RUETTE D’AUTEUIL DE MONCEAUX, FRANÇOIS-MADELEINE-FORTUNÉ (he sometimes signed Monceaux, and his contemporaries often used this name), attorney general to the Conseil Souverain of Quebec from 1680 to 1707; son of Denis-Joseph Ruette* d’Auteuil and Claire-Françoise Clément Du Vuault; born at sea, probably at the end of 1657, baptized in Paris 17 Jan. 1658; d. at Quebec 10 July 1737.
In 1661 his father and his maternal grandmother, Mme Jean Bourdon, went to France and brought him back with them to Quebec. Around 1673 he returned to Paris to carry on his studies there. In March 1678 he obtained his degree in law, and the following month he was called to the bar of the parlement of Paris. Having returned to Quebec that same year, he worked with his father the attorney general. The latter, a victim of the ill-will of Frontenac [Buade*], whose hostility was unrelenting, had been ill for several years and was in addition threatened with blindness. As early as 1676 Intendant Duchesneau*, worried by Denis-Joseph Ruette d’Auteuil’s state of health, had obtained letters of appointment from Colbert providing for a deputy, in case the attorney general should die. The name of this deputy was left blank, and Colbert had authorized Duchesneau to insert that of a nominee chosen by him. On 10 Nov. 1679, feeling that his end was approaching, Auteuil wrote to Colbert requesting him to appoint his son to succeed him. A few days later he passed away. The intendant recommended that the governor insert the name of Ruette d’Auteuil junior in the letters of appointment that he had held for two years. Frontenac would not hear of it. He pointed out, among other things, that the young Auteuil was a minor. Duchesneau retorted, in answer to the governor’s objections, that his candidate’s natural gifts, his brilliant studies in Paris, the diplomas that he had obtained there, and the experience he had acquired in working with his father, made him, despite his youth (he was not 22), the best qualified man in the colony to hold the office of attorney general. The matter was taken before the Conseil Souverain. It was decided that the intendant had the right to insert François-Madeleine-Fortuné d’Auteuil’s name in the letters of appointment obtained in 1677, but that this appointment should not be registered until the latter had received a waiver of the age limit from the king. Auteuil lost no time in writing to Versailles. In June 1680 the king appointed him attorney general by reversion from his father. It is clear that this appointment had been made in response to the latter’s petition and before the minister had learned of his death, for it was not accompanied by the waiver of the age limit that his son had requested. Nevertheless, the council registered the commission on 24 Oct. 1680, and the new attorney general took up his office the same day.
The subsequent year was marked by an unbroken series of disputes between the governor and the attorney general. François Ruette d’Auteuil was a proud and aggressive man, and was supported by the intendant and the council. Remembering not only Frontenac’s opposition to his appointment but also the affronts inflicted by Frontenac on his father, Auteuil lost no opportunity to thwart his plans, harry his favourites, and protect his victims. In November 1681 Frontenac, beside himself with rage, ordered him to proceed to France and to bring back (if he could) the waiver of the age limit that he had never received. In doing this the governor thought he would ruin his enemy and get rid of him once and for all. Never was a calculation more mistaken. Despite the complaints that Frontenac had lodged at the court, the young attorney general made an excellent impression there. Equipped with his famous waiver, he returned to Quebec in the autumn of 1682, at the time when Frontenac, who had received his recall to France, was preparing to leave Canada.
Under La Barre [Le Febvre*] and Denonville [Brisay] there was a period of calm. In 1683 Auteuil married Marie-Anne Juchereau de Saint-Denis, the daughter of one of the most important citizens in the colony and the widow of François Pollet* de La Combe-Pocatière, a captain in the Carignan regiment. From that time on the attorney general made the interests of his wife’s family his own.
In 1689 Frontenac returned to Canada. No dissension between him and his former enemy disturbed the first years of his administration. The attorney general, however, like his father, did not lose sight of the powers that had been conferred on the Conseil Souverain in 1663. He was firmly resolved to protect them from encroachments by the civil and even religious authorities.
In the autumn of 1692 he protested vigorously against a plan by Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix] that was already being carried out, namely the creation of the Hôpital Général, the administration of which was to be entrusted to nuns (the Religious Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec). This opposition was based on several considerations; the first of them directly concerned the Conseil Souverain’s prerogatives. In this connection Auteuil pointed out that Bishop Saint-Vallier’s plan conflicted with a decree of 1688, whereby the council had set up in each parish an office for the needy run by laymen. Furthermore, the attorney general did not fail to stress that by putting his hospital in the hands of nuns, the bishop was going against the royal ordinance that forbad the founding of new convents in Canada without the express permission of His Majesty. But the letters patent which Bishop Saint-Vallier had obtained at Versailles in March 1692 contained no “special declaration” to that effect. Although he was supported by Laval, Frontenac, and Champigny [Bochart], and although all the directors of the Bureau des Pauvres except Auteuil, had agreed to be on the board of administration of the Hôpital Général, Bishop Saint-Vallier thought it wiser not to make a frontal attack on his adversary, and to let time do its work.
In 1694 the Tartuffe affair put an end to the somewhat fragile peace which had prevailed for five years between Frontenac and Ruette d’Auteuil. The latter sided ostentatiously with Saint-Vallier. He had Mareuil*, whom Frontenac supported against the attacks of the bishop of Quebec, thrown into prison. Also in 1694, the attorney general took the governor to task over a tax which the latter wanted to levy on meat. The two adversaries did not fail to send their complaints to Versailles. Obviously struck by the arrogance with which Auteuil expressed himself, Pontchartrain enjoined him (in his letter of 8 June 1695) to apologize to Frontenac. This incident, however, in no way diminished the favour that the attorney general enjoyed at the court, or the preponderant influence that he exercised over the Conseil Souverain. In 1700 the king granted him a pension of 300 livres.
In October of the same year the members of the Compagnie de la Colonie named him as one of the directors of this undertaking, which had just been established. The attorney general’s prestige and activity increased steadily during the next three years. In 1703, under Callière (whom he had supported against Vaudreuil [Rigaud] in 1698) he was considered for the post of first councillor. This appointment would no doubt have taken place if he had not had the unfortunate idea of demanding that his son replace him as attorney general. Pontchartrain refused to agree to this arrangement, and René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière assumed the office of first councillor in 1703.
In fact, the year 1703 marked a decisive turning point in François Ruette d’Auteuil’s hitherto brilliant career. In May Callière died. On 1 August, Vaudreuil, who had no reason to be pleased with Auteuil’s behaviour towards him, became governor. Also in 1703, the king decided to raise the number of members of the council from 7 to 12. The effect of this change was to diminish the influence that the attorney general exerted there. Finally, still in 1703, the Compagnie de la Colonie, on which the government had founded great hopes and of which Ruette d’Auteuil was one of the directors, was in an alarmingly unsound position. Following an inquiry, the minister concluded that the directors of the company were largely responsible for the situation in which it found itself.
In 1705 Jacques Raudot and his son Antoine-Denis landed at Quebec. In accordance with the detailed orders which he had received from Versailles, the new intendant set about abolishing the company, starting with its board of directors.
Although he had been informed by the minister of the steps that Raudot had been ordered to take, the attorney general opposed them violently. He termed Raudot’s conduct arbitrary, and endeavoured to persuade the other directors to refuse to resign.
Infuriated by Auteuil’s arrogance, Raudot launched an inquiry into the way in which he exercised his judicial functions. He discovered that far from acting with integrity and impartiality, the attorney general was using the powers conferred upon him by his office to further his own affairs and those of his family, and that he was devoting more attention to his personal interests than to those of justice. A lawsuit which was in progress, and in which his sister-in-law, Charlotte-Françoise Juchereau, Dame de La Forest, was involved, was the last straw. Raudot drafted a long report, a “Réquisitoire” which he addressed to Pontchartrain. In it he declared that the attorney general, despite the obligations of his office, had personally backed up and guided Mme de La Forest in her differences with the council. In proof of this he mentioned the insertions and references in Auteuil’s handwriting that had been found in a writ suing the intendant, in which Madame de La Forest accused the latter of “falsifying” an entry in the council register.
Despite the increasingly virulent criticisms to which he was subjected during the years 1705 and 1706, Ruette d’Auteuil did not cease to oppose with his accustomed vigour what he called “the innovations” of several parish priests in the matter of the tithe.
On 20 Jan. 1706 he presented to the council his “Conclusions” on the “Remarks” which Boullard, the former parish priest of Beauport, and Dufournel*, the parish priest of Ange-Gardien, had submitted to that assembly a few weeks previously. In them both asserted the right of parish priests to increase not only the usual rate of the tithe but also the number of items of produce on which it was levied.
The attorney general’s “Conclusions” derived from juridical and humanitarian considerations. He stressed that the “innovations” of Boullard and Dufournel had been introduced without concern for the decrees of the Conseil Souverain and without taking into account the painful situation which the settlers often had to face.
In the autumn of 1706, foreseeing that his quarrels with Raudot might have serious consequences, Auteuil went to France in order to plead his cause before the minister, as he had done successfully a quarter of a century earlier. It was of no avail. On 7 June 1707 the king revoked his commission as attorney general. Overwhelmed by this disgrace, he settled in Paris with his wife. He spent his considerable leisure drafting Mémoires on Canada: “Mémoire sur l’état présent du Canada” (1712); others on “Les commerces de M. de Vaudreuil avec les sauvages” (1715), “La mauvaise administration de la justice au Canada” (1715), “Ce qui concerne le commerce des castors . . .” (1715), “La monnaie de cartes” (1715); an “addition au Mémoire fait en 1715 . . . sur l’état présent du Canada” (1719); and a “Mémoire secret à M. le Duc d’Orléans sur les limites de l’Acadie” (7 Jan. 1720).
As the title of the last memoir indicates, Ruette d’Auteuil’s attention was turning towards Acadia. Indeed, on 20 May 1719, he had obtained from the regent a warrant granting Îles Madame (eight leagues in area), and made out in his name and in that of his partners, Messrs Duforillon [Louis Aubert?] of Quebec and Jourdan, secretary to the king. The recipients of the grant undertook to establish “settlements and inshore fishing” at the entry to the Gulf of St Lawrence and in the gulf itself. This undertaking was doomed to total failure. When he arrived at Îles Madame, around 20 Aug. 1722, together with 66 settlers and fishermen, Auteuil was dumbfounded to learn that the English were established at Canso (Canseau), and that the place where he counted on installing his fisheries was barren of fish. On 15 Nov. 1723 he wrote to Cardinal Dubois that it would be better for the settlers to devote their energies to farming. As this suggestion was not followed up, the former attorney general returned to Quebec after an absence of 18 years. He died there 13 years later, 10 July 1737, at the age of 80.
An intelligent and perhaps brilliant man, Ruette d’Auteuil showed himself to be arrogant right from the beginning of his career, and became more and more so as it progressed. Undisciplined, as were a number of Canadians (although to a lesser extent) when it was a question of obeying the representatives of the government at Versailles, he stirred up strife among them, and skilfully and stubbornly supported the local authority, that of the Conscil Souverain, upon which he exerted great influence until 1703. He was grasping, strongly attached to his interests and those of his family, and he played a more than dubious role in the affairs of the Compagnie de la Colonie. Furthermore, the circumstances attending his failure on the Îles Madame show fairly clearly that the former attorney general was devoid of practical common sense.
[Except for two long articles which Ignotus [Thomas Chapais] published in La Presse (Montréal) on 8 and 12 Nov. 1902, and on which this study is based, no biography of F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil exists. There is, however, an abundance of original documents (manuscript and printed) referring to his career, as well as books which mention certain aspects of it. In these two cases only a brief list is given. m.l.]
AN, Col., B; C11A, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 30, 33, 36; F3. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39, 12–179. Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), I, II. Jug. et délib., III, IV. “Lettres et mémoires de F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil,” 1–114. PAC Report, 1885, 1887, 1899. Taillemite, Inventaire analytique, série B, I. Cahall, Sovereign Council of New France. J. Delalande Le Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France (Québec, 1927). Eccles, Canada under Louis XIV; Frontenac. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, II. Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général de Québec. P.-G. Roy, La famille Juchereau Duchesnay. H.-A. Scott, Une paroisse historique de la Nouvelle-France, Notre-Dame de Sainte-Foy: histoire civile et religieuse d’après les sources (Québec, 1902), 271 [this work contains important details on the Ruette d’Auteuil family and the Monceaux seigneury at Sillery]. Guy Frégault, “Politique et politiciens au début du XVIIIe siècle,” Écrits du Canada français (Montréal), XI (1961), 172ff.