LAPORTE DE LALANNE, JEAN DE (sometimes referred to as Armand), commissary of the Marine, special investigator in Canada, 1740–41; fl. 1720–58.
Originally from Bayonne, France, Jean de Laporte de Lalanne moved to Paris in the 1720s with his brother Arnaud. He entered the Marine in the office of the colonies in the wake of Arnaud’s meteoric rise from a minor functionary in 1731 to first clerk in 1738. Within a few years Jean had himself risen to the rank of commissary. In 1740 he was sent to Canada to study the operations of the civil government and to investigate, in particular, the administration of crown finances. In a letter to Governor Beauharnois and Intendant Hocquart*, the minister of Marine, Maurepas, stated that Laporte was on a tour of the colonies as a way of educating him for important future posts. Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme, representative of the chapter of Quebec at Paris, informed his brother, Joseph-Thierry Hazeur, at Quebec of Laporte’s mission, adding that everyone in Canada, “important or unimportant,” should pay court to Jean for “he could well one day come to hold a high position.” It also seems likely that Maurepas wanted Laporte to investigate irregularities in the organization of finances in Canada that had come to light in 1739 as a consequence of the deteriorating relations between Beauharnois and Hocquart. For his part, Laporte had an eye out for lucrative colonial enterprises in which he might wish to acquire an interest.
Laporte arrived at Quebec in the early autumn of 1740, in time to help Hocquart prepare the annual financial dispatches. Hocquart reported that “he has begun to go into much of the routine. I think that he will certainly profit from his time in Canada. He is fortunate to have been born with great natural ability. . . .” Whether he accepted Hocquart’s advice to visit the Saint-Maurice ironworks that winter is not clear, but he did inspect them on his way to Montreal the following summer. None of his views on the colonial administration has survived, but the very absence of serious repercussions for Canadian officials following his return to France in 1741 may indicate that he was reasonably satisfied. Then too, Hocquart, who left nothing to chance, was careful to send him off bathed in praise.
Hocquart’s opinion changed, however, when it became apparent that Laporte was using his recently acquired familiarity with the Canadian economy for private benefit. On 17 April 1744, Maurepas informed the Canadian officials that Laporte was to be given the fur ferme of Lac Alemipigon (Lake Nipigon, Ont.) from that year forward as a reward for his services in New France. In a letter dated a week later, Maurepas confirmed that the Laporte brothers had received a warrant granting them five-sixths of the fishery of Baie de Phélypeaux (Baie de Brador, Que.) on the death of the proprietor, François Martel de Brouague; revenues from the whole concession had been more than 55,000 livres in 1741. Both Beauharnois and Hocquart resisted these metropolitan intrusions, asserting that the colonial inhabitants who developed such enterprises should reap the benefits. But Hocquart’s successor, François Bigot*, proved more cooperative. Arnaud de Laporte became a key figure in the grande société, acting as Bigot’s protector in the office of the colonies. Jean was also involved, as evidence at Bigot’s trial confirmed, but his role was peripheral after his posting, sometime prior to 1750, as commissary at Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola), where the Laportes had extensive private investments. Jean’s son, Arnaud, later entered the Marine and succeeded him as commissary.
AN, Col., B, 70/1, 78/1; C11A, 73, 75, 77, 81; E, 177 (dossier Favry Duponceau) (PAC transcripts). Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), II, 698. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy), I, 79–80; II, 241–43. M.-A. Deschard, Notice sur l’organisation du corps du commissariat de la marine française depuis l’origine jusqu’à nos jours, suivie d’une liste chronologique des anciens intendants de marine et des colonies (Paris, 1879), 78. L.-E. Dussieux, Le Canada sous la domination française d’après les archives de la Marine et de la Guerre (3e éd., Paris, 1883), 128, 130. Frégault, François Bigot, I, 97, 133–34, 290–93; Le grand marquis, 418–20. P.-G. Roy, “Armand Laporte de Lalanne,” BRH, L (1944), 161–69. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France,” BRH, XVI (1910), 291, 296.