LENEUF DE LA VALLIÈRE DE BEAUBASSIN, MICHEL (the elder), captain, commandant and governor of Acadia, major, seigneur of Beaubassin; baptized 31 Oct. 1640 at Trois-Rivières, third son of Jacques Leneuf* de La Poterie, governor of that town, and of Marguerite Legardeur; d. in 1705.
After studying in France, La Vallière returned to Canada in 1657. According to Charlevoix* he was in command on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) in 1666, under Nicolas Denys*. His first marriage, probably in 1666, was to Marie, only daughter of Denys, and his second, around 1683, was to Françoise, daughter of Simon Denys* de La Trinité. He had eight children, all by his first wife.
In 1672 he is supposed to have set up a fur-trading post on the isthmus of Chignecto, while devoting part of his time to the fishing industry, farming, settlement, and soldiering. On 24 Oct. 1676 Buade* de Frontenac granted him a piece of land 10 square leagues in area, constituting the Beaubassin seigneury. Later this region was to become one of the strategic points in the struggles between French and English in Acadia.
On 7 May 1676, on Frontenac’s orders, he set off to cruise along the Acadian coasts to spy on the enemy. While thus occupied, with his brother-in-law Sieur Richard Denys* de Fronsac as his second in command, he seized three English ketches from Boston that were taking on coal at Cape Breton: two of them were declared lawful prizes.
La Vallière was promoted commandant of Acadia in 1678, replacing Pierre de Joybert*. He enjoyed the favour of Frontenac, who in 1681 recommended him to the minister as a future governor, being “a nobleman who has all the qualities of mind and heart necessary to acquit himself well in such a post.” Duchesneau* looked with disapproval on this protection, which subsequently was the cause of a disagreement between Duchesneau and Frontenac. Appointed governor in 1683, La Vallière exercised his functions for one year only at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), after which he returned to his residence at Beaubassin.
The numerous differences in which he was involved appear to have done him harm. The most serious one was with Bergier*, who since 1682 had been running the Compagnie de la Pêche sédentaire de l’Acadie. Bergier reproached him with creating difficulties for his undertaking by distributing fishing licences too readily to Bostonians, thus preparing the way for the loss of Acadia. Despite everything, Intendant de Meulles continued to support La Vallière, but the court, yielding to the company’s representations, replaced him by François-Marie Perrot* who was named governor in April 1684.
La Vallière maintained good relations with the governor of Boston, Simon Bradstreet; on 8 August 1684 he expressed to him his regret on learning from Bergier, who had made a trip to France, that trade between the two colonies would shortly be forbidden.
In the autumn of 1685 he had the honour of receiving Jacques de Meulles at Beaubassin, on an official visit to Acadian soil. The intendant had to spend the winter with La Vallière, whom he considered to be the person best qualified to give him information about the colony. It was thanks to La Vallière’s little sailing-boat, the Saint-Antoine, which was assigned to coastal traffic between Port-Royal and Baie Française (Bay of Fundy), that de Meulles was able to go to Port-Royal in the spring of 1686. On Brisay de Denonville’s orders, La Vallière went to France in the autumn to report on the situation in Acadia. On that occasion Denonville expressed to the minister his doubts about the charges levelled against La Vallière in Acadia.
During 1687 La Vallière entrusted his seigneurial domain to his future son-in-law, Claude-Sébastien de Villieu, and came back to Canada. He was made a midshipman in April of the same year, and received a double promotion in 1689: in June, lieutenant in Acadia, then in October, captain of Frontenac’s guards. At the time of the siege of Quebec by Phips*, in 1690, he was responsible for the exchange of prisoners at Pointe de Lévis, in particular Pierre Bécart de Granville and Abbé Trouvé. He performed this task so well that Frontenac recommended him for promotion to the rank of major.
In 1691 he became a captain in place of M. d’Escairac (Desquerac), and in August 1695 he was left in command of Fort Cataracoui (Frontenac) with 48 men; his orders were to try to reach an accord with the Iroquois. He returned to Quebec in the spring of 1696, and in June embarked on the Bouffonne, with two of his sons, Alexandre and Jacques, and Charles Bécart de Fonville as officers, and with a crew of 150, in order to go to harass the enemy along the coasts of Acadia. It was in September of the same year that Church attacked Beaubassin and laid it waste.
The king appointed La Vallière town major of Montreal on 28 May 1699. In the autumn Callière entrusted him and Father Bruyas with a diplomatic mission to the governor of Boston, Bellomont; it was to discuss the repatriation of French prisoners and to ascertain his attitude towards the Indians. In 1700, according to a joint report by Callière and Bochart de Champigny to the minister, dated 6 November, La Vallière was in bad financial straits, and they recommended him to the minister’s protection. Two years later the king granted him a gratuity of 500 livres to set up in Acadia an establishment for porpoise fishing, but it is not believed that La Vallière ever carried out this plan.
In the autumn of 1704 La Vallière returned to France, bearing official letters from Rigaud de Vaudreuil and François de Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye. They delegated him to go because of his profound knowledge of Canada’s needs, of the Indians, and of the troops; also according to them, because he could expect to be favourably received by the minister. There is every reason to believe that he took advantage of this opportunity to solicit the ratification of the original grant of his seigneurial domain of Beaubassin (1676), which was not in fact ratified until 2 June 1705. This decree confirmed La Vallière’s seigneurial claims to Beaubassin and Chipoudy, at the same time recognizing the rights of occupation of the original settlers of these places. Thus ended the disputes which two groups of Acadians from Port-Royal had carried on with him; one group, led by the surgeon Jacques Bourgeois, had settled at Beaubassin before La Vallière, and the other led by Pierre Tibaudeau had arrived at Chipoudy in 1698.
La Vallière’s death probably occurred in July 1705 while he was crossing from France to Canada.
Michel Leneuf de La Vallière had an eventful career, for he was at one and the same time a sailor, traveller, fur-trader, seigneur, colonizer, diplomat, and governor. This deserving native of Trois-Rivières, Frontenac’s confidential agent, left his work at Beaubassin unfinished; it is regrettable that none of his four sons continued it.
[Some authors have claimed that La Vallière took part in an expedition headed for Hudson Bay in 1661, with Fathers Dablon* and Druillettes* (see Jean Delanglez, Life and voyages of Louis Jolliet (Chicago, 1948), 151, and Marie de Saint-Jean d’Ars, “A la recherche de la mer du Nord, 1661,” RHAF, VIII (1954–55), 220–35). P.-G. Roy affirmed this at first (see BRH, XXII (1916), 26), but later stated that La Vallière could not have been present (Les officiers d’état-major, 126–28). The account of the journey in JR (Thwaites), XLVI, 252ff., does not mention La Vallière. Thus there seems to be little evidence that he took part in the expedition. j.-r.c.]
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