Fleury Mesplet (1734-1794) and the Birth of Freedom of Expression in Quebec (1776)
Guest Speaker: Jacques G. Ruelland Ph.D.
When: Thursday, May 18, 2017, from 19:30 to 21:00
Where: Centennial Hall
288 Beaconsfield Blvd, Beaconsfield, H9W 4A4
Lecture in English followed by a bilingual question period.
Born in Marseilles, educated in Lyon, the printer Fleury Mesplet (1734-1794) one day decides to flee the intolerance that reigns in France at that time to seek refuge in England. He meets Benjamin Franklin, who recruits him as a Francophone printer of the American Continental Congress, fighting against the English. He prints the Letters sent by the American Congressmen to the inhabitants of the Province of Quebec to incite them to join against their common enemy: the English. In order to reinforce this purpose, Franklin arrives in Montreal in 1776; Mesplet accompanies him: he shall be the instrument of the North American rebellion against the European oppressor. But the project fails; the American patriots are decimated by the English. However, Mesplet decides to remain in Montreal, despite a “preventive” imprisonment of almost a month. With the aid of a few friends as enlightened as he was by the philosophy of the Enlightenment (Valentin Jautard, Pierre du Calvet, etc.), he founds in 1778 the first journal of opinion in the country, the Gazette littéraire, and the first think tank, the Montreal Academy - which perhaps hides a French Masonic lodge. After another hard imprisonment of three years, Mesplet recovers his wife, his friends, his workshop, his values and his fights; he creates in 1785, on a new basis, a second newspaper, the Montreal Gazette, which survives him even today. Beyond the centuries, between the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, Mesplet’s story reminds us that the struggle for freedom of expression is still valid.
Born in Spa (Belgium) in 1948, Jacques G. Ruelland immigrated to Canada in 1969, holding a printer technician diploma from Liège (Belgium). He holds presently a BA and an MA in philosophy of science, a second MA in history, a third one in museology and a Ph.D. in history of science. He taught philosophy at the Collège Édouard-Montpetit (Longueuil) for 31 years (1979-2010), and he currently teaches history as an associate professor in the History Department of the University of Montreal. He also works currently as a museologist for the Musée des Maîtres et Artisans du Québec (Saint-Laurent), and the Museums (a set of five museums) of Mont-Saint-Hilaire. He signed some fifty books published in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia, and translated into various languages. He chaired la Société de philosophie de Montréal and la Société des écrivains canadiens; he was secretary of la Société historique de Montréal and la Société de philosophie du Québec. He won several awards for his works, including twice the Percy-W.-Foy Prize awarded by la Société historique de Montréal in 1987 and 1988, as well as the Special French Prize and a Special Mention at the awards ceremony of the Minister of Education of Quebec in 1995. In 1999, Dr. Ruelland was awarded the Gold Medal of Cultural Enlightenment in French Literature by La Renaissance française (a French association sponsored by the Government of France) for the multicultural character of his work, and was knighted in the Order of Academic Palms in 2003 by the Government of France for the quality of his teaching and writings. Web site: www.ruelland.ca