Marie-Joseph Angélique (1705 – 1745) was a 29-Year old Portuguese slave who was found guilty of attempting to burn down the city of Montréal, Canada. It is speculated that after Angélique’s owner refused to grant her freedom (which was requested on multiple occasions) she set fire to the city, destroying over 45 homes and a covenant/hospital in the process.
Although we cannot be certain that Angélique was the actual perpetrator of the crime instead of just a convenient scapegoat, the historical significance of this event for understanding slave rebellion and resistance cannot be denied. Below are excerpts taken from The Canadian Encyclopedia about the consequences she faced for her actions:
On the evening of Saturday 10 April 1734, a large portion of Montréal — the merchants’ quarter — was destroyed by fire. At least 46 buildings, mainly homes, were burnt, plus the convent and hospital of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Angélique was accused of starting the fire and arrested by police on 11 April. She was taken to court the following morning, where she was charged with arson, a capital crime punishable by death, torture or banishment.
On the morning of 21 June 1734, Angélique was tortured in her jail cell by means of the brodequins, a medieval torture instrument that crushed her leg… Under torture, she broke down and confessed.
After the torture, Angélique, dressed in a white chemise and holding a burning torch in her hand (the symbol of her crime), was placed in a garbage cart and taken to the portal of the Notre-Dame Basilica, where she confessed to her crime, and begged pardon of god, the king and the people. She was then hanged. Angélique’s body was displayed on a gibbet for two hours. At 7:00 p.m., her body was placed on a pyre and burnt, her ashes gathered and cast to the four winds.