DESBARATS, GEORGE-PASCHAL, printer, publisher, and businessman; b. 11 Aug. 1808 in Quebec City, third son of Pierre-Édouard Desbarats*, assistant clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada and printer, and Marie-Josephte Voyer; d. 12 Nov. 1864 in Montreal.
Educated at the Reverend Daniel Wilkie*’s grammar school in Quebec City, George-Paschal Desbarats became apprenticed to James George, merchant, and then to a lumber merchant in Lower Town. In 1826 his father’s illness forced him to concern himself with the family’s interest in their printing office, which Thomas Cary had bought into. After the death of his father in 1828 he gradually took over this interest with the mutual consent of the other heirs. He was associated with Cary for a number of years; details of the contractual agreements between them are lacking but there is some evidence that the partnership was a strained one. Their joint imprint appears on various government documents from 1831 to 1842, mainly the Journals of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada. A statement in an obituary of Desbarats in the Quebec Daily Mercury that he was joint owner with Cary of that newspaper between 1828 and 1848 remains to be substantiated.
In 1841 for the first time Desbarats’s name appeared with that of Stewart Derbishire on government publications. In September of that year they were named to be jointly “Her Majesty’s Printer and Law Printer in and for the Province of Canada.” They continued this partnership until Derbishire’s death in 1863, when Malcolm Cameron* became Desbarats’s associate for the short time he still lived. During these years Desbarats lived in Kingston, Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec as the capital changed location.
In this period the queen’s printer was responsible for printing and distributing laws and the official government newspaper, only a fraction of the total government output. Continuing earlier procedures, from 1841 to 1859 the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council each had its own printer as well; from 1860 to 1866 one printer served both houses. Desbarats and Cary were printers to the assembly in 1841; Desbarats and Derbishire were printers to the council in 1843.
Apart from his official printing Desbarats received the commission to reprint Samuel de Champlain*’s works, edited by Abbé Charles-Honoré Laverdière*. The completed works were finally published in 1870 under the imprint of his son, George-Édouard*. With his son, George-Paschal subsidized and published Le Foyer canadien; recueil littéraire et historique from 1863 until his death; the former carried on until 1865.
Desbarats was an astute and successful businessman. In 1847, with Derbishire, he bought the Ottawa Glass Works at Pointe-à-Cavagnal (Como-Est, Que.), the first glass factory in the province and then just in a formative stage [see François-Xavier Desjardins]. He invested in the St Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad and in 1849 wrote a pamphlet on its behalf, The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad: its position as a private undertaking, and advantages as a national work. He is mentioned in documents as acting secretary of the Montreal Mining Company (1847) and president of the St Lawrence Mining Company (1854). At the time of his death he owned an extensive mining tract north of Lake Huron, the Desbarats Location, bought in 1847, land in the Chaudière valley where gold was being prospected, and much other property and land.
George-Paschal Desbarats held the commission of lieutenant-colonel in the militia and was a long time member of the Natural History Society of Montreal and the Horticultural Society. He was married three times: in 1836 to Henriette Dionne, daughter of Amable Dionne*, legislative councillor, by whom he had one son, George-Édouard; in 1841 to Charlotte Selby, daughter of Dr William D. Selby, by whom he had another son; in 1849 to Jessie-Louise Pothier, daughter of Jean-Baptiste-Toussaint Pothier*, legislative councillor, by whom he had two daughters.
Desbarats family papers are in the possession of the Desbarats family in Montreal. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1841–64. “Canadian Illustrated News”: a commemorative portfolio, ed. Peter Desbarats (Toronto, ). St Lawrence Mining Company, Report of the president and directors . . . ([Quebec, 1854]). Globe, 12 Nov. 1864. Le Journal de Québec, 14 nov. 1864. La Minerve, 14 nov. 1864. Montreal Gazette, 14 Nov. 1864. Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 12 Nov. 1864. Quebec Daily Mercury, 12 Nov. 1864. Union (Ottawa), 17 Nov. 1864. Beaulieu et Hamelin, La presse québécoise, I, 19, 23. O. B. Bishop, Publications of the government of the Province of Canada, 1841–1867 (Ottawa, 1963), 49–62. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 499. G. F. Stevens, Canadian glass, 1825–1925 (Toronto, 1967). “Les disparus,” BRH, XXXIV (1928), 241. Réjean Robidoux, “Les Soirées canadiennes et le Foyer canadien dans le mouvement littéraire québécois de 1860, étude d’histoire littéraire,” Revue de l’université d’Ottawa, XXVIII (1958), 411.