LAUZON, PIERRE DE, priest, Jesuit, missionary, superior of the Jesuit missions in New France; baptized 13 Sept. 1687 at Leignes-sur-Fontaine (dept. of Vienne) France, son of Pierre de Lauzon, a lawyer, and Marguerite Riot; d. 5 Sept. 1742 at Quebec.
After classical studies in France at the Jesuit college in Poitiers, Pierre de Lauzon entered the noviciate of the Jesuits of the province of Aquitaine in Bordeaux on 26 Nov. 1703 and pronounced his first vows on 27 Nov. 1705. From 1705 to 1707 he studied logic and physics at Limoges and he taught from 1707 to 1710. After a third year of philosophy at Limoges, he taught rhetoric there until 1712; then he started on his theology at Bordeaux and was ordained a priest four years later.
Lauzon sailed for Canada in 1716; shortly after arriving in Quebec he went to the mission at Lorette to help Father Pierre-Daniel Richer and to learn the Huron and Iroquois languages. In 1718 he was sent as a missionary to Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga), where he pronounced his vows on 2 Feb. 1721. After three years at this mission he returned to Quebec, where he taught hydrography [see Joseph Des Landes] during the school year of 1721–22. He was probably replacing Father François Le Brun, who had just died, but the assignment was probably also to allow him to recover his strength, for his labours among the Iroquois had undermined his health. His rest period was short, because the Indians at Sault-Saint-Louis urged his return. In 1721 there had in fact been some trouble at Sault-Saint-Louis and the Iroquois had set forth their grievances in a petition to Governor Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil and Intendant Bégon, maintaining that the disorders at the mission had originally been caused by the too frequent changing of the missionaries; therefore they requested the return of Gannenrontié (Father Lauzon’s Indian name). Furthermore they considered that the plan to re-establish a French garrison in the village was an insult to their loyalty; it would be a source of bad examples for their young people, a danger for their wives and daughters, and a waste of money which would be better employed helping the widows and orphans of the numerous warriors who had died defending the interests of the French against “both their own brothers and the English.”
There was great danger that the inhabitants of Sault-Saint-Louis would leave the locality to withdraw to the Iroquois country or reach an agreement with the English. The governor and the intendant therefore thought it necessary to ask that Father Lauzon return to Sault-Saint-Louis, since he had already succeeded in warding off a similar threat during his first stay at that mission and since the Iroquois were very much attached to him. Lauzon returned in 1722, and the following year was appointed the superior at the mission, succeeding Father Julien Garnier*. He retained this office until 1732, at which time the ability he showed at the head of the Sault-Saint-Louis mission for nine consecutive years led Father François Retz, the general of the Society of Jesus, to name him superior of the Jesuit missions in New France. This appointment also included that of rector of the college of Quebec. He took up his functions in September, succeeding Father Jean-Baptiste Duparc.
In 1733, during his superiorship, he went to France to seek reinforcements, particularly for the western missions. He returned in 1734, bringing with him Fathers Jean-Pierre Aulneau* and Luc-François Nau. The three Jesuits made the return voyage with Bishop Dosquet* on board the warship Rubis. On the 80-day crossing there were gales and epidemics, and 20 people died. Father Lauzon acted as boatswain’s mate, for all the passengers had to share in the ship’s duties.
When Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pé succeeded him as superior of the Jesuit missions in New France in 1739, Lauzon returned to Sault-Saint-Louis and resumed the direction of his former mission [see Nau]. A painful experience was in store for him there: he had to defend his flock against accusations of disloyalty to France and illegal trade with the English. In a report dated 1741 and addressed to Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, then governor of Trois-Rivières, with the request that he see that it reached the minister, Maurepas, Lauzon recalled the services the Iroquois of Sault-Saint-Louis had rendered France in the struggles against other Indians and the English, and he drew attention to the suspicion and unfair treatment they had received in return from the French. He also rejected the accusation brought against the Jesuits at this mission of engaging in trade. This was the beginning of the Tournois-Desauniers affair: the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Tournois was accused of being in business partnership with the Misses Desauniers and encouraging the Indians to patronize the store that the women ran. Lauzon’s report did not get to the minister soon enough, and on 12 April 1742 the minister ordered that the Desauniers’ store be closed and had a request sent to Father Lauzon asking him to prevent the Indians from moving to English territory.
Pierre de Lauzon was sensitive to the suspicion; it touched his honour as a missionary and a Frenchman. Exhausted by illness and affected by the merchants’ accusations, he was recalled to Quebec in 1741. The pain caused him by these accusations even hastened his death, which occurred on 5 Sept. 1742, after a few days’ illness.
AD, Vienne (Poitiers), État civil, Leignes-sur-Fontaine, 13 sept. 1687. ASJCF, 555; Cahier des vœux; Fonds Rochemonteix, 4006, 227, 259; 4018, 18. JR (Thwaites), LXVII, 66, 72–78; LXIX, 45–47, 57. Melançon, Liste des missionnaires jésuites, 46. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. aux XVIIIe siècle, I, 211; II, 20, 21, 23, 52, 245, 256.