The Great Intendant by Thomas ChapaisA chronicle of Jean Talon in Canada, 1665-1672

This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan. CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes Volume 6 THE GREAT INTENDANT A Chronicle of Jean Talon in Canada 1665-1672 By THOMAS CHAPAIS TORONTO, 1914 CHAPTER I TO THE RESCUE OF NEW FRANCE When the year 1665 began, the French
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  • 1922
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This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan.

Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes

Volume 6

A Chronicle of Jean Talon in Canada 1665-1672





When the year 1665 began, the French colony on the shores of the St Lawrence, founded by the valour and devotion of Champlain, had been in existence for more than half a century. Yet it was still in a pitiable state of weakness and destitution. The care and maintenance of the settlement had devolved upon trading companies, and their narrow-minded mercantile selfishness had stifled its progress. From other causes, also, there had been but little growth. Cardinal Richelieu, the great French minister, had tried at one time to infuse new life into the colony; [Footnote: For the earlier history of New France the reader is referred to three other volumes in this Series–The Founder of New France, The Seigneurs of Old Canada, and The Jesuit Missions.] but his first attempts had been unlucky, and later on his powerful mind was diverted to other plans and achievements and he became absorbed in the wider field of European politics. To the shackles of commercial greed, to forgetfulness on the part of the mother country, had been added the curse of Indian wars. During twenty-five years the daring and ferocious Iroquois had been the constant scourge of the handful of settlers, traders, and missionaries. Champlain’s successors in the office of governor, Montmagny, Ailleboust, Lauzon, Argenson, Avaugour, had no military force adequate to the task of meeting and crushing these formidable foes. Year after year the wretched colony maintained its struggle for existence amidst deadly perils, receiving almost no help from France, and to all appearance doomed to destruction. To make things worse, internal strife exercised its disintegrating influence; there was contention among the leaders in New France over the vexed question of the liquor traffic. In the face of so many adverse circumstances–complete lack of means, cessation of immigration from the mother country, the perpetual menace of the bloody Iroquois incursions, a dying trade, and a stillborn agriculture–how could the colony be kept alive at all? Spiritual and civil authorities, the governor and the bishop, the Jesuits and the traders, all united in petitioning for assistance. But the motherland was far away, and European wars and rivalries were engrossing all her attention.

Fortunately a change was at hand. The prolonged struggle of the Thirty Years’ War and of the war against Spain had been ended by the treaty of Munster and Osnabruck in 1648 and by that of the Pyrenees in 1659. The civil dissensions of the Fronde were over, thanks to the skilful policy of Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu’s successor. After the death of Mazarin in 1661, Louis XIV had taken into his own hands the reins of administration. He was young, painstaking, and ambitious; and he wanted to be not only king but the real ruler of his kingdom. In Jean Baptiste Colbert, the man who had been Mazarin’s right hand, he had the good fortune to find one of the best administrators in all French history. Colbert soon won the king’s confidence. He was instrumental in detecting the maladministration of Fouquet as superintendent of Finance, and became a member of the council appointed to investigate and report on all financial questions. Of this body he was the leading spirit from the beginning. Although at first without the title of minister, he was promptly invested with a wide authority over the finances, trade, agriculture, industry, and marine affairs. Within two years he had shown his worth and had justified the king’s choice. Great and beneficial reforms had been accomplished in almost every branch of the administration. The exhausted treasury had been replenished, trade and industry were encouraged, agriculture was protected, and a navy created. Under a progressive government France seemed to awake to new life.

The hour was auspicious for the entreaties of New France. Petitions and statements were addressed to the king by Mgr de Laval, the head of ecclesiastical affairs in the colony, by the governor Avaugour, and by the Jesuit fathers; and Pierre Boucher, governor of the district of Three Rivers, was sent to France as a delegate to present them. Louis and his minister studied the conditions of the colony on the St Lawrence and decided in 1663 to give it a new constitution. The charter of the One Hundred Associates was cancelled and the old Council of Quebec–formed in 1647–was reorganized under the name of the Sovereign Council. This new governing body was to be composed of the governor, the bishop, the intendant, an attorney-general, a secretary, and five councillors. It was invested with a general jurisdiction for the administration of justice in civil and criminal matters. It had also to deal with the questions of police, roads, finance, and trade.

To establish a new and improved system of administration was a good thing, but this alone would hardly avail if powerful help were not forthcoming to rescue New France from ruin, despondency, and actual extermination. The colony was dying for lack of soldiers, settlers, and labourers, as well as stores of food and munitions of war for defence and maintenance. Louis XIV made up his mind that help should be given. In 1664 three hundred labourers were conveyed to Quebec at the king’s expense, and in the following year the colonists received the welcome information that the king was also about to send them a regiment of trained soldiers, a viceroy, a new governor, a new intendant, settlers and labourers, and all kinds of supplies. This royal pledge was adequately fulfilled. On June 19, 1665, the Marquis de Tracy, lieutenant-general of all the French dominions in America, arrived from the West Indies, where he had successfully discharged the first part of the mission entrusted to him by his royal master. With him came four companies of soldiers. During the whole summer ships were disembarking their passengers and unloading their cargoes of ammunition and provisions at Quebec in quick succession. It is easy to imagine the rapture of the colonists at such a sight, and the enthusiastic shouts that welcomed the first detachment of the splendid regiment of Carignan-Salieres. At length, on September 12, the cup of public joy was filled to overflowing by the arrival of the ship Saint Sebastien with two high officials on board, David de Remy, Sieur de Courcelle, the governor appointed to succeed the governor Mezy, who had died earlier in the year, and Jean Talon, the intendant of justice, police, and finance. The latter had been selected to replace the Sieur Robert, who had been made intendant in 1663, but, for some unknown reason, had never come to Canada to perform the duties of his office. The triumvirate on whom was imposed the noble task of saving and reviving New France was thus complete. The Marquis de Tracy was an able and clear-sighted commander, the Sieur de Courcelle a fearless, straightforward official. But the part of Jean Talon in the common task, though apparently less brilliant, was to be in many respects the most important, and his influence the most far-reaching in the destinies of the colony.

Talon was born at Chalons-sur-Marne, in the province of Champagne, about the year 1625. His family were kinsfolk of the Parisian Talons, Omer and Denis, the celebrated jurists and lawyers, who held in succession the high office of attorney-general of France. Several of Jean Talon’s brothers were serving in the administration or the army, and, after a course of study at the Jesuits’ College of Clermont, Jean was employed under one of them in the commissariat. The young man’s abilities soon became apparent and attracted Mazarin’s attention. In 1654 he was appointed military commissary at Le Quesnoy in connection with the operations of the army commanded by the great Turenne. A year later, at the age of thirty, he was promoted to be intendant for the province of Hainault. For ten years he filled that office and won the reputation of an administrator of the first rank. Thus it came about that, when an intendant was needed to infuse new blood into the veins of the feeble colony on the St Lawrence, Colbert, always a good judge of men, thought immediately of Jean Talon and recommended to the king his appointment as intendant of New France. Talon’s commission is dated March 23, 1665.

The minister drafted for the intendant’s guidance a long letter of instructions. It dealt with the mutual relations of Church and State, and set forth the Gallican principles of the day; it discussed the question of assistance to the recently created West India Company; the contemplated war against the Iroquois and how it might successfully be carried on; the Sovereign Council and the administration of justice; the settlement of the colony and the advisability of concentrating the population; the importance of fostering trade and industry; the question of tithes for the maintenance of the Church; the establishment of shipbuilding yards and the encouragement of agriculture. This document was signed by Louis XIV at Paris on March 27, 1665.

On receiving his commission and his instructions, Talon took leave of the king and the minister, and proceeded to make preparations for his arduous mission and for the long journey which it involved. By April 22 he was at La Rochelle, to arrange for the embarkation of settlers, working men, and supplies. He attended the review of the troops that were bound for New France, and reported to Colbert that the companies were at their full strength, well equipped and in the best of spirits. During this time he spared no pains to acquire information about the new country where he was to work and live. Finally, by May 24, everything was in readiness, and he wrote to Colbert:

Since apparently I shall not have the honour of writing you another letter from this place, for our ship awaits only a favourable wind to sail, allow me to assure you that I am leaving full of gratitude for all the kindness and favours bestowed on me by the king and yourself. Knowing that the best way to show my gratitude is to do good service to His Majesty, and that the best title to future benevolence lies in strenuous effort for the successful execution of his wishes, I shall do my utmost to attain that end in the charge I am going to fill. I pray for your protection and help, which will surely be needed, and if my endeavours should not be crowned with success, at least it will not be for want of zeal and fidelity.

A few hours after having written these farewell lines, Talon, in company with M. de Courcelle, set sail on the Saint Sebastien for Canada, where he was to make for himself an imperishable name.



Let us take a glance over the colony at the time when Courcelle and Talon landed at Quebec after an ocean journey–there were no fast lines then–of one hundred and seventeen days.

In 1665 Canada had only three settled districts: Quebec, Three Rivers, and Ville-Marie or Montreal. Quebec, the chief town, bore the proud title of the capital of New France. Yet it contained barely seventy houses with about five hundred and fifty inhabitants. Then, as now, it consisted of a lower and an upper town. In the lower town were to be found the king’s stores and the merchants’ shops and residences. The public officials and the clergy and members of the religious orders lived in the upper town, where stood the principal buildings of the capital–the Chateau Saint-Louis, the Bishop’s Palace, the Cathedral, the Jesuits’ College and Chapel, and the monasteries of the Ursulines and of the Hotel-Dieu sisters.

Francois de Laval de Montmorency, bishop of Petraea and vicar apostolic for Canada, was the spiritual head of the colony. He had arrived from France six years earlier, in 1659, and was destined to spend the remainder of his life, nearly half a century, in the service of the Church in Canada. Because of his noble character and many virtues, his strong intellect, and his devotion to the public weal, he will ever rank as one of the greatest figures in Canadian history. His vicar-general was Henri de Bernieres, who was also parish priest of Quebec and superior of the seminary founded by the bishop in 1663. The superior of the Jesuits was Father Le Mercier. The saintly Marie de l’Incarnation was mother superior of the Ursulines, and Mother Saint Bonaventure of the Hotel-Dieu.

It may be interesting to recall the names of some of the notable citizens of Quebec at that time, other than the high officials. There were Michel Filion and Pierre Duquet, notaries; Jean Madry, surgeon to the king’s majesty; Jean Le Mire, the future syndic des habitants; Madame d’Ailleboust, widow of a former governor; Madame Couillard, widow of Guillaume Couillard and daughter of Louis Hebert, the first tiller of the soil; Madame de Repentigny, widow of ‘Admiral’ de Repentigny, to use the grandiloquent expression of old chroniclers; Nicolas Marsollet, Louis Couillard de l’Espinay, Charles Roger de Colombiers, Francois Bissot, Charles Amiot, Le Gardeur de Repentigny, Dupont de Neuville, Pierre Denis de la Ronde, all men of high standing. The chief merchants were Charles Basire, Jacques Loyer de Latour, Claude Charron, Jean Maheut, Eustache Lambert, Bertrand Chesnay de la Garenne, Guillaume Feniou. Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye, the stalwart Quebec trader of the day, was then in France.

In the neighbourhood of Quebec were a few settlements. According to the census of the following year there were 452 persons on the Island of Orleans, 533 at the Cote Beaupre, 185 at Beauport, 140 at Sillery, and 112 at Charlesbourg and Notre-Dame-des-Anges on the St Charles river.

Three Rivers was a small port with a population of 455, including that of the adjoining settlements. The governor in charge of the local administration was Pierre Boucher, already mentioned as a delegate to France in 1661. The Jesuits had a residence there and a chapel which was the only place of public worship, for the colonists had not as yet the means to erect a parish church. In the vicinity there were the beginnings of settlement at Cap-de-la- Magdeleine, Batiscan, and Champlain. Among the important families of Three Rivers were those of Godefroy, Hertel, Le Neuf, Crevier, Boucher, Poulin, Volant, Lemaitre, Rivard, and Ameau. Michel Le Neuf du Herisson was juge royal, and Severin Ameau was notary and registrar of the court.

Montreal or Ville-Marie was scarcely more important than Three Rivers. The population of the whole district numbered only 625. A fort built by Maisonneuve and Ailleboust at Pointe-a-Callieres; the house of the Sulpicians at the foot of the present Saint-Sulpice Street; the Hotel-Dieu on the other side of that street; the convent of the Congregation sisters facing the Hotel-Dieu; a few houses scattered along the road called ‘de la Commune,’ now Saint-Paul Street; and on the rising ground towards the Place d’Armes of later years a few more dwellings–these constituted the Montreal of primitive days. On the top of the hill called ‘Coteau Saint-Louis’ was erected an intrenched mill–‘Moulin du Coteau’–which could be used as a redoubt to protect the inhabitants. The Sulpicians’ house, the Hotel-Dieu, the convent of the Congregation, and the houses of the Place d’Armes and of ‘la Commune’ were connected with the fort by footpaths. Before 1672 there were no streets laid out. The only place of public worship was the Hotel-Dieu chapel, fifty feet in length by thirty in width. The superior of the Sulpicians was Abbe Souart. Mother Mace was superioress of the Hotel-Dieu, but the mainstay of the institution was the well-known Mademoiselle Mance, who, by the aid of Madame de Bullion’s benefactions, had founded it in 1643. The illustrious Sister Marguerite Bourgeoys was at the head of the Congregation, which owed its existence to her pious zeal and devotion to the education of the young. Among the ‘Montrealistes’ of note the following should be specially mentioned: Zacharie Dupuy, major of the island; Charles d’Ailleboust, seigneurial judge; J. B. Migeon de Bransac, fiscal attorney; Louis Artus Sailly, who had been for some time juge royal; Benigne Basset, at once registrar of the seigneurial court, notary, and surveyor; Charles Le Moyne, king’s treasurer, interpreter, soldier, settler, who was later to be ennobled and receive the title of Baron de Longueuil; Etienne Bouchard, surgeon; Pierre Picote de Belestre, a valiant militia officer; Claude de Robutel, Sieur de Saint-Andre; Jacques Leber, a merchant who controlled almost the whole trade of Ville-Marie.

Altogether the white population of Canada, including the settlers and labourers arriving during the summer of 1665, numbered only 3215. Yet the colony had been in existence for fifty-seven years! It was certainly time for a new effort on the part of the mother country to infuse life into her feeble offspring. This was a task calling for the earnest care and the most energetic activity of Tracy, Courcelle, and Talon.

One of the first matters to receive their attention was the reorganization of the Canadian administration. We have seen that in 1663 the Sovereign Council had been created, to consist of the high officials of the colony and five councillors. At this time, September 1665, the five councillors were Mathieu Damours, Le Gardeur de Tilly, and three others who had been irregularly appointed by Mezy, the preceding governor, to take the places of three councillors whom he had arbitrarily dismissed–Rouer de Villeray, Juchereau de la Ferte, and Ruette d’Auteuil. The same governor had also dismissed Jean Bourdon, the attorney-general, and had replaced him by Chartier de Lotbiniere. These summary dismissals and appointments had arisen out of a quarrel between the governor and the bishop, in which the former appears to have been influenced by petty motives. At any rate Mezy had been recalled by the king; and Tracy, Courcelle, and Talon had been instructed to try him for improper conduct in office. But before their arrival at Quebec, Mezy had obeyed the summons of another King than the king of France. He had been taken ill in the spring of the year and had died on May 6. Mezy being dead, it was wisely thought unnecessary to recall unhappy memories of his errors and misdeeds. Sufficient would be done if the grievances due to his rashness were redressed. Accordingly the dismissed officials were reinstated, and on September 23, 1665, a solemn sitting of the Sovereign Council was held, at which Tracy, Courcelle, Laval, and Talon were present, together with the Sieur Le Barroys, general agent of the West India Company, and the Sieurs de Villeray, de la Ferte, d’Auteuil, de Tilly, Damours–all the councillors in office before Mezy’s dismissals–Jean Bourdon, the attorney-general, and J. B. Peuvret, secretary of the council. The letters patent of Courcelle and Talon as well as the commission and credentials of the Sieur Le Barroys were duly read and registered; the letters patent of the Marquis de Tracy had been registered previously. With these formalities the new administration of Canada was inaugurated.

The next proceeding of the rulers of New France was to prepare for a decisive blow against the daring Iroquois. Tracy and the soldiers, as we have seen, had arrived in June and three forts were in course of building on the Richelieu river, or ‘riviere des Iroquois,’ so called because for a long period it had been the most direct highway leading from the villages of these bloody warriors to the heart of the colony. During the summer and autumn of 1665 the Carignan soldiers were kept busy with the construction of these necessary defensive works. The first fort was erected at the mouth of the river, under the direction of Captain de Sorel; the second fifty miles higher, under Captain de Chambly; and the third about nine miles farther up, under Colonel de Salieres. The first two retained the names of the officers in charge of their construction, and the third received the name of Sainte-Therese because it was finished on the day dedicated to that saint. During the following year two other forts were built–St John, a few miles distant from Sainte-Therese, and Sainte-Anne, on an island at the head of Lake Champlain. Both Tracy and Courcelle went to inspect the work personally and encourage the garrisons.

In the meantime Talon was in no way idle. He had to organize the means of conveying provisions, ammunition, tools, and supplies of every description for the maintenance of the troops and the furtherance of the work. Under his supervision a flotilla of over fifty boats plied between Quebec and the river Richelieu. It was also his business to take care of the incoming soldiers and labourers and to see that those who had contracted disease during their journey across the ocean received proper nursing and medical attendance.

From the moment of his arrival he had lost no opportunity of acquiring information on the situation in the colony. There is a curious anecdote that illustrates the manner in which he sometimes contrived to gain knowledge by concealing his identity. On the very day of his landing he went alone to the Hotel-Dieu, and asking for the superioress, introduced himself as the valet de chambre of the intendant, pretending to be sent by his master to assure the good ladies of the hospital of M. Talon’s kindly disposition and desire to bestow on them every favour in his gift. One of the sisters present at the interview–Mere de la Nativite, a very bright and clever woman–was struck by the extreme distinction of manner and speech of the so-called valet, and, with a meaning glance at the superioress, told the visitor that unless she was mistaken he was more than he pretended to be. On his asking what could convey to her that impression, she replied that by his bearing and language she could not but feel that the intendant himself was honouring the Hotel-Dieu with a visit. Talon could do no less than confess that she was right, showing at the same time that he appreciated the delicate compliment thus paid to him. From that day he was a devoted and most generous friend to the Hotel-Dieu of Quebec.

One of the first problems with which the intendant had to deal in discharging the duties of his office was the dualism of administrative authority. It has been mentioned that Colbert had founded a new trading company, known as the West India Company. This corporation had been granted wide privileges over all the French possessions in America, including feudal ownership and authority to administer justice and levy war. The company was thus invested with the right of appointing judicial officers, magistrates, and sovereign councils, and of naming, subject to the king’s sanction governors and other functionaries; it had full power to sell the land or make grants in feudal tenure, to receive all seigneurial dues, to build forts, raise troops, and equip war-ships. The company’s charter had been granted in 1664, and of course Canada, as well as the other French colonies in the New World, was included in its jurisdiction. The situation of this colony was therefore very peculiar. In 1663 the king had cancelled the charter of the One Hundred Associates and had taken back the fief of Canada; but a year later he had granted it again to a new company. At the same time he showed clearly that he intended to keep the administration in his own hands. Thus Canada seemed to have two masters. In accordance with its charter, the company held the ownership and government of the country de jure. But in point of fact the king wielded the government, thus taking back with one hand what he had given with the other. By right the company controlled the administration of justice; it could, and actually did, establish courts. But, in fact, the king appointed the intendant supreme judge in civil cases, and made the Sovereign Council a tribunal of superior jurisdiction. By right, to the company belonged the power of granting land and seigneuries. In fact, the governor or the intendant, the king’s officers, made the grants at their pleasure. This strange situation, which lasted ten years–until the West India Company’s charter was revoked in 1674–is often confusing to the student of the period.

Talon saw at a glance the anomaly of the situation; but, being a practical man, he was less displeased with the falsity of the principle than apprehensive of the evil that was likely to result. In a letter to Colbert, dated October 4, 1665, he discussed the subject at length, putting it in plain terms. If, when the grant was made, it was the king’s intention to benefit only the company–to increase its profits and develop its trade–with no ulterior consideration for the development of the colony, then it would be well to leave to the company the sole ownership of the country. But if His Majesty had thought of making Canada one of the prosperous parts of his kingdom, it was very doubtful whether he could attain that end without keeping in his own hands the control of lands and trade. The real aim of the West India Company, as he had learned, was to enforce its commercial monopoly to the utmost; and become the only trading medium between the colony and the mother country. Such a policy could have but one result; it would put an end to private enterprise and discourage immigration.

In spite of the company’s apparent overlordship, Talon thought that, as the king’s agent, he was bound to exercise the powers appertaining to his office for the good of the colony. By the end of the year 1665 he had planned a new settlement in the vicinity of Quebec on lands included in the limits of the seigneury of Notre-Dame- des-Anges at Charlesbourg, which he had withdrawn from the grant to the Jesuits, under the king’s authority. This was the occasion of some friction between the Jesuits and the intendant. Talon gave the necessary orders for the erection of about forty dwellings which should be ready to receive new settlers during the following year. These were to be grouped in three adjacent villages named Bourg-Royal, Bourg-la-Reine, and Bourg-Talon. We shall learn more of them in a following chapter.

Another enterprise of the intendant was numbering the people. Under his personal supervision, during the winter of 1666-67, a general census of the colony was taken–the first Canadian census of which we have any record. The count showed, as we have already said, a total population of 3215 in Canada at that time–2034 males and 1181 females. The married people numbered 1109, and there were 528 families. Elderly people were but few in number, 95 only being from fifty-one to sixty years old, 43 from sixty-one to seventy, 10 from seventy-one to eighty, and 4 from eighty-one to ninety. In regard to professions and occupations, there were then in New France 3 notaries, 5 surgeons, 18 merchants, 4 bailiffs, 3 schoolmasters, 36 carpenters, 27 joiners, 30 tailors, 8 coopers, 5 bakers, 9 millers, 3 locksmiths. The census did not include the king’s troops, which formed a body of 1200 men. The clergy consisted of the bishop, 18 Priests and aspirants to the priesthood, and 35 Jesuit fathers. There were also 19 Ursulines, 23 Hospitalieres, and 4 Sisters of the Congregation. The original record of this, the first Canadian census, has been preserved and is without question a most important historical document. It is likewise full of living interest, for in it are recorded the names of many families whose descendants are now to be found all over Canada.



It was the special task of Tracy and Courcelle to rid the colony of the Iroquois scourge. The Five Nations [Footnote: The Iroquois league consisted of five tribes or nations–the Mohawks, the Cayugas, the Senecas, the Onondagas, and the Oneidas.] had heard with some disquietude of the body of trained soldiers sent by the French king to check their incursions and crush their confederacy. At the beginning of December 1665, the Marquis de Tracy received an embassy from the Onondagas. They desired to enter into a peace negotiation, and one of the most noted chiefs, Garakonthie, delivered on that occasion a long and eloquent address to the viceroy. A treaty was signed by them on behalf of their own and two of the other tribes, the Senecas and the Oneidas. But meanwhile the Oneidas did not cease from hostilities, and the Mohawks also continued their bloody raids against the French settlements. Courcelle therefore decided to march at once against their villages beyond Lake Champlain, in what is now New York state and to teach them a lesson. But he did not know the nature of a winter expedition in this northern climate. Leaving Quebec on January 9, he reached Three Rivers on the 16th, and proceeded to Fort Saint-Louis on the Richelieu, where he had fixed the rendezvous of the troops. The cold was very severe, and many soldiers were frozen at the outset. On January 29 the little band, five or six hundred French and Canadians, left Fort Saint-Louis, unfortunately without waiting for a party of Algonquins who should have acted as scouts. It was a distressing march. The soldiers had to walk through deep snow, and the unfamiliar use of snowshoes was a great trial to the Europeans. At night, no shelter! They had to sleep in the open air, under the canopy of the sky and the cold light of the glimmering stars. Having no guides, Courcelle and his men lost their way in that unknown country. After seventeen days of extreme toil they found that, instead of reaching the Mohawk district, they were near Corlaer in the New Netherlands, sixty miles distant. The vanguard had a brush with two hundred Iroquois, who slipped away after killing six French soldiers and leaving four of their own number dead. The governor could go no farther with his exhausted troops and was forced to retrace his steps. The retreat was worse than the forward march. The supply of provisions failed, and to the suffering from cold was soon added hunger. Many soldiers died of exposure and starvation. In reading the account of the ill-fated expedition, one is reminded of the disastrous retreat of Napoleon’s army in 1812 through the icy solitudes of Russia. By this sad experience the military commanders of New France found that they had something to learn of the art of making war in North America, and must respect the peculiarities of the climate and country. Nevertheless Courcelle’s winter expedition had made an impression on the minds of the Iroquois and had even surprised the Dutch and the English. The author of a narrative entitled Relation of the March of the Governor of Canada into New York wrote: ‘Surely so bold and hardy an attempt hath not happened in any age.’

Apparently the Five Nations were somewhat uneasy, for in March the Senecas sent ambassadors to the Marquis de Tracy to ratify the treaty signed in December. In July delegates came from the Oneida tribe; they presented a letter written by the English authorities at Orange which assured the viceroy that the Mohawks were well disposed and wished for peace. A new treaty of ratification was accordingly signed. But the lieutenant-general wanted something more complete and decisive. He demanded of the delegates a general treaty to include the whole of the Five Nations, and stated that he would allow forty days for all the Iroquois tribes to send their ambassadors to Quebec. Moreover, he instructed Father Beschefer to go to Orange with some of the Oneida delegates for the purpose of meeting the ambassadors and escorting them to Quebec. Unfortunately, a few days after the priest’s departure, news came that four Frenchmen on a hunting expedition had been killed near Fort Sainte-Anne by a party of Mohawks, and that three others had been taken prisoners. One of the slain was a cousin of Tracy, and one of the captives his nephew. Father Beschefer was at once recalled and Captain de Sorel was ordered to march with some two hundred Frenchmen and ninety Indians to strike a blow at the raiders. Sorel lost no time and had nearly reached the enemy’s villages when he met Tracy’s nephew and the other prisoners under escort of an Iroquois chief and three warriors, who were bound for Quebec to make amends for the treacherous murder recently perpetrated and to sue for peace. Under these circumstances Captain de Sorel did not think it necessary to proceed farther, and marched his men home again with the Iroquois and the rescued prisoners. On August 31 a great meeting was held at Quebec in the Jesuits’ garden. The delegates of the Five Nations were present, and speeches were made enlarging on the desirability of peace. But it soon became apparent that no peace could be lasting except after a successful expedition against the Mohawks. Tracy, Courcelle, and Talon held a consultation, and the intendant submitted a well-prepared document in which he reviewed the reasons for and against a continuance of the war. In Talon’s mind the arguments in favour of it had undoubtedly the greater weight. Tracy and Courcelle concurred in this opinion. Thirteen hundred men were drafted for an expedition–six hundred regular soldiers, six hundred Canadians, and a hundred Indians. All was soon ready, and on September 14, the day of the Exaltation of the Cross, Tracy and Courcelle left Quebec, at the head of their troops. It was a spectacle that did not fail to impress the Iroquois chiefs detained in Quebec. One of them, deeply moved, said to the viceroy: ‘I see that we are lost, but you will pay dearly for your victory; my nation will be exterminated, but I tell you that many of your young men will not return, for our young warriors will fight desperately. I beg of you to save my wife and children.’ Many who witnessed that martial exit of Tracy and Courcelle from the Chateau Saint-Louis, surrounded by a staff of noble officers, must have realized that this was a memorable day in the history of New France. At last a crushing blow was to be struck at the ferocious foe who for twenty-five years had been the curse and terror of the wretched colony. What mighty cheers were shouted on that day by the eager and enthusiastic spectators who lined the streets of Quebec!

On September 28, the troops taking part in the expedition were assembled at Fort Sainte-Anne. [Footnote: On isle La Mothe at the northern end of Lake Champlain.] Charles Le Moyne commanded the Montreal contingent, one hundred and ten strong; the Quebec contingent marched under Le Gardeur de Repentigny. Father Albanel and Father Raffeix, Jesuit priests, the Abbe Dollier de Casson, a Sulpician, and the Abbe Dubois, chaplain of the Carignan regiment, accompanied the army. Three hundred light boats had been launched for the crossing of Lakes Champlain and Saint-Sacrement. Courcelle, always impetuous, was the first to leave the fort; he led a vanguard of four hundred men which included those from Montreal. The main body of the army under Tracy set out on October 3. Captains Chambly and Berthier were to follow four days later with the rear-guard.

The journey by water was uneventful; but the portage between the two lakes was hard and trying. Yet it was nothing compared with the difficulties of the march beyond Lake Saint-Sacrement. One hundred miles of forest, mountains, rivers, and swamps lay between the troops and the Iroquois villages. No roads existed, only narrow footpaths interrupted by quagmires, bristling with stumps, obstructed by the entanglement of fallen trees, or abruptly cut by the foaming waters of swollen streams. Heavily laden, with arms, provisions, and ammunition strapped on their backs, French and Canadians slowly proceeded through the great woods, whose autumnal glories were vanishing fast under the influence of the chill winds of October. Slipping over moist logs, sinking into unsuspected swamps, climbing painfully over steep rocks, they went forward with undaunted determination. At night they had to sleep in the open on a bed of damp leaves. The crossing of rivers was sometimes dangerous. Tracy, who unfortunately had been seized with an attack of gout, was nearly drowned in one rapid stream. A Swiss soldier had undertaken to carry him across on his shoulders, but his strength failed, and if a rock had not stood near, the viceroy’s career might have ended there. A Huron came to the rescue and carried the helpless viceroy to the other side. The sufferings of the army were increased by a scarcity of food. The troops were famishing. Luckily they came upon some chestnut-trees and stayed their hunger with the nuts.

At last, on October 15, the scouts reported that the Mohawk settlements were near at hand. It was late in the day, darkness was setting in, and a storm of wind and rain was raging. But Tracy decided to push on. They marched all night, and in the morning, emerging from the woods, saw before them the first of the Mohawk towns or villages. Without allowing a moment’s pause, the viceroy ordered an advance. The roll of the drums seemed to give the troops new strength and ardour; French, Canadians, and Indians ran forward to the assault. The Mohawks, apprised of the coming attack, had determined beforehand to make a stand and had sent their women and children to another village. But, at the sight of the advancing army, whose numbers appeared to them three times as great as they really were, and at the sound of the drums, like the voice of demons, they fled panic-stricken. The first village was taken without striking a blow. The viceroy immediately ordered a march against the second, which was also found abandoned. Evidently the Iroquois were terrified, for a third village was taken in the same way, without a show of defence. It was thought that the invaders’ task was finished, when an Algonquin squaw, once a captive of the Iroquois, informed Courcelle that there were two other villages. The soldiers pushed forward, and the fourth settlement of the ever-vanishing enemy fell undefended into the hands of the French. The sun was setting; the exertions of the day and of the night before had been arduous, and it seemed impossible to go farther. But the squaw, seizing a pistol and grasping Courcelle’s hand, said, ‘Come on, I will show you the straight path.’ And she led the way to the town and fort of Andaraque, the most important stronghold of the Mohawks. It was surrounded with a triple palisade twenty feet high and flanked by four bastions. Vessels of bark full of water were distributed on the platforms behind the palisade ready for use against fire. The Iroquois might have made a desperate stand there, and such had been their intention. But their courage failed them at the fearful beating of the drums and the appearance of that mighty army, and they sought safety in flight.

The victory was now complete, and the army could go to rest after nearly twenty-four hours of continuous exertion. Next morning the French were astonished at the sight of Andaraque in the light of the rising sun. instead of a collection of miserable wigwams, they saw a fine Indian town, with wooden houses, some of them a hundred and twenty feet long and with lodging for eight or nine families. These houses were well supplied with provisions, tools, and utensils. An immense quantity of Indian corn and other necessaries was stored in Andaraque-‘food enough to feed Canada for ten years’–and in the surrounding fields a plentiful crop was ready for harvest. All this was to be destroyed; but first an impressive ceremony had to be performed. The army was drawn up in battle array. A French officer, Jean-Baptiste Dubois, commander of the artillery, advanced, sword in hand, to the front, and in the presence of Tracy and Courcelle, declared that he was directed by M. Jean Talon, king’s counsellor and intendant of justice, police, and finance for New France, to take possession of Andaraque, and of all the country of the Mohawks, in the name of the king. A cross was solemnly planted alongside a post bearing the king’s coat of arms. Mass was celebrated and the Te Deum sung. Then the work of destruction began. The palisades, the dwellings, the bastions, the stores of grain and provisions, except what was needed by the invaders, the standing crops-all were set on fire; and when night fell the glaring illumination of that tremendous blaze told the savages that at last New France had asserted her power, and that the soldiers of the great king had come far enough through forest and over mountain and stream to chastise in their own country the bloodthirsty tribes who for a quarter of a century had been the terror of the growing settlements on the St Lawrence.

On their return march the troops suffered great hardships. A storm on Lake Champlain upset two boats and eight men were drowned. Tracy reached Quebec on November 5. The expedition had lasted seven weeks, during which time he had covered nine hundred miles. The news of his success had been received with joy. Since the first days of October the whole colony had been praying for victory. As soon as the destruction of the Iroquois towns was known, prayers were changed to thanksgiving. The Te Deum was solemnly chanted, and on November 14 a mass was said in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Quebec, followed by a procession in gratiarum actionem. New France might well rejoice. A great result had been attained. True it was that the Mohawks, panic-stricken, had not been met and crushed. in a set encounter. None the less they had had their lesson. They had learned that distance and natural impediments were no protection against the French. Their towns were a heap of ashes, their fields were despoiled, their country was ruined. The fruit of that expedition was to be eighteen years of peace for New France. Eighteen years of peace after twenty-five years of murderous incursions! Was not that worth a Te Deum?

After his return Tracy ordered one of the Iroquois detained at Quebec to be hanged as a penalty for his share in the murder of the French hunters. He then directed three other prisoners, the Flemish Batard [Footnote: A half-breed Mohawk leader.] and two Oneida chiefs, to go and inform their respective tribes that he would give them four months to send hostages and make peace; otherwise he would lead against them another expedition more calamitous for their country than the first one. At length, in the month of July of the following year, ambassadors of the Iroquois nations arrived at Quebec with a number of Iroquois families who were to remain as hostages in the colony. The chiefs asked that missionaries be sent to reside among their tribes. This petition was granted. New France could now breathe freely. The hatchet was buried.



Tracy had led a successful expedition against the Iroquois and coerced them into a lasting peace. He had seen order and harmony restored in the government of the colony. His mission was over and he left Canada on August 28, 1667, Courcelle remaining as governor and Talon as intendant. From that moment the latter, though second in rank, became really the first official of New France, if we consider his work in its relation to the future welfare of the colony.

We have already seen something of his views for the administration of New France. He would have it emancipated from the jurisdiction of the West India Company; he tried also to impress on the king and his minister the advisability of augmenting the population in order to develop the resources of the colony–in a word, he sought to lay the foundations of a flourishing state. Undoubtedly Colbert wished to help and strengthen New France, but he seemed to think that Talon’s aim was too ambitious. In one of his letters the intendant had gone the length of submitting a plan f or the acquisition of New Netherlands, which had been conquered by the English in 1664. He suggested that, in the negotiations for peace between France, England, and Holland, Louis XIV might stipulate for the restoration to Holland of its colony, and in the meantime come to an understanding with the States-General for its cession to France. Annexation to Canada would follow. But Colbert thought that Talon was too bold. The intendant had spoken of New France as likely to become a great kingdom. In answer, the minister said that the king saw many obstacles to the fulfilment of these expectations. To create on the shores of the St Lawrence an important state would require much emigration from France, and it would not be wise to draw so many people from the kingdom–to ‘unpeople France for the purpose of peopling Canada.’ Moreover if too many colonists came to Canada in one season, the area already under cultivation would not produce enough to feed the increased population, and great hardship would follow. Evidently Colbert did not here display his usual insight. Talon never had in mind the unpeopling of France. He meant simply that if the home government would undertake to send out a few hundred settlers every year, the result would be the creation of a strong and prosperous nation on the shores of the St Lawrence. The addition of five hundred immigrants annually during the whole period of Louis XIV’s reign would have given Canada in 1700 a population of five hundred thousand. It was thought that the mother country could not spare so many; and yet the cost in men to France of a single battle, the bloody victory of Senef in 1674, was eight thousand French soldiers. The wars of Louis XIV killed ten times more men than the systematic colonization of Canada would have taken from the mother country. The second objection raised by Colbert was no better founded than the first. Talon did not ask for the immigration of more colonists than the country could feed. But he rightly thought that with peace assured the colony could produce food enough for a very numerous population, and that increase in production would speedily follow increase in numbers.

It must not be supposed that Colbert was indifferent to the development of New France. No other minister of the French king did more for Canada. It was under his administration that the strength which enabled the colony so long to survive its subsequent trials was acquired. But Colbert was entangled in the intricacies of European politics. Obliged to co-operate in ventures which in his heart he condemned, and which disturbed him in his work of financial and administrative reform, he yielded sometimes to the fear of weakening the trunk of the old tree by encouraging the growth of the young shoots.

Talon had to give in. But he did so in such a way as to gain his point in part. He wrote that he would speak no more of the great establishment he had thought possible, since the minister was of opinion that France had no excess of population which could be used for the peopling of Canada. At the same time he insisted on the necessity of helping the colony, and assured Colbert that, could he himself see Canada, he would be disposed to do his utmost for it, knowing that a new country cannot make its own way without being helped effectively at the outset. Talon’s tact and firmness of purpose had their reward, for the next year Colbert gave ample proof that he understood Canada’s situation and requirements.

On the question of the West India Company also there was some divergence of view between the minister and the intendant. As we have seen in a preceding chapter, Talon had expressed his apprehension of the evils likely to spring from the wide privileges exercised by the company. But this trading association was Colbert’s creation. He had contended that the failure of the One Hundred Associates was due to inherent weakness. The new one was stronger and could do better. Perhaps difficulties might arise in the beginning on account of the inexperience and greed of some of the company’s agents, but with time the situation would improve. It was not surprising that Colbert should defend the company he had organized. Nevertheless, on that point as on the other, Colbert contrived to meet Talon half-way. The Indian trade, he said, would be opened to the colonists, and for one year the company would grant freedom of trade generally to all the people of New France.

In connection with the rights of this company another question, affecting the finances, was soon to arise. By its charter the company was entitled to collect the revenues of the colony; that is to say, the taxes levied on the sale of beaver and moose skins. The tax on beaver skins was twenty-five per cent, called le droit du quart; the tax on moose skins was two sous per pound, le droit du dixieme. There was also the revenue obtained from the sale or farming out of the trading privileges at Tadoussac, la traite de Tadoussac. All these formed what was called le fonds du pays, the public fund, out of which were paid the emoluments of the governor and the public officers, the costs of the garrisons at Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers, the grants to religious communities, and other permanent yearly disbursements. The company had the right to collect the taxes, but was obliged to pay the public charges.

Writing to Colbert, Talon said he would have been greatly pleased if, in addition to these rights, the king had retained the fiscal powers of the crown. He declared that the taxes were productive, yet the company’s agent seemed very reluctant to pay the public charges. Colbert, of course, decided that the company, in accordance with its charter, was entitled to enjoy the fiscal rights upon condition of defraying annually the ordinary public expenditure of the country, as the company which preceded it had done. Immediately another point was raised. What should be the amount of the public expenditure, or rather, to what figure should the company be allowed to reduce it? Talon maintained that the public charges defrayed by the former company amounted to 48,950 livres. [Footnote: The livre was equivalent to the later franc, about twenty cents of modern Canadian currency.] The company’s agent contended that they amounted only to 29,200 livres and that the sum of 48,950 livres was exorbitant, as it exceeded by 4000 livres the highest sum ever received from farming out the revenue. [Footnote: It was the custom in New France to sell or farm out the revenues. Instead of collecting direct the fur taxes and the proceeds of the Tadoussac trade, the government granted the rights to a corporation or a private individual in return for a fixed sum annually.] To this the intendant replied by submitting evidence that the rights were farmed out for 50,000 livres in 1660 and in 1663; moreover, the rights were more valuable now, for with the conclusion of peace trade would prosper. In the end Colbert decided that the sum payable by the company should be 36,000 livres annually. The ordinary revenue of New France was thus fixed, and remained at that sum for many years.

It must not be supposed that this revenue was sufficient to meet all the expenses connected with the defence and development of the colony. There was an extraordinary fund provided by the king’s treasury and devoted to the movement and maintenance of the troops, the payment of certain special emoluments, the transport of new settlers, horses, and sheep, the construction of forts, the purchase and shipment of supplies. In 1665 this extraordinary budget amounted to 358,000 livres.

Talon’s energetic action on the question of the revenue was inspired by his knowledge of the public needs. He knew that many things requiring money had to be done. A new country like Canada could not be opened up for settlement without expense, and he thought that the traders who reaped the benefit of their monopoly should pay their due share of the outlay.

We have already seen that Talon had begun the establishment of three villages in the vicinity of Quebec. Let us briefly enumerate the principles which guided him in erecting these settlements. First of all, in deference to the king’s instructions relative to concentration, he contrived to plant the new villages as near as possible to the capital, and evolved a plan which would group the settlers about a central point and thus provide for their mutual help and defence. In pursuance of this plan he made all his Charlesbourg land grants triangular, narrow at the head, wide at the base, so that the houses erected at the head were near each other and formed a square in the centre of the settlement. In this arrangement there was originality and good sense. After more than two centuries, Talon’s idea remains stamped on the soil; and the plans of the Charlesbourg villages as surveyed in our own days show distinctly the form of settlement adopted by the intendant.

Proper dwellings were made ready to receive the new-comers. Then Talon proceeded with the establishment of settlers. To his great joy some soldiers applied for grants. He made point of having skilled workmen, some, if possible, in each village–carpenters, shoemakers, masons, or other artisans, whose services would be useful to all. He tried also to induce habitants of earlier date to join the new settlements, where their experience would be a guide and their methods an object-lesson to beginners.

The grants were made on very generous terms, The soldiers and habitants, on taking possession of their land, received a substantial supply of food and the tools necessary for their work. They were to be paid for clearing and tilling the first two acres. In return each was bound by his deed to clear and prepare for cultivation during the three or four following years another two acres, which could afterwards be allotted to an incoming settler. Talon proposed also that they should be bound to military service. For each new-comer the king assumed the total expense of clearing two acres, erecting a house, preparing and sowing the ground, and providing flour until a crop was reaped–all on condition that the occupant should clear and cultivate two additional acres within three or four years, presumably for allotment to the next new-comer.

Such were the broad lines of Talon’s colonization policy. But to his mind it was not enough that he should make regulations and issue orders; he would set up a model farm himself and thus be an example in his own person. He bought land in the neighbourhood of the St Charles river and had the ground cleared at his own expense. He erected thereon a large house, a barn, and other buildings; and, in course of time, his fine property, comprising cultivated fields, meadows, and gardens, and well stocked with domestic animals, became a source of pride to him.

Under Talon’s wise direction and encouragement, the settlement of the country progressed rapidly. Now that they could work in safety, the colonists set themselves to the task of clearing new farms. In his Relation of 1668 Father Le Mercier wrote: ‘It is fine to see new settlements on each side of the St Lawrence for a distance of eighty leagues… The fear of aggression no longer prevents our farmers from encroaching on the forest and harvesting all kinds of grain, which the soil here grows as well as in France.’ In the district of Montreal there was great activity. It was during this period that the lands of Longue-Pointe, of Pointe-aux-Trembles, and of Lachine were first cultivated. At the same time, along the river Richelieu, in the vicinity of Forts Chambly and Sorel, officers and soldiers of the Carignan-Salieres regiment were beginning to settle. ‘These worthy gentlemen,’ wrote Mother Marie de l’Incarnation, ‘are at work, with the king’s permission, establishing new French colonies. They live on their farm produce, for they have oxen, cows, and poultry.’ A census taken in 1668 gave very satisfactory figures. A year before there had been 11,448 acres under cultivation. That year there were 15,649, and wheat production amounted to 130,979 bushels. Such results were encouraging. What a change in three years!

One of the commodities most needed in the colony was hemp, for making coarse cloth. Talon accordingly caused several acres to be sown with hemp. The seed was gathered and distributed among a number of farmers, on the understanding that they would bring back an equal quantity of seed next year. Then he took a very energetic step. He seized all the thread in the shops and gave notice that nobody could procure thread except in exchange for hemp. In a word, he created a monopoly of thread to promote the production of hemp; and the policy was successful. In many other ways the intendant’s activity and zeal for the public good manifested themselves. He favoured the development of the St Lawrence fisheries and encouraged some of the colonists to devote their labour to them. Cod-fishing was attempted with good results. Shipbuilding was another industry of his introduction. In 1666, always desirous of setting an example, he built a small craft of one hundred and twenty tons. Later, he had the gratification of informing Colbert that a Canadian merchant was building a vessel for the purpose of fishing in the lower St Lawrence. During the following year six or seven ships were built at Quebec. The Relation of 1667 states that Talon ‘took pains to find wood fit for shipbuilding, which has been begun by the construction of a barge found very useful and of a big ship ready to float.’

In building and causing ships to be built the intendant had in view the extension of the colony’s trade. One of his schemes was to establish regular commercial intercourse between Canada, the West Indies, and France. The ships of La Rochelle, Dieppe, and Havre, after unloading at Quebec, would carry Canadian products to the French West Indies, where they would load cargoes of sugar for France. The intendant, always ready to show the way, entered into partnership with a merchant and shipped to the West Indies salmon, eels, salt and dried cod, peas, staves, fish-oil, planks, and small masts much needed in the islands. The establishment of commercial relations between Canada and the West Indies was an event of no small moment. During the following years this trade proved important. In 1670 three ships built at Quebec were sent to the islands with cargoes of fish, oil, peas, planks, barley, and flour. In 1672 two ships made the same voyage; and in 1681 Talon’s successor, the intendant Duchesneau, wrote to the minister that every year since his arrival two vessels at least (in one year four) had left Quebec for the West Indies with Canadian products.

The intendant was a busy man. The scope of his activity included the discovery and development of mines. There had been reports of finding lead at Gaspe, and the West India Company had made an unsuccessful search there. At Baie Saint-Paul below Quebec iron ore was discovered, and it was thought that copper and silver also would be found at the same place. In 1667 Father Allouez returned from the upper Ottawa, bringing fragments of copper which he had detached from stones on the shores of Lake Huron. Engineers sent by the intendant reported favourably of the coal-mines in Cape Breton; the specimens tested were deemed to be of very good quality. In this connection may be mentioned a mysterious allusion in Talon’s correspondence to the existence of coal where none is now to be found. In 1667 he wrote to Colbert that a coal-mine had been discovered at the foot of the Quebec rock. ‘This coal,’ he said, ‘is good enough for the forge. If the test is satisfactory, I shall see that our vessels take loads of it to serve as ballast. It would be a great help in our naval construction; we could then do without the English coal.’ Next year the intendant wrote again: ‘The coal-mine opened at Quebec, which originated in the cellar of a lower-town resident and is continued through the cape under the Chateau Saint-Louis, could not be worked, I fear, without imperilling the stability of the chateau. However, I shall try to follow another direction; for, notwithstanding the excellent mine at Cape Breton, it would be a capital thing for the ships landing at Quebec to find coal here.’ Is there actually a coal-mine at Quebec hidden in the depth of the rock which bears now on its summit Dufferin Terrace and the Chateau Frontenac? We have before us Talon’s official report. He asserts positively that coal was found there–coal which was tested, which burned well in the forge. What has become of the mine, and where is that coal? Nobody at the present day has ever heard of a coal-mine at Quebec, and the story seems incredible. But Talon’s letter is explicit. No satisfactory explanation has yet been suggested, and we confess inability to offer one here.

While reviewing the great intendant’s activities, we must not fail to mention the brewing industry in which he took the lead. In 1668 he erected a brewery near the river St Charles, on the spot at the foot of the hill where stood in later years the intendant’s palace. He meant in this way to help the grain-growers by taking part of their surplus product, and also to do something to check the increasing importation of spirits which caused so much trouble and disorder. However questionable the efficacy of beer in promoting temperance, Talon’s object is worthy of applause. Three years later the intendant wrote that his brewery was capable of turning out two thousand hogsheads of beer for exportation to the West Indies and two thousand more for home consumption. To do this it would require over twelve thousand bushels of grain annually, and would be a great support to the farmers. In the mean-time he had planted hops on his farm and was raising good crops.

Talon’s buoyant reports and his incessant entreaties for a strong and active colonial policy could not fail to enlist the sympathy of two such statesmen as Louis XIV and Colbert. This is perhaps the only period in earlier Canadian history during which the home government steadily followed a wise and energetic policy of developing and strengthening the colony. We have seen that Colbert hesitated at first to encourage emigration, but he had yielded somewhat before Talon’s urgent representations, and from 1665 to 1671 there was an uninterrupted influx of Canadian settlers. It is recorded in a document written by Talon himself that in 1665 the West India Company brought to Canada for the king’s account 429 men and 100 young women, and 184 men and 92 women in 1667. During these seven years there were in all 1828 state-aided immigrants to Canada. The young women were carefully selected, and it was the king’s wish that they should marry promptly, in order that the greatest possible number of new families should be founded. As a matter of fact, the event was in accordance with the king’s wish. In 1665 Mother Marie de l’Incarnation wrote that the hundred girls arrived that year were nearly all provided with husbands. In 1667 she wrote again: ‘This pear ninety-two girls came from France and they are already married to soldiers and labourers.’ In 1670 one hundred and fifty girls arrived, and Talon wrote on November 10: ‘All the girls who came this year are married, except fifteen whom I have placed in well-known families to await the time when the soldiers who sought them for their wives are established and able to maintain them.’ It was indeed a matrimonial period, and it is not surprising that marriage was the order of the day. Every incentive to that end was brought to bear. The intendant gave fifty livres in household supplies and some provisions to each young woman who contracted marriage. According to the king’s decree, each youth who married at or before the age of twenty was entitled to a gift of twenty livres, called ‘the king’s gift.’ The same decree imposed a penalty upon all fathers who had not married their sons at twenty and their daughters at sixteen. In the same spirit, it enacted also that all Canadians having ten children living should be entitled to a pension of three hundred livres annually; four hundred livres was the reward for twelve. ‘Marry early’ was the royal mandate. Colbert, writing to Talon in 1668, says: ‘I pray you to commend it to the consideration of the whole people, that their prosperity, their subsistence, and all that is dear to them, depend on a general resolution, never to be departed from, to marry youths at eighteen or nineteen years and girls at fourteen or fifteen; since abundance can never come to them except through the abundance of men.’ And this was not enough; Colbert went on: ‘Those who may seem to have absolutely renounced marriage should be made to bear additional burdens, and be excluded from all honours; it would be well even to add some mark of infamy.’ The unfortunate bachelor seems to have been treated somewhat as a public malefactor. Talon issued an order forbidding unmarried volontaires to hunt with the Indians or go into the woods, if they did not marry fifteen days after the arrival of the ships from France. And a case is recorded of one Francois Lenoir, of Montreal, who was brought before the judge because, being unmarried, he had gone to trade with the Indians. He pleaded guilty, and pledged himself to marry next year after the arrival of the ships, or failing that, to give one hundred and fifty livres to the church of Montreal and a like sum to the hospital. He kept his money and married within the term.

The matrimonial zeal of Colbert and Talon did not slight the noblemen and officers. Captain de la Mothe, marrying and taking up his abode in the country, received sixteen hundred livres. During the years 1665-68 six thousand livres were expended to aid the marriage of young gentlewomen without means, and six thousand to enable four captains, three lieutenants, five ensigns, and a few minor officers to settle and marry in the colony.

A word must be said as to the character of the young women. Some writers have cast unfair aspersions upon the girls sent out from France to marry in Canada. After a serious study of the question, we are in a position to state that these girls were most carefully selected. Some of them were orphans reared in charitable institutions under the king’s protection; they were called les filles du roi. The rest belonged to honest families, and their parents, overburdened with children, were willing to send them to a new country where they would be well provided for. In 1670 Colbert wrote to the archbishop of Rouen: ‘As in the parishes about Rouen fifty or sixty girls might be found who would be very glad to go to Canada to be married, I beg you to employ your credit and authority with the cures of thirty or forty of these parishes, to try to find in each of them one or two girls disposed to go voluntarily for the sake of settlement in life.’ Such was the quality of the female emigration to Canada. The girls were drawn from reputable institutions, or from good peasant families, under the auspices of the cures. During their journey to Canada they were under the care and direction of persons highly respected for their virtues and piety, such as Madame Bourdon, widow of the late attorney-general of New France, or Mademoiselle Etienne, who was appointed governess of the girls leaving for Canada by the directors of the general hospital of Paris. When young women arrived in Canada, they were either immediately married or placed for a time in good families.

The paternal policy of the minister and the intendant was favoured by the disbanding of the Carignan companies. In 1668 the regiment was recalled to France; four companies only were left in Canada to garrison the forts. The officers and soldiers of the companies withdrawn were entreated to remain as settlers, and about four hundred decided to make their home in Canada. They were generously subsidized. Each soldier electing to settle in the colony received one hundred livres, or fifty livres with provisions for one year, at his choice. Each sergeant received one hundred and fifty livres, or one hundred livres with one year’s provisions. The officers also were given liberal endowments. Among them were: Captains de Contrecoeur, de Saint-Ours, de Sorel, Dugue de Boisbriant, Lieutenants Gaultier de Varennes and Margane de la Valtrie; Ensigns Paul Dupuis, Becard de Grandville, Pierre Monet de Moras, Francois Jarret de Vercheres.

The strenuous efforts of Colbert and Talon could not but give a great impulse to population. The increase was noticeable. In November 1671 Talon wrote:

His Majesty will see by the extracts of the registers of baptisms that the number of children this year is six or seven hundred; and in the coming years we may hope for a substantial increase. There is some reason to believe that, without any further female immigration, the country will see more than one hundred marriages next year. I consider it unnecessary to send girls next year; the better to give the habitants a chance to marry their own girls to soldiers desirous of settling. Neither will it be necessary to send young ladies, as we received last year fifteen, instead of the four who were needed for wives of officers and notables.

In a former chapter the population of Canada in 1665 was given as 3215 souls, and the number of families 533. In 1668 the number of families was 1139 and the population 6282. In three years the population had nearly doubled and the number of families had more than doubled.

Other statistics may fittingly be given here. During the period under consideration, the West India Company sent to Canada for the king’s account many horses and sheep. These were badly needed in the colony. Since its first settlement there had been seen in New France only a single horse, one which had been presented by the Company of One Hundred Associates to M. de Montmagny, the governor who succeeded Champlain. But from 1665 to 1668 forty-one mares and stallions and eighty sheep were brought from France. Domestic animals continued to be introduced until 1672. Fourteen horses and fifty sheep were sent in 1669, thirteen horses in 1670, the same number of horses and a few asses in 1671. So that during these seven years Canada received from France about eighty horses. Twenty years afterwards, in 1692, there were four hundred horses in the colony. In 1698 there were six hundred and eighty-four; and in 1709 the number had so increased that the intendant Raudot issued an ordinance to restrain the multiplication of these animals.

From what has been said it will be seen that this period of Canadian history was one of great progress. What Colbert was to France Talon was to New France. While the great minister, in the full light of European publicity, was gaining fame as a financial reformer and the reviver of trade and industry, the sagacious and painstaking intendant in his remote corner of the globe was laying the foundations of an economic and political system, and opening to the young country the road of commercial, industrial, and maritime progress. Talon was a colonial Colbert. What the latter did in a wide sphere and with ample means, the former was trying to do on a small scale and with limited resources. Both have deserved a place of honour in Canadian annals.



In the preceding chapter a sketch has been given of Talon’s endeavours to promote colonization, agriculture, shipbuilding, and commerce, to increase the population, and to foster generally the prosperity of New France. Let us now see how he provided for the good administration and internal order of the colony.

In 1666 he had prepared and submitted to Tracy and Courcelle a series of rules and enactments relating to various important matters, one of which was the administration of justice. Talon wished to simplify the procedure; to make justice speedy, accessible to all, and inexpensive. In each parish he proposed to establish judges having the power to hear and decide in the first instance all civil cases involving not more than ten livres. In addition, there would be four judges at Quebec, and appeals might be taken before three of them from all decisions given by the local judges–‘unless,’ Talon added, ‘it be thought more advisable to maintain the Sieur Chartier in his charge of lieutenant-general, to which he has been appointed by the West India Company.’ It was decided that M. Chartier (de Lotbiniere) should be so maintained, and he was duly confirmed as lieutenant civil et criminel on January 10, 1667. He had jurisdiction in the first instance over all cases civil and criminal in the Quebec district and in appeal from the judgments of the local or seigneurial judges. The Sovereign Council acted as a court of appeal in the last resort, except in cases where the parties made a supreme appeal to the King’s Council of State in France. In 1669 Talon wrote a memorandum in which we find these words: ‘Justice is administered in the first instance by judges in the seigneuries; then by a lieutenant civil and criminal appointed by the company in each of the jurisdictions of Quebec and Three Rivers; and above all by the Sovereign Council, which in the last instance decides all cases where an appeal lies.’ At Montreal there was a lieutenant civil and criminal appointed by the Sulpicians, seigneurs of the island. In 1667 there were seigneurial judges in the seigneuries of Beaupre, Beauport, Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Cap-de-la-Magdeleine.

It is interesting to find that Talon attempted to establish a method of settlement out of court, the principle of which was accepted by the legislature of the province of Quebec more than two centuries later. What was called the amiable composition of the French intendant may be regarded as a first edition of the law passed at Quebec in 1899, which provides for conciliation or arbitration proceedings before a lawsuit is begun. [Footnote: 62 Vict. cap. 54, p. 271.] Talon also introduced an equitable system of land registration.

In the proceedings of the Sovereign Council, of which Talon at this time was the inspiring mind, we may see reflected the condition and internal life of the colony. Decrees for the regulation of trade were frequent. Commercial freedom was unknown. Under the administration of the governor Avaugour (1661-63) a tariff of prices had been published, which the merchants were compelled to observe. Again, in 1664 the council had decided that the merchants might charge fifty-five per cent above cost price on dry goods, one hundred per cent on the more expensive wines and spirits, and one hundred and twenty per cent on the cheaper, the cost price in France being determined by the invoice-bills. In 1666 a new tariff was enacted by the council, in which the price of one hogshead of Bordeaux wine was fixed at eighty livres, and that of Brazil tobacco at forty sous a pound. In 1667 again changes took place: on dry goods the merchants were allowed seventy per cent above cost; on spirits and wines, one hundred or one hundred and twenty per cent as in 1664. The merchants did not accept these rulings without protest. In 1664 the most important Quebec trader, Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye, was prosecuted for contravention, and made this bold declaration in favour of commercial freedom: ‘I have always deemed that I had a right to the free disposal of my own, especially when I consider that I spend in the colony what I earn therein.’ Prosecutions for violating the law were frequent. During the month of June 1667, at a sitting of the Sovereign Council, Tracy, Courcelle, Talon, and Laval being present, the attorney- general Bourdon made out a case against Jacques de la Mothe, a merchant, for having sold wines and tobacco at higher prices than those of the tariff. The defendant acknowledged that he had sold his wine at one hundred livres and his tobacco at sixty sous, but alleged that his wine was the best Bordeaux, that his hogsheads had a capacity of fully one hundred and twenty pots, that care, risk, and leakage should be taken into consideration, that two hogsheads had been spoiled, and that the price of those remaining should be higher to compensate him for their loss. As to the tobacco, it was of the Maragnan quality, and he had always deemed it impossible to sell it for less than sixty sous. After hearing the case, the council decided that two of its members, Messieurs Damours and de la Tesserie, should make an inspection at La Mothe’s store, in order to taste his wine and tobacco and gauge his hogsheads. Away they went; and afterwards they made their report. Finally La Mothe was condemned to a fine of twenty-two livres, payable to the Hotel-Dieu. It may be remarked here that very often the fines had a similar destination; in that way justice helped charity.

The magistrates were vigilant, but the merchants were cunning and often succeeded in evading the tariff. In July 1667, the habitants’ syndic appeared before the council to complain of the various devices resorted to by merchants to extort higher prices from the settlers than were allowed by law. So the council made a ruling that all merchandise should be stamped, in the presence of the syndic, according to the prices of each kind and quality, and ordered samples duly stamped in this way to be delivered to commissioners specially appointed for the purpose. It will be seen that these regulations were minute and severe. Trade was thus submitted to stern restrictions which would seem strange and unbearable in these days of freedom. What an outcry there would be if parliament should attempt now to dictate to our merchants the selling price of their merchandise! But in the seventeenth century such a thing was common enough. It was a time of extreme official interference in private affairs and transactions.

We have mentioned the syndic of the inhabitants–syndic des habitants. A word about this officer will be in place here. He was the spokesman of the community when complaints had to be made or petitions presented to the governor or the Sovereign Council. At that time in Canada there was no municipal government. True, an unlucky experiment had been made in 1663, under the governor Mezy, when a mayor and two aldermen were elected at Quebec. But their enjoyment of office was of brief duration; in a few weeks the election was declared void, It was then determined to nominate a syndic to represent the inhabitants, and on August 3 Claude Charron, a merchant, was elected to the office; but, as the habitants often had difficulties to settle with members of the commercial class, objection was taken to him on the ground that he was a tradesman, and he retired. On September 17 a new election took place, and Jean Le Mire, a carpenter, was elected. Later on, during the troubles of the Mezy regime, the office seems to have been practically abolished; but when the government was reorganized, it was thought advisable to revive it. The council decreed another election, and on March 20, 1667, Jean Le Mire was again chosen as syndic. Le Mire continued to hold the office for many years.

To the colony of that day the Sovereign Council was, broadly speaking, what the legislatures, the executives, the courts of justice, and the various commissions–all combined–are to modern Canada. But, as we have seen, it had arbitrary powers that these modern bodies are not permitted to exercise. Its long arm reached into every concern of the inhabitants. In 1667, for example, the habitants asked for a regulation to fix the millers’ fee–the amount of the toll to which they would be entitled for grinding the grain. The owners of the flour-mills represented that the construction, repair, and maintenance of their mills were two or three times more costly in Canada than in France, and that they should have a proportionate fee; still, they would be willing to accept the bare remuneration usually allowed in the kingdom. The toll was fixed at one-fourteenth of the grain. Highways were also under the care of the council. When the residents of a locality presented a petition for opening a road, the council named two of its members to make an inspection and report. On receipt of the report, an order would be issued for opening a road along certain lines and of a specified width (it was often eighteen feet), and for pulling stumps and filling up hollows. There was an official called the grand-voyer, or general overseer of roads. The office had been established in 1657, when Rene Robineau de Becancourt was appointed grand-voyer by the Company of One Hundred Associates. But in the wretched state of the colony at that time M. de Becancourt had not much work to do. In later years, however, the usefulness of a grand-voyer had become more apparent, and Becancourt asked for a confirmation of his appointment. On the suggestion of Talon, the council reinstated him and ordered that his commission be registered. During the whole French regime there were but five general overseers of roads or grands-voyers: Rene Robineau de Becancourt (1657-99); Pierre Robineau de Becancourt (1699-1729); E. Lanoullier de Boisclerc (1731-51); M. de la Gorgendiere (1751-59); M. de Lino (1759-60).

Guardianship of public morality and the maintenance of public order were the chief cares of the council. It was ever intent on the suppression of vice. On August 20, 1667, in the presence of Tracy, Courcelle, Talon, and Laval, the attorney-general submitted information of scandalous conduct on the part of some women and girls, and represented that a severe punishment would be a wholesome warning to all evil-doers; he also suggested that the wife of Sebastien Langelier, being one of the most disorderly, should be singled out for an exemplary penalty. A councillor was immediately appointed to investigate the case. What was done in this particular instance is not recorded, but there is evidence to show that licentious conduct was often severely dealt with. Crimes and misdemeanours were ruthlessly pursued. For a theft committed at night in the Hotel-Dieu garden, the intendant condemned a man to be marked with the fleur-de-lis, to be exposed for four hours in the pillory, and to serve three years in the galleys. Another culprit convicted of larceny was sentenced to be publicly whipped and to serve three years in the galleys. Both these prisoners escaped and returned to their former practices. They were recaptured and sentenced, the first to be hanged, the second to be whipped, marked with the fleur-de-lis, and kept in irons until further order. Rape in the colony was unhappily frequent. A man convicted of this crime was condemned to death and executed two days later. Another was whipped till the blood flowed and condemned to serve nine years in the galleys.

Let us now turn to activities of another order. One of the most important ordinances enacted by the Sovereign Council under Talon’s direction was that which concerned the importation of spirits and the establishment in the colony of the brewing industry. It was stated in this decree that the great quantity of brandies and wines imported from France was a cause of debauchery. Many were diverted from productive work, their health was ruined, they were induced to squander their money, and prevented from buying necessaries and supplies useful for the development of the colony. Talon, as we have read in another chapter, thought that one of the best means of combating the immoderate use of spirits was the setting up of breweries; at the same time he intended that this industry should help agriculture. The Sovereign Council entered into these views and enacted that as soon as breweries should be in operation in Canada all importation of wines and spirits should be prohibited, except by special permission and subject to a tax of five hundred livres, payable one-third to the seigneurs of the country, one-third to the Hotel-Dieu, and one-third to the person who had set up the first brewery after the date of the enactment. Under no circumstances should the yearly importation exceed eight hundred hogsheads of wine and four hundred of brandy. When this amount had been reached, no further licences to import would be issued. The council begged Talon to take the necessary steps for the construction and equipment of one or more breweries. The owners of these were to have, during ten years, the exclusive privilege of brewing for trading purposes. The price of beer was fixed beforehand at twenty livres per hogshead and six sous per pot so long as barley was priced at three livres per bushel or less; if the price of barley went higher, the price of beer should be raised proportionately.

In 1667 the Sovereign Council–inspired by Talon–had to discuss a very important question. This was the formation of a company of Canadians to secure the exclusive privilege of trading. By its charter, the West India Company had been granted the commercial monopoly. Under pressure from Talon it had somewhat abated its pretensions and had allowed freedom of trade for a time. But again it was urging its rights. The council asked the intendant to support with his influence at court the plan for a Canadian company, which he did. Colbert did not say no; neither did he seem in a hurry to grant the request. In 1668 the council sent the minister a letter praying for freedom of trade. This year the company had enforced its monopoly and the people had suffered from the lack of necessaries, which could not be found in the company’s stores; moreover, prices were exceedingly high. Such a state of things was detrimental to the colony. The council begged that, if Colbert were not disposed to grant freedom of trade, he would favourably consider the scheme for a trading company composed of Canadians, which had been submitted to him the year before. We shall see, later on, what came of this agitation against the West India Company.

The good understanding between the intendant and the Sovereign Council was absolute. The council had shown unequivocal confidence in Talon’s ability and respect for his person and authority. A few days before the Marquis de Tracy had left the colony the council had ordered that all petitions to enter lawsuits should be presented to the intendant, who should assign them to the council or to the lieutenant civil and criminal, or try them himself, at his discretion. This was treating Talon as the supreme magistrate and acknowledging him as the dispenser of justice. M. de Courcelle, who was beginning to feel some uneasiness at Talon’s great authority and prestige, refused to sign the proceedings of that day, inscribing these lines in the council’s register: ‘This decree being against the governor’s authority and the public good, I did not wish to sign it.’ At the beginning of the following year Talon, whose attention perhaps had not been called to Courcelle’s written protest, requested the adoption of a similar decree; and the council did not hesitate to confirm its previous decision, notwithstanding the governor’s former opposition, which he reiterated in the same terms. Courcelle was certainly mistaken in supposing that the council’s decision was an encroachment on his authority. The superior jurisdiction in judicial matters belonged to the intendant. Under his commission he had the right to ‘judge alone and with full jurisdiction in civil matters,’ to ‘hear all cases of crimes and misdemeanours, abuse and malversation, by whomsoever committed,’ to ‘proceed against all persons guilty of any crime, whatever might be their quality or condition, to pursue the proceedings until final completion, judgment and execution thereof.’ Nevertheless, in practice and with due regard to the good administration of justice, the council’s decree went perhaps too far. The question remained in abeyance and was not settled until four years afterwards, at the end of Talon’s second term in Canada. He had written to Colbert on the subject stating that he would be glad to be discharged of the judicial responsibility, and to see the question of initiating lawsuits referred to the Sovereign Council.

As a matter of fact [he said], receiving the petitions for entering lawsuits does not mean retaining them before myself. I have not judged twenty cases, civil or criminal, since I came here, having always tried as much as I could to conciliate the opposing parties. The reason why I speak now of this matter is that very often, for twenty or thirty livres of principal, a plaintiff goes before the judge of first instance–which diverts the parties from the proper cultivation of their farms–and later on, by way of an appeal, before the Sovereign Council which likes to hear and judge cases.

Colbert did not deem the decision of the council advisable.

It is contrary [he wrote] to the order of justice, in virtue of which, leaving in their own sphere the superior judges, the judges of first instance are empowered to hear all cases within their jurisdiction, and their judgments can be appealed from to the Sovereign Council. Moreover it would be a burden for the king’s subjects living far from Quebec to go there unnecessarily in order to ascertain before what tribunal they should be heard.

We must now speak of a most important matter–the brandy traffic. The sale of intoxicating liquor to the Indians had always been prohibited in the colony. In 1657 a decree of the King’s State Council had ratified and renewed this prohibition under pain of corporal punishment. Yet, notwithstanding the decree, greedy traders broke the law and, for the purpose of getting furs at a low price, supplied the Indians with eau-de-feu, or firewater, which made them like wild beasts. The most frightful disorders were prevalent, the most heinous crimes committed, and scandalous demoralization followed. In 1660 the evil was so great that Mgr de Laval, exercising his pastoral functions, decreed excommunication against all those pursuing the brandy traffic in defiance of ordinances. This might have stopped the progress of the evil had not the governor Avaugour opened the door to renewed disorder two years later by a most unfortunate policy. Thereupon Laval crossed the ocean to France, obtained the governor’s recall, and succeeded, though with some difficulty, in maintaining the former prohibition. In 1663 the Sovereign Council enacted an ordinance strictly forbidding the selling or giving of brandy to Indians directly or indirectly, for any reason or pretence whatsoever. The penalty for the offence was a fine of three hundred livres, payable one-third to the informers, one-third to the Hotel-Dieu, and one-third to the public treasury. And for a second offence the punishment was whipping or banishment. In 1667, after the Sovereign Council had been finally reorganized, the prohibition was renewed, on a motion of attorney-general Bourdon, under the same penalties as before, and it devolved many times upon the council to condemn transgressors of this ordinance to fines, imprisonment, or corporal punishment. Talon was present and concurred in these condemnations. But gradually his mind changed. He was becoming daily more impressed with the material benefits of the brandy traffic and less convinced of its moral danger. He was besides displeased with the bishop’s excommunication. In his view it was an encroachment of the spiritual upon the civil power. Under the influence of these feelings he came to consider prohibition of the liquor traffic as a mistake, damaging to the trade and progress of the colony and to French influence over the Indian tribes. These were the arguments put forward by the supporters of the traffic. According to them, to refuse brandy to the Indians was to let the English monopolize the profitable fur trade, and therefore to check the development of New France. The fur trade provided an abundance of beaver skins, which formed a most convenient medium of exchange. The possession of these gave an impetus to trade, and brought to Canada a number of merchants and others who were consumers of natural products and money spenders. Moreover, in Canada furs were the main article of exportation. Their abundance swelled the public revenue and increased the number of ships employed in the Canadian trade. And last, to use an argument of a higher order, the brandy traffic, in fostering trade with the Indian tribes, kept them in the bonds of an alliance and strengthened the political situation of France in North America.

The above fairly, we think, represents the substance of the plea made by the supporters of the liquor traffic. Such indeed were the arguments used by the traders, finally accepted by Talon, developed in after years by Frontenac, approved by Colbert on many occasions; such was the political and commercial wisdom of those who thought mainly of the material progress of New France. To those arguments Laval, the clergy, and many enlightened persons interested in the public welfare had a double answer. First, there was at stake a question of principle important enough to be the sole ground of a decision. Was it right, for the sake of a material benefit, to outrage natural and Christian morality? Was it morally lawful, for the purpose of loading with furs the Quebec stores and the Rochelle ships, to instil into the Indian veins the accursed poison which inflamed them to theft, rape, incest, murder, suicide–all the frightful frenzy of bestial passion. As it was practised, the liquor traffic could have no other result. A powerful consensus of evidence established this truth above all discussion. For the Indians brandy was then, as it is now, a murderous poison. It is for this reason that at the present day the government of Canada prohibits absolutely the sale of intoxicating liquor in the territories where the wretched remnants of the aborigines are gathered. The strictness of the modern laws is a striking vindication of Laval and those who stood by him.

Moreover the prohibition of the brandy traffic was not as detrimental to the material development of the colony as was contended. It was possible to trade with the Outaouais, the Algonquins, the Iroquois, without the allurement of brandy. The Indians themselves acknowledged that strong liquor ruined them. The Abbe Dollier de Casson, superior of the Montreal Sulpicians, was perfectly right when he made the following statement:

We should have had all the Iroquois, if they had not seen that there is as much disorder here as in their country, and that we are even worse than the heretics. The Indian drunkard does not resist the drinking craze when brandy is at hand. But afterwards, when he sees himself naked and disarmed, his nose gnawed, his body maimed and bruised, he becomes mad with rage against those who caused him to fall into such a state.

Some years later the governor Denonville answered those who enlarged on the danger of throwing the Indians on the friendship of the Dutch and English if they were refused brandy. ‘Those who maintain,’ he said, ‘that if we refuse liquor to the Indians they will go to the English, are not trustworthy, for the Indians are not anxious to drink when they do not see the liquor; and the most sensible of them wish that brandy had never existed, because they ruin themselves in giving away their furs and even their clothes for drink: Denonville’s opinion was the more justified in that at one time the New England authorities proposed to the French a joint prohibition of the sale of brandy to Indians, and actually passed an ordinance to that effect.

There were many other articles besides brandy that were needed by the Indians, and for which they were obliged to exchange their furs. But even had the prohibition caused a decrease in the fur trade, would the evil have been so great? Fewer colonists would have been diverted from agriculture. As it was, the exodus from the settlements of bushrangers in search of furs was a source of weakness, and the flower of Canadian youth disappeared every year in the wilderness. Had this drain of national vitality been avoided, the settlement of Canada would have been more rapid. Even from the material point of view it can be maintained that the opponents of the brandy traffic understood better than its supporters the true interests of New France.

For a long while this important question divided and agitated the Canadian people. The religious authorities, knowing the evil and crimes that resulted from the sale of intoxicating liquor to the Indians, made strenuous efforts to secure the most severe restriction if not the prohibition of the deadly traffic. They spoke in the name of public morality and national honour, of humanity and divine love. The civil authorities, more interested in the financial and political advantages than in the question of principle, favoured toleration and even authorization of the trade. Hence the conflicts and misunderstandings which have enlivened, or rather saddened, the pages of Canadian history.

It is to be regretted that the intendant Talon sided with the supporters of free traffic in brandy. We have said that at first he wavered. The rulings of the Sovereign Council in 1667 seem to show it. But his earnest desire for the prosperity of the colony–the development of her trade, the increase of her population, the improvement of her finances–his ambition for the economic progress of New France, misled him and perverted his judgment. This is the only excuse that can be offered for the greatest error of his life. For he must be held responsible for the ordinance passed by the Sovereign Council on November 10, 1668. This ordinance, after setting forth that in order to protect the Indians against the curse of drunkenness it was better to have recourse to freedom than to leave them a prey to the wily devices of unscrupulous men, enacted that thereafter, with the king’s permission, all the residents of New France might sell and deliver intoxicating liquor to the Indians willing to trade with them. The gate was opened. It was in vain that the ordinance went on to forbid the Indians to get drunk under a penalty of two beavers and exposure in the pillory. A fearful punishment indeed!

Talon’s good faith was undeniable. On this occasion he doubtless thought that he was still serving the cause of public welfare. But, without questioning his intentions, we cannot but admit that his life’s record contains pages more admirable than this one.



In the instructions which Talon had received from Louis XIV on his departure from France in 1665 it was stated that Mgr de Laval and the Jesuits exercised too strong an authority and that the superiority of the civil power should be cautiously asserted. The intendant was quite ready to follow these directions. He had been reared in the principles of the old parliamentarian school and was thoroughly imbued with Gallican ideas. But at the same time he was a sincere believer and faithful in the performance of his religious duties. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should be found ever earnest in his endeavours to promote the extension of Christianity and ready to protect the missionaries, as well as the charitable and educational institutions, in their work. Neither is it surprising that he should sometimes seem jealous of ecclesiastical influence in matters where Church and State were both concerned.

The following incident will show to what lengths he was prepared to go when he thought that there was an encroachment of the spiritual on the civil power. The winter of 1667 was very gay at Quebec. Peace had been secured, confidence in the future of the colony was restored, and there manifested itself a general disposition to indulge in social festivities. Indeed the first ball ever given in Canada took place in February of this year at M. Chartier de Lotbiniere’s house, as is recorded in the Journal des Jesuites. Now there was at this time in Quebec a religious association for women called the Association of the Holy Family. Laval himself had framed their rules, one of which directed the members to abstain from frivolous entertainments and to lead a pious and edifying life amidst the distractions and dissipations of the world. Seeing that many members of the association had departed from the rules by taking part in these pleasures, Laval threatened to suspend their meetings. Naturally a strong impression was made on the public mind. Talon resented what he deemed an undue interference. He laid a complaint against the bishop’s action before the Sovereign Council and asked that two of their number be directed to report on the social entertainments held during the last carnival, in order to show that nothing improper had taken place. When the report was made, it declared that nothing deserving of condemnation had occurred in these festivities, and that there was no occasion to censure them. Evidently, if there was encroachment upon this occasion, it was encroachment of