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DEVAU, Retor, CLAUDE – Volume IV (1771-1800)

d. 14 April 1784 at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade (La Pérade, Que.)


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DU PONT DUVIVIER, FRANÇOIS (usually referred to in documents as Sieur Duvivier), officer in the colonial regular troops and merchant; b. 25 April 1705 at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), son of François Du Pont* Duvivier and Marie Mius d’Entremont de Pobomcoup; d. 28 May 1776.

Following a brief interlude in France after the surrender of Port-Royal to Francis Nicholson* in 1710, the elder François Du Pont Duvivier was sent to the new colony of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) with the first colonizing expedition in 1713. His premature death the following year and the presence in the colonial officer corps of two of his brothers, Louis Du Pont Duchambon and Michel Du Pont* de Renon, hastened the military advancement of his surviving sons. François Du Pont Duvivier, the eldest, became a cadet in 1716, a midshipman at Rochefort, France, in 1718, and returned to Louisbourg as an ensign in 1719. The two others, Joseph Du Pont Duvivier and Michel Du Pont de Gourville, soon joined their brother in the colonial regulars. Despite the death of their father, the family seems to have fared reasonably well; the 1720 census of Louisbourg shows that they employed two servants.

Little is known of Duvivier’s early military career, but he enjoyed the favour of Governor Saint-Ovide [Monbeton*]. In 1730 he was promoted lieutenant and in 1732, the year before his uncle Duchambon became major at Louisbourg, Duvivier was appointed adjutant there. Following Louisbourg practice he was accorded the rank of captain to lend authority to his position on the general staff, but he did not receive his captain’s commission through seniority until 1737.

A member of Île Royale’s most prestigious military family in the early 1730s, Duvivier launched himself in a variety of business pursuits. Although the source of his earliest capital remains obscure, by 1745 he was probably the colony’s wealthiest officer, having a fortune crudely estimated by one contemporary at 200,000 livres. In 1732 Duvivier and his uncle Duchambon, together with André Carrerot*, the king’s storekeeper at Louisbourg, sold a schooner to French merchants. In the same year he began wholesaling when he supplied 40 large barrels (barriques) of imported rum to the fishing company at Port d’Orléans (North Bay Ingonish, Cape Breton Island) in the concession of Louis-Simon Le Poupet* de La Boularderie. He also ventured into the sedentary fishery in 1732 through the lease of fishing space on the Louisbourg harbour belonging to the wealthy merchant-fisherman Nicolas Bottier, dit Berrichon. The fishing industry preoccupied him for some time; in 1736 he exported 73 large barrels of fish oil aboard the king’s ship Rubis to the La Rochelle merchant Joseph-Simon Desherbert de Lapointe.

To diversify his operations and enter the lucrative trade with the West Indies, Duvivier formed a partnership with the experienced West Indian merchant-captain, Louis Jouet. Between 1735 and 1751 Jouet regularly sent his 60-ton Aigle, often alternating command with Jacques Le Roy, to trade at Martinique once or twice a year. In a formal contract signed in 1736 Jouet and Duvivier agreed to purchase a property belonging to Duvivier’s mother near the Louisbourg quay, where they intended to build a frame house and stone storehouse. The cooperation between the two captains extended further. When Duvivier acquired the 120-ton brigantine Reyne du Nord, Jouet commanded it on a voyage to Martinique in 1741, although he reported to port officials there that he himself was the vessel’s owner. The following year Duvivier sold the brig to Jean and Louis Medoux, Bordeaux merchants, for 13,000 livres.

Duvivier worked closely with his brother Michel and entrusted his business affairs to him during his frequent trips to France. Both were shrewd businessmen who knew how to manipulate credit and use the law to protect their investments. Duvivier had charged five per cent interest on credit to La Boularderie’s company at Port d’Orléans, and in 1736 when he was away in France and it appeared the company would go bankrupt, Michel moved to ensure payment of the debt. In response to his initiative, the financial commissary, Sébastien-François-Ange Le Normant de Mézy, dispatched the bailiff of the Conseil Supérieur to seize the company’s moveables. When Duvivier returned he argued that according to the customary law of Paris he should be paid before the other creditors. Le Normant would not issue an order to that effect but required all creditors to appear before him to seek a solution.

In the 1740s Duvivier and Michel enlarged their enterprises. Michel had benefited from the 10,000-livre dowry that Marie-Josephe Gautier, a daughter of Joseph-Nicolas Gautier*, dit Bellair, brought to their marriage in 1737. In 1742 Michel purchased the 75-ton Saint-Charles from another officer, Michel Leneuf de La Vallière, for 4,600 livres. Duvivier bought a larger ship of the same name about that time. Both vessels were sent to Martinique in 1743 loaded with the usual cargoes of wood products and fish. Duvivier also dispatched the 90-ton Succès that he had purchased from drydock in 1743 for 10,000 livres. The Succès reached Martinique early in 1744, followed shortly by another vessel Duvivier had acquired, the 90-ton Magdeleine.

Duvivier clearly displayed business acumen, but just as his military career was furthered by his uncle and by Saint-Ovide, so too his commercial empire was nurtured by official favouritism, especially on the part of two Louisbourg financial commissaries, Le Normant and François Bigot. In 1737 Le Normant, who was said to have lent money to Duvivier, secured approval from France to establish a monopoly of the fresh meat supply for the fortress which Duvivier allegedly controlled through Joseph Dugas. Duvivier then set about buying land and acquired four properties along the Rivière de Miré (Mira River) in 1739. On two of these lots which he had begun to purchase from Saint-Ovide he attempted to raise livestock but a severe winter in 1740–41 wiped out 50 head. Bigot later continued Le Normant’s preferential treatment and, despite a protest from the engineer Étienne Verrier*, permitted Duvivier to charge the crown a rent of 750 livres annually for buildings at Port-Dauphin (Englishtown) that Duvivier’s soldiers had constructed. Bigot also gave Duvivier government contracts. In 1743, when it was feared that the Canadian harvest would be consumed by grasshoppers and the Intendant Gilles Hocquart pleaded with Louisbourg administrators to secure supplies for Quebec from New England, Bigot contracted with-Duvivier to bring fish and foodstuffs Potentially worth 135,000 livres from Boston, where Duvivier had contacts, notably Peter Faneuil, a leading merchant.

Tough, ambitious, and privileged, Duvivier could afford to be heedless of others and to engage in unscrupulous business practices in order to gain advantage in the local market-place. In the early 1730s he infringed on the property of his neighbours, Blaise Cassaignolles and Bernard Decheverry. They took the dispute to court, but Duvivier was able to enlist the support of Le Normant, who issued a direct order that led the Conseil Supérieur to defer judgement. Cassaignolles and Decheverry were forced to carry the case to the king’s council in France to receive satisfaction.

Other local merchants and fishermen were frustrated by Duvivier’s conduct but rendered impotent by his military rank and the protection afforded by Le Normant. In 1738 Cassaignolles and 20 others, including François Milly*, Pierre Martissans, and Michel Daccarrette* (d. 1745), sought recourse through petition to the minister of Marine. Citing specific instances of underhanded manœuvring and unfair advantage, they indicted Duvivier for seeking profit at the expense of the local community in a manner unbecoming to a Christian. Also criticizing Michel and mentioning Jean-Baptiste Lascoret, Duvivier’s clerk, they evoked a picture of their own enterprises ruined by illicit competition with the result that “one sees on the beaches only [these] two officers who, with sword at side, buy up the cod and deliver it to the captains with whom they do business and make them take the cod in payment at whatever price they judge appropriate.” The minister’s reaction to this rare instance of collective protest is unknown, but in 1739 Le Normant was transferred amid a series of revelations and Saint-Ovide resigned the governorship. The new governor, Isaac-Louis de Forant*, received official instructions to reform the military of Île Royale.

Duvivier’s commercial activity and Acadian family connections gave him a familiarity with the Atlantic region which heightened his military usefulness to France. In 1740 Île Royale’s new commandant, Jean-Baptiste-Louis Le Prévost* Duquesnel, worked with Duvivier to revise plans for the recovery of Acadia should a rupture with Great Britain occur. In May 1744, when Duquesnel received word that France had declared war on Britain, he appointed Duvivier to lead an expedition of some 350 men against the British fishing station at Canso. There was no resistance from the defenders and at dawn on 24 May their commander, Patrick Heron*, surrendered. This attack had been the first formal venture into warfare for Duvivier and the Louisbourg garrison and it brought booty to the French victors.

The war brought other profits. While Duvivier was at Canso, Jean-Baptiste Lannelongue* acted on his behalf. On 7 June 1744 Lannelongue rented one of Duvivier’s houses to Bigot for the housing of British prisoners. Two weeks previously Lannelongue had supplied the administration with peas and flour amounting to nearly 56,000 livres, most probably for Duvivier’s account. Duvivier’s schooner Succès, his flagship at Canso, was leased to the administration by Lannelongue for 6,300 livres and then outfitted at a cost of 33,000 livres before it was placed in the command of privateer Pierre Morpain*. In June 1744 Duvivier also invested substantially in two privateers with Michel, Duquesnel, Bigot, and Joannis-Galand d’Olabaratz. Three years later he was paid over 5,000 livres by Bigot in compensation for livestock from his Miré habitation consumed during the war.

Formal business was put aside temporarily when the easy victory at Canso persuaded Duquesne to attempt the capture of Annapolis Royal. The missionary Jean-Louis Le Loutre agreed to lead 300 Nova Scotia Micmacs against the British fort in mid July on the understanding that they would be joined shortly by a detachment of colonial regular troops under Duvivier and a small naval squadron. When the warships failed to arrive the Micmacs withdrew in disgust. Nothing daunted, on 29 July Duquesnel dispatched Duvivier to Nova Scotia with 50 colonial regulars, an undetermined number of Île Royale Micmacs, and the expectation that the warships would soon appear.

Having landed at Baie-Verte (N.B.) on 8 August, Duvivier cast himself as the Acadian liberator back among his own, but despite strong emotional appeals along the route to Annapolis Royal, he succeeded in detaching no more than a dozen Acadians from the strict neutrality which by this time had become the practical expedient of government and governed in Nova Scotia. Keenly disappointed, he retaliated with threats which served only to alienate the Acadian community. He fared little better with the Indians; after the miserable fiasco of July, only 230 Micmacs and Malecites rallied to his side on 7 September, the day he invested the British fort.

The siege lasted a full four weeks. Despite decided tactical and psychological advantages, the French effort was compromised from the start by Duvivier’s singular lack of offensive spirit. Aided not a little by the ailing Duquesnel’s ambiguous, even contradictory, communications from Louisbourg (instructing him to attack if a favourable occasion presented itself, but not to take unnecessary risks), Duvivier adamantly refused to seize the opportunity afforded by the decrepit state of the British fort and the low morale of its garrison. Jean-Baptiste de Gay* Desenclaves, a priest to the Acadians, observed Duvivier and pronounced contemptuously that the only glory he gained from this venture “was being more skilful in trade than in the art of war,” noting further that “in his camp he spoke only of hogsheads of molasses and brandy.”

The garrison at Annapolis Royal, which consisted of no more than 75 able-bodied soldiers, was commanded by Lieutenant Governor Paul Mascarene*. Shrewd, practical, and courageous, Mascarene inspired an effective and confident defence. His efforts were considerably assisted by the arrival on 26 September of two vessels bringing reinforcements and supplies from Boston. Although the morale of his detachment was shaken, Duvivier refused to withdraw. The fate of the French effort, however, was sealed abruptly on 2 October with the arrival from Louisbourg of Michel de Gannes* de Falaise bearing the news that the naval squadron had not sailed and the order to withdraw to winter quarters at Minas. Duvivier feigned disgust at the prospect of retreat, “prodded in the arse,” at a time when an assault on the British fort would have been warranted, but Duquesnel’s order was in reality fortunate for him because it enabled him to divert attention from his own indecisiveness.

With the Acadians refusing even to supply foodstuffs for the detachment, the French declined to winter at Minas and withdrew precipitately from Nova Scotia on 5 October: “It is flight,” Duvivier wrote, “not retreat.” When he arrived back in Louisbourg on 23 October, Duvivier found in command not Duquesnel, who had died on 9 October, but his own uncle Duchambon. Thinking that he might be blamed for not having upheld “the honour of the king’s arms” before Annapolis, Duvivier immediately requested a council of war to hear his version of events. When de Gannes arrived the next day he found the entire town and garrison against him, for Duvivier had led them to believe that Annapolis could have been taken had the siege been continued.

Duvivier carried the colony’s dispatches to Versailles in late November. There is no doubt he welcomed the opportunity to relate the story of the Acadian expedition to the minister of Marine himself. The exercise proved to be a fruitful one, for in consideration “above all of the Canso expedition and that in Acadia” he was received into the order of Saint-Louis on 17 May 1745 at Brest, where he was preparing to join Antoine-Alexis Perier de Salvert’s Louisbourg relief squadron. Having learned at sea of the fall of the fortress to William Pepperrell*’s troops, the expedition returned to port. His plans to return to his post thwarted, Duvivier spent the next few years pressing claims for compensation for supplies he claimed were furnished for use at Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and others which were consumed at his Miré properties during the siege.

Duvivier retired from the service rather abruptly in 1747 but rejoined as half-pay captain in 1749 when Île Royale was reoccupied by the French. He attempted to give status to his wealth by vigorously soliciting the governorship of the colony. Although his career continued to be promoted by Bigot and Le Normant, who were now intendants at Quebec and Rochefort, Duvivier’s notoriety had spread and there was opposition to his bid for power. At Quebec the governor general, La Jonquière [Taffanel*], reacted with righteous scorn to Duvivier’s rash pretension to a governorship: “They will never convince me that M. Duvivier should be governor of Île Royale . . . to speak frankly, Duvivier would do much better to enjoy in France his profits from trade than to aspire to positions which he does not merit, especially to the prejudice of a number of deserving officers in your government who have served the king well, [while] M. Duvivier was busy enriching himself.” The position, as it turned out, was already promised to Charles Des Herbiers * de La Ralière, but through Le Normant’s solicitation Duvivier was appointed king’s lieutenant and commandant of Île Saint-Jean in 1750.

Duvivier had been too successful, too accustomed to having his own way, to accept this consolation prize. He remained in Paris, and on several occasions he was received by the minister of Marine, Rouillé, at Versailles. But he was also observed making clandestine visits to the English commissioners who were in France negotiating the settlement of the Acadian boundary. Rouillé’s suspicions were aroused, and he ordered an investigation by the Paris lieutenant-general of police late in 1750. Subsequently he issued a stern rebuke to Duvivier and advised his erstwhile patron, Le Normant, that the captain had fallen short of his high opinion of him. Duvivier’s commission as commandant was revoked in May of the following year, and, pleading ill health, he retired from the service in 1753 with a pension of 1,200 livres.

In 1752 Duvivier was living on his estate at Le Vivier, near Chalais in the commune of Sérignac (dept of Charente), and owned the seigneury of Médillac nearby. After the investigation of his conduct and his subsequent resignation, he disappears mysteriously from public view. Although he had acquired great wealth in North America, at his death his estate was valued at only 25,000 livres; it was inherited by his sister-in-law, the widow of Michel.

T. A. Crowley and Bernard Pothier

[What became of Francois Du Pont Duvivier in the last 20 years of his life is not known. His personal dossier (AN, Col., E, 169) ends with his retirement from the service in 1753, and his absence from official records after that date is seemingly complete. Although his dossier indicates that he received a pension from the Invalides in 1753, no record of it is to be found in AN, Col., D2D, 13 (Pensions et gratifications, 1763–87); D2D, 14 (Pensions et gratifications, états des colonies, 1752–88); D2D, 15 (Pensions et gratifications, états des ports, 1770–85). It is worth noting, however, that his brother Michel and several cousins appear in these records. Duvivier is known to have been residing at his château in 1752 (AN, Section Outre-mer, G3, 2041/1, 4 nov. 1752), but in 1763, when his niece’s child was baptized at Sérignac, he was not among those who signed the baptismal act (AD Charente (Angoulême), État civil, Sérignac, 10 déc. 1763). Nor does he appear in the lists of persons exempt from the taille in the 1760s and 1770s (AD, Charente, 7C, 282), though as a noble he would have been entitled to such exemption. It is unlikely, then, that he was living on his estate after the 1750s. Moreover, there is no record of his death in the parish registers of Sérignac or the nearby communes of Chalais, Yvier, or Monboyer; the only mention of it found is in a list of collateral inheritances paid (AD, Charente, 11C, 1115, “Table alphabétique des successions collatéralles payées”). One possibility that the silence surrounding him suggests is that he ended his days in prison; if he did, however, it was not in the Bastille since he is not in the lists published by Frantz Funck-Brentano: Les lettres de cachet à Paris, étude suivie dune liste des prisonniers de la Bastille (1659–1789) (Paris, 1903). We are indebted to Raymonde Litalien of the PAC for her research in the Archives nationales and to T. J. A. Le Goff for examining local records and in particular for establishing Duvivier’s date of death. We are also grateful to Christopher Moore for making available evidence concerning Duvivier’s commercial connections with New England.

It should be noted that secondary sources, published archival documents, and printed calendars to archival material frequently fail to distinguish between, and in some instances confuse, the careers of François Du Pont Duvivier and his brother Joseph. ​ t.a.c. and b.p.]

AD, Charente (Angoulême), État civil, Sérignac, 1761, 1763; Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle), B, 275, ff.69, 72, 78v; B, 6113. AN, Col., A, 2, ff.89–94; B, 41, ff.592–96v; 86, f.369; 92, ff.219v, 253, 461; C8A, 17, 20, 21; C11A, 95, f.51; 121, f.192; C11B, 20, f.304; 25, f.83v; 26, f.134; 29, ff.58v–59, 106–9v; C11C, 12, f.138; E, 169 (dossier Duvivier); F1A, 35, f.54; 95, f.51; Section Outre-mer, G2, 183, f.195; 186, f.14, p.135; 187, ff.126–27, p.43; 188, ff.337–40; G3, 2041/1, 18 nov. 1739, 27 sept. 1751, 4 nov. 1752; 2041/2, 8 nov. 1739; 2046/1, 26 juill. 1737; 2046/2, 18 juill. 1742. Archives maritimes, Port de Rochefort (France), 1E, 124, f.296. PANS, RG 1, 26 (mfm. at PAC). Knox, Hist. journal (Doughty), III, 346. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 9, 18, 40. Æ. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 141–42, 174–75, 195. Crowley, “Government and interests,” 126–34, 136–7, 223–24. Frégault, François Bigot. McLennan, Louisbourg. Rawlyk, Yankees at Louisbourg. Ægidius Fauteux, “Les Du Pont de l’Acadie,” BRH, XLVI (1940), 225–37, 257–71. H. A. Innis, “Cape Breton and the French régime,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXIX (1935), sect.ii, 80–81. R. J. Morgan and T. D. MacLean, “Social structure and life in Louisbourg,” Canada, an Hist. Magazine (Toronto), I (June 1974), 60–77.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

T. A. Crowley and Bernard Pothier, “DU PONT DUVIVIER, FRANÇOIS (1705-76),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 14, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/du_pont_duvivier_francois_1705_76_4E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/du_pont_duvivier_francois_1705_76_4E.html
Author of Article:   T. A. Crowley and Bernard Pothier
Title of Article:   DU PONT DUVIVIER, FRANÇOIS (1705-76)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 14, 2024