LaFontaine, Sir Louis Hippolyte

LaFontaine, Sir Louis Hippolyte ləwēˈ ēpôlētˈ läfôNtĕnˈ [key], 1807–64, Canadian political leader, b. Lower Canada (now Quebec). A lawyer, he entered (1830) the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada and supported Louis Joseph Papineau in his opposition to the British administration but did not approve of the rebellion of 1837. After the rebellion, with Papineau in exile, LaFontaine became the accepted leader of the French Canadians and of the Reform party in Lower Canada. Sir Charles Bagot, as governor-general, recognized the powerful coalition formed by the French Canadians and the moderate reformers of Upper Canada led by Robert Baldwin and called into existence in 1842 the first Baldwin-LaFontaine ministry. When Bagot died, the ministry soon found itself in opposition to Sir Charles Metcalfe, his successor, on the issue of responsible government and resigned in 1843. With the triumph of the Reform party in 1847, the new governor-general, the 8th earl of Elgin, called into existence the second Baldwin-LaFontaine administration, notable for its reforms and its achievement of genuine responsible government. The test of the latter was the Rebellion Losses Bill (1849), brought in by LaFontaine, to compensate persons in Lower Canada who had suffered property loss during the rebellion of 1837. It was denounced as a “rebel measure” but was upheld by Lord Elgin at the cost of personal violence to himself. LaFontaine resigned in 1851; from 1853 until his death he served with distinction as chief justice of Lower Canada. He was made a baronet in 1854.

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