CHABRAND DELISLE, DAVID, Church of England clergyman; b. 31 Dec. 1730 at Anduze (dept of Gard), France, son of David Chabrand, baker, and Marguerite Roussel; m. 1 Oct. 1768 Margaret Henry, and they had eight children, at least five of whom survived childhood; d. 28 June 1794 at Montreal, Lower Canada.
David Chabrand, known in France as Chabrand, dit Veyrac, dit La Chapelle, was in 1745 among the postulants of the synod of Basses-Cévennes, which four years later accepted him as a divinity student. From 1750 to 1753 at least, he studied at the clandestine French Protestant seminary at Lausanne, Switzerland, but in the latter year the synod of Basses-Cévennes refused to extend his period of studies. Renouncing a career as a pastor in France, he eventually went to England, where he was ordained priest of the Church of England on 23 Dec. 1764 and appointed to a London parish. On 14 April 1766 he was appointed garrison chaplain of Montreal with an annual salary of £115. With this move the name Delisle, which he was already using in England, began to replace Chabrand as his family name.
Delisle’s appointment reflected the decision of the British government and the Church of England, encouraged by Governor Murray of Quebec and the Protestant merchants there, to appoint bilingual ministers to Canada, not only to serve the British and the few French Protestants but also to proselytize the Canadians. It was a rare point of unanimous agreement between Murray and the colony’s predominantly mercantile Protestant population. Murray felt that British rule could be secured only by winning over the Canadians and he sought to reassure them by protecting their laws and institutions and by cooperating with the Roman Catholic Church, all the while hoping that time and subtle measures would bring about a conversion of the heart to England from France and to Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. The quiet conversion of the Canadians by a respectable French-language Protestant clergy was such a measure. The Protestant merchants, disadvantaged in competition with the merchants of the Thirteen Colonies by the language and institutions of Quebec, sought to have the colony immediately anglicized in all ways, a policy Murray feared would provoke a revolt. For the merchants the proselytism of the Roman Catholics by a clergy capable of speaking both languages would facilitate the overall programme.
Soon after his arrival in Canada in late summer 1766, Delisle made the acquaintance of the Huguenot attorney general, Francis Maseres*, who found him “a very good man.” Delisle also ministered unofficially to the “Protestant Congregation of Montreal,” which had been served since the conquest by the chaplains John Ogilvie and Samuel Bennett. In 1764 the city counted 56 Protestant families of which a few were French, many English and Church of England, but most Scots Presbyterians, who had no minister of their own. Unable to use the run-down Jesuit chapel, granted to it by Lieutenant Governor Guy Carleton* some time before September 1767, the congregation was obliged to share places of worship with the Roman Catholics, and on the latter’s terms. Delisle objected that this arrangement made the Catholic clergy arrogant towards the Protestants, but his efforts to obtain from government an exclusively Protestant church were in vain. He complained as well that the Canadians were “the most ignorant and bigotted People in the world, and the most devoted to the Priests, especially to the Jesuits.”
Delisle’s services to the Protestant congregation were normalized in 1768 when he was appointed its minister with an additional salary of £200. He became a freemason and chaplain of St Peter’s Lodge, No. 4, Quebec at Montreal; he was also appointed chaplain to the Montreal prison. Although his requests to become a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel were denied, he performed the functions of one, visiting the Chambly garrison and Protestants dispersed outside Montreal. By 1771 his proselytism had produced only two Canadian converts. On the other hand, he and the congregation did succeed in bringing a Protestant schoolmaster to Montreal in 1773. The American revolution substantially increased Delisle’s activities; not only did the number of Protestant soldiers greatly expand, but the German troops preferred French services. As well, his civilian congregation was swelled by the arrival of the loyalists.
Delisle and his two French-language colleagues, Leger-Jean-Baptiste-Noël Veyssière at Trois-Rivières and David-François De Montmollin* at Quebec, seem to have got on well with the bilingual British merchants who had been partially responsible for their appointment. Delisle, for example, had close relations with the Frobisher family, particularly Joseph*. The loyalists, however, were unilingual and not inclined to accustom themselves to the peculiar English idiom of the French ministers. In 1788 their complaints, including those by Christian Daniel Claus, but particularly by the Reverend John Doty*, pointed to the few French Protestant families (about 20) in comparison with the English (5,000) and to the sparseness of attendance, of the giving of the sacraments, and of catechizing. The complaints reached the ears of the newly appointed bishop of Nova Scotia, Charles Inglis*, a loyalist himself, who determined to replace all three men with English-language ministers.
In the summer of 1789 Inglis conducted a pastoral visit of the province of Quebec. He found Delisle to be “a sensible, well-bred man,” and often dined at his house. He also found that he could scarcely understand his English, and that the congregation was eager to get an English-speaking assistant for him. Under pressure from Inglis, Delisle agreed to limit himself to preaching in French and to continuing his proselytism among the Canadians. Though by early August he had changed his mind, he could elicit from Inglis only the concessions that he would remain titular minister and be allowed to preach occasionally in English. The English assistant, James Marmaduke Tunstall*, was to assume the bulk of the minister’s responsibilities.
Inglis had persuaded Governor Lord Dorchester [Guy Carleton] to have the Jesuits’ chapel repaired for the exclusive use of the Montreal congregation, and, in a gesture of goodwill, Delisle was invited by the congregation to preach the dedicatory sermon at the inaugural service in Christ Church on 20 Dec. 1789. He accepted, and from this point on continued, in spite of Inglis’ instructions, to take a principal share of the minister’s duties. Through Joseph Frobisher he even persuaded the congregation to ask Inglis in 1792 to remove the restriction on his preaching in English.
Delisle, hampered by illness at least since 1791, died on 28 June 1794. His total salary of over £300 per annum had enabled him to become a man of property; he owned three houses and a small farm in Montreal. Although he had obtained a land grant of 5,000 acres in 1766 when appointed chaplain, his persistent petitions to have it designated and transferred were ignored. In August 1795 a group of associates including the merchants Joseph Perinault*, Pierre Foretier*, and John Welles, of which Delisle had been leader, was granted 1,000 acres in Godmanchester Township, and in October 1816 Delisle’s heirs finally received his 5,000-acre grant in Hinchinbrook Township. As a French-language Protestant minister, Delisle appears to have fared better than Veyssière and De Montmollin, but he too found the fruits of his appointment bitter, since he tasted the aversion for him of the Canadians, the insulting indifference towards him of most of his own congregation, and, finally, near abandonment by the Church of England.
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