JUCHEREAU DUCHESNAY, MICHEL-LOUIS, army and militia officer, seigneur, jp, and office holder; b. 14 Dec. 1785 in Beauport, Que., son of Antoine Juchereau* Duchesnay and Catherine Le Comte Dupré; m. there 3 Nov. 1808 Charlotte-Hermine-Louise-Catherine d’Irumberry de Salaberry, and they had six sons and five daughters; d. 17 Aug. 1838 in Petite-Rivière-Saint-Charles, Lower Canada, and was buried two days later under the seigneurial pew in the parish chapel at Sainte-Catherine.
Michel-Louis Juchereau Duchesnay came from one of the richest families of the seigneurial aristocracy in the Quebec region. He was the third and last child born of the second marriage of the seigneur of Beauport, who also owned several other seigneuries. Michel-Louis spent his childhood in wealth and comfort. In 1794 his mother left the manor-house after being accused of adultery. Michel-Louis, who was put in the custody of his father, was sent as a boarder to the Petit Séminaire de Québec.
Like his brother Jean-Baptiste*, Duchesnay chose a military career, and in 1805 they were both commissioned as ensigns in the 60th Foot. The two young men served in England and reached the rank of lieutenant in the regiment in January 1806. Duchesnay quit the British army and left England a year and a half later. He returned to Lower Canada to take possession of the legacy left by his father at his death on 15 Dec. 1806. Although he was hoping to inherit a sizeable fortune, he had been left only the use of the seigneuries of Gaudarville and Fossambault. He was none the less able to make a good match, marrying a daughter of Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry* de Salaberry. Salaberry, who owned part of the fief of Beauport and was an influential figure in Quebec society, was pleased with the marriage, which extended the network of his relations and brought his daughter substantial benefits from the fortune of Catherine Le Comte Dupré, her mother-in-law. In 1811 Catherine lent the young couple £700 to purchase some land at Petite-Rivière-Saint-Charles, where they settled.
During the War of 1812 Duchesnay served as a captain in the Voltigeurs Canadiens under his brother-in-law Charles-Michel d’Irumberry* de Salaberry. He distinguished himself in the battle of Châteauguay on 26 Oct. 1813, as did his brother Jean-Baptiste. Early in the following year he left his regiment in order to pay more attention to his family and his properties. But he continued to serve in the militia as major of the Lotbinière battalion, to which he was posted in 1815. Duchesnay devoted himself to managing the affairs of his mother, who was investing in landed property or in rentes constituées (secured annuities) and bonds. He also attended to development of the seigneuries of Gaudarville and Fossambault, increasing their value through land grants and repairs to the seigneurial buildings.
Duchesnay was able to use his position in society and his network of family connections to secure government patronage. Thus in 1815 he received a commission as justice of the peace for the district of Quebec that was periodically renewed and was chosen commissioner for the improvement of internal communications in the Quebec region. He also was given a commission of the peace for the district of Gaspé in 1819 and 1824, serving as a commissioner, along with George Waters Allsopp, Robert Christie*, and Jean-Thomas Taschereau*, to determine the claims of holders of land in the district of Gaspé, settle land disputes, and inquire into the needs of those living in the Gaspé peninsula. The investigators made three visits to the Gaspé and submitted at least one report before their term of office expired in April 1825. In 1820 Duchesnay, like his half-brother Antoine-Louis*, was appointed commissioner for the building of churches and presbyteries in the district of Quebec and the government renewed his commission in 1830. In 1827 he replaced Taschereau, a connection by marriage, as deputy adjutant general of the Lower Canadian militia. The following year he was called upon to serve as superintendent of Indian affairs at Quebec.
Duchesnay inherited the entire estate (both real property and movables) of his mother when she died on 14 Nov. 1836. He was therefore able to live comfortably until his death two years later. A widower for many years, Duchesnay left seven children, who shared their father’s estate. The eldest, Édouard-Louis-Antoine-Alphonse, received the best portion, inheriting the seigneuries of Gaudarville and Fossambault.
ANQ-Q, CE1-5, 15 mars 1786, 3 nov. 1808; CE1-39, 20 août 1838; CN1-147, 9 mai 1808, 13 juin 1815; CN1-178, 4 sept. 1823; CN1-230, 22 déc. 1806, 27 mars 1811, 14 févr. 1812, 24 juin 1815. PAC, MG 24, G45; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). Gilles Paquet et J.-P. Wallot, Patronage et pouvoir dans le Bas-Canada (1794–1812); un essai d’économie historique (Montréal, 1973). P.-G. Roy, La famille Juchereau Duchesnay (Lévis, Qué., 1903); La famille Le Compte Dupré (Lévis, 1941). Céline Cyr, “Portrait de femme: Catherine Dupré, indépendante et rebelle,” Cap-aux-Diamants (Québec), 2 (1986–87), no.1: 15–18.