Jean Talon, intendant of New France (baptized 8 January 1625/26 in Châlons-sur-Marne, France; died 24 November 1694 in France).
Jean Talon, intendant of New France (baptized 8 January 1625/26 in Châlons-sur-Marne, France; died 24 November 1694 in France). As “Intendant of Justice, Public order and Finances in Canada, Acadia and Newfoundland” 1665-68 and 1669-72, Talon was a determined, energetic and imaginative servant of the king and his minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
Intendant of New France
This first intendant of New France was to convert a small, weak, fur-trading and missionary outpost under company rule into a profitable, well-populated royal province, capable of defending itself. To diversify the economy, Talon had the mineraland timber resources evaluated; encouraged commercial farming, domestic crafts, shipbuilding and the fishery; and established a brewery and fostered trade with the French West Indies. Almost 2,000 immigrants and disbanded soldiers were settled on the land. It was assumed that the population would increase through intermarriage with Aboriginal people who had been instructed in the religion and ways of the French, but few abandoned their culture. Talon relied on penalties against bachelors and rewards for early marriage and large families among the French for population growth.
When his dream of a territorial empire conflicted with Colbert’s desire for a compact, defensible colony, Talon obediently encouraged continuous settlement in the St Lawrence Valley and founded three villages.
Return to France
Talon had accepted the post in Canada as a route to promotion, and in 1671 asked the king’s permission to return to France in view of “my obedience in leaving Europe for America, exposing my life to the different perils of sea and sickness … and my labours in a land as rough as this was in its beginnings.” He returned in 1672 and was appointed secretary to the king, member of the royal household and was named Count d’Orsainville.
In New France, Jean Talon’s industries, commercial agriculture and trade with the West Indies failed; for three years there was no intendant and the Crown would no longer invest large sums of money in colonial development. Talon is remembered as an industrial entrepreneur and originator of the family allowance, but his enduring legacy was the centralized, royal administrative and legal framework.