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Memorable Manitobans: George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873)

Lawyer, MP (1872-1873).

Born in St. Antoine, Lower Canada in 1814, and educated at the Collège de Montréal, Cartier was called to the bar in 1835. In 1837 he joined the Lower Canadian rebellion and spent some months in exile, although he was later allowed to resume his career. The leading French-Canadian spokesman for Confederation, he was Sir John A. Macdonald’s right-hand man in Quebec until his death in 1873. Cartier was sympathetic to the Métis and to Louis Riel. He undoubtedly led Bishop Taché and the 1870 delegates to Ottawa, notably Father Noel Ritchot, to believe that he was totally committed to a general amnesty for the rebels, despite the execution of Thomas Scott. Macdonald did not share these views but was incapacitated during most of the negotiations that produced the agreement with the rebel delegates that led to the Manitoba Act. Cartier appears to have felt that the public hostility in Ontario would die down more quickly than it did. In 1872 he was defeated in the general federal election, and he found a seat in the Provencher riding in Manitoba instead. Louis Riel himself was induced to give up his candidacy in the riding in Cartier’s favour, and Cartier was elected by acclamation for a constituency he never visited. He died soon after in London, in 1873.

He is commemorated by the Rural Municipality of Cartier and a monument on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

See also:

George-Étienne Cartier by B. J. Young (1981).

George-Étienne Cartier, Dictionary of Canadian Biography X, 142-52.


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 25 October 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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