A Distinct Alien Race

The Untold Story of Franco-Americans, Industrialization, Immigration, Religious Strife


Pre-order now; pub date 15 Sept. 2018

“The French number more than a million in the United States….
They are kept a distinct alien race,
subject to the Pope in matters of religion and of politics.
Soon…they will govern you, Americans.”
— British-American Citizen
(Boston), 1889

Americans don’t think of Canada as a source of potential terrorists—speaking a foreign tongue, serving a foreign religion, and invading their country. But when a million French-Canadians crossed the border between 1840 and 1930, many seeking work in New England’s burgeoning textile industry, they were cast as foot soldiers in an alleged Roman Catholic plot.

A Distinct Alien Race places these Franco-Americans in the context of contemporary issues: the rise and fall of manufacturing in the U.S.; Nativism and the fear of the Other; emigration to the U.S. across land borders; and the construction of race. Vermette traces individuals and families, from the textile barons whose profits in the Caribbean and China trades financed a new industry, to the rural poor of Québec who crowded into fetid tenements after the Civil War. His social history exposes the anti-Franco-American agitation of Protestant clergy, the Ku Klux Klan, and the eugenics movement.

David Vermette is a researcher, writer, and speaker on the history and identity of the descendants of French North America. He was born and raised in Massachusetts.

Interview with David Vermette

“It’s really an unknown episode in U.S. immigration history,” says David Vermette “It’s significant now, because we think what’s happening on our southwestern border is unique and unprecedented, and it’s just not. On the northeastern border 120 years ago, there were issues of bilingualism, nativism, concerns that ‘they weren’t sending us their best people,’ worries about the political leanings of the immigrants, et cetera. We’ve been down this road before, but no one knows about it. I think that’s really the surprising thing.” Read more…


In writing A Distinct Alien Race, David Vermette consulted a vast number of sources. Please click below to view the bibliography.

A Distinct Alien Race – Works Cited


“Readers interested in Canadian and American immigration history will appreciate the depth of Vermette’s research and the fascinating story he tells.” Publishers Weekly, Read entire review.


NOTE: For a complementary book that deals with the cotton textile industry in Canada and emigration from Quebec, see Through the Mill, Girls and Women in Quebec’s Cotton Textile Industry, 1881-1951.

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