DUQUET, JOSEPH, Patriote; b. 18 Sept. 1815 at Châteauguay, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Duquet, an innkeeper, and Louise Dandurand; d. 21 Dec. 1838 in Montreal.
Joseph Duquet began his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal in 1829 and finished the program at the Collège de Chambly in 1835. He was attracted to the notarial profession and articled, probably that same year, with Joseph-Narcisse Cardinal at Châteauguay; he then continued his legal education in Montreal with Chevalier de Lorimier, likely the following year. Both of these men were Patriotes and they were destined to die on the gallows in 1838 and 1839. In October 1837 Duquet went to work in the office of his uncle Pierre-Paul Démaray*, a notary and Patriote at Dorchester (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), with whom he was expecting to complete his training.
On the night of 16–17 Nov. 1837 Duquet was present when Démaray was arrested on a charge of high treason. After Bonaventure Viger* and a handful of men had succeeded in freeing Démaray by ambushing the detachment that was taking him to the Montreal jail, Duquet accompanied his uncle to the United States. On 6 December he and other Patriotes took part in a skirmish at Moore’s Corner (Saint-Armand Station). Subsequently he fled to Swanton, Vt. On 28 Feb. 1838 he participated in Robert Nelson*’s attempted invasion of Lower Canada.
After the amnesty proclaimed by Lord Durham [Lambton], Duquet was able to return to Lower Canada in mid July 1838. He immediately undertook an intensive campaign to recruit members for the Frères-Chasseurs. He organized a lodge at Châteauguay and persuaded Cardinal to become the head of it. On the evening of 3 November, the day set for the second uprising, he left with Cardinal and a group of followers to “borrow” weapons from the Indians at Caughnawaga (Kahnawake). On reaching their destination on the morning of 4 November, Cardinal, Duquet, and François-Maurice Lepailleur, Cardinal’s brother-in-law, began parleying with the Indian chiefs. The Indians invited the entire group of Patriotes to join in the negotiations, but when they entered the reserve the warriors surrounded them, taking 64 prisoners whom they immediately conducted to the Montreal jail.
On 28 Nov. 1838 Duquet and 11 of his companions were summoned before a court martial set up by Sir John Colborne*. Lewis Thomas Drummond*, a young Irishman, Pierre Moreau, a Canadian lawyer whom the court judged “acceptable,” and later Aaron Philip Hart, a brilliant man of Jewish extraction, undertook to defend them. They were not allowed, however, to intervene directly through cross-examination.
From the outset Cardinal lodged a protest disputing the court’s jurisdiction, since the offences had been committed before the special ordinances of 8 Nov. 1838 had been adopted. He demanded a trial before a civil court, but in vain. When the witnesses had been heard, the attorneys received permission to present their remarks. Drummond, with Hart’s assistance, put forward a vigorous defence that made a strong impression on the court, which wondered whether in the case before it the death penalty would not be an excessive punishment. The president of the court martial, Major-General John Clitherow*, enquired if it was not possible to pronounce another sentence. Attorney General Charles Richard Ogden* replied that there was no choice, and Solicitor General Andrew Stuart expressed a similar opinion. Consequently, on 14 December the court martial sentenced to death all those who had been found guilty.
The court’s hesitations had perplexed Colborne somewhat. On 15 Dec. 1838 he asked the Executive Council to study the cases of the condemned men, in particular Duquet’s. The council held that Duquet should be considered a recidivist and that justice should take its course, just as for Cardinal. The sentences of the other condemned men were commuted to transportation.
Neither the intervention of the auxiliary bishop of Montreal, Ignace Bourget*, nor a pathetic appeal by Duquet’s mother had any effect. On 20 Dec. 1838 Drummond made a final attempt, calling attention to serious doubts about the legality of the trial. He asked that action be deferred until a competent court had given its opinion, declaring that if the sentence were carried out, the condemned men would be elevated from persons presumed guilty to martyrs to arbitrariness. Nothing availed.
In accordance with the sentence of the court, Cardinal and Duquet had to mount the scaffold on the morning of 21 Dec. 1838. Cardinal was executed first. When it was his turn to climb the steps, Duquet began to shiver and his teeth chattered. He had to be supported. When the trapdoor was sprung, the noose, which had been badly adjusted by the hangman, Humphrey, slipped and caught under the nose of the condemned man, who was thrown violently to one side and hit the ironclad framework of the gallows. His face battered and bleeding profusely, the hapless Duquet had not lost consciousness and was moaning loudly. The onlookers began yelling: “Pardon! pardon!” This agony was prolonged, it was said, for some 20 minutes, the time it took for the hangman to install a new rope and cut down the original one.
Joseph Duquet’s body was buried in the same grave as Cardinal’s in the old cemetery of Montreal, which is now the site of Dominion Square. The two martyred Patriotes’ remains were removed in 1858 to the cemetery of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, where they rest under a monument to the Patriotes.
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