Daily Life in New France


The Emergence of Canadian Superior Officers

Throughout the first half of the eighteenth century, Canadian officers found their way into positions on the general staffs. Some even became colonial governors.

The family of the Marquis Rigaud de Vaudreuil provides the best example of the rise of Canadians to senior ranks in the colonial service. The Marquis arrived in Canada in the 1680s as commandant of the Navy troops, before becoming governor of Montreal in 1695 and then governor general of New France in 1703. His sons, all born in Quebec, forged remarkable careers. Louis-Philippe was promoted to admiral in 1748, and Jean became a major-general in the army in France in 1745. François-Pierre assumed the post of governor of Montreal in 1757, and Joseph-Hyacinthe became governor general of what is now the Republic of Haiti in 1753. However, it was the career of Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal that most marked the history of New France. An ensign in 1708, he became governor of Trois-Rivières in 1733, governor of Louisiana in 1743, and governor general of New France in 1755. He was the first officer born in Canada to attain the highest position in all New France.

The Vaudreuils were not the only family to distinguish themselves in this way. Several members of the Le Moyne family became governors of fortified towns in Canada, such as the Baron de Longueuil, Charles Le Moyne, who occupied this position in Montreal. Officers of Canadian birth also served in other colonies, especially in Louisiana, where Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville was governor twice before being replaced by his compatriot, Vaudreuil-Cavagnal. Antoine Le Moyne de Châteauguay became a royal lieutenant in Martinique in 1727, then governor of French Guyana in 1737. He was appointed governor of Île Royale in 1745, but died before he could take up this position.

Although these officers were scions of great Canadian families, the names Vaudreuil and Le Moyne did not count for much among the swarms of courtiers surrounding the king at Versailles. The training and military prowess of these Canadians must therefore have played a major role in all the promotions they received.