SOUBRAS, PIERRE-AUGUSTE DE, financial commissary, subdelegate of the intendant of New France, and first councillor of the Conseil Supérieur of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), d. 9 April 1725, at Bordeaux. There is no record of his having married.
Soubras began his service as a clerk in the Marine at Rochefort in February 1703. He served as a clerk at Dunkirk from April 1705 until March 1714, when he was appointed financial commissary at Île Royale. He sailed to Louisbourg aboard the Charente during the summer of 1714.
As head of the civil administration of Île Royale, Soubras displayed considerable enterprise in trying to develop the colony. His first impressions were of the serious lack of discipline in the garrison, the laxity of the officers, and the general state of insubordination, which permeated the entire colony from its founding to its fall. Despite opposition, he directed a major effort at exercising some control over the sale of alcohol, which he felt was the principal cause of disorder. Early in 1715 he attempted to collect a tax to be used to establish a hospital. This aroused the widespread opposition of the powerful fishing interests within the colony and in France, which forced him to drop the tax, but an impressive hospital was eventually financed and built by the crown.
Soubras actively encouraged the development of the natural resources of Île Royale. He helped individuals build sawmills and boats for the coasting trade. He attempted to encourage Acadian farmers, on whom the hopes for a viable agriculture in the colony rested, to settle on the island, but had little success. To try to create markets he sent samples of native coal to France. It was chiefly due to his efforts that a brick-kiln was established at Port Toulouse (St Peters) in 1716; despite its inferior quality, local brick was used on the Louisbourg fortifications until 1725. He also encouraged the search for and use of local building materials such as lime and slate. Probably his most important contribution, however, was the foundation he laid for trade relations with Canada. These were later extended to such a degree that Louisbourg became a clearing-house for much of the trade between France, Canada, the West Indies, Nova Scotia, and even New England.
As was usual in French colonial administration, Soubras, in attempting to control expenditures, frequently quarrelled with the governors, Pastour de Costebelle and Saint-Ovide de Brouillan [Monbeton*], as well as with the engineer Verville. Late in 1716 he had become so distressed as to request that the council of Marine authorize his return to France. Although the latter reassured him in July 1717 of its members’ entire satisfaction with his administration, in April 1718 he was appointed financial commissary at Calais. This provoked a general protest within the colony, and in November 1718 a petition to the council requested that Soubras remain at Île Royale for the good of the colony, having “until now filled [his position] worthily.” Though he was to have left the colony in the autumn of 1718, his successor, Le Normant* de Mézy, did not arrive until the following year. Soubras finally took leave of Île Royale late in 1719, but only after he had lost all his personal effects in a fire. In France Soubras served at Calais until 1721. He then was financial commissary at Rochefort and in 1724 at Bordeaux, where he died on 9 April of the following year.