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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On the Use of the French Language in Canada
By Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841–1919)
 
Replying to Mr. Dalton McCarthy in the Canadian House of Commons, July 7th, 1885

THE HONORABLE gentleman seems to think that all Canadians should be cast in the same mold. He is proud of his race, and he has every reason to be proud of it; but it does not follow that we should all be English-speaking Canadians, that we should all be merged in the Anglo-Saxon race. I have never disguised my sentiments on that point; we of French origin are satisfied to be what we are, and we claim no more. I claim this for the race in which I was born, that though it is not perhaps endowed with the same qualities as the Anglo-Saxon race, it is endowed with qualities as great; I claim for it that it is endowed with qualities unsurpassed in some respects; I claim for it that there is not to-day under the sun a more moral, more honest, or more intellectual race; and, if the honorable gentleman came to Lower Canada, it would be my pride to take him to one of those ancient parishes on the St. Lawrence or one of its tributaries, and show him a people to whom, prejudiced as he is, he could not but apply the words which the poet applied to those who at one time inhabited the Basin of Minas and the meadows of Grandpré:
  “Men whose lives glided like rivers that water the woodland,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of Heaven.”
I claim no more than what is fairly due to my countrymen, and I say, let the two races stand together, each with its own characteristics; they will be all the more speedily united in the same aspirations towards a common object—British in allegiance and Canadian in sentiment.
  1
  I have, more than once in this House, told my fellow-countrymen of the province of Quebec, that the day which had severed Canada from France had not been an evil day for the descendants of France, because they had found under the British Crown greater liberty than they could have hoped for under the French régime, and, after all, liberty is the greatest boon of life. But, while I say that, I do not disguise to my fellow-countrymen of English origin, who will, I hope, understand me, that even at this day, holding the opinions which I hold, whenever I take up our history, as I follow the long, the persistent, the implacable duel between England and France for the possession of this continent; as I trace, page by page, the fatal climax, dim at first, but gradually taking shape and becoming inevitable; as I follow the brave army of Montcalm retreating before superior forces, retreating, even after victory, retreating into a circle made every day narrower and narrower; as I come to the last page and the last struggle where that truly great man, the gallant Montcalm, found death with his first defeat, I do not disguise from my fellow-countrymen of English origin that my heart is clenched and that my French blood runs colder in my veins. Talk to me not of your purely utilitarian theories! Men are not mere automatons!  2
  In my judgment, the English language is to-day and must be for several generations, perhaps for several centuries, the commanding language of the world. So long as the centre of civilization was the basin of the Mediterranean, three languages held sway; the Greek, the Latin, and the French. At the end of the seventeenth century the French language was undoubtedly the dominating language of civilization. It is still the language of diplomacy, the vehicle of communication for international exchange in the higher productions of the human mind, but it is no longer the language of the many. That position now belongs to the English language. That revolution has been accomplished by the wonderful development of the Anglo-Saxon race during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Members of that race have carried their language with them in their emigration around the world, and now it is the language of more than one hundred million of people scattered over Europe, Africa, America, Asia, and the Islands and continents of the Pacific Ocean. The very fact that the English language is to-day the dominating language of this continent of America, makes it imperative on French Canadians, although they will retain their language, to learn and speak English. The French Canadian father who to-day does not give an English education to his son does not do justice to his child, because he compels him to stand back in the hard struggle for life. I would say more. It is imperative for us French Canadians to learn English. But if I were to give any advice to my Anglo-Canadian friends, it would be that they would do well to learn French too. The English are a proud race; but the Romans were a proud race also; and after they had conquered the world, a Roman acknowledged that the education of his son was not complete unless he was as familiar with Greek letters as he was with Latin letters.  3
 
 
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