Montreal centre of the fur trade
and the thin line between legal and illegal trade
MIGEON DE BRANSSAT, Jean-Baptiste, 1636-1693. D.s. (Twice), Montreal, 30 March-1st April, 1678. 4 p. folio and docket title. Also signed twice and in the hand of Claude Maugue in his capacity as clerk of the court.
In August 1677 Migeon de Branssat succeeded Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust in his role of civil and criminal judge in the bailiff’s court of Montreal. The following year the Intendant, Frontenac, ordered him to look into the illegal fur trade, or the coureurs de bois, fur traders who did not have a licence. In spite of the fact that Migeon himself frequently ignored the edicts concerning the fur trade and the coureurs de bois (see his biography from DCB), in this instance he appears to have been a bit overly zealous and got somewhat too close to the truth or, rather, to the point of indicting Daniel Greysolon Duluth. The town-mayor of Montreal, Jacques Bizard, formerly a member of Frontenac’s personal guard, interrupted the hearing of the first witness and put Migeon under house arrest on 30 March, 1678. Migeon, however, succeeded in privately hearing a second witness at his residence two days later, on April 1st, 1678. From the witnesses’ statements it becomes obvious that Dulhut was planning a voyage that he indeed undertook, leaving Montreal on September 1st of the same year, accompanied by seven French followers (probably the ones named by the witnesses in the present document) and his three Indian slaves.
Frontenac was in a difficult position. On the one hand, he knew that the Lake Superior region was a potential source for beaver and other furs. On the other hand the great Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s Controller-General of Finances, Minister for the Maison du Roi, and responsible for the colonies, in fact the most powerful man in France after the King, had expressly forbidden him twice to trade outside the limits of the colony.
There was no way legally for Frontenac to allow Dulhut’s voyage, and contravene Colbert’s orders. The fur trade being the only economy of the colony at the time, forbidding it made no economic sense. The solution therefore, was to pay lip service to Colbert, and to quietly ignore his bidding. He ordered his Montreal judge to have an inquest into the coureurs de bois, and then quietly ordered the town-mayor, a member of his personal guard, to have the proceedings stopped.
Transcript and translation of the document, as well as the biography of Migeon de Branssat from DCB are available.
Du 30e mars 16 soixante et dix huit En sa chambre de Justice et Retenue.
Le nommé Jean dupuy habitant de cette isle et demeurant au Lieu de villemarie aagé de trente quatre ans assigné a la Requeste du Pr [Procureur] fiscal par Petit Argent pour deposer verité et apres avoir de luy pris le serment en tel cas requis et quil a declaré n’estre parent allié ny serviteur dudit Procureur fiscal ny des coureurs de bois Contre lesquels nous continuons dinformer en vertu du pouvoir a nous envoyé Par Monseignr Lintendant de ce pays. Dit et depose que les nommez Leger hebert & Pierre Lemaistre Luy avoient dit plusieurs fois au commencement de L’hyver qu’ils tascheroient d’aller aux 8ta8as Et qu’a ce suiet Ils prendroient Le nommé la Morille vers les villages des Iroquois au bout du Lac, et que le jour quils partirent Il entra en la maison du sieur dulhut ou ils estoient pour Lors a faire Leur Equippage quils chargeoient dans une traine entrautres un rouleau de tabak contenant quarente ou quarente six livres et duquel Il gousta et un balot de Marchandises qui sortoient de ladite Maison, et peu apres ledit Deposant sortit et y laissa lesdits nommez Et Bellegarde avec la riviere et tous qui devoient sen aller de compagnie pour faire ledit voyage. En outre depose quil se seroit souvent entretenu avec ledit Sieur Dulhut pour Ledit voyage des 8ta8as Et qu’il L’y devoit Mener avec sept huit autres auquel lieu.
Et dans le temps que nous recevions La deposition du Sieur dupuy tesmoin on avoit heurté avec grand bruit a la porte de la chambre de Justice ou nous estions pour Lentendre ce qui auroit obligé nostre greffier d’aller voir qui c’estoit et les portes ouvertes, nous vismes Le Sieur Bizzard Lieutenant des gardes de Monseigneur Le Comte de frontenac, sa Cane en Main et escorté
[paraphe, p. 2]
du Sieur [un mot rayé] De la Mouche l’un diceux qui nous dit avoir un papier a nous remettre de sa part Et layant Lu Nous Luy respondimes que Nous estions pretz de luy obeyr et reprenant la parolle Il nous dit entendes bien ce que Jay a vous dire de la part du Roy et de Monsieur le Comte, Je vous arreste et constitue prisonnier, et vous commande d’aller avec ce garde qui vous tiendra compaignie En vostre Maison qui vous servira de prison, et Luy ordonne de ne point vous abandonner, et quil ait a vous suivre en quelque part que vous allez, sur quoy Nous luy repliquames, Monsieur, Nous travaillons comme vous voyez a une Information qui concerne Le service du Roy, et a ce sujet nous Entendons ce tesmoin, sil y avoit Lieu dattendre un peu de temps Jusques a ce que nous ayons paraschevé de recevoir sa déposition, a quoy Il nous respondit brusquement, vous n’avez qu’a obeyr, et dit en raillant, une autre fois vous le ferez, Ensuitte nous luy disions puisque vous nous Passez cette violence Il faut obeyr, et laissames nostre dit greffr et tesmoin en ladite chambre de Justice qui furrent presens a tout ce que dessus, et sans signer non plus que nous qui le suivirent sans resistance en nostre logis ou il nous conduit et ou nous sommes retenu et gardé prevenus comme un criminel quoy que L’ordre ne ter parte par [latin] dont copie est cy dessouls pour y avoir recours si besoin est, et ayant Mandé a L’insue dudit garde nostre dit greffier, et nous apporter le cayer ou est la deposition du tesmoin Imparfait Luy avons au bas d’icelle fait suivre nostre present proces verbal pour nous servir et valloir en temps Et Lieu ainsy que de raison, en continuant de faire Les mesmes protestations de violence que nous avons cy-devant faits, et que nous estant ordonné de descendre Incessamment pour nous rendre aupres de la personne de Mondit Seigneur Le Comte nous sommes impossibles d’y satisfaire aussi diligemment que nous souhaitterions, attendu que nous sommes
[paraphe, p. 3]
[en haut de la page] Informa.on contre lesd Coureurs de bois.
[en marge, 3, et paraphe]
Destre prisonniers et que nous ne pouvons agir pour nous y disposer, en foy de quoy nous avons signés nostre present proces verbal avec nostre greffier ce Trentiesme Mars 1678 en nostre dite Maison.
[signé:] Migeon de Branssat [avec paraphe]
Maugue [avec paraphe]
Paul dazé aagé de 30 ans habitant de cette Isle Lequel a aprés avoir de luy preste serment et qui a declaré nestre parent ny allié du Pr. Fiscal ny coureurs de bois dont Il entend parler en sa deposition, ce Jourdhuy 1er apvril 1678. Dit et depose que vers la fin de Janvier estant a battre le grain de nafrechoux et se retirant le soir en la Maison de fournier pour y coucher ou estoient aussy arrivez le nomme Roulleau Picard le rouge et Martin Chartier qui travailloient pour Le sieur dulhut qui leur fournissoit vivres et autres choses necessaires a leur subsistance comme de Largent et eau de vie ce quil a veu dans le temps quil y resta et entr’autres Ledit Martin Chartier avec qui Il est passé de france, Luy dit quil Iroit faire un voyage aux 8ta8ats pour le Sr, dulhut congé ou non et quand Il Lauroit fait il auroit veu plus de pays que [plusieurs mots rayés] pas un de canada et pour lors Roulleau luy repliqua quil n’y aurait pas tant fait que le pere … dont il ne se souveint pas [dans la marge:] « le nom ». Et ledit Martin repartit, Il na pas veu la mer du sud et Je lay veüe, quand Jauray esté a la mer du nord il y auray veu plus que lui, depose aussi que ledit Roulleau devoit aller en voyage pour ledit sieur dulhut qui leur fournissoit tout ce dont Ils avoient besoin, et que ledit Martin avoit donné une paire de raquettes audit picard le rouge qui les vendit au sr dulhut vingt livres, Laquelle Il redonna a Leger hebert qui partit peu de temps apres pr Katarak8i avec Les nommez le Maistre et autres, et adiouste [dans la marge:] « aussy » que nicolas derocher Luy dit plusieurs fois cet hyver dernier quil iroit aux o8ta8as avec le nommé Tourblanche, et que son frere Jean luy avoit dit que paul deroches [et] son autre frere devoit s’embarquer pour le mesme voyage avec le nommé LaRüe, et quil ne se mettoit point en peyne de congez [dans la marge:] « que ledt Larüe Luy fournissoit et avancoit ace sujet tout ce q’auroit besoin sans se mettre en peine de ce qui en arrivoit », puisque ledit LaRue y avoit bien esté sept ans sans qu’a son retour Il a esté inquitté, et qui avoit ouy dire a plusieurs gens quil Iroient ayssy a cause de l’impunité, si qu’on ne leur seroit
[paraphe, p. 4]
pas plus de Mal qu’aux autres. que le changement de gouverneur pardonnoit tout, qui est ce quil a dit scavoir. Et apres lecture faite de sa deposition a dit [dans la marge:] « Icelle »contenir verité et y a persisté et [quelques mots rayés] nous et ntre greffier signez Ledit deposant a declaré ne scavoir escrire ny signer enquis suivant Lordce neuf mots en rature en presence.
[signé:] Migeon de Branssat [avec paraphe]
Maugue [avec paraphe]
[titre sur l’endos:] 1678. Information Contre Les Coureurs de bois.
The 30th March, 1678, in his chamber of justice and under house arrest.
The named Jean Dupuy, inhabitant of this island [Montreal] and residing at Villemarie, 34 years of age, assigned upon the request of the Fiscal Prosecutor for small sums, to tell the truth and after taking the oath as required in such cases, has declared that he is not related to, nor bound in any way, nor does he work for the said Fiscal Attorney, nor for the coureurs de bois, against whom we continue to take information by virtue of the power invested in us by Monseigneur the Intendant of this country. The said Jean Dupuy states and deposes that the named Léger Hébert, and Pierre Lemaitre had told him several times at the beginning of winter that they would try to go to the Ottawa country and that in that matter they would take along the named La Morille toward the villages of the Iroquois at the far end of the lake, and that the day they were to leave, he [Dupuy] entered the house of sieur Dulhut, where they were at the time getting ready with their equipment which they were loading on a sled, and which included a roll of 40 or 46 pounds of tobacco, which he [Dupuy] tasted, and a bale of merchandise which they took out of the house. A little later the witness walked out, leaving the aforementioned and Bellegarde with La Rivière and all who were about to make this voyage. Furthermore the witness states that he had often talked with the said sieur Dulhut for the said voyage to the Ottawa country, where Dulhut was supposed to take him with seven or eight others at which place [and then the tet stops abruptly]
And while we were receiving the statement of Sieur Dupuy witness there was a loud knock at the door of the chamber of justice where we were hearing him, which obliged our registrar to go and see who it was and once the doors opened, we saw sieur Bizard lieutenant of the guards of Monseigneur the Count Frontenac, holding his cane and escorted
[p. 2] by sieur [one word crossed out] De la Mouche, and one of them told us he had a paper to give us on his [Frontenac’s] behalf. Having read it, we answered we were ready to obey and starting to talk again, he [Bizard] told us “Listen carefully to what I have to tell you on behalf of the King and Monsieur the Count. I arrest you and constitute you prisoner, and I order you to go with this guard who will keep you company in your house which will be your prison, and I order him not to leave you alone, and that he has to follow you wherever you go”. Whereupon we replied “Sir. We are working, as you can see, to obtain information which concerns the King’s service, and it is on this subject that we are hearing this witness. If there is a possibility to wait a little until we have finished to hear his statement.” Upon which he [Bizard] answered abruptly “You only have to obey” and added, jeeringly, “You will”. Afterwards we told him, “Since you are being violent, we have to obey”, and we left our registrar and the witness in the said chamber of justice, and they were witnesses to all the above, and without any of them having signed – neither did we – we followed our guard to our lodgings where he took us, and where we are being held and securely guarded like a criminal, even though the order by a third party, copy of which follows, to be used whenever needed, and having sent for our registrar without the knowledge of our guard, and to bring us the ledger with the incomplete statement of the witness, we have made him [the registrar] write below our report to be used in due time, and we continue to protest against the violence as we have done heretofore, and considering we have been ordered to return immediately [to Quebec] to meet with the person of my said sieur the Count, which we are unable to do as diligently as we would like, considering that we are
[p. 3, in top margin “Information against the coureurs de bois]
being held prisoners, and that we cannot act as we like, in witness whereof we have signed the present account with our registrar, this thirtieth March 1678, in our said house.
[signed:] Migeon de Branssat [with flourish]; Mauge [with flourish].
Paul Dazé, 30 years old, inhabitant of this island, after having taken the oath from him, has declared to be neither related to nor allied with the Fiscal Prosecutor, nor with the coureurs de bois, about whom he plans to speak in his statement, today the first of April 1678, says and declares that about the end of January, he was beating the grain of Nafrechoux and upon returning in the evening to the house of Fournier and go to bed, there also had arrived the said Rouleau, Picard Le Rouge and Martin Chartier who worked for sieur Dulhut, who provided them with victuals and the other things necessary for their survival, such as money and brandy, as he has been able to notice when residing there, among others the said Martin Chartier with whom he travelled from France, told him that he would make a trip to the Ottawas for Sieur Dulhut, with or without a licence, and that when he would have made the trip he would have seen more of the country than [several words crossed out in the text] anyone in Canada, but then Roulleau replied that he would not have seen as much as father … whose [in margin “name”, possibly Pierre Marquette or Louis Hennepin] he did not remember. And the said Martin answered “He has not seen the Southern Sea [the Gulf of Mexico] and I have seen it. When I will have seen the Northern Sea [Hudson’s Bay] I will have seen more than him”. He [Dazé] further states that the said Roulleau was supposed to go on a voyage for the said sieur Dulhut who provided them with all they needed, and that the said Martin had given a pair of snowshoes to the said Picard Le Rouge who sold them to sieur Dulhut for twenty ‘livres’, sum he gave to Léger Hébert who left soon afterwards for Katarakwi [Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, ON], with the one named Le Maistre and others, and added [in margin “also”] that Nicolas Derocher told him several times this winter that he would go to the Ottawas with the one named Tourblanche, and that his brother Jean had told him that Paul Deroches [and] his other brother were supposed to be leaving on the same voyage with the one named LaRüe, and that they were not going to worry about licenses, and that the said “LaRüe would outfit him and advance him for that purpose with anything he needed, without worrying about what was going to happen to it,” because the said LaRüe had been trading for seven years without ever having been bothered and that he had heard several people say they would also go on account of the impunity
[p. 4] of the others, that the change of governor would pardon anything, which was all he said he knew. And having read him his statement has said [in margin “it”] to contain the truth, and persisted in it and [some words crossed out] we and our registrar have signed. The said deponent has declared not to know how to write nor sign, after having enquired him to do so according to the ordnance. Nine words crossed out in his presence.
[signed:] Migeon de Branssat [with flourish]; Maugue [with flourish].
[docket title:] 1678. Information against the coureurs de bois.
MIGEON DE BRANSSAT, Jean-baptiste, merchant, clerk in the Compagnie des Indes occidentales, seigneurial attorney, subdelegate of the intendant, judge and seigneur; b. 1636 at Moulins in Bourbonnais, son of Jean Migeon, merchant, and of Marie Desbordes; d. August 1693 at Montreal.
Migeon de Branssat seems to have come to New France in 1665, or not long before. In 1665 he was a merchant at Montreal. The following year he was a clerk in the Compagnie des Indes occidentales, and in 1667 became attorney of the seigneury of Montreal. He was to hold this office for ten years, with Sieur Jean Gervaise as his deputy.
In November 1665, at Montreal, he married Catherine Gauchet de Belleville, a native of Senlis. She was of a noble family, and was related to M. Souart, superior of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice; she had come to Canada with the contingent that arrived in 1659. In May 1664 she had been granted an arriere fief, later known as Lagauchetière, to which a thoroughfare of the city still gives access today.
In December 1665 Migeon himself was granted an arriere fief, adjoining his wife’s. At that time he was engaged in fur-trading, and made numerous real estate deals.
In the winter of 1672 Migeon, with Pierre Picoté de Belestre, Jean-Vincent Philippe de Hautmesnyl, Charles Le Moyne, and Jacques Le Ber, formed part of a deputation that tried to make respectful representations to the governor of Montreal, François-Marie Perrot, about his repeated violation of the laws governing trade in pelts. For this so-called insolence Perrot had Migeon put in prison; the latter had made himself the spokesman of the group.
At the time of a quarrel over precedence in the parish church of Notre-Dame, in 1675, Migeon de Branssat bore the titles of bachelor of laws and lawyer in the Parlement. On several other occasions this same status was attributed to him.
In August 1677 he succeeded Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust, the civil and criminal judge in the bailiff’s court of Montreal, despite the protests of d’Ailleboust’s son, who laid claim to the office. His installation address is recorded in the register of the bailiff’s court of Montreal.
Migeon de Branssat has been reproached with having frequently ignored the edicts concerning the fur trade and the coureurs de bois, although his very office required him to see that they were observed.
He became the subdelegate of the intendant Jacques de Meulles in September 1685, and resigned from his post as seigneurial judge in 1690. He was named royal judge of Montreal by the edict of 15 March 1693 that created this office, but he died in the following August, before the appointment had been conferred upon him. It was Charles Juchereau de Saint-Denis who assumed this function.
After 13 years as a widow, his former wife became a nun of the Hôtel-Dieu at Montreal, where one of her daughters had preceded her. She died there in 1721, aged 77 years. It has been said that she had originally come to New France with the intention of becoming a nun.
Migeon de Branssat and Catherine Gauchet de Belleville had at least six children who reached adult age.
Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, (DCB).
MAUGUE, Claude, notary, clerk of court, deputy to the attorney-general; b. c. 1646 in the parish of Saint-Amand, diocese of Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergne), son of Antoine Maugue, merchant, and of Françoise Rigaud; d. 1696 at Montreal.
The first mention of Maugue in Canada is in August 1673, when he appeared as a schoolmaster at Beauport. On the following 9 December Governor Buade de Frontenac appointed him notary of the seigneury of Lauson. In this capacity Maugue drew up 19 acts, particularly grants of land.
He was summoned to Montreal in 1677, and succeeded Bénigne Basset in the office of court clerk of the jurisdiction; he held this post for seven years, while continuing to function as a notary. In 19 years he signed some 3,000 acts, which have come down to us in a perfect state of preservation.
While serving as deputy to the attorney-general of Montreal in 1692, Maugue died in his fifties after a brief illness, and was buried Nov. 1696.
In October 1679, at Montreal, he had married Louise Jousset, who was married again in 1698, to Jean de La Sague.
Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, (DCB)
GREYSOLON DULHUT (sometimes written Du Lhut or Du Luth), Daniel, esquire, ensign, gendarme of the king’s household, coureur de bois, explorer, founder of western posts, captain in the colonial regular troops; b. c. 1639 at Saint-Germain-Laval; d. in Montreal, 25 Feb. 1710.
The Greysolons came from the region of Saint-Germain-Laval, near Lyons. Genealogical evidence indicates that they were of the middle class but Dulhut enjoyed the title of esquire. At some point in its history, then, the family must have entered the ranks of the lesser nobility.
Little is known of Dulhut’s early years. From his correspondence, which contains a few classical allusions and passages of some literary value, it can be inferred that he was a man of education. His career in France was a military one. In 1657 he is mentioned as an ensign in the Régiment de Lyon and around 1665 he joined the Gendarmes, an élite regiment of the royal household to which only noblemen were admitted. As a member of this regiment he served in the army commanded by Condé in 1674. On 11 August at Seneffe, this force of 100,000 men defeated the Dutch under William of Orange. Dulhut participated in the bloody encounter as the squire of the Marquis de Lassay, one of Condé’s aides-de-camp.
In a letter written to the Marquis de Seignelay in 1682, Dulhut stated that he had made two voyages to New France before 1674. Although nothing is known of their nature and purpose it was during those early visits to the colony that he began to think of travelling to the land of the Sioux, the powerful tribe settled near the headwaters of the Mississippi. This is the project to which he devoted himself in earnest after his return to Canada in 1675. He acquired a house in Montreal, mingled with the Indians, and was even given three slaves by a group of Sioux as a sign of their friendship. Two of his relatives already settled in the colony may have been of some assistance to him at this stage of his career. His uncle Jacques Patron, a Montreal merchant, may have been interested in the commercial aspect of the proposed venture and possibly provided funds to finance it. His brother-in-law, Lussigny, an officer in Buade de Frontenac’s guards, perhaps introduced him to the governor. Frontenac already knew that the Lake Superior area was a virtually untapped source of prime beaver pelts. In 1676, he had sent Hugues Randin to Sault Ste Marie to arbitrate a settlement between the Sioux and their neighbours in order to open the area to French commerce. Since then Colbert had, on two occasions, forbidden trading outside the limits of the colony. Perhaps because of these prohibitions Frontenac did not authorize Dulhut to carry out his project.
Dulhut decided therefore to leave Montreal secretly on 1 Sept. 1678 with seven French followers and his three Indian slaves. His purpose was to negotiate a permanent peace between the Sioux, Chippewas, and other tribes dwelling west and north of Lake Superior and link up this pacified area firmly with New France. He also hoped to prevent the Crees and Monsonis from taking their pelts to the English on Hudson Bay. In 1678, these Indians had been plundered by the Ottawas who acted as middlemen between them and New France [see Kinongé]; as a result of this unhappy experience they had decided to take their trade to the bay unless they could have dealings with the French. To prevent these two northern nations from defecting to the English, Dulhut thought that direct trade should be carried out with them, even if it meant bypassing the Ottawa middlemen.
The expedition wintered at Sault Ste Marie and, on 2 July 1679, raised the arms of France in the great village of the Nadouesioux. Similar ceremonies took place in surrounding settlements to serve notice on the English that these lands were now claimed by Louis XIV. All the tribes who were visited were also invited to send representatives to a general assembly to discuss the terms of a peace treaty. This meeting took place on Lake Superior in September and Dulhut had the satisfaction of seeing the many tribes represented agree to a general reconciliation. To cement these frail new bonds of friendship, he arranged for several intertribal marriages and encouraged the Indians to carry out their winter hunt together.
Dulhut had also sent three of his men westward with a Sioux war party. How far they went is not known but they returned in the summer of 1680 with salt and the assurances of their Indian guides that it came from a great lake, 20 days’ journey to the west, whose waters were not fit for drinking. Dulhut concluded that the western sea was within reach and he set out from Lake Superior toward the Mississippi. When he reached the river he learned that three of Cavelier de La Salle’s men, including the Recollet Louis Hennepin, had been captured by the Sioux and carried off as slaves. Dulhut pursued the Indians and finally caught up with them somewhere on the upper Mississippi. Although they apologized and readily freed their captives, Dulhut prudently decided to turn back. By committing this act of hostility against the French, with whom they had just concluded a treaty, the Sioux had shown how untrustworthy they were and he was obviously unwilling to proceed with his discovery under such uncertain auspices. After berating the Indians for their conduct he took La Salle’s men aboard his canoes and returned to Michilimackinac.
Meantime, in Quebec, Intendant Jacques Duchesneau was complaining loudly about Dulhut whom he described as the chief of the renegade coureurs de bois and as Frontenac’s partner in the fur trade. In a dispatch to the minister the intendant claimed that shipments of fur were being sent not only to Jacques Patron and to the governor but also to the English and that the entire western fur trade might eventually be diverted to the latter. Learning of the intendant’s accusations Dulhut hurried back to the colony to defend himself in March 1681. He arrived three months before the proclamation of Colbert’s amnesty for all the coureurs de bois, and Duchesneau demanded that he be jailed as a renegade. Frontenac, however, who had now become a protector of the explorer, refused to allow this and sent him to France instead to convince the minister of his innocence.
In France Dulhut presented Seignelay with an account of his voyage to the Mississippi and defended himself against the accusation of having violated the edict of 1676, which forbad going into the woods to trade. Dulhut maintained that his purpose had been to arbitrate a peace treaty between several Indian tribes. He also asked for permission to continue his explorations and for the grant of a seigneury in the lands he might discover. Had this request been granted he would perhaps have established a commercial empire for himself similar to La Salle’s south of the Great Lakes. The court, however, had just instituted the system of the 25 fur-trading licences (congés) in yet another effort to restrict the number of persons deserting the colony and was hardly in the mood to encourage voyages of discovery, which, more often than not, were simply trading expeditions in disguise. Furthermore La Salle, who had powerful supporters at the court, was hostile to Dulhut, whom he probably regarded as a potential competitor. These obstacles were too great to overcome. Dulhut succeeded in clearing himself of the accusations made against him, but his requests were turned down.
When he returned to Canada in the autumn of 1682 Frontenac had been recalled and Le Febvre de La Barre was assuming office in his place. Dulhut soon won favour with the new governor and became one of his principal lieutenants. Early in 1683, holding a three-year commission from La Barre, he returned to the regions of the western Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi with a convoy of 15 canoes. His mission had a double purpose: to reduce to discipline the tribes of the northwest, an urgent necessity in view of the imminence of war with the Iroquois; and to prevent the northern nations from taking their pelts to the English on Hudson Bay. During the next three years Dulhut exerted himself continuously to achieve these ends. He commandeered the services of licensed traders to help fortify Michilimackinac, reprimanded the Potawatomis for their lukewarm attitude toward the French, and renewed his peace-making efforts among the Foxes, Sioux, and Chippewas. The last of these nations was especially difficult to manage as was demonstrated in 1684 when four of its warriors murdered two French traders. When one of the culprits appeared at the Jesuit mission of Sault Ste Marie the staff of 12 on duty there did not dare to arrest him, fearing the reprisals of his tribe. Dulhut, as soon as he learned of the incident, hurried to the mission, rounded up the suspects, including the chief Achinaga and his two sons, and put them on trial. Achinaga was acquitted and his younger son pardoned, but the two others who had been found guilty were executed before 400 Indians. By coldly meting out this punishment, Dulhut taught the natives that the French were a people to be respected and feared.
In 1684 and 1685, French positions in the west were strengthened by the building of two trading posts. They were located on Lake Nipigon and at Kaministiquia, at the western extremity of Lake Superior, and were placed under the command of Dulhut’s younger brother Claude Greysolon de La Tourette. The intendant Jacques de Meulles promptly denounced these activities. He informed the court that the real purpose of the posts, which were too far from Hudson Bay to prevent the Indians from going there to trade, was to promote Dulhut’s private interests and that La Barre’s commission was an exclusive charter to the Lake Superior trade. The accusation contains some truth, for Dulhut and La Tourette engaged in commerce on an extensive scale. This is shown by a letter written by Dulhut to his creditor Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, in 1684, in which he asked for an advance of money and stated that he had more than 800 beaver robes at Michilimackinac with which to make the repayment the following year. But the intendant was wrong in suggesting that these activities were not harming the English for Hudson’s Bay Company officials claimed in 1686 that Dulhut had cost them £20,000 in lost trade.
Important military services were added to these economic ones. In 1684, when La Barre undertook his abortive campaign against the Iroquois, Dulhut, Morel de La Durantaye, and Nicolas Perrot raised 500 warriors among the western nations and marched them to Niagara to lend support to the main contingent. La Barre’s successor, Brisay de Denonville, also recognized Dulhut’s ability and his influence over the Indians and frequently called upon his services. In 1685 and 1686, English and Dutch merchants from Albany had appeared at Michilimackinac and carried out a sizable trade with the Indians almost in the shadow of the French post. To prevent further intrusions into New France’s trading empire, Denonville decided to build posts at the Toronto portage and at Detroit, two important entry points into the west. Dulhut was given the task of erecting the one at Detroit, which was called Fort Saint-Joseph and garrisoned with 50 men. In 1687, when the governor organized his great campaign against the Senecas, Dulhut and other French commanders in the west mustered 400 warriors and operated a perfectly timed junction with the main army on Lake Ontario.
Instead of returning to Lake Superior after this last campaign Dulhut came back to Canada. No reason has been given, but it may have been the onset of gout, a disease from which he suffered constantly during his last 20 years and which finally incapacitated him in 1702. At first, however, he was still able to take part in the Iroquois war. In 1689 he defeated a party of 22 of these Indians on the Lac des Deux-Montagnes and, as a reward, was made half-pay captain. Nothing more is heard of him until 1696 when he accompanied the army Frontenac was leading against the Onondagas and Oneidas as far as Fort Frontenac, where he remained in command. The following year he was promoted to the rank of captain.
After the Fort Frontenac command, Dulhut retired into private life. Unmarried and apparently only attended by a servant, La Roche, who ministered to him during his long illness, he lived his last 15 years uneventfully in Montreal. In June 1701 he rented the house he owned jointly with La Tourette to Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil for 400 livres annually and may then have moved to the home of the tanner Charles Delaunay, where he was living in 1709. In March of that year he drew up his last will and testament to which he added a codicil the following February. He left 800 livres to the Recollets, 100 livres to the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, and 300 to his servant. The biggest part of the estate, however, was a sum of some 11,766 livres owed to him by Delaunay. Dulhut asked only for the repayment of 4,000 livres and deeded the balance to the tanner’s wife and children.
He died in Montreal on 25 Feb. 1710, and was buried in the Recollet chapel. He left the reputation of having been an honnête homme and a brave and loyal officer.
Dulhut has often been compared to La Salle and in so far as both men opened new territories to French commerce and influence they do have something in common. Unlike that of La Salle, however, Dulhut’s career as an explorer was short-lived, and since he wrote little, the geographical knowledge he obtained of the upper Mississippi and its affluents was not widely diffused. The two men also differed in character. La Salle was imaginative and impulsive but without organizational ability; Dulhut, although somewhat lacking in élan, was steady-going and reliable, two attributes that no doubt explain why the three governors under whom he served made him one of their chief agents in the west. By virtue of his numerous activities in that region he appears as one of the principal architects of the alliance between New France and the Lake Superior tribes. But by showing how one could trade directly with those remote nations he irritated the Ottawa middlemen and must be regarded as one of those responsible for their coolness towards the French during some stages of the Iroquois war.
Yves-F. Zoltvany (DCB)