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First intendant in exercise of New France, b. at Châlons-sur-Marne, 1625, of Philippe and Anne Beuvy; d. at Versailles, 23 Nov., 1691. After studying at the Jesuit college of Clermont, in Paris, he embraced the career of military administration, beginning as war commissary in Flanders (1654), where he acted as intendant to Turenne's army. His success won Cardinal Mazarin's favour, and he was promoted (1655) Intendant of the Province of Hainaut. Louis XIV and Colbert being determined to save Canada, then in great distress, Talon was appointed intendant the same day (23 March, 1655) that Courcelles became Governor of New France. They, with Tracy, lieutenant-general of all the French possessions in America, formed a powerful triumvirate. Talon's faculties were most ample, comprising justice, police, and finance. Reaching Quebec in 1665, he immediately began colonizing in the neighbourhood. In 1666 he had the first Canadian census taken; it gave only 3215 souls. Had his colonization policy been adopted, new France would have had 500,000 inhabitants in 1760, instead of only 60,000. Talon shared the glory of Tracy and Courcelles's expedition against the Iroquois (1666), by the preparation that had alone rendered it possible. He consented to remain after the two years of his term of office. The annexation of the New Netherlands to the French domain, which he suggested to Colbert, was not favoured by the king. He concurred (1666) in reorganizing the Sovereign Council and in reforming the petty courts. By his plan of grouping settlers round the city, a defence corps of volunteer militia would have dispensed with reinforcements of regular troops. Three years of Talon's administration had renewed the face of the country. Agriculture had progressed, cod and seal fishing were developed, shipbuilding began to thrive, and trade with the Antilles was inaugurated.
After returning to France (1668) he strove to promote Canada's interests. Reappointed in 1670, he brought with him freedom of trade. He sent explorers north, west, and south. St-Lusson took possession of Lake Superior. Forts were built and the Kennebec route opened between Quebec and Acadia, lately restored to France by the treaty of Breda. Father Albanel and his party reached James Bay and planted the cross in the far north. Jolliet, charged by Talon to find the north-west passage, discovered the Mississippi. At Talon's bidding, new France set her seal on the three-fourths of North America. He returned to France in 1672, after having, during his last weeks in office, created many seigniories for officers of the Carignan regiment, thereby contributing to the development of colonization and to the foundation of an aristocracy. During his seven years of office Talon had realized the programme he had traced in 1665. By establishing administrative and judiciary institutions that lasted throughout the entire French regime, by encouraging industry and commerce, fostering charitable works, creating new centres of population, and fortifying the colony's frontiers he prepared the way with remarkable foresight for the future development of the country, and ranks among the foremost makers of Canada. Louis XIV created him Count d'Orsainville (1675), honouring him with several important dignities and ample emoluments. Talon generously aided James II in his efforts to regain his throne, likewise assisting the exiled followers of the Stuarts. Naturally influenced by the Gallican spirit of his age, he was inclined to overmagnify the royal authority in its centralizing and domineering attitude towards the Church. His excessive zeal for the financial prosperity of the State caused him to resent unreasonably the wise restrictions imposed by Bishop Laval on the liquor traffic with the Indians.
FERLAND, Histoire du Canada (Quebec, 1892); GARNEAU, Histoire du Canada (Montreal, 1882); ROCHEMONTEIX, Les Jesuites et la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1896); CAAPAIS, Jean Talon (Quebec, 1904).