Louis XIV’s New France
COLIN M. COATES
In a 1728 edict, the misguided and soon-to-be-dismissed intendant of New France, Claude-Thomas Dupuy, described what he termed “l’économie du gouvernement de Canada.” The King was represented in the colony, Dupuy contended, by two primary figures, the governor (the chief military figure) and the intendant (the principal civil authority), as well as by the Superior Council (the Sovereign Council before 1703). “The king’s authority,” he claimed, “resides eminently and characteristically in his Superior Council, entrusted as are the Parliaments and other Superior Councils of the kingdom with the most precious portion of the majesty of kings, which is the administration of their sovereign justice.” Those who have “the prince’s authority” cannot disagree openly, but when they do, the governor should prevail on war and military issues, and the intendant on judicial, civil (“police” in the eighteenth-century use of the term), and financial affairs. “This is the system and the rule of governments throughout the king’s dominions,” Dupuy concluded, “without which it would be impossible to manage any business, to govern the people and not to expose them to continual uncertainty.”1
Dupuy was wrong, of course, in his description of constitutional practice in the colony, as the revocation of his position by the King in 1728 would indicate — indeed, as would the fact that his successor, Gilles Hocquart, was initially given the clearly subordinate title commissaireordonnateur. Yet Dupuy did address an important issue concerning colonial governmental legitimacy. How was the King’s authority to be understood on the other side of the Atlantic? How were his representatives able to legitimize their roles and control the colonial population?