Debate on the Conquest of New France

10 11 2009

Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum will be hosting a debate tomorrow, 11 November, on the consequences of Battle on the Plains of Abraham. In an earlier post, I proposed inviting the descendants of Wolfe and Montcalm to this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa. The federal government, alas, did not act on my blog post, and invited Prince Charles instead! But I am glad that at least some people in Canada will be thinking and talking about the Plains of Abraham on Remembrace Day 2009, the 250th anniversary of the battle.

I have posted the ROM’s press release below.

“Bernard Landry versus Jack Granatstein

The impact of one of Canada’s most significant battles will be debated at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) as part of its Director’s Signature Series. The debate, between Bernard Landry and Jack Granatstein, examines whether Britain’s victory over France on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 was ultimately good for New France, its inhabitants and their descendants. The two-hour debate, moderated by ROM Director and CEO William Thorsell, will be held in the Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery on level 1 of the Museum’s Historic Wing on Wednesday November 11, 2009 beginning at 6:30 pm.


Benjamin West's Death of General Wolfe

“The topic of this debate is inspired by the ROM’s painting The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. It seems fitting to discuss the impact of these events, not only on the nation’s history, but also on current relations between French and English-Canada. It promises to be a lively debate,” says Thorsell.

In addition to the debate, General James Wolfe’s copy of Thomas Gray’s poem An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard will be on display in the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court on level 1 of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. On loan from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, this copy of Gray’s famous poem traveled with Wolfe on his voyage from England to Canada. Wolfe is said to have referenced the poem frequently while preparing for the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. For many, Gray’s Elegy represents a direct link with a critical point in Canada’s history.

The Director’s Signature Series features renowned thinkers and intellectuals discussing topics of historical and cultural importance. In June, the series featured three provocative presentations analyzing the Ten Commandments and offering suggestions for new commandments. In this edition of the series, visitors are invited to witness what is sure to be a lively discussion about the significance of the Battle on the Plains of Abraham on French and English Canada. Desmond Morton will introduce the evening and give a historical overview and context of the battle. Admission for the debate is $22 for the general public, $20 for ROM members and $10 for students.


Bernard Landry

Bernard Landry is a Quebec lawyer, teacher and politician. He served as Premier of Quebec (2001-2003), leader of the Opposition (2003-2005) and leader of the Parti Québécois (2001-2005). In 2008 he was appointed Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, the highest civilian honor in Quebec.


J.L. Granatstein

Jack Granatstein is a Canadian historian who specializes in political and military history. He is the Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University and the author of more than 60 books. In 1992 the Royal Society of Canada awarded him the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal and in 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Desmond Morton is a historian who specializes in Canadian military history. Morton is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and in 1996 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is also the Hiram Mills professor of History at McGill University.” He published an article on the Plains of Abraham in the National Post on 10 November 2009.