a montreal slave, a canadian tragedy
Artist's Depiction of Marie
Incendiary-Marie and Montreal
Mixed Media-Kit Lang, 2012
Burning of Montreal's Houses of Assembly
The Illustrated London News, 19 May, 1849
Burning of Montreal
On April 10, 1734, the merchants quarter of Montreal burned down, setting fire to 46 buildings, including a convent and the Hotel-Dieu-de Montreal. The following day, Marie was arrested and charged with arson, whose possible punishments were torture, banishment, or death.
After six weeks, Angélique was sentenced to death by burning. An appeal to the superior court upheld the sentence but changed the method of death. Now, she was to be tortured, hanged and then have her corpse burned.
Even though she denied having set the fire during the trial, she confessed under torture. She was hanged at the Notre-Dame Basillica.
Then again, it is possible that she did. She had committed a lesser arson before, and she was enraged at White society.
Now, she is a symbol of resistance and freedom of Canada's hidden enslavement past. Her contribution to Canadian heritage was one of acting out. She rebelled against the barely legal institution of slavery in Canada, and may well have set Canada on a path to abolishing it. Even though it was only abolished in 1833, the abolitionist movement began gathering steam as early as 1793.
In her violent actions, she showed the injustice of slavery in Canada, and served as a violent cataclyst for change. Our heritage, however shamfeul, serves to remind us how far we have come, and what heroes of social justice have existed to make life better for others.