] it," King ruefully recorded). There was no oral. The main examination was "a very fine paper on French though it was a little too long I could do everything on it and did nearly everything I ought to make a fair % [sic]," King wrote, adding: "I think I have said 'farewell' to French." Many a student has expressed similar sentiments on the termination of an unloved elective. Unfortunately, Mackenzie King would find twenty-five years later that French had not bidden adieu to him.[167]

For a brief period in 1896-7, King felt sufficiently competent in French, at least as a book language, to give tutorials in the subject. In 1896 and 1897, he taught the language to a senior Toronto policeman and his daughter. Born in Scotland, James M. Stephen was a native of Aberdeenshire, the home county of King's grandfather. He had joined the police force in 1869, working his way up through the ranks: by the time of his retirement in 1910, he was in charge of the city's vice squad. Inspector Stephen was a serious man, who enjoyed reading. (A firm Liberal, he accorded the Toronto Globe almost the status of Holy Writ.) This probably explains his decision, in his early fifties, to study French: had it been a requirement of his employers, more structured teaching would surely have been arranged. King had supported himself through his final year at University by working part-time as a reporter for the Globe, covering minor cases in the police court. The two perhaps encountered one another there, or through the Presbyterian Church, in which Stephen was a devout member. Sessions generally lasted for 90 minutes, and King received $1 each time. The final lesson was on 15 September 1897, when they read the first two chapters of Genesis from a French-language Bible. Both would have been sufficiently familiar with English versions of Holy Writ to make this a straightforward task. The Inspector thought well enough of his tutor to present him with a farewell gift when King moved on to graduate studies in Chicago: it was a revolver, which came with an injunction to carry it at all times.

King kept in occasional touch with his former pupil for a few years. At their last encounter, in 1899, "Inspector Stephens" (as he casually appears in King's diaries) startled King by suggesting that he return to Toronto and run for mayor, assuring him that his constabulary network could deliver him the majority of the Italian vote (which was much less important in civic politics than it would later become). King was modestly flattered: "these men respect ability & believe – tho' largely wrongly – that I am possessed of such." On his eighty-fourth birthday in 1928, Stephen contributed reminiscences of Toronto life to the Globe, including an account of a meeting with its legendary proprietor, George Brown, around 1870. He did not mention that he had studied French with Canada's then prime minister.[168]

Unfortunately, Mackenzie King never managed to converse with any fluency, or, indeed, at all. "I find it hard to speak French," he noted during a visit to Paris in 1900. Yet this deficiency seems never to have been a handicap during the initial phase of his career, as a civil servant in Ottawa from 1900 to 1908. On one occasion, he forgot to have the table of contents of an issue of his Labour Gazette translated into French: it was obviously low in his work priorities, something he did not refer to in his diary. Bilingualism simply did not impinge upon official life. The most that Ottawa provided in those days was the occasional social opportunity for linguistic gallantry. King was much taken with a Miss Lavergne whom he met at a dance in 1901. "Her French voice & manner were quite pleasing." Calling at the home of Israel Tarte the following year, he met a young female visitor from Quebec. "I had a good deal of fun with Miss Tarte's friend trying to talk French myself."[169]

A brief period in parliament, and as a member of Laurier's cabinet, between 1908 and 1911, was followed by several years working in the United States. It was not until he became a candidate for the Liberal party leadership in 1919 that King was forced to confront his linguistic shortcomings. One possible route back into parliament would have been by way of Quebec East, the riding vacated by Laurier's death. King's biographer R. MacGregor Dawson suggested that he strengthened his position with delegates from the province of Quebec considering the idea. However, he eventually rejected it, thereby avoiding "the very real danger of being considered by the rest of the country as entirely dependent upon Quebec support and wholly identified with its interests." In any case, there was an unwritten rule – not mentioned by Dawson – that one of the four Quebec City ridings was already reserved for an Anglophone member (Chubby Power in Quebec South from 1917). Dawson's account may be an instance where the authorised biography chose not to dwell on its subject's shortcomings. King's diary reveals a considerable sense of unease about his ability to communicate with potential supporters when he visited the riding. A speech to be delivered at a meeting was translated into French for him by Lucien Turcotte Pacaud, member of parliament for Mégantic. "I read it over but thought my pronunciation very poor." He managed to reply appropriately to an address of welcome, but knew his performance was unimpressive."I wish I could understand & speak French & cannot too much regret not having studied it the year I was abroad." He contemplated the idea of visiting Europe during the summer, so that he might "live with a French family & practise French", but this was obviously a fantasy project for an incoming party leader.[170]

A similar issue arose after King lost his Ontario seat at the 1925 election. The member for Vaudreuil-Soulange, on the western fringe of Montreal, was prepared to make way for him, but King was advised that "the one & only objection to the riding apart from it being in Quebec province is that it is entirely French, and I wd be greatly embarrassed in rural parts, in speaking." Not surprisingly, King's public appearances in French-speaking areas tended to be few, frosty and far between. In a swing through rural Quebec in July 1921, he relied upon token bilingualism: "I said a few words in French which I read, at the outset, then spoke ¾ of an hour," he said of a meeting in Missisquoi County – still partly an English-speaking enclave in the Eastern Townships. In solidly Francophone communities below Quebec City, he spoke "part of the time in French", from a text that one of his handlers had written out for him. At St-Irenée, he addressed a large crowd by lantern light, which presumably made reading from a script impossible, and "felt embarrassed not having French." At the vacation resort of Murray Bay (now La Malbaie), where the audience was "mostly French", King found it difficult to address an "audience of a different tongue". Fortunately, he was accompanied by Lomer Gouin, whose speech was "splendid", and Rodolphe Lemieux, who was "excellent", but their oratorical fireworks can only have pointed the contrast to King's halting remarks. Even parts of Ontario could be virtual no-go areas. At Rockland, a bilingual village close to Ottawa, King "found it difficult to speak to an audience a large part of which I felt did not understand what I was saying – mostly French". Reading "a few sentences in French" did not seem to create rapport. Visiting London in 1926, Mackenzie King was asked by George V "if I spoke French. I said I was sorry I did not; that I managed a few words now and then, but that I would not be making any speeches in French."[171]

Unfortunately for Mackenzie King, the leader of a party so deeply rooted in Quebec could not always escape the obligation to recognise its language. King endured a major ordeal during the 1930 general election, when an address partly delivered in French to 8,000 people in Montreal was broadcast across the province. In the middle of the campaign, King lacked the time for "piecing together a French speech as an introduction" to his predominantly English remarks. Senator Raoul Dandurand coached him. "I really felt ashamed at being called upon to speak in French over the radio, to audience throughout entire province with no chance for rehearsal but the pressure was there & nothing to do but meet it." King was jealous when his political rivals, Meighen and Manion – neither of them fluently bilingual – upstaged him in French. Meighen's address at the annual Press Club dinner in 1926 he dismissed as "a bit of intellectual arrogancy". Impervious to irony and largely deficient in self-knowledge, he took pleasure in noting that "the French I am told was poor". Manion claimed that the CBC had asked him to speak in both languages on the death of Tweedsmuir in 1940, a claim denied by the network's general manager, Gladstone Murray. "It was really seeking to score in a political way," King fumed. "Perfectly horrible." It was also an entirely appropriate way of honouring a governor-general who had gone out of his way to show empathy for Quebec.[172]

It says much about the dominance of the English language in Canadian politics that it was mainly on the international stage that King became conscious of his unilingualism. At Geneva in 1936, he tried unsuccessfully to use his "broken French" in discussion with the premier of France's Popular Front, Léon Blum. Eventually, "we got one of the gentlemen present who could speak French and English, to act as an interpreter" – a haphazard approach to securing translation. Of course, prime ministers cannot be expected to be fluent in the language of every country with which their governments must deal. In any case, Canada was a minor player on the world stage in the 1930s, and King's communications problems were of little importance. The context changed dramatically in 1940, when Nazi Germany knocked France out of the War. On the one hand, Canada, unlike other Allied powers, maintained diplomatic relations with Vichy, where a conservative regime pursued clericalist policies that were popular in Quebec. Mackenzie King particularly liked René Ristelhueber, the puppet regime's ambassador, even helping to fast-track the marriage of the envoy's daughter to an Ottawa official, at a moment when his recall to France seemed likely. Fortunately – and, indeed, logically for a permanent representative – Ristelhueber was fluent in English, and there is no suggestion in King's detailed diary accounts that they ever attempted to converse in French.[173]

On the other hand, Canada had a part to play in managing the egos of the rival free French leaders, especially in relation to practical issues like the control of St Pierre and Miquelon. It was here that King's linguistic deficiencies caused him embarrassment. In March 1941, an emissary from de Gaulle visited Ottawa for a lengthy meeting. "I regretted deeply not being able to speak French." In July 1943, the Canadian government hosted a banquet intending to symbolise the unity of all exiled French factions under the leadership of General Henri Giraud, who was backed by the Americans. King delivered an inspirational speech, but in entertaining Giraud he was hampered by the problem that "my guest did not understand English". Equally, he had to record that "General Giraud made, I am told, an exceptionally fine speech. I could follow it slightly": it was Louis St Laurent who told him how moving was the oration their visitor had delivered. Securing unity among the Free French would have the incidental benefit of fostering harmony within Quebec. King's inability to speak their language was a handicap.[174]

The following year, King faced an even more daunting challenge, a further visitation from Charles de Gaulle himself. Seeing himself as the embodiment of the majesty of France, not to mention finding himself a country where French was spoken, de Gaulle insisted on conducting their formal talks in his own language: as with Giraud, Louis St Laurent acted as interpreter. It was not until a dinner that evening that King discovered, to his relief, that de Gaulle "spoke English remarkably well", enabling them to have an "exceedingly interesting talk". King had detailed St Laurent to deliver a speech on behalf of the government, but decided to contribute a short introduction himself, in which he referred to Canada as a country of two official languages, and invoked the memory of Champlain travelling up the Ottawa River three centuries earlier. St Laurent then delivered an "impassioned" address: "French members who were present told me it was an extremely fine utterance."[175]

When it was suggested that de Gaulle should make a third visit, in the Fall of 1945, King was initially unenthusiastic. At the recent general election, his support in Quebec had enabled him to survive an electoral backlash across English Canada, and he feared that the presence of the leader of liberated France might somehow draw attention to his own dependence upon French Canadian voters. "The maintenance of national unity must be the guiding star of all policies." In the event, de Gaulle was on his best behaviour, "particularly friendly", anxious to express his thanks for Canada's part in the Liberation, and – above all – evidently determined not to make a fuss about language. King's lengthy diary account of their discussions obviously implies that the two men spoke in English, confirmed by a direct quotation – de Gaulle's allusion to "poor Churchill", who had just lost his general election in Britain. King could not foresee the challenge de Gaulle would mount to Canadian national unity at his next visit, twenty-two years later. Perhaps frustration at having to speak English, coupled with the fact that he received only a muted welcome from the Ottawa public, contributed to his subsequent decision to proclaim "Vive le Québec libre!"[176]

King's occasional encounters with French in the last years of his life repeated the basic theme. He delivered a carefully prepared short speech in French at a banquet in Quebec City in 1946. "The French seemed to go remarkably well, with only one or two little slips." "Le premier ministre du Canada parla tout d'abord en français pour ensuite continuer en anglais," La Patrie reported, with seeming approval. In August 1946, Mackenzie King visited Normandy, to receive the thanks of communities liberated by Canadian forces. At Caen, the scene of particularly fierce fighting, he replied to an address of welcome "in part in French and in considerable length in English". Elsewhere, he generally spoke in English, relying upon his companions – usually General Georges Vanier but occasionally Brooke Claxton – to translate for him. Twice during his last year in office, 1948, King was embarrassed at having to entertain distinguished visitors from France who spoke little English. "I found conversation a bit difficult because of my having no knowledge of French," he wrote of the first occasion: "The luncheon was a very difficult one," recording of the second that "the guests could speak very little English and I could speak no French." However, in Paris in October 1948, King for once felt no embarrassment at speaking only in English. He was on an extended lap of honour before formally retiring as prime minister, and he basked in the honour of a special luncheon at the Quai d'Orsay hosted by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman. Expressing appreciation for the "affectionate greetings" of his hosts, "I said I would reciprocate them according to the French method. I then kissed them on each cheek." It was perhaps an appropriate way to round off half a century of token engagement with Francophone culture.[177]

Monsieur Personne

As already noted, Lester Pearson was able to enter the Department of External Affairs despite having no proficiency in French. Looking back on his high school days after retiring from the office of prime minister of Canada, Pearson found it "hard to believe" that he had been obliged to choose between learning French, German and Spanish. "I took German – I have to admit it – because I was told that the examination was much easier because the teacher was a mild and kindly person." This may not have told the whole story. Pearson's parents hoped that he had would follow his father's vocation, and become a Methodist minister, and they may have steered his choice. German was the language of Biblical criticism – in fact, it only lost its dominant role as the leading medium for Western intellectual life as the result of the First World War. In an edition of his public addresses, Pearson acknowledged his linguistic deficiencies. "Mes difficultés dans l'utilisation du français, quand je me suis trouvé dans le Québec, ont fait que je ne me suis jamais débarrassé d'un certain sentiment d'humiliation à ne pas pouvoir m'adresser couramment dans leur langue, à des auditoires de langue française ou à mes amis québécois que je rencontrais dans des réunions sociales. Je pouvais lire le français assez bien et parler à partir d'un texte sans trop de difficulté." Unfortunately, his accent did him no favours, and "la conversation était toujours laborieuse à moins qu'il ne s'agisse d'une réunion d'intimes où tout le monde se sent détendu." When Pearson transferred to politics in 1948, it was obvious that he was imported as a potential future party leader. Yet he did little to prepare himself on the language front, although, in 1953-4, he asked Jean Lesage to write to him in French.[178] This was at least a reversal of the practice adopted by politicians such as Macdonald and Bennett, who had preferred to deal with francophone colleagues on linguistic home ground.

"Well, c'est la vie": the twilight of Anglophone unilingualism

In Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, perhaps the most prominent citizen of Mariposa was the hotel-keeper, Joseph Smith. An uneducated but energetic entrepreneur, he opened a dining room, which he called a "caff", and hired a French chef. Smith "encouraged the use of the French language in the caff. He viewed it, of course, solely in relation to the hotel business, and ... regarded it as a recent invention." To puzzled customers, he would explain "y'ain't expected to understand it."[179]

Half a century later, Lester Pearson addressed an election rally in the Ontario town of Orillia, generally regarded as the inspiration for Leacock's Mariposa. He spoke with emotion of a "wonderful meeting" the previous day in Quebec City, which had closed with those present rising to their feet and singing O Canada. The Pearsons and a handful of visiting politicians sang the country's still-unofficial anthem in English – "everybody else was singing it in French. But we were singing the same song. They were singing it in one language, I was singing it in another, but the melody was the same, the harmony was the same and the spirit behind O Canada was the same."[180]

But Pearson's Canada of uncomprehending co-existence was coming to its end. Speaking at Laval University in 1957, Hilda Neatby had announced: "je ne veux pas tout simplement co-exister avec mes compatriotes de langue française. Je veux plutôt partager avec eux une vie commune, une vie nationale digne de la grande civilisation de l'ouest qui est le nôtre et qui est aujourd'hui en peril [sic]." The sentiment was worthy, but its expression lacked polish. Although herself functionally bilingual, Neatby had drafted her remarks in English, and relied upon a more fluent Anglophone colleague for translation. Thanks to the challenges of the 1960s, it fell to Lester Pearson to set Canada on the road to official bilingualism. There is some irony in the fact that he himself could not conjugate the irregular verb "avoir" (so he told his grand-daughter ).[181]

Although referred to by some in Quebec as "Monsieur Personne", Pearson also attempted to increase the percentage of Francophones in the public service. Above all, he established the all-important Laurendeau-Dunton commission on bilingualism and biculturalism. He was the first prime minister to encourage ministers to use both languages at the cabinet table, although even here his approach was unstructured. At his first cabinet meeting, he turned to his Quebec lieutenant, Lionel Chevrier (a Franco-Ontarian by origin), and appealed to him: "Lionel, say something in French." Even so, as the bilingual Paul Martin senior recalled, "practically all our discussions were in English."[182]

Even in the mid-1960s, a Canada that worked coast-to-coast in two languages still seemed a distant dream. "English Canadians will never be widely bilingual," wrote Arthur Lower in 1946, "for to know a language a person must use it, and most of them have no opportunity to use French". But Hilda Neatby condemned "indifference and laziness", insisting in 1963 on aiming at a situation where "all educated people, or at least all leading people in professions, business, and government services can read and speak French easily, accurately, fluently." She too recognised the obstacles: "It is not as easy as many of our French-speaking countrymen who live in a completely bilingual atmosphere believe." But modern "teaching devices" (presumably she had in mind language laboratories) and, even more so, advanced communications meant that "language barriers would really go down like the wall [sic] of Jericho". It would require "a little hard work" but, after all, she pointed out, drawing upon her Presbyterian heritage, the Israelites had required thirteen attempts to capture the city of Jericho. Even so, in the early 1960s, her fundamental aim still seemed over-ambitious. "Anybody should be able to enter a federal office or institution, or corporation, anywhere in Canada, and feel free to speak in his own language because he is sure of being understood."[183]

The Progressive Conservatives were slow to respond to the challenge, choosing Robert Stanfield as their federal leader in 1967, in preference to three other Anglophone candidates who made at least some pretence to talk to Quebecers in their local majority language. Gerry Doucet, an Acadian minister in Robert Stanfield's Nova Scotia cabinet, defended his boss's inability to communicate in French, arguing that "it is more important to understand the aims of French Canada than it is to speak the language." However, it was increasingly difficult to achieve the one without the other. The transitional years came to a symbolic end in December 1967, when Pearson announced his impending resignation. He closed his farewell press conference with a shrug, a smile and an enigmatic comment: "Well, c'est la vie."[184]

D: Some reflections

This is a wide-ranging and necessarily provisional reconnaissance of a very large subject. Evidence of linguistic competence tends to be scattered, and it is highly likely that other fleeting allusions in memoirs and newspaper reports will identify more Anglophones who could operate in French. Systematic search of parliamentary debates would almost certainly reveal more discussions of the need for effective translation and for mutual respect in Canada's legislatures, although the dismal theme of complaint would probably become repetitive. However, even on the basis of this general overview, some tentative conclusions may be offered.

The assumptions of biography

It is clear that much English Canadian historical writing, especially in political biography, has too readily assumed that Canada was an English-speaking country, and taken for granted that all business was transacted and all communication undertaken solely in English (as, indeed, was usually the case). Hence, far too often, it is very difficult to know whether an influential English Canadian figure could function in French. One important example of the lack of necessary biographical information is Alexander Tilloch Galt. Based in Sherbrooke and with strong links to the business world of Montreal, Galt was labelled a Rouge when he entered politics. An early exponent of British North American union, he was the finance minister who helped create Confederation. It would at the very least be of interest to know whether he could speak French. Unfortunately, his principal biographer, writing a century ago, was Oscar Skelton, who was no more interested in the role of the French language in his subject's career than he was in promoting it in the Department of External Affairs. Galt was treated as a scaffold on which could be erected a history of nation-building, without any attempt to examine one of the most basic elements of the nation that was created.[185]

This criticism applies in particular to many of the entries relating to both national communities in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography / Dictionnaire Biographique du Canada. The DCB/DBC is a distinguished scholarly resource to which all historians of Canada are indebted. It is also a national project that throws light on the creation, evolution and functioning of Canada. Language competence ought be one of the basic questions to be addressed, especially in respect of subjects who contributed to public life. This essay gratefully cites DCB / DBC entries as identifiers of the people discussed, but it has to be said that relatively few entries throw light on the language skills of their subjects. Space is of course at a premium in biographical dictionaries, but it should be possible to classify subjects within a sixfold categorisation of second language skills: fluently bilingual, functionally bilingual, reading knowledge of the other language, minimal competence, totally unilingual and no information.

Perhaps the most striking point to emerge from this survey is the fact that three English Canadian political leaders who were most dependent upon electoral support from Francophone Quebec during the first century of Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Lester Bowles Pearson, each had at most a basic knowledge of French. The first two rarely attempted to speak the language; Pearson did so with difficulty. To these, we may add Robert Baldwin from the days of the Canadian Union – although he saw himself as playing the role of lieutenant to Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine – plus two twentieth-century Conservative leaders who won substantial French Canadian support at a single general election, Richard Bedford Bennett, with 24 out of 65 Quebec seats in 1930, and John Diefenbaker, who swept 50 out of 75 ridings, and a majority of the province's popular vote, in 1958. In all six cases, inability to speak French has been incidentally noted by biographers and commentators. It may be contended that it is only by surveying them collectively that it becomes possible to appreciate just how remarkable were the linguistic shortcomings of Canada's national leaders.

Conversely, we may also note that English Canadians with good French never came close to securing the top prizes in politics. Some, like L.H. Drummond and Luther H. Holton, were boxed into a corner: as representatives of Montreal's English-speaking community, they were too redolent of Lower Canada / Quebec to be accepted by the rest of the country, while too obviously associated with the local minority to be seen as the distinctive voice of Quebecers as a whole. Politicians were of course aware of these sensitivities. On the death of Ernest Lapointe in 1941, the bilingual Quebec City politician Chubby Power was anxious that he should not be labelled "as the Senior Minister for Quebec; not being French there would be the cry again of the French being ignored." (To some extent, this undoubtedly reasonable objection may have been used as a cover for the fact that Power had a problem with alcohol.)[186] In the 1950s and 1960s, the leadership hopes of the Franco-Ontarian Paul Martin would fall into the inverse equivalent of the same trap. It may also be suspected that in some cases – such as Edward Blake, Alexander Campbell and E. Davie Fulton – erudition may have smacked of Anglophone elitism, and proved counter-productive in Quebec.

The presence of French, such as it was, in the English Canadian experience could be explained under four headings. Unfortunately, none of these seemed especially persuasive, but it may help to distinguish them. First, the language was taught in most High Schools, and often formed a minor element in Arts degrees. It is doubtful whether any educationalist ever offered a rationale for this practice, but the emphasis upon French would probably have been defended as the imparting of a ladylike skill to girls, and perhaps as demonstrating to all students something of the general structure of language. More specifically, there were competitive examinations which required competence in French, and teachers who specialised in the subject. It seems likely that, for most of its classroom victims, these imperatives were neither obvious nor inspirational. Second, French was an international language. Unfortunately, this too offered little incentive for the average English Canadian to master its intricacies. The Department of External Affairs, established in 1909, dealt principally with the United States and Britain, and showed little interest in the traditional language of diplomacy. Few English Canadians travelled to Europe, and those who did seem to have survived the standard tourist attractions around Paris without knowing the language.[187]

Third, French was a major vehicle for European culture. Hence, Robert A. Harrison read de Tocqueville as part of his study of the language, while Mackenzie King later ploughed through chunks of Corneille and Molière. Unfortunately, very few English Canadians developed sufficient competence to read widely in French literature, and most of them probably lacked the resources to acquire books in French, or the time to devour them: Alexander Campbell, the wealthy businessman and Senator, and Donald Creighton, the Toronto professor, were rare exceptions. We may suspect that even fewer English Canadians delved into the emerging literature of Quebec, in the way that David Ross McCord was inspired by F-X. Garneau: as Eugene Forsey suggested, they never suspected that there might be anything in French Canadian intellectual life worth exploring.

It is at this point that we must face the uncomfortable truth that the fourth reason for learning, using and valuing French was hardly ever urged upon Anglophones. As Arthur Lower and Lester Pearson would later marvel, the fact that it was the language of millions of their fellow citizens was totally ignored. There were no doubt contributory reasons for this. Strictly speaking, Section 133 of the British North America Act made French at most a recognised, maybe even a tolerated, form of communication in parliament and the courts: not until 1969 was it unequivocally recognised as Canada's co-equal official language. At a practical level, too, there may have been an awareness that Parisian French – the version taught in the education system – would not necessarily be useful in lumber camps and remote seigneuries. But the major explanation for the collective Anglo-Canadian deaf-spot was that their country ran perfectly well as it was. Hence this study, which in effect explores why so few English Canadians bothered to learn the language of their fellow citizens, asks a question that few Anglophones would even have recognised.

Canada's debt to bilingual French Canadians

All this would seem to contribute to the picture of an English-speaking Canada that was neglectful, if not disdainful, of its fundamental French fact. It is certainly true that ignorance, suspicion and outright hostility permeated Anglophone attitudes. However, we should look beyond the obvious absurdity of such widespread linguistic deficiency to note the fact that government did function successfully at national level despite its pronounced unilingual character. This was only possible because a small number of Francophone politicians chose to operate in English, and were capable of manipulating the majority language both to personal and communal advantage. Anglophones have taken their vital contribution for granted. On the rare occasions when English Canadians were forced to focus on the linguistic competence of their fellow citizens, a strange ambiguity emerged. They took for granted that Quebec was an inferior civilization, backward-looking and illiberal, yet it produced linguistic supermen who, as Forsey put it, "often put us to shame by talking and writing our own language far better than most of us do ourselves."[188] This dichotomy contributed to the complexity of Anglophone attitudes to Pierre Trudeau. Not only had English Canada produced few intellectuals, but most of them passed themselves off as detached commentators: Goldwin Smith signed himself "The Bystander", Donald Creighton's essays were published under the title, The Passionate Observer, Eugene Forsey called his autobiography A Life on the Fringe. But in supposedly happy-go-lucky and superstitious Quebec, intellectuals not only flourished but functioned as a caste, criticising their society and, after 1960, claiming the right to help shape it. When the spin-off from the Quiet Revolution led to one of them becoming their prime minister, English Canada was predominantly, if breathlessly, puzzled. Eventually Richard Gwyn came up with a formula that seemed to solve the enigma: Trudeau was essentially "a great magician".[189]

Since the Quiet Revolution, public debate in Quebec has not been kind to politicians from the province who worked with the Ottawa machine. They have been dismissed as "le rois nègres", tribal chieftains flattered by their colonial masters into sacrificing the interests of their people. The classic statement of the theory was contained in an angry editorial by André Laurendeau in 1958, after an unoffending journalist from his newspaper, Le Devoir, was evicted from a press conference on the orders of the Union Nationale premier, Maurice Duplessis. Condemning the Anglophone press of Quebec for behaving "comme les Britanniques au sein d'une colonie d'Afrique", he extended the metaphor to explain how the imperial power disguised its control through the manipulation of existing institutions. "Les Britanniques ont le sens politique, ils détruisent rarement les institutions politiques d'un pays conquis. Ils entourent le roi nègre mais ils lui passent des fantaisies. Ils lui ont permis à l'occasion de couper des têtes: ce sont les moeurs du pays. Une chose ne leur viendrait pas à l'esprit: et c'est de réclamer d'un roi nègre qu'il se conforme aux hauts standards moraux et politiques des Britanniques. ... Il faut obtenir du roi nègre qu'il collabore et protège les intérêts des Britanniques. Cette collaboration assurée, le reste importe moins."[190] Laurendeau's attack was primarily directed at an unsavoury provincial regime: how far did the caricature apply to activist Quebec politicians in Ottawa? Were they also guilty of selling their people and the resources of their province for a string of beads? Did they control access by their followers to the political goodies through their control of the dominant language? (Henri Bourassa wished to protect the French Canadian masses from the threat of anglicisation, but he hardly saw himself as an intermediary siphoning off benefits from English power.)

Here we should note that the concept of the "Quebec lieutenant" also owes something to stereotype, in this case of an English Canadian view of a defensively monolithic community. Cartier was effective in mobilising electoral support in the province by exploiting the sense that Confederation was necessary for the preservation of a distinctive culture. Ernest Lapointe and Louis St Laurent owed their strength in part to the sense of solidarity in their home province throughout the extended aftermath of the divisive Conscription crisis of 1917.[191] But when other issues, economic and political, came to the fore, it was almost impossible for any single politician to embody a united Quebec identity. Throughout John A. Macdonald's second term of office, from 1878 to 1891, the priorities of railway politics divided Montreal and Quebec City. Hence Hector-Louis Langevin never achieved the ascendancy of Cartier: indeed, Cartier himself had been defeated in Montreal East in 1873, in a campaign in which railway issues were prominent. Ostensibly, poor health ruled out the succession of P.J.A. Cardin as Lapointe's successor in 1941, but too close an identification with Montreal interests would have rendered him an inappropriate choice anyway.[192] Pearson's difficulties in identifying a reliable Quebec lieutenant partly stemmed from personnel problems, but it was also the case that established Ottawa figures were unsuitable respondents to the new mood of the Quiet Revolution.

The pejorative roi nègre theory, which assumed that Quebec politicians were tossed a few trinkets by the Anglo establishment in return for keeping the natives quiet, is hardly fair. Anglophone prime ministers certainly needed effective intermediaries to a province that they usually did not comprehend: those, like Bennett and Diefenbaker, who failed to establish effective partnerships suffered as a result. But the position of an entrenched Quebec lieutenant was much stronger than detractors have allowed. Mackenzie King supported Ernest Lapointe as his chief ally against the veteran Sir Lomer Gouin in the 1920s, and treated him as his chief colleague after 1935. King's biographer, Blair Neatby, sees Lapointe as much more than a gopher running errands in French, although insisting that his role fell short of "co-Prime Minister". Louis St Laurent, parachuted into Ottawa – and indeed into active politics – as Lapointe's successor in 1941, quickly became the obvious candidate to succeed King himself. The key qualification for representing Quebec in Ottawa was command of the English language. Thus provincial Liberal leader Adélard Godbout refused to move to Ottawa in 1941: King noted that "he does not feel that his knowledge of English is sufficient for the federal Parliament".[193]

Yet historians and biographers have been almost as cursory in scrutinising the language credentials of French-speakers as they have of Anglophones. Some Quebecers grew up in both languages, thanks to having Anglophone mothers. Nationalists used to take pleasure in referring to Louis Stephen St Laurent and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. St Laurent's Irish Canadian mother once attempted to address her husband in French: he laughed at her accent, and she vowed never to repeat the experiment. Young Louis Stephen took bilingualism in his stride. "He knew that his mother spoke to him in one way, his father in another, but assumed that all parents did so: only when he started school did he discover that he had been speaking two distinct languages."[194]

But most had to learn English as a second language, and it is surprisingly difficult to recover information about their studies. For instance, Hector-Louis Langevin is said to have learned English in Kingston, during the brief period when his father was employed as a government clerk there in 1843-44. At the age of ten, Wilfrid Laurier was sent to imbibe English at New Glasgow, Quebec. The plan for him to live in spiritual safety with an Irish Catholic family fell through at the last minute, and he boarded with Scots Presbyterians. From them he acquired a lifelong (but heretical) affection for the cadences of the King James Bible, plus a slight Scottish accent. (In this, he differed from Sir John A. Macdonald, whose speech lost all trace of the land of his birth.)[195] A term spent at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts reportedly provided the foundation of Henri Bourassa's elegant bilingualism.[196] Gilbert-Anselme Girouard, the second Acadian to be elected to the House of Commons, was one of many French Canadians who incidentally acquired fluent English through Catholic colleges basically designed to educate Francophones – in his case, the Collège Saint-Joseph at Memramcook in New Brunswick.[197]

Others acquired, or improved, their English on the job, in the world of active politics. As noted above, A.-N. Morin was criticised as a candidate for the Speakership in 1841 because his English was poor, but he was elected to take the chair in 1848 as somebody who could function in both languages. J.C. Dent commented that, at the time of his first election to the Canadian Assembly in 1841, "he did not speak the English language with any great fluency, and did not often address the House."[198] It would be useful to know more about the development of Morin's language skills. He succeeded LaFontaine as leader of the Lower Canada Reformers in 1851, and led most of them into coalition with Sir Allan MacNab three years later, thereby forming the centre alliance that would dominate Canadian politics for forty years. It may be noted that he retired to the Bench in 1855: for a Francophone lawyer, an ability to function in English was useful in seeking a senior judgeship.

Sir Étienne Taché was described in 1865 as possessing "a most enviable and exact knowledge of the French and English languages. Being his native tongue, it is probable that he speaks with more facility in the former than in the latter, but it is difficult to suppose he can do so with more grammatical accuracy. His wish to be understood by all, including those whose acquaintance with the French language is very imperfect, as well as his natural courtesy, incline [sic] Sir Etienne on general occasions to address the Legislative Council in the English tongue." It was also suggested that his experience "of speaking in an acquired language" influenced his oratorical style "even when he speaks in French. The declamatory, aggressive, almost angry tones that marked the manner of his early years ... seem to have subsided into a more colloquial, and as we think, a more effective style of address." English, it was assumed, was inherently the language of moderation.[199]

By contrast, George-Étienne Cartier received relatively little appreciation for his energetic and workmanlike efforts to communicate in Canada's majority language. A biographical sketch of 1865 credited him with "a perfect command of English", but after his death politeness gave way to candour. A.W. Savary, a Nova Scotian politician and judge, recalled that Cartier was "equally ready and fluent both in French and English." However, despite constant use of the language, "he never mastered the English idiom, pronunciation or accent". An earlier biographer in the Makers of Canada series gave him no credit for his bilingualism, simply noting that he had "a very bad English accent". Cartier delighted Lord Monck's household by defending his relentless ambition, admitting that he could not tolerate "a compe-teetar". "He always spoke English badly, and translated from the French," commented Lord Dufferin.[200] One feels that Cartier might have received some recognition for making the effort to communicate that eluded most of his Anglophone contemporaries.[201]

Perhaps the most intriguing case is that of Antoine-Aimé Dorion. "No matter in which language he chooses to address the House, his diction is pure and his manner equable," stated a profile of 1865. "If he speaks in English, you will think him an Englishman with a foreign face. If he speaks in French, you will in like manner think him a Frenchman who has spent much of his life in England." "His command of choice English was unrivalled by any French member of the House," J.C. Dent recalled in 1881, adding that "the delicate purity of his accent was such as few foreigners ever attain." At Dorion's death in 1891, La Patrie similarly praised the quality of his English. "Les Anglais de la génération précédente ne cessaient de s'émerveiller d'entendre un homme d'une autre race manier avec une si grande aisance une langue qui n'était pas la sienne, ne s'arrêter jamais à la recherché de l'expression exacte, revêtir sa pensée de la tounure de phrase propre au genie de la langue étrangère dans laquelle il s'exprimait..." Savary agreed that a stranger listening to Dorion "would imagine that English was his mother tongue." The Dictionary of Canadian Biography adds the remarkable statement that Antoine-Aimé Dorion lost his ability to use French altogether in later life. "Because he had so many ties with English-speaking businessmen, it is not surprising that all his contemporaries remarked on his increasingly obvious difficulty in speaking French well from 1854 on, and loss of all facility in the language after 1871." However, in its obituary, the Montreal Gazette (1 June 1891) said of him: "He was a master of both languages, using either as occasion required with perfect fluency". It would seem surprising that the chief justice of a Quebec court could have lost his ability to speak French. Dorion died of a stroke, and it is just possible that an earlier and perhaps undiagnosed attack might have damaged an area of the brain that controlled speech.[202]

Elected to parliament in 1904, Ernest Lapointe was encouraged by fellow Liberals to become proficient in English in order to make the most of his obvious talents. He first used the language in the House of Commons for a speech in 1916. Mackenzie King, so halting in French himself, took his lieutenant's bilingualism for granted. In 1925, he grumbled at the poor organisation of an Ottawa banquet for overseas visitors, particularly the embarrassment that all speeches were delivered in English. "Shld. have had Lapointe speak in French & Eng." After all, that was what Lapointe was there for.[203]

Given the amount of effort that went into the mastery of the English language by French Canadian politicians, it is remarkable how rare were misunderstandings or mistakes. After Cartier's death, John A. Macdonald advanced a perhaps tendentious argument about his colleague's use of the English word "company". Evidence surfaced during the Pacific Scandal that his ally had offered to pay money to Sir Hugh Allan's "company". Macdonald insisted that this referred to Allan's law practice and not to his railway syndicate. "You know he thought in French and his English was a translation," he reminded Lord Dufferin, arguing that Cartier used "compagnie" as the equivalent of both "company" and "firm", there being no separate term for the latter in French. Laurier perpetrated a more obvious blunder in 1904, calling Lord Dundonald, the obstreperous and interfering British-appointed commander of the Canada's armed forces, a "foreigner". The slip, instantly withdrawn but endless ly criticised, stemmed from the dual meaning of the French word "étranger". As Laurier corrected himself, Dundonald was "not a foreigner, but a stranger."[204]

Mutual incomprehension regarding specific terms was also relatively unusual, no doubt because of the dominance of English. "It was impossible ... sometimes to find a word of the same meaning and force in every respect in one language with [the] same word in another," Macdonald had warned in 1878. In 1865, during the debate on the union of the provinces, A.-A. Dorion attempted to exploit one linguistic discrepancy. The term "confederation" had generally applied to a loose union of polities, such as the United States between 1776 and 1788. In English Canada, it acquired a capital-letter form and the substantially altered meaning of a centralised federal structure. This transition was complicated by the fact that "Confederation" described not only the political arrangement, but the process by which it was achieved, through the external authority of the Westminster parliament. However, the same shifts in meaning did not occur in Canadian French. "Ce n'est donc pas une confédération qui nous est proposée, mais tout simplement une Union Législative déguisée sous le nom de confédération," Dorion complained.

A similar issue arose during the 1956 Pipeline Debate, a fraught marathon contest which aroused angry passions in the House of Commons. Procedural decisions taken by the Liberal-appointed Speaker, René Beaudoin, were challenged by the opposition. A Quebec journalist unforgivably published a private letter from the Speaker, complaining about Progressive Conservative attacks upon him, which was reported in English Canada as an allegation that his accusers had "falsified" his actions. Beaudoin attempted to defend himself by arguing that the word he had used, "fausser", in fact translated as a charge of distortion, not outright misrepresentation. Although he was discouraged from resigning, Beaudoin was destroyed by the controversy, both politically and personally.[205]

In the decade that followed, increased interaction between the two language communities fostered more opportunities for Anglophone misunderstanding, not always because the two languages were different, but rather because they often seemed so similar. It took time to appreciate that "demander" and "insister" do not mean "demand" and "insist", and many English Canadians never did understand that "deux nations" did not necessarily translate as "two sovereign states". Nonetheless, by 1969, it was no doubt politically inescapable that the way forward, in the sphere of federal government at least, was to aim for creating a fully bilingual system.

Epilogue: 1969 and all that

The past half century is beyond the scope of this study, but the adoption of 1969 as a terminal date is not intended to imply the instantaneous achievement of a linguistic Millennium. The old order did not roll over quietly. There were localised flashpoints of resistance to official bilingualism, such as Moncton in New Brunswick. The trend in Quebec towards emphasising the French language – evident well before the notorious Bill 101 of 1977 – caused resentment across the rest of the country. That year, Donald Creighton published the darkest of his gloomy prognostications about the future of Canada, denouncing the Official Languages Act, and indeed all concessions to nationalist Quebec. "Bilingualism in the federal civil service cost vast amounts of money, produced negligible results, and aroused angry resentment among English-speaking bureaucrats." Backed by "a robust army of dedicated snoopers", the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages engaged in "abusing and hectoring English Canadians for their neglect of a language only an infinitesimal minority would ever have occasion to use."[206] A retired naval officer acquired brief celebrity by publishing a denunciation of Trudeau's alleged master plan, Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow.

It was certainly true that expensive programmes to teach public servants to speak French too often generated few results and much resentment. Where the policy did work, its benefits were not always obvious: it was sometimes possible, especially in the city of Ottawa, to encounter people who were charmingly bilingual but regrettably incapable of articulating an original thought in either language. French immersion programmes were criticised as a veiled form of extending social inequality, a means of protecting privileged access to quality education. Some Anglophones became proficient in an international French, only to find their accent lampooned as "cul de poule" in Quebec. Learning the language did not necessarily penetrate the Quebec mentalité, nor – as the career of Joe Clark proved – did it make an Alberta Tory any the more acceptable to the province's voters. (Brian Mulroney's Baie Comeau p'tit gars street French proved a stronger asset.) Nor – as Creighton complained – did Ottawa bilingualism prevent an aggressive wave of language legislation privileging French within Quebec, from both Liberal and Parti Québécois provincial governments, while two hard-fought referendums on sovereignty incidentally revealed enduring memories of the institutional humiliations caused by dealing with Anglophone supremacy. On a smaller scale, in New Brunswick, Canada's only officially bilingual province, there are areas that remain as solidly English-speaking as ever, not least the capital, Fredericton, itself. Beyond Quebec, across Canada, official French signage is sometimes embarrassingly amateurish, while there are many areas of the country – notable Vancouver, with its sizeable communities of Asian origin – where the emphasis upon provision of services in French runs counter to the ethnic mixture of local communities. Nonetheless, half a century after the passage of the Official Languages Act, it is difficult to imagine a Canada that does not recognise and endorse its two official languages. In retrospect, it may seem strange that Canada functioned for so long without confronting the need for bilingualism. "Who spoke French in English Canada?" perhaps seems an innocent question, but it may open up new ways of thinking about its intellectual and political history.


References are repeated in full to facilitate possible rearrangement of text. At the time of writing, I was not aware of the recent and important work of Dr Robert J. Talbot, Gestionnaire de la recherche / Manager of Research, Commissariat aux langues officielles / Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. His doctorate is likely to form the starting point for any assessment of Canadian biculturalism and bilingualism in the half century before the passage of the 1969 Official Languages Act: Robert Talbot, "Moving Beyond Two Solitudes: Constructing a Dynamic and Unifying Francophone/Anglophone Relationship, 1916-1940", PhD thesis, University of Ottawa, 2014. Some citations from Dr Talbot's work are added below (11 July 2019). I am grateful for his help in identifying them.  

[1] Dale C. Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie: Clear Grit, Toronto, The Macmillan Company of Canada, 1960, 368.

[2] Peter B. Waite, In Search of R.B. Bennett, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012, 61-2, 89.

[3] Peter C. Newman, The Distemper of Our Times: Canadian Politics in Transition: 1962-1968, Toronto/ Montreal, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1968, 463.

[4] L.B. Pearson, Words and Occasions, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970, 208.

[5] Peter B. Waite discussed Creighton's competence in French in the Introduction to the single-volume edition of Creighton's biography of Macdonald, published by the University of Toronto Press (1998); Donald Wright, Donald Creighton: A Life in History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015, 91.

[6] Eugene Forsey, A Life on the Fringe: The Memoirs of Eugene Forsey, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1990, 42.

[7] Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. General Introduction. Book I: The Official Languages (Ottawa, Roger Duhamel, Queen's Printer, 1967), xxxviii, 6. The Laurendeau-Dunton "Bi and Bi" Commission was established in 1963 and issued a series of reports through to 1970. While it impact was of course massive, it appears relatively little in this study, which concentrates on earlier decades.

[8] Prior to that date, and for decades afterwards, respondents were asked to identify themselves by ethnic group, in terms of the nationality of their first ancestor to enter Canada. That these would be French speakers is an implication to be treated with caution: no account is taken of assimilation, meaning that Francophone numbers were almost certainly overstated. The Irish contribution to Canada was considerably understated, presumably because respondents preferred to distance themselves from a troubled island and the negative stereotypes of its inhabitants. The question was dropped by John Diefenbaker, who resented being obliged to classify himself as a German Canadian.

[9] All figures are rounded and approximate. The percentages do not total 100 because almost a quarter of a million people were returned as speaking neither language. Here again, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism offered the sensible advice to be "cautious". "When the 1961 census speaks of approximately 2,230,000 bilingual people in the country, about 12 per cent of the population, this does not mean that these people can speak French and English equally well, and are therefore interchangeable. The figure includes approximately 1,666,000 Canadians of French origin, for whom English is generally only a second language ; nearly 318,000 Canadians of British origin, for whom French is in most cases only a second language; and nearly 248,000 Canadians of other origins, for whom French and English may very well be merely second languages which have been acquired in varying degrees." Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. General Introduction. Book I: The Official Languages (Ottawa, Roger Duhamel, Queen's Printer, 1967), xxviii.  

[10] J.L. Granatstein, Canada, 1957-1967: The Years of Uncertainty and Innovation, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1986, 245-6. I note here that I have used the terms Anglophone and Francophone with capital letters, except in quotation.

[11] Anglophone bilingualism rose rapidly after the 1960s, beyond the scope of this study, touching 40 percent in 1971 and climbing to over 70 percent by 2001. This was attributed partly to Quebec's language legislation, and partly to the outflow of unilingual Anglophones who no longer felt comfortable in an assertively French province.

[12] The evolution of English/French bilingualism in Canada from 1901 to 2011 (2018):, archived, consulted 13 May 2019.

[13] The British North America Act was renamed the Constitution Act in 1982.

[14] E. Forsey, "The British North America Act and Bilingualism" (1964) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 240-7.

[15] C. Berger, The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1971 ed.; K. Niergarth, "'No Sense of Reality'...", Ontario History, cvii (2015), 213-39, esp. 217n. n 1912, Henri Bourassa had argued, in effect, that because French was recognised in some form by the Canadian constitution, it should of necessity be accessible across the country: "both languages have the right to coexist everywhere that the Canadian people leads a public life: at church, at school, in Parliament, in court, and in all public services [italics added]." H. Bourassa, "La langue française et l'avenir de notre race" (1912), in Ramsay Cook, ed., French-Canadian Nationalism: An Anthology, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969, 137 (translation by Cook).

[16] Library and Archives Canada [cited as LAC], The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 11673, 17 June 1929. King's postbag demonstrates that some Anglophones saw bilingual postage stamps as a dangerous precedent, but the evidence hardly suggests the outcry implied by Lower. One ingenious suggestion was bilingual stamps should only carry words common to both languages, although this of course assumed identical meanings. Robert J. Talbot, "Bilingualism and Biculturalism at the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, 1927", in R.B. Blake and M. Hayday, eds, Celebrating Canada: Commemorations, Anniversaries and National Symbols, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2018, 151-2. As late as 1954, the Tremblay Commission – a constitutional stock-taking by the Province of Quebec – could state that "a given cultural milieu always carries the mark of the religious conception by which it is inspired, even when it is more or less remote from the religion itself". D. Kwavnik, ed., The Tremblay Report: Report of a [Quebec] Royal Commission of Inquiry on Constitutional Problems, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1973, 7. Eugene Forsey was probably unique in being an Anglophone public figure who was also an elder in a French-language United Church congregation. 

[17] Donald Wright, Donald Creighton: A Life in History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015, 131, 161-3, 192; Donald Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada, 1863-1867, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1964, 191-2.

[18] Cuthbert Ross, An Apology for Great Britain, Quebec: J. Neilson, 1809, 10n.; Jean-Pierre Wallot, "Cuthbert, Ross," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019, (I give DCB / DBC citations as recommended by the website, through which subjects may be easily traced through key word searches.); André Siegfried, The Race Question in Canada, London: Eveleigh Nash, 1907, 116. [Note added, October 2019: In 1890, Quebec's Department of Public Instruction reported that 838 primary schools in the province of Quebec did not teach French. Of these, 770 were Protestant and 68 were Catholic. In 1897, there were 5,863 schools in the province, so this figure suggests that few Anglophone schools taught French at all: one report seems to indicate a figure of 101. A Montreal newspaper commented that, given the low salaries paid to teachers, "it would be strange ... if even the mother tongue of the pupils and the ordinary branches of instruction were taught with anything like efficiency." Dominion Illustrated (Montreal), 6 September 1890, 163.]

[19] C.P. Lucas, ed., Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America, 3 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912, ii, 289-90.

[20] M.-P. Hamel, réd., Le Rapport de Durham , Quebec, Société historique de Montréal aux Éditions de Québec, 1948, 50; J. Ajzenstat, The Political Thought of Lord Durham, Kingston and Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1988.

[21] C.P. Lucas, ed., Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America, 3 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912, ii, 296, 294-5.

[22] E. Forsey, "Canada: Two Nations or One?" (1962) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 247-69, esp. 263.

[23] A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers, 1846-1852, 4 vols., Ottawa: J.O. Patenaude, 1937, i, 149 (Elgin to Grey, private, 4 May 1848); James Sturgis, "Anglicisation as a Theme in Lower Canadian History 1807-1849", British Journal of Canadian Studies, iii, 1988, 210-33; H. Bourassa, "La langue française et l'avenir de notre race" (1912), in Ramsay Cook, ed., French-Canadian Nationalism: An Anthology, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969, 143 (translation by Cook). Elgin's comment had been published in T. Walrond, ed., Letters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin (London, 1872), 54: perhaps Bourassa unconsciously reflected his wording.  

[24] Goldwin Smith, ed. Carl Berger, Canada and the Canadian Question, Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 1971, 169.

[25] J R. Miller, Equal Rights: The Jesuit Estates' Acts Controversy, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979, 108, 131.

[26] Manitoba Free Press, 4 February 1890, in D.J. Hall, Clifford Sifton, i: The Young Napoleon, University of British Columbia Press, 1981, 46. The Manitoba Free Press was renamed Winnipeg Free Press in 1931.

[27] J R. Miller, Equal Rights: The Jesuit Estates' Acts Controversy, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979, 32.

[28] J R. Miller, Equal Rights: The Jesuit Estates' Acts Controversy, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1979, 97. Austin was the male Principal of a college for the higher education of women, located at St Thomas, Ontario. His authority for pronouncing on bilingual schooling is not clear. S. MacMullin, "Austin, Benjamin Fish", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xvi, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003-, accessed May 16 2019,

[29] Donald Wright, Donald Creighton: A Life in History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015, 278-9. Creighton also argued that the emphasis upon French in high schools (presumably in Ontario) "did little more than deepen the illiteracy in English with which pupils tried to enter the universities." "Beyond the Referendum", D. Creighton, The Passionate Observer: Selected Writings, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1980, 47-55, esp. 51. The essay originally appeared in Maclean's, 27 June 1977, under the title "No More Concessions".

[30] LAC, MG26A, 559A, microfilm C-1447, diary of Agnes Macdonald, 19 April 1868.

[31] Claude Vachon, "Beaubien, Joseph Octave," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–,

[32] L. Reynolds, Agnes: The Biography of Lady Macdonald, Ottawa, Carleton University Press, 1990, 52, 126.

[33] Joseph Pope, ed., The Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald, Garden City NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1921, 40 (Macdonald to M. le Comte de la Fouchère, 27 October 1866).

[34] Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, eds., The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, i: 1889-1910, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1985, 106, 149, 154, 349, 386.

[35] Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism, 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 102.

[36] Molly Pulver Ungar and Vicky Bach, "Mahony, Frances" (Jeffers; Lovering) in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[37] Arthur R.M. Lower, My First Seventy-Five Years, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967, 54.

[38] Arthur R.M. Lower, Colony to Nation: A History of Canada, revised 4th ed., Don Mills. Ont.: Longmans Canada Limited, 1964 (first ed. 1946), 471.

[39] Pierre Savard, "Tardivel, Jules-Paul," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 14, 2019,; J-P. Tardivel, L'Anglicisme: Voilà l'Ennemi, Quebec: Imprimerie du "Canadien", 1880, 3-4, 6.

[40] Richard Wilbur, The Rise of French New Brunswick, Halifax: Formac Publishing Company, 1989, 118; [Note, October 2020: At the time of writing, in 2019, there was no Dictionary of Canadian Biography entry for Veniot, which necessitated my cumbrous discussion of his language competence. This has now been supplied by a collaboration of Chedly Belkhodja and Éric Thomas, "Veniot, Pierre-Jean", This makes clear that Veniot learned his French from his unilingual Francophone wife, Catherine Melançon. The useful article adds the interesting information that Veniot's baptismal name was Vignault, but he was persuded to change it at school to a form more comprehensible to Anglophones.]

[41] L'Évangéline, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Journal, all 7 July 1936.

[42] Paul-André Linteau, Réné Durocher, Jean-Claude Robert (trs. Robert Chodos), Quebec: A History, 1867-1929, 50.

[43] Kenneth Munro, "Ross, John Jones," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[44] François Béland, "Monk, Frederick Debartzch," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 9, 2019,; Montreal Gazette, (Toronto) Globe, (Victoria) Daily Colonist, 16 May 1914.

[45] Sandra Gwyn, "Papineau, Talbot Mercer," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[46] George Woodcock, "Grant, Cuthbert (d. 1854)," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[47] Claude Bissell, The Young Vincent Massey, Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 1981, 42; R. MacGregor Dawson, William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Political Biography: i, 1874-1923, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1958, 91; Michael Hayden, ed., So Much To Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 116.

[48] Henry J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians and persons connected with Canada: from the earliest period in the history of the province down to the present time, Montreal: R. Worthington, 1865, 77; in collaboration with Peter Marshall, "Hey, William," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,; L.F.S. Upton, The Loyal Whig: William Smith of New York & Quebec, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 161; P. Stacey, "Brock, Sir Isaac," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019, Michel Brunet was scathing about early Anglophone attempts to use French. "Les généraux vainqueurs eurent soin de s'adresser en français à la population canadienne. Les ordonnances qu'ils publièrent ne respectaient pas toujours la grammaire française mais révélaient un laborieux effort de la part de leurs secrétaires." Michel Brunet, Québec Canada Anglais: Deux Intinéraires, Un Affrontement, Montréal, Éditions HMH, 1969, 186.

[49] G. P. Browne, "Murray, James," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

Hilda Neatby, Quebec: The Revolutionary Age, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1966, 51.

[50] Henry J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians and persons connected with Canada: from the earliest period in the history of the province down to the present time, Montreal: R. Worthington, 1865, 77; L. F. S. Upton, "Livius, Peter," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,

[51] in collaboration with Jean-Francis Gervais, "Brown, William," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,; Jean-Francis Gervais, "Gilmore, Thomas," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,

[52] Dorothy E. Ryder, "Bentley, John," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,

[53] I K. Steele, "Finlay, Hugh," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,; Adam Shortt and Arthur G. Doughty, eds., Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada,1759-1791, Ottawa: S.E. Dawson, 1907, 657 (Finlay to Evan Nepean, 9 February 1789).

[54] Thus the DCB/DBC tentatively concludes that James Shepherd, a Quebec City office holder who died in 1822 was "in all likelihood bilingual". F.B. Sirois, "Shepherd, James", Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,

[55] Denis Vaugeois, "Jacobs, Samuel," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,; Elinor Kyte Senior, "McCord, Thomas," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019,; Adam Shortt and Arthur G. Doughty, eds., Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1759-1791, Ottawa: S.E. Dawson, 1907, 657 (Finlay to Evan Nepean, 9 February 1789), 344 ( Cramahé to Dartmouth, 13 December 1773); Ross Cuthbert, An Apology for Great Britain, Quebec: J. Neilson, 1809, 10

[56] David Roberts, "Grant, William (1744-1805)," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 14, 2019,; Fernand Ouellet, Le Bas Canada 1791-1840: changements structuraux et crise, Ottawa: Éditions de l'Université d'Ottawa, 1976, 73-4.

[57] Sonia Chassé, Rita Girard-Wallot, and Jean-Pierre Wallot, "Neilson, John," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 14, 2019,; Jacques Monet, "O’Callaghan, Edmund Bailey," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[58] Henry J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians and persons connected with Canada: from the earliest period in the history of the province down to the present time, Montreal: R. Worthington, 1865, 521; Jacques Monet, "Gugy, Bartholomew Conrad Augustus," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 28, 2019,

[59] Bowen was attacked by a young law student, A-N. Morin. Jean-Pierre Wallot, “Bowen, Edward,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,

[60] James Sturgis, "Anglicisation as a Theme in Lower Canadian History 1807-1839", British Journal of Canadian Studies, iii, 1988, 210-33; Christine E. Dobbin, ed., Basic Documents in the Development of Modern India and Pakistan 1835-1947, London: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1970, 15-18; William Ormsby, The Emergence of the Federal Concept in Canada, 1839-1845, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 113. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Celtic languages in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Wales were also viewed as obstacles to progress which should be extirpated. This attitude may have subliminally affected British attitudes to French in Canada, but I have seen no evidence of explicit comparisons.

[61] Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism, 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 197, 200; Jacques Monet, "La Fontaine, Sir Louis-Hippolyte," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 9, 2019,; R. Alan Douglas, John Prince: A Collection of Documents, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1980, 102.

[62] Brian J. Young, The Politics of Codification: The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press / The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1994, 88-9, 133.

[63] Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 328; Montreal Herald, 25 January 1849, in A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers, 1846-1852, 4 vols., Ottawa: J.O. Patenaude, 1937, i, 296. His was a mild comment: J.C. Dent referred to the "maledictions of the Tory press." J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 135.

[64] R. Alan Douglas, John Prince: A Collection of Documents, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1980, 98, 102, 67; George M. Wrong, The Earl of Elgin, Toronto: George Morang & Co, Limited, 1906, 42-3.

[65] A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers, 1846-1852, 4 vols., Ottawa: J.O. Patenaude, 1937, ii, 631.

[66] Michael S. Cross, A Biography of Robert Baldwin: The Morning-Star of Memory, Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press, 2012, 93, 209; André Garon, "Aylwin, Thomas Cushing," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 5, 2019, Garon apparently quoted an obituary in Montreal Gazette, 16 October 1871. The Montreal Herald, same date, did not mention his language skills.

[67] Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, xii, part 3, 1701-2 (23 February 1853); Pierre Savard, “Dubord, Hippolyte,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,; Louisette Pothier, “Turcotte, Joseph-Édouard,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,; Michèle Brassard and Jean Hamelin, “Tessier, Ulric-Joseph,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,; Jean-Marc Paradis, “Morin, Augustin-Norbert,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,

[68] Bruce Curtis, The Politics of Population: State Formation, Statistics, and the Census of Canada, 1840-1875, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001, 60; Head Quarters (Fredericton), 10 March 1858.

[69] House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 5th Session: vol. 1, 17-18 (11 February 1878); P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation, 1864-1867: Politics, Newspapers, and the Union of British North America, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962, 135. Shortly before his death in 1940, Tweedsmuir criticised the French versions of the throne speeches that he was called upon to deliver as "bad" and "inelegant"; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 21177, 23 January 1940.

[70] Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 170-1.

[71] Jean-Charles Bonenfant, "Ramsay, Thomas Kennedy," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 28, 2019,; T.K. Ramsay, Notes sur le Coutume de Paris, 2e edition, Montreal, C.C. Beauchemin & Valois, 1863, vi.

[72] Brian J. Young, The Politics of Codification: The Lower Canadian Civil Code of 1866, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press / The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 1994, 126; Pamela Miller, "McCord, David Ross," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[73] Montreal Herald, 24 March 1864. But even in Quebec City, bilingualism was mainly about French Canadians operating in English. In 1853, the historian Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Ferland estimated that three-quarters of the Francophone population  were fluent in English, and that French Canadian lawyers could plead in either language. Michel Brunet, Québec Canada Anglais: Deux Intinéraires, Un Affrontement, Montréal, Éditions HMH, 1969, 189.

[74] Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, xii, part 2, 713-14 (24 October 1854).

[75] Globe, 17 April 1856; Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, vol. xiii (3), 1140 (4 April 1856), xiii (3), 1238 (9 April 1856).

[76] While it was generous of the Orléans princes to demonstrate their goodwill towards Canada's great constitutional project, arguably the delegates were ill-advised to accept hospitality from a group constituted in opposition to the recognised government of France, the more so as the hosts made clear their confident belief that their supplanter, Napoleon III, would eventually be overthrown. To venture into such a gathering without any linguistic competence was to risk potential embroilment in an international diplomatic incident. LAC, Fonds Brown, vol. 6, George Brown to Anne Brown, 3 June 1865, 1282-6.

[77] Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, xiii, part 1, 283 (26 February 1856).

[78] J.K. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald: i, 1836-1857, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1968, 356 (17 March 1856), 425 (17 March 1857).

[79] Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, xii, part 2, 548 (13 October 1854); Jean Hamelin and Pierre Poulin, "Chauveau, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 22, 2019,; Jean-Paul Bernard, “Papin, Joseph,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 9, 2019,

[80] Henry J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians and persons connected with Canada: from the earliest period in the history of the province down to the present time, Montreal: R. Worthington, 1865, 471; Pierre Poulin, "Chabot, Jean," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 28, 2019, J.C. Dent's statement that "urgent private reasons compelled Mr. Chabot to resign" is an example of the opaque discretion with which Victorian chroniclers masked embarrassing information from historians. J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 184.

[81] Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of Confederation of the British North American Provinces, 3rd Session, 8th Provincial Parliament of Canada, Quebec: Hunter, Rose & Co, Parliamentary Printers, 1865, 6. It is clear that Taché was much happier speaking French: W.L. Morton, ed., Monck Letters and Journals, 1863-1868: Canada from Government House at Confederation, Toronto / Montreal, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1970, 63.

[82] The classic statement of the Speaker's role came from William Lenthall in a confrontation with Charles I in 1642: "I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here". Widely quoted, see M. Macdonagh, The Speaker of the House (London, Methuen & Co., 1914), 216-17.

[83] Gaston Deschênes, Gary Levy, "What’s in a Name: Speaker/Orateur/Président", Canadian Parliamentary Review, vi (1983),, accessed 9 May 2019.

[84] J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 101.

[85] Bruce W Hodgins, John Sandfield Macdonald, 1812-1872, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971, 22, letter of 27 December 1851, 28. A chauvinist admirer in 1843 noted that Sandfield Macdonald's wife "speaks french [sic] & good english [sic] ... and is quite intelligent." J.I.Little, The Child Letters: Public and Private Life in a Canadian Merchant-Politician's Family, 1841-1845, Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995, 76.

[86] Globe, 5 August 1858, cutting in LAC, Fonds John A. Macdonald, vol. 296; the ProQuest file is incomplete for this date. Morris was 59 in 1858, and had lived in Canada since 1808. His explanation was not entirely straightforward: he had been sent to school at Sorel in Lower Canada. P. G. Cornell, "Morris, James," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 10, 2019,; Elwood H. Jones, "Fergusson, Adam," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 10, 2019, Except for a brief period on the eve of Confederation, Speakers of the Legislative Council of the province of Canada were chosen by the government of the day. The Dominion reverted to this practice, making the Speaker of the Senate a government appointment.

[87] Globe, 18 August 1863.

[88] Winnipeg Times, 26 December 1882.

[89] LAC, Fonds John A. Macdonald, vol. 189, Bowell to Macdonald, 27 December 1882. When Wallbridge died in 1887, the secretary to the Catholic Archbishop promptly wrote to Macdonald recommending the appointment of Judge Joseph Dubuc as his successor, arguing that among his many merits Dubuc "speaks English and french [sic], which is a great deal for a Judge and above all for a Chief Justice." Although a Conservative and an Ultramontane, Dubuc had managed to dodge involvement in hearing the case against Louis Riel. He did become chief justice of Manitoba in 1903, the first Francophone to hold the office. LAC, Fonds John A. Macdonald, vol. 449, G. Cloutier to Macdonald, 22 October 1887; Diane Paulette Payment, “Dubuc, Sir Joseph,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 13, 2019,

[90] Richard Cartwright, Reminiscences, Toronto: William Briggs, 1912, 3. In 1870, J.G. Bourinot noted that Cartier "addresses the House almost invariably in English". Margaret A. Banks, Sir John George Bourinot, Victorian Canadian: His Life, Times, and Legacy, Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, 193.

[91] House of Commons Debates, 1st Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 3-4 (6 November 1867). 

[92] House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 2nd Session: vol. 1, 5 (5 February 1875).

[93] Roger Le Moine, Napoléon Bourassa: l'homme et l'artiste, Ottawa: Éditions de L'Université d'Ottawa, 1974, 15. Bourassa relied upon Félix-Gabriel Marchand to communicate with Anglophone constituents: Marchand had been reared in English by an Anglophone mother. Michèle Brassard and Jean Hamelin, "Marchand, Félix-Gabriel,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 26, 2019,

[94] House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 2-3, 26 March 1874; House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 4th Session: vol. 1, 19 February 1877, 94-96; W. M. Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 1822-1896: Irish Catholic Canadian, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977, 169. A.-P Caron had been bilingual from childhood, and was a graduate of McGill University. Serge Bernier and Pauline Dumont-Bayliss, "Caron, Sir Adolphe-Philippe," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2019,

[95] Yvon Thériault, "Lindsay, William," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 10, 2019,; Margaret A. Banks, "Bourinot, Sir John George," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 10, 2019,

[96] Senate Debates, 4th Parliament, 2nd Session: vol. 1, 39-40 (17 February 1879); Marcel Caya, "Bellerose, Joseph-Hyacinthe," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 27, 2019, Keyword searches of Senate debates for that period have not revealed the formula that he complained about: the apologies may have been edited out of the official version. 

[97] Senate Debates, 6th Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 529-30, 20 June 1887.

[98] Donald Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician, Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada, 1965, 15, 485; Canadian News (London), 25 June 1856, pp. 22-23 (Toronto correspondent, 9 June).

[99] Joseph Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald G.C.B., First Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, 2 vols., Ottawa: J. Durie & Son, 1894, i, 175-6, 285; Peter Oliver, ed., The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878, Toronto: University of Press for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2003, 146-9.

[100] J.K. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald: i, 1836-1857, Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1968, 398 (27 November 1856); House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 2nd Session: vol. 1, 12 (5 February 1875).

[101] Le Courrier de St-Hyacinthe, 7 juillet 1877.

[102] House of Commons Debates, 1st Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 158, 160 (29 November 1867).

[103] House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 5th Session: vol. 1, 1084-92 (13 March 1878).

[104] John Boyd, Sir George Etienne Cartier, Bart.: His Life and Times. A Political History of Canada from 1814 until 1873, Freeport NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971 ed., first ed. 1914, 394; Kenneth Munro, A Biography of François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel, Quebec's Foremost Political Maverick in the Nineteenth Century, Lampeter, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001, 178; LAC, Fonds John A. Macdonald, vol. 202, Chapleau to Macdonald, 20 January 1887 and private, 22 January 1887; House of Commons Debates, 7th Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 36 (1 May 1891).[Note added, September 2019: In 1888, Macdonald's secretary, Joseph Pope, boldly suggested to him that Senate leader J.J.C. Abbott should succeed him as prime minister, arguing (among other positives) that Abbott "speaks both languages with facility". Macdonald, who was probably irritated at Pope's presumption, dismissed the suggestion out of hand: "he hasn't a single qualification for the office". In the event, Abbott did succeed, albeit briefly. However, his language skills probably played little part in the succession: H.-L. Langevin, Macdonald's preferred choice, was embroiled in scandal, Charles Tupper, his most assertive colleague, did not want the job at that time, while his ablest minister, John Thompson, was a suspect figure in predominantly Protestant Ontario because he had joined the Church of Rome. An Anglophone Senate leader was assumed to need French, but not a prime minister. J. Pope, The Day of Sir John Macdonald..., Toronto: Glasgow, Brook & Company, 1920, 141-2.] 

[105] Archives of Ontario, Fonds Campbell, W.D. LeSueur to Campbell, 6 September 1887. LeSueur's father presumably learned his French from his father, who came from Jersey in the Channel Islands. LeSueur was one of Canada's earliest literary intellectuals, an authority on the Parisian critic C.A. Sainte-Beuve: his intellectual stature is well conveyed by the essay on him in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, but there is no specific discussion of the origins of his command of French. Clifford G. Holland, "LeSueur, William Dawson," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 9, 2019,

[106] The Week, 15 December 1887, quoted, In Memoriam: Sir Alexander Campbell, K.C.M.G., born March 9, 1822 died May 24, 1892, Toronto, 1892, no publisher given, 4; [Alexander Campbell] Speeches on Divers Occasions, Ottawa: privately printed by A.S. Woodman, 1887, 63-4 (9 March 1865).

[107] The Week, 15 December 1887, quoted, In Memoriam: Sir Alexander Campbell, K.C.M.G., born March 9, 1822 died May 24, 1892, Toronto, 1892, no publisher given, 4.

[108] Canadian News (London), 25 June 1856, pp. 22-23 (Toronto correspondent, 9 June); Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada, vol. XIII, Part 2, 1856, 907 (27 March 1856); J. I. Little, "Drummond, Lewis Thomas," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 7, 2019,; Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism, 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 295.

[109] Henry C. Klassen, Luther H. Holton: Founding Canadian Entrepreneur, Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2001, 164; Jean Friesen, "Morris, Alexander," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 11, 2019,; J.K. Johnson, ed., Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and His Family, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969, 101 (28 May 1866); Hal J. Guest, "Macdonald, Sir Hugh John," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 11, 2019,

[110] G. Dugas, Histoire véridique des faits qui ont prepare le movement des Métis à la Rivière Rouge en 1869, Montreal, Librarie Beauchemin, 1905, 9. Schultz's DCB / DBC biography is unusual in commenting on his language skills: Lovell Clark, “Schultz, Sir John Christian,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 14, 2019, Two historians of early Winnipeg bestowed ironic praise on a merchant named Jock McGregor, who was "a favorite with the French half-breeds.. Although a Scotchman, he makes out to be a pretty good Frenchman, and so clever is he that he will learn any language at sight if there’s money in it—Scotch like." A. Begg and W.R. Nursey, Ten Years in Winnipeg, Winnipeg, no publisher, 1879, 91:

[111] C.B. Koestler, Mr. Davin, M.P.: A Biography of Nicholas Flood Davin, Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1980, 11-12, 33, 66.

[112] C. Shrive, Charles Mair: Literary Nationalist, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1965, 33 (letter of 30 December 1868); Norman Knowles, “Denison, George Taylor (1839-1925),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 14, 2019,

[113] Kenneth Munro, A Biography of François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel, Quebec's Foremost Political Maverick in the Nineteenth Century, Lampeter, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001, 178, 184.

[114] Peter E. Paul Dembski, "White, Solomon," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[115] G.P. de T. Glazebrook, Sir Charles Bagot in Canada: A Study in British Colonial Government, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929, 39-40; Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism, 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 96.

[116] J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 86; A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers, 1846-1852, 4 vols., Ottawa: J.O. Patenaude, 1937, i, 183 (Elgin to Grey, private, 15 June 1848); Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French-Canadian Nationalism, 1837-1850, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969, 328; Barbara J. Messamore, Canada's Governors-General, 1847-1878: Biography and Constitutional Evolution, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006, 100.

[117] Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, My Canadian Journal, 1872-8, London: John Murray, 1891, 27,29, 68; Barbara J. Messamore, Canada's Governors-General, 1847-1878: Biography and Constitutional Evolution, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006, 151. Dufferin once delivered an address to McGill University in classical Greek.

[118] Robert M. Stamp, Royal Rebels: Princess Louise & the Marquis of Lorne, Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1988, 148-9; W. Stewart MacNutt, Impressions of a Governor-General: In Days of Lorne, Fredericton: Brunswick Press, [1955], 206.

[119] Simon Kerry, Lansdowne: The Last Great Whig, London: Unicorn, 2017, 5, 33, 38; Lord Newton, Lord Lansdowne: A Biography, London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1929, 26-8; (Lord) George Hamilton, Parliamentary Reminiscences and Reflections, 1868 to 1885, London: John Murray, 1917, 259.

[120] John T. Saywell, ed., The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893-1898, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1960, 17-18, 22, 473 (27 September, 5, 6 October 1893, 19 November 1898); Paul Stevens and John T. Saywell, eds., Lord Minto's Canadian Papers: A Selection of the Public and Private Papers of the Fourth Earl of Minto, 1898-1904, 2 vols., Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1981), i, 15 (13 November 1898). A friendly and probably authorised biography of the Duke of Connaught (governor-general 1911-16) discreetly indicated that His Royal Highness functioned effectively in French. George Aston, His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn: A Life and Intimate Study (London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, 1929), 284, 296.

[121] Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, 388, 440, 424; Andrew Lownie, John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier, London: Constable and Company Limited, 1995, 261. Queen Elizabeth impressed Ernest Lapointe by making her farewell to Canada at the close of the 1939 royal tour with the bilingual "Que Dieu bénisse le Canada, God bless Canada." Tweedsmuir's influence may be suspected. Robert J. Talbot, "Francophone-Anglophone Accommodation in Practice: Liberal Foreign Policy and National Unity between the Wars" in S.Marti and W.J. Pratt, eds, Fighting with the Empire:Canada, Britain, and Global Conflict, 1867–1947, Vancouver, UBC Press, 2019, 97.

[122] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 30444, 25 January 1947.

[123] Claude Bissell, The Imperial Canadian: Vincent Massey in Office, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986, 252; Robert Bothwell and William Kilbourn, C.D. Howe: a Biography, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979, 258-9, 73.

[124] Laurie C. C. Stanley, “Rogers, James,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 10, 2019,; Phyllis E. LeBlanc, “Richard, Marcel-François,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 10, 2019,; Terrence Murphy, “Sweeny, John,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 10, 2019,

[125] Joseph Andrew Chisholm, The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, 2 vols., Halifax: The Chronicle Publishing Company Limited, 1909, ii, 27; J. Murray Beck. Joseph Howe, i: Conservative Reformer, 1804-1848, Kingston & Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1982, 24. A Halifax newspaper in 1896 assumed that its readers had at least a basic familiarity with French when it suggested that the confrontational and avaricious Charles Tupper derived his surname from the verb form "tu perds", you lose. P.B. Waite, Canada 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1971, 85.

[126] Scotsman James Robb had studied at the Sorbonne before coming to Fredericton to teach at King's College. On a tour of northern New Brunswick, he found himself in Madawaska, "where nothing is spoken but French and where I of course had to parlez vous as formerly." A.G. Bailey, ed., The Letters of James and Ellen Robb.., Fredericton, Acadiensis Press, 1983, 24, 16 (letter of 12 August 1838).

[127] Morning Freeman, 22 June 1861; Head Quarters (Fredericton), 11 March 1868; A. Spray, "Landry, Amand," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 22, 2019,; C. M. Wallace, "Beckwith, John Adolphus," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 22, 2019, [Note added October 2019]: In 1874, a New Brunswick minister refused to publish French translations of government documents on the grounds that Acadians could all read English. (In reality, twentieth-century evidence established that illiteracy rates were high among French New Brunswickers even in their own language, not least because children were too often forced to attend schools which functioned mainly in English.) Acadians suffered discrimination in Church as well as State. James Rogers, the Catholic Bishop of Chatham, although himself fluently bilingual, was suspicious of Francophone assertiveness. In particular, he disapproved of an early manifestation of the Acadian revival, the Collège Saint-Louis-de-Kent, regarding its ethos  as unwelcoming to trainee priests of Irish background. In 1882, he bluntly denounced it as "too Frenchy [sic]", declaring that "the Acadians should not pretend to have the same language privileges as the people of Quebec who have their language guaranteed by a treaty while the Acadians, living in a conquered land, are not able to avail themselves to the same independent degree in regard to the French language." The bishop's grasp of Canadian history was insecure, but his disapproval forced the College to close all the same. Ironically, New Brunswick Acadians found themselves caught in a double bind, too French for their own (Irish) bishops  the early twentieth century saw them gradually conquer the Church from within  and also too French for their militantly Protestant Anglophone fellow citizens. In 1929, a Conservative provincial government announced the phasing-in of a policy of licensing only bilingual teachers for schools in Francophone districts. A backlash from the Orange Order rapidly forced its abandonment. Similar resistance to Acadian pretensions was encountered in 1934, when activists in the increasingly French-speaking city of Moncton attempted to mobilise their potential power as consumers to demand services in their own language. They  won some initial gains, for instance from Eaton's department store which hired bilingual sales clerks. However, the manifesto of the "Campagne de Refrancisation" was contemptuously dismissed by unregenerate Anglophones as the "French letter" (a slang term for a male contraceptive), and an "English-Speaking League" warned the unilingual of the threat to their jobs. So frightening was the reaction this was the decade in which the Ku Klux Klan had an ugly presence on the fringes of New Brunswick politics that the Acadian community in Moncton split, with a group of influential local leaders disavowing the militant stance. Moncton would re-emerge as a cockpit of language conflict three decades later, when the creation of its Francophone university campus coincided with a period of assertive student protest in many advanced countries. The political scientist Hugh G. Thorburn reported that English was still the predominant  language  of debate in the 1954 session of the New Brunswick legislature, with even Francophone members simply limiting themselves to "a short passage in French, usually of a rather platitudinous nature. The language of debate is English, and what is said in French is usually just a summary of the speaker's remarks in English, with a tribute to the fine qualities of the French-speaking population." Hugh John Flemming (in office 1952-60) seems to have been the first Anglophone premier of New Brunswick who attempted to use French in public. R. Wilbur, The Rise of French New Brunswick, Halifax: Formac Publishing Company, 1989, 46 66-7, 139; R. Rees, New Brunswick: An Illustrated History, Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2014, 190; Laurie C. C. Stanley, "Rogers, James," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 10, 2019,; H.G. Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961, 153.

[128] Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of Confederation of the British North American Provinces, 3rd Session, 8th Provincial Parliament of Canada, Quebec: Hunter, Rose & Co, Parliamentary Printers, 1865, 137; A. Spray, "Mitchell, Peter" in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 8, 2019,

[129] P.B. Waite, The Man from Halifax: Sir John Thompson Prime Minister, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983, 228, 237; Canadian Magazine, viii (1896), 77, partly quoted by C. Berger, The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1971 ed., 136.

[130] D'Alton McCarthy's Great Speech Delivered in Ottawa, December 12th, 1889, Toronto: Equal Rights' Association, no date, 16-17; John T. Saywell, ed., The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893-1898, Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1960, 6 (18 September 1893).

[131] André Siegfried, The Race Question in Canada, London: Eveleigh Nash, 1907, 116.

[132] Paul-André Linteau, Histoire de Montréal depuis la Confédération, Montréal: Boréal, 1992, 119-30; Globe (Toronto), 13 August 1884; James Iain Gow, Histoire de l'administration publique québécoise 1867-1970, Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1986, 163.

[133] Globe (Toronto), 8 August 1894; Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, eds., The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, i: 1889-1910, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1985, 27.

[134] Minto to Edward VII, 18 January 1903, in Paul Stevens and John T. Saywell, eds., Lord Minto's Canadian Papers: A Selection of the Public and Private Papers of the Fourth Earl of Minto 1898-1904, 2 vols., Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1981, ii, 246-7; Eugene Forsey, A Life on the Fringe: The Memoirs of Eugene Forsey, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990, 19. Henri Bourassa complained in 1927 that he had been told by an official that "this is an English country" when using his own language to seek information in a Montreal post office. Bourassa pointed out that Montreal was the third largest French-speaking city in the world. Robert J. Talbot, "Bilingualism and Biculturalism at the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, 1927", in R.B. Blake and M. Hayday, eds, Celebrating Canada: Commemorations, Anniversaries and National Symbols, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2018,147. But the attitude that Bourassa resented was sometimes endorsed by influential Francophone figures. Addressing the first Congrès de la Langue Française in 1912, Archbishop Bruchési appealed to his audience: "Apprenons, messieurs, aimons et parlons la langue actuelle de l'Empire." Michel Brunet, Québec Canada Anglais: Deux Intinéraires, Un Affrontement, Montréal, Éditions HMH, 1969, 191.

[135] Michel Vigneault, "Farrell, Arthur," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 4, 2019,

[136] Preface to Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden,; Della M.M. Stanley, Louis Robichaud: A Decade of Power, Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Company, 1984, 180.

[137] LAC, Fonds John A. Macdonald, vol. 256, article referred to in Joseph Pope to Macdonald, 17 December 1885, issue not traced. Cf. Chad Gaffield, Language, Schooling, and Cultural Conflict: The Origins of the French-Language Controversy in Ontario, Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1987, 3.

[138] Arthur G. Doughty and Nora Story, eds., Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1819-1828, Ottawa: J.O. Patenaude, 1935, 132 (undated, 1822); Robert Sellar, The Tragedy of Quebec: The Expulsion of its Protestant Farmers, 1916, ed. Robert Hill, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974, 218, 285.

[139] Claude Bissell, The Young Vincent Massey, Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 1981, 42.

[140] Robert Craig Brown and Ramsay Cook, Canada, 1896-1921: A Nation Transformed, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 265; Brian Cameron, "The Bonne Entente Movement, 1916-1917: From Cooperation to Conscription", Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'Études Canadiennes, xiii (1978), 42-57; Robert Talbot, "Une réconciliation insaisissable: le mouvement de la bonne entente, 1916-1930", consulted 11 July 2019 as Robert Talbot,"Une réconciliation insaisissable : le mouvement de la bonne entente, 1916-1930", Mens, 8(1), 2007, 67–125. Dr Talbot challenges the view that Anglophone support for Bonne Entente was primarily motivated by a desire to persuade Quebec to accept Conscription. Rather, he stresses its role in attempting to recreate the accommodation of elites that had run Canada before 1914. This argument, which emphasises continuity beyond 1917-18, is further developed in Robert Talbot, "Moving Beyond Two Solitudes: Constructing a Dynamic and Unifying Francophone/Anglophone Relationship, 1916-1940", PhD thesis, University of Ottawa, 2014, esp. 85-114, 139-63.

[141] Eugene Forsey made the same point in a light-hearted way in his 1962 presidential address to the Canadian Political Science Association: "every time I meet my French-Canadian friends I feel stupid, ignorant, almost illiterate.... I don't say that French-Canadian intellectuals are all geniuses, or that they are always right. But even when they are wrong-headed, they are usually wrong-headed in a far more literate way than their English-Canadian opposite numbers; even when they talk nonsense, they talk it beautifully". E. Forsey, "Canada: Two Nations or One?" (1962) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 247-69, esp. 263.

[142] The second phase of Confederation: an address by Mr. John M. Godfrey of Toronto, vice-chairman of the Bonne Entente, at the Ottawa Forum, February the 10th, 1918, Toronto: T.H. Best Printing Company, 1918; Globe, 12 February 1918.

[143] C. Shrive, Charles Mair: Literary Nationalist, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1965, 254. The "Message" is undated, but was probably issued c. 1925; David Latham, “Mair, Charles,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 14, 2019,

[144] André Siegfried, The Race Question in Canada, London: Eveleigh Nash, 1907, 180. Mackenzie King provided an example. One night in 1937, he decided to skip a Commons sitting. "As the speakers for the evening were, for the most part, from Quebec and likely to speak in French, I did not go back to the House". LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 17686, 18 February 1937. Siegfried's point would later be echoed from an unexpected quarter. John Diefenbaker took pride in the fact that simultaneous translation was introduced into the House of Commons while he was prime minister, ending the situation where "even a major speech in the French language had served too often to empty the House", thereby excluding many Quebec MPs "from democracy's most important process." John Diefenbaker, One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker: The Years of Achievement 1956-1962, Scarborough. Ont.: Signet/Macmillan-Hal Publishing Limited, 1978 ed., 248.

[145] Senate Debates, 13th Parliament, 1st Session: vol. 1, 314 (25 April 1918), reported prominently in Globe (Toronto), 26 April 1918.

[146] John Hilliker, Canada's Department of External Affairs, i: The Early Years, 1909-1946, Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990, 62; John English, Shadow of Heaven: The Life of Lester Pearson, i, London, Vintage U.K. ed., 1989, 149; L.B. Pearson, Mike: The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, i, Scarborough Ont.: Signet Classics edition, 1973, 56. An earlier example of linguistic innocence came from the annual report of the Post Office for 1882. For the handling of international money orders, a form had been "printed in both the French and English languages, this form not only meets more satisfactorily the requirements of the public in the Province of Quebec, but becomes ... admissable to the postal systems of most European countries." Canada Sessional Papers, 1883, vol.3, 3-xxii:

[147] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 17835-17842, 22-24 April 1937; J.L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935-1957, rev. ed., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998, 63; John English, The Worldly Years: The Life of Lester Pearson, ii: 1949-1972, Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1992, 149-50. But Robert J. Talbot points out that Skelton was keen to hire bilingual French Canadians, who comprised around one third of the senior officials by 1930. Robert J. Talbot, "Francophone-Anglophone Accommodation in Practice: Liberal Foreign Policy and National Unity between the Wars" in S.Marti and W.J. Pratt, eds, Fighting with the Empire:Canada, Britain, and Global Conflict, 1867–1947, Vancouver, UBC Press, 2019, 89. 

[148] J.L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935-1957, rev. ed., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998, 5; Mitchell Sharp, Which Reminds Me...: A Memoir, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994, 16-18.

[149] J.L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935-1957, rev. ed., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998, 4-6.

[150] Stephen Clarkson & Christina McCall, Trudeau and Our Times: i, The Magnificent Obsession, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Inc., 1990, 54-5; John English, Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau; i, 1919-1968, Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2006, 220-30; George Radwanski, Trudeau, Scarborough, Ont.: Signet, Macmillan-Nal Publishing Company, 1979 ed., 68. Bourassa's flippant comment probably did not reflect Quebec attitudes. Robert J. Talbot points out that the young Michel Brunet welcomed bilingual stamps and banknotes as a sign of recognition for Canada's French fact. Robert Talbot, "Moving Beyond Two Solitudes: Constructing a Dynamic and Unifying Francophone/Anglophone Relationship, 1916-1940", PhD thesis, University of Ottawa, 2014, 392n.

[151] E. Forsey, "Canada: Two Nations or One?" (1962) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 247-69, esp. 258, 266-7. Ottawa's Anglophone elite were able to remain relentlessly monoglot because the city's Francophone working class was obligingly bilingual. During the 1939-45 war, the adolescent son of a New Brunswick MP accompanied his father to the national capital. He was struck by the ability of the shoeshine boy at the train station to switch languages according to the preferences of his clients. It struck the young visitor as odd that he himself should be the well shod offspring of a national legislator but incapable of expressing himself in both of the country's languages. Richard Hatfield never became very fluent in French, but he did declare his home province officially bilingual. Michel Cormier, Achille Michaud, Richard Hatfield: un dernier train pour Hartland, Montréal: Libre Expression, 1991, 151-2.

[152] Donald Wright, The Professionalization of History in English Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005, 69-71, 79; Arthur R.M. Lower, My First Seventy-Five Years, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967, 281; Reginald George Trotter, Canadian Federation: Its Origins and Achievement: A Study in Nation Building, Toronto, J.M. Dent & Sons Limited, 1924, 27-8, 328; Ged Martin, "The Idea of British North American Union 1854-1864", Journal of Scottish and Irish Studies, i (2008), 309-333. (

[153] C.P. Stacey, A Date with History: Memoirs of a Canadian Historian, Toronto: Deneau, [1982], 35-6.

[154] Michael Hayden, ed., So Much To Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 116.

[155] Arthur R.M. Lower, My First Seventy-Five Years, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1967, 31, 54, 281. In 1977, in an apparent attempt at empathy, he referred to Quebec as "le vieux province". Since the clichéd English Canadian term for Quebec was "la belle province", it is surprising that this howler passed through any editorial process. Arthur R.M. Lower, Colony to Nation: A History of Canada, revised 5th ed., Don Mills. Ont.: Longmans Canada Limited, 1977, xlii. Lower's "Prologue" to later editions of his textbook was an irritating patchwork, but this appears to date from 1977.

[156] Globe and Mail, 2 October 2002.

[157] E. Forsey, "Canada: Two Nations or One?" (1962) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 247-69, esp. 248.

[158] Michael Hayden, ed., So Much To Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 3-41; Globe and Mail, 21 July 2016.

[159] Henry Borden, ed., Robert Laird Borden: His Memoirs, ed. Heath Macquarrie, 2 vols., Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1969, ii, 21-34. Dr Colin M. Coates informs me that Sir George Foster, colleague of both Macdonald and Borden, could speak French. This is not apparent from the essay on Foster in DCB/DBC: Robert Craig Brown, “Foster, Sir George Eulas" in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 11, 2019,  Foster spoke in French in a radio address for the Confederation 60th anniversary celebrations in 1927, Robert J. Talbot, "Bilingualism and Biculturalism at the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, 1927", in R.B. Blake and M. Hayday, eds, Celebrating Canada: Commemorations, Anniversaries and National Symbols, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2018, 153.

[160] Roger Graham, Arthur Meighen: A Biography, ii: And Fortune Fled, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1963, 15-18.

[161] Roger Graham, Arthur Meighen: A Biography, ii: And Fortune Fled, Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1963, 144-7; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 9807, 10 April 1926.

[162] Peter B. Waite, In Search of R.B. Bennett, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012, 61-2, 89.

[163] J.L. Granatstein, The Politics of Survival: The Conservative Party of Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967, 11, 24-5; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 21287, 11 February 1940. I have found no information regarding the possible language skills of either John Bracken (Progressive Conservative leader 1942-8) or George Drew (1948-56).

[164] Débats de la Chambre des Communes, 20e Législature, 1re Session, vol. 1, 192 (14 September 1945);

Globe and Mail, 15, 18 September 1945, 24 May 2000; Margaret Conrad, George Nowlan: Maritime Conservative in National Politics, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1986, 146.

[165] Denis Smith, Rogue Tory: The Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker, Toronto: Macfarlane Walter and Ross, 1995, 39-40, 173, 235; Dalton Camp, Gentlemen, Players and Politicians, no place of publication: Deneau & Greenberg, 1979 ed., 250-1; Allan Fotheringham, Look Ma ... No Hands: An Affectionate Look at Our Wonderful Tories, Toronto: Seal Books, 1984 ed., 33; Heath Macquarrie, Red Tory Blues: A Political Memoir, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992, 237.

[166] A product of Upper Canada College, Charles Cross moved to Edmonton after graduating from the University of Toronto, pursuing a career in law and politics. He was briefly elected to the House of Commons in 1925, and offered his riding, Athabasca, to King, who had lost his seat. Cross was an energetic railway promoter, and more than a whiff of scandal hovered over his activities: King distrusted "Charlie Cross and his gang". By the 1920s, he was also, in King's eyes at least, a problem drinker. King was wise to decline the offer of his seat, not least because Cross was heavily defeated by a United Farmers candidate in 1926. "It is strange to think that we did much of our work at University together," King noted on learning of his contemporary's early death in 1928. He declined to offer a public tribute. He did however chat with Cross in 1932, through one of his favourite spiritualist mediums, Mrs Wreidt. Alvin Finkel, "Cross, Charles Wilson," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 21, 2019,; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 9650, 9 January 1926; 9800, 6 April 1926; 11098, 3 June 1928; 13776, 30 September 1932.

[167] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 33, 12 October; 68, 7, 8, 9 November; 77, 16, 177 November; 81, 20, 21 November; 91, 30 November, 1 December; 124, 29 December 1893; 254, 17 April 1894; 269, 1. 4 May; 273, 7 May; 128, 9 May 1894.

[168]Globe, 11 January 1929; 1 May 1928; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1075, 15 May 1896, 1084, 22 May 1896; 1089, 26 May 1896,1609, 24 August 1897, 1633, 15 September 1897, 2596, 23 July 1896; R. MacGregor Dawson, William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Political Biography: i, 1874-1923, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1958, 50-3.

[169] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 3016, 8 March 1900; 3400, 30 January 1901;

3415, 9 February 1901; 3746, 3 March 1902.

[170] R. MacGregor Dawson, William Lyon Mackenzie King: A Political Biography: i, 1874-1923, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1958, 293-4; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 3054, 24 March 1919; 6944, 28 March 1919.

[171] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 9652, 11 January 1926; 7758, 2, 5, 6 July 1921; 7906 Tuesday, October 25, 1921; 10229 2 November 1926.

[172] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 12372, 22 July 1930; 9807, 10 April 1926; 21287, 11 February 1940.

[173] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 17260, 2 October 1936; J.W. Pickersgill, ed., The Mackenzie King Record, i: 1939-44, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960, 209-10.

[174] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 22543, 20 March 1941.

[175] J.W. Pickersgill, ed., The Mackenzie King Record, i: 1939-44, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1960, 535-6; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 25615, 15 July 1943.

[176] J.W. Pickersgill and D.F. Forster, eds., The Mackenzie King Record, ii: 1944-1945, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968, 433, 468-9.

[177] LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 30259-61, 28 November 1946; La Patrie, 1 décembre 1946; J.W. Pickersgill and D.F. Forster, eds., The Mackenzie King Record, iii: 1945-1946, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970, 299-301; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 32162, 29 May; 32315, 13 July 1948; J.W. Pickersgill and D.F. Forster, eds., The Mackenzie King Record, iv: 1945-1946, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970, 398-9.

[178] L.B. Pearson, Words and Occasions, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1970, 208; John English, The Worldly Years: The Life of Lester Pearson, ii: 1949-1972, Toronto[?]: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1992, 84.

[179] Stephen Leacock, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1912, 27-8.

[180] Peter C. Newman, The Distemper of Our Times: Canadian Politics in Transition, 1962-1968, Toronto/ Montreal, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1968, 366-7.

[181] Michael Hayden, ed., So Much To Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 112, 330; John English, The Worldly Years: The Life of Lester Pearson, ii: 1949-1972, Toronto[?]: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1992, 277.

[182] Douglas V. Verney, Three Civilizations, Two Cultures, One State: Canada's Political Traditions, Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1986, 313; Paul Martin, A Very Public Life, ii: So Many Worlds, Toronto, Deneau, 1985, 374.

[183] Arthur R.M. Lower, Colony to Nation: A History of Canada, revised 4th ed., Don Mills. Ont.: Longmans Canada Limited, 1964, xxxi; Michael Hayden, ed., So Much To Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983, 116.

[184] Geoffrey Stevens, Stanfield, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1973, 187; Peter C. Newman, The Distemper of Our Times: Canadian Politics in Transition, 1962-1968, Toronto/ Montreal, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1968, 434.

[185] Oscar D. Skelton, The Life and Times of Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1920; Jean-Pierre Kesteman, “Galt, Sir Alexander Tilloch,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 23, 2019,

[186] J.W. Pickersgill, ed., The Mackenzie King Record, i: 1939-44, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1960, 290.

[187] Cecilia Morgan, "A Happy Holiday": English Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2008, 236-40.

[188] E. Forsey, "Canada: Two Nations or One?" (1962) in E. Forsey, Freedom and Order: Collected Essays Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1974, 247-69, esp. 263. The gendered term "supermen" applies to the public sphere before the 1960s. I have traced no specific description of the language skills of one of the few exceptions, Thérèse Casgrain, but note that her mother was a McDonald.

[189] R. Gwyn, The Northern Magus: Pierre Trudeau and Canadians, Markham. Ont., Paperjacks, 1981 ed., 12.

[190] Le Devoir, 18 November 1958, via

[191] It was this underlying consideration that explains Lapointe's high-risk threat that he and his two francophone colleagues would resign from the Dominion cabinet if Duplessis succeeded in securing re-election in the 1939 provincial election. Had Duplessis won on what was effectively an anti-war ticket, he would have undercut Lapointe's status as French Canada's guardian in Ottawa. The initiative came from Lapointe himself, and was opposed by Mackenzie King, who doubted his ability to govern without them.

[192] J.L. Granatstein, Canada's War: The Politics of the Mackenzie King Government 1939-1945, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1975, 29-30, 208.

[193] H. Blair Neatby, William Lyon Mackenzie King, iii: 1932-1939 The Prism of Unity, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1976, 129; J.W. Pickersgill, ed., The Mackenzie King Record, i: 1939-44, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1960, 291. Godbout also feared "a division in his own Cabinet" if he left.

[194] Dale C. Thomson, Louis St. Laurent: Canadian, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1967, 25, 27. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism toyed with the use of the term "equilingual" for the rare individuals who could speak two languages perfectly. Pierre Trudeau, also reared in both languages, was a case in point. Asked if he thought in French or in English, he replied: "I don't think in words ... I think in the abstract." R.Gwyn, The Northern Magus: Pierre Trudeau and Canadians, Markham. Ont., Paperjacks, 1981 ed., 47. French Canadian attitudes to learning English are discussed in Michel Brunet, "Les servitudes et les défis du bilinguisme", in Michel Brunet, Québec Canada Anglais: Deux Intinéraires, Un Affrontement, Montréal, Éditions HMH, 1969, 185-204.

[195] Andrée Desilets, Hector-Louis Langevin: un père de la Confédération canadienne (1826-1906), Québec, Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 1969, 9, 17; Joseph Schull, Laurier: The First Canadian, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1966, 19-20; Réal Bélanger, "Laurier, Sir Wilfrid (baptized Henry-Charles-Wilfrid)," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 25, 2019,; "Sir John Eh? Macdonald: Recovering a voice from History", British Journal Of Canadian Studies, xvii, 2004, 117-124.

[196] Réal Bélanger, "Bourassa, Henri," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 18, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 25, 2019, With a large Franco-American population, Worcester, Massachusetts would not have provided an immersion environment.

[197] Della M. M. Stanley, "Girouard, Gilbert-Anselme," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 6, 2019,

[198] J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 95-6.

[199] Fennings Taylor, Portraits of British Americans ... with Biographical Sketches, i, Montreal, William Notman, 1865, 78.

[200] Henry J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians and persons connected with Canada: from the earliest period in the history of the province down to the present time, Montreal, R. Worthington, 1865, 608; John Boyd, Sir George Etienne Cartier, Bart.: His Life and Times. A Political History of Canada from 1814 until 1873, Freeport NY, Books for Libraries Press, 1971 ed., (first published 1914), 370; Alfred D. DeCelles, The Makers of Canada: Papineau Cartier, Toronto, Morang & Co., Limited, 1910, 131; W.L. Morton, ed., Monck Letters and Journals, 1863-1868: Canada from Government House at Confederation, Toronto / Montreal, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1970, 250; LAC, Fonds Kimberley, microfilm A-317, Dufferin to Kimberley, 26 September 1873.

[201] Cartier was even criticised for a lack of elegance in speaking his own language,. His speeches were "wanting in that brilliancy and speciousness which tell so effectively upon a French audience." J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 133.

[202] Fennings Taylor, Portraits of British Americans ... with Biographical Sketches, i, Montreal: William Notman, 1865, 244; J.C. Dent, The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841, 2 vols., Toronto, George Virtue, 1881, ii, 297; La Patrie, no date, quoted in In Memoriam: Sir A.A. Dorion Chevalier, Juge en Chef de la Cour d'Appel Ancien Ministre de Justice, Montreal, Les Presses de La Patrie, 1891, 78; John Boyd, Sir George Etienne Cartier, Bart.: His Life and Times. A Political History of Canada from 1814 until 1873, Freeport NY, Books for Libraries Press, 1971 reprint (first published 1914), 370; Jean-Claude Soulard, "Dorion, Sir Antoine-Aimé," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 14, 2019,; Montreal Gazette (1 June 1891). My speculation of a previous stroke is of course not a medically qualified opinion.

[203] John MacFarlane, "Lapointe, Ernest," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 17, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed January 25, 2019,; LAC, The Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, 9286, 27 April 1925.

[204] LAC, Fonds Kimberley, microfilm A-371, Macdonald to Dufferin (copy, extract), 26 September 1873, enclosed in Dufferin to Kimberley, private, 26 September 1873; Joseph Schull, Laurier: The First Canadian, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1966, 438. There were some advantages for Francophone politicians who spoke robust but not perfect English, since they were able to make statements that would have been more closely interrogated coming from an Anglophone. This in 1895-6 Laurier avoided offering a detailed position on the divisive Manitoba Schools issue by saying: "I would try the sunny way". In 1959-60, New Brunswick opposition leader Louis Robichaud hammered home a message of change: "the Liberal Party stands for reform. The present Conservative government merely stands." The turn of phrase was effective, but probably would not have "worked" from a speaker whose mother tongue was English. A classic example, widely told but hard accurately to reference, was Mayor Camillien Houde's positive response to pleas that he should build public urinals in Montreal: allegedly, he  promised to provide arsenals as well. "Mr Houde learned no English until he was in his 30s, but he mastered the language to an extraordinary degree," wrote an obituarist. In more recent times, Jean Chrétien also memorably capitalised on his non-standard English. O.D. Skelton (ed. D.M.L. Farr), The Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 2 vols, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965 (first ed. 1921), i, 156; D.M.M. Stanley, Louis Robichaud: a Decade of Power, Halifax, Nimbus Publishing Limited, 1984, 35; Montreal Gazette, 12 September 1958.  

[205] House of Commons Debates, 3rd Parliament, 5th Session: vol. 1, 1084-92 (13 March 1878); P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation, 1864-1867: Politics, Newspapers, and the Union of British North America, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1962, 142; Dale C. Thomson, Louis St. Laurent: Canadian, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1967, 445-7.

[206] "Beyond the Referendum", D. Creighton, The Passionate Observer: Selected Writings, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1980, 47-55, esp. 50. The essay originally appeared in Maclean's, 27 June 1977, under the title "No More Concessions".