Daily Life in New France


Officers' Incomes

Officers did not receive wages because they held commissions. Instead they received "stipends" from the Royal Treasury. In the 1660s, captains in the Carignan-Salières Regiment received 900 livres a year, lieutenants 360 and ensigns 270. Twenty years later, officers of the Compagnies franches de la Marine received a little more, but like soldiers, their incomes did not change thereafter. Captains received 1,080 livres a year, lieutenants 720, ensigns 450 and second ensigns 300. In theory, officers had to feed, house and dress themselves and even purchase their own arms, in addition to keeping up the standard of living which their status as gentlemen demanded. It is therefore not surprising that some were considered "poor." They were very vulnerable to rising prices for food and lodging.

Bonuses were awarded for distinguished service in battle, and officers could also put particular skills to work, such as knowledge of "Indian languages," 113 which enabled them to act as interpreters. They did not earn enormous sums in this way, but every little bit helped.

Colonial officers in New France did not have as many opportunities as their counterparts in the motherland to enhance their earnings by doing other work. Officers in France were paid a certain amount for each new recruit they brought to the regiment, took a cut of the price of the clothing and equipment they purchased for new recruits, and, with a little luck, were able to sell their commissions when they left the army. Officers in the Navy troops in New France could not do any of this. Their commissions were issued, not sold, and belonged at all times to the king. The recruits' uniforms and virtually all their kits were given to them directly by the Navy, and therefore there was no percentage to be taken. Finally, nothing could be earned through recruitment, which was carried out by the Navy or its agents in France. At Louisbourg, officers succeeded in gaining control of the barracks canteens. In Canada, however, soldiers lived among civilians or in distant forts, so that it was difficult to control the food supply.