BERMEN DE LA MARTINIÈRE, CLAUDE DE, esquire, seigneurial judge, seigneur, councillor in the Conseil Souverain and first councillor of the Conseil Supérieur, lieutenant general of the provost court of Quebec, acting attorney general of the Conseil Souverain from December 1681 to September 1682, and subdelegate of the intendant, Michel Bégon*, in 1714; b. 30 May 1636 at La Ferté-Vidame (department of Eure-et-Loir); d. 14 April 1719 at Quebec.
The son of Louis Bermen de La Martinière, a lawyer in the parlement of Paris, and Françoise Juchereau, La Martinière came to Canada in 1662 at the invitation of his relative, Nicolas Juchereau* de Saint-Denis. On 7 July 1664 he married Anne Després, the widow of Jean de Lauson* (the younger), the former grand seneschal of New France. La Martinière thus became the owner of the vast seigneury of Lauson, which was cleared and settled over the next 20 years, largely as a result of his efforts.
Like his father, La Martinière chose a legal career. Between 1662 and 1678 he served as the seigneurial judge of Beauport, Beaupré, Notre-Dame-des-Anges, and Île d’Orléans. In 1678 he resigned these positions to accept an appointment on the Conscil Souverain. There he soon displayed his aggressive temperament. In 1680 he investigated François-Marie Perrot*’s illegal fur-trading activities and issued such a scathing indictment of them that Governor Frontenac [Buade*] sought to have the inquiry discontinued. La Martinière, however, did not back down. With the support of the Conseil Souverain he completed his inquiry the following year.
La Martinière’s career on the Conseil Souverain was interrupted in 1684 when he led a supply convoy to Port Nelson (Fort Bourbon) on Hudson Bay, where the Compagnie du Nord had established a post in 1682. When he arrived there he discovered that the post was in English hands and he was obliged to retreat. On the way back to Canada in 1685 the expedition captured the English vessel Perpetuana Merchant – the only achievement of the venture.
Upon his return to Quebec La Martinière was unjustly criticized by Governor Brisay de Denonville for lack of aggressive action against the English. He was also sharply reprimanded by Seignelay [Colbert] for having been absent from the Conseil Souverain and in the employ of a commercial company; he was told to choose between the two positions. Although his salary of 1,200 livres as commander for the Compagnie du Nord far outweighed his earnings as councillor, La Martinière, who had suffered through an agonizing winter on Hudson Bay, chose to remain on the Conseil Souverain.
La Martinière’s career as councillor was interrupted a second time in 1689. The death of his wife in March of that year had placed his title to the seigneury of Lauson in jeopardy, and he sailed to France, where he remained until the summer of 1691 defending his possessions. Litigation dragged on until 1699 when La Martinière was finally obliged to surrender his title to Thomas Bertrand, a Paris merchant, who had acquired the seigneury in payment of debts owed by a son of Anne Després, Charles-Joseph de Lauson. This reduced La Martinière’s properties to the small seigneury of La Martinière or Beauchamp, adjoining Lauson, which had been granted to him in 1692.
On his return to the colony, La Martinière resumed his seat on the Conseil Souverain. In 1694 this body clashed once more with Frontenac, and La Martinière’s report of the episode to Louis Phélypeaux, the minister of Marine, caused the authorities to censure the governor for his conduct. On 5 May 1700 La Martinière was appointed keeper of the seal of the Conseil Souverain, and on 1 June 1703 lieutenant general of the provost court of Quebec. He was promoted to the position of first councillor of the Conseil Supérieur on 5 May 1710, despite some differences with the intendant, Jacques Raudot, and kept this position until his death.
On 9 April 1697 La Martinière’s second marriage, to Marie-Anne Cailleteau, took place at Quebec. This union, which produced five children (two died in childhood), increased La Martinière’s financial burden just when the loss of Lauson had deprived him of his major source of income. Some relief came in 1712 in the form of an annual pension of 200 livres, but this was far from sufficient. Consequently, La Martinière applied for a fur-trading licence (congé), which he sold to finance his daughter’s education as a nun, and wrote his relative, the Duc de Saint-Simon, the famous author of memoirs, asking him to provide for his two sons.
In 1714 La Martinière, who on 27 April was appointed subdelegate of the intendant, became involved in the most controversial episode of his career. In the summer of that year, while Bégon was away in Montreal, La Martinière charged that the intendant had formed a grain monopoly that was causing a near famine in the colony and he sought to break it by means of police regulations. The Conseil Supérieur, acting immediately on this report, instructed the attorney general to draw up relief measures. When Bégon returned to Quebec he furiously claimed that this action constituted a direct challenge to his authority. Although the council was forced to accept the intendant’s rebuke, bread riots subsequently occurred outside Quebec, giving some support to La Martinière’s allegations. The intendant then accused La Martinière of having instigated these riots, but the latter successfully answered the charges.
La Martinière died on 14 April 1719 and the following day he was buried in the church of Notre-Dame at Quebec. He was survived by his third wife, Marie Molin, whom he had married on 4 Aug. 1710; Anne Cailleteau had died on 30 Nov. 1708. One daughter, Jeanne-Françoise, a nun, and two sons, Claude-Antoine*, who went on to a distinguished military career in Canada, and Jean-Baptiste, who later left Quebec to reside in the Antilles, also survived him.
AN, Col., B, 9, ff.45, 110; C11A, 6, ff.406–7; 7, ff.73, 211. “Les congés de traite accordés en 1717,” BRH, XXIX (1923), 271. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39, 1939–40, 1942–43, 1946–47, 1948–49. Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), I, 231, 265–67. Documents relating to Hudson Bay (Tyrrell). Jug. et délib., I, II, III, IV, VI. “Lettres de Claude Bermen de La Martinière,” BRH, XXXVIII (1932), 18–39. A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., III, IV, VII, XVIII, XIX. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, IV, 59. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” 176. Cahall, Sovereign Council of New France, 102, 107–11, 133–38. J. Delalande, Le Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France (Québec, 1927). Eccles, Frontenac, 146f., 302–4. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie sous le régime français. J.-E. Roy, Claude de Bermen, Sieur de La Martinière, 1639–1719 (Lévis 1891) [a good, portion of this work, which is a brief biography, contains important documents]. E. H. Borins, “La Compagnie du Nord, 1682–1700,” unpublished M.A. thesis, McGill University, 1968, 60–62, 80–87. P.-G. Roy, “Une supplique de M. de Bermen de La Martinière,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 382–84 [contains an excerpt from a letter written by La Martinière to the Duc de Saint-Simon].