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Everyday Life in New France. Habitants. The habitants of New France spent more time clearing and cultivating their land than they did hunting and trapping. They built log homes on the banks of rivers. They had to be self-sufficient in order to survive.

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Everyday Life in New France

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  • The habitants of New France spent more time clearing and cultivating their land than they did hunting and trapping. They built log homes on the banks of rivers. They had to be self-sufficient in order to survive.
They were expected to be loyal to the Seigneur who had granted them land. The church played an important role in their lives so they happily paid a tax to support it. They developed a distinctive way of life on their long strip farms.

Towns and cities expanded as businesses thrived. In general, town life was more sophisticated and comfortable and habitants used them to sell their produce.

the seigneurial system
The Seigneurial System
  • The seigneurial system had been in place in New France since the first French settlers arrived. It was understood and accepted.
  • The king granted large pieces of land to wealthy, important citizens. The seigneurs kept the biggest lots for themselves and parceled out the rest to the habitant families.
The rivers in New France were the main means of communication and transportation at the time. So, it was decided that each seigneury should have river frontage. They were long, narrow rectangles that extended back from the river.

In 1742, a visitor to New France remarked that it looked like a village strung out along the river. The houses were close to one another and the fields strung out behind them. When the river lots filled up, a second row was created.

rules of the game
Rules of the Game
  • According to the system, the seigneur had responsibilities to the king and to the habitants. Here is what the seigneur owed the king:
  • Kneel before the intendant and swear obedience to the king.
  • Divide the seigneury into lots.
  • Report annually how much land has been cleared and how many land grants have been given to habitants.
  • Send all oak trees to the king’s shipyards.
  • Build a house, a church, and a mill for the habitants to use.
what the seigneur owed the habitant
What the Seigneur Owed the Habitant

Grant them farms.

Promise habitants the right to stay on the land if they honored their contract.

Provide protection for them.

Build a mill for grinding wheat into flour.

Provide land for a church and help build it.

what the habitant owed the seigneur
What the Habitant Owed the Seigneur

Promise to build a house and clear the land.

Pay annual taxes, which could be goods such as pigs, sacks of wheat, or a few chickens.

Work 3 days each year for the seigneur.

Promise to take their grain to the seigneur’s mill and pay him 1/14th of any grain they grind.

Give the seigneur a portion of any fish they catch.

Give the seigneur some of the wood they cut on the property.

Pay a commission if they sell their land.

Promise to help build a church and pay the priest.

Honor the seigneur with a special pew in the local church.

social life on the seigneury
Social Life on the Seigneury
  • The habitants worked hard but found time to have fun as well. After the harvest, the habitants gathered at the seigneur’s house to pay their annual rents. They were greeted by the seigneur who recorded all payments in his account book and a huge celebration followed. The seigneur provided food and refreshments. There was music and dancing that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
religion on the seigneury
Religion on the Seigneury
  • Many social activities in New France centered around the church. Most people attended the Catholic Church on a regular basis. It was a place to meet friends and neighbors, to hear the latest gossip or news. To hear important announcements from the governor, bishop or intendant. Church bells signaled the various parts of the day. The sound of the bell at noon brought farmers in from their fields to eat.

Important festivals revolved around the church. For example, on Christmas Eve, children went to bed early. They would be awakened around 11 p.m. and bundled up in the sleigh . With bells jingling, the family would head to church for midnight mass followed by a huge feast and dancing. Gifts were not exchanged until New Year’s Day.

the towns of new france
The Towns of New France
  • In 1750, Quebec City was the most important town in the colony.
  • 8000 people lived there perched on top of a 100m high rock cliff.
  • Ships arrived from France every spring bringing the latest fashions and news. Soon they would be leaving loaded with furs and timber for France.
  • There was Upper Town where the where the wealthy lived and Lower Town where the merchants sold their goods and the habitants lived.
  • Montreal was 250km up the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.
  • It was the center of the fur trade.
  • Each June, it hosted the annual fur fair where Voyageurs left Montreal for the interior in huge fleets of canoes.
  • It was a frontier town.
  • In Montreal, you saw four types of people. Priests and nuns, soldiers, voyageurs and coreurs de bois and Aboriginal people.
trois rivi res
  • Trois-Rivières was a market town halfway between Montreal and Quebec.
  • The town had a small military garrison.
  • In 1749, 850 people lived there.
  • Travelers between Quebec and Montreal often stopped for the night. It was home to 18 inns.
  • The town was famous for it’s iron deposits nearby and as a producer of birch bark canoes.
transportation in new france
Transportation in New France
  • The St. Lawrence River was the main highway for New France. It linked everyone. Canoes and rafts were used in summer.
  • Sleighs and toboggans pulled by oxen, horses or even dogs were used for winter travel.
  • The townspeople used elegant two-wheeled carriages called calèches to get around.
law and order
Law and Order
  • The Intendant had complete responsibility for law and order in the colony.
  • Laws were the same as those in France.
  • Seigneurs could act as judges when needed in small matters but the Sovereign Council handles serious matters.
  • In French law, a person is guilty until proven innocent and the judge pronounces the sentence.
  • Punishment was severe ranging from jail to execution and executions were held in public as a warning to others.
the acadians
The Acadians
  • Since the earliest days of settlement, the maritime areas of New France had changed hands frequently between the French and British and even though most of the inhabitants were French, they adapted to whoever was currently in charge of the area.
  • They developed their own unique culture and regardless of who ruled them, they maintained their way of life including customs. The French called it Acadia, the British called it Nova Scotia.
establishing the town of halifax
Establishing the Town of Halifax
  • The British gained control of Acadia for good in 1713. They were concerned about the French fort at Louisbourg.
  • The British wanted to establish a strong presence along the east coast.
  • The British invested a lot of money to build the settlement at Halifax. They encouraged British citizens to settle there.
  • Acadians became unhappy about the situation and tension between the Acadians and British developed.