HISTORY MEME || 10 Moments || Funeral of George-Étienne Cartier

On May 20th, 1873, George-Étienne Cartier died in London, England of Bright’s Disease. Eleven days later, his body arrived at Montreal aboard the ship Druid. We have Lady Dufferin to thank for the chillingly beautiful image she left in her diary:

When we [she and her children] were at tea we heard some music—the “Dead March”—being played; and looking out, we saw, passing slowly in the darkness, the steamer with the body of Sir George Cartier on board; it was a stirring moment—the chapel on board lighted up, the band playing, and bells tolling at sea, answered by bells tolling on shore.

His state funeral was held Friday morning, June 13, at le Palais de Justice in Montreal. Cartier was placed in a 22-foot-high funeral car draped with heavy black cloth and embroidered with silver stars, the Cartier coat of arms, and had a large silver cross. The car was lead to the cathedral by eight black horses draped in cloth, and his family and closest friends walked as part of the procession. (John A. Macdonald, one of Cartier’s closest friends and political comrades, did not participate in the march, but did hold himself together long enough to attend the service.) During the funeral procession, the Grand Trunk Infantry and Montreal Field Battery resounded a volley, answered by the guns on St. Helen’s Island. They fired on the minute until the service, two hours later.

Seventy-five thousand people passed his casket as it lay beneath a black velvet dome inside the cathedral. Every window was draped in violet, giving the cathedral “an air of heavy solemnity.” The casket was surrounded by statues of crying and praying figures, arrangements of flowers and an imposing statue of a lion, which may have inspired John A.’s later tribute to his friend, when he called him repeatedly “bold as a lion.” During the service John A. sat red-eyed and distant: “He was in a very bad way—not at all himself—indeed quite prostrate.” There was also a statue of Cartier’s father (or grandfather) Jacques Cartier engraved with the words “Je revis dans mon descendant” [“I survive in my descendant.”]

The stone base upon which Cartier’s casket was set was marked with:

Homme sincere – A Sincere Man
Homme droit – An Upright Man
Homme firme – A Firm Man
Homme honnête – An Honest Man

Sir George Cartier, L’ami de son pays – The friend of his country

The funeral of George-Étienne Cartier was one of the biggest and most elaborate in Canada’s history.

On Wednesday I visited the Arts & Letters Club where the archivist Scott James was kind enough to not only give me free reign in the J.E.H. MacDonald fonds, but he also gave me a tour of the place afterwards! I think I was holding back squeals the whole time. The entire place is just infused with Jim MacDonald and his art and everything. When we walked into the dining/performance hall my heart skipped a beat as soon as I saw the tables, and they are the same fucking tables.

I took the bottom photo while I was there. Obviously the table looks longer because whoever took the legendary photo of 6/7ths of the Group was taller than me.

Really underrated book that was born of Daschuk’s doctoral dissertation. I’m working on a list of must-reads for John A.’s 2015 bicentennial that cover the good, the bad, the legislative, the personal, and this is 100 percent going to be on that list.

Oh, Mr. Speaker, if he [Cartier] would only have his speeches set to music and sing them from the Treasury Bench in the manner of an operatic hero, what a saving it would be to our ears, and who can tell, but such siren arts might win over some of the stubborn Opposition.
—  Thomas D’Arcy McGee, on George-Étienne Cartier’s singing being a more appealing sound than his speaking voice, which seemed to grate on several people’s nerves (Sweeny 126).

Can we just talk about Agnes Macdonald and how she spent her childhood ice-fishing and tobogganing by herself usually in the dead of night, and she was a painter, and she was really athletic and rambunctious and used to hang off the fronts of trains and pose very suggestively in photographs and wear sleeveless tops to make photographers angry and avoid being photographed at all, and she read all the time and was fluent in French but thought French Canadians were pretty bossy and always came to points of tension with George-Etienne because she also always tried to keep John A.’s drinking in check but George-Etienne was obviously the worst influence of life and she and he had really similar personalities and so they’d just drag John A. in opposing directions.

[Macdonald is] trenchant, animated and effective, but Cartier is the most overrated man in the House. He screams like a seagull in a gale of wind, has a harsh, bad, dictatorial manner and an illogical mind.
—  Joseph Howe, on George-Étienne Cartier’s habit of letting his anger get the best of him during parliamentary debates, in the middle of what were otherwise “massive, total arguments, full of history, economics, constitutional law and precedent, ethics and common sense, all boiling within a cauldron of emotion” (Sweeney 127).
Would you believe it? Cartier commenced on Thursday at 4 o’clock and spoke till 6; he resumed at 8:30 and spoke till 11:15; resumed yesterday at 3 o’clock and spoke till 6; resumed at 7:15 and spoke till 1:15 … The little wretch screeched thirteen hours in one speech. They used to charge me with being long-winded, but Cartier outdoes all the world, past, present, and to come.
—  George Brown on George-Étienne Cartier (Sweeney 126-27)

These twenty seconds are like the best behind-the-scenes moment of all time. David’s face in the first gif when Julie walks in dressed as Luce. He’s like, “That’s my lady! Look at her!” So proud. And Julie just strolls in like she owns the place and everybody in it which she does, and then Shawn walks in and cozies up to his bff and is like, “She’s with George!” Like, make no mistake viewers, I love my wife. She ain’t mine.


I’m pretty bad at translating, but here’s roughly what was up with my family and Louis Riel in 1885:

My dear brother-in-law,

Though the wife writes you often and relays my sentiments to you, I do enjoy writing you occasionally.

Although God has been testing us as of late, we must not stop praying to him; his paternal hand may at last be ready to douse us with his grace and consolation. And even if it seems everything is lost I do have confidence in you, and I am not discouraged. The family is well. Marguerite and the children are fine.

May God protect you and bless you, for that is at this time the most ardent wish from your family and your friends. I send my love.

Your brother-in-law,

Jean Marie Poitras

This was a little more than three months before Riel was hung. Oh god, my feels.

Macdonald hadn’t so much created a nation as manipulated and seduced and connived and bullied it into existence against the wishes of most of its own citizens. By whatever combination of deviousness and magic it took, he had done it. He had made Confederation out of scraps and patches and oddments of thread and string, many frayed and few fitting naturally, but at last it actually existed.
—  Richard Gwyn, John A.: The Man Who Made Us