BOUVART, MARTIN (baptized Samuel), priest, Jesuit, superior of the mission in New France; b. 15 Aug. 1637 at Chartres; d. 10 Aug. 1705 at Quebec.
Martin Bouvart did his literary studies at Blois and studied philosophy for two years at the University of Paris. With the help of an uncle who was a Jesuit, he was admitted into the noviciate in Paris on 10 Aug. 1658. In 1660 he was a teacher at Amiens, and six years later he again studied philosophy at La Flèche. He taught at Eu, and in 1668 returned to La Flèche for his theology. During his third year of probation at Rouen, in 1672, he received assurance that he would be sent to Canada, but his mother was so grieved by this that she fell seriously ill. In the spring of 1673 he was sent to Nantes, with no very precise destination. There he found Father Antoine Silvy, and the two were immediately scheduled to sail together from La Rochelle for Quebec.
The two Jesuits arrived in New France on 30 Sept. 1673, and Bouvart was given the task of assisting Father Joseph-Marie Chaumonot*, the priest to the Hurons at Notre-Dame-de-Foy. Thus he took part in the creation of the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette mission; the plan for this had been decided upon, and it was carried out between December 1673 and November 1674. In the autumn of 1676 he succeeded Father Guillaume Matthieu as professor of theology at the Jesuit college in Quebec and also became procurator of the mission. Until 1698 he devoted himself to teaching rhetoric, philosophy, and theology. It was he who had the greatest share in the training of the young clerics of the colony.
On 25 Aug. 1698 he was appointed rector of the college and superior general of the mission. His term as superior was marked by several quarrels between the Jesuits and Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix]. The latter, who had returned to Canada in 1697 with an admonishment from Louis XIV to keep the peace, had a few differences with the Society of Jesus. The bishop of Quebec wanted to make himself agreeable towards the priests of the seminary, with whom he had previously quarrelled; the Jesuits, however, had to put up with some vexations. Saint-Vallier took away from them the primary school which they were holding in their college, and the direction of the Congrégation des Messieurs de Québec; he forbade the college to give debates and theatrical performances. Furthermore, he accused the Fathers of teaching probabilism, which would contribute to laxity of morals. In addition, he asked the Jesuits to leave the church and house at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, which they had built at great cost, because he wanted to make a parish out of the mission [see Couvert]. Finally, Bouvart had to compromise with Saint-Vallier over the mission to the Tamaroas [see Bergier]. In these quarrels Bouvart deemed it advisable to make concessions, to the great annoyance of his advisers, who reproached him in their letters to the general of the society with a lack of courage. He himself asked to be relieved of his office at the end of his first three-year term, but he was maintained in it for an entire second term, during which he had a second quarrel with the bishop of Quebec. The latter published a Catéchisme and Rituel that are usually described as “moral Jansenism.” Bouvart made a criticism of them which the Sorbonne, at Saint-Vallier’s request, condemned as “rash, conducive to schism and to the revolt of the flock against the minister, and very insulting to His Excellency the bishop of Quebec.”
In August 1704 Father Vincent Bigot replaced Bouvart. The latter, whose health was already frail, died on 10 Aug. 1705 at the Jesuit college in Quebec.
ARSI, Gallia, 110/I, 110/II. JR (Thwaites), LXXV, LXXVI. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. XVIIesiècle, III, 373, 550–89. Alfred Rambaud, “La vie orageuse et douloureuse de Mgr de Saint-Vallier,” RUL, IX (1954), 100–1.