History 3813 - Ziedenberg - Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine
Destruction of the Parliament House, Montreal, April 25th. 1849
About 1849, 19th century
Ink on paper - Lithography
27.2 x 42.5 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: disaster (71) , History (944) , Print (10661)
The Rebellion Losses Bill was not passed without the notice of the public. The English merchant class was enraged by the Bill, whose stipulations seemed all the more acute as they colony was experiencing economic hardship. Furthermore, the Tories were indignant over their loss of administrative power for the first time in decades. The radicals of this group ransacked the Parliament buildings and set them ablaze. Lafontaine's house and property were also subject to significant damage at the hands of the rioters.
David Mills, "Rebellion Losses Bill," The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006707.
Jacques Monet, "LA FONTAINE, Sir LOUIS-HIPPOLYTE," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?Biold=38663.
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Keys to History
The burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal was done by an angry, largely English-speaking mob. The futility of the firefighters' efforts is evident in this print. It was reported that nothing was saved except a portrait of Queen Victoria. Angry with British authorities, many Montrealers spoke in favour of annexation with the United States. Mob violence in Montreal made leaders such as George-Étienne Cartier suspicious of the city and, in the 1850s, Bytown (the future Ottawa) was chosen as Canada's capital.
Source : The Aftermath of the Rebellions [Web tour], by Brian J. Young, McGill University (see Links)
A two-storey limestone structure, the Parliament Buildings contained the meeting rooms of both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, as well as a parliamentary library and offices.
Parliament was located on the fringes of what had been the old walled city of Montreal. The mob's attack led to the capital being moved to the smaller and less violent city of Ottawa.
Violence in this period of Canadian history is usually associated with the rebellions of 1837-1838 with their attacks on British troops. In fact, English Montrealers were just as prone to attacking authorities when frustrated with government policy.
The mob's attack, on April 25, 1849, was in response to the Rebellion Losses Bill which Lord Elgin had signed earlier in the day. The mob set fires through the building and the city's volunteer firemen were unable to stop the destruction.