Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
December 2006

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


Hon. Sir Hector Louis Langevin


[This biography was written in 1888. For the precise citation, see the end of the text.]

Langevin, Hon. Sir Hector Louis, K. C.M.G., Q.C., Ottawa, Minister of Public Works of the Dominion of Canada, M.P. for Three Rivers, Quebec province, was born in the city of Quebec, on the 25th August, 1828. He is descended from an illustrious line of ancestry, and has proved himself worthy of his descent. His father, the late Jean Langevin, acted as assistant civil secre­tary under the Earl of Gosford and Lord Sydenham, during the period those noblemen held the office of governor-general of Canada; and his uncle was the Right Rev. Jean Langevin, bishop of St. Germain de Rimouski. His mother, Sophia Scholastique La Force, was a daughter of Major La Force, who faithfully served his country during the war of 1812-14, and whose grandfather was acting commodore of the British fleet on Lake Ontario during the American revolu­tionary war. Sir Hector Louis Langevin, the subject of our sketch, received his edu­cation at the Quebec Seminary, and in 1846 left school to begin the study of law with the late Hon. A. N. Morin, at Montreal. He had an early taste for literature, and while pursuing his studies, wrote a great deal for the press. He became editor of the Mélanges Religieux in 1847, and subsequently editor of the Journal de l’agriculture, both papers being published in Montreal. When Mr. Morin retired from practice, Mr. Langevin entered the office of the late Sir George Etienne Cartier. Thus began the connec­tion between those two distinguished men which was destined to last so long, to be so close and so loyal, and of such importance to the French Canadians, as well as to the Dominion of Canada. He was called to the bar of Lower Canada in October, 1850. In 1856 Mr. Langevin was elected representa­tive of Palace ward in the Quebec city council, subsequently became chairman of the water works committee, and during the absence of the mayor, Dr. Morrin in Eng­land, acted as chief magistrate of Quebec city. In 1857 he assumed the editorial management of the Courrier du Canada, pub­lished in Quebec. The same year he was chosen mayor of Quebec, and also represen­tative for Dorchester county in the Legisla­tive Assembly of Canada. On entering parliament he very naturally supported the administration, one of the leaders of which was the gentleman at whose hands he had received his political as well as his legal training. The Macdonald-Cartier ministry, however, held life by a very precarious ten­ure, and as the difficulties thickened about it, numbers yielded up their support, and it was forced to resign. Then George Brown was called to office, but had to relinquish it in three days. The old ministry was recall­ed to power, and a readjustment took place. On the 30th of March, 1864, Mr. Langevin became a Queen's counsel, and on the same day entered the Taché-Macdonald adminis­tration as solicitor-general east. In 1866 he became postmaster-general, which office he retained till the consummation of con-federation. In the confederation movement he took a prominent part. He was a dele­gate to Charlottetown, was a member of the Quebec conference, and went to England to aid the home office in perfecting the confed­eration scheme. During this entire movement the tact, suavity and broad statesman-ship which he has shown so prominently in later years came into light. Sir George E. Cartier was energetic, forceful, patriotic, but he had not the savoir-faire of the Hon. Mr. Langevin, and he often exasperated where he should have conciliated. In the first Dominion administration Mr. Langevin was secretary of state for the Dominion, and the following year he was created a C.B., civil. In 1869 he assumed the portfolio of public works. In 1870 he was created a Knight Commander of the Roman order of Pope Gregory the Great. During Sir George Cartier's absence in England, in 1873, Mr. Langevin acted as leader of the French Canadian Conservative party, and upon the death of his chief became the permanent leader. In 1873, on the downfall of Sir John A. Macdonald's administration, he resigned office. At the general election of 1878, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Rimouski ; but William McDougall, the member for Three Rivers, having made way for him, he was chosen for the vacated constituency by acclamation. In the new Conservative administration he became postmaster-general, which office he retained till 1879, when he became again min­ister of public works, and this office he still holds [as of the date of writing this biography]. Regarding his brilliant parts, and the service he has been to the Dominion and to the French Canadian people, the Queen conferred upon him the knighthood of the order of St. Michael and St. George. Sir Hector Langevin is an astute and wise statesman, and his whole aim is to create a feeling of brotherhood among his own people and their English-speaking compatriots, and to develop a feeling of loyalty throughout the country to the British empire. In politics he is a Liberal-Conservative, and in religion a Roman Catholic. In 1854 he was married to Justine, eldest daughter of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Charles H. Peter, J.P. Mrs. Langevin died on the 30th October, 1882.

Source: Geo. Maclean ROSE, “Hon. Sir Hector Louis Langevin”, in A Cyclopaedia of Canadian Biography Being Chiefly Men of the Time, Toronto, Rose Publishing Company, 1888, 816p., pp. 748-749.

© 2006 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College