AMIOT, NOËL-LAURENT, Roman Catholic priest and author; b. 25 Dec. 1793 at Quebec, son of Laurent Amiot and Marguerite Levasseur, dit Borgia; d. 10 Oct. 1845 in Vienna.
Noël-Laurent Amiot came from a family which had been settled at Quebec for several generations. Certain of its members had become experts in silver-work: by 1793 Laurent Amiot was considered the leading silversmith in Lower Canada. In 1808 Noël-Laurent entered the Petit Séminaire de Québec, and the prize list at school closing shows he was one of the best in his class. Influenced by the priests at the seminary and by his family, he entered the priesthood at the end of his classical studies and began at the Grand Séminaire de Québec in the autumn of 1817. The following summer Joseph-Octave Plessis*, the bishop of Quebec, sent him to the Odanak mission and the parish of Saint-François-du-Lac to assist curé Jacques Paquin and to learn the Abenaki language.
Amiot was ordained priest by Plessis’s coadjutor, Bishop Bernard-Claude Panet*, on 13 Feb. 1820. After serving briefly as assistant priest in the parish of Sainte-Anne at Yamachiche and in that of Saint-Gervais near Quebec, Amiot was named curé of Saint-François-du-Lac and given responsibility for the Odanak mission late in 1821. He adapted quite easily to his new task, but none the less encountered difficulties with the Abenakis. He had to combat the Protestant proselytism spreading in the mission – some Abenakis even wanted to build a Protestant church there. In 1826 Amiot expressed a desire to be assigned elsewhere. Panet refused, but agreed to send him an assistant, Michael Power. Three years later the arrival of Osunkhirhine (Pierre-Paul Masta), a young Abenaki who had become a Protestant minister, naturally aroused Amiot’s wrath. With the support of the Canadian Bible societies, the young minister managed to set up a Protestant school on the mission. Amiot reacted quickly and forbad the Abenakis to send their children to it on pain of being refused the sacraments. His action even earned him Panet’s approval.
Amiot struggled with several other problems. The inhabitants of the seigneury of Pierreville, who had been placed in Saint-François-du-Lac parish, often preferred the ministrations of the curé of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue at Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville), as did the residents of Aston Township. Despite numerous discussions with these people, Amiot did not succeed in winning them back. He also had frequent altercations with Augustin Gill, the Abenakis’ agent in dealings with whites, who favoured the spread of Protestantism in the mission and refused to cooperate with him.
Amiot had to leave his parish charge in the summer of 1830 following a “painful investigation” of a matter probably of a sexual nature undertaken by the bishop during his pastoral visit. Replaced by Joseph-Marie Bellenger*, he went to the United States to seek refuge with the Sulpicians in Baltimore, Md. In August 1831 Panet allowed him to return to Lower Canada, believing that he had sufficiently “made amends for the scandal that he has caused.”
In October 1831 Amiot was named parish priest of Saint-Cyprien at Napierville. He was not free of trouble there, either. Napierville was by then a hive of political activity. In 1834 Amiot denounced from the pulpit the political intrigues of Dr Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté, member of the House of Assembly for L’Acadie, who was a doctrinaire liberal and a Patriote leader in the region. Côté was organizing public meetings after mass, haranguing parishioners from the steps of the church, and inciting them to open opposition to the government. To the political confrontation with Côté was added increasing insubordination by farmers, who were protesting against tithes and seigneurial dues. Amiot was deeply worried and felt obliged to cling to a stubborn, almost blind loyalty to the authorities which was to separate him more and more from his parishioners. In this attitude he had much in common with his colleagues in the Montreal region, who implicitly followed their superiors’ directions and ardently defended the established order.
Early in the autumn of 1837, a rebellious mood was developing in the parish, and Amiot did not hesitate to attack the Patriotes, who were organizing stormy meetings and anti-government demonstrations. When, on 24 October, Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue issued a pastoral letter condemning the Patriote leaders, he took an even firmer attitude. He not only read the letter from the pulpit with determination and conviction, but also spoke with unmistakable clarity about the sacred nature of the union of church and state. This definite stand marked him as one of the supporters of the British government, who were naturally suspect and the obvious target of public condemnation. Some of his parishioners reacted swiftly, organizing a political charivari against him during which they broke into the “Marseillaise,” uttered threats, and threw a few stones at the presbytery windows. In 1838 the Patriotes even illegally held Amiot prisoner in his presbytery.
After the collapse of the rebellion, calm was soon restored. Amiot led a tranquil life and limited himself to carrying on his ministry zealously and assiduously. This state of affairs did not, however, last long. In November 1842 the bishop of Montreal, Ignace Bourget*, accused him of being “in open revolt” against him because he had refused assignment to another parish charge better suited to his strength. Bourget found himself obliged, therefore, to strip him of his priestly powers. It was probably this action that prompted Amiot, who had recently received a large bequest from his father, to set out late in the year on a voyage to St Peter’s in Rome and the Holy Land. He kept a diary, describing his various journeys in vivid and emotional terms. He was, indeed, a pilgrim, strengthening his faith in these fervently Christian settings. He also took advantage of the trip to travel about in Europe. But an unexpected illness forced him to stop at Vienna, where he died on 10 Oct. 1845.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 25 déc. 1793. Arch. de l’évêché de Nicolet (Nicolet, Qué.), Cartable Saint-François-du-Lac, I. Arch. du diocèse de Saint-Jean-de-Québec (Longueuil, Qué.), 13A/71–116. ASQ, C 38: 229, 243, 260, 281, 294; Lettres, P, 22, 29; Séminaire, 9, no.33; 123, nos.15–18; 128, no.7; 130, no.217. PAC, MG 8, F74; RG 4, B37, 1: 98. L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois, 2 sept. 1835. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Panet,” ANQ Rapport, 1933–34: 312; 1935–36: 189, 198, 200; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Plessis,” ANQ Rapport, 1932–33: 121, 134, 150–51, 153. Desrosiers, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Bourget,” ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 384. T.-M. Charland, Histoire des Abénakis d’Odanak (1675–1937) (Montréal, 1964), 188–95; Histoire de Saint-François-du-Lac (Ottawa, 1942), 224–33. P.-G. Roy, “La famille de Jean Amyot,” BRH, 25 (1919): 225–34.