CARDENEAU, BERNARD, merchant; b. probably 1723; d. after 1764.
Bernard Cardeneau first appears in the history of New France in 1751: on 24 November he married at Sainte-Foy Marie-Anne Guérin, widow of Nicolas Jacquin, dit Philibert. His marriage contract, dated the month before, indicates that Cardeneau was 28 years old and that he had “formerly [been] provisions clerk on his majesty’s ships” and that he possessed 25,000 livres in merchandise and currency. Cardeneau was active in commerce, and probably was among those merchants who dealt in goods and services supplied to the government of the colony [see Pierre Claverie]. His signature appears on contracts that were presented in the affaire du Canada after the conquest [see François Bigot*], but little is known of his business. Cardeneau is significant, however, because of several memoirs he wrote after the loss of New France concerning the state of paper money in Canada and the problems associated with its liquidation.
In 1763, the minister of Marine, the Duc de Choiseul, had reversed the French government’s policy of suspending payments on the paper money of New France. Reinforced by the loss of Canada, this policy had been undermining the credit of the French national treasury and leading to increased attacks on the administration of the government. Choiseul insisted on the need to restore the claims of colonial creditors like Cardeneau, so as to draw criticism away from the government and redirect it towards the malversations of the colonial officials who had returned from Canada after 1760. Choiseul now assured holders of colonial paper that interest of five per cent per annum would be added to the unpaid principal of government bills of exchange not yet redeemed, and replaced the old commission established in 1758 to examine the explosion of paper currency in New France with a special judicial commission to investigate and try those associated with the expenditure of funds in Canada during the recent hostilities.
The first of Cardeneau’s reports is dated 30 April 1763, but probably was written the year before. It outlines concisely the different kinds of paper money in Canada, explains their different rates of depreciation, and justifies their redemption. Cardeneau clearly agreed with Choiseul’s new policy of favouring colonial creditors. He claimed to have 20,000 livres’ worth of ordinances and certificates, but implied that he had a much greater amount in bills of exchange. Towards the end of the year another memoir, unsigned, appeared whose author has been identified as Cardeneau; it presents a scheme to incite rebellion in Canada under cover of ascertaining the amount of Canadian paper still remaining in the colony. The author notes that an estimated three-quarters of the currency notes in circulation in Canada before the conquest still remained in the hands of habitants, and suggests that moving among the populace under pretext of discovering the amount would be a way of sounding out Canadian attitudes towards France. The details of the proposal concerned only the district of Montreal, and the plan may have been a ruse by the author to obtain government support to carry on his own affairs in Canada.
In the spring of 1764, after Canada had been ceded to Britain, another memoir appeared, also thought to have been written by Cardeneau, criticizing the plans instituted in France to liquidate the Canadian paper. In particular the author objected to the proposed appointment of Alexandre-Robert de Saint-Hilaire* de La Rochette, the last agent of the treasurers-general of the Marine in Canada, as agent in Paris to receive and arrange the declarations and claims of holders of paper money. The objections of Cardeneau notwithstanding, La Rochette obtained the appointment and by 1769 reported that he had redeemed 90 millions of Canadian paper, one half in specie and the other half in 4 per cent government bonds. Cardeneau, a frustrated colonial creditor whose proposals bore no fruit, disappeared from view as silently as he had arrived.
Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), II, 946–50, 952–54, 956, 960, 962–64, 972–76. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 1155–57. P.-G. Roy, lnv. ins. Prév. Québec, II, 54. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Frégault, François Bigot, I, 382. P.-G. Roy, “L’histoire vraie du Chien d’Or,” Cahiers des Dix, X (1945), 132.