Whelp, my draft is away. Free as I am right now of any feedback or criticism, I feel confident claiming unequivocal success. The process of writing the draft alternated between periods of high-stress and moments of clarity. I began writing over spring break, and finished my first draft by the middle of the week. That draft was horrendous constructive, and I carried a good deal of it over into my second draft, which I finished a few days later. That draft is still fundamentally the same one I am working with, although I have edited it further and added proper citation. After months of abstract planning, it’s really refreshing to have my paper take physical form. All in all, I am quite happy with the progress I have made.
Nonetheless, I would be lying if I said that there were no problems. I tried following my outline exactly, which led to issues – I was forced to adapt my outline significantly from its original form. I also found myself disappointed by how few sources I utilized relative to the sources I had available. Between years of Le Courrier Franco-Americain, numerous devotional practice books, and a variety of other historical works, I had to leave out much of what I wanted to bring in. Several interesting figures, places, and stories never made it into my draft, and elements that I still feel can strengthen my argument have been left out.
More exact immigration and community numbers could (maybe) be found. I probably could do a much better job of addressing the historiography, and that’s on top of the pile of books I still haven’t gone through in any serious way. I know I’m limited by space (despite exceeding thirty pages), but I would still like to bring more guns to bear. Additionally, I ran into issues with citation. The footnotes and bibliography were formatted to the best of my ability, and as such, need attention. I also could never escape a nagging feeling that much of what I was arguing was based on source availability more than anything else. For example, in regard to priests, several New England French-Canadian communities had a preference for Quebecois priests over clergy who simply spoke French. In Chicago, my view is that the community was never large enough to demand national priests over francophone priests, and that the community’s history shows it was lucky to have a French-speaking priest. Nonetheless, I do not know for certain if there was a marked desire one way or the other. Many priests in Chicago were from Quebec, but I cannot say if this was due to any Chicago preference. My records show a struggle to maintain distinctly French parishes, and to suggest that the community would have the power to demand specifically national priests is inconsistent with this view. However, I could be wrong.
Above and away, however, the most frustrating issue I faced was with terminology. “French-Canadian”, “Canadiens”, “French”, “French national”, “Quebecois”, “French-American”, “Franco-American”: all of these terms can more or less be used to describe Chicago’s francophone community in 1900. My argument is that the French-Canadians and French nationals largely form one solid Franco-American community by the beginning of the twentieth century, combing elements of both nations into a singular society. Still, I struggled when referring to a specific practice as “French” but not related to the Republic of France, and so forth.
Overall, the draft turned out much better than I had expected. I feel like I’ve crafted a convincing argument coupled with a history of a forgotten community. That being said, there is much more work to be done. I have a sneaking suspicion that my work may not be viewed as the unrivaled masterpiece that I believe it to be. In all honesty though, I genuinely look forward to receiving constructive feedback on my work. I’m well aware that there are issues to be addressed, and I am excited to begin solving them. Having another set of eyes review my work is always a rewarding experience, and usually leads to immense improvement. With some editing and revisions, I’m fully confident that this paper will be something to be proud of.