Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for July, 2014

“Siberian bear-hunting armor” – a surrealist art piece.

I would love to see this in action.

Reminds me of my last kidney stone…

This is not “real” bear hunting armor, it was a piece created by an artist in this exhibit. If you go and try to hunt bears with that, you’re going to die.

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What caused Sweden to transform from a highly militaristic society (30 years war through the Napoleonic Wars) to one of staunch neutrality?

First of all, Sweden being neutral did not mean it was not militaristic or even belligerent at several times even after the Napoleonic war. In general, Sweden had more soldiers per capita and invested a larger percentage of its GDP into defense spending than most western countries.

Sweden’s foreign ambitions almost all start with weak neighbors or potential threats.

As the Livonian Confederation was falling apart and faced Russian invasion 1558-1583, the Duchy of Estonia – we are talking the nobility and the burghers of Reval (Tallinn) here, the only ones with a voice in Estonia at the time – swore allegiance to Sweden 1561, which was confirmed by all powers 1570 in the Peace of Stettin.

Sweden’s first real war after the final dissolution of the Kalmar Union was the Nordic Seven Years’ War 1563-1570, which was indecisive, but forced the Danish King to finally abandon his claims on the Swedish throne and thus ending a potential restoration of the Kalmar Union.

Johan III, son of Gustav I (Wasa) married a Polish princess, and their son, Sigismund, became King of both Poland-Lithuania and Sweden. He preferred to host his court in Poland and was a catholic. His uncle, Karl, used fears of continental serfdom, catholicism and counter-reformation, his own position as a very independent Duke with vast estates to revolt against the King and siezing the Swedish throne.

During the Russian times of trouble, Sweden took the opportunity to take Ingria and Kexholm during the Russian war 1610-1617 in order to protect Swedish Finland and take control of all ports and river mouths, thus being able to toll all Russian trade (except the one at Archangelsk, but that was closed during a large part of the year).

Sigismund was still King in Poland-Lithuania and still claimed the Swedish throne – the Poles supporting various candidates for Czar of Russia led Sweden to intervene and de la Gardies campaign, which actually instated Vasilij IV and captured Moscow for him, until de la Gardie was defeated by the Poles. The threat of a Polish-Russian alliance was too severe for Sweden to consider not intervening.

This also led to the Livonian War of 1600-1629, in which Sweden defeated Poland-Lithuania and captured Riga and most of Livonia.

Now Sweden had a strange situation – it had a competent army and a Baltic Empire – but at this time, supporting an army was extremely expensive. Sweden was sparsely populated, and although decently well off by GDP per capita, it was poor compared to most European nations. In order to maintain its Baltic Empire, it needed an army. In order to maintain its army, it needed a war. This situation would last until 1660. Sweden went to war with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark and Russia several times during this era.

To maintain the army, it was placed in foreign land, living mostly off the land and pay was maintained with tolls and French subsidies. As the Habsburgs surrounded France by controlling both the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, it was a sensible policy for France to pay to keep the Holy Roman Empire occupied by fighting a relatively unimportant country to the north.

After the death of King Karl X Gustav in 1660, a regency ruled for his son Karl XI until he reached maturity in 1672. At this time the Swedish army was defeated by Bremen (!) 1665-1666 which severely shocked Europe at the time, since Sweden had been seen as more or less invincible. Corruption in the regency council also led to a worsening state of the army and especially the navy and increasing French influence to the extent that France treated Sweden as a client state at the Peace of Fontainebleau 1679. France signed the peace in Sweden’s name without consulting the Swedish government. It was to Sweden’s advantage, as the enemies of Sweden and France were forced to return Sweden’s German provinces captured during the war, but it made King Karl XI wary of French influence. He had no desire to see Sweden as a client of France.

King Karl XI made two great policy changes – first of all, he changed the foreign policy, aligning with the Anglo-Dutch instead of France and ending the long-standing tense relations with the Holy Roman Empire. Secondly, he created an effective army that did not need a war to exist with indelningsverket (the allotment system). Semi-professional soldiers maintained by peasants (who maintained a soldier instead of paying tax) created a superb army that did not cost the state much to maintain in peacetime.

This army served his son, Karl XII very well during the Great Northern War 1700-1721, but Sweden still lost (against Denmark-Norway, Poland-Lithuania, Saxony, Prussia-Brandenburg, Russia and Hannover) and the Baltic Empire was no more. Still, Sweden retained Finland and a small German bridgehead in form of Vorpommern (Nearer Pommerania).

Swedish politicians during the corrupt so called frihetstiden (freedom era), when the members of the estates parliament were openly bribed by the French and Russian embassies to vote in both foreign and internal matters as those countries wished, did not want to let go of Swedish grand power status, and on French instigation, Sweden entered a disastrous war against Russia 1741-1743 – the plan was to capture Saint Petersburg and aid a French-planned coup d’etat to replace the Austria-friendly regime of Anna Leopoldovna (regent of Czar Ivan IV). Once again France used Sweden as a pawn. The war resulted in a peasant revolt which actually captured Stockholm before being cut down by calvary and grape shot. The same government who had started the war against Russia now considered itself forced to seek Russian aid against its own population. The Russians stationed 30 galleys and 12 000 men north of Stockholm for some time – effectively, Sweden was then a pawn of Russia.

Secondly, Sweden attempted to regain lost parts of Pommerania by entering the Seven Years’ War (the Swedish participation lasted 1757-1762), which was indecisive, even if Sweden completely destroyed the infant Prussian navy in the Battle of Frisches Haff 1759. Again this war came at French instigation.

Gustav III, who had launched a coup d’etat 1772 and faced stiff opposition against his new absolutist rule from the nobility who had lost a lot of power, launched a war against Russia 1788-1790, in the hopes of reducing Russian influence in Sweden and regain territories lost. The war was indecisive, partially because noble officers refused to obey orders and wrote a letter to Czarina Catherine the Great, trying to broker a peace since the Swedish declaration of war technically was illegal. However, the Russian status as a guaranteer of the 1720 Swedish constitution (which had been dissolved by Gustav III in 1772) was ended, which meant that Russia no longer had a formal right to intervene in Swedish politics.

Durign this time, Sweden once again aligned with Francem something which ended with the French revolution. Gustav III had plans to aid the royal family, and the Swedish nobleman Axel von Fersen, who had very close ties with Queen Marie Antoinette (he was probably her lover) attempted to aid their escape.

Gustav IIIs son, Gustav IV Adolf maintained a strict anti-Napoleonic policy. In 1807 a small Swedish army basing out of Pommerania was captured by the French, but were released when they tricked the French into believing they were going to launch a pro-French coup or even a revolution in Sweden. Sweden had to join the continental system formally in the peace, but never did so.

So, 1808 the Russians, on French instigation, attacked Sweden to force it into the continental system. Due to confusion, noble opposition to the King and bad plans, Sweden lost Sveaborg and the whole of Finland quickly. King Gustav IV Adolf was deposed, and the intended successor of his brother, Karl XIII, the Danish-Norwegian Christian August (taking the name Carl August in Sweden) died from a stroke (rumored to have been poisoned, and the earlier mentioned Axel von Fersen was lynched by a mob over it).

Since Russo-French relations were deteriorating, a few Swedes launched a mini-coup and invited the French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte to become crown prince and regent of Sweden, thinking he would recapture Finland in alliance with Napoleon. He accepted, and was elected crown prince. However, he saw the writing on the wall and refused to ally with Napoleon and attempt to retake Finland during the French 1812 campaign. Instead Sweden partook in the War of the Sixth Coalition 1812-1814 as one of the anti-French allies and received Norway as a price for its participation at the Congress of Vienna.

King Karl XIV Johan, as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became known in Sweden, started the long path of Swedish neutrality. As he had no designs to regain territory lost to Russia, and had traded away Swedish Pommerania for Norway at the Congress of Vienna (Denmark, which got it, traded it to Prussia and got the Duchy of Lauenburg instead). Seeing that Sweden was not a great power, and that designs towards that would only lead to ruin, he devised that “Sweden shall be free of foreign entanglements”. No alliances, and no foreign influence. King Karl XIV Johan and his government and successors and their governments saw that foreign influence had caused much more problems than they had resolved, and decided that neutrality was much better option.

Russia was content with Finland – they had mostly wanted Sveaborg as an outer fortress to protect Saint Petersburg anyway, and with the trade-away of Swedish Pommerania, Prussia (and later Germany) did not have any territorial designs on Sweden either.

While Sweden has been close to going to war several times since – an attempt to build a grand European coalition against Russia (including Austria and Prussia) to re-capture Finland was made during the Crimean War 1853-1856, and Sweden sent troops to aid Denmark directly 1848 and volunteers 1864. However, the Scandinavian Union that some wanted never materialized as Denmark was defeated by Prussia 1864 and lost Lauenburg, Schleswig and Holstein.

Sweden sent volunteers to Finland and Estonia 1917-1918 and to Finland 1939-1940 (declaring itself not neutral but rather non-belligrent in the winter war) and again to Finland 1941-1944, but has not participated in any war except UN-missions such as in Kongo.

Since neutrality has worked very well for Sweden during the 1814-1989 era, there has been no reason to revert this policy.


There were 5 living former presidents during the onset of the Civil War:

There were five former living presidents in 1860: Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. They were #8, #10, #13, #14, and #15. Lincoln is #16.

Two die in 1862: Van Buren and Tyler, the former having been born in 1782 and the latter in 1790.

Van Buren was a one-term president who served 1837-1841. He did not support the annexation of Texas before or after his presidency, in large part due to the worry about territorial expansion and slavery. In the 1848 election, he headed a political splinter group known as the Free Soilers, who campaigned primarily on ending the spread of slavery into the West. The Free Soil party lost in 1848, and thus Van Buren stepped out of politics. By Lincoln’s election in 1860, he had written his memoirs and traveled the world. He supported Lincoln’s decision to resist secession with force. Considering his anti-annexation and Free Soil beliefs, one can argue that he believed the war was necessary to stop the spread of slavery out West. He hadn’t voted for Lincoln, but he didn’t believe that the sitting president (Buchanan) had the proper ideas in responding to secession. [Fun fact: he died just after Union forces captured New Orleans and as the Confederacy crossed the Potomac, causing Union troops to rush to D.C. to protect it.] Source: The Miller Center.

Tyler was also a one-term president. He had been the Vice President, but William Henry Harrison died in office in 1841 from pneumonia (and possibly an overdose of one of the medicines given to him). Tyler served from 1841-1845. He was a Whig when in the White House, but ultimately the party rejected him because he was so pro-state’s-rights, and he removed himself from politics. He remained reclusive in a Virginia plantation he named “Sherwood Forest” (because he’d been outlawed by his party; he thought himself like Robin Hood). When the Civil War seemed eminent, he re-appeared and headed the Virginia Peace Convention. This convention in 1861 after seven states had already seceded. It was intended to negotiate a way to avoid war. Tyler was chosen to represent Virginia, which was a slave-holding “swing state,” to speak to President Buchanan about the matter. Tyler had then suggested the Peace Convention. It did not work, because everyone disagreed on what parts of slavery to limit and where, and, even though they sent a proposed bill to Congress, the Senate voted against it. Afterward, Tyler was chosen again to represent Virginia – this time to their secession convention. He chose secession. He did not believe much violence would occur. He joined the Provisional Confederate Congress and was then elected to their House. He was on his way to the opening sessions of the Confederate Congress in early 1862 when he fell ill and collapsed. He lingered a week then died. Sources: John Tyler, Champion of the Old South and John Tyler: The Accidental President.

The other three all lived through the Civil War: Millard Fillmore dies in 1874, Franklin Pierce dies in 1869, and James Buchanan dies in 1868.

Fillmore was also a one-term president. He served from 1850-1853. Like Tyler, he had been Vice President, but his President (Zachary Taylor) had died in office (he died of digestive troubles; there’s a lot of myth and conspiracy about it). Unlike Van Buren, Fillmore did not oppose the spread of slavery into the West, and he supported the Compromise of 1850 (which may have defused tensions briefly, but it certainly upheld some of the nastier parts of slavery and encouraged others, such as the Fugitive Slave Act). When Fillmore left the presidency, he joined the Know Nothing, or American, Party because he refused to join the Republican party (which was the party of Lincoln and other anti-slavery folks). To be clear, the Know Nothing or American Party is in strong opposition to immigration and Catholicism; it’s pretty much their entire platform. You may remember this party from Gangs of New York – they were the men with the blue bands on their hats and waists. In 1856, he was the Know Nothing presidential candidate, and he garnered about 21% of the popular vote which put him in third. During the Civil War, Fillmore remained in New York, but did not support Lincoln, though he became a “staunch Unionist.” He led a home-guard militia of men over 45 who had not gone into combat (called the Union Continentals) to protect the area if the Confederates ever came that north. After the War, Fillmore supported Andrew Johnson’s lenient measures towards the South. Source: The White House and The Miller Center. Here’s an image of him as a Union Continental in the Civil War. You can read about his experiences in the Civil War as the Union Continental commander here in a free ebook.

Pierce was yet another one-term president. He served from 1853-1857. He is considered one of the worst presidents in American history. Why? Well, a number of reasons. The first is the less well known Ostend Manifesto, which basically was a document suggesting that the U.S. buy Cuba from Spain and, if Spain refused to sell, the U.S. should go to war. The second was and still is the most controversial: he supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which further divided the country as they sought to figure out slavery in the West. His acquisition of southwestern land for railroads aggravated the situation even more, as settlers rushed out west and fell into conflict with each other almost immediately over the issue of slavery. These all turned much of America against Pierce while he was in office. When he left the presidency in 1857, he did what many other former presidents do and traveled abroad. He returned to America in 1859. Now realize that Pierce’s Secretary of War is Jefferson Davis, who would become the Confederacy’s President. Pierce had been persuaded by Davis several times when he was president. Now that the war itself was starting, he continued correspondence with Davis. Some of their letters were leaked during the war, which further alienated him from many. Throughout the Civil War, Pierce rejected Lincoln (they were in opposing parties, Pierce = Democrat, Lincoln = Republican), but he did support the Union. Still, he openly and repeatedly blamed the war on Lincoln, and, this combined with his letters to Davis, cost him dearly. Apparently, when he died, little was said about him or his passing. Sources: The White House, The Miller Center, and here’s one of his letters to Davis in 1861.

And finally, Buchanan, who was ALSO a one-term president, serving between 1857-1861. So much has been written about his views on the Civil War, it’s hard not to write a book about it. I’ll be short with him, because you can easily find information about his views. In summary, Buchanan was the president when the storm of the Civil War was brewing. If Pierce knew hell was on the horizon, then Buchanan was feeling heat, and Lincoln was the one who roasted. Buchanan did his best to deal with the upcoming conflict, but he probably aggravated matters. He was of the opinion that slavery was a state’s (and territory’s) issue, not federal, and they should decide if slavery would be present. He was the president during the Dred Scott decision, which said that slaves had no rights under the Constitution and the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Buchanan had encouraged a Northern Supreme Court justice to join in opinion with the Southern ones, and thus, the Dred Scott decision came to be. He urged all American citizens to follow the decision in his Inaugural Address. Then, of course, there was Bleeding Kansas, a situation which he also aggravated by endorsing a proslavery constitution from the state. During the 1860 election, which he didn’t run in as he had promised, things fell apart.

As The Miller Center explains: “Buchanan, ever conciliatory, tried not to alienate anyone—either secessionist or unionist—but pleased no one. The outgoing President seemed at a loss to take any action against the South, which only emboldened the new Confederacy. All Southerners in his cabinet resigned. Secretary of State Lewis Cass quit too, disgusted with Buchanan’s inaction in the crisis. The President did little, fearful of provoking the South; yet he angered the South by refusing to relinquish Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina. While his inaction averted war for the time being, it also enabled the new Confederate government to begin operations. Buchanan seemed eager to get out of the White House before the real disasters ensued.”

Buchanan encountered serious criticism after he left office. His portrait had to be removed from the White House because vandals kept damaging it, and posters appeared in numerous places with caricatures of him in a hangman’s noose with the caption “Judas” and sometimes “Traitor.” He tried to express his support for the Union cause, but many did not believe him (which makes sense, because there’s also evidence he supported the Confederacy). He published a book after the war blaming it on Republicans and abolitionists. Much like Tyler, he too became a recluse, rarely seeing anyone. He died in 1868 of respiratory failure, leaving behind a complicated legacy. Sources: The Miller Center


Sieges of Paris:

Two major sieges happened to Paris in the years 1870-1871. That’s right, two.

The first was at the end of the Franco-Prussian war. The French had been beaten back to the point that Napoleon resigned (because he was captured) and Republic declared. The French government fled to Versailles (right down the road). Paris, on the other hand, became the point of contention in negotiations. The Prussians laid siege to the capital, cut off supply lines, and shot cannons wildly onto the city. The French – in Versailles – eventually capitulated, and the Prussians stormed the city.

Paris was pissed. They thought the war had been lost by the mismanagement of generals and the cowardice of the provinces. Wasn’t it Paris after all that was most affected by this war? And wasn’t it Paris that so courageously held out?

Under this mounting indignation at the new Versailles government, the shame of seeing Prussians parade through the shining capital of the 19th century, and finally feeling betrayed by the French who “decapitated” the country by moving the seat of government to Versailles (where the kings used to live, btw), Paris declared itself independent. Under the red flag of the people, the Paris Commune was declared.

The Versailles government had to do something. Thiers, the interim leader of the Versaillais, commanded his armies to attack the city. Paris was once again under siege, but this time by their own countrymen. The Versaillais troops literally picked up the cannons the Prussians had set down, and began shooting again.

This means that everyone living in Paris either had to flee their home or suffer through a year of dwindling food supplies and death from above.

Accounts by the Goncourt brothers, for example, tell of the last oyster eaten at the Café Riche. Rats and cats became staples of butcher shops.

The most interesting thing about these two sieges is that the people in Paris were very divided. The bourgeoisie who were not able to flee lived in fear of not only the Prussians (then later the French) outside, but also of the lower classes that became more and more politically vocal. The poor were not just asking for food, but also for a halt on (and sometimes even forgiveness of) debts, including rent. The lower classes began to organize (in Montmartre and Belleville), and eventually during the Commune held elections that in essence deprived the bourgeoisie of their majority.

The point I’m trying to make I guess is that the city under siege doesn’t just come to a halt – in fact, everything you do becomes political or ideological. What you eat, where you go, what work you do all becomes a way of telling others how you expect the siege to end, and more importantly, how you want things to be afterward.


French Canadians (primarily Quebecois) and their protection of their heritage

Quebec’s relationship with English speaking Canada begins in 1759 with the British victory over France in North America during the Seven Year’s War and the seizure of their colony, New France aka. present day Quebec, though it extended through southwestern Ontario at the time. Known simply as the Conquest, the defeat of French general Louis-Joseph de Montcalm by English General James Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham (just outside Quebec City) ended the share of French resistance in the New World. The war wouldn’t conclude until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, but the remainder of the conflict was decided on European battlefields. In the Treaty of Paris, France surrendered the colony of New France in exchange for the more prosperous island of Guadeloupe. New France had been an expensive colony with a hard climate and produced few resources in return (remember they mostly had the fur trade posts and a handful of settlements along the St Lawrence), while Guadeloupe produced sugar.

The British assumed control of the colony and treated their new subject fairly well. This was surprising given the large number of Catholic French-speaking peoples now controlled by an anti-Catholic Protestant land of English speakers. Remember that less than a century before James II had been forced out as King by Parliament for being Catholic in 1688. But the British of 1763 were worried about the stability of their North American colonies (still including the US), and granted the French colonists the freedom to practise their religion, to speak their language, and other benefits. Remember that the expulsion of the entire French population in Acadia (present day New Brunswick/Nova Scotia) had occurred in 1755! With British control of the North American eastern seabord secure and the much larger New France population, expulsion was not considered.

This special treatment angered the Americans to the south and became one of the causes of their Revolution, as well as set an important precedent: Canadiens would be treated well. Even though the British undoubtedly took control of the province’s economy and political offices (those that existed at the time), it could have gone far worse.

The Canadiens survived under British rule for the next century. They twice refused to join an American war against the British, once during their Revolution and again during the War of 1812. Both times the French Catholic episcopate (the bishops) declared that their people had no interest in fighting a war that was not their concern. The Catholic hierarchy had a lot of influence among Canadiens. After the Conquest, much of the “ruling classes” had returned to France (or more likely had never set foot in the New World at all). In that social vacuum, the Catholic Church easily filled the void and formed a vital nexus for the broken French communities of New France. To survive in a sea of Protestant English speakers required a strong identity and connection to each other. That connection was only strengthened when threatened. In the first decades of British rule, it’s clear that Canadien isolation increasingly bound their religious faith to their language and culture.

The threat of assimilation was a constant one. After the American revolution, Americans still loyal to Britain fled north to what would be known as the Second British North America, Canada. The first being the now-independent American states. British Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia by the thousands, so much that they demanded their own colony be separated and New Brunswick was created in 1784. Thousands more were arriving in the sparsely populated lands of present day southwestern Ontario. The French Canadians were surrounded. French Canadians now because the English speakers had been immigrating into Montreal as part of the North American fur trade and other resource based industries. English Canadians became a fact when the Constitution Act of 1791 split the former colony of New France into Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Upper Canada (called so because it up the St Lawrence river) is present day Ontario, while Lower Canada is Quebec.

The British originally ceded the lands of Ontario to Indigenous peoples with the Royal Proclamation of 1763, but after the War of 1812 the Indigenous influence on the balance of power in North America between Britain and the United States was lost. Without being able to leverage a place between the two powers, as they had done for centuries between France and Britain and briefly with the Americans, North America’s Indigenous people were ignored and excluded. As a result English speakers settled the fertile and productive lands around places like York (Toronto) and Sandwhich (Windsor) that had been originally given to them.

Quebec was not immune to outside influence despite their isolation and the wishes of its Catholic Church. Ideas about American republicanism and secular government easily passed over the border and slowly spread throughout both Canadian colonies. In Lower Canada, American immigrants were also settling the land opened after the War of 1812 between the Great Lakes, also bringing ideas about the relationship between the government and its people. In 1837-38, two rebellions were launched. One in Upper Canada by William Lyon Mackenzie (grandfather of the Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King), which was small and failed quickly. One in Lower Canada led by Joseph Louis Papineau and was much larger and widespread. Both were put down relatively quickly, and Papineau and his compatriots fled to the US for some decades. These “revolutionaries” in Lower Canada wanted to remove the Church’s control over education and institute more democratic government. The colonies were still ultimately under the rule of the monarch-appointed Governor General, who led the colonies along with a small appointed “Cabinet” of advisors.

Two important developments should be noted in the decades leading up to Confederation 1867. One was the work of political leaders like Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin to institute “Responsible Government” in the Canadian colonies. Instead of being led by the Governor General, the colonies were led by a Cabinet of elected officials. The leader of the Cabinet was the Prime Minister – that is, the Chief Minister to the Monarch’s representative in the colony, the Governor General, just as the British Prime Minister served the Monarch directly. Though these liberal ideas eventually changed the political system of the colonies, they were never as pervasive and far-reaching as the 1837-38 revolutionaries in Lower Canada desired. The Catholic Church was still the chief institution in the colony, though it had nurtured a developing sense of French Canadian culture and identity.

In the aftermath of 1837-38, the British sent John Lambton, known to Canadians as Lord Durham, to resolve the crisis. The British were wary of another messy war for British North America and were determined to avoid a second (North) American Revolution. Lord Durham’s report, the Report on the Affairs of British North America, a famous historical text in Canada. One of its major conclusions that within Canada there were “two nations warring within the bosom of a single state.” The solution to the threat of revolution was to further assimilate the French Canadians into British culture since they possessed neither a history or a culture.

Luckily Durham’s more extreme suggestions were not implemented, but the French Canadians were outraged that at his claim that they had no history or culture. François-Xavier Garneau was a city clerk in Quebec who responded to Durham’s report by writing a history of Quebec, Histoire du Canada, that was published between 1845 and 1848. He detailed the survival of North America’s French speaking peoples, against the hard life of the colonies as well as the onset of British rule. Garneau’s history was accommodating to the Church, especially after receiving criticism for his first volume. He consciously portrayed them as saviors of the French people due to pressure from the Church. The Church still controlled French Canadians and played a vital role in government (in charge of education) and influenced their opinions. The most important fact of Garneau’s work was that Durham was wrong – the French Canadians had a story of their history as a people, unique to them among all the people in the world, and they alone were capable of telling it.

Skipping a few decades of political history: In 1867 Confederation united the colonies (now provinces) of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada. Quebec had agreed to Confederation as long as it was explicitly promised protection for all French speakers, inside and outside the province, in Dominion. In return, it promised to protect its English Canadian minority that lived in Montreal. Montreal had been a hub for North American trade for centuries, and since the Conquest, English speaking merchants had steadily arrived in the city. Quebec would respect their rights as long as French Canadian minorities would be protected in other provinces.