DENYS DE SAINT-SIMON, CHARLES-PAUL, provost marshal; b. 31 Jan. 1688 at Quebec, son of Paul Denys* de Saint-Simon, provost of the marshalsea, and Marie-Madeleine de Peiras; d. 7 Sept. 1748 at Quebec.
On 3 Sept. 1714 Charles-Paul Denys de Saint-Simon officially succeeded his father as provost of the marshalsea; his father had resigned in his favour upon the king’s promise that he would receive the first empty seat in the Conseil Supérieur.
Charles-Paul’s letters of appointment conferred upon him the power “to conduct investigations of all prisoners accused of crime, to issue warrants against and to judge the same without appeal,” as well as competency to judge “all thefts, premeditated murders, homicide committed by persons without fixed domicile, and in general all crimes which the provosts of our said cousins the marshals of France deal with.” In reality the provost of the marshalsea in Canada never exercised these judicial functions, restricting himself to searching for criminals and deserters from the army with the help of his four archers or sometimes soldiers, seeing that the king’s carpenter built the instruments of torture necessary for executions, and accompanying criminals to their place of execution. Under these conditions the office of provost of the marshalsea was on the whole a sinecure in the 17th century. But in the 18th century, with the increase in population, the sending to Canada of soldiers, habitual offenders, and ne’er-do-well sons of good families, crime increased. The provost, who might formerly have been considered a “sort of pensioner,” saw his office grow in importance. As provost marshal he had to hunt criminals in all seasons, over a country covered with forests and intersected by several rivers. It was not easy to lay his hand on the guilty in this immense territory, especially since the habitants preferred to hide them rather than hand them over to the law.
The office of provost thus took up all the Sieur de Saint-Simon’s time and excluded him from other remunerative occupations, from which several members of the Conseil Supérieur, for example, profited. Nevertheless, in 1742, “being in a state of extreme poverty” and needing help “to subsist with his family,” Denys de Saint-Simon sought a seat on the Conseil Supérieur. Maurepas, the minister of Marine, refused him one, alleging that Intendant Gilles Hocquart*’s candidate, Jean-François Gaultier, king’s physician, was more cultivated and intelligent and that the office of provost marshal could not go with that of councillor. The colonial authorities might consider him a devoted man who carried out his functions well, but it seems, according to Hocquart, that Charles-Paul Denys de Saint-Simon was not sufficiently acquainted with “customary law and procedure” to be able to perform other judicial duties. He was therefore obliged to go on making do with the 500 livres that went with his office and with an annual sum of 200 livres for his “travelling expenses.” But these revenues were not sufficient “to maintain the honour and condition of his office.” In 1744 Maurepas granted him an exceptional royal gratuity of 400 livres.
Towards the end of his life Denys de Saint-Simon had gone through all the wealth he had acquired and was considered by the authorities of the colony as a man “of limited means.” On 17 Oct. 1713 he had married at Quebec Marie-Joseph Prat, daughter of the port captain Louis Prat*, and he was the father of a numerous family – 16 children, four of whom were still dependent upon him in 1744. At his death in Quebec on 7 Sept. 1748 he left little behind him. To be able to subsist, his widow had to ask Maurepas for help.
AJQ, Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Québec, 31 janv. 1688, 17 oct. 1713, 8 sept. 1748. AN, Col., B, 36, f.403; 78, ff.337, 348v; 89, f.260v; C11A, 50, ff.348–48v; 52, f.84v; 56, ff.159–60v; 70, f.217v; 76, f.259; 77, f. 106v; 79, f.343v; 89, ff.231v–33. ANQ, NF, Ins. Cons. sup., IV, 5v–6; NF, Ord. int., VI, 299vff.; IX, 15v–16. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport). Tanguay, Dictionnaire, III, 343.