Medlar Flower

François Mesplès

Haiti Map

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In the middle of the 18th century, the small town of Valence in the diocese of Agen counted among its inhabitants a man that nature had endowed with a very peculiar physique. "He had four nipples of average swelling and round like those of a nubile girl, separate the one from the other and arranged according to the natural order, of which milk came out of them as needed to nurse a child." His son, late, decided well to note for posterity this anatomical peculiarity in which he saw a happy omen of future fortune. Despite this natural distinction and some pretensions kept secret to various baronial rights to some parishes in the vicinities the man, Bertrand Mesplès, lived in the class of a honest commoner and, father of three children, a girl and two boys, he was poor.
 
The eldest of the sons, François, born the 20th of June 1741, when he was a dozen years old, perceived that his father was desolate without fortune and that he went into debt to support his children in some schools where they taught only to read and to write. Penetrated by sadness, this good son resolved to exile himself and went (obtained going) to see two relatives (parents) of the family at Montauban. They welcomed him well and placed him in the (office of Twentieth), where he earned some money of six francs to make rosters. The child understood quickly that this work wouldn't lead him to big things and he stayed (stood) at

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the home of Mazaré the younger, dealer of sheets in the small town of Montaigu. He stayed there to earn moderate pay and get the idea of commerce; but not a long time, and was from there to Agen at the home of a trader in silk goods. This one named Nodigier the Junior didn't pay his clerk: he was also soon quitted by Francois Mesplès who made the heroic decision to go down as far as Bordeaux. When he arrived in the capital of the Guyenne, François had only eight pounds in his pocket and nearly no ordinary clothes.
 
Several "countries" were already established on the edge of the Gironde, the young Agenais procured a position at the home of a trader named Dumougai, who made a sufficiently large commerce with Brittany. François Mesplès there found that which he wanted, large amounts of money in good order and the means to inform himself about armament. His pay was at first modest, but although clerks didn't ordinarily remain in the Dumougai house scarcely more than one or two weeks, he stayed several years there. Moreover he was not alone anymore in Bordeaux, he had made his young brother come there and had him placed at the home of a trader named Chambert.
 
In this world of those employed by commerce where François Mesplès reached his nineteenth year, one thought only to Iles (Islands?). The fortunes that one can earn in the countries overseas was the object of all the conversations and overexcited the ambitions. The young man which the moderate pay satisfied scarcely the need to improve, formed the plan to travel (pass) to America. But the money he made would not pay for his passage: without hesitating he resolved to follow a course of hydrographie (navigation) to become a pilot (on a boat). In this goal he went to find two traders, Raymone Vignié and Moulade, explained his situation to them and offered them to work for them provided that they would allow him two hours per day for his studies of pilotage. The offer was accepted. Vignié and Moulade were interested in François and recommended him to the professor of hydrographie, for this one required some credentials before admitting his pupils.
 
The course of hydrographie lasted forty days; immediately finished, François asked for his embarcation and obtained it in the rank of pilotin on the Béarnais, small ship that one named Dambourger sent to Saint-Domingue under the command of a sieur Jarreau.

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It was the end of the year of 1761 when the Béarnais set sail. Its navigation was of short duration. While leaving the Gironde it was taken by a British frigate, the Mermede, which conducted it to the harbor of the Basques; it stayed prisoner there during four months in the middle of the British squadron put in charge of the blockade of Rochefort. At the end of this time the crew was exchanged and landed at La Rochelle.
 
The poor François Mesplès returned to Bordeaux in rags, nearly naked. Vignié and Moulade welcomed him again and were again his benefactors. The first advanced forty pounds to him and the second eighty; from a young trader named Lille, originally from Agen, he obtained the loan of twenty two coins of three pounds. This help permitted him to clothe himself and to subsist a few months. There was much talk about peace and in this expectation the armaments are defered, but since the signing of the Preliminary of Fontainebleau (5 November 1762) they resumed. François Mesplès obtained his second embarcation on a big ship named the Triton commanded by the sieur Delribal armed by Mr. Quin and destined for Saint-Domingue.
 
The Triton departed in December 1762, anchored in the harbor of Port-au-Prince.
 
There is Mesplès in Saint-Domingue, land of dreams and fortune; he is twenty one years old and he thinks only to gain. He knew that a man of his country, named Vincent, was settled in Port-au-Prince. He went see him and this compatriot received him very good. But the young man, who was made pilotin to go to the islands without having to pay his passage, was held by his commitment to return to France with the ship that had brought him. Mesplès didn't want to return to Bordeaux a simple pilot like he had left from there. Also as soon as the next departure of Triton was announced, the pilotin deserted and took refuge at the home of Vincent. He stayed there hidden until the Triton had set sail, but as soon as the vessel had disappeared, the tradesman revealed himself.
 
With the help of Vincent, who carries guaranty for him, does give Mesplès fourteen hundred pounds of goods with a credit of six weeks by one named Lesage, captain

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in second of a ship of Havre, the Argonaut, which was in harbor. The day following this assignment was a Sunday, the young man took the advantage of exhibiting his cheap merchandise in the Market place of Port-au-Prince. Probably he made the misleading talk (quack's show), his pleasing youth, his dazzling glibness, his ardor, his confidence draws, the pour purchasers and the coming evening, he notes that he sold more than 1,400 pounds. He has what will pay the stock that he bought the day before and this stock is not exhausted "This stem (base?) there, he will write later, my happy beginning of business which confirmed to me the good idea that I had to travel to the Isles."
 
This beginning, such that he couldn't have ever dared imagine in his most enthusiastic dreams, doesn't soften his ardor. Instead of dissipating like so many others the money if fast earned, he continues to sell his goods, he purchases it, he resells them and he guards the product of his sales. He soon has what will pay for the passage of his young brother staying in Bordeaux; he writes him to come; this one embarks on a ship commanded by a sieur Calvet and François gets settled a small boutique for Jean next to his on the Market place. And the year 1765 passes while the two brothers Mesplès do very good with their business.
 
A happy contest of circumstances, the return of the peace and the need that the colonists have of goods which seven years of war had made them feel the absence, had furthered the first commercial operation of François Mesplès. But Saint-Domingue was not only the land of the fruitful sales of cheap merchandise. To those who came to look for the gold there, she often gave the fever. François Mesplès paid his tribute to the climate. In the winter 1765 he was seriously sick; he understood the necessity of a return to Europe for restoration and he resolved to make this trip a new lucrative operation. With the money already earned, he bought some indigo and cotton, which he sent part to Bordeaux and, took the remainder with him, he embarked in March 1766. The air of the sea had him almost nearly healed when he arrived, in April, at Honfleur.
 
Curiosity made him use one week to visit this town and the Havre; he next reached Rouen where he made a stay of three weeks. He introduced himself at the home of the owner of the schooner the Aimable Marie, on which he had made the crossing, Mr. de

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Ratiéville. This trader which had a son in Port-au-Prince, warmly (made good) welcomed Mesplès and helped him to sell his indigo.
 
His merchandise sold, Mesplès is possessor of eight thousand pounds, money of France. He bought in Rouen a first fund of cheap merchandise and toward mid May proceeded to Paris, where he took a furnished room at the home of a sieur Castelard in the hotel du Pigeon, rue des Deux Ecus. He stayed there until the month of July, buying some new proper merchandise to be exported to Saint-Domingue, notably at the home of some traders on the rue Quincampoix, Moret and Poilleux, which Ratiéville had given the address to him.
 
In July he proceeded to the fair of Beaucaire, but he did not find anything there to his liking (suitability) and decided that moreover the exportation would be too expensive; he then heads towards his native country and in August he has the happiness to find himself again near his father in Valence d'Agen.
 
"I didn't work in the short stay that I had there, he said that the means to metamorphosing his position alone occupies my mind. I paid by my note all that he owed, amounting to the sum of 2554 livres, 8 sols 6 deniers. I left as much money with him as I could. " François Mesplès also took advantage of this meeting with his father in order to become emancipated (20 August 1766) (1).
 
In the first days of September he arrived in Bordeaux; four years before he was in this town without a coin. Probably he was going to thank, because he was grateful, those who previously had rescued his distress. He occupied himself especially with gathering the goods that he had bought in Rouen, and in Paris; he used all the funds that he had (remained) to supplement his cheap merchandise and in the same month of September embarked on the ship the Don de Dieu commanded by the sieur Castaing and armed by Mr. Rocaute de Bussac.
 
The 15 of November 1766 he was at the Headland and the 4th of December he returned to Port-au-Prince, after a journey of nine months. He found his brother convalescing, the second of the Mesplès had been dangerously ill, "but he had nevertheless earned something."
 
Francois restarted his small commerce and like the first
 
1. Act of emancipation indicated in the inventory after death.

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time his merchandise sold very good. He made a resolution to immediately make a second trip to Europe. This time he decided his brother would follow with him. All the two made passage the 5th of April 1767 on the Jeune Comtesse d'Egmont, and the 24th of May they disembarked in Bordeaux.
 
The sale of the colonial commodities brought back by François procured him a turn-around (tournament) principal of 11,000 pounds. At the end of June he left for Paris, found again his room at the home of the sieur Castelard, went to see his former suppliers, sees some new ones, and used the major part of his funds to purchase some merchandise. Unfortunately he doesn't give us any indication of the nature of the goods which composed his cheap merchandise.
 
The 18th of October, his affairs being ended, he took the mail and four days later he arrived at the house of his father. During three days he searched "in all the world with a new readiness to demonstrate his respectful affection for him." The 26th of October he made his adieus to him: he never saw him again. Bertrand Mesplès of which the last years were sunny by the gains of his son and to whom the Présidial of Agen had just recognized the rank of "Lord of the Exchanges in any the fiefs of the community of the royal town of Castel Sagrat" died indeed some years later, the 20th of August 1773, and his sons never returned to France.
 
François Mesplès arrived in Bordeaux the 28th of October 1767. He found again his brother there. By a mutual agreement they decided that the youngest, Jean would stay in Bordeaux while the eldest would pass again to America and that they would mutually make shipments as commission without any kind of self-interest between them, each moreover working for his individual amount.
 
The merchandise bought in Paris not arriving, François had to renounce taking passage on the Marquise de Chatenoy and had to delay his departure until December. He left finally on the Florissant belonging to Rocaute de Bussac, he carried away cheap merchandise worth 26,333 livres 16 sols 9 deniers
 
The Florissant arrived at Cap Français at the end of February 1768. Mesplès the eldest sold in this town a part of his merchandise and with the product, he could send fifteen days later a rebate of 8,467 livres 7 sols 6 deniers in coffee on the ship La Folle de Bordeaux, to his brother's address. At the end of March he returned to Port-au-Prince, where he finally settled.

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After several mutual consignments were made from Bordeaux and from Saint-Domingue, the brothers Mesplès perceived that their association, such that they had conceived it, presented some inconveniences. They had not foreseen that each of them having the same ambition would also seek indistinctly all those who would agree to his speculation, that those who would agree to the one would agree correspondingly to the other, and that necessarily he must follow some double occupation; in reality they managed to make a damaging competition.
 
François sent with a merchant from Bordeaux his proxy and his instructions to go over in his name the contract of the company with his brother. The latter having accepted the terms of his eldest, the deed was passed the 10th of September 1768 and the Mesplès brothers company was organized following the seven articles written by François Mesplès:
 
1 The company will run from the 20th of June 1768 to finish the 20th of June 1771.
 
2 At the end of the company there will be made a general recap of all that young Mesplès of Bordeaux possesses such as notes or other similar things as goods, if acquired by him, ordinary furniture of the house even the ordinary clothes for the use of his body and generally of all that he will possess. It will be made likewise (opposite) as much of the eldest Mesplès of Port-au-Prince, and if the latter retires to France at the end of the expired term of the company, his passage and expenses to arrive in France will be shared, know: the aforesaid eldest Mesplès for two thirds, and the sieur Mesplès the younger for the remaining third in accordance with agreements hereafter of their company.
 
3 If, after the time of the said expired policy, the sieur Mesplès eldest really spends time in France, it serves therefore to make in his presence the recap of the aforesaid article 2 for all the ordinary things be valued amiably or by expert, so much of aforementioned sieur Mesplès, eldest that those of said sieur Mesplès the younger for the value of the said evaluations be reached in mass and be shared in consequence of their agreements of interests hereafter explained.
 
4 Since the distance of Port-au-Prince is too long and that the capital of the eldest Mesplès is spread in an infinity of various goods, he is [obt‚] and agreed between Mesplès young and M. Beaun‚ of Bordeaux representing the eldest Mesplès, that the capital of Mesplès.....
 
Missing the rest (pages 168 and 169)

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ships that arrived in the harbor of the town in ruins.
 
The 8th of August, "two months after the fatal event" a first store was ended and Mesplès leased to captain Fargier at the rate of five hundred livres of monthly rental. At the end of the year he had constructed seven stores and all were occupied for the same price. He therefore collected 3,500 livres per month, or 42,000 livres per year for the [islet afferm‚] by his 9,000 livres. His calculation had been good and, although he has must necessarily decrease the price of his rentals in proportion as the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince rebuilt their houses, he got back from this speculation big advantages.
 
He had not abandoned because of this the care of his ordinary commerce. The month of June 1770 left to him the memory of a time when he had not failed to work. While building his "captains lodgings", he searched his merchandise under the rubble of the destroyed houses, he collected them under some tents which served as shelter for himself, he accepted the value of his ship, which he prepared for departure. Since the 27th of June, the Bussac could have gone back to sea and made sail toward Bordeaux with so many funds that escalated the cargo that he had brought.
 
When, in the month of August, he sees his speculation on the lodgings succeed, Mesplès thought that instead of raising some buildings of fortune on the lot of others, it would be more advantageous to construct some houses on a lot belonging to him. He immediately made the resolution to achieving this new speculation and looked for the means. His practical sense did understand that it was necessary to choose a point of the town "to reach the commerce" and he did not see anything more proper to satisfy this need than a lot belonging to a (man) named Aim‚ Gauthier between the Case à Navire and the sea. Mesplès bought it the 2nd of September for 2,400 livres and there began without lingering the work which had to last seven years and would exercise a major influence on the development of his fortune; one he will see very far.
 
This year 1770 was decisive for François Mesplès, notably in this month of June where he attained his 29th year and that appeared originally to have been fatal to him, he launched into a new career where until the end of his life he took curious delight in. The merchant doubled himself henceforth as a builder and as an owner.

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