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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
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Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff
(April 30, 2004)
An Acadian Servant's Story
By Anne Marie Lane Jonah
One day in late August of 1741 a twelve year-old girl, a servant of Captain Robert Duhaget, ran from the Duhaget house toward the Dauphin gate of Louisbourg. She was running to the home of Jeanne Friquant, who was about 20 years old and lived near the Gate with her stepmother. The servant girl's name was Boucher (we do not know her first name) as was the name of Jeanne Friquant's deceased mother. Friquant did not know the girl, and later denied being related to her but she invited her in and listened to her story.
The young servant was running because she had been beaten, "extremement maltraité," by her mistress for having broken some "flacons" of fruit. The mistress, Madame Duhaget, Marguerite Rousseau de Villejoin, had lived all her life in the colonies, and had cousins who were Acadian. However she acted toward her young servant as an 18th century French lady would, expecting that she could punish infractions as she saw fit and that her servant would offer no protest. Her servant, the daughter of Pierrot Boucher, a carpenter from Acadie who had been living in Port Toulouse in 1726, did not see her role in the same way that her mistress did. She fled the beating, robbed her master and mistress in revenge, and then planned to flee to her uncle Pettipas' house, on the North Shore.
The Duhaget's were alerted by local gossip to the robbery two days after Boucher's departure. They looked for the missing money and pursued their servant. From a sack of 1000 livres in an armoire in his locked cabinet, Captain Duhaget found 6 livres and 23 écus missing. He then went to the home of Boucher's first cousin, Jean Baptiste Corporon and his wife Marie Charlotte Baurice, near the barachois outside the Dauphin Gate. Duhaget entered their home without knocking and searched it, but he did not find his money. A few days later the local court official, the procureur du roy, brought the case to court because he felt that the servant must be punished for the theft that the whole town was gossiping about in order to uphold the security of masters and mistresses.
In the court testimony we learn that young Boucher ran to Jeanne Friquant first and told her the story of the beating. As she spoke, Boucher emptied the pockets under her skirt of several minutie (small, insignificant objects) wrapped them in a cravatte and placed them in her basket. In the trial Boucher's cousins admitted that she had spoken of robbing Duhaget, but both denied that she had hidden any money with them. Boucher later claimed she only confessed because she feared what Captain Duhaget would do to her. Jeanne Friquant emphatically denied having seen any money; she spoke of minutie in her pockets, not money. The trial did not prove Boucher's guilt, so she was taken to prison for interrogation, meaning torture.
The trial does not have a conclusion in the record, but judging from similar trials, and taking the feelings of the procureur du roy and the status of Captain Duhaget into account, Boucher would most probably have received some corporal punishment, perhaps have been branded with a fleur de lys on the shoulder and then banished from the colony. She may have gone to relatives in Acadie, she does not appear in any later censes of the colony.
Although such a treatment of a young girl is shocking to a modern reader, we can take some interesting details of a young servant's life from this story. We learn about her clothing, her surroundings, and her social milieu. We also learn that she had a different opinion than her mistress about how she should be treated and had the courage to act on it, even though she was very young. She had relatives and others of her social circle in and around Louisbourg to whom she could turn in a time of crisis. She may not have been a typical servant, but she offers one example of a Louisbourg servant's life, and a cautionary reminder to be careful with the dishes.