BISSOT DE VINSENNE (Vincennes), JEAN-BAPTISTE, second ensign in the colonial regular troops, agent of New France among the Miami people; b. 19 Jan. 1668 at Quebec; d. probably in 1719 among the Miami near the present site of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Bissot de Vinsenne was one of the 12 children of François Byssot* de La Rivière and Marie Couillard, and a godson of Jean Talon*, the intendant of New France. Claire-Françoise, a daughter of this marriage, wed Louis Jolliet*, an early explorer of the Mississippi. Jean-Baptiste entered the seminary of Quebec in 1676 but, being unfit for ecclesiastical life, left the institution in 1680. On 20 Oct. 1687, as he was preparing to leave for France to seek employment, he asked the Conseil Souverain to grant him letters of majority, which gave him the right to administer his property.
We next hear of Vinsenne in 1694. He had returned to Canada and had apparently decided to make his career in the west. In 1694 and 1695 he sold the properties that he owned in the colony, consisting of half the seigneury of Vincennes, lands in the seigneury of Lauson, and certain rights in the seigneury of Mingan on the north shore of the St Lawrence. Towards 1695 he was named second ensign in the colonial regular troops and the following year was sent by Governor Frontenac [Buade*] to command among the Miami, the Indigenous people who inhabited the territory southeast of Lake Michigan. He took advantage of the conflicts in the region to obtain an enslaved Iowa child (later baptized Jean-René), and was thus one of the first, in 1700, to bring back to Montreal from the Mississippi Valley an Indigenous person enslaved by French settlers. In 1704, the governor, Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, informed the court that Vinsenne enjoyed much influence with the Miami, important allies, and that New France stood in great need of his services.
Vinsenne was not above trading with Indigenous people when he went on his diplomatic missions to the interior. He did so in 1704 when Vaudreuil sent him among the Miami for the purpose of urging them to offer compensation to the Seneca whom they had recently attacked. This misuse of his commission greatly angered Pontchartrain, the minister of Marine, and may explain why Vinsenne never won promotion in the colonial troops. Vaudreuil, however, did not lose confidence in his agent. He continued to regard him as the colony’s leading expert on Miami affairs and to make frequent use of his services.
From 1712 until 1719 Vinsenne appears to have resided permanently with the Miami, arbitrating their quarrels with the Illinois and urging them to make war on the Fox people. After 1715, one of his principal responsibilities was to prevent the Miami from falling under English control. To achieve this end he was instructed by Vaudreuil to exhort them to move away from the Maumee River, where they had recently settled, and to return to their old village near Fort Saint-Joseph at the southeastern tip of Lake Michigan. Only a few of the Miami had complied when Vinsenne died in 1719. For this reason, the governor decided to consolidate French control of the Maumee River area by sending the experienced Jacques-Charles Renaud Dubuisson to establish a garrisoned post there in 1721.
On 19 Sept. 1696, in Montreal, Vinsenne had married Marguerite Forestier, daughter of Antoine Forestier, a surgeon, and Marie-Madeleine Le Cavelier. They had four daughters and three sons, one of whom was François-Marie.
AJM, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 6 sept. 1696. AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 25 oct. 1694, 22 févr., 9 mars 1695, 21 mai 1703. AN, Col., B, 27, 39; C11A, 22, 24, 33, 34, 35, 40, 42, 124; D2C, 47. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39, 1947–48. Jug. et délib., II, 799, 834–35; III, 189–90. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, III, 19; Sieur de Vincennes identified (Ind. Hist. Soc. pub., VII, no.1, Indianapolis, ).
Bibliography for the revised version:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 21 janv. 1668. Brett Rushforth, “‘A little flesh we offer you’: the origins of Indian slavery in New France,” William and Mary Quarterly (Williamsburg, Va), 60 (2003), 777–808.