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CHARTIER DE LOTBINIÈRE, EUSTACHE, seigneur, councillor of the Conseil Supérieur, priest, vicar general, archdeacon and dean of the chapter of the cathedral of Quebec; b. 14 Dec. 1688 at Quebec, son of René-Louis Chartier* de Lotbinière and Marie-Madeleine Lambert; d. 14 Feb. 1749.
Eustache Chartier de Lotbinière’s father, René-Louis, and his grandfather, Louis-Théandre*, for many years held the highest offices in the magistrature of New France. Eustache was the fifth and last son of a family of ten children, but it was he who perpetuated the Chartier de Lotbinière name before late in life he chose the ecclesiastical state. One of his sisters, Louise-Philippe, married François Mariauchau* d’Esgly, and he was the uncle of Louis-Philippe Mariauchau* d’Esgly, eighth bishop of Quebec.
At an early age Eustache was enrolled in the Jesuit college. At the time he does not seem to have thought of the priesthood despite the example of his two older brothers, Pierre-Alain and Antoine; the former later gave up studying theology and the latter became a Recollet under the name of Valentin. Also, his father, first councillor and reaching the end of his career, was visibly preparing him to be his successor. On 12 Nov. 1708, less than six months before his death, he had asked that his son, “22 years of age” (he was not even 20), be appointed by reversion to the post of first councillor of the Conseil Supérieur or to that of lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs for the provost court of Quebec “which has been in his family for 48 years”; until his son could exercise one of these two offices he hoped that a seat as councillor of the Conseil Supérieur would be granted him “without his being entitled to speak and vote, in order to instruct him in the manner in which justice is dispensed there.” The ministry’s laconic reply, which simply refused Eustache the reversion, prompted the intendants Jacques* and Antoine-Denis* Raudot to request on 28 Oct. 1709 an ensign’s commission for Eustache in the colonial regular troops, with a reference to him as first cousin by marriage to Governor Vaudreuil [Philippe de Rigaud*]. This precaution was quite unnecessary, for on 5 May 1710 the king appointed Chartier a councillor of the Conseil Supérieur and on 6 July 1711 sent him letters waiving the age limit in view of the fact that he was less than 25, the age of majority. The council admitted him on 23 November 1711, having already admitted him without right to speak and vote on 13 April. In 1716 Intendant Bégon granted him a commission as keeper of the seals, confirmed by the king on 13 April 1717.
Chartier’s advancement had been rapid, and the authorities in the mother country held out hopes that in future he might occupy the same posts as his father and grandfather. On 14 April 1711 he had married Marie-Françoise, daughter of François-Marie Renaud* d’Avène de Desmeloizes and Françoise-Thérèse Dupont de Neuville; her brother, Nicolas-Marie, was to marry Angélique Chartier de Lotbinière, Eustache’s younger sister. In the marriage contract signed on 3 March in the presence of the highest dignitaries of the colony, Nicolas Dupont* de Neuville, Marie-Françoise’s grandfather and guardian (her parents were dead), promised to pay the future husband the sum of 10,500 livres in settlement of her portion by anticipation. On his father’s death in 1709 the seigneury of Lotbinière had fallen to Eustache in part, and in 1713 he became the sole owner, when his brother Pierre-Alain, who had been living in La Rochelle since 1711, and his three sisters, who were all married, made over to him their rights to the remainder. In 1714 he bought a piece of land measuring six arpents by 21 on the seigneury of Maure. Since his marriage he had been living in Rue Saint-Louis, in a house belonging to his wife. The 1716 census indicates that this house was inhabited by some ten persons. He stayed only intermittently on his seigneury of Lotbinière, for which he rendered fealty and homage on 2 Aug. 1724. His boldest undertaking on the seigneury, to which he devoted a great part of his income, was the building of a large stone church, 82 feet long and 38 feet wide, begun in 1717 and completed around 1725. He was helped in the construction by his brother, Father Valentin, parish priest at Lotbinière from 1717 to 1724.
Around the same time Chartier was preparing to enter the business world. On 28 March 1722 he became by a letter of instruction general agent at Quebec of the new Compagnie d’Occident, but it is clear that he had been acting as agent before that date. In a reference to an ordinance by Bégon on 12 Aug. 1718 Chartier de Lotbinière is described as general agent of the Compagnie d’Occident, and on 4 January of that year he is called “agent of the Compagnie du Castor” in a bill of exchange which his brother Pierre-Alain sent him from Bordeaux.
Within the Conseil Supérieur Chartier de Lotbinière had quickly distinguished himself by his competence, his integrity, and his innate sense of justice. In 1711 and on many other occasions he served temporarily as attorney general, and he was regularly chosen as reporter in important lawsuits. Consequently on 6 May 1719 Vaudreuil put forward his name as first councillor, to replace Claude de Bermen* de La Martinière, deceased. On this occasion the governor praised Chartier’s honesty and competence: “He has won everyone’s esteem and the reputation of being a well-informed and very honest judge.” Vaudreuil pointed out, however, that Bégon had withdrawn his support, as Chartier had on more than one occasion firmly opposed attempts to interfere with decrees which the intendant wanted to have changed. Whether for this reason or because of his family relationship with the governor, or because others had precedence over him, Chartier did not get the promotion. Bégon’s resentment was apparent again in 1722 in a report to the minister on the officers of justice: “[Chartier] thinks that he knows as much as the most diligent. He is very fond of pleasure and not too fond of work.”
Such a judgement seems to contrast, to say the least, with the important decision Chartier was soon to take after his wife’s sudden death on 24 April 1723, following the birth of Michel*, her eighth child. Prompted by motives he seems never to have disclosed, he decided to become a priest. Burdened by professional as well as family obligations – his eldest child was only 11 – it was probably not possible for him to prepare for holy orders at the seminary of Quebec. It is more likely that he received his introduction to theology from his brother, Father Valentin, or from Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] himself, who held Chartier de Lotbinière in high esteem. Chartier’s decision, moreover, reminded the old bishop of the calling under identical circumstances of his paternal ancestor, Jean de La Croix, who, having become a widower at 50 years of age, had shortly afterwards been consecrated bishop of Grenoble, France. Chartier received the tonsure and minor orders on 5 April 1726, the subdiaconate the next day, the diaconate on 7 April, and the priesthood on 14 April, the anniversary of his wedding 15 years earlier. Four days later Bishop Saint-Vallier appointed him simultaneously canon and archdeacon, a dignity of which he took possession the same day, and by June he had become vicar general to the bishop. In the latter capacity he made a pastoral visit to his seigneury on 20 June 1726. As was proper, he resigned his position as agent of the Compagnie d’Occident, but the king permitted him to continue to sit on the Conseil Supérieur as a lay councillor, on condition that he abstain from attending trials of criminal cases and relinquish his office as keeper of the seals.
In praising Chartier to the minister on 10 Sept. 1726, Bishop Saint-Vallier described him as “full of virtues and merits” and stated that “he deserved more than anyone else the dignity of dean” of the chapter. This appointment, like other high offices, was a privilege reserved solely for French priests. “If none is found, however,” added the bishop, “as the aforementioned Sieur de Lotbinière surpasses all by his excellent qualities and his experience, he must be chosen in preference to the others. I have made him my vicar general because of the great services that he renders this diocese.” Obviously Bishop Saint-Vallier had finally found among his clergy a man upon whom he could rely, and, obsessed by his own mortality, he was preparing to invest Chartier with the highest offices, to provide for all contingencies that might arise in the church in Canada after his death.
Archdeacon and vicar general, Chartier de Lotbinière was at this time 38 years old. His capabilities and his experience justified his rapid ascension in office, but he was to pay dearly for the favours that Bishop Saint-Vallier had lavished upon him. Having been raised to the top rank of the cathedral chapter because the deanship was vacant, he took precedence over his colleagues, and in his capacity as pro-dean he presided over meetings. All these prerogatives, attained so rapidly, antagonized the other canons and roused the envy of some, who did not hesitate to humiliate him and cause him trouble in the exercise of his functions. On 26 Dec. 1727, when the bishop’s death was announced, a splendid opportunity was offered the canons, who outdid themselves, removing him there and then from the office of capitular vicar in favour of Canon Étienne Boullard* and even depriving him of the honour of officiating at the bishop’s funeral, a function that fell to him as archdeacon but was conferred upon Boullard. Unable in the circumstances to appeal either to the officiality of the diocese (it could not be re-organized in the interval since the bishop’s death), or to the Conseil Supérieur (on holiday until the Monday after Epiphany), Chartier went the same day to the president of the council, Intendant Dupuy*, and insisted that his privileges as capitular vicar be upheld. Dupuy, who was also the bishop’s executor, reacted quickly. Instead of instituting a temporizing measure – after all, the funeral had been set for 3 January – Dupuy, warned that the canons were thinking of burying the body in the cathedral, ordered that the burial take place immediately, and at his express demand on the afternoon of 2 January the archdeacon took charge of the funeral in the church of the Hôpital Général. The chapter excluded Canon Lotbinière for a time from its ranks, and the point of law of precedence took on sudden and unexpected importance, degenerating into a virulent jurisdictional dispute between the chapter and Boullard on the one hand and the Conseil Supérieur and the intendant on the other. The latter parties fiercely upheld Canon Lotbinière’s jurisdiction as “born vicar general.” Canon Lotbinière, however, quickly aware of the ambiguity of his situation in the dispute, since he was both canon and councillor, sensibly withdrew from the fray, leaving Dupuy and Boullard to rail against each other over the legality of his powers. The decision of the court, made known in September 1728, put an end to this growing conflict, which had already been moderated by the tardy but energetic intervention of Governor Charles de Beauharnois. The intendant was recalled immediately and all parties involved were censured, even the governor; the chapter was criticized severely for its conduct towards Canon Lotbinière, the only one to emerge from the crisis blameless.
The archdeacon’s prestige does not seem to have suffered from this trial, since Bishop Saint-Vallier’s successors continued to honour him with their confidence. In 1728 he took possession of the see in the name of Bishop Mornay, and in 1734 in the name of Dosquet*. Twice the latter chose him to make the episcopal visit of the diocese, but, with his prejudice against Canadian priests, he felt that he had to choose his vicar generals from among the French priests. He is even supposed to have offered the archdeacon a distant parish out in the countryside, in an attempt to eliminate all Canadians from the chapter.
As for the canons, they continued to harass M. de Lotbinière, and despite the regularity of his attendance at services, they relentlessly held back part of his stipend in his absences to attend meetings of the Conseil Supérieur. When, provided with a procuration from Bishop Mornay, he tried in September 1728 to take possession of the see, he was exposed to such puerile vexation on the part of Canon Joseph-Thierry Hazeur that in the autumn he went to France to escape from the unbearable atmosphere the chapter was creating. This trip was shortly after the crisis that had marked Bishop Saint-Vallier’s death, and he had to make every effort in the mother country to convince Bishop Mornay, whose taking of possession had just been ratified by the king, that only the presence of a bishop could restore peace to the church in Canada. His attempt was unsuccessful, but it nevertheless speeded up the appointment of a coadjutor in the person of Bishop Dosquet. Returning to Quebec towards the end of July 1729, with a free passage, Chartier was able to take his place again in the chapter despite obstruction by his constant opponent Hazeur, thanks to letters which Bishop Mornay had sent him at La Rochelle on 10 May, giving him powers as vicar general until the coadjutor’s arrival and requesting the chapter not to cause him any more difficulties. But action by the canons was only postponed, for upon Bishop Dosquet’s arrival in August 1729 they prevented the archdeacon in the most insidious manner from presiding at the reception of the coadjutor.
Chartier became the senior member of the Conseil Supérieur in 1735. On 13 May 1738 the king also appointed him dean of the chapter of the cathedral to replace Canon Louis Bertrand* de La Tour. He took possession of his dignity on 14 September, the first Canadian to hold this office. He owed this favour less to Bishop Dosquet’s requests than to those of Governor Beauharnois and Intendant Gilles Hocquart*, who had recommended him in 1733 and 1735, each time in flattering terms. Was Canon Lotbinière ever sounded out about succeeding Bishop Dosquet in the see of Quebec, as some people have thought they could maintain? A letter from Canon Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme, dated 1 July 1739 and which has never been quite clear, is the only evidence to support this affirmation.
Although chequered, M. de Lotbinière’s double career was lacking neither in nobility nor in dignity. He entered holy orders just at the time when the church in Canada was about to experience a long period of instability and uncertainty, marked by intermittent crises and rivalries and vexations of which he was often the innocent victim. He was able to rise above his tribulations by incessant work and his dauntless convictions. In 1747 premature disabilities forced him to retire to the Hôpital Général, where he died on 14 Feb. 1749. He was buried the next day in the cathedral of Quebec, where his wife rested. The inventory of his possessions drawn up on 8 May shows that he owned nothing but the seigneury of Lotbinière and his house in Quebec.
Of the eight children born of his marriage, three sons and two daughters were still living in 1723. One of the daughters, Louise, became a nun in the Hôpital Général, and the other, Marie-Françoise, married Antoine 1784.Duchesnay, seigneur of Beauport. The eldest of the sons, Eustache, was ordained a priest at Angers, France, on 18 March 1741, and , a Recollet, was ordained at Quebec on 23 Sept. 1741. The youngest son, Michel, continued the line; in 1747 he married Louise-Madeleine, daughter of Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, and was created a marquis by Louis XVI in
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