Canadian Genealogy | Chronicles of Canada

 

Canadian Research

Alberta

British Columbia

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Newfoundland

Northern Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Quebec

Saskatchewan

Yukon

Canadian Indian Tribes

Chronicles of Canada

 

Free Genealogy Forms
Family Tree Chart
Research Calendar
Research Extract
Free Census Forms
Correspondence Record
Family Group Chart
Source Summary

 

New Genealogy Data
Family Tree Search
Biographies

Genealogy Books For Sale

Indian Mythology

US Genealogy

 

Other Websites
British Isles Genealogy
Australian Genealogy

 


FREE Web Site Hosting at
Canadian Genealogy

 

 

 

Gentlemen of the Wilderness 

A good many people, as Robert Louis Stevenson once assured us, have a taste for 'heroic forms of excitement.' And it is well for the element of interest in history that this has been so at all ages and among all races of men. The most picturesque and fascinating figures in the recorded annals of nations have been the pioneers,--the men who have not been content to do what other men of their day were doing. Without them and their achievements history might still be read for information, but not for pleasure; it might still instruct, but it would hardly inspire.

In the narratives of colonization there is ample evidence that Frenchmen of the seventeenth century were not lacking in their thirst for excitement, whether heroic or otherwise. Their race furnished the New World with explorers and forest merchants by the hundred. The most venturesome voyageurs, the most intrepid traders, and the most untiring missionaries were Frenchmen. No European stock showed such versatility in its relations with the aborigines; none proved so ready to bear all manner of hardship and discomfort for the sake of the thrills which came from setting foot where no white man had ever trod. The Frenchman of those days was no weakling either in body or in spirit; he did not shrink from privation or danger; in tasks requiring courage and fortitude he was ready to lead the way. When he came to the New World he wanted the sort of life that would keep him always on his mettle, and that could not be found within the cultivated borders of seigneury and parish. Hence it was that Canada in her earliest years found plenty of pioneers, but not always of the right type. The colony needed yeomen who would put their hands to the plough, who would become pioneers of agriculture. Such, however, were altogether too few, and the yearly harvest of grain made a poor showing when compared with the colony's annual crop of beaver skins. Yet the yeoman did more for the permanent upbuilding of the land than the trader, and his efforts ought to have their recognition in any chronicle of colonial achievement.

It was in the mind of the king that 'persons of quality' as well as peasants should be induced to make their homes in New France. There were enough landless gentlemen in France; why should they not be used as the basis of a seigneurial nobility in the colony? It was with this idea in view that the Company of One Hundred Associates was empowered not only to grant large tracts of land in the wilderness, but to give the rank of gentilhomme to those who received such fiefs. Frenchmen of good birth, however, showed no disposition to become resident seigneurs of New France during the first half-century of its history. The role of a 'gentleman of the wilderness' did not appeal very strongly even to those who had no tangible asset but the family name. Hence it was that not a half-dozen seigneurs were in actual occupancy of their lands on the St Lawrence when the king took the colony out of the company's hands in 1663.

But when Talon came to the colony as intendant in 1665 this situation was quickly changed. Uncleared seigneuries were declared forfeited. Actual occupancy was made a condition of all future grants. The colony must be built up, if at all, by its own people. The king was urged to send out settlers, and he responded handsomely. They came by hundreds. The colony's entire population, including officials, priests, traders, seigneurs, and habitants, together with women and children, was about three thousand, according to a census taken a year after Talon arrived. Two years later, owing largely to the intendant's unceasing efforts, it had practically doubled. Nothing was left undone to coax emigrants from France. Money grants and free transportation were given with unwonted generosity, although even in the early years of his reign the coffers of Louis Quatorze were leaking with extravagance at every point. At least a million livres1 in these five years is a sober estimate of what the royal treasury must have spent in the work of colonizing Canada.

No campaign for immigrants in modern days has been more assiduously carried on. Officials from Paris searched the provinces, gathering together all who could be induced to go. The intendant particularly asked that women be sent to the colony, strong and vigorous peasant girls who would make suitable wives for the habitants. The king gratified him by sending whole shiploads of them in charge of nuns. As to who they were, and where they came from, one cannot be altogether sure. The English agent at Paris wrote that they were 'lewd strumpets gathered up by the officers of the city,' and even the saintly Mere Marie de l'Incarnation confessed that there was beaucoup de canaille among them. La Hontan has left us a racy picture of their arrival and their distribution among the rustic swains of the colony, who scrimmaged for points of vantage when boatloads of women came ashore from the ships. [Footnote: Another view will be found in The Great Intendant in this Series, chap. IV.]

The male settlers, on the other hand, came from all classes and from all parts of France. But Normandy, Brittany, Picardy, and Perche afforded the best recruiting grounds; from all of them came artisans and sturdy peasants. Normandy furnished more than all the others put together, so much so that Canada in the seventeenth century was more properly a Norman than a French colony. The colonial church registers, which have been kept with scrupulous care, show that more than half the settlers who came to Canada during the decade after 1664. were of Norman origin; while in 1680 it was estimated that at least four-fifths of the entire population of New France had some Norman blood in their veins. Officials and merchants came chiefly from Paris, and they colored the life of the little settlement at Quebec with a Parisian gaiety; but the Norman dominated the fields--his race formed the backbone of the rural population.

Arriving at Quebec the incoming settlers were met by officials and friends. Proper arrangements for quartering them until they could get settled were always made beforehand. If the new-comer were a man of quality, that is to say, if he had been anything better than a peasant at home, and especially if he brought any funds with him, he applied to the intendant for a seigneury. Talon was liberal in such matters. He stood ready to give a seigneurial grant to any one who would promise to spend money in clearing his land. This liberality, however, was often ill-requited. Immigrants came to him and gave great assurances, took their title-deeds as seigneurs, and never upturned a single foot of sod. In other cases the new seigneurs set zealously to work and soon had good results to show.

In size these seigneuries varied greatly. The social rank and the reputed ability of the seigneur were the determining factors. Men who had been members of the noblesse in France received tracts as large as a Teutonic principality, comprising a hundred square miles or more. Those of less pretentious birth and limited means had to be content with a few thousand arpents. In general, however, a seigneury comprised at least a dozen square miles, almost always with a frontage on the great river and rear limits extending up into the foothills behind. The metes and bounds of the granted lands were always set forth in the letters-patent or title-deeds; but almost invariably with utter vagueness and ambiguity. The territory was not surveyed; each applicant, in filing his petition for a seigneury, was asked to describe the tract he desired. This description, usually inadequate and inaccurate, was copied in the deed, and in due course hopeless confusion resulted. It was well that most seigneurs had more land than they could use; had it not been for this their lawsuits over disputed boundaries would have been unending.

Liberal in the area of land granted to the new seigneurs, the crown was also liberal in the conditions exacted. The seigneur was asked for no initial money payment and no annual land dues. When his seigneury changed owners by sale or by inheritance other than in direct descent, a mutation fine known as the quint was payable to the public treasury. This, as its name implies, amounted to one-fifth of the seigneury's value; but it rarely accrued, and even when it did the generous monarch usually rebated a part or all of it. Not a single sou was ever exacted by the crown from the great majority of the seigneurs. If agriculture made slow headway in New France it was not because officialdom exploited the land to its own profit. Never were the landowners of a new country treated more generously or given greater incentive to diligence.

But if the king did not ask the seigneurs for money he asked for other things. He required, in the first place, that each should render fealty and homage with due feudal ceremony to his official representative at Quebec. Accordingly, the first duty of the seigneur, after taking possession of his new domain, was to repair without sword or spur to the Chateau of St Louis at Quebec, a gloomy stone structure that frowned on the settlement from the heights behind. Here, on bended knee before the governor, the new liegeman swore fealty to his lord the king and promised to render due obedience in all lawful matters. This was one of the things which gave a tinge of chivalry to Canadian feudalism, and helped to make the social life of a distant colony echo faintly the pomp and ceremony of Versailles. The seigneur, whether at home or beyond the seas, was never allowed to forget the obligation of personal fidelity imposed upon him by his king.

A more arduous undertaking next confronted the new seigneur. It was not the royal intention that he should fold his talent in a napkin. On the contrary, the seigneur was endowed with his rank and estate to the sole end that he should become an active agent in making the colony grow. He was expected to live on his land, to level the forest, to clear fields, and to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. He was expected to have his seigneury surveyed into farms, or en censive holdings, and to procure, as quickly as might be, settlers for these farms. It was highly desirable, of course, that the seigneurs should lend a hand in encouraging the immigration of people from their old homes in France. Some of them did this. Robert Giffard, who held the seigneury of Beauport just below Quebec, was a notable example. The great majority of the seigneurs, however, made only half-hearted attempts in this direction, and their efforts went for little or nothing. What they did was to meet, on arrival at Quebec, the shiploads of settlers sent out by the royal officers. There they gathered about the incoming vessel, like so many land agents, each explaining what advantages in the way of a good location and fertile soil he had to offer. Those seigneurs who had obtained tracts near the settlement at Quebec had, of course, a great advantage in all this, for the new-comers naturally preferred to set up their homes where a church would be near at hand, and where they could be in touch with other families during the long winters. Consequently the best locations in all the seigneuries near Quebec were soon taken, and then settlers had to take lands more remote from the little metropolis of the colony. They went to the seigneuries near Montreal and Three Rivers; when the best lands in these areas were taken up, they dispersed themselves along the whole north shore of the St Lawrence from below the Montmorency to its junction with the Ottawa. The north shore having been well dotted with the whitewashed homes, the south shore came in for its due share of attention, and in the last half-century of the French regime a good many settlers were provided for in that region.

For a time the immigrants found little or no difficulty in obtaining farms on easy terms. Seigneurs were glad to give them land without any initial payment and frequently promised exemption from the usual seigneurial dues for the first few years. In any case these dues and services, which will be explained more fully later on, were not burdensome. Any settler of reasonable industry and intelligence could satisfy these ordinary demands without difficulty. Translated into an annual money rental they would have amounted to but a few sous per acre. But this happy situation did not long endure. As the settlers continued to come, and as children born in the colony grew to manhood, the demand for well-situated farms grew more brisk, and some of the seigneurs found that they need no longer seek tenants for their lands. On the contrary, they found that men desiring land would come to them and offer to pay not only the regular seigneurial dues, but an entry fee or bonus in addition. The best situated lands, in other words, had acquired a margin of value over lands not so well situated, and the favored seigneurs turned this to their own profit. During the early pears of the eighteenth century, therefore, the practice of exacting a prix d'entree became common; indeed it was difficult for a settler to get the lands he most desired except by making such payment. As most of the newcomers could not afford to do this they were often forced to make their homes in unfavorable, out-of-the-way places, while better situations remained untouched by axe or plough.

The watchful attention of the intendant Raudot, however, was in due course drawn to this difficulty. It was a development not at all to his liking. He thought it would be frowned upon by the king and his ministers if properly brought to their notice, and in 1707 he wrote frankly to his superiors concerning it. First of all he complained that 'a spirit of business speculation, which has always more of cunning and chicane than of truth and righteousness in it,' was finding its way into the hearts of the people. The seigneurs in particular, he alleged, were becoming mercenary; they were taking advantage of technicalities to make the habitants pay more than their just dues. In many cases settlers had taken up lands on the merely oral assurances of the seigneurs; then when they got their deeds in writing these deeds contained various provisions which they had not counted upon and which were not fair. 'Hence,' declared the intendant, 'a great abuse has arisen, which is that the habitants who have worked their farms without written titles have been subjected to heavy rents and dues, the seigneurs refusing to grant them regular deeds except on onerous conditions; and these conditions they find themselves obliged to accept, because otherwise they will have their labor for nothing.'

The royal authorities paid due heed to these complaints, and, although they did not accept all Raudot's suggestions, they proceeded to provide corrective measures in the usual way. This way, of course, was by the issue of royal edicts. Two of these decrees reached the colony in the due course of events. They are commonly known as the Arrets of Marly, and bear date July 11, 1711. Both were carefully prepared and their provisions show that the royal authorities understood just where the entire trouble lay.

The first arret went direct to the point. 'The king has been informed,' it recites, 'that there are some seigneurs who refuse under various pretexts to grant lands to settlers who apply for them, preferring rather the hope that they may later sell these lands.' Such attitude, the decree went on to declare, was absolutely repugnant to His Majesty's intentions, and especially 'unfair to incoming settlers who thus find land less open to free settlement in situations best adapted for agriculture.' It was, therefore, ordered that if any applicant for lands should be by any seigneur denied a reasonable grant on the customary terms, the intendant should forthwith step in and issue a deed on his own authority. In this case the annual payments were to go to the colonial treasury, and not to the seigneur. This decree simplified matters considerably. After it became the law of the colony no one desiring land from a seigneur's ungranted domain was expected to offer anything above the customary annual dues and services. The seigneur had no legal right to demand more. By one stroke of the royal pen the Canadian seigneur had lost all right of ownership in his seigneury; he became from this time on a trustee holding lands in trust for the future immigrant and for the sons of the people. However his lands might grow in value, the seigneur, according to the letter of the law, could exact no more from new tenants than from those who had first settled upon his estate. This was a revolutionary change; it put the seigneurial system in Canada on a basis wholly different from that in France; it proved that the king regarded the system as useful only in so far as it actively contributed to the progress of the colony. Where it stood in the way of progress he was prepared to apply the knife even at its very vitals.

Unfortunately for those most concerned, however, the royal orders were not allowed to become common knowledge in the colony. The decree was registered and duly promulgated; then quickly forgotten. Few of the habitants seem to have ever heard of it; newcomers, of course, knew nothing of their rights under its provisions. Seigneurs continued to get special terms for advantageous locations, the applicants for lands being usually quite willing to pay a bonus whenever they could afford to do so. Now and then some one, having heard of the royal arret, would appeal to the intendant, whereupon the seigneur made haste to straighten out things satisfactorily. Then, as now, the presumption was that the people knew the law, and were in a position to take advantage of its protecting features; but the agencies of information were so few that the provisions of a new decree rarely became common property.

The second of the two arrets of Marly was designed to uphold the hands of those seigneurs who were trying to do right. The king and his ministers were convinced, from the information which had come to them, that not all the 'cunning and chicane' in land dealings came from the seigneurs. The habitants were themselves in part to blame. In many cases settlers had taken good lands, had cut down a few trees, thinking thereby to make a technical compliance with requirements, and were spending their energies in the fur trade. It was the royal opinion that real homesteading should be insisted upon, and he decreed, accordingly, that wherever a habitant did not make a substantial start in clearing his farm, the land should be forfeited in a year to the seigneur. This arret, unlike its companion decree, was rigidly enforced. The council at Quebec was made up of seigneurs, and to the seigneurs as a whole its provisions were soon made known. During the twenty years following the issue of the decree of 1711 the intendant was called upon to declare the forfeiture of over two hundred farms, the owners of which had not fulfilled the obligation to establish a hearth and home (tenir feu et lieu) upon the lands. As a spur to the slothful this decree appears to have had a wholesome effect; although, in spite of all that could be done, the agricultural development of the colony proceeded with exasperating slowness. Each year the governor and intendant tried in their dispatches to put the colony's best foot forward; every autumn the ships took home expressions of achievement and hope; but between the lines the patient king must have read much that was discouraging.

It may be well at this point to take a general survey of the colonial seigneuries, noting what progress had been made. The seigneurial system had been a half-century in full flourish--what had it accomplished? That is evidently just what the home authorities wanted to know when they arranged for a topographical and general report on the seigneuries in 1712. This investigation, on the intendant's advice, was entrusted to an engineer, Gedeon de Catalogne. Catalogne, who was a native of Bearn, born in 1662, came to Canada about the year 1685. He was engaged on the improvement of the colonial fortifications until the intendant set him to work on a survey of the seigneuries. The work occupied two or three years, in the course of which he prepared three excellent maps showing the situation and extent of all the seigneuries in the districts of Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal. The first two maps have been preserved; that of the district of Montreal was probably lost at sea on its way to France. With the two maps Catalogne presented a long report on the ownership, resources, and general progress of the seigneuries. Ninety-three of them are dealt with in all, the report giving in each case the situation and extent of the tract, the nature of the soil and its adaptability to different products, the mineral deposits and timber, the opportunities for industry and trade, the name and rank of the seigneur, the way in which he had come into possession of the seigneury, the provisions made for religious worship, and various other matters.

Catalogne's report shows that in 1712 practically all the lands bordering on both sides of the St Lawrence from Montreal to some distance below Quebec had been made into seigneuries. Likewise the islands in the river and the lands on both sides of the Richelieu had been apportioned either to the Church orders or to lay seigneurs. All these tracts were, for administrative purposes, grouped into the three districts of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec; the intendant himself took direct charge of affairs at Quebec, but in the other two settlements he was represented by a subordinate. Each district, likewise, had its own royal court, and from the decisions of these tribunals appeals might be carried before the Superior Council, which held its weekly sessions at the colonial capital.

On the island of Montreal was the most important of the seigneuries in the district bearing its name. It was held by the Seminary of St Sulpice, and its six parishes contained in 1712 a population of over two thousand. The soil of the island was fertile and the situation was excellent for trading purposes, for it commanded the routes usually taken by the fur flotillas both from the Great Lakes and from the regions of Georgian Bay. The lands were steadily rising in value, and this seigneury soon became one of the most prosperous areas of the colony. The seminary also owned the seigneury of St Sulpice on the north shore of the river, some little distance below the island.

Stretching farther along this northern shore were various large seigneuries given chiefly to officers or former officers of the civil government, and now held by their heirs. La Valterie, Lanoraie, and Berthier-en-Haut, were the most conspicuous among these riparian fiefs. Across the stream lay Chateauguay and Longueuil, the patrimony of the Le Moynes; likewise the seigneuries of Varennes, Vercheres, Contrecoeur, St Ours, and Sorel. All of these were among the so-termed military seigneuries, having been originally given to retired officers of the Carignan regiment. A dozen other seigneurial properties, bearing names of less conspicuous interest, scattered themselves along both sides of the great waterway. Along the Richelieu from its junction with the St Lawrence to the outer limits of safe settlement in the direction of Lake Champlain, a number of seigneurial grants had been effected. The historic fief of Sorel commanded the confluence of the rivers; behind it lay Chambly and the other properties of the adventurous Hertels. These were settled chiefly by the disbanded Carignan soldiers, and it was their task to guard the southern gateway.

The coming of this regiment, its work in the colony, and its ultimate settlement, is an interesting story, illustrating as it does the deep personal interest which the Grand Monarque displayed in the development of his new dominions. For a long time prior to 1665 the land had been scourged at frequent intervals by Iroquois raids. Bands of marauding redskins would creep stealthily upon some outlying seigneury, butcher its people, burn everything in sight, and then decamp swiftly to their forest lairs. The colonial authorities, helpless to guard their entire frontiers and unable to foretell where the next blow would fall, endured the terrors of this situation for many years. In utter desperation they at length called on the king for a regiment of trained troops as the nucleus of a punitive expedition. The Iroquois would be tracked to their own villages and there given a memorable lesson in letters of blood and iron. The king, as usual, complied, and on a bright June day in 1665 a glittering cavalcade disembarked at Quebec. The Marquis de Tracy with two hundred gaily caparisoned officers and men of the regiment of Carignan-Salieres formed this first detachment; the other companies followed a little later. Quebec was like a city relieved from a long siege. Its people were in a frenzy of joy.

The work which the regiment had been sent out to do was soon begun. The undertaking was more difficult than had been anticipated, and two expeditions were needed to accomplish it; but the Iroquois were thoroughly chastened, and by the close of 1666 the colony once more breathed easily. How long, however, would it be permitted to do so? Would not the departure of the regiment be a signal to the Mohawks that they might once again raid the colony's borders with impunity? Talon thought that it would, hence he hastened to devise a plan whereby the Carignans might be kept permanently in Canada. To hold them there as a regular garrison was out of the question; it would cost too much to maintain six hundred men in idleness. So the intendant proposed to the king that the regiment should be disbanded at Quebec, and that all its members should be given inducements to make their homes in the colony.

Once more the king assented. He agreed that the officers of the regiment should be offered seigneuries, and provided with funds to make a start in improving them. For the rank and file who should prove willing to take lands within the seigneuries of the officers the king consented to provide a year's subsistence and a liberal grant in money. The terms proved attractive to some of the officers and to most of the men. Accordingly, arrangements were at once made for getting them established on their new estates. Just how many permanent settlers were added to the colonial population in this way is not easy to ascertain; but about twenty-five officers (chiefly captains and lieutenants) together with nearly four hundred men volunteered to stay. Most of the non-commissioned officers and men showed themselves to be made of good stuff; their days were long in the land, and their descendants by the thousand still possess the valley of the Richelieu. But the officers, good soldiers though they were, proved to be rather faint-hearted pioneers. The task of beating swords into ploughshares was not altogether to their tastes. Hence it was that many of them got into debt, mortgaged their seigneuries to Quebec or Montreal merchants, soon lost their lands, and finally drifted back to France.

When Talon arranged to have the Carignans disbanded in Canada he decided that they should be given lands in that section of the colony where they would be most useful in guarding New France at its most vulnerable point. This weakest point was the region along the Richelieu between Lake Champlain and the St Lawrence. By way of this route would surely come any English expedition sent against New France, and this likewise was the portal through which the Mohawks had already come on their errands of massacre. If Canada was to be safe, this region must become the colony's mailed fist, ready to strike in repulse at an instant's notice. All this the intendant saw very plainly, and he was wise in his generation. Later events amply proved his foresight. The Richelieu highway was actually used by the men of New England on various subsequent expeditions against Canada, and it was the line of Mohawk incursion so long as the power of this proud redskin clan remained unbroken. At no time during the French period was this region made entirely secure; but Talon's plan made the Richelieu route much more difficult for the colony's foes, both white and red, than it otherwise would have been.

Here was an interesting experiment in Roman imperial colonization repeated in the New World. When the empire of the Caesars was beginning to give way before the oncoming barbarians of Northern Europe, the practice of disbanding legions on the frontier and having them settle on the lands was adopted as a means of securing defense, without the necessity of spending large sums on permanent outpost garrisons. The retired soldier was a soldier still, but practically self-supporting in times of peace. These praedia militaria of the Romans gave Talon his idea of a military cantonment along the Richelieu, and in broaching his plans to the king he suggested that the 'practice of the politic and warlike Romans might be advantageously used in a land which, being so far away from its monarch, must trust for existence to the strength of its own arms.'

All who took lands in this region, whether seigneurs or habitants, were bound to serve in arms at the call of the king, although this obligation was not expressly provided in the deeds of land. Never was a call to arms without response. These military settlers and their sons after them were only too ready to gird on the sword at every opportunity. It was from this region that expeditions quietly set forth from time to time towards the borders of New England, and leaped like a lynx from the forest upon some isolated hamlet of Massachusetts or New York. The annals of Deerfield, Haverhill, and Schenectady bear to this day their tales of the Frenchman's ferocity, and all New England hated him with an unyielding hate. In guarding the southern portal he did his work with too much zeal, and his stinging blows finally goaded the English colonies to a policy of retaliation which cost the French very dearly.

But to return to the seigneuries along the river. The district of Three Rivers, extending on the north shore of the St Lawrence from Berthier-en-Haut to Grondines, and on the south from St Jean-Deschaillons east to Yamaska, was but sparsely populated when Catalogne prepared to report in 1712. Prominent seigneuries in this region were Pointe du Lac or Tonnancour, the estate of the Godefroys de Tonnancour; Cap de la Magdelaine and Batiscan, the patrimony of the Jesuits; the fief of Champlain, owned by Desjordy de Cabanac; Ste Anne de la Perade, Nicolet, and Becancour. Nicolet had passed into the hands of the Courvals, a trading family of Three Rivers, and Becancour was held by Pierre Robineau, the son of his famous father, Rene Robineau de Becancour. On all of these seigneuries some progress had been made, but often it amounted to very little. Better results had been obtained both eastward and westward of the region.

The district of Quebec was the first to be allotted in seigneuries, and here of course agriculture had made better headway. Grondines, La Chevrotiere, Portneuf, Pointe aux Trembles, Sillery, and Notre-Dame des Anges were all thriving properties ranging along the river bank eastward to the settlement at Quebec. Just beyond the town lay the flourishing fief of Beauport, originally owned by Robert Giffard, but now held by his heirs, the family of Juchereau Duchesnay. This seigneury was destined to loom up prominently in later days when Montcalm held Wolfe at bay for weeks along the Beauport shore. Fronting Beauport was the spacious island of Orleans with its several thriving parishes, all included within the seigneury of Francois Berthelot, on whom the king for his zeal and enterprise had conferred the title of Comte de St Laurent. A score of other seigneurial tracts, including Lotbiniere, Lauzon, La Durantaye, Bellechasse, Riviere Ouelle, and others well known to every student of Canadian genealogy, were included within the huge district round the ancient capital.

The king's representatives had been much too freehanded in granting land. No seigneur had a tenth of his tract under cultivation, yet all the best-located and most fertile soil of the colony had been given out. Those who came later had to take lands in out-of-the-way places, unless by good fortune they could secure the re-grant of something that had been abandoned. The royal generosity did not in the long run conduce to the upbuilding of the colony, and the home authorities in time recognized the imprudence of their policy. Hence it was that edict after edict sought to make these gentlemen of the wilderness give up whatever land they could not handle properly, and if these decrees of retrenchment had been strictly enforced most of the seigneurial estates would have been mercilessly reduced in area. But the seigneurs who were the most remiss happened to be the ones who sat at the council board in Quebec, and what they had they usually managed to hold, despite the king's command.


1 The livre was practically the modern franc, about twenty cents.


This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

Chronicles of Canada, The Seigneurs of Old Canada, A Chronicle of New World Feudalism, 1915

 

Chronicles of Canada


Add/Correct a Link

Comments/Submit Data


Copyright 2002-2017 by Canadian Genealogy
The WebPages may be linked to but shall not be reproduced on another site without written permission.