JOSEPH EDOUARD CAUCHON
Manitoba’s Controversial 3rd Lieut Gov
by George Siamandas
Cauchon became the third Lieut Gov of Manitoba in 1877. He was born Dec 31, 1816 at Quebec City. Cauchon is descended from on of the oldest families in Quebec City; they originated in Normandy and are thought to have arrived in 1636. He received a classical education and then studied law. Cauchon launched the Quebec Journal in 1842. He would own it for 20 years and edit it for 33 years. He was also a member of the Quebec legislative Assembly.
A MAN OF QUEBEC
Cauchon invested in railways and real estate and in 1866 was elected mayor of Quebec city. After confederation he was named a senator and was appointed its speaker. A Liberal supporter at heart, he resigned and was found having profited as an owner of a lunatic asylum. He joined Alexander MacKenzie’s govt but was soon “put to pasture” replacing Alexander Morris as Lieut Gov of Manitoba.
Cauchon arrived in Manitoba in early December 1877. Red River was still just emerging from the fur trade and Cauchon grumbled about his exile to Manitoba. The Toronto Globe offered its condolences to the people of Manitoba.
In Manitoba there were a lot of hard feelings. The English who had swelled Manitoba s population were not happy with the idea of a french Speaking Lieut Gov at a time the office still had some power. Surprise at his appointment was shared by all. Even in St Boniface Tache observed that the appointment of a French Canadian is as extraordinary as the arrival of the railway.
Cauchon promised that he is “not a representative of a faith or a nationality, and to bestow no special favour on no citizen but to render justice to all.” His only transgression was in 1878 when he withheld assent of the act to abolish the official publication of documents in French. Cauchon left the job in 1882. English speaking Manitobans saw him as doing nothing, while his colleague Dubuc thought he had been excellent. For a province establishing responsible govt it was not a bad thing.
FIRST OF ALL A BUSINESSMAN
While he may not have found Manitoba politics interesting, business was another matter. Cauchon became very involved in business which apparently shocked people of the day. In Winnipeg, he took full advantage of the Winnipeg land boom as he had done in Quebec City.
The Free Press estimated he had made over a million dollars by 1882. He sold 120 lots in Point Douglas having held them only three evenings making a profit of $15,243. He speculated on land where the railway would go through at the Louise Bridge on the St Boniface side. The City of Winnipeg sued him but lost and had to pay a bundle for the land needed to woo the CPR through Winnipeg.
In December 1882 he purchased for $60,000 the land on the east side of Main ST at York Ave, south of what later became the CN station. He built Winnipeg’s finest Block at the time the Cauchon Block for another $100,000. It had a Greek facade of four stories. Actually a brick building with a pressed metal facade it was as elegant a structure as one could find for the stores and offices it provided. But the land boom faltered and Cauchon gave up the block by 1884. It became the Empire Hotel.
WHAT HAPPENED TO CAUCHON
By now Cauchon was penniless. He and his son took up a homestead called Westwood in the Q’Appelle Valley, where he died in Feb 23 1885 at age 68. He lies buried at St Boniface cemetery after a state funeral. Cauchon had been married three times. Cauchon St a short street in in Ft Rouge also bears his name. Interestingly, Manitoba would not have another French speaking Lieut Gov for another 100 years till Bud Jobin was appointed in 1976.