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Company of One Hundred Associates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Company of One Hundred Associates
Area served
North America (New France)
Compagnie des Cents Associés house in Québec city
Compagnie des Cents Associés house in Québec city

The Company of One Hundred Associates (French: formally the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France, or colloquially the Compagnie des Cent-Associés or Compagnie du Canada or Company of New France) was a French trading and colonization company chartered in 1627 to capitalize on the North American fur trade and to expand French colonies there. The company was granted a monopoly to manage the fur trade in the colonies of New France, which were at that time centered on the Saint Lawrence River valley and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. In return the company was supposed to settle French Catholics in New Colonies. The Company of One Hundred Associates went out of business in 1663.[citation needed]

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The United States is the world’s most prosperous economy. It’s been that way for so long -- over a hundred years -- that we take it for granted. But how did it happen? There are many answers, of course. One is that the United States values the free market over government control of the economy. But here’s a point that is seldom made: It didn’t begin that way. Before the country placed its trust in the free market, it trusted the government to make important business decisions. Or to put it another way, only after the government failed repeatedly to promote economic growth and only after private enterprise succeeded where the government failed, did the United States start to develop a world beating economy. Let’s look at three telling examples: In 1808 John Jacob Astor formed the American Fur Company and marketed American furs around the world. Europeans adored beaver hats for their peerless warmth and durability. Astor gave them what they wanted. Instead of leaving the fur business to capable entrepreneurs like Astor, the government decided it wanted to be in on the action. So, it subsidized its own fur company run by a self-promoting government official named Thomas McKenney. McKenney should have won the competition. After all, he had the federal government backing him. But while Astor employed hundreds of people and still made a tidy profit, McKenney’s company lost money every year. Finally, Congress in 1822, came to its senses and ended the subsidies for McKenney and his associates. A similar situation developed in the 1840’s around the telegraph. The telegraph was the first step toward the instant communication we have today. Invented by Samuel Morse, the telegraph transmitted sound – as dots and dashes representing letters of the alphabet. Morse, more of an idealist than businessman, agreed to let the government own and operate the telegraph “in the national interest.” But the government steadily lost money each month it operated the telegraph. During 1845, expenditures for the telegraph exceeded revenue by six-to-one and sometimes by ten-to-one. Seeing no value in the invention, Congress turned the money-loser over to private enterprise. In the hands of entrepreneurs, the business took off. Telegraph promoters showed the press how it could instantly report stories occurring hundreds of miles away. Bankers, stock brokers and insurance companies saw how they could instantly monitor investments near and far. As the quality of service improved, telegraph lines were strung across the country – from 40 miles of wire in 1846 to 23,000 miles in 1852. By the 1860s, the U.S. had a transcontinental telegraph wire. And by the end of that decade entrepreneurs had strung a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. Why didn’t the US government profitably use what Morse had invented? Part of the answer is that the incentives for bureaucrats differ sharply from those of entrepreneurs. When government operated the telegraph, Washington bureaucrats received no profits from the messages they sent, and the cash they lost was the taxpayers’, not their own. So government officials had no incentive to improve service, to find new customers, or to expand to more cities. But entrepreneurs like Ezra Cornell, the founder of Western Union, did. Cheaper, better service meant more customers and more profits. Just fifteen years after Congress privatized the telegraph, both the costs of construction and the rates for service linking the major cities were as little as one-tenth of the original rates established by Washington. In the steamship business, we see the story repeated yet again. During the 1840s, regular steamship travel began between New York and England. The government placed its bets on ship owner Edward Collins, a man more skilled at political lobbying than at business. While Congress funded Collins, Cornelius Vanderbilt started his own steamship company. Vanderbilt cut the costs of travel, filled his ships with eager passengers, and built a fabulously successful business, soon leaving Collins in his wake. Collins failed because he didn’t feel a need to improve, or even provide safe and regular service (for example, two of his four ships sank, killing hundreds of passengers). If he lost money, there was always another politician to appeal to. Vanderbilt, in contrast, had to serve his customers or he would have lost his company. You’d think we would have learned our lesson by now: economic prosperity comes from free enterprise, not from government subsidies. But it's a lesson we have to learn every generation. I’m Burton Folsom, Professor of History at Hillsdale College, for Prager University.



French exploitation of North America's resources began in the 16th century, when French and Basque fishermen used ports on the continent's Atlantic coastline as trading stations during the summer fishing season. Attempts at permanent settlements along the Saint Lawrence River began as early as the 1540s following the expeditions of Jacques Cartier. These early settlement attempts all failed, and it was not until 1604 that efforts at permanent settlement were renewed. These efforts were made under the terms of a trading monopoly granted by King Henry IV of France in 1603 to Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, and resulted in the establishment of the Habitation at Port-Royal in Acadia (near present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). This attempt at colonization failed when Dugua lost his monopoly in 1607, although the site was eventually reoccupied by other colonists. In early 1608 Dugua was granted a one-year monopoly on trading and the right to establish a settlement. The expedition that year was led by Samuel de Champlain (who had also had an important role in establishing the Acadian colony), and resulted in the establishment of the colony that grew to become Quebec City.[citation needed]

From 1613 to 1620, the Compagnie des Marchands operated in New France but as a result of a breach of their contract, lost their rights in 1621 to the Compagnie de Montmorency. Throughout all of these years, the monopoly holders frequently had trouble dealing with rogue traders (from France and other nations) in North America on one side, and politically connected opponents of their monopoly in France on the other. Many of the directors of these companies were more interested in trade than in colonization, which was usually a drain on the company's finances. Champlain, who championed the colonization efforts, worked tirelessly to make sure the French colonies survived amid political and corporate changes of power. In 1627, Cardinal Richelieu withdrew the monopoly of the Compagnie de Montmorency, and established in its place the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France, as part of a plan to develop trade,[1]

Company history

The Compagnie de la Nouvelle France was capitalized with 3,000 French livres from each of one hundred investors, which led to it becoming more widely known as the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates in English). Its investors included many important officials of the French court as well as merchants and financiers, although most of the investors in the earlier trading companies were excluded. Champlain is listed as investor number 52 in a list published on January 14, 1628.[2] The company was closely controlled by Richelieu, and was given sweeping authority over trade and colonization in all of New France, a territory that encompassed all of Acadia, Canada, Newfoundland, and French Louisiana. Management was entrusted to twelve directors.[1]

From 1629 to 1635 Champlain was the company's commander in New France.[3] Under the Ancien Régime in France, every community was governed by a lord and provided with a priest plus a magistrate appointed only with the lord and priest's concurrence. The charter also required the company to bring an average of 160 settlers to New France over the next twenty five years and to support their settlement for the first three years. It was granted a monopoly of the fur-trade, and colonists not maintained by the Company were free to barter with the Indians on condition they sell their furs to the Company.[1]

The company's first fleet of colonization and supply left France in April 1628 under the cloud of war, and over the objections of some of its directors. War had broken out in 1627 with England, which raised the risk of seizure of ships heading for North America. In fact, King Charles I of England had issued letters of marque authorizing the seizure of French shipping and even the taking and destruction of her colonies. David Kirke and his brothers, in possession of one of these commissions, sailed up the Saint Lawrence in heavily armed merchant ships, burned a French farm, and demanded that Champlain surrender Quebec. He refused, and the Kirkes retreated, believing Quebec to be too strongly defended. They encountered and seized the poorly defended company fleet, and took the captured goods back to England. The company lost 90% of its initial investment with the loss of the fleet.[4]

The company encountered numerous further difficulties with its exploitation of New France including territorial battles with the British. By 1631 the company had to find new investors willing to accept the risks. In order to attract people and capital, the company had to allocate portions of its trading monopoly to new subsidiary companies. These subsidiary partners, such as the Compagnie des Habitants in Quebec, were made up of wealthy members of the elite from various parts of France. Nevertheless, over the ensuing two decades this concept too had very limited success and France turned its attention to more important things in 1635 when it joined the Thirty Years' War in Europe.[citation needed]

Discontent with settlers in Quebec over the company's total control of the fur trade caused numerous problems and matters worsened during the 1650s when war with the Iroquois severely hampered the fur trade and threatened continued colonization. Unable to deal with the numerous and ongoing difficulties, in 1663 the company surrendered its charter.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Company of New France", L’Encyclopédie de l'histoire du Québec
  2. ^ David Hackett Fischer, Champlain's Dream, p. 404
  3. ^ Trudel, Marcel (1979) [1966]. "Champlain, Samuel de". In Brown, George Williams. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. I (1000–1700) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  4. ^ Fischer, p. 433


  • Levi, Anthony (2000). Cardinal Richelieu: And the Making of France. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-0778-X.
This page was last edited on 16 September 2018, at 03:00
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