Photographic book

The colonial system


René-Robert Cavelier
René-Robert Cavelier

In 1663, when New France still had barely 3,000 people, Louis XIV’s finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert abolished the One Hundred Associates, ending the era of company rule. Thenceforth, New France was a royal province ruled from Québec by a governor-general, who commanded the military forces and symbolized royal authority. In addition, an intendant oversaw colonial finances, justice, and daily administration. Both officials reported to the Minister of Marine in the king’s court, since all French colonies were administered by the naval department. An appointed Superior Council advised the governor and acted as a supreme court, but there were no elective bodies in the government of New France.

With royal support, the defenses of New France were improved. The Carignan-Salières regiment, a veteran military force of 1,200, arrived in 1665 and waged a campaign against the Iroquois. This campaign led to a peace settlement with the Iroquois. About 400 members of the Carignan-Salières regiment stayed on in Canada as settlers.

During the first decade of royal rule, the monarchy also subsidized immigration from France, notably of some 700 unmarried women, who were later called filles du roi (daughters of the king) because the king paid for their transportation and dowries. Their arrival helped balance the male-female ratio, which had been overwhelmingly male. Thereafter immigration from France was slight; the 10,000 settlers reported on the 1681 census became, by natural increase, the ancestors of almost all the French-speaking Canadians of today. Soon after the peace settlement with the Iroquois, New France acquired a permanent garrison of colonial troops.

Soldiers for the colony came from France, but they were commanded by what became a hereditary aristocracy in New France. Military officers explored new territory, built forts, and participated in diplomacy, trade, and warfare with the indigenous peoples.

Trade and Exploration


In 1664 Colbert organized a new company, the Company of the West Indies, to hold the fur trade monopoly. As a settled rural population developed in the St. Lawrence River valley, the fur trade moved westward and northward. After 1670 there was a new competitor in the fur trade. In that year, King Charles II of England granted a trade monopoly in the area of Hudson Bay to a London group, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). However, the fur trade merchants of Montréal were able to compete successfully. They combined the fur trade with exploration and missionary work. Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette began exploring the Mississippi River, and René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, reached the Gulf of Mexico in 1682.

Illicit traders called coureurs de bois (woods rangers) and licensed ones called voyageurs pushed northwest toward the prairies. Some remained there, adopting indigenous ways of life and marrying indigenous women. Around 1700, King Louis XIV authorized development of a chain of forts linking the St. Lawrence to Louisiana, a colony newly founded at the mouth of the Mississippi. Some fur traders and their mixed-blood families formed communities of farmers and traders around these forts and posts. Their descendents became the Métis (French for “mixed people”). "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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