Bigot, François

François Bigot, financial commissary of Île Royale 1739-45, intendant of New France 1748-60 (bap at Bordeaux, France 30 Jan 1703; d at Neuchâtel, Switz 12 Jan 1778). Traditionally Bigot has been remembered for administrative fraud so massive as to cause the CONQUEST of New France by the British during the SEVEN YEARS' WAR.

After the British capture of Louisbourg in 1745, Bigot was sent back to Canada in 1748, against his personal wishes, to assume chief responsibility for the civil government of New France. Soon merchants began to complain that only Bigot's friends were receiving contracts to supply the government. Recalled to France in 1754 to answer these charges, his explanations apparently were satisfactory, since he was reassigned to Canada in 1755.

Government spending on Canada during the Seven Years' War rose from just over 6 million livres in 1755 to over 30 million in 1759. The French government believed Bigot and his associates (see GRANDE SOCIÉTÉ) stole much of the money. Following a show trial in Paris, referred to as the "Affaire du Canada," Bigot was sentenced to "restore" 1.5 million livres to the French Crown in 1763. Some of the money was "repaid" through confiscation of some of his property. Bigot ended his days in relative poverty and disgrace in exile in Switzerland.

Ever since, historians have debated the degree to which Bigot's dealings were criminal. The recent consensus is that his behaviour was typical of the period and that skyrocketing expenditures resulted from the war and the British blockade. In fact, Bigot was an extremely able administrator. He, however, also presided over magnificent banquets and balls that scandalized the clergy in Canada, and his gambling bouts were notorious.