Louis XIV, the greatest of the Bourbon monarchs, had now taken into his own hands the reins of power. Nominally he had been king of France since 1642, when he was only five years old, but it was not until 1658 that the control of affairs by the regency came to an end. Moreover, Colbert was now chief minister of state, so that colonial matters were assured of a searching and enlightened inquiry. Richelieu's interest in the progress of New France had not endured for many years after the founding of his great Company. It is true that during the next fifteen years he remained chief minister, but the great effort to crush the remaining strongholds of feudalism and to centralize all political power in the monarchy left him no time for the care of a distant colony. Colbert, on the other hand, had well-defined and far-reaching plans for the development of French industrial interests at home and of French commercial interests abroad.

As for the colony, it made meager progress under Company control: few settlers were sent out; and they were not provided with proper means of defense against Indian depredations. Under the circumstances it did not take Colbert long to see how remiss the Company of One Hundred Associates had been, nor to reach a decision that the colony should be at once withdrawn from its control. He accordingly persuaded the monarch to demand the surrender of the Company's charter and to reprimand the Associates for the shameless way in which they had neglected the trust committed to their care. "Instead of finding," declared the King in the edict of revocation, "that this country is populated as it ought to be after so long an occupation thereof by our subjects, we have learned with regret not only that the number of its inhabitants is very limited, but that even these are daily exposed to the danger of being wiped out by the Iroquois."

In truth, the company had little to show for its thirty years of exploitation. The entire population of New France in 1663 numbered less than twenty-five hundred people, a considerable proportion of whom were traders, officials, and priests. The area of cleared land was astonishingly small, and agriculture had made no progress worthy of the name. There were no industries of any kind, and almost nothing but furs went home in the ships to France. The colony depended upon its mother country even for its annual food supply, and when the ships from France failed to come the colonists were reduced to severe privations. A dispirited and nearly defenseless land, without solid foundations of agriculture or industry, with an accumulation of Indian enmity and an empty treasury - this was the legacy which the Company now turned over to the Crown in return for the viceroyal privileges given to it in good faith more than three decades before.

When the King revoked the Company's charter, he decided upon Colbert's advice to make New France a royal domain and to provide it with a scheme of administration modeled broadly upon that of a province at home. To this end a royal edict, perhaps the most important of all the many decrees affecting French colonial interests in the seventeenth century, was issued in April, 1663. While the provisions of this edict bear the stamp of Colbert's handiwork, it is not unlikely that the suggestions of Bishop Laval, as given to the minister during his visit of the preceding year, were accorded some recognition. At any rate, after reciting the circumstances under which the King had been prompted to take New France into his own hands, the edict of 1663 proceeded to authorize the creation of a Sovereign Council as the chief governing body of the colony. This, with a larger membership and with greatly increased powers, was to replace the old council which the Company had established to administer affairs some years previously.

During the next hundred years this Sovereign Council became and remained the paramount civil authority in French America. At the outset it consisted of seven members, the governor and the bishop ex officio, with five residents of the colony selected jointly by these two. Beginning with the arrival of Talon as first intendant of the colony in 1665, the occupant of this post was also given a seat in the Council. Before long, however, it became apparent that the provision relating to the appointment of non-official members was unworkable. The governor and the bishop could not agree in their selections; each wanted his own partisans appointed. The result was a deadlock in which seats at the council-board remained vacant. In the end Louis Quatorze solved this problem, as he solved many others, by taking the power directly into his own hands. After 1674 all appointments to the Council were made by the King himself. In that same year the number of non-official members was raised to seven, and in 1703 it was further increased to twelve.[1] At the height of its power, then, the Sovereign Council of New France consisted of the governor, the intendant, the bishop, and twelve lay councilors, together with an attorney-general and a clerk. These two last-named officials sat with the Council but were not regular members of it.

[Footnote 1: Its official title was in 1678 changed to Superior Council.]

In the matter of powers the Council was given by the edict of 1663 jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters under the laws and ordinances of the kingdom, its procedure in dealing with such matters to be modeled on that of the Parliament of Paris. It was to receive and to register the royal decrees, thus giving them validity in New France, and it was also to be the supreme tribunal of the colony with authority to establish local courts subordinate to itself. There was no division of powers in the new frame of government. Legislative, executive, and judicial powers were thrown together in true Bourbon fashion. Apparently it was Colbert's plan to make of the governor a distinguished figurehead, with large military powers but without paramount influence in civil affairs. The bishop was to have no civil jurisdiction, and the intendant was to be the director of details. The Council, according to the edict of 1663, was to be the real pivot of power in New France.

Through the long years of storm and stress which make up the greater part of the history of the colony, the Sovereign Council rendered diligent and faithful service. There were times when passions waxed warm, when bitter words were exchanged, and when the urgent interests of the colony were sacrificed to the settlement of personal jealousies. Many dramatic scenes were enacted around the long table at which the councilors sat at their weekly sessions, for every Monday through the greater portion of the year the Council convened at seven o'clock in the morning and usually sat until noon or later. But these were only meteoric flashes. Historians have given them undue prominence because such episodes make racy reading. By far the greater portion of the council's meetings were devoted to the serious and patient consideration of routine business. Matters of infinite variety came to it for determination, including the regulation of industry and trade, the currency, the fixing of prices, the interpretation of the rules relating to land tenure, fire prevention, poor relief, regulation of the liquor traffic, the encouragement of agriculture - and these are only a few of the topics taken at random from its calendar. In addition there were thousands of disputes brought to it for settlement either directly or on appeal from the lower courts. The minutes of its deliberations during the ninety-seven years from September 18, 1663, to April 8, 1760, fill no fewer than fifty-six ponderous manuscript volumes.

Though, in the edict establishing the Sovereign Council, no mention was made of an intendant, the decision to send such an official to New France came very shortly thereafter. In 1665 Jean Talon arrived at Quebec bearing a royal commission which gave him wide powers, infringing to some extent on the authority vested in the Sovereign Council two years previously. The phraseology was similar to that used in the commissions of the provincial intendants in France, and so broad was the wording, indeed, that one might well ask what other powers could be left for exercise by any one else. No wonder that the eighteenth-century apostle of frenzied finance, John Law, should have laconically described France as a land "ruled by a king and his thirty intendants, upon whose will alone its welfare and its wants depend." Along with his commission Talon brought to the colony a letter of instructions from the minister which, gave more detailed directions as to what things he was to have in view and what he was to avoid.

In France the office of intendant had long been in existence. Its creation in the first instance has commonly been attributed to Richelieu, but it really antedated the coming of the great cardinal. The intendancy was not a spontaneous creation, but a very old and, in its origin, a humble post which grew in importance with the centralization of power in the King's hands, and which kept step in its development with the gradual extinction of local self-government in the royal domains. The provincial intendant in pre-revolutionary France was master of administration, finance, and justice within his own jurisdiction; he was bound by no rigid statutes; he owed obedience to no local authorities; he was appointed by the King and was responsible to his sovereign alone.

From first to last there were a dozen intendants of New France. Talon, whose ambition and energy did much to set the colony in the saddle, was the first. Francois Bigot, the arch-plunderer of his monarch's funds, who did so much to bring the land to its downfall, was the last. Between them came a line of sensible, earnest, hard-working officials who served their King far better than they served themselves, who gave the best years of their lives to the task of making New France a bright jewel in the Bourbon crown. The colonial intendant was the royal man-of-all-work. The King spoke and the intendant forthwith transformed his words into action. As the King's great interest in New France, coupled with his scant knowledge of its conditions, moved him to speak often, and usually in broad generalities, the intendant's activity was prodigious and his discretion wide. Ordinances and decrees flew from his pen like sparks from a blacksmith's forge. The duty devolved upon him as the overseas apostle of Gallic paternalism to "order everything as seemed just and proper," even when this brought his hand into the very homes of the people, into their daily work or worship or amusements. Nothing that needed setting aright was too inconsequential to have an ordinance devoted to it. As general regulator of work and play, of manners and morals, of things present and things to come, the intendant was the busiest man in the colony.

In addition to the governor, the council, and the intendant, there were many other officials on the civil list. Both the governor and the intendant had their deputies at Montreal and at Three Rivers. There were judges and bailiffs and seneschals and local officers by the score, not to speak of those who held sinecures or received royal pensions. There were garrisons to be maintained at all the frontier posts and church officials to be supported by large sums. No marvel it was that New France could never pay its own way. Every year there was a deficit which, the King had to liquidate by payments from the royal exchequer.

The administration of the colony, moreover, fell far short of even reasonable efficiency. There were far too many officials for the relatively small amount of work to be done, and their respective fields of authority were inadequately defined. Too often the work of these officials lacked even the semblance of harmony, nor did the royal authorities always view this deficiency with regret. A fair amount of working at cross-purposes, provided it did not bring affairs to a complete standstill, was regarded as a necessary system of checks and balances in a colony which lay three thousand miles away. It prevented any chance of a general conspiracy against the home authorities or any wholesale wrong-doing through collusion. It served to make every official a ready tale-bearer in all matters concerning the motives and acts of his colleagues, so that the King might with, reasonable certainty count upon hearing all the sides to every story. That, in fact, was wholly in consonance with Latin traditions of government, and it was characteristically the French way of doing things in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Louis XIV took a great personal interest in New France even to the neglect at times of things which his courtiers deemed to be far more important. The governor and the intendant plied him with their requests, with their grievances, and too often with their prosy tales of petty squabbling. With every ship they sent to Versailles their memoires, often of intolerable length; and the patient monarch read them all. Marginal notes, made with his own hand, are still upon many of them, and the student who plods his way through the musty bundles of official correspondence in the Archives Nationales will find in these marginal comments enough to convince him that, whatever the failings of Louis XIV may have been, indolence was not of them. Then with the next ships the King sent back his budget of orders, counsel, reprimand, and praise. If the colony failed to thrive, it was not because the royal interest in it proved insincere or deficient.

The progress of New France, as reported in these dispatches from Quebec, with their figures of slow growth in population, of poor crops, and of failing trade, of Indian troubles and dangers from the English, of privations at times and of deficits always, must often have dampened the royal hopes. The requests for subsidies from the royal purse were especially relentless. Every second dispatch contained pleas for money or for things which were bound to cost money if the King provided them: money to enable some one to clear his lands, or to start an industry, or to take a trip of exploration to the wilds; money to provide more priests, to build churches, or to repair fortifications; money to pension officials - the call for money was incessant year after year. In the face of these multifarious demands upon his exchequer, Louis XIV was amazingly generous, but the more he gave, the more the colony asked from him. Until the end of his days, he never failed in response if the object seemed worthy of his support. It was not until the Grand Monarch was gathered to his fathers that the officials of New France began to ply their requests in vain.

So much for the frame of government in the colony during the age of Louis XIV. Now as to the happenings during the decade following 1663. The new administration made a promising start under the headship of De Mezy, a fellow townsman and friend of Bishop Laval, who arrived in the autumn of 1663 to take up his duties as governor. In a few days he and the bishop had amicably chosen the five residents of the colony who were to serve as councilors, and the council began its sessions. But troubles soon loomed into view, brought on in part by Laval's desire to settle up some old scores now that he had the power as a member of the Sovereign Council and was the dominating influence in its deliberations. Under the bishop's inspiration the Council ordered the seizure of some papers belonging to Peronne Dumesnil, a former agent of the now defunct Company of One Hundred Associates. Dumesnil retorted by filing a dossier of charges against some of the councilors; and the colonists at once ranged themselves into two opposing factions - those who believed the charges and those who did not. The bishop had become the stormy petrel of colonial politics, and nature had in truth well fitted him for just such a role.

Soon, moreover, the relations between Mezy and Laval themselves became less cordial. For a year the governor had proved ready to give way graciously on every point; but there was a limit to his amenability, and now his proud spirit began to chafe under the dictation of his ecclesiastical colleague. At length he ventured to show a mind of his own; and then the breach between him and Laval widened quickly. Three of the councillors having joined the bishop against him, Mezy undertook a coup d'etat, dismissed these councilors from their posts, and called a mass-meeting of the people to choose their successors. On the governor's part this was a serious tactical error. He could hardly expect that a monarch who was doing his best to crush out the last vestige of representative government in France would welcome its establishment and encouragement by one of his own officials in the New World. But Mezy did not live to obey the recall which speedily came from the King as the outcome of this indiscretion. In the spring of 1665 he was taken ill and died at Quebec. "He went to rest among the paupers," says Parkman, "and the priests, serenely triumphant, sang requiems over his grave."

But discord within its borders was not the colony's only trouble during these years. The scourge of the Iroquois was again upon the land. During the years 1663 and 1664 bands of Mohawks and Oneidas raided the regions of the Richelieu and penetrated to the settlement at Three Rivers. These petites guerres were making things intolerable for the colonists, and the King was urged to send out a force of troops large enough to crush the bothersome savages once for all. This plea met with a ready response, and in June, 1665, Prouville de Tracy with two hundred officers and men of the Regiment de Carignan-Salieres disembarked at Quebec. The remaining companies of the regiment, making a force almost a thousand strong, arrived a little later. The people were now sure that deliverance was at hand, and the whole colony was in a frenzy of joy.

Following the arrival of the troops came Courcelle, the new governor, and Jean Talon, who was to take the post of intendant. These were gala days in New France; the whole colony had caught the spirit of the new imperialism. The banners and the trumpets, the scarlet cloaks and the perukes, the glittering profusion of gold lace and feathers, the clanking of swords and muskets, transformed Quebec in a season from a wilderness village to a Versailles in miniature. But there was little time for dress parades and affairs of ceremony. Tracy had come to give the Iroquois their coup de grace, and the work must be done quickly. The King could not afford to have a thousand soldiers of the grand army eating their heads off through the long months of a Canadian winter.

The work of getting the expedition ready, therefore, was pushed rapidly ahead. Snowshoes were provided for the regiment, provisions and supplies were gathered, and in January, 1666, the expedition started up the frozen Richelieu, traversed Lake Champlain, and moved across to the headwaters of the Hudson. It was a spectacle new to the northern wilderness of America, this glittering and picturesque cavalcade of regulars flanked by troops of militiamen and bands of fur-clothed Indians moving on its errand of destruction along the frozen rivers. But the French regular troops were not habituated to long marches on snowshoes in the dead of winter; and they made progress so slowly that the Dutch settlers of the region had time to warn the Mohawks of the approach of the expedition. This upset all French plans, since the leaders had hoped to fall upon the Mohawk villages and to destroy them before the tribesmen could either make preparations for defense or withdraw southward. Foiled in this plan, and afraid that an early thaw might make their route of return impossible, the French gave up their project and started home again. They had not managed to reach, much less to destroy, the villages of their enemies.

But the undertaking was not an absolute failure. The Mohawks were astute enough to see that only the inexperience of the French had stood between them and destruction. Here was an enemy which had proved able to come through the dead of winter right into the regions which had hitherto been regarded as inaccessible from the north. The French might be depended to come again and, by reason of greater experience, to make a better job of their coming. The Iroquois reasoning was quite correct, as the sequel soon disclosed. In September of the same year the French had once again equipped their expedition, more effectively this time. Traveling overland along nearly the same route, it reached the country of the Mohawks without a mishap. The Indians saved themselves by a rapid flight to the forests, but their palisaded strongholds were demolished, their houses set afire, their caches of corn dug out and destroyed. The Mohawks were left to face the oncoming winter with nothing but the woods to shelter them. Having finished their task of punishment, Tracy and his regiment made their way leisurely back to Quebec.

The Mohawks were now quite ready to make terms, and in 1667 they sent a delegation to Quebec to proffer peace. Two raids into their territories in successive years had taught them that they could not safely leave their homes to make war against the tribes of the west so long as the French were their enemies. And the desire to dominate the region of the lakes was a first principle of Iroquois policy at this time. An armistice was accordingly concluded, which lasted without serious interruption for more than a decade. One of the provisions of the peace was that Jesuit missions should be established in the Iroquois territory, this being the usual way in which the French assured themselves of diplomatic intercourse with the tribes.

With its trade routes once more securely open, New France now began a period of marked prosperity. Tracy and his staff went back to France, but most of his soldiers remained and became settlers. Wives for these soldiers were sent out under royal auspices, and liberal grants of money were provided to get the new households established. Since 1664, the trade of the colony had been once more in the hands of a commercial organization, the Company of the West Indies, whose financial success was, for the time being, assured by the revival of the fur traffic. Industries were beginning to spring into being, the population was increasing rapidly, and the King was showing a lively interest in all the colony's affairs. It was therefore a prosperous and promising colony to which Governor Frontenac came in 1672.