HILLAIRE (Hilaire) DE LA ROCHETTE, ALEXANDRE-ROBERT (D’), écuyer and agent in Quebec of the treasurers general of the Marine and Colonies; son of Charles-Robert Hillaire de Moissacq et de La Rochette and Élizabeth Martin of the parish of Notre-Dame in Versailles, France; m. 21 Nov. 1760 Marie-Anne Levasseur at Montreal; d. in or after 1772.
Alexandre-Robert Hillaire de La Rochette first appeared in Canada in 1755 as secretary to André Doreil*, who had been appointed chief commissary in Jean-Armand Dieskau*’s expedition. At Quebec, Montcalm* and Bigot, as well as Doreil, took an interest in his career and a few months after Doreil’s return to France late in 1758 La Rochette succeeded Jacques Imbert* as the Quebec agent of the treasurers general of the Marine and Colonies. He held that post from 16 Oct. 1759 until the formal cession of the colony to Great Britain in 1763. His principal employers were Claude Baudard de Sainte-James and Noël-Mathurin-Étienne Perichon, who had both purchased their offices for the enormous sum of 600,000 livres and assumed their duties on 31 Jan. 1758, just as the financial crisis of the Seven Years’ War was beginning. La Rochette’s main duties were to make payments for the crown in the various forms of paper currency used in Canada and to maintain public confidence in that currency by converting it annually into bills of exchange drawn on his employers in Paris. To carry out such duties in the war years, with inflation, profiteering, and the frequent loss of the mails at sea, was extremely difficult, as Imbert well knew when he quit the post. Furthermore, on 15 Oct. 1759, at the time La Rochette assumed his new duties, the French government made them impossible by suspending all payments on bills of exchange drawn in the colonies on the treasurers general. There was much talk of La Rochette’s being incompetent or worse, but the best of men could only have failed in such a post at such a time.
The minister, at any rate, thought highly of La Rochette and after his return to France appointed him agent for the colonies on 16 Oct. 1763 to supervise the supplies purchased for the colonies and the colonial service. In addition he was put in charge of the liquidation of Canadian paper money; he was to receive, examine, and verify all outstanding private claims on the crown, especially bills of exchange and currency notes, and, when these claims had at last been officially approved (and reduced after years of delay), to make the necessary payments [see Bernard Cardeneau*]. He proceeded under the direction of the Commission Fontanieu (named after its chairman, Gaspard-Moïse-Augustin de Fontanieu, Marquis de Fiennes), first established on 18 Oct. 1758 as “La Commission de liquidation des dettes de la Marine et des Colonies” and ordered on 28 Nov. 1761 to turn from naval debts to Canadian debts. Their work on the Canadian debts was not finished until 1768 when, on 20 February, the crown published an Arrêt which disqualified all claims that had not been presented to the commission by the prescribed deadlines. In 1772 La Rochette, still agent for the colonies, made arrangements for his temporary replacement in order to spend a year or two in India. We lose track of him thereafter.
La Rochette’s family connections cast a revealing light on his career and show in rare detail the patronage by which a Bourbon official might get ahead in life. On his mother’s side of the family were two businessmen of Marseilles who set up as bankers and traders at Quebec in the late 1740s, Barthélemy Martin*, son of Vincent Martin, and Jean-Baptiste-Tropez Martin, son of Charles-Bruno Martin. The Martin and Hillaire families were, of course, useful to each other, but members of both married into the even more useful family of Levasseur, which was connected with rich and powerful farmers general. Barthélemy Martin in 1752 and La Rochette in 1760 married daughters of René-Nicolas Levasseur, the chief royal shipwright posted at Quebec, whose brother Louis-Armand was a career naval officer serving as financial commissary at Rochefort when he died on 9 Aug. 1760. When much later, on 18 Jan. 1771, Jean-Baptiste-Tropez Martin, then in Paris, married La Rochette’s sister, Barbe-Madeleine, among the guests at the wedding were Élizabeth-Françoise Ferrand, née Levasseur, first cousin of Mme de Pompadour’s father, and her husband, Laurent-René Ferrand, a farmer general. Clearly, La Rochette was not without influence either in Paris or in Quebec. He had substantial business interests in France during the 1760s in association with his future brother-in-law, Jean-Baptiste-Tropez Martin, investing over 20,000 livres in the Société de Guadalcanal alone, but whether he profited by his brief career in Quebec is not clear, as he was not arrested in the affaire du Canada. His powerful family relations no doubt protected him.
AN, Col., E, 257 (dossier La Rochette); Marine, C7, 167 (dossier La Rochette); Minutier central, IV, no.693 (marriage contract, 18 Jan. 1771). Yves Durand, Les fermiers généraux au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1971), 75–76. John Keyes, “Un commis des trésoriers généraux de la Marine à Québec: Nicolas Lanoullier de Boisclerc,” RHAF, XXXII (1978–79), 181–202. Henri Legohérel, “Une commission extraordinaire du Conseil d’État du roi: la commission de liquidation des dettes de la marine et des colonies (1758–1768),” Université de Dakar, faculté de Droit et des Sciences économiques, Publications, 1968, 1–32.