DESCHAMPS DE BOISHÉBERT, HENRI-LOUIS, esquire, assistant town major of Quebec, captain in the colonial regular troops, commandant of Detroit; b. at Rivière-Ouelle, 7 Feb. 1679; d. at Quebec, 6 June 1736.
The Deschamps family came from Normandy where they had been known as esquires and chevaliers since the 15th century. Henri-Louis, the fourth son of Jean-Baptiste-François and Catherine-Gertrude Macard, joined the colonial regular troops in the late 1690s. The various capacities in which he served until his promotion to the rank of lieutenant in 1715 and the praise that he won from his superiors show that he was a versatile and able soldier. In 1702, Governor Callière sent him to Michilimackinac to report on the activities of Charles Juchereau de Saint-Denys and Pierre Le Sueur, who were suspected of illegal fur-trading. Boishébert discovered that these two men, and several others as well, were openly trafficking with the Indians in defiance of the royal ordinances, but his efforts to intervene were met with scorn and derision. “It is very fine and honourable for me, Monsieur, to be charged with your orders,” he wrote to Callière, “but it is also very vexatious to have only ink and paper as my sole force to carry them out.”
For the greater part of the War of the Spanish Succession Boishébert served outside Canada. In 1705 he helped to guard the harbours of Newfoundland and participated in the capture of three English vessels near Boston. Two years later he sailed aboard a privateer commanded by Alexandre Leneuf de La Vallière de Beaubassin which campaigned fruitlessly on the Atlantic. In 1710 he was chosen to lead the convoy of, reinforcements which Rigaud de Vaudreuil was sending to Acadia to help Governor Auger de Subercase ward off English attacks. In spite of this assistance, Port Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) capitulated to a British force on 2 October and Boishébert returned to Canada. For the remainder of the war he worked on the fortifications of Quebec as assistant to the chief engineer, Dubois* Berthelot de Beaucours. In 1713 he inspected the Labrador coast and drew maps that were sent to the ministry of Marine.
After a voyage to France in 1716, Boishébert took up residence in Quebec where he had been appointed assistant town major. He also concerned himself with the development of his seigneury of La Bouteillerie on which his father had spent some 50,000 livres, but which yielded only an annual revenue of 900 livres. In 1721, the government granted to Boishébert and Philippe Peire jointly the exclusive right to exploit the porpoise fisheries off La Bouteillerie and Kamouraska and an annual subsidy of 400 livres. Unfortunately, the enterprise did not prosper and the government discontinued its support in 1732.
Boishébert was promoted to the rank of captain in 1728 and two years later was appointed commandant of Detroit. At approximately the same time the colonial authorities inaugurated a new policy for that post to eliminate the abuses which had long prevailed there. Henceforth, the commanding officer was strictly forbidden to engage in the fur trade. To cover the cost of salaries, administration, and gifts to the Indians, he was allowed to sell permits to persons wishing to trade at his post. In his report on the state of the colony written in 1730, Payen* de Noyan stated that this system assured the commandant of a revenue of 8,000 to 10,000 livres annually.
By following this new policy, Boishébert, unlike Lamothe Cadillac [Laumet] and Alphonse Tonty, his two most famous predecessors, was able to maintain good relations with the Detroit settlers. He also took a special interest in the development of agriculture and the wheat crop increased to approximately 1,470 bushels in 1735. Finally, he was quite successful in his dealings with the Indians. In 1732 and 1733 several war parties set out from Detroit against the Foxes and the Chickasaws.
Boishébert appears to have left Detroit in 1734. He died suddenly of apoplexy in Quebec on 6 June 1736.
On 10 Dec. 1721, he had married Louise-Geneviève de Ramezay, the daughter of the governor of Montreal, Claude de Ramezay. Judging from the many signatures of Canadian notables that appear on the marriage contract, this must have been an event of considerable social importance. Madame de Boishébert died at the Quebec Hôpital Général on 13 Oct. 1769. Three daughters and two sons had been born of their marriage. One daughter became a nun and the other two married into the leading Canadian families of Saint-Ours Deschaillons and Tarieu de Lanaudière. The elder son, Claude-Louis, died in infancy. The second, Charles Deschamps* de Boishébert et de Raffetot, entered the colonial troops in 1742, at the age of 15, and played a prominent part in the campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War.
AJM, Greffe de Michel Lepallieur de Laferté, 10 juin 1721. AN, Col., B, 27, 29, 33, 35, 38, 39, 41, 42, 59; C11A, 20, 29, 30, 31, 40, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 65; C11G, 3, 5; D2C, 47, 49; F3, 10, 12. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1946–47, 426, 459; 1947–48, 155, 169, 238, 282, 305, 338. Lettres de noblesse (P.-G. Roy), II, 32–58. Michigan Pioneer Coll., XXXIII, XXXIV. P.-G. Roy, Inv. ord. int., I, 194–96, 199. Eccles, Canada under Louis XIV, 245. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie sous le régime français. Guy Frégault, François Bigot, administrateur français (2v., Ottawa, 1948). P.-G. Roy, La famille Des Champs de Boishébert (Lévis, 1906). Benjamin Sulte, “Jean-Baptiste-François Des Champs de La Bouteillerie,” BRH, XII (1906), 112–13.