mardi 15 décembre 2020

Card money in New France


I would like to share my new knowledge about card money with this article. Initially, I wanted to reproduce card money for my reenactments and my friends. But the project turned out to be much more complicated than expected and I would like to explain why. I opened a Pandora's Box, looking a little too closely at card money. Since my original research is in French, all the references are leading to french texts.

Card money
Between 1742 and 1757
Source: Collection et Archives de Place Royale

First of all, I sincerely thank Emmanuel Bernier for his invaluable help in producing this article as well as its proofreading. Thank you so much. Emmanuel studied the penetration of card money into rural areas in the St. Lawrence Valley between 1685 and 1743 during his master's degree at Laval University. This link will take you to an interview he did on his dissertation on the radio show 3600 secondes d'histoire  on May 20, 2020.

Next, I would like to point out that this information is more interested in the St. Lawrence Valley, although New France extended to the Great Lakes region and Louisiana.

Do you know the card money?

For many, including myself before really taking an interest in the subject, the thing is simple. In New France, there was a lack of coins and institutions compensated for this lack by writing on pieces of playing cards which were then used as currency: card money. This statement is only partially true and deserves the nuances and further elaboration of this long article.

First thing to know about card money, there have been two periods of issuance of card money, interspersed with a blackout period in between. Card money was not the colony's only paper money. At the end of the French regime, it represented only a small percentage, 3.8% according to Emmanuel Bernier, of the paper money in circulation, while bills of exchange and ordinances were in the majority.

I had already done an article dealing with the difference between the different types of paper money in this article: The wig makers in New France.

On the left: Ordonnance of 1753; on the right: lettre de change of 1759

First period of issuance: Card money on playing cards (1685 to 1714)

This is the period when card money exists as inscribed in the collective imagination: playing cards of which the amount they represent is inscribed on the back of them. When Intendant Jacques de Meulles arrived in the colony of Canada in 1682, he inherited a colony struggling with the wars waged against the Iroquois. The colony, which imports much more goods (in monetary value) from France than it can export with its raw materials (mainly fur and cod) is continually in shortage of coins. With the significant arrival of military companies to defend the colony, the lack of money to pay all these people is felt more and more. In 1685, the shortage of hard cash became too great. To pay the soldiers' pledges while awaiting the replenishment of the coffers with the arrival of the ships, the intendant Jacques de Meulles made the first emission of card money: all these cards will be redeemed and burned by the authorities within three months. followed its dissemination. This trick, supposed to be temporary, will be repeated the first three years of use of the card money, the redemption of the cards was done entirely each year. See this document giving an account of the manufacture of card money by the intendant Jacques De Meulles on September 24, 1685.

The new intendant, Jean Bochard, Chevalier Seigneur de Champigny, arrived in the fall of 1686. There is no evidence to know whether card money was issued for his first two years of intendance, namely 1687 and 1688. The last one decade of the 17th century takes place in a context of war, that of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697). The repercussions of this war are better known in Quebec by the siege of Quebec made by General Phipps of Massachussetts and the famous response of M. de Frontenac to the latter's emissary: ​​"I have no answer for your general only by the muzzle of my cannons and with great gunshots ”. The colony is once again struggling financially to pay everyone.

Engraving showing the battle of Québec of 1690
Author Charles Van Tenac
Source: Gallica

In November 1689, the year preceding the siege of Quebec, Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, signed an ordinance with the intendant Jean Bochard de Champigny. This ordinance formalizes the use of card money to pay troops and prohibits counterfeiting. See this document in BANQ for more information on this prescription. The value of the cards (abbreviated name also given to the card money) is inscribed on them and is formalized by three signatures: that of the intendant, that of the governor and that of the treasury clerk. The first traces of the card money issues of the intendant Bochart de Champigny are dated 1689. Nothing allows us to know if they are still redeemed annually.

The counterfeiters were severely punished. This document details the sentence of the surgeon Pierre Malidor for having forged a single four livres card. On March 7, 1690, the offender was condemned to be "beaten and castigated, naked, with rods on his shoulders, by the executor of high justice (executioner) from the door of the Palace to that of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Québec (today the cathedral-basilica), at the usual crossroads and places, in each of which he recovers six lashes; he must also restore the price of said counterfeit cards and pay the sum of 10 pounds to His Majesty (Louis XIV) and serve by force an inhabitant for three years ”. These punishments are intended to be dissuasive. On the other hand, the document does not indicate how the inhabitant who seeks Pierre Malidor's help will be chosen.

Detail of L'estrapade
Engraving of Jacques Callot
The collection Les grandes Misères de la Guerre
Source: Wikipedia

But why did they use playing cards?

The colony's resources are limited. The playing cards are made of sturdy cardboard, made to withstand frequent handling. They have emerged as the most durable and affordable medium in the colony context.

Reproductions of card money from the artist Henri Beau
around 1900
Source: Library and Archives Canada

Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to know what historical bases were used by the artist Henri Beau, at the beginning of the last century, to illustrate the fact that different values ​​of money were represented by different shapes and sizes of cards. The idea is plausible in the sense that a large part of the population being illiterate, this would facilitate the recognition of values. Also, cutting the cards according to their described values ​​leads to a saving of paper, which in a context of general shortage of material makes sense. However, I could not find any primary sources which corroborate this idea. In addition, the sources indicate different values ​​as mentioned later. Also, to my knowledge, no card money made on playing cards has survived until today. I will come back to this point later.
From 1703 to 1705, the post of intendant of New France was held by François Beauharnois de la Chaussaye, baron of Beauville. He participated in the manufacture and distribution of card money during his tenure.

Jacques Raudot and his son Antoine-Denis took care of the role of intendant of New France from 1705. This was the only case where the office of intendant was held by two people. However, most of the official documents were signed only by Jacques Raudot. One of his first orders is to recognize the validity of all cards signed by previous owners. For more details, see this ordinance in the Archives of BANQ. The intendants Raudot, father and son, are in post during a period of war, that of the Spanish succession (1701-1714). The best-known repercussions of this war in New France are the loss of half of Acadia as well as of the island of Newfoundland in favor of England. The Raudot intendants also regulate the payment of entry fees on tobacco, wines and brandy so that they are made in French currency. See this ordinance of September 7, 1705 for more details.

The presence of card money as an alternative currency within the colony caused it to experience significant inflation, to the point of being undervalued compared to hard money. This inflation favored the use of card money in the colony.

It appears that the cards were counted and burned when they returned to government hands, as evidenced by this document of November 29, 1705. It is interesting to note the size of the card cuts in this document: 32 livres, 16 livres, 4 livres, 40 sols and 20 sols.

According to the biography of Jacques Raudot, a quarrel between him and Governor Vaudreuil in the last years of his intendance made him ask for his recall to France in 1709. He will be authorized to leave his post in 1711 on condition of leaving on good terms with Governor Vaudreuil. Despite this animosity, the making of card money had to carry the approval of the intendant and the governor of New France (in 1711 respectively Raudot and Vaudreuil) in addition to that of the Trésorier de la Marine (Treasurer of the Navy, Duplessis) as shown. this slip of new card money produced in the year 1711. This document is interesting because it shows that the value of the cards created is 100 and 50 livres, sums greater than those destroyed in 1705.

Michel Bégon de la Picadière did not embark until the fall of 1712 to fulfill his function of intendant following Jacques Raudot, although he was appointed in 1710. His arrival was marked by an exceptional event: the fire from the palace of the intendant of Quebec in January 1713.

Québec, North West view
Sieur de Fonville
Source: Archéolab Québec

It seems that it was only on this occasion that the court of Versailles was made aware of the use of the colony of cards to compensate for the lack of hard money in New France. The intendant Bégon gives an account of the losses from the fire at the Intendant's Palace and denounces the "high price of goods due to the discrediting of card money" in this 1713 document.

Detail of the painting of the Great Fire of London of 1666
Source:Wikimedia Commons

Versailles' response was immediate in July of the same year (well, immediate for the means of the time) and unequivocal: the use of card money by the colony must cease and the king ordered its use to be reduced. . It must be said that 1713 is a bad year for the economy of the Kingdom of France. The war of succession in Spain which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht on April 11, 1713 left the kingdom with a large debt. The news of the indebtedness of the colony without the king's knowledge by means of card money was therefore not well received. Let us recall that the Treaty of Utrecht allowed Louis XIV to put his grandson on the throne of Spain on condition that the latter renounces his claims to the throne of France. In America, England took possession of half of Acadia and Newfoundland (in addition to an official recognition of its sovereignty over Hudson's Bay) thanks to this treaty, greatly reducing the size of the colonies of New France.

The confidence of the inhabitants in card money is crumbling, as shown by this trial report of November 26, 1714. The parish priest of Champlain, Pierre Hazeur, Sieur Delorme, asks that Madeleine Raclos agree to be paid in card money for the sum of 3,586 pounds and 4 sols according to a note dated November 2, 1713 (the debt has been latent for a year). Madeleine Raclos, represented by her husband Nicolas Perrault, wants to be paid in hard cash. The court decides, Madeleine Raclos cannot demand to be paid in hard cash and must accept the card money of the priest Pierre Hazeur. If she refuses, she will be consigned to the registry at her own risk. Also, Nicolas Perrault is "condemned to pay the costs taxed at 4 pounds and 2 sols, currency of France". In other words, the couple is forced to accept payment in card money but must pay the court in current cash ... Double standards.

The in-between: the government of New France gradually withdraws card money from the markets of the colony (1714 to 1729)

During the fire at the Intendant's Palace, no document was spared by the blaze. It was impossible for the new intendant Bégon to give exact accounts on the production and circulation of card money in the colony by his predecessors. Also the members of the Conseil Souverain (Sovereign Council) multiplied the reports on the cards from 1714, namely how many cards were turned over and burned by the Conseil Souverain. Here is one of these reports from 1714 in two copies.

From 1715, measures were put in place to recover the old card money to replace it with new one or bills of exchange and thus allow better control and better knowledge of the value of the card money in circulation in the colony. In this ordinance, the intendant Bégon advises to change the old card money to the Trésorier de la Marine (Treasurer of the Navy), Sieur Petit and that card money will no longer be used.

However, between Intendant Bégon's intentions and the funds provided by the Marine (Navy) via Treasurer Petit, there is a world. Indeed, for the year 1714, Bégon provided bills of exchange payable in 1715 (for the sum of 160,000 pounds) and in 1716 (for the sum of 158,055 pounds). In 1715, the Trésorier de la Marine (Treasurer of the Navy) had only 33,000 pounds to repay the bills of exchange that Bégon made the year before, leaving the government of the colony with a debt to the inhabitants of 127,000 pounds. for 1715. At least, that is what he writes in this memoir on the card money of 1715. Bégon asks that the missing funds be paid to the Treasurer of the Navy.

On August 16, 1716, an ordinance from the intendant Bégon asks all the inhabitants still having in their possession the old card money of thirty-two pounds signed by Messieurs de Champigny (intendant from 1686 to 1702), de Beauharnois (intendant from 1702 to 1705) and Raudot (intendant from 1705 to 1711) to bring them before September 1 of the same year to Sieur Petit in Québec, to Sieur Berey in Montréal and to Sieur de Tonnancour in Trois-Rivières. This ordinance aims to change the old card currency with new one, signed by members of the current government. From September 1, 1716, it will be illegal to make a transaction with the old card money as mentioned above. The time between the issuance of the order and the end of the validity of the card currency is two weeks, which I think is quite short. I find it interesting that although the cards, to be valid, needed to be signed by the Intendant and Governor of New France as well as the Secrétaire d'État à la Marine (Secretary of State for the Navy), in this ordinance only the signatures of the intendants are mentioned.

In 1717, the financial reports including the reimbursement of card money by bills of exchange are numerous. On November 6, the treasurer Gaudion made a general statement of the bills of exchange drawn in 1717 both for card money, the expenses of the old fiscal years as well as those of the expenses of the last six months of 1716 and the first six of 1717. This document list those who received bills of exchange during this period. On December 10 of the same year, in Quebec, this document was written which gave an account of the card money recovered by the government in 1716 and which was burnt. The most interesting thing about this document is to see that the cards are named according to their date of issue, the steward who signed them and their value. Thus, he informs that cards issued by the intendant Bochart de Champigny at the end of his mandate, intendant from 1687 to 1702, were still in circulation in 1717. This document also informs of the '' official '' devaluation of the currency of cards by making an equivalent of the sum of currency of burned cards, called the country's currency, to a sum in French currency. Thus, a pound in French currency is worth 1.18 pounds in the country.

This devaluation does not prevent counterfeiters from making counterfeit cards in 1717, as historian Jean-François Blais explains in this video published as part of the 2020 New France Festival. Jean-François Blais is the author of the audio and video clips 104 Histoires de Nouvelle-France. Counterfeiters, condemned to death escaped from prison in the spring of 1718 and never left any traces in the colony ...

Engraving showing the evasion of  François de Vendôme, duc de Beaufort, in 1648
By Caspar Luyken
Source: Rijksmuseum

In 1718, King Louis XV declared that card money lost half of its value. The king is 8 years old at this time and has reigned for only three years. The kingdom of France is under the regency of Philippe d'Orléans, great-uncle of Louis XV.

Louis XV
By Hyacinthe Rigaud
Source:Les collections du Château de Versailles

In 1718, Piclinou, an Aboriginal of the Kiakionnas Nation, and an inhabitant of Grondines, Laurent Hamelin were accused of having contravened the regulations of the Superior Council of Canada prohibiting going hunting in the woods or bringing in clean goods. to trade without the leave or permission of the Governor General. The property confiscated during their arrest will be sold for the benefit of the Hôtel-Dieu de Trois-Rivières, less a 150 pounds in card money for the costs of the trial and the capture of the defendants. More information on this trial in this document.

Detail of the cartouche
A map of the Inhabited Part of Canada from the French Surveys;
 with the Frontiers of New York and New England

Artiste: William Faden
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It will take a year before the complete redemption of card money by the colonial authorities is completed, or from 1719, according to Emmanuel Bernier. In this report of November 9, 1719, we see that the extinction of the use of card money created some troubles and deliberations in the succession of minor children.

During this period of repurchase / recovery of the colony's card money by the colonial authorities, what is happening in France? Well, the regent Philippe d'Orléans, who made the political decisions after the death of Louis XIV in 1715, must restore the finances of France that the war of Spanish succession left heavily in debt. It is in part this indebtedness which explains the pressing demands of Versailles to buy back all the card money in New France. Ironically, it was also during this period that the Law System was set up, the first attempt at paper money on the European continent. John Law, supported by Philippe d'Orléans, set up a first Banque Générale in May 1716. In 1718, the Banque Générale changed its name to the Royal Bank. People deposit coins in the bank in exchange for paper bills. Profits are made through currency exchange and discounting. The Law System is fragile and acts like shares in a company. It is besides a phenomenon of inflation and speculation which led, in 1720, to the bankruptcy and the Crash of the System of Law. The process will still have made it possible to clean up the finances of the Kingdom compared to 1715. 

Engraving of John Law
Source: National Portrait Gallery

The experience of the bankruptcy of the Law System and of the Crash of 1720 left the French reluctant to use paper money. At least it lasted a while.

In the colony, the basic problem remains the same. There are more imports of goods than exports, which causes a recurring lack of hard currency.

Gilles Hocquart took up his position as intendant in 1729, succeeding Claude-Thomas Dupuis, intendant from 1726 to 1728. Dupuis had succeeded Bégon who carried out the devaluation and redemption of card money. In Dupuis' last years as an intendant, his relations with Governor Beauharnois had degenerated so much that they had paralyzed the effectiveness of the government.

Second period of issueance: Card money on white cardboard (1729 to 1760)

Pressure from merchants to reinstall the use of card money resulted in the production of new card money, this time on white cardboard, with permission from Versailles.

On March 2, 1729, a royal decree decreed the manufacturing rules for card money. The allowable denominations are 24 livres, 12 livres, 6 livres, 3 livres, 1 livre 10 sols (30 sols), 15 sols as well as 7 sols 6 deniers. The values of a card thus go exponentially, always being double the previous one.

Monetary reminder:
The denier is the smallest monetary unit of the french Ancien Régime. The sol, also called sou, is worth 12 deniers. A livre is worth 20 sols. A silver ecu (écu d'argent) is worth 6 livres. A louis d'or (golden louis) is worth 24 livres. There are also silver half-ecus (demi-écu d'argent) (3 livres), double golden Louis (double louis d'or) (48 livres) and half-gold louis (demi-louis d'or) (12 livres).

Card of 24 livres
Source: Numisbid

The card above is the oldest that I have located. It was auctioned for $ 32,500 CAD. If we believe this old currency converter from the Ancien Régime, the modern equivalence of 24 livres in 1729 would be today's 370 euros or $ 576 CAD. I'll let you calculate the increase in value that this piece of cardboard has had for almost 300 years, over 5,000%.

Card de douze livres
Source: Collections du musée de la civilisation de Québec

Still according to the ordinance of 1729, the cards must all be written and signed by the Contrôleur de la Marine (Controller of the Navy) in Quebec. They must also have the hallmark of His Majesty's Arms. The 24, 12, 6 and 3 livres cards must be signed by the intendant and the governor of New France. Those of 30 sols, 15 sols and 7 sols 6 deniers must only be initialed by the intendant and the governor.

Each time card change is printed, four minutes will be produced. They are intended to be sent and kept by: 1- the intendant, 2- the governor, 3- the Bureau de Contrôle (Control Office) in Quebec and 4- the Secretary of State with the Department of the Navy. Out of four copies, only one is sent to France.

The ordinance forbids the government of New France to print more than 400,000 pounds in the value of card money. Beyond this sum, the governor, the intendant and the Controller of the Navy will be considered as counterfeiters and judged as such.

This order was followed because on October 13, 1729, a report informs us of the printing of card money for that year, for a total sum of 63,337 pounds and 10 sols. This report is signed by Hocquart, the intendant and Varin de la Mare, the controller of the Navy.

Since the making of card money from this period is official and framed by Versailles, there is much more documentation about card money after 1729.

On May 12, 1733, following complaints of lack of funds from the inhabitants, the governor and the intendant of New France, a new order from King Louis XV made it possible to print an additional 200,000 pounds in card money.

Also from 1733, a card replacement system was set up by intendant Gilles Hocquart to prevent erased and worn cards from remaining in circulation. These cards must also bear two hallmarks, the first with the arms of France and the second with the arms of Navarre. Everything is specified in this ordinance of May 18, 1733.

From the 1740s, card money had less importance in the various paper money circulating in New France. So much so that, during « L'Affaire des papiers du Canada »  "The Paper Case of Canada", only 3.8% of paper money was card money according to Emmanuel Bernier. Other paper money were bills of exchange, certificates and ordinances. To learn more about these papers, I remind you, you can read my article on paper currencies and wigmakers named in the Canada Affair.

I wrote above, about the cards of the first issue from 1685 to 1714, that no card has survived to my knowledge. Impossible to know what was their form with the sources that I consulted. Since the cards of the first instance were made without the knowledge of Versailles, I strongly doubt that they were provided with these hallmarks with the arms of France and Navarre. According to historian Sophie Imbeault in her article «Que faire de tout cet argent de papier? Une déclaration séparée au traité de Paris» (What to do with all this paper money? A separate declaration to the Treaty of Paris) appeared in 1763, le traité de Paris bouleverse l'Amérique (1763, the Treaty of Paris upsets America at Septentrion), the cards are chipped or sectioned according to their value without further details.

It seems that this is the case when looking at the cards in the collection of the Musée de la civilisation de Québec. Although there is one exception to these observations, the majority of the cards kept in this collection follow the following form:

Large and rectangular for 24 livres.

Card of 24 livres
Source: Collection du musée de la civilisation de Québec

Large, rectangular and four corners chipped for 12 livres.

Medium sized and squares for the 6 livres.

Small and rectangular for the 30 sols.

Small, rectangular and four corners chipped for the 15 sols.

All that is missing in this collection is a representative of the 3 livres cards, which can logically be imagined as medium, square and chipped, and a representative of the 7 sols and 15 deniers cards, probably even smaller than those of 30 sols and 15 sols.

This judgment of January 19, 1751 confirms the presence of particular forms concerning card money on white cardboard. Indeed, Philippe Dufresne is arrested for having had in his wallet 5 cardboard pieces cut in the shape of a card. The document seems to indicate that the boxes had neither value nor counterfeit signatures.

Although the use of card money declined from the 1740s, unmasked counterfeiters were punished with capital punishment. This Judgment of February 25, 1756 is proof of this, it confirms the sentencing of René Lusignan to hang for having made and distributed four false cards. It will be hanged and exhibited for three hours in the public square of the market in lower Quebec City, currently Place-Royale. His full trial is also available under this link.

Detail of an engraving called la promenade à rebours de Jeanne Doyon
Source: Crimino Corpus, musée d'histoire de la justice, des crimes et des peines

Other uses of playing cards

While playing cards were not the material of choice for making card money from 1729 onwards, they were used by individuals for all kinds of purposes. They are sometimes vouchers, witnesses of IOUs or memory aids of all kinds.


''Bon pour une demi-corde de bois... le 8 nivôse de l'an 3''
Source: Numisbid

The dating using the month of Nivose indicates a map used in France or its remaining colonies during the period of the French Revolution with their new secular republican calendar. Indeed the 8 Nivôse of the year 3 is equivalent to December 18, 1794.

Bon pour deux pains de chacun un escalin
Louisiana State Museum
Credit photo: Joseph Gagné

An escalin is a silver coin from the Netherlands. Identified as card currency by the museum, these cards seem to me more like a merchant's private system than an institutionalization of the practice as demonstrated above for New France.

Debt witness and debt repayment

« il a donné une lettre de change au Sieur LeBlond de 20 Louis d'or neufs en déduction des 32 qu'il me devait»
Source: Numisbid

 Memory aids of all kinds ...

«Dieu est l'âme de tout»
card used to write a pray
Source: Numisbid

card with description of coats of arms
Source: Numisbid

«Réfutation de la théorie pneumatique ou de la nouvelle doctrine des chymistes moderne»
card with the title and author name of a book
 The pdf of this book of 1796 is available here 
Source: Numisbid

This concludes this article on the history and use of card money in New France. Once again, I warmly thank the historian Emmanuel Bernier for his invaluable help in producing this article. I hope this has been instructive for you, just as it has been for me. I also thank Michel Thévenin, my sweetheart, military historian and the author of the blog Tranchées et Tricornes for his proofreading and his clarifications to the text.

Before closing, I would like to point out to you a great absence on the playing cards of the 17th and 18th centuries. They do not have a sign, the Arabic numerals on the corner like the cards of the 20th and 21st century. I don't know however when they first appeared on the playing cards.

Soon an article on my reproductions of card money ...

Until then, be well.

Mlle Canadienne

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire

''Les coeffeurs de dames contre ceux des messieurs'' a translation

 Hello, After visiting Colonial Williamsburg in the beginning of May, I decided to help the Wigmakers shop there by translating this text I ...