GUITTÉ (Guité), PIERRE-JOSEPH, newspaper printer and publisher, native of France; fl. 1846–67.
In 1846 P.-J. Guitté first appears in Canadian history as printer of L’Écho des campagnes, a paper of “popular news for farmers” of Berthier-en-Haut (Berthierville). Four years later L’Avenir, the official organ of the Rouges, mentions his name in its list of representatives for this region. On 24 Feb. 1853, Guitté and A. de Grandpré founded Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe and recruited Louis Delorme, a Saint-Hyacinths lawyer, to look after the political orientation of the new paper. Liberal and moderate, Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinths supported the ministry of Francis Hincks* and Augustin-Norbert Morin. However, it withdrew rapidly from this position, for a year later the paper asserted that Morin’s Liberal party ought to be ashamed of its leaders. From 21 Aug. 1854 to 14 Sept. 1860 Guitté was the sole “owner-publisher” of Le Courrier. During this period he acquired in succession three assistant editors just beginning their careers as journalists: a young Frenchman, Claude Petit, Médéric Lanctot*, and Raphaël-Ernest Fontaine. At this time the newspaper plainly supported the Rouges and Le Pays of Montreal, particularly concerning education and the influence of the clergy in politics, and thereby incurred the censure of the seminary and bishopric of Saint-Hyacinthe.
After seven years at Le Courrier, Guitté sold the paper in September 1860. The Prince of Wales’ visit to Saint-Hyacinthe perhaps provoked this decision. The paper’s report of the occasion had read: “The Prince is not a handsome fellow in the ordinary sense of the word, far from it. An overlong, slightly hooked nose, eyes of a pale, lack-lustre blue, a thoroughly juvenile appearance, make him a decidedly insignificant figure. . . . All in all, we expected something better.” The article had caused some astonishment among the local populace, and several people had considered such remarks out of place. Le Courrier agreed to publish a retraction of the “hastily written article,” but maintained that despite the personal charm of His Highness the visit had been “the least instructive and the most frivolous event imaginable.”
After Guitté’s departure Le Courrier, under Delorme’s direction, rapidly began to oppose the Rouges. In September 1861, stressing that “for more than six months the Liberal population of the district of Saint-Hyacinthe has had no organ among the country’s newspapers,” Guitté founded Le Journal de Saint-Hyacinthe. With Guitté and Fontaine the journal in fact took up the tradition of Le Courrier in the years 1854–60. La Minerve considered it merely “Le Pays’ tail.” After he had owned Le Journal for two years, Guitté made it over to Ed. Lecours et Compagnie.
In November 1866 Guitté and Wilfrid Laurier* went into partnership and acquired Le Défricheur, a paper published since 1862 at L’Avenir by Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion. When the latter died on 1 Nov. 1866, one of his creditors, businessman Louis-Adélard Sénécal*, and the Rouges were uneasy about who would take over the paper. At this point Guitté and Laurier assumed responsibility, the first as printer, the second as editor. For a time they continued to publish at L’Avenir, but on 20 Dec. 1866 a notice to the readers stated that “on 1 January next the offices and printing plant of Le Défricheur will be transferred to the village of Victoriaville, Arthabaska station.” Le Défricheur of Laurier and Guitté announced that it intended to continue Dorion’s work by defending the Rouges and the opponents of confederation who gravitated towards L’ Union nationale at Montreal. The paper crossed swords with Conservative papers such as Le Journal des Trois-Rivières, L’ Union des Cantons de l’Est, and Le Pionnier de Sherbrooke. It was in its pages that Laurier, two weeks before having to give up his editorship because of illness, and a few months before confederation, wrote an article pointing out that union had imperilled French Canada, and that it must “ask for and secure free and separate government.” Contrary to what has generally been said, Le Défricheur appeared until the end of March 1867, when the management warned the subscribers that publication would have to be suspended because of Laurier’s health.
With Le Défricheur’s disappearance we lose track of Guitté. Little is known as yet of his personal life, but of his career it can be noted that he was connected with the Rouge party, printed and published newspapers in two of the regions where rougisme was particularly strong, and was in contact with many important Liberals from 1854 to 1867.
ASSH, A, F, Chroniques de l’abbé Tétreau, févr. et juill. 1853. L’Avenir, 18 déc. 1850. Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, 21 août 1854, 31 août, 4, 7, 18 sept. 1860. Le Défricheur (L’Avenir et Victoriaville, Qué.), 20, 28 nov., 13, 20 déc. 1866, 7, 21 mars 1867. Le Journal de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, [Qué.]), 7 oct. 1861, 7 sept. 1863. La Minerve, 1er mars, 5 oct. 1861. Le Pays, 1er déc. 1866. Beaulieu et Hamelin, Journaux du Québec, 5, 241–43; La presse québécoise, I, 181–83. J.-P. Bernard, “La pensée des journalistes libéraux de Saint-Hyacinthe, 1853–1864” (thèse de ma, université de Montréal, 1958), 11–21; Les Rouges, 284–87. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire de la ville de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1930), 528. Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, I, 54. O. D. Skelton, Life and letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier (2v., Toronto, 1921), I, 39–40. J. R., “Le ‘Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe’,” BRH, X (1904), 30–31.