Voyageur Contract
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Print a Voyageur Contract!

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Use a quill pen to write in the answers as described in the translation. Congratulations, you're now an official voyageur for the North West Company! (Now stop loitering and get to work! And don't forget to bring your own paddle!)

PARDEVANT les NOTAIRES de la Province du Bas
Canada à                                              y residant, Soussignés; fut présent





lequel s'est volontairement engagé et s'engage par ces présentes à Messrs.
M'TAVISH, FROBISHER & Co. Mr.
                             à ce présent et acceptant pour à leur première requisition,
partir de Montréal, en qualité de
dans un de leurs Canots, pour faire le voyage, tant en montant

 

et passer par Michilimakinac, s'il en est requis, passer huit pièces sur le
Grand Portage en entrant, et              paquets en sortant, ou rabattre six
livres ou chelins, ancien cours, par chaque pièce ou paquet, à l'option des
dits Sieurs M'TAVISH, FROBISHER & Co. ou leur représentant, et de
travailler six jours à tous autres ouvrages excepté de passer encore des
pièces. S'oblige d'aller au Lac de la Pluie s'il est nécessaire, en augmentant
les gages ci-après de
livres ou chelins, et avoir bien et dûment soin pendant les routes, et étant
rendu au dit lieu,                                 des Marchandises, Vivres, Pellete-
ries, Ustenciles, et de toutes les choses nécessaires pour les voyage; servir,
obéir, et exécuter fidèlement, tout ce que les dits Sieurs Bourgeois ou touts
autres représentans leurs personnes, auxquelles ils pourroient transporter le
present engagement, lui commanderont de licite et honnête; faire leur
profit, éviter leurs dommages, les en avertir, s'il vient à sa connoissance; et
généralement tout ce qu'un bon engagé doit, et est obligé de faire, sans
pouvoir faire aucune traite particulière, s'absenter, ni quitter le dit service,
sous les peines portées par les Loix de cette Province, et de perdre ses
gages. Cet engagement ainsi fait, pour et moyennant la somme de

                                                                               livres ou chelins, ancien
courant de cette Province, qu'ils promettent et s'obligent de bailler et payer
au dit engagé un mois après son retour en cette ville, et à son départ l'é-
quipment simple; reconnoit avoir reçu d'advance à compte
                                                      s'oblige de contribuer d'un par cent sur
ses gages pour le Fonds des Voyageurs. Car ainsi, &c. Promettant, &c.
Obligeant, &c. Renonçant, &c.

Fait et passé à  Montréal, en l'étude du Notaire soussigné
l'an mille sept cent                                               le
de                                              à                 midi, et ont signé, à l'exception
du dit Engagé                     qui, ayant declaré ne le savoir faire, de ce enquis,
a fait sa marque ordinaire après lecture faite.

BEFORE THE NOTARIES of the Province of Lower
Canada, at [place name] residing, the Undersigned; was present
 

[Full name and parish of voyageur]


who of his own free will has engaged and engages himself by these presents to Messrs.
McTAVISH, FROBISHER & Co. Mr. [Name of company representative]
to this agreeing and accepting, at their first command,
leaving from Montreal, in the position of [Position in canoe]
in one of their Canoes, for making the voyage, going up to


[Destination]


and to pass by Michilimackinac, if necessary, to carry eight pieces over the
Grand Portage on arriving, and [Extra packs] packs on leaving, or to have deducted six
livres or shillings, old currency, for each piece or pack, at the option of
the said Gentlemen M’TAVISH, FROBISHER & Co. or their representative, and to
work six days at all other tasks except carrying more
pieces. Must go to Rainy Lake if necessary, and increase
wages afterwards by [wages]
livres or shillings, and to take good and due care upon the voyages, and being
rendered at the said place, [name of place?] the Merchandise, Provisions, Pel-
tries, Utensils, and all the things necessary for the voyages; to serve,
to obey, and to execute faithfully, all that the said Gentlemen Bourgeois or any
of their other representatives, to whom they may transfer the
present engagement, may command that which is lawful and honest; to make their
profit, avoid their damages, warn them if it comes to his knowledge; and
generally do all that a good employee must, and is obliged to do, without
power to make any private agreement, neither to absent himself from or to quit the said service,
under the penalties imposed by the Laws of this Province, & to lose his
wages. This agreement thus made, for and paying the sum of
[wages] livres or shillings, old
currency of this Province, which they promise and oblige themselves to give and pay
to the said employee one month after his return to this city, and at his departure the
basic equipment; acknowledge to have received in advance on account [amount of money]
obliges himself to contribute one percent of
his wages for the Voyageur Fund. For thus, &c. Promises, &c.
Obliges, &c. Renounces, &c.
Made and sealed at Montreal in the office of the Notary undersigned
The year one thousand seven hundred [fill in remaining date] the [day of month]
of [month] [before/after] noon, and have signed, with the exception
of the said Employee [name] who, having declared that he did not know how to do it, of this being tested,
has made his customary mark after this was read to him.
[stroke out section marked in italics if new employee can read]

(Translation by A. Gottfred)

Here are some ideas for how to fill in the blanks (based on values from 1786):

Full name and Parish:

The majority of the voyageurs were French-Canadian men. The most common first name amongst the voyageurs was Jean-Baptiste. Other popular first names were Joseph, Michel, Baptiste, François, Louis, Ignace, Charles, Antoine, and Etienne. 

Name of company representative

Usually an English or Scottish name.

Position in canoe

A bowman was called an avant, devant or ducent, a regular paddler, or middleman, was called a milieu, the steersman was called the gouvernail. A guide was called a guide (rhymes with "feed").

Destination

For 1801, when this form of the contract was used, the destination would be Grand Portage.

For winterers (hivernants) a different contract was used. It would specify how many years they would be in the employ of the company, and oblige them to return for the summer rendezvous at the company headquarters on Lake Superior, as well as other obligations.

Extra packs

A typical value would be 4 to 6.

Wages

Pay yourself about 250 livres if you're a milieu, 400 if you're at either end of the canoe (boutes de canot). A guide was worth 500 livres.

If you are going west of Rainy lake (and therefore going to stay the winter in the Northwest), double your wages.

 

Copyright 1994-2002 Northwest Journal ISSN 1206-4203.  May I copy this article for my class?

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