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DUFOURNEL, LOUIS-GASPARD, parish priest; b. 15 Sept. 1662 at Lyons, France, son of Guillaume Dufournel, a lawyer in the parlement and at the court of justice of Lyons; d. 30 March 1757 at L’Ange-Gardien (Que.).

Louis-Gaspard Dufournel was ordained a priest in 1687 and shortly afterwards obtained the canonical benefice of the church of “Notre-Dame de Trevolse,” in the principality of Dombes (now in the dept. of Ain, France), which he resigned 3 Nov. 1693. He had come to New France in 1688 and first served the parishes of Champlain and Batiscan until October 1694, when Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] appointed him parish priest of L’Ange-Gardien; he spent the rest of his life there. From his 63 years as priest of this parish there remain only the records of baptisms, marriages, and burials, which he drew up himself without a break until June 1749, and a few notarial deeds, which are listed in the inventory made after his death, on 5 April 1757. The archives of the seminary of Quebec, however, preserve several documents written by Father Dufournel, when he, in conjunction with the parish priest of Beauport, Étienne Boullard*, decided in 1705 and 1706 to exact tithes on all products of the soil.

At the founding of his seminary at Quebec on 26 March 1663, Bishop Laval* had assigned to the upkeep of his institution “all tithes of any sort whatever and as they will be levied in all the parishes and localities of the said country.” On 10 October of that year the Conseil Souverain registered this deed of foundation which allowed the institution of tithes. In April 1663 letters patent from the king for the foundation of the seminary stipulated: “All tithes of any nature whatsoever, whether arising from what is produced by men’s work or from what the soil produces itself, will be paid at the rate of only one in thirteen”; they would be allocated forever “to the founding and upkeep of this Seminary and Clergy.” All products of “all the lands of the said country of New France” would be tithed. The settlers’ protests forced Bishop Laval to restrict the scope of these measures. On 26 Oct. 1663 he declared that in view of the present state of the country he had deemed it fitting to concede to the settlers that tithes be paid “only at the rate of one-twentieth for a period of six years.” On 1 Feb. 1664 he had to concede that tithes would be levied at the rate of one-twentieth during his lifetime. Finally, on 10 March 1664, to clarify the expression “arising from what is produced by men’s work,” which the settlers feared would be held to apply to an unlimited variety of products, Bishop Laval specified that it did not signify “anything other than the tilling of land” and consequently that it could apply only to cereals.

Bishop Laval was nevertheless not willing to let the rights which the letters patent of 1663 accorded him be lost by limitation, and on 23 Aug. 1667 he is supposed to have obtained from Tracy [Prouville*], Courcelle [Rémy*], and Jean Talon* an ordinance by virtue of which “tithes of any nature whatsoever, whether from what is produced in Canada by men’s work . . . or from what the soil produces by itself, will be levied on behalf of the Ecclesiastics who will serve the Parishes, at the rate of the twenty-sixth part, provisionally and for the present, without prejudice to the Edict mentioned above or for the future.” This document, preserved in the archives of the seminary of Quebec, is a copy which the notary Claude Auber* said he collated on 22 Oct. 1671 “with the original on paper . . . the said original having been given back.” The copy consequently bears no signature, and the Conseil Supérieur later refused to recognize its authenticity because of flaws, doubtful omissions, lack of registration, and other irregularities which the king’s attorney general, François-Madeleine-Fortuné Ruette* d’Auteuil, set forth at length in his conclusions on 20 Jan. 1706 and in his report of 30 May 1707 on the difficulty that had arisen over the question of tithes.

It was on the ordinance of 1667 that the two parish priests, Boullard and Dufournel, took their stand in insisting upon the tithe “not only on cereals, as has been practised up until now, but also on everything that the soil produces through cultivation or without cultivation.” For its part the council took its stand on a king’s edict of May 1679 which stipulated that tithes would be levied in accordance with a regulation of 4 Sept. 1667, that is to say “on cereals only at the rate of the twenty-sixth bushel, taking into account the fact that the settlers would be required to harvest, thrash, winnow, and bring it to the presbytery.” As this regulation existed neither in its original form nor in a copy, the two parish priests denied its authenticity. The council maintained that it had been deposited with Intendant Talon’s secretariat, “and although it does not appear there, because the greater part of this secretariat has been dispersed . . . it has been carried out in good faith on both sides.” In short it was alleged that the usage followed since 1667 could not be otherwise than in conformity with this regulation.

According to the “replies” the two priests, Boullard and Dufournel, made to the Conseil Supérieur on 22 Dec. 1705 – following the council’s decree of 18 November summoning them to explain the new tithe exacted and instructing other parish priests to maintain the old one – Boullard would seem to have insisted only upon the tithe on flax, which the settlers had begun to cultivate two years earlier. For him, as for the legal experts in France, “the substance of the soil not having changed, although the surface or the nature of the produce that is sown upon it changes, remanet eadem causa debendi, and the tithe imposed on the soil still being due and remaining in existence as long as the soil exists, the produce which grows there is subject to the tithe.” The parish priests pointed out that the tithe on cereals was going to diminish gradually, for experience showed them “that a great part of the lands which formerly grew grain crops are now left in pasture, that others are going to be taken over for hemp and flax, and others for large orchards which are already being prepared in several places.”

In his own reply Father Dufournel went further than Father Boullard. He maintained not only that “wheat, peas, and all other cereals, flax, hemp, pumpkins, tobacco, garden produce, particularly that which is for trade, apples, and all other fruits and products of the soil . . . are the result of men’s work and consequently are subject to the tithe,” but also that hay and other products “that the soil produces by itself,” are likewise tithable, “the king by his edict [of 1663] excepting no product and no ground.” He observed too that the settlers, having little sale for their cereals, “endeavour to raise as much live-stock as they can and consequently turn the greatest part of their lands into pasture, a practice which is general throughout the country.”

After examining the decree of 18 Nov. 1705, the replies of 22 December by the two parish priests, and the conclusions of the attorney general on 20 Jan. 1706, the Conseil Supérieur announced its decision on 1 Feb. 1706, ordering that tithes be levied and paid “according to the usage that has been followed until now . . . until the matter is settled by the king.” Boullard and Dufournel replied with a long indictment, signed 6 April 1706, in which they refuted in 40 points the decrees of 18 Nov. 1705 and 1 Feb. 1706 and even expressed displeasure that the party opposing them, “which is interested in the matter inasmuch as it owns several pieces of land and domains subject to the tithe, should be admitted to give its findings against them.”

When the council failed to take this indictment into consideration, the “parish priests of Canada” presented a petition to the king, “as to the protector of the Church in New France,” asking him to annul the decrees of 1705 and 1706 and to allow them “to collect the tithe in the fields at the rate of one part in thirteen,” or else to receive it “pure and clean” at their presbyteries, but “at some other quota more advantageous to the parish priests than 1 in 26.” This was all in vain, for on 12 July 1707 the Conseil d’État pronounced a judgement, in conformity with the views of the attorney general, Ruette d’Auteuil, that the decisions of the Conseil Supérieur of Quebec be carried out, reserving the right for the parish priests and missionaries to provide themselves with the supplement, in pursuance of the edict of May 1679.

It seems clear that in this whole affair Boullard and Dufournel were not supported, at least officially, by their superiors, for nowhere can the intervention of Saint-Vallier or of his vicars general be detected; the attorney general’s task was thus eased. Bishop Laval, though often cited by the two parish priests as confirmation that there had never been any ordinance concerning tithes other than that of 23 Aug. 1667, maintained the silence which his great age and his long retirement enjoined on him.

The decree of 1707 was therefore adhered to. Only in 1737 was the question raised again by the parish priests of Canada in a request to Bishop Dosquet*, Governor Charles de Beauharnois, and Intendant Hocquart*. In it they requested permission “to levy the tithe at the field,” as well as continuation of the supplement of 6,000 livres “which His Majesty has distributed to the poor parish priests of Canada.” When this request remained unanswered, they presented another in 1738 asking that “tithes be paid to the priests at the field thus and in the manner prescribed by the custom of Paris,” and “that lands that have once been sown in grain always be tithable . . . even if they were converted from arable lands to meadows, pastures, or bore products not subject to the tithe such as tobacco, flax, hemp.” This new request was no more successful, and the following year the vicar general, Jean-Pierre de Miniac*, repeated these requests vainly to the minister Maurepas.

It is not known whether Father Dufournel took part in the latter proceedings. Whether he did or not, there is no more mention of him concerning tithes. He continued to attend to his duties as parish priest faithfully until his death, on 30 March 1757, at the age of 94 years, 6 months, and 15 days, as his burial certificate specifies; he was buried in the sanctuary of his church on 1 April. On 12 Feb. 1753 he had made his will before the notary Antoine Crespin, and on 5 April 1757 the same notary drew up the inventory of his belongings at the request of Colomban-Sébastien Pressart*, superior of the seminary of Quebec. On 22 April 1757 the habitants of L’Ange-Gardien divided up at auction the few belongings that remained after their parish priest’s specific legacies had been taken care of.

Raymond Gariépy

ANQ, Greffe de Jacques Barbel, 5 oct. 1736, 10 oct. 1737; Greffe de Gilbert Boucault de Godefus, 3 avril 1752; Greffe d’Antoine Crespin, 12 févr. 1753, 5 avril 1757; Greffe de François Genaple de Bellefonds, 3 nov. 1693. ASQ, Polygraphie, V, 3–26; Séminaire, III, 54–54H. Édits ord., I, 231–33, 305–11; II, 133–35, 139. Jug. et délib., V, 184–86, 230–31. “Lettres et mémoires de François-Madeleine-Fortuné Ruette d’Auteuil, procureur général du Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France,” APQ Rapport, 1922–23, 22–29, 32–36. Mandements des évêques de Québec (Têtu et Gagnon), I, 160–61. Provost, Le séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 1–3, 8–10. Ivanhoë Caron, “Liste des prêtres séculiers et religieux qui ont exercé le saint ministère en Nouvelle-France (1680–1690),” BRH, XLVII (1941), 264. R.-É. Casgrain, Histoire de la paroisse de L’Ange-Gardien (Québec, 1903). Auguste Gosselin, Vie de Mgr de Laval, premier évêque de Québec et apôtre du Canada, 1622–1708 (2v., Québec, 1890), I, 395–414. Émile Chartier, “Notre droit ecclésiastique sous le régime français,” BRH, XXX (1924), 360–63. Auguste Gosselin, “Un épisode de l’histoire de la dîme au Canada,” RSCT, 2nd ser., IX (1903), sect.i, 45–63.

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Cite This Article

Raymond Gariépy, “DUFOURNEL, LOUIS-GASPARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dufournel_louis_gaspard_3E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dufournel_louis_gaspard_3E.html
Author of Article:   Raymond Gariépy
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   October 1, 2023