TANTOUIN (Pitantouin or Tantoin) DE LA TOUCHE, LOUIS, commissary of the Marine in Canada; b. c. 1662, place of birth unknown; buried 9 Oct. 1722 at Juilley (department of Manche), aged about 60.
We have no information about the beginnings of La Touche’s career, and the date of his arrival in Canada is unknown. In 1686 he was appointed keeper of stores at Montreal by the intendant, Bochart de Champigny, and on 1 July 1690 he was promoted commissary of the Marine, replacing Mathieu Gaillard*.
The commissaries, who were directly under the orders of the intendant, carried out duties which were laid down under Section viii of the ordinance of the Marine of 1689. They were required to inspect the troops regularly in order to draw up the muster-rolls necessary for issuing pay – for only those officers and soldiers present in their unit were paid – see to the distribution of clothing, take delivery of goods intended for the service and see that they were taken care of, superintend the administration of naval stores, ensure that the captains paid their soldiers regularly, and, should occasion arise, receive the complaints of those who were discontented. In Canada the commissary was in addition responsible for overseeing the trade in beaver furs authorized by licences granted by the governor general, and he had to satisfy himself that the regulations in this difficult area were properly applied. People who obtained such licences had to declare to the commissary before their departure the value of the goods that they were taking with them.
Supervisory duties of this sort in spheres of activity where cheating was frequent could not fail to provoke conflicts between commissaries and officers. La Touche, who seems to have been conscientious, did not escape them. On 21 Sept. 1692 Champigny made a note about him as “doing his duty well and being much attached, very careful and loyal,” and requested an increase in his pay, which was 1,200 livres and with which he could not “meet the expenses that he must incur, particularly in his travelling.” La Touche lived most of the time at Montreal, where from 1694 on he was subdelegate to the intendant, and therefore had to move about to visit the various garrisons in the country.
In 1697 his exactitude in carrying out his duties brought him into violent conflict with the garrison adjutant, Auger de Subercase, who winked at dummy soldiers in the companies or had absent soldiers counted. La Touche established that the officers indulged in many kinds of cheating, inflicted various sorts of persecution upon the settlers who engaged in the fur trade, and appropriated to themselves their troops’ pay. He complained of the officers’ lack of discipline: “In this country it is greatly doubted that the king’s ordinances are to be observed and taken as literally as in the kingdom.” In 1698 he caused the seizure and sale at Montreal of the canoes laden with merchandise which were being smuggled through on behalf of Lamothe Cadillac [Laumet] and had difficulties with Governor Callière, “who, on the pretext of war, is interfering in legal and police matters, whilst I am the intendant’s subdelegate at Montreal and there is the regular judge to render justice.”
The opinions of everyone were unanimously in favour of La Touche. On 15 Oct. 1698 Buade* de Frontenac and Champigny extolled his scrupulousness and expressed their satisfaction with his refusal to accept the captains’ servants in the inspections. The comptroller-general, Le Roy de La Potherie, wrote: “M. de La Touche, former commissary at Montreal, is a man beyond reproach. His conduct has been very judicious. He has often had arguments with M. de Callières, but when one is upright, one is sometimes exposed to his superiors’ caprices.”
On 8 Nov. 1700 Champigny requested for La Touche a reward for the services that he had rendered during the reception of some English envoys at Montreal. About the same time the commissary asked to return to France to serve in a port, for his long absence had upset his personal affairs. He was replaced by François Clairambault d’Aigremont. La Touche was then appointed commissary at Rochefort on 8 June 1701, but he did not hold this post long, for the following year the offices of commissaries of the Marine were made purchasable and La Touche, who was not able to get together the 30,000 livres needed to buy his, was dismissed on 12 Oct. 1702. He must have possessed a certain fortune, however, for during his stay in Canada he lent various sums and on his departure left his affairs in the care of the notary Pierre Raimbault.
Nothing is known of the end of his career other than that he became financial secretary to the Due de Berry, then retired to Normandy. He had married Madeleine Girard, by whom he had several children.
AN, Col., B, 20, ff.102, 234; 22, ff.85v, 104; C11A, 12, ff.60, 283, 350; 15, ff.50v, 128, 159–67; 16, ff.15, 88, 108; 17, ff.105, 107; 18, ff.42, 107, 191; 19, f.19; Marine, C2, 55. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–1699),” APQ Rapport, 1928–1929, 333, 353, 377. “Un mémoire de Le Roy de La Potherie sur la Nouvelle-France adressé à M. de Pontchartrain, 1701–1702,” BRH, XXII (1916), 215. “Daniel Auger, sieur de Subercase,” BRH, XVI (1910), 177. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Louis Tantouin ou Pitantouin de la ‘Touche’,” BRH, XXV (1919), 127f. P.-G. Roy, “Biographies canadiennes,” BRH, XXI (1915), 217–21.