Antoine de La Valette

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Antoine de Lavalette[1] (Martrin, 26 October 1708 – Toulouse, 13 December 1767), was a French jesuit clergyman, Superior of the Martinique missions, whose bankruptcy led to the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France.

He became a member of the Society of Jesus in Toulouse, 10 October 1725, was ordained priest in 1740, and in 1741 sent as missionary to the island of Martinique. In 1754 he was named superior-general of all the Jesuit missions in the French possessions in Central and South America.

He was accused about the same time of engaging in commerce, contrary to the canon law, and summoned to Paris for trial; but his defense was undertaken by the authorities in Martinique, and the matter was allowed to drop for the time. His conduct afterward was one of the causes that led to the downfall of his order. His mission was heavily in debt, and to restore it to financial prosperity he made extensive purchases of land in Dominica, and engaged in various commercial ventures, borrowing large sums of money when these proved unsuccessful.

When Lorenzo Ricci, the Jesuit general, was informed of this, in 1757, he sent three visitors to Martinique, all of whom met with mishaps that prevented them from arriving. At last, in the spring of 1762, the fourth visitor, Father de la Marche, reached the island, and organized a tribunal of the principal fathers of the mission, before whom Lavalette appeared.

Lavalette was condemned and suspended from all ecclesiastical functions until their report was laid before the general of the order in Rome. He signed a confession declaring that he alone was guilty, and after his confession he went to England, where he was notified of his expulsion from the society by the Jesuit general.

Lavalette gave information to his superiors by which it appeared his debts amounted to 2,400,000 livres. The French Jesuits were making an effort to settle with the creditors when the case was brought before the courts, the whole Society was held responsible for the debt, and a decree was issued for the seizure of all their property. This rendered the Society in France bankrupt, and led to the royal edict of November, 1764, which abolished the order in that country.


  1. ^ Born "Valete", the Jesuits changed his name to tell him apart from another jesuit by that name.


  • James Grant Wilson, John Fiske, Appletons' cyclopaedia of American biography, Volume 3, New York, D. Appleton & company, 1887, p. 634.