MALHIOT, ÉDOUARD-ÉLISÉE, Patriote and lawyer; b. around 1810 or 1814 at Saint-Pierreles-Becquets (Nicolet County, Quebec); d. August 1875 at L’Assomption (Assumption), in Illinois.
Information about Édouard-Élisée Malhiot’s childhood is totally lacking. We know, however, that he went to Montreal around 1830, and that he studied law there. At Montreal he adopted the Patriote cause with a kind of mystic fervour. He was a friend of Ludger Duvernay*, a keen supporter of Louis-Joseph Papineau, and an active member of the Fils de la Liberté [see Leblanc], and was to be found at all the meetings and demonstrations that took place repeatedly at Montreal between April and November 1837. On 6 November he took part in the brutal clash between the Fils de la Liberté and the members of the Doric Club, who supported the government’s policies. This episode, as he told Duvernay in confidence, was for him the beginning of total commitment.
He threw himself into the battle like a crusader. He is thought to have commanded the small contingent that on 28 November, the day after the events at Saint-Charles, attempted to intercept Colonel George Augustus Wetherall* at Pointe-Olivier (Saint-Mathias), in Rouville County, as he was on his way to Montreal. Shortly afterwards, with several of his compatriots, Malhiot reached the United States and took refuge at Swanton, Vermont. With the object of joining the Patriotes at Saint-Eustache he recrossed the border at the head of a group of 70 to 80 men, but was shortly, on 6 December, stopped at Moore’s Corner (Saint-Armand-Station) by a party of Canadian volunteers [see Moore]. He was wounded, and got back to Swanton the next day; then began for him a short but painful period of exile.
Malhiot passed through a stage of discouragement. During the first weeks of January his material situation was precarious. Above all, he dreaded the worst for the future. In his opinion, the Americans were too tardy in showing in a tangible way their sympathy and especially their support. Moreover, the dissensions among the Patriote leaders were in danger of compromising the cause of independence beyond redemption. Loyal to Papineau; he was angry with Robert Nelson and Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté* for criticizing his leader in public. Only towards the end of May, impatient “with the unpopular and dishonest conduct of Papineau,” did he make it up with Robert Nelson and come round to the idea of an invasion from the United States, as a means of facilitating the move to make Lower Canada an independent republic.
After the failure of a first attempt on 28 Feb. 1838, due it was believed to excessive rashness and to Washington’s desire to keep a more careful watch on the observance of American neutrality, the Patriotes had decided to reorganize themselves in a secret society, the Frères-Chasseurs [see Nelson]. In this group Malhiot was to play an important role. Taking advantage of the general amnesty granted by Lord Durham [Lambton*] on 28 June 1839, he returned to Montreal in August of that year intending to remain there. He did not receive any unwelcome attention. He was appointed Grand Aigle of the Association des Frères-Chasseurs, and conducted a remarkable propaganda campaign in the Richelieu valley. Going round from parish to parish, the “Commandant du Sud,” as he styled himself, set up lodges, initiated new members, and promised arms and munitions for the day of the general uprising. On that day, 3 November, the Patriotes of Lower Canada, assisted by the invasion army directed by Nelson, were to launch simultaneous attacks against Saint-Jean, Chambly, and Sorel and proceed towards Montreal, where the Patriotes would have risen. Sorel was Malhiot’s objective.
The plan proved to be a total failure. Malhiot managed to assemble rapidly nearly 300 men at Saint-Ours, and set off towards his objective during the night of 3 or 4 November. Learning that Nelson had not moved from Napierville, he returned to Saint-Ours the same night. He was a helpless witness of Nelson’s departure from Napierville, his defeat at Odelltown, and his flight to the United States. From 10 to 14 November, with about 200 Patriotes, 3 guns, and more than 100 rifles, he maintained a camp on the mountain of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, fully determined to hold out. To no avail. On the morning of the 14th, as the regular troops approached from Sorel, Malhiot, on whose head a price had been set, fled with a few comrades. They crossed the border after wandering for two weeks in the woods.
Malhiot was profoundly depressed and embittered by the turn of events. Few persons found grace in his eyes. He wrote to Duvernay expressing his contempt for the egoism and ignorance of the Americans, the ingratitude of his compatriots, and particularly the deceit and cowardice of some of those who preached revolution before November 1837 for the purpose of acquiring popularity or through personal interest. It is not impossible that his feelings, together with a certain uneasiness at the idea of seeing again those who had had faith in him, explain why he chose exile. In any case, he had not the kind of temperament which could accept a life of self-effacement.
After some hesitation he went to settle at L’Assomption (Assumption), in Louisiana. The French-speaking settlement that existed in Louisiana was now the home of other refugees of the 1837–38 period, for example Benjamin Ouimet and the doctors J.-Guillaume Beaudrieau and Pierre Damour. Until 1856 Malhiot practised law with great success, acquiring fame and fortune. In 1856 a district elected him senator in absentia.
Malhiot had decided, in this year, to renew contact with his past. Abandoning his career, he bought some fertile land in Illinois. He had conceived the plan of starting there an agricultural settlement, where homes could be set up by some of the thousands of French Canadians who each year were forced to emigrate, and who preferred to work with the earth rather than in the brick-fields and textile factories of New England. About 50 families, some of whom came from his native parish, joined him there. His undertaking prospered. He obtained the services of a Canadian priest for his little community of L’Assomption (Assumption). In 1875 he died prematurely, stricken by cholera. He was mourned by his wife and two sons.
“Inventaire des documents relatifs aux événements de 1837 et 1838, conservés aux archives de la province de Québec,” APQ Rapport, 1925–26, 172, 193, 210, 212, 217, 221, 224, 258, 259, 260, 272, 322. “Papiers Duvernay conservés aux archives de la province de Québec,” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 147–252. Fauteux, Patriotes. Ivanhoë Caron“Édouard-Élisée Malhiot,” RSCT, 3rd ser., XXII (1928),