LA CHASSE, PIERRE DE, priest, Jesuit, missionary, superior of the Jesuit missions in New France; baptized 7 May 1670 in the parish of Saint-Pierre-en-Château at Auxerre, France, son of Joseph de La Chasse, king’s counsellor at the bailiff’s court and presidial bench of Auxerre, and of Edmée Roussol; d. 27 Sept. 1749 in Quebec.
Pierre de La Chasse entered the noviciate of the Jesuits of the province of France in Paris on 14 Oct. 1687. When his noviciate was completed, he taught at Rennes for six academic years and in 1695 entered upon his four years of theology at the Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris. In 1700, when his final probationary year was ended, he sailed for Canada, and in 1701 he replaced Father Vincent Bigot* at Naurakamig (probably on the Androscoggin River, near Canton, Me.). In November 1708 La Chasse had a census made of all the Abenakis in the Kennebec region. He remained in that region until 1709, and his presence on the frontiers of the English and French colonies led him to play a very real role in the military events which marked the War of the Spanish Succession in North America. His correspondence with the civil authorities is proof of that: he served at one and the same time as a liaison officer, informant, and counsellor, and he was particularly zealous in stimulating the “patriotism” of the Abenakis. His conduct came to the attention of Governor Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil, who saw in him an efficient emissary. In instructions to the Baron de Saint-Castin [Bernard-Anselme d’Abbadie*] the governor recommended that he “consult [the missionary] when occasion arises on matters concerning the greatest good to his Majesty’s service. “ After the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 La Chasse was the principal instigator of the policy of “gifts to the Indians,” which was intended to keep the Abenakis allied with the French.
On 15 July 1719 La Chasse was named superior of the Jesuit missions in New France, replacing Julien Garnier*. The religious and civil authorities were in agreement in recognizing in him an exceptional man, gifted with numerous and “admirable” talents. His new functions allowed him to play a more efficacious role in French-Abenaki relations. In 1719, indeed, the authorities of New France promised to protect the Abenakis and to join them “if, to retain their country, they were forced to resort to war.” In his report on the boundaries of Acadia dated 29 Oct. 1720 and sent to the Duc d’Orléans, Father Charlevoix says explicitly that it was Father La Chasse himself who advanced this policy. “This counsel,” the report adds, “given by a man who knew the Abenakis better than anyone . . . was considered wise and was adopted.” Subsequently, in 1721 and 1724, the Jesuit superior twice made the round of visits to the Abenaki missions in French Acadia, to keep them in the French allegiance. At the time of the negotiations between the English and Abenakis in 1721, Father La Chasse was chosen by the Abenakis, in accord with the authorities in Quebec, to accompany the Abenaki delegation [see Sébastien Rale*] during the meeting with the representatives from Boston. In 1724 he immortalized in a famous letter the “martyrdom” of Father Rale, who had died on 23 Aug. 1724 during what was called Dummer’s or Lovewell’s War.
His superiorship was distinguished by some notable events. In 1727 at the time of their exhumation he was called upon to draw up the minutes attesting to the state of preservation of the bodies of the first three nuns of the Hôpital Général of Quebec, one of whom was the first superior, Louise Soumande*, dite de Saint-Augustin, as well as to the miraculous cures which took place on that occasion. He was successful in increasing the personnel of the missions in America: in 1720 he entrusted to Pierre-Michel Laure* the reestablishment of the Saguenay mission, which had been shut down for 18 years [see François de Crespieul*], and in 1723 he was in favour of setting up the “Louisiana mission” [see Nicolas-Ignace de Beaubois]. In 1726 in a discussion on the brandy trade, he expressed the opinion, which he later rejected, “that the use of Brandy was necessary for the preservation and domination of the King and the Catholic religion.”
On 6 Aug. 1726 La Chasse quit his post as superior, leaving it to Jean-Baptiste Duparc, to devote himself exclusively to the nuns of the Hôpital Général of Quebec, whose confessor he had been since 1720. He was also the confessor and an intimate friend of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*]. Because of this he was associated in 1727–28 with the painful events which accompanied the death of the bishop of Quebec. He was involved, despite himself, it seems, in the quarrel between Intendant Dupuy* and the chapter of Quebec. He delivered the prelate’s funeral oration at the Hôpital Général; the role that he played in these circumstances presumably brought about his interdiction for some months by Canon Étienne Boullard*.
Pierre de La Chasse spent the last 20 years of his life at the Jesuit college in Quebec, dividing his time between prayer, poetry, and the task of acting as spiritual father of the community. During his final years he suffered from sciatica and could no longer “exercise his ministry publicly.” When he was more than 70 he learned English to try to convert some prisoners who were being held in Quebec. He died in that town on 27 Sept. 1749, leaving behind him the memory of a man of “great talents for preaching the work of God and for administration.”
AD, Yonne (Auxerre), État civil, Saint-Pierre-en-Château d’Auxerre, 7 mai 1670. AN, Col., B, 47, ff.1129, 1206; 48, f.855; 49, f.678; 50, f.500; 53, ff.450v, 541v; C11A, 22, f.32; 36, f.124; 43, f.372; 44, f.131; 45, ff.11, 12, 118; 46, ff.19, 27, 144, 307; 47, ff.60, 121, 301; 48, ff.106, 140; 49, ff.124, 561, 576; 50, f.23. ASJCF, 588; 588 bis; 2220; 2221; Fonds Rochemonteix, 4006, 143, 168, 276; 4018, 38. ASQ, mss, 176; Polygraphie, II, 24A. Newberry Library (Chicago), Ayer Coll., Lachasse census (1708). Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., II, 497, 530–31, 534–36, 567–68; III, 5, 49–54, 57–63, 68–70, 93, 108–10. “Éloge funèbre de Mgr de Saint-Vallier,” BRH, XIII (1907), 66–80, 97–118. JR (Thwaites). Martyrs de la Nouvelle-France; extraits des relations et lettres des missionnaires jésuites, Georges Rigault et Georges Goyau, édit. (Bibliothèque des missions; mémoires et documents, 1, Paris, 1925), 215–72. Melançon, Liste des missionnaires jésuites. Tanguay, Répertoire (hand-written annotated edition by the archivists of the seminary of Quebec). F. G. Bressani, Les jésuites-martyrs du Canada, Félix Martin, trad. (Montréal, 1877), 243–49. Charland, Les Abénakis d’Odanak, 42, 63, 91. Dubé, Claude-Thomas Dupuy, 187, 237, 245. Johnson, Apôtres ou agitateurs, 79, 91, 98, 100, 139, 143. J.-A. Maurault, Histoire des Abénaquis depuis 1605 jusqu’à nos jours (Sorel, Qué., 1866), 378–407. Mgr de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général, 250–93, 712. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N-F. au XVIIe siècle, III, 442–78; Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, I, 145–61; “Le père Sébastien Rasle,” BRH, V (1899), 229. P.-G. Roy, “Un poème héroï-comique,” BRH, III (1897), 114–16. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France,” BRH, XVI (1910), 329.