Michel Baudouin entered the Jesuit noviciate at Bordeaux, France, in October or December 1713. By this time he had gone through college and had completed two years of philosophy. Whether he had done these studies in France or in his native Quebec is not known. In his early Jesuit years he made a fair impression as moderately capable. He had a good mind, common sense, and good health. Homesick perhaps for Canada, he seemed quiet and not over cheerful.
In 1715 he began teaching at Angoulême, and over the following two years advanced, according to the custom, with the same boys grade by grade. In the school years 1719–21 he taught the higher grades at Pau, and then spent a year each in the same work at La Rochelle and Fontenayle-Comte (dept. of Vendée). He began his preordination theological studies in 1722 at Poitiers and was ordained a priest in 1725. As 1726 drew to a close he was at Marennes, well into tertianship, the young Jesuit priest’s year of spiritual renewal. After one more year of teaching, this time at Luçon (dept. of Vendée), he was assigned in 1728 to the missions in Louisiana. There, in 1731, he pronounced the final vows of a Jesuit spiritual coadjutor.
For two decades he ministered to the Choctaws, whom he came to know “perfectly,” as Governor Bienville [Le Moyne] wrote in praise of him. Baudouin, who annually accompanied the Choctaw leaders to Mobile (Ala.) to receive their gifts from the French, was a major source of information about the Choctaw nation. Drawn into the diplomacy of the enduring Franco-Choctaw confrontation with the English-Chickasaw alliance, Baudouin must have realized that his life was always in danger.
In 1751 he was named superior of all the Louisiana missions, and therefore took up residence in the colony’s capital. He served in this role for almost a decade. Louisiana was in the diocese of Quebec and, against the will of the Jesuits and much to the displeasure of the Capuchins, Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil] of Quebec had since 1741 insisted that the Jesuit superior in New Orleans be diocesan vicar-general in Louisiana over Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries. Baudouin, a benevolent conciliator, had to suffer through years of quietly abrasive controversy that was settled only by the departure of the Jesuits from the colony.
When the Jesuits were suppressed in France, an imitation of the home-country court procedure was carried out in Louisiana in 1763 by the Conseil Supérieur. Then the missionaries among the Indians were brought to New Orleans; all Jesuits in the colony were ordered to become secular priests and to return to France. The septuagenarian Baudouin was permitted to remain in New Orleans since by this time his native Canada was held by the English and he had no family to receive him in France. To him as to other former Jesuit missionaries, the French government accorded a pension drawn on confiscated Jesuit property. He lived for a time as a guest of planters Jean-Charles de Pradel and Étienne Boré, and also of the Capuchins. In July 1766, “indisposed of body, but sound of mind, memory and understanding,” Baudouin was called forth from obscurity to give a deposition in New Orleans concerning former governor Louis Billouart de Kerlérec as part of the testimony in the interminable affaire de la Louisiane.
The date of Baudouin’s death is unknown. Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand*, writing to Sébastien-Louis Meurin* in April 1767, seems to have erred in reporting Baudouin dead, for in France as late as the end of April 1768 his death was unknown at court and among the syndics handling Jesuit affairs, who were planning to write to him. In the light of an entry in the financial record book of St Louis parish, New Orleans, one can conclude that Baudouin died shortly before Easter 1768; he was buried in the old parish church.
According to a variety of witnesses testifying throughout his life, he was a dedicated, gentle man who served God, country, Frenchman, and Indian.
AN, Col., C11A, 99, f.476; C13A, 15, ff.9, 153v; 16, f.207; 17, ff.39–43; 44, ff.470, 739-49; D2D, 10. ANDQ, Registre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 27 mars 1691. ARSI, Catalogi Aquitaniae (1714–30); Catalogi Franciae (1730–61). Louisiana State Museum Archives (New Orleans), 62/17, 3 Sept. 1763; 63/23, 17 Aug. 1763. St Louis Cathedral Archives (New Orleans), St Louis parish financial record book, 1756–1801, p.102. New régime, 1765-67 (Alvord and Carter), 561. François-Philibert Watrin, “Banissement des Jésuites de la Louisiane,” in JR (Thwaites), LXX, 212–301. Delanglez, French Jesuits in Louisiana. O’Neill, Church and state in Louisiana. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, I, 294, 331. A. E. Jones, “Le père jésuite Michel Baudouin,” BRH, XXIV (1918), 30–32.