Company of New France Is Chartered Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A powerful and influential group of investors sought to benefit from Cardinal de Richelieu’s reorganization of French colonial charters in 1627. Founding the Company of New France, the group constituted the most important French colonizing power in North America until 1663.

Summary of Event

France’s first permanent settlements in the Western Hemisphere were Acadia Acadia —which included parts of present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Maine and was founded in 1605—and New France New France , founded in 1608 with its capital at Quebec. These colonization efforts were fledgling and precarious. Both were financed by merchant investors, who expected profits in fishing and the fur trade. Harsh winters, underfunding, and conflicts between colonial leaders and the private companies that had been granted fur monopolies resulted in weak development. New France, on the Saint Lawrence River, fared better than did Acadia, which suffered from its physical isolation, but even New France had a population of fewer than one hundred by 1627. Its residents were mostly clerks, interpreters, and missionaries, with only one actual settler family present. Canada;French exploration of [kw]Company of New France Is Chartered (Apr. 27, 1627) [kw]New France Is Chartered, Company of (Apr. 27, 1627) Economics;Apr. 27, 1627: Company of New France Is Chartered[1030] Organizations and institutions;Apr. 27, 1627: Company of New France Is Chartered[1030] Canada;Apr. 27, 1627: Company of New France Is Chartered[1030] New France Colonization;France of North America North America;French colonization of

In 1627, Cardinal de Richelieu, Richelieu, Cardinal de;reforms of King Louis XIII’s chief policymaker and the de facto ruler of France, carried out widespread reforms in colonial policy with the goal of increasing the prestige, wealth, and power of the Crown. He revoked all previous charters and concessions given for New France and initiated the chartering of a new and much more powerful group of investors, the Company of New France (la Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France) or, as it came to be known, the Company of One Hundred Associates Company of One Hundred Associates (la Compagnie des Cent Associés). This company was so named, because initially one hundred men and women, the latter being wealthy widows, invested 3,000 livres each (one livre was roughly equal to four U.S. dollars in 1990), creating a capital pool of 300,000 livres for the initial investment. Many of the shareholders were government officeholders, merchants, and clergy. Some of the latter were motivated by religion as much as or more than by the drive for profit. The charter granted the new organization full title to all lands from the Arctic Circle to Florida and from Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

The charter was issued by Richelieu in April, 1627, and received official approval the following month. It required the new company to bring two hundred to three hundred settlers to New France in 1628 and at least four thousand more over the following fifteen years. The company’s highest priorities were to be encouraging settlement and maintaining and expanding the fur trade Trade;furs , New France’s only important export trade. Furs, trade in

The charter discriminated against Huguenots (French Protestants), who had been instrumental in the establishment of Acadia. Only Roman Catholics were now allowed to colonize New France. Surprisingly, and probably uniquely in the history of European colonization of North America, Article XVII of the charter stated that native people in the colonized area who became Catholic “will be considered and reckoned natural born subjects of France, and as such will be allowed to settle in France whenever they please, acquire property therein, make wills, inherit, accept donations and legacies, in the same manner as those born in France.” It is difficult to imagine a North American Indian pursuing these privileges, and none is known to have done so, but that it was allowed in the charter demonstrates an openness on the part of French colonizers at that time.

The Company of New France’s tenure over the colony had a rocky start. War broke out between France and England in 1628, and the initial convoy sent to Quebec in the spring of that year was captured in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by an English privateering force led by David Kirke Kirke, David . Those waiting for the ships to arrive at Quebec waited in vain and barely survived the following winter by subsisting on wild plants. Samuel de Champlain, Champlain, Samuel de who had been governing the colony for years, was forced by hunger and lack of supplies to surrender to Kirke’s English forces in the summer of 1629. The Company of One Hundred Associates depleted its treasury in futile attempts to recapture the colony for France, and by 1630, the investment group Richelieu had initiated was nearly bankrupt.

In the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Treaty of (1632)[Saint Germain en Laye, Treaty of (1632)] signed by the English and French in 1632, the colony of New France was returned to the French, and the company was allowed to continue its efforts to develop the colony. Champlain was named governor once again. The royal government was pre-occupied with the Thirty Years’ War in Europe for the next few decades and therefore neglected its fledgling colony in North America. In the absence of strong leadership on the part of the company and the French crown from the 1630’s to 1663, the Roman Catholic Church, particularly religious orders such as the Jesuits Jesuits;New France , took a prominent role in governing New France. In the 1640’, Montreal was founded as a religious community of nuns and missionaries, and Jesuit missionary efforts influenced much of what transpired in northeastern North America throughout the mid-seventeenth century.

The company lacked the funds to satisfy its obligations as stated in the charter, so its directors farmed out land grants to wealthy French investors, who agreed, in turn, to settle these lands with colonists who would farm on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. The number of colonists who came for this purpose would be credited to the company’s quota of four thousand. Hence, what became known as the seigneurial system in New France was inaugurated. By 1642, there were still only three hundred people in the colony, although the number climbed to two thousand by 1653.

One of the reasons for such slow population increase was that, although the fur trade was a much more lucrative way to make a living than settling down to farm, fur trading meant traveling into the interior to live with Canadian Indians. Thus, while colonial furriers perhaps contributed to the growth of the indigenous population, they did not enlarge New France’s population or increase the number of French families in the New World. Also, the French had allied with many native nations along or near the Saint Lawrence River, including Algonquians Algonquians , Montagnais Montagnais , Hurons Hurons , and had, through these alliances, gained a formidable set of enemies. The powerful Iroquois Confederacy of Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy —the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks—were the enemies of the Saint Lawrence Valley tribes and by extension of the colonists of New France.

These Iroquois nations, particularly the Mohawks Mohawks , were determined to undermine the French or even to expel them from the Saint Lawrence Valley altogether, and the mutual hostility that developed between Iroquois and colonists resulted in frequent surprise attacks mounted by each on the other’s communities. The French attacked Iroquois civilian populations at times, and the Iroquois reciprocated in like fashion from the 1630’s through the 1650’. This situation made further immigration by French colonists from the mother country a frightful proposition. It contributed to a lack of enthusiasm for crossing the Atlantic even by those in France who lived on the economic margins and might have benefited from farming on a seigneurial estate, which would have given them an improved standard of living and more autonomy than peasant farming back home.

Significance

The Iroquois’ ability to undermine the colony made the Company of One Hundred Associates look bad in France, and the company struggled until 1663. By then, colonization under the auspices and guidance of a private company was considered a failure, and New France became a royal colony under the direct control of the Crown. Despite this eventual judgment, the company chartered in 1627 had been more successful than any previous attempt to promote French settlement in the Saint Lawrence Valley, and it had arguably made the royal colony possible. The Company of New France was responsible for bringing thousands of French people to the New World and for nurturing the fledgling American Francophone culture that would go on significantly to influence the history of Canada and Louisiana.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Adair, E. R. “France and the Beginning of New France.” Canadian Historical Review 13 (September, 1944): 3-37. A detailed and highly respected account of the early years of New France.
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    xlink:type="simple">Bumsted, J. M. The Peoples of Canada: A Pre-Confederation History. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press, 2003. The first of two volumes recounts Canadian history from the country’s indigenous peoples to the confederation of 1867. Includes information about European exploration in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and colonial settlement in the Atlantic provinces, the Saint Lawrence Valley, and New France.
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    xlink:type="simple">Delâge, Denys. Bitter Feast: Amerindians and Europeans in Northeastern North America, 1600-1664. Translated by Jane Brierley. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1993. A native perspective on the history of French and Dutch colonization in northeastern North America.
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    xlink:type="simple">Eccles, William J. France in America. Rev. ed. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998. Account of French colonization in North America, including a brief mention of the 1627 company chartered for New France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lescarbot, Marc. The History of New France. Edited by W. L. Grant and H. P. Biggar. 3 vols. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1907-1914. An important primary source on the history of New France. Volume 1 deals with the Company of New France.
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    xlink:type="simple">Moogk, Peter. La Nouvelle France: The Making of French Canada, a Cultural History. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000. Examines life in New France, demonstrating how the area’s social institutions and the experiences and character of its settlers have set it apart from the rest of Canada.
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    xlink:type="simple">Thwaites, R. G., ed. The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents. 73 vols. Cleveland, Ohio: Burrows, 1896-1901. A collection of letters written by Jesuit missionaries in New France and Acadia, primarily dealing with seventeenth century events. An invaluable source of information on the native nations, both allied and enemy, with which the priests dealt.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Zoltvany, Yves F., ed. The French Tradition in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1969. A collection of documents related to the French presence in North America. Includes an English translation of the text of the charter of the Company of One Hundred Associates.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Samuel de Champlain; Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville; Saint Isaac Jogues; Louis Jolliet; Sieur de La Salle; François Laval; Jacques Marquette; Cardinal de Richelieu; Kateri Tekakwitha. New France Colonization;France of North America North America;French colonization of

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