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LAFLAMME, TOUSSAINT-ANTOINE-RODOLPHE, lawyer, professor, and politician; b. 15 May 1827 in Montreal, son of Toussaint Lebœuf, dit Laflamme, a merchant, and Marguerite-Suzanne Thibodeau; d. there, unmarried, 7 Dec. 1893.

Toussaint-Antoine-Rodolphe Laflamme did his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1835 to 1845, was articled to Lewis Thomas Drummond*, and received his call to the bar on 6 Oct. 1849. He was destined to have a brilliant career in the law: numerous clients, important cases, positions of trust within the profession, and honours. He first went into partnership with Charles Laberge*, a young lawyer who, like himself, was connected with the Institut Canadien in Montreal and with LAvenir, a newspaper published there. Later Laflamme practised with his brother Godefroy. Nearly 25 years after his legal career had begun, at the point when he was thinking of entering politics, he was considered the leading partner in the well-known firm of Laflamme, Huntington, and Laflamme. He had already handled famous cases. He was counsel for the seigneurs in 1857–58 when they claimed compensation for the abolition of seigneurial rights. In 1864 he defended the St Albans raiders [see Charles-Joseph Coursol*], and in 1869–70 he acted for Joseph Guibord*’s widow in her suit against the curé and churchwardens of the Montreal parish of Notre-Dame [see Alexis-Frédéric Truteau*]. Laflamme was Mme Guibord’s first lawyer before the Superior Court in 1869, but he was soon joined by Joseph Doutre*, who had prime responsibility at the other stages of the case (including the appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which rendered a favourable decision at the end of 1874).

In 1856 Laflamme had obtained a bcl degree from McGill College. He was a member of the council of the bar of Lower Canada several times, first in 1857, and from 1864 to 1866 he served as bâtonnier. In 1863 he was made a queen’s counsel. For a couple of years he was a teacher (part-time, like the other professors) of property law in the faculty of law at McGill, which in 1873 conferred on him the honorary degree of dcl. He declined to sit on the newly created Supreme Court of Canada in 1875.

Laflamme was active in the Institut Canadien during the years just after its founding in 1844. The early historical accounts of the institute, written when it had been in existence for at least half a century, link him closely with Louis-Antoine Dessaulles and Joseph Doutre, although his own role was much more limited than theirs; after 1848 he is not listed either as a member of the managing committee or as a lecturer. In November 1845 Laflamme, then 18, had been elected to a six-month term as recording secretary of the organization. Two years later he was one of a dozen young men on a committee assisting managing editor Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion* with LAvenir, which was reorganized within a few months of its first issue on 16 July 1847. He was elected president of the institute in May 1848 for half a year, with a committee that included Dorion, Joseph Papin*, and Doutre, at the time when a split, indeed a clash, within the membership between the supporters of LAvenir and those of La Minerve [see Joseph Papin] was becoming manifest.

In October 1849 the Montreal English-language press published an annexation manifesto, originating in business circles, which LAvenir hastened to support. Joining the United States, Laflamme commented in the issue of 13 October, would lead to prosperity and progress and would give meaning to education. The young lawyer, who had just been called to the bar, was elected along with Papin at the beginning of November to the council of the Montreal Annexation Association; notary Denis-Emery Papineau became a vice-president and Antoine-Aimé Dorion a secretary. Early in 1852 Le Pays replaced LAvenir, which had temporarily suspended publication, and consideration was given to adding eight contributors, including Laflamme, to the staff of two editors, Dessaulles and Louis Labrèche-Viger*, but nothing came of the idea.

Laflamme is on the membership lists of the institute published in 1852 and 1855, and in 1852 he was among those who petitioned the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada for its incorporation. It was at his invitation that the young Wilfrid Laurier*, who had studied under him at McGill and had articled in his law office, joined the Institut Canadien. In 1865 “R. Laflamme – lawyer, qc – professor of law – bâtonnier of the Montreal bar” was one of 17 Catholic members who appealed to Rome against the censure of the organization by Bishop Ignace Bourget* of Montreal [see Joseph Doutre]. At the opening of its new building in December 1866, he was introduced as a guest of honour, and the following year he was appointed to the fund-raising committee set up to bring the institute out of financial difficulties.

Unlike several of the leading lights at LAvenir who sought election to the assembly in 1851 and especially in 1854, Laflamme waited before putting himself forward as a candidate. This caution did not prevent him from being regarded as a Rouge – a democrat and a liberal – or from participating from 1864 in the anti-confederation movement. Late in 1871 and early in 1872, in influential party circles, he took a stand against transforming Quebec’s Liberal party into the Parti National, which was intended to appeal to Conservatives as well. In the federal election of 1872 he was a successful candidate in Jacques-Cartier. In January 1874, following the Pacific Scandal [see Sir John A. Macdonald; Sir Hugh Allan*] and the formation of Alexander Mackenzie’s Liberal government, he was returned by acclamation.

On 9 Nov. 1876 Laflamme, who had become influential among Quebec Liberals and in patronage matters for the Montreal region, became minister of inland revenue, replacing Félix Geoffrion who had resigned. Running for re-election, he won a close victory on 28 November over Désiré Girouard* and the ultramontanists. From 8 June 1877 (it was on 26 June that Laurier delivered his famous speech at Quebec on political liberalism), until the fall of the Mackenzie government in October 1878, he held the important post of minister of justice. Defeated in the general elections of 1878 and 1882, Laflamme returned to his law practice but remained a prominent figure in the Liberal party.

Laflamme’s contemporary Laurent-Olivier David, writing in 1876, emphasized his competence as a lawyer, his refined manner, his somewhat eccentric tastes, and his generosity. But in 1894, after Laflamme’s death following an illness of only a few days, David wrote: “It would have been better for Laflamme if he had never gone into politics . . . . He lost his fortune at it . . . and in no way enhanced his reputation.” To some extent, this judgement reflects differences between the two men in their approach and their connections within the Liberal party; David did acknowledge that, unlike Joseph Doutre, for example, Laflamme “lived and died a Catholic.”

Jean-Paul Bernard

ANQ-M, CE1-51, 16 mai 1827, 11 déc. 1893. NA, MG 24, B50, 2, É.-R. Fabre to E. B. O’Callaghan, 11 Jan. 1852; MG 30, D1, 17: 152–55. “The annexation movement, 1849–50,” ed. A. G. Penny, CHR, 5 (1924): 237. Institut-canadien en 1852, J.-B.-É. Dorion, édit. (Montréal, 1852). Institut-canadien en 1855, J.-L. Lafontaine, édit. (Montréal, 1855). LÉvénement, 9 déc. 1893. Montreal Daily Star, 8 Dec. 1893. LOpinion publique, 14 déc. 1876. J. D. Borthwick, Montreal, its history, to which is added biographical sketches, with photographs, of many of its principal citizens (Montreal, 1875). J.-J. Lefebvre, Le Canada, lAmérique: géographie, histoire (éd. rév., Montréal, 1968). “Les sources imprimées de l’histoire du Canada français,” P.-G. Roy, édit., BRH, 31 (1925): 493. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnell). Wallace, Macmillan dict. Réal Bélanger, Wilfrid Laurier; quand la politique devient passion (Québec et Montréal, 1986). Bernard, Les Rouges. Pierre Beullac et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, Le centenaire du barreau de Montréal, 1849–1949 (Montréal, 1949), 64–68. L. C. Clark, The Guibord affair (Montreal, 1971). L.-O. David, Mes contemporains (Montréal, 1894). Frost, McGill Univ., vol.1. Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967). Pouliot, Mgr Bourget et son temps, vol.4. Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, vols.1–6. D. C. Thomson, Alexander Mackenzie, Clear Grit (Toronto, 1960).

General Bibliography

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Jean-Paul Bernard, “LAFLAMME, TOUSSAINT-ANTOINE-RODOLPHE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 9, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/laflamme_toussaint_antoine_rodolphe_12E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/laflamme_toussaint_antoine_rodolphe_12E.html
Author of Article:   Jean-Paul Bernard
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   December 9, 2023