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Jacques Viger (1833-1836)

Jacques Viger was born 7 May 1787 in Montréal. Newspaperman, author, militia officer, civil servant and archivist, he was the first mayor of Montréal from 1833 to 1836. He died 12 December 1858 in Montréal.

In 1799, Jacques Viger entered the Collège Saint-Raphaël run by the Sulpicians. After his classical studies, he left Montréal for Québec, where he briefly worked, from November 1808 to May 1809, as editor of the newspaper Le Canadien. At that time, he started writing his famous work "Ma saberdache", in which he noted his observations, retranscribed documents and correspondence of historical importance. Viger returned to Montréal and enlisted quickly in the militia to defend Canada during the War of 1812. He was appointed lieutenant, then captain in the Voltigeurs Canadiens. This experiment marked him deeply, and he was always keenly interested in military matters.

In 1813, when Montréal was not yet a city, Viger started his career in the municipal administration as surveyor of highways, streets, lanes and bridges. He kept this position, parallel to his other activities, until 1840. In 1825, he meticulously conducted a city-wide census. He took part in the redistribution of the electoral map in 1828 and ensured that the poll tax was sufficiently low to increase the number of voters among small owners, mainly French Canadians. For that reason and because of the enviable reputation that he had earned, Viger was elected mayor on 3 June 1833. Apart the drainage operations that he ordered to clean up the suburbs and to fight cholera, his term of office was not marked by major achievements. His term ended in 1836, and so did the city charter. In view of  the political disturbances, the authorities did not renew the city charter.

As a great scholar, Viger was especially recognized for his many writings and his contribution to several learned societies. Skilled in geography and in history, he took part in the founding of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-Montréal in 1843 and the Société d’histoire de Montréal in 1858, which he both chaired. With his library of 1200 works, Viger was without question an expert on Montréal at the time.

See: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
See also: Jacques Viger – L’Album Viger : Souvenirs canadiens

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