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d. 24 June 1794 in Montreal (Que.)


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Original title:  Photograph Max Bibaud, Montreal, QC, 1862 William Notman (1826-1891) 1862, 19th century Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process 8 x 5 cm Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. I-2572.1 © McCord Museum Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)

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BIBAUD, FRANÇOIS-MAXIMILIEN (he later added the given names of Uncas (an Indian name) and Marie; he occasionally used the inversion Neilimixam Duabib as a pseudonym, and often signed Bibaud, jeune), lawyer, professor of law, polygraph, and chronicler; b. 23 Oct. 1823 at Montreal, Lower Canada, son of Michel Bibaud*, a journalist and historian, and Élizabeth Delisle; d. unmarried on 9 July 1887 at Montreal.

François-Maximilien Bibaud undertook serious classical studies with the Sulpicians at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1833 to 1843 and committed himself to a religious vocation. In 1842 he made his start as a writer in his father’s L’Encyclopédie canadienne, which was published in Montreal, and in 1846 he contributed to the Mélanges religieux of Montreal as assistant editor. Shortly after deciding at the end of November of that year to give up a life in religion Bibaud resolved to become a lawyer. He worked in the offices of Joseph Bourret and Toussaint Peltier*, taking the four years of legal training then required by law. During these years, in preparation for the bar admission examination, Bibaud drafted with care and unusual diligence four texts which recorded the juridical knowledge he had acquired through reading and experience: for English law, an abridged version of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England; for customary law, a clarification of the custom of Paris together with commentaries; and for Roman law, a translation of Justinian’s Institutes, as well as a weighty volume entitled “Traités de Droit . . . ,” on agreements and contracts. On 5 April 1851, proudly carrying this collection of manuscripts under his arm, he appeared for his examination for admission to the Montreal bar. With his usual vanity he later noted: “It was an outstanding examination in which I made my scholarship manifest.” He greatly impressed his examiners by the tone of his replies and by the quality of his manuscripts. He was immediately asked to consider teaching law. In fact Bibaud had been thinking for two years about giving private classes, but his examiners suggested instead that he might help remedy the absence of organized teaching of law in Canada East by creating a proper school. The prospect of such a career was sufficiently pleasing to Bibaud for him to allow a small committee of nine lawyers to be set up centred around George-Étienne Cartier* and Augustin-Norbert Morin*; on 7 April this committee sent a letter to Bishop Ignace Bourget and Father Félix Martin, rector of the new Jesuit Collège Sainte-Marie in Montreal, supporting a plan to establish a chair of law. Cartier and Morin skilfully emphasized to the bishop of Montreal the advantage of offering a programme for French Canadian students which could compete with the one McGill College was organizing. The two priests quickly concurred with the proposed plan and agreed to house the school in the Jesuit college. To launch his programme Bibaud delivered an “inaugural address” on 1 May 1851, but actual teaching did not begin until September with six pupils, only four of whom continued.

The programme lasted two years, and the students completed their period of probation at the same time. Lessons were given three mornings a week throughout the year, except for the month of August. For the first few years Bibaud undertook all the teaching himself. In 1858 he engaged Joseph-Achille-A. Belle as a “professor of the practice of law” for those aspiring to the bar, and later Léonard-Ovide Hétu to perform the same function for those intending to become notaries. Former pupils of Bibaud, both men gave instruction in their offices during the months of June and July. As for the man who pompously called himself “head professor” and “dean,” he thought his own teaching had to be at one and the same time “historical, systematic, philosophical, and practical.” His ambition was to see his school become “a true debating society, where the pupils raise all the objections they care to.” Claiming to have based his methods on those used in German universities, he had his pupils participate regularly in review sessions, and originally twice, then once a year held “Solemn Repetitoria” during which a number of lawyers questioned the students on their studies. The session was conducted before jurists and ecclesiastics, to whom Bibaud was only too delighted to display the excellence of the training he was providing. And no doubt to ensure recruitment for the school the pupils of the senior classes at the college were also present. Because of the lack of suitable legal publications to back up his teaching Bibaud virtually had to dictate his courses. In order to have more time for discussion with his students he undertook in 1859 to publish at Montreal his Commentaires sur les lois du Bas-Canada, ou conférences de l’école de droit, liée au collège des RR. PP. jésuites, suivis d’une notice historique. In both his curriculum and teaching methods Bibaud gave evidence of an originality that was particularly astonishing in a country without a long university tradition.

Enrolment slowly but steadily increased, reaching 40 in 1862, and Bibaud was able to boast that despite the creation of the faculties of law at McGill and Laval, his remained “the fashionable programme.” In 1863 he published a list of all those who had attended his school: 140 candidates for the bar and 38 for the profession of notary; in addition, 86 of the 178 had received the “Bachelor of Laws” conferred, by the school. Such well-known figures as George-Édouard Desbarats*, Hector Fabre*, Louis-Amable Jetté*, Ludger Labelle*, Siméon Pagnuelo, and François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel were among the graduates.

On 1 Sept. 1867 Bibaud announced in the papers his decision to give up teaching. But the closing of his school was actually only an episode in a conflict between Bishop Bourget and Université Laval. Bibaud proudly rejected any notion of affiliation with Laval, but the Collège Sainte-Marie did not have legal authority to confer, as Bibaud would have liked, degrees in law. The school therefore was unable to satisfy new requirements laid down in an act governing the admission of candidates to the bar.

Little is known about the last years of Bibaud’s life, when he simultaneously ceased teaching law and writing on juridical matters. During the 16 years of his career as a jurist he had shown amazing vitality. Concurrently with his teaching duties and while continuing to produce an impressive number of works and short treatises of a historical nature, he published newspaper articles, many of them substantial, on the great legal reforms of his day, and delivered “lectures” to literary societies. He took care to have his presentations to these societies printed subsequently in order to consolidate his reputation, about which he was inordinately concerned. In his legal writings two works, however, occupy a special place. His Essai de logique judiciaire, published at Montreal in 1853, is a philosophical volume in which Bibaud analyses the different types of logical arguments as they apply to the interpretation of law; but his unnecessarily polemical style detracts from the value of the exposition. It was above all in his Commentaires sur les lois du Bas-Canada, ou conférences de l’école de droit that he revealed the astonishing range of his knowledge and his remarkable mastery of the manifold sources from which the Quebec law of the period derived, whether Roman or canonical law, customary law, English, French, or Canadian law. He had read widely; he can, however, be taken to task, here as elsewhere, for flaunting his knowledge. He could never resist the temptation to criticize authors, to call attention to the errors of judges, and to censure legislators, always in a cantankerous, unpleasant tone. These few defects have to be disregarded in order to appreciate the value of an otherwise remarkable work, the only original, systematic exposition of the law in Canada East to be published before the codification of the civil law in the 1860s.

His research and historical publications are just as important. These historical works, primarily encyclopædic, chronological, and biographical, represent an original contribution because of the attention that some of them give to the Indians. Bibaud was a knowledgeable bibliographer with a preoccupation for the great names; his works are considered landmarks in the history of intellectual development in French Canada and their influence was felt particularly in the teaching of law and the literature of jurisprudence.

Andre Morel and Yvan Lamonde

[François-Maximilien Bibaud wrote numerous works on various aspects of cultural life, including law, history, and religion. The following sources provide detailed inventories of both his printed works and his manuscripts: Concordia Univ. Library (Montreal), Special coll., D7 B5, mss on hist., French Canada, law, and religion, 1847–84; Guide to the manuscript collection in the Toronto public libraries (Toronto, 1954): 12; É.-Z. Massicotte, “Quelques notes sur Maximilien Bibaud,” BRH, 52 (1946): 90–93; Arthur Perrault, “Bibliographie des œuvres de Maximilien Bibaud,” Themis (Montréal), 2 (1951–52): 31–34.

Space does not permit a full listing of all Bibaud’s works, but those which have contributed most to an understanding of Canadian history are the following: Biographie des Sagamos illustres de l’Amérique septentrionale, précédée d’un index de l’histoire fabuleuse de ce continent (Montréal, 1848); Les institutions de l’histoire du Canada, ou annales canadiennes jusqu’à l’an MDCCCXIX . . . (Montréal, 1855); Dictionnaire historique des hommes illustres du Canada et de l’Amérique (Montréal, 1857); Le panthéon canadien (choix de biographies), dans lequel on a introduit les hommes les plus célèbres des autres colonies britanniques (Montréal, 1858); Adèle and Victoria Bibaud saw to the publication of a second edition in Montreal in 1891 under the title of Le Panthéon canadien; choix de biographies. The AUM holds a manuscript copy of this work (P 58, Q1/199). Other manuscripts are held by the AUM in P 58, M/15 and M/16. The Archives du collège de L’Assomption (Montréal) has the manuscript of “Nature canadienne ou mes pérégrinations” written in 1867.

Bibaud also published extensively in the newspapers. Sometimes signing them “Bibaud, jeune,” he drafted a number of articles related to the existing civil laws in Canada East and to the teaching of law. In this connection the following papers should be consulted: Le Colonisateur (Montréal), 1862–63; Mélanges religieux (Montréal), 15, 18, 22 avril, 6 mai 1851; La Minerve (Montréal), mai-juill. 1851, 31 juill. 1852; L’Ordre (Montréal), 12 déc. 1858–16 févr. 1860.

In the course of his career, Bibaud become involved in two significant controversies. Articles about his dispute with the Institut canadien of Montreal on the subject of the apostasy of Commissioner François-Pierre Bruneau* are to be found in 1853 issues of the following Montreal papers: La Minerve; Le Moniteur canadien; Montreal Gazette; Le Pays; and Le Semeur canadien.

For his controversy with Gonzalve Doutre* about apprenticeship and the practice of law, consult L’Ordre, 14–16 sept. 1863.  a.m. and y.l.]

ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 26 oct. 1823, 12 juill. 1887; M-72-41. PAC, MG 29, D29. La Minerve, 20 août 1867. Camille Bertrand, La collection d’archives Baby (Montréal, 1975), 10. DOLQ, I: 58, 390–91, 488. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I: 170. L.-O. David, Mélanges historiques et littéraires (Montréal, 1917), 282. Paul Desjardins, Le collège Sainte-Marie de Montréal (2v., Montréal, 1940-[44]), II: 60–103. Edmond Lareau, Histoire du droit canadien depuis les origines de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (2v., Montréal, 1888–89). André Morel, “La codification devant l’opinion publique de l’époque,” Livre du centenaire du Code civil (2v., Montréal, 1970), I: 27–45. Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Une école de droit à Montréal avant le Code civil,” Rev. trimestrielle canadienne (Montréal), 6 (1920): 140–50. Léon Lortie, “The early teaching of law in French Canada,” Dalhousie Law Journal (Halifax), 2 (1975–76): 521–32.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Andre Morel and Yvan Lamonde, “BIBAUD, FRANÇOIS-MAXIMILIEN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bibaud_francois_maximilien_11E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bibaud_francois_maximilien_11E.html
Author of Article:   Andre Morel and Yvan Lamonde
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   June 24, 2024