CHARTIER DE LOTBINIÈRE, EUSTACHE (baptized François-Louis), Recollet, cordelier, and member of the Knights of Malta; b. 13 Dec. 1716 in Quebec, son of Eustache Chartier* de Lotbinière and Marie-Françoise Renaud d’Avène de Desmeloizes; d. some time after 1785 in the United States of America.
The young François-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière must have studied either at the Jesuit college or the Petit Séminaire at Quebec, as did his brothers. In 1736 his father put him on a ship bound for France, where he was to prepare for a career. But in the first of the scandals of his career the young man, not yet 20, broke his journey on the Labrador coast and, returning to Quebec, immediately joined the Recollets, in spite of the opposition of his father who was aware that he was neither serious nor pious. Chartier de Lotbinière took his vows on 17 Oct. 1738 under the name of Brother Eustache. But he had to wait until a new bishop, Pontbriand [Dubreil*], arrived to receive the minor and major orders, including the priesthood; these he was given in a four-day interval from 20 to 23 Sept. 1741. He then travelled to France where, according to Odoric-Marie Jouve, “he obtained admission as a member of the Friars Minor of the Observance [cordeliers]; but he subsequently went back to the Recollets, and in 1749 returned to Canada.” This stay in France is confirmed by a letter dated 24 March 1748 from Canon Pierre Hazeur de L’Orme to his brother Joseph-Thierry Hazeur* in Quebec, in which he casually mentions Canon Eustache Chartier de Lotbinière’s sons: “There’s one of them parish priest at Pointe-aux-Trembles [Neuville]; another one a Recollet after being a cordelier, who is now in Rouen where he is busy preaching badly. . . .”
Upon his return to Canada, Chartier de Lotbinière exercised his ministry, mainly at Trois-Rivières, until the end of 1756, but also served as chaplain to various forts. François-Clément Boucher de La Perrière, the commandant of Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, N.Y.), was in fact speaking of Father Eustache when he wrote on 11 June 1755 “that he can be considered a deserter from his post.” This evidence is of some significance. According to letters written much later by Bishop Briand the famous Father Eustache had already ruined his career publicly through the twin vices of drunkenness and dissoluteness. Although the document cannot be found, around 1756 Bishop Pontbriand issued a declaration of interdict and suspension from all the orders. The interdict theoretically excluded him from all churches and even from the colony. It seems likely that his elder brother Eustache, the parish priest of Pointe-aux-Trembles, and his younger brother Michel, a respectable army engineer, allied to make him return to France. According to Bishop Briand, Chartier de Lotbinière suffered a serious illness there; he remained a Recollet, “after that [was] apostate . . . for two years; then, becoming a member of the Order of Malta without mending his ways, [and] expelled from Martinique by the Capuchins and the governor because of his disorderly conduct, he was not ashamed to return to Canada.”
He arrived in Quebec in August 1768. According to François-Xavier Noiseux*, “he had obtained a situation as a lay brother in the Order of Malta and wore a cassock with the cross of Malta.” He went to his brother Eustache at Pointe-aux-Trembles, where Bishop Briand allowed him to administer the sacraments. On 2 Oct. 1770 Briand took the risk of naming him parish priest at Saint-Laurent, on Île d’Orléans, under the supervision of Chartier’s first cousin, Louis-Philippe Mariauchau d’Esgly, the new coadjutor bishop of Quebec and priest of the neighbouring parish of Saint-Pierre. But Chartier de Lotbinière’s loose living forced the coadjutor in May 1772 to suspend him from all public functions. He then retired to a private home at Beaumont and drew up lists of charges against Bishop Briand which he sent to London and Rome. The bishop had no difficulty in clearing himself of the charges; always gracious, he accepted the culprit’s apologies and had restored to him a suitable pension which the governor had granted but then withdrawn. The bishop did, however, administer a stinging rebuke to Abbé Antoine Huppé, dit Lagroix, the parish priest at Saint-Michel (Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse), who was responsible for the mission church at Beaumont, for having let Chartier de Lotbinière administer the sacraments to his flock.
The American invasion in the autumn of 1775 was perfectly timed to relieve the Quebec church of this chronic scandal. With Bishop Briand preaching loyalty to the Catholic Canadians, the ex-Recollet took the rebels’ side, setting himself up as chaplain to the handful of Canadians who had become militiamen in the pay of the Bostonnais under James Livingston* and taking part in the siege of Quebec that winter. The odds were excellent for him; the Americans had given him £1,500 and promised him a bishop’s mitre. “M. de Lotbinière then came out of retirement to minister and give the sacraments to the rebels, without any authority. He took over the church at Ste-Foy and performed the duties of ministry there.” He was designated chaplain for the Canadian militiamen by Benedict Arnold* on 26 Jan. 1776. After the siege of Quebec was lifted, he followed his regiment in retreat across the border with the Americans. On 12 Aug. 1776 Congress ratified his appointment as military chaplain, and he was paid a monthly salary until February 1781. After that Chartier de Lotbinière is believed to have retired to the home of his brother Michel, who was also living in the United States, having taken up the Americans’ cause, although under different circumstances. At the end of 1785 and again on 2 Jan. 1786, “in danger of dying of cold and hunger,” Eustache Chartier de Lotbinière, who was then at Bristol, Pennsylvania, demanded from Congress what he believed was his due for his commitment and services to the cause of American independence. No further trace of him has been found.
ANQ-Q, AP-P-378. ASQ, mss, 425; Fonds Viger-Verreau, Carton 2, no.132; Sér. O, mss 097. [Thomas Ainslie], “Journal of the most remarkable occurences in the province of Quebec from the appearance of the rebels in September 1775 until their retreat on the sixth of May 1776,” ed. F. C. Würtele, Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Hist. Docs., 7th ser. (1905), –89. U.S., Continental Congress, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford et al. (34v., Washington, 1904–37), P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, I, 189–90. Jouve, Les franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières, 181, 202. Laval Laurent, Québec et l’Église aux États-Unis sous Mgr Briand et Mgr Plessis (Montréal, 1945). Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale,” BRH, XVI, 362.