LAMBERT DUMONT, NICOLAS-EUSTACHE (also known as Eustache-Nicolas), militia officer, jp, seigneur, politician, office holder, and judge; b. 25 Sept. 1767 in Trois-Rivières, Que., son of Eustache-Louis Lambert Dumont and Marguerite-Angélique Boisseau; m. first 8 Sept. 1800 Marie-Narcisse Lemaire Saint-Germain, and they had at least three children; m. secondly 8 Nov. 1834 Sophie Ménéclier de Montrochon in Trois-Rivières; d. 25 April 1835 in Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada.
Nicolas-Eustache Lambert Dumont was born into a prominent and well-connected Canadian family. The Lambert Dumonts had been seigneurs of Mille-Îles since about 1743. Nicolas-Eustache’s godfather, Nicolas Boisseau*, was formerly chief clerk of the Conseil Supérieur of New France. An aunt, Charlotte-Louise Lambert Dumont, had married Louis-Pierre Poulin* de Courval Cressé, seigneur of Courval, and, following his premature death, administered the seigneury of Nicolet, of which her husband was to have been the heir. Nicolas-Eustache’s father was a lieutenant-colonel of militia.
Nicolas-Eustache followed in the family tradition. He was a major in the Vaudreuil battalion of militia by 1795. In 1796 and 1797 he had acquired from the Poulin de Courval Cressé family for 9,833 livres the seigneury of Île-à-la-Fourche, beside that of Nicolet. In 1799 he owned a farm, two lots, a sawmill, and a grist-mill in the seigneury of Mille-Îles and a house in its main village, Saint-Eustache. However, he was evidently in grave financial difficulty, since in 1799 Joseph Périnault* had the sheriff seize the Mille-Îles properties for public auction, and between 1800 and 1803 the seigneury of Île-à-la-Fourche was seized on no fewer than four occasions, each time at the suit of a different creditor, one of whom was François Vassal* de Montviel. From 1803 to 1827 at least Lambert Dumont would fight bitterly for recognition of the boundaries of Île-à-la-Fourche, contested by the colonial administration.
As befitted a man of his station, Lambert Dumont was active in public life. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1800 and had reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Vaudreuil militia by 1804. His political colours are probably indicated by his personal friendship with Louis-Charles Foucher, solicitor general of Lower Canada. In 1804 Lambert Dumont was elected along with John Mure to represent the county of York in the House of Assembly. Between 1805 and 1808 he voted 11 times with the minority English party, which supported the British colonial administration. Although he sided eight times with the Canadian party as well, it is doubtful whether he shared the nationalism of its members. In supporting, for example, this group’s proposal to finance the construction of prisons through a tax on commerce (dominated by the British) – the alternative being a tax on land (owned mostly by Canadians) – Lambert Dumont likely voted as a seigneur. In the elections of 1808 he was defeated in York by the Canadian party’s candidate, Jean-Joseph Trestler*, who was returned with Mure of the English Party.
In 1807, following his father’s death, Lambert Dumont had become co-seigneur of Mille-Îles with his sister Marie-Angélique, wife of Antoine Lefebvre de Bellefeuille. The seigneury, also known by the names Rivière-du-Chêne, Dumont, and Saint-Eustache, constituted but one-half of the original concession, the neighbouring seigneury of Blainville, owned by Hubert-Joseph Lacroix, having been detached in the first half of the 18th century. However, the inheritance also included a northern augmentation, conceded in 1750 and a virtual wilderness in 1807. Mille-Îles had excellent soil for grain, an important asset for a seigneur since wheat was a principal trade commodity in the early 19th century. From his residence in Saint-Eustache, Lambert Dumont, who had for some time been assisting his father in administering Mille-Îles, devoted much energy after 1807 to what was already a well-developed seigneury. Like his father, he hoped to open up the augmentation, and in 1810 he established a pied-à-terre at a promising site on the Rivière du Nord, to which he was able to attract a few settlers, including Casimir-Amable Testard* de Montigny. Despite Lambert Dumont’s energetic supervision, however, the settlement, which he planned ultimately as an industrial centre, grew but slowly. Later, shifted slightly to the north, it formed the basis of Saint-Jérôme.
To encourage growth of the seigneury Lambert Dumont promoted education. He was the first to sign a petition in 1810 to have established in Saint-Eustache a school of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning [see Joseph Langley Mills], and on 3 September he was appointed one of three school commissioners. His support for a public school would not have pleased Roman Catholic bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis, a determined opponent of the Royal Institution, and in the end clerical influence aborted the project. By 1815 Surveyor General Joseph Bouchette* had painted an attractive picture of Mille-Îles. “The greatest part of this property is conceded, and most of the lots settled upon by an industrious tenantry. At the mouth of the Rivière du Chêne is the pleasant well built village of St. Eustache, containing from 80 to 90 houses, a handsome church, and parsonage-house.” On the Rivière du Chêne and a number of smaller streams stood both saw- and grist-mills.
In order better to exploit the commercial potential of his seigneury Lambert Dumont sought to enlarge the market for its products by facilitating transportation to Montreal and its port. Apparently licensed as an engineer and surveyor, he made three attempts between 1809 and 1812 to obtain from the House of Assembly an act authorizing him to construct a toll-bridge over the Rivière Jésus (Rivière des Mille Îles), from the parish of Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville (Sainte-Thérèse) to Île Jésus. All failed, as did efforts to obtain an act authorizing construction of dams in the rapids where Lac des Deux Montagnes emptied into the Rivière Jésus between the seigneury of Mille-Îles and Île Jésus. In 1815 he again petitioned the assembly, this time through a member adhering to the Canadian party, Joseph Levasseur-Borgia*, for an act that would grant him the exclusive right to build bridges of wrought iron in the colony. Before a committee appointed to study Levasseur-Borgia’s bill, Lambert Dumont explained that what would distinguish his from all iron bridges previously built would be the arches of wrought iron, and he proposed building a bridge over the Rivière Saint-Maurice as a prototype. The committee approved the bill, but it subsequently died in a committee of the whole house.
For all his activity, Lambert Dumont once more experienced financial difficulties in the years 1817–24. On two occasions, in 1817 and 1822, creditors again had the seigneury of Île-à-la Fourche seized for sale at public auction. In the latter year lots and buildings in the parishes of Saint-Martin and Saint-Laurent and in Saint-Eustache were seized at the suit of three merchants. In 1823 the seigneury of Mille-Îles itself was seized along with its two sawmills and three stone grist-mills, as was the augmentation with its sawmill and wooden grist-mill, and an island in the Rivière Jésus.
Nevertheless, Lambent Dumont maintained his prominence as a local public figure. Appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Rivière-du-Chêne battalion of militia in 1807, he held this rank until 1820 at least. In 1812 he received a commission of dedimus potestatem. Five years later the appointment of Lambent Dumont, Joseph Papineau*, and Philemon Wright* as commissioners for the improvement of communications in the county of York provided all three with an opportunity to serve both public and private interests. The commissioners announced their concern to improve navigation of the Long Sault on the Ottawa River, of particular interest to Papineau and Wright, and communications between the mainland and Île Jésus, an interest Lambert Dumont had obviously inspired. No doubt hoping to benefit from the commission’s support, in 1820, 1821, and 1823 Lambert Dumont petitioned the assembly to obtain the exclusive privilege for 50 years of constructing a toll-bridge from Saint-Eustache to Île Jésus. None of the petitions succeeded. However, by 1828 two bridges, perhaps built by him, spanned the Rivière du Chêne; in 1830 he obtained an act authorizing him to build a toll-bridge over the Rivière des Prairies from the parish of Saint-Martin to that of Saint-Laurent; and by 1837 three bridges, again possibly built by him, joined Saint-Eustache to Île Jésus. On 28 June 1821 he had received his last commission, that for the trial of small causes in York County.
In the increasingly tense political atmosphere after 1807 prominent public figures could with difficulty avoid political engagement; Lambert Dumont was not of a temperament even to try. After having been re-elected for York in 1814, he fought a close race with Jean-Baptiste Féré of the Canadian party in the elections of 1816 in the same riding, for which both were returned. Over the next 11 years Lambert Dumont undoubtedly supported the colonial administration in its struggles with the Canadian party, which, under the increasingly radical leadership of Louis-Joseph Papineau*, became known as the Patriote party from 1826. On 4 June 1827 a political meeting in Saint-Eustache passed 17 resolutions criticizing the administration of Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*]; Lambert Dumont denounced several prominent participants to the governor, who in consequence ordered their dismissal from the militia. Among them were Féré, William Henry Scott*, and Jacques LaBrie. Lambert Dumont, who by then commanded the militia in York, added insult to injury by his cavalier treatment of a number of officers dismissed from his command, and he participated enthusiastically in the newspaper war that resulted. In this heated atmosphere elections were contested in York in the summer of 1827. The other incumbent member, John Simpson*, withdrew from the fierce battle to reduce violence. In the end Lambert Dumont was defeated by Labrie and Jean-Baptiste Lefebvre, candidates of the Patriote party.
Yet, Lambent Dumont continued to exercise local leadership. In 1825 he donated land for a school to be built according to the fabrique schools law [see Joseph Langley Mills] and, when nothing was done, was responsible four years later for having syndics elected to establish a school in Saint-Eustache according to another schools act called the syndics act. In 1835 he granted eight arpents of land as the site of a church for the recently erected parish of Saint-Jérôme. With his old fighting spirit, he quarrelled with the Sulpicians, whom he accused of encroaching on the northwest part of the augmentation of Mille-Îles, and he continued to do battle politically with Papineau’s followers in and around Saint-Eustache. To counter the tatter’s increasingly numerous and radical political assemblies, he held a pro-government meeting in Saint-Eustache in 1834 but saw it taken over by his opponents. Lambert Dumont, however, would not live to see the ultimate discomfiture of his enemies during the events of 1837 in the region [see Jean-Olivier Chénier*]; he died in 1835 and was buried in the parish church of Saint-Eustache.
Nicolas-Eustache Lambert Dumont was in many ways a figure representative of the seigneurial class on the local level, and even on the colonial level, in the early 19th century. He assumed that, by virtue of an honourable family heritage and his position as seigneur, he had a natural role of economic, social, and political leadership among the Canadians of his seigneuries second not even to that of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, tied by his aspirations to the British colonial administration, which dispensed the offices of local leadership, and harassed by financial difficulties, he saw only as an enemy the upstart Canadian bourgeoisie of doctors, lawyers, notaries, and local merchants which, through an ideology that combined nationalism and alarming democratic notions, was relentlessly undermining the position of the seigneurs. Consequently, in the struggle between the British administration and the Canadian party, he threw the weight of his influence vehemently against those whom he saw as a threat, but to no avail; the day of the bourgeoisie had come in Saint-Eustache.
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