GOTTEVILLE DE BELILE, ROBERT-DAVID, lieutenant-commander, captain of a company of colonial regular troops, commandant of the Compagnie de l’Île Saint-Jean, knight of the order of Saint-Louis; fl. 1696–1724.
Gotteville de Belile joined the navy in 1696, and was commissioned sub-lieutenant in 1705. In June 1709 he was with the forces that arrived in Placentia (Plaisance) to help Governor Pastour de Costebelle defend it and the recently captured St John’s against any English attack. Costebelle described him as a “capable officer . . . devoted to the service.”
Gotteville was made captain of a fire-ship in 1712; he was promoted lieutenant-commander in 1719. Shortly after he was named captain of a company of colonial regular troops and commandant of the Compagnie de l’Île Saint-Jean. Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Miscou, and adjacent isles had been granted to the Comte de Saint-Pierre in August 1719, on condition that he colonize them. Gotteville arrived in Louisbourg on 23 Aug. 1720 on his way to Île Saint-Jean and was joined by Louis Denys* de La Ronde. La Ronde and the engineer Gédéon de Catalogne had been assigned to help in establishing the settlement. Two of the company’s ships, carrying 300 colonists, had already gone to Île Saint-Jean. The company’s headquarters were established at Port La Joie (near present-day Charlottetown) and the colonists settled there and at Havre Saint-Pierre (St Peters Harbour) and Tranche-montagne (South Lake) on the north coast.
Gotteville de Belile was soon faced with the problem of defending the company’s fisheries. In July 1721, according to Saint-Ovide [Monbeton*], the governor of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), Gotteville had armed a small boat and a shallop. Gotteville maintained that fishermen from Île Royale were fishing for cod in waters granted to the Comte de Saint-Pierre and were depriving the inhabitants of Havre Saint-Pierre and Tranche-montagne of their livelihood. Fishing boats belonging to two Île Royale fishermen were seized – an action which had important legal repercussions. The fishermen took their case to the admiralty officers at Louisbourg, who decided in their favour and ordered Gotteville to pay damages and costs. When the latter appealed to the Conseil Supérieur of Louisbourg the judgement was upheld. The case then came to the attention of the king’s council which, by a decree of 22 March 1722, reversed the decision, and granted the Comte de Saint-Pierre exclusive fishing rights in the waters enclosed by the islands and within a league of their shores. The decree also removed all litigation arising from these fishing rights from the jurisdiction of the admiralty at Louisbourg and ruled that all such cases would be heard by the financial commissary of Louisbourg, Jacques-Ange Le Normant* de Mézy.
Gotteville de Belile left the island in 1722 because of poor health, and Dubois* Berthelot de Beaucours, an officer of the Louisbourg garrison, succeeded him as commandant for a two-year term. Gotteville retired with a pension of 500 livres and was granted a gratuity of 300 livres on 3 April 1724.
Archives de la Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle), Amirauté de Louisbourg, B, 265, ff.16–18. AN, Col., B, 44, 45; C11B, 5–7; C11C, 6; C11G, 12, ff.26–27v; Marine, C1, 161; Section Outre-Mer, G1, 411, ff.1v, 2, 9, 12. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis. Harvey, French régime in P.E.I. McLennan, Louisbourg.