Sir Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, PC KCMG (December 5, 1829 – November 16, 1908) served as the fourth Premier of the Canadian province of Quebec, a federal Cabinet minister, and the seventh Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
Sir Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, PC was born as Henry-Gustave Joly in Épernay, France. His father’s family was one of the traditional Huguenot families from Switzerland and his mother’s family was Roman Catholic. Initially a Huguenot himself, Henri-Gustave converted to Anglicanism before he married in 1856.
His father, Gaspard-Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, was a pioneer of early photography (the first man to photograph the Acropolis, in 1839) who made a series of daguerreotypes while on a Grand Tour through Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land.
Henri-Gustave’s mother was Julie-Christine, the youngest daughter of Michel-Eustache-Gaspard-Alain Chartier de Lotbinière, who inherited the seigneury of Lotbinière, in 1828.
His parents’ marriage was not a happy one, which is perhaps not surprising as his father had first proposed to Julie-Christine’s eldest sister, Louise-Josephe, the Seigneuresse de Vaudreuil, who instead chose to marry Robert Unwin Harwood. Henri-Gustave Joly studied in Paris and inherited the title of seigneur of Lotbinière in 1860.
He married Margaretta-Josepha Gowen, daughter of Hammond Gowen of Quebec, and was the father of eleven children. Their daughter married Brigadier-General Herbert Colborne Nanton (1863-1935), brother of Augustus Meredith Nanton. He was the grandfather of Seymour de Lotbiniere.
Joly was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada for Lotbinière in 1861 as a Bleu, a moderate liberal, but was a member of the more radical Parti rouge when re-elected in 1863.
Henri-Gustave Joly became Leader of the Quebec Liberals at the time of Confederation in 1867, and was the member for the federal riding of Lotbinière. He was re-elected in Lotbinière in the Canadian Election of 1872.
In 1878, Conservative premier Charles-Eugène Boucher de Boucherville resigned on March 2 since he was about to be deposed by Lieutenant Governor Luc Letellier de Saint-Just. They had a conflict over railroad legislation which de Saint-Just deemed unconstitutional.
As a result, Joly became Premier on March 8, 1878, and the first Liberal to become Premier of Quebec. To this day, he remains the only foreigner and protestant to be the Leader of the Province of Quebec.
In the May 1, 1878 election, the Liberals won one fewer seat than the Conservatives (there were also two independent Conservatives).
However, Joly remained in power in a minority government for about a year and half.
His government was brought down by a motion of censure involving the defection of five Liberals (including future premier Edmund James Flynn) to the Conservatives. The Leader of the Opposition Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau was called to form a government on October 31, 1879.
Joly remained Liberal Party leader until 1883. In all, he spent about 17 years as Liberal leader, but served only briefly as Premier.
In 1883, Joly resigned as Liberal leader to make way for Honoré Mercier. He resigned as member of the Legislative Assembly in November 1885.
He added “de Lotbinière” (part of his mother’s maiden name) to his name in 1888.
He won the 1878 election (the Liberals won one fewer seat than the Conservatives but he remained premier with the support of a few Conservatives). He lost the 1881 election.