MARCHAND, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Roman Catholic priest and Sulpician; b. 25 Feb. 1760 in Verchères (Que.), son of Louis Marchand, a merchant, and Marie-Marguerite Boucher de Niverville; d. 14 April 1825 in Sandwich (Windsor), Upper Canada.
Jean-Baptiste Marchand belonged to a respectable family. Among his paternal uncles were Joseph, the seigneur of Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu, Nicolas, an artillery officer killed in the siege of Quebec in 1759, and two secular priests, one of whom, Étienne*, was a vicar general. After studying at the Petit Séminaire de Quebec from 1774 to 1784, Jean-Baptiste did his theology at the Grand Séminaire in the period 1784–86, and served at the same time as a study master at the Petit Séminaire. He was ordained priest by the bishop of Quebec, Louis-Philippe Mariauchau* d’Esgly, on 11 March 1786.
Attracted to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, Marchand began his ministry in the church of Notre-Dame at Montreal in August 1786 and was received into the Sulpician community as a member on 21 Oct. 1788. In September 1789 Jean-Baptiste Curatteau* resigned from the Collège Saint-Raphaël, of which he was the principal, leaving to his successor the usufruct of all his assets invested in the province of Quebec. At the suggestion of Gabriel-Jean Brassier*, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general, the churchwardens of Notre-Dame, who owned the college, chose Marchand to succeed Curatteau.
He set about his task with enthusiasm, despite the difficulties and weaknesses of the institution: there were not many pupils (between 120 and 130), the teachers varied in competence, and the financial resources were limited. It took in both boarders (a fifth of the student body) and day pupils, offered elementary and secondary courses of study, and at the elementary level taught pupils in both French and English. Most of the teachers, called regents, were clerics lent by the bishop of Quebec and they received their moral and theological training from Marchand. Marchand was responsible for continuity at the college but often had his teachers removed by the bishop. Nevertheless, in 1790 he added the two-year Philosophy program, thus saving his pupils from having to go to Quebec to complete their studies. He also enjoyed the confidence of the bishop and the seminary authorities.
In 1794 the arrival in Lower Canada of French Sulpicians who had been driven out by the French revolution brought the college three new teachers. They were highly critical of the quality of the pupils and the requirements of the institution. After a period of tensions, which subsided in October 1795, Marchand wrote to Bishop Jean-François Hubert* of Quebec: “We have made concessions on both sides about how to act.” The unity did not last, and in August 1796 Marchand resigned. From 1792 till 1794 he had also held the office of chaplain to the nuns of the Congrégation of Notre-Dame.
When François-Xavier Dufaux, the Sulpician missionary at l’Assomption-du-Détroit (later known as Sandwich), died, Hubert on 17 Oct. 1796 offered the parish charge of Notre-Dame-de-L’Assomption to the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice. The superior, Gabriel-Jean Brassier, appointed Marchand to it. He arrived in his parish on Christmas night 1796. It stretched along the Detroit River from Lake St Clair to Lake Erie and extended about six miles inland. The presbytery had been built by Hubert, who had been the parish priest from 1781 to 1785, and the humble church had been completed in 1787. The congregation increased rapidly, and in 1816 numbered nearly 3,000. From the beginning Marchand won the trust of his people and was known for his zeal. There was, however, a good deal of dissension amongst the parishioners. In 1795 François Baby*, the deputy lieutenant of Essex County, had been granted a special pew in the church. After violent altercations with his fellow parishioners, who tried to prevent him from occupying it, Baby finally renounced his claim in 1797 in order to restore harmony. Another matter, which brought in question the titles to property held by the fabrique, was fraught with more serious consequences. A parishioner, François Pratt (Pratte), laid claim to almost all the fabrique’s land, which was then in use as a cemetery and had had several buildings erected on it. In 1801 Pratt fenced off the land and launched an action for damages, which he subsequently dropped. The question of the titles was not settled until 1806, when Pratt’s rights to the property were confirmed. Marchand was left with his church and presbytery.
His duties took Marchand every six or eight weeks to the missions that he had founded shortly after his arrival, Saint-Jean-Baptiste at Amherstburg and Saint-Pierre-sur-la-Tranche (Prairie Siding) on the Thames River. He always promoted the establishment of schools and he brought in teachers, but the sparseness of the population was scarcely conducive to education. He maintained close relations with Michel Levadoux and Gabriel Richard, two Sulpicians at Detroit, and he even filled in for Richard when he was away from his parish in 1808–9. Marchand was also called upon to give him shelter. During the War of 1812, after the capture of Detroit by British forces, Richard, who had apparently expressed strong anti-British sentiments, was ordered on 21 May 1813 by Brigadier-General Henry Procter to go and live with Marchand pending his expulsion. Richard was supposed to suffer the same fate as some 30 inhabitants of Detroit who had already been sent to Quebec, but on 6 June he promised to refrain from further comments and thus could return to Detroit.
Marchand was twice visited by the bishop of Quebec. In June and July 1801 Bishop Pierre Denaut* stayed a month at Sandwich and confirmed 500 people. Denaut was accompanied by Abbé Félix Gatien*, who was to spend five years at Sandwich. In June 1816 Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis made a pastoral visit, during which he could see for himself how heavy the parish priest’s task was; in September he sent Marchand an assistant priest, Joseph Crevier, dit Bellerive, who would succeed him.
In July 1797 Jean-Baptiste Marchand had written to his bishop: “I am very happy here, as far as both temporal and spiritual matters are concerned.” Later, in 1799, he thanked Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux, the superior of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, for not having suggested him for the parish charge of L’Assomption, near Montreal. After more than 26 years of ministry at Sandwich, however, his health began to fail in the spring of 1823. He died on 14 April 1825. In Hubert’s words Marchand was “a man of character, gentle, kindly, who knew how to yield without cowardice, without weakness.”
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Cite This Article
Bruno Harel, “MARCHAND, JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/marchand_jean_baptiste_6E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Bruno Harel|
|Title of Article:||MARCHAND, JEAN-BAPTISTE|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||April 1, 2023|