Why Did French (Mostly) Disappear in Louisiana, But Not Quebec

Jun 2019
4
USA
#1
Louisiana and Quebec both started off as French colonies with a substantial number of French-speaking settlers. Both came under the rule of English-speaking powers (Quebec became British in 1763 and Louisiana became American in 1803). They both exist in a North American economy in which the incentives to speak English are overwhelming and obvious. But they followed very different paths: Quebec is still predominately French-speaking, while almost no one in Louisiana speaks French as their main language.

The easiest explanation is that Quebec never lost its French-speaking majority, while Louisiana had lost its by around 1850. In turn this explanation relies on (1) Quebec always having had more Francophones than Louisiana and (2) Louisiana being more attractive to Anglophone settlers than Quebec (particularly during the cotton boom of the mid-19th century). So it was more plausible for English-speakers to become a majority in Louisiana.

A third factor was the greater ability of Quebec Francophones to make demands on political authorities -- or at least have those authorities take their wishes into account. The Quebec Act of 1774 protected the Roman Catholic Church, the French language, and French civil law. After the Revolution, the British steered Loyalist refugees away from Quebec and towards new settlements in what would become Ontario -- which was soon made a separate colony. By contrast, Presidents Jefferson and Madison drew capacious boundaries for Louisiana, which they hoped would ensure that it eventually became Anglophone-majority as new settlers arrived from the United States. The one serious attempt to encourage Quebec Francophones to assimilate -- the creation of "United Canada" in 1840 -- proved wildly unpopular and was abandoned as part of Confederation in 1867. Time and again, Quebec Francophones made it clear that preservation of their language and culture was a priority. And they had the political clout to make that preference stick -- so Quebec has remained French-speaking and Canada has remained bilingual. By contrast, Louisiana entered an already-existing nation where few cared about the status of the French language. Louisiana did have bilingual institutions at the time of statehood in 1812, but those dissipated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The question I have is, "why did Louisiana Francophones not struggle more to maintain the status of the French language?" Losing their linguistic majority explains some of the difference, but not all. New Brunswick has always had an Anglophone majority, but it has a long-standing Francophone minority that shows no signs of disappearing. Conflicts over language are not as central to politics in New Brunswick as they are in Quebec -- but they are important in a way that they are not in Louisiana. Quebec Francophones may have differed in their degree of allegiance to Canada, but they have been united in seeing their distinct identity as something to be preserved, almost at any cost. his struggle has often been the central issue in Quebec politics. By contrast, Louisiana Francophones mostly engaged in "cultural" nationalism without much of a political component. And by the 1920s, the French language had mostly faded from everyday life, outside the most remote corners of Acadiana. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was the "Cajun revival" and the creation of CODOFIL (an organization aimed at reviving French in Louisiana). But by then, the broader battle for French was over. As far as I know, no one ever proposed that Louisiana secede from the union in order to preserve its "distinct society." (White Louisianans were willing to secede to protect slavery, though).

So why were Louisiana Francophones relatively accepting of the decline of the French language in a way that Quebec Francophones absolutely were not? Why wasn't there a political party or movement based on the defense of Francophone Louisiana?
 
Mar 2016
1,116
Australia
#2
What are the figures for their respective populations, though? Because I'm almost certain that the region in and around Quebec had a significantly larger population than most of the Louisiana region, which had large stretches of uninhabited (by the French) land by the time it was sold in 1803. They mostly just claimed all that land in the expectation of more heavy settlement at some later point.
 
Jun 2019
4
USA
#3
What are the figures for their respective populations, though? Because I'm almost certain that the region in and around Quebec had a significantly larger population than most of the Louisiana region, which had large stretches of uninhabited (by the French) land by the time it was sold in 1803. They mostly just claimed all that land in the expectation of more heavy settlement at some later point.
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the population of the current state of Louisiana was about 50,000. At the time of the British conquest in 1759, Quebec had about 60,000 people. By the time of the Louisiana Purchase, Quebec had about 250,000. So, yes, Quebec always had a larger population than did Louisiana, as I stated in my original post. So Louisiana's Francophone population was more easily minorated.

Apparently, Jefferson fixed the northern border of the Territory of Orleans (soon to become the state of Louisiana) at the 33rd parallel with an eye to English-speaking settlers eventually filling up northern Louisiana. A more southerly northern border might have kept the state majority-Francophone for a longer time, although that would have created an unusually small state. In 1812, Madison strongly encouraged the new state to accept the Florida Parishes (previously part of Spanish West Florida, but already settled by Anglo-Americans), despite the misgivings of French-speaking Louisianans.
 
Jun 2019
4
USA
#5
Apparently, the Spanish occupation did little to undermine Louisiana's French identity. Few Spanish settlers arrived, but many Francophones did: Acadians, refugees from the Haitian and French Revolutions. French remained the official language.
 
Sep 2012
1,022
Tarkington, Texas
#6
There was a shortage of Free, White, French speaking women since the time the French owned it. Jean Lafitte's Brother married a Free Black woman not long after he arrived from Hispaniola. Many Spanish people came in to Louisiana and married into French speaking families. Lots of Spanish last names have been marrying into French Families ever since. I married a Cajun woman and had our daughter DNA searched. I was expecting French, German and maybe Native American gene markers to show up, but the test revealed, French, Spanish, Islenos. Sephardic and Ashkenazi gene markers. My Mother in Law was a Marcantel and that is a German family name!

You have to keep a sense of humor when you check into family trees..

Pruitt
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,344
Spain
#7
Apparently, the Spanish occupation did little to undermine Louisiana's French identity. Few Spanish settlers arrived, but many Francophones did: Acadians, refugees from the Haitian and French Revolutions. French remained the official language.
Yes, Spanish dominion (was not an occupation as I can´t see it is a USA ocuppation today) in Louisiana not undermine "French" identity... but not so few Spanish settlers...although more French of course... Acadians were brought to Louisiana by King of Spain´s orders....
By other side.. French was not "official language" because the Crown never had an official language... French was used in official report as Spanish, Napolitan, Dutch, German, English, Italian, Portuguese, native languages etc etc

French and Spanish were lost in Lousiana and not in Quebec for the different politics that Great Britain made in Canada and USA (after 1865) in Louissiana.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,934
Dispargum
#8
French and Spanish were lost in Lousiana and not in Quebec for the different politics that Great Britain made in Canada and USA (after 1865) in Louissiana.
What are these different policies after 1865? Would you consider the Quebec Act of the 1760s an earlier version of these Francophone-friendly policies?
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,344
Spain
#9
What are these different policies after 1865? Would you consider the Quebec Act of the 1760s an earlier version of these Francophone-friendly policies?
Well, I was thinking in Act of 1774 in Canada. About USA.. I think after 1865, they wanted a a country culturally unified and they just did it through teaching in school.

I'm not saying it was good or bad, I'm not judging, but I think the system worked ... By imposing English, most North Americans (who did not come from English-speaking countries) ended up feeling part of a new community.
 
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