François Barbé-Marbois, Marquis de (1745-1837), French politician, was born at Metz. He began his public career as intendant of San Domingo under the old régime. At the close of 1789 he returned to France, and then placed his services at the disposal of the revolutionary government. In 1791 he was sent to Regensburg to help de Noailles, the French ambassador, in the negotiations with the diet of the Empire concerning the possessions of German princes in Alsace and Lorraine. Suspected of treason, he was arrested on his return but set at liberty again. In 1795 he was elected to the Council of the Ancients, where the general moderation of his attitude, especially in his opposition to the exclusion of nobles and the relations of émigrés from public life, brought him under suspicion of being a royalist, though he pronounced a eulogy on Bonaparte for his success in Italy. At the coup d'état of the 18th Fructidor (September 4) 1797, he was arrested and transported to French Guiana. Transferred to Oléron in 1799, he owed his liberty to Napoleon, after the 18th Brumaire. In 1801 he became councillor of state and director of the public treasury, and in 1802 a senator.
In 1803 he negotiated the treaty by which Louisiana was ceded to the United States, and was rewarded by the First Consul with a gift of 152,000 francs. In 1805 he was made grand officer of the legion of honour and a count, and in 1808 he became president of the cour des comptes. In return for these favours, he addressed Napoleon with servile compliments; yet in 1814 he helped to draw up the act of abdication of the emperor, and declared to the cour des comptes, with reference to the invasion of France by the allies, "united for the most beautiful of causes, it is long since we have been so free as we now are in the presence of the foreigner in arms." In June 1814, Louis XVIII. named him peer of France and confirmed him in his office as president of the cour des comptes. Deprived of his positions by Napoleon during the Hundred Days he was appointed minister of justice in the ministry of the duc de Richelieu (August 1815). In this office he tried unsuccessfully to gain the confidence of the ultra-royalists, and withdrew at the end of nine months (May 10, 1816).
In 1830, when Louis Philippe assumed the reins of government, Barbé-Marbois went, as president of the cour des comptes, to compliment him and was confirmed in his position. It was the sixth government he had served and all with servility. He held his office until April 1834, and died on the 12th of February 1837. He published various works, of which may be mentioned: Réflexions sur la colonie de Saint-Domingue (1794), De la Guyane, etc. (1822), an Histoire de la Louisiane et la cession de cette colonie par la France aux états-Unis, etc. (1828), and the story of his transportation after the 18th Fructidor in Journal d'un déporté non jugé, 2 vols. (1834).