François Baby, French-Canadian fur-trader and businessman, militia officer and politician in Lower Canada (born 4 October 1733 at Montreal, Lower Canada; died 6 October
1820 at Quebec).
François Baby was born into an influential family of fur-traders. He was educated at the Collège des Jesuites at Quebec. He later joined the fur-trading profession with his brothers, working out of Montreal during the 1750s (see also Seven Years’ War). In 1760, he was taken prisoner in England. He returned from France in 1763 to set up as a merchant at Quebec.
In 1773-74, Baby travelled to London as a defender of the constitutional proposals of Governor Carleton (1st Baron Dorchester), which were eventually adopted as the Quebec Act, 1774 (see also Quebec Act 1774, (Plain Language Summary)).
Baby’s resistance to the American invasion of 1775-76 and his political conduct thereafter led to his appointment, by Governor Haldimand, to the legislative council for the Province of Quebec in 1778. He lived the rest of his life on revenues from landed property, life annuities and government salaries.
He backed Governor Haldimand’s opposition to the colonial merchants' demands for an elective assembly, and later opposed attempts by the Parti Canadien to extend the assembly's authority over colonial finances. Baby was a devout Roman Catholic whose conduct secured him the admiration of the censorious Bishop Plessis.
François Baby was a member of a family that enslaved people. Records indicate that the Baby family, which would go on to become one of the most powerful in Upper Canada (see Family Compact), owned Black and Indigenous enslaved people. Some of these enslaved people were passed down through the generations of the family in the late 18th century (see James Baby, Black Enslavement in Canada and Enslavement of Indigenous Peoples in Canada).
Did you know? François Baby’s nephew, also named François Baby (born 16 December 1768 in Detroit, Michigan; died 27 August 1852 at Windsor, Upper Canada), was a politician who built a home in the Western District of Upper Canada (present-day Windsor, Ontario). During the War of 1812, the home was taken over by an American army who used it as their headquarters. It was also an important site during the Upper Canada Rebellions of 1837-38; in December 1838, the Battle of Windsor was fought in the orchard behind the house (see also Battle of the Windmill). Today, the François Baby House is a National Historic Site of Canada, and part of the Museum Windsor.