GOGUET, DENIS, merchant-trader, receiver of the admiralty court of Quebec, and treasurer of France; b. 1704 at La Flotte, Île de Ré, France, son of Denis Goguet, merchant, and Marguerite-Thérèse-Sibylle – ; m. 24 Nov. 1738 at Quebec Louise-Élisabeth, daughter of Jean-Joseph Feré Duburon, lieutenant in the colonial regular troops, and Jeanne Durand; d. 30 Jan. 1778 at La Rochelle, France.
Denis Goguet first came to Canada in 1731 and 1732 as the agent of Simon-Pierre Thiollière, a La Rochelle trader, and probably remained in the colony only during the summer months. He may not have returned to Canada on Thiollière’s behalf the next year, for in October 1733 the latter’s procurator at Quebec was Jean Taché*, another young Rochelais. Whatever Goguet’s activities may have been that year, in the spring of 1734 he was at Quebec as supercargo aboard the Comte de Toulouse, bearing bills of lading, instructions, and the power of attorney for Pascaud Frères, the most important La Rochelle firm trading to Canada [see Antoine Pascaud*]. Goguet had forged a link that would support a brilliant career.
Goguet was, as a document of 1734 described him, a marchand forain, a metropolitan trader spending each summer in the colony, sometimes a winter as well, lodging with one settled trader one year and another the next. But as the Pascauds’ trade with Canada was large and regular, Goguet spent more winters at Quebec than many forains and stayed for so many years as the Pascauds’ factor that he became at least a semi-permanent resident of Quebec’s Lower Town business community. A document of 1737 describes him as a “trader of Quebec,” but another of the following year calls him a “trader ordinarily resident in the town of La Rochelle presently in this town of Quebec.” Goguet’s link with Canada was strengthened by his marriage to a Canadian in 1738. The decade that followed saw many signs of growing ties with the community: the renting of a pew in the cathedral church, the purchase of a house (the title later proved invalid), and the birth of eight children in Canada, three of them surviving infancy.
In 1741 the Pascauds received a monopoly of the cod fishery and the seal and walrus hunt in the Îles de la Madeleine. It became one of Goguet’s responsibilities to administer the seal and walrus “fishery,” as it was called. A contract dated 1742 outlines the method of exploitation. A small ship was sent out from Quebec from September to September with captain, master of the hunt, ship’s carpenter, barrel maker, five sailors, and a “boy.” All except the boy, who was given a salary of 120 livres, were paid by granting them one-third of the product of the hunt, Goguet having the right of first refusal for the purchase of their part. In 1744 the Pascauds, who had always been prominent in Canadian trade, received the contract to supply the king’s warehouse at Quebec and kept it for several years. The prestige of the factor was invariably a consequence of his metropolitan connections, and the Pascauds’ success contributed to making the 1740s the high point of Goguet’s Canadian career. Commerce remained the raison d’être of his residence in Canada, but he did not refuse the prestige of office, being appointed receiver of the admiralty court in Canada on 23 April 1743.
Goguet’s return to France in 1747 either ended his residence in Canada or was the preparation for a definitive departure. Certainly in 1750 he was once again a “trader of La Rochelle,” with his own Quebec agent, apparently Jacques Perrault. Goguet is reputed to have become the leading recipient of Canadian furs, numbering the Intendant Bigot among his clients. In 1750 also, Goguet became a treasurer of France, something that seems astonishing for a colonial factor so recently returned to the metropolis. On 16 June 1756 he was elected syndic of the La Rochelle merchants and in 1769 purchased the office of king’s secretary, a sinecure which bestowed many privileges and conferred hereditary nobility. He also provided himself with the landed estate necessary to his high station, becoming the seigneur of La Sauzaie.
In Denis Goguet we are confronted with a great ambition. His early career closely parallels that of Antoine Pascaud, the father of Goguet’s own associates, who had similarly made his fortune in Canada, married a Canadian, and transferred his business to La Rochelle. However, the Pascauds’ climb to distinguished office and nobility required two generations. The difference is perhaps not so much a measure of Goguet’s greater ability or different inclinations as an indication that by the 1750s the line of demarcation between the nobility and the upper bourgeoisie was beginning to wear thin.
AD, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle), État civil, Saint-Jean de La Rochelle, 21 janv. 1778. ANQ-Q, Greffe de Claude Barolet, 22 oct. 1731, 15 oct. 1734, 18 août 1738, 2 sept. 1742, 18 août 1751; Greffe de Nicolas Boisseau, 15 avril, 30 oct. 1741, 30 oct. 1743; Greffe de Jean de Latour, 18 nov. 1738, 6 oct. 1740; Greffe de Claude Louet, 21 mars, ler oct. 1765; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 26 juin 1746, 11 oct. 1747, 4 oct. 1753, 8 nov. 1758, 7 oct. 1761, ler sept. 1762; NF 25, 27, no. 1008. PAC, MG 24, L3; Rapport, 1904; 1905, I. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, III, 61, 233; IV, 226; V, 144, 161, 195; Inv. ord. int., II, 262; III, 18, 39, 46, 52, 66, 85. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, IV, 317. Frégault, François Bigot, II, 84, 360. Émile Garnault, Le commerce rochelais au XVIIIe siècle, d’après les documents composant les anciennes archives de la chambre de Commerce de La Rochelle (5v., La Rochelle et Paris, 1887–1900), I, 87. Robert Henri, “Les trafics coloniaux du port de La Rochelle au XVIIIe siècle,” Soc. des antiquaires de l’Ouest, Mémoires (Angoulême, France), 4e sér., 4 (1960), 23, 29, 35, 186, 190–91.