LECLÈRE (Leclerc), PIERRE-ÉDOUARD, notary, police superintendent, and businessman; b. 10 Feb. 1798 at Montreal, son of Pierre Leclère, dit Lafrenaye, a merchant, and Marie-Anne Bourg; d. 5 May 1866 at Montreal, Canada East.
In 1813 Pierre-Édouard Leclère began his training as a clerk under Louis Chaboillez*, but after the latter died in July of that year he entered the office of notary Jean-Marie Mondelet*, and, in 1819, that of notary André Jobin*. Having worked with “these three masters,” he managed, with some difficulty, to obtain a commission as a notary in 1825. On 10 Jan. 1820 he had married Josephte, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Castonguay, a fur-trader; they were to have 17 children.
In the decades preceding the union of Upper and Lower Canada, the Patriote party and the administration of Lower Canada opposed one another in a struggle to secure the loyalty of the population. The story of the Patriotes’ activities is known, but there is less information about government officials and sympathizers. Pierre-Édouard Leclère’s career must be put into this context. Leclère became superintendent of the Montreal police in 1830 and, charged with reorganizing it, made himself the champion of law and order. His mandate was renewed at the time of Montreal’s incorporation in 1832, and he supervised the organization of a police corps for the town. His jurisdiction extended to the entire district of Montreal. In the troubled years that followed, Leclère openly declared his opposition “to the immoral and disruptive effects of the measures recommended by speakers at popular meetings,” and in particular to the pernicious encouragement given by the Patriotes to clandestine importing of goods.
Leclère planned and took part in attempts by the governor’s associates to infiltrate the Patriote party, large public gatherings, and the Fils de la Liberté. In 1838, with the authority of a justice of the peace and of a commissioner of small causes, he supported the Special Council that governed Lower Canada, issued summonses, signed search warrants, and authorized police searches at the office of La Quotidienne and the arrest of its editor François Lemaitre. His jurisdiction went beyond the boundaries of Montreal, according to the evidence of documents such as warrants of arrest for citizens of Saint-Hyacinthe and Saint-Jean signed by Leclère. In particular he had the border villages kept under surveillance.
Thanks to a vast network of informers, which constituted a veritable secret police, and to a reward system, Leclère had individuals spied on and forwarded his information to the governor’s secretary, Dominick Daly, and the attorney general, Charles Richard Ogden. He was also able to follow movements between Canada and the United States, since he controlled the issue of permits for entry to the United States. The informers in his employ were even audacious enough to infiltrate Canadian refugee circles in the United States. Félix Poutré*, a journeyman of Saint-Jean, was entrusted with one of these intelligence missions in 1838.
In partnership with John Jones, Leclère had become the owner of the Canadian Spectator in 1826 and of L’Ami du peuple, de l’ordre et des lois from 1832 to 1836. In 1835 he had started Le Journal du Commerce, which lasted less than a year. At L’Ami du peuple Leclère was aided by Joseph-Vincent Quiblier*, superior of the Sulpicians and “unofficial” director of the paper. Leclère’s vast knowledge of the events of 1837–38 were to make him some years later a competent member of the commission to consider compensation for rebellion losses. In 1840 he had moved to Saint-Hyacinthe, where he practised as a notary until 1859 and held the office of stipendiary magistrate until 1843.
Convinced that a shipping line was the indispensable complement to the building of railways, Leclère became a shareholder in the Société de Navigation de la Rivière Richelieu in 1845 (later the Richelieu Company) and its president in 1850 [see Jacques-Félix Sincennes*]. He was active in his region’s agricultural society, and became president of the Agricultural Society of Lower Canada.
ASSH, A, F, Fonds Pierre-Édouard Leclère. PAC, MG 30, D62, 28, pp.158–292. Ivanhoë Caron “Inventaire des documents relatifs aux événements de 1837 et 1838, conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” ANQ Rapport, 1925–26, 216–17; “Papiers Duvernay conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” ANQ Rapport, 1926–27, 152–53. Fauteux, Patriotes, 115–16. C.-P. Choquette, Histoire de la ville de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué, 1930). Hist. de la corporation de la cité de Montréal (Lamothe et al.), 110–11. F.-J. Audet, “Pierre-Édouard Leclère (1798–1866),” Cahiers des Dix, 8 (1943), 109–40.