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Pierre de Voyer d'Argenson
Called the vicomte d'Argenson, chevalier, vicomte de Mouzé, seigneur de Chastres, was the fifth Governor-General of Canada (1657-61), b. 1626; d. 1710. He belonged to an ancient family of Touraine which has produced many distinguished statesmen; among others Marc Rene, Marquis d'Argenson, Louis XIV's famous lieutenant of police. Pierre de Voyer was the fifth child of Rene, count d'Argenson, who filled many important missions, and died while ambassador at Venice, in 1651. At first destined for the Church he received tonsure in 1636, but adopted the career of arms. He rendered important services at the sieges of Portolongone, la Bassée, and Ypres, at the battle of Lens, and at the siege of Bordeaux, where he received many wounds. Gentleman in ordinary of the king's bed-chamber, he was appointed to the office of bailiff of the lands and duchy of Touraine in 1643, in place of the famous conspirator Cinq-Mars. Appointed councillor of State, then governor of Canada in 1657, to succeed Lauzon, he arrived in Quebec, 11 July, 1658. He received a stately welcome from the Jesuits. Canada was then a prey to Iroquois invasions. D'Argenson had only a hundred soldiers, yet he inspired the colonists, and gave them the example of a bravery often rash. It thus happened that the brave Dollard and his companions were slain while seeking to avert the blows which threatened the little city, and that the grand seneschal, Jean de Lauzon, perished obscurely in an ambuscade. D'Argenson sought to draw around him the children of the Iroquois, in order to have them instructed and to keep them as so many hostages. The Jesuit Lemoine was sent to negotiate with the barbarians. D'Argenson, who had endeared himself to the colonists by promptly according to them justice, in an impartial manner and without expense, advised the king to free the colony from the plague of bureaucracy and to let the habitants govern themselves. Monseigneur de Laval, appointed Vicar-Apostolic of Canada, arrived there in 1659, during his administration. Accustomed to command, d'Argenson wished to have the law of precedence observed in all ceremonies, and that the noblemen in his suite should rank above ecclesiastical dignitaries. This gave rise to the frequent conflicts between Church and State during the French régime. D'Argenson made the mistake of wishing to perpetuate in democratic America the exactions of Old World etiquette. Possibly, too, he was overindulgent to the wishes of traffickers in the sale of brandy to the aborigines, a practice which resulted in grave disorders. At last, suffering from his old wounds, no longer able to head bands for warfare, dissatisfied that France left him without support, tired of struggling with the bishop, for he was a devout churchman, he asked for his recall, and returned to France in September, 1661. The rest of his career is little known. He left important letters and documents concerning the various duties he had had to fulfil, but they were burned with the collection known as the "D'Argenson Papers" in the fire at the Bibliothèque du Louvre in 1871. D'Argenson died at an advanced age, about 1710, and at his own request, was buried at Mouzé, a village near Loches, in Touraine, of which he was seigneur.
PARKMAN, Old Regime in Canada, 115-130; ANSELME, Histoire genealogique, VI, 602; FAILLON, Hist. col. franc. au Canada, I, 457-471, 496; ROCHEMONTEIX, Jesuites de la Nouvelle France, II, 302-325; PARIS, Les manuscrits de la Bibliotheque du Louvre brules en 1871, 41-46.
J. EDMOND ROY