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HAVY, FRANÇOIS, merchant and entrepreneur; b. 1709 in the Pays de Caux, France; d. at Bordeaux, France, on 12 Dec. 1766.

François Havy, a Huguenot, first came to Canada in 1730 as supercargo aboard the Louis Dauphin, a ship owned by the newly formed Robert Dugard et Cie of Rouen, France. From Quebec, the Louis Dauphin carried a cargo of Canadian produce and forest products to Martinique and then sailed to its home port of Le Havre with a cargo of sugar. The following year, the ship again visited Quebec, returning directly to Le Havre. These two trial voyages convinced Dugard et Cie that the Canada trade was sufficiently profitable to merit long-term investment. Thus when Havy returned to Quebec for the third time in 1732, he came as a permanent factor to establish a warehouse and office. He and his assistant and cousin, Jean Lefebvre, found quarters on Rue Saint-Pierre in the merchant district of Lower Town. In 1735 they rented part of the house of Louis Fornel on the adjacent market square and from there conducted their business for more than 20 years.

François Havy and Jean Lefebvre formed a partnership in 1734 in which Havy was the senior. It is difficult to separate their activities. As Lefebvre wrote to a business correspondent, “When our Sieur Havy or myself write you, our letters are in common. Our signatures show that there is no difference of opinion between us.” Havy and Lefebvre conducted some business for their own account as permitted by the custom of the time, but they were still the employees of Dugard et Cie, which paid them salary, board, and lodging. Their position in the merchant community depended primarily upon the volume of trade they managed for the company. The trial cargoes had been small; but from 1732 to 1743 annual sales at Quebec totalled around 200,000 livres, except for 1740 and 1741 when receipts rose to well over 300,000 livres. Comparison of these figures with the rough estimates of the annual value of French imports sold in Canada prepared by the intendant reveals the relative importance of the trade Havy managed. From 1733 on it usually accounted for an eighth or a tenth of the colony’s import trade, climbing to a sixth in 1738, a seventh in 1740, and a fifth in 1741. Not surprisingly, François Havy was one of the acknowledged “principal traders” of Quebec City, who in 1740 numbered only 17.

From the time of establishing the Quebec factory, Havy handled 13 company cargoes. The merchants’ busy season was framed by the arrival and departure of ships from France, the West Indies, and Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). Arrivals began in July and continued steadily through October. No matter how late the ships arrived, with rare exception they departed in November. When the ships dropped anchor before Quebec, they delivered their cargoes to small lightering craft. Bales, cases, and barrels for Havy’s and Lefebvre’s warehouse were left on the beach to be picked up by carters. Havy and Lefebvre supervised this trans-shipment, ascertained the condition of the merchandise, and declared imports of Brazil tobacco, wine, and spirits.

When the harbour was filled with ships unloading, Havy and the other merchants alerted their Montreal correspondents [see Pierre Guy]. The inland merchants soon arrived; money and merchandise began to change hands; and in a classic manner prices would find their level in response to the market. Rapidly, Havy and Lefebvre’s warehouse began to fill with return cargo, the most important item being fur. The practical necessity of the Canadian trader’s selling his furs in bales to one buyer, rather than hawking individual skins, and his need to arrange terms of credit for his purchases made it desirable that he be able to satisfy all his needs at one warehouse. Like the modern department store, Havy and Lefebvre and their competitors therefore each offered a wide assortment of merchandise. Those who could not provide this facility had to accept a smaller profit on their sales.

Bills of exchange were another important export. A large number of these were given to Canadian traders in exchange for beaver pelts by the Compagnie des Indes, which held a monopoly on their export. These bills thus represented purchasing power gained in return for a commodity export. Other bills of exchange drawn on the French government and received in exchange for Canadian paper money were employed because Canada could not provide sufficient exports to balance its foreign trade. As their continued use was a measure of Canadian economic underdevelopment, it is significant that in the 1730s and 1740s the proportion of Havy and Lefebvre’s return cargoes constituted by bills of exchange declined from between 37 and 44 per cent in the years 1730–32 to 4 to 13 percent in 1741–43. As the Canadian economy reacted favourably to a long era of peace, the quantity and range of export items were increasing.

Receiving and sending cargoes imposed a considerable burden on the Quebec factors. Goods were distributed and collected. Crew rolls were registered with the admiralty and permits and passports obtained for outgoing ships. The enormous bulk of invoices, bills of lading, accounts, and letters were prepared in triplicate. When the last ships had left, thousands of entries in daybooks had to be transferred meticulously to the ledger and then condensed into current accounts to be sent to all business correspondents. Final disposal of the cargo and the time-consuming paperwork meant that accounts were not closed until the following summer. But by the middle of November the feverish activity was over. “I wish it was never autumn at Quebec,” an exhausted François Havy complained to a friend, “and I would be in better health.”

Havy and Lefebvre also traded with Louisbourg, where Dugard et Cie maintained permanent relations with Léon Fautoux, a commission agent. The soldiers and fishermen of Louisbourg depended to a considerable extent upon Canadian provisions, and most company ships stopped at the fortified harbour on their return voyages from Quebec to France. Canadian cargoes of wood and grain were also suitable for the West Indian market when increased in value by dried cod available at Louisbourg. The sugar island trade remained marginal, however, as Canada could surrender its major export of fur only in exchange for French manufactures to supply the fur trade and could neither absorb a large quantity of Caribbean produce nor provide a sufficiently large and dependable supply of provisions and forest products in return. Thus of the 68 voyages to Canada and the West Indies undertaken by the ships of Dugard et Cie between 1730 and 1755, only ten were triangular.

Company activities in Canada under Havy’s direction also included shipbuilding. Between 1736 and 1745 Havy and Lefebvre launched six ships for the company having a combined value of almost 300,000 livres. The Alcion was begun in 1734, the year after a revised system of royal bounties for Canadian-built ships was established. Although bounties could not fully offset the high cost of labour in an underpopulated country, the Rouen company persevered because ships were yet another export, a means of repatriating profits made in Canada. Thus Intendant Gilles Hocquart* was correct in interpreting Havy’s building of so many ships as “certain proof that he found profit in the first.” Havy and Lefebvre also built many smaller ships for their exploitation of sealing concessions on the north shore of the St Lawrence and Labrador, enterprises apparently undertaken on their own account.

From 1737 to 1748 they held a lease on a post at Mingan, the value of the rent being deducted annually from debts owed them by the post’s owner, Charles Jolliet d’Anticosti. In 1737 they also began exploiting a post at Chateau Bay on the Strait of Belle Isle for a one-third share along with Louis Fornel and the post’s concessionaire, Louis Bazil. Havy and Lefebvre appear to have maintained an interest in Chateau Bay until 1754, when the post’s ship and sealing equipment, described as belonging to them, were sold at public auction at Quebec. In 1740 Havy and Lefebvre also sublet a two-thirds interest in the concession of Grand Saint-Modet. The original lease ended in 1747, but they apparently sent a ship to the post in 1758, their last known sealing venture.

In 1745 war between France and Great Britain reached the Gulf of St Lawrence. In July Abel Olivier, captain of a Dugard et Cie schooner, sent word to Quebec that Louisbourg had fallen to the Anglo-Americans. The Quebec merchants were cut off from the gulf and their sealing stations; buildings, equipment, and barrels of oil were a total loss. Although Louis Bazil had made no financial contribution to the post at Chateau Bay, Havy and Lefebvre and Fornel had invested over 100,000 livres. The enterprise had returned less than two-thirds of this investment.

After 1748 the sealing industry quickly recuperated, unlike the trade with Dugard et Cie. Because of the near famine in Canada resulting from a succession of crop failures, and the derangement of the fur trade and of ocean traffic by the war, Robert Dugard sent a much smaller cargo to Canada in 1744. The following year he sent nothing, English control of the Atlantic being complete. Havy decided to launch the Astrée, which had lain on the stocks for several years because of poor economic conditions, and to send it to Le Havre laden with seal oil and furs for which there was no other transportation.

Sales plummeted to about 100,000 livres in 1744 and 1745 and then to 19,000 in 1746 and 32,000 in 1747. After 1744 the company sent none of its own ships to Quebec although small amounts of cargo were sent aboard those of La Rochelle. Tempest and war combined to destroy most of the company fleet. In 1743, for instance, the Alcion and the Louis Dauphin sank in storms while returning from the West Indies, and by 1747 five more ships were lost or captured. The company was on its knees, and in October 1747 Havy and Lefebvre received word that it would cease all its trade with Canada. Since 1730 Havy had handled incoming and outgoing cargoes for his Rouen employers valued at almost 6,000,000 livres.

Havy and Lefebvre still had their interest in the Labrador sealing industry. Their associate Louis Fornel had died on 30 May 1745, but they maintained a close business relationship with his widow, Marie-Anne Barbel*. Before the war intervened, Fornel had explored the Labrador coast beyond Chateau Bay and had discovered and laid claim to an excellent site for sealing and trade, the Baie des Esquimaux (probably Hamilton Inlet), which he named Baie Saint-Louis. With access to the coast again free, Widow Fornel claimed the concession of the post for herself and her associates, Havy and Lefebvre. On 20 Sept. 1749 they were given the concession for 12 years. At the same time, under the name Veuve Fornel et Cie, they also received a six-year lease on the scattered trading posts east of Quebec and north of the St Lawrence known collectively as the King’s Posts. In 1755 they relinquished the lease, fearing war losses. They were the last lessees under the old régime.

Havy’s interest in the import-export trade also remained. With other Quebec City merchants, he and Lefebvre owned a few small ships which they sent to Martinique. As general commission agents, they handled cargoes for Garisson of Bordeaux and Gardère of Bayonne. In 1750 the Astrée stopped at Quebec on its way to Martinique, leaving some cargo in their care. For a few years in the 1750s they owned a ship named the Parfaite Union in company with Robert Dugard and a fourth associate, probably Jean-François Jacquelin of Quebec.

François Havy, as a Huguenot, was free neither to marry in the colony nor to bring a family to it; though prosperous he could not think of remaining in Canada permanently. The occasion of his final departure was yet another war. Havy and Lefebvre apparently decided that under hazardous but potentially profitable war-time conditions, one of them should return to France to supervise their export of merchandise to Canada and to prepare for eventual transfer of their business from the colony. In January 1756 Havy arrived at La Rochelle, having “escaped the clutches of the English.” The following year he visited Rouen to accelerate the closing of his accounts with Dugard et Cie and then returned to La Rochelle, where in 1758 he declared himself resolved to stay. But trade there was at a standstill, the English once again having control of the sea route to Canada.

It was probably in 1758 that Havy married for the first time. His wife was of the François family of Bordeaux, said to be “a family both Rich and highly Respectable.” In January 1759 their first child was born. But domestic happiness came too late for François Havy. The British conquest of Quebec in September 1759 destroyed the business he had built up over 30 years. Considerable assets in sealing stations and mortgages on houses in Quebec were lost. A fortune in Canadian paper money and bills of exchange was rendered almost worthless by governmental repudiation. Not without cause did he think, “ The life of man is short and still it is naught but sorrow and labour.”

For the last six months of 1760 Havy suffered from a severe illness. When he had sufficiently recovered, he was told of the accidental death of Jean Lefebvre some months before. He had lost his fortune, his associate and oldest friend, and his health. He was involved in more than a dozen bankruptcies. The heirs of his dead partner and other creditors were hounding him. In 1762 or 1763 the Havys moved to Bordeaux, probably to be near Mme Havy’s family. In the autumn of 1766 François Havy died at Bordeaux, aged 57.

The connection between the old firm of Havy and Lefebvre and Canada did not end with the conquest. In their later years at Quebec, Havy and Lefebvre had been joined by another, younger, cousin, François Levesque. It was Levesque who settled their affairs at Quebec, and he remained in Canada to establish his own commerce under the British flag.

In 1763 the commission of the Châtelet acquitted François Havy of any malversation in his furnishings to the king in Canada. He had been an honest merchant. Backed by Rouen businessmen of expansive ideas, he and his partner were at the forefront of the Canadian economic advance. Could a Protestant have lived his life in New France, perhaps Havy would have been absorbed into the Canadian community, bringing with him mercantile knowledge and attitudes rare in the colony and precious in the aftermath of conquest.

François Havy’s career in Canada and his relation to the colony might best be summarized by two sentences drawn from his own correspondence. “There is no metropolitan trader who worked as hard as I,” he once wrote to Robert Dugard. Again, in one of his last letters to a Canadian, he expressed the privation he felt at his separation from New France: “I have always loved your Country and its people.”

Dale Miquelon

AN, 62 AQ, 30–45; Col., B, 53–96; C8A, 55; C11A, 51–109, 125. ANQ, Greffe de R.-C. Barolet, 30 sept. 1733, 8 sept. 1734, 8, 9 oct. 1736, 2 avril 1738, 30 oct. 1741; Greffe de C.-H. Du Laurent, 3 oct. 1736, 23 oct. 1742, 15 sept., 26 oct. 1743, 18 oct. 1744, 10 nov. 1746, 13 août 1747, 18 mai, 4 juin, 7 nov. 1748, 27 janv., 15 déc. 1750, 8 oct., 6 nov. 1751, 6 avril 1759; Greffe de J.-C. Louet, 11 oct. 1735; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 9 sept. 1745, 19 août, 23 nov. 1751, 21 oct. 1753, 22 nov. 1758, 10 oct. 1760, 10 oct. 1764, 5 avril 1769; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet de Vaucour, 5 sept. 1743; Greffe de J.-A. Saillant, 7 févr. 1751, 4 janv., 7 oct. 1752, 18 sept., 25 oct., 6 nov. 1753, 5 avril, 17, 18 sept. 1754; NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 1242, 1290, 1296, 1316, 1410, 1456; NF, Registres de l’Amirauté de Québec, 1741–1760. Archives municipales de Bordeaux, France, État civil, 12 déc. 1766. Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal (Paris), mss, 12144, 12145, 12148. PAC, MG 23, GIII, 28; MG24, L3, pp.580–2447. Édits ord., II, 554–55. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy). “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport). P.-G. Roy. Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760; Inv. ord. int. A. J. E. Lunn, “Economic development in New France, 1713–1760” (unpublished phd thesis, McGill University, Montreal, 1943).

[The reader will find a comparison of the activities of the Quebec factor with those of his counterparts in other places very illuminating. See, for example, Ralph Davis’ study of English trade in Turkey, Aleppo and Devonshire Square: English traders in the Levant in the eighteenth century (London, 1967).  d.m.]

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Dale Miquelon, “HAVY, FRANÇOIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/havy_francois_3E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/havy_francois_3E.html
Author of Article: Dale Miquelon
Title of Article: HAVY, FRANÇOIS
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1974
Year of revision: 1974
Access Date: July 23, 2014