VASSAL DE MONVIEL (Monteil, Montviel), FRANÇOIS (François-Xavier), militia and army officer, office holder, jp, and landowner; b. 4 Nov. 1759 in Boucherville (Que.), son of François-Germain Vassal de Monviel and Charlotte Boucher de La Perrière; m. there 18 Jan. 1796 Louise Perrault, daughter of the late Quebec merchant Jacques Perrault*, known as Perrault l’ainé, and they had at least one daughter, Charlotte, who married Louis-Aubert Thomas at Quebec on 4 Sept. 1821; d. 25 Oct. 1843 at Quebec.
François Vassal de Monviel’s father, a career soldier, had come to the colony with the French regulars during the Seven Years’ War and he died following the battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760. His widow established a new home for their son François when in November 1765 she married Pierre-René Boucher de La Bruère, the future seigneur of Montarville, who belonged, as she did, to the Canadian nobility. In this social milieu, military pursuits were always encouraged. Boucher de La Bruère, who had been a soldier himself, must have approved when François participated in the British campaign against the rebelling Americans. For the young man this was the start of an active career in the militia and army.
Vassal de Monviel was just 17 when he joined the ranks of the Canadian auxiliary companies in 1776. The following year he took part as an ensign in the siege of Fort Stanwix (Rome, N.Y.). On active service until 1783, he travelled to France after the war to settle some family affairs. In 1787 his rank as a provincial ensign and his entitlement to half pay were recognized. He was granted 500 arpents of land near the seigneury of Beauharnois for his services. Some Canadians would have the good fortune to receive the backing of the colonial authorities in their requests for officer rank in the regular army. Vassal de Monviel was probably amongst them, since in 1796 he was said to be a lieutenant in the 7th Foot (Royal Fusiliers), a regiment on garrison duty in British North America from 1791 to 1802.
Vassal de Monviel was commissioned captain in the Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment in 1797 and continued to serve in it until it was disbanded in 1802. In December 1807, while Sir James Henry Craig* was governor, he was appointed deputy adjutant general of the Lower Canadian militia. He reached the highest post in the militia, that of adjutant general, as successor to the ageing François Baby*, on 9 Oct. 1811. Made at a time when the United States was threatening the colony, this appointment was a recognition of Vassal de Monviel’s extensive military experience. On occasion during the War of 1812 he was even called upon to carry out tasks generally entrusted to the adjutant general of the British forces in North America.
Among the militia officers Vassal de Monviel was certainly one of those most concerned with efficiency and most competent. In 1813 he presented a plan for a mass mobilization of the sedentary militia in the event of a large-scale American invasion. He put forward tactical considerations, in particular that Canadians should be used for guerrilla warfare, as well as practical suggestions, for example, that three brigades should be formed, each consisting of 5,088 men of the sedentary militia drawn from the various parts of the province. In October 11,295 militiamen from the Montreal region were conscripted as a result of a decision partly inspired by this plan. Vassal de Monviel also wanted officers’ posts in the sedentary militia to be acquired by purchase; he thought such a measure would prevent them from being a haven for men eager to avoid active service.
After the War of 1812 Vassal de Monviel retained the office of adjutant general, and he held it until 1841, earning from £320 to £500 a year or sometimes even more. For his services during the conflict he also received 1,200 acres in Frampton Township, and in 1828 he obtained a further 1,200.
Apart from his military career Vassal de Monviel’s public life was neither full nor exciting. In 1810 he tried unsuccessfully to win a seat in the Lower Canadian House of Assembly. He was transport commissioner for the district of Quebec, but only for a short period, from November 1812 to April 1813. He did, however, receive commissions as justice of the peace from 1813 to 1828, and in 1815 he was appointed commissioner to examine claims to compensation under the Militia Men Indemnification Act for injuries suffered in the War of 1812. From 1816 to 1830 he served as a commissioner for building churches and presbyteries. Furthermore, his popularity was such that he had the support of Quebec citizens when a subscription was organized to aid him after his house burned down in December 1824.
Vassal de Monviel seems to have done his work as adjutant general conscientiously; his personal testimony in December 1829 before the assembly committee examining the effects of re-imposing a 1787 ordinance on the organization of the militia caused no stir, despite the Patriote party’s open opposition to the measure. At the beginning of that year, however, he had provoked the wrath of the administrator Sir James Kempt*. Without submitting them to Kempt in advance, the adjutant general had printed and circulated the militia rolls, which were headed by the unfortunate list of the numerous dismissals ordered by Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay].
Vassal de Monviel’s extensive correspondence, undertaken in the course of his duties, leaves scant room for interpretation, since he revealed nothing of himself in it and simply performed with diligence his duty to transmit his superiors’ orders. A man “of irreproachable character,” in the opinion of La Minerve, he was able to carry out a delicate and important task, and at the same time to retain the confidence of both the authorities and his fellow citizens.
ANQ-Q, P1000-102-2057. ASQ, Fonds Viger–Verreau, sér.O, 0144: 207–9. Bibliothèque nationale du Québec (Montréal), RES, AB, 43. PAC, MG 24, G5; RG 9, I, A1, 69: 18–19; 72: 104–6; A3, 3, 5; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1816–41; Report of the special committee, to whom was referred that part of his excellency’s speech which referred to the organization of the militia (Quebec, 1829). “Nos miliciens de 1813,” BRH, 2 (1896): 168. L.-J. Papineau, “Correspondance” (Ouellet), ANQ Rapport, 1953–55: 267–68, 352. Recensement de Quebec, 1818 (Provost), 259. La Minerve, 2 nov. 1843. Quebec Gazette, 8 March 1810. Caron, “Inv. des docs. relatifs aux événements de 1837 et 1838,” ANQ Rapport, 1925–26: 307, 310. Historical record of the Seventh Regiment or the Royal Fusiliers . . . , comp. Richard Cannon (London, 1847), 34–36. H. J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians, 92–93. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 100. Ouellet, “Inv. de la saberdache,” ANQ Rapport, 1955–57: 115, 120, 123–24, 126, 128–30, 140, 143, 149–50, 153. Quebec almanac, 1795–1804. Michelle Guitard, Histoire sociale des miliciens de la bataille de la Châteauguay (Ottawa, 1983), 21. Roch Legault, “Les aléas d’une carrière militaire pour les membres de la petite noblesse seigneuriale canadienne, de la Révolution américaine à la guerre de 1812” (thèse de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1986). Luc Lépine, “La participation des Canadiens français à la guerre de 1812” (thèse de ma, univ. de Montréal, 1986). Sulte, Hist. de la milice, 19. Montarville Boucher de La Bruère, “Le `Livre de raison’ des seigneurs de Montarville,” Cahiers des Dix, 4 (1939): 243–70. Philéas Gagnon, “Le Club des douze apôtres,” BRH, 4 (1898): 90. P.-G. Roy, “Les officiers de Montcalm mariés au Canada,” BRH, 50 (1944): 277–78. Régis Roy, “Vassal de Monviel,” BRH, 23 (1917): 20. “Le `Royal Canadien’ ou ‘Royal Canadian Volunteers,’” BRH, 7 (1901): 372. Benjamin Sulte, “Vassal de Monviel,” BRH, 15 (1909): 317.