The Company of New France, or Company of One Hundred Associates (Compagnie des Cent-Associés) as it was more commonly known, was formed in France in 1627. Its purpose was to increase New France’s population while enjoying a monopoly on almost all colonial trade. It took bold steps but suffered many setbacks. The company folded in 1663. It earned little return on its investment, though it helped establish New France as a viable colony.
The company was then reorganized into a number of subsidiaries, which undertook more limited ventures. Beginning in 1631, company subsidiaries developed French forts and settlements at Cape Breton Island’sFort Sainte-Anne; another near the site of present-day Saint John, New Brunswick;one more at the southern tip of Nova Scotia on Cape Sable Island; and another at Miscou Island,south of the Gaspé Peninsula. All successfully rid the areas of remaining English settlers and traders and re-established French fishing and trading rights. All led to permanentand growing French settlements.;
In 1632, the company created another subsidiary that led to the evacuation of English traders who were still illegally operating in Quebec. Richelieu appointed Champlain,France’s most visionary and capable colonial administrator, to again take command. The next spring, the company commissioned three ships carrying provisions and 150 settlers torebuild Quebec. Champlain oversaw the construction of buildings and roads. He rid the St. Lawrenceof unlicensed French and British traders and re-established relations with the Montagnais, Huron,Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Algonquin nations.
Every spring, the company sent more French immigrants to Quebec. Settlers in the towns and on seigneurialfarms along the St. Lawrence were no longer single men but families, eager to establish permanent homes. With them came more Jesuits, who had first arrived in 1625. They establishedQuebec as a Catholic society and spread their influence, sometimes with unfortunate consequences, among the Indigenous peoples.
The Company’s Demise
While New France was growing, the company continued to lose money. In 1645, it retained ownership of the land and control of colonial administration but surrendered its fur trademonopoly to the Canadian Compagnie des Habitants in return for 1,000 beaver pelts a year. Thecompany’s debts were overwhelming. By the late 1650s, the company had only 36 investors. It repeatedly appealed to the king for help, but all petitions were rejected.
The company ended operations in 1663. With the company’s demise, New France came under the direct management of the French crown,which began taking other steps to populate the colony. (See Filles du Roi.)