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When the British exiled a young lawyer named Georges-Etienne Cartier from Canada after the Papineau-Mackenzie rebellion in 1837, no one thought that 30 years later he would be one of the founders of a new Canadian nation.

Cartier, probably from the same family as the famed explorer Jacques Cartier, was born at St. Antonie, Quebec, Sept. 6, 1814. After being called to the Quebec bar in 1835 he became friendly with the patriot Jean Louis Papineau and joined Papineau's abortive revolt. It failed and Cartier fled into exile. However, by 1848, he was back and sufficiently in public favour to be elected to the Canadian (now Quebec and Ontario) Parliament. From 1858 to 1862 he was joint Prime Minister of Canada with Sir John A. Macdonald and they remained close associates for the rest of Cartier's life.

Among Cartier's many achievements were the codification of the civil law of Lower Canada (Quebec), helping to end the oppressive seigneurial tenure in the province and playing a prominent part in the  building of the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk railways. It was ironical that the former exile should be Canada's first federal militia minister in 1867. It was also ironical that Cartier, a devout Roman Catholic, later feuded politically with the church. It was largely through church influence that he was defeated in the 1872 general election. Another seat was found for him but he died a few months later on May 20, 1873, in London, England.