DESCHENAUX (Brassard Deschenaux), PIERRE-LOUIS, notary, lawyer, office holder, and judge; b. 13 Feb. 1759 at Quebec, son of Joseph Brassard* Deschenaux and Madeleine Vallée; m. there first 14 June 1784 Geneviève Dumon, who died two years later; m. secondly 11 April 1787 Marie-Joseph Perrault; d. 31 Dec. 1802 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada.
Pierre-Louis Deschenaux spent his childhood at Quebec during the turbulent period that followed the Seven Years’ War. He studied at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1768 to 1779. When he left it his father urged him to take up a legal career; with this in mind he placed him for two years as a clerk in the office of notary Charles Stewart at Quebec. Such training was quite unusual at that time, since most notaries learned their profession on their own. On 18 June 1781 Deschenaux received a commission from Governor Haldimand authorizing him to practise as a notary anywhere in the province, and on 17 November he was made a lawyer.
After receiving his two commissions Deschenaux immediately set up office at Quebec. From the beginning he received assistance from Stewart, who sent him some of his clients. He was soon engaged in complex cases, including one concerning the Cugnet family’s inheritance. This matter, which was already a controversial one, quickly involved him in a conflict of interests. On 2 Sept. 1783 he and another notary proceeded to inventory the estate of Louise-Madeleine Dusautoy (Dusaultoir), widow of François-Étienne Cugnet*. From September 1783 to July 1784 he also acted as attorney for François-Joseph Cugnet* in the lawsuit that Cugnet brought against the executor for his mother, Mme Dusautoy. To prevent the concurrent exercise of two closely related legal functions by one person, Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton* on 30 April 1785 approved an ordinance which forbad the simultaneous practice of the professions of notary and lawyer. Deschenaux therefore gave up law to devote himself solely to being a notary in the Quebec region.
From 1786 to 1794 his office seems to have been quite popular, since three candidates for the notarial profession came to train as clerks there, one being Félix Têtu Jr. Deschenaux’s reputation brought him various posts, such as justice of the peace for the District of Quebec in 1788 and commissioner of crown lands in 1794. In 1793, upon his father’s death, Deschenaux had inherited several pieces of property. This legacy, and the shares he purchased from the other three heirs for £870, secured him full possession of three houses and six lots on Rue des Pauvres (Côte du Palais) at Quebec. Through this inheritance he also became part-owner of the seigneury of Neuville, near Quebec, which he had already been managing for some years.
Having given up his practice as a notary and having been reinstated as a lawyer on 27 Nov. 1794, Deschenaux on 18 December was appointed a judge of the Provincial Court of Three Rivers. This newly created court had authority to hear civil cases involving sums not exceeding £10. A court of king’s bench, composed of the judge of the Provincial Court of Three Rivers and two judges from the courts of king’s bench of Montreal and Quebec, exercised jurisdiction in criminal matters. This promotion to a prestigious office did not prevent Deschenaux from showing his displeasure at receiving less remuneration than the judges of other courts of king’s bench. On 29 Oct. 1796 he sent Lieutenant Governor Robert Prescott a request that his annual salary be raised from £300 to £500, like that of his opposite numbers in Montreal and Quebec. Moreover he always made a point of signing official documents as a judge of the Court of King’s Bench.
Deschenaux’s judicial career at Trois-Rivières was undistinguished; nevertheless the few judgements he delivered reveal a deep knowledge of the law and a spirit of humanity. As a prominent individual he took an interest in social life and the well-being of the local citizens. He was, for example, president of the Fire Society and with Abbé François-Xavier Noiseux he organized a public subscription, to which he contributed generously himself, to equip the town with adequate fire protection. Towards the end of the 1790s he gave financial assistance to his cousin Louis-Marie Brassard*, the former parish priest of Saint-Jean-Baptiste at Nicolet, to set up the elementary school from which the Séminaire de Nicolet would develop. On Brassard’s death in 1800 he promised to contribute £50 a year to support the little school, which opened on 10 March 1801.
Pierre-Louis Deschenaux was buried at Trois-Rivières on 3 Jan. 1803 “in the nave of the church, in the presence of a great crowd of people,” as the parish register records. The huge Tonnancour house, which he had owned since 11 April 1795, became the property of the military authorities and was converted into a residence and barracks. The fabrique of the parish of Immaculée-Conception at Trois-Rivières purchased it in 1822, to turn it into the new presbytery, and later into the first bishop’s palace.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 13 févr. 1759, 14 juin 1784, 11 avril 1787; CN1-157, ler juin 1790, 4 déc. 1801; CN1-224, 31 juill. 1786; CN1-230, 5 juin, 30 oct. 1793; 14 janv. 1794. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. BL, Add. mss 21735/1: 144 (copy at PAC). PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 78: 124–25. Qué., Conseil législatif, Ordonnances, 1785, c.4. Montreal Gazette, 7 Aug. 1788. Quebec Gazette, 16 Oct. 1794. Quebec almanac, 1788–1801. P.-G. Roy, Les juges de la prov. de Québec, xii-xiii, 163. J.-E. Bellemare, Histoire de Nicolet, 1669–1924 (Arthabaska, Qué., 1924), 185, 369. J.-A.-I. Douville, Histoire du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1803–1903, avec les listes complètes des directeurs, professeurs et élèves de l’institution (2v., Montréal, 1903), 1: 5–9. J.-E. Roy, Hist. du notariat. F.-J. Audet, “Les juges de Trois-Rivières,” BRH, 6 (1900): 244–47.