Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Alternate History Department: If Thomas D'Arcy McGee Had Had His Way Canada Would Be English and French ...and Quite Different

Right now I'm in the midst of reading about time in its various configurations. The book in hand is Clark Blaise's excellent contemplative biography of Sir Sanford Fleming, the founder of our system of 24 world-encompassing time zones. Called Time Lord: The Remarkable Canadian Who Missed His Train and Changed the World, it is a model of what an intelligent study for the general reader should be.

The book is leading me to many reflections, and I'll have more about them later. For the moment, note the section about Fleming's involvement in Canadian confederation. Apparently, his close friend Thomas D'Arcy McGee--martyr and Father of Confederation--wanted the unification of the various colonies of British North America under a prince of the English royal house, and daughter of the royal family of France. Of the former there was no dearth: Alfred, Victoria's second son was not yet married to his Russian granduchess, while Arthur and Leopold were teenagers. The latter might have presented some problems, however: Napoléon III, the monarch of the day, had one legitimate child, a son. Whether the daughters of various pretenders might have been considered is an interesting question.

Fleming, Blaise quotes a friend, believed that such a union would "have the happiest influence upon the destinies of the North American Provinces. It would be received by the French portion of the people as a hig compliment to themselves. It would bury, by amalgamation with their present feeling of allegiance to Englang, any still lingering memories of the land from which they have sprung...At least it would appeal in a powerful manner to those sentiments which are so accessible to the French temperament and would increase immensely that feeling of common interest and commmon country which is so desirable to foster and develop."

Hmm. Hardly likely, if you ask me. But the idea invites speculation. Would there have been an official residence here, and what would the language spoken within its walls now, more than 135 years later? Like chez nous, where conversation may start in one official language, and then veer off into the other?

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