Sir George-Étienne Cartier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier

I am a sort of lawyer engaged in politics and business

George-Étienne Cartier, Québec, December 23, 1869

(September 6, 1814 - May 20, 1873)

A key architect and Father of Confederation, Sir George-Étienne Cartier led Quebec into Confederation and helped negotiate the entry of the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and British Columbia into Canada Footnote 1.

Sir George-Étienne Cartier was a great force in the development of Canada. He was born on September 6, 1814, in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, about 36 miles from Montréal, which was at the time in Lower Canada. He was the seventh of eight children. He would become a rebel, a patriot and an important Father of Confederation.

Named George in honour of the reigning sovereign George III, he was schooled at home by his mother because there was no school in the village. Madame Cartier must have done an excellent job, because in 1824 young George-Étienne was accepted at the college of Montréal, directed by the Sulpicians, and later went on to practise law.

 In 1837, Cartier fought alongside Wolfred Nelson and the rebels as they successfully routed Colonel Charles Gore's force of British regulars in St. Denis. After a brief exile in the United States, he returned to Montréal to continue his law career and later became involved in politics.

With responsible government won in 1848, he ran and was elected as a Liberal Reformer in Verchères, and was soon brought into Cabinet. He moved to Montréal East in 1861 after the coalition with the Upper Canadian Conservatives.  As Bleu chief, he served as co-premier along with John A. Macdonald in the Union parliaments of 1857–58 and 1858–62,  and set in motion the movement toward Confederation.

Cartier participated in all three Conferences leading to Confederation and was one of the most dedicated supporters. “As the chief voice of the French Canadian community, the pivotal point of the union, Cartier was the kingpin of the Confederation movement. He masterfully made use of his block votes, and his railway and militia interests, to engineer a new union and a new nationality. He reconciled the majority of French Canada to Confederation on the grounds that it prevented annexation by the United States and made possible the end of the Union government and the restoration of the old Province of Québec.” Footnote 2

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GE Cartier - images on Flickr
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