SALES LATERRIÈRE, PIERRE-JEAN DE, doctor, militia officer, jp, and author; b. 1 July 1789 in Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville), Que., elder son of Pierre de Sales* Laterrière and Marie-Catherine Delezenne; m. 16 Aug. 1815 Mary Ann Bulmer in London, and they had at least five children; d. 15 Dec. 1834 in Les Éboulements, Lower Canada.

Pierre-Jean de Sales Laterrière spent his childhood in Baie-du-Febvre. His father, anxious to assure the children of a good education, decided in 1799 to move to Quebec; he opened an apothecary’s shop there and continued to practise medicine. Laterrière entered the Petit Séminaire de Québec, where his schoolmates included Philippe-Joseph Aubert* de Gaspé, with whom he became close friends, Louis-Joseph Papineau*, and Joseph Painchaud*. Upon completing his studies in 1807 Laterrière began an apprenticeship in medicine with his father. From July 1807 to June 1808, while the latter was travelling in Europe, Laterrière ran the shop by himself. Shortly after his father came back he in turn went off to England. He studied medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital in London under a famous surgeon, Astley Paston Cooper. Admitted to membership in the Royal College of Surgeons in 1809, he did a period of training in a military hospital at Ramsgate.

On his return to Quebec in 1810 Laterrière took over his father’s shop and clientele. Early in 1812 he went into partnership with his younger brother Marc-Pascal*, who had returned from studying medicine in the United States. At that time there were, other than Laterrière, few if any surgeons from Lower Canada with experience of military hospitals. Consequently on 24 April 1812 he was appointed surgeon to the Voltigeurs Canadiens, commanded by Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry. Laterrière, who was quite well off, rented a house near Fort Chambly, where his regiment was quartered; he even bought a horse for Captain Jacques Viger*, who was unable to meet such an expense. Laterrière remained with his regiment until 6 Oct. 1814. At that time he received a letter from his father requesting that he go to France and settle some family business there. Laterrière immediately applied for a six-month leave of absence and, assuming it would be granted, returned to Quebec with the intention of sailing for Europe. His request was turned down; Laterrière then tried to appeal to the governor, but in vain. Consequently he resigned from his posting with the Voltigeurs Canadiens early in November and left for France, where he was supposed to collect a large inheritance bequeathed to his father.

When Laterrière reached Bordeaux early in 1815, war was raging again following Napoleon’s return from Elba. Being a British subject, Laterrière took Henry-Antoine Mézière*’s advice and fled to London to wait for normal times. On 24 July he wrote to Marc-Pascal: “I have just added another 10,000 sterling to our common fortune, not counting the advantages that will result.” He was referring to the dowry that his young bride would bring him. On the eve of his marriage he wrote to his brother: “Tomorrow at nine is the day my bondage begins . . . I have considered my prospects and necessity alone has forced me to it.” She “is not beautiful at all,” he added, “but she is witty and I am persuaded that she will make me happy, because she loves me totally.”

Having learned shortly afterwards of his father’s death, Laterrière decided to return to Lower Canada. But first he took steps to be readmitted as an officer in the Voltigeurs Canadiens and so be eligible for half pay. Despite letters of recommendation in his favour from Lieutenant-Colonel Salaberry and Major Jean-Baptiste Juchereau Duchesnay, and even though his regiment had not taken part in any engagements after he had left it, he met with refusal upon refusal.

On returning to Quebec in June 1816 Laterrière divided his father’s estate with his brother. He kept the properties at Quebec for himself, and Marc-Pascal received the seigneury of Les Éboulements. Then Laterrière opened a new apothecary’s shop in Upper Town at Quebec and started practising medicine again. As one of a group of Canadian doctors in the town he played a prominent role during the next six years. In 1818 he joined Charles-Norbert Perrault, Anthony von Iffland*, and other doctors in founding the Quebec Dispensary to provide free treatment for the needy and to offer the first courses in medicine at Quebec. Furthermore, in the spring of 1820 Laterrière was chosen to serve on the founding committee of a Quebec branch of the Royal Humane Society of London for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned or Dead.

Laterrière also involved himself in social and political concerns. In 1819, with his medical colleagues Augustin Mercier, Joseph Morrin*, and Perrault, he became a director of the Quebec Fire Society. In the general elections held the following year he ran in Northumberland, but when four days of voting left him trailing the other candidates, Étienne-Claude Lagueux and Philippe Panet*, he withdrew. Then in 1821 he was appointed a justice of the peace for the district of Quebec. Along with these activities Laterrière engaged in numerous business ventures. He bought a number of properties in the town and its suburbs for rental or resale. With a group of partners he also invested in building and operating a toll-bridge over the Rivière Chaudière at Sainte-Marie-de-la-Nouvelle-Beauce (Sainte-Marie). In 1821, along with Joseph-Rémi Vallières* de Saint-Réal and others, Laterrière took over managing the assets of Joseph Bouchette*, who was at that time buying and selling properties on his own account and for others.

In the spring of 1823 Laterrière left for London to see his father-in-law, who was seriously ill. The following year, after the latter’s death, he received a £3,000 annuity as an inheritance. He then bought a property in Middlesex, taking up residence there with his family. He started on a second, though short-lived, career in England. From then on, in fact, Laterrière devoted himself to managing the large fortune left by his father-in-law. He used his frequent periods of leisure especially to make numerous trips to Europe and North America. He also began to move in reform political circles and became a close friend of John Arthur Roebuck*, who would later serve as London agent of the Lower Canadian House of Assembly. Laterrière received Canadian delegates to the capital and supplied them with information, and he kept a close eye on proposed British legislative measures that could affect Lower Canada. With a view to making people in England aware of the trying situation his compatriots had been placed in by the imperial government, Laterrière in 1830 published his Political and historical account of Lower Canada; with remarks . . . , signing himself A Canadian. And Canadian Laterrière remained until the day he died. Despite his almost princely style of living, he never lost a deep longing for his native land; on several occasions he even tried to return there for good, but his wife was against the idea. In 1827 he applied unsuccessfully to Robert John Wilmot-Horton in the Colonial Office for the grant of a seigneury on the north shore of the St Lawrence east of the Saguenay, offering to invest the capital to settle about 200 young people who were prepared to go there. A short time later he also considered buying the seigneury of Deschambault. In fact, Laterrière never did return to live in Lower Canada. He died, a victim of diabetes, while on a visit to Les Éboulements in 1834.

In November 1835, less than a year after his death, Pierre-Jean de Sales Laterrière was the subject of a duel with pistols between his brother and lawyer Elzéar Bédard*, following Bédard’s mention in court of an instance in which Pierre-Jean had practised usury. It was probably one of the last duels to take place at Quebec. Laterrière, however, left more than a controversial memory. His friend Aubert de Gaspé praised him in moving terms in his Mémoires. Contemporaries remembered him as a brilliant doctor, despite the brevity of his career. Even in October 1846, at a banquet following a general meeting of the doctors in Lower Canada, Joseph Painchaud called to mind Laterrière’s talents and achievements.

Pierre Dufour

ANQ-Q, CE4-4, 18 déc. 1834; CN1-171, 19 juin 1816. Arch. de l’univ. Laval (Québec), 298/17. PAC, MG 8, F131; MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 135, 140, 214; MG 24, A19, 3; RG 4, A1, 160, 162; RG 8, I (C ser.), 168, 202, 600, 796–97, 1218; RG 9, I, A5, 4. Joseph Papineau, “Correspondance de Joseph Papineau (1793–1840),” Fernand Ouellet, édit., ANQ Rapport, 1951–53: 165–299. [P.-J. de Sales Laterrière], Political and historical account of Lower Canada; with remarks . . . (London, 1830). Pierre de Sales Laterrière, Mémoires de Pierre de Sales Laterrière et de ses traverses, [Alfred Garneau, édit.] (Québec, 1873; réimpr. Ottawa, 1980). Quebec Gazette, 19 Sept., 17 Oct. 1816; 9, 23, 30 Jan., 18 Sept. 1817; 12 March, 28 Dec. 1818; 4 Jan., 11, 15 March, 19, 22 April 1819; 10, 26 June, 23 Oct., 30 Nov. 1820; 18 Jan. 1821. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Signay,” ANQ Rapport, 1936–37: 123–330. Philéas Gagnon, Essai de bibliographie canadienne . . . (2v., Québec et Montréal, 1895–1913; réimpr. Dubuque, Iowa, [1962]). Fernand Ouellet, “Inventaire de la Saberdache de Jacques Viger,” ANQ Rapport, 1955–57: 33–176. P.-G. Roy, Inventaire des procès-verbaux des grands voyers conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec (6v., Beauceville, Qué., 1923–32). Yvon Thériault, “Inventaire sommaire des archives du séminaire des Trois-Rivières,” ANQ Rapport, 1961–64: 71–134. Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. P. [-J.] Aubert de Gaspé, Les anciens Canadiens (Québec, 1863); Mémoires (1866). H.-R. Casgrain, La famille de Sales Laterrière (Québec, 1870). F.-X. Chouinard et al., La ville de Québec, histoire municipale (4v., Québec, 1963–83). Albert Lesage et H. E. MacDermot, Le Collège des médecins et chirurgiens de la province de Québec, 1847–1947 (Montréal, 1947). Michelle Guitard, Histoire sociale des miliciens de la bataille de la Châteauguay (Ottawa, 1983). Albert Jobin, Histoire de Québec (Québec, 1947). Jacques Bernier, “François Blanchet et le mouvement réformiste en médecine au début du XIXe siècle,” RHAF, 34 (1980–81): 223–44. “Les disparus,” BRH, 32 (1926): 690; 34 (1928): 739. Ignotus [Thomas Chapais], “La profession médicale au Canada,” BRH, 12 (1906): 142–50. Sylvio Leblond, “La médecine dans la province de Québec avant 1847,” Cahiers des Dix, 35 (1970): 69–95. Gérard Malchelosse, “Mémoires romancés,” Cahiers des Dix, 25 (1960): 103–44. Gérard Parizeau, “Joseph Bouchette: l’homme et le haut fonctionnaire,” RSC Trans., 4th ser., 9 (1971), sect.i: 95–126. B. R. Tunis, “Medical education and medical licensing in Lower Canada: demographic factors, conflict, and social change,” SH, 14 (1981): 67–91.

Cite This Article

Pierre Dufour, “SALES LATERRIÈRE, PIERRE-JEAN DE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 23, 2024,

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Author of Article:   Pierre Dufour
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   July 23, 2024