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Established in 1627, the Compagnie des Cent Associes was formed as the answer to many of the problems facing New France. In the words of Thomas Costain in the book entitled "The White and the Gold, The French Regime in Canada":
"It conferred on the company the whole of the North American Continent from Florida to the farthest northern point, and from the Atlantic seaboard to the western sources of the St. Lawrence River. The fur trade was to belong to them exclusively for all time, and they were to control the trade of the colony, with the exception of the coast fisheries, for a term of fifteen years. No duty would be charged on the goods they would import to France. In return the Associates engaged to send three hundred people to Canada each year and to bring the total to four thousand by the expiration of fifteen years; supporting the settlers, moreover, for three years and providing each community with three priests"
"It was provided that the members of the nobility might become associates without any prejudice to the dignities which formerly had excluded them from participation in trade. On the other hand, twelve patents of nobility were to be distributed among the men of lesser degree, the merchants and the shipping heads. All settlers were to be French and Catholic. The government was to stand back of the company and to provide immediately two warships fully equipped for service."
Unfortunately, the delighted leaders of New France did not have the forethought to see the drawbacks in this new formation. This document would determine every aspect of the lives of the men and women who braved the rigors of life on this new continent. Every detail of the habitants' existence would be dictated. Free will was to be denied to everyone. The habitant would not be allowed to determine his own destiny. Even the act of marriage would be subject to king-made controls and restrictions.
In early 1628, much of the fleet sent to New France by the Company was captured by the English. This fleet, heavily loaded with supplies and settlers, contained items desperately needed by the by the current habitants for survival during the long, harsh winter. Life in New France seemed hopeless.
However, unknown to the current habitants & leaders, this defeat had brought the Compagnie des Cent Associes to the brink of bankruptcy! Further examination shows that the Company had been hovering on the brink of bankruptcy almost from the beginning. Reorganization attempts were unsuccessful and the Company's fate was obvious. The "beaver wars" with the Iroquois in the early 1640's sealed this fate. The Company was forced to relinquish their exclusive hold on the fur trade to the more powerful inhabitants of New France. At this point, the coureurs de bois came into existence. The coureur de bois, who were able to see the advantage of self-sufficiency, began raking in large profits. There was no turning back at this point. In 1663, the Compagnie des Cent Associes closed its books and, finally, its doors!
The following list of members of the Company contains one of my ancestors (and yours??), Pierre Desportes, father of Helene Desportes: