RAUDOT, ANTOINE-DENIS, commissary and inspector general of the Marine, economist, Intendant des classes, adviser on colonial affairs at the French court, expert on the North American Indians, chief clerk of the royal household, director of the Compagnie des Indes, administrator of Louisiana, councillor of the Marine, intimate of France’s leading economists and geographers, intendant of New France, 1705–1710; b. in 1679; d. at Versailles, 28 July 1737.
Antoine-Denis Raudot was born into family circumstances that were very favourable to a career in the royal service. His immediate ancestors had only recently abandoned their leisurely existence in the province of Burgundy, to fill important positions in the military and in France’s administrative departments. Jean Raudot, Antoine-Denis’ grandfather, had been the architect of this sudden change in fortune; his advantageous marriage to a member of the Talon family – the influential advocates general of France – had made him a relative of the future minister of Marine, the Comte de Pontchartrain, and had ultimately opened his way to a post as king’s secretary. Jacques Raudot, Antoine-Denis’ father, had also made good use of his opportunities and was a counsellor in the Court of Aids at Paris. Thus it is not surprising that at the age of 20, Antoine-Denis was already embarked on a career of his own, as a writer in ordinary in the Marine. He seems, moreover, to have been anxious for rapid advancement, for in 1702 he purchased a position as commissary and, on 2 Aug. 1704, acquired by the same means the post of inspector general of the Marine in Flanders and Picardy. He sold this latter office, however, in April 1705, after receiving a commission, dated 1 January of that year, appointing him and his father intendants of New France.
The commission made it clear that Antoine-Denis was being sent to the colony primarily to second his father, who was in his mid-sixties and who suffered from a number of physical disabilities. It stated, for instance, that while he was to have “entrée, séance, voix et opinions délibératives” in the Conseil Souverain immediately after Jacques, he could preside over the proceedings only when the latter was incapacitated or was more than ten leagues from Quebec. Then too, whenever they were in agreement on the decision to be rendered in a legal process, their voices were to count only as one. Other convincing indications of Antoine-Denis’ secondary status are that he received no salary and that he acted as his father’s secretary through most of their joint tenure. Yet it would appear likely that there were other motives, besides providing Jacques Raudot with an able assistant, behind Antoine-Denis’ unusual appointment. It was rumoured at the time, for example, that the minister, Pontchartrain, was very anxious to further the career of his young relative. While this may have been the case, it could also be true that Antoine-Denis had already begun to display those qualities of intelligence and incisiveness and that ability to theorize in economic terms on a grand scale that eventually made him a powerful force in French colonial policy-making. Certainly the evidence indicates that both the Marine officials and Jacques Raudot expected him to handle the financial affairs of the intendancy and to propose solutions to New France’s distressing economic problems.
Antoine-Denis assumed the responsibilities of his new post in September 1705. Soon after, the dispatches passing from the colony to Versailles began to make mention of his remarkable character. His contemporaries at Quebec were impressed with his proficiency and were amazed that a man of only 26 could be so completely the master of his emotions. One of them described him as “. . . extremely wise and naturally just, very restrained, and of a surprising evenness of mind, which had something of the character of the ancient stoic philosophers about it, for he was not upset by any event . . . the most overwhelming misfortunes would not have been able to disturb his peace of mind.” These attributes were manifested in the young intendant’s correspondence with the ministry. His memoirs on finance, commerce, fortifications, defence policy, Indian relations, and other less weighty subjects all testified to his calm rationality and to his faculty for quickly penetrating to the heart of any matter. In fact, emotionally and in his interests, he was a startling contrast to his father. While Jacques, a bombastic and extremely temperamental man, was fascinated by the details of legal affairs and was most concerned with reforming the abuses in existing institutions, Antoine-Denis preferred to generalize about the colony’s overall condition and to programme its future course. Yet despite their different natures, there is no indication that they ever differed on basic policy or in their view of Canadian society.
On the contrary, Antoine-Denis shared his father’s low opinion of the colony’s inhabitants. He complained to the minister that New France was populated by “vicious minds” and that “. . . virtue does not triumph in this country, only vice, scandal, and libel.” Since each person was solely concerned with his own immediate advantage, there was no public spirit or cooperative commercial outlook. The intendant claimed too that the habitants were poorly disciplined and that the secondary officers, both military and administrative, were insubordinate. Partly because of these bleak social impressions, Raudot became discouraged about the prospects for a swift recovery of the colonial economy. In his earliest dispatches he had spoken enthusiastically of New France’s rich resources and had even requested a master builder along with other skilled workers from France to establish solidly the shipbuilding and tar-pitch industries; his increasing awareness of the country’s serious limitations in labour, capital, materials, and technical skills soon curtailed these ambitions. In 1706, he noted that the conditions of war had driven prices and wages beyond the point where shipbuilding was even possible, let alone profitable.
Worse still, each year fewer and fewer vessels were arriving at Quebec from the port cities of France, thereby making it impossible to transport the colony’s lumber, fishery, and agricultural products to the mother country. Furthermore, as Raudot began to plumb the depths of the Compagnie de la Colonie’s dismal financial situation, it became apparent that the merchants of New France were in no position to finance new enterprises. Summing up the colony’s economic plight in their joint dispatch of 1707, the Raudots declared: “A true picture of Canada was given you, my lord, when you were informed of its misery; everything there is poor and exists only as a result of His Majesty’s gracious beneficence. The war contributes greatly to these misfortunes and only a good peace could enable the habitants to undertake some improvements.” Antoine-Denis therefore devoted himself to preparations for peace – to uncovering the fundamental causes of New France’s economic malaise with the aim of elaborating a long-range programme of recovery.
Raudot was an economic theorist who believed that the power of individual nations was directly related to the size and scope of their commerce and that “. . . the only thing that makes countries rich is selling more to foreign countries than they buy.” It was his fidelity to this concept that helped make him an influential figure in the France of Cardinal Fleury and it lay too at the root of his proposals regarding New France. In 1705 he informed Pontchartrain that the colony’s economy was languishing mainly because its commerce, so heavily dependent on furs, had been crippled as a result of the glutting of the European fur market. As long as that market had been able to absorb the yearly flow of Canadian pelts, it had been possible to ignore the dangerous implications of such a narrow commercial base; but now, with enough greasy beaver in French storehouses to last for 20 years, the disastrous effects were painfully apparent. Raudot estimated that by 1706 New France’s total annual revenue had dwindled to 650,000 livres and all but 20,000 livres of that sum was derived either from the sale of furs or from the royal treasury. The colony’s merchants, moreover, experienced only in the simple transactions of the fur trade, possessed neither the entrepreneurial skills nor the capital resources necessary to adjust to the new situation by applying themselves to non-fur enterprises. The habitants were also guilty, according to Raudot, of relying on the easy profits of the fur trade, while cultivating their lands with an eye to subsistence only. Consequently, though the colonial inhabitants still required merchandise from France, they had little to offer in exchange.
Although this analysis of New France’s economic condition really just summarized what Marine officials had already been told times without number, Raudot’s proposed solution represented a radical departure. He maintained that the colony’s recovery could occur only as the result of a new economic orientation, in which the fur trade would become a mere component of a multi-faceted export commerce. He envisaged the emergence of agricultural products as the new mainstay of the colony’s trade, with lumber and fishery resources playing an increasingly important role. As he explained: “. . . in future this country must regard the fur trade as merely an adjunct to its commerce, and make the principal component the products of the land, which are always an almost certain source of wealth.” But Raudot emphasized that the success of such a transformation would hinge on the availability of a market for Canadian products – one that would be more accessible than France or the West Indies. In this connection, he stated: “. . . I am persuaded that the only way to set this country up again . . . is to establish a city near the Gulf of St Lawrence which can consume produce.” He submitted a memoir in 1706 which depicted Cape Breton island as the ideal location for this new establishment.
Raudot’s Cape Breton proposal was at once brilliant and original. Ostensibly designed to restore the troubled economy of New France, it was actually a project for the future commercial development of France’s entire Atlantic empire. The intendant therefore took great care to outline the potential benefits to both colony and mother country. New France, he declared, would not only be provided with a market for her agricultural produce and a clearing house for her other exportable products, but she would also be able to acquire manufactured goods from France more cheaply and in greater abundance. Cape Breton would become her storehouse, because French merchants would take full advantage of the opportunity to carry on a safer trade, over a shorter distance, with a far better chance of obtaining a return cargo. In addition, New France’s transport difficulties would be largely solved, since she would require only 30 to 80 ton vessels to carry on her trade with Cape Breton. These ships could be easily constructed by Canadian shipbuilders, with a resulting stimulus to the colony’s industrial economy. Beneficial also would be the rapid growth of a three-cornered fishing operation between Quebec, the Labrador-St Lawrence fishing grounds, and Cape Breton. In sum, Raudot believed that the magnetic pull of this new establishment would, in time, completely rejuvenate New France’s economy.
But France, he maintained, stood to gain even more: for the Cape Breton project would furnish her with an opportunity to augment her own commerce greatly at the expense of that of her European rivals, and especially of that of England. Besides consolidating a mutually beneficial commerce between the port cities, the West Indies, and New France to the exclusion of foreign interlopers, it would create possibilities for the sale of French merchandise to New England and, at the same time, for shouldering aside New England in the trade with Spain and the Spanish American colonies. Indeed, with Cape Breton acting as a safe refuge, a supply depot, and an operational base for privateering, France could conceivably edge England from the rich Newfoundland fishing areas and, in time of war, wreak havoc on her Atlantic shipping. Then too, with New France flourishing behind the protection of this gulf barrier, France could eventually ship large quantities of her forest products to the royal arsenals, enabling her to jettison her costly trade in these items with the Baltic countries. In all, Raudot described a network of commercial possibilities and strategic advantages so attractive as to immediately capture the interest of the most important Marine officials.
Even so, the Cape Breton proposal did not meet with instant acceptance. It is doubtful, for one thing, if it could have been put forward at a more inopportune time. Writing in 1707, Pontchartrain argued that the concept, while theoretically promising, took little note of France’s present financial difficulties and therefore stood no chance of being implemented in the near future. The royal treasury was simply unable to supply the 100,000 écus yearly that would be required in the early stages. The minister also rejected Raudot’s contention that the state, rather than a private company, should undertake the project. He asked the intendant to forward a second memoir that would reduce the proposed costs to their bare minimum and would play up the advantages to private investors. Raudot complied with this request, but he stressed that no matter how the project was financed it could not possibly begin prior to the negotiation of a firm peace. Accordingly, between 1706 and 1710 he limited his own activities to establishing France’s legal claim over the Cape Breton area and to creating the conditions in New France that would enable her to take maximum advantage of the project, if and when it was implemented.
Raudot recognized in this regard that to achieve his goal of making agricultural produce instead of furs the mainstay of the colony’s export commerce, he would have to induce the inhabitants to think along those lines. He was, like his father, a strong paternalist who believed that such changes could be best promoted through close governmental supervision. As he explained to Pontchartrain, “. . . the new settlements need to be developed the way a good father would develop his land.” He therefore supported Jacques’ recommendations for increased royal authority in the parishes and he issued a long series of ordinances that were intended not only to discipline the habitants better, but also to eradicate their lazy habits. This authoritarian interest, however, also made him a champion of the interests of the poor farmers. In 1706, for example, he opposed the clergy’s proposal to increase the annual tithes, on the grounds that it would be too burdensome for the habitants. Similarly, he pleaded with the minister to permit and even to support Madame Legardeur de Repentigny’s [Agathe de Saint-Père*] all manufacturing establishment on Montreal Island, because the rough clothing it produced was a boon to the poor.
Raudot also endeavoured to improve agricultural conditions. He supported all his father’s proposals for standardizing seigneurial contracts and for reducing seigneurial obligations. In addition, he demanded that the military authorities give greater consideration to planting and harvesting priorities when selecting habitants for war-parties or for work on fortifications. To reduce the hardships caused by the shortages and price speculation that frequently followed a poor harvest, he encouraged the planting of winter crops and introduced price controls along with regulations governing the export of wheat. The intendant also favoured a number of agricultural incentives. He argued, for example, that in order to promote the production of exportable commodities like sheep’s wool and hemp, the king should offer, at least in the initial stages, a high fixed price in the magasins du roi, thereby assuring the habitants of a market. But even more radical was the suggestion that a system of liberal grants be introduced to reward those farmers showing initiative in clearing virgin land. The funds for this would be obtained from the reintroduction of the fur-trading licences (congés). In other words, the fur trade would indirectly help to finance agriculture.
But Raudot did not limit to agriculture alone his efforts to foster improved conditions and more enterprising attitudes. He took a number of steps to create a more cooperative commercial outlook among the merchants of New France. He encouraged them to establish a bourse at Quebec where they could meet to discuss business ventures and he agreed with his father and Governor Rigaud de Vaudreuil that when future assemblies were called to discuss matters relating to trade, only the merchants should be represented since their interests were most crucially involved. Raudot even invested his own funds in a joint enterprise with several merchants for the fitting-out of a vessel that was to carry on privateering activities against the English. Responsible financing as an inducement to trade was another of his key objectives. In 1706, he submitted a memoir calling for the stabilization of New France’s currency through the maintenance of confidence in the existing card-money system. In the matter of import duties, he pleaded for a better deal for Canadian merchants importing goods from the West Indies. The intendant also issued dozens of ordinances aimed at introducing order into the urban economic milieu. These ranged from measures for the improvement of sanitary and travel conditions to provisions for the holding of a twice-weekly market in Montreal. His many police regulations, issued especially to curb moral and alcoholic abuses, bore further testimony to his ambition to mould a stable, business-first society.
In 1709, however, Raudot complained bitterly to the minister that all of these efforts to improve the colony’s internal economic conditions were being undermined by the military authorities and particularly by Governor Vaudreuil. Although animosity caused by his father’s fiery disputes with Vaudreuil undoubtedly played a key part in his own increasing hostility towards the governor, Antoine-Denis was shrewd enough to base his criticisms on administrative issues. He contended, for example, that New France’s finances were perpetually bedevilled by Vaudreuil’s extravagant defence policy and he singled out two features of that policy for special censure. First, he maintained that the governor had foolishly allowed the royal engineer, Jacques Levasseur de Neré, to build a series of fortifications at Quebec that were terribly expensive and so over-extended as to be untenable by the colony’s available manpower. Secondly, and this was his most devastating indictment, he argued that Vaudreuil was prone to panic at the least rumour that an enemy force was about to attack the colony. The governor called up the habitants, dispatched war parties to New England and Hudson Bay, and took other emergency measures that not only interrupted the economic cycle of the country, but necessitated new issues of card money to cover the extraordinary expenses.
Raudot was equally critical of Vaudreuil’s Indian policy. While he agreed with the governor on a number of points concerning the western allies (for example, the necessity for re-establishing the fur-trading licences), he believed New France’s relations with the Iroquois Confederacy were being handled in disastrous fashion. Raudot had made a thorough study of the North American Indians, which was later published under the title Relation par lettres de l’Amérique septentrionale, années 1707–1710, and his investigations had instilled in him a deep respect for the Iroquois. He claimed that Vaudreuil, by placing too much faith in a corrupt agent named Chabert de Joncaire, was provoking jealousies among the various Iroquois tribes that could result only in a general war against New France. But when he attempted to point out these errors, Vaudreuil treated him with contempt. Declaring that he was not accustomed to such abuse and that he was thoroughly exhausted, Raudot asked to be recalled. In 1710 Pontchartrain granted this request and promoted him to the prestige post of Intendant des classes.
It is difficult to ascertain whether or not this advancement resulted from Raudot’s ingenious Cape Breton proposal, but the evidence does indicate that the Marine officials considered him, even prior to 1708, as a talented candidate for important economic posts. In 1711 he was charged with the duties of the Garde-Côte des Invalides et des Colonies and until 1726, when he abandoned the details of the colonies, he was an adviser on colonial affairs. During the Regency period especially, when former intendants exercised considerable influence in shaping policy, Raudot’s opinion was requested on many matters relating to North America. In 1713 he was named chief clerk of the ministry of the king’s household, a position which made him a powerful figure beyond the range of Marine affairs and which provided him with an entrée into the most influential circles at Versailles. In February 1717, a new stage in his career began with his appointment as one of three new directors of the Compagnie des Indes. For the next several years he devoted much of his energy to the economic problems of Louisiana and to projects for the discovery of a route to the western sea. In this latter regard, he corresponded with France’s leading geographers and used his influence to assist them. Apparently, he was also on close terms with France’s foremost economists. In 1728, he succeeded his recently deceased father as councillor of the Marine, after which he spent considerable effort on the development of France’s Atlantic fisheries. He inspired comment even in death, for in his will he left almost all of a considerable fortune to his domestics.
Clearly then, Raudot’s five-year tenure as intendant of New France was only the embryonic phase of a long and distinguished career; but it was a vitally important phase for it provided him with an opportunity to demonstrate his ability as an imaginative economic theorist – an ability which counted for much in his later successes. His plan to establish Cape Breton as a market for Canadian produce and as a commercial entrepôt for France’s Atlantic empire was truly a master stroke and was put forward with what Charlevoix* termed “. . . admirable exactness, intelligence, order and precision, upheld by solid and thorough proofs.” Yet Raudot recognized himself that to undertake such a project in time of war would be an exercise in futility. Thus by the time he left New France in 1710 the key proposal of his intendancy was still mired in the planning stage. By 1713, however, conditions had changed dramatically. The loss of both Acadia and Placentia by the terms of the treaty of Utrecht left France’s remaining North American possessions extremely vulnerable and obliged French officials to reconsider the Cape Breton concept. The subsequent establishment of the great fortress of Louisbourg was the practical application of Raudot’s original proposal. As one historian has remarked “. . . at the Marine . . . Raudot junior inspired the colonial policy of Louis XIV and Pontchartrain. It was he who showed the king the strategic importance of Île Royale.”
[For material on Antoine-Denis Raudot’s family background see the bibliography for the article on Jacques Raudot. The information about the first stages of Antoine-Denis’ career is based mainly on Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, and [C.-M.] Raudot, Deux intendants du Canada (Auxerre, 1854).
Brief comments on Antoine-Denis’ character and abilities, both when he was in New France and during his later career, come from Juchereau, Annales (Jamet) and from Guy Frégault, “Politique et politiciens au début du XVIIIe siècle,” Écrits du Canada français (Montréal), XI (1961), 91–208. In addition, the following articles and book contain some useful asides: Jean Delanglez, “A mirage: the Sea of the West . . . ,” RHAF, I (1947–48), 554–56, 563–65; Robert La Roque de Roquebrune, “La direction de la Nouvelle-France par le Ministère de la Marine,” RHAF, VI (1952–53), 470–88; Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane française, III, 48, 130, 132, 142.
Raudot’s Cape Breton memoir and many of his most interesting dispatches are found in AN, Col., C11G, 1–6. Information on most of his internal economic reforms and municipal regulations is taken from AN, Col., B, 25–33; C11A, 22–32, 34, 36, 110, 125; F3, 8, 9, and from Raudot’s ordinances [see: Édits ord.; Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy).]. Charlevoix, History (Shea), V, 285–94; Garneau, Histoire du Canada. II, 270–73; and Thomas Jeffreys, The natural and civil history of the French dominions in North and South America (London, 1760), contain useful analyses of the Cape Breton project, but none of them deals adequately with the minister’s objections to certain aspects of the proposal.
When Raudot’s analysis of the Indian tribes in North America was published in Paris in 1904 under the title Relation par lettres de l’Amérique septentrionale, années 1709 et 1710, the editor, Camille de Rochemonteix, attributed the letters to Father Antoine Silvy. However, subsequent works, especially W. V. Kinietz, The Indians of the Western Great Lakes, 1615–1760 (Ann Arbor, 1940), 235–36, 314–410, and Delanglez [supra], point out that it was really Raudot who wrote them, basing his account on the memoirs of Louis de La Porte de Louvigny, whom he greatly esteemed, and on the memoir of L. Delite, which dealt with the Illinois and the Miamis. There is no evidence to indicate that Raudot ever visited these tribes. Instead, he probably spoke with their chiefs and with French travellers at Montreal. d.j.h.]
AN, Col., C13A, 2–4; D2C, 49; Marine, C1, 157. ASQ, Lettres, N, P. BN, MS, Cabinet des titres, 28, 921, 13, 21, 23, 25, 31; MS, Dossiers bleus, 557, 14,680; MS, FR. 6,793, f.200; 22,696, f.185; MS, NAF 9, 273, ff.257–75, 282, 361. PAC, FM 8, A 6, 1–5; F 61. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39, 12–180; 1939–40, 355–463; 1942–43, 399–443; 1946–47, 371–460; 1947–48, 135–339. Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), I, 132, 227, 231, 331–32, 340; II, 780. Documents relating to seigniorial tenure (Munro). Jug. et délib. “Mémoire sur La Louisiane pour estre présentée, avec la carte de ce Pais, au Conseil Souverain de Marine, par F. Le Maire P.P.,” RHAF, III (1949–50), 436. PAC Report, 1911.
Jean Delanglez, Frontenac and the Jesuits (Chicago, 1939), 65. Hamelin, Économie et société en N.-F. F. M. Hammang, The Marquis de Vaudreuil, New France at the beginning of the eighteenth century (Bruges, 1938), 81–108, 133–38, 182–87. Harris, The seigneurial system, 157–58. Lanctot, History of Canada, I, 153–60, 201–21. N.-E Dionne, “Les Raudot; intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” RC, XXXI (1895), 567–610. J.-C. Dubé, “Origine sociale des intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” Social history (Ottawa), II (November 1968), 18–33. Guy Frégault, “La Compagnie de la Colonie,” Revue de l’université d’Ottawa, XXX (1960), 5–29, 127–49. Lionel Groulx, “Note sur la Chapellerie au Canada sous le régime français,” RHAF, III (1949–50), 399. Robert La Roque de Roquebrune, “La direction de la Nouvelle-France par le Ministère de la Marine,” RHAF, VI (1952–53), 470–88. Régis Roy, “Les intendants de la Nouvelle-France,” RSCT, 2nd ser., IX (1903), sect.i, 65–107; “Jacques et Antoine-Denis Raudot,” BRH, IX (1903), 157–59; “Quelques notes sur les Intendants,” BRH, XXXII (1926), 442–43. H. M. Thomas, “The relations of governor and intendant in the old régime,” CHR, XVI (1935), 27–40. Y. F. Zoltvany, “Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, governor of New France (1703–1725),” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Alberta, 1963.
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Cite This Article
Donald J. Horton, “RAUDOT, ANTOINE-DENIS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/raudot_antoine_denis_2E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Donald J. Horton|
|Title of Article:||RAUDOT, ANTOINE-DENIS|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1969|
|Year of revision:||1982|
|Access Date:||June 4, 2023|