LACROIX, JANVIER-DOMPTAIL (baptized Jacques-Janvier), lawyer, militia officer, seigneur, and politician; b. 31 Jan. 1778 in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Laval), Que., son of Hubert-Joseph Lacroix* and Françoise-Pélagie Poncy; d. 15 July 1856 in Montreal.
Janvier-Domptail Lacroix, whose forebears came from the Netherlands, was the grandson of a doctor, Hubert-Joseph de Lacroix*. He studied law, probably in Montreal, and was called to the bar on 13 July 1801. Less than a year later, on 3 May, he married Marie-Anne Bouate, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Bouate, an infantry lieutenant, and Marie-Céleste Foucher. The marriage was solemnized at Notre-Dame in Montreal before several leading figures of the time, including the bride’s uncle Louis-Charles Foucher*, a judge in the Provincial Court at Trois-Rivières, and Pierre-Louis Panet*, a judge in the Court of King’s Bench at Montreal. These witnesses and the terms of the marriage contract, in which the spouses settled for separation of property, are evidence that Lacroix belonged to a privileged social group.
Like many of his compatriots Lacroix took part in the War of 1812. Appointed a captain in Montreal’s 3rd Militia Battalion on 7 April 1812, he later transferred to the 5th Select Embodied Militia Battalion of Lower Canada. But he resigned on 16 March 1813 to concentrate on his legal career. A prominent attorney, on 30 June 1812 he had managed to secure appointment as a commissioner for the administration of oaths of allegiance. On 22 May 1818 he became a director of the House of Industry in Montreal, a charitable organization. He was appointed commissioner for the trial of small causes on 26 June 1821 and commissioner for the building and repair of churches and presbyteries in 1830.
Lacroix did not, however, experience uninterrupted success. For example, in February 1817 the House of Assembly, on a motion by Augustin Cuvillier*, found him guilty of bearing false witness when he appeared before a select committee charged with inquiring into the conduct of Judge Foucher, his wife’s uncle. The assembly voted to have Lacroix appear before it, but to no effect since the deputy sergeant-at-arms was unable to locate him. The whole affair ultimately subsided after the governor referred the assembly’s request to dismiss Foucher to the Colonial Office. By the time London ruled on the procedure to follow in such a case, two years had elapsed and the animosity felt towards Foucher and his over-accommodating attorney had cooled. Lacroix’s reprieve was shortlived, however, because in March 1819 he found himself facing new difficulties, linked this time with his behaviour as seigneur of Blainville.
Earlier that year Lacroix had received from his father some of the seigneurial rights in Blainville and he proceeded at once to the seigneury to claim from the censitaires the arrears owed his father and to demand from the local parish priest, Charles-Joseph Ducharme, the honours due his rank. This was all it took to arouse antipathy. A number of censitaires delayed paying their arrears, while the parish priest took the opportunity of the seigneur’s first appearance in church to omit his sermon and thus avoid having to offer for Lacroix and his spouse the accompanying customary prayer for the seigneur. It was no ordinary Sunday: furious at this insult, Lacroix riposted by remaining standing from the sanctus to the communion, rather than kneeling as Ducharme had requested in conformity with the ritual established by Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*]. A churchwarden, Martin Gratton, tried in vain to ensure compliance with the custom. The seigneur loudly replied that he knew what he had to do, and after the service he stalked out of the church, hat on head, threatening the churchwarden and his parish priest with a lawsuit for lèse-majesté that would really create a stir.
The affair dragged on for two or three years, ending when Lacroix dropped his action after Ducharme finally agreed to accord him the honours he claimed as seigneur. Relations between the two later became more cordial, although in 1823 Ducharme was worried because the seigneur seemed inclined to support five Scottish families in their desire to set up a Protestant school in the parish. Nevertheless, in 1829 Lacroix backed the parish priest’s request that his school, which was to become the Petit Séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse, should receive the same financial advantages from the government as the schools run by trustees.
One of Lacroix’s chief concerns as seigneur of Blainville was to reconstitute his domain, and by 1822 he had purchased all the seigneurial rights belonging to his brothers and sisters. Thus, when he rendered fealty and homage on 16 Nov. 1829, he became as of right the sole holder of the seigneury of Blainville. From then on he adopted a tougher approach to management, seeking by all possible means to increase the profits from his fief. His practices resembled, nevertheless, those of most seigneurs at that time: refusal to make land grants in order to obtain higher returns from their estates; insistence on issuing new title deeds; and purchase of lots outside the seigneuries for resale at a profit.
Consequently it should come as no surprise that his censitaires displayed a lack of respect for Lacroix in his political struggles, in particular during a public meeting of 10 April 1834 at Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville. Reporting the event, Le Canadien stated that “the seigneur . . . M. J.-D. Lacroix . . . was obliged to withdraw in the general disorder.” Lacroix, who supported the Executive Council, had denounced the 92 Resolutions, as he had in a speech given a few days before in Montreal, going so far as to advocate absolute loyalty to the government. He maintained this stand throughout the entire political crisis, prompting Le Canadien to observe on 17 Nov. 1837 that the appointment of Lacroix to the Legislative Council could not be regarded as that of a French Canadian. Lacroix performed the duties of councillor from 22 Aug. 1837 until the constitution was suspended on 27 March 1838.
Janvier-Domptail Lacroix sold his seigneury to George Henry Monk on 26 July 1846 for £4,500. Then living in Montreal and involved in municipal politics, he was critical of all those who, following the example of the strikers at Lachine, were a menace to social peace. He died on 15 July 1856 in Montreal, at the house of his daughter Marie-Henriette, who had married John Pangman, a legislative councillor and seigneur of La Chesnaye. Representative of an élite detested by the people for its political opinions, Lacroix was remembered as a man who had sacrificed everything to his climb up the social ladder.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 3 mai 1802, 15 juill. 1856; CE1-59, 1er févr. 1778. ANQ-Q, P-240, boîte 23. Docs. relating to constitutional hist., 1791–1818 (Doughty and McArthur), 502–36. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1817: 557–59. L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois (Montréal), 12, 19 avril 1834. Le Canadien, 16 avril 1834, 17 nov. 1837. La Minerve, 7, 14 avril 1834. Quebec Gazette, 20, 27 Feb., 6, 20 March 1817. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, 3: 276–78. Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. Cahiers historiques: histoire de Sainte-Thérèse (Joliette, Qué., 1940). Chapais, Cours d’hist. du Canada, 3: 56–60. Émile Dubois, Le petit séminaire de Sainte-Thérèse, 1825–1925 (Montréal, 1925). É.-J.[-A.] Auclair, “Les origines de Sainte-Thérèse de Blainville et de son séminaire,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 34 (1940), sect.i: 1–19. H. C. Pentland, “The Lachine strike of 1843,” CHR, 29 (1948): 255–77.