GUY, LOUIS, jp, notary, office holder, militia officer, and politician; b. 27 June 1768 in Montreal, son of merchant and landowner Pierre Guy* and Marie-Josephte Hervieux; m. 19 Oct. 1795 Josette Curot of Montreal, and they had four sons and five daughters; d. there 17 Feb. 1850.
Louis Guy’s family, one of the most distinguished in Montreal, traced its lineage back to Nicolas Guy of Paris, grand chamberlain to Louis XIV. Louis originally trained as a land surveyor. He spent the winter of 1791–92 at the College of New Jersey, in Princeton, in order to learn English; his brother Étienne* would attend a few years later. On his return Louis studied law under Joseph Papineau and was commissioned a notary on 31 Aug. 1801. In this profession he had great success, being appointed king’s notary in 1828. As such he executed the lucrative and copious notarial work required by the government and the military.
During the War of 1812 Guy served as major with the 5th Select Embodied Militia Battalion, taking part in the battle of Châteauguay under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry* de Salaberry. Guy’s continued interest in the militia after the war, when he spared neither time nor money to increase its efficiency, secured his promotion to colonel in 1830. He was one of the few Canadians to achieve this rank. During the reorganization of the militia in 1830, the governor, Sir James Kempt*, frequently sought his advice on matters concerning the Montreal militia.
Guy led the opposition among Canadians to the proposed union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1822. On 7 October in Montreal he presided over the first meeting of citizens opposed to the measure. With Louis-Joseph Papineau*, Denis-Benjamin Viger*, Pierre-Dominique Debartzch, and other prominent men, he organized a constitutional committee in the city to campaign against union. On 10 July 1823 Guy informed the constitutional committees throughout the province that the agents they had sent to London to represent their interests, Papineau and John Neilson, had accomplished their mission and that the union proposal had been shelved by the British government.
Guy tended thereafter to avoid popular politics, especially as the reform movement in the province became more strident under Papineau’s leadership. His competence and ready assumption of public duties brought him numerous commissions. The first had been that of justice of the peace for the district of Montreal in April 1800. Then came a steady stream of appointments, including those of commissioner of roads and bridges in and around Montreal, warden of the House of Industry, census commissioner, and commissioner for the building of churches and parsonage houses, as well as a commission of oyer and terminer. On 20 Dec. 1830 he was named to the Legislative Council by Lord Aylmer [Whitworth-Aylmer] who, like his predecessor Kempt, had the highest regard for Guy.
Socially and financially secure, and gifted with energy, ability, and graciousness, Guy was one of the conservative leaders of the Canadian community who supported and worked within the established political system. Like the majority of the province’s inhabitants, he discountenanced illegal opposition. Yet when fighting broke out between insurgents and government forces at Saint-Denis and Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu in late November 1837, Guy hesitated to support the justices of the peace in Montreal when they resolved to ask the governor, Lord Gosford [Acheson], to place the district under martial law. He resembled his close friend, Jacques Viger*, Montreal’s first mayor, in hoping that the insurgency would be dealt with speedily by the military forces without resort to such measures. His son Louis, then an army officer, was with the troops specially selected by Sir John Colborne* for the task of mobilizing Montreal loyalist volunteers.
Guy remained a member of the Legislative Council until March 1838 and continued to practise as a notary until 1842. With his friend Viger, he shared an interest in the history of Lower Canada, and he was said to have been a noted amateur archaeologist.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 28 juin 1768, 19 oct. 1795, 17 oct. 1850. AUM, P 58. PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 239: 382; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. La Minerve, 18 févr. 1850. Montreal Gazette, 20 Feb. 1850. Louis Guy, “Lettre de Louis Guy, président du comité constitutionnel de Montréal aux comités des comtés,” BRH, 38 (1932): 443–46. C.-M. d’Irumberry de Salaberry, “Lettre de Charles de Salaberry à Louis Guy,” BRH, 38: 135. L.-J. Papineau, “Lettres de Louis-Joseph Papineau à Louis Guy,” BRH, 34 (1928): 81–104. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” F.-M. Bibaud, Le panthéon canadien (A. et V. Bibaud; 1891). Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. W. H. Atherton, Montreal, 1535–1914 (3v., Montreal and Vancouver, 1914), 3. Chapais, Cours d’hist. du Canada, vol.3. François Daniel, Notice sur la famille Guy et sur quelques autres familles (Montréal, 1867).