SANGUINET, SIMON, merchant, notary, lawyer, and judge of the Court of Common Pleas; b. 11 Feb. 1733 at Varennes (Que.), eldest son of Simon Sanguinet and Angélique Lefebvre, dit Duchouquet; d. 16 March 1790 in Montreal.
Simon Sanguinet’s father, who had come from France, was royal notary at Varennes, near Montreal, from 1734 till 1748 and then settled with his family in Quebec, where he worked as a notary until 1771. What education Simon received is not known; we do know his brother Joseph attended the Séminaire de Québec, the only one of his family to do so. When Simon married Thérèse Réaume in Montreal on 15 Jan. 1759, he called himself a merchant; in April that year he was listed in a notarial act as “an employee in the king’s offices in this town.” He slowly learned business methods and became increasingly successful. At their marriage the couple each contributed 10,000 livres to their joint estate. The following year Simon bought a house on Rue Saint-Louis in Montreal from his father-in-law for 22,000 livres; he received 50,000 for it when he sold it in 1764. Simon Sanguinet also lent money, but he does not seem to have joined in the trade in furs that his brothers Christophe and Joseph carried on from 1763 to 1765.
In 1764 Sanguinet became a notary, and he soon acquired a substantial practice. Like a number of other notaries in the towns, he also became a lawyer, receiving his commission in July 1768. He soon had as many clients as a lawyer as he had as a notary. Sanguinet was secretary of the parish council of Notre-Dame in Montreal from 1765 and a member of a Masonic lodge from 1771; he led a busy life as a prominent member of Montreal society. The American invasion in 1775–76 was to give him the opportunity to play an important role.
A fervent royalist, Sanguinet took an active political part in the defence of Canada, using his time, his money, and his social contacts. He was one of eight Montrealers made responsible for preparing a census and military rosters, and it was on his advice that Governor Guy Carleton*, with whom he was on friendly terms, re-established the Canadian militia at the beginning of June 1775. After the Americans arrived in Montreal, the loyalism of Sanguinet and his family got them into difficulties. When Brigadier-General David Wooster decided early in January 1776 to arrest ten prominent Montrealers, Christophe, Joseph, and Simon Sanguinet were among those selected, although in the end none were arrested. In March Simon circulated a virulent letter to the “habitants of Canada,” an “ungrateful people” whom he called upon to chase out the American “brigands.” He also sought to inform Carleton of the situation in Montreal by sending messengers to Quebec, and one of these, his young brother-in-law Charles Réaume, was taken prisoner. In mid May he went there himself with his sister-in-law Angélique Réaume, whose husband, John Welles, meanwhile fled with the Americans, who were evacuating Montreal.
Sanguinet left a complete and detailed account of these stirring years entitled “Le témoin oculaire de la guerre des Bastonnois en Canada dans les années 1775 et 1776.” The journal mainly covers the period from February 1775 to 20 June 1776, the day Carleton returned to Montreal; the three longest descriptions are of the siege of Fort Saint-Jean on the Richelieu, the occupation of Montreal, and the siege of Quebec. Sanguinet sought to present facts objectively – “I am impartial, I do not want to conceal anything” – and he comments upon them throughout his account, never failing to express his personal opinion and sparing no one: not the Americans, whose hypocrisy he denounces, or the colonial administration (he stigmatizes Carleton’s wait-and-see policy and his failure to do anything about the exactions by British troops in the province), or the British merchants, or his compatriots (he accuses the population of ignorance and reproaches much of the élite for its pursuit of honours). The war, described vividly, comes out in his pages as not very bloody. Fighting went on, but with little ardour, and Sanguinet wonders if Carleton had not indeed been ordered by London to do nothing that might be considered irreparable in the hope there might yet be a reconciliation with the rebellious colonies.
Sanguinet took up his professional activities again as soon as the Americans had left Montreal and he continued his land transactions, capped in November 1782 by the acquisition of the seigneury of La Salle. Like his brother Christophe, who had become one of the seigneurs of Varennes in 1776, Sanguinet henceforth bore the title of seigneur. But his transactions were not always appreciated. In June 1779 the Gazette littéraire, pour la ville & district de Montréal, a publication of Fleury Mesplet and Valentin Jautard that had already attacked Sanguinet, described him as a contemptible man who, among other dishonest acts, had “seized an inheritance”; it did not, however, attempt to prove its accusations.
On 30 April 1785 an ordinance which forbade the simultaneous practice of the professions of lawyer and notary forced Sanguinet to make a choice. At the appointed time the following year, he decided to remain a lawyer, and he signed his final notarial act, number 2,472, on 16 July 1786. His register, written in a clear and careful hand, has been preserved intact.
Sanguinet’s last years were probably painful. His wife died in March 1787 at 45 years of age. His own health deteriorated rapidly, and at the time of his marriage to Jeanne Hervieux, on 1 Oct. 1788 at Montreal, his trembling signature shows that he was ill. He resigned as secretary of the parish council of Notre-Dame that year. Moreover, his brothers Christophe and Joseph were having difficulty in dealing with serious financial problems.
On 24 Dec. 1788 Sanguinet was appointed a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in the District of Montreal, perhaps in recognition of past services. One of his first tasks was to participate in the inquiry under Chief Justice William Smith into the workings of the court itself. This occupation kept him away from the bench, and he sat only occasionally until his death.
On 14 March 1790 Simon Sanguinet, who had no children, dictated his will to notary Louis Chaboillez*, and two days later, at the age of 57, he died. The newspapers gave him obituaries worthy of a benefactor of mankind, reporting that his will provided a legacy estimated at £11,000 for the creation of a university; this legacy included his house in Montreal and the seigneury of La Salle, a significant part of a fortune of more than £15,000. Hopes were kindled in the province. On 31 October a petition bearing the signatures of 175 Canadiens and British people, including those of Charles-François Bailly de Messein and David-François de Montmollin*, asked Carleton (now Lord Dorchester) that Sanguinet’s will be carried out. In a letter about education, Dorchester told the secretary of state for the Home Department, Lord Grenville, that he too favoured the project. But a long and costly lawsuit to have the will revoked had begun in August. Throughout the proceedings the heirs, with Christophe Sanguinet in the forefront, took their stand on a report prepared by lawyer Joseph-François Perrault* emphasizing Simon’s enfeebled and troubled state of mind in his last days, the incoherence of certain provisions of the will, and a claim that certain words had been stricken out after the signatures were appended. Judgement for the plaintiffs was delivered in November 1792.
It must not be thought, however, that the failure of this plan to establish a university was due to the revoking of Simon Sanguinet’s will. The aftermath of the inquiry into education instituted in 1787, and Bishop Hubert’s opposition, were of greater significance than the decision in favour of Sanguinet’s heirs. But the fact remains that nearly a quarter of a century before James McGill*, a prominent Canadien bequeathed part of his fortune for the creation of a university in the province of Quebec.
[“Le témoin oculaire de la guerre des Bastonnois en Canada dans les années 1775 et 1776” was published by Abbé Hospice-Anthelme-Jean-Baptiste Verreau* as “Témoin oculaire de l’invasion du Canada par les Bastonnois: journal de M. Sanguinet” in Invasion du Canada. The validity of Sanguinet’s will was discussed by Ægidius Fauteux* in “Le testament Sanguinet,” La Patrie (Montréal), 10 May 1936, 44–45, a response to the argument developed by Joseph-François Perrault in Mémoire en cassation du testament de Mr. Simon Sanguinet, écuyer, seigneur de la Salle, &c., précédé du testament, published in Montreal by Fleury Mesplet early in 1791. In the same year as Fauteux, Francis-Joseph Audet* published “Simon Sanguinet et le projet d’université de 1790,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXX (1936), sect.i, 53–70. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, and Tanguay, Dictionnaire, are wrong in stating that Sanguinet’s grandfather came to Canada. Sanguinet’s register, 1764–86, is held at ANQ-M. y-j.t.]
ANQ-M, Doc. jud., Contrats de shérif, 1767–99, 10 sept. 1700, 31 déc. 1772, 11 mai 1773, 18 nov. 1782; Cour des plaidoyers communs, Registres, 14 août 1790, nov. 1792; État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 15 janv. 1759, 1761, 1762, 10 mars 1787, 18 mars 1790; Sainte-Anne (Varennes), 16 mars 1733; Greffe de Louis Chaboillez, 22 oct. 1788, 3, 14 mars 1790; Greffe de L.-C. Danré de Blanzy, 14 janv. 1759, 15 sept. 1760; Greffe de J.-G. Delisle, 17 mars 1790; Greffe d’Antoine Foucher, 1er oct. 1788; Greffe de J.-P. Gauthier, 17 juin 1790, 12 mars 1792; Greffe de P.-F. Mézière, 7 sept. 1764; Greffe de Pierre Panet, 16 avril 1759; Greffe de Joseph Papineau, 23 mars, 12 avril 1790; Greffe de Simon Sanguinet, père, 1734–47; Greffe de François Simonnet, 10 sept. 1764; Insinuations, Registres des insinuations, 23 mars 1790. ANQ-Q, Greffe de Simon Sanguinet, père, 1748–71. Gazette littéraire, pour la ville & district de Montréal, 2 juin 1779. Montreal Gazette, 25 March 1790. Quebec Gazette, 25 March 1790. L.-P. Audet, Le système scolaire de la province de Québec (6v. parus, Québec, 1950– ), II. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Notes sur Simon Sanguinet,” BRH, XXXIX (1933), 83; “Les premiers notaires de Montréal sous le Régime anglais, 1760–1800,” La Revue de notariat (Québec), 45 (1942–43), 293–321; “Les Sanguinet de LaSalle,” SGCF Mémoires, II (1946–47), 24–49.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Montréal, CE601-S10, 11 févr. 1733; CE601-S51, 15 janv. 1759, 1er oct. 1788, 18 mars 1790; CE601-S63, 15 mars 1770; Centre d’arch. de Québec, CC301, S1, D9956.