LANOULLIER DE BOISCLERC, NICOLAS, agent for the Compagnie du Castor and the Compagnie des Indes, agent in Quebec for the treasurers general of the Marine, controller of the Domaine du Roi, and councillor in the Conseil Supérieur; b. c. 1679 in Paris, France, son of Jean Lanoullier, bourgeois, and Marie Tollet (Taudet), of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet parish in Paris; d. 6 Jan. 1756 in Quebec.
Nicolas Lanoullier de Boisclerc, barrister of the parlement of Paris, arrived in Quebec in 1712 as the agent of Louis-François Aubert, Jean-Baptiste Néret, and Jean-Baptiste Gayot, directors of the Compagnie du Castor which held the beaver trade monopoly in Canada. He was to inspect its Canadian operation, reduce costs, and make any necessary changes in personnel. In 1716, Jean-François Martin* de Lino claimed unsuccessfully to be the agent of the Compagnie du Castor; the colonial officials would not recognize his commission because of a mistake in its form, and Lanoullier continued in this position until 1717. In 1715 the Compagnie du Castor had been unable to honour its letters of exchange and the following spring defaulted on all payments. In 1716 it contracted to receive all Canadian beaver through Antoine Pascaud* and Jacques Le Clerc, merchants in La Rochelle, and to honour its Canadian letters of exchange as sale of pelts permitted. The Canadian merchants saw a conspiracy between Pascaud, Le Clerc, and the company at their expense, and refused, in spite of their contract of 1706, to deliver their pelts to the company’s warehouses in Quebec without assurances of full payment. Lanoullier had to try to compel the colonists, knowing that on some of its payments the company would probably default. Néret and Gayot’s monopoly expired in 1717, and with it Lanoullier’s position. Later, 1726–32, he was agent of the Compagnie des Indes, administering their affairs in Canada.
The 1720s, active years for Lanoullier, began with his appointment in 1720 as agent for the treasurers general of the Marine in Quebec, succeeding Jean Petit*. Secure for the moment, he married, on 4 Jan. 1721, Jeanne, daughter of Pierre André de Leigne, lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs of the Quebec provost court. She died on 12 March 1722, six days after giving birth to a daughter, Marie-Germaine-Eustache. On 23 Feb. 1726 while in Paris for a year on business and family affairs, he married Marie-Jeanne Bocquet.
In 1721 Lanoullier was granted for 20 years the monopoly for mail service between Quebec, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal, but never even registered his brevet with the Conseil Supérieur. The next year he obtained a monopoly for floating tide-mills for grinding flour in the vicinity of Quebec, but this project too was stillborn.
The first of Lanoullier’s royal offices in Canada began on 10 Feb. 1722 with his appointment as councillor to the Conseil Supérieur. When the attorney general, Mathieu-Benoît Collet*, died in March 1727 Intendant Dupuy* appointed Lanoullier as interim successor. During his tenure Dupuy and the council plunged into their mêlée with the cathedral chapter and Governor Charles de Beauharnois over the funeral of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] and the question of episcopal authority [see Étienne Boullard*; Eustache Chartier de Lotbinière]. As attorney general, Lanoullier had to follow the orders of his superior, the intendant. Furthermore, Lanoullier’s former father-in-law, Pierre André de Leigne, was one of Dupuy’s most ardent supporters. With the intendant’s recall in disgrace in 1728, Lanoullier was vulnerable but apparently convinced Beauharnois he had acted only on Dupuy’s orders. Perhaps Beauharnois was favourably impressed by the ruthless seizure of Dupuy’s personal belongings by Lanoullier’s step-brother, Jean-Eustache, controller of the Marine, as security for his debts in the colony. Another step-brother, Paul-Antoine-François Lanoullier Des Granges, was employed in the governor’s household.
This tumult was still reverberating when in 1729 the king ordered an investigation into Lanoullier’s management as agent of the treasurers general [see Georges Regnard* Duplessis; Jacques Imbert]. Complaints had begun shortly after he took office in 1720. He was lending merchandise at Quebec retail prices to numerous Canadian officials; claiming that these loans were official advances against their salaries. The royal funds authorized for these salaries he then sent to Paris as letters of exchange drawn against the treasurers general, with which his father purchased merchandise wholesale for Lanoullier in Quebec. Employing the king’s funds for personal profit was common practice, and the treasurers general themselves engaged in it. This group of financiers contracted to manage the revenues of the ministry of Marine, and as their agent Lanoullier was not a royal official; rather he was akin to a private banker who looked after the king’s account. He accepted deposits on the king’s behalf, but he was supposed to make expenditures, for which he was accountable, only when authorized by the intendant. His error was to extend too much credit to too many bad risks, at a time when the treasurers general and the minister of Marine expected there to be ample funds in the king’s account for expenditures.
The intendants Bégon and Dupuy were among Lanoullier’s greatest debtors, owing 69,000 livres and 11,000 livres respectively. It is not surprising to find them rushing to his defence. But even Gilles Hocquart*, who authorized Lanoullier’s arrest and the seizure of his property in 1730, concluded that at most he was guilty of too much generosity in giving advances on salaries. Lanoullier spent only three days in jail, but was under house arrest for a year until he and Montreal merchant Pierre de Lestage put up 55,000 livres for his security. He spent the rest of his life trying to pay off his debts, which to the king were personal debts to be settled between him and the treasurers general. In 1730 the deficit in Lanoullier’s books stood at 300,000 livres, but the following year Maurepas estimated it to be 180,000 livres. Much of this reduced figure still represented legitimate deficits in the colony’s budget which had been accumulating since 1716. After Lanoullier went to France in 1732 and 1736 to negotiate, and after concessions to him such as a retroactive increase in salary, he still owed the treasurers general 45,000 livres and finally settled by turning over the 44,000-livre debt then owing him by Bégon.
Lanoullier, however, still had a crushing private debt to metropolitan merchants. As early as 1731 Maurepas had agreed with Bégon, Dupuy, and Hocquart that Lanoullier had not been guilty of bad faith. Beauharnois also appealed to the minister on his behalf. In 1732 he was replaced as agent for the treasurers general by Thomas-Jacques Taschereau and the next year he was appointed controller of the Domaine du Roi at a salary of 1,800 livres – a post he held until 1752 when his son-in-law, Michel Bénard, succeeded him. In 1735 he succeeded Michel Sarrazin* as keeper of seals of the Conseil Supérieur, and in 1736 the king awarded him a gratuity of 3,900 livres as compensation for irrecoverable loans to officers. More helpful were special favours which Maurepas, Beauharnois, and Hocquart worked out. In 1733 and 1736 Lanoullier asked for the privilege of exploiting the Tadoussac trade. But Hocquart wished the post for François-Étienne Cugnet and suggested giving Lanoullier, free of charge, the farm of the post of Témiscamingue. This was a delicate matter. Témiscamingue and the other western posts were the patronage of the governor, and Beauharnois struck back at Hocquart by suggesting to Maurepas that Cugnet and the intendant had misrepresented the Tadoussac trade in order to increase Cugnet’s profits. But Beauharnois accorded Lanoullier 3,000 livres from the fur-trading licence (congé) receipts, and beginning in 1741 for five years granted him the 3,000 livres annually received from the lease of the Témiscamingue post. In 1747 he was given a final 1,500 livres. His sister-in-law, Mme Mercier, had been Louis XV’s nurse. Her influence probably helped procure these special favours.
Yet in 1747 Lanoullier still owed metropolitan merchants more than 27,000 livres, and again travelled to France to try to settle his debts. There his second wife died. His possessions included a house on Rue des Remparts in Quebec worth 14,500 livres, the uncleared seigneury of Lac-Métis, some land at Saint-Roch, small plots near Quebec, a fishing concession at Cape Charles on the Labrador coast worth 200 livres annually, and a few small annuities. Almost all these assets he had acquired in the 1720s.
He died in debt on 6 Jan. 1756 in the house of his son-in-law in Quebec, having had to sell his own house and much of his land.
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