The Evil Genius of Crooks

Français : Portrait de Sébastien-François Bigo...
Français : Portrait de Sébastien-François Bigot de Morogues (1706-1781). Artiste inconnu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the biggest “crooks” who ever operated in Canada, in its early days, was François Bigot, who was the Intendant or business manager at Louisburg before it fell to Pepperell in 1745, and at Quebec before it was taken by Wolfe.

Louisburg fell easily to Pepperill’s amateurs from New England, partly because it was not as strong as it was supposed to be.  Inferior materials had been used in the walls.  The soldiers who did the work were supposed to be paid, but they received no money.  Provisions sent to the soldiers were sold to officers and there was dissension among the ranks while Bigot lined his pockets.

Despite his record, Bigot was sent to Quebec on August 20, 1748, and organized a ring of “crooks” to help him.  One of them was Joseph Cadet, son of a local butcher, who was made Commissar-General and looked after supplies.  he made enough money to become the Baron de la Touche D’Arrigny, with an estate in France.

Under Bigot’s evil genius, the group plundered Canada and the treasury of France.  People were overcharged for goods from France.  Canadian farm products were bought at low prices, stored and then released to the troops when the highest prices could be charged.  King Louis would buy presents for the Indians which they seldom received as Bigot and his gang would sell them.  On one occasion, when Louis needed supplies for his armies in Europe, Bigot made a profit of 12 million francs!

The fall of Quebec, like Louisburg, was due in part to inferior or scarce supplies resulting from Bigot’s activities.  When they returned to France, there was an investigation of all the officials who had served at Quebec.

Governor Vaudreuil was acquitted and received a pension.  Twenty-seven judges heard the charges against Bigot and his accomplices.  The trials lasted for more than a year and Bigot’s testimony covered 1,200 pages.  He pictured himself as the victim of evil associates!  Somehow he escaped the guillotine and was banished from France with a heavy fine.  Other members of the gang were sent to the Bastille, but some of them had enough money to buy an easement of their sentences.  Cadet’s daughters married into the nobility of France!

Quite an interesting character! To learn more about François Bigot, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and then the Canadian Encyclopedia, as well as Encyclopedia Britannica.


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