REGNAUD, FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH-VICTOR, teacher, surveyor; b. 1799 in France; d. 28 Feb. 1872 at Montreal, Que.
Nothing is known of François-Joseph-Victor Regnaud’s childhood and adolescence. In a speech at the opening of the École Normale Jacques-Cartier at Montreal on 3 March 1857, he recalled that he had been appointed by the minister of Public Instruction in France to set up and direct, at Montbrison, one of the first normal schools for primary teachers. The subjects taught there were reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, the metric system, surveying, the history and geography of France, and geometrical drawing.
Regnaud’s success no doubt prompted the minister of Public Instruction, Francois Guizot, to recommend him to Abbé John Holmes*, who in 1836 was looking for a teacher for the normal school that Lower Canada wanted to establish at Montreal. After an interview with the candidate, Holmes concluded that he possessed “merit, capability, experience, an excellent character, unwavering virtue, and unshakeable principles of uprightness and religion.” He gave him an examination, and noted that he was not “sufficiently well grounded in mechanics, chemistry, natural history, agriculture and horticulture, civil law, and religious instruction.” François Regnaud arrived at Montreal on 15 June 1837, and was appointed head teacher of the new École Normale de Montreal for a period of five years at the annual salary of £245, plus accommodation.
The normal school opened its doors on 5 September, and after a fashion courses were given there for five years. The political events of the time did not unduly interfere with the school’s activities; it seems however that the moment was scarcely auspicious for the setting up of a normal school which would have some prospects of surviving, at least according to the formula of 1836 – a two-denominational school open to both Catholics and Protestants.
When the school was closed on 23 Feb. 1842, Regnaud became a government surveyor. In 1857 the new École Normale Jacques-Cartier entrusted him with giving a course in pedagogy and applied mathematics. However, he did not abandon surveying, since his reports show that he carried on this profession until 1870.
François Regnaud understood the cardinal importance of normal schools; he stated that these “institutions were the corner-stone, the foundation stone of primary teaching.” He gave his complete support to the Association des Instituteurs of the École Normale Jacques-Cartier, attended its conferences regularly, and presented reports on the best method of teaching history, the advantages of teachers’ associations, and the importance of using the same books in all normal schools.
Canada was for François Regnaud a second country, towards which he displayed affection and where he gave the best of himself. What judgement of him can be made? According to Auguste Gosselin*, Regnaud “was a skilful teacher, a distinguished man, especially in mathematics. He was also a perfect Christian. He lacked only one thing, apparently, the ability to keep discipline, the principles of which he had, moreover, himself established at the school.”
In France, François Regnaud had married Antoinette Gay, who died in Montreal at the age of 88. They had three children.
AJM, Registre d’état civil. Institut pédagogique national (Paris), Lucien Simiand, Monographie de l’école normale d’instituteurs de Montbrison. JIP, 1857, 63–64; 1858, 11; 1859, 25–26, 57–58, 70–73, 95–98, 135–38; 1860, 46; 1866, 128; 1867, 106; 1868. Audet, Le système scolaire de la province de Québec, VI, 115–80. P.-J.-O. Chauveau, L’instruction publique au Canada, précis historique et statistique (Québec, 1876), 71. Adélard Desrosiers, Les écoles normales primaires de la province de Québec et leurs œuvres complémentaires, 1857–1907 (Montréal, 1909). André Labarrère-Paulé, Les instituteurs laïques au Canada français, 1836–1900 (Québec, 1965), 49–117. Robert Rumilly, Henri Bourassa, la vie publique d’un grand Canadien (Montréal, 1953), 9–10. Auguste Gosselin, “L’abbé Holmes et l’instruction publique,” RSCT, 3rd ser., I (1907), sect.i, 127–72.