Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
BROUSSEAU, JEAN-DOCILE, printer, publisher, politician, and businessman; b. 24 Feb. 1825 at Quebec, son of Jean-Baptiste Brousseau, a carter, and Nathalie Doré; m. there 14 June 1859 Mary Martha Downes in St Patrick’s Church, and they had three children, only one of whom lived; d. 28 July 1908 at Quebec.
Jean-Docile Brousseau received his schooling at the Petit Séminaire de Québec and then commenced work as a bookseller. In 1855 he was appointed official printer to the archbishopric of Quebec, and two years later he was given charge of printing Le Courrier du Canada, a religious organ with ultramontane leanings [see Joseph-Charles Taché*]. On 26 May 1858 Brousseau bought up all the shares of this newspaper, and he retained them until the printing-shop burned down in 1872, a disaster in which he lost $50,000. Only then did he relinquish the paper to his younger brother Léger*, even though Léger had been signing as the publisher since 2 Aug. 1861. From 1861 to 1865 Brousseau was also connected with the publishing of the literary review Les Soirées canadiennes and in 1888 with that of the Journal d’éducation, which enjoyed only one, very difficult, year of existence.
Brousseau began his political career under the Liberal-Conservative banner as the member for Portneuf in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada from 1861 to 1867. From 1867 to 1872 he represented that riding federally in the ranks of Sir John A. Macdonald*’s Conservatives. He also tried his luck on the provincial scene. Defeated in 1867, he was elected in 1881 as the Conservative member for Portneuf in the Quebec Legislative Assembly. In the elections of October 1886, which were dominated by the Riel affair [see Louis Riel*] and the victory of Honoré Mercier*’s Parti National, he lost his seat to Liberal Jules Tessier. Never in his entire 15 years in parliament was Brousseau given a cabinet post. It seems that he was passed over because of his lack of ardour in parliamentary debate. In 1863 his demeanour even provoked a discussion in his riding, his opponents claiming that he did not defend his constituents’ interests well since “he is mute as a fish.”
Brousseau’s best experiences in politics came while he was on the city council of Quebec, where he represented Saint-Louis ward from 1875 to 1880 and 1882 to 1884. He sat on the committees dealing with markets, by-laws, fire protection, and waterworks, as well as on the roads committee, which he chaired from 1876 to 1879. On 3 May 1880 he was elected mayor of Quebec on the 36th ballot by the councillors, who chose him over Rémi-Ferdinand Rinfret, dit Malouin, and Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy to succeed Robert Chambers. His two-year term was fairly quiet, although marked at the beginning, in May 1880, by the brilliant festivities held in honour of Queen Victoria and the visit to Quebec of Prince Leopold and Princess Louise.
Some of Brousseau’s achievements while mayor are particularly worth noting. The waterworks system was altered to ensure an abundant and constant supply of water (in place of a precarious rationing that limited access in a number of districts to an hour or two per day), and to avert catastrophic fires such as that of 8 June 1881. Telephone poles were installed on city streets, though not without protests, since the citizens had little desire to have them in front of their homes or places of business [see Sigismund Mohr*]. The gas lighting for the streets was improved. In addition Brousseau gave the press the right to attend meetings of the council and committees, as was already being done in Montreal. On the other hand, under his administration the city had to struggle with a debt that was consuming more than two-thirds of its revenues. The council gave serious thought to refinancing the burden and also encouraged the establishment of new industries in order to benefit from the influx of capital. In 1882 Brousseau did not seek re-election as mayor.
Brousseau also had a rewarding career in the business world. Among other things he was a director of the Caisse d’Économie de Notre-Dame de Québec from 1853 till 1893 and vice-president from 1893 to 1907; he served as president of the City Building Society, secretary-treasurer of the North Shore Railway Company, and director of the Compagnie des Mines d’Or de Léry. On 8 April 1868 he had purchased the seigneury of Saint-Augustin for $4,000.
Jean-Docile Brousseau died at the age of 83 following a paralytic stroke. His funeral was an imposing one; amongst the dignitaries who came were the mayor of Quebec, Sir Georges Garneau*, Charles Langelier*, and the leading citizens of the city. The burial took place in Notre-Dame-de-Belmont cemetery at Sainte-Foy on 30 July 1908.
AAQ, 3 CG, I. AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 30 juill. 1908. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 25 févr. 1825; CE1-98, 14 juin 1859; P-16. ASQ, Séminaire, 80, no.72; 81, no.34; 166, no.20. Arch. de la Ville de Québec, Aqueduc, comité de l’aqueduc, procès-verbaux, 1865–84; Conseil, conseil de ville, procès-verbaux, 9, 23 juill., 8, 17 déc. 1880; 11, 18 janv., 10, 16 juin, 9 déc. 1881; conseils et comités, maires, rapports, 1870–1926; Feu, comité du feu, procès-verbaux, 1877–89; Finances, bureau du trésorier, rapports, 1880–82; Marchés, comité des marchés, procès-verbaux, 1878–90; P42/2, 1–3; Travaux publics, comité des chemins, procès-verbaux, 1875–81. Le Courrier du Canada, 25 mai 1880. Le Journal de Québec, 4 mai 1880. Le Soleil, 28, 30 juill. 1908. A[uguste] Béchard, Histoire de la paroisse de Saint-Augustin (Portneuf) (Québec, 1885), 371. La Caisse d’économie de Notre-Dame de Québec, fondée en 1848; devenue en 1944 la Banque d’économie de Québec . . . (Québec, 1948), 151–53. Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson), 75, 85. J.-B. Cloutier, “La presse pédagogique dans la province de Québec,” BRH, 4 (1898): 149. L.-M. Coté et al., Les maires de la vieille capitale (Québec, 1980). CPG, 1875: 72; 1885: 239–40. J. Desjardins, Guide parl., 177, 198, 291. Directory, Quebec, 1881: 54; 1882: 61. J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, 1: 204; 2: 11, 298. Elzéar Lavoie, “Les crises au Courrier du Canada: affaires et rédaction,” Les ultramontains canadiens français, sous la direction de Nive Voisine et Jean Hamelin (Montréal, 1985), 151. RPQ.