PERRAULT (Perrot, Perreault), PAUL, adjutant-general of militia in Canada; baptized at Deschambault (Que.) on 4 April 1725, son of Jacques Perrault and Marie-Madeleine Paquin; d. at Kourou, French Guiana, 29 Jan. 1765.
Son of a farmer and a farmer himself, Paul Perrault also apparently engaged in trade and transportation ventures, and was successful enough to buy extra land. An early testimony to his ambition and ability was his appointment to head his community’s militia. As captain for the côte he was a sergeant, inspecting drills and equipment; a sheriff, enforcing the decrees of Intendant Bigot*; and a social symbol with a special pew in church. He directed statute labour (corvée) for the upkeep of roads and bridges and could even act as a minor magistrate.
With the coming of war in 1755 Perrault assigned the men of Deschambault to serve chiefly as bateau crews to convey troops and war materials to Lake Champlain. Military supplies were kept under armed guard in a storehouse on Perrault’s property, and he billeted passing officers, for example the Chevalier de La Pause [Plantavit*], in his home.
Perrault received a new appointment on 3 June 1759, with a rise in status. Governor Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil, having been refused permission to fill the vacant post of adjutant-general of militia with his first choice, his nephew, named Perrault. Though a simple habitant, he was perhaps marked for promotion because of his record as militia captain. Moreover, his wife – Marie-Joseph Rivard, dit Lanouette, whom he married at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade on 3 Aug. 1750 – may have been related to Joseph-Pierre Cadet*, Bigot’s associate. To one onlooker Perrault’s outstanding characteristics were his zeal and his fondness for intrigue.
As adjutant-general of militia Perrault coordinated the employment of all Canada’s able-bodied men (16,000). They were required as bateaumen, soldiers, and farmers: all of these needs were simultaneous and all were urgent. He was stationed at Montreal, his work being primarily as administrator and inspector, although he might occasionally advise the strategy-makers when he had particular knowledge. In 1759 one of his tasks was to select the militiamen to be incorporated into French regular and colonial regular units, in accordance with Montcalm’s favourite scheme for increasing the usefulness of colonial manpower. Writing to Lévis* about the importance of efficient supply convoys from Montreal to Quebec, Île aux Noix, and La Présentation (Oswegatchie, now Ogdensburg, N.Y.), Vaudreuil stressed that for planning “Perrot can be useful to you in this matter; you know just as well as I do how keen he is.”
Vaudreuil’s continued confidence was shown in his proposal (9 Nov. 1759) that Perrault should become assistant town major of Quebec: previous incumbents had all been officers in the colonial regular troops. Early in 1760 Perrault toured the parishes of non-occupied Canada to review the militia and to bolster the habitants’ determination to recapture Quebec in the spring, a difficult task after five years of war.
Perrault, his wife, and his three daughters (a son was born later) survived the war unscathed. Their homestead burned in August 1759, however, when an enemy raiding party blew up the military storehouse behind it. He was offered the chance to stay on as adjutant-general of militia under the British but refused. Instead, he aspired to serve the king of France further, and in 1761, without his family, went to Paris. By April 1762 he found himself in prison, charged with graft in the affaire du Canada. He was released on 10 Dec. 1763, and given the type of post he sought. “I have the anguish of seeing swindlers given 2,000 livres, 1,600 livres,” wrote Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay* to his wife in April 1764. “Even one of our Canadian peasants is to have 1,600 livres, namely that inconsequential Perrot from Deschambault, who is going to Cayenne [French Guiana] as adjutant of militia.”
In the summer of 1764 Perrault came to Canada to fetch his family. They sailed from Quebec during August in the Nourice, calling at Saint-Pierre and Miquelon on the way south. Perrault was charged by the French government to persuade about 300 miserable Acadians there to accept an offer of three years’ initial support if they would emigrate to French Guiana. The refugees were afraid of its hot unhealthy climate, which, Perrault argued in writing, was exaggerated; moreover, he added, Miquelon might be attacked by the British: “You, and myself too – we’re like the Israelites seeking the promised land. . . . In St-Pierre and Miquelon there are no streams flowing with milk and honey, on the contrary. . . . I am on my way to settle at Cayenne. Do you think that my family and my health are less dear to me than yours?” He could not move the Acadians, and in the middle of September carried on to South America.
Within three months of his arrival in French Guiana heat or a tropical plague brought him down, at Kourou. His family returned to France. Talent, tact, good luck, and good connections carried an ordinary habitant into association with the powerful men who ran the French administration. He was only 39 when he died – the price of ambition.
AN, Col., D2C, 48, f.334. “Le chevalier de la Pause,” APQ Rapport, 1931–32, 11. Bougainville, “Journal” (Gosselin), APQ Rapport, 1923–24, 388. Édits ord., II, 343. “Journal du siège de Québec” (Æ. Fauteux), APQ Rapport, 1920–21, 137–241. Knox, Historical journal (Doughty). Lettres de l’intendant Bigot (Casgrain), 77. Lettres du marquis de Vaudreuil (Casgrain), 99, 106. “Mémoire du Canada,” APQ Rapport, 1924–25, 160. PAC Rapport, 1905, II, pt.iii, 215–20. “Les ‘papiers’ La Pause,” APQ Rapport, 1933–34, 208. Bonnault, “Le Canada militaire,” APQ Rapport, 1949–51, 272–74. P.-G. Roy, Inv. procès-verbaux des grands voyers, IV, 137. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande, 150–51; Les petites choses de notre histoire (7 sér., Lévis, Québec, 1919–44), 3e sér.; “M. de Ramesay, lieutenant de roi à Québec, après 1759,” BRH, XXII (1916), 359–60.