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GLAPION, AUGUSTIN-LOUIS DE, Jesuit and superior general; b. 8 July 1719 at Mortagnesur-Huisne (Mortagne-au-Perche), France:; d. 24 Feb. 1790 at Quebec.

Augustin-Louis de Glapion entered the Jesuit novitiate in Paris on 10 Oct. 1735 and had spent two years studying philosophy at the Collège de La Flèche before going to Quebec in 1739. There he taught liberal arts and the third- and fourth-year classes at the Jesuit college. On his return to France in 1746 he studied philosophy and theology at the Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris until 1751. His tertianship completed, he took his major vows in 1753 at the Collège de Nevers, where he was a professor of philosophy in 1752 and 1753. The next five years he spent as prefect of studies at the Collège d’Arras, which he left in 1758 intending to return to Quebec.

Glapion left Paris on 25 March 1758 and made the crossing with Joseph-Pierre de Bonnécamps, a former colleague in Quebec. In May the two Jesuits rejoined Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pé*, who was still serving as superior general of the Jesuits and rector of their college in Quebec, the spiritual and intellectual centre of the Society of Jesus in North America. Saint-P6 may indeed have been responsible for Glapion’s return to Canada. The ageing superior, then 72, was undoubtedly glad to see Glapion, whom he knew and esteemed and whom he thought of as his successor. The appointment of the newly arrived Jesuit as minister and procurator of the college, and hence as Saint-Pé’s principal assistant, would seem to corroborate this suggestion.

In order to maintain essential contacts with the civil and religious authorities after the capitulation of Quebec in September 1759, Saint-P6 had to seek refuge outside the occupied region as they had done. In Montreal he would be in a better position to communicate with most of the members of his order, who were scattered across America. He left Glapion as vice-rector at the college in Quebec and hence as his deputy to the Jesuits there. In October 1759 James Murray asked the Jesuits to vacate the college so that it could be converted into a military storehouse. Glapion found refuge at the mission of Lorette until 1761, when part of the college was restored to the order. He returned to Quebec in June and was joined there by Saint-P6, who from then on seems to have transferred the duties of superior general to Glapion, although his official appointment came only in 1763.

Glapion’s historical importance as superior general results primarily from the specific circumstances that kept him in office as the last incumbent for almost 30 years. Many factors – the British conquest and the treaty of Paris, the diverse constitutional régimes and the policies of the various governors, and later the suppression of the Jesuits by Rome – moved his order inexorably toward extinction, which the deaths of its members ultimately made inevitable. As superior general Glapion lived through the whole painful progression of events and was necessarily involved in the major issues – the order’s struggle for existence, the disposition of the Jesuit estates, and the closely linked incidents involving Pierre-Joseph-Antoine Roubaud.

In the act of capitulation of Montreal in 1760, Amherst recognized the property rights of the religious orders but made their continuation in the colony subject to the king’s pleasure. By 1762 Murray had decided to demand total suppression of the Jesuit order, which he disliked, and seizure of its estates. In 1764 when Roubaud, who was collaborating with the governor though still a Jesuit, was authorized by him to go to England as his agent to inform the British authorities about the new colony, Glapion behaved with firmness, wisdom, and dignity towards both men.

The Jesuits in Canada were shielded by the treaty of Paris from the termination of the society’s civil existence that their confrères were suffering in France. Murray, however, received instructions dated 13 Aug. 1763 to limit the order to its existing members and to forbid recruitment in Canada. Glapion made use of Étienne Charest’s visit to London to ask that this restriction be removed and that the college be restored to its original purpose, education. Murray’s replacement by Guy Carleton* in 1766 coincided with the return of Jean-Olivier Briand as bishop and the filling of a see that had been unoccupied for six years. Glapion had already planned for three of his colleagues who were lay brothers to be ordained. Jean-Baptiste Noël and Jean-Joseph Casot became priests on 20 Dec. 1766 and Alexis Maquet in September 1767. After securing Carleton’s support, Glapion wrote to the secretary of state, Shelburne, on 12 Nov. 1766; he raised the question of recruitment from among those of Canadian origin or from Europe, he asked that the order be allowed to reoccupy fully all the buildings belonging to it, and he requested compensation for the army’s occupation of the college. Glapion’s demands went unanswered. The Americans in 1776, however, gave to the Jesuits their Montreal residence, which had been converted into a prison by colonial officials.

The Quebec Gazette had for years been publishing reports of the treatment the Jesuits were suffering in various Catholic countries in Europe. Even a rumour that Rome would totally suppress them gained ground. Some time in 1774 the papal brief Dominus ac Redemptor reached Quebec; this decree, suppressing the Society of Jesus, had finally been signed at the end of August 1773. Bishop Briand, who was personally well disposed towards the Jesuits, was apparently dumbfounded. A letter he wrote on 6 Nov. 1774 to the prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda shows that he had not grasped the consequences of the incredible news or the importance of the role which Rome was entrusting to him as bishop. With Carleton’s agreement, he did not proclaim the suppression of the order, and its survival as a religious body resulted in its civil survival. Canonical regulations made the bishop the hierarchical superior of the Jesuits in Canada; civil arrangements made the bishop subordinate to the governor. Carleton never raised the issue of the Jesuits’ continuation although he always advocated that the government take over their estates. In this he – and Glapion – took a position opposite to that of Amherst, who from 1769 on, in collusion with Roubaud, was claiming the estates for himself. The stance taken by Carleton’s successor, Haldimand, towards the Jesuits was closer to that of Murray. When Carleton took up office again in Quebec along with Chief Justice William Smith in 1786, he displayed greater determination to take over title to the Jesuits’ property in order to use the proceeds for education. In 1788 when Glapion was required to produce copies of the Jesuits’ property deeds for a commission established to investigate their estates, he specified that he would do so only in the presence of a notary. Again, in 1789 he maintained that the right to private property was sacred. And in a final gesture, two months before he died, he legally transferred “to the Canadian people” all the property belonging to his order. A hundred years of discussion would fail to breach the untransferrable character of the estates.

In spite of all these disputes Glapion fulfilled his calling as a priest. He was confessor at the Hôpital Général in Quebec and to Bishop Louis-Philippe Mariauchau d’Esgly, and it was as confessor that he apparently saved the father of La Corriveau from being hanged [see Marie-Josephte Corriveau*]. Glapion died at Quebec on 24 Feb. 1790; there were then only two surviving Jesuits, Bernard Well and Jean-Joseph Casot.

G.-E. Giguère

AAQ, 20 A, I, 173, 176. Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu (Rome), Canada I, fasc.l, Varia de pristina missione canadensi, XVII, XVIII, XIX. ASJCF, 727; 4021; IC, 4244.43. ASQ, Polygraphie, XXVII, 54. JR (Thwaites), LXXI, 15–16. Laval Laurent, Québec et lÉglise aux États-Unis sous Mgr Briand et Mgr Plessis (Montréal, 1945). Rochemonteix, Les jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, II. M. Trudel, LÉglise canadienne. T.-M. Charland, “La mission de John Carroll au Canada en 1776 et l’interdit du P. Floquet,” SCHÉC Rapport, I (1933–34), 45–56. Luc Lacourcière, “Le destin posthume de la Corriveau,” Cahiers des Dix, 34 (1969), 239–72; “Le triple destin de Marie-Josephte Corriveau (1733–1763),” Cahiers des Dix, 33 (1968), 213–42. “La mort de Mgr d’Esgly,” BRH, XI (1905), III. J.-E. Roy, “Biographies canadiennes,” BRH, XIX (1913), 305. Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale,” BRH, XVI, 37.

General Bibliography

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G.-E. Giguère, “GLAPION, AUGUSTIN-LOUIS DE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/glapion_augustin_louis_de_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/glapion_augustin_louis_de_4E.html
Author of Article: G.-E. Giguère
Title of Article: GLAPION, AUGUSTIN-LOUIS DE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: July 23, 2014