MALHIOT, FRANÇOIS, merchant, land speculator, politician, office holder, and militia officer; b. 20 Oct. 1733 in Montreal (Que.), son of Jean-François Malhiot*, a merchant, and Charlotte Gamelin; d. 28 Jan. 1808 in Verchères, Lower Canada.
The Malhiots came from the diocese of Limoges in France. Jean Malhiot, the first of the family to come to Canada, arrived some time before 1683. On 1 March 1688 he married Madeleine Marchand, who was his second wife; their son Jean-François made a fortune in the fur trade and the import-export business with France. On 18 Dec. 1724, in Montreal, he married Charlotte Gamelin, daughter of the merchant Ignace Gamelin* the elder, and they had several children, one of whom was François.
Nothing is known of François Malhiot’s youth. The earliest mention of his career occurs in his marriage contract, where he is described as a “merchant” in Montreal. It may reasonably be assumed, then, that his father had initiated him into the business world and that upon his death on 28 Jan. 1756 Malhiot simply took over management of the family enterprise.
Whatever the case, on 11 Jan. 1768 Malhiot married his first cousin Élisabeth Gamelin, daughter of the Montreal merchant Ignace Gamelin* the younger. It was a brilliant occasion attended by many members of the Montreal élite. The marriage contract, dated 9 January, assured the wife a jointure of 6,000 livres and a preference legacy of 3,000 livres. The couple were to have 11 children.
Late in 1768 or early in 1769 Malhiot settled at Verchères. A notarized deed dated 26., April 1769 refers to him as a “merchant” living there. He sold dry goods, made mortgage loans, and speculated in wheat. In 1774 alone he bought at least 4,683 bushels of wheat. His business seems to have prospered, since in 1779 he owned a schooner, the Coquette, which was handled by a captain and two sailors. He resided in a stone house in the centre of the village; on his lot, which measured 120 feet by 180, he had also built a stable, a stone shed, and two wooden ones.
During the 1780s Malhiot’s liquid assets grew and he was able to take up land speculation, in which he had previously seldom engaged. He sold a lot at Varennes in 1784, and a small piece of land at Verchères in 1788. The following year he bought four lots at Verchères and two others adjacent to the Chemin du Roy; then he sold four at Verchères and one in the seigneury of Varennes. In 1793 he bought half of Île Baladeau, a property “in grassland and standing timber,” for 360 livres. The next year he purchased a farm of nearly 44 acres with a house and barn in the fief of Cap-Saint-Michel, as well as another in the seigneury of Verchères. His acquisitions turned out to be good investments. In 1794 he sold for 800 livres those lots for which he had paid 700 livres five years earlier.
From 1795 Malhiot seems gradually to have retired from business, probably relying more and more on his sons. In 1799 the notarized deeds no longer refer to him as a merchant, but as “esquire.” In 1804 he made a gift of his assets to his three sons: Pierre-Ignace, François-Victor, and François-Xavier*. His fortune at that time amounted to 125,101 livres: 34,612 in dry and wet goods, 29,347 in properties, 7,187 in equipment and livestock, 33,869 in good debts, and 20,086 in doubtful ones. One of the latter consisted of an advance of 13,000 livres that he had made to Jean-Marie Coursolle on 20 April 1790, before Coursolle left for the “Pays d’en Haut.” Pierre-Ignace and François-Xavier carried on the paternal enterprise in partnership; François-Victor became a clerk with the North West Company.
A shrewd and prosperous businessman, linked through his marriage with the Montreal élite, François Malhiot was one of the prominent citizens of Verchères. The interest he took in the village community made him respected by his fellow citizens. More than once he acted as executor and proxy. On 28 Dec. 1788 the churchwardens of the parish of Saint-François-Xavier at Verchères offered him a pew to show their gratitude for the role he had played in the construction of the new church. Quite naturally he began to have an influence outside his village. His entry into public life had, however, been due to circumstances beyond his control. During the American invasion in 1775–76 he had displayed his loyalty before Richard Montgomery*’s troops; his properties had been pillaged and he had been held prisoner. On 12 Nov. 1775 he was one of the 12 prominent citizens who signed the act of capitulation of Montreal.
The creation of a house of assembly in Lower Canada launched Malhiot on to the public scene again. He agreed to stand in the riding of Surrey and was duly elected in the summer of 1792. A level-headed man, he was always steadfast in his loyalty. In January 1793, at his colleagues’ request, he helped prepare an address to the British crown expressing the fidelity and gratitude of its subjects in Lower Canada. In July 1794 he signed the declaration of loyalty to the constitution and the government that a group of Montreal citizens was circulating to counter the tide of enthusiasm in the colony for the ideas of the French revolution. His colleagues in the House of Assembly also turned his business experience to account. On 7 May 1793 they named him, along with James McGill, John Richardson*, Joseph Papineau*, and James Walker, to a committee appointed to discuss with the commissioners from Upper Canada the division of customs receipts between the two provinces. According to historian Francis-Joseph Audet*, it was the most important mission that the house could entrust to a member.
Like most of those elected in 1792, François Malhiot served for only one term. He retired from public life by slow degrees. On 8 May 1799 he was appointed a justice of the peace. It is not known when he became a colonel in the militia, but the indications are that it was towards the end of his life. These two positions, which were largely honorary, kept him occupied during retirement. He died at Verchères on 28 Jan. 1808. The Quebec Gazette, which announced his death on 4 February, rendered him this homage: “François Malhiot, esquire, merchant, universally regretted in the District of Montreal, where his business relations and above all his good qualities had made him particularly well known . . . always merited the trust both of the government and of his compatriots. . . . He was well informed, very amiable and interesting in his friends’ company, and gave happiness to a family whom he raised in the sentiments of honour and virtue and who will long miss him as a most considerate and loving father.”
ANQ-M, CE1-26, 30 janv. 1808; CE1-51, 20 oct. 1733, 11 janv. 1768; CN1-74, 6 juill. 1789; CN1-150, 26 avril 1769; 26 mars, 5 avril, 1er, 6, 11 juill. 1774; 14 juin 1777; 30, 31 mars 1779; 15 févr. 1782; 22 mai 1784; 7 août, 27, 28 sept. 1788; 24, 29 août, 22 sept., 30 nov. 1789; 20 avril 1790; 17 sept. 1793; 5 juill., 19 sept., 22 déc. 1794; 11 févr. 1799; CN1-295, 14 janv. 1804; CN1-313, 10 févr. 1802. Quebec Gazette, 4 Feb. 1808. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de Montréal, 131. F.-J. Audet et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Les députés au premier parlement du Bas-Canada: François Malhiot,” La Presse (Montréal), 30 juill. 1927: 41, 50.