BOUTET DE SAINT-MARTIN, MARTIN (referred to, indiscriminately, as Boutet and Saint-Martin), first lay-teacher at Quebec, fosterer of church music, and eminent teacher of navigation; b. 1612? in France; d. 1683? at Quebec.
Boutet came to Quebec a short time before 1645, with his wife Catherine Soulage and two daughters, to tutor sons of Frenchmen. Mentally a mathematician, Saint-Martin was, emotionally, a musician. As a singer and violinist, he was an active member of the parish choir from December 1645 onwards. In September 1651, he signed a contract with the council and wardens of the parish church to direct a choir school. Shortly afterwards he accepted, from the Jesuit college, board and lodging in lieu of the salary promised him by the parish. In the following years he was referred to at one time as principal chanter and, at another, as clerk of the parish. Meanwhile, he earned pocket-money by surveying.
His interest in money waned after his younger daughter, Marie (b. 1642 at Saintes, France), made her profession as an Ursuline nun in 1659. Wishing to give up all for God, he presented himself to the Jesuits, to serve and assist them in such ways as they should deem to contribute most to the glory of God. They adjudged that he could best use his talents by teaching mathematics, or what was called mathematics in those days. For about five years he had been teaching mathematics, with special emphasis on applications to surveying and navigation, when, in 1666, Jean Talon urged him to teach the principles of navigation, not only to the students of the college, but also to all young men who aspired to be pilots. The Jesuits approved of and co-operated in this project, which led to Boutet’s making his name as “the mathematician” of Quebec. His approval became a requirement to obtain a licence to survey. A questionnaire from France on the meteorology and tidology of Quebec was turned over to Boutet to answer.
In 1671, Talon related to Louis XIV the good work being done by Sieur Saint-Martin and expressed the hope that Quebec would become a nursery of navigation. Talon’s hopes were well founded. Fifteen years later, Brisay* de Denonville reported to Seignelay that Boutet had been dead for some time, and that in the past three years the country had suffered much for want of a teacher of the principles of navigation, for Boutet “formed all whom we have of those who are skilled in navigation.” In response to Denonville’s representations, J.-B.-L. Franquelin* was appointed hydrographer royal at Quebec to do the work which Boutet had done, without title or remuneration, for 17 years.
AN, Col., C11A, 8, pp.20–22 (marquis de Denonville à marquis de Seignelay, 8 mai 1686). ANDQ, Arpentage, 5 juillet 1655. ASQ, Documents Faribault, 89a, “Marché et accommodation faits par les sieurs et marguilliers de Québec avec Martin Boutet,” 2 sept. 1651. BN, MS, Clairambault 1016, f.168. Correspondance de Talon, APQ Rapport, 1930–31, 157–58. JR (Thwaites), LX, 104–47; “Lettre de P. Jean Enjalran,” 13 oct. 1676; XLII, 268–89, “Catalogue des bienfaicteurs de N. Dame de Recouvrance de Kebec.” Jug. et délib., I, passim. Les Ursulines de Québec, II, 53–54.