small flourish

Two Centuries of Slavery in Québec. Marcel Trudel. 2004.

The Montréal fire. The most extraordinary crime ever committed by a slave in our history was that of the Black slave Angélique (also known as Marie-Joseph-Angélique). The slave of Montréal merchant François Poulin de Francheville, she was approximately 21 years of age when she was baptized on June 28, 1730; she was then pregnant by César, the Black slave of Ignace Gamelin. In January 1731, she gave birth to a boy named Eustache, but she did not stop there. In May 1732, she gave birth to twins and again declared that there were by César. Later, she apparently left her first lover for the arms of a White man named Claude Thibault.

But a dark cloud came to loom over this love story; the Black slave became convinced in 1734 that her mistress, Thérèse Decouagne, now the widow de Francheville, was preparing to sell her off. Angélique made plans to flee to New England with her lover. In order to conceal her plan of escape, or to avenge herself, during the night of the 10th to the 11th of April, 1734, she set fire to her mistress’ house on rue Saint-Paul, and fled. The house quickly went up in flames. Neighbours, knowing that the flames were a threat to their own houses, hastily salvaged their furnishings and belongings and took them to the sisters at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital. The flames continued to spread from one house to another; they reached the Hôtel-Dieu, burning down the convent and the church, leaving the sisters with little chance of saving whatsoever (it was the third major fire to hit the Hôtel-Dieu). The fire continued on its path throughout the city. When it was finally extinguished, it had consumed 46 houses. In the midst of the confusion, the Black slave had had every opportunity to escape with her beloved.

However, with the long arm of the law, and Angélique less fortunate than her lover, she came face to face with the officers of the constabulary along her escape route. She was put into the gaol and tried by the courts in Montréal, while smoke continued to rise above the city. She was sentenced on June 4. […]


Angélique appealed to the Conseil supérieur and was taken to the city of Québec. In its decision of June 12, the Conseil supérieur upheld the sentence of death, but changed important details regarding how the punishment would be carried out. As specified in the first sentence, she would be taken in a trash cart to the main door of the parish church to make honourable amends, but her hand would not be severed. She would then be taken to the public square to be hanged and, following her death, burned. The Conseil supérieur placed partial blame for the fire that swept through Montréal on the Black slave. She was brought back to Montréal so that her punishment could take place at the scene of her crime, in view of an incensed crowd. […]

Source: Trudel, Marcel, "Two Centuries of Slavery in Québec, Followed by the Dictionary of Slaves and of their Owners in French Canada on CD-ROM" (Montréal: Hurtubise HMH, 2004), 219-221.

Return to parent page