I-67119 | Sir George Etienne Cartier, politician, Montreal, QC, 1871

Sir George Etienne Cartier, politician, Montreal, QC, 1871
William Notman (1826-1891)
1871, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Wet collodion process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

This portrait of Sir George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873) was taken in 1871, shortly after his re-election to the Legislative Assembly where he would continue to serve as Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's principal lieutenant. Cartier is best remembered for his crucial role as Canada East's (Quebec's) leader in the process of Confederation that resulted in the formation of Canada in 1867. He firmly believed that French Canada's interests would be protected in a federal union that gave certain powers to the provinces and their institutions, while centralizing other jurisdictions. Moreover, during the debates on the proposed Canadian federation in 1865, he made the argument that the different ethnic groups of the British North American colonies would form part of the strength of the future nation:

"Attempts were made to excite hostility to federation on the ground that under the regime of a local legislature, the English protestant minority would not be fairly dealt with. [It was] thought the way in which the French Canadians had stood by the British connection when there were but few British in the province was a proof that they would not attempt to deal unjustly now by the British minority when their numbers were so much greater... [...] the French Canadians understood their position too well. If they had their institutions, their language, and their religion intact today, it was precisely because of their adherence to the British crown...[...] if today Canada was a portion of the British Empire, it was due to the conservatism of the French-Canadian clergy. (Cheers)..."

-Legislative Assembly, February 7, 1865

  • What

    In 1871, Cartier helped negotiate British Columbia's entrance into Confederation with the promise of a railway that would reach across the country.

  • Where

    Acting as the Grand Trunk Railway's legal counsel, Cartier was Canada East's most prominent advocate in Parliament for railway development.

  • When

    Cartier was one of the leaders of the coalition government (of Canada East and Canada West), formed in partnership with John A. Macdonald. After Confederation, Cartier and Macdonald went on to form the government of the new nation's parliament in Ottawa.

  • Who

    As both lawyer and politician, Sir George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873) was the link between French Canada and the process leading to Confederation. Among his clients were the Grand Trunk Railway and the Montreal Seminary.