After the 1841 union of Upper and Lower Canada, he worked with Robert BALDWIN and Francis HINCKS to found a united party of Upper and Lower Canadian reformers. He insisted on speaking French in the Assembly, and because of his action the imperial government later repealed the ACT OF UNION clause prohibiting official use of French. In 1842 he formed an administration with Baldwin, but resigned in November 1843 to protest Governor General Sir Charles METCALFE's political actions. In 1848, he was again called to form a ministry, this time by Lord ELGIN, who fully recognized RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT.
LaFontaine thus became the first prime minister of Canada in the modern sense of the term. During this second administration, he demonstrated the achievement of responsible government by the passage of the REBELLION LOSSES BILL, despite fierce opposition and violent demonstrations. His ministry also passed an AMNESTY ACT to forgive the 1837-38 rebels, secularized King's College into the University of Toronto, incorporated many French Canadian colleges, established Université Laval, adopted important railway legislation and reformed municipal and judicial institutions.
LaFontaine retired to private life in 1851 but was appointed chief justice of Canada East in 1853. In 1854 he was created a baronet by Queen Victoria and a papal knight by Pope Pius IX. A tall, portly man, resembling Napoleon I, LaFontaine was a master politician who commanded respect and inspired many others with his high ideals and patriotism.
Author JACQUES MONET, S.J.
Links to Other Sites
Baldwin and Lafontaine
Watch the Baldwin and Lafontaine Heritage Minute from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine
A biography of Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine with photographs and other archival resources. This “Canadian Confederation” website is from Library and Archives Canada.
Click on the brief profiles of "extraordinary Canadians" and the authors who wrote about them in this Penguin Group (Canada) series. Also includes bios of artists who created the cover art for each book.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...