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BOUTILLIER (Bouthillier), THOMAS, doctor, Patriote, and politician; b. 9 Oct. 1797 at Quebec, son of Guillaume Boutillier, gentleman usher of the black rod, and Anne-Françoise Normand; d. 8 Dec. 1861 at Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.

After studies at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe and at the University of Philadelphia, Thomas Boutillier was authorized to practise medicine on 4 June 1817 and took up residence at Saint-Hyacinthe. In 1826 he married Eugénie Papineau, a cousin of Louis-Joseph Papineau*, she died four years later, leaving him a daughter.

An unsuccessful candidate in the 1832 elections, Boutillier was returned as member of the assembly for the county of Saint-Hyacinthe in 1834, at the time of the last electoral campaign before the insurrection. In 1836 he was the representative of a group of Saint-Hyacinthe citizens who presented a petition to Governor Gosford [Acheson*], in which they declared themselves supporters of order and public peace, but stated their intention of “springing to the help” of their Montreal compatriots if the latter were attacked.

In 1837 he took part in the battle of Saint-Charles at the head of some 100 men. Like many insurgents, he had to take refuge in the United States. He went via Burlington and Montpellier to Vermont. With Louis-Joseph Papineau, Robert Nelson*, Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan*, Édouard-Étienne Rodier*, and Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté*, he belonged to the group of Patriotes who arranged to meet at Middlebury, Vt, on 2 Jan. 1838, to discuss the resumption of the rebellion. Although several refugees were embittered against Papineau, Boutillier disagreed, stating in June 1838 that Papineau “has made mistakes, but he is not a traitor to his country.” By the summer of 1838 Boutillier had returned to Saint-Hyacinthe, where he endeavoured to collect money that was owing to Ludger Duvernay*, the former publisher of La Minerve who was still in the United States. Still a suspect himself, Dr Boutillier was placed under surveillance during the uprising in the autumn of 1838.

But Boutillier had given up his radical leanings. In a letter to Duvernay in 1839, he said he was happy to learn that the paper Duvernay was thinking of publishing in the United States would be a moderate one. In 1840 he was not sorry to see that petitions against the union were having a limited success. Like Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, he believed that the combining of the Upper and Lower Canadian Reformers would make it possible to end “racial prejudices” and obtain “the redress of grievances.” In 1841, in the first elections held under the union, Boutillier was returned unopposed as member of the assembly for Saint-Hyacinthe. In 1844 he had some difficulty in defeating Louis-Antoine Dessaulles*, a young man of 24, who was Papineau’s nephew and travelling companion to Paris, and the son of Jean Dessaulles*, seigneur of Saint-Hyacinthe and former member for Richelieu and Saint-Hyacinthe counties. Boutillier was, of course, a supporter of the out-going Reform ministers La Fontaine and Robert Baldwin*, whereas Louis-Antoine Dessaulles favoured the administration which included Denis-Benjamin Viger. When a petition was presented to the assembly for the annulment of this election, the committee responsible for examining it maintained Boutillier in his seat.

When, however, Papineau returned to Canada after an eight-year exile, Dr Boutillier worked actively to encourage an understanding between him and La Fontaine. In a confidential letter to the latter, he even offered to give up his seat to the former speaker of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. When Papineau was visiting Saint-Hyacinthe, where his brother André-Augustin and his sister Rosalie Dessaulles lived, Boutillier had a long interview in his own home with the former leader of the Patriote party. But, somewhat disappointed, he was obliged to write to La Fontaine: “I believe that M. Papineau does not wish to return immediately to public life.”

In the 1847–48 elections it was the turn of lawyer Louis-Victor Sicotte* to try his strength against Boutillier. Sicotte, the defeated candidate, obtained 35 per cent of the votes in the county but only 20 per cent in Saint-Hyacinthe. On both the provincial and the municipal levels, Boutillier and Dessaulles opposed one another. Thus, in the autumn of 1849, when Dessaulles declared in a long letter published in L’Avenir that he favoured the annexation movement, Boutillier was one of those who, with George-Étienne Cartier* and Augustin-Norbert Morin, signed the loyalist manifesto which appeared in La Minerve on 15 October under the title: “Protest against the separation of Canada from England and its annexation to the United States.” In 1849 and 1850, Boutillier was involved in getting Saint-Hyacinthe incorporated as a town, and he worked on the committee responsible for drawing up the bill. Here again he was in open conflict with Dessaulles. The law of 12 Aug. 1850 partially reflected his views in that it placed the non-urbanized territory up-river from the church outside the town limits, but it exempted the forests and farms within the boundaries of Saint-Hyacinthe from municipal taxes, as Dessaulles wanted. In the subsequent municipal elections, Boutillier was defeated in his district, but Dessaulles won in his and was chosen mayor.

Thomas Boutillier decided not to stand in the provincial elections of 1851. It is said that he was among those who contributed to the founding of Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe in 1853. In 1854 he became “inspector of land offices for Lower Canada”; he was responsible for writing the Rapport des travaux de colonisation de l’année 1855 and the results of an inquiry into the causes of emigration to the United States. He died at Saint-Hyacinthe in December 1861.

In his political career Thomas Boutillier was typical of the group of Patriotes who, after 1840, moved away from Papineau and collaborated with La Fontaine within the French Canadian Reform party.

Jean-Paul Bernard

Thomas Boutillier, Rapport des travaux de colonisation de l’année 1855 (Toronto, 1856); also published in English as Report of the progress of settlement in the townships of Lower Canada during the year 1855. ANQ-Q, AP, Coll. Papineau, boîte 39, lettre de L.-A. Dessaulles à L.-J. Papineau, 24 juill. 1848. Bibliothèque nationale du Québec (Montréal), Soc. historique de Montréal, Coll. La Fontaine, lettres 343, 358, 404, 409, 659. PAC, MG 30, D62, 6, pp.33–52. Can., prov. du, Assemblée législative, Rapport du comité spécial nommé pour s’enquérir des causes de l’émigration du Canada aux États-Unis d’Amérique ou ailleurs (Québec, 1858). Elgin-Grey papers (Doughty), I, 389; IV, 1510, 1594, 1598–99, 1602. L’Avenir, 3 nov. 1849. Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, 13, 31 août 1867. La Minerve, 15 oct. 1849, 12 déc. 1851, 10 déc. 1861. Ivanhoë Caron, “Papiers Duvernay conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” ANQ Rapport, 1926–27, 183, 185–87, 193, 209, 213, 224, 233. Fauteux, Patriotes, 136–38. J.-P. Bernard, “La pensée des journalistes libéraux de Saint-Hyacinthe, 1853–1864” (thèse de ma, université de Montréal, 1958), 3–6; Les Rouges, 67, 95–97. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire de la ville de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1930), 142, 144, 166–69, 200–1, 244–45, 265; Histoire du séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe depuis sa fondation jusqu’à nos jours (2v., Montréal, 1911–12), I, 185–87, 206; II, 238. Hamelin et Roby, Hist. économique, 43, 86–87, 184. Monet, Last cannon shot.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Jean-Paul Bernard, “BOUTILLIER, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boutillier_thomas_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/boutillier_thomas_9E.html
Author of Article:   Jean-Paul Bernard
Title of Article:   BOUTILLIER, THOMAS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   February 22, 2024