PELTIER (Pelletier), TOUSSAINT, militia officer, lawyer, Patriote, and office holder; b. 7 Nov. 1792 in Montreal, son of Toussaint Peltier, a merchant, and Élisabeth Lacoste; m. there 11 July 1820 Émilie Hérigault (d. 1840), and they had several children of whom at least two attained adulthood; d. there 20 Aug. 1854.
Toussaint Peltier’s forebear Guillaume Peltier immigrated to New France around the middle of the 17th century. A member of the seventh generation of the family, Toussaint was the eldest of three children whose father, a native of Kamouraska, had been married in Montreal in 1791. Toussaint studied at the Collège Saint-Raphaël from 1802 to 1806, and at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1806 to 1811. He then began his legal training under a brother of Pierre-Stanislas Bédard*, Joseph, who was considered one of the foremost lawyers of his time. During the War of 1812 Peltier served as a lieutenant in Montreal’s 2nd Militia Battalion, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Jacques Hervieux and had Louis-Joseph Papineau* as one of its captains.
Peltier was called to the bar on 23 Aug. 1816 and wasted no time in establishing his reputation. His extensive legal knowledge enabled him to acquire a large and varied practice which he kept all his life; his clients included the majority of Montreal’s civil and religious institutions. Gradually he was entrusted with some of the most important contentious cases. In 1833 he took Joseph Bourret, who was ten years his junior and later became mayor of Montreal, into partnership. He had several students articling with him. One was Charles-Ovide Perrault*, who subsequently represented Vaudreuil in the House of Assembly and who was to die of wounds suffered at Saint-Denis on the Richelieu in November 1837. Another was Melchior-Alphonse de Salaberry*, son of Charles-Michel d’Irumberry* de Salaberry, hero of the battle of Châteauguay. By the time the rebellion broke out, Peltier had become one of the most prominent lawyers in Montreal.
Peltier took an active part in the events of 1837, but adhered to constitutional means in endeavouring to ensure the success of the Patriote cause. He firmly supported the boycott of British products advocated by Papineau, and when he chaired several public meetings he wore rough, homespun clothes, as did Édouard-Étienne Rodier*, a lawyer who was the member for L’Assomption. With another lawyer, Côme-Séraphin Cherrier*, he attended the meeting in May at Saint-Laurent, on Montreal Island, and the one in August at Saint-Constant, near La Prairie. He was imprisoned for high treason on 1 December. William Walker* fought a hard legal battle to have him either brought to trial or released by habeas corpus. Peltier spent more than eight months in prison, almost died there, and was freed only on £1,000 bail, on 8 July 1838.
After the rebellion Peltier resumed practising law. On 2 Oct. 1844 he was appointed legal counsel to the city of Montreal, a post he retained until 1851. On 14 May of that year the municipal council, under pressure from its English-speaking members, named as his assistant Robert Abraham, a former militant journalist who had been called to the bar two years earlier. Deeply offended at having such a person associated with him, Peltier declared that he was humiliated by the council’s action in making this move behind his back, and tendered his resignation to John Ponsonby Sexton*, the city clerk, on 4 June. Shortly after, the council, on the initiative of alderman Édouard-Raymond Fabre, appointed as his successor Joseph-Féréol Peltier, his nephew and son-in-law, who had been called to the bar in 1834. Toussaint Peltier pronounced himself satisfied.
Throughout his career as a lawyer, Peltier’s exceptional qualities were recognized by the public, and the authorities several times bestowed on him the honours he deserved. He was offered a qc and a judgeship. He refused the first, and in 1849, with Cherrier, declined the second. On each occasion he displayed his independence of character, perhaps out of resentment for the incarceration he had suffered in 1837–38 at the hands of the government. When the Bar of Lower Canada was incorporated in 1849 Peltier had the honour of being chosen unanimously by his colleagues as the first bâtonnier (president) of the district of Montreal. He was re-elected to this office in 1850 and 1851, and sat on the bar council in 1852 and 1853; he had agreed in 1852 to sit on the board of the Montreal bar that examined candidates for the profession. In addition, from 1852 to 1854 he was a member of the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal.
During the night of 17–18 Aug. 1854, Peltier was paralysed by a stroke and died two days later at his home on Rue Craig (Saint-Antoine). He was deeply mourned by his sister Henriette (the wife of Alexis Bourret), his daughter Émilie (the wife of Joseph-Féréol Peltier), and his son Hector*. His colleagues attended the funeral as a group and, in accordance with the custom of the day, wore mourning for a month.
A portrait of Toussaint Peltier hangs in the galerie des bâtonniers in the Montreal court-house. Restored in the 1930s, probably from a daguerreotype, this polished representation of him delineates very clear features and seems too idealized.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 7 nov. 1792, 11 juill. 1820, 22 août 1854; CN1-194, 8 août 1811. ANQ-Q, E17/6, no.32; E17/7, no.85; E17/15, nos.902–20; E17/38, nos.3074–75. PAC, MG 30, D1, 24: 415–17; RG 4, B8, 19: 6873–946. Can., Prov. of, Statutes, 1849, c.46. La Minerve, 22 août 1854. L.-O. David, Biographies et portraits (Montréal, 1876), 215. Fauteux, Patriotes, 348. Montreal directory, 1842–54. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 166–67. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 1: 469. Pierre Beullac et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, Le centenaire du barreau de Montréal, 1849–1949 (Montréal, 1949), 21–28. Buchanan, Bench and bar of L.C., 88. David, Les gerbes canadiennes, 176–77. Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967). F.-J. Audet, “1842,” Cahiers des Dix, 7 (1942): 237; “Le Barreau et la révolte de 1837,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 31 (1937), sect.i: 85–96. Guillaume Saint-Pierre, “Les avocats de la cité,” La Rev. du Barreau, 4 (1944): 348–49.