PAQUIN, JACQUES, Roman Catholic priest and author; b. 9 Sept. 1791 in Deschambault, Lower Canada, son of Paul Paquin, a farmer, and Marguerite Marcot; d. 7 Dec. 1847 in Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada.
Jacques Paquin spent his childhood in a family of well-to-do farmers. His father served as the sacristan at the local church, and his mother was noted for her piety and charity. As a boy he probably identified with his parents and even then showed signs of an ardent spirit and a burning faith. He received his early education at the Latin school held in the presbytery by the parish priest Charles-Denis Dénéchaud. His precocious intelligence attracted the kindly attentions of Dénéchaud, who was already fostering his aspirations to a priestly vocation.
In 1805 Paquin made his desire to become a priest known to his parents, and, far from standing in his way, they sent him to study at the Petit Séminaire de Québec. It was probably the appointment of his uncle, Abbé Jean-Baptiste Paquin, as director of the Séminaire de Nicolet in October 1808 that prompted him to enrol in this institution, where he finished his classical studies in 1813. That year Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* of Quebec named him to the Odanak mission and the parish of Saint-François-du-Lac as assistant to the priest, François Ciquard*. While pursuing theology on his own, Paquin began learning the Abenaki language. Of a generous and enthusiastic nature, he took the trouble to teach young Indians to read and write. After he had spent several months studying theology at the Grand Séminaire de Québec, Plessis conferred the priesthood upon him on 24 Sept. 1814 and named him assistant priest of the parish of Sainte-Anne at Varennes. The following summer he replaced the curé of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue at Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville), Charles-Vincent Fournier, who was to accompany Plessis on a pastoral visit.
In September 1815 Plessis named Paquin to a parish he knew well, Saint-François-du-Lac, and to its mission of Odanak. Paquin, who had an exceptional capacity for work, devoted a great deal of time to his parish. But he neglected ministry to the Abenakis, who complained of his frequent absence from the mission. He even caused himself difficulties with them by speaking in strong terms, rarely using moderation and finesse. In truth, he was no longer happy at this place, and in 1817 he expressed a desire to be relieved of his post. Four years later Plessis responded to his wish and put him in charge of the parish of Saint-Eustache.
From the very first, Paquin involved himself in its administration. He was anxious to set its finances in order and make improvements to the church. In 1823, for example, he had one of the church towers taken down and requested that it be replaced by a portal and two towers topped by steeples with double open belfries. As for financial arrangements, he required his churchwardens to submit their accounts regularly. He was attentive in spiritual matters too, making himself available at any time for confession, baptism, or visits to the sick. He taught catechism to the children, devoted himself to the poor, and added splendour to church ceremonies. He also kept a close watch on his own interests. In 1829, for example, when the tithe received in grain decreased, he demanded that it also be paid in potatoes. He stuck to his own view with the same stubbornness in defending the parish boundaries.
Under Paquin’s guidance parochial administration became more efficient and spiritual life more intense. In the eyes of Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue, the archbishop of Quebec’s auxiliary in Montreal, Paquin was proving a conscientious pastor with the ardour of faith and the soul of a true priest. Consequently he proposed him for the post of archpriest of the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes region. Paquin’s parishioners, on the other hand, had mixed feelings about his conduct. Admittedly he was devoted, zealous, and assiduous, dividing his efforts between church and presbytery, but at the same time his strictness in moral matters, his tendency to domineer, and his ideological intransigence were not appreciated.
Certainly Paquin kept clear of the liberal and lay movement in his parish. In 1825 he refused to allow some of the parishioners to interfere in school issues, and he persuaded most of the people to build a school which would be administered by the fabrique and be under his control. But after passage in 1829 of the bill encouraging the establishment of schools that would be run by trustees, Paquin felt more and more threatened by certain liberals in his parish who wanted to set up schools that would foster national feeling. To counter this movement, he succeeded, with difficulty, in getting himself elected a trustee. In 1830 he undertook to build a convent. He aimed, then, at having a supervisory control of primary education in the parish.
When in 1831 he had to come to terms with the fabriques act designed to limit the influence of curés in parochial administration [see Louis Bourdages*], Paquin adopted an equally firm policy. He never allowed his parishioners to meddle in the affairs of the fabrique. Realizing that the church was in danger, he brought together some local priests to take concerted action against liberal French Canadian laymen, and he proposed founding a church newspaper as a means of such action. Determined and influential, Paquin even wanted Bishop Lartigue to call a general assembly of the clergy at Montreal or Trois-Rivières to consider ways of combatting the influence of the liberals.
Paquin also opposed the stirrings of nationalism. He felt threatened by the liberals’ protest, fearing the loss of his privileges. Out of concern for law and order, he refused to associate with a movement that professed belief in the sovereignty of the people and ultimately planned to overthrow the government. Beginning in 1830 he frequently denounced the Patriote organizations in his parish as bent on making trouble. After the 1834 elections he declined to celebrate a thanksgiving mass to mark the Patriotes’ victory. In 1837 he adopted an even firmer attitude towards the Patriote movement. Like a number of his colleagues in the Montreal region, he opposed armed revolt and rejected anything but a return to the values of the ancien régime. His attitudes are revealed in his strong opposition to the circulation of a work by Hugues-Félicité-Robert de La Mennais, Paroles d’un croyant, published in Paris in 1834.
Following Lartigue’s instructions, Paquin fearlessly read the bishop’s pastoral letter of 24 Oct. 1837 from the pulpit, despite intimation of reprisals from the Patriotes in his parish. A few days before the battle at Saint-Eustache on 14 December, the Patriote leaders in Deux-Montagnes County, Amury Girod and Jean-Olivier Chénier, met with him at the presbytery and tried in vain to persuade him to change sides. He remained hostile to the rebellion, threats of death and imprisonment notwithstanding. On the eve of the battle he fled with the assistant priest François-Xavier Desève to his farm near by. In 1838, after the pillage and destruction of Saint-Eustache, he published a Journal historique des événemens arrivés à Saint-Eustache, in which he pointed out that few of his parishioners had taken part in the rebellion and that most of its leaders lived outside the parish. He hoped in this way to obtain compensation from the government in order to rebuild his church, which had been destroyed in the battle.
After the failure of the uprisings of 1837 and 1838, Paquin divided his time between study and administration. He owned three pieces of land, one of them a meadow. He had a large enough income from what he sold or from the rental of his acreage to live comfortably, to complete several changes making his presbytery more attractive, and to improve his farm. On occasion he lent grain or money to parishioners. In April 1841, however, Bishop Ignace Bourget* was forced to admonish him severely for neglecting the cemetery and the ruins of the former church, for letting the choirboys play, laugh, and jostle during services, and for preaching too infrequently. Bourget asked him to fulfil his duty to his parish, which, he said, “has already been sufficiently afflicted in the temporal realm without suffering spiritual affliction.” That year Paquin rebuilt the convent, which had burned down during the battle, and he also planned to invite the Congregation of Notre-Dame to supply teachers.
In 1843 Bourget gave Paquin permission to pursue his research for a history of the church by making a tour of the dioceses of Montreal and Quebec. He had begun this project around 1830 as a testimony to the church’s great works and a reply to those challenging it. In 1846 he was expecting to publish the result of his efforts. A year later he put a prospectus in Mélanges religieux announcing the imminent publication of his book, but it never saw the light of day. Paquin died on 7 December of that year, after an acutely painful illness.
Jacques Paquin is the author of the pamphlet Journal historique des événemens arrivés à Saint-Eustache, pendant la rébellion du comté du lac des Deux Montagnes, depuis les soulèvemens commencés à la fin de novembre, jusqu’au moment où la tranquillité fut parfaitement rétablie (Montréal, 1838) and of the manuscript “Mémoire sur l’Église du Canada,” at PAC, MG 24, J15.
ACAM, 420.051; 901.021, 831-9; RLB, I: 119, 153; II: 373, 662; III: 615–16; IV: 22, 68; RLL, I: 151; II: 75, 151, 224, 292; III: 12, 124, 153; IV: 19, 33, 396; V: 221; VI: 106, 137, 254, 268; VII: 52, 291, 332, 402, 628. ANQ-M, CE6-11, 13 déc. 1847; CN1-271, 10 déc. 1843; 8 juill., 9 déc. 1846; CN1-326, 22 sept. 1823. ANQ-Q, CE1-25, 9 sept. 1791. AP, Saint-Eustache, Cahiers des recettes et dépenses de la fabrique, 1802–62. Arch. de l’évêché de Nicolet (Nicolet, Qué.), Cartable Saint-François-du-Lac, I, 1813–21. Arch. du diocèse de Saint-Jean-de-Québec (Longueuil, Qué.), 6A/52. ASN, AP-G, L.- É. Bois, G, 1: 428–30; 3: 121, 158; 10: 62. T.-M. Charland, Histoire des Abénakis d’Odanak (1675–1937) (Montréal, 1964); Histoire de Saint-François-du-Lac (Ottawa, 1942); “Les ‘Mémoires sur l’Église du Canada’ de l’abbé Jacques Paquin,” CCHA Rapport, 2 (1934–35): 51–64. C.-H. Grignon, “La vie et l’œuvre du curé Paquin,” Cahiers d’hist. de Deux-Montagnes (Saint-Eustache, Qué.), été 1978: 61–82. L-J. Rodrigue, “Messire Jacques Paquin, curé de Saint-Eustache de la Rivière-du-Chêne (1821–1847),” CCHA Rapport, 31 (1964): 73–83.