To celebrate and commemorate the 225th anniversary of Quebec’s
parliamentary institutions, the National Assembly launched an
exhibit entitled “1792. La naissance d’un Parlement.” In
this article, the author presents some highlights
from the exhibit and explains why cartoons were
such a central part of it.
On April 4, 2017, in Quebec’s Parliament
Building, National Assembly President
Jacques Chagnon officially launched the
celebrations marking the 225th anniversary of Quebec’s
parliamentary institutions. In his speech, he noted, “It’s
not every day that we take the time to recall the extent
to which the National Assembly, its authority, its areas
of jurisdiction and all the powers it now holds are the
result of events that played out here 225 years ago and
helped shape democracy in Quebec.” [translation]
Other parliamentarians then took the floor.
Ms. Rita de Santis, Minister responsible for Access to
Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions;
Ms. Carole Poirier, Chief Official Opposition Whip and
MNA for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve; and Mr. Benoit
Charette, member of the Second Opposition Group
and MNA for Deux-Montagnes, spoke about pivotal
moments in our parliamentary history.
Exhibit: 1792. La naissance d’un Parlement
The official launch of celebrations marking the 225th
anniversary of Quebec’s parliamentary institutions
also marked the opening of an exhibit entitled “1792.
La naissance d’un Parlement.” The exhibit, located in the
National Assembly’s visitor centre, paints a picture of
the parliamentary history of Lower Canada from 1792
to 1841. Visitors will discover that the major issues of
our democracy were debated in Lower Canada’s House
of Assembly. They will also learn that the prerogatives
that the members of the National Assembly exercise
today were won by the members of the House of
Assembly of Lower Canada, who refused to cave in.
The 1792. La naissance d’un Parlement exhibit revolves
around comic strips. Why comic strips? Because the
first comic strip to come out of Quebec and the first
election to be held in the province took place in the
same year. In fact, this first comic strip is about
the 1792 election. It is a cartoon entitled “À tous les
électeurs [to all voters],” which seeks to win support for
merchants from the Haute-Ville de Québec riding. To
boot, two candidates, Mathew Macnider and William
Grant, were responsible for printing this cartoon. Both
won and were elected to the first Parliament of Lower
Canada. The only surviving original copy of the 1792
cartoon is featured in the exhibit.
Other rare and precious artifacts featured in the
exhibit relate to the political and parliamentary
history of Lower Canada. For example, visitors can
see the handwritten proceedings of the 1792–1793
parliamentary session, the 1793 bylaws of the House
of Assembly of Lower Canada, a globe dating from
1792–1805, several 18th- and 19th-century ceintures
fléchées, an election poster supporting the election of
Montreal patriots in 1827, and an original copy of the
Some of the objects—like the head from the bust
of King George III, the first monument erected in
Montreal in 1766—have a unique story. During the
American invasion in 1775, it was painted black and a
rosary made of potatoes was hung around the king’s
neck, with a cross bearing the inscription: “Behold
the pope of Canada and the English fool.” Shortly
afterwards, the bust was thrown down a well in the
Place d’Armes. It was recovered in 1834.
These magnificent pieces come from the National
Assembly’s collections, and from the Stewart Museum,
the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Library and Archives
Canada, the McCord Museum, McGill University, the
Musée Pierre-Boucher, the City of Quebec and the
Ministry of Culture and Communications.
The exhibit also includes multimedia presentations
and a timeline. Visitors can learn more about the
origins of our democratic history. A capsule entitled
L’histoire du Bas-Canada en 60 secondes [the Story of
Lower Canada in 60 seconds] provides a one minute
summary! The 1792. La naissance d’un Parlement exhibit
runs until April 4, 2018. Those unable to visit in person
can view the online version on the National Assembly’s
website at http://www.bibliotheque.assnat.qc.ca/
1792 : à main levée – a comic book
On April 5, 2017, at the Salon international du
livre de Québec, National Assembly President
Jacques Chagnon launched the comic book entitled
1792 : à main levée. “Whether you’re simply curious,
passionate about history or comics, or both, you’ll be
delighted by this captivating book,” he said.
The book echoes the 1792 cartoon entitled “À tous
les électeurs.” The National Assembly has used the
comic strip – the ninth art – to recount key points in
the parliamentary history of Lower Canada.
Four cartoonists, namely Vincent Giard, Réal
Godbout, VAN (Vanessa Lalonde) and VoRo (Vincent
Rioux) were recruited by the National Assembly.
The choice of these talented artists was guided by
the desire to pull together a sample of artists who
are representative of the diversity of comic strips in
Quebec today. In the book 1792 : à main levée, they tell
us about the first general election in 1792, the language
debate, the political engagement of Pierre-Stanislas
Bédard and the adoption of the 92 Resolutions.
Short texts, abundantly illustrated, describing the
highlights of the parliamentary history of Lower
Canada precede each of the four comic strips. The
cartoonists then reconstruct the “key moments” of
these parliamentary stories, paying particular attention
to atmosphere, emotion and setting the scene. The
editorial approach, developed by Michel Giguère, a
comic strip consultant, makes it possible to make a
variety of profiles and styles complement each other.
The last section of the book takes the form of a catalogue
raisonné. Certain works of art from the 19th century,
which served as inspiration for the cartoonists, are
presented opposite story boards, pencil sketches and
final inked versions from the book.
History buffs and comic strip lovers can purchase
this impressive book in bookstores across Quebec or
online from the Publications du Québec website.
Other commemorative projects
Various activities will complement the celebrations
marking the 225th anniversary of our parliamentary
institutions. For example, the National Assembly
will revive a tradition established by Eugène-Étienne
Taché, the designer of the Parliament
Building, that of inscribing the names of historical
figures on the wood panelling inside the building.
The first floor of the Parliament Building features
individuals from the time of Lower Canada. While
the collection includes patriots and bureaucrats,
the figures who stand out the most are moderate
reformists. The individuals commemorated include
individuals who demonstrated an attachment to
British parliamentary institutions and who defended
the interests of the French Canadian nation.
Taché’s choices reflect his father’s political values.
Étienne-Paschal Taché was a patriot who defended
French Canadians in the political institutions of
his day. It is also interesting to note that most of
the politicians whose names are inscribed in the
wood panelling opposed the constitutional reforms
proposed by Lord Durham, who recommended the
merger of Upper Canada and Lower Canada.
It is in keeping with that original plan that the
names of MNAs William Grant and Augustin-
Norbert Morin as well as legislative councilors
Thomas Dunn and Joseph-Octave Plessis will be
added to those already inscribed in the wood
panels. To mark the occasion, short biographies of
the parliamentarians of Lower Canada whose names
are inscribed in the woodwork of the Parliament
Building will be published in a brochure that
will also be available on the National Assembly’s
Finally, to cap the celebrations marking the 225th
anniversary of our parliamentary institutions, the
President will install a time capsule in the Parliament
Building. The capsule will contain various objects
for future generations. It will be opened in 2092, the
300th anniversary of the 1792 election. Its contents
will be known to only a few individuals. The
mystery surrounding the capsule and its contents
will arouse interest and fascination.
The National Assembly is once again showing
originality and boldness! Future generations will
have to take up the challenge so that they, too,
can celebrate Quebec’s parliamentary history and,
above all, keep this tradition of historical, legal and
political culture alive in the National Assembly.