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1908
The Tercentenary of Quebec
by Adélard Turgeon (1863-1990)
given at the foot of the Champlain Monument
Dufferin Gate, July 29, 1908
in the presence of the Prince of Wales, the future George V

May it please Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen:

This monument, this rock, this grand river, this incomparable panorama of Beaupré, unfolding its succession of beautiful hill-sides, this island resting on the surface of the water like a basket of verdure, those heights of Lévis, whose very name rings like a clarion blast, these plains. these fields and moats - the scenes and witnesses of century-old struggles for the supremacy of a world - all this sublime landscape charm, appeals to our imagination to give it a soul and recalls a heroic age of noble dreams and valiant deeds.

What hour, what place, could be more solemn and more propitious for evoking the memory of him whom the voice of history and the gratitude of peoples have honored with the two-fold title of founder of Quebec and of the Canadian nation. And - as if the setting back of the hand of Time and majestic decorations were not sufficient for such an apotheosis through concerted kindness for which we are indebted to the generous initiative of our well-beloved Sovereign, the three countries that have in turn, and at times concurrently, mingled in our national life, bring him the tribute of their respect and admiration. The, spectacle of three nations assembled at the foot of this monument, animated with the same spirit of peace, of harmony and civilization, on the very soil where in days of old they strove to decide their destinies by the sword on blood-stained battlefields, is surely unique in the annals of the human race.

The presence of the Heir-Apparent to the Throne imparts a special significance to the participation of the metropolis which we cannot misinterpret. The high consideration enjoyed by our country, and the important place it occupies among the aggregation of peoples that make up the British Empire, could not have been better demonstrated. Your Royal Highness will permit me here, on behalf of Canada, to tender the respectful tribute of our devotedness and loyalty to the person of our Sovereign and to the institutions whereof he is the incarnation. And among all Canadians whose voices swell the concert of acclamations that welcomes you, none are more enthusiastic or more sincere than those of the descendants of the companions and fellow laborers of Samuel de Champlain.

Our thanks are also due to the great Republic, our neighbor, which shares in the glory of the founder of Quebec, since the field of his action extended beyond our frontiers, and since, with his immediate successors, he left on the North American continent, from East to West, from South to North, from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains, from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, an imprint that political revolutions have been powerless to efface. Thus, at the head of all the great lakes, at the bends of all the rivers, and at the strategic points of the valleys, one can see at once, by their French names, that our distinguished ancestors were once there.

As to France, she could not help being here. Without her this memorial celebration would have been somewhat incomplete. as when in family gatherings an empty chair tells of mourning for one who has gone away. It was right that she should once more bend over the cradle of the colony which for a century and a half lived its life as a scion of France, watered by the purest of her blood and wherein, despite political storms, her language. her traditions, her mode of thought, all the flowers of her national originality still flourish.

The glory of France lies in the fact that, through Cartier and Champlain, she stands at the head of those captains. discoverers and missionaries who - roaming under every latitude and penetrating into the remotest solitudes of the North and West, into the forests full of mystery and dread legends - were the pioneers of civilization and Christianity, and left on their surroundings everywhere the impression of the manners, customs, tastes and ideas of their native land. Under whatever ethnical name they reveal themselves, those brilliant flashes have not been lost to the Canadian nation, and the first rays of our history still warm and vivify our national body. Why then should we not love France, when the purest French blood flows in our veins? We love her ardently, disinterestedly, for no political "arrière- pensées" mingles with our love. We love her naturally and without effort because she was the cradle of our infancy, the land of our fathers, "imagines majorum," and because a whole world of memories, of traditions, of struggles. of glories and of mourning, links us to the past.

But, how can such affection be reconciled with our loyalty and profound attachment to the British Isles? Thanks be to God, the hour of tentative effort and experiment has passed and the problem has long since been solved. It has been solved by the sound political sense of our statesmen, by the broadmindedness of our English- speaking fellow countrymen, by the clearsightedness and liberality of the metropolis and its representatives. The fact has been realized that the preservation of the French element and language is not a source of danger, but a pledge of greatness, of progress. and also of security; that the Canadian Confederation is like the beehive whereof Marcus Aurelius said that what is good for the bee benefits the whole hive; that national dualism, according to Lord Dufferin's happy expression. is not an obstacle to the development of a young nation that has everything to gain from the preservation of the literary and social inheritance it has received from the two greatest peoples of Europe. Such a conception is a true one. for what is a nation? Does "nation" mean but one language? The modem nation is made up of divers elements. We have but to look at England, France, Switzerland and Belgium. Each of those countries has been a vast crucible wherein its constituent elements have become fused under the action of time and ambient influences. There is something above language, and that is: will, moral unity of mind, harmony of views, lion of the same ideal aspirations, devotedness to the same works of progress.

Each element, each ethnical group, can develop itself solely by developing its natural gifts and its own qualities. Seek not to separate it from its past, to give it another soul as it were, because then you will have naught but uprooted trees, according to a justly celebrated expression.

Animated with that spirit, Canada pursues her way towards the highest destinies. She has barely emerged from the mists of the unknown, and already the older civilization, like the Wise Men in days of yore, are asking who is that child born in the West, whose name fills the world? Westward the star of empire holds its way. The Mediterranean was long the centre of commercial and political activity; then the discoveries of the 15th and I 6th centuries gave the preponderance to the Atlantic In our time the greatest human currents are changing their course, and some day the Pacific Ocean will infallibly play the most important role in the general life of the human race. Cast an eye on the map and tell me if Canada does not occupy a privileged position? The dream of Champlain and of Jacques Cartier is realized. Midway, and by the shortest route between Europe and Asia, our country is the true "road to Cathay," the true road to China, which discoverers sought and which was their fixed idea by day, their dream at night.

O Canada! land of valor and of beauty, I would that my voice were as far- reaching as Roland's magic horn to carry the accents of my love and pride into the homes of all! Land that thrills with life, with its lakes and springs, its rivers fertilizing the plains or mirroring the trees of the great forests on their banks! Land rocked to sleep by the melody of torrents and the songs of streams, irridescent with the powdery spray of cascades, watered by the St. Lawrence, "of all famous rivers, the only one unchangeably pure" (Reclus). Land invigorated by our winters that breathe powerful energy and gaiety over fields bespangled with sparkling crystals, sheltered by splendid mountain tops, and rich in the glowing health of its plains! Land wherein memories sleep and hopes are at rest! Land redolent with the poetry of fields, stars and souls! While still in the bloom of thy virgin energies, well might thine immortal founder utter in admiration that exclamation never yet surpassed and that we repeat to-day: "It may be said that the country of New France is a new world, and not a kingdom, beautiful in every perfection." (Champlain.)

Of that land, we love not only its natural beauty, but also its moral features, the complexity of its soul, diversity of its races mingling their mutual virtues in a permanent entente-cordiale, love of civil and political liberty, force of tradition, poetry of effort, chivalrous generosity, thirst for justice and for the ideal. We love it, in a word, because it is our country, that so well expresses all the sweetness of one's fatherland.



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