LAJUS, FRANÇOIS (baptized Louis-François; also called François-Xavier), surgeon-major; b. 28 Aug. 1721 in Quebec, son of Jordain Lajus*, surgeon, and Louise-Élisabeth Moreau, dit Lataupine; d. 6 Oct. 1799 in Quebec.
François Lajus learned surgery from his father. He then became a military surgeon, and on 11 Jan. 1745 Intendant Hocquart granted him a commission to go to Acadia as surgeon-major with a detachment under the command of Paul Marin* de La Malgue. Lajus evidently was back in Acadia some years later, for he was at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), when the British captured it in 1758 [see Augustin de Boschenry* de Drucour]. Accompanied by an Indian guide, he immediately returned to Quebec, bringing the news that the fortress had fallen.
During the siege of Quebec in the summer of 1759, Lajus treated the many wounded brought to the Hôpital Général. After the conquest he practised surgery in the town and, although he was not attached to any particular hospital, he was often called into consultation at the Hôtel-Dieu. Like his father, he was surgeon to the Recollets and a churchwarden of the parish of Notre-Dame in Quebec. He was a close friend of the seigneur of Lauson, Étienne Charest, and corresponded with him after Charest left for France in 1765.
A notice in the Quebec Gazette of 29 March 1770 shows that surgeons were not exempt from criticism or calumny. Its author, William Laing, cleared up rumours that Lajus had been guilty of “blameable conduct” during Mrs Laing’s confinement. Not only were these reports untrue, he wrote, but his wife thought that Lajus “was the Means of saving her Life, by his great Skill and Care, and hereby desires to return him her public Thanks for the same, and would rather have him on such an Occasion than anyone that she knows.”
It seems in fact that Dr Lajus had a good reputation and a large practice, which was not true of all doctors or surgeons. The profession was not organized at this time. In 1750, under the French régime, Intendant Bigot had issued an ordinance requiring any newcomer to be examined by the king’s physician before he could practise, but it had fallen into disuse and had not been replaced after the conquest. Consequently there were more charlatans of every sort passing themselves off as doctors and doing serious harm to the inhabitants’ health than there were qualified doctors and surgeons. To end these abuses Lord Dorchester [Carleton*] issued an ordinance in 1788 which forbade anyone, under pain of a heavy fine, to practise medicine, surgery, and obstetrics without first appearing before the Board of Medical Examiners, in either Quebec or Montreal. Because of his knowledge and wide experience Lajus was chosen by the governor to be a member of the first board in Quebec.
On 14 Nov. 1747 Lajus had married Marguerite Audet de Piercotte de Bailleul in Quebec, and they had several children who died in infancy. On 11 Aug. 1776 he took as his second wife Angélique-Jeanne Hubert, whose brother, Jean-François Hubert, was superior of the seminary and later bishop of Quebec. Their eldest child, François-Marie-Olivier-Hubert, died tragically from a shot in the head in 1795, when he was 17. The alleged murderer, Abel Willard, committed suicide in prison, and the inquiry concluded that this action was a case of “Insanity.” Lajus’s two other sons, Jean-Baptiste-Isidore-Hospice and René-Flavien, were ordained to the priesthood, and his daughter, Jeanne-Françoise-Louise-Luce, married Pierre-Stanislas Bédard* in 1796.
ANQ-Q, AP-P-1106; État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 28 août 1721, 14 nov. 1747, 11 août 1776, 8 oct. 1799. Quebec Gazette, 29 March 1770, 7 May 1795. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, II, 16–18; Inv. concessions, V, 3; Inv. contrats de mariage, IV, 25; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, V, 245; VI, 26; Inv. ord. int., III, 66, 150. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 339; V, 97. Abbott, History of medicine. M.-J. et G. Ahern, Notes pour l’hist. de la médicine, 325–31. Heagerty, Four centuries of medical history in Canada, I, 226. J.-E. Roy, Histoire de la seigneurie de Lauzon (5v., Lévis, Qué., 1897–1904), II. P.-G. Roy, A travers l’histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (Lévis, 1939), 181; “La famille Lajus,” BRH, XL (1934), 243–47.