Seigneurs and the seigneurial system of New France... 

The article below is taken directly from Wikipedia. 


The seigneurial system was introduced to New France in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu.  Under this system, the lands were arranged in long narrow strips, called seigneuries, along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. Each piece of land belonged to the king of France and was maintained by the landlord, or seigneur.

The seigneur divided the land further among his tenants, known as censitaires or habitants, who cleared the land, built houses and other buildings, and farmed the land. The habitants paid taxes to the seigneur... and were usually required to work for their seigneur for three days per year, often building roads.

Unlike the French feudalism from which it was derived, the lord of the manor was not granted the "haut" or "bas" jurisdiction to impose fines and penalties as in Europe; those powers were given to the Intendant of New France, a commissioner sent by the King.  The first intendant of New France was Jean Talon, who made it a requirement that seigneurs actually live on their estates.

Seigneuries were often divided into a number of areas. There was a common area on the shore of the St. Lawrence river, behind which was the best land and the seigneur's estate itself. There were also one or more sets of farmland, not adjacent to the river, immediately behind the first set.

In France, seigneurs were vassals to the king, who granted them the deeds to the seigneuries. The seigneurial system differed somewhat from its counterpart in France. The seigneurs of New France were not always nobles.

Seigneuries in North America were granted to military officers, some were owned by the Catholic clergy and even by unions of local inhabitants. In 1663, half of the seigneuries of New France were managed by women. This situation came to be because a woman could inherit her husband's property after his death.

The seigneurs were never the real owners of their lands; the lands were concessions by the King in exchange for services. The seigneurs were responsible for building a mill and roads for the habitants, who were then responsible for working a number of days per year for the seigneur.


My notes on a slightly different take on Canadian Feudalism.

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