AUBERT DE GASPÉ, PIERRE-IGNACE, jp, seigneur, politician, and militia officer; b. 14 Aug. 1758 at Quebec, sixth child of Ignace-Philippe Aubert* de Gaspé and Marie-Anne Coulon de Villiers; m. there 28 Jan. 1786 Catherine Tarieu de Lanaudière, daughter of Charles-Louis Tarieu* de Lanaudière, and they had seven children, two of whom reached adulthood; d. 13 Feb. 1823 at Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Lower Canada, and was buried two days later in the parish church.
Pierre-Ignace Aubert de Gaspé’s early years were rather difficult. Born at the end of the French régime, he could not escape the misfortunes of his time. To begin with, he was deprived of the presence of his father, who was constantly obliged to be on active military service during the Seven Years’ War. He also experienced material privations. Following the surrender of Montreal and the whole colony, his family, which had been ruined, was obliged to live in a water-mill near Rivière Trois-Saumons, at the western tip of the seigneury of Port-Joly. They remained there for about six years, until the houses burnt by the British in 1759 were rebuilt and a fresh start had been made in farming.
Aubert de Gaspé spent part of his childhood and adolescence at the manor-house on the seigneury of Port-Joly. He studied at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1769 till 1775. While still a student he readily responded to the call by Governor Guy Carleton* and Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand* of Quebec to take up arms against the American troops under Richard Montgomery* and Benedict Arnold*.
Upon reaching manhood Aubert de Gaspé mingled with the society of the Château Saint-Louis, the governor’s residence; he had useful connections in political and military, as well as fashionable, circles, and he entered into the public life of his time. Around 1787 he received a commission as justice of the peace for the District of Quebec. The following year he signed a petition to the king opposing the creation of a house of assembly in the province.
Aubert de Gaspé was made a legislative councillor in 1812 on the recommendation of Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell* the previous year. An impressionable man who sometimes gave free rein to his emotions, he was remembered as a speaker prone to bombast but possessed of sound judgement. His son Philippe-Joseph* described him as a “high Tory” and a “royalist” who preferred George III to Napoleon I. He also served the British crown in the militia; in 1814 he became colonel of the Saint-Jean-Port-Joli and Saint-Thomas militia battalions.
Upon his mother’s death in 1789 Aubert de Gaspé became the fifth seigneur of Port-Joly. Like his father he took an interest in settlement and made a notable contribution to the development of his seigneurial lands. He is credited in particular with developing the third line of homesteads and building a mill to the east of it in 1819. In 1790 he had purchased Îlet-à-la-Peau, a seigneury with a frontage of half a league and a depth of two leagues.
Pierre-Ignace Aubert de Gaspé died at his manor-house on 13 Feb. 1823, leaving a will that 50 years later would result in the sale of almost all his property to people outside his family. This document seems linked with the financial difficulties that would soon cause his elder son, Philippe-Joseph, to lose his office as sheriff and go to prison for debt. Pierre-Ignace bequeathed half his seigneurial property to his wife. His son Antoine-Thomas received only the usufruct of one-third of the other half. Philippe-Joseph received the usufruct of the two-thirds portion, as well as of the seigneurial domain of Port-Joly, the manor-house, the mill and outbuildings, and the adjoining lands; the ownership of these properties went to the children of Philippe-Joseph and his wife, Susanne Allison. By 29 Jan. 1871, when Philippe-Joseph died, Antoine-Thomas was already dead, and the seigneuries of Port-Joly and Îlet-à-la-Peau passed to no fewer than 12 heirs. For reasons likely attributable to their number and their personalities, they decided to part with them. On 15 July 1872 the manor-house and seigneurial domain were sold; the following 22 February the family gave up the water-mill on Rivière Trois-Saumons. These sales marked the end of an important dynasty at Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. Pierre-Ignace, who was one of its most eminent figures, had succeeded in preventing a potential attachment of his seigneuries, but not in avoiding this unfortunate outcome.
AC, Montmagny, minutiers, L.-Z. Duval, 15 juill. 1872, 22 févr. 1873. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 14 août 1758, 28 janv. 1786; CE2-18, 15 févr. 1823; CN2-12, 1er déc. 1820. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. Quebec Gazette, 13 Nov. 1788, 1 April 1813, 17 Feb. 1823. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” “Papiers d’État – Bas-Canada,” PAC Rapport, 1893: 52. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, 2: 121–23; Inv. concessions, 3: 171. Turcotte, Le Conseil Législatif. P. [-J.] Aubert de Gaspé, Les anciens canadiens (Québec, 1863); The Canadians of old, trans. G. M. Pennée (Québec, 1864); Mémoires (1866). H.-R. Casgrain, Œuvres complètes (3v., Québec, 1873–75), 2. Jacques Castonguay, La seigneurie de Philippe Aubert de Gaspé, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Montréal, 1977). [François Daniel], Histoire des grandes familles françaises du Canada ou aperçu sur le chevalier Benoist et quelques familles contemporaines (Montréal, 1867). P.-G. Roy, La famille Aubert de Gaspé (Lévis, Qué., 1907); La famille Tarieu de Lanaudière (Lévis, 1922).