MAURIN, FRANÇOIS, clerk, assistant purveyor-general; b. c. 1726 at “Jarnac in Saintonge,” France, son of Philippe Maurin, a merchant, and Marguerite-Geneviève Mounier; d. sometime after 1765, probably in France.
François Maurin arrived in Canada in circumstances unknown to us. Intelligent and well educated, he worked at first as a clerk for some Montreal merchants. In the spring of 1756 Joseph-Pierre Cadet*, whom Intendant Bigot* had just appointed purveyor-general of supplies in New France, went to Montreal, where he chose Maurin to be his head clerk. François Maurin received from Cadet the task of managing the “establishment” in Montreal, “under the direction of the Sieur [Michel-Jean-Hugues Péan*], the chief partner” of the purveyor-general. François Maurin was to furnish supplies to the soldiers and settlers in the Montreal region, as well as to those at the forts and trading posts in the pays d’en haut. In this affair he was associated with a Montreal merchant, Louis Pénissault*, whose work was limited to the purely material operations. The latter had entered into partnership in 1754 with Brouilhet, the receiver general of finances in Paris, and the La Ferté brothers, merchants, who sent him merchandise from France.
Maurin and Pénissault, eager to make a fortune rapidly, paid particular attention to placing “people who were devoted to them” in the forts and posts in the pays d’en haut. Thus, “hand in hand with several storekeepers and . . . post commandants,” they quickly became rich. For example, they quadrupled the number of monthly rations for the posts and forts in the west; they sold wheat, bought for 6 livres a bushel, for 24 livres; they inflated the figures in victualling books, adding zeroes, multiplying by a hundred and even a thousand the figure of what was really consumed by the garrison and posts. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that at the time of the signing of his marriage contract, on 19 Dec. 1758, François Maurin could declare to the notary Pierre Panet* that he owned 200,000 livres “in ready money, personal property, merchandise, and negotiable instruments.” Thus although he was thought to be “the most misshapen man in the colony,” being “hunch-backed and pigeon-chested” and having “a face like a snail,” he was able on 21 Dec. 1758 to marry Archange, the under-age daughter of Louis-Césaire Dagneau Douville de Quindre, who brought to the matrimonial estate, held jointly, 15,000 livres in cash and personal property.
One of the principal witnesses at Maurin’s marriage was Pierre Landriève, the chief writer of the colony. From the beginning of the 1750s part of his task, given him by Bigot, was to inspect the book-keeping, buildings, and records of the forts in the pays d’en haut. He was a valuable friend.
François Maurin continued his misappropriations as assistant purveyor in Montreal until 1759. According to Montcalm he was able “to spend more on carriages, sets of harness, horses, than a conceited and harebrained young farmer general.” But in 1759 the affairs of the purveyor-general, Cadet, began to “decline.” A prudent man, Maurin decided to retire from business and to put his wealth in a safe place. In the autumn of 1760 he and his wife, along with his partner Louis Pénissault and the Chevalier de Lévis*, sailed on board the Marie, a ship which Pénissault had bought back from the English for the sum of 21,000 livres. Maurin took with him the pretty sum of 1,900,000 livres which he had succeeded in accumulating in the space of three years.
Maurin arrived in France at the beginning of 1761. In December of that year he was arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille. He was accused of “having committed malversations and breaches of trust detrimental to the interests of the King” in the government of Montreal and in the posts and forts of the pays d’en haut. He was tried at the Châtelet before a commission composed of 28 members, 27 of whom were counsellors at the Châtelet, and presided over by the lieutenant general of police, Antoine de Sartine. The inquiry lasted 15 months. Maurin, who remained in the Bastille all that time, was able to enjoy preferential treatment, like most of his Canadian colleagues. Thanks to the goodwill and forbearance of the officers of the guard at the Bastille, it was possible for Maurin to have brought in shirts, stockings, dressing gowns, books, tobacco, wine, and delicacies which made his months of imprisonment less disagreeable. Finally, on 10 Dec. 1763, M. de Sartine and the commissioners found him guilty of the charges against him; according to them Maurin had knowingly participated in “the unlawful profit from the enterprise” of the purveyor-general, since he was “a partner in it at the rate of one and two-thirds thirteenths [8 per cent] or thereabouts.” The court sentenced Francois Maurin to be banished from Paris for nine years, to pay the king a fine of 500 livres in addition to the trial costs, and to return to him the sum of 600,000 livres. The sentence added that the guilty person had to “remain in prison in the Bastille . . . until payment of the said sum [600,000 livres].” The next day after sentence was pronounced Maurin wanted to make the restitution specified in the sentence with bills of exchange from Canada. The commissioners objected and demanded that restitution be made in specie. Maurin could not satisfy their demands and remained in prison. But after 13 months of negotiations his lawyer obtained on 10 Jan. 1765 permission for him to make restitution with bills of exchange from Canada. It was not, however, until May 1765 that the former assistant purveyor for Montreal was “set at liberty from the prisons of the Bastille,” after having deposited with the treasurer general for the colonies, Baudart de Vaudésir, 600,000 livres in bills of exchange from Canada. The commissioners further required Maurin to pay interest owing on the 600,000 livres from 10 Dec. 1763 to 10 Jan. 1765. On 24 Nov. 1765 Maurin received from the minister, the Duc de Choiseul, permission to pay this interest in bills of exchange from Canada.
During his stay in Canada François Maurin had been able to strike up friendships with people in good positions, such as Pénissault and Pierre Landriève. He was a war profiteer who took advantage of the situation existing in Canada in the last years of the French régime to become a “millionaire.”
AN, Col., B, 120, f.178v; 122, ff.266, 375–76; E, 92 (dossiers Corpron, Maurin, Penissault). ANQ-M, Greffe de Pierre Panet, 19 déc. 1758; Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 21 déc. 1758. “Dossier Charles-François Pichot de Querdisien Trémais,” APQ Rapport, 1959–60, 1–22. Journal du marquis de Montcalm (Casgrain), 489. Mémoires sur le Canada, depuis 1749 jusqu’à 1760, 87. J.-E. Roy, Rapport sur les archives de France, 866ff. Frégault, François Bigot. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande.