RODRIGUE, ANTOINE, ship’s captain, merchant, and colonial official; b. 17 Dec. 1722 at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), son of Jean-Baptiste Rodrigue* and Anne Le Borgne de Belle-Isle; d. 2 May 1789 at Port-Louis, France.
Antoine Rodrigue, a younger brother Pierre, and an elder brother Joseph-Baptiste were declared legally adult by a court decision at the time of their mother’s remarriage in 1738. By 1742, and probably before, Antoine had begun his career at sea. His business activities before the siege of Louisbourg in 1745 are little known, but during this time he was joint owner of the schooner Salamandre with Michel de Gannes* de Falaise, and he shared in the 5,000 livres paid by the financial commissary, Bigot, for the purchase on the king’s behalf of the Rodrigues’ land and house on the quay in Louisbourg harbour.
In May 1749 Antoine entered a partnership with his eldest brother, Michel, and this was renewed in April 1751. Among other provisions, Antoine was supposed to be employed at 1,000 livres a year as the firm’s agent at Louisbourg, while Michel resided at La Rochelle. In 1749, 1750, and 1751 he sailed as captain of the Grand St Esprit fitted out by Michel. By 1752 he had established himself in Louisbourg and had a house built there on the corner of the Rue Saint-Louis and the Rue d’ Orléans. His black slave was baptized at the Louisbourg church on 9 Feb. 1754. His business activity was at first in supplying the town and garrison and chartering the company’s ships to the local administrators. On the strength of a 6,000-livre advance from the funds of Jean Laborde, agent of the treasurers general of the Marine, he and Beaubassin, Silvain et Compagnie got a three-year contract for meat supplies in 1752, but, unable to meet his obligations, Antoine had to withdraw. In 1753 he provided part of the hay for the cattle kept for the slaughterhouse, but a flooded meadow at Miré (Mira) prevented him from supplying enough fodder and 11 cattle died that winter.
Already relying somewhat on local credit, Antoine became further enmeshed in debt when his brother in La Rochelle failed to meet bills of exchange for over 10,000 livres which Antoine had drawn on him in the winter of 1752. Although Antoine made arrangements to pay, went into debt, and sold two of his shallops, he was unable to satisfy his creditors, headed by Nicolas Hamelin, Daniel Augier, Pierre Boullot, and Tanguay Merven, who formed a union to pursue the brothers in November 1753. In 1754, Antoine’s affairs were in such a sorry state that his servant had to sue him for the payment of 620 livres’ arrears in wages. Antoine and Michel shortly fell out, Antoine claiming that Michel owed him 150,925 livres, and the brothers took their disputes to court at La Rochelle in a series of lawsuits which ended only in 1777. While these matters were still unsettled, Antoine exploited a coal mine with Nicolas Larcher at Louisbourg on the strength of a contract for the supply of the barracks and fortress; he also ran a fishery at Louisbourg, managed Larcher’s farmland and sawmill at Miré, and owned at least one ship, the 55-ton Deux Sœurs, requisitioned as a fire-ship in the second siege of Louisbourg and destroyed. There is some possibility that he may have also acted as port captain at Louisbourg shortly before its fall.
After the taking of the fortress in 1758, Rodrigue was shipped back to France in the Duke of Cumberland, a British transport manned partly by French sailors being exchanged as prisoners of war. When the British captain refused to give his French seamen adequate rations Rodrigue bought supplies for them from his fellow passengers out of his own pocket. This act, along with his losses in the siege, and the testimony of François-Gabriel d’Angeac and Jacques-François Barbel, governor and financial commissary of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, as to his seamanship, got him the post of port captain on those islands in 1765. Rodrigue had already gone there in 1763, got a fishing concession, and set up his household; his eldest son, Antoine, also had a fishing base there. By 1767 Rodrigue and the other major entrepreneur in the islands, Jean-Baptiste Dupleix Silvain, claimed to have spent 80,000 livres between themselves and their French backers on their establishments, but the poor catches of the 1760s meant that their enterprises started slowly, and for a time they contemplated emigrating to Louisiana. By 1777, however, Rodrigue was employing 61 fishermen. Along with the other colonists he was expelled from the islands after their capture by the British in 1778, but even six years later, when they were allowed to return, he was listed as owning a brig, a schooner, seven shallops, a half-shallop, two dinghies, and two wherries. He himself probably never came back to North America, remaining instead in France. Worn out, we are told, with old age, gout, and chagrin at his business reverses, he had retired from his post of port captain in 1778.
Antoine had married Jeanne-Françoise Jacau, sister of Louis-Thomas Jacau de Fiedmont, of Port-Dauphin on 19 May 1750; they had at least nine children. The eldest, Antoine, got the post of king’s storekeeper briefly at Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in 1783 but returned to his father’s business in partnership with his brother Claude, who represented him on the islands, while Michel worked at Port-Louis. Antoine Jr also soon went to Port-Louis and on 20 June 1783 married Marie-Josèphe Ramondine; they had six children. During the French revolution, the two brothers claimed to represent the inhabitants of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and tried to persuade French authorities to give them a concession and ten-year loan of 200,000 livres to supply the colony with food. They were refused and went bankrupt in 1792. Antoine then made a career in the ministry of the Marine, reaching the rank of deputy commissary at Le Havre in 1796. Antoine Sr’s daughter, Jeanne-Françoise, became the second wife to Charles-Gabriel-Sébastien de L’espérance, governor of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, in 1775.
AD, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle), B, 1460, 1797; Minutes Chameau (La Rochelle); Minutes Fredureaux-Dumas (La Rochelle); Morbihan (Vannes), Es, 186, État civil, Port-Louis, 3 mai 1789. AN, Col., B, 65–68; C12, 2; 6; 12, ff.95–98v; E, 356 (dossier Rodrigue); Marine, C2, 44, 62; C7, 281 (dossier Rodrigue); Section Outre-mer, G1, 408, 414, 467; G2, 185, 201; G3, 2041–42, 2044, 2046–47. Calendrier des armateurs de La Rochelle, 1748–51. J.-Y. Ribault, Les îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon des origines à 1814 (Saint-Pierre, 1962); “La pêche et le commerce de la morue aux îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793,” Congrès national des soc. savantes, Section d’hist. moderne et contemporaine, Actes du quatre-vingt-onzième congrès, Rennes, 1966 (3v., Paris, 1969), I, 251–92; “La population des îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793,” Revue française d’hist. d’outre-mer (Paris), LIII (1966), 5–66.