From 1663, New France had been governed according to the principles of an absolute monarchy. In short, the king had absolute power. He chose his ministers and appointed the directors who were sent to the colonies. People could not vote, demonstrate or even meet for political reasons. However, the government still took the needs of the population into account and made sure everyone was treated fairly so that social order was maintained.

Those who ran the colony can be described as follows: From his palace in Versailles, the king gave general instructions to the Minister of the Marine, who was in charge of the colonies. The minister would then send his instructions to the governor and the intendant. The governor was responsible for the military and establishing and maintaining relationships with Indigenous Peoples (diplomatic affairs).  The intendant handled civil matters like finance and justice. The Bishop of Québec, who took care of religious matters, was initially very influential but was gradually left out of politics as time went by. Like the governor and the intendant, he sat on the Sovereign Council, which was the top court of the colony.

Author: Léon Robichaud, amended by Alexandre Lanoix in March 2010

Video narration available in French at

 See also – Traces of the past:

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