AUMASSON DE COURVILLE, LOUIS-LÉONARD, known as Sieur de Courville, notary, lawyer, and memorialist; b. at the end of 1722 or the beginning of 1723 at Sainte-Menehould, France, son of Claude Aumasson de Courville, an officer, and Judith de Chevreau; m. 6 June 1752 Marie-Anne, daughter of Étienne Amiot, dit Villeneuve, at Quebec; d. some time after 1782, perhaps in the Montreal region.
Louis-Léonard Aumasson de Courville, a secretary to the Marquis de La Jonquière [Taffanel*], governor of New France, may have arrived in Quebec with him in August 1749. On 28 May 1754 he was appointed royal notary for French Acadia and by July had taken up residence at Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.). There he soon became the secretary of the commandant, Louis Du Pont Duchambon de Vergor, and he became acquainted with Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre and Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont, both of whom later figured prominently in his “Mémoires.” After a siege by Robert Monckton Fort Beauséjour capitulated on 16 June 1755. As Vergor’s secretary Aumasson de Courville drafted the terms of surrender.
Back in Quebec after his year in Acadia, Aumasson de Courville was appointed clerk of the Jesuits’ seigneurial court at Notre-Dame-des-Anges on 26 March 1756. On 3 April Intendant Bigot granted him a commission as royal notary in the jurisdictions near Quebec of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Saint-Gabriel, Sillery, Saint-Joseph, and Saint-Ignace. Courville apparently did not receive any deeds after 11 June 1758, when he was living at Ancienne-Lorette. He continued as clerk of the Jesuit court until 1759.
On 1 Oct. 1760 Aumasson de Courville received a new commission from the military governor of Montreal, Thomas Gage, to serve as “royal notary” in the parishes of Saint-Ours, Contrecœur, and Saint-Denis on the Richelieu River. Over the next five years he lived in the parishes of L’Assomption, Repentigny, Varennes, and Saint-Ours successively before settling in Saint-Denis, which had been supposed to be his place of residence. The profession of notary had been recognized by the military régime, but there was uncertainty about its continued existence after the treaty of Paris; this uncertainty, and the relatively low fees, probably explain why the Sieur de Courville felt a need for change. He settled in the faubourg Saint-Marie in Montreal in 1765 and seems at that point to have forsaken notarial practice for a new career; on 26 Nov. 1768 he was admitted to the bar. But he evidently earned no more as a lawyer than he had as a notary, since on 12 April 1770 the sheriff held a sale of his property. He was still in Montreal at the beginning of June 1773, when his oldest son, Charles-Léonard, died at 18 years of age. Aumasson de Courville gave up pleading, returned to notarial practice and by 1779 had settled in L’Assomption where he practised at least until 1781 or more likely 1782. After that date no further trace of him has been found.
After more than 20 years of research, Ægidius Fauteux* established in 1940 that the author of the “Mémoires du S . . . de C . . . contenant l’histoire du Canada durant la guerre, et sous le gouvernement anglais” was Louis-Léonard Aumasson de Courville, whose biography he wrote. The “Mémoires” recount events in New France between 1749 and the beginning of the British régime, and they were published in 1838. It may be that they were begun by Courville before the capture of Quebec, since some of them were transmitted to the anonymous author of the “Mémoire du Canada,” who is known to have left New France for France by the spring of 1760. Fauteux’s searching analysis of the “Mémoires” reveals Courville to have been a difficult man whose tenacious personal animosities sometimes obscured his view of events. Courville describes the activities of the administrators and embezzlers at the end of the French régime bluntly, and he also attacks the clergy, particularly Abbé Le Loutre, François Picquet, and the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Tournois*. In this outspokenness Fauteux saw the explanation for the anonymity Courville maintained; the “Mémoires” contain so much “invective, a great deal of it flagrantly unfair,” that “fear of reprisal made him keep silent.”
Whether as secretary or as notary Courville was in subordinate positions; it is significant that he was not called as a witness at the trial of Vergor, who was accused of negligence after the loss of Fort Beauséjour. The change of régime did not favour his career. In 1779, when he was arguing with Valentin Jautard in the Gazette littéraire pour la ville et district de Montréal, he describes himself as an “old-fashioned jurist, living in a cottage, exposed to the full fury of disgrace and misfortune.”
[The “Mémoires du S . . . de C . . . contenant l’histoire du Canada durant la guerre, et sous le gouvernement anglais” were published in 1838 and reprinted in 1873 in “Mémoires sur le Canada, depuis 1749 jusqu’à 1760 . . . ,” Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Hist. Docs., 1st ser., I. Courville’s memoirs, comprising 211 pages, constitute the most important section of the book. In an article entitled “Le S . . . de C . . . enfin démasqué,” Cahiers des Dix, 5 (1940), 231–92, Ægidius Fauteux solved the problems posed by the memoirs and identified their author. The present biography takes this article as its point of departure. f.r.]
ANQ-M, Greffe de L.-L. Aumasson de Courville, 1754–81; the ANQ-Q holds the minutes for 1756–58. “Mémoire du Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 96–198. “Les notaires au Canada sous le Régime français,” ANQ Rapport, 1921–22, 56. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, VI, 78, 80, 88; Inv. ord. int., III, 185, 196. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, II, 32. Vachon, “Inv. critique des notaires royaux,” RHAF, IX, 560–61.