A Blupete Biography Page

Joseph de Brouillan

The Brouillan family prided themselves in the military service it had rendered to their king and country: seven of Brouillan's brothers died in battle. Brouillan himself came to Canada in 1687 as a captain of a company of French soldiers. After short service he returned to France in 1689. Soon, however, he received orders to go back and command the outpost at Placentia, Newfoundland. On his arrival he found the place to be in a "deplorable state." Brouillan, though described as "a man of harsh, jealous, and impracticable temper" (Parkman, Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV, p. 409), did much to fix Placentia up, and from there launched a number of successful military expeditions against the English, particularly against the their stronghold at St. John's.

Brouillan's exertions at Placentia earned him a promotion. In 1702 [Parkman says 1701; Brebner (New England's Outpost, p. 43) and DCB say 1702.], via Chibuctou and Grande Pré, Brouillan made his way to Port Royal. (It was during this time that he made his first observations of the Acadians. While Broullian admired the prosperity of the French Acadian village he found at Grand Pré, he was bothered by their independent spirit, a hallmark of the Acadians: Broullian described them in 1702 as "true republicans." "It seems to me," says Broullian in one of his reports back to France, "that these people live like true republicans, acknowledging neither royal authority nor courts of law." [DCB, vol. II, p. 480; Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (vol. 1), p. 110.]

On arriving at Port Royal, Brouillan found the place in ruins, this due to the British invasion of 1690. However, by this time, 1702, Port Royal was free of the British, thanks to the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). Brouillan's immediate task was to rebuild the fortifications at Port Royal (mostly from materials coming from the French fort at St John which he had torn down and floated across the Bay of Fundy). His next task was to get the French inhabitants in the area back into a productive mode. Farming on these fertile lands was to continue but he was keen on getting the Acadians in the area into the business of building boats and fishing fish (an industry that, due to his experiences at Placentia, Brouillan knew about). In the midst of it all Brouillan had his hands full of settling the "detestable custom of the inhabitants of Port Royal, squabbling over any and all detail, for example, where to put the church and where to put the public market. Under Brouillan's directions the settlers were formed up into militia groups (to go with the 200 regular troops), a lime kiln was built, a mill, and ships (including a naval frigate) were built; but most importantly the fortifications of Port Royal were rebuilt: and just in time, too. A substantial English force (3 warships, 15 transports and 550 militiamen) under Benjamin Church arrived, once again, to rub out Port Royal, along with other French settlements beginning with those then located along the coast of present day State of Maine. Church failed in his attempt to level Port Royal and the French remained safely behind their earthen walls, though the English ravished the countryside.

For a bit of an appreciation of the social problems of Port Royal at this time I direct the reader to my treatment of the short biography of Subercase. I note here, as I do elsewhere, of the affair in the colony between Louise Guyon and Bonaventure, and add that Brouillan also had an affair which kept the French tongues at Port Royal a wagging.

Generally, it would seem, Brouillan was apparently quite the lady's man. In addition to his well advertised affair with Jeanne Quisence, to which we will shortly refer, it was rumored Brouillan had many affairs including one with Louise Guyon and with a daughter of a churchwarden. (See Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (vol. 1), p. 114.)

When at Placentia, Brouillan had a person serving him, as a notary and a clerk, one, Claude Barrat. Claude had a wife, Jeanne Quisence, one might imagine an attractive woman -- at least she was to the governor. Claude got himself into considerable difficulty after being found out to be an embezzler; he was found guilty and ordered to pay back the public treasury. In the middle of all this Brouillan left for his new post at Port Royal. Barrat was invited by Brouillan to come to Port Royal to take up a position there, but the new governor at Placentia would not let Barrat go until his considerable debts were paid; the wife, Jeanne, however, carried on down to Port Royal. It was an open secret, this affair between the governor and Mrs. Barrat; she lodged herself at the governor's residence; and it was known the governor sent soldiers over to help her whenever she needed help at the tavern she ran in the town; and her son, a small boy, was put on the muster-roll of the garrison. In 1704, the Bishop at Quebec intervened and insisted that Mrs. Barrat be sent back to her husband at Placentia. She preferred not to be sent to Placentia, and, in 1704, she sailed for France. Brouillan arranged for leave and also went to France, presumably on the same sailing vessel. Mrs. Barrat returned from France back to Port Royal in the following year. On a separate vessel, Brouillan set out from France to make his return to Port Royal to return to his love and his duties: he never made it. Taken ill on the trans-Atlantic voyage, his shipmates aboard the Profond took him ashore at the first opportunity, at Chedabouctou (Canso): he died there on 22nd September, 1705. His body was committed to the deep and his heart was taken back to Port Royal. Bonaventure, second in command at Port Royal, buried Brouillan's heart "near the cross on the cape."

"Brouillan, the governor, was a frequent object of attack. He seems to have been of an irritable temper, aggravated perhaps by an old unhealed wound in the cheek, which gave him constant annoyance. One writer declares that Acadia languishes under selfish greed and petty tyranny; that everything was hoped from Brouillam when he first came, but that hope has changed to despair; that he abuses the King's authority to make money, sells wine and brandy at retail, quarrels with officers who are not punctilious enough in saluting him, forces the inhabitants to catch seal and cod for the King, and then cheats them of the pay, and countenances an obnoxious churchwarden whose daughter is his mistress." (Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (vol. 1), pp. 113-4.)
By way of an epilog: Jeanne Barrat, after the shock of the loss of Brouillan, both to her and the community, was ordered by the parish priest to leave Port Royal. She left. There is some question whether she went back to France or back to Placentia, there to form up with her husband Claude again. The census taken at Placentia shows that she, her husband and two children were resident at that place in 1711. Since the population at Placentia ("116 men, 10 women and 23 children" [McLennan's Louisbourg, p. 12.]) was transferred to set up the new establishment at Louisbourg, one may wonder if the Barrat family was not part of this founding group at Louisbourg?


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)