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Original title:  Pierre-Amand Landry

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LANDRY, Sir PIERRE-AMAND, lawyer, politician, and judge; b. 1 May 1846 in Memramcook, N.B., fourth of the nine children of Amand Landry* and Pélagie Caissie (Casey); m. 17 Sept. 1872 Bridget Annie McCarthy in Saint John, and they had eleven children, four of whom died in infancy; d. 28 July 1916 in Dorchester, N.B.

Born into one of the oldest Acadian communities in New Brunswick, Pierre-Amand Landry was descended from a family that had lived in the Maritimes since the very beginnings of Acadia. His father, who was considered one of the leaders in Memramcook, had been a teacher before buying a farm. The year Pierre-Amand was born, he was elected to the House of Assembly to represent the mainly English-speaking riding of Westmorland, becoming the first mha of Acadian origin in New Brunswick.

Pierre-Amand received his primary education at the parish school in Memramcook West. Envisaging a political career for him, his father soon took charge of his schooling. When the boy was about 13, he enrolled him in the Fredericton Collegiate School. The two or three years he spent in Fredericton enabled him to learn about English culture. He got his first experience of politics quite early by going to hear the debates when his father was sitting in the assembly. Armed with a third-class teaching certificate, he taught for a few years in southeastern New Brunswick in order to earn enough money for further study. Landry was one of the first to enrol in the College of St Joseph in Memramcook when it opened on 10 Oct. 1864 [see Camille Lefebvre*]. There he polished his oratorical skills in the Académie Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a literary society. In 1867 he began serving as an articled clerk in the Dorchester law office of Albert James Smith*, a former premier of the province. Admitted as an attorney in October 1870 and called to the bar a year later, Landry was the first Acadian to become a lawyer. He opened his office and took up residence in Dorchester, the shire-town of Westmorland County. In 1872 he married Bridget Annie McCarthy, the daughter of Timothy McCarthy, a Fredericton businessman of Irish descent who was a friend of his father.

For Landry 1870 was the beginning of a busy political life that would be marked by many firsts for an Acadian. Imbued with the necessary qualities and great ambition, he believed himself destined to become a leader of the Acadians. Shortly before the 1870 provincial election, his father retired from politics and Pierre-Amand, who was but 24, decided to take his place. Chosen as the Acadian candidate in the riding of Westmorland, he was elected on 5 July 1870.

Landry’s political career began at a time when controversy over school reform was precipitating unprecedented ethnic and religious conflicts and driving the Acadians in New Brunswick to defend their interests publicly. During the election campaign Landry had denounced the plan of George Edwin King*’s government to set up a network of public schools, advocating instead a system of separate schools financed by the government. Recognizing his influence among Roman Catholic voters, the party in power tried to win his tacit support for the plan by promising him the portfolio of commissioner of public works, but he refused to be bought.

In April 1871 the New Brunswick assembly began studying a bill to create a system of public schools funded by the state through a new universal school tax. A month later a provision was added to the text, stipulating that the schools governed by it would be non-denominational. Despite the opposition of the Roman Catholic clergy, mhas, and press, the Common Schools Act was passed by a large Protestant majority. The Roman Catholics, most of whom were Acadians, refused to pay the school tax, even under duress; they sought the help of the federal government, but it decided not to intervene [see John Costigan]. School reform became the issue in the 1874 election campaign. Appealing to the English-speaking Protestant majority for support to prevent the Roman Catholics from getting enough power to change the law, the government won an overwhelming victory. Landry was one of those who lost their seats.

Despite his defeat, Landry soon resumed his place in the vanguard of the struggle for Acadian rights. Fifteen months later he was front-page news in the province’s papers, this time as a lawyer. In 1875 an Acadian demonstration at Caraquet against the school tax had degenerated into a brawl during which a young Acadian demonstrator and an English-speaking “volunteer” were killed [see Robert Young*]. Nine Acadians were indicted for the murder of the anglophone victim and there was a sensational trial at Bathurst, in which Landry acted as assistant to the defence counsel, Samuel Robert Thomson*. The two succeeded in getting the accused freed. Thus Landry’s reputation as a brilliant lawyer and a champion of the Acadian people was greatly enhanced. For its part, the provincial government reached a compromise on the school question with the Roman Catholic minority by allowing, among other things, religious instruction outside school hours [see John Sweeny*].

Always attentive to his clients’ interests, Landry over the years had built an extensive practice among both Acadians and anglophones in Westmorland County. In 1878, when the schools controversy and anti-Catholic feeling had died down somewhat, he was able to run as an independent in the provincial election. Party affiliation proved more of a political necessity than ever, and he finally aligned himself with the Conservatives. He carefully avoided the question of the schools act and promoted the only possible policy for the Acadian minority: moderation and tolerance. On 22 June 1878 Landry was successful at the polls, as were his English-speaking running mates Daniel Lionel Hanington, Joseph Laurence Black*, and Amasa Emerson Killam, who had joined forces with him in hopes of attracting the Acadian vote.

In order to regain the support of the Roman Catholic community, which had voted overwhelmingly for independent candidates, and to give real recognition to the increased importance of Westmorland and ridings in northeastern New Brunswick, Premier John James Fraser* included Acadian and Irish Roman Catholics in the cabinet for the first time. On 13 July 1878 Landry was sworn in as commissioner of public works, becoming the first Acadian to hold cabinet rank in New Brunswick. Michael Adams, the mha for Northumberland, who was of Irish descent, was appointed surveyor general. Both offices were desirable because of the broad discretionary powers they conferred. Hanington became minister without portfolio.

From the moment he took up his duties, Landry made as effective use of patronage as had his predecessor, William Moore Kelly*, whose riding of Northumberland had received large sums the previous year for building and repairing bridges, while Westmorland got much less. Landry saw fit to correct this imbalance in 1879 by nearly doubling the funds for bridges in Westmorland, while substantially reducing those for Northumberland. Between 1878 and 1882, however, in view of the English-speaking community’s reaction to “French Power,” there was no significant increase in the number of Acadians appointed to supervise highway construction or in the special grants accorded to Acadian regions. Nevertheless, faced with requests from his compatriots on all sides, Landry recognized that the right of Acadians to fair treatment in the distribution of public offices was a matter of principle, rather than of political opportunism. Determined to develop education in the French-speaking parts of the province, he hastened the creation in 1878 of a French-speaking preparatory division in the Fredericton Normal School and the appointment a year later of the first Acadian school inspector [see Valentin Landry]. He also made an effort to promote his compatriots, including Ambroise-D. Richard, who was named to the Legislative Council in 1882. As commissioner of public works, Landry was in charge of the construction of a new building for the Legislative Assembly, which opened on 16 Feb. 1882.

For several years the Acadian population had been increasing markedly, as had the efforts of the élite to provide them with an independent socio-political organization and a group consciousness based on a sense of belonging to one people, to one nation. In June 1880 Landry led a delegation of some 100 prominent Acadians from the Maritimes to the Convention Nationale des Canadiens Français at Quebec. At the age of about 35 he had become the unchallenged leader of the Acadians. He chaired the first three Acadian national conventions, held at Memramcook in 1881, Miscouche, P.E.I., in 1884, and Church Point, N.S., in 1890. At these gatherings religious, cultural, political, and economic matters were discussed and Landry demonstrated his oratorical prowess. His speeches, which were full of clear, simple truths, put forward a program of action for Acadians. At the opening of the first convention he spelled out the situation in which they found themselves and the objectives of the meeting. “We acknowledge our present position of inferiority [and] we want to study the reasons for it. We recognize in ourselves a laudable ambition to emerge from oblivion, [and] to achieve this goal we want to take advantage of any means that prudence and wisdom may suggest.”

Landry’s political career reached new heights when Premier Fraser resigned on 25 May 1882. That same day the cabinet was reshuffled under the leadership of Daniel Lionel Hanington, as premier, and Landry, who became provincial secretary. As the minister responsible for education and finances, he was one of the most powerful politicians in New Brunswick. He could have been premier, but he backed Hanington, judging that the time had not yet come when an Acadian premier could win at the polls in New Brunswick. Once formed, the government called an election. Landry won a resounding victory in Westmorland, and the government managed to remain in power, though with a reduced majority. The English-speaking community in the province soon realized that Hanington was but a front and the real leader of the government was Landry, the Acadian. The defeat of Sir Albert James Smith in the federal election held at the same time (a defeat Landry had helped bring about) aroused anti-French sentiment. After the election in Westmorland was declared null and void because of irregularities committed by agents of those involved, Landry and his running mates won again in the by-election of 9 Jan. 1883. In Fredericton, however, the government soon had to face the vigorous opposition of the Liberals under Andrew George Blair*, who succeeded in persuading a few Conservative members to defect secretly. On 2 March the Hanington–Landry government had to resign after a vote of no-confidence. There were no French-speaking ministers in the new cabinet.

Even before the defeat of his government, Landry had set his sights on Ottawa. In March 1883, sensing that his career might be stalled by a period in opposition, he asked the mp for Kent, Gilbert-Anselme Girouard*, to resign so he himself might run in that riding. Girouard agreed, provided he was named customs collector in Richibucto. While waiting for this appointment to be confirmed, Landry delivered one of his best patriotic speeches, on 15 August during the celebration of the Acadian national holiday at Bouctouche. He denounced the servile attitude of Acadians towards the English-speaking community. “We have grown so accustomed to this idea of being inferior, we have rooted ourselves so firmly in these feelings of excessive modesty, that even today we consider it necessary to treat the English with a deference we could equally well show our own people.” Once his appointment in Richibucto was assured, Girouard resigned, and Landry lost no time in announcing his candidacy in the federal by-election of 22 Sept. 1883. Supported by the majority of Acadian voters, he defeated George Valentine McInerney*. He would be re-elected in 1887.

In Ottawa Landry delivered the Acadians’ support to Sir John A. Macdonald*’s Conservatives, defending at the same time the interests of both Acadians and New Brunswick. Although he was overshadowed at first by more experienced colleagues from New Brunswick, such as Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley* and John Costigan, Macdonald appointed him to several House of Commons committees. In the unrest of 1885–86 Landry admitted that the Acadian people were troubled by the execution of Louis Riel* but he completely disapproved of rebellion as a means of redressing grievances. Drawing a parallel with the Acadians in New Brunswick, he maintained that his people would never have made any progress in the political domain if they had resorted to violence.

As much from conviction as from political realism, Landry sought to promote “a truly Canadian spirit” which was oblivious to linguistic and religious differences. He was astute enough to realize, however, that politics did not operate at this level. On several occasions he wrote to Macdonald, Tilley, and Sir Hector-Louis Langevin* to complain about the inadequate representation of Acadians in Ottawa. For example, although the Maritimes were entitled to 24 senators, there were no Acadians in the Senate. When Senator William Muirhead died in 1884, the Acadian élite, which had become more aggressive as a result of its first two conventions, was determined not to miss its chance. Landry subtly threatened Macdonald with a loss of Acadian allegiance, and Acadian leaders organized public meetings at which resolutions were passed and sent to Macdonald and Langevin. When it was confirmed that an Acadian would be appointed to the Senate, Tilley offered the post to Landry, but he instead supported the candidacy of Pascal Poirier*, since he himself wanted to continue seeking appointment to the New Brunswick Supreme Court. On 9 March 1885 Poirier became the first Acadian senator.

Landry’s elevation to the bench came as a result of the repeated representations he had made to his contacts in the federal government since 1880. It was on 15 April 1890, following the death of judge Bliss Botsford*, that Macdonald at last offered him a position on the county court of Westmorland and Kent. Seeing this as an opportunity to move up one day to the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, Landry accepted, all the more readily since his delicate health and his wife’s state of depression made it urgent for him to return to New Brunswick. The first Acadian to become a judge, Landry became known for his attention to detail, his ability to grasp the overall picture, and his concern to treat both linguistic communities fairly. On 21 Sept. 1893 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of New Brunswick. In 1908 the Conservative premier, John Douglas Hazen*, made Landry chairman of a commission to inquire into the financial transactions between the Liberal governments of Lemuel John Tweedie and William Pugsley* and the Central Railway Company. The commission’s report, which condemned the governments involved and the company for acting contrary to the public interest and for embezzling public funds, touched off a bitter controversy. Despite the fierce attacks of Liberal newspapers, Landry’s integrity during this affair helped enhance his reputation. He became chief justice of the King’s Bench division when the Supreme Court of New Brunswick was reorganized in 1913.

Landry unhesitatingly used his prestige and social position to promote causes he held dear. Like all Acadian leaders, he acknowledged the leading role the church could play in the progress of the Acadian people, especially in matters of education and the defence of the French language. Unfortunately the bishops of Irish descent favoured training English-speaking clergy who insisted that English be used in Acadian parishes. From 1893 Pascal Poirier and Landry, president and secretary respectively of the Société Nationale de l’Assomption, waged a vigorous campaign to have an Acadian priest appointed coadjutor in at least one of the two New Brunswick dioceses, Chatham and Saint John. In 1899, despite their many representations, two priests of Irish descent were chosen. Landry was deeply disappointed, and he reportedly told a journalist who asked whether he had attended the consecration of the two bishops that he had not wanted to be present at the “funeral of the Acadian people.” Beginning with the national convention held in Arichat in 1900, the most influential members of the Acadian élite fought tenaciously against Irish domination within the Roman Catholic clergy. In 1907 and again in 1910, Abbé Marcel-François Richard, the curé of Rogersville, went to Rome with a petition calling for a third diocese to be created, with Moncton as its seat and an Acadian bishop. It was not until 1912, however, that the Acadians got their first bishop – Édouard-Alfred Le Blanc*, who was appointed to the diocese of Saint John.

Landry’s brilliant career brought him many honours. He was made a QC on 11 Nov. 1881 and received honorary doctorates from the University of New Brunswick in 1900 and the Université Laval in 1902. In 1914 he was one of the main speakers at the 50th anniversary celebration of his alma mater, now the University of Saint Joseph. In 1916, when the Saint John New Freeman launched a campaign for a Roman Catholic lieutenant governor, Landry was immediately approached, but his health was failing and it is unlikely he would have been able to accept the office. In June 1916, perhaps as a compensation, he became the first and only Acadian to be knighted. He would not long enjoy the honour, however. His strength had been ebbing since 1890 and he had been suffering from cancer since 1915. On 28 July 1916, at the age of 70, he died at his home in Dorchester, in the presence of his wife and three of their children. A considerate husband and conscientious father, he had earned the respect and affection of his offspring, having attached great importance to their religious instruction, their education, and family life. His death plunged the Acadian community into mourning and many eulogies were delivered in his honour throughout New Brunswick and across Canada. Landry was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Thomas parish at Memramcook. In September 1955 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada placed a plaque in his memory at the University of Saint Joseph.

Sir Pierre-Amand Landry had a spectacular career, given that French-speaking Roman Catholics in New Brunswick were often then looked on as second-class citizens. He helped prove that an Acadian could be an outstanding success in a society dominated by an English-speaking Protestant majority. However, Landry was no different from other ambitious politicians who kept plying Macdonald with requests for appointments and honours. For a nationalistic leader, he seems to have paid a disproportionate amount of attention to the anglophone majority. He wrote to other politicians (even French-speaking ones such as Langevin) in English. He often spoke in English to Acadian audiences. He had a strong party loyalty and, regardless of his constituents’ opinions, supported successive Conservative governments on the Riel affair and the empire question. Unlike many of his Acadian compatriots, Landry took a stand in favour of Canadian participation in World War I and encouraged young Acadians to enlist for overseas service. He was unable to pass on his nationalism to his children, who adopted their mother’s culture instead. Happy to proclaim that Acadians were bilingual and thus could “aspire to the same responsibilities” as their English-speaking neighbours, he apparently did not see that this one-sided bilingualism might in the end confirm their alienation. Yet despite his propensity for “fostering harmony,” Landry was one of the few orators of his generation who denounced his people’s servility towards the English-speaking community and urged Acadians to take their future into their own hands. Three weeks before his death, he described his career succinctly as “46 years of active struggle to protect our interests, improve our condition, and raise us to the level of the other races.”

Jean-Roch Cyr

Pierre-Amand Landry corresponded extensively with several of his compatriots, including Mgr Marcel-François Richard, Pascal Poirier, Placide Gaudet*, and Gilbert-Anselme Girouard, as well as with various politicians in the provincial and federal arenas. He also delivered numerous political, patriotic, and occasional speeches, over 30 of which are reproduced, along with a number of open letters addressed to the Acadian people, in Le Moniteur acadien from 1867 to 1914. Photographs of Landry are available in two collections in the PANB’s Photograph sect.: P5/358, 369, 838 and P37/138–40.

Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Thomas (Memramcook, N.-B.), RBMS (mfm. at the Centre d’Études Acadiennes, Univ. de Moncton, N.-B.). Centre d’Études Acadiennes, Fonds P.-A. Landry. PANB, MC 1552; RS115, 13/8–9. Le Moniteur acadien, 1867–1926. L’album souvenir des noces d’argent de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste du collège Saint-Joseph, Memramcook, N.-B. . . . ([Memramcook?, 1894?]). Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson). Conventions Nationales des Acadiens, Recueil des travaux et délibérations des six premières conventions, F.-J. Robidoux, compil. (Shédiac, N.-B., 1907). Raymond Mailhot, “Prise de conscience collective acadienne au Nouveau-Brunswick (1860–1891) et comportement de la majorité anglophone” (thèse de doctorat, univ. de Montréal, 1973); “Sir Pierre-A. Landry, premier politicien acadien d’envergure au Nouveau-Brunswick,” Soc. Hist. Acadienne, Cahiers (Moncton), 4 (1971–73): 217–35. M. S. Spigelman, “The Acadian renaissance and the development of Acadien-Canadien relations, 1864–1912: ‘des frères trop longtemps séparés’” (phd thesis, Dalhousie Univ., Halifax, 1975); “Race et religion: les Acadiens et la hiérarchie catholique irlandaise au Nouveau-Brunswick,” RHAF, 29 (1975–76): 69–85. D. M. M. Stanley, “A man for two peoples: Pierre-Amand Landry, 1846–1916” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1974); A man for two peoples: Pierre-Amand Landry (Fredericton, 1988); “Pierre-Amand Landry, the judge,” Soc. Hist. Acadienne, Cahiers, 6 (1975): 82–100. G. F. G. Stanley, “The Caraquet riots of 1875,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 2 (1972–73), no.1: 21–38. Léon Thériault, “Acadia, 1763–1978: an historical synthesis” and “The Acadianization of the Catholic Church in Acadia (1763–1953),” in The Acadians of the Maritimes: thematic studies, ed. Jean Daigle (Moncton, N.B., 1982), 47–86 and 271–339; and “Les origines de l’archevêché de Moncton: 1835–1936,” Soc. Hist. Acadienne, Cahiers, 17 (1986): 111–32. [J.] R. [H.] Wilbur, The rise of French New Brunswick (Halifax, 1989).

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Jean-Roch Cyr, “LANDRY, Sir PIERRE-AMAND,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/landry_pierre_amand_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/landry_pierre_amand_14E.html
Author of Article:   Jean-Roch Cyr
Title of Article:   LANDRY, Sir PIERRE-AMAND
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   June 23, 2024