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Fur Trade

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Early in the 17th century French traders established permanent shore bases in ACADIA, a post at TADOUSSAC (QC) and in 1608 a base at QUÉBEC to exploit the trade more effectively. The following year the Dutch began trading up the Hudson River (NY) and in 1614 established permanent trading posts at Manhattan and upriver at Orange [Albany]. This activity marked the beginning of intense rivalry between two incipient commercial empires. During these years the number of traders flooding into the St Lawrence region and cutthroat competition among them greatly reduced profits. In an attempt to impose order the French Crown granted monopolies of the trade to certain individuals. In return, the monopoly holders had to maintain French claims to the new lands and assist in the attempts of the Roman Catholic Church to convert Aboriginal people to CHRISTIANITY. In 1627 Cardinal Richelieu, first minister of Louis XIII, organized the COMPAGNIE DES CENT-ASSOCIÉS to put French territorial claims and the missionary drive on a firmer footing. Missionaries were sent out: in 1615, four Récollets, and in 1625 the first members of the powerful Society of Jesus (Jesuits) arrived at Québec. A mission base, STE MARIE AMONG THE HURONS, was established among the HURON near Georgian Bay, but the Huron were more interested in the trade goods of the French than in their religion. Yet it was fur-trade profits that sustained the missionaries and allowed the company to send hundreds of settlers to the colony. In 1642 VILLE-MARIE [Montréal] was founded as a mission centre. In 1645 the company ceded control of the fur trade and the colony's administration to the colonists (see COMMUNAUTÉ DES HABITANTS). Unfortunately, they proved to be inept administrators, and fur-trade returns fluctuated wildly as a result of an IROQUOIS blockade of the Ottawa River route to the West. Finally, after a desperate appeal by the colonial authorities to Louis XIV, in 1663 the Crown took over the colony. The main...