THUBIÈRES DE LEVY DE QUEYLUS, GABRIEL (the name is sometimes written Kaylus, Kélus, or Quélus, but he signed Queylus), priest, Sulpician, abbé of Loc-Dieu, doctor of theology, member of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal, vicar general of the archbishop of Rouen in Canada, founder and first superior of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice at Montreal; b. 1612 at Privezac, diocese of Rodez; d. 20 May 1677 in Paris.
Gabriel de Queylus came from a wealthy seigneurial family; he became the abbé of Loc-Dieu in his native Rouergue at the age of 11 (1623) and studied at Vaugirard (Paris), where he may have had as an associate Jean-Jacques Olier, of whom he later became one of the most loyal fellow-workers. Abbé Queylus was ordained a priest on 15 April 1645, and shortly afterwards received the degree of doctor of theology. The year 1645 was for the 33-year-old priest one of crucial decisions, which set his career upon its permanent course: on 26 July he entered the Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice – founded in 1641 by Olier – and at about the same time joined the Société de Montréal. Saint-Sulpice and Montreal: two centres of Queylus’s activity which by a remarkable conjunction of events were to coincide perfectly in his career from 1657 on.
As soon as he was admitted to Saint-Sulpice, he became one of Olier’s most active assistants. During his lifetime the founder permitted seven Sulpician seminaries to be established; he entrusted M. de Queylus with the task of laying the foundations of five of them: those of Rodez (1647), Nantes (1649), Viviers (1650), Clermont (1656), and Montreal (1657). In 1648, moreover, Abbé Queylus was made superior (on a temporary basis) of the mother community of Saint-Sulpice, in Paris. In the midst of these wanderings, there came a pause: from 1650 to 1656 Queylus lived in Vivarais, holding the appointment of parish priest of Privas and working to convert the Protestants.
Suddenly, in 1656, Queylus was recalled to Paris. He went there, probably in complete ignorance of the turmoil into which he was to be plunged.
A double plan had taken shape within the Société de Montréal: the establishment of a seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Ville-Marie and the appointment of a Sulpician bishop for Canada. M. Olier, in conformity with the society’s views, nominated to lay the foundations of the seminary at Ville-Marie the same person who had already brought into existence four Sulpician communities: M. de Queylus’s experience, the fact that he belonged to the Société de Montréal, his personal fortune, and his generosity made it inevitable that his superior should select him. Certain associates, however, conceived of a higher dignity for M. de Queylus: after a discreet approach had been made to him, he allowed himself to be recommended for the bishopric of Quebec. On 9 Aug. 1656 Bishop Godeau of Vence announced to the general assembly of the French clergy “that he had an abbé who was willing to accept this post [the bishopric], and to go and make the sacrifice of his wealth and his person among the Indians,” but “that he could not yet name him.” The candidate’s name was disclosed only at the session held on 10 Jan. 1657.
Abbé Queylus’s candidature was not acceptable to the Jesuits; in their turn, they put forward a priest of their choice, François de Laval*, the abbé of Montigny, who enjoyed the favour of the French court. It was rightly considered that the future bishop would have to command the support of the Jesuits, who since 1632 had alone guided the destiny of the Church in Canada. The intervention of the Jesuits destroyed M. de Queylus’s hopes, and this rankled with him, as was to become apparent during his subsequent stay at Quebec.
But for the time being the preparations towards his departure for Canada had to be hastened. For the seminary at Ville-Marie Olier had appointed, in addition to M. de Queylus, two priests, MM. Dominique Galinier and Gabriel Souart, and a deacon, M. Antoine d’Allet. All four embarked on 17 May 1657 at Nantes, in the roadstead of Saint-Nazaire, after receiving ecclesiastical powers, conveyed by letters dated 22 April, from the archbishop of Rouen; on the same day the archbishop had delivered letters patent to M. de Queylus, naming him his official and his vicar general for the whole of New France.
The title of vicar general conferred upon M. de Queylus was going to aggravate the delicate question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in New France. For years the Recollets, and later the Jesuits, had received their powers directly from the pope. But the archbishop of Rouen had long claimed the right to accredit missionaries, many of whom came from his diocese, or at any rate embarked there for the crossing to Canada. In 1647 and 1648 the Jesuits had consulted various authorities on this question; they finally acknowledged their dependency upon the archbishop of Rouen, who on 30 April 1649 gave letters of appointment as vicar general to the superior at Quebec. The Jesuits, however, kept this acknowledgment secret until 15 April 1653, at which time they proclaimed it from the pulpit not without taking certain precautions beforehand in case of a protest from Rome or from the court. The discretion with which the change of jurisdiction was surrounded, and the prudence displayed by the Jesuits before accepting the archbishop of Rouen’s authority and “making it . . . evident and declaring it openly,” clearly show how ticklish this question was.
Abbé Queylus’s letters of appointment as vicar general were good for the whole of New France, without at the same time explicitly revoking those of the superior of the Jesuits. Clashes were to be expected.
The ship on which the Sulpicians had made the crossing anchored before Quebec on 29 July 1657. M. de Queylus and his associates had already left the ship at the Île d’Orléans, and gone to M. Maheu’s house. As soon as he heard of the ecclesiastics’ arrival Father de Quen, the superior of the Jesuits, hastened to the Île d’Orléans, welcomed the Sulpicians, and brought them to Quebec. The Jesuits’ reception was cordial, Abbé Queylus most polite.
In the course of a conversation a few days later, Abbé Queylus showed the superior of the Jesuits his letters of appointment. Father de Quen apparently did not venture to stress the validity of his own: for the time being he recognized M. de Queylus’s authority and agreed with him that he, de Quen, should make no move in his capacity of vicar general so long as the archbishop of Rouen had not made his intentions clear as to the powers of the superior of the Jesuits. After confirming Father Poncet in his office as priest serving the parish of Quebec, M. de Queylus sailed for Montreal with his associates.
The Sulpicians had handed to Father Poncet, with instructions to proclaim it from the pulpit, the Bull of Indulgence granted by Alexander VII on the occasion of his elevation to the pontificate. Without notifying his superior, the priest of the parish of Quebec read the papal document to the congregation. Offended by what he took to be a show of independence, Father de Quen – as he was entitled to do by reason of his formal agreement with M. de Queylus – relieved Father Poncet of his functions and replaced him by Father Claude Pijart. Father Poncet, on his way to the Iroquois country, stopped at Montreal at the beginning of September, and informed M. de Queylus of this incident. The vicar general, taking umbrage in his turn, ordered the Jesuit to accompany him to Quebec, where they arrived on the evening of 12 September. Queylus immediately took the control of the parish away from Father Pijart and announced his decision to take it over himself. In this way, as a consequence of the susceptibility of Father de Quen and of M. de Queylus, an incident trivial in itself launched a small-scale war.
Each side kept watch on the other, seeking to catch the adversary off guard. Abbé Queylus made the mistake of attacking the Jesuits from the pulpit on a number of occasions: on 21 Oct. 1657, in particular, he favoured them with a “satirical discourse,” accusing them of trying to “check up” on him and comparing them to pharisees. On their part the Jesuits were imprudent enough to write “barbed missives” against the abbé; the incriminating letters fell into the hands of M. de Queylus, who was “shocked” to learn that he was “violent,” and “more troublesome in his war against the Jesuits than the Iroquois were.”
But the new parish priest of Quebec had other concerns: for instance, to find a place to live. Either, the presbytery was being used legally by the Jesuits as a residence, or it was not. Convinced of the second of these hypotheses Abbé Queylus – prompted by the churchwardens, according to Voyer* d’Argenson – submitted a petition to the lieutenant-general of Quebec, asking that the “Jesuit Fathers be required to leave their house, so that the said Abbé might be lodged there as priest of the parish of Quebec, or to repay 6,000 livres given to them by the Communauté [des Habitants] for building a presbytery.” A writ, served by the court officer Lavigne [see Jean Levasseur] on 22 Nov. 1657, summoned the Jesuits to a hearing on the following Tuesday to reply to this petition. Unfortunately M. de Queylus had been mistaken: the residence belonged to the Jesuits in their own right, and they had paid the Communauté des Habitants the sum of 6,000 livres to have it built. This was, affirmed by a judgement of Louis d’Ailleboust handed down on 23 Mar. 1658. Although they were in the right, the Jesuits must nonetheless have considered this court summons extremely high-handed.
The relations between M. de Queylus and the Jesuits did not seem likely to improve. On 1 Jan. 1658 the Jesuits had attempted a rapprochement: “Father Pijart went to see the abbé”; but “the said abbé did not return the visit.” On 31 March there were still signs of tension: in their Journal the Jesuits deemed a “homily” of Abbé Queylus “exaggerated,” and saw a “contradiction” in his words. Then, from April on – under some benign influence or other – a reconciliation seems to have come about gradually: the superior of the Jesuits visited the vicar general when he was ill; certain of them were invited to hold services in the church; so that when M. d’Argenson arrived at Quebec in the summer of 1658 he expressed his surprise at finding “the Church in close union.”
The actual cause of the conflict was moreover soon to disappear. In the autumn of 1657 the ships had carried the first news of the dispute to France. In order to restore peace, the archbishop of Rouen signed an act on 30 March 1658, declaring M. de Queylus and Father de Quen his vicars general, the first throughout the island of Montreal, the second in the remainder of New France. The document reached Quebec on 11 July, and was served on M. de Queylus – an exchange of courtesies – on 8 August. The abbé played for time, alleging that there was an irregularity in the letters of appointment as vicar general addressed to the superior of the Jesuits; however, at Argenson’s request, he finally agreed, not without bitterness, to embark for Montreal, on 21 August.
In New France the question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction seemed to be settled; in France, it was being raised with a new sharpness. As early as January 1657 Louis XIV had presented to the pope the Jesuit candidate for the bishopric of Quebec. The matter dragged on, so much so that the bull appointing Bishop Laval was signed only on 3 June 1658: he was appointed vicar apostolic in New France, with the “foreign” title of bishop of Petraea. As vicar apostolic, Laval was completely outside the archbishop of Rouen’s authority. Rome moreover denied the validity of the latter’s claims.
But barely had Bishop Laval’s appointment become known when the archbishop and Parlement of Rouen opposed it outright, forbidding Laval to “take upon himself the functions of vicar apostolic in Canada.” On 8 Dec. 1658, in the middle of this chorus of protests, François de Laval managed to have himself consecrated secretly in Paris, by the papal nuncio, in a chapel not subject to the archbishop’s jurisdiction. In quick succession the Parlements of Paris and of Rouen, on 16 and 23 December, seeing in this consecration a “blow against the rights of the [French] episcopacy and the liberties of the Gallican Church,” forbade all the king’s subjects “to recognize François de Laval as vicar apostolic.” Archbishop Harlay of Rouen showed such dogged persistence that Bishop Laval set off for New France armed with a royal document which recognized the archbishop of Rouen’s jurisdiction over Canada as concurrent with that of the vicar apostolic. However the queen mother, who was well disposed towards the Jesuits and Laval, had sent a letter to Governor Argenson correcting the purport of this document: she called upon him to proclaim, to the exclusion of all other, the jurisdiction of the bishop of Petraea over all Canada.
The ship carrying Bishop Laval dropped anchor before Quebec on 16 June 1659. The bishop was received with great pomp, but it was not without some hesitation that the female communities and some settlers recognized his authority. Was not the archbishop of Rouen, represented in the colony by M. de Queylus, “above Bishop Laval, who was only vicar apostolic?” The question was debated, and soon everyone rallied to the crook of the new shepherd. Time was passing, however, and M. de Queylus had not yet given any sign of life. Finally, on 7 August, he made his appearance, greeted the bishop, and submitted himself to his authority, promising that thenceforth he would accept no further letter of appointment as vicar general from the archbishop of Rouen.
But at the beginning of September a ship brought two letters, one from Archbishop Harlay, the other from Louis XIV, authorizing M. de Queylus to exercise the functions of vicar general of the archbishop of Rouen. Forthwith the abbé forgot his protestations of the previous month: “taking off his mask,” he sought to have his powers recognized. Unfortunately for him the king had changed his mind: in a letter to Argenson he cancelled the authorization that he had just granted to M. de Queylus. The abbé yielded, and on 22 Oct. 1659 sailed for France.
Bishop Laval, certain that M. de Queylus would not give up easily, wrote to the cardinals of the Propaganda (in Rome) on 3 Oct. 1660, to put them on guard against any attempt aimed at undermining his authority. Likewise he entreated Louis XIV to prevent the abbé from returning to Canada. Bishop Laval had reason to distrust the persistent Sulpician, who was preparing once again, at the beginning of 1660, to cross the Atlantic. On 27 February Louis XIV, forewarned, forbade him absolutely to leave the kingdom without his express permission. This did not prevent the scheming abbé, after a vain attempt to have the prohibition rescinded, from going secretly to Rome in the autumn of 1660; there, unknown to the Propaganda, he abused the good faith of the Datary, from which he obtained a bull authorizing the establishment at Ville-Marie of a parish independent of the vicar apostolic, and granting the right of presentation of the incumbent to the superior of Saint-Sulpice and the right of appointment to the archbishop of Rouen. Back in France, Queylus had himself appointed parish priest of Montreal by Archbishop Harlay, and sailed clandestinely for Quebec, where he arrived incognito on 3 Aug. 1661.
The unheralded arrival of Abbé Queylus, who had travelled from Percé to Quebec in a small boat in order to get there before the ship, and the purport of the document that he was carrying, greatly astonished Bishop Laval, who refused, pending further investigation, to put the Sulpician in possession of the parish of Ville-Marie. He begged him, in vain, to refrain from going up to Montreal for the time being; on two occasions, 4 and 5 August, he forbade him to do so. Despite the threat of inhibition from his priestly functions and the customary three canonical monitions contained in Laval’s second letter, the Sulpician did not give up his plan for departure: during the night of 5–6 August he slipped into a canoe and made off towards Montreal. On 6 August Laval ordered him to return to Quebec, declaring him “inhibited” if he disregarded this order. Despite the gravity of the sentence, the abbé did not turn back.
Meanwhile Louis XIV had learned of Abbé Queylus’s departure for Canada. Straightway he ordered Pierre Dubois Davaugour, who was going to occupy the post of governor in the colony, to send M. de Queylus back to France. On 22 Oct. 1661 the vessel bearing the former vicar general sailed for Europe; thus ended the struggle between Bishop Laval and Abbé Queylus over the matter of jurisdiction. As for the archbishop of Rouen, the firm attitude of Rome, Louis XIV, and Bishop Laval forced him gradually to give up his claims.
M. de Queylus’s return to France was a bitter blow to the few members of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal who were still active. By his fortune, which he used generously for the benefit of Ville-Marie, he was the main support of the undertaking. His forced absence from New France perhaps hastened the members’ decision to cede Montreal Island to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice (9 March 1663). Once the cession was made, the Sulpicians hesitated in their turn: without M. de Queylus’s presence at Montreal their efforts seemed doomed to failure. Consequently they entreated Bishop Laval – who was then in Paris – to authorize the abbé to come to Canada. But in vain. The vicar apostolic displayed the inflexibility which was a dominant feature of his character, according to Marie de l’Incarnation [see Guyart].
With the passage of time, the passions aroused by the question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in New France abated. For his part Abbé Queylus kept quiet, to use the description of Bishop Laval. In consequence the king, in 1668, allowed him to return to Canada as the superior of the seminary of Ville-Marie. Laval received him graciously and kindly, even giving him letters of appointment as vicar general on Montreal Island.
The untroubled atmosphere of the colony was to give M. de Queylus the opportunity to reveal his spirit of enterprise and his talents as a builder, which had remained almost unnoticed during his first two stays in Canada. In that disturbed period, he had nonetheless authorized the building of the churches of Sainte-Anne at Petit-Cap (Beaupré) and of Notre-Dame-de-la-Visitation at Château Richer in 1658; the preceding year he had reorganized the parish of Montreal, and appointed his colleague, M. Souart, to it; in 1659 he had given some attention to the settlement of Ville-Marie, fixing the site of the town and making ready for the coming of new settlers, who were to clear the fiefs of Saint-Marie and of Saint-Gabriel.
This time M. de Queylus’s work was more in accord with the missionary concerns of New France. The Sulpicians, with the possible exception of M. Barthélemy*, had scarcely taken any part hitherto in the apostolic endeavour. As soon as he arrived in the autumn of 1668, M. de Queylus appointed MM. Trouvé* and Fénelon [see Salignac] to found a mission among the Onondagas of the Bay of Quinte (Kenté). The following year he added M. Lascaris* d’Urfé to their number. In 1670 the Sulpicians held three posts on Lake Ontario: Kenté, Gandaseteiagon, and Ganeraské. But M. de Queylus already had his eyes on new apostolic fields: in 1669 he had sent M. Dollier* de Casson and M. René Bréhant de Galinée to reconnoitre among the “Ottawa nations” of the Mississippi region; this voyage had taken the two Sulpicians as far as Lake Erie, of which they had taken possession in the king’s name.
Simultaneously with this missionary undertaking, Abbé Queylus, at Montreal, also championed the cultural assimilation of the natives. At that period the mother country indeed insisted that the Indians be civilized. Bishop Laval, the Jesuits, the Ursulines knew from experience that this was a fanciful ambition; M. de Queylus, not yet disillusioned, gave himself up to it with a zeal that brought him tributes of satisfaction from the king and the minister. He accepted Indian boys in his seminary, and entrusted the girls to the sisters of the Congregation. These children were taught French, mechanical arts, good manners. At first this sincere effort appeared likely to yield good results. But it soon became evident, at Ville-Marie as at Quebec, just how premature the attempt was.
Meanwhile another ambitious plan had taken shape in M. de Queylus’s mind: the founding of a hospice at Ville-Marie for aged and sick Indians. Absorbed in his dream of assimilation, he hoped that the Indians, following their relatives who had retired to the hospice, would come to Montreal, establish themselves there, and gradually acquire the French language and civilization from their contacts with the settlers. The abbé obtained Bishop Laval’s permission for the direction of this institution to be entrusted to the Hospitallers of Quebec, to whom he promised a generous grant of land and a fund of 10,000 livres (1671).
In appealing to the Hospitallers of Quebec, M. de Queylus was seeking to honour an old promise made to this community. In 1658, edified by the piety and devotion of these nuns, he had offered them the direction of the hospital at Ville-Marie, which was administered by Jeanne Mance pending the arrival of Hospitallers from La Flèche. This community had been founded by M. Le Royer de La Dauversière, having in mind an establishment at Ville-Marie. M. de Queylus, a member of the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal since 1645, was not unaware of this. However, he devised a scheme to induce the Hospitallers of Quebec to assume responsibility for the hospital. Shortly before Mlle Mance’s departure for France in the autumn of 1658, and without divulging his intentions, the Sulpician brought to Montreal two nuns from the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec; one of them, he asserted, needed a “change of air” for her health. Neither Mlle Mance nor Chomedey de Maisonneuve was taken in by the abbé’s fine words. Furthermore, when Mlle Mance reached Quebec she learned of M. de Queylus’s plans from the lips of the Hospitallers themselves. But having found, in France, a benefactress for the hospital at Ville-Marie, Jeanne Mance brought three Hospitallers from La Flèche to Canada in 1659. This put an end to the Quebec nuns’ stay at Montreal – although Bishop Laval, who had recently arrived, was in agreement with M. de Queylus that the number of religious orders in Canada should not be greatly increased. Hence it is not surprising that the abbé – the admirer and benefactor of the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec – wanted to entrust to them the direction of the proposed hospice, which, however, he did not have the time to found.
For all that, the enterprising superior had not neglected the material organization of the Montreal settlement. On his arrival he had appointed M. Souart as a schoolmaster for the young French children. He had in addition concerned himself with peopling the colony, bringing in indentured workers who subsequently received grants of land. Encouraged by the peace of 1666, he granted fiefs outside the limits of the town. The population increased appreciably: from 624 in 1666, it rose to nearly 1500 in 1671.
M. de Queylus’s exuberant activity earned him the praises of Louis XIV, Colbert, and Talon. Much reliance was placed upon his intelligent zeal and his initiative for the expansion and welfare of the Montreal colony. Unfortunately the Sulpician had to return to France in 1671 to undertake the division of his property between himself and his brothers. He did not come back: stricken by illness, he retired to the seminary in Paris. He died there on 20 May 1677, at the age of 65.
Thus, in the calm of retirement, the eventful career of a priest endowed with an unusual personality drew to a close. Undeviating in his friendships and animosities, he made faithful friends and irreconcilable enemies. Yet with one accord his contemporaries lauded his piety, his zeal, his virtue. What kind of man, then, was this abbé?
Uncompromising, skilful in conceiving plans, swift in his decisions, having a sense of organization, M. de Queylus had the temperament of a builder. Individualistic, extremely active, unswerving in the pursuit of his objectives, he was irked by authority as soon as it appeared to restrict his initiative and hamper his action; he would attack it as if it were an obstacle in his path. Fervent and zealous, he threw himself completely into his activities, with which his whole identity would finally be merged.
An individual whose personality is fashioned in this way displays the full sweep of his talents when circumstances are favourable to him. Thus, under the friendly and understanding authority of M. Olier, who placed deep confidence in him, Abbé Queylus’s achievements were considerable; it was the same in 1668–71, when as seigneur of Montreal and superior of the Sulpician seminary, he had the support and goodwill both of Bishop Laval and of the civil authorities. Such a personality, however, rebels when it encounters any kind of opposition. When faced with contradiction or hostility, M. de Queylus proved to be suspicious, touchy, rancorous; he was all too apt to be harsh to his adversaries, towards whom he was sparing neither of his scorn nor of his irony; he was so persistent in his plans that he would go so far as to adopt any means – dissimulation, cunning, intrigue – to achieve his ends; in short, at such times, he readily lost his sense of proportion.
Highly strung, active, devoted, and generous, Abbé Queylus was essentially a man who identified himself with a cause, becoming its champion and giving to it unstintingly of his person and of his wealth. He had the soul of a crusader. Once launched upon a course, this intrepid fighter harboured no doubts and knew no retreat. And woe betide the obstacles!
Correspondance de Talon, APQ Rapport, 1930–31, 110, 127, 147, 155, 165, 170, 172. Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal. Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, Lettres (Richaudeau). JR (Thwaites). JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain). “Lettre du ministre Colbert à l’abbé de Queylus (15 mai 1669),” BRH, XXXII (1926): 148. “Lettres inédites du gouverneur d’Argenson,” BRH, XXVII (1921), 298–309, 328–39.
Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 157–353. Daveluy, “Bibliographie,” RHAF, XVI (1962–63), 455–463; Jeanne Mance, 1606–1673, suivie d’un essai généalogique sur les Mance et les De Mance par M. Jacques Laurent (2e éd., Montréal et Paris ). Faillon, Histoire de la colonie française, II, III. Auguste Gosselin, “Quelques observations à propos du voyage du P. Le Jeune au Canada en 1660, et du prétendu voyage de M. de Queylus en 1664,” RSCT, 2d ser., II (1896), sect.i, 35–58; Vie de Mgr de Laval, I. Olivier Maurault, “Saint-Sulpice et le Canada: l’imbroglio Queylus-Laval,” SCHEC Rapport, 1955–56, 73–81. Mondoux, L’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIe, siècle, II; Réponse à un mémoire intitulé: Observations à propos du P. Le Jeune et de M. de Queylus par M. l’abbé Gosselin . . . (Versailles, 1897). Les Ursulines de Québec, I, 327.