Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Prudent Racine: Patriote of 1837, Rebel Against Entrenched Power and Privilege

My great-great-great grandfather Prudent Racine was involved in the Québec Rebellions of 1837. By 1838 the movement had led to a failed attempt to overthrow British rule in Canada and establish an independent Republic of Québec (known as “Lower Canada” at the time).

Prudent lived at a place called Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu where he was one of a group of Patriotes who stormed the house of the seigneur (feudal lord) Pierre Debartzch after the latter was perceived to have betrayed the movement. The rebels fortified the house and challenged the British army until they were defeated by the redcoats at the Battle of Saint-Charles.

The picture above shows an artist’s rendering of the battle, an artist who traveled with the British army and was an eyewitness to these events. The Debartzch manor house is center-left. My ancestor lived near the church (left), and so his house must be one of those depicted but he was most likely in the house of Debartzch when it was damaged by cannon fire.

Below is a page in a booklet called Report of Commissioners Relating to Compensation for Losses Sustained During the Rebellion in Lower Canada printed in 1840 which may be found in a library at Harvard. The booklet was in the collection of the noted 19th c. historian Francis Parkman. Prudent Racine is the last name on the “LIST of Rebels” who seized the house of Debartzch. Prudent later had the gall to sue the government for losses sustained in the battle a fact reported elsewhere in the 1840 report. The case was, needless to say, dismissed.

After the destruction of his hometown, Prudent Racine and family appear to have wandered about the Eastern Townships region of Québec and then moved for a few years to Northern Vermont where many of the rebels had taken refuge. He later returned to Québec settling eventually in a town called Roxton Falls, where his granddaughter, my great-grandmother was born in 1868. Prudent died and was buried at Roxton Falls in 1888.

Prudent Racine is doubly my ancestor since my paternal grandparents were second cousins and their common ancestors were Prudent Racine and his wife Eleonore. I am proud to come from a long line of people who had the courage to fight against entrenched, monarchial power and feudal privileges.


  1. Interesting family history David! I wrote a song called The Ballad of Paul Bunyan and when doing the research for it,I found that one person involved in the Quebec Rebellion may have been one of the reasons for the origins of the fable Paul Bunyan!

  2. One of my ancestors was also part of the Rebellion but the one in Napierville in November 1838.

  3. Did you find your Racine roots? Prudent was the son of Charles Racine and Josephte Durocher.

    1. Yes, thanks. Charles Racine, Prudent's father, was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. His story may be found here. It's a good one!

  4. Guillaume Lévesque a été liberé su condition. Il n'est pas mon ancêtre directe mais j'y tien en cause que c'est un Levesque!