MARTEL, PIERRE-MICHEL (Philippe or Philippe-Michel can be found, but ordinarily he signed Pierre-Michel), commissary of the Marine; b. 2 May 1719 in Quebec, son of Jean Martel* de Magos, and Marie-Anne Robinau; m. 1751 Marie-Agathe Baudoin; d. 29 Sept. 1789 in Tours, France.
The Martel family seems to have reached a rather high rank in society, which perhaps explains why Pierre-Michel was able at an early age to enjoy the protection of the most prominent people in the colony. His godfather was François-Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil and his godmother Jeanne-Elisabeth Bégon, the intendant’s daughter. His brother Jean-Urbain Martel* de Belleville was the director of the Saint-Maurice ironworks from 1742 to 1750. By 1738 Martel was evidently in Hocquart’s service, since that year the president of the council of Marine asked the intendant about the capabilities of his subordinate, who was seeking a position as king’s writer. Hocquart praised the young man and was assured that Martel would receive the appointment at the first opportunity. It did not come until 12 April 1742. At that time, and until 1749, Martel was living with his mother on Rue Saint-Nicolas in Quebec, near the intendant’s palace.
When François Bigot succeeded Hocquart, he took Martel under his protection and recommended him on several occasions to the minister and council of Marine. Martel was principal writer in the Marine by 1754 and was “in charge of administration for the building of His Majesty’s ships.” In 1755 he received a commission from the intendant to act as comptroller of the Marine during the absence of Jacques-Michel Bréard; on 10 Aug. 1757 Bigot named him commissary of the Marine in Montreal to replace Jean-Victor Varin de La Marre, who had received permission in April to return to France. Martel finally had the office he coveted, but he apparently wanted the commission to come direct from the king. In spite of appeals by the Chevalier de Lévis, Governor Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, Bigot, and his Jesuit brother Joseph-Nicolas Martel, who was at that time at Moulins, France, he had to be content with a simple commission and the minister’s promise to grant him the position he requested as soon as possible. The conquest was to put an end to his ambitions.
About 1757 Martel had entered into partnership with Michel-Jean-Hugues Péan, Bigot, Pierre-Arnaud de Laporte, Jean Corpron*, François Maurin*, and Louis Pennisseaut in the Grande Société [see Péan]. Thus when he was nominated on 30 Jan. 1761 to assist Charles-François Pichot de Querdisien Trémais in France in settling Canada’s accounts, he had little interest in investigating his partners and protectors. He managed to remain in the colony and so elude the task. Nevertheless he was one of those charged, as was his brother Jean-Baptiste-Grégoire Martel de Saint-Antoine, who had been storekeeper in Montreal.
Believing that he could get off lightly, he decided in 1764 to go to France, where he gave himself up. He was imprisoned in the Bastille, and in April 1765, after what Pierre-Georges Roy* calls “a semblance of a trial” at the Châtelet, he was acquitted of all charges. He then joined his family in the parish of Saint-Vincent, Tours, where he resided until his death.
AN, Col., C11A, 100, f.128; 103, ff.23, 256. ANQ-Q, AP-P-1395; Greffe de P.-A.-F. Lanoullier Des Granges, 15 mars 1755; NF 2, 40, 20 sept. 1752; 42, 23 oct. 1755, 10 août 1757. “Les malignités du sieur de Courville,” BRH, L (1944), 114. “Recensement de Québec, 1744,” 48. Gustave Lanctot, “L’Affaire du Canada; bibliographie du procès Bigot,” BRH, XXXVIII (1932), 8–17. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not., I, 123, 163; II, 362; Inv. concessions, II, 157, 160; IV, 131; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, VI, 92, 110; Inv. ord. int. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, V, 533. Frégault, François Bigot. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande; La famille Martel de Magesse (Lévis, Qué., 1934). Guy Frégault, “La guerre de Sept Ans et la civilisation canadienne,” RHAF, VII (1953–54),198. Antoine Roy, “Jean Martel,” BRH, VI (1900), 21–24. P.-G. Roy, “Les commissaires ordinaires de la Marine en la Nouvelle-France,” BRH, XXIV (1918), 54.