MARGANE DE LAVALTRIE, PIERRE-PAUL, army and militia officer, seigneur, office holder, and politician; b. 13 Aug. 1743 in Montreal (Que.), son of Pierre-Paul Margane de Lavaltrie and Louise-Charlotte d’Ailleboust d’Argenteuil; d. 10 Sept. 1810 in Lavaltrie, Lower Canada.
Pierre-Paul Margane de Lavaltrie belonged to a family of soldiers. His grandfather, Séraphin Margane de Lavaltrie, had come to New France in 1665 with the Régiment de Carignan-Salières; his father made a career in the colonial regular troops, reaching the rank of captain and becoming a knight of the Order of Saint-Louis. Pierre-Paul probably studied for some time in Montreal before being admitted into the colonial regular troops as a cadet at the age of 13. On 25 July 1758 he was promoted lieutenant in the Régiment du Languedoc. The following year he took part in the battle of the Plains of Abraham and, after the surrender of Montreal on 8 Sept. 1760, he accompanied his regiment to France.
Lavaltrie was an only son, and at his father’s request he came back to Canada after serving for some years in the French army. On his arrival in September 1765 he was received rather coldly by Governor Murray*, who suspected French army officers returning to Canada of being spies in the pay of the French monarchy. His father’s death on 1 Jan. 1766 probably influenced Lavaltrie’s decision not to return to France to pursue the military career on which he had embarked but to settle in Canada. On 21 February, as heir to the seigneury of Lavaltrie, he attended the meeting of the seigneurs from the Montreal district which had been called by Murray and his council, a meeting that aroused the anger of the British merchants in Montreal against the governor. A month later, at Terrebonne, Lavaltrie married Marie-Angélique, daughter of Louis de La Corne, known as La Corne l’aîné, and Elisabeth de Ramezay. Thus he became linked with some important families of the Canadian nobility. In the autumn of 1769 he built a manor-house at Lavaltrie and went to live there permanently. From then on he devoted himself to developing his seigneury, in particular building a sawmill and obtaining the agreement of his censitaires for a church to be erected.
When the Americans invaded the province of Quebec in 1775 [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*], Lavaltrie went to the defence of Fort St Johns, on the Richelieu, as did a good many other seigneurs. Guy Carleton’s government considered entrusting him with the task of raising a corps of Canadians to defend Montreal, but the surrender of Fort St Johns at the beginning of November 1775 led Carleton to fall back upon Quebec instead. To escape the Americans sent in pursuit of him the governor had to disguise himself; in this way, and with Lavaltrie’s help in particular, he was able to reach Quebec. The next spring Lavaltrie contributed indirectly to the success of the British troops assembled at Oswegatchie (Ogdensburg, N.Y.) by seeing that munitions and supplies reached them. Upon learning of this the Americans tried to have him arrested, and he had to take refuge at Quebec, where he joined the army and served until the invaders withdrew. After hostilities ended, Lavaltrie returned to his seigneury. Inheritances from his own family and that of his wife brought him partial or full ownership of the seigneuries of Terrebonne, Argenteuil, and Monnoir (also called Ramezay), but he chose to relinquish them in order to concentrate entirely on the development of Lavaltrie.
Although he had signed a petition to the king in 1788 opposing constitutional change, Lavaltrie nevertheless stood as a candidate in Warwick when the first elections to the Lower Canadian House of Assembly were held in the summer of 1792. On the evening of his victory he declared to the electors, who were also his censitaires and whom he addressed as “my dear children,” that he was relinquishing the right to a share of the purchase price when a property was sold, the right to repurchase, the right to demand days of unpaid labour, the right to have trees planted on May Day, and other seigneurial privileges. “I shall give you a deed to this effect drawn up before a notary whenever you desire,” he added. The promise, an unusual gesture for a seigneur of the time, was carried out the following week.
As a member of the assembly, Lavaltrie was quite inconspicuous, however. At the beginning of the first session he backed the choice of Jean-Antoine Panet as speaker, and like most members of Canadian origin he was opposed to having only the English text of laws and parliamentary debates recognized as legal. But after that he did not attend sessions and he did not run in the next elections in 1796, stepping aside for his son-in-law, Charles-Gaspard Tarieu de Lanaudière, to be elected.
Lavaltrie’s absenteeism from the assembly can probably be explained by the behaviour of the man he had defeated at the polls in June 1792, James Cuthbert*. For several years Cuthbert tried to have the election annulled, claiming that because Lavaltrie was not a British subject he could not be elected. If the authorities had agreed to act on such a request, they could have been led into quashing not only Lavaltrie’s election but also those of other Canadians. Cuthbert even insinuated that Lavaltrie was not loyal to the British crown, since he was reported to have refused to take the customary oath on his appointment as justice of the peace in 1788. Cuthbert’s allegations do not seem, however, to have unduly excited the authorities in either London or the colony, since Lavaltrie obtained the rank of militia colonel on 13 May 1794. In addition his commission as Jr was renewed in 1799, and in June 1803 Lieutenant Governor Sir Robert Shore Milnes* made him a grant according to the system of township leader and associates [see James Caldwell] of 11,486 acres in Kildare Township, north of the seigneury of Lavaltrie.
Pierre-Paul Margane de Lavaltrie died at his manor-house on 10 Sept. 1810 and was buried three days later under his pew in the church of Lavaltrie. Through his only daughter, Suzanne-Antoinette, his property passed to the Lanaudière family. The efforts he had exerted to develop his domain had borne fruit. At the time he became seigneur, Lavaltrie had a population of only 327, but by about 1810 it had risen to more than 1,000, and the parish of Saint-Paul, which had been founded in the mid 1780s, had more than 2,500. The seigneury had acquired a good network of roads and was producing wheat and other cereals, as well as hay in large quantities; it also had one of the richest forests in Lower Canada for a variety of building woods. In 1794 the Anglican bishop Jacob Mountain* had noted in his journal: “La Valtrie is the most beautiful seigneurie between Quebec and Montreal.”
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