Black history: our ancestors, at the time of New France, also had slaves

Black History: Our Ancestors, in the Age of New -France, also had slaves


The issue of black slavery in New France was raised by French colonial authorities as a way to develop the colony more than 350 years ago. In this month of black history, let's revisit this little-known period of our history.

In 1688, the Attorney General, François-Madeleine Ruette d'Auteuil, wrote this: “If it pleased the King, to grant permission to have in the said country Negro slaves or others as it pleased him to to agree with the islands of America, that would be the best way to succeed in all kinds of manufactures…”

He writes further on: “That if it is objected that the Negroes will not live there more because of the cold, experience shows the contrary since there have been some who have done perfectly well there for several years and that the English have had a large quantity of them in New England. >


Intendant Randot, by an ordinance dated April 13, 1709, legalized slavery in New France: “We, at His Majesty's good pleasure, order that all Panis… and Negroes who are bought and which will be in the future will belong in full ownership to those who bought them.”

This text will be invoked in 1793 by the inhabitants of Montreal in the request presented to the House of Assembly to defend the slavery, which in Canada has become an institution with its legal foundations.

Mgr de Saint-Vallier, first bishop of Quebec, decreed that slavery was hereditary and in his catechism of 1702 proclaimed the nullity of marriage between a slave and a free person.

In popular representation, the Black becomes the symbol of otherness, marked with the seal of infamy from which he can no longer free himself. There is now an impassable line that separates “White” from “Black”.

With the establishment of legal regulations an obsession with racial purity develops which condemns any interracial union as a transgression of the natural order. It was the beginning of the institutionalization of racism.

A commodity

The letter-writer Marie Elizabeth Bégon describes Jupiter and Pierre as “his niggers” than his horse, of three “useless pieces of furniture”, in a letter dated December 25, 1748.

Like any commodity, the black slave must be inspected and sold in good condition. The Quebec Gazette of February 23, 1769 announces the sale of a “25-year-old negress” and a “23-year-old negro” who look good in their livery clothes.

In this newspaper paragraph, a man puts his black slave up for sale, like a commodity.

Slave depersonalization begins with the sale. It is stamped with a hot iron. The 13-year-old slave Jean Pierre was thus sold in Quebec by the merchant Jean Corpion in 1755.

The last, in 1840

Black slaves never accepted slavery and indeed at the slightest opportunity they fled.

In 1793, there will be the first march in Montreal against slavery. In 1799, Papineau unsuccessfully proposed a law for the abolition of slavery.

On this representation, we see a black child, on the right, with her masters in Quebec, in 1760.

Le 28 August 1833, slavery is abolished in the British Empire.

Catherine Thompson, buried in Vaudreuil on June 30, 1840, will be the last known slave in Quebec.