BESSERER, LOUIS-THÉODORE, notary, soldier, politician, and businessman; b. 4 Jan. 1785 at Château-Richer, near Quebec, son of Johann Theodor Besferer, known as Jean-Théodore Besserer, a German military surgeon and a Calvinist, who came to Canada in 1776, and Marie-Anne Giroux, a Canadian; d. 3 Feb. 1861 at Ottawa. By his first wife, Angèle Rhéaume of Quebec, whom he married on 25 Feb. 1830, and his second, Margaret Cameron of Bytown (Ottawa), he had 12 children.
Louis-Théodore Besserer was a pupil at the Petit Séminaire de Québec, then studied under Félix Têtu to become a notary; he was admitted to the profession on 28 Aug. 1810. Antoine Roy describes him as “a man of good counsel and an alert financier, sound and rarely at fault in his judgement, who quickly won the confidence of his fellow citizens and built up a fine clientele.”
At the beginning of the War of 1812, Besserer was a lieutenant in the 2nd militia battalion of the Quebec City district. He was transferred to the 6th battalion on 20 March 1813 and on 25 September was promoted captain. He enjoyed the confidence of the governor, Sir George Prevost*, who entrusted him with a number of special civilian missions, among them the establishing of settlers along the Portage road between Rivière-du-Loup and the Quebec and New Brunswick border. Like many others, he received a land grant for his military services; Besserer chose his in the township of Horton in the Eastern Townships. After the war he returned to his notarial practice and business affairs at Quebec.
He represented the county of Quebec in the House of Assembly from 7 Oct. 1833 to 27 March 1838. Although he agreed with the Ninety-Two Resolutions, he was one of the Patriotes of the Quebec region who, more prudent and deliberate, preferred constitutional methods to rebellion, as advocated by the Montreal Patriotes. The difference of mentality between Montreal and Quebec was never more evident. Seeing the turn political agitation was taking at Montreal, Besserer refused to follow Louis-Joseph Papineau*. However, he escaped arrest in 1838 only by reason of his business relations with the British authorities; he was nevertheless forced to retire from politics. He remained on bad terms with Papineau’s friends, who never forgave him his moderation.
Disappointed and embittered by political events, and distressed over the death of his first wife, Besserer retired in 1845 to an immense estate he had purchased in 1828 near Bytown (Ottawa). A shrewd businessman, he had it subdivided into building sites, and gave Bishop Patrick Phelan* a lot for a church and school in order to attract buyers; he also had several streets laid out, one of which still bears his name. This speculation brought him a fortune. With other fellow citizens he was concerned with the incorporation of Bytown as a town, which took place in 1847. He died on 3 Feb. 1861 at Ottawa.
A practical man and an opportunist, Besserer rapidly adopted English customs and attitudes. In fact, his family origin, his business connections, and his second wife’s family all led him to identify more and more with English Canadians.
PAC, MG 30, D62, 4, pp.597–604. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, III, 22–24. Lucien Brault, Ottawa old & new (Ottawa, 1946). “Louis-Théodore Besserer,” BRH, XXXII (1926), 479–81. Antoine Roy, “Les Patriotes de la région de Québec pendant la rébellion de 1837–1838,” Cahiers des Dix, 24 (1959), 241–54. P.-G. Roy, “Les Besserer de la province de Québec,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 30–31.