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Michigan Chapter Six

Cadillac as Feudal Lord

The grant at Detroit was made to Cadillac by the king on the conditions then prevailing. These provided that the lands could not be permanently alienated before being cleared, but that they might be granted to the habitant upon the annual payment of money, produce or both. The rate of payment seems ludicrously small, but it must be borne in mind that money values were much above what they are now, and that the farmer really could not afford to pay very much. His profits were of the meanest. Live chickens, eggs, wheat and other grain constituted important features of the annual contribution of the vassal to his fief. Cadillac greatly desired a noble title and asked the king to make him Marquis of Detroit, but his royal patron never gratified this ambition. Patents of nobility had been issued to a few of the more prominent colonists, but the king was disposed to go a little slowly in matters of this sort. The country was already overrun with gentilshommes. For lack of opportunity or occupation at home many of the young noblesse had chosen to try their luck in the new world. But they were ill fitted by taste and habits for life in the clearings. They could not labor; they could not trade, at least in retail, without forfeiting their nobility. They might serve as officers in the army, or they might hold down chairs in some political office, and thus save their dignity, or they might live as pensioners on the bounty of the king or some lord either in France or Canada, but so far as any employment for the purpose of earning daily bread, that was out of the question. The governor, Denonville, says of them: "Several have come out this year with their wives, who are very much cast down; but they play the fine lady, nevertheless. I had much rather see good peasants; it would be a pleasure to me to give aid to such, knowing, as I should, that within two years their families would have the means of living at ease for it is certain that a peasant who can and will work is well off in this country, while our nobles with nothing to do can never be anything but beggars.

Michigan


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