DUPLEIX SILVAIN (also Sylvain), JEAN-BAPTISTE, merchant and colonial official; b. 1721 at La Baleine (Baleine Cove, N.S.), fifth son of Claude Duplaix (Duplex Silvain) and Catherine de Gonillon; m. 24 Feb. 1753 Geneviève Benoist at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and they had 14 children; d. in or after 1796 in France.
Claude Duplaix, a merchant and ship captain, left his native Quebec for Plaisance (Placentia, Nfld) in 1710. When Newfoundland and Acadia were awarded to Great Britain in 1713, he went to Île Royale, where he died about 1721. Jean-Baptiste Dupleix Silvain was raised by his stepfather (and uncle), Michel Daccarrette*, and worked in Daccarrette’s business from 1737 until the latter’s death in action during the siege of Louisbourg in 1745.
Throughout the siege Dupleix Silvain served bravely in the town militia (as he was to do again in 1758) and after the fall of the fortress was deported to La Rochelle. There, in 1747, he formed a business association, ratified at Louisbourg in October 1749, with Philippe Leneuf de Beaubassin and Blaise Lagoanere. All three were among the heirs of Michel Daccarrette and the aim of the association was in part to acquire his property and manage his concerns. By a definitive arrangement of 1754 the partners took over his merchandise, effects, and ships; the buildings and land were left to the other heirs, except for the fishing habitation at La Baleine, which the partners retained for one more year. At the end of three years the real property was to be put back into a common fund. The partners had made a previous arrangement with Jeanne de Picot, Léon Brethous’s widow, the principal creditor of the Daccarrette estate, which would have allowed them to press further claims against the estate, but they seem never to have exercised this right.
While securing their interest in the Daccarrette estate the partners set up a fishing and shipping concern and traded supplies to France, Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola), and Quebec. In the early 1750s with Antoine Rodrigue, they managed, badly it seems, the contract to supply meat for the Louisbourg fortress, eventually falling out with Rodrigue over the sharing of expenses. In 1753 they bid unsuccessfully to work on the Louisbourg fortifications. By the mid 1750s the business appears to have been directed by Dupleix Silvain and Leneuf de Beaubassin; Lagoanere had died before 1754 and had been replaced by his children, none of whom were prominent in the firm.
Despite its initial difficulties, the company prospered, judging from what the partners claimed to have abandoned when Louisbourg fell in 1758: a share in the Daccarrette property in and near the town and three other fishing habitations they had acquired at Rochefort Point and La Baleine. In 1753, when he married Geneviève Benoist, Antoine Rodrigue’s niece, Dupleix Silvain had estimated his share in the company to be worth over 20,000 livres; in 1758 he valued it at 71,000 of a total of 215,000 livres. The company was said to have earned 150,000 livres during its existence and in January 1757 Leneuf de Beaubassin claimed that its fishing operations were the basis of the colony’s commerce.
The partners had, however, experienced difficulties before 1758. They had extended credit to fishing expeditions which had become insolvent and they had had trouble with their French creditors. Between 1755 and 1758 they had lost at least seven ships as well as money invested in a share of a privateer, cargoes shipped in other vessels, and eight fishing shallops at La Petite Brador (Little Bras d’Or, N.S.). On their return to France after the capitulation in 1758, the partners (Dupleix Silvain, Leneuf de Beaubassin, and the Lagoanere heirs) assumed equal responsibility for their debts and agreed to pay the creditors 50 per cent, or 43,000 livres. To discharge his share, Dupleix Silvain in 1763 left for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, where he set up a fishing enterprise. By 1778 he had recouped some of his fortune; he had three fishing habitations, five schooners, and two shallops, and he employed 80 to 100 men each year. In 1769 he had returned briefly to France to try to make a new arrangement with his creditors because his partners had not discharged their share of the debts and had died insolvent.
Deported from Saint-Pierre in 1778, in 1783 Dupleix Silvain returned to the islands from France with a pension of 150 livres and a position as judge of the jurisdiction and lieutenant (by commission) of the admiralty court. His affairs seem to have been in good order, despite further claims advanced by creditors from his Louisbourg days. He earned 6,000 livres a year from his position and may for a time have been doing business under his children’s names. By 1787 he had paid 10,500 livres of the former company’s debts.
Between 1789 and the British capture of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in 1793, Dupleix Silvain was reluctantly entangled in the factionalism and the challenges to the military authorities by some of the merchants which passed for revolutionary activity on the islands. He was taken prisoner by the British for the fourth time in 1793 and held captive for 28 months. He surfaced again in Saint-Malo in February 1796 and was awarded a small pension. His eldest son is known to have been in business at Bayonne in 1802.
AN, Col., B, 110, f.3; 117, f.192v; 174, f.271v; 181, ff.360v, 403; 183, f.156; C12, 2, f.147; 3, f.81; 8, ff.9, 42; 14, f.49; 16, ff.16, 40; 17, ff.18–18v, 20, 30; E, 159 (dossier Dupleix Silvain); 356 (dossier Rodrigue); Section Outre-mer, G1, 414; 415; 467, pièces 21, 24, 28–30; G3, 479 (extrait du registre des baptêmes, mariages et sepultures de l’église de la Balleine); 2042, 19 déc. 1753; 2044, 16 déc. 1755; 2047/1, 16 oct. 1749; 2047/2, 16 déc. 1752, 24 févr. 1753. J.-Y. Ribault, Les îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon des origines à 1814 (Saint-Pierre, 1962), 95, 98–109; “La pêche et le commerce de la morue aux îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793,” Congrès national des soc. savantes, Section d’hist. moderne et contemporaine, Actes du quatre-vingt-onzième congrès, Rennes, 1966 (3v., Paris, 1969), I, 251–92; “La population des îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793,” Revue française d’hist. d’outre-mer (Paris), LIII (1966), 45.