In 1837 at SAINT-DENIS, Cartier fought bravely alongside Wolfred Nelson and the rebels as they successfully routed Colonel Charles Gore's Waterloo veterans. After a narrow escape and exile in Vermont, he successfully petitioned in 1838 to return and practise law in Montréal. Specializing in property and railway promotion, Cartier was active in politics and became Louis-Hippolyte LAFONTAINE's campaign manager and right-hand man. With responsible government won, he agreed to run as a Liberal Reformer in Verchères in 1848. He moved to Montréal East in 1861 after the coalition with the Upper Canadian Conservatives, and as Bleu chief served as copremier with John A. MACDONALD in the Union parliaments of 1857-58 and 1858-62, in which ministry he set in motion the movement toward CONFEDERATION.
Cartier involved himself heavily in the development of the GRAND TRUNK RY, becoming its solicitor. After his election, despite government assistance to the line he served, he became chairman of the Railway Committee of Parliament. He was a driving force in the early promotion of the CPR, with the goal of making Montréal the terminus of a transcontinental trading network. Rival railway promoters funded his defeat in Montréal E by Louis-Amable Jetté of the short-lived Parti national in 1872 and engineered the release in April 1873 of election fund-raising telegrams - the so-called PACIFIC SCANDAL. Cartier, whose letters had promised Sir Hugh ALLAN the railway contract, was already mortally ill with Bright's disease. He died soon after seeking treatment in London and the CPR languished for almost a decade.
Cartier's accomplishments included ensuring the choice of Ottawa as the national capital and reconciling the majority of French Canada to Confederation on the grounds that it made possible the re-establishment of the old Province of Québec. He negotiated in London for the transfer of the HBC territory of RUPERT'S LAND to the Dominion. While acting Prime Minister during Macdonald's illnesses and after personal meetings with provincial delegations, he played the primary role in drafting the Manitoba and British Columbia Acts. He probably met with Louis RIEL, who idolized him, and after passage of the Manitoba Act sent many of his own handpicked men to administer the new province. A former rebel against the Crown, this great patriot served as Canada's first minister of militia and defence.
Author ALASTAIR SWEENY
Links to Other Sites
Sir George-Étienne Cartier
A biography of Sir George-Étienne Cartier with photographs and other archival resources. This “Canadian Confederation” website is from Library and Archives Canada.
A profile of Georges-Etienne Cartier. From Canada's Digital Collections. From Library and Archives Canada.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
A searchable collection of detailed biographies of prominent figures in Canadian history. Produced by the University of Toronto, the Université Laval and the National Archives of Canada.
Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada
Learn about the life and political career of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Also features learning activities for students and their teachers. A Parks Canada website.
The Canadian State: Documents & Dialogue
The Canadian State Web exhibition enables students to explore the various aspects of Canadian governance and to use a set of unique "real life" activities to create their own political party. The activities cover a wide variety of Social Science disciplines: History, Civics, Law, Language Arts, World Issues, Communications, and Canada in a North American Perspective. From Library and Archives Canada.
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