Daily Life in New France

Soldiers

Marriage and Colonization

From the very beginnings of New France, encouraging soldiers to marry and become colonists was considered a good method of stimulating growth. The most famous example of this type of colonization was the marriage of discharged soldiers from the Carignan Regiment to the "Filles du Roi" sent over from France for this purpose. After the 1680s, other men followed in their wake who would remain in New France after being discharged from the Navy troops. How many of the approximately 7,800 soldiers who came to Canada between 1683 and 1755 decided to remain? Given that the number demobilized each year was actually fairly modest, and that sometimes, especially in times of war, the governor general refused all permissions to marry in order not to weaken the garrison, it is possible that 2,000 to 3,000 of these soldiers opted to become colonists in Canada.

Soldiers who married and wished to establish themselves as farmers in the colony received assistance from the authorities, because "good plowmen" were needed. 101 They could obtain land on seigneuries, which had often been given to officers, or settle nearby. For instance, Governor General Vaudreuil allowed 30 soldiers to settle in the area of his seigneury in 1723. Most chose to live on the banks of the St. Lawrence, especially in the Montreal area where the main garrison was located, although others scattered over considerable distances. Married former soldiers were the first colonists to settle land around Detroit when it was founded in 1701.

Grants of land were virtually unthinkable in France and therefore a major reason for a soldier to remain in Canada. The difficulties of clearing the land and beginning to farm it were offset, at least in part, by government grants to new colonists. These included food, a cow and the necessary farming implements, as well as the assignment of a few troops "to help him build his lodging." 102 Soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment were given either 100 livres or 50 livres, plus a year's rations, to begin their new lives. On the other hand, soldiers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine theoretically only received a year's pay and their uniform. After 1726, they also received a hunting musket.