Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Sir George-Etienne Cartier, Bart.



[This text was written in 1948 by W. Stewart WALLACE. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


Cartier, Sir George Etienne, Bart. (1814-1873), statesman, was born at St. Antoine, county of Verchères, Lower Canada, on September 6, 1814, the son of Lt.-Col. Jacques Cartier and Marguerite Paradis, and probably a descendant of a collateral branch of the family of the explorer, Jacques Cartier. He was educated at the college St. Sulpice, in Montreal; and in 1835 he was called to the bar of Lower Canada. In 1837 he shouldered a musket, fought at St. Denis and St. Charles on the rebel side, and was forced to take refuge in the United States. He returned to Canada in 1838; and in 1848 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Canada for the county of Verchères. He continued to represent Verchères until 1861, when he was elected for Montreal; and for this constituency he sat in the Legislative Assembly and the House of Commons until his death. He first entered office in 1856, when he was appointed first provincial secretary and then attorney-general for Lower Canada, in the MacNab - Taché ministry. In 1857 he became leader of the Lower Canadian section of the government in the Macdonald -Cartier administration. He remained in power until the defeat of this government in 1862; and in the short-lived Taché-Macdonald ministry of 1864 he was again attorney-general for Lower Canada.


In the movement toward Confederation he played a conspicuous part. He was the leading French-Canadian member of the " Great Coalition"; he was a delegate to the Quebec Conference of 1864; and it was largely through his efforts that French Canada accepted the federation proposals. He was minister of militia in the first government of the Dominion of Canada; and was regarded as Sir John Macdonald's chief lieutenant. In 1872-3 he became implicated in the so-called "Pacific Scandal"; but before parliament had pronounced its verdict on that episode, he died in London, England, on May 20, 1873.


He was a politician of indomitable energy and good executive ability; and his hold over the people of French Canada was, from 1858 to 1873, almost unchallenged. His political methods were perhaps not always above reproach; but his services in connection with Confederation outweigh any shortcomings he may have had.


He married, in 1846, Hortense, daughter of Edouard Raymond Fabre, of Montreal; and by her he had two daughters. In 1868 he was created a baronet of the United Kingdom. He was the author of a song which at one time seemed likely to become the national anthem of Canada, O Canada ! mon pays, mes amours!


Return to the George Etienne cartier page

See J. Boyd, Sir George Etienne Cartier (Toronto, 1914); A. Dansereau et al., Georges-Etienne Cartier (Montreal, 1914); C. E. Lavergne, Georges-Etienne Cartier (Montreal, 1914) ; B. Sulte, Georges Cartier (Montreal, 1919); A. D. DeCelles, Cartier et son temps (Montreal, 1907); L. O. David, Esquisse biographique (Montreal, 1873), and Canada sous l'union (2 vols., Quebec, 1871-72).


Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. 1, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, pp. 396-397.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College