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POLETTE (Paulet), ANTOINE, lawyer, judge, and politician; b. 24 Aug. 1807 at Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville), Lower Canada, son of Antoine Paulet, a farmer, and Marie-Josephe Bertrand; d. 6 Jan. 1887 at Trois-Rivières, Que.
The first Paulet to come to Canada from France was also named Antoine; born at Dieppe in 1626, he married at Quebec in 1655, and then settled at Saint-Pierre, on Île d’Orléans. Antoine Polette spent his childhood at Pointe-aux-Trembles. After attending the parish school, he studied for a year at the Petit Séminaire de Québec. At the age of 14 he became a clerk in the law office of Hilaire Miot-Girard at Quebec. He finished his legal training under Joseph Lagueux, was called to the bar in September 1828, and made his home at Trois-Rivières, where he practised from 1828 to 1860 and took an active part in the town’s political life.
After representing Trois-Rivières on various commissions connected with the region’s development (the commission for building a bridge over the Saint-Maurice in 1834, and the commission for incorporating the district’s parishes in 1839), he became warden of the district in 1842 and mayor of Trois-Rivières in 1846. During his seven years as mayor he saw Trois-Rivières become the centre of a vast region newly opened to the lumber industry and to settlement. The town at this time acquired a telegraph office which linked it with Quebec and Montreal, gas lighting, a new market on Rue des Forges, and the first hall reserved for municipal council discussions.
Like most 19th-century politicians, Polette was not satisfied with working at the municipal level. In 1848 he became the member for the town of Trois-Rivières in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, and he continued to represent the riding until 1857. He sat in the assembly at a time when political parties were taking shape, and supported the governments of Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine* and Robert Baldwin*, and of Francis Hincks and Augustin-Norbert Morin*. But in June 1854 he was one of seven members forming a group around Joseph-Édouard Cauchon and Louis-Victor Sicotte. These dissidents joined with the Rouges of Canada East and the opposition from Canada West to defeat Hincks, who refused to settle the serious issues of the abolition of seigneurial tenure and the clergy reserves. Their action explains why L’Ère nouvelle of Trois-Rivières hailed Polette’s re-election in July 1854 as “a triumph of the opposition,” although he is classed among the Bleus by modern historians. As an mla Polette served, in particular, on the committee on seigneurial tenure in 1851, the Select Committee to Enquire into the Causes Which Prevent or Retard the Settlement of the Eastern Townships, also in 1851, and the special committee on education in 1853 [see Louis Lacoste*].
Polette retired from politics in November 1857. In 1859 he was a member of the first Council of Public Instruction [see Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau], and the following year he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court. In this capacity, he served in 1873 on the royal commission of inquiry into the Pacific Scandal.
Polette was married three times: on 20 Feb. 1830, at Champlain, to his cousin Henriette, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, a well-known merchant of Quebec and Batiscan; in 1834, at Quebec, to Anne, sister of the chief justice of the province, Jean-François-Joseph Duval; and in 1857 to Aurelia Sophia, daughter of Judge William King McCord*.
AC, Trois-Rivières, État civil, Catholiques, Immaculée-Conception (Trois-Rivières), 1887. ANQ-Q, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-François-de-Sales (Neuville), 1807. Archives du séminaire de Trois-Rivières, D1, B17; E3, 46. ASQ, Fichier des anciens, 1817–18. PAC, MG 30, D1, 25: 17–30. Le Courrier du Canada, 10 janv. 1887. L’Ère nouvelle (Trois-Rivières), 1852–54. Journal des Trois-Rivières, 13 nov. 1847, 8 janv. 1848, 22 janv. 1853. Le Journal des Trois-Rivières, 10 janv. 1887, 22 nov. 1888. F.-J. Audet, Les députés des Trois-Rivières, 21. Canadian biog. dict., I: 370–71. P.-G. Roy, Les avocats de la région de Québec, 358; Les juges de la prov. de Québec, 441 Bernard, Les Rouges, 98, 118. Chapais, Hist. du Canada, VII: 71. Cornell, Alignment of political groups. Benjamin Sulte, Mélanges historiques, Gérard Malchelosse, édit. (21v., Montréal, 1918–34), III: 104–5. L.-P. Turcotte, Le Canada sous l’Union, II: 211–12. Les ursulines des Trois-Rivières depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours (4v., Trois-Rivières, 1888–1911), III: 430. L.-P. Audet, “Urgel-Eugène Archambault instituteur (1851–1859),” Cahiers des Dix, 27 (1962): 135–76. Raphaël Bellemare, “L’auteur du ‘Canadien émigrant,’” BRH, 3 (1897): 62–63. Albert Tessier, “Les voyages vers 1800,” Cahiers des Dix, 6 (1941): 83–108.