DÉSILETS, AIMÉ, lawyer, newspaper editor, and translator; b. 2 Aug. 1826 in Bécancour, Lower Canada, son of Isidore Désilets, a farmer, and Marie Morasse (Perenne de Moras); d. 4 March 1860 at Quebec.
Aimé Désilets received his classical education at the Séminaire de Nicolet from 1839 to 1844. In 1842 he helped form at the seminary a literary society which had been conceived by Abbé Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Ferland* and which later became known as the Académie. After studying law under Pierre-Benjamin Dumoulin and Joseph-Georges-Antoine Frigon, lawyers in Trois-Rivières, Désilets was called to the bar on 13 Sept. 1848. He practised law in partnership with Joseph-Édouard Turcotte* until January 1853.
On 9 Dec. 1852 the first issue of L’Ère nouvelle was published at Trois-Rivières, with Désilets and Napoléon Bureau as editors. In their editorial the two contemplated “with great pride the present state of [their] district in comparison with its past,” and they asserted that “a new era had just opened” for the region. “A dynamism and spirit of enterprise that had never been seen there before” were now manifest, and the editors proposed to take a particular interest in commercial and industrial development. They further planned to give the paper a reform slant, and to discuss the abolition of seigneurial tenure, payment of jury members, increased parliamentary representation, an elected legislative council, and the settlement of the townships.
Désilets contributed to L’Ère nouvelle until 20 Jan. 1853, when he resigned as editor because of “grave and unforeseen circumstances.” Joseph-Édouard Turcotte, owner of the Journal des Trois-Rivières, had been attacked in an article in L’Ère nouvelle and was suing its editors and printer for £500 in damages. This action, which marked the end of the partnership of Turcotte and Désilets as lawyers, is also thought to have caused the latter’s resignation from the newspaper. Désilets returned to the practice of law, moving into an office previously occupied by lawyer Louis-Eusèbe Désilets on Rue Saint-Joseph. On 16 Aug. 1854 Désilets agreed to resume his post at L’Ère nouvelle, not without some hesitation, for in his opinion it entailed a heavy burden which no one who had not held such a position could appreciate.
L’Ère nouvelle argued constantly in favour of building a railway on the north shore of the St Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec so that the Trois-Rivières region would not be isolated and disadvantaged in comparison with other parts of the province. In 1853 Désilets was secretary of the local committee at Trois-Rivières to promote the north shore railway, and he was among those seeking the incorporation of a company to build it [see Joseph-Édouard Cauchon*].
Désilets left L’Ère nouvelle and Trois-Rivières in May 1855 to devote his efforts to practising law in the Bois-Francs region. At this time, on 31 May 1855, his marriage to Élize Dumont was solemnized at Yamachiche. The couple had one daughter. During the summer Désilets opened a law office at Stanfold (Princeville) and another at Saint-Christophe-d’Arthabaska, where he took up residence. He became the first secretary-treasurer of the latter municipality on 4 August and of the council of Arthabaska County on 10 October.
In 1856 Aimé Désilets went to Toronto to carry out new duties as translator for the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. On 4 March 1860, just after a session opened at Quebec, Désilets died at the age of 33 following “a brief illness.” He was buried in Trois-Rivières, where he owned a residence. Soon afterwards, lawyers from the Arthabaska district assembled to pay homage to one who, as the first lawyer to live and practise in the Bois-Francs region, was a pioneer in his profession.
ANQ-MBF, CE1-4, 2 août 1826; CE1-52, 31 mai 1855; CN1-11, 30 mai 1855; CN1-19, 29 sept. 1849; CN1-47, 21 août 1849, 23 mars 1860; CN1-62, 6 avril 1850, 19 avril 1851, 26 août 1852. PAC, MG 30, D1, 10: 621–22. Le Courrier du Canada, 5 mars 1860. L’Ère nouvelle, 1852–55, 5 mars 1860. Douville, Hist. du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1: 299; 2: 160. Alcide Fleury, Arthabaska, capitale des Bois-Francs (Arthabaska, Qué., 1961), 12, 191, 224, 228. Albert Tessier, Trois-Rivières: quatre siècles d’histoire, 1535–1935 (2e éd., [Trois-Rivières], 1935). Nive Voisine, Louis-François Laflèche, deuxième évêque de Trois-Rivières (1v. paru, Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1980– ), 1: 68. “Quelques journaux trifluviens,” BRH, 42 (1936): 723–25. Léon Trépanier, “L’Ère nouvelle des Trois-Rivières,” La Patrie, 4 févr. 1951: 100.