Disasters and Calamities, 1840-1867
The Burning of the Parliament Building in Montreal
About 1849, 19th century
Oil on wood
38.2 x 50.3 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: disaster (71) , History (944) , Painting (2229) , painting (2227)
Keys to History
This painting illustrates the fire that gutted the Parliament of United Canada in Montreal in 1849. The evening of April 25, those opposing the law aimed at compensating the victims of the 1837-1838 Rebellion headed towards the Parliament. Lead by fireman Alfred Perry, the rioters entered the building and lit fires. The deputies hastily left the premises. The fire spread, destroying nearly 30 000 books and manuscripts from the library of United Canada, housed in the same building. There were also acts of sabotage by people who broke the fire pumps or cut the fire hoses. After these events, the Parliament of United Canada no longer sat in Montreal.
The burning of the Parliament was devastating: only a few hundred volumes and a portrait of Queen Victoria were left untouched by the flames.
In 1849, the Parliament that had been destroyed by fire was located at Place d'Youville in Montreal. Following the destruction of the building, the deputies gathered at Bonsecours Market to complete the parliamentary session.
The riots that began on the evening of the burning of the Parliament continued until April 30. Governor Elgin would even be attacked a second time.
This painting is believed to be a work by Joseph Légaré, a self-taught painter and collector, who realized more than 250 works, including a few remarkable historic scenes on the theme of events of the era.