POTIER DUBUISSON, ROBERT, subdelegate of the intendant on Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island); b. 14 Dec. 1682 on Staten Island, New York, but not baptized until June 1683; son of Jean-Baptiste Poitiers Du Buisson and Élisabeth Jossard; d. 25 March 1744 at Port-La-Joie (Fort Amherst, P.E.I.).
Robert Potier Dubuisson spent his childhood and youth in New England with his family, and evidently learned to speak both Dutch and English. His parents moved back to New France around 1699 and settled in Montreal where his father was organist of Notre-Dame for some years. Robert was employed there by the crown from 1703; in 1707 he was a clerk in the office of the Marine and by 1719 he was controller of the king’s stores. He also acted from time to time as an interpreter.
On 10 March 1722 Potier Dubuisson was commissioned subdelegate of the intendant of New France for Île Saint-Jean with power to hear civil and criminal cases. The island was still held by the Comte de Saint-Pierre, and Dubuisson had been appointed to help avoid the involved legal disputes which had arisen when Michel Daccarrette (d. 1745) and others had attempted to break Saint-Pierre’s monopoly of the fishing industry [see Robert-David Gotteville* de Belile]. In 1725 Saint-Pierre’s exclusive fishing rights were revoked, and Jacques d’Espiet* de Pensens, a captain in the colonial regular troops stationed at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), arrived the following year to take possession of the island, now to be administered from Louisbourg. Dubuisson had evidently returned to Canada but in the fall of 1726 he was back on the island where, the governor of Île Royale, Saint-Ovide [Monbeton], reported, he was needed to settle “a host of disputes” of the kind that regularly arose at the end of the fishing season. Saint-Ovide thought him “a very honest man who carries out the duties he is entrusted with most judiciously.” Maurepas, minister of Marine, thought his position unnecessary, however, and it was not until 1728 that Jacques-Ange Le Normant de Mézy, financial commissary at Louisbourg, included in his statement of expenses 600 livres for Dubuisson, described as a “man of good birth and merit.” From this time on Dubuisson also acted as king’s storekeeper on the island. He was now secure in his position as subdelegate of the intendant, which he held until his death by virtue of his original commission although he reported to the financial commissary at Louisbourg. His successor, François-Marie de Goutin, was commissioned subdelegate of the financial commissary.
Dubuisson was responsible during the next 15 years for compiling censuses of the inhabitants and reporting to the financial commissary on the state of agriculture and fishing. He also distributed supplies to newly arrived settlers – few in number during these years – and to all habitants in times of shortage due to failed harvests. He assisted the commandants of the island – Pensens, Robert Tarride Duhaget, and Louis Du Pont* Duchambon – in marking off concessions. His most important function, however, was to settle disputes which arose during the fishing season. In 1732, for example, he reported that he had spent two months at Havre Saint-Pierre (St Peters Bay), the location of the largest fishing community on the island, resolving problems both among the habitants and between them and Jean-Pierre Roma, “according to the customs of Newfoundland, followed in Île Royale.”
Dubuisson had married Marie-Charlotte Arnaud in Montreal in 1707; she died the following year, two weeks after the birth of their daughter. His household on Île Saint-Jean included his daughter and one of his sisters, and the respect in which they were held in the community is shown by the number of times they acted as godparents. Dubuisson often complained that his salary did not cover his expenses and asked for an increase, but his appeals were not granted. Nor was his request to be commissioned principal king’s writer and to be allowed to return to Canada. He died on the island in his 62nd year.
AN, Col., B, 45/2, pp.915–20; 50/2, pp.583–84v (PAC transcripts); C11B, 6, ff.7, 137v–38; 7, ff.96–97; 8, ff.66–70 (printed in BRH, XXX (1924), 88–90); 10, ff.80–80v, 114, 118v–19, 160–61; 13, ff.195–96v, 197–98v; 16, ff.215–16; 18, ff.310–10v; 20, ff.16–19v, 122–23v, 195–200; 21, ff.314–15; 25, ff.23–24v; 27, ff.177–81; Section Outre-Mer, G1, 411, ff.9, 14v, 22, 24v, 26, 41v; 466 (recensements de l’île Saint-Jean). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., XII, 83; XXI, 189. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Harvey, French régime in P.E.I. O. Lapalice, “Les organistes et maîtres de musique à Notre-Dame de Montréal,” BRH, XXV (1919), 243–49. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les interprètes à Montréal sous le régime français,” BRH, XXXIV (1928), 147; “Notes sur les familles Freté, Ferté, Forté et Poitiers Dubuisson,” BRH, XXII (1916), 275–77.