Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac

Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac

Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac (1658-1730) was the founder of Detroit, Michigan. He was christened "Antoine Laumet". When he arrived in New France (Canada) in 1683 at the age of 25, he changed his identity to sieur Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac.

He was an adventurer and visionary who rose to positions of importance in New France. He was the commander of Fort de Buade in 1694, he founded in 1701 and commanded until 1710 Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, and from 1710 - 1716 he was the governor of Louisiana although he did not arrive in Louisiana until 1713.

The Cadillac automobile is named in his honor. (The company was founded during the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Detroit.)

implified biography

Founder in 1701 of the town of Detroit (Michigan), first governor of Louisiana from 1710 to 1716, and governor of the town of Castelsarrasin from 1722 to 1730, Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac (1658-1730) is an important but controversial personality of New France.He landed in Acadia in 1683 and became in turn filibuster, explorer, trapper, and a trader in alcohol and furs. Cadillac was also an officer of the Marine Troops that his knowledge of the coasts of the New England and of the area of the Great Lakes makes appreciate of Frontenac, the governor of New France, and Pontchartrain, the Secretary of State for the Navy of the French king Louis XIV, at one time of intense competition between France and England for Northern America. On their councils, Louis XIV grants him various gratifications, of which his ranks of officer, the seigniory of the Strait, the office of governor of Louisiana and the Cross of Saint Louis decoration.But very criticized by the Jesuits who reproach him for perverting the Amerindians with his trafficks of alcohol and of furs and by the notable ones of Quebec and of Montreal who worry of the possible expansion of Detroit, Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac knows periods of disgrace which lead him a few months in prison to Quebec in 1704 then in the Bastille on its return in France in 1717. To take advantage of his rights on the succession of his father in 1718, he admits having changed his identity when he settles in America and he finds its true identity of Antoine Laumet (this change of identity was never reproached to him by his contemporaries). On the other hand, the reasons of this change of identity and of his departure to America remain still been unaware of.His visionary spirit is however undeniable and his projects will shape after him. Detroit thus became the world center of the automobile production at the XX° century ; William H. Murphy and Henry M. Leland will pay homage to him by baptizing their automobile firm of his name and by taking again his armorial bearings for emblem in 1902.Various places bear his name in America, in particular the Mount Cadillac, Maine, and the town of Cadillac, Michigan. However, the French cities of Cadillac and Cadillac-en-Fronsadais have no relationship with him; Cadillac being a name spread in Gascony, where it is sometimes spelled Cadilhac.

The name of Cadillac derives from the Gallo-Roman name Catilliacus; the Gallic suffix acus was added at the name of the owner when a village has developed around his estate.

("NB: if Americans pronounce "kadi-lak", the French pronunciation of the name is "kadi-yak").


His unknown youth

Antoine Laumet was born on March 5, 1658, in the small town of St Nicolas-de-la-Grave, part of Gascony in the north of Toulouse which would later become the department of Tarn-et-Garonne during the French Revolution. He was the son of Jean Laumet and Jeanne Péchagut. His father, born in the village of Caumont, was a lawyer at the Parliament of Toulouse; he was named lieutenant of the judge of St Nicolas-de-la-Grave by the cardinal of Mazarin in 1652, and then judge in 1664. Antoine's mother was the daughter of a merchant and landowner.No documents are available regarding the youth of Antoine Laumet. But his later correspondence shows a cultivated spirit, and suggests rigorous study at an establishment run by Jesuits, where he learned about theology, the right, agriculture, botany and zoology.In addition, in the record of service completed on his return from Louisiana, he affirms that in 1675 he enlisted as a cadet at the age of 17 in the regiment of Dampierre, in Charleroi. Two years later, his letters report that he is an officer in the regiment of Clairambault, in Thionville, and that in 1682, he joined the regiment of Albret, in Thionville. However, this record of service is not confirmed and it appears to look like those of his elder brother François. His academic level seems moreover antagonistic with such a military career.However that may be, at the age of 25, it seems he exposed himself in a quite equivocal affair to be obliged to leave France and to forge a new identity. Four causes have been proposed to explain this sudden departure:
* financial difficulties due to his father having lost a lawsuit against a lawyer of the city of Castelsarrasin;
* a statutory forfeiture because of the loss of support of his father following the death of the cardinal of Mazarin;
* the end of the tolerance with the Protestants which obliges them to leave the country or to disavow themselves while converting;
* a fact which makes Antoine a criminal or an outlaw. It is certain that Antoine Laumet carried out the voyage by devious ways, and no official list indicates his presence on a ship departing a French port.

New World, new identity

In 1683, Antoine Laumet arrives at Port Royal, the capital of Acadia. During the four years which follow, he traverses his new country length into broad, and widens his explorations to the New England and the New Holland, pushing to the Caroline and familiarizing himself with the Indian languages and habits. He probably enters in business relationship with Denis Guyon, a merchant of Quebec. On June 25, 1687, he marries Guyon’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse, 17, in Quebec.The marriage certificate is the first document where figure his new identity. He is then call "Antoine de Lamothe, écuyer, sieur de Cadillac", and he signs paraph "De Lamothe Launay". In fact, like much immigrants, he benefits from his arrival in the New World to create an identity able to make forget the reasons which driven him out of France. This new identity "does not leave its bag", like he writes it later. Antoine Laumet undoubtedly remembers Sylvestre d'Esparbes de Lusan de Gout, baron de Lamothe-Bardigues, lord of Cadillac, Launay and Le Moutet, adviser at the Parliament of Toulouse. He knows him for at least two reasons ; Bardigues, Cadillac, Launay and Le Moutet are villages and localities close to St Nicolas-de-la-Grave, and his father Jean Laumet was a lawyer at the Parliament of Toulouse.It is probable that the sons knew each other during their studies. Second son of his family, Antoine identifie thus with the second son of the baron while benefitting from the phonic proximity from its name and that from Launay : he can be thus made call Antoine de Lamothe-Launay. He then takes the title of « écuyer » (squire) which corresponds to the row that the second son of the family can have, then the title of « sieur » (sir) of Cadillac, in accordance with the Gascon habit which wants that the junior takes the succession of the elder son with his death. He thus forges an identity and a noble origin, while preserving of a possible recognition by someone which known him in France.In addition, he presents his own districts of nobility illustrated by armorial bearings that he creates by associating the blazon with the three « "merlettes" » (birds with no legs nor bill) of the baron de Lamothe-Bardigues and that one of the family of Vir. [ Origins of Cadillac Crest] The marriage is fertile and the Lamothe-Cadillac have six daughters and seven sons : Judith (1689), Magdeleine (1690), Marie Anne (1701-1701)? (1702-1702), Marie-Thérèse (1704), Marie-Agathe (December 1707) and Joseph (1690), Antoine (1692), Jacques (1695), Pierre-Denis (1699-1700), Jean-Antoine (January 1707-1709), François (1709), René-Louis (1710-1714).

A lord in New France : Les Douacques

In 1688, he obtains from the governor Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville the concession of the seigniory of Les Douacques (which will become the town of Bar Harbor, Maine, famous center of fishing considered for lobster and dominated by the Mount Desert, later known as Mount Cadillac). His concession not being able to bring the least agricultural income, he enters into partnership with officers of Port Royal and takes up with trade, an activity which is facilitated by the possibility of using the ship of the Guyon sons. In 1689, he leaves in forwarding close to Boston. On his return, he solicits near the governor of Acadia, Louis-Alexandre des Friches de Méneval, an office of notary, which would ensure him a minimum income, but without success. Then, Cadillac is presented at the governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac in Quebec which send him on mission of exploration along the coasts of the New England on the frigate "L'Embuscade" ("The Ambush"), but of the head winds oblige the ship to return to France.Cadillac is found in 1690 in Paris. He penetrates the circle of the secretary of State for the Navy, the marquis de Seignelay, then of his successor Louis II Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, who appoints him officer of the Marine troops. On his return to Port Royal, he learns that the English admiral William Phips seized the city and that his wife, his daughter and his son are captives. They are released in exchange of English prisoners. In 1691, Cadillac repatriates his family in Quebec, but their ship is attacked by a corsair of Boston who takes possession of all their goods.Cadillac is promoted lieutenant in 1692. He is sent with the cartographer Jean Baptist Franquelin to draw up charts of the coasts of the New England in order to prepare a French attack on the English colonies. He sets out again in France to give the charts and a report to the Secretary of State Pontchartrain. In 1693, he receives a gratification of 1500 pounds for his work and he is returned on mission to supplement his observations. Frontenac promotes him captain then lieutenant of vessel in 1694.

Michilimackinac (1694-1696)

He is then named commander of all the stations of the countries « "d'En-Haut" » (upper countries) and leaves at the height to take his command of Fort de Buade or Michilimackinac, which controls all the trade of the furs between Missouri, Mississippi, the Great Lakes and the valley of Ohio. Cadillac gives a procuration to his wife for she can sign the contracts and the notarial acts during his absence.In 1695, Cadillac leaves and explores the area of the Great Lakes and draws up charts of them. He discovers the strait connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie and imagines to install a new Fort there extremely to compete with English. In Michilimackinac, he enters in conflict with the fathers Jesuits who accuse him to provide alcohol to the Indians, which is prohibited by a royal decreeIn 1696, to mitigate the difficulties of the trade of the furs, the king orders the closing of all the counters of draft, of which Michilimackinac. Cadillac returns to Montreal. In 1697, he receives the authorization to return to France to present his project of a new fort at the strait to the Secretary of State Pontchartrain ; Frontenac requests for him the rank of lieutenant of vessel. But notable Canadian strongly oppose with his project which, according to them, would involve the ruin of Quebec and Montreal. This is only in 1699 that he obtains the support of Pontchartrain for the foundation of the new fort which the king authorizes in 1700, by entrusting the command to Cadillac.

Le Détroit (1701-1710)

On July 26, 1701, Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac founds the Fort Pontchartrain and the parish Sainte Anne at the strait (« "le détroit" » in French). He is assisted by Alphonse de Tonti. Their wives join them in October. In 1702, Cadillac goes back to Quebec to request the monopoly of the trade of the furs and the transfers of the Amerindian tribes towards the strait. He becomes shareholder of the Company of the Colony and returns to the strait to assist the arrival of the tribes formerly installed in Michillimakinac.A fire devastates Fort Pontchartrain in 1703. This disaster destroys all the registers. Cadillac is reminded to Quebec in 1704 to answer the charges of traffic of alcohol and furs. Imprisoned in a preventive way during a few months, he is bleached in 1705 and the king assure him all his capacities and the monopoly of the trade of the furs grants to him. Two years later, the charges of abusing his authority multiplying, Pontchartrain names a representative, Daigremont, to inquire into his control and his businesses. This last establishes a true indictment against Cadillac in 1708. In 1709, the troops stationed at the strait receive the order to regain Montreal. In 1710, the king names Cadillac governor of Louisiana and orders him to immediately join its office right straight by the valley of Mississippi.

Louisiana (1710-1716)

Cadillac does not obey. He makes a general inventory of the strait then, in 1711, boards with his family for France. In Paris, in 1712, he convinces the Toulouse born financier Antoine Crozat to invest in Louisiana.In June 1713, the Cadillac family arrives at Fort Louis, Louisiana, after one tiring crossing. In 1714, Crozat recommends the construction of forts along Mississippi whereas Cadillac wishes to strengthen the mouth of the river and to develop the trade with the close Spanish colonies. In 1715, Cadillac and his son Joseph prospects Illinois where they discover a copper mine. After many arguments, Crozat withdraws any authority to him on the company. The following year, he obtains his revocation.

Castelsarrasin (1722-1730)

The Cadillac family returns to France and, in 1717, settles in La Rochelle. Cadillac goes to Paris with his son Joseph; immediately, they are arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille for five months. They are released in 1718 and Cadillac receives the Cross of Saint Louis decoration in reward of his thirty years of honest services. He settles then with his family in the paternal house and regulates the succession of his parents. He also accomplishes many voyages to Paris to make recognize his rights on the concession of the strait. He prolongs his stays in Paris so well in 1721, he again gives general power to his wife for she can sign the notarial acts. He obtains profit of cause in 1722. Then, he sells his seigniory of the strait to the Canadian Jacques Baudry de Lamarche and acquires the offices of governor and major of the town of Castelsarrasin, close to his native village.

Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac dies on October 16, 1730 in Castelsarrasin, "about midnight", at the age of 72. He is buried in a vault of the church of the Fathers Carmelite. Marie-Thérèse, his wife, dies in 1746, at the age of 76.

A visionary

The forecasts of Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac are made concrete after its departure of New France. Thus, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founds the city of New Orleans near the mouth of Mississippi in 1718. The strait becomes a strategic place. To defend its access, Fort Niagara is built in 1725 on right bank of the river between the lakes Erie and Ontario and, in 1726, the Fort Oswego is strengthened on the Lake Ontario. Later renamed "Detroit", Fort Pontchartrain had an ideal location between the Great Lakes and the river basins.

External links

* [ Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ A detailed history of Antoine Laumet]
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia article]


* René Toujas, "Le Destin extraordinaire du Gascon Lamothe-Cadillac de Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave fondateur de Detroit", 1974
* Robert Pico, "Cadillac, l'homme qui fonda Detroit", Editions Denoël, 1995, ISBN 2-207-24288-9
* Annick Hivert-Carthew, "Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac Le fondateur de Detroit", XYZ éditeur, 1996, ISBN 2-89261-178-4
* Jean Boutonnet, "LAMOTHE-CADILLAC Le gascon qui fonda Détroit (1658 / 1730)", Edition Guénégaud, 2001, ISBN 2-85023-108-8
* Jean Maumy, "Moi, Cadillac, gascon et fondateur de Détroit", Editions Privat, 2002, ISBN 2-7089-5806-2

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