Mr. Papineau's father, [[Wikipedia:Joseph Papineau|Joseph Papineau]], was a [[Wikipedia:notary|notary]]. He is a gentleman of great respectability, and when in public life, was the most influential member of the house of assembly, in which body, he sat from the commencement of the [[Constitutional Act of 1791|Constitution]] in 1791 to 1810, or 1811. Though still in the full possession of all his faculties at the advanced age of 86, he has for many years retired into private life. This venerable patriarch is the father of the Canada constitution. To his exertions, during a series of years, previous to 1790, is that country indebted for the representative form of government, which the [[Wikipedia:British parliament|British parliament]] is now about to destroy. In his youth, he found his country abandoned to a military [[Wikipedia:despotism|despotism]]; his countrymen without any political existence in their native land, and their lives and property at the mercy of every stranger, whom chance or [[Wikipedia:patronage|patronage]] may have drifted on their shores. He exerted himself to procure for them that rank in the [[Wikipedia:body politic|body politic]], which their numbers and wealth entitled them to. He procured for them some political power, by obtaining for them the right of choosing representatives in a colonial assembly. He has lived to see those rights destroyed, and his fellow citizens again driven back, to suffer under that despotism from which he had succeeded about half a century ago in rescuing them. In the words of [[Wikipedia:Henry Grattan|Grattan]], the celebrated Irish patriot, he may truly say, "I have watched by the cradle of my country, and now I follow her hearse!"
The subject of the present brief biographical sketch, was sent at an early age to [[Wikipedia:Quebec City|Quebec]] to be educated at the [[seminary]] under the superintendence of the [[Wikipedia:Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec|catholic clergy]] in that city. In the 17th century an extensive and highly respectable [[college]] was established in the city of Quebec, by the [[Wikipedia:Jesuits|Jesuits]], where the youth of the colony were educated. When [[Wikipedia:Great Britain|Great Britain]] got possession of Canada, one of its first steps "for the encouragement of learning," was to expel the Jesuits, and turn this college into a ''Barrack'' (to which .... purpose it still continues to be put.) The clergy were therefore obliged to raise a building for the education of the rising generation, and to this establishment Mr. Papineau was sent, to go through his studies. Here he remained until he was 17 years of age. His collegiate course being completed, he entered on the study of the law, and was called to the bar about the year 1811-12. He had however been previously elected in the year 1809, and whilst still a student at law, to represent the county of Kent, (now the [[Wikipedia:Chambly (electoral district)|county of Chambly]],) after a hard contest, in which he was opposed by all strength of the then government party. This county he represented during two parliaments, after which he went in for the west ward of Montreal, for which place he has been uninterruptedly elected for the last 20 years.
Mr. Papineau went into the assembly on the influence of his father's reputation, as an honorable and acute representative; but he soon carved out a reputation for himself. The contest between the assembly and the [[official party]] for the control of the revenues, had commenced before Mr. Papineau entered public life. On his election to the assembly, not merely did he take the popular side, but by his extensive knowledge and great [[Wikipedia:eloquence|eloquence]], he gave new force to the demand of the assembly for a full control over the public expenditure.
In the year 1812, Mr. Papineau was the leader of the young and talented minority which endeavored, in the house of assembly, to save the province from any collision with the [[Wikipedia:United States|United States]]. He clearly foresaw that th best interests of Canada consisted in cultivating a close friendship with this Union, with which, by geographical position and commercial intercourse, she should naturally be more intimately connected, than with a power at the other side of the Atlantic. He saw at the same time, that all the loss, the misery and suffering which were to result from such a war, would have to be borne exclusively by Canada, whilst all the honor (if honor there should be) would belong to England. Prompted by these longsighted and patriotic views, he attempted to save his country from all participation in that conflict, or indeed in any ''English'' wars. His efforts, unfortunately, were not successful. The war proceeded, and he served as [[captain in the militia]] until the return of peace.
It was whilst serving in this capacity, that the American prisoners, after the disgraceful surrender of Gen. [[Wikipedia:William Hull|Hull]] at [[Wikipedia:Siege of Detroit|Detroit]], were marched into Montreal .... of all rules of courtesy, and to the .... of those brave men's feelings, they ... to enter the latter city to the tune of [[Wikipedia:Yankee Doodle|Yankee Doodle]] - an air originally gotten up in the time of the revolution by an English officer in derision of the then unskilled, but afterwards successful militia of our country, and which was played on the occasion above referred to, to render the prisoners objects of similar ridicule and obloquy. Mr. Papineau held a captain's commission on this occasion, and had command of a company who preceded the prisoners. So indignant was he the insult thus offered, that he wheeled out of the line and refused with a number of his men to proceed, declaring that neither himself nor his men would commingle with troops who could be guilty of conduct so reprehensible and disgusting; that his duty to his country, though at war with another power, could never require him to treat the captured soldiers of that power inhospitably or uncourteously.
In the year 1817, he was chosen speaker of the house of assembly. In 1820, Lord [[Wikipedia:George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie|Dalhousie]] entered upon the government of Lower Canada. At this time, the country was in a tolerably tranquil state, and the governor, thinking it wise to attach a man of the speaker's talents to his side, made Mr. Papineau an [[executive councillor]]. Strong feelings, it is true, had been excited by the absurd pretensions of the official party to procure a permanent [[Wikipedia:civil list|civil list]]; a civil list for the King's life; or failing that, a vote of [[Wikipedia:Supplies|supplies]] in a lump (''en bloc''); all which schemes had been opposed by Mr. Papineau. Lord Dalhousie was a new man, and the country seemed disposed to try him. In 1821 the house carried an [[address]] on grievances, to which a ''civil answer'' was returned, and matters still continued to go on smoothly.
He is accused of loving money, and of making his public influence a means of increasing his wealth. No charge can be farther from the truth than this. To devote the whole of his time and talents to the service of his country, he abandoned long since, a lucrative practice. Had he continued at the bar, and supported the views of the government, instead of vindicating the rights of the people, he might to-day have been on the bench of in possession of the highest honors which the enemies of his country could bestow. He has been ... to the people, and as a reward for his .del-... price is set on his head!
If further proof of his respect for principle were necessary, we might cite the firmness with which he has abstained for many years, from accepting his salary as speaker of the assembly. A renumeration of $4000 per annum was attached to this situation about 20 years ago. It formed an item in the [[appropriation bill]], annually voted by the assembly. In the year 1832-3, the assembly of Lower Canada stopt the supplies, and has ever since refused to vote the public salaries, until the grievances of which the country complained should be redressed. The British government, thereupon ... dept in and took upon itself to pay the salaries which the Canadian assembly, for reasons above mentioned, refused to vote. An order was signed by the governor for the payment of Mr. Papineau's salary wit the rest, but this order, or the money, he has constantly refused to touch for ... years, inasmuch as the assembly, the only constitutional authority, had not voted it. He has lost $20,000 by this one act of patriotic self-denial. Indeed, so determined is he to preserve his independence in public life, that he has refused even to hold bank stock, lest his private might clash with the public interest, or the purity of his voted on questions where banks are interested might be questioned.
Mr. Papineau is said to be an enemy of trade. It is false - he is warm friend to trade, so long as it requires no privileges injurious to the community.