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GRASSET DE SAINT-SAUVEUR, ANDRÉ, merchant and secretary to the governor; b. 1724 in Montpellier, France, son of Jean Grasset de Saint-Sauveur and Louise Roussel; d. 1794 in Paris, France.

On 10 May 1747 André Grasset de Saint-Sauveur sailed for Canada on the warship Sérieux as secretary to the new governor general of New France, La Jonquière [Taffanel*]. Four days later, the convoy of 39 vessels in which the Sérieux was travelling was attacked by a British squadron off Cape Ortegal, Spain. Grasset was taken prisoner with La Jonquière and they were brought to England. Freed in 1748 by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, they were finally able to take up their posts and they landed at Quebec on 14 Aug. 1749.

On 1 May 1750 Grasset obtained letters of appointment as councillor of the Conseil Supérieur of Quebec, but since he had settled in Montreal, he never presented his letters to the council. However, he retained his official title of secretary until 1752. At the request of Charles Nolan* Lamarque, a Montreal merchant whose daughter Marie-Anne he married on 2 October of that year, he then gave up office to devote himself to Lamarque’s business. Grasset was not unfamiliar with colonial trading: since his arrival he had succeeded in accumulating 20,000 livres by importing French goods which as merchant-outfitter he then used to trade with the Indians.

In 1755, following the appointment of Vaudreuil [Rigaud] as governor general, Grasset agreed to resume his former post as secretary. Vaudreuil had nothing but praise for him: “He carries out his role as first secretary with zeal, diligence, and dispatch,” he wrote to the minister of Marine, Nicolas-René Berryer. After the death of Grasset’s wife in childbirth on 18 Oct. 1755, the governor personally found a match for him with a rich Canadian, Marie-Joseph, daughter of Jacques Quesnel Fonblanche, an important merchant in Montreal. She was already an experienced businesswoman, having engaged in business with her father from the age of 14. Grasset continued to serve as secretary to the governor, but from 1756 on the Grassets turned their attention primarily to their trade with the Indians. At that time they owned two retail stores on the Montreal market square.

When Vaudreuil returned to France in 1760, Grasset remained in Canada. Given powers of attorney by the former governor, he attended to the administration and disposal of the marquis’s possessions in the colony. Meanwhile, in Paris in 1761 he was accused at the Châtelet of breach of trust, along with François Bigot and others involved in the affaire du Canada. On 10 Dec. 1763 the court issued an order against him deferring the case “for further inquiry before condemning him for failure to appear in court.” When Grasset was informed of this decision, he resolved to return to France. He sailed on 1 Nov. 1764, taking his wife and five small children, and his father-in-law, who was 83. He was in Paris on 23 Dec. 1764. On 21 Jan. 1765 he appeared before the court of the Châtelet to give himself up and obtain a ruling on the order of deferral issued against him. Numerous accusations had been made by his contemporaries. Montcalm* called him “ignorant and greedy.” The author of the “Mémoire du Canada” thought him “devoid of honour and feelings” and “a traitor to his master” and saw in him nothing but “roguery and illicit trade.” Even Joseph-Michel Cadet, who had also been accused, testified to his illicit activities. In April 1765 the court nevertheless dismissed his case, because it had received no information enabling it to find him guilty.

According to the author of the “Mémoire du Canada,” Grasset had amassed 1,900,000 livres during his stay in Canada. Yet, seven years after the conquest, in August 1767 Grasset claimed that his entire fortune consisted of 317,292 livres in bills of exchange that he had acquired honestly through his two advantageous marriages and his trading activities. In 1772, when he was appointed French consul in Trieste (Italy), his financial situation had become so bad that he had to put his family in the care of a religious community because he lacked the means to support them. In May 1778 his wife wrote to the minister of Foreign Affairs, the Comte de Vergennes, that as all her resources were exhausted she was “reduced to the most dire want.” In 1794, André Grasset de Saint-Sauveur died in Paris at the Hôpital des Incurables, a completely ruined man.

Two sons of his second marriage made names for themselves in France. Jacques, the elder, was one of the fashionable novelists of the early 19th century; André, a priest and canon of the metropolitan church of Sens, was one of the martyrs of the Commune in September 1792 and was beatified at the beginning of the 20th century.

André Lachance

AN, Col., B, 91, f.30; 95, f.51; 109, f.29; 127, f.362; C11A, 104, f.113; E, 211 (dossier Grasset de Saint-Sauveur). ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 2 oct. 1752, 3 juill. 1756; Greffe de L.-C. Danré de Blanzy, 29 sept. 1752, 7 avril, 2 juill. 1756. “Mémoire du Canada,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 102, 144, 188, 197. PAC Rapport, 1899, suppl., 182–83. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, V, 350. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande, 159–63; Les petites choses de notre histoire (7 sér., Lévis, Qué., 1919–44), 3e sér., 257–73; “Les secrétaires des gouverneurs et des intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” BRH, XLI (1935), 91.

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Cite This Article

André Lachance, “GRASSET DE SAINT-SAUVEUR, ANDRÉ,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 15, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/grasset_de_saint_sauveur_andre_4E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/grasset_de_saint_sauveur_andre_4E.html
Author of Article:   André Lachance
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 15, 2024