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Lafontaine, Sir Louis Hippolyte, Bart

LAFONTAINE, SIR LOUIS HIPPOLYTE, BART. (1807-1864), Canadian statesman and judge, third son of Antoine Mdnard LaFontaine (1772-1813) and Marie-J-Fontaine Bienvenue, was born at Boucherville in the province of Quebec on the 4th of October 1807. LaFontaine was educated at the College de Montreal under the direction of the Sulpicians, and was Called to the bar of the province of Lower Canada on the 18th of August 1829. He married firstly Adele, daughter of A. Berthelot of Quebec; and, secondly, Jane, daughter of Charles Morrison, of Berthier, by whom he had two sons. In 1830 he was elected a member of the House of Assembly for the county of Terrebonne, and became an ardent supporter of Louis Joseph Papineau in opposing the administration of the governor-in-chief, which led to the rebellion of 1837. LaFontaine, however, did not approve the violent methods of his leader, and after the hostilities at Saint Denis he presented a petition to Lord Gosford requesting him to summon the assembly and to adopt measures to stem the revolutionary course of events in Lower Canada. The rebellion broke out afresh in the autumn of 1838; the constitution of 1791 was suspended; LaFontaine was imprisoned for a brief period; and Papineau, who favoured annexation by the United States, was in exile. At this crisis in Lower Canada the French Canadians turned to LaFontaine as their leader, and under his direction maintained their opposition to the special council, composed of nominees of the crown. In 1839 Lord Sydenham, the governor-general, offered the solicitor generalship to LaFontaine, which he refused; and after the Union of 1841 LaFontaine was defeated in the county of Terrebonne through the governor's influence. During the next year he obtained a seat in the assembly of the province of Canada, and on the death of Sydenham he was called by Sir Charles Bagot to form an administration with Robert Baldwin. The ministry resigned in November 1843, as a protest against the actions of Lord Metcalfe, who had succeeded Bagot. In 1848 LaFontaine formed a new administration with Baldwin, and remained in office until 1851, when he retired from public life. It was during the ministry of LaFontaine-Baldwin that the Amnesty Bill was passed, which occasioned grave riots in Montreal, personal violence to Lord Elgin and the destruction of the parliament buildings. After the death of Sir James Stuart in 1853 LaFontaine was appointed chief justice of Lower Canada and president of the seigneurial court, which settled the vexed question of land tenure in Canada; and in 1854 he was created a baronet. He died at Montreal on the 26th of February 1864.

LaFontaine was well versed in constitutional' history and French law ; he reasoned closely and presented his conclusions with directness. He was upright in his conduct, sincerely attached to the traditions of his race, and laboured conscientiously to establish responsible government in Canada. His principal works are : L' Analyse de I'ordonnance du conseil special sur les bureaux d' hypothkques (Montreal, 1842); Observations sur les questions seigneuriales (Montreal, 1854); see LaFontaine, by A. DeCelles (Toronto, 1906). (A. G. D.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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