MUIRON, DAVID-BERNARD, businessman and architect, contractor for the fortifications of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island); b. 8 Sept. 1684 at Bar-sur-Seine, France, son of François Muiron, the town’s commissary-inspector (a civilian agent of the war department) and of Marie Champion; m. 18 Jan. 1723 at Dijon, France, Claudine Seroin, by whom he had five children, including at least two sons; d. 27 Nov. 1761 at Arcenant (dept. of Côte d’Or), France.
By 1723 David-Bernard Muiron was king’s architect at Dijon, and subsequently became roads and bridges contractor for the provinces of Burgundy and Champagne. In 1736 he came to Île Royale for three reasons: ostensibly, under an agreement of 8 Sept. 1735, to develop Gratien d’Arrigrand’s logging and sawmill concession on the Plédien Creek near Louisbourg; to establish his own tannery; and to try to underbid François Ganet for the fortifications contract when it was renewed in 1737. Muiron refused, however, to be an instrument of furthering d’Arrigrand’s interests in the latter’s long-standing dispute with Ganet; after winning the contract in 1737 he negotiated a separate settlement with Ganet concerning materials and equipment in Ganet’s hands, to which d’Arrigrand laid claim. Furthermore, following an initial reconnaissance of the Plédien Creek and an unsuccessful attempt to have d’Arrigrand’s concession there registered by the Conseil Supérieur at Louisbourg, Muiron did nothing to develop it. Instead, he devoted his energies to his tannery and to the fortifications.
From 1736 to 1738 Muiron hired skilled tanners (who were scarce) and helpers; established a workshop, equipped with a water-mill, on the north side of the harbour; and tanned a quantity of cow-hide, sheepskin, sealskin, and walrus hide. By 1740 he had invested 4,500 livres in plant and 6,000 in labour and materials. He had no success in obtaining a monopoly, however, the only basis upon which he felt he could continue. The minister’s reason for refusing was that Muiron appeared to have overextended himself financially, and he wished him to concentrate on the fortifications.
Muiron did experience difficulty with his financial affairs. Under the contract he concluded with the king on 10 May 1737 after underbidding Ganet by 20 per cent, Muiron’s chief task was to construct Étienne Verrier’s new works completing the Louisbourg enceinte. Like his predecessors, he paid current bills with promissory notes. Caught, with few liquid assets, between a tardy debtor (policy was always to have the crown in debt to him, rather than the reverse) and impatient creditors, Muiron found his notes being discounted at 10 per cent or even refused. The government, fearing a threat to local business, would redeem the notes (or at least most of their value) and deduct the amounts from the payments to Muiron.
When setting the rate for his services, Muiron had counted on paying the soldier labourers in part with necessities and luxuries obtained at wholesale prices, and in part with money. Here his interests clashed with those of the officers of the garrison, who were used to supplementing their incomes by selling such goods to the troops at retail prices. As permanent residents, said to require the additional income, they received official sympathy. Consequently, when Muiron bid for the renewal of his contract in 1743, the government did not accept a condition that the men be paid partly in kind.
Muiron’s difficulties continued during this second contract. Though under the possible threat of military attack, the government reduced construction of the fortifications in 1744 in order to permit him to pay off his notes. In France, following the siege of 1745, Muiron faced pressing debts of 35,000 to 36,000 livres while claiming 104,500 livres from the crown. It was not until 1747, however, that authorization was given to pay him in full. On the other hand, d’Arrigrand appears to have been unsuccessful in his attempt to recover the value of materials and equipment provided by Ganet in 1737, although in March 1752 he was still trying in the courts to obtain 100,000 livres from Muiron.
In general, one suspects that Muiron’s nine years at Louisbourg were by no means unprofitable, even though his construction contract may have been rather less lucrative for him than speculation in the entrepôt trade of that port. In 1751 he purchased the hereditary office of court officer of the treasury court for Dijon. This suggests he was well off (since venal offices were usually expensive) and that he provided well for his heirs.
AD, Côte d’Or (Dijon), B, 65, ff.556–57 (Chambre des comptes de Dijon, enregistrement); C, 8993 (Bureau du contrôle des actes de Dijon); État civil, Saint-Jean de Dijon, 18 janv. 1723; État civil, Arcenant. AN, Col., B, 65, 66, 68, 70, 72, 74, 76, 78, 84, 86; C11B, 19–27; C11C 11, ff.128, 148, 164, 176; 12, ff.52, 73, 101, 141, 150, 168; E, 9 (dossier d’Arrigrand); F1A, 34, ff.205–12, 223; Section Outre-Mer, G2, 183, pièce 234, f.430; G3, 2039, 2047. J.-N. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie, II, 440–41. Frégault, François Bigot, I, 128–31. McLennan, Louisbourg, 101. Robert Le Blant, “Un entrepreneur à l’île Royale, Gratien d’Arrigrand, 1684–1754,” La revue des questions historiques (Paris), LXIV (1936) (offprint at PAC). Pierre Mayrand, “La renaissance de Louisbourg,” Vie des arts (Montréal), XLVI (1967), 35.