MacDONELL (McDonell), JEAN-FRANÇOIS-MARIE-JOSEPH (usually called John MacDonell-Bélestre or John Bélestre-MacDonell), lawyer; b. 21 Oct. 1799 at Montreal, son of Angus (Ignace) MacDonell, a Scottish artillery lieutenant, and Marie-Anne Picoté de Bélestre; d. 1866 at Saint-Anicet, Canada East.
In 1812, the year his father died, Jean-François-Marie-Joseph MacDonell left the Collège de Montréal, where he was a student. A few years later, he was studying law under James Stuart* of Montreal. He was called to the bar there on 3 Aug. 1821.
MacDonell was a friend of Ludger Duvernay*, and in 1834 he made his garden on Rue Saint-Antoine available to the journalist and his friends for the first Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebration. The 60 or so guests; Irishmen, Americans, and Canadians, included Thomas Storrow Brown*, Clément-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury, Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine, Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan*, and George-Étienne Cartier*. The mayor of Montreal, Jacques Viger*, presided at the banquet, and speeches alternated with songs composed for the occasion. Toasts were drunk to the people, to Louis-Joseph Papineau*, Louis Bourdages*, and Elzéar Bédard*, to the Irish Reformer Daniel O’Connell, the Reformers of Upper Canada, the government of the United States, and the “liberal” clergy. The participants decided the festival should be celebrated annually. In 1836, however, the Reformers were divided. The “radicals,” loyal to Papineau, celebrated the day at the Hôtel Rasco, on Rue Saint-Paul, while the “moderates,” who favoured Bédard and Sabrevois de Bleury, met in MacDonell’s garden. On this occasion, MacDonell claimed to be the originator of the festival. Needless to say, Duvernay’s La Minerve did not give much publicity to this public demonstration of dissidence. In 1837 the scenario was the same: while 100 Patriotes dined at the Hôtel Nelson, the moderates, including Sabrevois de Bleury, MacDonell, and Frédéric-Auguste Quesnel, had a final celebration at MacDonell’s house.
Despite this split MacDonell was arrested in November 1838 because of his leanings towards the Patriotes. He stood trial in 1839 and was released after a few months’ detention. He then returned to his profession, and practised law in Montreal until 1850. At that time he moved to Saint-Anicet, where he died in 1866.
In 1835 MacDonell had married Elizabeth Pickell, sister of lawyer John Pickell, mha for the town of William Henry (Sorel).
PAC, MG 30, D62, 19, p.678; 20, pp.648–61. La Minerve, 30 juin 1836. Fauteux, Patriotes. Rumilly, Hist. de Montréal, I, 141. Benjamin Sulte, “La Saint-Jean-Baptiste,” Mélanges historiques, Gérard Malchelosse, édit. (21v., Montréal, 1918–34), XV, 40, 111–17. [F.-A.-]H. Larue et al., “Les fêtes patronales des Canadiens-français,” Revue canadienne (Montréal), VII (1870), 485–96.