Daily Life in New France


Lodging with the Habitants

If the townsfolk were disturbed by reveille every morning, imagine how they felt when soldiers were quartered in their homes! Nevertheless, this obligation was seen in a different light than in France, where billets were viewed simply as a "curse." Many people in Canada willingly accepted billeted soldiers, because most of the recipients of this obligatory hospitality made themselves useful in a country where it was difficult "to find people to serve you." 85 Billeting was made necessary by the arrival of the Navy troops in the 1680s. Around 1685, civilians were required to provide soldiers with a bed, a straw mattress, a blanket, a cooking pot, and a place by the fire.

Lodgings were rudimentary, and most soldiers slept on straw. However, if a report of 1695 is to be believed, even the "leading inhabitants of Montreal [had] only their beds, and very few use[d] sheets." 86 Not only did soldiers sleep in private houses, they also ate there, offering their rations as a contribution to the meals. The presence of young men in uniform in the houses of local inhabitants could eventually lead to romantic liaisons with their daughters, although most people did not seem especially opposed to this. Indeed, many soldiers eventually settled in the colony with women met under these conditions.

Nevertheless, not all civilians were enthusiastic about having to lodge soldiers in their homes and some obtained exemptions in return for providing certain public services. Such was the case in 1714 of the Biron family in Montreal, which was exempted on condition that they care for the sick. Louis Trudeau obtained an exemption in 1739 in exchange for his services fighting fires. Churchmen, militia officers, nobles, notaries, judges and other royal officials were not required to provide lodging for soldiers.