MALHERBE, FRANÇOIS, schoolteacher, merchant, and office holder; b. 21 March 1768 at Quebec, son (the second christened François) of François Malherbe, dit Champagne, a seaman, and Marie-Anne Margane de Lavaltrie; d. there 17 May 1832.
François Malherbe studied at the Petit Séminaire de Quebec from 1781 to 1787. Tradition has it that he was a Recollet for a time, but there is no documentary evidence to support this claim. Some writers have suggested that he married Marie-Louise Thomas, dit Bigaouet, on 27 Oct. 1793, but in fact another man of the same name did, as the parents’ names, and also François’s 1801 marriage certificate, prove.
It is not known why Malherbe went to the south shore of the St Lawrence, but in any case he was teaching school at Saint-André, near Kamouraska, in 1799 and applied there for a licence to sell alcoholic beverages. Although no official explanation has been found, it appears that his plan was thwarted by the veto of the parish priest, whom the British authorities usually consulted in such matters.
On 13 Oct. 1801 Malherbe married Marie Chennequy, daughter of seaman Martin Chenneque and sister of merchant Martin Chinic*. In the marriage contract signed on 12 October before Quebec notary Michel Berthelot, Malherbe declared that he resided at Saint-Jean-Port-Joli and was a merchant. But at the end of that year or in 1802 he moved again. Taking up residence at Rivière-Ouelle, he became the first teacher in a school opened under the legislation establishing the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning [see Joseph Langley Mills]. Although the Catholic clergy generally considered the new school system a threat, the local parish priest, Bernard-Claude Panet, seems to have regarded Malherbe favourably, for according to the Gazette de Quebec of 5 Aug. 1802 he employed “his enthusiasm, indeed his savings, to support a schoolmaster.” The paper also noted that the schoolboys of Rivière-Ouelle, “under the direction of their worthy pastor, and aided by their schoolteacher,” had given a warm welcome to the lieutenant governor of Lower Canada, Sir Robert Shore Milnes*, when he came to carry out the first general militia inspection. On that occasion Malherbe and nine pupils presented Milnes with an address, later termed extravagant by Louis-Philippe Audet and Pierre-Georges Roy*. The gesture, in which the other schoolboys joined, attracted attention, and the Gazette de Québec carried the full text of the address. The following year Malherbe turned his post over to John Johnston.
In March 1805 Malherbe was at Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon and Lévis), teaching 15 children. Because of the dearth of teachers there, the inhabitants were so happy to have him that they proposed moving him into the part of the presbytery reserved for the public and called the “salle des habitants.” In addition he was to be provided with heating, and increased enrolment would bring him more income. The parish priest, Michel Masse, would not hear of it, being unprepared to welcome “a certain Sieur Malherbe and his family, with three turbulent and squalling children.” Consequently Malherbe was forced to turn again to the Royal Institution.
Malherbe began teaching in the royal school at Pointe-Lévy in the spring of 1805, and on 1 July he was officially recognized by the government. At that time his salary was £60 a year. The journals of the House of Assembly show that he retained his post until 1820, when he was dismissed by the board of the Royal Institution for reasons unknown. In his final year he taught reading, writing, and arithmetic in French to 31 pupils, 14 of whom received free tuition. He was then receiving an annual salary of £54. Towards the end of his life, in 1829, he returned briefly to teaching at Pointe-Lévy. However, at the time of his death at Quebec in 1832 he was a bailiff. He was buried in the Cimetière des Picotés on 21 May.
François Malherbe had a puzzling life, full of ups and downs, interrupted by moves and by difficulties with clergy which were certainly not unrelated to his having turned to the Royal Institution. The vicissitudes he experienced, however, give a glimpse of life for a lay teacher at the outset of the 19th century in Lower Canada, at a time when the Catholic Church was preparing to tighten its hold on education, fearing to leave it in the hands of the secular and Protestant state.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 10 janv. 1765, 21 mars 1768, 13 oct. 1801, 21 mai 1832; CN1-26, 12 oct. 1801. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1807: 262; 1820-21, app.K. Gazette de Québec, 5 août 1802. Ivanhoë Caron, “Les maîtres d’écoles de l’Institution royale de 1808 à 1834,” BRH, 47 (1941): 28. Quebec almanac, 1815: 124; 1820: 133. L.-P. Audet, Le système scolaire, 3: 136, 140, 149, 157; 4: 120, 127, 192-95, 217. P.-H. Hudon, Rivière-Ouelle de la Bouteillerie; 3 siècles de vie (Ottawa, 1972), 191. J.-E. Roy, Hist. de Lauzon, 3: 350–54; 4: 123. P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du Régime anglais, 1: 124, 259–63. F.-J. Audet, “Les maîtres d’écoles de l’Institution royale,” BRH, 28 (1922): 284. Desbras [—], “Francis Malherbe,” BRH, 29 (1923): 57–58. “Le maître d’école François Malherbe,” BRH, 44 (1938): 93–94. “Le maître d’école Malherbe,” BRH, 51 (1945): 206–7. L.-J. Pelletier, “Quelques maîtres d’école de la rive sud,” BRH, 49 (1943): 236. “Un triomphe de François Malherbe,” BRH, 51: 207–8.