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BEAUCHAMP, JEAN-JOSEPH, lawyer and author; b. 18 Jan. 1852 in Montreal, son of Joseph Beauchamp, a tailor, and Marcelline Bayard; m. there 20 Feb. 1879 Marie-Éliza Décary, and they had seven children; d. there 14 Nov. 1923 and was buried 17 November in the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

Jean-Joseph Beauchamp was orphaned when he was seven years old. During his adolescence he spent a few years working in the United States. After returning to Montreal, he was tutored by a priest and received his graduation diploma from the Collège Sainte-Marie. Subsequently, probably in 1874, he began studying law at McGill College. Having obtained his degree in 1878, he was called to the bar of the province of Quebec the following year. He launched his career in Montreal, where over the years he would have many partners, including lawyers Edmund Barnard (1879–84), James George Aylwin Creighton (1882–83), and Charles Bruchési (1895–98). The cases entrusted to him by clients attracted by his expertise would sometimes take him before the highest judicial authorities in the country and even the British empire.

The swift progress of industrialization and more efficient means of communication were transforming North American society as the 20th century began. Under the influence of these changes, the practice of law became more complex and speed came to be one of the qualities expected of a good legal practitioner. As a result, reference books became indispensable tools for quick access to information. Beauchamp’s publications belonged in this category: they were basically catalogues providing summaries of judicial decisions and theoretical studies. His first work was published in Montreal in 1891 under the title The jurisprudence of the Privy Council: containing a digest of all the decisions of the Privy Council. . . . A second volume, bringing the digest up to date, would be issued in 1909, an indication that it had been well received both in Quebec and beyond the province. In 1904 and 1905 Beauchamp’s Le Code civil de la province de Québec annoté . . . , in three volumes, was brought out at Montreal. An updated edition, completed by him before his death, would appear in 1924, after which the publishers would call on lawyer Joseph-Fortunat Saint-Cyr to prepare the supplement that followed in 1931. Beauchamp’s most important work, however, is the Répertoire général de jurisprudence canadienne . . . , which summarizes the judicial decisions concerning the province of Quebec handed down by the courts in Quebec, Canada, and Great Britain from 1770 to May 1913. He said that this four-volume work, which was published in Montreal in 1914, was undertaken at the urging of many members in the legal profession. Three posthumous supplements would come out in succeeding decades (1927, 1935, and 1955). Beauchamp’s contemporaries emphasized the quality of his works. Their praise shows a genuine admiration for the “painstaking labour” – to borrow the expression used by François Langelier* in the first volume of his Cours de droit civil de la province de Québec (Montréal, 1905) – to which the author had committed himself. The publication of updated versions and supplements bears witness to the merit of Beauchamp’s various publications.

In 1895 Beauchamp also revived in Montreal La Revue légale, which had been founded in Sorel in 1869 by Adolphe Germain and Michel Mathieu* but had ceased publication in 1892. As its editor, a position he would hold until his death, Beauchamp hoped to make it a theoretical journal combining judicial science and the practice of law. He wrote many articles himself but depended also on the participation of judges, lawyers, and notaries. After some 12 years, and repeated appeals for articles to print, Beauchamp, like his predecessor Mathieu, decided to make La Revue légale simply a collection of legal judgements. In all likelihood it was because of his experience in this type of publishing that the general council of the Quebec bar chose Beauchamp in 1914 as editor of the Rapports judiciaires de Québec, an annual compendium of judgements handed down by the Court of King’s Bench and the Superior Court. Beauchamp would hold this position for the rest of his life.

The work undertaken by Beauchamp helped create “a body of national law.” He was not thinking, however, of a law in isolation from that in other jurisdictions. On the contrary, he took the view that this body of national law, despite its increasing originality, was bound to retain elements drawn from French, British, and American law. During the same period, the development of uniform laws was a popular theme in American legal theory. Beauchamp took an interest in this question and advocated a similar exercise in Canada, pointing out, however, the necessity of respecting the traditions and homogeneity of the law in force in each province. The uniformity movement won followers in Canada, and by the end of the 1910s had triggered strong opposition from the conservative wing of the legal profession in Quebec.

Along with his professional career, Beauchamp showed an interest in activities of a religious, philanthropic, and patriotic nature. In 1893 he drew up the civil charter incorporating the apostolic syndics assigned by the Holy See to manage the temporal affairs of the Franciscans. He himself served as an apostolic syndic for some 30 years. His religious fervour also led him to write several works of piety and to help found in 1884 the Petite Revue du Tiers-Ordre et des intérêts du Cœur-de-Jésus, a Montreal periodical that in 1917 would become La Revue franciscaine, and to serve as editor of Le Bulletin de l’Union Allet, the voice of the papal Zouaves in Montreal. Beauchamp sat on the central council of the St Vincent de Paul Society of Montreal and in 1906 was vice-president of the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal. In recognition of his contribution to the legal community, he received a number of honours. He was made a qc in 1893 and the Université Laval conferred an honorary doctorate of laws on him in 1904.

Jean-Joseph Beauchamp was not one of the top-ranking members of the bar, but his editorial output gave him an opportunity to distinguish himself. Throughout his career, he remained somewhat contradictory. For example, he deplored his colleagues’ lack of interest in theoretical studies, yet took on tasks that emphasized the utilitarian character of published materials on Quebec law. Beauchamp’s work helped the legal community to become more competent, and it accurately reflects the changes that occurred in the practice of law at the beginning of the 20th century.

Sylvio Normand

Most of the books written by Jean-Joseph Beauchamp can be consulted at CIHM and are listed in its Reg. In addition to the publications cited above, Beauchamp is the author of Second general index of the Quebec judicial reports, 1898–1908 (Montreal, 1909) and Supplément au Code civil annoté de la province de Québec (2v., Montréal, 1924). The biography mentions various periodicals to which Beauchamp contributed; other articles by him can be found in Bull. de la Caisse nationale d’économie (Montréal) and in La Famille (Montréal).

ANQ-M, CE601-S51, 18 janv. 1852, 20 févr. 1879. Le Devoir, 15, 19–20 nov. 1923. La Patrie, 20 oct. 1902. La Presse, 16, 19 nov. 1923. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898 and 1912). Les Franciscains au Canada, 1890–1990, sous la dir. de Jean Hamelin (Sillery, Qué., 1990). J. Hamelin et al., La presse québécoise, vols.2–4. Père Hugolin [Stanislas Lemay], Bibliographie du Tiers-Ordre séculier de saint François au Canada (province de Québec) (Montréal, 1921). “In memoriam: monsieur Jean Joseph Beauchamp, syndic apostolique,” La Rev. franciscaine (Montréal), 40 (1924), no.1: 37–39. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Tableau alphabétique des avocats de la province, 1868–1899,” La Rev. du Barreau de la prov. de Québec (Montréal), 22 (1962): 343–55. É.-Z. Massicotte, “L’escrime et les maîtres d’armes à Montréal,” BRH, 29 (1923): 260–63. Sylvio Normand, “Une culture en redéfinition: la culture juridique québécoise durant la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle,” in Transformation de la culture juridique québécoise, sous la dir. de Bjarne Melkevik (Sainte-Foy, Qué., 1998): 221–35; “Une lignée d’éditeurs-libraires montréalais, spécialisés en droit, au tournant du siècle,” Biblio. Soc. of Canada, Papers (Toronto), 30 (1993): 7–55; “Un thème dominant de la pensée juridique traditionnelle au Québec: la sauvegarde de l’intégrité du droit civil,” McGill Law Journal (Montreal), 32 (1986–87): 559–601. Siméon Pagnuelo, “La Cour suprême et le Barreau de Montréal,” La Thémis (Montréal), 2 (1880–81): 353–66. Léo Pelland, “Me Jean-Joseph Beauchamp,” La Rev. du droit (Québec), 2 (1923–24): 181–85. Robert Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, vol.7; Histoire de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal: des patriotes au fleurdelisé, 1834–1948 (Montréal, 1975); Hist. de Montréal. Univ. Laval, Faculté de droit, Annuaire, 1942–43.

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Sylvio Normand, “BEAUCHAMP, JEAN-JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/beauchamp_jean_joseph_15E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/beauchamp_jean_joseph_15E.html
Author of Article:   Sylvio Normand
Title of Article:   BEAUCHAMP, JEAN-JOSEPH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2005
Year of revision:   2005
Access Date:   September 28, 2023