HUOT, FRANÇOIS, merchant and politician; b. 23 Aug. 1756 in Sainte-Foy (Que.), son of François Huot and Marie Maheu; m. first 18 Jan. 1780 Marie-Charles Leblond in Sainte-Famille, Île d’Orléans; m. secondly 14 Jan. 1783 Marie-Louise Robitaille at Quebec; m. thirdly 10 Oct. 1801 Françoise Villers in Charlesbourg; d. 29 Jan. 1822 at Quebec.
The son of a farmer, François Huot is believed to have been a servant with the Lanaudière family for several years before setting up a small shop, probably at Quebec. Even though he could not sign his marriage certificate in 1780, he no doubt was intelligent and resourceful. On 18 March 1782 he rented a two-storey house on Rue des Pauvres (Côte du Palais), where it is likely he carried on a retail business in various items, including spirits, which he had been licensed to sell in 1781. Some years later he was in business on Rue Saint-Jean. In 1787 he was able to afford £1,000 for a two-storey stone house on Rue de la Fabrique in addition to another house behind it which stood on Rue Saint-Joseph (Rue Garneau). He made up the capital for the purchase through a loan of £500 from notary Michel Sauvageau to be repaid as an annuity. The house on Rue de la Fabrique was opposite the Place du Marché, one of the busiest shopping areas in Upper Town, and it served as his residence and place of business until the end of his career.
For the 1790s Huot may be considered a fairly large-scale retailer. He carried in stock a great variety of fabrics, particularly woollens and cottons, shoes, stockings, hats and gloves, assorted household items, hardware, stationery, and some foodstuffs. In 1796 his complete inventory was worth £785 wholesale. His principal suppliers were probably the large wholesalers James Tod* and John Blackwood*, to whom he then owed respectively £705 and £170 for goods furnished. Despite owing more than £1,400 overall, Huot was in good shape financially because his liabilities were easily covered by his personal assets, debts owing to him of £390, and merchandise in stock.
An active and ambitious man, Huot attracted attention through the role he played in public affairs and through his participation in a number of organizations. On 4 Nov. 1790 his name appeared on a petition calling upon the government to establish a nonsectarian university in the province [see Jean-François Hubert*], and the following year he was among those opposing a plan to change land tenure [see Thomas-Laurent Bédard*; William Smith*]. He also signed the declaration of loyalty to the new constitution in July 1794. Huot belonged to the Quebec District Agriculture Society in 1793, but he was more closely identified with the Fire Society, of which he was a member from 1795 till 1820 and a director in 1800 and 1806. In addition he served as a churchwarden of the parish of Notre-Dame from 1807 to 1814.
Huot ran in the 1796 elections for the Lower Canadian House of Assembly and was elected in Hampshire, along with Joseph-Bernard Planté. He was esteemed for his honesty and his administrative abilities, and he enjoyed the steady support of his constituents, who kept returning him. Consequently he sat in the assembly from 1796 to 1804 and from 1808 till his death. In 1804 he withdrew from the slate before polling closed, apparently to ensure the election of his fellow candidate Planté. A man with little education, Huot played a discreet role as a member of the assembly, but he did participate assiduously in its work and in general supported the Canadian party.
In October 1796, shortly after being first elected, Huot went into partnership for a year with a young Quebec merchant, Michel Clouet*, evidently to lighten his work as a merchant, but after that he decided to continue on his own. As the years went by, he widened the scope of his activities by investing in enterprises of public utility and in real estate. In 1801 he paid £41 for one of the 48 shares in the Dorchester bridge over the Rivière Saint-Charles [see David Lynd*]. In 1807 he signed a five-year lease that gave him the operating rights to this bridge in return for £350 annually and a commitment to maintain it. Huot was also a shareholder and promoter of the Union Company of Quebec, which had been created in 1805 to finance the purchase and fitting-up of the Union Hotel on Rue Sainte-Anne. In addition to his properties on Rue de la Fabrique and Rue Saint-Joseph, Huot owned a house on Rue Saint-Jean, in the faubourg of that name. In 1800 and 1810 he also bought two properties at Beauport, as well as another small piece of land at La Canardière.
Huot retired from business in the mid 1810s and devoted himself primarily to his work as an assemblyman. His small capital and the income from renting or selling his properties ensured him a comfortable standard of living. In 1823 the liquidation of his assets brought his heirs more than £5,000, which was largely distributed among his four sons, one of whom was Hector-Simon*.
François Huot’s career well illustrates the position of the Canadian merchant class at the period. His prospects of becoming rich were determined by his role as an intermediary between the importer of British origin and the consumer. Although he achieved only a modest degree of success, it none the less permitted him to participate in public affairs and political life, which gave him some social distinction, alongside the seigneurial class and the members of the liberal professions.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 14 janv. 1783, 1er févr. 1822; CE1-7, 10 oct. 1801; CE1-11, 18 janv. 1780; CE1-20, 23 août 1756; CN1-26, 27 janv., 25 mai, 27 nov. 1802; 8 juill. 1803; CN1-83, 20 mai 1782; 26 nov. 1787; 4, 16, 18 janv. 1788; CN1-157, 9–11 juin 1796, 3 mars 1821; CN1-178, 9 févr. 1807, 12 mai 1813; CN1-230, 8 août 1792; 11 oct. 1796; 14 janv., 18 avril, 18 oct. 1797; 23 avril 1798; 21 févr., 13 nov. 1801; 21 janv. 1819; 15 févr. 1822; 13 mars 1823. L.C., Statutes, 1805, c.16. Quebec Gazette, 4 Nov. 1790; 24 March 1791; 11 April 1793; 10 July 1794; 11 June 1795; 26, 29 June 1797; 10 April 1800; 9, 16 Aug. 1804; 3 April 1806; 2, 30 Nov. 1809; 26 April 1810; 31 Aug. 1815; 28 March 1816; 9 Jan. 1817; 23 March 1820; 31 Jan. 1822; 31 July 1823. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs du Bas-Canada”; “François Huot,” BRH, 37 (1931): 695–702. Hare, “L’Assemblée législative du Bas-Canada,” RHAF, 27.