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Quebec - An Old Seignorial Deed

( Originally Published 1907 )

IN searching through some old family papers recently I came upon a deed, a grant of land (en seigneurie) by the commissioners for the Jesuit estates in the County of Quebec, to an officer late of the 60th Rifles. It is dated the 14th of February, 1821. The conditions of this grant under the old seignorial laws are so curious and interesting I am certain that many readers will enjoy the transcript parts of this document. The seignorial act of 1854 abolished many of these seignorial rights, reserving only to the seigneurs the ground rents (centes et rentes) and these even are commutable upon payment of the capital sum based upon the rents at 6 per cent.

When the order of Jesuits was suppressed, the Government of Canada entered upon possession of all their vast properties in various parts of the province of Quebec. This reversal of the Jesuits holdings included the old Jesuit College where now stands the present City Hall and previously known as the Jesuit Barracks where for years, when British troops were quartered in Quebec, a regiment of soldiers were its inmates. Under French regime the "jeune noblesse" of New France received its education there. At the death of Pere Cazot, the last survivor of the Jesuits, an inventory was made of the property, personal and real, by the Government. The personal property was sold, the realty remained with the Government which now assumed the role of the seigneur, which it holds to this day under the restrictions, however, of the seignorial act of 1854.

Here is the document in part :

"On the 14th day of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one. Before us the undersigned Notaries Public duly admitted and sworn for the province of Lower Canada, residing at the city of Quebec in the said province appeared and were present : The Honorable Herman Witsins Ryland, Esq., John Stewart, Esq., the Honorable Lieutenant-Colonel John Ready and Lewis Foy, Esq., a quorum of the commissioners for the administration of the estates heretofore belonging to the late order of Jesuits in Canada. Which said commissioners by virtue of the power vested in them by the said commissions have and do here-by voluntarily now and forever by these presents demise, assign, transfer, concede, and set over, for and on behalf of His Majesty, his heirs and successors, "a titre de bail a cens profit de lods et ventes, saisins et amende" and other seignorial rights according to the custom of Paris ; the said commissioners for and on behalf of His Majesty; promising to guarantee, (garantir) from all disturbances (troubles) and other hinderances whatsoever ; unto Alexander Joseph Wolff in His Majesty's Sixtieth Regiment of Foot a certain tract of land without any warranty of precise measure.

This present grant or concession thus made for and on behalf of His Majesty for and in consideration of several charges, clauses, conditions, services (servitudes) and reservations hereinafter specially mentioned--And the grantee binds himself, his heirs and assigns to pay to the said commissioners for and on behalf of His Majesty one sol (un sol) reckoning the same at the rate of twenty to the livre "de vingt a la livre" old currency, (ancien cours) for every superficial arpent of land, and a live capon (un chapon vif) or twenty French pennies " vingt sol tournois " at the option of said commissioners, of seignorial and perpetual rents, not to be redeemable "de tentes et rentes seigneuriale perpetuelle et non rachetable" for each arpent in front, upon twenty arpents in depth, the said seignorial rents "les dits cents et rentes" carrying with them the rights and profits of all fines and dues when and so often as the case may accrue according to the customs of Paris "portant profit de lots, et rentes, saisine et amende guard le cas echerra suivent la coutume de Paris" to and in favour of His Majesty, from the domain (domaine).

The said seignorial rents payable yearly on the day and feast of St. Martin's in the House and College of this city heretofore belonging to the late order R.R.P.P. Jesuits in Canada and since devolved unto His Majesty.

The said lands and concession subject to the rights of the B annal mill of the said seignory "sujet au moulin banal de la dite seigneurie" on pain of forfeiture, "sous peine de forfeiture" arbitrary fine, "amende arbitraire" and even to the payment by the grantee of the multure for grinding (la mouture des grains) of such grain or corn as he may have ground elsewhere ;—to establish a dwelling house on the said land "tenir feu et lieu" within a year and a day:—To fell and cut down such part of the timber or other brush-wood on the said land as the neighbours may by law require "donner de decouroerte ses voisins a fur et mesur qu'ils pourront le demander" to fence and ditch in common with said neighbors ;—to allow of all highways and bridges that the said commissioners may deem fit and necessary for public utility, and to uphold the same in good order; to work and cultivate the said land and to keep and maintain the same in good order so that the said seignorial rents may be easily had annually;—The said commissioners hereby re-serving the right of preemption "droit de retrait" in case of sale or of any other alienation of the whole or part of said lands upon reimbursing to said purchaser "acquerer" the price "le prix principal" of such purchase together with costs, dues and charges "praise, mise, et loyaux conts" also the right of recognizance and a new declaration "reconnoisance et declaration nouvelle" upon each mutation by succession or otherwise at the sole cost and charge of the possessor or holder (detempteur) . The said grantee being also hereby expressly prohibited from ceding, giving or alienating the whole or any part of the said land to or in favor of any corporation or mortmain "communateon main morte" as also from putting quit rent upon quit rent (cens sur cens)—and the commissioners moreover reserve for the use and benefit of His Majesty all species of timber useful for the construction of ships of war; together with all mines and minerals ; with the right also to take from the said land all sorts of wood, and also the stones, lime, sand and other material for the construction and repairs of churches, parsonages, mills and other public works, for the Manor House or other houses and inclosures on the domain of the said seigniory and if it is advantageous for the interest of His Majesty to erect water and wind mills it shall be lawful for them so to do taking such ground, river or rivulets which may be necessary—and the said grantee shall not erect or cause to be erected any mill of any description whatsoever.

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