THE SETTLEMENT OF NEW FRANCE
Quebec has played a special role in French history; the modern province occupies much of the land where French settlers founded the colony of Canada (New France) in the 17th and 18th centuries. The population is predominantly French-speaking and Roman Catholic, with a large Anglophone minority. Historically, British merchants and financiers controlled the economy, and dominated Montreal. The Catholic Church, in close cooperation with the landowners, led a highly traditional social structure in rural and small town Quebec. Much of that changed during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Quebec’s separatists, calling for an independent nation, gained strength, but were narrowly defeated in two referenda. Quebec imposed increasingly stringent laws favouring the French language; many Anglophones left, as did many of the national and international corporations that had been based in Montreal.
Note: “dit names” or nicknames are a common occurrence in the population of New France. “…the use of nicknames, often referred to as “dit names”, because they are introduced in French by the word “dit” meaning “said”, which abound in the nominative history of old Quebec. They have many origins: military nickname, sobriquet related to a physical characteristic, immigrant’s place of origin, name of fief for nobles, mother’s family name, father’s first name, and so on. Some go back to the ancestor, while others are introduced by descendants; some are transmitted, others not; some belong to an entire family line, while others concern only a single branch.”
Prehistory–1533. Aboriginal settlements were located across the area of present-day Quebec before the arrival of Europeans. In the northernmost areas of the province, Inuit communities can be found.
The aboriginal cultures of present-day Quebec are diverse, with their own languages, way of life, economies, and religious beliefs. Before contact with Europeans, they did not have a written language, and passed their history and other cultural knowledge along to each generation through oral tradition. Today around three-quarters of Quebec’s aboriginal populations lives in small communities scattered throughout the rural areas of the province, with some living on reserves.
Early French exploration (1508–1607). In 1508, only 16 years after the first voyage of Christopher Columbus, Thomas Auber, who was likely part of a fishing trip near Newfoundland, brought back a few Amerindians to France. This indicates that in the early 16th century, French navigators ventured in the gulf of the St. Lawrence, along with the Basques and the Spaniards who did the same. When Jacques Cartier made his first contacts with the Amerindians (St. Lawrence Iroquoians), they came to him in their boats to offer him furs. This encourages us to believe that this was not the first meeting of Amerindians and Europeans.
Jacques Cartier’s voyages. On June 24, 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier planted a cross on the Gaspé Peninsula and took possession of the territory in the name of King François I of France
On his second voyage on May 26, 1535, Cartier sailed upriver to the St. Lawrence Iroquoian villages of Stadacona, near present-day Quebec City where he established an ill-fated colony, and Hochelaga, near present-day Montreal. Linguists and archaeologists have determined these people were distinct from the Iroquoian nations encountered by later French and Europeans, such as the five nations of the Haudenosaunee. Their language was Laurentian, one of the Iroquoian family. By the late 16th century, they had disappeared from the St. Lawrence Valley.
In 1541, Jean-François Roberval became lieutenant of New France and had the responsibility to build a new colony in America. It was Cartier who established the first French settlement on American soil, Charlesbourg Royal.
France was disappointed after the three voyages of Cartier and did not want to invest further large sums in an adventure with such uncertain outcome. A period of disinterest in the new world on behalf of the French authorities followed. Only at the very end of the 16th century interest in these northern territories was renewed.
Still, even during the time when France did not send official explorers, Breton and Basquefishermen came to the new territories to stock up on codfish and whale oil. Since they were forced to stay for a longer period of time, they started to trade their metal objects for fur provided by the indigenous people. This commerce became profitable and thus the interest in the territory was revived.
Fur commerce made a permanent residence in the country worthwhile. Good relations with the aboriginal providers were necessary. For some fishermen however, a seasonal presence was sufficient. Commercial companies were founded that tried to further the interest of the Crown in colonizing the territory. They demanded that France grant a monopoly to one single company. In return, this company would also take over the colonization of the French American territory. Thus, it would not cost the king much money to build the colony. On the other hand, other merchants wanted commerce to stay unregulated. This controversy was a big issue at the turn of the 17th century.
New France (1534–1759)
Modern Quebec was part of the territory of New France, the general name for the North American possessions of France until 1763. At its largest extent, before the Treaty of Utrecht, this territory included several colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, and Louisiana.
The borders of these colonies were not precisely defined, and were open on the western side.
Early years (1608–1663). Three quarters of a century after being explored by Jacques Cartier and unsuccessfully colonized by Roberval, Samuel de Champlain laid out the foundation of French Canada.
1608: Quebec City was founded in by Samuel de Champlain. Some other towns were founded before, most famously Tadoussac in 1604 which still exists today, but Quebec was the first to be meant as a permanent settlement and not a simple trading post. Over time, it became the capital of Canada and all of New France.
The first version of the town was a single large walled building, called the Habitation. A similar Habitation was established in Port Royal in 1605, in Acadia. This arrangement was made for protection against perceived threats from the indigenous people. The difficulty of supplying the city of Quebec from France and the lack of knowledge of the area meant that life was hard. A significant fraction of the population died of hunger and diseases during the first winter. However, agriculture soon expanded and a continuous flow of immigrants, mostly men in search of adventure, increased the population. Alliances with the Algonquin, Huron and Montagnais tribes for control of the fur trade were made.
The French quickly established trading posts throughout their territory, trading for fur with aboriginal hunters. The coureur des bois, who were freelance traders, explored much of the area themselves. They kept trade and communications flowing through a vast network along the rivers of the hinterland. This network was inherited by the English and Scottish traders after the fall of the French Empire in Quebec, and many of the courier des bois became voyageurs for the British.
1611: A European colony is established by Champlain on the Island of Montréal (Ville Marie).
1617: Louis Hébert and his family (wife, Marie Rollet) settle at Quebec.
From the beginning, it was about furs, beaver pelts that were made into hats for those who could afford them in Europe. The demand was there, beavers were plentiful in Canada, and the native people were willing to trade their labour and land’s resource for metal implements and glass trinkets. Knives and copper pots were popular.
Aside from Louis Hébert, the first inhabitants of the settlement of New France were interpreters, clerks and workmen employed by the merchants who arrived yearly to barter for furs. Some early families were Pierre DesPortes… his wife, Françoise Langlois (1614), Jacques Hertel (1613 or 1615), Abraham Martin… his wife, Marguerite Langlois (1614), Jean Nicolet (1618), Michel LeNeuf du Hérisson (1627), and Jean Godefroy de Lintot (1626)
England and Holland also had their eyes on the fur industry, and some of the native people were hostile. The French merchants, like Michel LeNeuf, argued against settlements as they were only interested in the profits of trading. Farmers and Jesuits, they argued, would only complicate the situation. Even so, France realized they would need permanent settlements and trading posts if anything was to be accomplished.
July 1619. Champlain prevailed, and the first 80 passengers – missionaries, clerks, officers, craftsmen, and labourers – arrived in Québec. Louis Hébert and his family were there to greet them. Jean Nicolet was living among the Algonquin on an island in the Ottawa River learning their language and building alliances.
1620: Champlain takes on the role of governor of New France. All the time working at getting funding and supplies for the new settlements, and people interested in becoming a part of it all.
Abraham Martin (b. 1589 in Dieppe, Normandy France; d. 8 Sept. 1664 at Quebec).
Martin arrived in New France with his wife, Marguerite Langlois, her sister Françoise and brother-in-law Pierre Desportes (the parents of Hélène Desportes) about 1620 and became one of the first families to settle near Quebec City.
There is no definitive explanation of his nickname of “the Scot”. It may indicate the street he lived on in France. Martin may have been of Scottish descent or he might have used the sobriquet if he had been enrolled in military service or had been a member of an illegal organization: such names were used to avoid detection by officials looking for deserted soldiers or in case the records of an illegal organization were seized. It is also possible that he acquired the name because he had made several voyages to Scotland as a young man. There is some question as to whether Martin was really an official pilot or not, although he was referred to as “king’s pilot” in his own day. However, he did fish well down into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
It is presumed that the Plains (or Heights) of Abraham are named after Martin.
Champlain was the godfather of their daughter Helene.
Back in 1629 England and France were still fighting for control of the North American lands. In that year the Kirke brothers captured Quebec for England. Champlain, Letardif, Martin and Langlois sailed to France, returning to Quebec in 1633 when Quebec was once again under French control.
1625: Arrival of the Jesuits in Quebec. But, ordinary French folks seemed not eager to settle in the wilds of Canada. They would arrive one spring and return to France the next. In the year 1625 or so, there were only 7 settled families composed of 20 persons: 7 men, 7 women and 6 children.
1627: After meeting with Samuel de Champlain, Cardinal Richelieu granted a charter to the Company of One Hundred Associates. This gave the company control over the booming fur trade and land rights across the territory in exchange for the company supporting and expanding settlement in New France (at the time encompassing Acadia, Quebec, Newfoundland, and Louisiana). Specific clauses in the charter included a requirement to bring 4000 settlers into New France over the next 15 years. The company largely ignored the settlement requirements of their charter and focused on the lucrative fur trade, only 300 settlers arriving before 1640.
1628: In the spring, Robert Giffard of Normandy sailed for New France with the first group of about 300 settlers along with supplies for the new settlement. The vessel he was travelling in is intercepted by pirates in the pay of the English. He and the settlers have to return to France.
1629-1631: Back in 1629 England and France were still fighting for control of the North American lands.
The early years of the company’s rule were disastrous for Quebec. Because of war with England, the first two convoys of ships and settlers bound for the colony were waylaid near Gaspé by British privateers under the command of three French-Scottish Huguenot brothers, David, Louis and Thomas Kirke. Quebec was effectively cut off. On 19 July 1629, with Quebec completely out of supplies and no hope of relief, Champlain surrendered Quebec to the Kirkes without a fight. Champlain and other colonists were taken to England, where they learned that peace had been agreed (in the 1629 Treaty of Suza) before Quebec’s surrender, and the Kirkes were obliged to return their takings. However, they refused. With Quebec in English hands, most settlers return to France.
1632: Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye – Quebec and all other captured French possessions in North America were returned to New France. Champlain was restored as de facto governor. Champlain, Letardif, Martin and Langlois sailed to France, returning to Quebec in 1633 when Quebec was once again under French control. Champlain died three years later.
1639-41: New orders of Roman Catholic nuns began appearing in the seventeenth century and became a permanent feature of Quebec society. The Ursuline Sisters arrived in Quebec City in 1639, and in Montreal in 1641. They spread as well to small towns. They had to overcome harsh conditions, uncertain funding, and unsympathetic authorities as they engaged in educational and nursing functions. They attracted endowments and became important landowners in Quebec.
During the 1759 Quebec Campaign of the Seven Years’ War, nuns managed the Hôpital Général in Quebec City and oversaw the care of hundreds of wounded soldiers from both the French and British forces. The British generals came to the hospital to assure them of their protection and at the same time made them responsible for their sick and wounded. Most civilians deserted the city, leaving the Hôpital Général as a refugee centre for the poor who had nowhere to go. The nuns set up a mobile aid station that reached out to the cities refugees, distributing food and treating the sick and injured.
The Catholic Church was given en seigneurie large and valuable tracts of land estimated at nearly 30% of all the lands granted by the French Crown in New France.
1640: the Iroquois destroyed the Huron nation in a war.
1641: On the verge of bankruptcy, the company lost its fur trade monopoly in and was finally dissolved in 1662.
But, the pattern is the same… these early adventurers were people of means and all were educated to the standards of the day. Most did not arrive in Canada with the idea to create a new culture or even a new France. They, like the other Europeans: Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch, were interested primarily in exploiting the continent. In Canada, however, there was little of value to export other than furs and a long held belief that there would be a shortcut to the orient. What Champlain and other “men of discovery” before him found in North America was primeval forest and a wilderness barely disturbed by the people living there.
1662: Pierre Boucher returned to France to solicit the support of Louis XIV and Colbert to save the threatened colony from the Iroquois, the raids and massacres and sheer terrorism was about to end the notion of colonization in the new world for the French. Farming had become almost impossible in the settlements of Montréal and Trois-Rivières. People going in the fields to work had to have armed guards with them, militia or fellow citizens. It seemed every tree had a warrior lurking behind it. The raids were fast and furious, always leaving blood and fire in their wake.
Pierre Boucher describes the situation: “They can set up an ambush anywhere; a small bush can conceal six or seven of these barbarians…We are always in fear that some unfortunate man not be able to work in safety if he wanders off the least distance. A woman lives with the constant fear that her husband, who has left that morning to work, will be killed or captured and that she will never see him again.”
From the Jesuit Relations: “They come like foxes through the woods, they attack like lions, they take flight like birds. They would pass before Quebec in broad noonday and no one could pursue them or recover the prisoners.”
As a result of Boucher’s meeting with King Louis XIV, he was promised help. In 1662, two ships arrived in Canada with 100 soldiers. A start. The power of the Company of 100 Associates was withdrawn. Another step forward. However, it was only in 1663, when King Louis XIV took charge, did the colony prosper.
1665: The long sought-after help in protecting the colony materialized with the arrival of the Carignan Regiment, twelve hundred strong of well trained soldiers that summer changed the situation dramatically. With the help of the local militia, they, within a year, put an end to the Indian War. Although there was the occasional renegade and marauder still plying the woods, the Colony was now at peace, and had a population of approximately four thousand souls.
Better than 400 soldiers and officers decided to become settlers in Canada after the Carignan Regiment was recalled to France in 1667. This was encouraged and they were given bonuses, and sometimes a promise of land if they chose to remain. In many family trees, there are several soldiers and officers.
The Carignan-Salières Regiment. The pleas of the colonists of New France for assistance in their struggle with the Iroquois were answered in 1665 with the arrival of the first French regular troops in Canada, the Carignan-Salières Regiment. Between June and September 1665, some 1200 soldiers and their officers arrived in Quebec, under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville, Sieur de Tracy.
The series of forts established by the Regiment along the Richelieu River, along with the success of its second campaign into the land of the Mohawk Indians, led to a long period of peace for the colony, which permitted it to prosper. However, King Louis XIV’s plan included the permanent settlement of many of the soldiers and officers in Canada. Over 450 of these troops remained in the colony, many of whom married the newly arrived filles du roi.
Most persons of French Canadian descent can claim one or more of these brave soldiers as ancestors. In addition to the list of soldiers and officers on the official “roll” of the Regiment, there were many others who participated in the successful campaign against the Iroquois, including many militiamen who resided in the colony but whose names were not recorded for posterity. We honor all these 17th century men who paved the way for growth and prosperity of New France.
By the end of the 17th century, a census showed that around 10,000 French settlers were farming along the lower St. Lawrence Valley. By 1700, fewer than 20,000 people of French origin were settled in New France, extending from Newfoundland to the Mississippi, with the pattern of settlement following the networks of the cod fishery and fur trade, although most Quebec settlers were farmers.
1663–1760: Sovereign Council. The establishment of the Conseil souverain, political restructuring which turned New France into a province of France, ended the period of company rule and marked a new beginning in the colonization effort.
1756–1760: British conquest. In the middle of the 18th century, British North America had grown to be close to a full-fledged independent country, something they would actually become a few decades later, with more than 1 million inhabitants. Meanwhile, New France was still seen mostly as a cheap source of natural resources for the metropolis, and had only 60,000 inhabitants. Nevertheless, New France was territorially larger than the Thirteen Colonies, but had a population less than 1/10 the size. There was warfare along the borders, With the French supporting Indian raids into the American colonies.
The earliest battles of the French and Indian War occurred in 1754 and soon widened into the worldwide Seven Years’ War. The territory of New France at that time included parts of present-day Upstate New York, and a series of battles were fought there. The French military enjoyed early successes in these frontier battles, gaining control over several strategic points in 1756 and 1757.
The British sent substantial military forces, while the Royal Navy controlled the Atlantic, preventing France from sending much help. In 1758 the British captured Louisbourg, gaining control over the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and also took control of key forts on the frontier in battles at Frontenac and Duquesne. In spite of the spectacular defeat of the supposed main British thrust in the Battle of Carillon (in which a banner was supposedly carried that inspired the modern flag of Quebec), the French military position was poor.
In the next phase of the war, begun in 1759, the British aimed directly at the heart of New France. General James Wolfe led a fleet of 49 ships holding 8,640 British troops to the fortress of Quebec. They disembarked on Île d’Orléans and on the south shore of the river; the French forces under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Saint-Veran, held the walled city and the north shore. Wolfe laid siege to the city for more than two months, exchanging cannon fire over the river, but neither side could break the siege. As neither side could expect resupply during the winter, Wolfe moved to force a battle. On 5 September 1759, after successfully convincing Montcalm he would attack by the Bay of Beauport east of the city, the British troops crossed close to Cap-Rouge, west of the city, and successfully climbed the steep Cape Diamond undetected. Montcalm, for disputed reasons, did not use the protection of the city walls and fought on open terrain, in what would be known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. The battle was short and bloody; both leaders died in battle, but the British easily won. Now in possession of the main city and capital, and further isolating the inner cities of Trois-Rivières and Montreal from France, the rest of the campaign was only a matter of slowly taking control of the land. While the French had a tactical victory in the Battle of Sainte-Foyoutside Quebec in 1760, attempts to resupply the military were dashed in the naval Battle of Restigouche, and Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnial, New France’s last Royal governor, surrendered Montreal on 8 September 1760.
Britain’s success in the war forced France to cede all of Canada to the British at the Treaty of Paris. The Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763 by King George III of Great Britain set out the terms of government for the newly captured territory, as well as defining the geographic boundaries of the territory. British rule lasted until 1867.