BOUC, CHARLES-JEAN-BAPTISTE, merchant and politician; b. 25 Nov. 1766 in Terrebonne, Que., son of Louis Bouc, a merchant, and Marie-Angélique Comparé; d. there 30 Nov. 1832.
Charles-Jean-Baptiste Bouc belonged to a family from the rural petite bourgeoisie, a diligent class devoted to work, which was held in greater esteem than village craftsmen or farmers because of its education and wealth. After the conquest Charles-Jean-Baptiste’s father had moved to Terrebonne and set up a small retail business that proved highly successful. Through hard work and self-denial Louis Bouc also became one of the major landowners in his parish. Charles-Jean-Baptiste spent his childhood in the demanding and difficult world of small business, which was at the mercy of circumstances, subject to anxiety and audacity, to great hopes and bitter disappointments. He quite evidently was marked by his experience.
On 20 Sept. 1785, when he was 18, Bouc married Archange Lepage at Terrebonne; they were to have five children. By the terms of the marriage contract his father generously guaranteed him 10,000 livres. In so doing Louis was setting his hopes on his eldest son, who he anticipated would one day become an important local merchant. The young Bouc seized the opportunity to widen his field of endeavour and to join the small, privileged group of rural merchants. Initially he speculated in wheat and furs. Through his activities as a merchant he was also drawn into the world of finance. However, he remained a minor money-lender of the traditional type, putting out small sums to farmers and craftsmen in the region. His first financial successes occurred just when he also enjoyed a large increase in fortune: under his father’s will, which had been signed on 26 May 1796, he inherited a number of farming implements, a great deal of livestock, and six properties that he was barred from selling or transferring during his lifetime.
Bouc’s much improved circumstances made him an excellent candidate for the House of Assembly. In July 1796 he easily won the seat for Effingham. At first he was bursting with activity and took an interest in various problems in his riding. His political career therefore seemed full of promise and it was aided by his many local contacts. But two years after being elected he was involved in a fraudulent wheat deal. Tried in the Court of King’s Bench, he was sentenced on 9 March 1799 to three months in prison and a fine of 20 livres, and was obliged to put up guarantees of good behaviour for three years. The Executive Council had some fear of him because he was considered a chief organizer of the assembly members for the Montreal area, and on the pretext of this fraud he was expelled from the house. Bouc was returned in the general elections of July 1800 but was ousted a second time, and then a third time at the beginning of 1801. Elected once more in April of that year, he was expelled a fourth time. He wanted to return to the assembly, but the house ended his political career in 1802 by passing a bill explicitly titled “An Act for disqualifying and restraining, Charles Baptiste Bouc, from being elected, and from Sitting and Voting as a Member of the House of Assembly.”
Although deprived of his riding, Bouc nevertheless still had prestige in his milieu. He played an important role in parish institutions, as his active participation in meetings of the fabrique clearly shows. He thus used these institutions to help consolidate his leadership in the community. In 1805 he was even elected syndic for the parish and so was responsible for repairs to the church. His prominence in the church also confirmed his importance by comparison with other parishioners.
In 1807 Bouc was imprisoned for treasonable practices. Four years later he was again accused of fraud and theft and was sentenced to six months in jail. His social position and his fortune were drastically affected. His reputation was compromised. When he returned to Terrebonne early in 1812, it was to painful rebuffs, calumny, and scandalmongering. Disgraced, his name dragged through the mud, he had lost authority and prestige in the community. His downfall was accompanied by big financial problems that became increasingly serious. He had no choice but to retire to his land and to rent it. He managed only with difficulty to survive, being unable to pay his seigneurial dues regularly. After 1820 he was forced to sell some of his property to avoid bankruptcy.
His health undermined by these set-backs, Bouc died on 30 Nov. 1832, a deserted and ruined man. His burial in the cemetery rather than in the church was another tangible sign of his disgrace. The difficulties in settling his estate were not cleared up until two years later.
ANQ-M, CE6–24, 25 nov. 1766, 20 sept. 1785, 3 déc. 1832; CN1-295, 18 sept. 1811; CN3-7, 17 sept. 1785; CN6-13, 5 avril 1800; CN6-17, 21 juin 1813, 15 sept. 1818; CN6-24, 20 oct. 1829, 9 nov. 1830, 22 avril 1835; CN6-27, 18 juin 1810, 10 avril 1814, 11 juill. 1816, 23 sept. 1820, 20 mars 1829; CN6-29, 26 mai 1796. AP, Saint-Louis (Terrebonne), Reg. de l’assemblée des marguilliers, 3 nov. 1805. Lionel Bertrand, “L’étrange aventure de Bouc, député de Terrebonne de 1796 à 1802,” Rev. de Terrebonne (Terrebonne, Qué.), 16 déc. 1966: 37. Yvon Bock, “Charles-Baptiste Bouc, député de Terrebonne,” BRH, 52 (1946): 259–65. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 377. P.-G. Roy, “Charles-Baptiste Bouc,” BRH, 7 (1901): 53–55.