BERTHELOT DARTIGNY (d’Artigny), MICHEL-AMABLE, lawyer, notary, judge, and politician; b. 10 Aug. 1738 at Quebec, eighth child of Charles Berthelot, a merchant, and Thérèse Roussel, daughter of surgeon Timothée Roussel*; d. there 10 May 1815.
Michel-Amable Berthelot Dartigny studied at the Séminaire de Québec from 1749 to April 1751 and again from January 1754 to July 1757. On 24 Jan. 1771 he became a lawyer after passing the prescribed examination for obtaining a commission. On 7 February he gave notice in the Quebec Gazette that he had entered into a partnership to practise with Jean-Antoine Saillant*, his cousin by marriage. This partnership was dissolved three years later. In the mean time Berthelot Dartigny received a commission as notary on 28 Jan. 1773, and from then on he practised law as both a lawyer and a notary. On 20 July of that year he married Marie-Angélique Bazin, the 22-year-old daughter of the late Pierre Bazin, merchant at Quebec.
In 1779 Berthelot Dartigny and his colleagues in the town of Quebec founded the Communauté des Avocats, a lawyers’ society which counted about ten members. The aims of this body included making the profession respected, providing mutual assistance, discussing matters of interest to the bar, safeguarding its prerogatives, and taking disciplinary measures against members who acted in a dishonourable manner. In 1780 it set the lawyers’ dress for court hearings, and the following year it got the court to agree that the table for the bar and the benches around it would be reserved exclusively for the use of the lawyers and the sheriff; previously anyone could sit at the table and rummage among the lawyers’ papers while they were pleading.
On 6 Dec. 1784 the society, of which Berthelot Dartigny was treasurer, entered into a battle of major importance. In a representation to Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton* it deplored the fact that “a great number of people [who have] no legal knowledge and [who have] gone into bankruptcy after having followed various crafts and trades to an advanced age, seek a lawyer’s commission as a last resort”; it asked that only candidates who had worked for five years in a lawyer’s office be admitted to the profession. On 11 December the lawyers belonging to the association protested the granting of a lawyer’s commission to a bankrupt merchant, Alexandre Dumas. They were obliged to admit him on 30 March 1785, but reforms were not long in coming. On 30 April an ordinance by the Legislative Council decreed that in future to obtain a lawyer’s commission candidates would have to study regularly in a lawyer’s office, a registry office, or a civil court, and undergo an entrance examination in the practice of law. Furthermore, the ordinance separated the professions of notary and lawyer. This last provision put an end to the Communauté des Avocats as an effective force, since more than half of its approximately 15 members chose to be notaries. For his part Berthelot Dartigny decided in May 1786 to continue as a lawyer. In December 1791 he received a provisional commission as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the District of Quebec, which was conditionally renewed in September 1793.
Berthelot Dartigny had in the mean while acquired numerous pieces of property in the town. From 1778 to 1791 he bought seven vacant lots for small sums, and in 1778 he purchased a piece of land and a house that he sold again the following year with a profit of 1,200 livres. In 1779 he obtained by tender a dwelling on Rue Saint-Joseph (Rue Garneau), and then bought a property and a house on Rue Sainte-Famille for 2,300 livres in cash and an annual payment of 50 livres. At an auction sale in 1788 he purchased a lot and residence on Rue des Carrières, where three years later he bought another piece of property with a two-storey stone house for 6,000 livres, 3,500 in cash. During this period Berthelot Dartigny also made loans for modest amounts to people of small means. As well, in January 1786 he lent £300 to Pierre Du Calvet*, perhaps with the inheritance he had received from his father, who died in Paris, France, in 1780.
In addition to his legal activity and his business transactions Berthelot Dartigny was interested in political life. He was in favour of the creation of a house of assembly, and in 1788 he signed a petition asking for one. Then in 1792, in the first elections held in Lower Canada, he ran as a candidate in the riding of Quebec. When he was defeated by Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry* de Salaberry and David Lynd, he contested the result. In the Quebec Gazette of 12 July 1792 he denounced the unexpected closing of a polling station; the measure had prevented 62 electors who were prepared to vote for him from doing so, with the result that Lynd obtained a majority of 26 votes. He also published a pamphlet entitled Conversation au sujet de l’élection de Charlesbourg. Salaberry, however, had been elected in two ridings, and he chose Dorchester, which left a seat vacant at Quebec. Berthelot Dartigny was then proclaimed elected by acclamation on 18 Feb. 1793; he marked the occasion by having 1,200 livres distributed among the poor. The first bill that he brought forward, in 1793, provided for the abolition of Article 128 of the Coutume de Paris, which deprived inn- and tavern-keepers of the right to take legal action for the recovery of money owing for food, drink, and other items sold or consumed on their premises. This bill received the support of only three members and was overwhelmingly rejected by the assembly.
In 1796 Berthelot Dartigny was again a candidate for Quebec, but was defeated. He also lost against Pascal-Jacques Taché* in the riding of Cornwallis in 1798. He was finally elected for Kent on the death of its member, Jacques Viger, and he represented that constituency in the assembly from March 1798 until 4 June 1800. In the elections of 1800 he returned to the attack successfully at Quebec, which he represented until 27 April 1808. Berthelot Dartigny regularly voted with the Canadian party. In February 1805 he was on a committee to draft a bill for the construction of one prison in the district of Quebec and another in the district of Montreal. The proposal to finance the works through duties on imports roused strong opposition among the merchants, who tried in vain to have the tax levied on land. On the other hand, during the 1808 session Berthelot Dartigny supported the English party on the bill concerning the ineligibility of judges to sit in the assembly [see Sir James Henry Craig; Pierre-Amable De Bonne]. In addition to being a member of the assembly, he sat on several commissions: in June 1799 he was appointed a commissioner for the construction of a court-house at Quebec, in July 1800 for the management of the Jesuit estates, in June 1801 for the upkeep and care of the insane and foundlings, and finally, in March 1808, for the building of a prison at Quebec.
During these years Berthelot Dartigny had at different times taken into his service five apprentice lawyers, among them his own son Amable*, Alexandre Menut’s son, and Charles-Étienne*, the son of Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros* de Léry. He had not, however, done much investing in real estate, buying only a lot on Rue Saint-Louis in 1797 and two small stone houses on Rue des Carrières in 1800 and 1801. In 1802 he received a farm as a reward for his services in the defence of Quebec at the time of the American invasion in 1775–76 [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*]. In fact, on 5 June 1788 he had asked for land grants for three militia companies that served during the siege of the town, but it was not until 1802 that the government acceded to this request. After 1809 Berthelot Dartigny leased out several of the houses he owned, including the second storey of his residence on Rue Sainte-Anne, for rents that varied from £40 to £120 each a year.
Berthelot Dartigny died in 1815 at 76 years of age, the doyen of the Quebec bar. He had been a widower since November 1792, and in his will, made in 1813, he left all his belongings to his three living children, along with a life annuity of 365 shillings to his maidservant. His personal estate included a library, valued at about £60, which comprised some 56 titles in 94 volumes in addition to the issues of the Quebec Gazette since 1774. He held debts amounting to £750 and, except for the £416 owing to his older son Michel and the £21 to his daughter Geneviève, wife of the notary Joseph Badeaux*, he owed only £87 to various creditors. On 12 May 1815 his body was buried in the Sainte-Famille chapel in Notre-Dame church, since his heirs had not been able to obtain permission to have him interred as he had wished in the little cemetery attached to the chapel.
Both through his legal activities and through his participation in political life and in business, Michel-Amable Berthelot Dartigny had acquired a certain standing in the Quebec region. Thus the Rue D’Artigny, which was opened up in 1829 on a piece of land that had belonged to him, was named in his honour. It was after his father had returned to France in the autumn of 1758 that he had come into possession of this property, held in roture, which had been bought by his father from Louis Rouer* d’Artigny’s heirs ten years earlier. Michel-Amable had then added Dartigny to his name, but he was the only one to use this double patronymic, and his children bore only the name of Berthelot.
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