PANET, PIERRE-LOUIS, lawyer and chief road inspector (grand voyer); b. 21 Feb. 1800 at Montreal, son of Pierre-Louis Panet*, judge of the Court of King’s Bench, and Marie-Anne Cerré; d. 31 March 1870 in Montreal.
The ninth child of a family of 12, Pierre-Louis Panet studied at the Collège de Montréal from 1809 to 1817. On 13 Feb. 1823, after some years of training, he was called to the bar. Three years later Panet gave up his profession, following his appointment by Governor Dalhousie [Ramsay*] on 29 Nov. 1826 to the post of chief road inspector for the district of Trois-Rivières.
This office, a legacy of the French regime, remained long after the conquest. In 1796 the statute on public highways divided the province of Lower Canada into three districts: Montreal, Quebec, and Trois-Rivières. However, the cities of Montreal and Quebec, which possessed their own highway systems, were not in the jurisdiction of the chief road inspector. According to this law, the chief inspector of a district was assisted in each parish, seigneury, or township by an inspector appointed by him for two years. The parishes were subdivided into a maximum of nine sections and administered by an assistant inspector, elected for two years by the property owners. Any person refusing to accept this office incurred a fine of £5. The law also required those who wanted a road, or who had the use of one, to construct or maintain it in summer and winter, in proportion to the extent of their land contiguous to the road.
The duties of chief road inspector demanded a “man of talent and judgement,” since this person was responsible for laying out public highways and presided over the meetings that brought together all parties interested in opening up and financing a new road. It was he who, in the last resort, nominated those who would build and maintain the roads. His decisions were recorded in a report which was ratified by the court of sessions of the peace in each district. The chief inspector, once a year, also had to visit each division of his district and inspect the roads and bridges. While the inspectors supervised the assistant inspectors and conducted periodical inspections, the assistant inspectors ensured that the orders of the chief inspector were carried out, and punished those who through negligence or for some other reason contravened them.
On 28 Aug. 1827, at Montreal, less than a month after his appointment, Panet married Louise-Clorinthe Bouthillier, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Bouthillier, commanding officer of the 3rd militia battalion of Montreal. Two children were born of this union; Mme Panet died in July 1832. In the following December Panet moved to Montreal, to succeed the Honourable Louis-René Chaussegros* de Léry as chief road inspector of that district, a post he held for eight years.
On 30 Dec. 1840 the Special Council passed an ordinance which abolished the existing structure, including the position of chief road inspector. The management of roads was transferred to the jurisdiction of municipal councils. From that date, Panet was a pensioner of the state. Suffering from acute rheumatism, he went to the United States for a while in search of a milder climate. The death in March 1870 of this man, who had maintained an image worthy of the reputation of the family from which he had sprung, ended the Montreal line of the Panets.
PAC, MG 30, D62, 23, p.688. Bas-Canada, Statuts, 1796, c.9; Conseil spécial, Ordonnances, 1840–41, c.7. La Minerve, 1er avril 1870. L’Opinion publique, 6 juin 1872. P.-G. Roy, Inventaire des procès-verbaux des grands voyers conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec (6v., Beauceville, Qué., 1923–32), III, 103–17, 208–22; V, 179–312; La famille Panet (Lévis, Qué., 1906), 197–200. “Le premier grand voyer,” BRH, LXIX (1967), 19–20.