ÉVANTUREL, FRANÇOIS, lawyer, militia officer, politician, newspaper owner, journalist, and author; b. 22 Oct. 1821 at Quebec, only son of François Évanturel, a gardener, and Marie-Anne Bédard; m. there 22 Oct. 1844 Louise-Jeanne-Eugénie Huot, and they had ten children; d. there 12 March 1891.
François Évanturel’s father, who was originally from Beaucaire, France, had served in Napoleon’s army. Taken prisoner during the Spanish campaign, he bought his freedom by enlisting in the British army. After several tours of duty he was sent to Lower Canada and when discharged at Quebec in 1814, he settled there.
François Évanturel studied at the Petit Séminaire de Quebec from 1832 to 1841 and then was articled to René-Édouard Caron*. Called to the bar on 26 Sept. 1845, he set up practice the following month in his native city. He was an ensign in Quebec’s 1st militia battalion by 1845, was promoted lieutenant in the 4th Battalion of Quebec County militia a few years later, and finally was made captain in Quebec’s 3rd militia battalion. While still a young lawyer Évanturel became a prominent member of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Quebec. In January 1848 he also helped found the Institut Canadien and served as its first treasurer.
From then on Évanturel seems to have taken an interest in politics, but it was not until 1855 that he ran for election. On 7 August he was elected without difficulty in Quebec County to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada as a Liberal-Conservative. In a speech delivered in 1856 he announced that he had entered politics to promote a proposed railway on the north shore between Quebec and Montreal. Railways were one of his chief concerns, and in July 1857 he was elected by the shareholders to the board of the North Shore Railway Company. That year he acted as secretary for the St Maurice Railway and Navigation Company.
In December 1857 Évanturel again ran for the assembly, but this time in two constituencies and, strangely enough, under different political banners: in Quebec County he ran as an independent, and in the city of Quebec as a member of the Liberal opposition. It was doubtless the “double talk” of which he was accused by Le Canadien that cost him the election. Defeated in both ridings, he had to wait until 1861 to regain his Quebec County seat as a Liberal supporting the government. On 24 May 1862 he entered the cabinet formed by John Sandfield Macdonald* and Louis-Victor Sicotte*, and he held the portfolio of minister of agriculture until the government fell on 15 May 1863. During this period he was also a member of the Executive Council. In June 1863 he again won in Quebec and retained his seat right up to 1867, holding consistently to the views of a moderate Liberal.
In 1862 Évanturel had taken over an unenterprising, neglected, and inefficient Bureau of Agriculture, Statistics, and Colonization. He immediately proceeded to reorganize it internally and in particular to set up a system of statistical research. The issue of colonization, however, seems to have absorbed most of his energies. Évanturel proposed that Lower Canada be divided into five districts, each served by “a major arterial road.” The new minister gave special attention to Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, visiting the region in 1862. He waited until April 1863 before taking the first steps to get a direct route built between Quebec and Lac Saint-Jean. He had too little time in office, however, to see his projects through to completion.
During the winter of 1865 Évanturel participated in the parliamentary debates on confederation. He approved of it in general terms but with no great enthusiasm. In fact it is not always easy to follow the drift of his fluctuating opinions and political loyalties, at least until confederation. He declared himself a Liberal, but distanced himself from the Rouges, taking a position at the centre-right of the party. Following Sicotte’s departure in 1863, he made a brief attempt to draw together the remaining moderate Liberals who had no wish to join either the Rouges under Antoine-Aimé Dorion or the Bleus.
Évanturel had already formed a close association with Le Canadien, which was also feeling the effects of the uncertain political climate. In the early 1860s the Liberals had had little access to the press, and no newspaper in Quebec City represented their views. On 28 March 1862 seven of them, including Évanturel, bought Le Canadien and announced their intention to dedicate it to “the Liberal cause.” The paper unreservedly supported the Macdonald–Sicotte government, but its fall and the formation of a new cabinet by Macdonald and Dorion caused a rift among the owners. After a period of wavering (May–August 1863), those who opposed the new government, although they were a minority, prevailed. At the end of 1863 Le Canadien became the property of printer Joseph-Norbert Duquet and Évanturel, and despite the entreaties of those in sympathy with the government, Évanturel refused to support it. The paper adhered to Évanturel’s moderate Liberal line. It is thought that in mid 1865 problems of an administrative nature ended the partnership of Duquet and Évanturel. On 24 Feb. 1866 the member for Quebec became the sole owner of Le Canadien, as well as its only editor, since Hector Fabre* apparently left the paper that month. In October 1870 Évanturel brought at least one of his sons into the business, but the enterprise was foundering. He sank part of his fortune into it and seriously jeopardized his already frail health. Throughout this period the paper defended moderate Liberal ideas, but retained a certain independence, and when necessary criticized the positions taken by the leader of the Liberal opposition in Quebec, Henri-Gustave Joly*. It called for a union of all moderates to work for the improvement of the post-confederation regime, and stood behind the formation of the Parti National [see Honoré Mercier].
Évanturel’s career was dealt a fatal blow in 1871, when he tried to return to public life. He had decided not to run in 1867 and had whole-heartedly supported Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau*, who had been elected to the assembly by acclamation in Quebec County that August. However, disappointed by the policies of a provincial government which he thought was in the tow of the federal government, he ran against Chauveau in June 1871 and was soundly defeated. On 15 Jan. 1872, exhausted and frustrated with politics, he was forced to sell Le Canadien to Conservative interests.
It is not known whether Évanturel gave up his law practice in the course of his political career. He is mentioned as a lawyer in the Almanach de Québec in the early 1870s but by 1880 is no longer listed as practising in Quebec. Ill, and now retired from public life, he still possessed the energy to publish Les deux cochers de Québec in 1886. He died at Quebec on 12 March 1891.
All things considered, the political career of François Évanturel was unmarked by major achievements. His involvement with Le Canadien was, however, more significant. The ten-year period from 1862 to 1872 represented a singular Liberal digression for a newspaper that, except for a brief interlude (May 1847–May 1849) during which, under Napoléon Aubin*, it supported the Patriotes [see Louis-Joseph Papineau*], had traditionally been devoted to Conservative interests.
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