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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


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


(July 23, 2006)

Chocolate as Medicine (July 23 2006), By Anne Marie Lane Jonah, Staff  Historian and Ruby Powell

The reason that the French military had chocolate among its supplies was the same reason that some elderly and ill residents of Louisbourg had chocolate. They believed it had the power to warm a person internally, giving them strength and energy. According to Diderot,

“Cocoa contains a powdery substance, & a good amount of an oily or buttery matter, that could abundantly provide a substance suitable for the cure of our body fluids or to our nutrition. Sugar in the composition of chocolate, & the egg yolk or milk which we normally take it with, are also very nourishing.”[1]

It was probably for this reason that the commandant Duquesnel was one of Louisbourg’s leading consumers of chocolate. In his naval career Duquesnel had traveled extensively and been exposed to new commodities gaining popularity in the French empire. His naval service had taken him to the French colonies in the West Indies, where a lot of chocolate was produced. His wife (who never lived at Louisbourg) was the daughter of a governor of Martinique. Perhaps she suggested that her husband, as age and health probleidms increased, try chocolate to fortify him. His inventory shows that Duquesnel owned 29 1\2 livres of chocolate, most of it prepared as a paste and formed in balls or logs. He had several livres of chocolate from Manila, as well as unprepared chocolate from the French West Indies. Duquesnel’s paste chocolate was to be grated and prepared as a frothy drink in a chocolatière. This could have been served as breakfast or for social occasions, or the governor may have kept it for himself, taking it as a restorative “For a long time, chocolate was called the old man’s milk: it is viewed as very nourishing, & very proper to wake up the ailing forces of the stomach.”[2] Like the divers for the Chameau, probably believed that chocolate had powers to warm the internal organs and to give energy. One of the purchasers of Duquesnel’s chocolate from the auction of his estate was the Swiss Karrer officer, Schonherr. He was also older and in ill health, and perhaps also had faith in the restorative powers of chocolate.

1 Denis Diderot, Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonne Des Sciences, Des Arts Et Des Metiers, Tom Troisieme, A Paris, France, Chz Briasson, David, LeBreton, Durand, M.DCC.L.III, Column 361.
2. Ibid