MONTREAL CENTRE OF THE FUR TRADE AND THE THIN LINE BETWEEN LEGAL AND ILLEGAL TRADE
MIGEON DE BRANSSAT, Jean-Baptiste, 1636-1693. D.s. (Twice), Montreal, 30 March-1st April, 1678. 4 p. folio and docket title. Also signed twice and in the hand of Claude Maugue in his capacity as clerk of the court.
In August 1677 Migeon de Branssat succeeded Charles-Joseph d’Ailleboust in his role of civil and criminal judge in the bailiff’s court of Montreal. The following year the Intendant Frontenac ordered him to look into the illegal fur trade, or the coureurs de bois, fur traders who did not have a licence. In spite of the fact that Migeon himself frequently ignored the edicts concerning. the fur trade and the coureurs de bois (see his biography from DCB), it seems that in this instance he was overly zealous and reached the point of getting ready to indic Daniel Greysolon Duluth. The town-mayor of Montreal, Jacques Bizard, interrupted the hearing of the first witness and put Migeon under house arrest on 30 March, 1678. Migeon, however, succeeded in privately hearing a second witness at his residence two days later, on April 1st, 1678. From the witnesses’ statements it becomes obvious that Duluth was planning a voyage with some French followers and Indian slaves leaving Montreal on September 1st.
Frontenac was in a difficult position. On the one hand, he knew that the Lake Superior region was an excellent source for beaver and other furs. On the other hand, Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, responsible for the colonies, had expressly forbidden him twice to trade outside the limits of the colony. Frontenac could not allow himself to disobey Colbert but to keep Dulhut from undertaking his trip didn’t have any economic sense. He obeyed Colbert by ordering his Montreal judge to have an inquest into the coureurs de bois, and then quietly ordered the town-mayor, a member of his personal guard, to have the proceedings stopped.
This important document contains the deposition of the first witness on March 30th, the narrative of the intervention of Bizard, and the deposition of the second witness on April 1st.