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Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Laurier LaPierre on Sir Wilfrid Laurier
by TVO | Allan Gregg

Laurier LaPierre has written a biography of his hero, Canada's seventh Prime Minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his namesake. The book is called "Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Romance of Canada". (Originally aired June 1997)

It was the fortune of Wilfrid Laurier to be born in a rural home, set in a quiet land, and if we would know the man we must remember his early surroundings, and recall his later years of serene companionship with nature and with books. He was born on November 20th, 1841, at St. Lin, in the County of L’Assomption. His father was a land surveyor, and his grandfather a farmer, with a strong inclination for the study of mathematics and technical science. His mother was Marcelle Martineau, of L’Assomption, who died when he was four years old. She was a woman of rare gifts, with a taste for art and a natural talent for drawing and designing. His father afterwards married Odeline Ethier, who had been nurse in the family. She had not the gifts of Mr. Laurier’s mother, but was a kind, helpful, simple-hearted woman, and was greatly beloved by Wilfrid and his sister, who died in her early girlhood. Three sons were born of his father’s second marriage. One became a physician, and died in 1898. Two survive: Charlemagne, a merchant at St. Lin, and member of the Commons for the county, and Henri, who is prothonotary at Arthabaskaville. His father died twenty years ago, and left practically nothing for the family. Land surveying was not a remunerative profession, nor was his father of a saving disposition. Still, he maintained his eldest son for seven years at L’ Assomption
College, as well as during his law course at Montreal.

In so far as Mr. Laurier represents inherited qualities, we may look for scientific and mathematical susceptibilities from the father, and for grace and art from the mother. Both parents had the gracious manner and wholesome simplicity of character which so beautifully distinguish the best stock of the rural parishes of Quebec. The marks of a happy childhood, the look that is caught at a mother’s knee, never quite pass from the human face, and the face of Mr. Laurier in his softer moods suggests that the home in which he was reared was a centre of all the domestic affections, and of all the sweet courtesies of sympathetic family intercourse. He still makes an annual pilgrimage to the old home at St. Lin, and cherishes an unfailing affection for the aged stepmother. He has not allowed the increasing duties and responsibilities of public life to lessen his concern for her welfare, and has never neglected the frequent visits in which she delights, and which are among his chief pleasures. He has likewise manifested an abiding interest in the fortunes of his half-brothers, and altogether has shown an admirable sense of the obligations, and a keen appreciation of the intimacies of family Relationship.

He first attended the elementary school of his native parish, and then from September, 1853, to June, 1854, was a pupil of the Protestant elementary school at New Glasgow. This village is eighteen miles distant from St. Lin, and his chief object in attending the Protestant school there was to learn the rudiments of English. He boarded with an Irish Catholic family named Kirk, and often visited that of Mr. John Murray, a great friend of his father, who kept a general store in the village. In his leisure hours he served behind the counter of MurrAy’s store, not for any salary, but simply to improve his English by conversing with the customers. Mr. Murray was a strict Scotch Presbyterian, an elder in the church, and had been educated for the Presbyterian ministry. He and his family seem to have been greatly attracted by the schoolboy, who was made a welcome visitor in the household. Mr. Laurier still cherishes memories of his school life at New Glasgow, and in his reminiscent moods seems to dwell almost fondly upon the various physical encounters he had with the Scotch boys of the village. The fact that Laurier’s father thus sent the boy from home to learn English would suggest that he saw in the son early promise of his brilliant qualities, and had sagaciously and correctly estimated the value of English, even as a mere commercial asset. There seems reason to think that the boy’s experiences at New Glasgow had a distinct and lasting effect upon his character and opinions. Many years afterwards he was asked how it came that he was so tolerant of the religious beliefs of Protestants. In reply, he told the story of his relations with the family of John Murray, and added, “The pure family life and the godly conduct of the Murrays so impressed me that I am convinced a Protestant can be an earnest, true Christian, as well as a Catholic.”

Sir Wilfrid Laurier
By Peter McArthur (1919) (pdf)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Liberal Party
A political History in two volumes by J. S. Willison (1903)
Volume 1  |  Volume 2

Life and Letters of Sir Wilfrid Laurier
By Oscar Douglas Skelton (1921) in two volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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