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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Joseph Octave Plessis

Appleton's & Klos Biographies - A Stan Klos Company

PLESSIS, Joseph Octave, Canadian R. C. bishop, born near Montreal, Canada, in 1768; died in Quebec, 4 December, 1825. He studied classics in the College of Montreal, but refused to continue his education, and his father, who was a blacksmith, set him to work at the forge. After a short experience at manual labor, he consented to enter the Petit Seminaire of Quebec in 1780. On finishing his course he taught belles-lettres and rhetoric in the College of Montreal, and, notwithstanding his youth, became secretary to Bishop Briand.

 

 He was ordained priest on 29 November, 1786. Shortly after his ordination he was made secretary to Bishop Hubert, and he exercised so much influence over this prelate that he really filled the functions of coadjutor-bishop. In 1792 he was appointed cure of Quebec. Bishop Denault named him his grand vicar in 1797, and at the same time announced his intention of choosing him for coadjutor.

 

The popularity of Plessis with the French Canadians excited the hostility of the English party, and General Prescott, the governor of the province, opposed the appointment, but he finally yielded to the demands of public opinion. Plessis was consecrated bishop in the cathedral of Quebec on 25 January, 1801, in presence of the governor and officials of the province. The death of Bishop Denault raised him to the episcopal see of Quebec in 1806.

 

 He began his administration under difficult circumstances. Efforts were made to appropriate the property of the Jesuits and of the Seminary of Montreal to the uses of the state, to organize an exclusively Protestant system of public instruction, and to give a power of veto on the nomination of priests and the erection of parishes to the English crown. An unsuccessful attempt was made to prevent him from taking the oath of allegiance in his capacity of bishop of Quebec.

 

In 1810 Governor Craig sent a messenger to England to complain of the bishop's conduct; but the authorities adopted a conciliatory policy, Craig was recalled, and Sir George Prevost was sent to replace him. The new governor had several interviews with the bishop, who refused to make any concessions, and finally all his demands in behalf of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada were conceded.

 

The part that he took during the war of 1812 in exciting the loyalty and warlike spirit of the French Canadians gained him the good-will of England. He received letters from the government recognizing his title and jurisdiction as Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, and granting him a pension of a thousand louis a year with a seat in the legislative council.

 

Bishop Plessis was the first to introduce the gospel into the vast territory of Red river, and founded religious and educational institutions in Upper Canada and the provinces along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. His great work was the organization of his church in Canada. In 1818 he was nominated archbishop of Quebec, and the rest of British America was formed into four suffragan sees.

 

In the legislative council he was an ardent defender of the religious and civil rights of his co-religionists, and in 1822, when the English government tried to force a union between Upper and Lower Canada, his energetic resistance counted for much in the failure of the plan.

 

The reformation and development of Canadian education formed the great end of his life. He resisted successfully efforts to weaken the force of French-Canadian nationality through the medium of a system of popular education. The Colleges of Nicolet and St. Hyacinth were founded through his encouragement, and schools and academies were established in every direction.

 

He spent his time and income in searching out young men and educating them at his own expense. Some of the most eminent men of Canada owed their training to him. The passage of the education law of 1824 was to a great extent his work, and his correspondence with Lord Bathurst on this subject proves him a man of great diplomatic force.

 

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by John Looby, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

PLESSIS, Joseph Octave, Canadian R. C. bishop, born near Montreal, Canada, in 1768" died in Quebec, 4 December, 1825. He studied classics in the College of Montreal, but refused to continue his education, and his father, who was a blacksmith, set him to work at the forge. After a short experience at manual labor, he consented to enter the Petit seminaire of Quebec in 1780. On finishing his course he taught belles-lettres and rhetoric in the College of Montreal, and, notwithstanding his youth, became secretary to Bishop Briand. He was ordained priest on 29 November, 1786. Shortly after his ordination he was made secretary to Bishop Hubert, and he exercised so much influence over this prelate that he really filled the functions of coadjutor-bishop. In 1792 he was appointed cure of Quebec. Bishop Denault named him his grand vicar in 1797, and at the same time announced his intention of choosing him for coadjutor. The popularity of Plessis with the French Canadians excited the hostility of the English party, and General Prescott, the governor of the province, opposed the appointment, but he finally yielded to the demands of public opinion. Plessis was consecrated bishop in the cathedral of Quebec on 25 January, 1801, in presence of the governor and officials of the province. The death of Bishop Denault raised him to the episcopal see of Quebec in 1806. He began his administration under difficult circumstances. Efforts were made to appropriate the property of the Jesuits and of the Seminary of Montreal to the uses of the state, to organize an exclusively Protestant system of public instruction, and to give a power of veto on the nomination of priests and the erection of parishes to the English crown. An unsuccessful attempt was made to prevent him from taking the oath of allegiance m his capacity of bishop of Quebec. In 1810 Governor Craig sent a messenger to England to complain of the bishop's conduct; but the authorities adopted a conciliatory policy, Craig was recalled, and Sir George Prevost was sent to replace him. The new governor had several interviews with the bishop, who refused to make any concessions, and finally all his demands in behalf of the Roman Catholic church in Canada were conceded. The part that he took during the war of 1812 in exciting the loyalty and warlike spirit of the French Canadians gained him the good-will of England. He received letters from the government recognizing his title and jurisdiction as Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, and granting him a pension of a thousand louis a year with a seat in the legislative council. Bishop Plessis was the first to introduce the gospel into the vast territory of Red river, and founded religious and educational institutions in Upper Canada and the provinces along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. His great work was the organization of his church in Canada. In 1818 he was nominated archbishop of Quebec, and the rest of British America was formed into four suffragan sees. In the legislative council he was an ardent defender of the religious and civil rights of his co-religionists, and in 1822, when the English government tried to force a union between Upper and Lower Canada, his energetic resistance counted for much in the failure of the plan. The reformation and development of Canadian education formed the great end of his life. He resisted successfully efforts to weaken the force of French-Canadian nationality through the medium of a system of popular education. The colleges of Nicolet and St. Hyacinth were founded through his encouragement, and schools and academies were established in every direction. He spent his time and income in searching out young men and educating them at his own expense. Some of the most eminent men of Canada owed their training to him. The passage of the education law of 1824 was to a great extent his work, and his correspondence with Lord Bathurst on this subject proves him a man of great diplomatic force.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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