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GAUDET (Godet), JOSEPH, farmer and politician; b. 10 May 1818 at Gentilly (now part of Bécancour, Que.), son of Charles Godet, a farmer, and Marguerite Panneton; m. 23 Feb. 1846 Deneige Levasseur at Bécancour, and they had 16 children, including Athanase, who also became a farmer and represented Nicolet in the House of Commons from 1884 to 1888; d. 4 Aug. 1882 at Gentilly.
Joseph Gaudet received only an elementary education before becoming a farmer in his native village. However, according to those who heard him during election campaigns, he was an exceptional public speaker who used polished French. These natural gifts were an important asset in the course of his long political career. He entered parliament in the elections of 1857–58 as representative for Nicolet County, and in 1861 and 1863 he was returned by acclamation as a Liberal-Conservative and solid supporter of George-Étienne Cartier*. Shortly after confederation, yielding to the pleas of his electors and probably of Cartier himself, who promised him a seat on the Legislative Council as compensation, he stood as a candidate in Nicolet County and was elected to both the House of Commons and the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.
But Gaudet remained in the Quebec assembly for only a brief period. As one of the group of Conservatives who judged the economic and social policy of Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau inadequate, he unhesitatingly voted on several occasions against the government, even at the risk of causing its defeat. In 1871, when public opinion had become critical of the double mandate (which would be abolished by the province in 1874), Gaudet opted for the federal level. Since he supported the Programme catholique in 1871 [see François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel], he was backed by the clergy as well as the Journal des Trois-Rivières. He won with a large majority at the federal elections of 1872, and again in 1874 even though his party was defeated. In October 1877 he was appointed legislative councillor for the division of Kennebec. According to Andrée Désilets, this appointment represented a government concession to the agricultural class, rather than a personal reward; it revealed that party leaders were obliged to attempt to satisfy every group in society in order to maintain their own political strength. Thus Gaudet ended his parliamentary career in the Legislative Council.
Among members of the Quebec legislature, Joseph Gaudet typified the average farmer who enjoyed prestige in his own environment but who in the house was not the real spokesman of agricultural interests. Naturally he was even less effective on the federal scene.
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