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Louis-Joseph Papineau National Historic Site of Canada

A bit of history

The life of Louis-Joseph Papineau

The formative years (1786-1809)

  • October 7, 1786 – Louis-Joseph Papineau was born in Montreal.
  • 1796-1804 – Papineau begins his studies at the Collège de Montréal and continues at the Séminaire de Québec in 1802.
  • 1805-1809 – Papineau clerks at the law firm of his cousin Denis-Benjamin Viger.

Introduction to political life (1808-1815)

  • 1808-1814 – Member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada for the county of Kent (Chambly).
  • 1810 – Papineau is admitted to the bar of Lower Canada.
  • 1813 – Captain of a Select Embodied Militia during the War of 1812
  • 1814 – Louis-Joseph Papineau becomes the owner of his father's home, located on Bonsecours Street in Montreal.
  • 1814-1830 – Seat in the Legislative Assembly as member for Montreal West (city).

Rise to political prominence (1815-1827)

  • 1815-1823 – Elected Speaker of the Assembly with an annual salary of 1,000 pounds, beginning in 1817.
  • 1817 – Louis-Joseph Papineau purchases the La Petite-Nation seigneury from his father.
  • 1818 – Louis-Joseph Papineau marries Julie Bruneau, daughter of Pierre Bruneau, a merchant and member of the Assembly for Quebec City.
  • 1820-1823 – Named to the Executive Council, but declines the seat.
  • 1823 – Papineau travels to England with John Nelson to denounce the proposed union of Upper and Lower Canada.
  • 1825-1838 – Re-elected Speaker of the Assembly.

Leader of the Parti patriote (1827-1837)

  • 1827 – Papineau emerges victorious from a long-time rivalry that began in 1815 between politicians from Quebec City and Montreal for leadership of the Parti canadien, which became the Parti patriote around 1826.
  • 1827-1828 – Member for the county of Surrey (Verchères).
  • 1830-1838 – Louis-Joseph Papineau represents the riding of Montreal West (city) in the Legislative Assembly.
  • 1834 – Papineau draws up and submits his 92 Resolutions that state the grievances of the Parti patriote against the colonial government.
  • 1834-1835 – Member for the county of Montreal.
  • March and April 1837 – Discussion and adoption in London of Lord Russell's 10 Resolutions, rejecting the grievances and reforms put forward by the Parti patriote.
  • April 10, 1837 – News of the adoption of the Russell Resolutions reaches Canada.
  • May 15, 1837 – Speech by Louis-Joseph Papineau at a meeting in Saint-Laurent, where he advocates boycotting products from Great Britain and engaging in contraband.
  • July 17, 1837 – Louis-Joseph Papineau and Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté preside over a public meeting in Napierville.
  • October 23 and 24, 1837 – Assemblée des Six-Comtés: a meeting of six counties (Richelieu, Saint-Hyacinthe, Rouville, Chambly, Verchères and L'Acadie) in Saint-Charles
  • November 6, 1837 – Members of the Doric Club and Les Fils de la Liberté clash in Montreal. A Doric mob attacks Papineau's home and sets fire to the offices of the The Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser, a pro-patriot English newspaper.
  • November 23, 1837 – Battle at Saint-Denis. The Patriotes defeat the British troops. Louis-Joseph Papineau and Dr. Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan flee to Saint-Hyacinthe.

Exile (1837-1845)

  • December 1st, 1837 – Louis-Joseph Papineau and Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan arrive in the United States.

    Proclamation in English and French by Governor Gosford, promising an award of 1,000 pounds in the provincial currency (4,000 piastres) to anyone who apprehends and hands over Louis-Joseph Papineau to the forces of law and order.
  • January 2, 1838 – Meeting in Middlebury, Vermont (United States) that ends in a split between the radical group led by Robert Nelson and the moderates led by Papineau.
  • 1838 – In late May or early June, Louis-Joseph Papineau is reunited with his wife and some of their children in Saratoga, New York (United States).
  • November 4, 1838 – The rebellion breaks out again in Lower Canada.
  • February 8, 1839 – After having failed to win over several American political figures to his cause, Louis-Joseph Papineau sets sail from New York for France aboard the Sylvie-de-Grasse.
  • May, 1839 – Publication by the Paris journal Revue du progrès of the first part of the Histoire de l'Insurrection du Canada, (history of the rebellion in Canada) by Louis-Joseph Papineau.
  • 1839-1845 – During his exile in France, Louis-Joseph Papineau consults the works of various libraries, copies or has copied documents concerning Canada from the Archives de la Marine and the Jesuit archives, with the objective of continuing his history of the Canadian colony.
  • 1845 – After being granted amnesty, Papineau returns to Canada via Boston.

Final years of his political career (1848-1854)

  • 1848-1851 – member of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada for the county of Saint-Maurice. This second period in his political career, which lasts until 1854, contributes little to his fame as a politician. Replaced as leader of the French Canadian reformers by Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and seen as being politically unrealistic, Louis-Joseph Papineau has trouble accepting his role as a mere member of the Legislative Assembly and quickly loses interest.
  • 1849 – Papineau advocates the annexation of United Canada with the neighbouring republic, the United States.
  • 1852-1854 – Represents the county of Deux-Montagnes in the Legislative Assembly of United Canada.

Papineau retires to private life (1854-1871)

  • 1850-1871 – Papineau retires to the huge manor house he has just built at Montebello and devotes his time to his family, his books and the administration of his La Petite-Nation seigneury.
  • 1853-1855 – Louis-Joseph Papineau, troubled by the death of several members of his family, builds a funeral chapel near his manor house, where he and his family are to be buried.
  • September 23, 1871 – Death of Louis-Joseph Papineau at Montebello, at the age of 85. Five days later, his remains are laid to rest with that of other family members buried in the funeral chapel.

The Papineau family

  • The Papineau family tree has two main branches: the Papineau descendants and the Bourassa descendants.
  • Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871) and Julie Bruneau (1795-1862) had nine children. Only five of them survived: Amédée, Lactance, Ézilda, Gustave and Azélie.
  • Two of their children had descendants: the eldest, Amédée, carried on the Papineau line, and the youngest, Azélie, who began the Bourassa line upon marrying Napoléon Bourassa (father of Henri Bourassa), renowned painter and architect in Quebec art history.
  • Family tree of the Papineau family in Gif format (55 KB) (the size of the document is over 640 pixels)

The political life of Louis-Joseph Papineau

Louis-Joseph Papineau was a very important figure in the political history of Quebec. His political career took place at a time when the identity of Quebec and the existence of French Canadians were being put to the test.

Brief political history of Canada

  • 1760 – The conquest of New France by the British, confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, officially establishes British power in the former French colony of Canada.
  • 1791 – Constitutional Act of Canada: the creation of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, the two regions separated by the Ottawa River.
  • Early 19th century – Members of the Quebec Assembly fight for ministerial responsibility, i.e. control of the budget by the elected house. This fight took place in both Upper and Lower Canada.
  • 1820 – The origins of the rebellion of 1837-1838 go back to this decade, at a time when English merchants in Upper and Lower Canada wanted to unite the two Canadas.
  • 1823-1833 – Rise in political tension between the Parti canadien on the one hand, and the colonial government and its supporters, the so-called “bureaucrats”. The Parti canadien later becomes the Parti patriote.
  • 1827 – Electoral victory of the Parti patriote.
  • 1834 – Drafting and tabling of the 92 Resolutions that state the grievances of the Parti patriote against the colonial government.
  • 1837 – Beginning of one of the most crucial and most difficult parliamentary battles for Louis-Joseph Papineau. In the spring, Lord Russell's 10 Resolutions are tabled. The rebellion officially begins. In the winter, Papineau goes into exile to escape death.
  • 1838 – Robert Nelson declares the independence of Lower Canada in front of three hundred armed Patriotes on February 28, 1838, near Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel. Creation of the clandestine faction, the Frères chasseurs, that carries on the Patriote movement. Then, several confrontations take place between the Frères chasseurs and British Loyalists. The rebellion ends in November, following the defeat of the Frères chasseurs at Odelltown and the flight of Robert Nelson to the United States.
  • 1839 – Hanging of Patriote leaders at the Pied-du-Courant prison on February 15, 1839, the leader probably the most remembered being François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier De Lorimier. In the fall, several other Patriotes are condemned to exile in Australia.
  • 1840 – Adoption of the Act of Union by the Parliament of Great Britain in June. This legislation abolishes the legislative assemblies and the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada to create a single colony administered by a Governor General. This colony, the “Province of Canada”, is proclaimed on February 10, 1841.
  • 1848 – Modification to the constitution to introduce the principle of ministerial responsibility. For the first time, the Province of Canada has a government composed of members of an elected assembly.
  • 1849 – On April 25, 1849, there is a riot in front of the Parliament building in Montreal, which was then torched. This year is called the “année de la terreur” (year of terror) because of numerous other fires and the extreme tension between the Tories and the Reformers.
  • 1867 – On July 1st, 1867, the British North America Act (the BNA Act) was officially passed, creating the Dominion of Canada. This legislation of the British Parliament united Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and allowed for the future addition of other provinces.

History of Louis-Joseph Papineau's political career (1809 – 1854)

Posts he held

Papineau entered politics in 1809. He then became the member for the county of Kent (Chambly). The following year, he joined the Parti canadien. In 1814, he was elected member for the county of Montreal West. Then, from 1815 to 1823 and from 1825 to 1838, he was Speaker of the Assembly. Around 1815, he became leader of the Parti canadien. In 1827, he was elected member for the county of Surrey. Upon returning from exile, Papineau was elected member for the county of Saint-Maurice from 1848 to 1851. His last mandate was as member for Deux-Montagnes, from 1852 to 1854, the year he ended his political career.

His actions

Papineau went to London in 1823 to prevent the adoption of a bill designed to unite the two Canadas. The 92 Resolutions were tabled in London in 1834. In 1837, the response – which was negative – came in the form of Lord Russell's 10 Resolutions. Papineau then became involved in a campaign of public meetings in various regions throughout Quebec to rally popular support for the Patriote movement. He was present at the first battle between the Patriotes and the British at Saint-Denis, but fled to the United States before the end of the battle, so that the leader of the Patriote movement would not lose its leader should he be taken hostage.

His political positions

  • Papineau supported the Methodists, Presbyterians and Jews in the debate over the bill aimed at giving dissident Protestants the right to keep civil register indexes.
  • He proposed that university training be the responsibility of a civil and lay directorate.
  • He supported the “notables bill” that would allow residents of a parish to take part in the administration of the fabrique (parish council).
  • Louis-Joseph Papineau was an ardent admirer of American institutions. He declared himself a republican and wanted to institute a Lower Canadian republic. Upon returning from exile, Papineau still rejected the union of the two Canadas and disapproved the abolition of the seigneurial system. Furthermore, he supported the movement for annexation to the United States.
  • His most important demands were responsibility of the executive, election of legislative councillors and control of revenue by the legislature.

The Papineau House

History of the house

  • 1711 – Construction of the first house, made of wood, by mason Jean Dablay, on a lot that had belonged to the Sulpicians.
  • 1748 – The house and lot are sold to Joseph Papineau, Louis-Joseph's grandfather, a cooper by trade.
  • 1752 – Construction of a stone extension to the house behind the original house. This part of the residence is now the rear wing.
  • 1779 – The house is sold to John Campbell, superintendent of Indian Affairs.
  • 1785 – John Campbell has the wooden house torn down and replaces it with a two-storey stone house, built by Jean-Baptiste Cérat.
  • 1809 – The home is purchased by Joseph Papineau, Louis-Joseph's father, from John Campbell's widow.
  • 1814 – Louis-Joseph Papineau acquires the home and lot that are located today at 440 Bonsecours Street.
  • Papineau House, 440 Bonsecours St.
    Papineau House, 440 Bonsecours St. The restoration gave back to the house it's 1830s appearance
    © Parks Canada
    1831-1832 – Extensions and renovations of the family home. Louis-Joseph Papineau wants to have a large drawing room. To achieve this, he has to make both the piano nobile (main floor) and the garret bigger, and create a coachway. The door is moved to the far right side of the house, typical of early 19th century architecture. He increases the number of dormers and has new larger windows installed on the piano nobile. He has to raise the ceiling eighteen inches in the drawing room to balance the height with the room's width and length. Finally, to make it all match, Papineau covers the stone and brick facade with imitation-stone wood siding.
  • 1838-1846 – During the time that Louis-Joseph Papineau is in exile, the house is used as a hotel.
  • 1846-1850 – Upon returning from France, Papineau returns briefly to 440 Bonsecours Street.
  • 1864-1866 – The home is used as an inn and as the headquarters for a regiment.
  • 1866 – The house officially becomes a hotel again (Empire, Rivard & Bonsecours).
  • Hotel Bon Secours and Chez Adrien restaurant
    Hotel Bon Secours and Chez Adrien restaurant, 440 Bonsecours St.
    © Parks Canada
    1875 – Two square-shaped storeys of brick and exterior wrought-iron stairs are added to the house.
  • 1871-1920 – The house remains the property of the Papineau estate, but is not well maintained.
  • 20th century – The back yard of the house becomes a warehouse for a fish merchant, and the rest of the building serves as a rooming house for beggars, with some parts of the house being used as a restaurant, hairdressing salon, laundry and place of entertainment.
  • 1920 – The property is sold to Joseph Arthur Paulhus.
  • May 21, 1962 – The house is bought by Eric D. McLean.

Memorable events that link the house with politics at the time of Papineau

Attack by a mob in 1834

One of the first attacks on the Papineau residence takes place in 1834, after adoption of the 92 Resolutions by the majority of the population's representatives. A wave of violence grips Montreal following the election. Armed mobs attack the houses of members of the Assembly who had voted in favour of the adoption of the 92 Resolutions. On Friday, November 14, rioting Tories attack Papineau's home using sticks, stones and axes, destroying all the shutters and the windows on the ground floor.

Attack by the Doric Club

On November 6, 1837, members of the Doric Club, opponents of the Fils de la Liberté, attack Louis-Joseph Papineau's home and the offices of the The Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser (an English newspaper that supported the Patriotes) in order to quell the Patriotes' revolt.

Eric McLean (1919-2002) and the renovations

Eric D. McLean was one of the first proponents of the conservation of Old Montreal. It is partly thanks to him that this historic district was reborn, with its ancestral architecture.

Who is he?

  • Eric Donald McLean was born in Montreal on September 25, 1919, and died there on August 19, 2002.
  • He was very much involved in Quebec's musical and cultural life.
  • He was the music critic for various Montreal newspapers for 40 years, which led him to be friends with Glenn Gould.
  • He discovered singer Maureen Forrester.
  • Eric D. McLean is sitting at his piano
    Eric D. McLean is sitting at his piano, in the living room of the Papineau House
    © Parks Canada
    He became interested in the protection and presentation of Quebec heritage and translated Les meubles anciens du Canada français, a book by Jean Palardy, and wrote The Living Past of Montreal (1964) in collaboration with R. D. Wilson.
  • His contribution was recognized by various authorities: he was a member of the Jacques-Viger Commission, the Board of Governors of McGill University, the Board of Directors of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and President of the Music Critics Association of North America. He was nicknamed the “mayor of Old Montreal”. McLean was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1975 for his contribution to the world of music and for the part he played in the conservation of Old Montreal.

What he accomplished

  • In renovating the Papineau House, Eric D. McLean's aim was to restore it to its original appearance of the 1830s.
  • He had the two storeys of brick removed and replaced them with a gabled roof, restoring the house to its original appearance.
  • He restored the original divisions of the house, removing the more recently built walls.

Parks Canada

  • Since acquiring the Papineau House in 1982, Parks Canada has proceeded with rebuilding the tinned copper roof using the “tôle à la canadienne” technique.
  • Parks Canada removed and put into storage the wood facade that dated back to the 1830s, and replaced it with identical siding (1998-1999).
  • Parks Canada does the upkeep for the entire Papineau House.


DE CELLES, Alfred D. Papineau, Montreal, Cie. Cadieux & Derome, 1905, 243 p.

LAMONDE, Yvan & Claude LARIN. Louis-Joseph Papineau, Un demi-siècle de combats, Montreal, Fides, 1998, 662 p.

PAPINEAU, Amédée. Souvenirs de jeunesse 1822-1837, Montreal, Septentrion, 1998, 134 p.

PAULIN, Marguerite. Louis-Joseph Papineau, Le grand tribun, le pacifiste, Montreal, XYZ éditeur, 2000, 205 p.

OUELLET, Fernand. Louis-Joseph Papineau: A Divided Soul, Ottawa, The Canadian Historical Association, Booklet No. 11, 1984, 26 p.