Friday, July 29, 2016

Great-uncle Joseph wins lawsuit against Cadillac

This is the story of two voyageurs Joseph Moreau, my 9th great-uncle, and Louis Durand who had their possessions taken from them by Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac a powerful and politically connected military official.

The voyageurs brought a lawsuit against Cadillac and won, but in the end they received a only a fraction of the court judgement in out of court settlements.

Cadillac, went on to establish the city of Detroit (1701), and eventually became governor of Louisiana (1710-1717).

The following story is edited from: “Why I’ll Drive an Oldsmobile but Never a Cadillac or The Adventures of Louis Durand, Joseph Moreau and Sieur Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac” – Roger Durand; “French-Canadian Families of Northeast Michigan: Part V” – Lorrie LaCross.  French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, vol 18 #3, July 1997

1696, voyageurs go to Michilimackinac

On the morning of April 11, 1696, in Montreal, two voyageurs by the names of Joseph Moreau and Louis Durand arrived at the office of notary Antoine Adhemar and signed a contract with Marie-Therese Guyon, the wife of Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac.

In this contract, Moreau and Durand agreed to leave Montreal for Michilimackinac with merchandise to be delivered to commander Cadillac at Michilimackinac.

They were to leave with the next canoe convoy leaving Montreal. Upon their return to Montreal the following September, Mrs. Cadillac would pay each of them a salary of one hundred pounds in silver. The contract stated that they were each permitted to take one hundred pounds worth of merchandise to trade for their own profit, and when they reached their contract destination they would be permitted to go where they wished. The authorization to bring merchandise was contained in a license issued by the governor of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, to his military subordinate Cadillac.

Besides the written contract, there was also a verbal contract (this was alleged to be true by Moreau and Durand but, under oath, denied by Mrs. Cadillac -- the courts discounted Mrs. Cadillac’s oath) between Mrs. Cadillac and the two voyageurs in which Moreau and Durand agreed to take merchandise in excess of the contract.

By the time Moreau and Durand were ready to fill their canoes upstream of Lachine on the Ottawa River north of Montreal, they had even more merchandise to load.

In total they showed up on the river banks with the following: 1) Merchandise allowed by the trading license and contract with Cadillac; 2) Extra goods by verbal contract with Guyon; and 3) Extra goods added in by Moreau and Durand for their own profit (justified, they felt because of the low wages they were to receive by their contract).

While Moreau and Durand were loading their second canoe at Lachine, assistant intendant de LaTouche, (on orders from Intendant Champigny to insure the canoe convoy complied with the terms specified in their trading licenses from the King), stopped the loading by Moreau and Durand.

De LaTouche noted that their merchandise was in excess of the Frontenac permit, and de LaTouche confiscated what he thought to be the total of the excess merchandise and had it sold at an auction. These funds went to the l’Hotel-Dieu (charity) in Montreal.

However, de LaTouche didn’t get all of the excess merchandise. The canoe which had been seized was reloaded with merchandise from other canoes which had been overloaded by Moreau and Durand but not detected by de LaTouche. They eventually filled their canoe and two other canoes of the Indians who went up the river at the same time with them.

The convoy left toward the end of April and arrived at Michilimackinac without any more incidents. Commander Cadillac received the two voyageurs who brought his merchandise. He urged them to form a company to trade with the Sioux and requested that the two partners take in another partner, a voyageur by the name of Mathieu Sauton, who was also from Montreal. (Sauton had brought merchandise worth one thousand five hundred and thirty-nine pounds.)

Cadillac was personally interested in the plans of the company because it was he who would be suppling them with seven thousand pounds of merchandise for trading and he was to personally receive profits from the trading on these goods. The three voyageurs agreed to the plan but delayed their departure from Michilimackinac in order to sell some of the brandy to the troops, traders, and no doubt the Indians around the Fort.

Cadillac’s good will toward the traders changed drastically when he learned of the incident at Lachine which put him in a bad situation with the Intendant Champigny who had already reproached him several times for various complaints including transporting merchandise in excess of the permits granted by the King’s orders. Cadillac had always claimed that he was innocent and maintained that the complaints against him were unjustified. Various sources doubt his innocence. ( Margry, Origines francaise, t. V. CXXII).

Cadillac and Durand exchanged angry words and subsequently Cadillac had Durand arrested under the pretext that he answered him insolently. He also accused Durand of killing or injuring an Indian’s dog.

From prison Louis Durand sent a message to Cadillac that he would not (and could not while in jail) complete the trade agreement they had made. Joseph Moreau also refused to fulfill the obligation of the contract since he no longer had Durand to help him. Shortly thereafter, Moreau was also imprisoned because he was attempting to break his contract and, according to Cadillac, trying to help Durand escape.

Following the imprisonment of Moreau and Durand, Cadillac undertook a course of action which led to the lawsuits of which are the subject of this report.

On July 27, while the two voyageurs were in prison, Cadillac sent a sergeant and some soldiers from the garrison to the cabin where Joseph Moreau and Louis Durand kept their merchandise. The soldiers took for Cadillac’s use the the voyageur’s hardware, guns, food, wine, canoes, and strong box.

Among the many items were: twenty pounds of lead, five barrels of powder, fifteen sacks of wheat, a piece of red fabric from Limbourg, eighteen lengths, worth twelve pounds a length, blankets, a pair of stockings from Saint Mazant, a military coat; seven packs of beaver, two otter pelts, two elk skins, three hind skins, a quantity of "dry goods", eighteen pounds of vermillion, and more. The brandy must have sold well!

Cadillac ordered their strong box opened and this contained the following: papers, two razors, a mirror, a seal, a half pound of pepper, salt, nutmeg, a pocket knife, a knife, a stick of Spanish wax, six packs of playing cards, an ink pot and several trading documents including two bills of credit--one for sixteen hundred pounds and one for fifteen hundred pounds, from people who had bought brandy.

Cadillac then had the audacity to rewrite these bills in his name. These capricious actions of the powerful Cadillac against the two voyageurs were apparently not uncommon occurrences according to Cadillac’s contemporary authors.

Several days later the two partners were released from prison and they found themselves stripped of all their possessions. Since Cadillac was the law of the land at the frontier, they had nowhere to turn for justice and they had to borrow from other traders to survive.

1697, return to Montreal

They were able, nevertheless, to acquire some merchandise for trade with the Sioux. They probably spent the fall and winter amongst the Sioux and they eventually returned to Montreal and Quebec in the fall of 1697.

After their travels in the west, Moreau and Durand went to Quebec and waited for the return of Cadillac. It is apparent from existing documents that members of the Quebec Sovereign Council heard of the details of Cadillac’s actions against Moreau and Durand and they felt that Cadillac’s actions were so egregious that he should be brought before the court. Although Moreau and Durand were not the first to be bullied and wronged by Cadillac, they were the first to dare to challenge his actions before the courts.

Joseph Moreau and Louis Durand presented the commander with a long petition against him. Their primary demands included the two hundred pounds owed them for wages, and reimbursement for the bills of credit as well as for all the merchandise he had taken from them.

At the end of the petition, which was filed through Commissioner Champigny's office and dated Sept. 14, 1697, there was a summons for Cadillac to answer within three days.

An appointment was made for the following Tuesday at nine A.M. Bailiff Prieur brought the petition, the summons, and the appointment to Cadillac that same day.

Cadillac returned the petition and claimed that the merchandise was his own. Moreau and Durand refuted this and Cadillac was ordered to make a written answer.

Accusations and verbal counterattacks between Cadillac and Moreau/Durand went back and forth and on Nov. 23, 1697 the voyageurs and Cadillac agreed to a compromise which would keep them out of court. They agreed to the choice of the two merchants, Hazeur and Francois Viennay-Pachot, as arbitrators in their disagreement. Each merchant was to represent one of the parties and the arbiters could, if desired, choose a referee to decide the case. They did employ such a referee and his name was Chambalon.

Issues and questions regarding the facts in the case arose which required more in depth investigations and oaths by the parties involved, including Mrs. Cadillac. The Intendant appointed a man named Dupuy from the prevostship of Quebec as a separate investigator.

He attempted to learn the answer to the following issues: 1) What was the value of the merchandise traded in the land of the Sioux and Ottawa by Joseph Moreau and Louis Durand; 2) Was trade to the Sioux country authorized by Cadillac--against a strict policy at the time which was to prohibit such excursions; and 3) Did or did not Mrs. Cadillac make a verbal agreement with Moreau and Durand.

Cadillac made it clear that he wanted the arbitrators and Dupuy to cease investigation in these areas of the case and made threats against the parties involved. Indeed, he had his superior Frontenac intercede on his behalf. Dupuy continued his investigation in spite of opposition from Cadillac. The following day Frontenac had Dupuy seized and thrown into prison for continuing against the wishes of Cadillac, which were also his own. This was not the first time Cadillac or Frontenac solved their problems by incarcerating their adversaries.

The suit didn’t appear to be going well for Louis Durand and he wasn’t able, because of the suit, to earn a living. He had been residing in Quebec since Sept. 24, 1697, and seeing no end to the affair, decided it would be wise to put an end to his expenses. Consequently, on Jan. 23, 1698, he filed a paper to rescind his suit against Cadillac and made arrangements to do so through Gilles Rageot, notary in the provost of Quebec.

On the same day, apparently in exchange for his withdrawal from the suit, he received an agreement from Cadillac to pay a bill of two hundred and fifty pounds which Durand owed Nicolas Janvrin, a Montreal merchant. Cadillac agreed to do this as soon as Durand left for Michillimakinac.

We know that Cadillac did not fulfill his promise until much later, because there is a copy of this payment to Nicolas Janvrin dated the following October. That was all that Durand would receive from Cadillac.

1698, Joseph Moreau's lawsuit continues

The lawsuit of Joseph Moreau followed its course. On Feb. 14, 1698 the arbitrators Hazeur, Pachot and Louis Chambalon, intimidated by the imprisonment of Judge Dupuy and by the interference of Frontenac on Cadillac's behalf, and no longer feeling free to do as they had been instructed, withdrew from the case.

On Feb.25, 1698 the Sovereign Council took up the case again.

The Sovereign Council considered a request by Cadillac to return the case to the Quebec provost's office. Cadillac complained (probably correctly) that he could not possibly receive a fair hearing before the Intendant because the Intendant had already advised his adversary (Moreau) and had previously imposed a large fine on Cadillac for using brandy in his trade with the Indians.

The Intendant withdrew from the courtroom while the other members of the Sovereign Council heard Cadillac’s protestations. In the end, the Council decided to keep the case in the Sovereign Council and recommended that Intendant Champigny should remain as judge in the case. Cadillac was furious.

Another session of the Sovereign Council was held on Mar. 10th. Cadillac declared that since he was refused a change of venue, he would appeal to a higher court (in France) and Governor Frontenac announced that he was not able to refuse this appeal until he received notice from the King’s Council in France. At that, the Attorney General called for all communication on the subject to study what should be done.

On Monday, Mar. 17, at the request of the Attorney General, a special session was ordered for Friday, Mar. 21. At this session the Governor and the Intendant removed themselves temporarily from the courtroom and the council recommended to the Intendant that he should send the information on the case to the Secretary of State in Paris, Mr. de Pontchartrain, so that the court could receive the opinion of the King regarding this sensitive and volatile case. In essence, this recommendation is what Frontenac was telling them to do.

However, Champigny knew that Secretary of State Pontchartrain was a nephew of Frontenac and he probably felt that Frontenac’s recommendations would carry more weight that his (Champigny’s). Furthermore, according to French custom the Sovereign Council usually decided jointly with the Intendant on all civil and criminal offenses; but the Intendant, if he thought it right, could judge a civil case alone (cf. Faillon, t. 3, p.537).

Intendant Champigny now decided to judge this case by himself. His verdict was rendered on April 2, 1698. He ordered Cadillac pay Moreau the sum of three thousand four hundred pounds six deniers. The next day Moreau requested satisfaction from Cadillac.

Cadillac, to gain time, sent a request for help to Frontenac. Frontenac sent back an order to delay the decision of the Intendant against Cadillac until it pleased the King to announce his opinion regarding the affair. This would obviously take months and was a delaying tactic.

Joseph Moreau, in spite of the verdict in his favor by the Intendant, felt that with Frontenac’s involvement he was not able to obtain justice in New France and decided to sail to France in October in order to bring his suit against Cadillac to the King.

Cadillac, perhaps apprehensive that the outcome might go against him if Moreau would be able to plead his case in person, offered Moreau sixteen hundred pounds to settle the dispute. He then had influential people persuade Moreau that it would be better to accept this offer than to get nothing.

Moreau decided to accept the offer. However, before accepting it, he filed a deposition at the office of notary Roger on Oct.1, 1698 stating his reasons for withdrawing his suit against Cadillac. On Oct. 9, Gilles Rageot drew up the withdrawal of the suit.

Our Lineage from Joseph Moreau:

Joseph Moreau (1672 - 1708) -- 9th great-uncle
Jean Moreau (1635 - 1710) -- father of Joseph Moreau
Jean Baptiste Moreau (1657 - 1727) -- son of Jean Moreau
Gabrielle Louise Moreau (1694 - 1750) -- daughter of Jean Baptiste Moreau
Marie Elisabeth Rondeau (1708 - 1768) -- daughter of Gabrielle Louise Moreau
Marie Judith Gravel Brindeliere (1757 - 1779) -- daughter of Marie Elisabeth Rondeau
Jean Baptiste Mignier Lagasse (1776 - 1835) -- son of Marie Judith Gravel Brindeliere
Marie Emélie Meunier dit Lagassé (1808 - 1883) -- daughter of Jean Baptiste Mignier Lagasse
Lucy Pinsonneau (Passino) (1836 - 1917) -- daughter of Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé
Abraham Lincoln Brown (1864 - 1948) -- son of Lucy Pinsonneau (Passino)
Lydia Corinna Brown (1891 - 1971) -- daughter of Abraham Lincoln Brown -- my grandmother


Brown, George W., Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. I, 1000-1700, Canada, University of Toronto Press and Les Presses de l’universite Laval, 1966

Denomme, Theophile W., Jean Durand and His Descendants, Michigan Habitant Heritage, Vol. 17 #2, Apr., 1996

Durand, Elden, Durand: Jean Durand dit LaFortune and his descendants, manuscript, Kentucky, 1944

Durand, Joseph, C.S.V., Viateur Durand, C.S.V., Jean Durand et sa Posteritie, L’ Association des Familles Durand, Inc., Montreal, 1954

Laforest, Thomas J., Jacques Saintonge, Our French-Canadian Ancestors, Palm Harbor, Fl, 1993

Margry, Origines francaise, t. V. CXXII

Parkman, Francis, France and England in North America, Volume I, New York, Viking Press, 1983

Reid, J. H. Stewart, Kenneth McNaught, Harry S. Crowe, A Source-book of Canadian History, Toronto, Longmans Canada Limited, 1959

Mike Durand, The Legend of Louis Durand Early French Canadian Voyageur,

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