BÉNARD (Besnard), MICHEL, receiving agent for the Domaine d’Occident, councillor of the Conseil Supérieur of New France; b. c. 1713 at Versailles, France, son of Louis Bénard, a soup-cook in the king’s kitchens, and Marie Guy; m. on 20 Nov. 1741 Marie-Germaine-Eustache Lanoullier de Boisclerc. After the conquest he returned to France, where he cannot be traced.
It is not known under what circumstances Michel Bénard arrived in Canada. On 19 Nov. 1733 he attended in Quebec the marriage of Thérèse Bouat and Louis-Jean Poulin de Courval, king’s attorney at Trois-Rivières, in the home of Paul-Louis Dazemard de Lusignan, an officer in the colonial regular troops. Early in 1736 he was at Quebec, carrying out the duties of writer in the office of the Marine. By virtue of this office he was first secretary to Intendant Hocquart* until the latter’s departure in 1748. He was then receiving 600 livres a year, an appreciable salary for the period. In the summer of 1752 Nicolas Lanoullier de Boisclerc gave up his duties as controller for the Domaine du Roi in favour of his son-in-law, Bénard, who from 24 Dec. 1753 held this office along with that of assessor of the Conseil Supérieur. The king had established the office of assessor in 1741 “to create a spirit of competition among the young men of good family in the colony who have already made progress in the study of jurisprudence by means of the lectures on law which are being given by the king’s attorney general [Louis-Guillaume Verrier].” The assessor’s work consisted essentially of preparing the documents in certain lawsuits for the councillors and of investigating and reporting to the council in certain civil suits. Only when reporting on a case was he entitled to speak and vote within the Conseil Supérieur. In all other instances he could act only in an advisory capacity. He enjoyed “the same honours, privileges, and prerogatives” as the members of the council, ranking after the last councillor within the council and in official ceremonies. On 24 April 1757 Michel Bénard was promoted councillor, succeeding his late father-in-law; he held this office until the conquest. From 1758 to 1760, Bénard was also commissary of the royal prisons in Quebec.
In the king’s service from his arrival in the colony, married to the daughter of a councillor who was keeper of the seals of the Conseil Supérieur Michel Bénard was a typical official of the old régime who through his work and diligence, and thanks to his marriage, succeeded in climbing the rungs of the administrative and social ladders in New France. In the course of his career Bénard struck up friendships with Jean-Victor Varin* de La Marre, commissary and controller of the Marine, Nicolas-Gaspard Boucault, lieutenant general of the admiralty court, François Daine, lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs of the provost court of Quebec, and Charles-Denis Regnard Duplessis de Morampont, an officer in the colonial regular troops and provost marshal, all members of the administrative élite in New France.
AN, Col., B, 66, f.244v; 95, ff.243–44; 97, f.271v; 105, f.198v; C11A, 67, ff.114–15; 73, f.15; 114, ff.28–29, 50, 121, 292v, 384; 120, f.350v; F3, 11, f.33. ANQ, Greffe de C.-H. Du Laurent, 16 nov. 1741; NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 2136, 2149; NF, Ins. Cons. sup., IX, 4v–6. “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport). P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, IV, 76–77; V, 292; VI, 113, 114, 125, 298–99; “Les secrétaires des gouverneurs et intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” BRH, XLI (1935), 103.