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The Art of Nation-Building

The Art of Nation-Building: Pageantry and Spectacle at Quebec's Tercentenary

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 408
  • Book Info
    The Art of Nation-Building
    Book Description:

    Draws on the intimate diaries and letters of leading social and political figures to look behind the scenes of the pageantry of the 1908 anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, disclosing the politics of memory and the theatrics of history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2800-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
    (pp. 3-17)

    An unexpected burst of colour from a Union Jack and the brilliant scarlet and white uniform of an eighteenth-century British soldier flashed into view as I opened the lid of the dull grey container. When I slid the document out, a matching blue and white clad French soldier, shouldering a flagstaff of golden fleurs-de-lis, faced across the cover page at his British counterpart. Between these two combatants appeared the distinctive image of Samuel de Champlain in cameo. With flowing locks and wispy goatee, the founder of Quebec bore a vague resemblance to a Puritan divine. In the background was an...

    (pp. 18-45)

    Over the weekend, Hurons from nearby Ancien Lorette pitched tepees in the woods at the western edge of the Plains of Abraham. Ojibways from Sault Ste Marie and Iroquois, Mohawks, and Onondagas from reserves on the St Lawrence followed, soon numbering some two hundred men, women, and children.

    During the week, another nation also assembled under canvas. Militia regiments and regular soldiers from Halifax to Sarnia, as well as a combined contingent of troops and mounted police from the Northwest, arrived in coordinated waves by steamer and special train. Under the watchful eye of their new Canadian commander, artillery, infantry,...

    (pp. 46-63)

    Words came easily, even in English. He had, after all been thinking about this for more than two years and words were his stock in trade. Honoré-Julien-Jean-Baptiste Chouinard, a small buffalo of a man, whose squared features were accentuated by a cutaway moustache and florid muttonchop whiskers, sat comfortably at his writing desk situated in the middle of the spacious clerk’s office in the new Quebec City Hall. His frosted windows looked out onto the snow-clad square and the shops opposite garlanded for Christmas. Pausing only for ink and inspiration, his hand raced back and forth across the paper. He...

    (pp. 64-84)

    The prime minister must have smiled as he read a letter in June 1905 from the new governor general in Quebec City. It was the breathless, chirpy prose of a besotted tourist:

    The beauties & Potentialities of Quebec continue to grow upon me & I am becoming tres Quebecois! I am longing to walk along the top of the city walls with you – they can be made easily and at hardly any cost into a Promenade the equal of which cannot be found or produced by any other town I have ever seen & with the exception of Constantinople & Sydney I think...

    (pp. 85-101)

    When the king thought of his friend the governor general of Canada, the 4th Earl Grey, he thought of him as Albert and referred to him in that way. Privately Earl Grey knew the king as Bertie, or in wicked moments as Turn-Turn, the randy young buck he had once had to mind touring India, later as the boisterous host of the Marlborough House set, and always as a man whose monstrous appetite for cigars, fast company, and buxom mistresses made for a home life so unlike that of the late dear queen. But Grey would never think of referring...

    (pp. 102-121)

    How to woo a French-Canadian bishop? Begin with an appeal to authority, then drift ever so softly to the benefits to the parishioners. With that in mind, Earl Grey drew a long breath and began to dictate:

    His Majesty who takes a deep interest in everything which affects the wellbeing of Quebec will I know be glad to hear that Your Grace agrees with me in thinking that the time has come for a vigorous effort to rescue the battlefields from their present neglected and deplorable conditions, and to put them in shape which will satify the historic sentiment of...

    (pp. 122-140)

    ‘The position in Quebec province is not satisfactory,’ the governor general reported with some urgency to the Colonial Office in May 1908. The prime minister had just warned him that the tercentenary was in trouble. At first Grey was incredulous. All of the major newspapers supported the project. As far as he could tell, only one paper had mounted a persistent opposition,La Vérité, an otherwise insignificant weekly which, the Irish Catholic minister of justice from Quebec assured him, ‘carried little weight.’ At first he thought this was surely another of Laurier’s excuses for delay.

    Laurier then had to instruct...

    (pp. 141-163)

    When Frank Lascelles strode into the Empire Room of the Château Frontenac on 11 April 1908, there could be no doubt that he was a man of the theatre. Abundant, slicked-back hair accentuated the bold facial features of this strikingly handsome, slight, impeccably tailored man. And when he began to speak to this very first meeting of the Canadian Club of Quebec City, his voice carried the message to the farthest corner of the vast room: this man had acted with Irving and studied with Tree.¹

    ‘It was wonderful to see and hear this distinguished stranger, really “British to the...

  11. 8. DRESSING UP
    (pp. 164-197)

    After the pageants on the evening of Wednesday, 29 July, Frank Lascelles gave a dinner party for his leading actors. They in turn honoured him for the opportunities he had given them. The actors were the Indians. They made their English director an Iroquois chief. Both the director and his actors had important things to say to each other; so, they spoke with symbolic actions, dining, and investiture. In that respect this informal ceremony mimicked the whole Quebec tercentenary.

    Tables had been set up by the huge black iron cauldrons simmmering over the open fires in the middle of the...

  12. 9. ON PARADE
    (pp. 198-223)

    What were all of those ships and soldiers doing at Quebec in the summer of 1908 – not to mention the Prince of Wales? There had to be reasons other than Earl Grey’s enthusiasms for their presence. Invitations maybe sent, but they must also be accepted. The guests had to want to come or thought they should come, for there were many obstacles to be overcome, not all of them physical. It was a long way; it was inconvenient, expensive, difficult to fit into a busy schedule. So it seems that these guests must have wanted to put on a...

    (pp. 224-252)

    After a quick visit to the hairdresser on the morning of Monday, 27 July, Ethel Chadwick went down to the wharf to be taken out for a tour of theIndomitable. She couldn’t stay for tea because, as she explained, she had to hurry back and dress for the pageant. Nevertheless, she wanted to take up the invitation of one of the officers she had met to see the mighty ship – and, being Ethel, the officer. The venerable author of popular Quebec stories, Sir James Le Moine, escorted her. As they stood waiting on the pier, a passing group...

    (pp. 253-284)

    Being there was not enough. Presence had to be declared or acknowledged with a memento. Fittingly, the Prince of Wales returned home with the most magnificent souvenir of all, a golden cigar box containing the address of the city of Quebec, presented during the speeches at the Ghamplain monument. The city wanted to give him a gift he would use, not something to be tucked away. Thereafter, as the prince frequented his humidor, and wreathed himself in sweet smoke, Quebec’s politicians hoped he would drift in reverie back to this celebration and think fondly of his subjects at Quebec. The...

  15. Colour illustrations
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 285-312)

    Before the tercentenary of Quebec had even begun, that indefatigable scribbler, Arthur Doughty, had launched a campaign to perpetuate it with a history. He proposed to shape the contours of memory with words and images. Even before that, of course, the concept of permanent memorialization had been built into the festival. Champlain would be honoured by the creation of a historic park – Canada’s first – literally, a landscape of memory.

    Like Doughty, many other people felt that the event should be permanently recorded, especially after all the excitement. Thus several memories and meanings sought expression in remembrance just as...

    (pp. 313-320)

    The Denisons raced home on the overnight train to prepare Heydon Villa for Lord Roberts’s arrival. They were to be his hosts during his much anticipated side-trip to Toronto. He would never arrive; overcome by the midday heat and his exertions on the Plains of Abraham the old soldier had to be taken directly home to England. All of Toronto was disappointed.

    Clare Denison carried with her in her bag a large parcel of photographs, souvenir programs, and her own sweet memories of her coming out in the presence of the Prince of Wales before all of Canadian society. The...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 321-378)
    (pp. 379-384)
    (pp. 385-386)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 387-397)