THE INSTITUTIONS OF NEW FRANCE
WHEN Louis XIV established his personal government in 1661, following the death of Mazarin, the population of France was approximately 20,000,000. The total population of New France was only about 2500, and it was far from being self- supporting. The country had been explored from Acadia westward to Lake Superior and northward to Hudson Bay, but settlement was confined to three small communities at Quebec, Three Rivers and Montreal. The Iroquois menace still threatened the existence of the colony, already weakened in manpower by the lure of the fur trade which drew the vigorous youth up the rivers and lakes on voyages of barter and exploration.
In Acadia--whose forts and settlements had been reduced by Major-General Sedgwick of Massachusetts in 1654 and then handed back to France in 1667--the future seemed to offer even less hope. Ten years after Louis XIV assumed power the population of Port Royal was 160, and barely another 100 were to be found in the half-dozen fishing-stations between Canso and the Penobscot River. Moreover, the colony was exposed by land as well as sea to its next-door neighbour, New England. Yet, without any ready means of assistance from Canada, it was expected, in theory at least, to form a base of attack against the left flank of the New England colonies, whose fishermen trespassed constantly on local waters or raided and pillaged Acadian ports. At a time when France was about to embark on a new colonial policy, Acadia remained aloof from help and almost destitute of the means of self-protection.
In contrast to the scattered French settlements, the English colonies to the south had already taken firm root, and thousands of permanent immigrants were still packing themselves into the coastal areas west of the Appalachian Mountains. Some of them, especially in New England, had been making excessive claims to govern themselves, and in large part they were successful.