LA CETIÈRE, FLORENT DE, upholsterer, tavern-keeper, soldier, royal notary, court officer, clerk of court, judge of seneschal’s court, legal practitioner, and seigneur; b. c. 1656 (according to the 1716 census), son of Jean de La Cetière and Anne de Bier, of Poitiers; buried 30 Oct. 1728 at Quebec.
The first mention of La Cetière’s presence in Canada is on the occasion of his marriage contract, signed before Gilles Rageot* on 10 Nov. 1687. He was then an upholsterer, but speedily took on other jobs: in 1695 he was at one and the same time an upholsterer, a tavern-keeper (and had been since at least the preceding year), a soldier in the Quebec garrison, and a legal practitioner. A man ready to turn his hand to anything, and with never a penny to his name!
He had already been a court officer for a short while when in 1702 he received a commission as royal notary in the provost court of Quebec. The opinions of the persons called to testify to his “character,” on 21 June 1702, were completely unfavourable to him: a few years earlier (1695?) he had embarked in secret on a ship leaving for France, in an attempt to desert the garrison and defraud his creditors; he had placed himself in questionable situations, had become bankrupt, was dishonest, had been forbidden to “plead” (as a legal practitioner); in short, he had a bad reputation. Nevertheless, thanks to powerful protection, La Cetière was received into the profession of notary.
In 1704 La Cetière was a clerk in the registry of the provost court of Quebec; in 1707 he unofficially succeeded the principal court clerk, François Rageot, on the latter’s resignation. But heavy, ominous clouds were already gathering over his head. Gradually he had “taken possession of the mind” of Bermen de La Martinière, the lieutenant-general, who became his instrument. Louis XIV demanded his dismissal: on 10 Nov. 1707 Jacques Raudot suspended him. At the same time Barbel denounced him for acting simultaneously on behalf of clients whose interests conflicted. The charge was brought before the Conseil Supérieur, which on 5 December forbade him to offer his services as an attorney for any party in a legal action for three months, and in addition suspended him as a notary and court officer; on 12 December the council ordered a new inquiry into his “character” for the period during which he held his judicial offices; the inquiry took place on the 17th, and two days later the council lifted the suspension from La Cetière, although cautioning him severely against dishonest practices. One may wonder whether the Raudots were not protecting him, as is suggested by the muddle-headed Ruette d’Auteuil, who mentions La Cetière as one of the intendant’s subdelegates around 1706. Any one else would have lost his head and his reputation; but in 1709 La Cetière was again a clerk in the registry of the provost court!
La Cetière continued his career. On 15 Feb. 1710 Jacques Raudot appointed him third court officer of the Conseil Supérieur. He had authorized him on 3 Jan. 1709 to exercise the profession of notary throughout the colony, except within the confines of Montreal and Trois-Rivières. Then in 1713 we find La Cetière a clerk in the court registry of the Conseil Supérieur. The year following, on 21 Feb. 1714, he received another commission, this time as judge of the seneschal’s court in the jurisdiction of Beauport, and on the same day he successfully underwent the traditional inquiry concerning his “character.”
At the height of his career, this former tavern-keeper who had become a judge permitted himself the luxury of acquiring an arriere-fief, that of Vilmé, in the Lauson seigneury; he paid 1,000 livres for it on 22 Jan. 1724.
Beset from all sides by his numerous occupations, La Cetière had little time to be meticulous. After his death in 1728, it was discovered that 214 of the notarial acts received by him were signed neither by himself nor by the witnesses. The council had to ratify them, after an inventory charged to the estate. La Cetière, moreover, left more debts than assets: to his female servant alone he owed 900 livres in wages – the price of his arriere-fief and of his seigneurial title!
AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon; Greffe d’Étienne Dubreuil, 22 janv. 1724. AQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 2019, 2034, 2041; NF, Ins. de la Prév. de Québec, III, 566; NF, Ord. des int., I, 26v, 142; IV, 17v et seq. Jug. et délib., III, IV, V, VI. “Lettres et mémoires de F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil,” 55. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). Gareau, “La prévôté de Québec,” 116–18. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat. I. Vachon, Histoire du notariat, 29, 39.