RABY, AUGUSTIN-JÉRÔME, militia officer, pilot, and politician; b. 10 Nov. 1745 at Quebec, son of Augustin Raby* and Françoise Delisle; m. there secondly 22 Nov. 1784 Marie-Gillette Turgeon; two daughters and one son were born of these marriages; d. 20 Sept. 1822 at Quebec.
Augustin-Jérôme Raby received a primary education and embarked upon a mariner’s career, likely by becoming an apprentice to his father, who was well known in the 18th Century as a leading local figure in the shipping world. Until 1780 little trace of his career has been found; he received his licence as a St Lawrence pilot in the 1780s, and worked as one until he was appointed superintendent of St Lawrence pilots on 31 March 1797. In 1805 the governor reconfirmed him in his post and made him an officer of Trinity House at Quebec.
Founded that year, Trinity House was entrusted with important responsibilities related to maritime concerns in Lower Canada: supervision of pilotage, administration of port and marine facilities, and improvement of navigation on the St Lawrence. Raby drew up plans to facilitate shipping through construction of a lighthouse on Île Verte, which was built by Edward Cannon* in 1808, and the placing of various buoys and markers at the most dangerous spots between Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies and Quebec. In supervising the work of the pilots, who were bound by numerous rules and a multitude of regulations, he had to see that offenders were fined or suspended in punishment, and to recommend new candidates for the pilot’s licence. As a means of ensuring the quality of work, a pilot, each time he took a ship in or out, had to draw up a report to be submitted to the authorities by the captain or master.
Raby’s last years as superintendent of pilots were very difficult. The minutes of Trinity House several times mention that he could no longer carry out his duties effectively because of his advanced age and precarious health and that several people were taking advantage of the situation to contravene the rules and regulations. Trinity House, which recognized his long years of devotion to duty, wanted him to retain the privileges that went with the function, but at the same time wanted to shield him from responsibilities increasingly onerous for a man who was ill and quite old. In 1821 it accepted Robert Young’s offer to assume all the duties of the superintendent of pilots without charge, on condition that Trinity House guarantee him the post and its privileges upon Raby’s death.
Raby had been active in Quebec society. He joined the militia and took part as a lieutenant in the defence of the town when it was besieged during the American revolution. Being concerned about educational problems, he signed the petition in 1790 requesting that a university be founded in the province. He became a member of the Fire Society in 1795, and of the Agriculture Society in 1821. In 1807 his fellow Catholics recognized his social status by appointing him a churchwarden of the parish of Notre-Dame, an office he held until 1814. Raby also took an interest in political life. He was elected to the House of Assembly for Lower Town Quebec in 1796, and four years later he ran in Upper Town, defeating William Grant*. He sat in the assembly until 1804 and at first supported the Canadian party. But in the third parliament (1801–4) he was one or the five Canadians who were sympathetic to the English party.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 10 nov. 1745, 16 sept. 1771, 22 nov. 1784, 23 sept. 1822. Ports Canada Arch. (Quebec), Trinity House, Quebec, minute-books, IV. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49. Quebec Gazette, 4 Nov. 1790; 25 June 1795; 30 March, 31 May 1797; 9 Aug. 1821. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” Desjardins, Guide parl. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. “Les disparus,” BRH, 32 (1926): 362. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 361–95. P.-G. Roy, “Le pilote Raby,” BRH, 13 (1907): 124–26.