COUILLARD DE LESPINAY, JEAN-BAPTISTE (Lépinay, L’Épine, L’Espinay), ensign, captain of the guards of the tax-farm, attorney of the provost court, lieutenant-general of the admiralty court, seigneur; son of Louis Couillard* de Lespinay and Geneviève Després; baptized at Quebec 2 May 1657; buried 8 March 1735 at Quebec.
Jean-Baptiste Couillard de Lespinay, the eldest son of the first seigneur of Rivière-du-Sud, had a double career as administrator and seigneur. On 24 Oct. 1680 he married Geneviève de Chavigny, widow of Charles Amiot*. From her first marriage she had had one son, Charles-Joseph Amiot de Vincelotte, who was to have numerous conflicts with his step-father.
On 15 May 1691, after serving as ensign and captain of the guards of the tax-farm, Couillard de Lespinay received from Buade* de Frontenac a commission as captain of the port of Quebec. Curiously enough, neither the king, Louis XIV, nor the admiral of France confirmed this appointment, so that in 1702 a report stressed that “a port captain would be very necessary,” and that one could hardly find “a man of greater uprightness and with more experience of such matters than he [Lespinay].” However, Callière and Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye were opposed, for according to them “the Sieur de Lépinay is not qualified either by his birth or by his services for such a position.” On the other hand, in 1703 these same governmental authorities recommended him for the post of king’s attorney of the provost and admiralty courts of Quebec, but they changed their minds and later put forward the name of his step-son Charles-Joseph Amiot. Nevertheless, on 10 Oct. 1705 Couillard received from Jacques Raudot the order to take over the functions of attorney during the absence of the Sieur Thierry, who was detained in France by illness. He deputized in this office until 9 June 1708, when the king appointed him officially to the post. He exercised this function until 1716. On 27 April of that year, the king granted him the office of special lieutenant of the provost court, but Couillard was to act as lieutenant-general until the installation of Pierre André* de Leigne, on 10 Oct. 1719. In January 1718 Couillard was granted the commission of lieutenant-general in the admiralty court of Quebec. From October 1719 until his death, he performed the two functions of special lieutenant of the provost court and lieutenant-general of the admiralty court.
These duties obliged Couillard de Lespinay to live in Quebec, where he resided in Rue Sous-le-Fort. He nonetheless remained co-seigneur of Rivière-du-Sud. On 4 Aug. 1671 at the same time as did his brothers Louis and Jacques, he had received a land grant of 100 acres, situated between Rivière-du-Sud and Rivière des Vases. On his father’s death in 1678, he had inherited, as the eldest son, half of the Rivière-du-Sud seigneury. In 1701 he was granted the fief of Lespinay and purchased the fief of Saint-Luc. As the owner of a fairly extensive domain, he, like his brother Louis, proved himself to be a wise seigneur who made numerous land grants. He was, moreover, obliged to defend part of his property, first in 1693 against Nicolas Gamache, seigneur of L’Islet, and a second time, after the death of his wife in 1724, against Amiot de Vincelotte, his step-son, who boasted that he had some 15 lawsuits to bring against him and who obtained only half of an unidentified fief.
Jean-Baptiste Couillard de Lespinay was always acknowledged to be a “very worthy man”; the authorities praised his “loyalty, integrity, experience and attachment to the service of His Majesty.” A fervent Christian, he was a member of the Marian congregation for men and one of the benefactors of the religious communities of Quebec. He was buried in the paupers’ cemetery at Quebec.
AQ, Azarie Couillard Després. “Un mémoire de Le Roy de La Potherie sur la Nouvelle-France adressé à M. de Pontchartrain, 1701–1702,” BRH, XXII (1916), 214–16. Azarie Couillard Després, Histoire des seigneurs de la Rivière-du-Sud et leurs alliés canadiens et acadiens (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué., 1912); La première famille française au Canada, ses alliés et ses descendants (Montréal, 1906). P.-G. Roy, “Jean-Baptiste Couillard de Lespinay,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 3–10.