Maurice Duplessis

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Duplessis and the Clergy.

Maurice Le Noblet Duplessis (20 April, 18907 September, 1959) served as the premier of the Canadian province of Quebec from 1936 to 1939 and 1944 to 1959. A founder and leader of the conservative Union Nationale party, he built his reputation by exposing the misconduct and patronage of the Liberal government Louis-Alexandre Taschereau. He was a strong supporter of provincial rights, but was contemptous to individual civil rights. He was a life-long bachelor.



Born in Trois-Rivières, Duplessis obtained a law degree from Laval University (former name for University of Montreal) and was admitted to the Barreau du Quebec in 1913. He returned to his home town to practice law until running for public office. He first won a seat as a Conservative Party of Quebec candidate in the 1927 Quebec election. In the 1931 election, Duplessis was re-elected in his seat, but Conservative leader Camillien Houde lost both the election and his own seat. In 1932, the Conservative caucus chose Duplessis to be the leader of the Opposition, and he formally won the leadership of the party in 1933.

Two weeks before the 1935 provincial election, he engineered a coalition with the Action libérale nationale (ALN), a party of disgruntled reform Liberals and nationalists who had quit the governing Parti libéral du Québec). While he lost that election, Duplessis was soon able to exploit a patronage scandal involving the family of Premier Louis-Alexandre Taschereau to force Taschereau's resignation. The ALN and Conservatives had by now formally merged into a single party, the Union Nationale.

Duplessis and the UN won the August 1936 election in a landslide, putting an end to 39 consecutive years of Liberal rule.

Duplessis's first government was defeated in the 1939 election, a snap election called by the premier in hopes of exploiting the issue of Canadian participation in World War II.

Duplessis returned as premier in the 1944 election, and held power without serious opposition for the next fifteen years until his death. He became known simply as le Chef (the chief, the boss). He was elected to five terms of office in all, the last four of them consecutive. After him, no political party in Quebec elections at the provincial level has managed to win more than two terms of office in a row.

The Duplessis governments were characterized by the lavish use of patronage, anti-Communism, strong-arm methods against labour unions, and effective electoral campaigning. His most blatant anti-union initiative was the notorious Padlock Law. The UN often had the active support of the Roman Catholic Church in its political campaigns. Referring to the two parties' campaign colours, a slogan commonly heard from the pulpit was Le ciel est bleu; l'enfer est rouge: The sky/heaven is blue (UN); Hell is red (Liberal). The period of his rule is sometimes referred to as La grande noirceur (The Great Darkness).

On January 21, 1948, he made one of his most enduring contributions to Quebec with the adoption of an official Flag of Quebec, the fleurdelysé, which replaced the Union Jack at the top of the Quebec Parliament Building.

Although history has not been kind to Duplessis, some point out that he presided over a period of strong economic growth and 15 consecutive balanced budgets. Although his government ran a legendary patronage system, this perhaps did not differ very much from a similar patronage system under Taschereau's Liberals in earlier decades. Duplessis never personally enriched himself, and died in debt.

After his death on September 7, 1959, Quebec society was caught up in a swift socio-cultural change away from his conservative, church-oriented policies towards a highly secular, socially liberal welfare state. This was called the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille).

The future newspaper baron Conrad Black lived in Quebec as a young man and wrote a well-regarded and definitive biography, Duplessis (ISBN 0771015305), now out of print.

Elections as party leader

He won the 1936 election, lost the 1939 election, won the 1944 election, 1948 election, 1952 election, and 1956 election and died in office in 1959.

See also

External links

Reference work

Preceded by:
Adélard Godbout
Premier of Quebec
Succeeded by:
Adélard Godbout
Preceded by:
Adélard Godbout
Premier of Quebec
Succeeded by:
Paul Sauvé
Preceded by:
Camillien Houde
Leader of the Quebec Conservative Party
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Leader of the Union Nationale
Succeeded by:
Paul Sauvé
Preceded by:
Charles Ernest Gault
Leader of the Opposition in Quebec
Succeeded by:
Télesphore-Damien Bouchard
Preceded by:
Télesphore-Damien Bouchard
Leader of the Opposition in Quebec
Succeeded by:
Adélard Godbout

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*The Union Nationale was founded as an alliance in 1935 with Duplessis as leader. In 1936 the UN formally became a unitary political party with the Quebec Conservative Party dissolving into itfr:Maurice Duplessis


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