BOUTHILLIER, JEAN-ANTOINE, surveyor, journalist, author, translator, office holder, and jp; b. 17 June 1782 in Montreal, son of Pierre Bouthillier and Angélique Lemaire Saint-Germain; d. 12 Nov. 1835 in Beauport, Lower Canada.
Although Jean-Antoine Bouthillier made his career at Quebec, his family came from the Montreal region, contrary to assertions made in biographical notices. His father was a merchant and militia officer there. Business was probably fairly good since Jean-Antoine attended the Collège Saint-Raphaël from 1792 until 1800. He was a good student and several times was on the honours list at the end of the year. He undoubtedly benefited from the excellent teaching then being provided by Sulpicians Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Chicoisneau* and Antoine-Jacques Houdet. After leaving the college he studied to become a surveyor, possibly with his uncle, Hyacinthe Lemaire Saint-Germain, who had been established in Montreal since 1792. He received his surveyor’s licence in May 1804 and immediately settled at Quebec. But he received no government contracts for surveying and thus was forced to do various kinds of work.
From January 1807 until March 1808 Bouthillier was an editor of Le Canadien, which at that time was devoting a good deal of space to the question of the freedom of the press and to ripostes to the francophobe stance of the Quebec Mercury [see Thomas Cary]. Denis-Benjamin* and Jacques* Viger also contributed to the paper, and Jacques succeeded Bouthillier as an editor in November 1808. Bouthillier was hired immediately by the Quebec Gazette as translator with an annual salary of £100, and he held this post until February 1819. The proprietor, John Neilson*, must have had great confidence in him, since he chose him to run his printing shop while he was travelling in England from August 1816 till June 1817. In 1815 Bouthillier had been appointed a surveyor of the highways, roads, lanes, and bridges for the town and parish of Quebec. Four years later he left the Quebec Gazette and moved to Beauport. In 1828 he obtained the position of assistant clerk of the House of Assembly, an office coveted by Georges-Barthélemi Faribault*, William Phillips (the son of Samuel Phillips, a former clerk), and Édouard-Olivier Desbarats, who would have liked to succeed his father, Pierre-Édouard. Bouthillier was also appointed justice of the peace at Beauport in 1830, and he retained his two offices until his death.
Bouthillier was the author of Traité d’arithmétique pour l’usage des écoles, which was brought out by Neilson in May 1809 and was the first textbook of its kind published in Lower Canada. It was used in schools for a long time and up until 1870 it was reissued by George-Édouard Desbarats*, Joseph and Octave* Crémazie, and Jean-Baptiste Rolland*. According to historian Léon Lortie, the book drew its inspiration from French authors and conveyed knowledge as sound as it was useful to young Canadians.
Bouthillier had a respectable career. His various functions earned him the title of esquire and real esteem in the town of Quebec, but they did not make him rich. When he died, he owned three properties and a house in Beauport, less than £300 in movables, and £350 in uncollected debts, but his liabilities exceeded £1,000. His library contained several dozen books, among them the works of Racine, Cicero, and Horace, mathematical dictionaries and Jean Saury’s Institutions mathématiques, Joseph Bouchette*’s Description topographique du Bas-Canada, and translation dictionaries, as well as some bibles, a New Testament, and the Imitation de Jésus-Christ.
Jean-Antoine Bouthillier had married Claire Parent, a widow, on 20 Feb. 1808. The marriage was solemnized at Beauport, perhaps to avoid the charivari that might have followed such a union. The couple had at least three children, but all of them died before the age of ten. Claire Parent passed away three years before her husband.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 17 juin 1782. ANQ-Q, CE1-5, 14 nov. 1835; CN1-255, 22 déc. 1835; P-193, 19. ASQ, Séminaire, 145, no. 3. PAC, MG 24, B1, 183: 666–69. L. C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1827–30. Le Canadien, 1806–10. Quebec Gazette, 19 Jan. 1815. Beaulieu et Hamelin, La presse québécoise, vol. 1. Hare et Wallot, Les imprimés dans le Bas-Canada. [L.-A. Huguet-Latour], Annuaire de Ville-Marie, origine, utilité et progrès des institutions catholiques de Montréal . . . (2v., Montréal, 1863–82). Quebec almanac, 1791–1835. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Quebec, 3: 11–12. L.-P. Audet, Le système scolaire, vol.6. Léon Lortie, “La trame scientifique de l’histoire du Canada,” Pioneers of Canadian science, ed. G. F. G. Stanley (Toronto, 1966). Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967). M.-A. Bédard, “Le greffier de l’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada: origine de la fonction,” Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec, Bull. (Quebec), 12 (1982), nos. 1–2: 35–58. Léon Lortie, “Les mathématiques de nos ancêtres,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 49 (1955), sect.i: 31–45; “Les sciences à Montréal et à Québec au xixe siècle,” L’Action universitaire (Montreal), 2 (1935–36), no. 1: 46. “Le premier traité d’arithmétique (1809),” BRH, 46 (1940): 143–44.