Jean Talon, his ambitions and his orders

Jean Talon. Opened: 1966, Orange Line; 1986, Blue Line
Jean Talon. Opened: 1966, Orange Line; 1986, Blue Line

Jean Talon arrived in Quebec as Intendant of New France on 12 September 1665. His ambitions were to expand the glory of France and as far south as Mexico “to Florida, New Sweden, New Holland and New England”. Louis XIV and his Minister of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert, had different ideas about how Talon should serve the glory of France. In 1668 Colbert wrote:

It is better to restrict ourselves to a space of earth which the colony will able to maintain than embrace too large a quantity, part of which we may one day we be obliged to abandon  with some diminution of the His Majesty’s reputation and that of his crown. Jean-Baptiste Colbért to Intendant Jean Talon, 5 April 1668.

Talon had, in fact, already dropped his expansionary ambitions and embarked on a series of reforms which put the colony on a self-sustaining footing. He promoted denser population through the distribution of seigneuries, enforced measures to ensure the land was cleared, built model villages, and introduced new crops like hemp and hops so that there was no need to import cloth and alcohol from France. He even tried shipbuilding so the vast quantities of Acadian cod transported to Europe did not depend on vessels out of Boston. For that though he needed skilled labour.

For an economy he had only just pulled from subsistence farming and the brink of disaster shipbuilding was too much, but clearly the next step was the rapid population of New France.

Consulted for this post

André Vachon, “Talon, Jean” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. University of Toronto/Université Laval

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