Étienne Parent | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Étienne Parent

Étienne Parent, journalist, lawyer, public servant, essayist (b at Beauport, LC 2 May 1802; d at Ottawa 22 Dec 1874).
\u00c9tienne Parent
\u00c9tienne Parent's thought dominated the first half of the 19th century in French Canada, incarnating, as no-one else, the ambitions of a new intellectual and political elite.

Étienne Parent, journalist, lawyer, public servant, essayist (b at Beauport, LC 2 May 1802; d at Ottawa 22 Dec 1874). He was editor of Le Canadien 1822-25 and then became editor of the French section of La Gazette de Québec in 1825. While working 1825-38 as translator, legal officer and then librarian of the Assembly of Lower Canada, he revived Le Canadien in 1831, giving it its famous motto: "Our institutions, our language and our laws." He argued for a national existence for French Canadians, demanding "all the civil and political rights that are the prerogative of an English country."

As the Rebellions of 1837 approached, Louis-Joseph Papineau was becoming more radical; Parent, a clearheaded pragmatist, abandoned him in 1835 and preached moderation for both parties. Denounced as a traitor by many Patriotes, he was nonetheless imprisoned by the English governor in 1838-39 for "seditious schemings." With the establishment of the Province of Canada in 1841, the polemicist resigned himself to fight only for the equality of "the two populations and the two countries."

He was elected to the Assembly in 1841 but soon had to withdraw because of his deafness, developed in prison. Appointed clerk of the Executive Council 14 October 1842, he resigned from the management of Le Canadien, although he continued to contribute to it occasionally (1847, 1851-54). He became assistant secretary for Lower Canada in 1847 and federal undersecretary of state from 1868 to his retirement in 1872. After 1840 he was often consulted by political figures, and between 1846 and 1852 he gave 8 important lectures including 5 at the Institut canadien of Montréal. In these he invited his compatriots to become involved in industry and business and to study political economy; he proposed ways to improve education and ameliorate the lot of the working class; and he stressed the importance of the intellectual and spiritual, and of the priest in society. Nourished by the best American and European sources, his strong-minded originality was rooted in Canadian soil. He was called the Nestor of the Canadian press and the Victor Cousin of America.

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