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LORIMIER, CHARLES-CHAMILLY DE, lawyer, professor, judge, and editor; b. 13 Sept. 1842 in Dubuque (Iowa), son of Jean-Baptiste-Chamilly de Lorimier and Christine-Rachel Cadieux; m. 27 Nov. 1865 Marie-Malvina St Jean in Montreal, and they had eight children, of whom two sons and two daughters survived infancy; d. there 24 May 1919 and was buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

Jean-Baptiste-Chamilly, the father of Charles-Chamilly de Lorimier, was a lawyer in Montreal and his elder brother, Chevalier*, was a notary; a younger brother emigrated to Dubuque, where his family became prominent in lead mining and politics. The two older brothers cemented their social positions by marrying daughters of Jean-Marie Cadieux, reputed to be one of Montreal’s richest notaries.

An important participant in the rebellion of 1837–38, Chevalier was the most prominent Patriote to die on the scaffold. Jean-Baptiste-Chamilly, a key member of the Comité Central et Permanent du District de Montréal, participated in the battle at Saint-Eustache and escaped to the United States with Étienne Chartier* and Jean-Baptiste-Henri Brien* after the collapse of the rebellion. He and his wife went to Dubuque; there Charles-Chamilly was born.

By 1843 the family had returned to Montreal, and by the late 1840s Jean-Baptiste-Chamilly had reopened his law practice. They were soon living comfortably. Charles-Chamilly received his classical education at the Collège Sainte-Marie. It was particularly significant for his ideological development that he studied law at the college under François-Maximilien Bibaud*. A staunch defender of seigneurialism, the traditional family, and a classical approach to the civil law, and fearful of the effects of capitalism on these institutions in French Canada, Bibaud undoubtedly helped orient Lorimier towards his belief that the civil law was an essential bulwark of French Canadian and Catholic values. Indeed, Lorimier’s life and career are best understood in the context of the French-speaking bourgeoisie of late-19th-century Montreal; his family roots, his education, his profession, and the omnipresence of ultramontane Catholicism in his surroundings shaped his solidly conservative social views and his clerical-nationalist ideology. Lorimier would serve as president of the Union Catholique [see Ignace Bourget*] and in 1880 he would represent the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal at a meeting in Quebec calling for a union of all French Canadian societies.

Admitted to the bar on 4 Sept. 1865, Lorimier practised first with his elder brother Tancrède-Chevalier, then with Désiré Girouard, and finally with his son-in-law Albert-Emmanuel de Lorimier. He acted as lawyer for the Crédit Foncier Franco-Canadien, a building society established in 1881 with substantial backing from French banks and closely allied in Canada with both the Conservative government of Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau* and the Banque Nationale; it specialized in loans, particularly mortgages, for municipalities, farmers, and school corporations.

Lorimier had advanced steadily in the legal hierarchy, serving as an examiner for the Montreal bar for several years and as crown prosecutor for the district of Terrebonne in 1873–75. He was named a qc in 1882 and that year was awarded an lld by the Université Laval. In 1880 he had begun teaching criminal law at the Montreal branch of the university and, presumably for these courses, he authored “Cours de droit criminel.” Federal Conservatives were to name him judge of the Superior Court for the district of Joliette on 15 April 1889; a decade later he would be transferred to the district of Montreal, where he sat until his retirement in 1914.

Lorimier was active in the campaign during the early 1880s to limit the influence of the Supreme Court of Canada. With the collapse of attempts to abolish the court, his law partner Girouard tried unsuccessfully to restrict the court’s jurisdiction in provincial matters, particularly those pertaining to Quebec’s system of civil law. At a meeting of the Montreal bar in February 1881 Lorimier was in the minority who voted for an amendment stating that the Supreme Court represented “dangers for the purity of our civil law.” He is best known for his 21-volume work, La bibliothèque du Code civil de la province de Québec. Begun in 1871 and completed in 1890, this collection brought together the authorities on which the Civil Code of 1866 was based. Although he worked on the first three volumes with Charles-Albert Vilbon, Lorimier was the publication’s driving force and primary compiler. He tied the “noble and patriotic” Civil Code inextricably to French Canada, as one of “the bonds which unite the members of the great French Canadian family, tightened by the unity and the homogeneity in the laws.” The code represented “a new link in this golden chain which must always ally our destinies to those of our old mother country.”

He was a founder of La Thémis (1879), a monthly law review that supplemented Commentaire sur le Code civil du Bas-Canada (2v., Montréal, 1873–79) by Thomas-Jean-Jacques Loranger* and his own Bibliothèque. In its opening editorial, La Thémis emphasized the importance not only of a “theoretical knowledge of the law,” but also of its “social context” – what the editors called “the living and dramatic part of the law.” Although other law journals devoted most of their space to commercial law, La Thémis concentrated on social issues: the family, marriage, and inheritance.

In 1895 he began editing the monthly La Revue de jurisprudence, a collection of decisions from rural courts in Quebec. With legal correspondents across 19 judicial districts, Lorimier insisted that his review, while not ignoring Montreal and Quebec, was “mainly destined to be the organ of the rural districts.” He continued to edit it until his death in 1919.

At his death, the law faculty paid homage to his service to the legal and notarial professions. Lorimier was overshadowed publicly by the older and more brilliant Loranger, as well as by more outspoken ultramontane peers such as Joseph-Édouard Lefebvre de Bellefeuille. Nevertheless, his insistence on the Civil Code of 1866 as an integral part of French Canada’s national spine and his defence of Quebec law from interference by the Supreme Court, as well as his role as lawyer, teacher, judge, and unsung editor, made him a significant legal intellectual.

Brian Young

[The history of the Lorimier family is documented in Michel de Lorimier, “Chevalier de Lorimier, notaire et patriote montréalais de 1837–1838” (thèse de ma, univ. du Québec à Montréal, 1975), the same author’s biography of Chevalier de Lorimier in the DCB, vol.VII, and É.-Z. Massicotte, “La famille de Lorimier: notes généalogiques et historiques,” BRH, 21 (1915): 10–16, 33–45. Charles-Chamilly de Lorimier’s work as a legal intellectual can be examined in his principal work, La bibliothèque du Code civil de la province de Québec . . . , which he compiled (with the assistance of C.-A. Vilbon for the first three volumes), as well as in La Thémis (Montréal), 1 (1879–80)–6 (1884–85), and La Rev. de jurisprudence (Montréal), 1 (1895)–25 (1919); the latter includes several of his judgements from the districts of Joliette and Montreal. The debate over the Supreme Court is described in J. G. Snell and Frederick Vaughan, The Supreme Court of Canada: history of the institution ([Toronto], 1985). No historian has thus far prepared a complete account of the judicial profession in Quebec. The pro-capitalist attitude of late-19th-century francophone business is discussed in Fernande Roy, Progrès, harmonie, liberté: le libéralisme des milieux d’affaires francophones de Montréal au tournant du siècle (Montréal, 1988). For the pervasiveness of the clerical-nationalist ideology among the Montreal bourgeoisie see Philippe Sylvain et Nive Voisine, Les XVIIIe et XIXe siècles: réveil et consolidation (1840–1898), and Jean Hamelin et Nicole Gagnon, Le XXe siècle (1898–1940), which constitute volumes [3] and [1] respectively of Histoire du catholicisme québécois, sous la direction de Nive Voisine (4v. parus, Montréal, 1984–  ). A photograph of Lorimier and a description of his legal career are found in P.-G. Roy, Les juges de la prov. de Québec; the most comprehensive obituary appears in La Patrie, 26 mai 1919.  b.y.]

ANQ-M, CE1-51, 27 nov. 1865.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Brian Young, “LORIMIER, CHARLES-CHAMILLY DE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lorimier_charles_chamilly_de_14E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lorimier_charles_chamilly_de_14E.html
Author of Article:   Brian Young
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   May 21, 2024