BARBEL, JACQUES, soldier, merchant, seigneur, clerk of court, secretary to the intendant Michel Bégon*, seigneurial judge, and royal notary; b. c. 1670 at Le Havre-de-Grâce, in the diocese of Rouen, son of Charles Barbel and Catherine Provost; d. at Quebec, where he was buried 30 July 1740 in the church of the Recollets.
To give an exact account of Barbel’s astonishing activity and his omnipresence in the region of Quebec from 1703 on, a whole book would have to be devoted to him, although it was some time before he began to be noticed. It is evident that he was very young when he arrived in the colony, since he had already turned up at Quebec on 17 Nov. 1687, at the signing of the marriage contract between François Dumas and Marie de Montmainier. He was at that time a sergeant of the garrison. Then we lose sight of him until he reappears in 1698, when he married Louise-Renée Toupin on 5 November at Beauport. Suddenly, in 1700, he became almost famous: on 20 April Louis XIV himself had granted him a commission as royal notary at Montreal. But what is more surprising still is that Barbel remained at Quebec, without availing himself of his appointment. In 1703, according to François-Madeleine-Fortuné Ruette d’Auteuil, he was a “domestic” in the king’s warehouses, although this expression should not be taken literally.
The year 1703, however, rich in various events, was to mark a turning-point in Barbel’s career that might have been disastrous. On 27 January his wife was buried, leaving him with three children. The youngest, a few days old, passed away soon afterwards, probably struck down, like his mother, by the smallpox epidemic. Among the many victims was Alexandre Peuvret de Gaudarville, whose widow, Marie-Anne Gaultier de Comporté, Barbel “seduced” and “made pregnant.” Everyone cried scandal: Barbel had taken advantage of the “dismay” and “solitude” of a widow who was still a minor. Ignace Juchereau Duchesnay, Peuvret’s brother-in-law, dragged Barbel before the courts, but the affair petered out in the registry of the Conseil Souverain. According to Ruette d’Auteuil, the new governor Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil protected Barbel. Lettres de cachet were issued from France against the guilty pair; this time it is believed to have been Jacques Raudot who suppressed the proceedings. Shortly before this liaison was known, it is probable (although Ruette d’Auteuil affirmed the contrary), Barbel had been appointed seneschal judge of Lauson, 12 May 1703, and on 4 June royal notary at Quebec. Finally, quickly forgetting his fleeting love affair, Barbel married again on 26 November; his second wife was Marie-Anne Le Picard. Truth to tell, the scandal was not the first that the colony had known, and was of short duration.
From the time of his second appointment as royal notary, Barbel, who had made only two brief appearances, in 1700, before the Conseil Souverain, began an active career as a legal practitioner; as an attorney, he regularly represented parties in their absence, or if need be assisted them. It even happened that, at the same session of the council, he conducted two or three cases simultaneously. Barbel was often opposed to the notary Florent de La Cetière, representing the other side, and on 5 Dec. 1707 he accused La Cetière of having acted on certain occasions for both defendant and plaintiff at once, and furthermore of being sometimes involved in the same actions as clerk of court and process-server, which proved to be correct. Several times Barbel acted as a guardian, and still more often as an elected syndic or trustee for estates in abeyance, among others those of Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, Nicolas Volant, and Olivier Morel de La Durantaye. In these various capacities, he often appeared before the courts and concluded numerous settlements.
Already seneschal judge of Lauson, a royal notary, and a prominent legal practitioner at Quebec, Barbel was on the way to other offices: on 22 Aug. 1712 he was appointed judge of bailiff’s court of the Beaupré seigneury, and the following 27 August court clerk of the officiality, a post which he still held in 1725; on 15 Sept. 1714 and again in 1716, he was said to be secretary to Michel Bégon; in addition he was chief court clerk of the Conseil Supérieur from 8 Feb. 1721 to October 1722, and acting clerk of the provost court of Quebec from 31 Aug. 1725 to 23 April 1726; furthermore, Bégon having empowered Pierre Haimard to be in charge as king’s attorney in the provost court of Quebec in the event of the occupant’s absence, Barbel was himself appointed, on 22 June 1716, as Haimard’s deputy. All things considered, a fine judicial career for a man who in 1703 had almost experienced to his own detriment the rigours of the law!
Barbel was moreover a merchant, concerning himself with maritime trade, and a seigneur as well. In 1710 he was the owner of a brigantine, the Saint-Antoine, and in 1719 of another ship, the Aimable. Perhaps he travelled to France in 1711–12, when he was said to be “absent,” on business. Be that as it may, like all his confrères, he had difficulty recovering moneys owing to him, but he knew how to avenge himself by not paying his own debts. Perhaps to acquire prestige, he bought the arriere-fief of Argentenay, on the Île d’Orléans, in two lots: one from Joseph Perrot on 10 March 1716, and the other from Bertrand Perrot on 27 March 1722. His title of seigneur brought him little but trouble. On 19 Oct. 1716 his fief was seized in accordance with feudal law by Guillaume Gaillard, the seigneur of Île d’Orléans, and Barbel had to plead his case over a long period in order to obtain replevin. Then in 1726 some of his furniture was seized from his home; the same thing was done in 1728 by the merchant Louis Bazil*, who also had put up for auction three pieces of land in the fief that belonged to Barbel; they brought in 995 livres. In 1732, in their turn, the Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu actually seized the arriere-fief, but Barbel extricated himself from this difficulty somehow or other. After his death, Argentenay was finally adjudged by law, on 13 Oct. 1744, to Pierre Trottier* Desauniers.
In 1739 Barbel had resigned from his office as judge of the Beaupré seigneury, but had retained that of royal notary. At that time he was living in Rue Saint-Louis, in the house where Montcalm* later died. This house had to be given up by Barbel’s family after his death, because they were unable to pay the arrears of rent with which it was burdened. Barbel’s estate was moreover so encumbered that his heirs accepted it only without liability to debts beyond the assets descended Barbel was survived by his third wife, Marie-Madeleine Amiot, whom he had married 22 Oct. 1719, and seven children, out of the 15 that he had had by his first two marriages. His registry contained 1,361 minutes, and the mere list of the documents found at his house, relative to lawsuits with which he had been concerned, fills 18 notebooks of 24 pages each.
Jacques Barbel had undoubtedly a good deal of ambition and energy, and an incredible capacity for work, but, as the proverb says, grasp all lose all.
AAQ, Registres d’insinuation B, 187. AJM, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar; Registres des audiences (1709), 385f., 397, 400, 403, 406, 440. AJQ, Greffe de Jacques Barbel, 1703–40; Greffe de Claude Barolet, 29 déc. 1740, 3 févr. 1741; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 21 mars 1703, 25 oct. 1710; Greffe d’Étienne Dubreuil, 20 avril 1716; Greffe de François Genaple, 24 oct. 1698, 22, 24 nov. 1703; Greffe de J.-C. Louet, 22 oct. 1719, 22 mars, 25 juillet 1722, 19 avril, 11 juillet 1723, 25 nov. 1728, 6 nov. 1732; Greffe de J.-C Panet, 16 mai 1749; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 17 nov. 1687; Greffe de Pierre Rivet, 10 mars 1716. AQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 2020, 2040½; NF, Ins. Cons sup., V, 53, 135v. et seq.; NF, Ins. de la Prèv. de Québec, II, 107–9, 176; III, 342; NF, Ord. des int., VI, 249f.; VII½, 34; IX, 1. ASQ, Paroisse de Québec, 4; Polygraphie, XXI, 64; XXII, 40; Séminaire, XX, O, 10, 29; XXI; XXV, 18. Édits ord., II, 526f. Jug. et délib, IV, V, VI. “Lettres et mémoires de F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil,” 18–20, 55. Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), II, 314f. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, 97–100; Inv. jug. et délib., 1716–1760. Gareau, “La prévôté de Québec,” 120ff. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” APQ Rapport, 1953–55, 473ff. P.-G. Roy, “Les secrétaires des gouverneurs et intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” BRH, XLI (1935), 100. Jean Langevin, Notes sur les archives de N.-D. de Beauport (2v., Québec, 1860–63), I, 62f. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat. P.-G. Roy, L’Île d’Orléans (Québec, 1928), 101f. P.-B. Casgrain, “La maison d’Arnoux où Montcalm est mort,” BRH, IX (1903), 8–11.