HUNTER, CHARLES, lawyer and journalist; b. 4 Sept. 1808 at Quebec, son of Charles Hunter, a merchant-cooper, and Elizabeth Tough; d. 31 July 1839 in Rimouski, Lower Canada.
Charles Hunter articled at Quebec with Joseph-Rémi Vallières de Saint-Réal and Charles Panet and was called to the bar on 11 June 1833. On 4 June 1837 he went to a meeting held in the Marché Saint-Paul at Quebec to protest Lord John Russell’s resolutions [see Denis-Benjamin Viger*]. At that gathering he spoke, along with such other Patriotes as Augustin-Norbert Morin*, Charles Drolet*, Louis-Théodore Besserer*, and Jean Blanchet*, in defence of the principles in the 92 Resolutions, which laid out the House of Assembly’s main grievances and demands.
Hunter then joined his friend Robert-Shore-Milnes Bouchette* in founding the Patriote newspaper the Liberal/Le Libéral, which was first issued at Quebec on 17 June 1837. Bouchette was responsible for editing the French part and Hunter the English. The paper claimed it existed primarily to serve democracy. For the editors there was no contradiction between the extension of the elective principle and a healthy colonial administration. Free institutions should ensure the country’s prosperity and thereby help increase the wealth of the British empire. Hyacinthe-Poirier Leblanc* de Marconnay, editor of Le Populaire (Montréal), accused the Liberal of being a branch of Montreal’s Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser. Hunter and Bouchette rejected this charge, while admitting that they defended the same principles.
In August the Liberal expanded to four issues weekly, two in each language. But as the result of a blunder on Hunter’s part the English edition ceased publication on 28 October. An article of his, published on Wednesday 18 October, drew down upon him the wrath of the curé of Notre-Dame in Quebec, Charles-François Baillargeon*, the following Sunday. Hunter had denounced the attitude taken by some of the clergy on political questions. He claimed that the judges, magistrates, and ecclesiastical hierarchy were convinced they had supreme authority in the province and that in exhorting the faithful not to concern themselves with the questions of the day the priests, Baillargeon among them, were encouraging the population to submit passively to the established authorities.
Hunter retracted his statements on 25 October, but unfortunately he could not make amends for his error. He declared that he had never intended to attack the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, whose great principles he acknowledged, Protestant though he was. Priests doubtless received their authority in religious matters from God, but as an enlightened man he insisted upon taking account of events, since failure to take a position in politics in that period of crisis was thoroughly undesirable. On 28 October the Liberal announced that it was going to stop publishing.
The days of the paper’s French edition were also numbered. Although its directors and shareholders, among them Pierre Chasseur, Joseph Légaré*, and Morin, disowned Hunter’s article, their political activities made them suspect. They were arrested at the beginning of November, and on the 14th were obliged to withdraw from the enterprise. The Comité Permanent de Québec, a body formed in September which Hunter had joined, attributed the persecution of the Patriotes to Robert Symes, deputy chief of the Quebec police. Political unrest had defeated Le Libéral, which ceased publication on 20 Nov. 1837.
Warrants of arrest had been issued against Bouchette and Hunter for high treason, but Hunter, who apparently was luckier than his associate, managed not to get caught in the period before an amnesty was declared. He was imprisoned in March 1839 on the suspicion of having helped the American Patriots Edward Alexander Theller* and William Wallin Dodge flee Quebec after their escape from the citadel in the autumn of 1838.
The official list of political prisoners that was sent to London on 23 April 1839 indicated that Charles Hunter’s case was being studied, and mentioned that he had been joint editor with Bouchette of a seditious newspaper. He was released on 29 April without being formally charged. He did not enjoy his freedom for long, however. Having gone to Rimouski to argue a case, he caught a chill, apparently, and died there on 31 July.
ANQ-Q, CE1-66, 25 sept. 1808. PAC, MG 30, D1, 16: 238–40. Le Libéral (Québec), 17 juin–20 nov. 1837. Fauteux, Patriotes, 271. P.-G. Roy, Les avocats de la région de Québec, 224; Les petites choses de notre histoire (7 sér., Lévis, Qué., 1919–44), 7: 216–17.