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tenements all over Canada, with the confirmation of the Intendant, and to give twenty-five licenses a year, to such persons as he might select, for trading with the Indians. In criminal jurisdiction, he had the power of granting reprieves. He was, however, not authorized to dispose of the King's money, without the consent of the Intendant, to whom alone belonged the power of drawing it from the “Naval Treasury.” Among the privileges of the Governor-General, was that of the exemption from duty of all his wines, and other provisions received from France.
The “ Supreme Council” of Canada consisted of twelve members, who had the right of conveying their places to their heirs, subject, however, to the confirmation of the King. They constituted the highest judicial authority, deciding causes without appeal, though, when any complex question came up, they generally had recourse to the aid of the extensive and accurate knowledge of the Jesuits. In making treaties with foreign powers and the Indian tribes, the aid of the Jesuits was likewise commonly in request, on account of their acquaintance with the topography of the country, as well as their great influence with the Indians. Their power, in fact, was felt through every department of the Colonial Government.
When the Baron La Hontan visited Quebec, in 1684, no attorneys or advocates appeared in Court. The litigant parties argued their own causes, and the result was,
that suits were quickly brought to a termination. No court fees or other charges were demanded. The judges received four hundred livres a year from the crown, and had a dispensation " of not wearing the robe and the cap.” Besides the officers already named, there was also a Lieutenant-General, civil and military, an Attorney-General, a Chief Justice in Eyre, and a Grand Provost. The pay of the inferior officers was small. The Mayor of Quebec was allowed a salary of six hundred crowns; the Governor of Montreal two thousand ; the Governor of Trois Rivières a thousand. A chaplain had a hundred and twenty livres a month, a lieutenant ninety, and a common soldier's pay was six sous a day.
The fur trade was the principal subject of mercantile enterprise at that time. The indigent men, who had emigrated from France, in order to prosecute this traffic, were numerous, and their trading posts were established at those points,
where the Indians were in the habit of resorting, on the principal streams, as well as the upper lakes. In fact, this lake region has been the prominent seat of the fur trade, and the scene of its most extraordinary incidents, from that time down to the last meeting of the Northwest Company at Fort William, on the banks of Lake Superior. The principal article of the traffic was beaver skins. It appears, that during the early stages of the French fur trade, there was great improvidence on the part of the Colonial Government in its regulation. The fur-bearing animals were permitted to be killed for amusement, and the Indians, who at first could not appreciate their value, were encouraged to do their part of this
The most valuable furs were accumulated at posts, where they could not be disposed of, and were destroyed for want of a market, while the forests were exhausted of that, which has since been found a vast source of national wealth. As the French market was thus glutted with peltries, the merchants declined buying more ; and the traders therefore transported a large amount to the English provinces, and had permanent establishments in the Province of New York. * From this traffic arose the class of Coureurs des bois, a thriftless and vagrant body of men, who had become habituated to the hardships of the forest and to Indian life. They were accustomed to advance up the northern lakes, to Michilimackinac and even beyond, with their large canoes laden with dry goods and trinkets, and to range the woods of the remote interior, where they could exchange manufactured European articles for furs. The traders procured their licenses as well as goods from the merchants, to whom, on their return, they sold their peltries. Every year they swept down the sparkling waters of the rivers and lakes, with the product of their trade, generally accompanied by fifty canoes of the Hurons and Ottawas, for Montreal, where the Indians supposed they could obtain a better market for their skins, than was offered at Michilimackinac. In the mode we have described, desertions became frequent. Some of the traders absconded to the English posts, and others attached themselves permanently to the savages.
* This diversion of the fur trade to the English posts was viewed with no little jealousy. Charlevoix, at his visit to Detroit, in 1721, wrote as follows. “ As for what has been said, that by making a settlement at the Narrows, we should bring the fur trade too much within reach (of the English), there is not a man in all Canada, who does not agree, that we can never succeed in hindering the Indians from carrying them their commodities, let them be settled where they will, and with all the precautions we can possibly take, except by causing them to find the same advantage in trading with us, as in the Province of New York.” Charlevoix's Journal, Vol. II. p. 6.
It was in order to prevent this desertion, that a humane as well as judicious plan, to which we have already referred, was devised by the Colonial Government. Licenses to trade were granted to such as were esteemed worthy of confidence, accompanied with the prohibition of all others from going out of the colonies. These licenses were vended to old officers and poor gentlemen, who themselves sold them to the traders according to their value. Their number was regulated by the Court, and their distribution belonged to the Governor General. Permissions, of more ample character, were also granted from the same source to the commandants of the forts.
Among the persons, to whom lands had been granted in Canada, were many who could neither be expected to advance agriculture by their own labor, nor had funds sufficient to maintain the necessary workmen upon their domains. It became necessary to provide such estates with tenants, who were obliged to labor hard, and often expended all their advances of money, before they could procure a subsistence. The fur trade, also, which was the great enterprise of that period, diffused a restless and migratory spirit among the people; besides, the progress of agriculture was impeded by the mode of tenure in the distribution of lands. The tenants, holding their farms encumbered with illiberal conditions,* wanted the due motive to industry.
The fur trade was, however, soon taken out of the hands of the Companies, by the French King, and almost everybody embarked in it. This caused the utmost confusion. As early as 1706, the furs were purchased by the Canadian traders, frequently at a higher price than they would command in France. In the English colonies along the Atlantic, there was a more systematic organization. Their goods could be afforded cheaper than those of the French, and their operations were conducted with greater judgment. Accordingly, while they were accumulating wealth by the fishery and the fur trade, the French were growing poor.*
* We have in our possession, a grant of thirty-two acres, which was made by Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac, Lord of Brouaget and Mondesert, and founder of Detroit, to François Fafard de Lorme, in 1707, to which are annexed
The condition of commerce and agriculture among the French at that period, when the forests abounded with all the sources of wealth, exhibits strongly the want of national enterprise and enlightened legislation, on the part of their government. Had the French crown comprehended the full value of the lands, and the furs which abounded in the forests, it might have established penal laws, to prevent the wanton destruction of the fur-bearing animals, organized a liberal system of land distribution, which would have furnished the proper motive to agricultural exertion, and planted in Canada vigorous colonies, which would have poured a broad stream of wealth upon the French empire, and perhaps have perpetuated the dominion of France in this country. It is equally clear, that when none of the precious metals were discovered, the colony was permitted to pine in comparative neglect and barrenness.
Canada also had its paper currency. As the funds for the payment of the officers and soldiers generally arrived from France too late, local bills were issued, which circulated in the place of coin. By virtue of an ordinance of the Governor and Intendant, this money was made of cards; and its value, the mark of the treasury and the arms of France were stamped upon it in Spanish wax. It was ordained, that these bills should be returned every year into the Canadian Treasury, before the annual arrival of the French ships, in order to receive an additional mark, and to prevent counterfeits. This paper money was however soon disused, and card money substituted, stamped with new impressions. All bills to the value of four livres and upwards were signed by the Intendant, and all below that sum were only marked. At a subsequent period the Governor-General signed those which were of the value of six livres. During the commencement of autumn, these bills were carried back to the treasurer, and bills of exchange were received in return. as these bills of exchange were paid, the paper was preferred
Besides the furs which were annually shipped to France, trade in lumber was carried on to a considerable extent with the West Indies.
# When Henry visited Michilimackinac in 1763, beaver skins were a circulating medium."
to specie ; but they soon ceased to be honored, and in 1713, they had become so depreciated in value, that the inhabitants proposed to lose one half, in consideration that the King should cause them to be taken up. This was done in 1717. The paper currency was then abolished, and the colonial officers were again paid in current coin.*
As early as 1684, the French colonial establishments in Canada had grown to considerable importance. Quebec, at that time, exhibited some architectural beauty. There were six churches in the “ High City," and also a cathedral, consisting of a Bishop and twelve Prebendaries. This was the head-quarters of the Roman Church, and the rendezvous of the priests, who were generally men of correct morals, and contented with the mere necessaries of life. Here also was the church of the Jesuits, a massive edifice, containing an altar supported by four great columns of black stone, which La Hontan terms, " a sort of Canada porphyry.” The Jesuit fathers had large and stately apartments, looking out upon grounds adorned with groves and gardens, having ice-houses and other expedients of luxury.t At this time, the influence of the church moulded in great measure the policy of the colony. The Directors of the Seminary of St. Sulpicius, at Paris, were the proprietors of the Island of Montreal, and had the right of nominating the bailiff and other subordinate officers. These Directors had, from time to time, sent out to Montreal missionaries from France, who lived under the direction of a Superior, occupying apartments in a large and convenient house built of free stone, and which was constructed on the model of St. Sulpicius at Paris. Cantons on the south side of the island produced a considerable revenue. The land was fertile, and the inhabitants were rich in agricultural products, for which they found a good market in the city.
In 1720, the population of Quebec and Montreal, consisting of nobles, nuns, priests, artisans, traders, and soldiers, had augmented to many thousands. Society was on a footing of luxury and elegance. Time and money were alike thoughtlessly squandered. There were but few rich men in the colony, because wealth which was easily accumulated, was seldom hoarded. During the summer, the colonists embarked in
* Charlevoix's Journal.
| La Hontan's Voyages.