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CHAUSSEGROS DE LÉRY, ALEXANDRE-RENÉ, lawyer, legislative councillor, and senator; b. 26 March 1818 at Quebec, son of the Honourable Charles-Étienne Chaussegros* de Léry, seigneur of Rigaud-Vaudreuil, and Josephte Fraser, daughter of Judge John Fraser*; d. 19 Dec. 1880 at Quebec and buried at Saint-François-de-la-Beauce (Beauceville) on 23 December.
After finishing his classical studies at the Petit Séminaire of Quebec, Alexandre-René Chaussegros de Léry received instruction in law from Louis de Gonzague Baillargé*. On 28 July 1842 he was admitted to the bar of Lower Canada. Barely two years later, on 12 Feb. 1844, he married Catherine-Charlotte-Élise Couillard, by whom he had three sons, including William-Henri-Brouage. Those who knew him are agreed that he gave scant thought to his profession. Law interested him a great deal, but only as it helped him to run his own affairs efficiently.
Alexandre-René Chaussegros de Léry owned properties in Rue d’Auteuil and Rue Sainte-Famille at Quebec, at Sainte-Marie, and at Saint-François-de-la-Beauce. He had also inherited two seigneuries, Rigaud-Vaudreuil and Sainte-Barbe-de-la-Famine. On 10 Aug. 1864 he sold his house in Rue Sainte-Famine to the seminary of Quebec: four years of discussion had been necessary for the two parties to reach an agreement on the price. This sale was probably occasioned by his activities after the discovery in 1846 of gold nuggets in the bed of the Rivière Chaudière. At that time Chaussegros de Léry hoped to become rich by engaging actively in the mining of gold deposits. Everything was in his favour, for around the same period gold was found on his Rigaud-Vaudreuil seigneury. The crown, by letters patent dated 18 Sept. 1846, had recognized him from then on as owner of all the “gold and silver mines, surface mines and ores” on this seigneury. In 1865, with the fever of gold in his blood, he took part in the founding of the De Léry Gold Mining Company. His profits as a shareholder in this project are not known. There is reason to believe, however, that at that time his financial position was good, since in 1867 he was one of a group promoting the plan for a railway to link the towns of Lévis and Portland (Maine). A company was formed on 24 Feb. 1869, under the name of Compagnie de Chemin à Lisses de Lévis à Kennebec; it was also called the Levis and Kennebec Railway Company (now Quebec Central Railway Company). Chaussegros de Léry was its president, but Joseph-Goderic Blanchet* and Louis-Napoléon Larochelle* seem to have done much more than he for this undertaking.
His somewhat inconspicuous role might perhaps be explained by his appointment on 2 Nov. 1867 to the Legislative Council to represent the constituency of Lauzon. Four years later, on 13 Dec. 1871, he became a senator, replacing Elzéar-Henri Juchereau Duchesnay, but he found it difficult to discharge all his obligations adequately; hence he resigned from this post on 11 April 1876.
Chaussegros de Léry was a kindly and affable man, according to Narcisse-Henri-Édouard Faucher* de Saint-Maurice; he always had a friendly word or an excuse for others. The impression left is that he was in his time representative of the perfect Canadian gentleman. He was a charitable man, and made a number of gifts to the parish council of Sainte-Marie-de-la-Beauce. In business, however, he could drive a hard bargain and did not readily give ground before a competitor. He lived comfortably but was careful not to let any of his wealth slip out of his hands.
ANQ, Famille Chaussegros de Léry, Alexandre-René. ASQ, Lettres, X, 39, 119; Seigneuries, LXVIII–LXX; Séminaire, XXXIV, 32–38; LXXII, 19a; LXXXI, 71–71c; CCII, 123–24; S.M.E., 12 juill. 1864; Université, LXXV, 102. L’Écho de Lévis, 1869–76. L’Opinion publique (Montréal), 27 janv. 1881. Pierre Fontanel, Minéraux et roches du Canada (Montréal, 1924). Honorius Provost, Sainte-Marie de la Nouvelle-Beauce; histoire religieuse (Québec, 1967), 391–92. P.-G. Roy, La famille Chaussegros de Léry (Lévis, Qué., 1934), 33–36; Fils de Québec, IV, 22–23.