LAJUS, JORDAIN, surgeon, representative of the first surgeon to the king; b. 4 Feb. 1673 in the parish of Saint-Vincent de Nay, France, son of Jean Lajus and Anne Vigneau; buried 12 March 1742 in the chapel of the Quebec Recollets, reburied in Notre-Dame, Quebec, in 1796.
Jordain Lajus was a provincial surgeon who came to Quebec in 1694 and worked at the Hôtel-Dieu. In 1696 he was first surgeon to the militia during the campaign directed by Frontenac [Buade*] against the Iroquois. For most of his life, he lived in Quebec’s Lower Town.
Lajus commended himself to the populace and the clergy as a responsible and Christian individual. He joined the religious confraternity of Sainte-Anne in 1702 and from 1710 to 1713 was a warden of Notre-Dame de Québec parish. Although employed by the seminary and other religious houses in Quebec, Lajus was most closely associated with the Recollets. He was their regular surgeon from about 1706 onward and by 1708 he was their trustee, responsible for the management of their property and the representation of their material interests.
Lajus had sufficient legal knowledge to act as an attorney before the courts and this with his experience as a surgeon favoured his appointment as an expert for the courts. Under the criminal ordinance of 1670, judges appointed surgeons to investigate cases involving death or physical injury, and from 1701 Lajus gave expert testimony before the provost court of Quebec, the seigneurial court of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, and the Conseil Supérieur. He also estimated the cost of medicines.
Service to the courts was a prelude to the appointment of Lajus by letters patent dated 2 March 1709 as representative of the first surgeon to the king, Georges Mareschal, to replace the late Gervais Baudouin*. The commission, registered at Quebec in October 1710, directed Lajus to uphold all laws governing surgery “with the duty also not to license any surgeon whose capacity is not proven.” The regulatory powers of this post were, it seems, gradually assumed by the first physician to the king and the post was allowed to disappear after the death of Lajus.
As the first surgeon’s representative, Lajus presented a petition from Quebec’s four surgeons to the Conseil Supérieur in April 1712. The surgeons had obtained an intendant’s ordinance in 1710 forbidding ships’ surgeons to treat anyone in the colony, and now the Quebec surgeons tried to invoke the same argument to deny other Canadian surgeons the right to practise within the town. The issue was no longer the maintenance of standards but simply self-interest. The Conseil Supérieur dismissed the request.
There are scattered references to Lajus in the following 25 years. He continued to perform his duties as surgeon, court expert, estimator, and trustee. His clientele now included the notables of Quebec. In 1717 Lajus testified to a miraculous cure obtained through Didace Pelletier*, a dead Recollet lay brother. From 1717 to 1725 he was surgeon to the Hôpital Général. In 1734 he answered the call for a surgeon to treat smallpox victims on board Le Rubis. He went twice, without being paid, to care for the fever-stricken officers and soldiers before they were taken to the Hôtel-Dieu. In August 1740 the same ship arrived at Quebec with fever on board, and Lajus attended Bishop de Lauberivière [Pourroy*] before he died. The surgeon Lajus received 20 livres for his services.
In 1738 Jordain Lajus petitioned the minister of Marine, Maurepas, for a commission as “surgeon-clerk for all legal reports,” a post not yet established in Canada. Lajus had feared that his 1709 commission would be invalidated by the death of the first surgeon to the king in 1736 and he was anxious to retain his exemption from billeting troops. Lajus claimed that he had worked for more than 30 years under the physician Michel Sarrazin*, from whom he had learned something of internal medicine. In an accompanying letter, Intendant Gilles Hocquart* stated that the new post would be superfluous and that Lajus, as trustee of the Recollets, was already exempt from billeting. “Sieur Lajus,” wrote Hocquart, “is indifferently versed in the art of surgery; major operations are always performed at the Hôtel-Dieu . . . he is liked by the public for his attentive care of the sick and even for his selflessness.”
Lajus attained eminence in Canada by devoted service to the public, the church, and the crown. The respect earned by his selflessness is evident in a letter written by Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme. When he heard that Lajus had died in 1742 after a visit to France, Canon de L’Orme wrote “I am very upset by the death of poor M. de Lajus, he assuredly deserves the sorrow of all who knew him.”
Lajus married in Quebec on 21 Nov. 1697 Marie-Louise, daughter of Guillaume Roger*, principal court officer of the Conseil Souverain; they had 14 children. His first wife died in 1716, and on 8 Sept. 1717 he was married again, to Louise-Élisabeth Moreau, dit Lataupine. Ten children were born of the second marriage, but only five of all Lajus’s children reached adulthood. His two daughters, Marguerite-Ursule and Élisabeth-Simone, married into the mercantile and seigneurial gentry of the colony. His oldest son, Jean-François, entered the Recollet order in 1727, under the name Jean-Baptiste. After many years as a military chaplain, he became the superior of the order in 1761. Another son, François-Michel, became a ship’s captain, and Louis-François-Xavier* was his father’s successor in surgery and one of the most distinguished surgeons of his day.
AD, Pyrennées-Atlantiques (Pau), État civil, Saint-Vincent de Nay, 6 févr. 1673. AN, Col., C11A, 71, pp.134–35, 139–42; E, 249 (dossier Lajus) (PAC transcripts). ANQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 14 mars 1710, 17 mars 1713; Greffe de J.-C. Louet, 8 mars 1732; NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 309, 509, 611, 651, 753, 803, 830, 1089, 1205, 1206, 2006, 2800. PAC, MG 8, Bl, 9, pp.199–200, 227–28; 10, pp.185–86; 12, pp.149–50, 154–55, 225; 20/3, pp.739–40; 35/3, pp.1071–72. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., III, 463. Jug. et délib., IV, V, VI. J.-F. Perrault, Extraits ou précédents des arrests tirés des registres du Conseil supérieur de Québec (Québec, 1824), 29. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet), 41. “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport), 68. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, I, III; Inv. ord. int., I. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Ahern, Notes pour l’histoire de la médecine. P.-G. Roy, La Ville de Québec, I, 252; II, 166, 192. Arthur Vallée, Un biologiste canadien: Michel Sarrazin, 1659–1735, sa Vie, ses travaux et son temps (Québec, 1927), 66–72. O.-M. [Jouve], “Étude historique et critique sur les actes du frère Didace Pelletier, récollet,” BRH, XVII (1911), 91, 206. P.-G. Roy, “La famine Lajus,” BRH, XL (1934), 243–47. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France,” BRH, XVI (1910), 356.