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[personal profile] beboots

I have decided to blog about the research I am doing. I swear that some of it must be of interest to others who enjoy history!


I suppose that I should begin with a short explanation of what the heck I’m being paid to do, anyway. One of the appeals of this research assistant position is that I get paid to do the kind of thing that I pay the school to do for the rest of the year: research. In fact, it’s even better – I don’t have to write much of anything, or even read the sources very thoroughly. I’m just to compile documents/articles/microfiche, etc., for the purposes of this course.

I’m getting ahead of myself. In the words of my professor, by way of explanation to the librarians who helped us:
“Peter Carver and I have a TLEF grant to mount, over the next two years, a course on the constitutional history of Canada. It will be built around a series of games: the first half of the course will feature games where the students negotiating Confederation and then litigate the BNA act they design; the second half will have them negotiate patriation of the Constitution in 1981-82 and then litigate whatever charter of rights and/or amending formula they design. The games will not be "role-playing": people wont have to wear costumes, speak in accents, come to class drunk or smoke constantly. Nevertheless, at each stage the students will be required to represent the ideas and interests of specific people or groups engaged at the time of the two core events.”

The funny thing is – it’s a law course (well, history of law, but it's under the law faculty, not the history & classics one). Although I’m doing a huge chunk of the research and background information for it, if I wanted to, I cannot take it: I’m unqualified! ;)

But essentially, it will be a course of very few lectures, but a lot of role-playing. Students will get assigned a certain “character” (like one of the fathers of confederation, like Sir John A. Macdonald, Georges-Etienne Cartier, etc., or one of their opponents), documents to prepare themselves, and, in-class, cards that prompt them to argue for or against a certain position.

There will also be other wildcards, I suppose you could call them – railway barons and French catholic bishops or Orangemen and others – who will hang about the room and will occasionally go over and exert pressure on someone to get them to argue a certain way (i.e., a railway baron could pay off Charles Tupper so he wins the election so he’ll campaign for an intercolonial railway in his colony/province).

The students will also have to write their own British-North America Act, but I won’t be dealing with that too much. I have no experience in law; I’m just here to find the neat speeches and figure out who the dramatis personae are. :)

One of the documents that I’ve been flipping through today is the diary of Frances Monck, the niece(?) or daughter of Governor General George Stanley Monck, who wrote about the social scene of the hugely important Quebec Conference. We hear about some of the funnier details of the much-lauded “Fathers of Confederation” – she calls D’Arcy McGee (mostly known as the first (and only?) Canadian politician ever assassinated) ugly, George Brown boring/stuffy, and, of course, refers to our venerable Sir John A. Macdonald’s infamous drinking habits

In 1864, Frances Monck came to North America from England . On the boat trip over, she made friends with a few Yankee women, but she also found Confederate soldiers VERY gentlemanly. The other passengers were quite interesting, too. In her words:

“I sat next to the captain at dinner. The faces at the table are worth a study. We have three newspaper correspondents; one a Yankee who writes for the New York Herald. We have a German man who has crossed the Atlantic seventy-nine times!!! Also ten Southerners who are going to run the blockade, and quantities of Yankees, some English, Scotch and French.”(Pg 6 of My Canadian Leaves)

I also found it entertaining that she uses triple exclamation marks to indicate an enthusiastic phrase. She's not the only one - I've seen George Brown use them as well.


Oh, and a Yankee man totally dissed Frances Monck and her country (England, that is), and tried to steal her pillow. I am not making this up. The scene:

“We also had a Mr. Pell on board, a pleasant old man, who had one son in the Northern and the other in the Southern army. There was also a great Yankee publisher of Boston, who came over to England to purchase all Dicken’s works; he was very civil to me, when another Yankee was very rude, a Mr. Croker, one of the great men out here, and a hater of England; this man tried to take away a cushion from me – all the gentlemen were so angry, and the publisher rushed with another cushion.”(pgs 12-13)

I find this funny, especially, because I HAVE been doing so much research into the American Civil War lately, and I totally know that the Northern states were totally pissed off at England (and thus British North America AKA what would soon become Canada) because we were totally tacitly supporting the Confederacy. Not allied, of course, and not acknowledging the Confederate States’ independence, but doing things like just not charging and imprisoning Confederates even when they were arrested on Canadian soil after committing blatant crimes against the Northern States.

In fact, these raiders were actually very popular in social circles in Montreal and such. Instant celebrities. Oh, Canada.

On a different boat ride, she describes a party and entertainment provided by the crew:

“They [the sailors] sang one lovely chorus about “Ma barque est fragile.” [my small boat is fragile] They had fine voices, and sang in unison, which always sounds well with many voices. The Board of Works’ waiter (a French-Canadian) danced beautifully as a woman, and an Indian sailor danced a native dance, which appeared to consist of whipping himself, kicking, and screaming.”(pg 141)

Yeah. She also visits at least two or three graveyards, and notes the graves of famous people, as well as a series of children's graves in one churchyard that had little toy lambs instead of tombstones. She thought them dainty and cute (not morbid). Her adventures included many balls, and at least one runaway horse. The Canadas were an exciting place in the 1860s. 

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