BOUCHER DE NIVERVILLE, LOUIS-CHARLES, lawyer, politician, and sheriff; b. 12 Aug. 1825 at Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada, son of Joseph-Michel Boucher de Niverville, a seigneur, and Josephte Laviolette; m. in 1852 Éliza Lafond., daughter of Antoine Lafond, a farmer of Nicolet; the couple had no children; d. 1 Aug. 1869 at Trois-Rivières.
A descendant of the illustrious Pierre Boucher* and member of a family that was still influential at Trois-Rivières, Charles Boucher de Niverville prepared early for a professional career. He studied at the Séminaire de Nicolet from 1837 to 1844, then received legal training at Trois-Rivières under lawyers Antoine Polette* and Louis-Eusèbe Désilets. He was called to the bar on 2 May 1849. He soon became one of the most popular local lawyers, both at Trois-Rivières where he had “almost all the commercial clientele,” and in the rural districts, where his prodigious memory and prompt and reliable judgement were much admired. So successful was he that he sometimes earned between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. His colleagues acknowledged his merit by twice electing him bâtonnier of the bar of Trois-Rivières; on 28 June 1867 he became a qc.
Political life did not attract Boucher de Niverville until quite late in life. In 1856 Napoléon Bureau* had tried earnestly to persuade him: “It is time for people of your age to assume control of public life in your district.” Boucher de Niverville hesitated to commit himself, for he was drawn more to society life, horse racing, and cock fighting. He took the step in 1863 and became mayor of the town of Trois-Rivières. Two years later, following Joseph-Édouard Turcotte’s death, 252 electors begged him to stand in the provincial by-election in the riding of Trois-Rivières; he accepted, announcing his electoral programme would be to continue the policy of Turcotte and the businessmen who had fought at his side: support of plans for confederation and for the intercolonial railway, improvements to the Trois-Rivières–Arthabaska railroad and to the Collège de Trois-Rivières, and the transfer of the Collège de Nicolet in order that the Collège de Trois-Rivières would no longer have a competitor in the region. Boucher de Niverville was elected by acclamation in mid January 1865, took his seat on 24 January, and spoke in the assembly for the first time in early February. His friends enthusiastically congratulated him, and Odilon-Zéphirin Hamel wrote to him: “We have seen the noble C. B. Niverville show himself worthy of the name he bears, and sustain the cause of our great country with strength and courage.”
During this same session Boucher de Niverville made the most important speech of his career: on Friday 10 March 1865 he gave his support to the Quebec Resolutions. Niverville had prepared himself by asking the advice of two “eminently qualified” members of the clergy. One was Abbé Louis-François Laflèche*, who on 2 March 1865 had written him a long letter in which he explained that confederation alone offered “in reality a last hope,” and that, as worked out by “the men foremost in experience, talent, intelligence, knowledge of political affairs, and patriotism,” it was “the best thing for us in the present circumstances.” Inspired partly by the ideas of his former teacher, Boucher was not afraid to affirm that with confederation the rights of French Canadians would be well protected, that those of the French language would be more extensive, and emigration to the United States would cease. In the 1867 elections Boucher de Niverville was elected to two levels of government for Trois-Rivières. In parliament he concerned himself particularly with a railway that would connect Les Piles (Grandes-Piles) and Trois-Rivières, but he had little success. This railway, which had been requested since 1852, was not built until 1879.
Charles Boucher de Niverville gave up politics in 1868, and retired to Trois-Rivières to “the coveted retreat known as the office of sheriff,” as a contemporary put it. Did he feel that he already bore the inescapable mark of illness? In 1867 he had resolved to “break for ever with Bacchus,” but he had been unable to keep his word; similarly his passion for horses had not diminished, even if, as it was said, “his ventures on the turf had made inroads into his fortune. In 1869 a disease of the lungs and liver struck him down. He made serious preparations for his death, and drew up a will by which he left his personal property to his wife and his real estate to the parish priest of Trois-Rivières for the benefit of the poor. He died on 1 Aug. 1869, leaving “the memory of a most warm-hearted person, and of a man of talent who might have won a higher position than he did.”
ASTR, Archives de la famille Boucher, K 2, 46–100. Can., prov. du, Débats parlementaires sur la Confédération, 946–51. Le Constitutionnel (Trois-Rivières), 2 août 1868. Le Journal de Québec, janv.–févr. 1865. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de la région des Trois-Rivières (1841–1867) (Trois-Rivières, 1934). Raymond Douville, “Charles Boucher de Niverville, son ascendance et sa carrière politique,” Cahiers des Dix, 37 (1972), 87–122.