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The Formative Years
Original title:  Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu - maison natale de sir George Étienne Cartier

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The social and political rise of George-Étienne CARTIER was, above all, the result of the training he received between 1824 and 1835. It would allow him to forge alliances with people in the worlds of business and politics in Montreal during the first half of the 19th century.

 

Classical Studies (1824–31)

George-Étienne got his earliest instruction from his mother, Marguerite Paradis, since there was no school in his native village of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu:

“[Then, in 1824, Cartier] entered the college of Montreal, directed by the Sulpicians, with whom he retained connections all his life. He was a diligent and brilliant pupil. He completed his secondary education in 1831, and then started his legal training in the office of Édouard-Étienne Rodier*….”

 

Initiation into the Law (1831–35)

When he was articled to Édouard-Étienne RODIER in 1831, Cartier joined the ranks of those belonging to a renowned and prestigious practice. The following excerpt from Rodier’s biography gives some idea of the professional and social network on which Cartier would be able to rely when he began his legal career:

“When [Rodier] finally received his commission as a lawyer on 28 May 1827, he decided to practise in Montreal. An excellent conversationalist whose oratorical gifts were already acknowledged, he extended his influence among the most reputable members of the liberal professions through a network of connections and solid friendships. Thus he soon built up a large practice. … A new life was beginning for him as a brilliant young lawyer, recognized and accepted within his profession.”

 

Starting Out in Politics (1834–35)

Cartier officially became a lawyer on 9 Nov. 1835:

“Called to the bar of Lower Canada on 9 Nov. 1835, [Cartier] began to practise his profession with his former employer [Édouard-Étienne Rodier], also continuing to take an active interest in the struggles that marked these years of great excitement, especially in the region of Montreal.

“While he was a student Cartier had worked during the 1834 elections on behalf of Louis-Joseph Papineau and Robert Nelson.”

 

For Cartier, the years of initiation into the law and its practice were also those in which he acquired a taste for politics, an arena in which he started out alongside Rodier. As this excerpt from his biography shows, Rodier was already an important figure on the political scene:

“In the years from 1827 to 1830 [Rodier] openly supported Louis-Joseph Papineau*’s attempt to establish his authority and unify the Patriote party, which had been known as the Canadian party until 1826. A new partisan newspaper, La Minerve, defended the policies advocated by Papineau. Rodier was sympathetic to these new directions and joined the organization. Along with Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine*, Augustin-Norbert Morin*, Charles-Ovide Perrault, Jean-Olivier Chénier, Clément-Charles Sabrevois* de Bleury, Wolfred* and Robert* Nelson, and Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté, he represented a new generation and a radical element within the party.…

“On 24 June 1834 in Montreal [Rodier] made a speech at the first Saint‑Jean-Baptiste banquet [see Jean-François-Marie-Joseph MacDonell*]. He was extremely active in the elections held that autumn. Everywhere he went he enthralled the voters, and he was easily returned in his own riding. The eloquent orator of the assembly was now a popular speaker as well.”

 

Cartier and Rodier both made memorable contributions to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste banquet in 1835:

“[Cartier] sang another patriotic song he had composed, Avant tout je suis Canadien, which later became a rallying-call for the Fils de la Liberté, an association of French Canadian militants, to which Cartier belonged [see Leblanc].”

“Rodier attracted notice by his closing speech. … It revealed his opposition to the official position of the Catholic Church on civil authority and also reiterated his faith in the people as the natural and legitimate source of all power. Rodier was thus increasingly coming to represent the minority active within the Patriote party that wanted to change the political institutions of the colony and overturn the social structure.”

 

To learn more about Cartier’s formative years, we invite you to consult the following lists of biographies:


Classical Studies (1824–31)
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