Royal Colony


Royal Colony
Colonial Administration
The Economy
Fur and Expansion
French-English Rivalry



The situation of New France was deeply influenced by Louis XIV’s style of government and his decision to assume personal charge of state affairs. He centralized the military, legal, and financial administration and domesticated the aristocracy to create a successful absolutist regime.


After the King, the most influential decision-maker for New France was Jean-Baptiste de Colbert, controller-general of finances and minister of colonial affairs. He conducted a reform of national finances, promoted economic self-sufficiency, and built a colonial empire with a navy to defend it.


While New France was of course influenced by the strengthened absolutism of the French regime, in practice, the huge distance that separated the royal colony from the mother country made direct rule impossible. Royal instructions were often obsolete by the time they reached the colony; as a result, the colonial government often had to take action on its own to respond to pressing matters.



The most urgent problem of New France was security. In 1663, 1,300 troops from the Régiment de Carigan-Salières were sent to subdue the Iroquois. The Confederacy soon agreed to a peace treaty and peace was maintained for two decades, which gave the French time to strengthen their position.


To increase the small population, the royal government sent about 800 young women to New France, where most men were bachelors. They were the Filles du Roy, whose transport and dowry were paid by the King. Most were orphans from the Hôpital-Général de Paris and married within a few weeks (hardened bachelors were threatened with the revocation of their fur-trading license). Soldiers also made good immigrants: 400 members of the Régiment de Carigan-Sallières stayed in New France. There was an influx of indentured servants (engagés). Between 1663 and 1673, 4,000 immigrants arrived, thus doubling the population of the colony - by contrast, between 1608 and 1659, only about 5,000 immigrants had arrived.. In addition, royal encouragement was given to speed up natural increase: families of 10 children and more are given bonuses. The living conditions, better than in France, helped decrease infant mortality, thus ensuring a more rapid natural growth. The population grew from 15,000 in 1700 to 70,000 in 1763, mostly through natural increase, since only 9,000 immigrants came to New France to stay in the 150 years of French rule.


The royal government paid little attention to Acadia, held by the English from 1654 to 1670, when it was returned to France and a governor was appointed. The very weak French presence left the territory in the hands of the native Micmac and Abenaki tribes.