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CARTIER, JACQUES, businessman, militia officer, and politician; b. 10 April 1750 at Quebec, son of Jacques Cartier, dit L’ Angevin, and Marguerite Mongeon; d. 22 March 1814 in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Lower Canada.

Jacques Cartier’s father, a merchant living on Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec, benefited from his friendship with Michel-Jean-Hugues Péan*, middle man between the intendant François Bigot* and government suppliers, to obtain contracts for a large part of the flour supplies until 1757. He also engaged in the export of salt and fish to France. Though he managed to accumulate only a very modest fortune by the time of his death it was apparently sufficient to send his son Jacques to Jean-Baptiste Curatteau*’s secondary school at Longue-Pointe (Montreal) in 1767. Two years later Jacques had established himself as a merchant at Quebec, perhaps with the financial support of François Baby, for whom he appears to have acted as a fur-purchasing agent in 1771.

In 1770 Jacques and his brother Joseph had gone to the Richelieu region to sell fish. Jacques established himself as an independent merchant at Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu by 1772, the year after his father’s death. On 27 Sept. 1772 he married Cécile Gervaise, niece of the parish priest, Michel Gervaise. They were to have a daughter Cécile and a son Jacques, father of Sir George-Étienne Cartier*. Jacques’s brother Joseph became a merchant across the river in Saint-Denis.

Jacques Cartier bought grain in, and shipped it from, the Richelieu area. As a vital transportation route between the St Lawrence valley and the American colonies, and as the richest region in Quebec for the cultivation of wheat, the Richelieu valley was attracting the attention of such merchants as George Allsopp, Gabriel Christie*, Edward Harrison*, and Samuel Jacobs*. At the beginning of September 1775, Cartier offered to supply François Baby if the Quebec merchant speculated in wheat. Cartier’s plans were abruptly interrupted, however, when the Americans invaded Canada in the fall of 1775 via the Richelieu valley. As late as 1 September Cartier had written to Baby: “Nothing new here. Things are very quiet. People no longer speak of the Bastones.” Ironically, Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery* had started out from Crown Point, N.Y., with an invasion force of 1,200 men the day before. Cartier, unlike many Canadians, was active on the British side, serving as a militia officer and billeting British troops in his home.

Having failed in their objective to capture Quebec, the Americans were driven back to Crown Point, via the Richelieu valley, by July 1776. Cartier lost no time in re-establishing his business; in August he signed a contract to supply wheat to the Montreal merchant Jacob Jordan*. By 1781 Cartier was branching into milling, having agreed to pay François-Claude Boucher 36 minots of wheat annually for the privilege of building a grist-mill on his seigneury of Contrecœur. Cartier was probably a retail merchant as well. Just before the American invasion he had placed an order with François Baby for 15 quintals of assorted iron pieces, and in 1798 he purchased from Charles-Joseph Lefebvre-Duchouquet, parish priest of Notre-Dame-de-Saint-Hyacinthe (Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire), a lot of household goods which he was free “to dispose of for his profit.”

Cartier’s affairs seem to have prospered since in 1782 he built the most imposing home in the area, La Maison aux Sept Cheminées, overlooking the river on the edge of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. The house was constructed in three sections, with fireproof rooms for merchandise at each end, and a large meeting room or salon connected with offices above. The property had its own wharf so that boats could be loaded and unloaded directly at the stores.

By the 1780s Cartier’s business was providing him with capital to make loans to local inhabitants. Father Gervaise, at the time of his death in 1787, owed Cartier nearly £900. The merchant had Gervaise’s effects and properties sold at auction to collect the debt, and himself bought from among the properties a farm, two vacant lots, and a grist-mill, all in the vicinity of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu. By the late 1790s Cartier was extending his activity as a lender beyond the Richelieu valley. In 1798 he won a suit against Antoine Papineau of Chambly and Toussaint Truteau of Montreal for collection of £630. In 1803 he lent £1,287 to the Quebec speculator and property holder Joseph Drapeau, and £1,000 to the notary Jacques Voyer*, also from Quebec. The following year he lent 5,500 livres to Jean-Baptiste Blais of Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud and in 1808 £1,485 to Jean-Baptiste Noël, seigneur of Tilly. He occasionally accepted payment of debts in land, for instance in February 1807 from Drapeau a lot in Quebec’s Lower Town, and a few months later, in settlement of other suits, several rural lots in the Richelieu area with a total value of nearly £240.

In 1800 Cartier launched a new commercial venture, a postal service linking Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Denis, Saint-Ours, and William Henry (Sorel). Although an application for postal service in the Richelieu valley had been made to Hugh Finlay, deputy postmaster general, as early as 1781, Cartier appears to have been the first to take action. He extended the service to Saint-Hyacinthe, but eventually discontinued this portion because, as the Saint-Hyacinthe notary Louis Bourdages* explained to him, his proposal seemed too grasping to the people of Saint-Hyacinthe and “smacks a little of mercantile aristocracy.”

Cartier was deputy in the House of Assembly for Surrey from 1804 to 1809 and was one of the more regular attenders, voting consistently with the Canadian party against the ministerial group. Major in the 2nd Boucherville battalion of militia from about 1800, Cartier became lieutenant-colonel for the same region on 21 Feb. 1808. In May 1810 he wrote to François Baby, adjutant general of the militia, about a dispute between himself and his colonel, Joseph Boucher de La Bruère de Montarville. The details of the dispute are unknown, but it revolved around the proclamation issued by Governor Craig in late March justifying his suppression of the Quebec newspaper Le Canadien and imprisonment of several of its editors. Professing to have “embraced the just cause of the government” since 1775, Cartier asked for Baby’s support, adding that if Baby considered him wrong, he would resign. In the latter event, he wrote, “Be assured that with all my heart I will be as good a subject and loyal as before.” Cartier remained in the militia and about 1813 was transferred to the new Verchères battalion.

Jacques Cartier died in March 1814, the year of his illustrious grandson’s birth. His obituary described him as a generous and kindly man, widely liked and respected. The description would appear to be substantiated by Cartier’s burial on 24 March in the parish church of Saint-Antoine “with the honours appropriate to his rank . . . , before a large congregation of respectable people” from Saint-Antoine and surrounding parishes. He left a sizeable fortune for the time, more than 150,000 livres. His effects included a library in which books on history and law were prominent; among the authors were Bossuet, Voltaire, Raynal, and Blackstone. Cartier’s estate enabled his son Jacques, who had no interest in his father’s business, to live in the agreeable manner of a wealthy country squire. Cartier’s nephew Joseph took over the business, which continued to prosper under his direction.

Henry B. M. Best

ANQ-M, CE1-13, 27 sept. 1772, 24 mars 1814. ANQ-Q, CN1–60, 22 sept. 1804; CN1–230, 9, 19 juin 1804; 14 févr. 1807; 19 févr. 1809; CN1–248, 14 sept. 1771. AUM, P 58, U, Cartier à Baby, 19 août 1771, 1er sept. 1775; Cartier à Cuvillier, 15 oct. 1812. PAC, RG 4, B17, 8, 26 April 1785; 12, 26 Aug. 1786; 15, 28 Jan. 1790; 16, 7 Jan. 1799; 22, 11 May 1803; 27, 9 June 1806; 20 April, 20 June 1807; 31, 20 June 1812; 32, 5 May 1813; RG 9, I, A1, 2: 439A–39C. Private arch., Cartier estate (Montreal). Soc. d’hist. régionale de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué.), sér. 21, dossier 1, no.1.5. Montreal Gazette, 29 March 1814. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 195–96. F.-J. Audet, Contrecœur; famille, seigneurie, paroisse, village (Montréal, 1940), 154, 159–60. [Noëlie Dion, Sœur Marie-de-la-Paix], La petite histoire de chez nous, Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu (Saint-Hyacinthe, 1938), 28, 38. Guy Frégault, François Bigot, administrateur français (2v., [Montréal], 1948), 1: 381. Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967), 185. Alastair Sweeny, George-Étienne Cartier: a biography (Toronto, 1976), 19–21, 24, 39, 41, 91. B. J. Young, George-Étienne Cartier, Montreal bourgeois (Kingston, Ont., and Montreal, 1981), 2–5, 7, 138, 146. “Les disparus,” BRH, 41 (1935): 293. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 379.

General Bibliography

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Henry B. M. Best, “CARTIER, JACQUES (1750-1814),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cartier_jacques_1750_1814_5E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/cartier_jacques_1750_1814_5E.html
Author of Article: Henry B. M. Best
Title of Article: CARTIER, JACQUES (1750-1814)
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1983
Year of revision: 1983
Access Date: October 25, 2014