MARTIN DE LINO, MATHIEU-FRANÇOIS (also known as Mathurin, and Mathurin-François), merchant, fur-trader, seigneur, interpreter in English, member of the Conseil Souverain, member of the Compagnie du Nord and the Compagnie de la Colonie; b. 1657 in the parish of Saint-Nizier, Lyons; d. 5 Dec. 1731 in Quebec.
By birth and education Mathieu-François Martin de Lino was eminently qualified for a career in business. Both his father Claude and his mother Antoinette Chalmette had a middle-class background. The Chalmettes, moreover, were involved in Canadian commerce; Jean-François Chalmette, an uncle of Mathieu-François, was a wholesale fur-trader in Paris and held the lease of the Tadoussac trade in the early 1690s.
While he was still in his teens de Lino was sent to England and Holland by his father to study the languages of those countries. He was fluent in both by the age of 20, and no doubt was influenced by the way of life in those two great commercial nations. He came to New France in 1679 and, after a voyage to France in 1681, settled in Quebec. In that town on 30 April 1685 he married Catherine Nolan, daughter of the merchant Pierre Nolan. Soon afterwards he began to engage in various commercial activities. In 1688 he acquired part of Jean Gitton’s interest in the Compagnie du Nord. The following year, he and a group of Canadian merchants, including Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, were granted the seigneury of Blanc Sablon in Newfoundland by the governor and intendant in order to enable them to pursue the cod and whale fishery.
During the war with the English colonies which began in 1689 de Lino, with his knowledge of English, was able to assist the colonial authorities by translating correspondence and questioning prisoners. His linguistic skill, however, also got him into serious trouble. In 1691 an English shipowner named John Nelson, whose vessel had been captured in the Bay of Fundy, was sent to Quebec by the governor of Acadia, Joseph Robinau* de Villebon. Frontenac [Buade*], showing more courtesy than caution, allowed him considerable freedom of movement of which Nelson took advantage to inspect the fortifications and relay information on them to New England. De Lino had served Nelson as interpreter and was suspected of having been his accomplice. He was arrested on 8 Jan. 1693, while in France on a business trip, and was clapped in the Bastille where he remained for six weeks. Following his release the minister informed Frontenac and Bochart de Champigny that de Lino was a man to be watched closely, but the latter was able to regain the confidence of the government. De Lino was granted a seigneury on the coast of Acadia opposite Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) in 1697, and was appointed to the Conseil Souverain on 8 May 1702.
In 1700 de Lino had become a shareholder of the newly formed Compagnie de la Colonie and also a member of its board of directors. Later that year he left for France with Aubert de La Chesnaye to revise the terms of the agreement which Antoine Pascaud had concluded a short time before with the banking firm of Jean Pasquier, Nicolas Bourlet, and Nicolas Gayot (Goy), which acted as the company’s correspondents in Paris. On 26 Feb. 1701, a new agreement was concluded under which Pasquier, Bourlet, and Gayot made extra credit available to the Compagnie de la Colonie and reduced their interest rate by 2 per cent. In spite of these more favourable terms the company remained in a precarious position. Its financial base was inadequate, the beaver market was depressed, and there were growing doubts about the soundness of the whole undertaking. It may have been to check an incipient panic that de Lino declared publicly both in France and in Canada that company affairs were in excellent shape. By thus resorting to what can be described only as gross misrepresentation he momentarily succeeded in restoring confidence in the operation.
De Lino also engaged in some rather sharp practices on his own behalf while he was in France. He appropriated funds from the company’s account and offered an overpriced old bark as reimbursement. He also sent Jean Gitton to Hamburg to purchase some defective gunpowder and second-grade merchandise. These goods were then brought to Canada aboard a German vessel and sold to the Compagnie de la Colonie by a third party, who was apparently nothing more than a straw man for de Lino.
Pontchartrain eventually became aware of these activities, and he decided to punish de Lino for his misdemeanours. Despite Jacques Raudot’s attempt to excuse him, de Lino was suspended from his seat on the Conseil Supérieur and ordered to return to France to account for his actions. The businessman complied and no doubt pleaded his case with considerable skill for he succeeded in partly vindicating himself. He was allowed to return to Canada in 1707 and to resume his seat on the Conseil Supérieur. The minister, however, warned Raudot that “this man whether through ignorance or malice is dangerous” and he instructed the intendant neither to seek nor to accept his counsel in the administration of the colony’s affairs.
This episode left its mark on de Lino’s personality. The slick businessman of years past became studious and self-effacing. He read books on law and jurisprudence, wrote reports on questions of legal reform, and came to be regarded as one of the most competent members of the Conseil Supérieur. In 1715 Pontchartrain passed from the scene, and de Lino quickly won the confidence of the new administration. In 1716 and 1717 he served as the agent in New France of Néret and Gayot, the surviving partners of the three-man syndicate which had acquired control of the Canadian beaver trade in 1706. In 1719 he was named first councillor and appointed keeper of the king’s seal in 1727. He died four years later leaving an estate that was barely adequate to cover his debts.
De Lino’s wife, Catherine, gave birth to 12 sons and 5 daughters, but only 4 sons and 3 daughters lived to adulthood. Jean-François served as king’s attorney of the Quebec provost and admiralty courts, and married Angélique, daughter of René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière; Guillaume became a Recollet priest, taking the name Antoine, and served in Trois-Rivières and Chambly; Charles, Sieur de Balmont, lived in France, probably in La Rochelle; Jean-Marie, Sieur de Murier, moved to La Rochelle where he married Marie-Anne, daughter of Antoine Peyrant, councillor of the local presidial. Catherine de Lino married Jean-François Hazeur; Marie-Anne was still alive in 1757 but little is known about her. Finally, Geneviève-Françoise married Gaspard Adhémar* de Lantagnac, a lieutenant in the colonial regular troops.
AJQ, Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 2 avril 1685; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 28 août 1688. AN, Col., B, 25, 29–40, 54; C11A 2, 12, 14, 18–41, 57; C11G, 2–4. Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal (Paris), Archives de la Bastille, 10496, ff.158–68. “Correspondance de Frontenac, 1689–99,” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 135, 151, 163. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1947–48, 319. “Lettres et mémoires de F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil.” P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, IV, 39, 136. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 482. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 416. E. H. Borins, “La Compagnie du Nord, 1682–1700,” unpublished