Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Chapleau, Joseph Adolphe

CHAPLEAU, Sir JOSEPH ADOLPHE (1840–1898), Canadian statesman, born on 9 Nov. 1840 at Sainte Thérèse de Blainville, in the county of Terrebonne, in the province of Quebec, where his family had been settled for nearly a century, was the son of Pierre Chapleau, a mechanic, by his wife Zoe Sigouin. He was educated at Terrebonne and Saint-Hyacinthe. He turned his attention to law, and entered the office of Messrs. Ouimet, Morin, & Marchand, at Montreal. He joined the Institut Canadien, of which he eventually became president. In December 1861 he was called to the bar of Lower Canada. He then entered into partnership with his former principals and began to practise at the Montreal bar. He showed great power as an orator, devoting himself largely to criminal practice. He was at one time professor of criminal jurisprudence at Laval University, and professor of international law in the section established in Montreal. On 2 April 1873 he was created a queen's counsel, and in October 1874 he defended Lupine and Nault at Winnipeg against the charge of murdering Thomas Scott during the rebellion of Louis Riel [q. v.]

From 1859 Chapleau took a prominent part in politics, attaching himself to the conservative party. In the beginning of 1862 he acquired a pecuniary interest in the tri-weekly newspaper 'Le Colonisateur,' which he edited for two years. In 1867 he was returned to the first provincial parliament after the confederation as member for the county of Terrebonne, a seat which he retained until 1882, when he was returned to the Canadian House of Commons for the same place on 16 Aug., and continued to represent the county until his appointment as lieutenant-governor of Quebec in 1892. Upon the reconstruction of the Chauveau cabinet in 1873, under Gédéon Ouimet, Chapleau accepted office as solicitor-general on 27 Feb., and retained it until the overthrow of the cabinet on a charge of corruption on 8 Sept. 1874. On 27 Jan, 1876 he entered the De Boucherville government as provincial secretary and registrar. This position he retained until March 1878, when the lieutenant-governor, Luc Letellier de St. Just, dismissed the ministry, although they possessed a parliamentary majority, and called the liberal leader, H. G. Joly, into office. Chapleau became leader of the opposition until Joly's resignation in October 1879, when he was called on to form a ministry. He himself took the portfolios of agriculture and public works, besides acting as premier. His term of office was distinguished by the re-establishment of relations between France and Lower Canada, by the foundation of a Canadian commercial agency in France, and by the establishment of a line of steamers between Havre and Montreal. He also succeeded, for the first time since 1877, in obtaining a -surplus in the budget, in which he was assisted by the sale of the North Shore railway. At the general election of 1881 he swept the province, carrying fifty-three seats out of ninety-five. In 1878 Chapleau declined the offer of a portfolio in the Dominion cabinet made to him by Sir John Alexander Macdonald [q. v.], but on 29 July 1882 he accepted the post of secretary of state for Canada and registrar-general, in succession to Joseph Alfred Mousseau who succeeded him as premier of Quebec. On the same day he was sworn a member of the privy council. On 4 July 1884 he was appointed a commissioner, and proceeded to British Columbia for the purpose of investigating and reporting on the subject of Chinese immigration into Canada. In the following year he distinguished himself by his firm attitude in regard to Louis Riel [q. v.], whose fate aroused much sympathy among the French Canadians. At the risk of an entire loss of popularity he maintained that Eiel had committed a great crime and that his punishment was just. After Macdonald's death in 1891 he continued in the ministry of Sir John Abbott [q. V. Suppl.] till 3 Dec. 1892, first as secretary of state and afterwards from 25 Jan. 1892 as minister of customs. On 7 Dec. 1892 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Quebec. In 1878 Chapleau obtained the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Laval University. In 1881 he received the Roman decoration of St. Gregory the Great, and on 10 Nov. 1882 that of the legion of honour of France, and in 1896 he was nominated K.C.M.G. He died at Montreal on 13 June 1898, and was buried on 16 June in the Cote des Neiges cemetery. On 25 Nov. 1874 he married Marie Louise, daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Charles King of Sherbrooke in the province of Quebec.

In 1887 a number of Chapleau's speeches were edited by A. de Bonneterre with the title 'L'Honorable J. A. Chapleau. Sa Biographie, suivie de ses principaux Discours' (Montreal, 8vo).

[Bonneterre's J. A. Chapleau, 1887; Morgan's Canadian Men and Women of the Time, 1898; Bibaud's Panthéon Canadien, 1891; Dent's Canadian Portrait Gallery, 1881, iv. 38–9 (with portrait); Rose's Cyclopædia of Canadian Biogr., 1888, pp. 634–7; David's Mes Contemporains, 1894, pp. 23–40; Canadian Parl. Companion, Ottawa, 1897; Coté's Political Appointments, Ottawa, 1896.]

E. I. C.