LACROIX, HUBERT-JOSEPH (by 1802 he was known as Joseph-Hubert), merchant, jp, militia officer, politician, and seigneur; b. 5 May 1743 at Quebec, son of Hubert-Joseph de Lacroix* and Anne-Madeleine Dontaille; d. 15 July 1821 in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Laval), Lower Canada.
Hubert-Joseph Lacroix grew up in the family home in Lower Town Quebec, surrounded by merchants’ establishments and navigators’ homes. Lacroix’s father, formerly a surgeon and botanist, had been a merchant for some time before his death in 1760. Young Hubert-Joseph was in business himself on Rue Saint-Jean in 1765 when, on 15 April, he married Françoise-Pélagie, daughter of another merchant in the city, François-Philippe Poncy. Lacroix did not lack money: as a wedding present his mother gave him an advance of 3,000 livres on his inheritance (one third of which went into the community of property with Françoise-Pélagie) while Lacroix himself gave his wife a dower of 3,000 livres. His brothers Paul and Hubert were also merchants, the latter in the Vaudreuil area.
Lacroix may have participated as a militiaman in the defence of Quebec during the American invasion of the colony in 1775–76 [see Benedict Arnold*; Richard Montgomery*]. By 1776 he was established at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. He engaged in the fur trade and in 1785 sent a modest expedition, valued at nearly £2,800, to Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.) with Gabriel Cotté* standing security. In 1786, 1787, and 1788 he received trade passes for goods valued at £450, £1,000, and £500 with, as securities, himself, his brother Paul, François Le Guay, and Pierre-Joseph Gamelin*. In 1786 he stood security for an expedition by Gamelin valued at £1,500.
By the late 1780s Lacroix was forging a certain social standing for himself. In 1787, as an officer of militia, he was involved in what he called “an affair . . . very important for the support of government authority”: a dispute with Joseph Papineau*, who accused him of abuse of power in the enrolment of militiamen and whom Lacroix denounced as “the serpent in the fable” for Papineau’s supposed ingratitude to government. Lacroix was made a justice of the peace in the district of Montreal in August 1791, and his commission was renewed several times. By 1795 he was a major in the Vaudreuil battalion of militia. In the 1780s he had opposed the movement in favour of constitutional reform, including the establishment of an elected house [see George Allsopp*], but he had accepted the assembly accorded by the Constitutional Act of 1791, and from 1792 to 1796 he sat for Effingham County. Early in 1793, along with most Canadian members, he voted for Jean-Antoine Panet* as speaker of the house, and voted six times out of seven with the Canadian party in the first two sessions. He missed the third and fourth sessions entirely. In 1796 he was elected for York County, and the following year he again supported Panet as speaker. He was even less assiduous than in the first parliament, however, voting only four times – always with the Canadian party – before dissolution of the legislature in 1800. Chronic absenteeism on the part of representatives from outside the town of Quebec was a serious obstacle to the efficient functioning of the early assembly; members were unpaid and had in addition to foot all their living expenses in the capital while their personal business back home went largely neglected.
Lacroix’s social position was confirmed in 1802 by the marriage of his son Janvier-Domptail* with a niece of judge Louis-Charles Foucher in Notre-Dame church, Montreal, before several leading figures of the time, including judge Pierre-Louis Panet*. Both magistrates were adversaries of the Canadian party, and Lacroix’s ties with its opponents were reinforced in 1806 when he became a seigneur. By the will of Marie-Anne-Thérèse Céloron de Blainville, widow of Jacques-Marie Nolan Lamarque, Lacroix inherited the seigneury of Blainville, formerly part of the seigneury of Mille-Îles. He had probably already been managing Blainville, since in 1804, at the request of Pierre Denaut*, bishop of Quebec, he had had a road built to link the third range of the seigneury to the church of Sainte-Thérèse in the first range. He had persisted with it despite strong opposition from the very habitants whose Sunday trip to mass was made easier; they had been more concerned about the corvées and taxes it would cost them.
Lacroix’s acquisition was a valuable one and, although remaining in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, he exploited it fully. By 1815 Surveyor General Joseph Bouchette* had described the soil of Blainville as “for the most part good, rich, and productive” of all sorts of grains and of stands of beech, ash, maple, and oak. The seigneury was well watered by the Rivière Mascouche and its tributaries, which powered saw and grist-mills. “By much the largest proportion of Blainville is conceded in lots of the usual extent,” Bouchette had noted. “The greatest number of these are settled, and appear to be under a very beneficial system of management.” In themselves the two major locations of settlement, the banks of the Mascouche and Saint-Jean (Mille Îles) rivers, formed “a valuable and highly improved property.” Personal misfortune had, however, struck Lacroix in 1808, two years after he inherited the seigneury, when Françoise-Pélagie, with whom he had had five girls and four boys, died. On 9 Sept. 1811 the seigneur of Blainville married his sister-in-law, Louise Launière, in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. His income was apparently modest at this time since by the marriage contract, which stipulated that there would be no community of property, he could promise his wife an annual pension of only £50 if she survived him.
For his military service in 1775–76 Lacroix had received a grant of land in 1802. The following year he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in the Île-Jésus battalion of militia, and four years later he was made colonel. In 1810 he denounced six of his officers for their attitude towards the government in the crisis that opposed Governor Sir James Henry Craig* and the newspaper Le Canadien. On 4 June 1812, on the eve of the war with the United States, when he was in his 70th year, he was made colonel commandant of the new Île-Jésus division, composed of the Île-Jésus battalion and two newly created ones, Terrebonne and Blainville. That month as well he received commissions for the trial of small causes and for the administration of oaths of allegiance at Saint-Vincent de-Paul. He died there on 15 July 1821, “colonel of militia, seigneur of Blainville, good father, good husband, and useful citizen,” according to the Quebec Gazette, and was buried in the parish church. The service was attended by at least five parish priests, as well as Roderick McKenzie* and Jean-Baptiste-Toussaint Pothier* among others.
As a seigneur and an honoured and respected member of the local élite, Lacroix, like Pierre Guerout and Jean-Baptiste Raymond, had realized the social aspiration of a numerous group of small merchants, Canadian and British, of his time. It was an aspiration they shared with more prominent colleagues, such as François Baby*, Joseph Drapeau*, Thomas Dunn*, and William Grant* of Quebec; only the scale differed.
ANQ-M, CE1-59, 1er févr. 1778. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 5 mai 1743, 15 avril 1765; CN1-248, 13 avril 1765. PAC, RG 4, B28, 115; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. “Le recensement de Québec, en 1744,” ANQ Rapport, 1939–40: 134. Quebec Gazette, 13 Nov. 1788; 22 Jan. 1789; 20 Dec. 1792; 26 Jan. 1797; 20 May 1813; 14 Aug. 1817; 28 Sept., 14 Dec. 1820; 23 July 1821. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” F.-J. Audet et Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier parl. du Bas-Canada, 291–98. Bouchette, Topographical description of L.C., 106–7. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 177. Quebec almanac, 1791–1821. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, 3: 276. Cahiers historiques: histoire de Sainte-Thérèse (Joliette, Qué., 1940), 71–74. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 371–72,375. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Notes d’identité; le capitaine Pierre Matte (1774–1831),” BRH, 57 (1951): 166–67.
Agriculture, Agriculture -- Seigneurs, Armed Forces, Armed Forces -- British, Business, Business -- Commerce, Legal Professions, Legal Professions -- Justices of the peace, Politicians, Politicians -- Colonial and territorial