Authorization Granted to Jacques Hertel de Cournoyer, to Travel to the Pays-d’En-Haut for the Purpose of Trading Furs


With this document dated April 30, 1721, and signed in Montreal, Philippe de Rigaud Vaudreuil (1643–1725), governor of New France, permitted Jacques Hertel de Cournoyer (1667–1748) to go to the Pays d'en Haut (a vast territory to the west of Montreal) with two canoes and eight men. Cournoyer was to serve Father Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix (1682–1761), a priest who was traveling to the region ostensibly to visit missions, but who had been ordered by Philippe, duc d’Orléans, to find the western sea, thought to provide a passage to Asia. The document reflects a defining aspect of the French colonization of North America: the fur trade, which was a driving force behind French exploration of the North American interior and evangelization of the Indians. Jacques Hertel de Cournoyer, born in Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers), Quebec, was one of 15 sons of Joseph-François Hertel de la Fresnière, who grew up amidst perpetual wars between the French and the Iroquois. Guided by Cournoyer, Charlevoix traveled westward from Montreal, making many notes and observations, which later became part of his published Journal. The detailed data that Charlevoix collected on the long voyage was of great value to hydrographer and cartographer Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, who used it to create updated and improved maps of the Great Lakes region. Charlevoix did not find the western sea, but he later published a history of the French colonies in North America and other works that established his reputation as a major historian. Cournoyer was a captain in the marines who became lord of Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, a settlement on the Richelieu River.

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  1. François Daniel, Nos gloires nationales: ou, Histoire des principales familles du Canada, vol. 1 / Our national glories: or, History of principal families of Canada, vol. 1 (E. Senécal, 1867). David M. Hayne, “Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier de,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography 3 (Toronto: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003– ).
  2. “Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu: Village de terres fertiles en bordure de la rivière Richelieu,” in l'Association des plus beaux villages du Québec/ The Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec (1998, 2015).

Last updated: January 8, 2018