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Original title:  Jean-Henri-Auguste Roux / J.E. Livernois Photo. Québec - [Vers 1830]

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ROUX, JEAN-HENRY-AUGUSTE, priest, Sulpician, seminary administrator, and vicar general; b. 5 Feb. 1760 in Marseilles, France, son of Jean-Baptiste Roux, a doctor, and Françoise-Élizabeth Durand; d. 7 April 1831 in Montreal.

Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux scarcely knew his father, who owned immense plantations in Martinique and usually lived there in the town of Fort-Royal (Fort-de-France). At the end of brilliant classical studies in Corrèze, France, Roux entered the Séminaire d’Avignon on 20 Oct. 1779, and there on 5 June 1784 he was ordained priest. Having immediately been admitted as a member to the community of the Society of Saint-Sulpice, he taught moral theology at the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris and gave several lectures that attracted notice. Early in 1791 he went to continue his teaching career at the Séminaire du Puy, at the same time becoming vicar general to the bishop of Le Puy, Marie-Joseph de Galard, on 15 January.

That summer, when the Constituent Assembly was setting up a state church that was clearly schismatic, Roux fled to the canton of Valais in Switzerland with his bishop, who had refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Roux had informed his father of this step, and on 26 Nov. 1791 had been invited by him to come and live with the family in Martinique. There was no doubt some notion that he might get a parish charge in that distant colony or even be named apostolic prefect. When Dr Roux died the following year, Jean-Henry-Auguste refused an invitation from his elder brother, who inherited the largest share of the property, to join him.

The year 1794 marked the beginning of Roux’s career in Lower Canada. The previous year, the superior of the seminary in Montreal, Gabriel-Jean Brassier*, had taken advantage of the British government’s new disposition not to object to French Sulpicians being admitted to the colony and had requested recruits. In response, the assistant to Jacques-André Émery, the superior general of Saint-Sulpice who was then in prison, selected four former directors and eight young priests. At the head of the group was vicar general Roux, to whom Émery’s assistant gave a religious rule of life to be followed during the voyage. The group of 11 Sulpicians – illness forced one to withdraw – left Switzerland at the end of April 1794 and reached Montreal on 12 September.

Thanks to his vast fund of knowledge and his dominant personality, Roux quickly became the recognized head of his colleagues. He was named bursar of the seminary upon arrival and quickly restored its financial position, retrieving it from a precarious state. Then in October 1798 he succeeded Brassier as superior. On 6 Sept. 1797 Bishop Pierre Denaut*, who had a high regard for him and took pleasure in calling him his “diocesan oracle,” had appointed him vicar general of the district of Montreal. Roux soon became the “universal adviser of the whole colony.” It was said that “every day one could see heading towards the seminary a curious crowd of consultants from every class, coming to beseech him for the help, [given] free of charge, of his beneficent understanding.” Bishop Denaut, and then Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis, both former pupils of the Sulpicians, more than once turned to him for his judicious counsel. It was Roux who on 15 May 1812 would prepare for Governor Sir George Prevost* a remarkable memorandum on the treatment to be accorded the bishop of Quebec. In it he spoke of the privileged circumstances of that bishop under the French régime. In concluding he stated that “the episcopate in this country needs, therefore, to be visibly recognized with the title of bishop,” and he asked that Plessis be given official recognition by the civil authorities.

Since the Paris seminary had made over all its property in the colony to the Montreal seminary in April 1764, the Canadian institution had had complete financial autonomy. In spiritual matters, however, Montreal was still responsible to Paris. From 1792 until 1815 the hostility between Great Britain and France made communications between the two institutions extremely difficult. In February 1815, following the end of the war, they were restored and would not be further interrupted while Roux was superior. Fully cognizant of Roux’s administrative talents, the superior general of Saint-Sulpice, Antoine de Pouget Duclaux, contemplated appointing him one of his 12 assistants in 1817 and in 1818. Considering his presence in Lower Canada indispensable at a time when the seminary’s position was being questioned by London, Roux declined the invitation. He remained none the less one of the advisers of the superior general who were most heeded. At the same time his seminary was giving important financial support to the one in Paris, as well as to the one in Baltimore.

Defending Saint-Sulpice’s property against the claims of the British government was always a major concern for Roux. After the conquest the Sulpicians’ property titles were regularly disputed, both by the civil authorities and by a number of well-known jurists who maintained that their lands were public property. In the spring of 1819 the question was again raised in the Legislative Council and commented upon at length in the newspapers. Roux, who since 1816 had also been engaged in lawsuits over seigneurial rights with Montreal merchants John Fleming and Thomas Porteous, had to submit the dispute to the governor, the Duke of Richmond [Lennox*]. In July 1819 Roux, writing to Jean-Baptiste Thavenet*, the Sulpicians’ agent in Rome, said the governor had informed him that “it was useless to discuss once more a matter that had already been decided by the officers of the crown (in 1789 and 1811),” and had offered to pay the Sulpicians an allowance in perpetuity in return for giving up their rights. On this occasion Roux prepared a memoir for the governor that created “a great stir in the country”; he then decided to send Sulpician Jean-Jacques Lartigue* to clarify the situation in London. Lartigue’s mission did not bring the results anticipated. The firmness displayed in this cause by the superior had, however, forced the British government to give up its plan. In June 1826 Roux left for England with Sulpician Jackson John Richards* to negotiate a final solution in the matter of the seminary’s property. In October 1827 the discussions between Roux and Lord Bathurst, the colonial secretary, ended in an agreement by which the Sulpicians would yield part of their seigneurial rights in return for a fixed perpetual annuity. The agreement roused a strong reaction among the Canadians and the episcopate, which regarded that solution as a veritable spoliation of the patrimony. Rome had given permission to the Sulpicians to alienate their seigneurial property but, since the property initially belonged to the church, had retained the right to inspect agreements. Hence in March 1830 the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda temporarily suspended the permission previously granted.

The delicate, indeed precarious situation of the Séminaire de Montréal in the matter of recognition of its rights strongly influenced the feelings of loyalty which Roux unfailingly displayed to the British authorities. In July 1812, at the time of the riots marking the anti-conscription crisis at Lachine and Pointe-Claire, he firmly declared his attachment to the crown. The superior would maintain this attitude consistently and would, moreover, be held in high regard by the British government, which considered the seminary the “headquarters” and “bulwark of loyalty.” This behaviour inevitably stirred up some discontent and bitterness among the people and in the Canadian press.

Since their arrival in Montreal in 1657 the Sulpicians had always enjoyed a prestige and authority that the bishops of Quebec had never challenged. The welcome that Bishop Jean-François Hubert* of Quebec, and his future coadjutor, Mgr Denaut, had extended to the group of 11 in 1794 had only given further proof of the esteem that the Montreal institution enjoyed in high places. As for Bishop Plessis, although Thavenet suggested that he had intended to “lay hands on the Séminaire de Montréal” from 1807, when he had sought to introduce his coadjutor, Bernard-Claude Panet, into it, he was sincerely attached to the seminary and its superior. Plessis’s decision at the beginning of 1821 to install Lartigue as an auxiliary bishop in Montreal, was, however, to bring him into direct conflict with Roux, even though he had taken care to choose one of the Sulpicians for the appointment. Jealous of the prerogatives of his house, Roux never accepted the presence in Montreal of an auxiliary bishop; such a person could only serve to diminish “the influence of the seminary and that of its superior, who previously governed the district.” He found it unacceptable that this bishop was a Canadian, who would inevitably apply pressure to the Montreal institution to induce it to adapt more fully to the Canadian reality.

It is from this viewpoint that an explanation must be sought both for Lartigue’s exclusion from the Séminaire de Montréal in 1821 and for the differences that were to set him against Roux, in particular when the new parish church was being built. Roux’s attempts to recruit French priests in France on his trip to Europe in 1826, as well as the discrimination constantly practised against the Canadian Sulpicians within the seminary, were prompted by the same desire to retain its predominantly French character. The appointment in 1829 of the American Sulpician Jackson John Richard, and then of the French Sulpician Claude Fay as parish priest of Notre-Dame in Montreal to replace Candide-Michel Le Saulnier, who was ill, and the election in 1830 of the Frenchman Joseph-Vincent Quiblier* as vice-superior of the seminary to succeed Roux, who was unable to continue in his charge, give evidence of Saint-Sulpice’s firm intention to keep the Canadians out of the important offices in the house.

Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 7 April 1831. Over the space of a year he had “suffered several attacks that had gone to his head and weakened his mind to the point that he no longer uttered anything coherent.” His funeral on 11 April was widely attended. Joseph Papineau* paid him a final tribute: “The most illustrious Messire Roux was endowed with a deep, universal learning, as solid in civil as in canon law, of such enlightenment that while he lived he was consulted from all parts of Canada, by laity and clergy alike, and to the greatest profit.” As well, he was to leave several written works on law and spirituality. With his death the superior general of the Sulpicians in Paris, Antoine Garnier, observed that Montreal had lost “a great administrator, an eloquent preacher, an astute theologian, a renowned canonist and legal expert.”

Gilles Chaussé

Jean-Henry-Auguste Roux is the author of Mémoire pour le séminaire de Montréal (s.l., 1820).

ACAM, 901.029, 901.136, 901.137. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 11 avril 1831. Arch. de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (Paris), Dossiers 75, nos.1–20; 112–14; mss 1214; Circulaire des supérieurs de Saint-Sulpice à l’occasion de la mort des prêtres de cette compagnie, I, 29 mai 1831. ASSM, 1 bis; 21, cartons, 23, 24. Allaire, Dictionnaire, vol.1. F.-M. Bibaud, Le Panthéon canadien (A. et V. Bibaud; 1891), 252–54. Gauthier, Sulpitiana. Louis Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire littéraire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), 1: 124–31, 270–94. [Pierre] Boisard, La Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice; trois siècles d’histoire (s.l.n.d.). Chaussé, Jean-Jacques Lartigue. Dionne, Les ecclésiastiques et les royalistes français. Lemieux, L’établissement de la première prov. eccl.

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Cite This Article

Gilles Chaussé, “ROUX, JEAN-HENRY-AUGUSTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/roux_jean_henry_auguste_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/roux_jean_henry_auguste_6E.html
Author of Article:   Gilles Chaussé
Title of Article:   ROUX, JEAN-HENRY-AUGUSTE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   December 1, 2023