MORIN DE FONFAY, JEAN-BAPTISTE (usually known as Morin), colonial administrator; b. c. 1717 at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), eldest son of Claude Morin and Madeleine Lamouraux-Rochefort; still alive in 1793.
In 1696 Claude Morin emigrated from Chinon, France, to Plaisance (Placentia, Nfld) and in 1713 moved to Île Royale. Jean-Baptiste entered the service of the Louisbourg financial commissary in 1737, acting as a clerk under André Carrerot* until the fall of the fortress in 1745. Morin then was employed by the port administration at Rochefort, France, except for a seven-month interval when he set out for Canada in the disastrous expedition of the Duc d’Anville [La Rochefoucauld*]. During his exile in France Morin married Marie-Charlotte Boschet de Saint-Martin, the daughter of a Louisbourg merchant.
On his return to Louisbourg in 1749 Morin was appointed royal notary and clerk of the Conseil Supérieur, a post he held until 1753. He was also employed in the service of the financial commissary, Jacques Prevost de La Croix. In 1752, when Prevost dismissed the storekeeper, Pierre-Jérôme Lartigue, Morin was appointed to replace him, subject to ministerial approval. The following year, Séguin, the controller and Lartigue’s ally, contested Morin’s nomination claiming that Morin and his brother Antoine were conniving to sell their friends’ merchandise to the government. The Morins provided a few supplies between 1737 and 1757, but it is hard to say whether they were more dishonest in their methods than anyone else. The minister ordered Morin dismissed; Prevost defended him, and Intendant Bigot wrote in his support. Morin apparently answered the charges successfully because he continued as storekeeper although he never obtained the post on a permanent basis.
Whether or not he profited from his positions, Morin was prosperous enough in the 1750s to invite jealousy and incur denunciations. In 1753 an anonymous petition accused Morin and his brother, along with Jean Laborde and Nicolas Larcher, of undercutting the prices of Saint-Malo suppliers by importing foodstuffs from the American colonies. The actual extent of Morin’s wealth is difficult to determine but he claimed to have invested 10,500 livres from savings in privateering ventures in 1757.
After the siege of 1758, in which he was wounded, Morin returned to France and fell on hard times. It was not until 1762 that he was appointed to the post of colonial storekeeper at Rochefort; even then the supervision of packing material was removed from his purview for fear that his honesty might be put to the test. This post was eliminated by an administrative reform in 1771, but he continued to work on accounts until 1773. After a short term as commissary for maritime conscription at Rochefort, he was retired in 1776 on 2,000 livres a year.
Morin apparently decided to re-enter the naval administration after his elder son, an officer in the colonial regular troops, then serving in Guadeloupe, got heavily in debt, and with the support of the Prince de Conti he obtained in 1781 a position again as commissary for maritime conscription, serving first at Saintes and then at Angers. In April 1783 officials discovered that Morin had misappropriated 15,000 livres from the invalids’ pension fund to meet bills of exchange which his son had drawn on him. He was imprisoned until October 1786. In spite of supplements to his wife’s pension and the placement of his younger son in the naval administration, Morin was reduced to poverty. His pleas for a pension were rejected, although in 1792 his wife’s pension was raised again.
In petitions to the ministry throughout his career, the last in 1793, Morin took care to emphasize his service to the crown. He claimed that during the mutiny of 1744 he had helped Carrerot gain the troops’ confidence; had seen to the provisioning of troops and inhabitants during and after the siege of 1745; and in 1749 had managed the embarkation for Louisbourg. He stressed his efficiency in reorganizing the storehouse after Lartigue’s dismissal; his altruism in keeping the archives of Île Royale at his own expense after the return to La Rochelle in 1758; the dispatch with which he had supervised the expedition of 150 supply ships to the colonies in 1763–64; and his honesty in refusing to take a share in freighting them. How true were his claims? All one can say is that the government disputed only his allegations about the archives.
Despite Séguin’s accusations, which apparently clouded his career, Morin seems to have been a competent administrator. He profited, like many others in the royal administration, from the vagueness of the boundary between the public and the private sectors, from advancement by influence and patronage, and from slipshod accounting procedures which encouraged the king’s servants both to use royal funds in their own interest and to engage their own money in the king’s service in the hope of later recompense. Like some others, Morin later became a victim of this system.
[AN, Col., C8B, f.21, and F2C, 4, ff.198, 227, detail voyages made from Louisbourg to Martinique twice in 1752 and to Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola) once in 1755 by a J.-Bte. Morin (Maurin). Fortress of Louisbourg parish records and occupants files suggest that these trips could not have been made by Morin de Fonfay. A document in AN, Section Outre-mer, G3, 2047/2, 3 juill. 1753, confirms the existence of a Jean Maurin of Saint-Domingue who died in 1753 and whose estate was executed by Morin de Fonfay’s brother, Antoine. t.j.a. le g.]
AN, Col., B, 97, f.316; 168, f.232; C11B, 29, f.171; 33, ff.328, 424–25, 475; 34, f.122; 36, ff.28, 36, 145; C11C, 11; 12; D2C, 7, p. 111; 101, p.186; E, 317 (dossier Morin, Jean-Antoine-Charles); Marine, C2, 42, pp.48–63; 43, p.120; 45, p.317; 48, p.155; 55, f.244; C7, 220 (dossier Morin de Fonfay, Jean-Baptiste); CC7, dossier Morin de Fonfay; dossier Pierre-Louis-Joseph Morin; Section Outre-mer, G1, 408; 410; G3, 2045, 21 oct. 1757; 2047/2, 21 juill. 1752; 2055, 15 janv. 1713.
Cite This Article
T. J. A. Le Goff, “MORIN DE FONFAY, JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 22, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/morin_de_fonfay_jean_baptiste_4E.html.
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|Author of Article:||T. J. A. Le Goff|
|Title of Article:||MORIN DE FONFAY, JEAN-BAPTISTE|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1979|
|Year of revision:||1979|
|Access Date:||September 22, 2014|