Conventions nationales des Acadiens (Robidoux) - 1881 - p91-96

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M. P. A. Landry
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Gentlemen, I thank you for your kind request to address you in English. It affords me an opportunity of which I gladly and gratefully avail myself. Your kindness in inviting me to do so is doubly dear to me: it assures me of the interest you bear us in our proceedings, and if affords me an opportunity of stating to you what is meant by this our first French Acadian Convention. The only regret which I feel is that continuous speaking in the open air has so far exhausted me that it will be impossible to repeat to you in English all the noble sentiments expressed in French during the last two days. Oh! that I could but repeat them to you with the energy and enthusiasm which I have felt since yesterday, and which your grateful invitation brings back to me with renewed vigor! But, gentlemen, however much I may desire it, however strong may be the emotions I feel in attempting to give expression to the loyal and patriotic sentiments which have filled our hearts during our reunion, my voice, as you must perceive, is not equal to the task. A true interpretation of the enthusiasm which you have witnessed since yesterday and which has found vent in the numerous speeches you have heard, but perhaps not understood, would convince you, our fellow-citizens speaking the English language, that we have met for no disloyal purpose; that we have united with no disloyal intention, and that we have spoken with no spirit of exclusiveness. Nothing has been uttered or even thought that did not breathe a spirit of loyalty and of fellowship. True we have spoken in French, true we have called our reunion a French Acadian Convention; but equally true is it that our speeches like our actions have been for peace, harmony and mutual forbearance; equally true is it that we have but desired the general advancement of our people, that their prosperity may add to the general prosperity of our common country. We have met and we have labored with a sincere desire to promote the success of the French Acadian people, but not to detract from that of our neighbours; we have encouraged union of sentiment, union of action and mutual aid and assistance among ourselves, not to use such agencies in hostility to our neighbours of different origin but rather to enable us to work hand in hand with our same neighbours with better success and more credit to ourselves. We have pointed out that you, speaking the English language, had been more fortunate than we, in the past, in matters of education, wealth and influence, not to excite envy or prejudice, but as a means of stimulating our energies and of encouraging the legitimate use of all the advantages within our reach, knowing that what you have attained we can achieve in a country where all are equal before the constitution and the Sovereign. We have talked of past hardships and of the severe trials of our forefathers, not to recall unjust treatment and to sow the seed of hatred or dislike, but simply to refute the erroneous idea prevailing in some quarters that we are an inferior race. If we are the heirs of the sturdy qualities that sustained our ancestors in wars, in spoliation and in banishment, and the worthy descendants of that small but hardy race who suffered all these things for the sake of duty and of conscience without becoming extinct or even losing faith in a bright destiny, we do not think it evil to recall to our minds occasionally what it required of patience, toil, faith, hardship, perseverance and resignation during such severe trials as they underwent: we do not think it evil to be encouraged by the recital of the fact that the time of war of races and of nationalities has gone past in this country, and we can never be called upon to suffer and undergo the hardship of other days for the sake of existence. We have not hesitated in this our first convention to note that our unfortunate position as a people has kept us behind our neighbours in some respects, not to impress us with an idea of inferiority, but that we might unitedly the better study and appreciate the evils that have kept us back in order to work with renewed courage and in unison for the blotting out of such evils. We have asserted that in natural endowments, Providence has made us the equals of our neighbours, and we have noted with pride and pleasure that where the same opportunities have been afforded us we have taken our posts creditably. We have said that Divine Providence in its wisdom has made this Dominion of ours one composed of different nationalities and of different creeds, each one as it were forming a separate family and the whole united forming a nation called the Canadian nation. The French Acadians are one of these families, and the members of this family are widely scattered and disseminated. As a compound part of this young but growing and prosperous Canadian nation, our family of French Acadians are equal in the eyes of our Constitution to the families of other origins. And, gentlemen, as families constitute communities, and communities nations, the character and prosperity of the families will mark the character and prosperity of the nation to which they belong. Is it not praiseworthy then, as the character of the nation and its prosperity depend on the character and prosperity of its families, is it not patriotic, I say, for us, one of the families of this young nation, to call our children together occasionally in order to strengthen the ties that bind us; in order to take counsel of one another as to the best mode of advancing our domestic interest! A prosperous and happy community is nothing but a number of prosperous and happy families. Each one of these families owes public and important duties to the community, but each one also has ever more sacred and dearer duties to fulfill within the smaller, the domestic circle. The fulfillment of the domestic duties cannot mean hostility or ill will to the larger duties due the community. And so it is with our French Acadian family. The fulfillment of our duties to one another, the culture of family relations, the binding of family ties, the renewal of family affection, the mingling of family sorrows, and the participation of family glories and achievements such as we have endeavored to advance in this our first convention cannot mean a disregard of duty to our country and to our neighbours, much less a disloyal and unworthy demonstration. In the midst of our rejoicings, in the height of our enthusiasm, in the heat of our zeal for our progress and advancement, we have not forgotten that respect that is due to you our fellow-subjects, and the sweet necessity of cultivating friendship and confidence. We have counted on that liberality of spirit of which you have often given us proof to ask you not only to countenance and approve of our efforts to better our condition, but also to lend us a helping hand in that direction. You are the most numerous, you are the most wealthy and consequently possess many advantages which the force of circumstances denied to us. Help us then in our struggle to overtake you and work shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand in the race of life. What retards our progress retards by so much the general progress of our country, and the assistance you can give us to advance our interest is so much given in the patriotic direction of the general advancement of our Dominion. We have called this convention together expecting that good would result to us, and I am confident now that our expectations will not be frustrated. We will have more confidence in our resources, more courage in our undertakings resulting from a better knowledge of ourselves and from a more perfect reliance on mutual moral sympathies, and on active fraternal support. I will return home from this reunion a better man, and I believe that each one here present will do the same. Our ambition will be heightened, our aspirations will become loftier, and our exchange of greetings will inspire us with corresponding energy and perseverance in the pursuit of good. We will have learned to appreciate one another better, and we will have felt that the distance that separates us from our co-subjects of other nationalities in intellectual and material progress is not so great but we can overcome it. Their equals in intellect, in industry and in moral and physical courage, we can soon learn to make ourselves their equals in all that tends to national progress and prosperity. And we know that exertions that look to the achieving of such an end must be a cause of pleasure to you as it must be one of interest to us. I have talked, gentlemen, with pride of the good qualities of my fellow nationalists and I have grown enthusiastic over the recital of their merits; but have I done them more than justice? no appeal to the passions, no appeal to the prejudices has been resorted to convene so large a number of them here since yesterday and from such distant quarters. The simple knowledge that the convention was intended for their good touched the most sacred chord of the human heart, that of love and patriotism, and in response to that touch some five thousand have met together. And what have been the immediate fruits of such a meeting? Peace, harmony, good fellowship and fraternity! We have met as brothers, worked, rejoiced and feasted together as brothers, and we will separate with feelings of the closest fraternity. Each one of us is proud of the part taken by his neighbor in this our first demonstration. We are pleased that some of other nationalities have been so kind as to witness our proceedings. The success with which our undertaking has been crowned has elated us, and we point with pride to everything that has contributed to it. Our people have behaved in an exemplary manner. The novelty of such a step to us and the difficulties of organization must have occasioned many inconveniences, and yet there has been entire absence of complaint. I am glad to be able here publicly to pay a tribute to the good behaviour of our people during this grand festival. They have been, gentlemen, since yesterday morning four or five thousand in number; and not one angry word has been spoken, not a single intoxicated person has been seen, not the shadow of a disorder has been observed. Why! gentlemen, I do not hesitate to affirm that they have shown themselves the most well-behaved people in the Dominion of Canada. But, gentlemen, making boast of our merits, publicly acknowledging our shortcomings, proclaiming in the midst of festivity and joy our resolves to vigorously urge on the struggle for our advancement in the friendly battle of life, cannot and will not alone ensure our intellectual and material progress as a people. Patriotic sentiments, enthusiastic resolves, and the rhetorical theorizing will amount to little if not followed by practice, if not put into execution. We have a brighter future before us; but much depends upon our own exertions, on the energy and courage we will display. This convention will give us new courage, additional energy, greater faith in our future, more reliance on our ability, greater fidelity in our efforts, and increased confidence in the destiny of our common country. And be assured, gentlemen, it will not have diminished our loyalty to our Sovereign and to our Institutions, our attachment to our system of government, our respect for the laws of our country and our love and regard for you, our neighbors and brethren.