By Martin Lanthier
In the early 19th century, the arrival of ships carrying sometimes-ill immigrants raised fears that epidemics would spread in Lower Canada. The colony’s elite became aware of the situation and took initiatives to address the problem.
The correspondence of the Civil Secretary to the Governor of Lower Canada (RG4-A1, MIKAN 105377) includes documents that reflect these concerns and that describe incidents faced by physicians at the time. One particular example is a letter from Dr. William Hacket, dated July 29, 1818, in which he describes his efforts to care for Irish settlers suffering from typhoid fever.
The immigrants had arrived at the city of Québec on July 21 aboard the Royal Edward. A number of them were sick and, after a few days, it was decided to treat them. Since no hospital could accommodate such a large number of patients (119), and because conditions on board the vessel were unsanitary, the order was given to quarantine and treat the patients on Île au Ruau [or Île aux Ruaux], near Grosse Île in the St. Lawrence River. Dr. Hacket was put in charge, assisted by two colleagues, Dr. Wright and Dr. Holmes.
In his letter, written six days after the arrival of the passengers on the island, Dr. Hacket first describes his difficulties in convincing them to leave the ship—some declared that they would only be removed by force. He then goes on to say that without the help of soldiers, who set up a camp, he would never have been able to accommodate and treat the patients.
Letter from Dr. William Hacket to A.W. Cochrane, Civil Secretary, Québec, July 29, 1818 (RG4-A1, volume 180 MIKAN 126122). e011181012
Jean-Joseph Girouard (1794–1855) was a notary, an amateur artist, and a member of the Parti Patriote in Lower Canada during the first part of the 19th century. The Parti Patriote was a political party that sought political reform and rallied for French Canadian cultural heritage, rights and interests. The 1837–1838 Rebellion led by the Parti Patriote was a pivotal moment along the road to nationhood for pre-Confederation Canada.
Girouard was incarcerated twice for his role in the Rebellion. He maintained a notarial office and, unexpectedly, an artist’s studio while imprisoned in Montreal. Girouard created portraits of many of his fellow Patriote prisoners using drawing paper and pencils supplied to him by a supporter. The majority of these unique and rare drawings are now part of the holdings at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).
Jean-Joseph Girouard, self-portrait in prison, Montreal, ca. 1837–1838 (c133430)
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Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds a unique and vast collection of records about the Canadian men and women who were involved in the War of 1812. Muster rolls, paylists, claims, certificates of service, medal registers, maps, paintings, and published sources are featured in LAC holdings that document this key event.
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