MASSUE, LOUIS-JOSEPH (known as Louis), businessman, politician, and public servant; b. 4 April 1786 at Varennes, Quebec, son of Gaspard Massue, co-seigneur of Varennes, and Josephte Huet Dulude; d. 4 July 1869 at Quebec.
Little is known about Massue’s career, as is the case with so many Canadian businessmen. We do know, however, that while young he amassed a fortune in the import trade and the sale of dry goods and by 1818 had become one of the “richest” merchants in Quebec. In that year he was elected to the first board of governors of the Quebec Bank, and he held various positions of this kind over the years. He was a founder of the Quebec Fire Insurance Company, and successively treasurer and president of the Canadian Fire Insurance Company. He also served as vice-president of the Quebec Provident and Savings Bank.
After becoming rich in his business, Massue gave up the undertaking that had made his fortune. In 1840 he was said to have “retired from business.” His wealth in real estate at that time was impressive; in 1838 Massue held 40,000 acres, which made him the sixth largest owner of non-seigneurial land in Lower Canada. He also bought more than 3,600 acres in 1842 and 1843. Among these lands were properties in the townships of Blandford, Clarendon, Litchfield, and Bulstrode. Although changing the direction of his affairs, Massue maintained contact with the financial world. Thus in 1849 he was one of the trustees of the Quebec Provident and Savings Bank, and during the next two years was associated with the groups involved in railway projects.
In addition, Massue concerned himself with politics. Although he opposed the rebellion of 1837, he was against the union of the Canadas. In 1840, yielding to the urgent requests of several Quebec citizens, he agreed to be a candidate in the elections of the following year to choose the first parliament of united Canada. He suffered honourable defeat in the city of Quebec, owing to the limited number of Francophone electors and the massive support given by the army and public servants to his opponents Henry Black* and James Gibb, who backed the new constitutional régime. He was, however, elected alderman in 1841 and served until 1845. He was appointed legislative councillor in 1843, but had to relinquish this office in May 1851, in order to obtain the post of inspector of customs for the port of Quebec. At that time, any official holding a position which involved the handling of public funds was required to pay a deposit to guarantee the proper discharge of his duty. Massue had to put down £500 for this purpose, and his son-in-law Alexandre Lemoine and René-Édouard Caron* stood surety for £250 each.
For some years now, Louis-Joseph Massue had been in a disastrous financial position. The year 1849, with its serious difficulties, had brought him to bankruptcy, as it had many other businessmen. According to Ovide-Michel-Hengard Lapalice, the final blow for Massue had been the failure of merchant Pierre Boisseau. “The latter at that time owed considerable sums to the Quebec Bank, and Louis Massue, as one of the directors, shared liability.” Massue, ruined, had to stand a powerless onlooker before the seizure and sale by auction of his properties. “It is my son-in-law,” he wrote on 21 Sept. 1849, “who is supporting me at this moment, and until such time as I can obtain or procure some means of livelihood.” Unlike many merchants, Massue did not believe that the solution to the economic problems of the day was to be found in the annexation of Canada to the United States, a proposal he publicly opposed.
On 13 Jan. 1824, Louis-Joseph Massue had married at Quebec Elizabeth Anne Marett, daughter of businessman James Lamprière Marett and Henriette Boone; two daughters were born of this marriage. He was the brother-in-law of Elzéar Bédard*. When Massue died, his contemporaries were unanimous in praising his integrity and his devotion to his fellow citizens. He certainly deserved their gratitude, for he had contributed to the progress of a number of movements and institutions.
[There is no biography of Louis-Joseph Massue that is even minimally satisfactory; only O.-M.-H. Lapalice has provided new information on his life. This article is based mainly on documents in the PAC and on certain newspapers, especially Le Canadien. j.-p.g.]
PAC, MG 30, D62, 20, pp.455–59; RG 4, B28, 135, no. 1404; RG 9, I, A1, 9; A5, 5, 11. Le Canadien, 1er oct. 1840–12 avril 1841, 29 déc. 1848–12 mai 1851, 7 juill. 1869. Langelier, List of lands granted. Liste de la milice du Bas-Canada, pour 1829 (Québec, ). Liste de la milice du Bas-Canada, pour 1832 (Québec, ). O.-M.-H. Lapalice, Histoire de la seigneurie Massue et de la paroisse de Saint-Aimé (s.l., 1930).