16 December

A Habitant

Law Hits Profiteers

While the habitants of early Canada were said to be better off than they would have been had they remained as peasants in France, their lives were very restricted. Louis XIV liked to have a good time but he did not extend that privilege any further than the nobility of France. Louis was a very heavy eater, beginning dinner with at least three different soups, then several kinds of fish, meat dishes, poultry, and finishing with pastries and fruits. When dinner was over, he would become very melancholy and concoct further plans to order the lives of his people in Canada.

Clearing the new land was one of the biggest problems; so Louis ordered habitants to stay in the country and not move into towns. A farmer was not allowed to own more than two horses because he might neglect to raise cattle and sheep. Bakers were ordered to make brown bread although few people enjoyed eating it. Louis, who did not eat brown bread himself, said it was more nutritious. People were not allowed to sit on the benches in front of their homes after nine o'clock at night. Merchants could not hold meetings to discuss business matters. Women had to be home by nine o'clock. Unmarried girls were allowed to dance only with other girls, in their own homes, with their mothers present. Men were not allowed to use profanity. There were fines for the first four offences. If they were caught swearing five times, they were sent to the pillory. Their lips were branded for a sixth offence, and their tongues were cut out if they were caught eight times.

On December 16, 1663, a law was passed to reduce profiteering on goods imported from France. Merchants were permitted to mark up goods 65 per cent after paying 10 per cent duty. When ships arrived at Quebec, members of the Sovereign Council would go on board, inspect the goods for quality, and set the prices at which they must be sold. As in the case of the King's Girls (see April 5) , the people of Quebec had a big advantage over those in Trois-Rivières and Montreal because they had the first choice of imported products.


16 December

-1674    The French West India Company's grant was revoked. It was supposed to develop Canada as well as other French colonies in the western hemisphere.

-1901    Dawson City, Yukon, was incorporated.

-1910    A delegation of 1,000 farmers marched on Ottawa demanding an increase in the preference for British goods and reciprocity with the United States.

-1949    The British North America Act was amended, vesting the power to amend the constitution in Parliament.

-1953    Royal assent was given for the formation of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources.