PANET, JEAN-CLAUDE, notary, lawyer, and judge; b., probably late in December 1719, in the parish of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris, France, eldest son of Jean-Nicolas Panet, a clerk with the treasurers-general of the Marine, and Marie-Madeleine-Françoise Foucher; d. 28 Feb. 1778 in Quebec.
Jean-Claude Panet had seven brothers and sisters. One of them, Nicolas-Gabriel, became clerk of the parlement of Paris; another, Pierre-Méru*, emigrated to New France some years after his brother, was also a notary, lawyer, and judge, and began the Montreal branch of the Panet family during the period when Jean-Claude was beginning a branch in Quebec.
Jean-Claude Panet arrived in Canada at 20 years of age as a soldier in the colonial regular troops. He had sailed from La Rochelle on 10 June 1740 aboard the Rubis and landed at Quebec on 12 August, having escaped the epidemic which caused the deaths of many of the crew and passengers, including Bishop François-Louis de Pourroy* de Lauberivière. Panet had certainly received a fairly advanced education, for eight months after his arrival he was working as a legal practitioner, and a little later as an attorney. He was well thought of; Intendant Hocquart considered him “intelligent and prudent” and Governor Charles de Beauharnois* praised his “good conduct.” Despite a request made by his father in Paris, he was unable to obtain the post of notary in Quebec which had been left vacant when Jean de Latour returned to France in the autumn of 1741. The appointment of Nicolas Boisseau as chief clerk of the Conseil Supérieur, however, created a vacancy enabling Panet to become royal notary in the provost court of Quebec on 22 Dec. 1744. His father having paid the required 150 livres, Jean-Claude Panet had obtained discharge from the armed forces at the beginning of the previous year. Although he held a number of other posts over the years, Panet was to practise continuously as a notary from 1745 until 1775, and his register records more than 5,860 acts.
On 8 Aug. 1759, during the siege of Quebec, a British fire-ball fell on Jean-Claude Panet’s house in Lower Town, causing a fire that destroyed 166 other houses. Panet recounted the particulars in a diary entitled “Précis de ce qui s’est passé au Canada depuis la nouvelle de la flotte de M. Canon [Jacques Kanon*],” which accurately and in detail relates events of the period from 10 May to 8 September 1759. The last section of the manuscript, containing the account of the final days of the siege, has unfortunately disappeared. On 25 July 1759 Panet had been named clerk of a commission charged with suppressing looting by sailors, soldiers, and militiamen. The ordinance of 19 July creating the commission had authorized François Daine*, the lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs of the provost court of Quebec, to sentence to death and have executed the same day looters caught in the act. Panet is supposed to have recommended this drastic measure to Daine. His diary reports that Daine had two men arrested and hanged on 31 July. After the defeat on the Plains of Abraham on 13 September, Panet, as deputy for king’s attorney Jean-Baptiste-Ignace Perthuis*, was one of 25 leading citizens who signed the request for capitulation addressed to the king’s lieutenant, Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay.
The military régime, from 1760 to 1763, made little change in the daily life of New France. In the interests of efficiency the British administration had to be in a position both to understand and to be understood by the Canadians, and the services of French speaking persons, such as Jacques de Lafontaine* de Belcour and François-Joseph Cugnet, were called upon. When James Murray, the new governor, set up a court of final appeal for the District of Quebec, which he called the “superior council,” he named Jean-Claude Panet its chief clerk on 2 Nov. 1760. At the same period Panet’s brother Pierre-Méru was appointed court clerk in the District of Montreal. When civil government was restored, Canadians qualified in the legal field were not affected by the theoretical obligation of important civil servants to take the oath under the Test Act, and they retained their offices. In 1765 Murray asked Jean-Claude Panet to examine the registers of the Conseil Supérieur of New France and make an inventory of the lands incorporated in the Domaine d’Occident under the French régime. The governor emphasized that only a French speaking jurist could accomplish this task and that Panet was to have free access to the documents.
In February 1765 Jean-Claude Panet, along with William Kluck, became clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, which replaced the council created by Murray. At the same time Panet and Kluck were appointed depositaries of the minutes of deceased notaries in the District of Quebec. But the following year Panet quit his post and went to France in the hope of obtaining recompense for his services under the French régime and a better post. He presented a statement to the minister of the Marine, the Duc de Choiseul, who forwarded it with a favourable recommendation to the comptroller general of finance. Panet’s request apparently was rejected, for he returned to Quebec and on 6 Oct. 1767 obtained a commission as a lawyer. He had practised law for several years, had been an assessor to the Conseil Supérieur of New France in 1751 and deputy king’s attorney from 1755 to 1759, and had even signed as a lawyer in 1764; so he had had a lengthy training for this profession. On his appointment, Panet withdrew into a private career as a notary and lawyer until 1775.
It was only when the Quebec Act, which was to establish a new judicial organization, came into effect that Jean-Claude Panet again held office. On 26 April 1775, Governor Guy Carleton* reappointed judges Thomas Dunn*, John Fraser, Adam Mabane, and John Marteilhe; at the same time he appointed René-Ovide Hertel de Rouville and Panet “keepers of the peace” and commissioners, Hertel for the District of Montreal and Panet for the District of Quebec, appointments equivalent to judgeships. They thus became the first French speaking and Catholic judges under the British régime. On 13 July 1776, after the American troops had withdrawn, Dunn, Mabane, and Panet were appointed commissioners to assess damage done during the American invasion of the province. Ten days later Carleton appointed them “judges of a Court with Civil Jurisdiction within the District of Quebec.” In August Panet became a justice of the peace, and on 6 March 1777 a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
Jean-Claude Panet did not hold these various posts long. He died on 28 Feb. 1778 in the afternoon, at 58 years of age. Could his death have been due to alcoholism? An anonymous letter written in Quebec on 9 Nov. 1775 commented on “the appointment as judges of Mr. de Rouville in Montreal and Claude Panet in Quebec (who has his nip every day before noon) with salaries, it is said, of 700 louis a year; in short, the audacity exercised in proliferating jobs for intimate friends and sycophants by whom the governor is continually surrounded . . . has inspired universal and profound disgust.”
On 23 Oct. 1747, Jean-Claude Panet had married Marie-Louise, daughter of notary Claude Barolet*, in Quebec. In 1796 Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, obtained an annual pension for Mme Panet of £80 (four-fifths of her husband’s salary when he was clerk of the Court of Common Pleas), which she received until her death in 1803. Fourteen children were born between 1749 and 1764, 12 of whom were still living at the time of their father’s death. Three daughters entered the Ursuline order; one left it two years later but the other two spent more than 50 years in holy orders. Two sons chose the priesthood; Bernard-Claude* became bishop of Quebec, and Jacques* was parish priest of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours at L’Islet from 1779 to 1829. Jean-Baptiste became a notary and died in 1808. A notary, lawyer, and judge like his father, Jean-Antoine* was speaker of the House of Assembly and one of the outstanding political figures of his time.
AMA, SHA, Al, 3540, ff.84–842, 90–906 (mfm. at PAC). AN, Col., B, 76/1, pp.233–35; 77, p.15; 97, p.138; 125, pp.20–21 (PAC transcripts); C11A, 73, pp.3–7, 46–49; 76; 77, pp.312–17. ANQ-Q, AP-P-1565. ASQ, Doc. Faribault, no.149; Lettres, M, 98; Polygraphie, II, 3; XXVII, 25; Séminaire, 14/5, no.41; Université, carton 96, no.71. PAC, RG 4, A1, 12, pp.4659–60, 5726; RG 68, 89, pp.59–60; 90, pp.11–12, 22–24, 36–40, 51–52, 84–85. PAC Rapport, 1905, I, vie partie. Doc. relatifs à la monnaie sous le Régime français (Shortt), II, 978. Doc. relatifs à l’hist. constitutionnelle, 1759–91 (Shortt et Doughty; 1921). Invasion du Canada (Verreau). J.-C. Panet, “Siège de Québec en 1759,” Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Hist. Docs., 4th ser. (1875), 1–31. Quebec Gazette, 5 March 1778.
P.-G. Roy, Les avocats de la région de Québec; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, IV, V, VI; Inv. ord. int., III, 65; Les juges de la prov. de Québec. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Vachon, “Inv. critique des notaires royaux,” RHAF, IX, 551–52; XI, 405. Lanctot, Le Canada et la Révolution américaine. J.-E. Roy, Hist. du notariat, I, II. P.-G. Roy, La famille Panet (Lévis, Qué., 1906). Wade, Les Canadiens français (1966), I.