BLANCHARD, TRANQUILLE, merchant; b. c. 1773, probably in Caraquet (N.B.), son of Olivier Blanchard and Catherine-Josephe Amirault; m. c. 1800 Marie-Modeste Robichaux, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Robichaux*, and they had three sons and seven daughters, two of whom died in infancy; d. 21 May 1843 in Caraquet.
Tranquille Blanchard had a career linked with Charles Robin and Company. His family’s connection with this powerful enterprise went back to 1766; that year his father was employed as pilot of the Seaflower by Charles Robin*, who came on behalf of Robin, Pipon and Company to explore commercial prospects in the Baie des Chaleurs. The master of a schooner and a carpenter, Olivier Blanchard was one of the founders of Caraquet [see Alexis Landry*], and as such apparently always enjoyed the greatest respect in the community.
Tranquille, the fifth of nine children, found himself the sole male heir to the family assets when he reached adulthood. In 1814 he went into business on his own, “at home.” A few years later he bought a small store at Pointe de Roche which he used as a trading-post and warehouse for his goods. From 1818 he served as middleman for Charles Robin and Company in the Caraquet region. The firm, which was based at Paspébiac in Lower Canada, was the largest exporter of fish in the Baie des Chaleurs area. It had set up a system of barter, advancing fishermen the products they needed in exchange for their catch. Blanchard was responsible for delivering to its customers the salt and bales of merchandise stored for them in its two small depots at Caraquet. In return the company assisted him in his own business, selling him the goods he ordered from Paspébiac and buying the dried cod brought in by his own customers. Although regarded as the company’s authorized agent for northeastern New Brunswick, Blanchard was never actually an employee. He received some remuneration for his services as its forwarding agent and warehouse man, but his income came principally from his business. Because of the concentration of the company’s local trade in his hands and his high level of turnover – about £1,000 to £1,200 sterling annually in the years before 1834 – he enjoyed exceptional discount rates on the goods he bought to sell to his customers (10 per cent, except on salt).
In the period 1826–37 Blanchard provided from 500 to 2,500 quintals of dried cod a year to Charles Robin and Company, and thus was one of its major suppliers. He dealt regularly with some 30 owners of fishing establishments. His business grew steadily, reaching a peak at the end of his career: £2,200 on average from 1834 to 1836 and £2,900 in 1837. In addition to dried cod and cod liver oil he delivered rabbit, marten, fox, and lynx pelts to the company, as well as substantial quantities of maple syrup. These minor items of trade, which he tried to promote among his customers so as to lighten the burden of their debts to him, remained secondary and became rapidly less significant towards the end of the 1830s.
Blanchard’s role as middleman between the company and its customers in the Caraquet region put him in an uncomfortable position. He had to apply locally the credit policy of his own creditor. Urged to be parsimonious in allocating merchandise, to press its customers to meet their obligations, and to select those to be given credit strictly on the basis of their performance in economic terms and their solvency, he claimed that his ability to carry out the task was limited by his links with the people of his community. Although he on occasion threatened to penalize his dishonest customers in order to induce them to pay their accounts, he put his main efforts into advising them to manage their family enterprises more responsibly. In hard times, when the community was having trouble securing bare necessities, Blanchard was ready to yield to the pleas of the poorest families. His creditor then reproached him for acquiring bad debts and retaining insolvent customers, but he hastily replied that this generosity was necessary to meet the competition from the other merchants and to keep the company’s clients. The competition he anticipated, whether imaginary or real, sometimes served simply as a pretext for him to ask his creditor for delivery of other necessities at the end of the fishing season.
The social pressures to which Blanchard was subject as a full member of the Acadian community of Caraquet forced him to give credit to his own most impoverished customers. They explain his precarious financial position and limited economic ambitions. In 1834 Blanchard, in delicate health, drew up his will. He made ever two small houses of similar size near his residence to two of his sons, Agapit and Tranquille, on condition that they live with him until they married.
In 1838 Charles Robin and Company decided to establish a company agent at Caraquet and to put up a store and warehouses there. Consequently Blanchard was delegated to prepare for the transfer and get the store built according to plans conceived by the management in Jersey; it was at this time, it seems, that he gave up his own store and went out of business. On arrival, the new manager, Francis Briard, contacted the company’s clients, who had been Blanchard’s customers. He soon realized how generous Blanchard had been in distributing merchandise in the course of the previous winter, and the company later blamed him for not adequately informing it about the true quality of the clientele he had encountered on arrival.
Tranquille Blanchard was a deeply religious man. The misfortunes that seemed to dog him – particularly deaths in his family – had shaken and disillusioned him, but they had also engendered real compassion for others in distress. Possessed of a keen sense of right and wrong, he had always made absolute integrity the keystone of his business activity and had reacted strongly against dishonesty on the part of his clients or any attack upon his reputation as a businessman. If he had often dared elude customs officers and engage in smuggling rum, it was because he considered the institution they represented could only be deleterious to trade and to the well-being of the people.
PAC, MG 28, III18. “Document inédit,” La Rev. d’hist. de la Soc. hist. Nicolas-Denys (Bertrand, N.-B.), 2 (1974), no.1: 22–25. Patrice Gallant, Les registres de la Gaspésie (1752–1850) (6v., Sayabec, Qué., 1968). Fidèle Thériault, Les families de Caraquet: dictionnaire généalogique . . . (Fredericton, 1985). Antoine Bernard, Histoire de la survivance acadienne, 1755–1935 (Montréal, 1935). W. F. Ganong, The history of Caraquet and Pokemouche, ed. S. B. Ganong (Saint John, N.B., 1948). David Lee, The Robins in Gaspé, 1766–1825 (Markham, Ont., 1984). André Lepage, “Le capitalisme marchand et la pêche à la morue en Gaspésie: la Charles Robin and Company dans la baie des Chaleurs (1820–1870)” (thèse de phd, univ. Laval, Québec, 1983). Fidèle Thériault, “Olivier Blanchard, 1726–1796,” La Rev. d’hist. de la Soc. hist. Nicolas-Denys, 6 (1978), no.3: 9–17.