PERRAULT, OLIVIER (baptized Jean-Olivier), lawyer, office holder, militia officer, politician, judge, and seigneur; b. 21 July 1773 at Quebec, son of Jacques Perrault*, known as Perrault l’aîné, and Charlotte Boucher de Boucherville; m. 17 Sept. 1804 Marie-Louise Taschereau, daughter of Gabriel-Elzéar Taschereau*, a member of the Legislative Council, in Sainte-Marie-de-la-Nouvelle-Beauce (Sainte-Marie), Lower Canada, and they had eight children; d. 19 March 1827 at Quebec and was buried three days later in Sainte-Marie-de-la-Nouvelle-Beauce.
Olivier Perrault was one of 11 children. After studying at the Petit Séminaire de Québec he articled as a law student and was authorized on 1 Oct. 1799 to practise as an advocate, barrister, attorney, and solicitor. Two years later he was appointed secretary of a committee created to apply the act for the relief from all indebtedness to the government of people in arrears with lods et ventes on crown lands.
In June 1808 Perrault was named clerk of the land roll and inspector general of the royal domain, but shortly afterwards he resigned to allow Joseph-Bernard Plant, who had previously been dismissed from the office, to resume it. On 28 September he became advocate general of Lower Canada. A few days earlier Governor Sir James Henry Craig* had advised the colonial secretary, Lord Castlereagh, of the appointment, adding that it was “little more than nominal” and would flatter Canadian lawyers.
Eager to try his luck in politics, Perrault ran for election in Northumberland riding in 1810. He was defeated, however, probably because of his thinly veiled support for Craig’s decision to jail the principal leaders of the Canadian party that year. Indeed, Perrault had maintained that in Pierre-Stanislas Bédard’s case the courts were justified in withdrawing his parliamentary privileges and right of recourse to habeas corpus, given the charge of sedition that was pending.
In January 1812 Perrault was appointed by order in council an honorary member of the Executive Council, and he retained this office until his death. He received the rank of major in the Île d’Orléans battalion of militia on 5 April, but on 24 October resigned his commission; later he was made a lieutenant-colonel in the Lower Canadian militia.
Perrault became a judge of the Court of King’s Bench for the District of Quebec on 22 May 1812, replacing Pierre-Amable De Bonne*. On 26 Feb. 1814 he signed the memoir from the judges of Lower Canada supporting their colleagues Jonathan Sewell* and James Monk, whom the assembly considered ineligible to sit in the Legislative Council because they were judges. From 28 Jan. 1818 until his death he was a member of that council. Appointed speaker on 10 March 1823, he held office until 22 Jan. 1827, when he was replaced by James Kerr*. During his term, Perrault came out in 1824 in favour of the independence of judges from the executive authority, asking that they hold office on the basis of good conduct rather than at pleasure. He was a member that year of a council committee that rejected an assembly bill to force the seigneurs to make grants from their lands.
At the time of his death Olivier Perrault was living in Maison Kent on Rue Saint-Louis, which he had bought from Pierre Brehaut*’s estate in 1819. In the course of his career Perrault had built up a sizeable fortune in landed property. In 1809, for example, he had built a house on Place d’Armes, and two years later he advertised some properties for sale at Trois-Rivières. In the 1820s he had built three large houses on Rue Haldimand and another on Rue Saint-Denis. In addition he owned the seigneury of Sainte-Marie in 1821. Like many other members of the Legislative Council, Perrault enjoyed financial security.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 22 juill. 1773; CN1-80, 10 sept. 1823; CN1-208, 1er déc. 1825; CN1-212, 11 sept., 2 déc. 1823; CN1-284, 24 mai 1809. AP, Sainte-Marie, reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 17 sept. 1804, 22 mars 1827. PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 107: 337; 114: 199; 117-2: 246; 119: 149; RG 4, B8, 17: 6392–93; 28: 129; RG 7, G1, 3: 167. Docs. relating to constitutional hist., 1791–1818 (Doughty and McArthur); 1819–1828 (Doughty and Story). Select British docs. of War of 1812 (Wood). Quebec Gazette, 3 Oct. 1799; 20 Sept. 1804; 6 Oct. 1808; 19 April 1810; 21 Feb. 1811; 23 April, 28 May, 19 Nov. 1812; 1 April 1813; 17 May 1821. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). Quebec almanac, 1815: 73; 1820: 79. P.-G. Roy, Les avocats de la région de Québec; Fils de Québec, 2: 166–68; Les juges de la prov. de Québec. Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. P.-G. Roy, “L’hon. Jean-Baptiste-Olivier Perrault,” BRH, 8 (1902): 33–36.