New France: Fur Traders and Missionaries

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Traders and Missionaries Before 1627, France saw the colony of New France primarily as a means to generate money through the fur trade. In the early 1620s, fewer than 60 non- Aboriginals lived in the colony. There was little incentive for Europeans to move there. Wars with Aboriginal groups made life dangerous and the climate was harsh. There were no markets for farm produce, no roads to transport people or goods, no community or family to support a European community and very few women. Even places of worship did not exist. In 1627, Cardinal Richelieu, first minister to Louis XIII, worried that the colony of New France was not developing as it should. He feared that the British and Dutch colonies to the south would take over New France. Richelieu decided that a more permanent settlement in New France would protect France’s position in the continent and help develop the trade and commerce that would bring more money and benefits to the mother country. Such a settlement would spread French legal and commercial institutions throughout the new land and, with them, French culture. For the devoutly religious Catholic majority of Europeans, North America provided an opportunity to spread the Christian word and, in so doing, save thousands of souls from eternal damnation. Contributions of Fur Traders In order to create more permanent settlements, Richelieu decided to encourage trade in the manner common at that time. He organized a trade monopoly—the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France. It had 100 associates—French noblemen— who provided the capital for the trade and who were given exclusive rights to all of the furs traded out of New France and all trade in the colony. They were given the rights to all lands in New France and the right to transfer land to noblemen (i.e., seigneurs) who wanted to take up land in the colony. In return for the
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