All these novels possess an element of the fantastic for which Verne was so well known. Yet his remaining Canadian novel, Family Without a Name, is devoid of this. Instead, it is a fairly straightforward historical drama about the 1837 political uprising in Quebec against the British government. This no doubt contributes to its obscure status; it was by sheer dumb luck that I happened across Edward Baxter's 1982 English translation, and according to the fine print, even this translation was supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council.
The lack of fantastic aspects of Scientific Romance does not mean that Family Without a Name lacks for echoes from Verne's oeuvre. The hero of this story is a young patriote, an enigmatic rebel leader going by the alias of "Jean Sans Nom". Literally "Jean No-Name"... Nemo, another of Verne's mysterious Romantic outcasts. The reason for Jean's anonymity is a secret shame borne by him, his priestly brother and their mother, and tied inexorably with the fate of the French nation in Lower Canada, as the province of Quebec was then called.
One of the foundational tensions of Canadian society has been the relationship between English Canada and French Canada. Originally competitors for land and beaver fur, Quebec was ceded to the British Empire after the Seven Year's War, with ebbs and flows of patriotic sentiment ever since. Inspired by the American Revolution of 1776 and provoked by heavy-handed domineering by the corrupt local authorities, would-be revolutionaries in both the English Upper Canada and French Lower Canada launched a would-be revolution in 1837. The rebellions were not especially large, and the Upper Canada Rebellion was essentially quelled in its first skirmish. The Lower Canada Rebellion lasted for a year, ending in military defeat, its leaders hanged or sent to the penal colony of Australia, and a shift in political favour towards more moderate reformers who ultimately brought about many of the desired changes through more peaceful negotiation.
What should make this relatively obscure conflict an object of interest for the illustrious Jules Verne? On the one hand we must remember that he is a Romantic, albeit one that predominately expressed himself through the genre he effectively created, the Scientific Romance. His fondness for the stories of tormented men of intense charisma and strength is de rigeur. The Nemo type is his Heathcliff. And like the great Romantic poets and men of letters, Verne is smitten with the folkways of the picturesque rural lands. Large portions of Family Without a Name are devoted to describing the agrarian utopia of early 19th century French-Canadian family life. One tenant farmer has enough children and grandchildren that the farm on which they live qualifies as a village unto itself. A marriage into the family also brings out the local Huron tribe to celebrate. Amidst all the pastoral bliss it is no wonder that Jean Sans Nom could hide in plain sight as an adopted addition to the farmer's multitude of children.
On the other hand, we must recall the context in which Verne is writing. The Franco-Prussian War drew to a close in 1871, with the fall of the Second Empire and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. Much French self-esteem was lost along with the territories, and hardest hit were those living within them. In response, Verne expressed the trauma through a novel about the plight of French colonists under British rule three decades before. He goes so far as to state the purpose of this inspirational tale directly: "The efforts of the French Canadians to recover their autonomy are an example which the French population of Alsace and Lorraine must never forget."
Some scholars have suggested that Verne was not particularly proud of his heritage, considering the regularity with which Americans and Britons are his protagonists, but this is not an accurate assessment. Verne is French, through and through, though he does not parade it until he needs to. Nor does he parade it with crude allegories of invasion, though that could certainly have added to his library of Scientific Romances. When needing to take the matter quite seriously, he makes his appeal to the serious facts of history.