Following the conquest, trade shifted from France to Britain. Many of Québec’s biggest merchants left for France. English and Scottish merchants, who had money, credit and good contacts in their countries, took control over trade in Lower Canada.

In the Gaspé, Charles Robin, a French-born British entrepreneur, controlled cod fishing. From Québec City to the Saguenay, William Price was the king of the forest industry. Meanwhile in Montréal, McGill, Frobisher and McCord were seeing their once-flourishing fur trade rapidly decline. On the Ottawa River, Philemon Wright, an American, dominated the timber industry.

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A new generation of traders was also emerging in new sectors. John Molson was now a major beer brewer. The flour trade was growing with John Fleming and later, with Alexander Walker Ogilvie. A few French individuals had managed to play an important role within this group, such as Augustin Cuvillier, who was one of the founders of the Bank of Montreal. But big business had officially passed into the hands of the “English”.

As a result, although they were few in number, English traders had a huge influence on the organization of the colony. For example, they were the ones who went ahead and had roads built, harnessed rivers and built a canal to bypass the Lachine Rapids.

Author: Léon Robichaud

See also – Traces of the past:

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