François Cabarrus (1752-1810), French adventurer and Spanish financier, was born at Bayonne, where his father was a merchant. Being sent into Spain on business he fell in love with a Spanish lady, and marrying her, settled in Madrid. Here his private business was the manufacture of soap; but he soon began to interest himself in the public questions which were ventilated even at the court of Spain. The enlightenment of the 18th century had penetrated as far as Madrid; the king, Charles III., was favourable to reform; and a circle of men animated by the new spirit were trying to infuse fresh vigour into an enfeebled state. Among these Cabarrus became conspicuous, especially in finance. He originated a bank, and a company to trade with the Philippine Islands; and as one of the council of finance he had planned many reforms in that department of the administration, when Charles III. died (1788), and the reactionary government of Charles IV. arrested every kind of enlightened progress. The men who had taken an active part in reform were suspected and prosecuted. Cabarrus himself was accused of embezzlement and thrown into prison.
After a confinement of two years he was released, created a count and employed in many honourable missions; he would even have been sent to Paris as Spanish ambassador, had not the Directory objected to him as being of French birth. Cabarrus took no part in the transactions by which Charles IV. was obliged to abdicate and make way for Joseph, brother of Napoleon, but his French birth and intimate knowledge of Spanish affairs recommended him to the emperor as the fittest person for the difficult post of minister of finance, which he held at his death. His beautiful daughter Thérèse, under the name of Madame Tallien (afterwards princess of Chimay), played an interesting part in the later stages of the French Revolution.