CAZEAU, FRANÇOIS, merchant; b. c. 1734 in Saint-Cybard, France, son of Léonard Cazeau and Anne Aupetit; m. 14 May 1759 Marguerite Vallée in Montreal (Que.), and they had six children; d. 11 May 1815 in Paris, France.
François Cazeau came to New France a few years before the conquest and probably settled in Montreal. Subsequently he became a fur merchant and engaged in trade at Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.). His business seems to have prospered, for in 1763 he declared that he had 19,777 livres in card money.
In 1774 Cazeau showed his sympathy for the American cause by circulating in the Montreal region a Lettre adressée aux habitans de la province de Québec, ci-devant le Canada; this pamphlet had been printed for the first Continental Congress by Fleury Mesplet*, who was then living in Philadelphia, Pa. During the invasion of the province [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*], Cazeau supplied the American troops, on occasion provided shelter for rebel officers, and busied himself distributing Congressional messages to the Canadian population. In 1777 he bought three large bateaux and had them loaded with supplies, clothing, and food to equip the American troops stationed at Fort Ticonderoga (near Ticonderoga, N.Y.). But the British army, which had arrived in force in that region, captured and sank Cazeau’s boats. He continued nevertheless to support the Americans. For example, in May 1779 he saw to the distribution throughout the province of a proclamation by French vice-admiral the Comte d’Estaing which urged the Canadians to rise against Britain. The following year Cazeau was accused of treason; Governor Haldimand ordered his arrest and had him imprisoned in the Recollet house at Quebec. In the autumn of 1780 the London merchants Brook Watson and Robert Rashleigh demanded that his assets be sold by the sheriff.
In 1782 Cazeau escaped from prison and took refuge in the United States. The following year he asked the Quebec authorities to allow him to visit his family. Haldimand gave his consent and Cazeau came back to the colony, where he collected various documents attesting to his pro-American activities to back his request to Congress for compensation for the losses he had incurred during the invasion. In the autumn he returned to the United States, where he took steps to further his cause with Congress. Shunted from office to office, from one official to the next, for more than four years, he secured only vague promises. He decided to leave for France in the autumn of 1786.
Cazeau presented repeated requests to the government of France for help in obtaining settlement of the moneys owing him. But the French revolution delayed resolution of the matter. In 1792, however, the Legislative Assembly looked into the dossier and supported Cazeau in his representations to the American Congress. In 1801 Congress granted him 2,240 acres of land in New York State. At the insistence of one of his sons Cazeau returned to the United States and began petitioning Congress again, requesting reimbursement in money rather than land. Consequently he did not claim his 2,240 acres, and after taking other fruitless steps, he went back to France in 1802.
Old, sick, poor, and alone, François Cazeau nevertheless persisted in clamouring for his due. But it was all to no avail: on 11 May 1815 he died, without having won his case. The proceedings continued to drag on before the courts, but his heirs were no more successful than he in gaining anything from them.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 14 mai 1759. PAC, MG 23, B19. Quebec Gazette, 27 Aug. 1776, 3 Aug. 1780. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, vol.2. Wallace, Macmillan dict. Corinne Rocheleau-Rouleau, “Une incroyable et véridique histoire: l’affaire Cazeau, 1776–1893,” Soc. hist. Franco-américaine, Bull. (Boston, Mass.), 1946–47: 3–31. Benjamin Sulte, “François Cazeau,” BRH, 22 (1916): 115–20.