French-Canadian states-man and writer, b. at Montreal, Aug. 19, 1774; d. 1861
Viger, DENIS-BENJAMIN, French-Canadian statesman and writer, b. at Montreal, August 19, 1774; d. 1861. After studying classics and philosophy at the Sulpician college of his native city, he joined the bar, was elected (1808) member of Parliament for Montreal, and reelected for other constituencies in 1810, 1814, and 1827. He was sent (1828) to represent French Canadian interests against Lord Dalhousie's administration before the English Parliament. In 1830, though a member of the Upper House, he returned to London, where he spent two years refuting Attorney-General Stuart's memoir. His patriotism did not impair his loyalty. Yet, in 1838, he was imprisoned for nineteen months, refusing bail, and demanding a trial. After the union of the Canadae, he was twice returned to Parliament (1841 and 1845). His knowledge of constitutional law urged him to side with Governor Metcalfe, and accept Lafontaine's heritage as premier; whereby he assumed the responsibility of dividing the Liberal party. His friends misunderstood him and suspected him of inclining towards British influence. He was accused of personal ambition, though he acted through loftier motives—the dread lest responsible government might be compromised. In a pamphlet, "La crise ministerielle" (1844), he rightly defines constitutional government. He was the first president of the national society of St. Jean-Baptiste. Fordham University gave him the degree of LL.D. (1853). He wrote many newspaper articles and several important political treatises demonstrating England's interest in maintaining the laws, usages, and education of Lower Canada. He contributed to the foundation of the newspapers "La Minerve" and "L'Aurore des Canadas". His writings are noted for their logic, depth, and erudition.