LAVIOLETTE, PIERRE (baptized Pierre-Vincent), teacher, seigneur, poet, and journalist; b. 4 March 1794 in Boucherville, Lower Canada, son of Jean-Pierre Guernier, dit Laviolette, a merchant and militia captain, and Charlotte Lenoir; d. 23 Aug. 1854 in Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada.
Pierre Laviolette, who came from an old Canadian family, seems to have received his elementary education in Boucherville, a village which then had a primary teacher for boys. After secondary studies at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1808 to 1815, he took the priestly habit and taught there for a year. He then became a teacher at the Séminaire de Nicolet, where he taught the fifth form in the classical program (Belles-Lettres) in 1816–17 and the sixth (Rhetoric) the following year. He abandoned his plans to enter the priesthood in 1818.
From 1818 to 1824 Laviolette appears to have been engaged in teaching, probably at Saint-Eustache. It is known that in 1824 he was running a Latin school there, a sort of classical college, which he had set up himself. On 10 Jan. 1826 he married Elmire Dumont, daughter of Nicolas-Eustache Lambert Dumont*, owner of the seigneury of Mille-Îles and lieutenant-colonel of militia. Of their children, Godefroy*, Alfred, and Arthur are the best known. At his father-in-law’s death on 25 April 1835, Laviolette became co-seigneur with Elmire’s brother, Charles-Louis Lambert Dumont.
A man of letters, Laviolette composed short dramatic works for schoolchildren and articles which included the occasional piece of literary criticism. He was particularly skilful at writing verse in a pseudo-classical style. One of his songs appeared in a treatise on the humanities produced by the Petit Séminaire de Montréal. It was his song “O Nicole qu’embellit la nature” that his contemporaries found most memorable. Influenced to some degree by social romanticism, Laviolette believed in the writer’s mission, but he concealed his own identity under various pseudonyms, such as X, Le Frondeur, and ***. Some 50 pieces, largely of a poetic nature, have been identified and through them his thoughts on the concerns of his time can be discerned. They appeared in L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois, Mélanges religieux, La Minerve, Le répertoire national, and elsewhere.
Laviolette attached great importance to education. His respect for Latin is revealed in a dialogue he composed, which was performed in August 1825 at the public examinations of the Latin school at Saint-Eustache. The Montreal and Nicolet seminaries were occasionally honoured in his poetry. In the sphere of economics, he exalted the benefits of industry and denounced somewhat simplistically the treachery of the Patriotes in holding industry and trade responsible for the country’s woes. So far as politics was concerned, Laviolette condemned the union plot of 1822 [see Louis-Joseph Papineau*; Denis-Benjamin Viger*], and during the feverish decade preceding the union of the two Canadas in 1841 he campaigned as a moderate. An advocate of progress, in particular of political improvement, he extolled evolution and opposed revolution, always in the name of the rights of his compatriots. He was a correspondent for L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois in 1833 and 1835, and fought against the radicals, who supported L’Écho du pays of Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu and La Minerve. Without naming them, he criticized Papineau, William Lyon Mackenzie*, and the rhymesters James Julien Theodore Phelan, Joseph-Édouard Turcotte*, and Joseph-Guillaume Barthe*. He also had the Rouges in mind when he parodied the poetry of Joseph Lenoir*, dit Rolland.
Laviolette was a Catholic with a strong faith, who believed in a God transcending man but close to him, in the Word incarnate, and in the Christian understanding of the human condition. Deeply moved by the humanitarian enthusiasms of his century, he spoke glowingly of the material and spiritual regeneration then revitalizing Europe and Lower Canada.
Pierre Laviolette is forgotten today. In 1903 and even as late as 1934, however, he was recalled as one of the highly respected teachers of Nicolet and as a leading citizen of Saint-Eustache. A witness of the years 1830–50, he made a contribution of value to social, political, cultural, and religious thinking.
ANQ-M, CE1-22, 5 mars 1794, 30 sept. 1797. AP, Saint-Eustache, Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 10 janv. 1826, 25 août 1854. ASN, AO, Séminaire, V, no.79. L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois (Montréal), 1833–38. Mélanges religieux, 1841, 1851. La Minerve, 1842–47. Douville, Hist. du collège-séminaire de Nicolet. Jeanne d’Arc Lortie, La poésie nationaliste au Canada français (1606–1867) (Québec, 1975). Le répertoire national (Huston; 1848–50), vols.1–2. “Les disparus,” BRH, 31 (1925): 480.