Page images

the religious communities, all in ruins. The venerable bishop survived the fall of his city less than one year. He died at Montreal on the 8th of June, 1760. His Mandements and circular letters in these latter days refer generally to the sad state of the colony, which was reduced to a pitiable condition. “You will say to the poor," were his last words,“ that I leave them nothing in dying, because I die poorer than themselves.” His last letter, addressed to the Canons, contained some instructions in regard to the approaching vacancy in the See, a matter which he foresaw would give rise at once to complications under the altered circumstances of the colony.

On the 2d of the following month, after his death, the Canons of Quebec met and named administrators for the diocese: one charged with the part dependent on the English Government, one for Three Rivers and that part of the government under the French, one for Montreal and the upper part of the colony. Outside of Canada proper an administrator was sent to Acadia, one to Louisiana, and one to the Illinois country. The first Mandement is that of “ Etienne Montgolfier, Vicar-General of the Diocese of Quebec," formally addressed to the secular and regular clergy, etc., residing in the Government of Montreal. This is dated 6th of January, 1761. Three weeks later Joseph Francis Perreault, Canon of the Cathedral Church and Vicar-General, addressed his charge at Three Rivers. Both of these refer to the Lenten season, and are silent respecting public affairs. The short circular letter of M. Briand, dated in the interval and coming from the city of Quebec, gives a passing, but complimentary, notice of the Governor. The loyal attitude of the Church towards the civil powers appeared, however, in three several Mandements, dated in February, 1762, in which a “Te Deum” was directed to be chanted in all the parish churches on the occasion of the coronation and marriage of George III. In the following year an expression of respect and submission to the king was made to General Murray by Vicar-General Briand. An ordinance appeared on the last day of the year regulating a prayer for the royal family. These are all the official ecclesiastical records between the year 1759 and the treaty of 1763.

The attitude of the civil or rather the military authorities towards the Church should be found in the capitulations of Quebec and Montreal. The inhabitants were preserved in their possessions and privileges; the exercise of the Catholic religion was conservé; the Bishop was recognized, and was permitted, freely and with decency, to exercise the functions of his state. This is the substance of the capitulations at Quebec. At Montreal the free exercise of religion was to subsist in its entirety. As will have been noted, the Bishop died on the 8th of June, 1760, so that when the capitulation of Montreal was signed on the 8th of September following, there was no Bishop. This accounts for the extraordinary-looking request of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, that the French King should continue to name the Bishop of the colony. The nomination of a Bishop was the first difficulty, but it did not arise until after the treaty had been signed, and was not adjusted for several years after that date.

1 M. Beaudoin to Louisiana, and M. Forget to the Illinois country.

The Treaty of Paris (10th of February, 1763) guarantees freedom of religion to the Catholics, “ so far as the laws of Great Britain permit.” The short fourth clause of the treaty containing this guarantee and this dangerous looking restriction of it must not have appeared to the Canadians so satisfactory as the diffuse wording of the capitulations. The mandements that follow the proclamation of the treaty of peace do not contain much on the subject. M. Perreault says: “Ainsi, quand la perfection de la religion que vous avez l'honneur de professer, et dont le libre exercice vous est accordé par le traité de paix, ne vous prescrirait pas une scrupuleuse fidélité envers votre nouveau et légitime Roi, la reconnaissance seule vous y obligerait.”

M. Briand refers to the illustrious and charitable General Murray, to whom he had communicated the date and particulars of chanting the solemn Te Deum. M. Montgolfier wrote apparently with a bitterness that cost him the dislike of the English, and for which they revenged themselves later. Speaking of the cession and the king he writes: “ Vous goutez déjà depuis plusieurs années les douceurs de son règne. Lors même qu'il vous a conquis par la force de ses armes, il a semblé préférer le sort de ne vous avoir plus pour ennemis à la gloire de vous vaincre. Il pouvait lancer sur vous son tonnerre, et il ne s'est annoncé que par la voix de ses bienfaits. Depuis que vous êtes devenus sa conquête, quelles grâces, quelles faveurs n'en avez-vous pas reçues ! N'en entreprenons pas le détail, il serait infini; la preuve la plus sensible est votre affection et votre attachement respectueux au sage gouverneur qui nous represente si dignement un si gracieux souve

rain. . .

The Canons and Chapter of Quebec in the following month (1 3th September) petitioned the king that the vacant See be filled. After stating their position and the necessity of continuing the episcopate, they clearly put down what they required.

"On propose un Chapitre dont les membres ne seraient que les prêtres mêmes des séminaires, qui auraient le nom et la dignité de chanoines sans en avoir les obligations, parce qu'ils n'en auraient point les émoluments; c'est-à-dire que les chanoines destinés par leur état à la célébration de l'office divin ne seraient alors chargés que du service des peuples de la ville, du soin des séminaires, et de l'instruction des jeunes gens et particulièrement de ceux qui se destineraient à l'état ecclésiastique.

“ De cette sorte, avec les mêmes fonds et revenus, sans multiplier les prêtres, l'Eglise du Canada conserverait son même état ; elle aurait son Evêque, son Chapitre et des directeurs de séminaires, on contenterait pleinement la piété et les désirs du clergé, et d'un peuple qui en vérité n'a fait paraître en rien tant de sensibilité dans la révolution présente que sur le fait de la religion dont il appréhende l'extinction dans la suite, si Votre Majesté refusait un évêque. L'illustre et sage gouverneur, Monsieur Murray, à la pénétration duquel le bon caractère du peuple Canadien et son attachement à la foi de ses pères n'ont point échappé peut informer Votre Majesté que nous ne disons rien qui ne soit dans la plus exacte vérité.”

Two days after this the Chapter met to consider the choice of a Bishop. M. Montgolfier was unanimously elected. He set out for England to have his nomination confirmed, but General Murray opposed it and the government would not recognize him. He resigned and named M. Briand, who, in the following September, was elected by the Chapter. The Governor gave M. Briand a letter of recommendation to the Colonial Secretary, and after all difficulties were overcome, on the 21st of January, 1766, the Bulls were sent him from Rome.

The meeting of the Canons in September, 1763, when M. Montgolfier was elected, is worthy of mention on another account. It was arranged then, as appears, by a joint mandement of all the Vicars in authority, that the expenses of a deputation to London should be borne-a deputation commissioned to demand the execution of the fourth Article of the Treaty, as to freedom of religion.

An application had been previously made to General Murray, demanding that the Bishop and his Chapter should be invested with the like rights possessed by Bishops and Chapters in all Catholic countries. “Murray,” Garneau says, “ commended this application to the favorable attention of the British ministry, and, in 1763, sent his secretary, M. Cramahé, to London to sustain the application."

Shortly afterwards, by reason of deputations, correspondence, reports and otherwise, the British Government were in possession of all necessary facts in regard to Canada and its Catholic inhabitants, and the fourth section of the treaty came in for a large share of legal consideration.

By royal instructions, in force at this time, all Canadians were

bound to take an oath of fealty, and the priests were officially notified that if they refused to take it they might prepare to leave the country. They were called upon to renounce the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rome, and were subjected to annoyances in their every-day life. When, therefore, the English Government saw its way to the appointment of a Catholic Bishop, it was no doubt because the position of Catholics in Canada, under the treaty, had been fully considered. The crown officers in England made the amazing discovery that the dangerous words in the fourth section were not in legal intendment such as were popularly understood. When it was conceded that the Catholics were to have freedom of religion so far as the laws of Great Britain permitted, the crown officers gave it as their opinion that by the phrase the laws of Great Britain were meant such British laws only as were in force in British colonies. Consequently, none of the penal laws of the Old Country were in force in Canada, Elizabeth's statute as to supremacy was the only one applying to the outlying realms of the crown; and by what must now be deemed a ridiculously strained construction this statute was held to be in force. The freedom of religion was therefore complete to the Catholics, except that the supremacy of the King of England was to be recognized instead of the supremacy of the Pope. This did not read much more favorably to the Catholics than the unknown terrors of the fourth section as it stood. It was much as if an Eastern despot should say to his slave, I allow you perfect freedom of existence as to your body, but you must wear a different head hereafter.

Such was the state of the law and its interpretation when Bishop Briand, the first Bishop since the cession, took charge of Quebec. It was as awkward a situation as could well be imagined, and each year added to the awkwardness.

The Governor, after a time, was surrounded by administrative and judicial officers, all of them Protestants and most of them intolerant of Catholics. The Chief Justice and the Attorney General considered it out of the question that there could be a Catholic Bishop at all, and the Chaplain of the garrison was intended to step into the vacancy at Quebec. The Attorney General, with much care, drafted a commission by which the Chief Superintendent of the Church of Rome could be safely recognized. It occurred to him that there might be two titular bishops for the one See, and this was considered a clever way of getting over the absurdity. From 1763 to 1774 affairs continued in a very unsatisfactory state. The Government endeavored to force the Catholics to take the oath of abjuration and other oaths required in the Elizabethan statute and its amendments; but the people and the clergy refused to accede to this. The result was that the matter rested there. In 1774, when the Quebec Act put it beyond doubt that the statute of Elizabeth was intended to apply, the British Parliament changed the objectionable oath in it to a milder one. The supremacy of the king in matters ecclesiastical, however, remained; and the one aim of all the governors, presented with greater or less degree of earnestness, was to bring the Bishop and the curés under the control of the crown.

The very first Royal instructions provided that “no person should receive Holy Orders, nor have charge of souls, without a license duly obtained from the Governor. The Governor was strictly to safeguard the supremacy of the King to the exclusion of every power of the Church of Rome, exercised by any of its ministers in the Province, not absolutely requisite for the exercise of a tolerated worship.” These instructions were not interpreted very strictly, for, in the very year in which they were received Bishop Briand was paid a pension by the Governor. His coadjutor, Monseigneur d'Esglis, had been previously chosen, and recognized by the State, cum futura successione, taking the vath of allegiance in full Executive Council. Each subsequent bishop had his coadjutor in the same way. While over-zealous officials were bringing the subject into prominence whenever it could be done, it so happened that there was always more urgent public business for the Governor to attend to. The war of the American Colonies occupied all parties from the Quebec Act until the peace of Paris in 1783; and the Province of Quebec took the intervening time between that date and its own division, in 1791, to consider more important internal matters. The first Protestant bishop did not appear until 1793, after Upper and Lower Canada were called into existence. When Lower Canada had settled down under its new constitution, it was evident from the writings of the time, that the question was likely to be pressed to a definite solution. A man, named Ryland, had been secretary for a number of governors, and, as he grew older, he increased in bitterness against everything Catholic. There lived contemporaneously with him a young priest who was subsequently Vicar to Bishop Denaut, afterward coadjutor, and ultimately bishop. This was Joseph Octave Plessis. He was the last bishop of the ancient See of Quebec as it existed in its original vast limits. He was worthy of the line of bishops, and worthy of his time; and much needed in the then crises of events, one of which was the freedom of his Church from State control. In the last years of his predecessor, and the first of the

1 It was a favorite recommendation during this time that no priest, connected with the Bourbons, should be allowed into Canada. Priests from Savoy, Lord North wanted. See letters in the Haldimand collection, Canadian Archives,

« PreviousContinue »