Life and Religion at Louisbourg, 1713-1758

Life and Religion at Louisbourg, 1713-1758

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Life and Religion at Louisbourg, 1713-1758
    Book Description:

    A.J.B. Johnston establishes the secular and religious contexts of life at Louisbourg and traces the mixed fortunes of three religious groups: the Récollets of Brittany, who acted as parish priests and chaplains; the Brothers of Charity of Saint John of God, who operated the King's Hospital; and the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, who ran the local school for girls. Drawing on the extensive material in the Archives of the Fortress of Louisbourg, Johnston notes the groups' remarkable persistence in the face of personnel shortages, financial burdens, and conflicts with secular authorities and rival religious bodies. Not the least of their problems was the profound parsimony of the Louisbourgeois who declined to build a parish church or pay a compulsory tithe. Yet despite this independent stance, the author demonstrates, religion was at the centre of family and community life. Life and Religion at Louisbourg contributes substantially to the social as well as the religious history of New France.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6638-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Historians writing about eighteenth-century Louisbourg have traditionally looked at the town through secular eyes. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the focus was on military history, principally the sieges of 1745 and 1758, with Louisbourg being seen as one of the main stages where the dramatic Anglo-French struggle for North America was acted out.¹ In recent decades there has been a shift away from the sieges, which after all occupied only four months of the town’s forty-five year life-span, and toward economic and social histories of the community. Inspired or funded by the massive research and reconstruction project at...

  8. 1 Religion and Ile Royale
    (pp. 11-29)

    The waning days of the summer of 1713 witnessed the beginning of what was to be a final chapter in the story of France’s colonization of North America. On 23 July, roughly three months after France had officially ceded mainland Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to Great Britain, an expedition of about 250 people set sail aboard theSemslackfrom Plaisance (Placentia, Newfoundland). They were entrusted with the mission of founding a new colony. Their destination was Cape Breton, an island whose population at the time was a single Frenchman and twenty-five to thirty Micmac families. Directed by the minister of...

  9. 2 Curés and Chaplains: The Récollets of Brittany
    (pp. 30-66)

    The spiritual welfare of the people of Louisbourg was in the hands of Récollet friars. From the date of the town’s founding in 1713 to its ultimate fall in 1758, Récollets served Louisbourg’s civil and military populations as their curés and chaplains. In both capacities their goal was the same: to direct people’s behaviour and consciences so as to lead them closer to morally acceptable behaviour in this world and toward salvation in the next.

    Being involved in the religious life of a new colony was nothing unusual for the Récollets. The spiritual needs of Champlain’s settlement at Québec had...

  10. 3 Serving the King’s Hospital: The Brothers of Charity of Saint John of God
    (pp. 67-85)

    French colonial policy in the sphere of religion was firmly rooted in the belief that no religious communities should be established overseas except those which were demonstrably useful to society. Contemplative orders were considered an extravagance which both the colonies and the king’s treasury could live without. Colbert’s remark that “the religious of both sexes ... produce only useless people in this world, and very often devils in the next world” is the best illustration of that utilitarian attitude. Wherereligieuxdefinitely were welcomed was in the broad field of public welfare. Charity for the poor, education of the young,...

  11. 4 The Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame and Female Education
    (pp. 86-108)

    In modern English usage the term “education” generally refers to the teaching and learning process which occurs within a formal setting or institution, such as a school or university. Older meanings of the word, relating to a person’s background and breeding, are seldom used any more. In French, however,éducationhas retained the denotations referring to behaviour and moral development. Two centuries ago those two broader meanings of the word predominated. Eighteenth-century definitions mentioned not only the cultivation of intelligence but also the inculcation of proper manners, morals, and physical health. Charles Pinot DuClos, novelist, historiographer, and moralist in eighteenth-century...

  12. 5 Faith, Morals, and Popular Customs: Religion in Life
    (pp. 109-150)

    On Wednesday night, 31 May 1758, most people in Louisbourg would probably have gone to bed looking forward eagerly to the events of the next day. Thursday, until noon, was the octave of theféte-Dieu(Corpus Christi), the annual feast day celebrating the Blessed Sacrament. Traditionally it was a time of great festivity, with the highlight of the morning’s activities being a procession of clergy and prominent lay people through the streets past kneeling parishioners. In France, in a custom which was perhaps followed in French colonial towns, people hung tapestries along the route so as to heighten the pageantry....

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 151-154)

    In secular terms, He Royale was not a typical part of New France. Not only was there no seigneurial regime but its fur trade was an insignificant factor in the colonial economy, which was based instead on fish, trade, and government expenditure. These sectors made Louisbourg, the island’s economic and administrative centre, a prosperous and, by North American standards, well-defended port. Yet the geographic isolation of the settlement from both France and the rest of New France, combined with its dependence on imports of food and other commodities, rendered it extremely vulnerable to any concerted enemy attack. Twice within its...

    (pp. 155-157)
    (pp. 158-159)
    (pp. 160-160)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 161-200)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-218)
  19. Index
    (pp. 219-227)