On this day June 22, 1854

The British Parliament abolished the Seigneurial system of New France, formally abolished by the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada and assented to by Governor Lord Elgin on June 22, 1854 in An Act for the Abolition of Feudal Rights and Duties in Lower Canada which was brought into effect on December 18 of that year.

The act called for the creation of a special Seigneurial Court composed of all the justices of Lower Canada, which was presented a series of questions concerning the various economic and property rights that abolition would change.

Some of the vestiges of this system of landowning continued into the twentieth century as some of the feudal rents continued to be collected. The system was finally abolished when the last residual rents were repurchased through a system of Québec provincial bonds.

The seigneurial system was introduced to New France in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu. Under this system, the lands were arranged in long narrow strips, called seigneuries, along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. Each piece of land belonged to the king of France and was maintained by the landlord, or seigneur.

The seigneur divided the land further among his tenants, known as censitaires or habitants, who cleared the land, built houses and other buildings, and farmed the land. The habitants paid taxes to the seigneur (the cens et rentes, or “cents and rents”), and were usually required to work for their seigneur for three days per year, often building roads (the onerous corvée).

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