... Father Richard, after a birth and education in France, had come to America forty years before; and since 1798 he had been associated with Detroit and with the development of the whole region of the Upper Lakes. Missionary, teacher, writer, empire-builder, he had founded the first schools, both for the Indians and the whites, established the first Michigan newspaper, assisted in the beginnings of the University of Michigan, laboured for the spread of Catholicism among the frontiersmen, and on occasion not disdained to minister to the spiritual needs of his fellow settlers of whatever denomination. In a sense the traders, trappers, and pioneers of the whole Northwest had been his parishioners for a generation. Friend and associate of the leading men of Detroit, he had even been elected by a community predominantly Protestant to serve a terms as Territorial Delegate to Congress, eight years before. But now, care-worn and devoted, he was at last growing old.
The rumour of his name and deeds had, as a matter of course, fallen on the sharp ears of Tocqueville and Beaumont, even while they were still in New York. On landing in Detroit, they therefore went straight to seek him out, and an interview ensued. They were, they felt, rewarded for their pains. In due course, as a result, the substance of the conversation found its way into their notes, to be preserved for future use. To-day these documents take on additional interest, for they afford one of the few intimate glimpses, saved for posterity, of the revered patriarch in his last year of service.
On disembarking in Detroit, wrote Beaumont, 'we paid a visit to an old Catholic cure, Mr. Richard, who had been described to us as a fine old man capable of giving us many precious documents on Michigan. We found him in his Presbytery teaching school to a dozen children. He speaks French very well. He was born in Saint-Ange and left France at the moment when the French revolution began to persecute the Catholic. It was then that he decided to come to Detroit. Since that time he has not left this place and has not ceased to labour at the conversion of the infidels. Here as with us it's the character of the Catholic clergy to make as many proselytes as possible. The good man, who attaches more importance to this end than to any other, discoursed to us at length of his successes in this line, which occasionally annoyed us a little, because we asked him questions to which he did not reply. We were however much pleased with his conversation. The remarkable Protestants, in spite of his quality of Catholic priest. This at first seemed to us very surprising, but here they do not think as we do in religious matters; the same hostility does not exist between the sects, and they never ask to what religion a man belongs to form an opinion about him. What astonishes me is that the Protestants should thus have chosen him, in spite of the extreme freedom with which he himself attacks them. He makes bitter war on them. "Their sects," said he, "are without number. There are now 450 of them, they don't believe in anything at all, they are neither Episcopalians nor Methodists nor Presbyterians: they are rienists!"
'Furthermore, he thinks as I do that this multiplicity of different cults will one day end, either in natural religion, that is to say in the absence of all outward cult, or in Catholicism.'
Tocqueville, in an abbreviated diary note, had this to say of their interview with the old priest: 'Conversation wandering but interesting. The Protestants begin to preponderate in Michigan because of immigration. However, Catholicism gains some converts among the most enlightened. Opinion of Mr. Richard on the extreme coldness of the upper classes in America on religious matters, one of the causes of the extreme tolerance. Indeed, complete toleration; you are not asked to what religion you belong but whether you are capable of employ. The greatest service that one can render religion is to separate it from the temporal power .... System of the United States for the new states. One accustoms them by degrees to governing themselves ... '
The following autumn, while labouring among those suffering from the great cholera epidemic, Father Richard was himself to be stricken. In four days the venerable man would be dead.