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McDONELL, JOHN, Le Prêtre (1768-1850) – Volume VII (1836-1850)

d. 17 April 1850 in Pointe-Fortune, Upper Canada


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FLEURY DESCHAMBAULT, JOSEPH (he signed Déchambault or D’echambault), officeholder and merchant; b. 1 May 1709 at Quebec, the second son of Joseph de Fleury* de La Gorgendière and Claire Jolliet; m. 19 Jan. 1738 Catherine, daughter of Étienne Véron* de Grandmesnil, merchant and receiver of the admiral of France at Quebec; six of their nine children survived to adulthood; d. 13 July 1784 at Montreal (Que.).

Nothing is known of Joseph Fleury Deschambault’s early life or career, but by 1736 he was employed at Montreal as general agent for the Compagnie des Indes. His father was the company’s agent-general in Canada, which position Deschambault himself attained by 1754. Prior to 1751, Deschambault’s official capacities with the company seem to have included the financing of or granting of credit to numerous traders and merchants, among them Paul Marin* de La Malgue, Louis Ducharme, Louis-François Hervieux*, and François-Marie de Couagne, and he was thus indirectly a significant contributor to the Canadian side of the colonial economy. His position was such that when Mme Bégon [Rocbert*] mentioned his presence in France in 1751 she referred to him as the “representative for Canadian business.”

Deschambault was also involved from at least the early 1740s in private fur-trading ventures as a partner, an outfitter, or a financier. In the 1750s he expanded his operations, holding trade licences for Lac des Deux-Montagnes, Lake Huron, Rivière Saint-Joseph (St Joseph River), and Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.). At the latter place he owned a “house and lot” which he let for 1,300 livres annually. Most of his undertakings appear to have been joint ventures begun with such partners as Jacques Giasson, Nicolas Dufresne, and Jacques Hervieux, all important fur-trade outfitters in Montreal. However, Deschambault seems to have undertaken his most costly venture alone. Prevailed upon by his uncle by marriage, Governor General Vaudreuil [Rigaud], in 1758 he acquired six-year leases for the trade at Chagouamigon (near Ashland, Wis.), Michipicoton (Michipicoten River, Ont.), and Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay, Ont.). As these posts were bases for Vaudreuil’s attempts to buy off the western Indians in order to prevent them from joining the British, they were let to Deschambault on favourable terms, there being no droit de ferme to pay. There was as well an assured market for him in the goods to be given by the posts’ military commanders as gifts to the Indians. In the event, these apparently lucrative posts were only sources of loss: war-generated inflation increased Deschambault’s costs far beyond his expectations, the conquest brought his leases to an early end, and the French government and some individuals defaulted on payment for the goods they had received, leaving an unpaid balance of over 170,000 livres.

Deschambault’s business affairs contributed to his social position in New France, but status was measured not simply by wealth. He had good family connections, particularly with the official and mercantile groups. His grandfathers had been the explorer Louis Jolliet* and the judge Jacques-Alexis Fleury* Deschambault; his sisters married into the Taschereau, Trottier Dufy Desauniers, Marin de La Malgue, and Rigaud de Vaudreuil families. In 1754 he obtained increased access to the military and landed nobility through the marriage of his 13-year-old daugher Marie-Anne-Catherine to Charles-Jacques, son of Charles Le Moyne* de Longueuil. Although in character Deschambault appears to have been self-important, he was possibly no more so than others of the minor nobility. It is, therefore, not surprising that he sought marks of recognition “befitting his station.” As early as 1751 he had supplied plans for reorganization of the militia and had petitioned to be made colonel of militia – a position then held at Quebec by his father. Although successive governors general consistently supported his many applications, the minister of Marine rejected the dissemination of such ranks in Canada, for fear that “a colonist who became colonel could easily acquire too much influence,” and suggested that Deschambault be made a major instead. There is no evidence that he was ever offered the lesser rank. Only under the British did he receive this form of recognition, when he was made inspector of militia in 1775. Deschambault may nonetheless have had some informal “influence” with the habitants: in 1759 and 1760 he was charged with finding grain and cattle in the Montreal area and was successful. This success, however, may have been due more to his ability to disburse personally over 200,000 livres in cold cash than to his other attributes.

The conquest considerably changed the nature and direction of Deschambault’s business activities. The Compagnie des Indes was no longer of any consequence in Canadian affairs; and the fact that Deschambault himself no longer participated in the fur trade may perhaps indicate the extent to which he had commingled his own and the company’s activities. Moreover, an unknown proportion of his liquid capital was first frozen, then lost, in the 325,000 livres of payment orders that he personally held at the end of the war, and for which he was only partially reimbursed. After 1760 what remained of Deschambault’s capital, or what he was able to borrow, became primarily concentrated in life annuities in France and in revenue-producing real property, mainly in the Montreal area, rather than in more speculative commerce. This type of investment may have been a natural development, for in the late 1750s, following the death of his son-in-law Charles-Jacques Le Moyne de Longueuil, Deschambault was named trustee for his daughter, thus becoming responsible for managing the barony of Longueuil and the seigneury of Belœil. He nevertheless appears to have considered seriously the possibility of leaving Canada in the 1760s. As early as 1763 he attempted to have the Longueuil and Belœil seigneuries sold, and it was probably also about this time that he purchased the life annuities in France. In 1765 and in 1768–69 he travelled to France, not only to see to his troubled financial affairs but also to visit his three sons, who had gone there after the conquest.

Deschambault’s interest in France, however, undoubtedly waned as his economic and social prospects in Canada improved. The relatively short distance of the seigneuries of Longueuil and Belœil from Montreal, the amount of fresh and unconceded land they contained, and the increasing importance of grain in the Canadian economy under the British régime enhanced their value, making them attractive investments. As early as 1764 such newcomers as Moses Hazen* and Gabriel Christie had received grants from Deschambault. During the two decades under his management the seigneuries seem to have made good economic progress – he granted several hundred concessions in Longueuil alone-but not apparently enough to satisfy David Alexander Grant, husband of Deschambault’s granddaughter Marie-Charles-Joseph Le Moyne* de Longueuil, heiress of the seigneuries. By a judicial award he was replaced as trustee by Grant in 1781. From then until his death Deschambault appears to have done little.

The change in Deschambault’s business activities can be directly attributed to the conquest; he did not change his attempts to assert and improve his social status-all his daughters married into the new British hierarchy. Indeed in 1768 he was accused in France of being “more English than French” and in 1774 Governor Guy Carleton* wrote that “He and His family have ever been remarkably civil to the English.” However, any assessment as to whether he or other members of his class had quickly or easily accommodated themselves to British rule must take into account the variety of social, political, and financial pressures which had acted upon them.

Deschambault died on 13 July 1784 and was buried on the 15th in Notre-Dame church in Montreal. His estate, valued at more than 100,000 livres, was, however, encumbered with a claim for 69,040 livres by his son-in-law the judge John Fraser, and possibly by other claims concerning the unpaid 10,000 livres’ dowry of his daughter Thérèse-Josèphe, wife of Major William Dunbar. Nonetheless, the inventory of his possessions, compiled over two years after his death, shows that Deschambault had maintained an ostentatious style of life. Among his many possessions were several dozen armchairs and a sofa, a number of large and small mirrors, an extensive amount of silver plate, a gold and crystal chandelier, a Chinese table, and six Persian curtains. Curiously, no books were listed. These articles were in his 15-room stone house on Rue Saint-Paul in Montreal; he also left a stone house at Longueuil, half of a warehouse in Quebec, and land in at least six seigneuries.

Historians are at total variance about Deschambault’s significance: Édouard-Zotique Massicotte* suggests he was probably “the most important Canadian financier of the time,” while Robert La Roque* de Roquebrune speaks of him as being “among the small shopkeepers of Quebec.” He seems to have had little in common with the bourgeoisie which was developing in Britain and France, for he apparently saw power as a function of inherited social position rather than of acquired wealth. However, until further study can clarify the social milieu in which Deschambault lived, he may be looked on either as an important mercantile figure and member of the bourgeoisie or as a minor member of the Canadian nobility, commercially minded but striving to improve his social standing.

Andrew Rodger

[The registers of Jean-Baptiste Adhémar*, Henri Bouron, François-Pierre Cherrier, Louis-Claude Danré* de Blanzy, Antoine Grisé, Pierre Lalanne, Pierre-François Mézière, Claude-Cyprien-Jacques Porlier, and François Simonnet, held by the ANQ-M, contain almost 500 deeds that concern Deschambault; the registers of Danré de Blanzy, Grisé, Lalanne, and Porlier are particularly interesting.  a.r.]

AN, Col., B, 93, f.29; 105, f.13; C11A, 95, ff.341–51; 100, f.90; 102, f.182; E, 185 (dossier Deschambault). ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 15 juill. 1784; Greffe d’Antoine Foucher, 27 juill. 1786; Recensement, Compagnie des Indes, 1741. ANQ-Q, AP-P-545; Greffe de Claude Barolet, 12 avril 1750; 24 mai 1752; 1er mai 1758; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet de Vaucour, 17 janv. 1738; NF 2, 24, 16 oct. 1736; 35, 27 mars 1778; NF 11, 51, ff.32v–33; 52, ff.131v–132v; 64, f.137v. BL, Add. mss 21699, p.602; 21715, pp.49–50; 21716, p.154; 21731, p.262; 21732, p.82; 21734, pp.407–8; 21735/1, pp.197–98, 226; 21831, pp.6–8, 16 (copies at PAC). McGill University Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books and Special Coll., ms coll., CH218.S196. PAC, MG 8, F51; MG 11, [CO42], Q, 8, pp.99–110; 12, pp.241–46; 17, p.117; MG 24, L3, pp.3030–31, 3917–18, 17367–68, 17481–83, 20048–52, 20426–27, 21801–7, 21825–29, 22960–64, 24010–11, 24088–95, 26098–110, 28234–40. PRO, CO 5/115, pp.260–262; 5/176, pp.32–58 (copies at PAC). “Congés de traite conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” ANQ Rapport, 1922–23, 192–265. “Pierre Du Calvet,” J.-J. Lefebvre, édit., ANQ Rapport, 1945–46, 341–411. Quebec Gazette, 12 July, 8 Nov. 1764, 7 July 1768, 28 Dec. 1769, 21 Feb. 1771, 26 Sept. 1772, 31 July 1783, 23 Dec. 1784. Claude de Bonnault, “Le Canada militaire: état provisoire des officiers de milice de 1641 à 1760,” ANQ Rapport, 1949–51, 269–71. Louise Dechêne, “Les dossiers canadiens du notaire Pointard,” ANQ Rapport, 1966, 115–27. Alexandre Jodoin et J.-L. Vincent, Histoire de Longueuil et de la famille de Longueuil . . . (Montréal, 1889). O.-M.-H. Lapalice, “Bancs à perpétuité dans l’église de N.-D.-de-Montréal,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 354–55. Odette Lebrun, “Épouses des Le Moyne: les baronnes de Longueuil,” Soc. d’hist. de Longueuil, Cahier (Longueuil, Qué.), 2 (1973), 7–10. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Études généalogiques: la famille Fleury d’Eschambault, de La Gorgendière,” SGCF Mémoires, III (1948–49), 152–74. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Maçons, entrepreneurs, architectes,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 139; “Où est né le bienheureux André Grasset de Saint-Sauveur,” BRH, XXXIII (1927), 95; “Quelques rues et faubourgs du vieux Montréal,” Cahiers des Dix, 1 (1936), 130.

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Cite This Article

Andrew Rodger, “FLEURY DESCHAMBAULT, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 17, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/fleury_deschambault_joseph_4E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/fleury_deschambault_joseph_4E.html
Author of Article:   Andrew Rodger
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 17, 2024