Gilles Hocquart was the intendant of New France from 1729 to 1748. He was born into a family of civil servants for the king and entered public service at an early age. The king sent him to Canada to improve the management of the colony. Hocquart arrived during a time of peace. He also had to resume Jean Talon’s earlier efforts to better integrate the colony into the triangular trade.

Canadians were preoccupied with the fur trade, however, and did not have enough money to finance large industries. So the intendant had to use the king’s money to launch major projects such as the Forges du Saint-Maurice, the Québec shipyard and a few sawmills. He also brought over skilled workers from France to compensate for a lack of workers in the colony. Despite these difficulties, Hocquart was always looking for projects that would boost economic development. He even supported the idea of bringing bison from Mississippi to Québec, a project that would prove to be impossible.

Hocquart had a global view and understanding of the colony. The shipyard was used to build boats large enough to sail to the West Indies. Thanks to the forges, Canada became less dependent on France for its iron needs. Lastly, to strengthen ties between Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal, he opened the “Chemin du Roy” (king’s road), from 1731 to 1737 on the north shore of St. Lawrence River (now Route 138). The road improved communication and encouraged the colonization of the north shore of Lake Saint-Pierre, which until then had been difficult to access.

Hocquart’s mandate ended when a new war broke out between France and England, ruining many of his accomplishments. He came to the conclusion that his 20 years in Canada had been a failure. However, like Talon, Hocquart had managed to revive the colony’s economic foundations.

Author: Léon Robichaud


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