MURRAY'S REPLY TO LAFONTAINE'S COMPLAINTS, 24 APRIL, 1764.
ARCHIVES OF CANADA, SERIES Q. VOL. 2, p. 111.
Governor Murray's answer to the complaints Lodged against him by Monsieur De la Fontaine in his letter to the Earl of Halifax Secretary of State dated the 23rd October 1763 in two memorials therein inclosed.
In a Respectfull Obedience to my Royal Sovereigns Commands and agreable to the wishes of my own heart, I very chearfully deliver this publick reply to several matters of Complaint against me, as stated by Monsieur De la Fontaine in a letter to the Earl of Halifax Secretary of State of the 23rd October 1763 as well as in two memorials therewith transmitted by said Lafontaine.
I do this with the greater Perspicuity, it is necessary to reduce the whole accusation, very Artfully blended by the Plaintiff under four principle heads or articles, to each of which in as few words as the nature of the case will admitt, I shall give a distinct and separate answer, supported by proper and undeniable proofs.
1st. That I hindered the heirs of Bissot & Jolliet to repair & Settle the Post of Mingan in the year 1761.
Ans. I do not recollect any applications having been made to me for that purpose. Mr. Tachet, the widows Vederic and Volant three of the Coheirs may be asked what they know of the matter ; but certainly no Canadian in this town is ignorant, that the greatest part of the heirs of Jolliet & Bissot were absent in the year 1761 & that those present were incapable of the great expense requisite for the undertaking in Question. Had it been otherwise I should probably have refused Permission to some of them to go below at that time 1761 ; our situation made it necessary to allow none to establish themselves in, or frequent those parts but such as we could confide in.
2nd. That contrary to their inclination I made Mr. Lafontaine and Mr. Tachet give a lease of the Post of Mingan to Mr. Isbister.
Ans. It never could have entered the head of a Briton to order a man to sign a deed giving away his own property, but Mr. La Fontaine to prove the contrary, quotes a letter wrote to him by Mr. Panet. Mr. Panet's evidence, I imagine will set that matter in a clear light. Panet's expression “ J'ay dresse
par ordre de son Excellence le Bail du post de Mingan ” proceeded from my having desired him at Isbister's request to get that affair settled and finished as soon as possible, that the Isbister might not by delays loose the season. That it meant no more will be evident from the other part of the letter, which the court will be pleased to order Mr. Lafontaine to produce, as he acknowledges in his memorial to Lord Halifax that he is Possession of it.
I declare I understood at that time that Mr. Lafontaine was well pleased with the bargain, that it was what he had proposed himself & that it was a most advantagious one for him & the Coheirs. His own letter of the 10th August 1761 seems to affirm this & Mr. Isbisters evidence may perhaps corrobate it, as to the goodness of the bargain at the time, let it be considered & Determined on Oath by five of the most Creditable Merchants of the Place, Mr. La Fontaine to name two, Mr. Isbister two, & the council the fifth. It will be proper to hear Mr. Tachet ; if he chuses to speak all he knows of the matter, I shall be well pleased.
That I did recommend Mr. Isbister to Mr. La Fontaine & Mr. Tachet as the most proper man for the post of Mingan is most certain ; This Mr. Isbister had been long Principle Governor at Hudson Bay, he came here in the year 1760 with a wife and six small children, had merchandise to the amount of nine hundred Pounds, which were entirely calculated for the Posts below. Compassion for he had no Recommendation to me, made me desirous to see this man in a way to get a livelihood. Good Policy made me wish to have him established in the Posts below as he had the character of an honest man & was thoroughly acquainted with the language of the Indians residing there, & prudence made it necessary at that time of War, to be carefull who occupied the Posts in the Gulph & River St. Lawrence, & therefore passports were necessary. Now if Mr. La Fontaine can even insinuate and produce any man French or English who will join in that insinuation, that I or any person employed under me ever took a shilling for Passports or posts, it may create a suspicion in his favor & make the world believe that I had other motives in all this business of the Posts, than those consistent with my Duty. In his reply if he chuses to make any, it therefore behoves him to produce and support such insinuations.
3rd. That I stripped him of his property and gave it to other People.
Ans. This should mean nothing but the Post of Grand Mekatinat, He long attempted to deceive me with Regard to this Post but the Information of many honest men regarding it, and some unwarrantable behaviour of his when he was employed by me at first in a Court of Justice for the Canadians, opened my eyes and put me upon my guard. However, as I was well assured that the Grant of the Gros Mekatinat to Monr Hocquart, was not a legal one, as it had not been registered at the Conseil Superieur, I out of pure Charity for Mr.Lafontaine and his family gave him leave to occupy that post, as is expressed in my letter of the seventh September 1762 to the late Earl of Egremont in the following words “ and (I) gave Mr. Lafontaine a person in indigent circum-
stances with a numerous family, leave to fish and trade there (at Mekatinat) for one year only.”
Had he behaved properly he might still have Possessed that Post, but that very autumn 1761 in his way to another Post of his Montagamiou his conduct confirmed every bad thing I had heard of him, and in place of being his Protector, I ever after looked upon him as an enemy to the State. Mr. Isbisters Letter of March 1762 supported by Ross, and Algeos affidavits, evince with how much justice and how faulty I should have been to have countenanced such a man. This behaviour of Mr. Lafontaine and the Intelligence we had that winter of Privateers and Pirates, who sheltered and subsisted themselves by means of the Posts and the Bay of Chaleur made me think it highly necessary at the solicitation of all the merchants here, to arm a vessel for the Protection of their trade and the examination of the Posts, and likewise to redouble my caution with regard to the people who were to occupy the Posts in the Gulph and River St. Lawrence. It consequently became expedient to take the post of Mekatinat from Lafontaine, and to give it to Mr Gray in whom I could confide. I further declare, that could I have laid my hands on La Fontaine I should have brought him to this place not only to prevent the Mischief he was doing below, but likewise to answer the complaints of his Creditors Lymburner & Mackenzie.
The Officer commanding the armed vessel had orders to Seize him, but those orders could not be executed from an accident which happened to the vessel.
He says peremptorily in his memorial to Lord Halifax dated the 23rd October that I had declared while I was Governor of Quebec, he never should be paid the Three per cent from the produce of the Post of Mekatinat, but here is produced the minute of an order by Mr. Gray, before his departure for Great Britain, upon the 13th of last September to his Partner for discharging the same, which has been accordingly executed as Mr. Willm Grant the said Partner is ready to prove. What credit is to be given to anything this man can say ? When he spoke to me about the Post of Mekatinat last autumn before Mr. Panet I certainly said he should never have a Grant of it, while I was Governor of Quebec, if I could prevent it, but as to the three per cent I would inform myself, and if I found he had a just claim, I would order Payment. Mr. Panet soon told me he was assured of the Equity of that claim and payment was ordered accordingly. Mr. Cramahe is to be asked the conversation he had with Mr. Lafontaine which will shew the man had no reason to be alarmed and send home such groundless complaints, and a comparison of the memorials he gave into Mr. Cramahe my Secretary, with those sent to Lord Halifax, will at least further demonstrate the Disingenuity of this unhappy gentleman.
4th That when he set forth his claims to the Posts of Mingan and Mekatinat, I gave him gross personal abuse, and pushed my Resentment, so far, as to distress his family, by taking away the Royal Pension from two of his daughters.
Ans. Perhaps since the beginning of the World, nothing was ever more artful & more false than Mr. Lafontaine representation of these circumstances.
That I called him “ Scelerat, et monstre qui faisait honte a la nature Humaine ” is certain that I desired him to go out of my house is as certain, that he deserved this treatment and ten times more, I flatter myself will be allowed by all who are not dead to virtue. Many complaints had been lodged by Lymburner & Mackenzie two of the most considerable & opulent merchants of this place, accusing Mr. Lafontaine of very unfair Practices in his dealings with them., such as Mortgaging Estates to them which were the property of his children by which deception he would defraud them of their money, his children of their subsistence, and was still a large sum in their Debt, without any visible means of repaying it.
These complaints having been examined, and found to be considered with truth, part of his Estate was disposed of and the Remainder sequestered for the Payment of his Creditors, which however was by no means equal to their just claims.
The memorial of Messrs. Mackenzie & Lymburner, my order thereupon, and the proceedings of the council are hereto annexed, and will answer for themselves. Mr. Lafontaine was at this time below at his Post and his family which was here was by this act of Justice reduced to great extremity ; The two young Ladies, which I had before placed at their Brother in Laws house, where at my own expence Rooms were fitted up for them found their situation there disagreable, and as he could not maintain them for nothing, I prevailed upon Chaloux at Beauport to board them. I paid for their board out of my own pocket, the sum Mr. Lafontaine mentions, & gave some trifle to the eldest to buy necessaries.
At his return to Quebec last summer Mr. Lafontaine found his family & affairs in this unhappy situation. I sincerely pitied him, and could not prevail upon myself to add to his wretchedness by an exposition of Isbisters accusation, supported by the depositions of Ross and Alges and therefore prevented Isbisters prosecution. But we had not been here long, when I was told by everybody French and English, that he loudly complained . . . of the Injustice which had been done him, with regard to Mackenzie and Lymburner and by his Artfull insinuations was endeavouring to make the Canadians believe that they were to expect no Equity from Englishmen. I then thought it necessary to send for him La Fontaine, Mackenzie & Lymburner, I heard them all three with patience and found that I had not been deceived in the reports made to me. I upbraided him for mortgaging his poor children's effects and by his extravagance reducing them to misery he immediately replied that Mr. Panet was the man to be blamed for that horrid act, for that he had deceived him, and said much more to this honest man's disadvantage. I sent for Panet who vindicated himself and before my face made Mr. Lafontaine acknowledge his uprightness. I then summed up his whole conduct and finished by saying as well as I can remember, you was not Sir contented with reducing your family to Beggary, defrauding your creditors falsely accusing the Justice of Government & endeavoring to prevent that confidence and union so necessary for the
happiness of His Majesty's old and new Subjects, but you must labor to ruin a worthy honest man who by his Industry and Integrity can with difficulty Subsist a wife & ten small children. I will not send you to Gaol as you deserve but I pronounce you a wicked man, whose conduct is monstrous and shocking to Humanity. Such is the language and such the terrible injuries which he tells the minister he suffered, when he was claiming his rights to the Post above mentioned.
The language I confess, but he must allow the application he has made of it to be unjust, for it was no more than a reprimand for the Injustice and calumny he had been convicted of which had nothing to do with the affairs of the Posts.
Lymburner, Mackenzie, Cramahe, Panet and Major Mills to be examined and likewise Chaloux and Cugnet the son in law as to the attention I had to the young ladies.
It is not true that I withdrew my charity from the young ladies after this monstrous behaviour, the board of the Eldest was paid by me since, Madame Cartier will evince it, the second I know is well provided for tho' not at my expence. Mr. La Fontaine injures the greatest King in the world by supposing the charity of the mienest of his subjects could be the Royal Pension, nobody could have told him so, nor do such Pension exist.
Mr. Dunn and Mr. Lymburner are to be asked whether or not it was at my Recommendation that young La Fontaine was employed last summer by the Whale Fishing Company, I recommended him too to Mr. Ross my agent in London at the very time he carried home the complaint against me & begged him to endeavour to procure for him the command of a ship trading to this Colony. Let Tachet be asked whether or not he did pay to Lafontaine Six hundred dollars for the Post at Mekatinat, which I gave him and then let all the Earth Judge, if sought the destruction of this man or his family. Let him get four honest intelligent Canadians to subscribe to the character he has given of himself in the last part of his letter to Lord Halifax and I will say I was to blame for calling him Scelerat and ask his Pardon in the most Publick manner.
Upon the whole it may really appear to His Majesty servants that I have Bribed this man to give me thus opportunity of displaying my own justice, charity and moderation but no Canadian will suppose so, they know the man who probably reasoned thus Mr. Murray (for it was reported and believed here) is not to be Governor of Canada, consequently is disliked at court, any complaint against him will be Relished by the Minister who has prevailed upon the King to supersede him, now is my time to get a grant of Mekatinat, a Pathetic remonstrance of Injuries done me will procure me that Grant.
But Mr. Lafontaine is mistaken. The King who hears the complaints of the meanest of his subjects and does them the strictest justice, would not even in that Situation have condemned Mr. Murray unheard.