Since the 1660s, the Seminary of Montreal -- a French, male religious community -- had been an integral part of the merchant, seigneurial, and clerical elite that dominated Montreal. Its significance in pre-industrial society was strengthened by its role as seigneur of Montreal Island and titular parish priest. The Seminary survived the British conquest, but came under increasing attack in the early nineteenth century from industrial producers and large capitalists landlords who resented the Seminary's seigneurial expropriations. By the 1830s, anticlerical elements in the peasantry and other popular classes had joined in the attack.
The end of the Lower Canada rebellions of 1837-8 assured the survival of the Seminary. Assuming a reinforced social and ideological role in industrializing Montreal, the Seminary benefited from new corporate powers, rights of recruitment, and income, while its expanding social role ensured its protection by an appreciate bourgeoisie.
Emphasizing economic rather than religious history, Brian Young's study compares the Seminary's pre-industrial forms of income to its new capitalist revenues from land sales, subdivision developments, bonds, and rentier income from office, warehousing, and urban-housing properties. Its changing income required new forms of management and the priest-manager was eventually assisted by an accountant, architect, surveyor, clerk, and several notaries and lawyers.
The Seminary played a central role in the development of popular schools in Montreal, and in financing and directing social institutions such as hospitals, newspapers, libraries, and national societies, the Seminary of Montreal legitimized the changing class structure of industrializing Montreal.