DIGÉ, JEAN (baptized Jean-Charles), mariner, politician, and office holder; b. c. 1736 in the “parish of Forillon” in the diocese of Avranches, France, son of Jacques Digé and Jeanne Augé; d. 14 July 1813 in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière), Lower Canada.
Jean Digé, who was the son of a sailor, did not have the opportunity of going to school or learning to read and write, but he had practical training in seafaring. When he came to Canada he settled in Sainte-Anne de-la-Pocatière; on 16 May 1762, before setting off on a long cod-fishing voyage, he drew up a will there in the presence of a notary, leaving most of his belongings to François Lévêque, who was soon to become his father-in-law. On 30 Jan. 1763 he married Véronique Lévêque, who was 26. At that time, in addition to owning the equipment essential for his work as a sailor, including a fishing boat, Digé was the proprietor of two farms, one at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, the other at Rivière-Ouelle; he also had a horse, carriole, plough, and 2,950 livres 10 sous in bills of exchange plus 330 livres in cash. At least two children were born of this marriage; Jean, a son, died in 1782 at the age of 16.
Digé, who was quite well off, acquired a measure of credibility among his peers. He appears as sub-bailiff of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière in September 1767, and again in September 1773. In the 1792 elections to the House of Assembly he was returned, with Pierre-Louis Panet, as member for Cornwallis, a riding which then extended from the seigneury of La Pocatière to the constituency of Gaspé. Digé was one of the four members of the first parliament of Lower Canada who had been born in France. He played no major role in the assembly, largely contenting himself with voting. On three occasions he supported the English party, but he voted with the Canadian party seven times, in particular for the election of Jean-Antoine Panet as speaker and against according legal status to the English language. As he had little education, he probably felt the problems being discussed were beyond him. Besides, since members of the assembly received no remuneration, Digé was doubtless not much attracted to the work. It is conceivable, given the cost of living at Quebec, that he lived on his boat for the duration of the sessions. He represented his riding from 10 July 1792 until 31 May 1796. In the 1796 elections he withdrew his candidature before the poll was held.
In 1797 Digé was surveyor of roads for Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. That year he leased out a farm in the seigneury of Rivière-Ouelle; by the evidence he could then sign his name. From that time on he seemed content to live on the income from his farms and his career as a sailor. Since 3 March 1810 he had been a widower, and on 20 April 1812, at the age of about 76, he took as his second wife Marie-Charlotte Sajos (Sageot), widow of Pierre Darris, with whom she had had a son. On 14 July of the following year Digé died, “after being ill for twelve hours.” His body was buried the next day in the church of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. His wife lived to the age of 99 and died on 28 Sept. 1845.
Jean was the only Digé to emigrate to Canada from France. Having no male descendants, he was unable to perpetuate his name in Canada. He was, however, the founder of a line of Pelletiers through the marriage of his daughter Geneviève with Joseph Pelletier on 6 Nov. 1786.
ANQ-Q, CE3-1, 20 avril 1812; CE3-3, 30 sept. 1845; CE3-12, 20 févr. 1782, 6 nov. 1786, 5 mars 1810, 15 juill. 1813, 4 déc. 1831; CN3-18, 16 mai 1762, 26 janv. 1763. AP, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 30 janv. 1763. Quebec Gazette, 17 Sept. 1767, 9 Sept. 1773, 29 July 1813. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada.” F.-J. Audet et Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier Parl. du Bas-Canada, 154–59. Desjardins, Guide parl., 126. Quebec alamanac, 1794: 66; 1796: 59. Répertoire des mariages de Rivière-Ouelle, 1672–1972; troisième centenaire, Armand Proulx, compil. (La Pocatière, 1972), 120. Répertoire des mariages de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (comté de Kamouraska) (1715–1965), J.-E. Ouellet, compil. (Québec, 1968), 11. Hare, “L’Assemblée legislative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27: 366, 368, 371–73. “Jean Digé, premier député de Cornwallis,” BRH, 40 (1934): 55–62.