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ARNOLDI, DANIEL, physician, office holder, and jp; b. 7 March 1774 in Montreal, son of Peter Arnoldi, a soldier from Hesse (Federal Republic of Germany), and Philipina Maria (Phébé) Horn, and brother of Phebe* and Michael* Arnoldi; m. Élisabeth Franchère, and they had three sons and seven daughters; d. 19 July 1849 in Montreal.

After studying in England, Daniel Arnoldi took medical training in Montreal under Robert Sym and John Rowand. They, along with Charles Blake*, were medical examiners for the district of Montreal, and on 22 June 1795 the three signed the licence authorizing Arnoldi to practise. Arnoldi established himself in Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville). Doubtless finding the competition too stiff and patients scarce, he moved to the Bay of Quinte region in Upper Canada around 1797. After working for three years under difficult conditions in this rather primitive area, where he used the paddle and the axe as frequently as his surgical instruments, he returned to Lower Canada and stayed at La Prairie. In 1802 he settled permanently in Montreal.

According to his friend and colleague Archibald Hall*, Arnoldi had a hard time at first, but he quickly acquired a large number of wealthy patients. In 1808 he took in John Fraser, from Upper Canada, as a student; Henry Munro, Robert Nelson*, and Andrew Fernando Holmes* also owed their medical training to him, and Holmes even became his partner.

In 1812 Arnoldi was appointed a medical examiner for the district of Montreal and took his turn in determining which candidates were qualified to practise medicine. In 1823 Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay] modified the board of examiners and ruled that only doctors from the Montreal General Hospital could be members. Arnoldi was consequently excluded from the circle of physicians, including Holmes, John Stephenson, William Caldwell*, and William Robertson, who now controlled entry into the medical profession. In 1823 this group founded the Montreal Medical Institution, which became the Faculty of Medicine of McGill College six years later.

Under a new medical act of 1831 the members of medical boards were no longer chosen by the governor but were elected by the licensed physicians in each district. At the first meeting of the doctors in the district of Montreal in July of that year the group from McGill College, which enjoyed the governor’s patronage and had had a stranglehold on the appointment of doctors for eight years, was eliminated from the board. Arnoldi, along with Jacques Labrie*, Robert Nelson, Wolfred Nelson*, Pierre Beaubien*, Timothée Kimber*, and Jean-Baptiste Meilleur*, among other physicians, was elected. Taken by surprise, the former examiners returned to the attack when a new election was held on 7 July 1834. Wolfred Nelson, seconded by Joseph-François Davignon, nominated Arnoldi as chairman. Robertson and Stephenson fought the nomination energetically, but in vain. Arnoldi was, however, to resign from the Board of Examiners four months after joining it, since he felt himself increasingly at odds with his colleagues’ political views.

In the years from 1810 to 1830 Arnoldi’s political sympathies seem to have undergone a change. At first he ardently supported the authorities and in 1814 signed an address in defence of Jonathan Sewell and James Monk*, the judges under attack by the House of Assembly [see James Stuart*]. Following his exclusion as a medical examiner in 1823, some members of the Canadian party used his resentment of the doctors responsible for it in an endeavour to win him to their cause. Arnoldi, making the most of the situation, supported the political thinking of his temporary allies, but never compromised himself. By May 1832 his support for the Patriote cause appeared dubious. In a by-election in Montreal West for the House of Assembly he backed Stanley Bagg, the English party candidate, rather than Patriote Daniel Tracey*, and at the time of the riot on 21 May he unreservedly approved the intervention of the military.

Other incidents were to cause the leaders of the assembly to doubt Arnoldi’s sincerity. For example, his appointment by the governor as doctor to the Montreal jail in 1833 and his commission as a justice of the peace appeared suspect to many. Consequently the assembly seized upon the death of a prisoner, which it attributed to the “culpable negligence” of the jailer and Arnoldi, as a pretext to request that he be dismissed as prison doctor. Relations between Arnoldi and his former allies deteriorated. Beaubien, in a letter written to Louis-Joseph Papineau*, the head of the Patriote party, at the end of 1835, commented on Arnoldi’s appointment as a justice of the peace: “Can we not say that the last administration took on some of those raving madmen whom it would have done better to send to the lunatic cells? Haven’t we had enough of Dr Robertson? Did Dr Arnoldi have to be added to them [?]” Beaubien also blamed Arnoldi for asserting in court that Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine* ought to have had “his skull cracked” for the part he took in the events of 21 May 1832.

Following the uprising in 1837–38 some Patriotes accused Arnoldi of having failed to look after the prisoners incarcerated in the Montreal jail for participating in the rebellion. Others, however, praised him for displaying humanity in these circumstances. Several people reproached him and his son François-Cornelius-Thomas, who was also a doctor, with having insulted the corpse of the Patriote Jean-Olivier Chénier. Jacques Paquin, parish priest of Saint-Eustache, stated that “Dr Chénier’s body was found around 6 o’clock . . . the doctors opened it up to determine the cause of death, but it is untrue that his heart was torn out and that it was made an object of curiosity.” Louis-Joseph-Amédée Papineau* protested in his diary against Paquin’s testimony: “To cut up a man killed on the battlefield, and riddled with bullets, and quarter his body and tear out his heart and take it to Montreal to make sure of the cause of death!!!!! Posterity! Do not forget the doctors Arnoldi, father and son, of the city of Montreal, butchers!!!” If people at the time were not in agreement about Arnoldi’s role in Chénier’s autopsy, they seem at least to have concurred in recognizing the cruelty of his son, one of the leaders of a battalion of loyal volunteers from Montreal who terrorized the people of Saint-Eustache and Saint-Benoit (Mirabel).

Arnoldi’s loyalty to the authorities enabled him to regain his seat on the Board of Examiners in 1839, whereas several of his former colleagues were exiled as a result of their role in the rebellion or simply ousted from office because of their indifference to the government cause. Arnoldi remained on the board until it was dissolved in 1847.

Although Arnoldi’s political concepts were for the most part conservative, his participation in the movement to bring medical legislation up to date aligned him with reformers. In 1823 he took part in a meeting of doctors from the district of Montreal to address means for giving the medical profession the prestige it sadly lacked. This meeting petitioned the governor to amend the act of 1788 governing the teaching and practice of medicine. The first Lower Canadian statute to deal fully with medicine was signed in 1831. In the period of the union of the two Canadas this law, which had undergone various changes, was contested regularly in Lower Canada, particularly by the members of the Board of Examiners for the district of Montreal. It was agreed at their meeting on 4 May 1841 that a petition drawn up by doctors James Crawford, Holmes, and Arnoldi seeking amendment of the law should be sent to the assembly. In subsequent years this concern reappeared regularly on the agenda, and each time Arnoldi participated in the discussion. When the board in 1843 set up a committee to draft a bill regulating more strictly the teaching and practice of medicine, he became one of its most active members. He was, however, absent from the many doctors’ meetings held between 1844 and 1847 which culminated in the passage of a bill in 1847. This act, regarded as the great charter of medicine, set up the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada. It strengthened the power of the profession, bestowing new prestige upon it. Once the act had been passed, dissensions between doctors in the different districts and schools made the choice of the president of the college more complicated. Arnoldi was appointed finally by the governor on 10 Aug. 1847. Like most of his colleagues, Arnoldi did not limit his activities to the field of medicine. Early in his career unlucky speculations in real estate seem to have caused him financial difficulties for a time. He quickly surmounted these and in 1806 bought a fine stone house on Rue Saint-François-Xavier that was considered a model in its time. In the spring of 1829 he bought half of the seigneury of Bourg-Louis, which he later sold. On 3 Oct. 1831 there was an announcement in La Minerve that Arnoldi and others, in particular Joseph Masson, Peter McGill*, and Horatio Gates*, were applying to the assembly to obtain a charter for a company to build a canal from Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka) to Lachine.

Daniel Arnoldi associated with the “best” Montreal bourgeoisie. Several of his daughters married into the upper middle class. Élisabeth wed Benjamin Holmes and Caroline Matilda, Robert Gillespie*; Aurelia Felicite married William King McCord*, and Louise Priscille, Albert Furniss. At the time he fell victim to cholera, on 19 July 1849, Arnoldi was a justice of the peace and president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada. The previous year he had been awarded a doctorate honoris causa by McGill College.

Gilles Janson

ANQ-M, CE1-51, 21 août 1807, 3 août 1809, 7 juill. 1811, 9 mars 1815, 5 sept. 1816, 22 déc. 1818, 14 mai 1833, 12 juill. 1837, 16 juin 1845; CE1-63, 13 mars 1774, 19 juill. 1849; CN1-134, 30 août 1816; 13 févr. 1818; 19 avril, 5 juill. 1828; 8 oct. 1829; 18 oct. 1830; 15 sept. 1837; CN1-135, 9 août 1845, 20 févr. 1846; CN1-185, 12 avril 1806, 22 janv. 1808; CN1-187, 9, 12 oct. 1815; 31 mai 1821; CN1-216, 12 sept. 1834, 23 févr. 1837, 5 sept. 1838, 22 août 1843; P-26, 11 sept. 1832. ANQ-Q, P-69, 21, 25 déc. 1835; 16 janv., 25 févr. 1836. BVM-G, Coll. Gagnon, corr, Daniel Arnoldi à Louis Gugy, 29 mai 1821, 15 janv. 1826. PAC, MG 24, A27, ser.2, 22: 527–28; B2: 2062–64; B28, 52: 1532–39; RG 4, B28, 47: 101–2; B37, 1: 570–72; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Professional Corporation of Physicians of Que. Arch. (Montreal), Montreal Medical Board, minutes, 1839–47; Collège des médecins et chirurgiens du Bas-Canada, procès-verbaux, 1847–50. Émélie Berthelot-Girouard, “Les journaux d’Émélie Berthelot-Girouard,” Béatrice Chassé, édit., ANQ Rapport, 1975: 13–20. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 9 Feb. 1833; 25 Feb., 4 March 1836; 1836, app.WW; 24 Nov. 1843. L.-J.-A. Papineau, Journal dun Fils de la liberté, 2: 52. Le Canadien, 2 juin 1824; 4 janv., 25, 28 août 1833; 22 déc. 1837; 13 août 1845. La Minerve, 11 juill., 3 oct. 1831; 7, 10 juill. 1834. Montreal Gazette, 7 Oct. 1834. Montreal Herald, 25 June, 12 July 1814. Le Populaire, 22 déc. 1837, 3 janv. 1838. Abbott, Hist. of medicine. Biographical sketch of the late Daniel Arnoldi, M.D. . . . (Montreal, 1850). Canniff, Medical profession in U.C. Filteau, Hist. des patriotes (1975). J. J. Heagerty, Four centuries of medical history in Canada and a sketch of the medical history of Newfoundland (2v., Toronto, 1928). Germain Lesage, Histoire de Louiseville, 1665–1960 (Louiseville, Qué., 1961). B. [R]. Tunis, “The medical profession in Lower Canada: its evolution as a social group, 1788–1838” (ba research essay, Carleton Univ., Ottawa, 1979). Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Une famille d’orfèvres,” BRH, 46 (1940): 310–15. B. R. Tunis, “Medical licensing in Lower Canada: the dispute over Canada’s first medical degree,” CHR, 55 (1974): 489–504.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gilles Janson, “ARNOLDI, DANIEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 24, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/arnoldi_daniel_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/arnoldi_daniel_7E.html
Author of Article: Gilles Janson
Title of Article: ARNOLDI, DANIEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: October 24, 2014