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Louis-Joseph Papineau Collection (C207)

1820-[192?]. - 6 cm of textual records. - 2 photographs.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

Louis-Joseph Papineau was born in Montreal on October 7, 1786. He was the son of surveyor and notary Joseph Papineau and Rosalie Cherrier. Louis-Joseph did his elementary schooling at Collège Saint-Raphaël. He began his secondary schooling at Collège de Montréal, but in 1802 his parents sent him to study at the Petit Séminaire de Québec, in Quebec City. When he left the seminary in 1804, Papineau was unsure whether to become a notary or a lawyer. In the end, he chose law and received his legal training in the office of his cousin Denis-Benjamin Viger.

Papineau began what was to be a long political career in 1809, when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the member for the county of Kent. He was admitted to the bar in 1810, but then practised his chosen profession only intermittently; it seems it did not satisfy his aspirations. In 1809 and in 1810 he was re-elected in the same county. In 1812 he served as an officer in the militia. Upon his return to politics, he was elected in Montreal West, in 1814, and succeeded Pierre-Stanislas Bédard as leader of the Parti Canadien in 1815. He was re-elected a first time in 1816 and then a second time in 1820.

In 1817 Papineau acquired his father's seigneury of Petite Nation, which from 1802 had raised the Papineau family's social standing at a time when the liberal professions were exercising growing influence in French-Canadian society. After becoming owner of the seigneury, Papineau married Julie Bruneau, daughter of Pierre Bruneau, a Quebec City merchant and Legislative Assembly member, on April 29, 1818. They would have three boys and two girls.

Papineau became a member of the Executive Council on December 28, 1820, sitting until January 25, 1823. In 1822 the crisis of the union of Upper and Lower Canada erupted. With John Neilson, Papineau travelled to London in 1823, seeking to contest the adoption of a union that focused on plans for economic growth and the assimilation of French Canadians. When he returned to Canada, he resumed his position as Speaker of the Assembly.

In 1824 and 1825 he was again re-elected in Montreal West, and then in 1827 he was elected in the county of Surrey. Following his re-election as Speaker in 1827, he opted for the riding of Montreal West despite the refusal of Governor George Ramsay. At almost the same time, in 1826, the Parti Canadien became the Parti Patriote.

After 1830, Papineau became a democrat. Until then he had been convinced that the British government was the best placed to oversee the survival and full development of the French-Canadian nation. But from the start of the 1830s, he increasingly turned his attention to other interests. In 1832 he began calling himself a republican, in spite of an abiding reticence he always seems to have had toward the United States. In 1834 he was an active member of the committee that drew up the 92 resolutions, which were adopted in the House on February 21, 1834, and set out Papineau's political ideology in more specific terms. The aims of the resolutions were Legislative Assembly control over revenue, the accountability of the Executive Council and the eligibility of legislative councillors.

Following the episode of the 92 resolutions, some Assembly members took a more radical stance in an effort to throw off the British yoke. They sought to inspire a broad-based social revolt, whereas Papineau favoured using legal tactics. In 1837, after some major gatherings, Papineau lost control over a number of leaders who had revolutionary leanings. The conduct of the radicals gave him increasing cause for alarm. The government moved to arrest the leaders and began to intervene militarily. A warrant was issued against him on November 16, 1837, forcing him to take refuge in the Richelieu Valley. In the following months, the Patriot leader broke all ties with the radical members of the party and began to seek the support of the French, Russian and U.S. governments. But in 1837, after taking refuge in St. Denis, St. Charles and then St. Hyacinthe, he fled to the United States. His terms of office as a Member and Speaker of the Assembly ended on March 27 of the following year, when the constitution was suspended. On February 8, 1839, Papineau sailed for Paris from New York. He remained in France until 1845, when he returned from exile.

Pressured by his family and friends, Papineau went back into politics in 1848. He was elected member for St. Maurice and in 1849 he again threw his support behind the annexationist movement. From 1852 to 1854, he served as member for the county of Deux Montagnes, but did not run for re-election in 1854.

He devoted the latter part of his life to his seigneury of Montebello. He died there, in the parish of Notre Dame de Bonsecours, on September 28, 1871.

Scope and Content:

This collection concerns the activities and political life of Louis-Joseph Papineau. More specifically, it contains material pertaining to his terms of office and his involvement in the 1837 Rebellion, including some speeches and an appeal. It also contains documents relevant to certain Statutes of the Province of Canada, in the form of Reserved Acts.

The collection also contains information about Papineau's personal life and social activities. It includes correspondence, invitations, a visiting card and a picture of the Papineau Mansion in Montebello.

The collection also contains material about his business affairs, including assessment receipts for his assets and property, as well as a receipt for the burial of one of his sons.

The collection is divided into the following series:

  • C207/A: Writings of Louis-Joseph Papineau
  • C207/B: Speeches and Appeal of Louis-Joseph Papineau
  • C207/C: Legal Documents
  • C207/D: Financial Documents
  • C207/E: Miscellaneous Documents