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Émilie Gamelin and the prisoners

In the province of Quebec, we celebrate the National Patriots’ Day to underline the rebellion that took place in 1837-1838 against the British monarchy for the recognition of the Lower Canadian nation, for its political freedom and for the establishment of a democratic government. 

Blessed Emilie Tavernier-Gamelin visited many Patriots in the Pied-du-Courant prison in Montreal, hence her nickname of “Angel of the Political Prisoners”. She brought them food, spiritual comfort, and often secretly sent correspondence to their families and friends. Was it Emilie who sent this letter? This original document, preserved in the archives of the Community, was written on November 26, 1838, by Joseph Duquet, a young Patriot notary imprisoned and condemned to death. He demanded a civil trial but was refused. Despite the interventions of Bishop Ignace Bourget, auxiliary bishop of Montreal, and the pleas of his mother to have his sentence reduced, Joseph Duquet was hanged under tragic circumstances, along with his compatriot Joseph-Narcisse Cardinal, on December 21, 1838.

Marie-Claude Béland, Providence Archives – Montreal

To Bernard St Germain.

Montreal Prison 26 of Nov. 1838

Dear Sir,

The present letter is to beg you to have the kindness, if you go to Châteauguay, to see my mother and ask her to send me the following effects, my suit, a couple of shirts, a pair of stockings, a pair of shoes, two collar handkerchiefs, one or two pocket handkerchiefs and a pair of gloves and my winter coat if she could save it, I am very much afraid that it has all been burnt.

Please be so kind as to bring them to me yourself, you know that my trial and that of mons. Ca and Maurice are next Wednesday. Try to see my mother and prepare her for anything that may happen to me.

I cannot bring myself to write to her. Tell her that I am well and that for prison I am treated quite well. I do not know where she is, try to see her yourself.

Your very unfortunate servant will be infinitely obliged to you for doing this.   Duquet