Montreal in all its states

It is hard to imagine, with our concerns today, how people came, 375 years ago, to organize, from France, an expedition to settle in Montreal, a more or less virgin territory, a colony that would served not to exploit a profitable trade. for the time, as was the wool trade, in other words to make money, but rather to convert the “savages of New France.”

The promoters – tax collector Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière, priest Jean-Jacques Olier and Baron Pierre Chevrier – must first raise huge sums of money to carry out their philanthropic project. You really have to be a convinced Catholic to want to start such a dangerous operation from some point of view. But at the time, the missionary dream took precedence over any other more down-to-earth concern. However, we should thank these pioneers because we are their proud descendants.

By 1642, Montreal had been abandoned, for about fifty years, by the American populations, essentially the Iroquois. This island was just “a crossing point for groups leading expeditions of fishing, hunting, warfare, or trade,” disappearing every sitting American institution. Even today we are looking for the remnants of these installations.

Promoters need a worthy representative to lead the missionary project on the spot. They will recruit Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, “a very religious gentleman”, then Jeanne Mance, an equally religious bachelor, who plans to set up a hospital in Montreal. These two volunteers will be joined by young artisans, employed for a period of three to five years. They come here because they have faith, but also to earn a living. About forty people will form the initial nucleus to be placed, on May 17, 1642, in Montreal, which the Maisonneuve will baptize Ville-Marie. These two designations will coexist for two decades. They will withstand harsh climatic conditions, but especially the Iroquois, who feel threatened in their project of regional hegemony, as they have more or less succeeded in expelling or exterminating other American nations.

Eleven years later, another contingent of settlers, consisting of 95 French, arrived in Montreal as reinforcements, mainly from Dieppe and La Rochelle, and also from La Flèche, a town in Sarthe, halfway between Paris and Nantes. Then, in 1665, the first soldiers landed, grouped in the Carignan-Salières regiment. Their task will be to help the population, constantly harassed by the Iroquois. The arrival of the army will allow, among other things, the seignior to extend beyond the perimeter of the original Pointe-à-Callière fortress, creating the outskirts of Montreal. Two years later, a first peace will be signed with the Iroquois.

Gradually, the colony emphasized its trade profession around the wool trade. As beaver is becoming a rare commodity around Montreal, people are going further and further and exchanges with Aboriginal nations are on the rise. In the process, the Coureur des Bois was born, this mythical figure of Quebec memory. Smart, steady, he moves like an Indian over long distances. He speaks the native languages, adopts some of their customs and negotiates with them skillfully. ” Montreal will remain the center of this lucrative trade, even if competition is fierce with Anglo-American traders located further south, in Albany. At first, nothing was processed in the colony and the furs were sent to France for processing.

Thus, little by little, the personality of Montreal and its inhabitants, different from the population of Quebec, takes shape. Until the irreversible unrest caused by the British occupation of 1760. Laws will change, immigration and architecture as well, and capacity just as trade will pass into the hands of the British.

The historian draws a dynamic portrait of Montreal through its various eras and waves of migration until it became “one of the great metropolises of international Francophonie”.

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