The good Canadians

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VIII (7) start of chapter

The greater portion of the orphans of the Grosse Isle tragedy were adopted by the French Canadians, who were appealed to by their curés at the earnest request of Father Cazeau, then Secretary to the Archbishop, and now one of the Vicars General of the Archdiocese of Quebec. M. Cazeau is one of the ablest of the ecclesiastics of the Canadian Church, and is no less remarkable for worth and ability than for the generous interest he has ever exhibited for the Irish people. Father Cazeau had employed his powerful influence with the country clergy to provide for the greater number of the children; but some 200 still remained in a building specially set apart for them, and this is how these 200 Irish orphans were likewise provided for:

Monsignor Baillargeon, Bishop of Quebec, was then curé of the city. He had received three or four of the orphans into his own house, and among them a beautiful boy of two years, or perhaps somewhat younger. The others had been taken from him and adopted by the kindly habitans, and become part of their families; but the little fellow, who was the curé's special pet, remained with him for nearly two years. From creeping up and down stairs, and toddling about in every direction, he soon began to grow strong, and bold, and noisy, as a fine healthy child would be; but though his fond protector rejoiced in the health and beauty of the boy, he found him rather unsuited to the quiet gravity of a priest's house, and a decided obstacle to study and meditation. In the midst of his perplexity, of which the child was the unconscious cause to the Curé of Quebec, a clergyman from the country arrived in town. This priest visited M. Baillargeon, who told him that he had 200 poor orphan children—the children of 'the faithful Catholic Irish'—still unprovided with a home, and he was most anxious that his visitor should call on his parishioners to take them. 'Come,' said he, 'I will show you a sample of them, and you can tell your people what they are like.' Saying this, M. Baillargeon led his visitor upstairs, and into the room where, in a little cot, the orphan child was lying in rosy sleep. As the light fell upon the features of the beautiful boy, who was reposing in all the unrivalled grace of infancy, the country cure was greatly touched: he had never, he said, seen a 'lovelier little angel' in his life. 'Well,' said M. Baillargeon, 'I have 200 more as handsome. Take him with you, show him to your people, and tell them to come for the others.' That very night the boat in which he was to reach his parish was to start; and the cure wrapped the infant carefully in the blanket in which he lay, and, without disturbing his slumber, bore him off to the boat, a valued prize.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America