DUNIÈRE, LOUIS, merchant, landowner, militia officer, and politician; b. 7 May 1723 at Quebec, son of Louis Dunière and Marguerite Durand; m. there 1 July 1748 Élisabeth Trefflé, dit Rottot, and they had 17 children; d. 31 May 1806 at Berthier (Berthier-sur-Mer), Lower Canada.
Louis Dunière’s father, a native of Saint-Saturnin (Saint-Cernin), France, arrived in the colony shortly before 1714; at Quebec he was active as a merchant, in association with François Perrault* after 1719. Working with his father, young Dunière doubtless acquired from him the rudiments of bookkeeping and other elements of commerce. In 1744, at the age of 21, he was still living at his parents’ house on Rue Saint-Pierre. When he married four years later, he was a man of business, with property valued at 14,020 livres.
Dunière embarked on operations in real estate with the purchase of lands at Saint-Thomas-de-la-Pointe-à la-Caille (Montmagny) in 1754 and 1757; in 1762 he became manager of the seigneury of Bellechasse. When the census was taken that year, he owned 43 head of livestock and a large quantity of seed, and he employed six servants. With a growing surplus of produce, he entered into a three-year business partnership in the grain trade with Henry Boone, a Quebec merchant, on 20 Sept. 1769.
On 4 Aug. 1775, just before the American invasion [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*], Dunière was appointed a captain in the Canadian militia at Quebec, his company being assigned to the defence of the faubourg Saint-Louis. The part he played in the siege of Quebec is unrecorded; but he still held the captaincy at his death.
In the early 1780s Dunière continued to manage his commercial enterprise, as the transactions recorded in his account-books of the period show. He also made a business trip to London, returning in 1782 in company with Henry Hamilton*, just named lieutenant governor of Quebec, and several merchants, including Thomas Aylwin*, Adam Lymburner*, John Lees, and Meredith Wills, his future son-in-law. The years following witness a diversification of Dunière’s interests: in association with three other Quebec merchants, his son-in-law Pierre Marcoux, John Antrobus, and Jacques-Nicolas Perrault, he obtained from Lieutenant Governor Henry Hope* in 1786 a permit to establish a sedentary fishery on the Labrador coast, near a Moravian mission [see Jens Haven*], to take cod, salmon, and seals. At Quebec, Dunière bought properties that would serve his grain-trading ventures: on 21 Oct. 1788, for £1,000, he acquired from the London businessman John Fraser a house, sheds, and wharf along the river at the foot of Cap Diamant. Around this time he went into ship building but, being unable to devote himself fully to it, in 1793 rented his yard to Patrick Beatson*.
Politically, Dunière had, in addresses and petitions, frequently assured the British authorities of his loyalty. He was not backward, however, in voicing complaints about the administration of justice or proposing the introduction of hemp growing in the colony. On three separate occasions, in 1784, 1785, and 1790, he joined with others (both British and Canadians) in calling for the establishment of representative institutions in the province. Their aspirations on this score were to be fulfilled in 1791, and in June 1792 Dunière was elected for Hertford to the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. At the opening of the first session, in December, Dunière as the oldest member of the chamber proposed Jean-Antoine Panet as speaker. Over the vehement opposition of the British mercantile élite, Panet was chosen by 28 votes to 18. During his term in the assembly, Dunière took a stand opposing the exclusive legal recognition of the English text of laws and parliamentary debates; he also supported a bill to allocate the proceeds of the Jesuit estates to the education of young people. At the time of the 1796 election Dunière withdrew from active politics, but his son Louis-François was chosen for Hertford. Still following in his father’s footsteps, Louis-François in his turn nominated Panet to the post of speaker of the assembly the next year.
Despite his advancing years, Dunière remained deeply involved in business dealings. In 1796 the army purchased £428 worth of supplies from him. That same year he applied for a permit to export to England supplies in his warehouses – 2,000 quarters of flour, 1,500 quintals of biscuit, 1,200 bushels of peas, and 600 of Indian corn. He was associated at this time with the Montreal merchant Francis Badgley* in the firm of Dunière, Badgley and Company. In 1800 Dunière appears finally to have abandoned commerce, selling to his former employee Pierre Brehaut the lot, wharf, and buildings at the foot of Cap Diamant.
Thenceforth Dunière concentrated his investments in landed property, in which he had already demonstrated an interest. In 1801 he acquired by an emphyteutic deed all the titles to the seigneury of Bellechasse in return for an annual rent of 1,500 livres and 450 bushels of wheat payable to the nuns of the Hôpital Général at Quebec. He thereby became owner of a domain at Berthier comprising a stone house, four frame-houses, three mills, a barn, and other buildings. In 1789 he had been among the founders of the Agriculture Society of the District of Quebec, and two years later he had signed a petition opposing any proposal to commute seigneurial tenure to freehold.
Overburdened with debt – he owed £1,241 to the heirs of his brother-in-law Kenelm Chandler, the keeper of Ordnance, and £1,556 to John Painter, a Quebec merchant – Louis Dunière sold the domain of Berthier in 1805. He was still residing in the area at his death on 31 May 1806.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 7 mai 1723, 1er juill. 1748; CN1-83, 21 oct. 1788; CN1-178, 6 mars 1798; CN1-205, 20 déc. 1782; CN1-250, 20 sept. 1769; CN1-256, 31 May 1791; CN1-262, 19 nov. 1800, 8 oct. 1803, 25 févr. 1805. PAC, RG 1, L3L: 39017. “La milice canadienne-française à Québec en 1775,” BRH, 11(1905): 227. “Le recensement de Québec en 1744,” ANQ Rapport, 1939–40: 130. “Le recensement du gouvernement de Québec en 1762,” ANQ Rapport, 1925–26: 38. Quebec Gazette, 24 Jan. 1765; 20 Sept. 1766; 27 June 1782; 30 June 1785; 18 Dec. 1788; 17 Dec. 1789; 24 March, 19 Aug. 1791; 24 May, 20 Dec. 1792; 13 Feb. 1794; 26 Jan. 1797; 17 June 1799; 29 Dec. 1803. Quebec almanac, 1788–1805. F.-J. Audet et Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier Parl. du Bas-Canada, 176–85. Ouellet, Hist. économique, 153. Paquet et Wallot, Patronage et pouvoir dans le Bas-Canada, 129. Tousignant, “La genèse et l’avènement de la constitution de 1791,” 447. Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Les deux premiers députés du comté de Hertford (Bellechasse-Montmagny): Pierre Marcoux et Louis Dunière,” Le Canada français (Québec), 32 (1944–45): 404–17. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 371–73. “La mission de MM. Adhémar et Delisle en Angleterre en 1783–84,” BRH, 32 (1926): 623–25.