BOULLARD, ÉTIENNE, priest, canon, capitular vicar, parish priest of Beauport and Quebec, superior of the seminary of Quebec; b. 1658 at Château-du-Loir (province of Maine); d. 1733 at Quebec.

Étienne Boullard was ordained a priest in 1682 and arrived in New France in 1684. He was immediately appointed parish priest for the new parish of Beauport, which he directed until 1719. From 1692 on he belonged to the seminary of Quebec, since his name appears on the list of members of the community. In 1700 he became a canon in the chapter, and for a long time he held the offices of theologal and official. In 1724, upon Abbé Thiboult’s death, he became superior of the seminary for two years, and as he was “agreeable to everyone” he was appointed priest of the parish of Notre-Dame de Quebec in 1725 and remained in that charge until his death.

In 1705, along with Dufournel*, the parish priest of Ange-Gardien, he entered into the quarrel of the tithes. The preceding year Louis XIV had abolished the allocation which allowed for a supplement to be paid to certain parish priests. Convinced that the ecclesiastical tax as it was being levied was insufficient to support certain of their colleagues decently and wishing to stir up public opinion, Abbés Boullard and Dufournel announced to their parishioners that they were going to exact the tithe not only on grain, but also “on everything that the soil produces, whether cultivated or not, and on animals, such as hay from the low-lying meadows, fruits, flax and hemp, sheep, and other items.” Boullard even mentioned a seventh precept of the church which supposedly rendered the payment of tithes obligatory. He may not have been innovating completely, since the catechism published by Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix] in 1702 recalled the precept: “He shall not’marry out of season; he shall pay his tithes correctly,” but the settlers were much surprised at the abbé’s interpretation and grumbled loudly about it when the masses were over. Ruette d’Auteuil immediately intervened, called a meeting of the Conseil Supérieur, and made a long indictment of the two priests. Boullard and his colleague were summoned to explain their conduct; this they did on 22 Dec. 1705, but their claim was dismissed and, despite a request by all the clergy of the colony in 1707, the civil authorities decided to authorize only the tithe on grain.

In 1701 Abbé Boullard had to deal with a marriage “à la gaumine.” Louis de Montéléon, an officer in the colonial regular troops, wanted to marry Marie-Anne-Josette L’Estringant de Saint-Martin. He sought the permission of the vicar general, Glandelet, who refused it until he had furnished proof that he was not already married. On 7 Jan. 1711, being unwilling to wait any longer, Montéléon and his fiancée, accompanied by witnesses, went to the church of Beauport and took advantage of the wedding service of Thomas Touchet and Geneviève Gagnier to exchange their vows of consent clearly and publicly. Abbé Boullard, who was officiating, immediately turned away from the altar and protested energetically, even asking those present to leave the church. At the moment of the final benediction he declared that a marriage contracted thus was “an outrage upon the authority of the church,” and said “other things as well of a sort to fill with horror those who were witnesses to such a crime.” Upon his return to the presbytery he again took the guilty pair to task, then drew up a declaration that he sent to the vicar general, Glandelet. Before legal action was begun, however, Boullard proposed meeting the two young people “to try by gentleness and suavity” to bring them around to a better way of thinking. He half succeeded, since the Sieur de Montéléon publicly asked forgiveness during mass for the parish and promised to quit Mlle de L’Estringant. But on the girl’s side there was no giving way. Boullard left it to the Conseil Supérieur to hear the case, annul the marriage, and order that the girl be confined in the convent of the Hôtel-Dieu. until the marriage was regularized, which took place the 16 February following.

Abbé Boullard is above all famous for the part that he played in the quarrel surrounding Bishop Saint-Vallier’s death, which occurred during the night of 25–26 December 1727. When it occurred the canons of the chapter elected M. Boullard capitular vicar to administer the diocese and authorized him to preside over the obsequies in the cathedral. But M. de Lotbinière [Chartier*], the pro-dean and archdeacon of the chapter and Saint-Vallier’s vicar general, who was unpopular, insisted on presiding; he was supported by the bishop’s executor, Intendant Dupuy, who was intent on fulfilling Saint-Vallier’s wish to be buried in the Hôpital Général. Dupuy called upon the two parties to appear before him on 2 Jan. 1728. The canons refused to admit the intendant’s competence in this matter, or even that of the Conseil Supérieur, and the meeting did not take place. That same evening, it was learned that, upon Dupuy’s order, the funeral service had been held in the Hôpital Général before the appointed time. Boullard was one of the first to arrive on the scene. “Because of the outrage that had been committed,” and in view of the refusal of the mother superior, Geneviève Juchereau Duchesnay de Saint-Augustin, to appear before him, he placed the Hôpital Général under interdict and removed her from office.

This resulted in a dispute between the Conseil Supérieur, the intendant, and M. de Lotbinière on one hand, and the chapter of Quebec and M. Boullard on the other. The latter was sentenced to a fine of 1,000 livres and forbidden “to make any jurisdictional act as vicar general.” He nevertheless increased his authoritative acts and his threats of excommunication, with the result that the Ursulines and the Nuns Hospitallers complained that he was “perturbing” them. He was summoned by the Conseil Supérieur and appeared before it on 8 March to deliver a written statement of nine pages which was supposed to prove that he had been rightfully elected capitular vicar and that the judgements pronounced against him were null in law. It was during this meeting that Beauharnois* de La Boische intervened to calm people’s minds. When he was informed of the matter, the king re-established order: Dupuy was recalled, the distraints and fines were annulled, and some blame was cast upon the chapter.

Abbé Boullard was not the sole person responsible for all these incidents, but his lack of tact and goodwill contributed to inflaming the dispute. It was he who defended the right of the chapter fiercely, who readily made use of ecclesiastical penalties against the religious communities, and who had directed the canon’s last acts of resistance to M. de Lotbinière. The least that can be said is that his interventions were rarely conducive to re-establishing peace.

Abbé Boullard died 28 Sept. 1733 and was buried the next day in the crypt of Notre-Dame de Québec.

Nive Voisine

Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1940–41, 1941–42. Jug. et délib., V, 184, 211, 230; VI. Mandements des évêques de Québec (Têtu et Gagnon), I, 522f. Étienne Marchand, “Les troubles de l’Église du Canada en 1728,” BRH, III (1897), 117–21. “Les mariages à la gaumine,” APQ Rapport, 1920–21, 366–407. “Mémoire de M. Dupuy, Intendant de la Nouvelle-France, sur les troubles arrivés à Québec en 1727 et 1728, après la mort de Mgr de Saint-Vallier, évêque de Québec,” APQ Rapport, 1920–21, 78–105. Provost, Le Séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 24. PAC Report, 1904, 116. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, I, 340–45. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Gosselin, LÉglise du Canada, IV, V. Lanctot, Histoire du Canada, III, 40–41. Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier et lHôpital Général de Québec. Auguste Gosselin, “Charles de Beauharnais,” BRH, VII (1901), 293–301; “Un épisode de l’histoire de la dîme au Canada (1705–1707),” RSCT, 2nd ser., IX (1903), sect.i, 45–63. Alfred Rambaud, “La vie orageuse et douloureuse de Mgr de Saint-Vallier,” RUL, IX (1954), 90–108. P.-G. Roy, “Un poeme héroï-comique,” BRH, III (1897), 114–16.

Cite This Article

Nive Voisine, “BOULLARD, ÉTIENNE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 25, 2024,

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Author of Article:   Nive Voisine
Title of Article:   BOULLARD, ÉTIENNE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   July 25, 2024