GOUTIN (sometimes written Degoutin, Degoutins, Desgoutins, but he signed De Goutin), MATHIEU DE, king’s counsellor, lieutenant general for justice in Acadia, king’s writer in Acadia and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island); b. in France, probably in the 1660s; d. in Île Royale 25 Dec. 1714.
Our knowledge of de Goutin previous to his coming to Acadia is meagre. He himself refers to having participated in five campaigns, probably as a commissariat clerk, with the Régiment de la Couronne. He secured his appointment to Acadia through the influence of the Marquis de Chevry, a director of the Compagnie de la Pêche Sédentaire de l’Acadie, whose father he had previously served as secretary.
De Goutin came to Acadia in 1688, and soon married, in the words of Governor Des Friches de Meneval, “foolishly, a peasant’s daughter,” Jeanne Tibaudeau, the daughter of Pierre Tibaudeau and Jeanne Terriot. By her he had the following children: François-Marie*, Abraham (or Alexandre), Anne, Mathieu, Marguerite, Jacques, Marie-Joseph, Antoine, Joseph, Jeanne, Magdelaine, and Louise.
Upon his arrival at Port-Royal, de Goutin found himself the busiest official of the colony. As lieutenant general he heard all civil and criminal suits, and those pertaining as well to public order, navigation and trade. As king’s writer he was the subdelegate of the intendant of New France. He administered the king’s accounts, munitions, and supplies, and was inspector of crown works. With such extensive duties it was perhaps inevitable that his performance should give rise to many of the quarrels in which he became embroiled. As early as 1689 Meneval wrote the minister that de Goutin was “an undeserving, worthless character . . . [who is] quite stubbornly convinced of his ability, . . . [and] sure that the two offices he holds will give him a rank and authority here which are, if not above, at least equal to that of the governor.” Specifically, Meneval accused him of seeking to incite the garrison, the inhabitants, and the Indians to disobedience and to contempt not only of the governor’s authority, but of that of the clergy as well. On this latter point, Meneval reported that de Goutin and his friends “degrade [the] lives and characters [of the clergy] to the great contempt of religion.” De Goutin countered that Meneval meddled with his functions “ [doing] everything without informing me in any way,” and instructing the inhabitants “not to acknowledge me as their judge.” He went on to accuse the clergy of illegal trade, and of “intimidating the consciences” of the inhabitants.
As a result of these quarrels the minister ordered de Goutin back to France. In the meantime, however, Sir William Phips* had captured Port-Royal in May 1690. After being taken prisoner and later released, de Goutin went first to the Saint John River, and then to Canada. He returned to Port-Royal the following year before sailing to France, probably in 1692. There, in 1692 and 1693, he presumably regained the favour of the authorities, and in February 1693, amid references to his “ability, courage and devotion to duty,” he was instructed to return to Acadia. De Goutin’s relations with Meneval’s successor, Joseph Robinau* de Villebon, appear to have been without incident for several years. During this time he had been confirmed in the possession of two wilderness tracts, one on the Mouscoudabouet (Musquodoboit) River in 1692, the other at La Pointe-aux-Chesnes, on the Saint John River, in 1696. There is no evidence that he undertook any improvements on either property. On 27 March 1696 he obtained leave to return to France to attend to family affairs. Before departing, he accompanied Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in his attack on the English fort at Pemaquid in August; he sent an account of this expedition to the minister. While in France he spent five weeks at the ministry of Marine.
He returned to Acadia in 1697, arriving at Fort Nashwaak (Naxouat) on 10 August. For some reason it was only upon his return to Acadia that de Goutin’s relations with Villebon became uneasy, judging from the dispatches in which he reported at length on the alleged misconduct of his superior. He also clashed with Claude-Sébastien de Villieu, accusing him of selling for his own profit the foodstuffs he received for the soldiers of his company, and with Simon-Pierre Denys de Bonaventure, on the latter’s alleged affair with Mme de Freneuse [Louise Guyon*].
The question as to whether de Goutin was suited to his duties in Acadia recurred during the governorship of Jacques-François de Brouillan [Monbeton]. Though the new governor’s first impression of de Goutin was favourable, he soon reported that de Goutin was “hardly in a position to make good judgments . . . because a third of the settlers are relatives of his wife.” De Goutin agreed to refer cases involving his wife’s relatives to the king’s attorney. Brouillan then contended that because of the extent and variety of his duties, de Goutin “has trouble doing any one of his jobs well.” Indeed, de Goutin himself complained that he had “no set time for drinking and eating, [for] I am more busy on feast days and Sundays than on workings days, [because] the settlers use these days to conduct their business when they come to Mass.” Brouillan’s most serious contention was that de Goutin was leading a cabal of officers aimed at undermining the governor’s authority. To this de Goutin somewhat facetiously replied that what the governor called a cabal was nothing more than “three or four friends, honourable people, who are close because they like each other’s company . . . [and who are] called cabalists . . . because they have not bowed before the beast.”
By contrast, de Goutin’s relations with Governor Auger de Subercase were strikingly cordial. The minister had issued the terse warning to de Goutin: “Should you give him cause for complaint . . . you would not be able to stay in this country.” De Goutin appears to have been very careful, and in 1707 Subercase advised the minister that he “fulfils properly the duties of his office.” The minister in turn appeared to show increased confidence in de Goutin, for in 1708 and again in 1710 he instructed him in no uncertain terms to report everything that might appear contrary to the king’s interest, including Subercase’s conduct.
Following the surrender of Port-Royal to Francis Nicholson in 1710, de Goutin returned to France with his family in 1711. In 1714 he was appointed king’s writer at Île Royale. After his death on Christmas day 1714, his widow and children remained at Île Royale, where for a time they received rations from the crown. Their eldest son, François-Marie, followed his father into the civil administration of Île Royale, and at least five daughters married officers, four in Île Royale.
Traditionally, Mathieu de Goutin has been described, somewhat unfairly, as an “unscrupulous mischief maker.” Though his arrogance and vanity are quite apparent, it would appear nevertheless that he was a capable official. Indeed, his superiors persisted in recognizing this for 22 years. Because one of the functions of effective civil officials was to serve as a restraint upon the otherwise near-absolute power of the governor, it is perhaps as much for this reason, as for his alliances among the inhabitants, that Mathieu de Goutin also enjoyed the confidence of the Acadian peasantry, who had acquired long before a natural distaste for the inflexibility of colonial administration.
AN, Col., B, 15–17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32, 35, 39; C11B, 1, 2, 13; C11C, 2, 7, 16; C11D, 2–7; E, 209; Section Outre-Mer, G1, 406; G3, 2037, 2040, 2047, 2056, 2058. Charlevoix, Histoire (1744), II, 111. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., II, 224, 466, 480, 492. “Extrait de la relation faitte par Mr de Gouttin de la prisse du fort de Pimiquid,” PAC Report, 1912, App. F, 73–74. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 503–4. Bernard, Le drame acadien, 179–83, 189n, 196. Casgrain, Les Sulpiciens en Acadie, 120–23. Parkman, A half-century of conflict (1892), I. Webster, Acadia, 6, 9, 174–77. Pierre Daviault, “Mme de Freneuse et M. de Bonaventure,” RSCT, 3d ser., XXXV (1941), sect.i, 37–56. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Mathieu De Goutin, lieutenant civil et criminel de l’Acadie,” BRH, LI (1945), 221–22.