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ARCHAMBAULT, PAUL-LOUP (baptized Paul), Roman Catholic priest, vicar general, and seminary administrator; b. 29 Sept. 1787 in Rivière-des-Prairies (Montreal), son of Jean-Baptiste Archambault and Marie-Angélique Hachin, dit Baron; d. 20 Feb. 1858 in Vaudreuil, Lower Canada.

The son of an illiterate habitant, Paul-Loup Archambault received his secondary education from 1800 to 1809 at the Collège Saint-Raphaël (which in 1806 became the Petit Séminaire de Montréal). Throughout his studies he showed unusual discretion and piety. Having donned the soutane, by the autumn of 1809 he held the post of regent at the Séminaire de Nicolet. He taught in succession the second and third year classes (respectively, Syntaxe and Méthode), while learning theology through textbooks and the commentaries of the principal. He was probably engaged in similar tasks in the year he spent at the Séminaire de Québec prior to his ordination on 18 Oct. 1812. In November he was appointed curate at Les Cèdres. The people in this large parish had experienced a poor harvest and its priest, Laurent Aubry, was infirm. During his short stay, the young curate was universally esteemed, even by the least devout.

The dearth of priests at the time was so serious that Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* summoned Archambault to become the principal of the Séminaire de Nicolet on 1 Oct. 1813. There he was under the immediate authority of the curé of Nicolet, Jean Raimbault*, who made the decisions on admissions and important undertakings. In return, the principal was assigned the task of being pastoral assistant to the priests of the five surrounding parishes. It is easy, then, to understand why during his three years as principal Archambault constantly felt torn and overwhelmed by his duties, and caught in a position of uneasy authority, last in line after the bishop and the parish priest. Yet he was immediately responsible for the studies of the 79 pupils, divided into five classes, and for the regents, all of whom were young clergymen in training; he was responsible also for lay employees and for the state of the supplies and finances. Conditions were far from satisfactory in the seminary at the outset of the war with the United States in 1812.

As the principal objective of the seminary was to train priests, Archambault busied himself recreating a more élite fraternity, and reinstating for the clerics prayers said in common at least weekly, although he despaired of the theological training being acquired by regents who were left to their own devices with textbooks as their sole resource. He watched carefully over moral conduct, whether it was a question of close relationships between adolescents or of dangerous theatrical performances encouraged by Raimbault. His efforts did not, however, produce many recruits for the priesthood, since at the end of his term of office Archambault only had two candidates to present. He left his post as principal in September 1816 without regret, to become priest in the parish of Vaudreuil, which had been left vacant by Jean-Baptiste Deguire’s death.

Archambault found himself once more in a parish hard hit by a series of poor harvests; it was also split over a plan to rebuild the presbytery, which had become uninhabitable. Various influential people had for several months been challenging the report by Joseph-Norbert Provencher, the priest of Pointe-Claire, which had rendered a decision on the matter in the bishop’s name. They elaborated legal arguments, and explored the question of the autonomy of laymen who they thought should no longer let themselves be overruled by the church hierarchy. Archambault acted cautiously; he communicated to Plessis the seven arguments of the opposing party (six valid, in his view) and awaited orders. The bishop instructed him to proceed immediately with apportioning the cost of the reconstruction among the parishioners and to be ready to leave the parish without a priest if the opposition went to court. This piece of blackmail was likely to be effective, for the parishioners had soon taken a liking to their new priest, who had not been party to the dispute. The legal resolution of the conflict did not come for years, and the rebuilding took longer still. It was ten years before Archambault could write that the agitation had subsided. Some aspects of religious practice did, however, improve and in 1817 and 1818 the number of Easter confessions increased by about 20 per cent. More than half the parishioners gave him good reasons for cheer, but Archambault must have been somewhat disillusioned when he discovered that people were seeking absolution from their faults rather than improvement in their conduct, the goal behind the whole pastoral strategy of meting out penance. He attempted to encourage the fervour of at least a minority by bringing in the Confrérie du Saint-Scapulaire, but the bishop of Quebec’s consent took five years to come, and even then the associates were refused the privilege of being able to have the special service of Benediction. This delay could be taken as evidence of the episcopal apathy that formed part of the context of a troubled period. During these years Archambault regularly dispatched to his bishop the records of irregular conjugal circumstances, both public scandals and secret ones divulged at confession. He usually recommended a lenient solution after satisfying himself as to the good intentions of those involved The difficult economic conditions experienced by many of the habitants in the parish and the extra burden of debt resulting from the construction of a presbytery gave rise to an incident that would weigh heavily on Archambault for many years. Between 10 and 11 o’clock on the evening of 20 Dec. 1822, two people in disguise broke into his room, held a knife to his throat, and forced him to hand over about £6,000 belonging to the fabrique that had been left on his desk. A few days later sizeable payments were made by some of the fabrique’s debtors. Archambault was put in a difficult position by the loss of the £6,000, which he wanted to conceal because it was partly caused by his negligence. He had to postpone the annual rendering of accounts, and as he could not replace the missing sum the only solution appeared to be to sue his personal debtors, and in so doing render himself odious, hurt the clergy, and then be forced to leave his parish. Things did not, however, come to this pass.

In February 1830 the parish of Saint-Michel at Vaudreuil was canonically erected with boundaries extended at the behest of the seigneur Robert Unwin Harwood*, who did not want to see his domain split. Since losing the hearing in his right ear in 1827, Archambault had been convinced that he could not meet the needs of his parish and he now felt overwhelmed. However, he held out for many years against the appointment of a curate, and attended on his own to the requirements of the parishioners, even those living farthest away. The neighbouring parish priests reproached him on several occasions for extending his services to their parishioners by hearing their confessions, sometimes conducting burials, or giving opinions contrary to theirs. Perhaps all this should be attributed to his seniority in the region or to his great knowledge of people. In any case it is certain that Archambault maintained excellent relations with his neighbours, and sometimes enjoyed ties of the deepest affection, for instance with Augustin Blanchet, the parish priest of Les Cèdres from 1832 to 1833, and then of Coteau-du-Lac from 1833 to 1835. As archpriest of five adjoining parishes, Archambault chaired meetings of the priests in the county and ecclesiastical conferences without imposing his authority.

His notion of the obedience owed to bishops was no mere consent to blind submission, and Archambault made it clearly known. It may have been this liberty of mind that a colleague, who doubtless was jealous, denounced in an anonymous letter sent in August 1835 to Bishop Joseph Signay* of Quebec when there was a possibility that Archambault would be appointed vicar general. The letter made him out to be an enemy of the bishops and of Jean-Jacques Lartigue* in particular, an embarrassment for the neighbouring parish priests, a friend of the Sulpicians and the English party, and an ignoramus. But it is known that Archambault, in the name of the public interest, supported Lartigue at the height of his struggle with the Séminaire de Montréal [see Joseph-Vincent Quiblier]. As for his ties with the English party, the safest conjecture is that he did everything possible to stay out of their conflict with the Patriotes, although he came close to attacking Ludger Duvernay when Duvernay refused to tell him the name of the anonymous author making disparaging remarks about him in the final December issue of La Minerve in 1832. He watched with some misgiving the consideration shown in his parish in January 1840 to local heroes of the rebellion. But when the principal agitators of his region became reconciled with the church by taking their Easter communion in April 1841, he regarded the opposition as ended.

The systematic process of consultation with the clergy set up by Ignace Bourget* in the first years of his episcopate reveals Archambault’s opinion on many subjects related to the reappraisal of church discipline. In March 1841 he spoke out against dancing outside the family setting: it was a sin that must be confessed. In his view the bishop of Montreal should continue to forbid mixed marriages, which always produced bad results. Every religious denomination should be allowed to build schools in accordance with its convictions, and the priest or minister should by right be a compulsory visitor. It would be very dangerous to carry out the proposal made by the bishops of Quebec and Montreal to put the New Testament in the vernacular into each school, even if the text had accompanying notes. Admitting landowners to the meetings of the fabrique would be advisable, but only for the election of churchwardens and the rendering of accounts. When in 1847 Bourget raised the question of reducing the number of cases of absolution reserved for the bishop, Archambault proved a bit more of a rigorist than his younger colleagues. These views provide an interesting illustration of the thinking of a parish priest in the mid 19th century.

Archambault’s association with Esther Sureau*, dit Blondin, to found the Sisters of St Anne constitutes unquestionably the outstanding achievement of the final part of his life. For 15 years he had followed the slow development of the project conceived by this teacher from Vaudreuil: to bring together a number of women who had not found a place in any community of female religious to teach at Vaudreuil and in the neighbouring parishes in both the girls’ schools and the mixed schools set up by law. Archambault was convinced of the timeliness of the project, which Bourget was also encouraging, and from 1848 he supported Esther Sureau’s initial experiments. He gave the community its first rule and its first name (Filles de Notre-Dame de Bonsecours et de Sainte-Anne), and decided that the sisters would not wear special clothing except for a black dress when they went out on Sundays and feast-days. The first recruitment surprised him: 35 candidates applied, of whom 15 became postulants after a retreat and 16 a little later. The level of their ability and the financial support available to them appeared to be excellent. This situation reflected the marked resurgence of a religious fervour that was in direct touch with the educational needs of the people. The priest’s hopes were, however, to be dashed by the long-standing lay resistance so often encountered in meetings of the fabrique. In April 1853 the influential members of the parish exerted pressure to secure a veto on the building on the fabrique’s land of a convent that had become absolutely essential. Only three nuns then remained at Vaudreuil, and for Archambault this was a shock from which it was hard to recover. Although he retained a keen interest in the community that he had encouraged, after the sisters left for Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan (Saint-Jacques) in August 1853 virtually the only direct action he took was to support them in a conflict with their chaplain, Louis-Adolphe Maréchal*. On this occasion Bourget did not follow his advice, however, and excluded the founder from the management of the community.

When Paul-Loup Archambault died he left a parish equipped with schools, confréries, and a temperance movement, all structures characterizing the revival of Catholicism after 1840. Fervour and unanimity were, however, less evident among the parishioners than would have been expected.

Louis Rousseau

AAQ, 12 A, H: f.53v; 1 CB, VIII: 2; 515 CD, 1: 179–80, 184–85, 194, 208–9, 217, 231, 235; II: 18a, 22, 24, 26. ACAM, 401.130. AP, Saint-Joseph (Rivière-des-Prairies), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 22 févr. 1858; Saint-Michel (Vaudreuil), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 22 févr. 1858. Arch. de la chancellerie de l’évêché de Valleyfield (Valleyfield, Qué.), Île-Perrot, corr., 3 nov., 5 déc. 1835; Saint-Michel, corr., 9 mars 1813; 11 nov. 1815; 25 janv., 22 avril, 30 juill., 24 sept., 8 nov., 9 déc. 1816; 18 mars 1817; 2 mai, 3 déc. 1818; 3 juin 1819; 27 août 1821; 6 août, 29 déc. 1822; 26 avril 1823; 13 déc. 1824; 30 juill. 1826; 22 févr. 1827; 16, 23 nov. 1829; 2 mai 1830; 17 avril 1831; 25 nov. 1832; 4 mars 1833; 11 févr., 14 avril, 29 août 1834; 7 août 1835; 6 déc. 1836; 30 avril, 4 nov. 1838; ler, 12 janv. 1840; 7 mars, 7 avril, 6 août 1841; 11 juin, 25 juill., 25 nov. 1848; 25 avril, 12 août 1853; 21 févr. 1854; 21 févr. 1858; 18 janv. 1859; Soulanges, corr., 30 juill., 14 août, 24 sept. 1813. ASN, AO, Séminaire, I: 9. La Minerve, 4 mars 1858. Allaire, Dictionnaire. É.-J.[-A.] Auclair, Histoire des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne; les premiers cinquante ans, 1850–1900 (Montréal, 1922). Douville, Hist. du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 2: 5. Frédéric Langevin, Mère Marie-Anne, fondatrice de l’Institut des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne, 1809–1890; esquisse biographique (2e éd., Montréal, 1937). Sœur Marie-Jean de Pathmos [Laura Jean], Les Sœurs de Sainte-Anne; un siècle d’histoire (1v. paru, Lachine, Qué., 1950–  ). Louis Martin, “Jean Raimbault, curé à Nicolet de 1806 à 1841” (thèse de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1977), 102–20. Eugène Nadeau, Martyre du silence; mère Marie-Anne, fondatrice des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne (1809–1890) (Montréal et Lachine, [1956]). Pouliot, Mgr Bourget et son temps, 3: 75–97. F.-J. Audet, “Les députés de la vallée de l’Ottawa, John Simpson (1788–1873),” CHA Report, 1936: 34.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Louis Rousseau, “ARCHAMBAULT, PAUL-LOUP,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 27, 2017, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/archambault_paul_loup_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/archambault_paul_loup_8E.html
Author of Article: Louis Rousseau
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: February 27, 2017