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LANDRY, VALENTIN (he also signed Valentin-A. and, more rarely, Valentin Augustus), teacher, school inspector, and journalist; b. 14 Feb. 1844 in Pokemouche, N.B., son of Joseph-Auguste Landry, a merchant, and Olive Robichaud; m. first 31 Oct. 1870 Mary Lavinia Beckwith (d. 1910) in Cornwallis, N.S.; m. secondly 13 March 1913 Mary U. Beckwith, the niece of his first wife, in Shediac, N.B.; there were no children of either marriage; d. 17 May 1919 in Moncton, N.B.
Valentin Landry’s great-great-grandfather Alexis Landry*, a native of Grand Pré, N.S., escaped deportation in 1755 and helped found Caraquet, N.B. Valentin attended the school in Pokemouche, and then the one in Shediac, after his parents moved there in 1856. He subsequently went to Westmorland Grammar School. Having received his diploma in commercial studies in 1861, at the age of 17, he left to teach for a year in Belliveaus Cove, N.S. He travelled for a few years after that, but in 1865 he enrolled at the College of Saint Joseph in Memramcook, N.B. In 1866 he returned to Nova Scotia to teach at an English-language school in Weymouth, and in 1867 he moved to Saulnierville. He entered the Normal School at Truro in 1868 and obtained his first-class teacher’s certificate a year later. While at this establishment he met Lavinia Beckwith, a young Protestant. After their marriage, they both taught in Beaver River, Weymouth, and Plympton.
In the provincial election of 1878 Landry ran in Digby County as a Liberal, but he withdrew before polling day to accept a position in the preparatory division of the Normal School at Fredericton. This division had been created that year at the suggestion of the superintendent of education for New Brunswick, Theodore Harding Rand* (who was related to Landry’s wife). Landry’s work consisted of preparing French-speaking students for the regular program, which was taught entirely in English. Like his successor Alphée Belliveau*, Landry found himself at the very centre of all the problems engendered by a school system designed to anglicize Acadian teachers. His appointment as a school inspector in 1879 gave him the opportunity to observe at first hand the shortcomings of this system with regard to both teacher training and textbooks. The first Acadian in New Brunswick to hold such a post, Landry worked in Gloucester and Kent counties, and part of Westmorland County. His annual reports and handwritten notebooks provide valuable information about the attitudes of teachers and pupils and about the whole question of the language used for instruction in Acadian schools. In 1886 Landry gave up his job. The reasons for his forced resignation are not clear, but it appears that the new superintendent, William Crocket, did not approve of his inspector’s political stance and extracurricular activities.
The prestigious position of school inspector had unquestionably propelled Landry into the vanguard of the Acadian nationalist movement in the 1880s and 1890s. His name appears on the list of Acadian delegates to the great congress organized by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste at Quebec in June 1880; he also served on the education commission at the time of the first Convention Nationale des Acadiens, held at Memramcook in 1881 [see François-Xavier Cormier*].
In 1885, with Peter John Veniot* and others, Landry founded the Courrier des provinces Maritimes in Bathurst, and he remained on its board of directors until August 1887. After he lost his job as inspector, he sold his shares in the paper and moved to Digby, N.S. There, with the financial assistance of his wife, he bought a printing-press and launched L’Évangéline, a weekly which first appeared on 23 Nov. 1887. Two years later he moved his operation to Weymouth, where he was better known and closer to his Acadian readers on St Marys Bay. That year he and Lavinia started the Free Press, an English-language newspaper which would last until 1904.
Speaking at the third Convention Nationale des Acadiens, which took place at Church Point in August 1890, Landry with customary eloquence explained why he had chosen the name of Longfellow’s heroine for his newspaper. “There had to be a messenger who could pay frequent visits to the Acadian families of Nova Scotia, to speak to them in our forefathers’ idiom, and I thought no one would be more welcome than the poetic and historic Evangéline.” He also dealt with topics dear to him: education, hygiene, agriculture, language, religion, and the press. These subjects would dominate the columns of his paper, fitting in perfectly with the nationalist rhetoric and ideology of the time. Given the political allegiance of its founder, L’Évangéline would openly support the Liberal party.
Never one to be intimidated by authority, Landry soon established a reputation as a “pugnacious,” “impertinent,” and “sarcastic” journalist. As early as 1890 he had alerted his readers that “the mission of L’Évangéline [is] to castigate error wherever it be found.” That year Father Pierre-Marie Dagnaud threatened to sue him unless he retracted his remarks about the Collège Sainte-Anne in Church Point, but Landry did not recant. As his voluminous correspondence shows, his caustic pen aroused the anger of many public figures. His editorials sometimes advanced the Acadian cause, but not always. After publishing a few letters from Émilie Leblanc*, known as Marichette, Landry announced in an editorial on 18 April 1895 that he had decided to “clip the wings” of the women who were demanding the right to express their views in his paper. “We are against women’s suffrage,” he declared, “[and] this must suffice to explain our attitude.” However, he did not impose his view upon his wife, who was a regular contributor to the English-language press, and he went on publishing Marichette’s letters until 1898.
In 1905 Landry decided to transfer L’Évangéline to New Brunswick, where some 3,000 subscribers – two-thirds of its readership – lived, and he and his wife moved to Moncton. He did not abandon his Nova Scotian compatriots, however. It was partly due to pressure he brought to bear, for instance, that Nova Scotia’s first Acadian senator, Ambroise-Hilaire Comeau, was appointed in 1907.
Landry participated vigorously in debates about Irish domination within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and about the appointment of an Acadian bishop. By 1909 his virulent attacks on the Irish clergy and the religious authorities had drawn severe reprimands from the apostolic delegate, Monsignor Donato Sbarretti y Tazza. The following year Sbarretti wrote to the members of the Société l’Assomption [see Rémi BenoÎt] in the Moncton region, asking them to give “neither encouragement nor aid to L’Evangéline, for that paper is not motivated by a true Catholic spirit.” To ensure the survival of his newspaper, Landry was forced to give in, perhaps for the first time in his life. In June 1910 he transferred the ownership of L’Évangéline to a company under the presidency of Dr F.-A. Richard, and J.-O. Gallant became editor. Landry was not silenced, however. Long associated with the Société Nationale de l’Assomption, he continued to play an active role in it. He also gave the report of the commission on the press at the sixth Convention Nationale des Acadiens, held in Tignish, P.E.I., in August 1913.
Valentin Landry died at the age of 75, but L’Évangéline, the newspaper he had created, would last until 1982. Working at a time when journalists were not muzzled by libel laws and when patriotism evoked impassioned hyperbole, Landry was both the echo and the critic of his compatriots. His public pronouncements sometimes contradicted the realities of his personal life, but his astonishing frankness shatters the myth that the Acadians of the period did not dare stand up to the authorities.
Centre d’Études Acadiennes, Univ. de Moncton, N.-B., Fonds Valentin Landry. L’Évangéline (Digby, N.-É.; Weymouth Bridge, N.-É.; Moncton, N.-B.), 1887–1910 (a microfiche index for the period 1887–1955 is available at the Centre d’Études Acadiennes); 14 nov. 1974 (special sect. commemorating its 25th anniversary as a daily). Le Moniteur acadien, 10 avril 1913. Gérard Beaulieu, “Les médias en Acadie,” L’Acadie des Maritimes: études thématiques des débuts à nos jours, sous la direction de Jean Daigle (Moncton, 1993), 505–42. Laurentine Chiasson, “Valentin Landry (1844–1919), patriote de la renaissance acadienne” (mémoire de ma, univ. de Moncton, 1974). Conventions Nationales des Acadiens, Recueil des travaux et délibérations des six premières conventions, F.-J. Robidoux, compil. (Shédiac, N.-B., 1907). Éloi DeGrâce, “L’Evangéline à ses débuts – étude de contenu,” Soc. Hist. Nicolas-Denys, La Rev. d’hist. (Caraquet, N.-B.), 1 (1971–72): 94–106. J.-A. Deveau, Clare, ou la ville française (3v., [Yarmouth, N.-É., 1983]–88), vol.3 (Les personnes éminentes). Pierre Gérin et P.-M. Gérin, Marichette: lettres acadiennes, 1895–1898 (Sherbrooke, Qué., 1982). Léon Thériault, “L’Acadie de 1763 à 1900, synthèse historique,” L’Acadie des Maritimes, 45–91.