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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > F > French Catholics in the United States

French Catholics in the United States

The first Bishop of Burlington, the Right Reverend Louis de Goesbriand, in a letter dated 11 May, 1869, and which appeared in "Le Protecteur Canadien", a French newspaper then published at St. Albans, Vermont, made the following statement: "I am convinced from positive information, that when we say that there are 500,000 French-Canadians in the United States the figures are far below the truth." The sources from which the late prelate drew his information are unknown to the writers of this article, but it is a fact that today the Diocese of Burlington has a Catholic population of 76,000 souls, of which 50,000 at least are of French Canadian birth on origin. It is also a fact that the French Canadian element has increased, both naturally and by immigration, to such an extent that it now numbers nearly 1,200,000 souls in the United States that it has made its influence felt throughout the Eastern States, in all walks of life, and furthermore that, in point of numbers, it is the predominant element in several dioceses, and an important part of the population in many others. However, except in their own newspapers, or a few little-known books, scarcely anything had been said of the part taken by these immigrants in the civil and religious life of their new country, until, very recently, they took into their own hands the task of reviewing their history, of gathering statistics of their numbers, and of recording their achievements and the progress they have made in fifty years. The task is still far from complete, but enough has been done to demonstrate the progress of the French Canadians and their devotion to their Church and to their adopted country.

The immigration of French Canadians to the United States began before the War of American Independence (1775-83). French Canadians had then already immigrated to New England, and we find them in large numbers in the armies of Washington. After the war the American Congress, in recognition of their services and to prevent their being prosecuted in Canada on the charge of high treason, gave them land on the shores of Lake Champlain, where their descendants are still to be found. That concession of land, situated in the State of New York, has long been known as "the Refugees' Tract". In 1837, after the rebellion in the Province of Quebec, a new immigration to the Eastern States took place, to the State of Vermont, more particularly, where the "Patriots", vanquished in battle, sought refuge with their families. But the chief influx from French Canada to the United States took place after the Civil War. Notwithstanding the fact that they had at that time but few organized parishes, the French Canadians were here in sufficient numbers during the war to furnish 40,000 soldiers to the Union. The immigration at the close of the war has been ascribed to many causes, the most considerable of which are the unprecedented industrial prosperity that followed the Civil War and the inborn love of the French Canadian for travelling, together with the desire to earn the high wages and to share in the vast opportunities which the Republic offered to its citizens.

Some writers — and many of these in earnest — have given as the principal cause of this French Canadian immigration, three-fourths of which took place between 1865 and 1890, the necessity in which the farmers of the Province of Quebec found themselves of seeking a new home after leading a life of luxury and dissipation. Undoubtedly this was true of some, but the general moral character of the hundreds of thousands who crossed the border is the best proof that the true cause of this movement must be sought elsewhere. The Jesuit, Father Hamon, writing on this subject, does not hesitate to say: "The rapidity with which this immigration was accomplished, and the ease with which these Canadians transplanted into a foreign land, have immediately reconstructed the Catholic mould of the parish that made their strength in Canada; the energy shown by them in erecting churches and convents, in grouping themselves together, and in organizing flourishing congregations, supported within by all that nourishes Christian piety, protected without against pernicious influences by the strength of association, and a press generally well inspired; all these elements of Catholic life, organized within a quarter of a century in the very citadel of old Puritanism, seem to indicate a Providential action as well as a Providential mission, the importance of which the future alone will reveal."

Those who do not look higher than material considerations in studying the causes of national movements will not give much credence to this opinion of Father Hamon. Nevertheless it is today a fact recognized by noted economists, that the French Canadians, now better known in the Republic under the name of French Americans, are, as labourers and artisans, the most solid and reliable pillar of industry in New England. And New England has received within its borders, more than two-thirds of their total immigration. As Catholics, it is obvious that they have played a role no less important, as may easily be seen by the perusal of Catholic Directories. Father Hamon classifies the French Canadian immigration as temporary, fluctuating, and permanent. Figures show the relative importance of each of these classes and demonstrate the spirit which animated the whole movement. The temporary immigration comprised a class of farmers who came to the United States with the avowed intention of going back to their old homes as soon as they had saved enough money to clear their farms from mortgages and all other financial incumbrances. This class became less numerous from day to day; so much so, that it was practically unnoticeable, as early as 1880. In many cases the intention of returning to the old home was never carried out, Frequently this class, by revealing to their neighbours the opportunities offered across the border, induced many of them to follow in their footsteps. As to the fluctuating immigration, only a mere mention is necessary. Always on the move, from one country to the other, from city to city, from mill to mill, those who formed this class led that kind of life which relies, as Father Hamon says, on the Providence of God for its support. This roving class is still less numerous than the temporary group, and it is to be found not only in all classes of newcomers, but in settled populations as well. The permanent immigration has been the most numerous, and, naturally, the most substantial. It is these permanent French Canadian immigrants who have organized parishes and parochial schools, erected churches and convents, and now constitute the labouring power par excellence in all the industrial centres of New England. Most of them, if not all, came from the rural districts of Canada, especially from the Eastern townships, from the Dioceses of Trois Rivières and Rimouski, and from the Counties of Beauce, Bellechasse, and others on the borders. Their farms had become insufficient to support large families; in the Eastern townships their titles to the land they occupied were disputed, and they were forced to give up the fruit of many years of labour; they were the victims of the indifference shown by their Governments, both Provincial and Federal, towards colonization and the opening up of new farming districts. The increasing population was thus compelled by circumstances, to look elsewhere, for more land and greater opportunities. At the same time, the reports sent home by those who had taken part in the earlier immigration had widely advertised throughout the whole Province of Quebec, the material advantages of the United States. This migration was called at the time "the desertion of the Fatherland". But those who spoke thus were forgetful of the historical fact, that the French of America have from the very beginning felt perfectly at home in the whole northern part of the continent, on the soil of which their missionaries, their coureurs des bois, explorers, and warriors have left their footprints broadcast. In spite of all opposing efforts, hundreds of thousands of French Canadians, most of them farmers, between 1870 and 1890, left their rural occupation to adopt the more arduous life of the New England factories and the various industries of the Western States. This movement took place quietly, slowly, without creating any disturbance, and almost unnoticed. It was, in a certain sense, a repetition of that other movement which, advocated by Horace Greeley, sent toward the Golden Gate so many young men of the East.

Doubtless, this depopulation on a large scale was a great loss to Canada, where the emigrants might have founded families of colonists. But the nature of this emigration was such that it could not be checked by any special legislation. The movement had set in, and it was too late to forestall an event prepared by many years of economic conditions misunderstood or wilfully ignored. The stream had found its way across the borders, where new industries, phenomenal opportunities, and advantages unheard of before, were ready to absorb and utilize this new and valuable power of production.

In order to present a strictly accurate idea of the importance of the French American element, both numerically and from a Catholic standpoint, the following sources of information have been used for this article:--

The accompanying table, compiled from the first of these three sources, shows, first, the number of French Americans born in Canada and, secondly, this first class combined with those of whom at least one parent was born in Canada.

DISTRIBUTION OF FRENCH AMERICANS
StateForeign-
born
Of Foreign
Parentage
Maine
New Hampshire
Vermont
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
Connecticut
New York
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
Totals for North Atlantic Division
30,908
44,420
14,924
134,416
31,533
19,174
27,199
1,118
     1,468
305,160
57,682
73,359
40,097
244,586
55,771
36,867
69,236
2,140
     3,603
583,341
Delaware
Maryland
District of Columbia
Virginia
West Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Georgia
Florida
Totals for South Atlantic Division
41
87
97
104
72
36
31
80
   88
636
77
178
236
194
165
69
56
203
    200
1,378
Ohio
Indiana
Illinois
Michigan
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Missouri
Iowa
North Dakota
South Dakota
Nebraska
Kansas
Totals for North Central Division
2,903
948
9,129
32,483
10,091
12,063
1,059
1,519
3,162
1,138
1,039
    1,485
77,019
7,034
3,242
24,477
75,584
27,981
32,406
3,536
5,613
6,512
3,516
3,003
     5,547
198,451
Kentucky
Tennessee
Alabama
Mississippi
Texas
Louisiana
Indian Territory
Oklahoma
Arkansas
Totals for South Central Division
136
119
89
75
400
253
48
179
     161
1,460
397
312
211
141
1,004
759
173
702
     411
4,110
Montana
Wyoming
Colorado
New Mexico
Arizona
Utah
Nevada
Idaho
Washington
Oregon
California
Totals for Western Division
3,516
150
960
84
153
128
222
395
1,899
874
     2,410
10,791
5,725
385
2,300
270
264
505
486
846
3,862
2,169
     5,392
22,204

The figures given for Louisiana are, of course, exclusive of all other inhabitants of French extraction; those relating to California are exclusive of the large population of immigrants from France established in that State, more especially in the city of San Francisco. There were also, 115 persons of French Canadian parentage in Alaska, and 4 in Hawaii, besides 502 persons of the same parentage in the military and naval service of the United States, stationed abroad and not credited to any State or Territory. Combining with these small figures the totals for the five divisions given in the last column of the table, we get the grand total of 810,105 persons of French Canadian parentage living under the United States Flag. But these figures only represent the first and second generations, i.e. original immigrants still living, and their immediate descendants. In this connexion the director of the census says: "A small number of the persons reported as of foreign birth, are themselves of native parentage, so that, to a very small extent, the number of persons of foreign birth reported at each census is not included in its entirety in the number of persons reported as of foreign parentage. The figures are sufficiently comparable, however, to show the large body of population which must be added to the foreign born element itself in order to ascertain, even approximately, the number of persons of foreign extraction at any of the census periods considered. Moreover, this is the best figure that can be given as expressing the element of our population which is of foreign extraction, as the census inquiry does not go beyond the immediate parents of each person enumerated, and it is impracticable, at least under present conditions, to endeavor to determine the origin of the people beyond a single generation."

It is obvious, that an inquiry which does not go beyond the immediate ancestors of each person enumerated cannot convey an exact idea of the real number of those who may still be distinctly classified as French Americans, even though both of their parents may have been born in the United States. And when it is remembered that the French Canadians were early settlers in the northern part of the State of New York, that they were, practically, the first settlers of the State of Maine, and had found their way into Vermont as early as 1830; that French Canadians were the pioneers of the Western States, where they founded, or assisted in founding, great cities like Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, Dubuque, Milwaukee, and Detroit, it is not difficult to understand that in certain parts of the country at least three generations of French Americans have been recorded by the census of 1900 as native whites of native parents. How far short of the actual number of French Americans are the figures of the National Census, may be estimated by considering the local enumerations taken in the New England States since 1900, with the following results:--

Maine
New Hampshire
Vermont
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
Connecticut
Total
91,567
84,011
58,217
366,879
76,775
  46,083
723,532

These figures, compared with the total (508,362) of those given in the Census of 1900 for the same six States, show an excess of the local over the national enumeration of 215,170 persons, or more than 42.3 per cent, for New England alone. This excess, explained in part by the fact that the census inquiry of 1900 was limited to only two generations, is also attributable to the continuous flow of immigration and in greater measure to the large birth-rate which is still maintained among the French Americans, it having been scientifically established that the French Canadians — at least in Canada — double their numbers by natural increase every twenty-six years. Taking into consideration the increase (42.3 per cent) shown by the enumerations in New England over the figures given by the National Census, and also bearing in mind the fact that the figures quoted above do not include the French from France (reported as being 265,441 by the census of 1900) and the French-speaking Belgians, scattered throughout other States than those of New England, we may conclude that the French Americans in the United States today number more than 1,500,000, of whom nearly 1,200,000 can be classified as of French Canadian extraction. As this immigration of French Canadians was almost exclusively an immigration of Catholics, we are led to inquire what provisions were made for them in the different dioceses.

The French Canadians had left behind them in Canada a perfect Catholic organization, with parishes flourishing in all parts of the province, with episcopal sees in Quebec, Ontario, and the West — an organization comprising today many ecclesiastical provinces with archbishops, bishops, a numerous clergy, both secular and regular, as well as educational and charitable institutions of the highest order. It was not to be expected that the immigrants should find in their new country the religious organization they had possessed in Canada. Nevertheless, they had to be provided for, and it became a serious problem for the hierarchy, of New England especially, to determine how these newcomers should be cared for spiritually. The question of language stood in the way from the very beginning. The French Canadians, though willing to become staunch Americans, did not know the English language, and even when they had learned it, they still preserved a strong attachment for their mother tongue. That this problem puzzled the bishops of New England, is shown by the time taken for its solution, and by the fact that in some instances they were reluctant, or often unable, to deal with the situation in the only proper way, which was, to give to these people priests of their own tongue and nationality. Even today this problem is not adequately solved. It was feared at the beginning, as it is feared now in some quarters, that to grant to the French Canadian immigrants priests of their own tongue and nationality would encourage them to form a sort of state within the state, thereby causing great harm to the nation as a whole. Time has shown the fallacy of that argument. The patriotism of the French American element is undisputed. They possess the sterling civic qualities desirable and necessary to promote the best interests of the republic. As a matter of fact, the French Canadian immigration has created no new state in the state; and the French Americans have willingly learned the English language while remaining as closely attached as ever to their mother tongue, in which they see the best safeguard of their faith.

The progress accomplished for God and country through the organization of French American parishes all over New England is the conclusive proof of their excellency from every standpoint. It proves, at the same time, that further progress, religious and patriotic, can be accomplished by pursuing the same policy. At first, it was necessary to call priests from the Province of Quebec. That policy, inaugurated in the Diocese of Burlington in 1850, by the lamented Bishop de Goesbriand, has proved to be a blessing wherever it has been carried out. These early French Canadian missionaries, of whom many are still living, knew their people, understood their character and customs, had the same mentality as their flock, and easily succeeded in organizing flourishing parishes entirely devoted to the Church. As early as 1890 Father Hamon notes that these newcomers already possessed 120 churches and chapels, ministered to by Canadian priests, and 50 large schools, affording education to more than 30,000 children. Let us recall a few dates which mark the beginning of this new impulse given to the Catholic Church in the United States.

The first French American parish in the United States after the foundation of Detroit, Michigan, was that of St. Joseph, at Burlington, Vermont, founded 28 April, 1850, with the Rev. Joseph Quévillon as first pastor. In the same state, the parish of the Nativité de la Sainte-Vierge, at Swanton, was organized in 1856, and that of St-François-Xavier at Winooski, in 1868. In the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, the parish of Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil, at Pittsfield, was organized in 1867. In all, 22 parishes were organized by French Americans from that date to 1890, besides 15 parishes of mixed population, wherein the French Catholics were associated with their English-speaking brethren. In the Diocese of Providence, R. I., the parish of St-Jacques, at Manville, was organized in 1872, that of the Précieux Sang, at Woonsocket, in 1873, and that of St-Charles, at Providence, in 1878. In the Diocese of Hartford, Conn., the parish of St-Laurent, at Meriden, was organized in 1880, and five other parishes between 1880 and 1889. In the Diocese of Boston, the parish of St-Joseph, at Lowell, was organized in 1869, and that of Ste-Anne, at Lawrence, in 1873. In the Diocese of Portland, Maine, the parish of St-François de Sales, at Waterville, was organized in 1869, that of St-Pierre, at Lewiston, in 1871, that of St-Joseph, at Biddeford, in 1872, and that of St-Augustin, at Augusta, in 1888. In the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, the parishes of St-Augustin, at Manchester, and St-Louis, at Nashua, were organized in 1872. Similar results were accomplished in the Dioceses of Ogdensburg, Albany, and Syracuse, and in the Western States. The accompanying table shows the actual religious organization of the French-American Catholics in New England — their clergy, parishes, etc.

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION IN NEW ENGLAND
DioceseParishes MissionsSecular
Priests
Regular
Priests
Boston
Hartford
Springfield
Burlington
Portland
Manchester
Providence
Fall River
Totals
20
13
38
39
30
25
21
   16
202
2
7
5
31
40
15
--
    1
101
33
14
59
48
40
38
42
   28
302
31
16
14
11
16
17
8
   17
130

To complete these figures for the United States would necessitate a study of all the dioceses, as there are French Americans in every state and territory of the Union; a few statistics, however, of the priests of French extraction in the principal dioceses will help to give a more definite idea of the organization as a whole: Baltimore has 21; Chicago, 62; Albany, 19; St. Paul, 14; San Francisco, 3; New York, 25; Oregon, 5; Philadelphia, 3; Dubuque, 7; Milwaukee, 9; New Orleans, 96; Syracuse, 5; and Ogdensburg, 63.

Of the distinguished clergymen whose names are associated with the work already described, the following have already been called to their reward: Norbert Blanchette, first Bishop and first Archbishop of Oregon City; J. B. Lamy, Archbishop of Santa , New Mexico; Monsignor Magloire Blanchette, Prothonotary Apostolic of Walla Walla, Washington; the Rev. P. M. Mignault, of Chambly, Quebec, who in the fifties was vicar-general of the Diocese of Boston, with the special mission of caring for the spiritual needs of his compatriots in the United States; the Rev. Joseph Quévillon, of Burlington, Vermont; Monsignor Brochu, of Southbridge, the Rev. J. B. Primeau, of Worcester, the Rev. L. G. Gagnier, of Springfield, and the Rev. J. B. Bédard, of Fall River, Massachusetts; the Rev. J. Roch Magnan, of Muskegon, Michigan. Mention should also be made of the Right Rev. Bishop Michaud, lately deceased, whose father was a French Acadian, and who had been for many years at the head of the Diocese of Burlington, proving himself a worthy successor to Bishop de Goesbriand. Among the living there are scores of others who have been true pioneers of the Faith, and to whom is due great credit for having so well organized a new and loyal membership of the Church in the United States. Recently one of their number has been elevated to the See of Manchester. New Hampshire, in the person of the Right Rev. George Albert Guertin, consecrated 19 March, 1907.

The religious orders of men and women have been worthy co-labourers with the priests in the building-up of parishes. To them have been entrusted the education of children and the care of the sick and orphans. This mission has been especially well fulfilled in the French American parishes, where the convent of the sisters and the school of the brothers are the necessary complements of the church itself. One does not go without the other, and as a rule the school is built before the church and is used for a church also. The number of members in the different religious communities of women is given in the accompanying table.

FEMALE RELIGIOUS IN NEW ENGLAND
DioceseTotal in All
Communities
In French
Communities
Boston
Burlington
Fall River
Hartford
Manchester
Portland
Providence
Springfield
Totals
1567
268
322
1115
435
482
551
   792
5532
200
115
254
219
300
355
222
    320
1985

These 1985 women are distributed in 30 different orders, bearing the following names: Congregation de Notre-Dame de Montréal, Filles de Marie (France), Sœurs de Ste-Croix de Montréal, Sœurs de la Providence de Montréal, Sœurs de la Présentation de Marie de St-Hyacinthe, Sœurs de Ste-Anne de Lachine, Sœurs Grises de Montréal, Sœurs de la Merci, Sœurs Grises d'Ottawa, Sœurs de l'Assomption, Sœurs du Bon Pasteur de Québec, Sœurs Dominicaines, Sœurs Franciscaines Missionaires de Marie, Sœurs Grises de St-Hyacinthe, Sœurs de Jésus-Marie de Sillery, Ursulines des Trois Rivières, Congrègation Notre-Dame (Villa Maria), Sœurs de la Sainte Union des Sacrés-Cœurs, Sœurs du Saint-Esprit, Sœurs du Saint-Rosaire, Filles de la Sagesse, Petites Sœurs des Pauvres, Sœurs de St-Joseph (Le Puy), Sœurs du Sacré-Cœur, Sœurs de St-Joseph (Chambéry), Sœurs Servantes du Cœur Immaculé de Marie, les Fidèles Compagnes de Jésus, Sœurs du Bon Pasteur (Angers), Petites Sœurs Franciscaines de Marie (Malbaie), Dames de Sion. The most important of these are: the Sœurs de Ste-Croix, with 18 convents and 149 members; Sœurs Grises, with 17 convents and 268 members; Sœurs de la Presentation de Marie, with 16 convents and 193 members; Sœurs de Jésus-Marie, with 19 convents and 171 members.

There are a few communities of brothers: Frères de Ia Charitè de St-Vincent de Paul, 27 members; Frères Maristes d'Iberville, 47; Frères de St-Gabriel, 7; Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes, 7; Frères du Sacré-Cœur, 31 — making a total of 119 members. Besides these orders entirely devoted to education, the regular clergy has been given charge of a number of parishes which stand today among the most numerous and flourishing. For instance, the Dominican Order has two parishes, Ste-Anne, at Fall River, Massachusetts, and St-Pierre, at Lewiston, Maine. The Oblates are established at Lowell, Massachusetts, and Plattsburg, N. Y.; the Pères de la Salette, in Connecticut and Massachusetts; the Pères du Sacré-Ccour, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; the Pères Maristes in Massachusetts.

The French Americans have 133 parochial schools, in which 54,983 children receive Christian education.

CATHOLIC PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS IN NEW ENGLAND
DioceseTotal
Schools
French
Schools
Total
Pupils
Pupils in
French Schools
Boston
Burlington
Fall River
Hartford
Manchester
Portland
Providence
Springfield
Totals
76
21
21
69
36
23
26
   55
327
15
17
14
10
19
13
14
   31
133
48,192
5,951
9,300
30,275
12,800
9,138
16,000
  22,780
154,436
7,263
4,009
6,171
3,508
8,833
6,073
7,414
  11,712
54,983

To these must be added the secondary (high-school and university academic courses) college established by the Pères de l'Assomption from France, at Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1904, and 14 small academies, commercial colleges, and boarding schools in which there are about 1000 pupils of both sexes. In connexion with the subject of higher education, it may be well to remark that about 3500 French American children attend annually the commercial and secondary colleges in different cities of Canada. French religious orders, both of women and men, also have charge of 2618 orphans in New England. French nuns have charge of 1865 sick and aged adults, wayward women, and working girls.

Besides their religious work, vast and praiseworthy as it is, the French Canadian immigrants have also displayed industry and activity in other walks of life, and in their closer relations with their fellow-citizens they have shown qualities and traits found only in the best of citizens. In other words they have stood well up to the standard in the body politic and in many ways have exercised over their surroundings an influence for the general good of the community such as to fully justify, at least so far as it refers to them, the statement made by Vice-President Fairbanks, that in the American Nation "flows the richest blood that courses in the veins of all the peoples in all quarters of the globe." In fifty years, they have built up a press that is not surpassed, from the Catholic point of view, by that of any other group of immigrants in the United States. That press is composed today of seven dailies — "L'Indépendant", of Fall River, Mass.; "L'Opinion Publique", of Worcester, Mass.; "L'Etoile", of Lowell, Mass.; "La Tribune", of Woonsocket, R. I.; "L'Avenir National", and "Le Reveil", of Manchester, N. H.; "L'Echo de la Presse", of New Bedford, Mass.; two papers issued every other day — "Le Messager", of Lewiston, Maine; "L'Impartial", of Nashua, N. H.; one semi-weekly "Le Jean-Baptiste", of Pawtucket, R. I.; and the fifteen weeklies — "L'Union", of Woonsocket, R. I., official organ of L'Union St-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique; "Le Canado-Américain", of Manchester, N. H., official organ of L'Association Canado-Américaine; "La Justice", of Biddeford, Maine; "La Justice", of Central Falls, R. I.; "La Justice", of Holyoke, Mass.; "L'Estafette", of Marlboro, Mass.; "Le Progrès", of Lawrence, Mass.; "Le Courrier", of Lawrence, Mass.; "Le Courrierde Salem", of Salem, Mass.; "L'Echo de l'Ouest", of Minneapolis, Minn.; "Le Courrier Franco-Américain", of Chicago, Ill.; "L'Indépendant" (weekly edition), of Fall River, Mass.; "L'Indépendant", of Fitchburg, Mass.; "Le Progrès", of Woonsocket, R. I., and "Le Citoyen", of Haverhill, Mass. These newspapers are thoroughly Catholic in spirit, as well as sincerely American. Their editors and publishers met in convention, at Woonsocket, R. I., on 25 September, 1906, and organized the Association des Journalistes Franco-Américains de la Nouvelle Angleterre. At that meeting they adopted resolutions asserting their loyalty to the republic, and advising the French Americans to show themselves true and sincere American citizens, to promote naturalization, to preserve their mother tongue, to learn the English language, to maintain parochial schools, wherein both languages should be taught on an equal footing, and to ask for priests of their own nationality to be their pastors. The resolutions also requested the Holy See to appoint, when feasible and proper, bishops of their nationality, familiar with both the English and French languages, in all dioceses in which the French Americans constitute the majority of the Catholic population. The first French newspaper to appear in the United States was "Le Courierde Boston", which was published weekly during a period of six months in 1789, the first number appearing on 23 April, and the last on 15 October. The editor and publisher was Paul Joseph Guérard de Nancrède, later a bookseller and stationer at Boston, and instructor in French at Harvard University from 1787 to 1800. The next French American newspaper was published in 1825, at Detroit, under the title of "La Gazette Française", which issued only four numbers. In 1817, the Detroit Gazette published a French column during four months and then abandoned the venture. The second French American newspaper in New England was "Le Patriote", published at St. Albans, Vermont, in 1839. Since that time nearly 200 newspapers published in the French language have appeared and disappeared, leaving only those mentioned above.

French American activity, while effectively applied to the enterprises of religion, education, and the press, has not neglected provident organizations. The first French institution of this kind was the Société de Jacques Cartier, founded in St. Albans, Vermont, in 1848, while the Société St-Jean-Baptiste of New York, organized in 1850, is still in existence. In 1868 they had 17 benevolent societies, and since then they have organized more than 400 others, of which about 142 are still in existence. Moreover they have established federations, which have more than four hundred and fifty councils or branches, with thousands of members. To these organizations are due, in a great measure, the existence and prosperity of the most of the parishes. Many of them have inserted in their by-laws articles recommending naturalization. To obtain membership in any one of them the applicant must, in all cases, be of French origin and a practising Catholic. The local societies which still survive are distributed among the different states as follows: Massachusetts, 62; Vermont, 18; New Hampshire, 25; Maine, 12; Rhode Island, 11; Connecticut 14 — making a total of 142. It was in 1900 that, in response to the acknowledged need of a central organization embracing all the groups of the French race in the United States the Union St-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique was organized, with headquarters in Woonsocket, R. I., through the federation of a considerable number of the local societies. This move has proved to be a very wise one, as is shown by the rapid growth of the new society, which has enrolled over 19,500 members in eight years. The Association Canado-Américaine of Manchester, New Hampshire, established in 1896, has a membership of over 11,000 and is working along the same religious and patriotic lines. In 1906, a new society, the Ordre des Forestiers Franco-Américains, was formed by the secession of a few thousand members from the Foresters of America, and it now comprises 40 courts. All the French American societies, with the exception of the Forestiers, give life insurance, and, without exception, they provide for sick benefits. Millions of dollars have been distributed by them to the widows and orphans of their members and to their sick fellow-members. The Société des Artisans Canadiens-Français, though a Canadian Society, and the Société L'Assomption, a society of French Acadians drawing the greater part of its membership from the maritime provinces, also have members in the United States and are therefore included in the accompanying table, which shows the number of councils or courts and the membership of the four national societies in New England.

Membership of National Societies
NameCouncils
or Courts
Members
L'Union St-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique . . .
Association Canado- Américaine . . . . . .
Ordre des Chevaliers de Jacques Cartier
Ordre des Forestiers Franco-Américains
Artisans Canadiens-Français . . . . . . . . .
L'Assomption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
255
159
4
40
75
17
19,576
11,158
897
8,500
12,000
1,500

These societies are all Catholic, and in 1905 the Union St-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique and L'Association Canado-Américaine were instrumental in organizing the Société Franco-Américaine du Denier de St-Pierre, whose sole object is to collect funds for the Holy See. The Société Historique France-Americaine, incorporated under the laws of the State of Massachusetts, was organized at Boston in 1899, "for the purpose of encouraging the careful and systematical study of the history of the United States, and especially to bring forth in its true light the exact part taken by the French race in the evolution and formation of the American people". With this end in view this society has met regularly twice a year since its organization. Noted American historians and writers, as well as several from France and Canada, have delivered before it addresses which have contributed in no slight measure to enrich the store of French American historical literature. Another organization which seems destined to play an important role, at least among the French Americans of tomorrow, is the Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Franco-Américaine, which was formed at Baltimore, Maryland, 4 January, 1908, by twenty-two young French Americans who were students in various universities of that city. This organization aims first of all to form true sons of the Catholic Church and useful citizens of the American Republic. Piety, study, and action constitute its threefold motto. Its first congress, held at Worcester, Massachusetts, 23 and 24 August, 1908, was attended by delegates from circles formed in different New England localities.

Besides the admirable work they have accomplished by means of their parishes, press, and societies, and in order to render their efforts more effective, the French Americans have held at different times conventions called for various purposes. The first of these gatherings, destined to promote the interests of the mutual benefit societies then existing, and held under their auspices, took place at New York City, in 1865. Thereafter similar conventions were held annually, the year 1877 excepted, until 1881, as follows: 1865, New York; 1869, Detroit; 1873, Biddeford, Maine; 1866, New York; 1870, St. Albans, Vermont; 1874, New York; 1867, Troy; 1871, Worcester, Mass.; 1875, Glens Falls, N. Y.; 1868, Springfield, Mass.; 1872, Chicago, Ill.; 1876, Holyoke, Mass.; 1878, Troy, N. Y.; 1879, Boston, Mass.; 1880, Northampton, Mass.; 1881, Lawrence, Mass. Since 1880 there have been six general conventions of French Americans, to which all the groups of this element, as well as all their societies, were invited to send delegates. These national gatherings took place as follows: 1880, Springfield, Mass.; 1882, Cohoes, N. Y.; 1884, Troy; 1886, Rutland, Vermont; 1888, Nashua, N. H.; 1893, Chicago, Ill. In October, 1901, delegates (to the number of 742) of the various groups and societies of French Americans in New England and the State of New York met in a "Congress" at Springfield, Mass. The four great subjects of deliberation were naturalization, benevolent societies, education, and the religious situation, and the spirit of the numerous and forcible addresses made on these heads is fittingly and admirably reflected in the resolutions. This congress, undoubtedly the most successful gathering of French Americans held up to that time, appointed a permanent commission consisting of the president of the congress and two delegates from each state represented, authorizing it to take all necessary measures for putting the resolutions of the congress into effect, and giving it the power to call another congress, local or general, according to its discretion.

Besides these general conventions, others have been held at different times and places for the purpose of considering a particular question or the interests of the French Americans of a particular state or diocese. For instance, the French Americans of Connecticut have held eighteen conventions in the last twenty-three years. Political organizations have also flourished among citizens of French Canadian origin, and naturalization clubs can be found in every city, town, or village where they are sufficient in number to maintain such institutions. In June, 1906, there was organized in the State of Massachusetts the Club Républicain Franco-Américain, with headquarters at Boston, at the first banquet of which, in April, 1907, Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte, a member of the Roosevelt Cabinet, was the guest of honour. The French Americans, in 1890, had 13 representatives in the Legislatures of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, besides numerous public servants in the city councils and the municipal administrations; in 1907 they elected senators in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island; their representatives in New England numbered, in 1907, as follows :--

StateRepresen-
tatives
Senators
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Connecticut
Rhode Island
5
6
18
2
4
2
1
. . .
. . .
2

-- a total of 5 Senators and 35 Representatives. In many instances their candidates for high political honours have been successful at the polls. Such has been the case with the Hon. Pierre Broussard, Congressman from Louisiana; the Hon. Aram J. Pothier, of Woonsocket, R. I., elected governor of his state in November, 1908, after having been its lieutenant-governor and mayor of his city; the Hon. Adélard Archambault, also of Woonsocket, and who has likewise filled the offices of lieutenant-governor and mayor; Judge Joseph A. Breaux, of Louisiana; Pierre Bonvouloir, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, whose service as city treasurer covers a period of fifteen consecutive years; Hugo A. Dubuque, of Fall River, Massachusetts, ex-member of the Massachusetts Legislature, and city solicitor; Alex. L. Granger, of Kankakee, Ill., district attorney; Aimé E. Boisvert, of Manchester, N. H., district attorney; and Arthur S. Hogue, of Plattsburg, N. Y., also district attorney. Studying an earlier period, we find the names of Pierre Ménard, first Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois; the Rev. Gabriel Richard, second Congressman from Michigan (the only Catholic priest who ever sat in Congress), and Louis Vital Bougy, United States Senator from Wisconsin. At the present time, prominent among those who serve the country abroad are the following French Americans: Arthur M. Beaupré (Illinois), Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Netherlands; Alphonse Gaulin (Rhode Island), Consul-general at Marseilles, France; Eugène L. Belisle (Massachusetts), Consul at Limoges, France; Pierre P. Demers (New Hampshire), Consul at Bahia, Brazil; Joseph M. Authier (Rhode Island), Consul at Guadeloupe, West Indies.

In civil life, belonging to the generation departed for a better world, though their names are still present to the memory of their fellow-citizens and compatriots, were Ferdinand Gagnon, of Worcester, Massachusetts, the father of French American journalism; Dr. L. J. Martel, of Lewiston, Maine, his worthy associate in the advancement of the French American element in the New England Slates; Major Edmond Mallet, of Washington, D. C., recognized as an authority upon the history of the North-West, and whose library (preserved intact by L'Union St-Jean-Baptiste d'Amérique) is the largest and most complete collection of documents relating to the French Americans ever gathered; Frédéric Houde and Antoine* Mousette, pioneer journalists; Judge Joseph LeBoeuf, of Cohoes, N. Y.; Pierre F. Peloquin, of Fall River, Massachusetts, and a score of others who for years had been foremost among their compatriots as champions of their rights, both civil and religious.

To sum up, the record of the French Americans in their new country has been such that prominent men of native origin, writers and politicians of note, have sung their praise on more than one occasion. In this respect, one will readily remember the homage paid them upon different occasions by the late Senator Hoar, of Massachusetts, as well as the marks of high esteem shown them by governors and members of Congress. As recently as 20 March, 1908, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts, speaking on "Immigration" before the Boston City Club, made the following statement: "Later than any of these (movements of immigration) was the immigration of French Canadians, but which has assumed large proportions, and has become a strong and most valuable element of our population. But the French of Canada scarcely come within the subject we are considering, because they are hardly to be classed as immigrants in the accepted sense. They represent one of the oldest settlements on this continent. They have been, in the broad sense, Americans for generations, and their coming to the United States, is merely a movement of Americans across an imaginary line, from one part of America to another." In truth, the sentiment of hostility and suspicion, which rebuked the French Americans at their arrival in the republic, has subsided before their splendid conduct and magnificent spirit, and is replaced today by that tribute of respect which mankind acknowledges as due, and never fails to grant, to men of talent, industry, generosity, and patriotism.

About this page

APA citation. Laflamme, J.L.K., Lavigne, D., & Favreau, J. (1909). French Catholics in the United States. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06271c.htm

MLA citation. Laflamme, J. Léon K., David Lavigne, and Joseph Favreau. "French Catholics in the United States." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06271c.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter (Pâté). Dedicated to my parents, Arthur James Pâté, and Luella Dare Pâte, and grandparents, John Pâté and Mary Boudreau Pâté and Frederick and Anna Dare and all my fellow French Canadian-Americans.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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