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RIGAUD DE VAUDREUIL, JOSEPH-HYACINTHE DE, officer in the colonial regular troops, governor general of the French part of the Île de Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola); b. 21 June 1706 at Quebec, son of Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil and Louise-Élisabeth de Joybert* de Soulanges et de Marson; d. 17 Nov. 1764 in Paris, France.
Joseph-Hyacinthe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil entered the colonial regular troops in Canada as an ensign on 2 June 1715, when he was nine years old, and on 7 May 1720 he was promoted lieutenant. He went to France and in 1723 was accepted into the French guards as an ensign, but, unable “to support himself in the service in France,” he was appointed captain in the French colony on the Île de Saint-Domingue on 17 Jan. 1726; it was in this colony that a career leading him to the highest offices unfolded. On 8 May 1730 he became town major of Petit-Goâve; on 1 Nov. 1734 he went in the same capacity to the district of Île à Vache, in the southern part of the island. Then on 15 Jan. 1740 he became king’s lieutenant, before assuming the same duties at Le Cap (Cap-Haïtien) on 20 Nov. 1743. On 1 Nov. 1749 he was promoted governor of the western and southern parts of the colony, and the following year, with the honorary rank of naval captain, he carried out the duties of lieutenant general in the government of the colony, with the responsibility of taking command in the event of the governor general’s absence. In May 1753 he was appointed governor general of the French part of the Île de Saint-Domingue. In March 1757 he retired, and he returned to France in June 1764. Thanks to the protection of Adrien-Maurice de Noailles, Comte d’Ayen, and later of Louis de Noailles, Duc d’Ayen, he had been made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis in 1739.
Vaudreuil’s activity in Saint-Domingue was intense and many-sided. As commandant of the district of Le Cap during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), he concerned himself with the coastal defences to prevent any attempt at landing by the enemy. On two occasions, in 1748 and 1756, he proposed, though unsuccessfully, that a corps of Negro gunners be created which would be responsible for manning the coastal batteries. Vaudreuil also had to settle various frontier incidents with the Spanish, particularly concerning the Turks Islands. He encouraged the beginnings of the new town of L’Hôpital (Port-au-Prince), where he resided and whose defences he organized, as he did those of the regions of Léogane and Les Cayes. His activity also extended to two fields which were particularly important for the economic life of the colony: the building of roads linking the western and northern parts and the construction of agricultural hydraulic works, mainly in the valley of the Artibonite and in the district of Torbeck where he owned a large plantation.
Vaudreuil’s career was marked in 1750 by a sharp conflict with the governor general, Henri de Brienne, Comte de Conflans. Their relations had begun most auspiciously; in a letter dated 23 March 1750 Conflans, speaking of Rigaud, praised “his fine qualities, his good intentions, the superiority of his character, and the particular talents which he has for governing well”; on 25 March, in a letter to the minister, Rouillé, he acknowledged Vaudreuil’s “incomparable sagacity, superior character, thorough instruction . . . his zeal knows no limits, the king’s service absorbs him completely.” This good feeling did not last long. On 3 and 12 Oct. 1750 Conflans poured out vehement abuse against Vaudreuil. He accused him of misuse of authority, of arrogance, vanity, insubordination, ingratitude, insatiable ambition, and called him “a greedy underling who does not know how to do his job.” Vaudreuil, he wrote, “did not have an écu when he came to serve as a captain in this colony, and by his own admission he is today worth three million and has run through as much again.” On 3 Oct. 1750 Vaudreuil was suspended from his functions by Conflans for “very serious offences against the king’s authority, the obedience that he owes us, and the duties which have been entrusted to him.” These grievances seem to have been exaggerated and inspired above all by personal rivalry. The suspension was lifted by the king in April 1751, and Conflans was recalled to France. Vaudreuil’s administration seems to have been much appreciated by the people, who regretted his departure and gave his name to a street in the town of Le Cap. Judging with a certain perspective, Médéric-Louis-Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry wrote in 1785: “serving in the colony for 21 years . . . he displayed rare talents, untiring zeal, great affection for the colony.”
Vaudreuil had married Marie-Claire-Françoise Guyot de Lamirande, by whom he had a son, Joseph-Hyacinthe-François de Paule, born 2 March 1740 at Torbeck. His son became grand falconer of France and was a deputy from Saint-Domingue to the National Constituent Assembly of 1789.
AN, Col., C9A, 74, 85, 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 104; Marine, C7, 340 (dossier Vaudreuil). [M.-L.-É.] Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle de Saint-Domingue, Blanche Maurel et Étienne Taillemite, édit. (Bibliothèque d’histoire coloniale, nouv. sér., 3v., Paris, 1958).