Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Jean Olivier Briand


Briand, Jean Olivier (1715-1794), Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec (1766-1784), was born in France in 1715. He was ordained a priestof the Roman Catholic Church in 1739, and came to Canada in 1741. For many years he was a canon of the cathedral at Quebec; and in 1766 the British government gave an informal consent to his consecration as bishop of Quebec, with the official title of superintendant of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. He played an important part in keeping the French Canadians [the Canadiens] at least passively loyal to the British Crown during the period of the American Revolution [see the note below]. In 1784 he retired on a pension; and he died at Quebec on June 25, 1794.

Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. I, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., pp. 283-284.

Note: In attempting to define the position of Briand during the American invasion of Quebec, historian George M. WRONG wrote (in Canada and the American Revolution, pp 281-282):

"Carleton found opinion among priests and seigneurs wholly with the British. On May 22, 1775, the Bishop of Quebec [Briand] issued a Mandement full of grateful expressions to George III for concessions to the French and urging his people to be deaf to the lure of American invaders. In a letrter to one of the clergy the bishop met the sneer that he had abandoned his own race and become an Englishman by saying that, since he had taken the oath of allegiance to George III, he was in effect English, bound to be such by every sacred obligation. Canadians who joined the invaders were to be placed under the ban of the church. The clergy might not perform the marriage ceremony for a rebel. Those aiding the Americans were not to have the sacrements, even in case of mortal illness, until they had made public retraction and reparation. Those who died unrepentant were not to be buried in holy ground except by the bishop's special permission. Even then the body was not to be carried into the church and the priest was to say no prayer at the grave. No masses were to be sung for rebels who died unrepentant. The bishop charged that the rebel Canadians were drunken thieves and plunderers who betrayed, pillaged, and murdered their fellow Canadians".

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© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College