Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada
Did You Know That...
"I Am a Sort of Lawyer Engaged in Politics and Business"?
George-Étienne Cartier, Québec, December
George-Étienne Cartier : lawyer for the
Grand Trunk Railway
© Parks Canada
In the 1840s, George-Étienne Cartier's clients included primarily friends,
relatives and political relations. Quite rapidly, however, the lawyer began
frequenting the wealthier circles involved in urban development, business,
transport and city affairs. He also began to invest in real estate, forge
relationships with the business world, and serve as director of numerous major
companies. In 1846, his marriage to Hortense Fabre, the daughter of bookseller
and former Montreal mayor Raymond Fabre, opened wide the doors of the Montreal
bourgeoisie to him.
In 1848, George-Étienne Cartier actively entered politics under the
banner of Lafontaine's Reformers. He carried the riding of Montreal-East in
elections for the Union of the Canada's Legislative Assembly. His credo could
be summed up as "responsible government"-i.e., the right of the
lower house to determine ministerial appointments, a prerogative jealously
guarded by the British-appointed governor. Little by little, Cartier's power
expanded. As lawyer for the Grand Trunk Railway and the Sulpician priests,
Cartier became part of the prospering upper middle class which had in fact
become the country's governing class. By the mid 1850s, he had become the
most influential politician in Canada East (the former Lower Canada), a position
he was to enjoy until his defeat in the 1872 elections in Montreal-East. He
was then elected by acclamation in the riding of Provencher, in Manitoba,
to the seat left vacant by Louis Riel.