AUGÉ, ÉTIENNE, merchant-trader; b. at Saint-Louis-de-Lotbinière (Lotbinière, Que.), son of Louis Augé and Antoinette Barabé; d. 18 Jan. 1780 in Montreal.
The date of Étienne Agué’s arrival in Montreal is not known, but by 1751, when he married Louise-Françoise Dalgueuil, dit Labrèche, he was already a merchant-trader there. According to the marriage contract signed on 11 September before notary Jean-Baptiste Adhémar*, Augé owned a piece of land with a stone house on Rue Saint-Paul, Montreal’s business street. His wife’s aunt Jeanne Dalgueuil gave them a house built of squared timbers (pièces sur pièces) and a bakehouse with its fixtures, on condition that they lodge and feed her. Louise-Françoise Dalgueuil was then 41 and Augé was about the same age. Their late marriage probably accounts for their lack of children; in fact childless marriages were not uncommon among Montreal merchants. Augé and his wife associated with the town’s most important merchant families – the Charly Saint-Anges, Giassons, Hervieux, Quesnels, Couagnes, and Guys. Over the years Augé was especially close to the Guys and in 1777 named “his friend” Pierre Guy* as his executor.
Augé was primarily involved in the import export trade. He did not engage seriously in the fur trade, limiting his interest to outfitting several expeditions in the period 1751–55. He did, however, ship to the French market the pelts he received from outfitters in payment for trading goods. Augé also had a retail business in which he sold to local people, for cash or on credit, textiles, sewing and dressmaking supplies, manufactured goods, and even foodstuffs such as sugar, spices, coffee, and rum. If the volume of his purchases between 1755 and 1758 can be taken as a guide, his yearly turnover amounted to about 30,000 livres. This business was more profitable and entailed fewer risks than did trading in furs with the Indians.
For some time after the conquest Augé maintained contacts with his suppliers in La Rochelle, Denis Goguet and the merchant-traders Paillet et Meynardie. But trade with France had in fact become impossible, and he had to enter into relations with the London merchant-traders Daniel and Antoine Vialars and Isidore Lynch, who had been recommended by his correspondents in La Rochelle. Besides selling the pelts he shipped, these suppliers also attended to clearing the 200,000 livres in bills of exchange held by Augé. Although he had reason to complain frequently of the greed of his new suppliers, and though the clearing of his bills was to drag on, Augé succeeded in significantly expanding his business from 1770 to 1775. His business correspondence deals primarily with the cost and quality of the merchandise he received, remittances in bills of exchange or in pelts, freight and insurance rates, frequency of shipments, and the economic situation in Britain. His accounting methods, like those of the town’s other merchants, were rather rudimentary, but they sufficed for the needs of business in Montreal. There is no better proof of this than the fortune he accumulated. At his death he left 80,000 livres to his relatives and friends, including Pierre Guy, to various charities, and to his Indian slave Marguerite. His extensive assets included 10,000 livres in personal property, nearly 24,000 livres in accounts receivable, two pieces of land in the suburbs of Montreal, and 28,000 livres in merchandise in stock.
Étienne Augé, like other Montreal merchants, engaged in political activity. Between 1764 and 1766 he signed three petitions to the British authorities about the regulation of the fur business. He also signed the Montreal merchants’ protest against the claims of the seigneurs in 1766 and the Canadian merchants’ petition of December 1773 asking the king for the restoration of French laws and opposing the creation of a house of assembly.
The tempo of Augé’s activities began to moderate around 1775. He may already have been stricken by the illness which would lead to his death in 1780. His nephew, Michel Augé, whom he apparently treated like a son and who helped him in his business, probably took over from him. Augé was one of the Montreal merchants who succeeded in living through the political and economic changes of the era of the conquest without being too seriously affected. He was probably the largest Canadian merchant-trader in Montreal near the end of the French régime and he seems to have done even better after 1760. Examination of various accounting documents, his business correspondence, and numerous contracts shows clearly the importance of his commerce.
AN, Col., C11A, 108, ff.1–90. ANQ-M, Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 11 sept. 1751, 14 sept. 1754; Greffe de Simon Sanguinet, 7 janv., 4, 16 mars 1780; Greffe de François Simonnet, 13 juin 1758, 8 juin 1766. BL, Add. mss 35915, ff.228–33 (copies at PAC). PAC, MG 23, GIII, 25, ser.A (Étienne Augé); ser.B (Étienne Augé); GIII, 29; MG 24, L3, pp.1469–75, 1522–30, 1532–33, 2097–99, 2203–6, 2274–76, 2395–96, 2494–95, 2659–60, 2672–73, 3407–10. PRO, CO 42/1, pp.181–83; 42/2, pp.277–80; 42/5, pp.298–99 (PAC transcripts). Doc. relatifs à l’hist. constitutionnelle, 1759–91 (Shortt et Doughty; 1921), I, 490–94. “État général des billets d’ordonnances . . . ,” ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 231–342. “Protêt des marchands de Montréal contre une assemblée des seigneurs, tenue en cette ville le 21 février, 1766,” É.-Z. Massicotte, édit., Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal (Montreal), 3rd ser., XI (1914), 1–20. Quebec Gazette, 20 Oct. 1766. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1930–31, 414, 433, 436, 438, 446; 1931–32, 304–5, 312. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. J. E. Igartua, “The merchants and négociants of Montreal, 1750–1775: a study in socio-economic history”(unpublished phd thesis, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 1974). É.-Z. Massicotte, “La bourse de Montréal sous le Régime français,” Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal, 3rd ser., XII (1915), 26–32.