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French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era

Terms in this set (66)

The seigneurial system was introduced to New France in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu. Richelieu granted the newly formed Company of New France all lands between the Arctic Circle to the north, Florida to the south, Lake Superior in the west, and the Atlantic in the east. In exchange for this vast land grant and the exclusive trading rights tied to it, the Company was expected to bring two to three hundred settlers to New France in 1628, and a subsequent four thousand during the next fifteen years. To achieve this, the Company subgranted almost all of the land awarded to it by Cardinal Richelieu. Despite the official arrangement reached between Cardinal Richelieu and the Company of New France, levels of immigration to French colonies in North America remained extremely low. The resulting scarcity of labor had a profound effect on the system of land distribution. In practice, the lands were arranged in long, narrow strips called, seigneuries, along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, its estuaries, and other key transit features. Both in nominal and legal terms, all French territorial claims in North America belonged to the King of France. French monarchs did not impose the seigneurial system on New France, and the king's actual attachment to these lands was virtually non-existent. Instead, Seigneurs were allotted land holdings and presided over the French colonial agricultural system in North America.

This physical layout of seigneurial property developed as a means of maximizing ease of transit, commerce, and communication by exploiting naturally occurring riparian networks (most notably, the St. Lawrence river) and the relatively sparse man-made infrastructure. A desirable plot had to be directly bordering or in very close proximity to a river system, which plot-expansion was limited to one of two directions—left or right