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MICHIGAN CHAPTER 15

The Old French Habitants and their Ways

These latter were of the educated noblesse. Some were doubtless worthless and dissolute scions of noble houses who sought in the new world to retrieve their fallen fortunes or to start amid more favorable surroundings a new course of life. Some were of refined tastes and aristocratic manners. They brought with them the French language which they spoke in all its purity. This purity was preserved in the face of adverse circumstances until in our own day it has been said that the French one hears in Quebec is more Parisian than that heard in Paris itself. The settlers upon the St. Lawrence were well up in the social scale. The old feudal scheme of society was perpetuated in a small way. The lord of the manor established his castle in the midst of his estate and his retainers grouped their houses thereabout under his patronage. Cadillac came to Detroit with some such notions, but they did not survive his departure. With few exceptions, the settlers at Detroit were peasants. They came mainly from Normandy and Picardy. They were uneducated. Some of them could write their own names, in a way, as we have evidence in existing documents, but beyond that they attempted nothing with the pen. They were devoted to the services of the church. Their moral characters were above reproach. They married early and reared numerous children. There were no opportunities for instruction, except such as the priests afforded. Later regular schools were established which were under the care of philanthropic ladies, but the instruction was naturally of a quite primary character. Even this was not practicable in the early period. The residents found their time, fully occupied in protecting their lives in the presence of the savages and in raising food for their own sustenance. Besides, there did not appear to be much necessity for education. They had nothing to read and as for writing, it was a luxury they could not afford.

MICHIGAN


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