LATOUR, BERTRAND DE (several sources wrongly give him the Christian name of Louis and the surname Bertrand de Latour), Sulpician, priest, vicar general, superior of the religious communities of women in the diocese of Quebec, and ecclesiastical councillor on the Conseil Supérieur; b. 6 July 1701 in Toulouse, France, son of Pierre de Latour, a lawyer in the parlement, and Catherine de Jonquières; d. 19 Jan. 1780 at Montauban, France.
Bertrand de Latour was descended from a family of lawyers raised to the nobility through their office as magistrates in Toulouse. Educated first in the town where he was born, he commenced the study of law but entered the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris on 12 June 1724. There he “gave proof of as much talent as piety [and] completed his licentiate with honours.” He must also have completed his legal education, since by 1729 he bore the title of doctor of laws.
On 2 May 1729 Latour, who had been transferred to the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, was appointed dean of the chapter of Quebec by Louis XV. On 17 May he became the ecclesiastical councillor on the Conseil Supérieur of New France, replacing Jean-Baptiste Gaultier* de Varennes. The minister of Marine, Maurepas, told Governor Charles de Beauharnois* that the king had appointed Latour to these offices in consideration of “the favourable testimony which has been given to him about the good moral character, ability, and sound beliefs of this ecclesiastic.” The king’s ship, the flute Éléphant, which brought him from France with the new coadjutor of Quebec, Bishop Dosquet, was shipwrecked the night of 1–2 Sept. 1729 on the sandbank at Cap Brûlé, some ten leagues from Quebec. This mishap presented the chapter’s young dean with a splendid opportunity for making his first appearance in Quebec. The canons were insistent that their dean rather than the archdeacon, Eustache Chartier* de Lotbinière, should receive the new coadjutor. Consequently they sent a canoe to fetch Latour, and he, reaching Quebec on 2 September, some hours earlier than Bishop Dosquet, was able to welcome him officially, thus depriving Chartier de Lotbinière of another chance to assert his authority.
Some days later the Conseil Supérieur admitted its new ecclesiastical councillor into its ranks. He astonished the whole assembly when he refused the president’s invitation to take a seat at the end of the council table, the other councillors being senior to him. The young doctor of laws protested that this was not his place and that “in conformity with his letters of appointment he should be seated right after the senior councillor.” The affair was brought to the king’s attention, and Latour won out. This firmness and, equally, this legalistic attitude, marked his stay in Quebec and roused vigorous opposition. Made Bishop Dosquet’s vicar general before the end of 1729, he was appointed superior of the religious communities of women on 7 March 1730 and carried out his duties in a dictatorial manner, which brought protests from the nuns [see Marie-Thérèse Langlois*, dite de Saint-Jean-Baptiste]. He provoked a quarrel within the chapter by demanding an increase in his prebend which most of his confrères refused him. This situation deteriorated to the point that in October 1730 the canons appealed to the Conseil Supérieur, which decided against Latour. On leaving the sitting he was booed by his confrères in the chapter.
On 29 Oct. 1731 Latour sailed for La Rochelle, with instructions from the Quebec chapter to audit the accounts of Pierre Hazeur de L’Orme, whose administration of the Abbaye de Saint-Pierre de Maubec (Méobecq, dept of Indre), a benefice belonging to the chapter, satisfied neither the dean nor the canons. Latour was never to return to Canada, although on 3 Oct. 1733 the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères appointed him parish priest for the cathedral parish of Quebec. He resigned from this office on 8 May the following year, but kept his title of dean of the chapter until 1738, refusing however to accept the income from it.
In France Bertrand de Latour became a prolific preacher, with a pronounced taste for polemics. He took part in various theological and canonical quarrels which shook the church of France, including the one stirred up by the bull Unigenitus [see Dominique-Marie Varlet*], and he became the ardent defender of Roman orthodoxy against Gallicanism. In 1736 he was a canon of the cathedral of Tours, vicar general, and official, as well as superior of the religious communities of women in the city. In 1740 he was parish priest of Saint-Jacques in Montauban, and in December of that year he became a member of the town’s Académie des Belles-Lettres.
From 1739 to 1779 Latour published an imposing number of sermons, panegyrics, treatises on dogma, and liturgical, canonical, and other papers. When he left Canada he had taken with him a manuscript copy of the annals of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec written by Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau* de La Ferté, dite de Saint-Ignace. He published this text in Montauban in 1752 under the title Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. In 1761 he became the first historian to take Bishop Laval* for his subject, publishing in Cologne the Mémoires sur la vie de M. de Laval, premier évêque de Québec; he had written the text during his stay in Canada, where he had been able to consult documents at first hand and question people who had known the bishop. Vigorously opposed to the theatre, from 1763 to 1778 he published in Avignon 20 volumes of Réflexions morales, politiques, historiques et littéraires sur le théâtre.
Bertrand de Latour was a man out of the ordinary. Nature and education had endowed him with qualities that could have secured an equally brilliant career for him in a variety of fields. A priest by vocation, a jurist by family tradition, intelligent and hard-working, he was consumed with enthusiasm for the defence of what was right and just. Everywhere he went he aroused interest, sometimes admiration, and often opposition. He had not maintained much contact with Canada, but at his death he bequeathed an endowment of 225 livres on the diocese of Toulouse “in favour of the three [women’s religious] communities in Quebec and the fund for [their] poor.”
[The Œuvres complètes de La Tour, doyen du chapitre de la cathédrale de Montauban, réunies pour la première fois en une seule collection . . . , J.-P. Migne, édit (7v., Paris, 1855) contains, among other items, sermons, addresses, memoirs, and devout works the author had published during his lifetime, as well as his Mémoires sur la vie de M. de Laval, premier évêque de Québec (Cologne, République fédérale d’Allemagne, 1761) and his Réflexions morales, politiques, historiques et littéraires sur le théâtre (20v., Avignon, France, 1763–78). j.b.]
AAQ, 10 B, ff.70v–71, 77v–79, 83, 84; 11 B, V, 55, 10–13; VI, 27. AD, Tarn-et-Garonne (Montauban), G, 238. AN, Col., B, 53, f.573v; C11A, 51, f.186. ANQ-Q, NF 11, 39, f.188v; 40, ff.7v, 68v; NF 12, 6, f.130v. Archives de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Registre des entrées, 1713–40, p.14. Archives municipales de Toulouse (dép. de la Haute-Garonne, France), GG 278, f.74. ASQ, mss, 12, f.2; 208; Paroisse de Québec, 5. Bibliothèque municipale de Montauban (dép. de Tarn-et-Garonne, France), mss 5. [J.-F. Juchereau de La Ferté, dite de Saint-Ignace, et M.-A. Regnard Duplessis, dite de Sainte-Hélène], Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, Bertrand de Latour, édit. (Montauban, ). Jules Villain, La France moderne; grand dictionnaire généalogique, historique et biographique (4v., Montpellier, France, 1906–13), II, 1029–30. Jules Bélanger, “Bertrand De Latour et la querelle du théâtre au dix-huitième siècle” (thèse de d. ès l., université de Rennes, France, 1969). P.-J.-O. Chauveau, Bertrand de La Tour (Lévis, Qué., 1898). Émerand Forestié, La Société littéraire et l’ancienne Académie de Montauban; histoire de ces sociétés et biographie de tous les académiciens (2e éd., Montauban, 1888), 209–10. H.-A. Scott, “Louis Bertrand de la Tour & son œuvre,” RSC Trans., 3 rd ser., XXII (1928), sect.i, 113–40.