Papineau and respect for women

In his reply to my Homework entitled ” Papineau, cowardly and misogynist? », Published on September 18, historian Denyse Baillargeon claims to give me a lesson in historical rigor, pretending I had not previously proven my professionalism and my concern to reintegrate the fairer sex into history. Contesting the result of my research for the future complete biography of Louis-J. Papineau, she wants to make him a misogynist. She says she knows her “republican vision” of female respectability; From this perspective, the participation of women in civic life, outside the domestic family sphere, would have been contrary to good morals. I invite Mme Baillargeon to quote me the writings of Papineau in this sense – or those of any other fellow patriot. For my part, after an exhaustive search of several years in the archives, I have not seen anything like it. I would have used it if I had, because I pride myself on honesty in my work.

According to Mme Baillargeon, Papineau would disguise reality since “very few married or single women supposedly vote by force”. I find it presumptuous to accuse Papineau in this way, he who was up to his neck in the real news of his country. In truth, a significant number of women voted forced, especially as part of the ballot registers were lost and many of the elections were not recorded on paper. More broadly, the whole aspect of electoral violence, endemic and terrorizing, has been undervalued by historical research.

Before reproaching me for intellectual dishonesty, as the historian emeritus does, I invite him to put Papineau’s famous reply in context. First of all, you should know that in the winter of 1834, it was under the law of contested elections that women lost the right to vote, a law that was not put into force. Papineau pronounces his famous reply during the debates relating to another law, that regulating the elections, that the deputy John Neilson wished to have revised. According to him, it engendered abuses, including the right for women to vote. Then, everywhere in the British Empire, the right of suffrage became little by little exclusively male; a few years earlier, the laws creating city councils in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto had also reserved the vote for males.

To Neilson, Papineau retorted that the main source of abuse was the “scandal” of the violation of electoral freedom by the high places of the colonial executive, as well as the appointment of “party” men as members of the staff. electoral. Intellectual honesty requires clarification, doesn’t it, before claiming that Papineau does not allude “anywhere” to violence? The debate was then “personalized” by Austin Cuvillier, who had indeed dragged his wife Marie-Claire Perrault – from whom he was however separated from property – to the husting election of the famous Rue du Sang, in May 1832. It was therefore to Cuvillier that Papineau addressed himself: “It is ridiculous, it is odious to see people hanging around hustings women through their husbands, daughters through their fathers, often even against their will. Public interest, decency, modesty of sex demand that these scandals not be repeated. “

In reply, Cuvillier said he saw Papineau “receive their voices with pleasure, and by his pleasant and gracious smile, show them his approval and congratulate them”. Isn’t this a direct testimony to Papineau’s opinion on the female vote? Historiography has however neglected it. Find the mistake…

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