Page images


Although much has been written on the different aspects of the seigniorial system in Canada, little attempt has been made to place under one cover a concise account of its story. Perhaps, amongst the people of the country generally, there is less known of this section of Canadian History than of any other. The idea of the seigniorial tenure in Canada to the average man, signifies very little. Some seem to regard it as of a species of slavery, in which a despotic seignior is pictured as dragooning a few poor habitants. Others, with more imagination, have created a romantic picture of seigniors and seignioresses dressed in the silks and satins of Paris, bepowdered and bewigged, dancing minuets in spacious halls, or sipping rare wines out of long-stemmed glasses. Still others have woven the history of the feudal life in New France around a sort of seignioral paternalism, in which the lord of the fief is supposed to have been the source of all the good in the country, and these have

created a story dripping with silly sentimentality and untruth.

All these different ideas are far from the reality. The seigniorial system was a hard and fast rule, by which the land of New France was divided amongst the settlers, and when stripped of the romance of novelists, the seigniorial life was really one of great responsibilities fraught with hardships and dangers.

This book is an attempt to depict, in as few pages as possible, the salient features of the feudal tenure in Canada, and to give a general idea of where the principal seigniories were located, to whom they were granted, and by what Governors and Intendants the patents were signed. It is an humble attempt to simplify and vulgarize this very interesting subject.

This book owes its existence to the works of many others. The data which it contains have been gleaned from many authors who have written on Canadian subjects, and from a few original papers available, notably, those relative to the seigniories of de Longueuil and de Soulanges. The authorities used in all statements relating to the commissions, customs and regulations, as well as to the tenures and titles of land, the military obligations, banal rights and seigniorial privileges, etc., were the three volumes referred to in the footnotes of this work, as the 'Edits et Ordonnances', and which comprise 'Edits, Ordonnances Royaux, Déclarations et Arrêts du Conseil d'Etat du Roi concernant le Canada', the 'Complément des Ordonnances et Jugements des Gouverneurs et Intendants du Canada précédés des Commissions des dits Gouverneurs et Intendants, et des différents Officiers Civils et de Justice', and a volume of 'Arrêts et Règlements du Conseil Supérieur de Québec, et Ordonnances et Jugements des Intendants du Canada'. Extracts from the 'Régistre d'Intendance', 'Régistre de Foi et

Hommage' as well as the 'Carte Topographique' were used in the locations attributed to seigniories, as well as many authors whose works and researches have made this book possible, amongst whom were notably Garneau ('Histoire du Canada', two Volumes), Pierre Georges Roy, Honourable Rodolphe Lemieux ('Histoire du Droit Canadien'), Honourable Thomas Chapais, Parkman, Sulte ('Histoire des Canadiens-Français' and 'History of Quebec'), Munro, the great authority on Canadian Land Tenure, and the history and data concerning the Carignan-Salières Regiment, as well as a few minor works and papers.

The feudal system in Canada was responsible for the original point of view which is still extant in the Province of Quebec, where it has left a picturesqueness which is all its own. The object of this book is to familiarize the people of that Province with a condition which still exists to a certain extent, and to create an interest in events and places, which are rapidly being forgotten in this era of struggles and busy life.

T. G.

« PreviousContinue »