15 février 1839 (2001)




Director:  Pierre Falardeau.

Starring:  Luc Picard (François-Marie-Thomas Delorimier), Sylvie Drapeau (Henriette De Lorimier), Frédéric Gilles (Charles Hindelang), Pierre Rivard (Guillaume Levesque), Mario Bard (Henri Brien), Yvon Barrette (Osias Primeau), Denis Trudel (Jacques Yelle), Luc Proulx (Simon Payeur), Stéphane F. Jacques (Jean-Baptiste Laberge), Benoît Dagenais (Alphonse Lécuyer), Jean Guy (Joe Dumouchel), Jean-François Blanchard (Jean-Joseph Girouard), Martin Dubreuil (François-Xavier Prieur), Roch Castonguay (Jean Yelle), Jerry Snell (Lewis Harkin).

A film about the incarceration and execution of the Patriotes who launched a revolt of French Canadian peasants in Quebec that the British forcibly put down.  

This movie reflects the French Quebec desire for freedom or at least greater autonomy from English-speaking Canada.   The movie is not for every one.  The movie is virtually confined to a prison cell.


After the defeat of 1760 and the occupation of Quebec, the British introduced a system of exploitation.  In 1837 Quebecers took up arms to cast off the corrupt regime.  General Colborne's 8,000 troops crushed the revolt.  Villages were torched and prisons overflowed. 

Scenes of British soldiers raping a Quebec woman, killing farm livestock and setting a farm afire. 

Scenes in a prison in Montreal of the Quebec Patriots.  Despite his imprisonment, François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier de Lorimier continues to write political statements.  He tells his discouraged cellmate: "We must resist.  It's our only hope."   A Quebecer with his daughter delivers five coffins to the prison.  There are about 800 Patriots in the prison.  Ninety-nine were condemned to death and so far seven executions have taken place.  Word soon rushes through the prison among the Patriots of five coffins having been delivered, which means five more Patriots will be hanged. 

De Lorimier works on the Union Proposal, a proposal that has been talked about for thirty years.  The writer speaks of "a conquered people, annexed by force".

British Lt. Elliot enters de Lorimier's prison block and delivers the news that de Lorimier and Charles Hindelang will be executed on February 15, 1839.  Three other men, Daunais, Narbonne and Nicolas, in other prison blocks will also be hanged.  De Lorimier freely admits that he is afraid. But he is able to compose himself enough to write an outline for the text on the Union Act.  The prisoners express how much they hate the English.  They say that the English took a million and a half acres from them and that they have suffered eighty years of exploitation. 

De Lorimier's wife arrives.  She actually makes the situation more difficult for her husband because she is so distraught.  She worries about her children and wonders what will become of herself without her husband. 

Some officials visit the prison and discuss Charles Hindelang and Thomas de Lorimier.  Hindelang joined the Patriots in the USA.  He was one of the commanders at the Battle of Odelltown.  De Lorimier is described as a professional trouble-maker.  Since 1830 he worked with Papineau and the Patriot Party.  He became the Secretary General of the Central Committee.  He was also with Chenier at St. Eustache.  He then went to the USA to organize the rebellion. 

The prisoners ask de Lorimier to join them.  He speaks with them for awhile, toasts to independence and then returns to his wife who is still falling apart emotionally.  Thomas finally has to tell her "Don't make it harder for me. . . . Help me."  The time has come for the wife to leave but she refuses to release her grip on her husband.  Two prison guards finally have to use force to separate the wife from the husband.  She faints and has to be carried out of the cell.

De Lorimier and the four other condemned men are hanged. 


I found this a painful movie to watch.  It works better as an anti-capital punishment movie.  The fear and suffering of the condemned men and the sorrow of their compatriots are hard to view and the suffering just goes on and on and on and on.  I was emotionally exhausted nearer the end and sped through some of the parts to ease my own suffering.  The movie dwells too much on suffering rather than the cause of Quebec independence, gives too little background information on the political activities of the Patriots, drags the suffering out far too long and looks and feels too much like a play. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


1753  --  France builds forts in the British Ohio Country. 

1754  --  George Washington attacks the French Fort Duquesne (present Pittsburgh) which begins the French and Indian War. 

1758  --  the British take the French fort at Louisbourg. 

1759  --  General James Wolfe defeats General Montcalm at Quebec City. 

1763  --  France has to give up its lands in North America to Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris.  Canada (part of New France) was renamed the Province of Quebec. 

1791  --  the Constitutional Act of this year divided Quebec into Upper Canada and Lower Canada.  There was an elected legislative assembly, but the colonial Governor appointed the members of the upper houses.  Britain appointed the governors, who could overrule the local legislative bodies.

1796  --  Upper Canada's capital moved from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York (now Toronto). 

1803 (December 27) – birth of François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier de Lorimier in Saint-Cuthbert, Lower Canada.  He later became a notary.

early 1800s  --  the Parti canadien created.  It was a nationalist, liberal and reformist party.  Its creation announced a long political struggle between the majority of the elected representatives of Lower Canada and the colonial government.

turn of the 19th century  --  start of the Patriote movement in Lower Canada (present-day Quebec).  The movement demanded democratic reforms, notably responsible government for Lower Canada.  It is now seen as an early form of Quebec nationalism.  The movement was represented in the Parti patriote at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.  It was led by Legislative Assembly president Louis-Joseph Papineau.

1815  --  Papineau elected speaker of the legislative assembly of Lower Canada. 

1828  --  Papineau and others helped draft a list of grievances against the colonial administration. (This was an early form of the later Ninety-Two Resolutions.) 

1834  --  the Ninety-Two Resolutions demanding political reform were drafted by Louis-Joseph Papineau and others of the Parti patriote of Lower Canada.  Papineau presented the Resolutions to the Legislative Assembly, they were approved and sent to London.

1834  --  the Parti patriote won the elections of this year.  Governor Lord John Russell in the Russell Resolutions rejected their demands. Many rebels fled to the United States.  Others formed small rebellious groups in the countryside.

1837  --  Russell's ten resolutions reached Canada.  Outraged, many of the reformists began to call for rebellion.  This led to two rebellions: the Lower and the Upper Canada Rebellions.  They formed the Rebellions of 1837.  Papineau escaped to the United States.

1837 and 1838  --  the Patriote Rebellion.

1837 (November 23)  --  rebels led by Wolfred Nelson defeated a British force at Saint-Denis. 

1837 (November 25)  --  the British defeated the rebels at Saint-Charles.

1837 (December 5)  -- martial law declared in Montréal.

1837 (December 14)  --  the British defeated the rebels at Saint-Eustache, which was later pillaged and ransacked.

1837 (December)  --  in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie launched an armed rebellion, but it was quickly put down.  The revolt in Lower Canada continued on into 1838. 

1838 (February)  --  leaders who had escaped across the border into the United States raided Lower Canada, but were stopped by the British.

1838 (May 27)  --  Whig politician John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Dunham, arrives in Quebec City to find out the reasons for the rebellions.

1838 (November)  --  a second revolt began at Beauharnois that was crushed by the British.

The Patriotes were imprisoned at the Montreal Pied-du-Courant Prison.

1839 (February 15) –  a number of Patriotes were hung, including the French-born Charles Hindelang and François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier de Lorimier.

1839  --  the Lord Dunham report published as Report on the Affairs of British North America.  The report recommended that Upper and Lower Canada should be united into one province (with a slight population advantage for the British Canadians).

1840  --   Act of Union of 1840.



Thomas Storrow Brown (1803–1888)

Jean-Olivier Chénier (1806–1837)

Dr. Cyrille Côté (1809–1850)

François-Marie-Thomas Chevalier de Lorimier (1803–1839)

Amury Girod (1800–1837)

William Lyon Mackenzie

Robert Nelson (1794–1873)

Wolfred Nelson (1791–1863)

Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan (1797–1880)

Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786–1871)



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)