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LAVIOLETTE, PIERRE – Volume VIII (1851-1860)

b. 4 March 1794 in Boucherville, Lower Canada


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From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

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The Fenians

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The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

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The War of 1812 

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TRUDEL, FRANÇOIS-XAVIER-ANSELME (baptized François-Anselme), lawyer, journalist, and politician; b. 28 April 1838 at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade (La Pérade), Lower Canada, son of François-Xavier Trudel and Julie Langevin; d. 17 Jan. 1890 in Montreal, Que.

The Trudel family emigrated from France in the 17th century and settled at L’Ange-Gardien near Quebec. François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel’s father was a prosperous farmer in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, and his grandfather, Olivier Trudel, represented the county of Champlain in the Lower Canadian assembly from 1830 to 1838.

François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel entered the Séminaire de Nicolet in 1852. During his student years he seems to have shown interest in literature and in the various oratorical exercises then part of the classical programme. If a former classmate is to be believed, Trudel did not wait until he had finished his studies to make his début in journalism; he and some comrades became involved in a controversy with Le Pays, the main Liberal newspaper in Montreal. Young Trudel used this opportunity to defend zealously the religious principles instilled in him at the seminary, and to proclaim his unshakeable attachment to the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy. Although he abandoned the idea of joining clerical ranks, he remained committed to militant Catholic action throughout his life.

On completing his classical education in 1859, Trudel commenced studies at François-Maximilien Bibaud’s law school, articling with the firm of Charles-André Leblanc* and Francis Cassidy*, and then with Moreau, Ouimet et Morin. In December 1861 he was licensed to practise and embarked on what was to be a lengthy legal career. Originally in partnership with Paul Denis, an mla, he later worked with Napoléon Charbonneau and Gustave Lamothe. While carrying on his profession he engaged in other pursuits, particularly journalism and politics. He was also active in literary societies, and wrote a number of essays.

Trudel’s involvement in a wide variety of fields did not, however, result in intellectual and ideological fragmentation. On the contrary, his thinking and action reflected certain fundamental values which seem to have varied little in the course of his career as a writer, journalist, lawyer, and politician. These values, which other contemporary intellectuals shared, in their turn fitted into the conceptual framework known as ultramontane ideology. As a school of thought, ultramontanism, in the 19th century, denoted the tenets of the declared supporters of papal supremacy, and therefore of clerical supremacy in every sphere, whether religious, political, or social. Formulated in Europe by laymen such as Joseph de Maistre and priests such as Hugues-Félicité-Robert de La Mennais, and publicized by Louis Veuillot’s newspaper L’Univers (Paris), this ideology was adopted and disseminated in Quebec in the mid 19th century by an influential group of clerics whose activity was supported by a no less influential group of French Canadian laymen including Cléophas Beausoleil*, Siméon Pagnuelo, and Alphonse Desjardins*. This group, recruited primarily from the professional bourgeoisie, consisted of journalists, writers, and lawyers, who were also politicians, as was often the case in that period. Flaunting staunchly conservative political and social views, these intellectuals waged a bitter struggle, alongside such ultramontane clerical leaders as Ignace Bourget and Louis-François Laflèche*, to ensure the victory of the fundamental principles underlying the political-religious ideology they were defending.

The body of ultramontane doctrine that inspired Trudel’s thought and action had both political and religious dimensions whose main lines are easy to define. The political doctrine – which is central to the ultramontane frame of mind – is based on a number of assumptions about the respective attributes and powers of church and state. The church is an institution of divine origin which holds its powers from God, and thereby partakes of the very nature of its founder; the state is a human institution whose relationship with God is only indirect, hence it is subject to the limits and weaknesses inherent in human nature. The church, a perfect society, is infallible in all things (and Ultramontanes such as Trudel were quick to extend its infallibility beyond religious questions to political and social ones). The state, an imperfect society, is fallible. Finally, the church works on the supernatural plane and seeks an eternal good, the salvation of man. The state operates only on the natural plane, and seeks material, therefore precarious and perishable, goods.

According to this political creed, the state is perceived as distinctly inferior to the church in its nature and attributes, and in the objectives it pursues, hence the necessity for it to submit to the orders of the church, and to respect the integrity of the church’s rights, in return for the latter’s guarantee to recognize the legitimacy of the role of the state and of the power it exercises over those it governs. This interpretation of the church-state relationship is central to the ideological confrontations and struggles that marked Trudel’s eventful career as a militant Ultramontane.

In his college years young Trudel had already pitted himself against the editors of the paper Le Pays in defence of his religious convictions. Even before he had finished articling, he had a further opportunity to demonstrate his ability as a journalist in articles he wrote for La Minerve of Montreal in 1859. During the following year he held the position of editorialist for about six months. Subsequently, he seems to have contributed, albeit sporadically, to Montreal papers of ultramontane leanings such as Le Nouveau Monde and Le Franc-Parleur. It is, however, difficult to assess the true extent of his association with these papers.

In fact, although a number of articles published in the ultramontane press apparently drew inspiration from Trudel’s thinking, and included, sometimes in full, passages from pamphlets he had written, the contemporary custom of leaving articles unsigned makes it impossible to identify the author with certainty. On the other hand, it is easier to determine what Trudel contributed to literary journals which none the less had a religious character, such as the Revue canadienne of Montreal; a founder and co-owner of this periodical, he published several articles concerning the respective powers of church and state in 1870 and 1871. He also contributed occasionally to L’Écho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial (Montreal), a bulletin launched in 1858 under the patronage of the Sulpicians to further the work of their Cabinet de Lecture Paroissial, which had been founded the year before with the object of countering the influence of liberal literature considered anti-Christian and harmful to young people.

Trudel’s literary and journalistic activity was therefore wide-ranging, although it did not go outside his usual ideological framework. At the beginning of the 1860s he wrote three essays on diverse topics for L’Écho du Cabinet de lecture paroissial. In 1861 he published “Les Destinées du peuple canadien,” in which he broadly sketched the historical evolution of the country through an analysis based principally on moral and spiritual criteria. In 1862 Trudel completed a moral essay entitled “La Tempérance au point de vue social,” and, a year later, a study on “Frédéric Ozanam et son œuvre,” in which he paid tribute to one of the pioneers of Catholic social action in France. During the 1860s, Trudel was also particularly active in organizations and literary circles founded out of a sense of commitment to Catholicism and militant action. Hence from 1860 to 1869 he served as president of the literary circle attached to the Sulpicians’ Cabinet de Lecture Paroissial, and also in this period of the Union Catholique de Montréal, a literary organization founded by the Jesuits in 1854 to counter the liberal influence of the Institut Canadien of Montreal. It was at this time that Trudel, seeking more effective action, conceived the idea of gathering various literary circles with similar commitments under one banner. With this in mind, in 1869 he drafted a Mémoire sur la question de fusion des sociétés littéraires . . . , in which he made a proposal to bring literary and professional associations together into one large body to be presided over jointly by clergy and laity. This plan does not, however, seem to have been implemented.

Two years earlier, in 1867, this lawyer and man of letters had spent several months in Europe, visiting England, France, and Italy. He may have taken this trip for cultural reasons or simply for relaxation. In any case, he seems to have taken advantage of his stay in each of these countries to establish contacts with Catholic leaders and writers whose political and religious convictions resembled his own. On his return to Canada that year, Trudel had another opportunity to give practical expression to his values and principles. He served on the committee created by Bishop Bourget to recruit the rudiments of an army of young volunteers willing to defend the papal states against the Italian nationalist armies under Giuseppe Garibaldi. The recruiting of the Papal Zouaves was the first of a series of undertakings in which ultramontane church authorities, beginning with Bishop Bourget and Bishop Laflèche, would call on Trudel for assistance.

In 1870, the Guibord affair gave Trudel the chance to place his talents as a lawyer at the service of his ultramontane ideal. The death of printer Joseph Guibord*, a friend of well-known Liberals and a member of the Institut Canadien, was the signal for another major confrontation between the ultramontane group and its opponents, the Rouges, whose radicalism it regarded as an imminent threat to Catholicism in Quebec. During the famous lawsuit to which the burial of Guibord gave rise in 1870, Trudel agreed to represent the parish council of Notre-Dame, in association with Louis-Amable Jetté* and Francis Cassidy. The pleadings of the ultramontane lawyers essentially defended the right of the parish council to refuse to bury Guibord’s remains in a Catholic cemetery. However, the arguments, in particular those advanced by Trudel, rapidly transcended the case and attacked fundamental problems, especially relations between church and state. The ideas expounded on this subject supplied material for an essay he published a year later in the Revue canadienne entitled “Quelques réflexions sur les rapports de l’Église et de l’État.” In it Trudel ransacked biblical and profane history to illustrate the doctrinal bases of the supremacy of church over state. Thus, in all cases of joint jurisdiction where the limits of civil and ecclesiastical authority were inadequately defined – a category in which the Guibord affair could be classified – it was necessary, Trudel stated, to distrust the pretensions of the state, which was “constantly tempted to claim [such cases] as belonging to its exclusive jurisdiction.” His solution was never to lose sight of the fact that “there exists in all truth a Catholic and therefore Christian maxim [which affirms] the primacy or rather the supremacy of the church over the state . . . .”

It was this doctrine which in 1871 inspired the Programme catholique which Trudel helped to draft. Published in Le Journal des Trois-Rivières, on 20 April 1871, the programme constituted a manifesto for the provincial elections already set for the summer; it required future candidates to promise formally to “change and modify [the laws] as our lord bishops of the province might request, in order to bring them into harmony with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.” Trudel had not developed the programme by himself; some of the best known Ultramontanes of the time, such as Pagnuelo, Beausoleil, Desjardins, Magloire McLeod, Adolphe-Basile Routhier*, and Benjamin-Antoine Testard de Montigny, had had a hand in drawing it up. There is every indication, however, that he took a leading role, since not only did the Programme catholique give concrete form to the arguments he publicly defended during the Guibord affair and in the Revue canadienne, but it was to Trudel especially that bishops Bourget and Laflèche gave official encouragement, as an electoral candidate, to persevere in the course laid down in the programme. This course proved to be especially difficult because those candidates known as the “Programmistes” had managed to alienate even the Conservatives, who were worried about the negative electoral effects of what they interpreted as an instrument of blackmail against their party. In the event, the Conservative vote was apparently not unduly affected by the ultramontane propaganda, since the government of Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau was returned to office and Trudel was the only one of the programme’s candidates elected. He represented his native county of Champlain in the Legislative Assembly until June 1875.

The provincial elections of 1871 were the prelude to a political career for Trudel extending over about two decades, during which time he performed various duties. In 1875, while he was still serving as an mla, he was appointed queen’s counsel in the province of Quebec, and five years later was given the same appointment by the federal government. At the end of October 1873 he had become senator for the division of Salaberry when his father-in-law, Louis Renaud*, gave up this seat; Trudel retained it for the rest of his life. During his tenure he paid particular attention to defending and justifying the existence of the Senate, which some groups sought to modify and others to abolish. To that end he published a report in 1880 entitled Nos chambres hautes: Sénat et Conseil législatif in which he warned abolitionists of the danger in removing an institution which he saw as an effective bulwark against the rising tide of liberalism.

The struggle against liberalism was not, however, enough to cement a durable alliance between Trudel and the Conservative party, led since 1878 on the provincial level by Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau*. The intractable ultramontanism of a Trudel could not accommodate itself to certain compromises to which the exercise of power sometimes led the Conservatives, who were often accused of being spineless in their responses to Liberal offensives, and even of betraying the Conservative cause itself. This disagreement on principles became conspicuous again during the quarrel between Montreal and Quebec over the university question [see Bourget; Joseph Desautels]. As in the Guibord affair, Trudel was to be a central figure in the stormy debate which surrounded this issue. Indeed he and Pagnuelo, another well-known ultramontane lawyer, were chosen by the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, which was ultramontane in its allegiance, to defend the cause of its autonomy before the provincial private bills committee in May 1881. This committee had to determine the validity of a draft bill respecting the Université Laval “for the purpose of increasing the number of its chairs of Arts and other Faculties, within the limits of the province of Quebec.” With the manifest support of some of the bishops, and in particular of Bourget and Laflèche, Trudel vigorously denounced the monopoly that he thought Laval was demanding to the detriment of the freedom of education sought by Montreal. Besides, would not centralization and standardization of teaching likely prepare the way for the eventual interference of the state in a sphere where, as in Europe, it was seeking to usurp the rights of the clergy? Trudel’s speech appeared in a publication entitled Projet de loi de l’université Laval devant le comité des bills privés. The addresses by the counsel for the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery failed to get the Laval bill thrown out. Nevertheless, Trudel refused to admit defeat, and after the bill was passed he set off for Rome in 1881, in an unsuccessful last attempt to block the hotly contested law. Three years later he became a member of a committee of citizens organized to fight the Laval bill, albeit with little success.

During the 1880s the gulf between the Ultramontanes and the Conservative party continued to widen. Although he was an uncompromising ultramontane leader, Trudel did make one last attempt at rapprochement before the final rupture. This, at any rate, is a possible interpretation of his article entitled “La Conciliation” in the Revue canadienne in 1881. In it, Trudel made a vigorous plea for conservatism, at all levels, whether in relations between church and state, in education, or in the programmes of politicial parties. As far as political parties were concerned, he stated, their differences were based on points of view that were divergent but not irreconcilable as long as they all wanted to secure the triumph of the fundamental principles of justice, peace, and charity.

But this policy of the outstretched hand does not seem to have yielded the anticipated results. A year later the ultramontane wing of the Conservative party published, under the pseudonym Castor, a pamphlet entitled Le Pays, le Parti, et le Grand Homme, which was a catalogue of the numerous grievances of the Ultramontanes against the Conservative party, and in particular their leader in Quebec, Premier Chapleau. He was taken to task for, among other things, his many concessions to the Liberals, his political opportunism, and especially the improper dealings of the “clique” of politicians and businessmen which he had gathered around him. Although they were unable to confirm it – since the author had taken cover in anonymity – some contemporaries suspected two or three of the ultramontane leaders of being behind the pamphlet. Naturally, among those whose names were put forward was Trudel. Had not this “grand vicar,” this “lay monk,” as his enemies took ironic pleasure in dubbing him, already taken up his pen for the ultramontane cause on many occasions? The anonymity was well guarded, for although they suspected him his opponents were unable to find certain proof of their suspicions.

A year later, in 1883, Trudel made another gesture that might suggest he was the undisputed lay leader of the “Castor” wing, which the Conservative party increasingly considered as dangerous as the Liberal opposition. His gesture of defiance was the launching at Montreal of a newspaper, which, at least at its inception, was primarily intended to speak for Catholics. Initially called L’Etoile du matin, it was finally named L’Étendard. There had been some initial difficulties in getting Trudel’s paper published; indeed, suspecting a hostile manœuvre against them, the Conservatives had managed to mobilize a number of ecclesiastical leaders to oppose its creation. These clerics, and in particular the bishop of Montreal, Édouard-Charles Fabre*, had tried in vain to persuade Trudel to give up his project. Co-owner of the paper with Testard de Montigny, a former Zouave, Trudel was also both its manager and editor.

By plunging immediately into the fray concerning the problems that mattered most to the Ultramontanes, L’Étendard amply justified the fears that Chapleau’s party had had about it. Whether it was dealing with the Montreal School of Medicine and Surgery, impending elections, or the government’s financial transactions, the “Castor” paper never hesitated to criticize, and made denunciations right and left. But it was principally with Le Monde, also in Montreal, that L’Étendard became involved in the most violent controversies. One of these led Trudel to institute a lawsuit in 1889 that created a great stir. The pleadings of counsel, published under the title of Questions de libelle, present Trudel’s accusations, as plaintiff, that Le Monde had sought to destroy the personal reputation of himself and his ultramontane colleagues.

      L’Étendard was the result of a prolonged disagreement between Trudel and the Conservatives. A final break did not occur, however, until 1886, when Trudel supported the Parti National of Honoré Mercier*. The Riel affair appears to have been the last of a long succession of ultramontane grievances against the Conservatives: judging their stance too cautious, Trudel and the “Castors” broke away from them to align themselves with the Liberals (moderate Liberals, to be precise) that Mercier’s party brought together under the banner of nationalism.

On 17 Jan. 1890 the life of one of the men most deeply engrossed in the political and religious problems of his age came to an end. Conservatism, whether ideological, political, or social, was certainly a constant thread throughout the militant existence of Trudel, who died abruptly at the age of 51. On 27 April 1864 in Montreal he had married Zoé-Aimée, the only daughter of Louis Renaud, the marriage being solemnized by Bishop Ignace Bourget. At his death, he left four children (three others had died during his lifetime). The eldest, Henri-Louis-François-Xavier-Édouard, became editor of L’Étendard when his father passed away. His wife, with whom he had had differences in public, outlived him by 25 years, dying on 24 April 1915.

Nadia F. Eid

François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel was the author of: Mémoire sur la question de fusion des sociétés littéraires et scientifiques de Montréal (Montréal, 1869); “Quelques réflexions sur les rapports de l’Église et de l’État,” Rev. canadienne, 8 (1871): 202–20, 252–72, 359–74; Nos chambres hautes: Sénat et Conseil législatif (Montréal, 1880); Projet de loi de l’université Laval devant le comité des bills privés, 20 mai 1881 (n.p., [1881?]); “La Conciliation,” Rev. canadienne, 17 (1881): 77–85, 147–58; Le Pays, le Parti et le Grand Homme (Montréal, 1882); and Questions de libelle (Montréal, 1889).

      Cour supérieure, Montréal; plaidoiries des avocats: in re Henriette Brown vs. la fabrique de Montréal; refus de sépulture (Montréal, 1870). Charles Langelier, Souvenirs politiques (de 1878 à 1896) (2v., Québec, 1909–12), [11]: 21–22. L’Opinion publique, 13 janv. 1881. Rev. canadienne, 3e sér., 3 (1890): 126. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de Saint-Maurice et de Champlain, 69–70. Beaulieu et J. Hamelin, Journaux du Québec; La presse québécoise, I: 56, 221. [F.-]M. Bibaud, Le panthéon canadien; choix de biographies, Adèle et Victoria Bibaud, édit. (2e éd., Montréal, 1891). Borthwick, Hist. and biog. gazetteer, 337–38. Canadian biog. dict., II: 125–26. J. Desjardins, Guide parl., 187, 253. Terrill, Chronology of Montreal. L.-O. David, Mélanges historiques et littéraires (Montréal, 1917), 61–63. “Les disparus,” BRH, 34 (1928): 711. Grégoire Le Solitaire [ ], “Hon. F. X. A. Trudel,” Le Monde illustré (Montréal), 16 févr. 1901: 700–1.É.-Z. Massicotte, “La famille du sénateur F.-X.-A. Trudel,” BRH, 41 (1935): 615–23.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Nadia F. Eid, “TRUDEL, FRANÇOIS-XAVIER-ANSELME,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 4, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/trudel_francois_xavier_anselme_11E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/trudel_francois_xavier_anselme_11E.html
Author of Article:   Nadia F. Eid
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   March 4, 2024