Little Bits of History

Burnin’ Down the House

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 21, 2014
Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique

Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique

June 21, 1734: Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique is executed. She was born around 1700 in Madeira in Portugal, one of the important nations plying the lucrative Atlantic slave trade. She was black and was sold to a Flemish man called either Nichus Block or Nicolas Bleeker. He brought her to the New World and she lived in New England before being sold again. This time, she was purchased by an important French businessman from Montreal. Francois Poulin de Francheville brought her north and after his death, she came under the ownership of his widow, Therese de Couagne. Slavery in New England and New France was mostly a domestic issues and not as in the rural South where slaves worked the fields on plantations.

Angélique worked in the Francheville home in Montreal and occasionally helped with the family’s small farm which produced supplies for Francheville’s trading expeditions. Angélique had three children while in Montreal, all dying before their first birthday. Listed as father was Jacques Cesar, a black slave from Madagascar owned by a neighbor of the Francheville family. Angélique became involved with a white indentured servant, Claude Thibault, also employed by the Franchevilles. While the new widow was taking care of business, she asked her brother-in-law to keep both slave and servant and the two tried to escape and flee to New England. They were captured and returned within two weeks. Thibault was imprisoned and released on April 8, 1734. Angélique went undisciplined for her escape attempt, probably because her mistress was getting ready to sell her since she couldn’t control her.

After his release from prison, Thibault returned to Francheville’s house to ask for back wages. He was paid, but told to never return. He also learned Angélique had been sold and would be moving to Quebec City. At 7 PM on April 10, 1734, the call went out that a fire was spreading. It was so intense, fire fighters could not approach. High winds helped to spread the fire which consumed 45 houses and the local hospital. Rumors started immediately blaming Angélique for starting the fires. She denied this but was brought to trial regardless. A warrant was also issued for Thibault, but he fled before being arrested.

There was no physical evidence presented against Angélique but everyone “knew” she had started the fire. There was no consensus of how and the prosecutor was near to asking for the use of torture to extract a confession. It was then a five year old testified she had seen Angélique carrying a shovelful of coals up to the attic of the house on the afternoon the fire started. Angélique was found guilty and she was tortured to get the confession of her guilt and find any accomplices. She admitted guilt, but denied any help. She was hung for her crime. Today, there is speculation that Angélique was indeed innocent while others believe she set the fire that destroyed most of Old Montreal.

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. – Malcolm X

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. – William Shakespeare

All things truly wicked start from innocence. – Ernest Hemingway

Once you start asking questions, innocence is gone. – Mary Astor

Also on this day: Job Insecurity – In 1919, the Winnipeg Strike goes horribly wrong.
Manchester Baby – In 1948, the world’s first stored program computer worked.
SpaceShipOne – In 2004, the first privately funded ship makes it into space.
Long – In 1948, the first LP album was demonstrated.