SAVARY, CHARLES, journalist and public servant; b. 21 Sept. 1845 at Coutances, France, son of Pierre-François-Théodore Savary, substitut du procureur général in the royal court at Caen, and Charlotte-Éliane Quénault; d. 9 Sept. 1889 in Ottawa.
Descended from a family of magistrates and lawyers, Charles Savary attended the Lycée Bonaparte in Paris from 1860 to 1863, graduating as a bachelier; he then studied law in Paris, where he obtained a doctorate in 1866. Savary had early developed an interest in politics and had been elected to the Assemblée nationale, as deputy for La Manche, at the age of 25. He served until 1881, beginning as a moderate royalist and ending as a moderate republican; from 1877 to 1879 he held the post of undersecretary of state to the minister of justice. Savary next devoted his energies to business. He had already participated in a number of financial ventures and in January 1881 had founded the Banque de Lyon et de la Loire, which from its inception made rapid progress. However, as a result of some irregularities, risky credit policies, and a drop in the value of its stock on the Bourse de Lyon, the bank failed in April 1882. Although numerous factors had contributed to its collapse, the bank’s directors were held responsible and were heavily fined in 1884. As president, Savary received a five-year prison sentence and took refuge in Canada, arriving in Quebec City towards the middle of 1884.
Soon after, Savary was given a post as an editor on the newspaper Le Canadien. He signed the articles he wrote with the pseudonym Charles Quénault, but his identity was quickly discovered, along with the vagaries of his career. As a Frenchman, Savary immediately found himself suspected of being, at the very least, a liberal Catholic, if not, indeed, a free thinker, and he came under attack from François-Xavier-Anselme Trudel’s paper L’Étendard. In 1885 Savary moved to Montreal; after a year with La Patrie, he went to La Presse. The next year he became editor-in-chief of Le Moniteur du commerce; founded in 1881, this newspaper primarily sought “to inform its readers about economic affairs and to suggest to the government measures favouring trade.” Journalism focused on the French-speaking business community was in its infancy. When Savary joined Le Moniteur it was the sole organ directed primarily to this community in Montreal. From the outset, such editors-in-chief as Clément-Arthur Dansereau*, Jules Helbronner*, and L. Dagron-Richer had attained a high standard of excellence; Savary’s advent would help maintain its fine reputation. A shrewd analyst and competent critic, he was particularly interested in banking matters, with which he was thoroughly familiar, as well as in trade and industry. In the issue of 18 Nov. 1887 he criticized the Banque d’Hochelaga and the Banque Jacques-Cartier for having purchased notes of the Central Bank of Canada of Toronto, then in a precarious state, at a time when the other banks had refused them and for having “hastened to pass them on to the public through their branches.” These allegations occasioned a libel action, but the Court of Queen’s Bench exonerated Le Moniteur. In 1886, Savary was largely responsible for organizing the Chambre de Commerce du District de Montréal, which brought together the city’s major French-speaking businessmen. Because Le Moniteur served as the association’s official organ for almost twenty years, it was able to reach a large audience in French-speaking business circles.
In 1888, for unknown reasons, Savary left Montreal and moved to Ottawa; he began working there for the Conservative paper Le Canada. That year he was appointed to a post in the Department of Agriculture as a statistician; he retained this post for the remaining year of his life.
Talented and enterprising, Charles Savary made a significant contribution in the course of his brief years in Quebec. Under his impetus, French business journalism grew enormously in stature. Six years after his death a correspondent writing to Le Réveil, a radical liberal paper in Montreal, even went so far as to claim that in his four years in Quebec Savary had “done more for the younger generation than two centuries of Sulpicians and Jesuits.”
This biography is an abridged version of a much fuller study of Charles Savary’s career that is available in Yves Saint-Germain’s “The genesis of the French-language business press and journalists in Quebec, 1871–1914” (phd thesis, Univ. of Delaware, Newark, 1975), 114–15, 203–19, 233–40. This thesis has a detailed bibliography relating to Savary’s activities in both France and Canada. The sources listed here are those that proved most useful for elucidating Savary’s career in Canada.
Savary’s own works were Feuilles volantes: recueil d’études et d’articles de journaux (Ottawa, 1890) and two articles, “Les idées de M. Savary” and “L’union commerciale,” published in Le Drapeau (Montréal), 1 (1889–90), no.1: 45–47 and no.2: 63–71 respectively.
La Minerve, 11 sept. 1889. Le Moniteur de commerce (Montréal), 1886–88, 13 sept. 1889. Beaulieu et J. Hamelin, La presse québécoise, III. Canadien [ ], “Navrance,” Le Réveil (Montréal), 3 (septembre 1895–février 1896): 114–15.