Marinus was born on October, 3rd 1691 in the city of Nantes, in Brittany to Gerard and Anne Marchand. They were an old Flemish family with branches throughout northern France and southern England. His father was the owner of a quayside warehouse leased to La Compagnie des Indes Occidentales Françaises. He would have in time two brothers Bartholomeus (1694) and Remault (1696) and a sister Marie (1699).
In 1705, Gerard acquired a stripped down Corvette, Le Porc-épic on auction. It was a blockade runner that had been used to supply English troops fighting in Holland. On the day of his Eighteenth birthday, Gerard commissioned his son as captain.
Gerard saw the war ravaging France as an opportunity to grab up property on the cheap from people looking to abandon ventures made suddenly risky by what would later be known as Queen Anne’s war. It was at this time that he acquired a sugar plantation on Saint-Christophe from the owner, who had abandoned it and returned to France via Nantes.
In late 1709, Gerard sent his son to inspect the new property, and to return promptly. He would not see his father again.
When Marinus arrived he found the plantation in complete disarray, and he spent the next few months repairing buildings, preparing fields, and organizing labor. When he arrived the fields had been stripped bare by departing laborers and neighboring farmers. It would be at least a year before newly planted cane would be ready for harvest.
Marinus and Gerard decided that it would be best to let the cane mature for two years and that it would be Marinus’s job to remain with the plantation until then. News from home was grim; the war was not going well. The British had made designs on invading France, and were making rapid gains.
In early 1712, the sugar was harvested and sold for a tidy sum. Marinus used some of the proceeds to hire a local manager for the enterprise. When everything was ready, he left to return to France. The British had withdrawn from the Alliance, and France was steadily regaining ground
from the Duke of Savoy. It looked as if the tide of the war was finally changing.
It was then that Gerard fell ill and passed in March of 1712, this put Marinus in charge of the family business, a responsibility he immediately assumed upon his return to France. Thinking of his success with the plantation he increased the family’s holdings on the isle, and dispatched his brother Bartholomeus to the Caribbean.
Things went more or less well until, when in 1713, Saint-Christophe was ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht. Communication with Bartholomeus was intermittent and unreliable, and the future of the family’s possessions in the Caribbean uncertain. In April of 1714, Marinus received a letter from the office of the Governor of St. Kitts informing him that his brother was executed for smuggling contraband. In addition, all of their holdings were considered forfeit.
The family was devastated. After losing her husband and son, Anne their mother fell into a deep depression. The business was in ruins, and all that
remained was the warehouse Gerard had started with and a ship which was costing more to maintain than it was bringing in. It looked like things were as bad as they could get, but they got worse.
In 1715 the Regent pressed France for new taxes so that the state could begin to pay down the enormous debts the last war had incurred. The nobility of Brittany, thinking the burden undue, refused to pay.
In November of 1715, a young member of the Breton court arrived unsolicited at the quayside warehouse where Marinus was working to extract his family from their current predicament. Up to this point he had been using the Le Porc-épic to supplement their income by making short cargo and passenger runs between France, Spain, England, and the United Provinces. It was for this service that the young Breton noble had come.
Concerned that their intransigence would reap them sorrow, some of the more concerned members of the Breton Parliament wanted to discretely move some of their family and fortune out of the country. Securing transport was a responsibility that fell to the young man who found his way to Le Porc-épic. He was attracted to the Marchand family because they had an honorable reputation and a low profile.
Marinus, wary at first with being offered a suspicious fee for ostensibly easy work, worried that he was getting the family involved in some intrigue. Concern that ebbed when the more he thought of the sum, and how it might figure prominently in his plans to revive their failed ventures.
So he agreed to help.
What had been originally an arrangement to move a few people and some furniture quickly evolved. Soon, nearly all the time Le Porc-épic spent at sea, was in the service of a radical faction of the Breton Parliament, even after many of them were exiled. By 1718 he was also helping to smuggle wine through the Channel Islands.
Events quickly accelerated, and more and more, Marnius felt that he was losing control of his own business, despite the money he was bringing in. In his free time, he started to make preparation for flight, should it turn out to be necessary. What happened over the next year is mostly a mystery to all but himself and his closest associates; however by October 1719 he was a flurry of activity, most of it directed towards the singular goal of fleeing France.
On the night of October 20, 1719, Remault and Marie were put on a ship Marinus commissioned to take them safely to Louisiana. Marinus had learned that a Lettre de Cachet had been drafted for his arrest. It appeared that the court that had convened to clean up the conspiracy of the Duc
de Pontcallec was convinced that Marnius was in possession of various letters and effects that could assist them in securing the conviction of a number of conspirators belonging to prominent Breton families, and the recovery of hidden fortunes which the State had placed a lien on.
Marinus knew that his only chance at safety lie in the fact that the State would not want to alarm the suspects by arresting him publicly. They couldn’t act without solid proof. As long as they believed that he had the information they wanted, and he could stay one step ahead of the agents dispatched to arrest him, his family and their business could remain intact.
On the 22nd of October he sent out letters to contacts that he had learned of while in the course of conducting his business both in Europe and abroad. On the 23rd he departed for the Caribbean himself by way of a ship he commissioned for this purpose. Le Porc-épic remained in harbor so as not to alert anyone to his intentions. He left word with the workers and manager of the family warehouse that if anyone should come calling for him, to tell them that he had left to survey land for purchase in the West Indies.
He arrived in Martinique in late December, a place he told those bearing his letters that he could be found. Nobody seemed to be expecting his arrival. It appeared that the authorities in France had not made contact with the governor. Perhaps he had truly eluded them for the time being.