ROBERT, CLÉMENT, priest, Sulpician, first visitor from Saint-Sulpice to Canada; b. at a date unknown, in the diocese of Angers; d. 1 Dec. 1730 or 30 Oct. 1736 at Angers.
We lack information about Abbé Robert. No author and no manuscript source reveal his date of birth, whereas two dates, far apart though they are, are admitted as possible for his death. No one has been able to enlighten us as to his comings and goings before his first visit to Canada in July 1723.
Henri Gauthier says of Abbé Robert that at that date he was “the teacher of the Robertins.” It has not been possible to trace this community despite intensive research, and apart from Gauthier and Monsignor Tanguay, who do no more than mention the fact, authors and archives remain silent about this foundation.
What is certain is that M. Robert came to Canada the first time as a visitor from Saint-Sulpice, and was here from July 1723 to September 1724. He encouraged and renewed the fervour of the missionaries, discussed a plan for uniting the parishes of the Montreal region with the seminary of that town, a plan that was only partially realized, and “came to an understanding with the bishop on the matter of sending new missionaries to Acadia.”
When he returned to Canada the second time, in 1726, he came in the company of Abbé Jean Lyon* de Saint-Ferréol, a friend who had recently been appointed superior of the seminary in Quebec. As it was feared, wrongly, that Saint-Sulpice would seize control of the seminary of Quebec, Robert’s friendship for the new superior appeared suspect. The visitor was subjected to the resentment of the chapter; consequently he shortened his voyage and returned to France fairly rapidly.
According to Pierre Rousseau, Abbé Robert is thought to have come to Canada a third time, in 1731, and he is supposed to have taken advantage of that opportunity to visit the mission at the Lac des Deux-Montagnes. But this visit, which is very problematic since it is not mentioned by any other author or document, would make 30 Oct. 1736 possible as the date of his death.
However that may be, it does seem that Abbé Robert was noteworthy more for the fears that he inspired than for the harm that he really did. But according to Intendant Claude-Thomas Dupuy, “[This man] who likes to impart an air of intrigue to whatever he does, and who in that way spoils everything he has undertaken in this country, far from dispelling such a suspicion, has much increased it by his schemings.”
AN, Col., B, 51, f.30; 52, f.495½; C11A, 49, ff.297–301. ASQ, Lettres, M, 48, 56, 60. Henri Gauthier, La Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice au Canada (Montréal, 1912); Sulpitiana (Montréal, 1926). Gosselin, L’Église du Canada, I, 421–23. Pierre Rousseau, Saint-Sulpice et les missions catholiques (Montréal, 1930).