Why Iíll Drive an Oldsmobile but never a Cadillac


The Adventures of Louis Durand, Joseph Moreau and Sieur Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac

by Roger Durand


Reprinted with permission from The Journal of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, vol 18 #3, July 1997.

1. Introduction


This is a report of two voyageurs who, in 1696, had their possessions taken from them by a military official. They then brought a lawsuit against that official and won, but eventually received a only a fraction of the court judgement in out of court settlements. The military official went on to establish a city now named Detroit, and later became governor of Louisiana.

The primary sources for the information below is taken from: 1) the work by Mr. Elden Durand titled Durand: Jean Durand dit LaForturne and His Desendants which was printed in 1944 in Louisville, KY with limited distribution; 2) the book by Joseph and Viateur Durand titled Jean Durand et sa Posterite which was first printed in 1954 and is currently available from LíAssociation des Familles Durand, Inc., C.P. 6700, Sillery, P. Quebec, GIT 2W2 (in French). Other sources are footnoted or are listed at the end of the report.

The best summary of the case is found in the letter of Intendant Bochart Champigny to the King of France Louis XIV, dated 3 Jul. 1698. When Elden Durand wrote his work, he referred to the letter as being in the Burton Historical Collections at the Detroit Public Library. Elden Durand also referred to Vol. XXXIII, pages 86-94 of the 1904 Historical Collections by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society.

2. Situation in New France in 1696

a. People involved in the case:

Louis Durand, voyageur

Pierre Moreau, voyageur

Cadillac, Sieur de Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac, Commandant of troops at Michillimakinac,

Marie-Therese Guyon, wife of Cadillac

Frontenac, Louis de Baude, Comte de Palluau et de Frontenac, Governor of New France

Champigny or Intendant, Sieur de Champigny, Intendant of Justice, Police and Finance of New France

Assistant Intendant de LaTouche, Champigny subordinate in Montreal region

Sovereign Council


b. Authority in New France:

1. Governor--Governor Frontenac was the official directly responsible for defense and security (dealing with the Indian and English threats).

2. Intendant--Intendant Champigny was charged with the duties of regulating trade and economic activities. He was to maintain peace and order among the French inhabitants and he was to maintain their existing property rights. He had the authority to hear complaints and petitions and he was to see to it that the inhabitants were permitted to live at peace and work without interruption.

3. Bishop--Bishop Laval was the spiritual leader in New France. On occasion, the jurisdiction of both the governor and the intendant were questioned by Bishop Laval. He believed firmly that the princes and rulers of this world ought to be subject to guidance and control at the hands of the Pope, the vicar of Christ on earth. But he himself was the Popeís vicar, and so far as the bounds of Canada extended, the Holy Father had clothed him with his own authority. On more that one occasion the bishop used his powers of excommunication to exert control over the civil authorities.

[ Note: Neither intendant nor governor was subordinate to the other, each being directly responsible to the ministry at Paris, but each was on occasion to find his authority challenged by the other. Among offices as important as were those of the intendant, the governor, and the bishop; there were bound to be clashes of jurisdiction as we shall see in the lawsuit below.]


c. Conditions at Michillimakinac

Father Etienne Carheilís letter to Intendant Champigny painted a vivid picture of the situation at Fort Michillimakinac. Francis Parkman quoted the letter in his book on Canada:

"Next in importance to the Jesuit Iroquois missions were those among the Algonquins of the northern lakes. Here was the grand domain of the beaver trade; and the chief woes of the missionary sprang not from the Indians, but from his own countrymen. Beaver-skins had produced an effect akin to that of gold in our own day, and the deepest recesses of the wilderness were invaded by eager seekers after gain. The focus of the evil was at Father Marquette's old mission of Michillimakinac. First, year after year came a riotous invasion of coureurs de bois, and then a garrison of soldiers followed to crown the mischief. Discipline was very weak at these advanced posts, and, to eke out their pay, the soldiers were allowed to trade; brandy, whether permitted or interdicted, being the chief article of barter. Father Etienne Carheil was driven almost to despair; and he wrote to the Intendant, his fast friend and former pupil, the long letter already mentioned. "Our missions," he says, "are reduced to such extremity that we can no longer maintain them against the infinity of disorder, brutality, violence, injustice, impiety, impurity, insolence, scorn, and insult, which the deplorable and infamous traffic in brandy has spread universally among the Indians of these parts.... In the despair in which we are plunged, nothing remains for us but to abandon them to the brandy sellers as a domain of drunkenness and debauchery."

He complains bitterly of the officers in command of the fort, who, he says, far from repressing disorders, encourage them by their example, and are even worse than their subordinates, "insomuch that all our Indian villages are so many taverns for drunkenness and Sodoms for iniquity, which we shall be forced to leave to the just wrath and vengeance of God." He insists that the garrisons are entirely useless, as they have only four occupations: first, to keep open liquor shops for crowds of drunken Indians; secondly, to roam from place to place, carrying goods and brandy under the orders of the commandant, who shares their profits; thirdly, to gamble day and night; fourthly, to "turn the fort into a place which I am ashamed to call by its right name;" and he describes, with a curious amplitude of detail, the swarms of Indian girls who are hired to make it their resort. "Such, monseigneur, are the only employments of the soldiers maintained here so many years."


3. Events at Montreal and LaChine


Contract between Louis Durand, Joseph Moreau and Marie-Therese Guyon, wife of Cadillac


On the morning of April 11, 1696, in Montreal, two voyageurs by the names of Louis Durand and Joseph Moreau 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, Durand and Moreau agreed to leave Montreal for Michillimakinac with merchandise to be delivered to commander Cadillac at Michillimakinac. 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 Durand and Moreau but, under oath, denied by Mrs. Cadillac-- the courts discounted Mrs. Cadillacís oath) between Mrs. Cadillac and the two voyageurs in which Durand and Moreau agreed to take merchandise in excess of the contract. By the time Durand and Moreau 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).


The incident at Lachine


While Durand and Moreau 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 Durand and Moreau. 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 líHotel-Dieu (charity) in Montreal.

However, de LaTouche didnít get all of the excess merchandise. The canoe which had been seized was reloaded with merchandise from other canoes which had been overloaded by Durand and Moreau 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.


4. Fort Michillimakinac


Arrival in Michillimakinac and formation of a new partnership


The convoy left toward the end of April and arrived at Michillimakinac 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 Michillimakinac in order to sell some of the brandy to the troops, traders, and no doubt the Indians around the Fort.


Quarrel between Louis Durand and Cadillac and the imprisonment of Durand and Moreau


Cadillacís 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 Kingís 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 Indianís 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.


Confiscation of the Durand/ Moreau goods by Cadillac

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 Louis and Joseph kept their merchandise. The soldiers took for Cadillacís use the the voyageurís 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 Cadillacís 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. 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.


5. Quebec and the lawsuit


Durand and Moreau take legal action against Cadillac


After their travels in the west, Durand and Moreau 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 Cadillacís actions against Durand and Moreau and they felt that Cadillacís actions were so egregious that he should be brought before the court. Although Durand and Moreau were not the first to be bullied and wronged by Cadillac, they were the first to dare to challenge his actions before the courts.

Louis Durand and Joseph Moreau 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.


Agreement to arbitration

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.


Sensitive issues

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 Louis Durand and Joseph Moreau; 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 Durand and Moreau.

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.



Louis Durand agrees to out of court settlement

The suit didnít appear to be going well for Louis Durand and he wasnít 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.


Failure of arbitration

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.


Subsequent litigation before the Sovereign Council

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 Cadillacís 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 Kingís 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 Frontenacís recommendations would carry more weight that his (Champignyís). 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.


Frontenac intervenes

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.


Moreau drops his suit after an out of court settlement


Joseph Moreau, in spite of the verdict in his favor by the Intendant, felt that with Frontenacís 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.


Later events

Frontenac knew that Chapigny was sending a letter of complaints against Cadillac and himself to the King. In order to insure that his side of the arguments would be aired before the king, Frontenac sent Cadillac to France in late 1698 as an official courier. Shortly after the ship left with Cadillac, Frontenac became ill and died on Nov. 28, 1698 in Quebec. This death was to remove some of the importance of the affair which reverberated for several years.

When Louis Durand withdrew his suit against Cadillac on Jan.3, 1698, the latter, as we've already stated, was to pay a debt of two hundred pounds which Louis owed Nicolas Janvrin, a Montreal merchant. According to Rageotís records, this was done on Oct. 17, 1698. But instead of paying the debt in French currency, Cadillac had paid it in local currency which had about a quarter of the value! On Oct.23, Janvrin requested Louis Durand to pay the difference. But Louis had kept the right to recourse against Cadillac and, the next day, he petitioned the provost of Quebec to order Cadillac to pay the difference. The Lieutenant General of Quebec signed this petition, but at another hearing on Oct.27, the public defender, unbelievably, rejected it!


6. Importance of the case


Elden Durand summed the case up as follows:


"Early in 1696, three men entered into a partnership: Moreau, Sauton and Durand. Shortly afterward they were approached by and entered into an agreement to join Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac. Printed matter and court records have been obtained from the Palace of Justice of Quebec and Montreal, also from the Burton Historical Collection of the Public Library of Detroit, Michigan. In reviewing same we find their connection with Cadillac was most unpleasant - resulting in law suits that lasted from April 1696 to October 1699. Here we find how the courts proceeded to establish values of equities. The result of this case established for all time the security in Law regarding the ownership of personal property, the extension of credit by wholesalers, the protection for wholesalerís accounts, titles of personal property and crushed forever the power of any one to seize property other than by or through the courts of Law."


Joseph Moreau married Francoise Frigon on Feb. 8, 1700. He is mentioned in book XVII of the Laforest Our French-Canadian Ancestor series.

Louis Durand also married and is the ancestor to thousands of Americans of French-Canadian descent. One of these descendants was Theophile Denomme, who was so helpful to me in my genealogical research in the last two years of his life. I never met him in person but I still recall the phone conversation where he explained the stages of genealogy addiction. He placed me in the first stages and warned me about neglecting family, etc. He went on to predict that since I was in the early stage (where one is just collecting names, places, dates) I would eventually get to the stage where oneís ancestors are put into the historical framework of their lives. He felt at this stage one really connects with mankind and oneís life perspectives change--he was right.


Brown, George W., Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. I, 1000-1700, Canada, University of Toronto Press and Les Presses de líuniversite 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, Lí 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


Roger E. Durand
76 Marcin Hill
Burnsville, MN 55337

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