Montreal long and deliberately resisted joining the United States. It is only 40 miles from the Vermont border and would have been an attractive addition, for it had been the commercial metropolis of New France virtually since 1611 when Champlain established a trading post on the island site. American colonists were first repulsed trying to take the French city in 1691 during King William's War, and again in 1709 during Queen Anne's War. Montreal finally capitulated to the British forces of General Jeffrey Amherst in 1760, a year after the fate of all of New France was settled downriver on the Plains of Abraham.
The colonists to the south soon came to look to Montreal and Quebec as potential allies, particularly after Britain's repressive Quebec Act of 1774. A colonial force under General Richard Montgomery occupied Montreal on Nov. 13, 1775, but he and General Benedict Arnold (still playing it straight) were defeated a few weeks later at Quebec City, and our colonies then gave up military persuasion. They were not through, though. Benjamin Franklin, whose successes with the French are well documented on several levels of diplomacy and charm, and Charles Carroll of Maryland, the most prominent Catholic layman in the U.S., were dispatched to Montreal to try to talk the city into joining the rebels. They failed, too, but still the colonies did not give up. The Articles of Confederation, published in 1777, unconditionally welcomed Canada into the new union, while any other territory required nine votes for acceptance. Canada said thanks, but no.
Thus, while the Americans hung together to fight England, the Canadians were content to fuss with the devils within, French and English. It was not until 1837 that Montreal's Sons of Liberty were formed to protest quixotic British rule, and Montreal must surely be the first Olympic host to have an Olympic tradition older than its nation.
The Dominion was established in 1867, whereas in August 1844 something called the Montreal Olympic Games had been held. These activities featured about a dozen events, including jumping, running, shooting, throwing a cricket ball, wheelbarrow racing and climbing a pole. The games, by contemporary accounts, would hardly have pleased Avery Brundage. The one-mile walking race was "not decided on account of alleged irregularity on the part of the two foremost competitors," and, heaven forbid, there was also a display of abject professionalism. In the game of lacrosse, "a purse of $10 was made up for the winners among the spectators, who appeared highly gratified by the agility displayed." Whether Mayor Drapeau has disclosed this intemperance to the Baron is not known. These games were also fairly private. An Indian "glorifying in the mellifluous name of Oposateka" did get a second in the 400-yard run, but there is no evidence that any Americans or other foreigners competed.
By this time the U.S. had stopped attacking Montreal, and the border was not to be regularly violated again until Prohibition, when the city became an informal U.S. port of entry for booze. Repeal did not help the Montreal economy, but the city continued to thrive as a spa of sorts. It became known for licentiousness and was so wide open that much of the city, the largest in the land, was off limits to the Canadian army in World War II.
Drapeau, an unknown Montreal lawyer, came to prominence as a vice buster, and this carried him into the mayor's office in 1954 at the age of 38. He was defeated for re-election in '57 but returned to win again in '60, at which point he prompted the election of a dour haberdasher named Lucien Saulnier to the chair of the city's executive committee. Saulnier has been at his right ever since, and, in fact, the city government is most commonly referred to as the Drapeau-Saulnier Administration.
Usually portrayed by cartoonists as an undertaker, Saulnier is a fine sort of fellow for any mayor to have around. He handles all the daily drudgery and reports all the bad news, including his plan to retire from the city government this fall. How much Drapeau will miss his other half in preparing for the Olympics becomes a substantial question, for the two men had an excellent working relationship. "The mayor conceives with brilliance," says Robert Shaw, vice-president of McGill University, "but Saulnier executes with an equal amount of brilliance. All things considered, I would say that Saulnier is the best businessman I ever saw." The two men have come to anticipate, support, respect and quite like each other, even though both retain a certain private air. In 10 years of close contact, each continues to refer to the other as Mr. Mayor and Mr. Chairman. Saulnier's existence and his special lightning-rod function have provided Drapeau with leverage that no U.S. mayors have. He can pursue the spectacular without concern that his whole city will collapse in his absence.
Drapeau is also aided by the fact that, in Canada, municipal governments are not affiliated with national parties. Nobody even knows whether Drapeau votes Liberal or Conservative, and both parties have asked him to consider higher offices. The best guess is that he is probably a Conservative. Certainly, he tends toward a conservative view; he might best be described as a traditionalist. He is a firm believer in public morality and private rights. He is suspicious of public welfare, feeling it erodes individual dignity. His personal honesty has never been questioned, "but," adds a friend, "he is unscrupulous on behalf of the city."
In sum, Drapeau is a man whose opinions are supplementary to his drive and vision. "Mayors are elected to do things, not to form committees that report back in compromise after two or three years," he says. "Look at this piece of paper. [It is white.] If a committee was assembled to report on it, and all sorts of viewpoints were included to prove that there was no bias, the committee would examine all the opinions and then compromise and report that the paper was gray. I don't need a committee to spend three years and tell me this paper is gray. I can decide that for myself. I don't need anyone to help me go wrong. I am quite capable of going wrong by myself, without all that cost and compromising."
Despite the mayor's accomplishments, there is a growing body of thought that he is blinded by glamour projects and is neglecting the city's more pressing, if mundane, needs. "He has been an asset to the city," says David Molsen, president of the Canadiens, "but he is becoming carried away by the grandeur, by his dream of putting Montreal on the map. There is a question in my mind as to whether these things are truly important today."