Roosevelt’s 1942 letter to Mackenzie King: A plan for the assimilation of French-Canadians

This letter was sent by President Roosevelt to Prime Minister of Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie King on May 18th 1942. Roosevelt is then presenting Mackenzie King with a plan to favor the assimilation of French-Canadians, similar to what Roosevelt was apparently trying himself to do with Franco-Americans, Italians of New York and Jews. This letter was published on a website on May 12th 1998, but unfortunately, it is no longer online today. Normand Lester reproduced it in his book The Black Book of English Canada (pages 279-280 for the French-language edition). Anyway, you have it here. It is the proof that there is a very old agenda in this country to assimilate my people, from the days of Lord Durham to Pierre-Elliott Trudeau and probably to this very day. I don’t know if you realize it in English-Canada, but it stinks. You should change your behavior and your attitudes. This has got to stop.

Roosevelt’s May 18th 1942 letter to Mackenzie King – EXERPT

When I was a boy in the « nineties » I used to see a good many French Canadians who had rather recently come into the News Bedford area near the old Delano place at Fair haven. They seemed very much out of place in what was still an old New England community. They segregated themselves in the mill towns and had little to do with their neighbors. I can still remember that the old generation shook their heads and used to say, « this is a new element which will never be assimilated. We are assimilating the Irish but these Quebec people won’t even speak English. Their bodies are here but their hearts and minds are in Quebec. »

Today, forty of fifty years later, the French Canadian elements in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are at last becoming a part of the American melting pot. They no longer vote as their chuches and their societies tell them to. They are inter-marrying with the original Anglo Saxon stock; they are good, peaceful citizens and most of them are speaking English in their homes.

All of this leads me to wonder whether by some sort of planning Canada and the United States, working toward the same end, cannot do some planning — perhaps unwritten planning which need not even be a public policy — by which we can hasten the objective of assimilating the New England French Canadians and Canada’s French Canadians into the whole of our respective bodies politic. There are, of course, many methods of doing this which depend on local circumstances. Wider opportunities can perhaps be given to them in other parts of Canada and the U.S.; and at the same time, certain opportunities can probably be given to non-French Canadian stock to mingle more greatly with them in their own centers.

In other words, after nearly two hundred years with you and after seventy-five years with us, there would seem to be no good reason for great differentials between the French population elements and the rest of the racial stocks.

It is on the same basis that I am trying to work out post-war plans for the encouragement of the distribution of certain other nationalities in our large congested centers. There ought not to be such a concentration of Italians and of Jews, and even of Germans as we have today in New York City. I have started my National Resources Planning Commission to work on a survey of this kind.

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