PAPIN, JOSEPH, lawyer and politician; b. 14 Dec. 1825 at L’Assomption, Lower Canada, fifth of the 11 children of Basile Papin, a well-to-do farmer, and Marie-Rose Pelletier; d. 23 Feb. 1862 in the town of his birth.
Joseph Papin was a brilliant pupil at the Collège de L’Assomption from 1835 to 1842; he then studied law in the office of Joseph-Ferréol Pelletier in Montreal and was called to the bar on 21 Dec. 1846. Joseph Papin rapidly made a name for himself. As a law student he had been one of the group that founded the Institut Canadien at Montreal in December 1844. He was elected its first vice-president in August 1845 and served as president from November 1846 until November 1847. In the May 1848 elections at the Institut Canadien, there was a confrontation between the party that backed La Minerve in support of Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, and the party that backed L’Avenir, which had declared itself for Louis-Joseph Papineau* and against the union. Antoine Gérin-Lajoie*, the editor of La Minerve, was narrowly defeated for president by Toussaint-Antoine-Rodolphe Laflamme*, a contributor to L’Avenir. Louis Labrèche-Viger*, Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion, and Joseph Doutre* were elected to the executive committee, as was Joseph Papin, in the office of recording secretary; they were among the 13 who made up the committee of contributors of L’Avenir. Papin, and the young men of L’Avenir and Papineau’s friends, belonged to the Association pour le Peuplement des Cantons de l’Est [see Louis Labrèche-Viger], and he was one of the signatories to the Annexation Manifesto of 1849.
In the 1851 provincial elections, Papin, Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion, Antoine-Aimé Dorion*, Joseph Doutre, and Joseph-Guillaume Barthe* all campaigned for Louis-Joseph Papineau, a candidate in the city of Montreal riding. When Papineau was defeated, Édouard-Raymond Fabre*, his friend and adviser, asked Joseph Papin and Louis Labrèche-Viger to test public opinion in the county of Deux-Montagnes, where by-elections had become necessary following the death of the elected candidate William Henry Scott*. In a large meeting held at Saint-André-Avellin, Papin was responsible for introducing Papineau, and on this occasion the latter’s supporters were triumphant, presaging the Patriote leader’s victory in July 1852 in the Deux-Montagnes riding. A short time earlier, in the mayoral election for Montreal, Joseph Papin had campaigned for Fabre against Wolfred Nelson. In 1853 Papin was himself elected municipal councillor for the Sainte-Marie district, but his election was rendered void by a decision of the Superior Court in October 1854, because he was unable to furnish proof that he had been a landed proprietor in Montreal for at least a year prior to the election. During these years Joseph Papin was particularly active in the movement for the abolition of seigneurial tenure.
General elections were held in 1854, and Canada East returned a dozen Rouges to the assembly. Le Pays, quoting the British Colonist of Toronto, wrote that they were “beyond question among the most talented men sent to parliament by French Canadians since the Union.” Joseph Papin, who had unsuccessfully offered himself to the group as leader in 1853, was elected in L’Assomption, where he defeated a young Conservative layer, Louis-Siméon Morin*.
As an mla, Papin won renown through the issue of sectarian schools. In 1856 George Brown*, the leader of the Grits, raised the sensitive question of separate schools in Canada West and asked for suppression of Roman Catholic educational privileges. William Locker Pickmore Felton*, however, advocated the extension to Catholic schools in Canada West of the rights accorded Protestant schools in Canada East. At this point Joseph Papin proposed, on the basis of the principle of the separation of church and state and the equality of all religious persuasions, “the establishment throughout the province of a general and uniform system of free elementary education, supported entirely by the State, through a special fund which would be created for that purpose; . . . all schools should be open without discrimination to all children old enough to attend them, and no child should be exposed, by the nature of the teaching given, to seeing his religious beliefs or opinions attacked or offended in any manner.” The Conservatives, for propaganda purposes, held that Joseph Papin and the Rouges had dared to advocate a school system from which religion would be banished. Long after 1856 Papin’s proposal was quoted, as was the programme of L’Avenir in favour of annexation to the United States, as one of the iniquities of the Rouges. During the elections in late 1857 and early 1858, La Minerve of course recalled Papin’s opposition to denominational schools; Papin was defeated in L’Assomption by the Conservative Louis Archambeault*, by a narrow margin of 16 votes.
After this reverse Papin was able to devote more time to the practice of law. At the time of Bishop Ignace Bourget*’s first large-scale attacks on the Institut Canadien, Papin defended Médéric Lanctot*, a young law student in the office of Joseph Doutre and Charles Daoust, who was accused of shattering the windows of the Œuvre des Bons Livres. Papin remained an active Liberal. Thus in the autumn of 1859 he took part in the discussions that led to the manifesto of the parliamentary opposition of Canada East, which advocated “the confederation of the two Canadas” as the solution to the political instability of the Canadian union [see Luther Hamilton Holton*]. In May 1858, after Joseph-Ferréol Pelletier’s death, Joseph Papin became counsel for the town of Montreal, with an annual salary of $2,000. He held this office until his death.
In November 1857 Papin had married Sophie Homier; five years later, when he was only 36, he died of cancer. In a letter to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, Pierre-Férréol Dorval, parish priest of L’Assomption, wrote that he had taken an interest in Papin during his illness, and that Papin had renounced the Institut Canadien and received the sacraments before he died. Marie-Louise, his only child, was to be the mother of Joseph-Papin Archambault*, a Jesuit who was active in the 20th century.
A satirical pamphlet, La pléiade rouge, described Joseph Papin as “the Danton of the Mountain.” It gave him credit only for a “fine physique” and a “powerful voice.” But Joseph Papin was obviously more than a resounding speaker. A few days after his death the Rouge Henri-Émile Chevalier* wrote: “Canadian democracy has just suffered a considerable loss in the person of its most direct leader, M. Joseph Papin . . . and his premature death leaves in Canada a void difficult to fill.” Laurent-Olivier David*, a moderate Liberal, wrote in L’Opinion publique in 1871 that “age, study, and reflection would have made him one of the most important statesmen and the most popular speaker in Lower Canada.” In Le panthéon canadien . . ., François-Marie-Uncas-Maximilien Bibaud*, an author who cannot be suspected of a radical bias, presented Joseph Papin as “one of the most brilliant men to appear on the political scene at the time of the formation of the Liberal party.”
ACAM, 355.114, 862-2. ANQ-Q, AP, Coll. Papineau, no.541. AVM, Biographies autres que celles des maires et conseillers, Joseph Papin. PAC, MG 24, B40, 3, pp.460–62. Can., prov. du, Assemblée législative, Journaux, 1856, 246–47, 310–14, 615–18. L’Avenir, 31 déc. 1847, 24 mai 1848, 13 oct. 1849. La Minerve, 16, 25, 31 oct. 1851; 16 déc. 1857. L’Opinion publique, 24 août 1871. Le Pays, 5, 19, 29 août, 16 sept. 1854; 13, 17 mai 1856. [F.-M.-U.-]M. Bibaud, Le panthéon canadien; choix de biographies, dans lequel on a introduit les hommes les plus célèbres des autres colonies britanniques (2e éd., Montréal, 1891), 212–14. Borthwick, Montreal, 107. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, II, 407. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 299. J.-P. Archambault, La famille Papin (1653–1953) (Montréal, 1953). Bernard, Les Rouges, 42, 45, 64–65, 71, 117, 120–21, 126–29, 147, 172–73, 249. L.-O. David, Biographies et portraits (Montréal, 1876), 81–205. Hist. de la corporation de la cité de Montréal (Lamothe et al.), 210–11. [L.-H. Huot], Le rougisme en Canada; ses idées religieuses, ses principes sociaux et ses tendances anti-canadiennes (Québec, 1864). Institut-canadien en 1852, J.-B.-É. Dorion, édit. (Montréal, 1852), 21–27. Gaspard Le Mage [P.-J.-O. Chauveau et J.-C. Taché], La pléiade rouge (Québec, 1854), 3–4. Monet, Last cannon shot, 286, 370, 383. Guillaume Saint-Pierre, “Les avocats de la Cité,” La Revue du Barreau de la province de Québec (Montréal), 4 (1944), 345–60.