Louis Boulduc - Nomination and Trouble Brewing

Nomination and Trouble Brewing

Louis’ nomination did not please certain connivers amongst the advisory consuls, who themselves had eyes for his post. They did everything in their power to discredit Louis. The members of the Sovereign Council never ceased harrying this over-vulnerable official (Louis), in an attempt to discredit him and thereby to compromise the Provost Court. The struggle began in earnest after Louis XIV, in May 1677, had restored the Provost Court of Quebec to its original authority, and confirmed the attorney Boulduc in his post. Frontenac's protégé could expect some serious opposition. On November 13, 1680 Duchesneau struck the first blow in a letter to the minister and in January 1681 Boulduc, accused of embezzlement, was brought before the Sovereign Council. Following a complaint lodged against him by a Bayonne merchant who perhaps wanted to take revenge, Boulduc was soon to see the councilors extend their indiscreet inquiries to his whole life, public and private. An official inquiry was convened, and accusations were brought against Louis, ranging from embezzlement, theft from every house he came across, to debauchery and continuous villainy. These accusations were presented by the Intendant Duchesneau, and were clear exaggerations. By virtue of a decree of April 28 he was suspended, and replaced temporarily by Pierre Duquet. This was the signal for a rare outburst of fury: the factions tore at each other unremittingly in a fight to the finish, for which Boulduc was in reality scarcely anything more than the occasion and the pretext. Frontenac was vindictive and ill tempered and wanted to control everything. It would appear he nominated Louis to this position as an attempt to weaken the powerful influence of the Sovereign Council. The Sovereign Council knew it was a great risk to attack Frontenac "head-on", so they decided to declare war on his protégé, Louis Boulduc. Finally, after 14 months of outright brawling, the council found Boulduc guilty of embezzlement – this was on March 20, 1682 and declared that he had forfeited his office.

In some sources, Louis Boulduc is referred to in a negative sense, as a thief, embezzler, etc.; one student of French has claimed that the inflections, spelling, and use of expressions seem to indicate that his corruption went far deeper, to the point of being considered "evil."

Many points about these accusations have never been cleared up, however, his benefactor Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac was a party to those transactions that caused Louis Boulduc's infamous reputation, and a great deal of documentation exists concerning Frontenac. As Governor General of New France, twice (1672–1682 and 1689–1698), a constant political battle with the clergy and other officials seems to have included others around Frontenac, including, it seems, Louis Boulduc. This is not to say he was innocent of all charges, but one explanation of what might have been (and probably was) involved in his transgressions. All information found thus far has been included concerning this early settler of Quebec, so the reader may decide, the extent (if any) of Louis’ corruption.

The King dismissed Louis from his post forever. Louis was accused of embezzlements of all kinds and of accepting bribes in the exercise of his post. In a letter to the Ministry dated November 13, 1680, the Intendant Duchesneau wrote this about the matter:

"For the procurator/proxy of the king, of that high bench, the monsieur Boulduc, I cannot conceal that he is completely unworthy of his post. He is accused of embezzlement, of robbery from all the homes in which people suffer, of being a debaucher and a blackguard continuously and if not for monsieur le Comte de Frontenac, I would have brought forth these actions of his protégé. I am not contented in order not to offend him (count Frontenac?), by this deed of telling about the procurator, to have observed a strong reprimand in the presence of the lieutenant-general."

This seems to have been sufficiently rigid as an accusation. Louis did well to go along with the spirit of the moment. There were awful quarrels between Frontenac and the Intendant Duchesneau. There was a second man, seeking Louis’ demise, Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville, who in 1685 had time to conduct his own inquiry. For his part, Denonville considered Louis an out-and-out scoundrel who "should never be tolerated in such an office." It was known that the Intendant Duchesneau did not like Louis Boulduc. It seems well, that it was due in good part, in the Boulduc affair that Frontenac was recalled to France. It may be surmised that Frontenac, when back in France, did not forsake his protégé, for by a decree dated March 10, 1685 Louis XIV granted Boulduc's family one third of his salary, and asked the Intendant to restore Boulduc to his post if he were deemed to have been sufficiently punished. Denonville vigorously opposed the former attorney's return. On June 4, 1686, after years of prevarication and despite any help from Frontenac, the king dismissed Louis Boulduc. After his conviction by the Sovereign Counsel, Louis Boulduc tried to be reinstated in his post, but it was in vain, as the king saw great haughtiness in Louis. Meanwhile, the Governor-Marquis de Denonville wrote this to the Ministry:

"Monsieur the Intendant said that you ordered him to have reestablished the named Boulduc in the post of procurator/proxy of the king for the Provost of Quebec, assuming that he and I judge that the pain of his long absence was insufficient for expiation of his mistakes; that was given to me in place of my inquiry of the life and morals of Monsieur Boulduc. I have determined that he is a complete scamp who is never to be tolerated in a similar post. This country, sir, needs punishments for those who manage it are evil! He left us his children who are reduced to the charity of good people."

To understand the circumstances which lead to Louis being recalled to France, it is necessary to know what happened to his mentor Frontenac. In the course of events he soon became involved in quarrels with the Intendant touching questions of precedence and with the ecclesiastics one or two of whom ventured to criticize his proceedings. The church in Canada had been administered for many years by the religious orders; for the Episcopal See of Quebec, so long contemplated, had not yet been erected. But three years after the arrival of Frontenac a former vicar apostolic, François-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval, returned to Quebec as bishop, with a jurisdiction over the whole of Canada. In this fearsome churchman the governor found a vigorous opponent who was determined to render the state subordinate to the church. Frontenac, following in this respect in the footsteps of his predecessors, had issued trading licenses which permitted the sale of intoxicants. The bishop, supported by the Intendant, endeavored to suppress this trade and sent an ambassador to France to obtain remedial action. The views of the bishop were upheld and henceforth authority was divided. Troubles ensued between the governor and the Sovereign Council, over its expansion and over the corvées required to build the new forts. In particular, despite the opposition of Bishop François de Laval, he supported selling brandy to the Native Americans, which Laval considered a mortal sin. From this we can see that Frontenac had made some powerful political enemies, and Louis seems to have remained loyal to Frontenac. That loyalty could have been the cause of Louis’ political problems and the accusations of debauchery as well.

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