Note: Beaver wars map // Grand Royal Coat of Arms of France // Constitution-of-new-france-1759
Foundation of Quebec City (1608)
In 1608, sponsored by Henry IV, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons and Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec with 28 men, the second permanent French settlement in the colony of Canada. Colonization was slow and difficult. Many settlers died early because of harsh weather and diseases. In 1630, there were only 103 colonists living in the settlement, but by 1640, the population had reached 355.
Champlain allied himself as soon as possible with the Algonquin and Montagnais peoples in the area, who were at war with the Iroquois. In 1609, Champlain, along with two other French companions, accompanied by his Algonquin, Montagnais and Huron allies, travelled south from the St. Lawrence valley to Lake Champlain, where he participated decisively in a battle against the Iroquois, killing two Iroquois chiefs with the first shot of his arquebus. This military engagement against the Iroquois solidified Champlain's status with New France's Huron and Algonquin allies, enabling him to maintain bonds that were essential to New France's interests in the fur trade.
Champlain also arranged to have young French men live with the natives, to learn their language and customs and help the French adapt to life in North America. These men, known as coureurs des bois (runners of the woods) (such as Étienne Brûlé), extended French influence south and west to the Great Lakes and among the Huron tribes who lived there. For the better part of a century the Iroquois and French clashed in a series of attacks and reprisals.
During the first decades of the colony's existence, the French population numbered only a few hundred, while the English colonies to the south were much more populous and wealthy. Cardinal Richelieu, adviser to Louis XIII, wished to make New France as significant as the English colonies. In 1627, Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates to invest in New France, promising land parcels to hundreds of new settlers and to turn Canada into an important mercantile and farming colony. Champlain was named Governor of New France and Richelieu forbade non-Roman Catholics from living there. Protestants were required to renounce their faith prior to settling in New France; many therefore chose instead to move to the English colonies.
The Roman Catholic Church, and missionaries such as the Recollets and the Jesuits, became firmly established in the territory. Richelieu also introduced the seigneurial system, a semi-feudal system of farming that remained a characteristic feature of the St. Lawrence valley until the 19th century. While Richelieu's efforts did little to increase the French presence in New France, they did pave the way for the success of later efforts.
At the same time the English colonies to the south began to raid the St. Lawrence valley and, in 1629, Quebec itself was captured and held by the English until 1632. Champlain returned to Canada that year, and requested that Sieur de Laviolette found another trading post at Trois-Rivières, which he did in 1634. Champlain died in 1635.
The French Catholic Church, which after Champlain's death was the dominant force in New France, wanted to establish a utopian Christian community in the colony. In 1642, they sponsored a group of settlers, led by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who founded Ville-Marie, precursor to present-day Montreal, farther up the St. Lawrence. Throughout the 1640s, Jesuit missionaries penetrated the Great Lakes region and converted many of the Huron natives. The missionaries came into conflict with the Iroquois, who frequently attacked Montreal.
The presence of Jesuit missionaries in Huron society was nonnegotiable. The Huron natives relied on French goods to facilitate life and warfare. Because the French would refuse trade to all Native American societies that denied relations with missionaries, the Huron natives had more of a propensity towards Christian conversion. The Huron natives heavily relied on European goods to perform burial ceremonies known as The Huron Feast of the Dead. Trading with the French allowed for larger amounts of decorative goods to be buried during ceremonies as opposed to only a bare minimum. With the growing epidemics and high number of deaths, the Huron natives could not afford to lose relations with the French, fearing to anger their ancestors.
Subsequent to the arrival of French children in Quebec in 1634, measles was also brought along with them, which quickly spread among the Native American people. Jesuit priest Jean de Brébeuf described the symptoms as being severe. Brebeuf stated that the Native American's fearlessness towards death upon this disease made them perfect candidates for conversion to Christianity. The Native Americans believed that if they did not convert to Christianity, they would be exposed to the evil magic of the priests that caused the illness.
Jesuit missionaries were troubled by the absence of patriarchy in Native American communities. Native American women were highly regarded within their societies and participated in political and military decisions. Jesuits attempted to eliminate the matriarchy and shift the powers of men and women to accommodate those of European societies. "In France, women are to be obedient to their masters, their husbands." Jesuits would attempt to justify this to the native women in hopes to enlighten them on proper European behavior. In response, Native American women grew worrisome of the presence of these missionaries fearing they would lose power and freedom within their communities.
By 1649, both the Jesuit mission and the Huron society were almost destroyed by Iroquois invasions (see Canadian Martyrs). In 1653, a peace invitation was extended by the Onondaga Nation to New France and an expedition of Jesuits, led by Simon Le Moyne, established Sainte Marie de Ganentaa in 1656. The Jesuits were forced to abandon the mission by 1658, as hostilities with the Iroquois resumed.
The transport infrastructure in New France was almost nonexistent, with few roads and canals. The canals would be up to three miles long at times and boats were thin and simple. Thus people used the waterways, especially the St. Lawrence River, as the main form of transportation, by canoes. In the winter, when the lakes froze, both the poor and the rich travelled by sleds pulled by dogs or horses. A land transportation system was not developed in the region until the 1830s, when stretches of road were built along the river, and the Rideau Canal project was not completed until 1840.
Royal takeover and attempts to settle
In 1650, New France had seven hundred colonists and Montreal had only a few dozen settlers. Because the First Nations people did most of the work of beaver hunting, the company needed few French employees. The severely underpopulated New France almost fell completely to hostile Iroquois forces. In 1660, settler Adam Dollard des Ormeaux led a Canadian and Huron militia against a much larger Iroquois force; none of the Canadians survived, but they succeeded in turning back the Iroquois invasion. In 1627, Quebec had only eighty-five French colonists and was easily overwhelmed two years later when three English privateers plundered the settlement. In 1663, New France finally became more secure when Louis XIV made it a royal province, taking control away from the Company of One Hundred Associates. In the same year the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal ceded its possessions to the Seminaire de Saint-Sulpice. The crown stimulated emigration to New France by paying for transatlantic passages and offering other incentives to those willing to move, and the population of New France grew to three thousand.
In 1665, he sent a French garrison, the Carignan-Salières Regiment, to Quebec. The government of the colony was reformed along the lines of the government of France, with the Governor General and Intendant subordinate to the Minister of the Marine in France. In 1665, Jean Talon was sent by Minister of the Marine Jean-Baptiste Colbert to New France as the first Intendant. These reforms limited the power of the Bishop of Quebec, who had held the greatest amount of power after the death of Champlain.
The 1666 census of New France was conducted by France's intendant, Jean Talon, in the winter of 1665–66. It showed a population of 3,215 habitants in New France, many more than there had been only a few decades earlier, but also a great difference in the number of men (2,034) and women (1,181).
Talon tried to reform the seigneurial system, forcing the seigneurs to actually reside on their land, and limiting the size of the seigneuries, in an attempt to make more land available to new settlers. These schemes were ultimately unsuccessful. Very few settlers arrived, and the various industries established by Talon did not surpass the importance of the fur trade.
Settlers and their families
The first settler was brought to Quebec by Champlain – the apothecary Louis Hébert and his family, of Paris. They came expressly to settle, stay in one place to make the New France settlement function. Waves of recruits came in response to the requests for men with specific skills, like farming, apothecaries, blacksmiths. As couples married, cash incentives to have large families were put in place, and were effective.
To strengthen the colony and make it the centre of France's colonial empire, Louis XIV decided to send single women, aged between 15 and 30 known as the King's Daughters or in French, les filles du roi, to New France, paying for their passage and granting goods or money as a dowry. Approximately 800 arrived during 1663–1673. The King's Daughters found husbands among the male settlers within a year or two, as well as a new life for themselves. They came on their own choice, many because they could not make a favorable marriage in the social hierarchy in France. They were from commoner families in the Paris area, Normandy and the central-western regions of France. By 1672, the population of New France had risen to 6,700, from 3,200 in 1663.
At the same time, marriages with the natives were encouraged and indentured servants, known as engagés, were also sent to New France. The women played a major role in establishing family life, civil society, and enabling rapid demographic growth. There was a high demand for children, for they contributed to the prosperity of the farm from an early age, and there was plenty of food for them. Women bore about 30% more children than comparable women who remained in France. Landry says, "Canadians had an exceptional diet for their time. This was due to the natural abundance of meat, fish, and pure water; the good food conservation conditions during the winter; and an adequate wheat supply in most years."
Besides household duties, some women participated in the fur trade, the major source of cash in New France. They worked at home alongside their husbands or fathers as merchants, clerks and provisioners. Some were widows who took over their husband's roles. A handful were active entrepreneurs in their own right.
Growth of the settlements
After the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, New France began to prosper. Industries, such as fishing and farming, which had failed under Talon, began to flourish. A "King's Highway" (Chemin du Roy) was built between Montreal and Quebec to encourage faster trade. The shipping industry also flourished as new ports were built and old ones were upgraded. The number of colonists greatly increased. By 1720, Canada had become a self-sufficient colony with a population of 24,594 people. The Church, although now less powerful than it had originally been, controlled education and social welfare. These years of peace are often referred to by French Canadians as New France's "Golden Age".
Settlements in Louisiana
The French extended their territorial claim to the south, and to the west of the American colonies late in the 17th century, naming it for King Louis XIV, as La Louisiane. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explored the Ohio River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley, and he claimed the entire territory for France as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle attempted to establish the first southern colony in the new territory in 1685, but inaccurate maps and navigational issues led him to instead establish his Fort Saint Louis in what is now Texas. The colony was devastated by disease, and the surviving settlers were killed in 1688, in an attack by the area's indigenous population. Other parts of Louisiana were settled and developed with success, such as New Orleans and southern Illinois, leaving a strong French influence in these areas long after the Louisiana Purchase.
Many strategic forts were built there, under the orders of Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac. Forts were also built in the older portions of New France that had not yet been settled. Many of these forts were garrisoned by the Troupes de la Marine, the only regular soldiers in New France between 1683 and 1755.