BOISSEAU, NICOLAS-GASPARD, office holder and militia officer; b. 16 June 1726 at Quebec, son of Nicolas Boisseau*, court clerk, and Marie-Anne Pagé, dit Carcy; d. 27 May 1804 in the parish of Saint-Thomas (at Montmagny), Lower Canada.
Nicolas-Gaspard Boisseau followed in the footsteps of his father, who early instructed him in legal practice and procedure so that he might one day replace him as chief clerk of the provost court of Quebec. In 1743 Nicolas Boisseau wrote to Intendant Gilles Hocquart*, bringing this training to his attention and requesting a commission for the boy as assistant clerk of the provost court, to encourage him to continue. Having made a report to the king, Hocquart on 5 Dec. 1743 appointed the young Boisseau “to carry out, in the absence of Sieur Boisseau Sr the duties of assistant clerk of the aforementioned provost court, to record the proceedings, draw up the decisions, and even sign the documents [issuing] from it.”
Some months later, on 25 March 1744, the very day that the elder Boisseau was named chief clerk of the Conseil Supérieur of Quebec, Nicolas-Gaspard at the age of 17 was appointed by the king to succeed his father as clerk of the provost court. At the same time the king granted him letters waiving the age limit, since he had not yet reached the prescribed age of 25. The Conseil Supérieur recognized him officially on 12 Oct. 1744. As clerk he registered all the deeds of that court and all the documents brought to him for custody in his registry; he was also the depositary of the minute-books of deceased notaries who had practised in the Government of Quebec. These duties he performed to the general satisfaction of the colonial authorities. On 6 Oct. 1754, at Saint-Thomas, Boisseau married Thérèse, daughter of Louis Couillard, seigneur of Rivière-du-Sud. Unlike some of the king’s servants in Canada [see François Bigot*; Joseph-Michel Cadet*], Boisseau does not seem to have taken advantage of the Seven Years’ War to enrich himself; when he bought a two-storey stone house on Quebec’s Rue Saint-Pierre in 1758, he had to assume a debt of 14,500 livres.
In 1759 Boisseau’s house was partly demolished by bombardment. He then moved with his family to his parents-in-law’s property at Saint-Thomas, where his wife died on 15 Jan. 1760. Without employment and saddled with a further debt of 2,483 livres for repairs to his house, Boisseau was in dire straits; to support his family he found himself obliged to sell “his deceased wife’s few sticks of furniture and old garments,” as well as his own clothes and some furniture saved at the time of the siege of Quebec, where, he declared, “he lost the rest of his household belongings . . . being left penniless and burdened with many debts.” A widower with three young children to look after, Boisseau married again: on 30 Jan. 1764 at Saint-Pierre, Île d’Orléans, he wed Claire Jolliette, widow of François Volant de Chamblain, a ship’s captain.
At 37 Boisseau had no intention of withdrawing from public life. Having returned to Quebec in 1764, he joined 6 compatriots and 14 British merchants in signing a presentment in English from the grand jury [see James Johnston*]. Subsequently, after they had asked for a translation and realized they had misunderstood the text, which had simply been read to them in English and not explained, the seven French-speaking jurors signed a protest to disclaim their signatures. On 30 Sept. 1766 Governor Murray* appointed Boisseau French clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of the District of Quebec, succeeding Jean-Claude Panet*. That year he was also made keeper of the minutes of notaries who had gone out of practice.
At the time of the American invasion in 1775 [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*], the British authorities asked Boisseau to take command of one of the three militia companies which were to be raised on Île d’Orléans; Adam Mabane* and William Grant (1744–1805) commanded the others. To persuade the islanders to enlist, Mabane used tactics that annoyed the habitants. Armed with sticks, they were preparing to give him a rough time when Boisseau intervened to calm them down. On 1 May 1776, probably as a reward for his loyalty to the British crown, the authorities confirmed him in his job as clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. He held this post jointly with David Lynd, retaining it, and also the office of clerk of the peace accorded him on 31 March 1777, until 22 Sept. 1783. He then retired to Île d’Orléans.
On 2 Aug, 1784, to compensate him for having undertaken the census of Île d’Orléans without pay in July, Governor Haldimand made Boisseau justice of the peace for the entire province of Quebec. He kept this post, which was considered a sinecure and which exempted him from all corvées and seigneurial duties, until his death on 27 May 1804 at Saint-Thomas. He had probably gone there to join his son Nicolas-Gaspard*. A notary since 1799, this son of Boisseau’s second marriage practised at Saint-Vallier and Saint-Thomas and also represented the county of Orléans in the House of Assembly from 1792 to 1796.
The Boisseaus illustrate how a tradition of serving the state is established in a family from one generation to the next; in this service they showed themselves faithful and devoted.
AN, Col., B, 78: f.39; C11A, 120: f.351; E, 37 (dossier Nicolas Boisseau). ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 16 juin 1726; CE1-12, 30 janv. 1764; CE2-7, 16 janv. 1760; 5, 29 mai 1804; CN1-76, 29 janv. 1764; CN1-190, 15 mars 1765; E1, 31: f.115. PAC, MG 23, GV, 1. Doc. relatifs à l’hist. constitutionnelle, 1759–1791 (Shortt et Doughty; 1921), 1: 192–95. F.-J. Audet et Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier Parl. du Bas-Canada, 65. J.-B. Gareau, “La Prévôté de Québec, ses officiers, ses registres,” ANQ Rapport, 1943–44: 124–25. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, 2: 199. P.-G. Roy, Inventaire des jugements et délibérations du Conseil supérieur de la Nouvelle-France, de 1717 à 1760 (7v., Beauceville, Qué., 1932–35), 4: 206, 210. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 2: 330. P.-G. Roy, La famille Boisseau (Lévis, Qué., 1907), 1–2, 19–20, 33.