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New France Collection (C003)

Statement regarding a murder in a hop field (detail), unknown date. Anonymous gift, New France Collection C003, M2008.76.5 © McCord Museum

Justice in New France


I killed them in my field of hops, which they had completely destroyed, after warning them several times... I followed the orders of the Intendant and yourself, Sir, which permitted their killing."

Which Intendant does this letter refer to? It may be the famous Jean Talon, the first Intendant of New France, who advocated growing hops. However, the purpose of the Sovereign Council decree published March 5, 1668, was to encourage colonists to sell off their surplus hops, not authorize them to take the law into their own hands like this! With this decree, Jean Talon was in fact hoping to curb crime in New France. Deeply concerned by the devastating effects of brandy on the population, he thought that limiting the consumption of hard liquor would promote beer production and help diversify the colony's agriculture and economy. Although this anonymous undated document is open to interpretation, it remains a dramatic account of a harsh society.

C003 New France Collection. - 1610-1827. - 23 cm of textual records. - 1 plan.

Scope and Content

The New France Collection documents the history of Canada from 1610 to the beginning of the English regime that followed the British Conquest of 1763. It covers the economic, social and military administration of France's North American colonies, notably Canada, Acadia and Louisiana. In particular, the collection chronicles the seigniorial system of New France, inherited from the French regime, the commercial organization of the fur trade, the end of the Seven Years' War in Acadia, and the judiciary's role in the affairs of the era's citizenry.

There are approximately one hundred financial records, letters, notarial acts, and civil, religious and military certificates and permits, most of which were produced between 1652 and 1760. The collection also contains a plan of the Château de Vaudreuil and four hand-written notebooks, published in 1838 and attributed to Louis-Léonard Aumasson de Courville, also known as the Sieur de Courville.

Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the collection.

Physical condition: The collection is in good condition, overall, though some documents are crumbling or weakened along the folds.

Immediate source of acquisition: The documents in this collection have various origins. Some came from the original collection of David Ross McCord, while others were donated by individuals or collectors.

Arrangement: In 2016, the documents in the collection were reclassified and integrated into a new classification plan. One document was added from the Canadiana Collection (C002).

Language: The documents are in French.

Accruals: Further accruals are expected.

Related groups of records: Other documents related to the New France Collection are preserved in the Epoque coloniale (S001) and Canadiana (C002) collections, and the Seigneury of Rouville (P107) and Seigneury of Sorel (P109) fonds.

The collection is divided into the following series and subseries:

  • C003/A Administration. - 1664-1758. - 6 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content: This series pertains to the civil administration of New France. In particular, it chronicles the prominent role of government in legal proceedings, land planning, and the daily lives of French emigrants in Canada and Louisiana. There are several letters written by senior officials of the king like intendants Bégon and Bigot and governors de Bienville and de Courcelles. The series is essentially composed of correspondence, including two letters written by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville to his brother about his trip to Louisiana, notes and court decisions. It also contains statements and queries from civilians, a royal edict, an order and a letter of appointment.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

  • C003/B Trade and finance. - 1610-1734. - 1 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content : This series documents economic and financial transactions in New France. In particular, it chronicles the fur trade, the system of taxation and annuities, the French colony's expenditures related to the military administration of Canada, and lending activities among citizens. The collection is essentially composed of promissory notes and payment receipts, often signed by historic figures like Nicolas Perrot, Pierre Dugua de Monts, Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche and Luc de La Horn. It also contains contracts of commitment, a bond, three permits and a note.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

  • C003/C Military. - 1690-1753. - 10 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content : This series pertains to the military administration of New France before and during the Seven Years' War, also known in North America as the French and Indian War (1756-1763). In particular, it chronicles the defence of trading posts around the Great Lakes and Hudson's Bay, escort operations for goods, and problems affecting the military and civil populations. In addition to the plans of walled cities in Acadia and Canada contained in the Mémoires of the Sieur de Courville, the series contains correspondence, commissions, directives, and letters of appointment and official honours.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

  • C003/D Seigniories and Landholdings. - 1652-1827. - 5 cm of textual records. - 1 plan.
  • Scope and Content : This series pertains to the division of land and the seigneurial system in New France, particularly the fiefs granted to reward government representatives and military, civilian and religious figures, like Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil, from the earliest days of settlement to Confederation. The series also chronicles land transactions, surveying activities, and payments of annuities made in the Quebec City and Montreal regions. It is essentially made up of land grants and legal documents like certificates confirming ownership, deeds of sale, lease agreements, declarations, minutes and land terriers. It also includes correspondence, a plan and an authorization for boundary marking.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

  • C003/E Civil registration and family life. - 1665-1804. - 1 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content: This series documents the religious and civil customs in New France, chronicling in particular the legal practices involved in marriage and inheritance. It includes several authorizations and marriage contracts along with baptismal certificates or certified copies proving family ties and a power of attorney that likely served during the settling of an estate.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.


Last update: August 30, 2017