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BIARD, PIERRE, Jesuit priest, missionary in Acadia; b. 1567 or 1568 at Grenoble, presumed to be the son of Jean Biard, royal notary and chatelain of, Gières near Grenoble, and of Jeanne de Cluzel; admitted 3 June 1583 into the noviciate of the Society of Jesus, at the Collège in Tournon; d. at the noviciate of Avignon, 17 Nov. 1622.

After his noviciate and his literary studies he taught at Billom, studied philosophy and theology at Avignon, and was ordained a priest in 1599. In the years following he taught theology at Tournon, then at the Collège in Lyon, which he left in August or September 1608 in order to go to Bordeaux, and there await an opportunity of getting to Canada. He had to bide his time until September 1610, when the provincial of the Jesuits of Paris summoned him to the capital in order to send him and Father Énemond Massé to Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) on the ship belonging to Charles de Biencourt, son of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt. When they reached Dieppe towards the end of October 1610, the two missionaries encountered opposition from two Calvinist merchants who were rigging the ship. [See Charles de Biencourt.] But Antoinette de Pons, Marquise de Guercheville generously solved the difficulty by buying up the merchants’ shares in the cargo, at a cost of 4,000 livres tournois. The noble lady stipulated that the missionaries should be partners of Poutrincourt, and should have half of the revenues of the expedition as their share. The contract was signed 20 Jan. 1611. The aim of the Marquise was to establish what was called a foundation for the maintenance of the missionaries. The capital which would be recovered on the ship’s return by the sale of the merchandise was to be reinvested in the following expedition, whereas the half of the profits accruing to the Jesuits would serve to pay for their maintenance. But this half was from the beginning hypothetical since the missionaries shared in all the expenses, whatever they were, not only those of the commercial expedition, which brought profits both to them and to Poutrincourt, but also those involved in the maintenance of the Port-Royal settlement, which was advantageous only to Poutrincourt.

Father Biard left Dieppe 26 Jan. 1611, and after a long and hard crossing of four months’ duration, reached Port-Royal 22 May. That same year he made three journeys along the coasts of New Brunswick and Maine, going as far as the Kennebec River, in an attempt to appease the quarrels among the French and to inculcate in the Indians the rudiments of Christianity. He incurred Biencourt’s rancour when he decided to baptize the Indians only after he had been able to give them some instruction, since he saw that those who were already Christians had retained all their pagan customs. As it happened, Biencourt was counting on the number of baptisms conferred by Abbé Fléché for propaganda purposes in Europe and for raising funds. [See Jean de Biencourt] Moreover Father Biard, who could not learn Indian languages at Port-Royal, conceived the idea of going and asking the help of young Robert Gravé Du Pont, Biencourt’s rival. Biencourt was vexed at this, and refused to let the missionary leave. Thus immobilized, the Jesuit faced with the others the winter of 1611–12 and all its hardships, which were further accentuated by the shortage of supplies.

Meanwhile, Poutrincourt, who had returned to France, had sold off the cargo from the previous voyage. As a result of his administration, neither he nor the missionaries were left with a single denier for investment in a new expedition. The Marquise de Guercheville’s suspicions were aroused, but she agreed to meet the entire cost of a new cargo, 3,000 livres, and she entered into a partnership with the master of Port-Royal in her own name, and no longer in that of the Jesuits. At the same time she got Sieur Pierre Du Gua de Monts to make over to her all the American Atlantic coast, excepting only Port-Royal. This news reached Biencourt at the end of January 1612, at the same time as the ship with the new supplies, and aggravated still further his aversion for Father Biard, whom Biencourt considered responsible for the usurpation of his rights over New France.

Poutrincourt’s agent, Simon Imbert, arrived on this ship with the Jesuit brother Gilbert Du Thet. Imbert accused the latter of regicidal utterances. [See Du Thet] The falseness of this charge was soon established, but Biencourt refused to dispense the justice demanded by Father Biard, and prevented the friar from returning to France to defend himself. Father Biard boarded a ship in secret; he was fully entitled to depart anyway. Biencourt used force to keep him at Port-Royal, and in this way incurred the sanctions laid down in canonical law. Father Biard, a prisoner of Biencourt, considered the settlement as excommunicated. A reconciliation did take place after three months, but the missionaries, spurned by the French and discredited among the Indians, could no longer pursue their work of evangelization. The winter of 1612–13 was to be spent seeking means of survival and waiting for relief to arrive. [See Charles de Biencourt]

The first voyage undertaken by the Guercheville-Poutrincourt partnership does not seem to have been a financial success. The agent of the Marquise at Dieppe had the vessel seized upon arrival, and the liquidation was carried out under legal supervision. Poutrincourt once again found himself without funds. The Marquise was disturbed about the fate of the missionaries, who had not been able to send any letters to France; she accordingly got her agent René Le Coq de La Saussaye to offer Poutrincourt the renewal of the partnership. She placed 750 livres at Poutrincourt’s disposal, but required that he should put up the same amount. The agreement between Poutrincourt and La Saussaye was concluded on 17 Aug. 1612. The loading of the cargo was completed towards the beginning of October, but at that time Brother Du Thet arrived in France, and told of the bad treatment to which the Jesuits had been subjected. The noble lady then decided to break with Poutrincourt and to prepare an expedition to go to another part of New France, under the command of La Saussaye. The latter picked up Fathers Biard and Massé at Port-Royal in May 1613, and went to found Saint-Sauveur. [See Charles de Biencourt.]

Construction work was held up there by dissension among the French. On 2 July 1613 Samuel Argall, a Virginian captain, seized the French ship and the fort which had been begun. Father Biard was taken to Jamestown with Father Jacques Quentin, a newcomer from France, and narrowly missed the gallows. He also escaped Biencourt’s hatred when he was taken back to Acadia; then, while returning to Virginia with the prospect of being hanged, he was driven across the ocean by a storm and finally reached France in April 1614. [See Argall and Charles de Biencourt.]

He returned to his ecclesiastical province, that of Lyon, and until his death was variously employed on popular missions, in disputations with the Calvinists, and as a military chaplain. Around 1620 he wrote an “Apologie” to defend himself against the insinuations made by Lescarbot in his re-edition of the Histoire de la Nouvelle-France in 1618. This “Apologie,” never published, has been lost. In the works cited below will be found Father Biard’s writings, which are of great interest for Canadian history and for Indian ethnology.

Lucien Campeau

BM, Cotton. MS Otho E. VIII, 84, ff. 252–53. Factum (1614). JR (Thwaites), I–IV, including Biard’s Relation of 1616 (III, 21–283; IV, 7–117). Lescarbot, History (Grant), III, 46–72. Purchas, Pilgrimes (1905–7), XIX, 213–16. Sources for this biography will appear in an early volume of Monumenta Novae Franciae, now in preparation, part of the collection Monumenta historica Societatis Iesu, published in Rome. Biggar, Early trading companies, 261–70. Encyclopedia of Canada, ed. W. S. Wallace (6v., Toronto, 1935–37), I, 222. Huguet, Poutrincourt, passim. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 166–69. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la Nouvelle-France au XVIIe siècle, I, 22–84. Pierre de Saint-Olive, “Les Dauphinois au Canada,” repr. from the Bulletin de l’Académie delphinale (1935), 16–17; Les Dauphinois au Canada: essai, de catalogue des Dauphinois qui ont pris part à l’établissement du régime français au Canada, suivi d’une étude sur un Dauphinois canadien: Antoine Pécody de Contrecoeur (Paris, 1936).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Lucien Campeau, “BIARD, PIERRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 24, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/biard_pierre_1E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/biard_pierre_1E.html
Author of Article: Lucien Campeau
Title of Article: BIARD, PIERRE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1966
Year of revision: 1966
Access Date: April 24, 2014