This site contains a large number of documents produced almost three centuries ago. The personages and procedures related to criminal justice are presented through documents from that era in the section devoted to justice. Below, you will find a glossary of terms that explain the material, social and cultural realities of the 18th century. The definitions proposed in this glossary are intended to explain the meaning of these words as they are used on this site. They do not cover all possible definitions for these words.
Apothecary: Person whose profession is to prepare and sell medicine or drugs (drugstore).
Arsonist: One who maliciously sets fire to property.
Aune: Ancient measure equal to three feet eight inches in length, or approximately 1.20 m.
Awl: Pointed tool used to pierce leather for sewing.
Battering ram: A long beam with the end in the form of a ram’s head, to bring down walls.
Black Code, Code noir: Decree passed by Louis XIV regarding, in part, the treatment of Black slaves.
Bleached linen: Linen bleached by exposure to the sun, on the grass.
Boutte-feu/Linstock: A long forked stick for holding a match, formerly used to fire cannons.
Bushel: A bushel is a unit of volume used (with somewhat
different definitions) in various systems of units.
· 1 U.S. bushel = 35.23907 litres = 9.30917793 U.S. gallons
· 1 Imperial bushel = 36.36872 litres = 8 Imperial gallons
Capitaine de côte: Coastal commander of a militia surrounding a city.
Cens et Rentes: In Quebec, under the seigneurial system, this was an annual tax paid to the Seigneur by the inhabitants in lieu of feudal services. Also known as quitrent.
Commissaire and ordonnateur: (or commissary and ordonnateur
de la Marine in...) Civil officer in charge of the administration of a sector.
Subordinate to the function of an Intendant.
Commode: Chair with a chamber pot at times concealed with a hinged cover.
Contumacy: Wilful refusal to appear before a court or comply with a court order; can result in a finding of contempt of court.
Coppersmith: Maker of iron or copper cauldrons, pots and utensils.
Crepe, crépon: Woven silk or woollen fabric with a wrinkled surface.
Criminal seat: (Hot seat) Low wooden seat where the accused is made to sit for interrogation and intimidation in criminal cases subject to corporal punishment.
Dormer: Window on the roof of a house to provide light in the garret.
Drugget: Low-cost linen fabric.
Eau-de-vie: Spirits, especially brandy.
Emoluments: Wages, bonus or payment given to a king’s officer.
Equipage: Luxury horse-drawn carriage.
Fabrique: Local parish body responsible for the management of church property.
Fortnight: A period of two weeks.
Gable: Three-sided upper part of a wall of a house.
Galley: Low flat vessel on the Mediterranean, owned by the king and rowed by slaves or criminals in chains.
Garter: Band of fabric worn to keep up stockings either above or below the knee.
Gratification: See ‘emoluments’.
Guimpe: A piece of starched cloth covering the shoulders of a nun's habit.
Holy-Sacrament: Receptacle in the Catholic Church that encloses the Host.
In absentia: Trial and sentencing of a person in court without that person being present.
Juridiction Royale: King’s jurisdiction or central authority in Montréal.
Keelhauling, subject to: Punishment on board a ship, consisting of dragging a person through water.
Kingpin: The kingpin originally was literally a steel pin on which the moveable, steerable wheel was mounted to the suspension or axis.
King’s stores: Warehouse for military equipment, provisions and supplies for the troops, civil and military officers and others in the service of the king.
League: Ancient itinerary measure of distance equal to four kilometres.
Lintel: Horizontal piece of support timber along the top of a door or window.
Livre, sol, denier: Ancient monetary values. The livre equals 20 sols. Each sol equals 12 deniers.
Mansard: Four-sided roofing, as opposed to two, offering more space but requiring more wood for the framework.
Medicus Regius: Royal practitioner, doctor.
Menagerie: Place for livestock.
Militia: Military troops made up of civilians at times called upon to supplement the regular army.
Minute: Authentic, notarized act.
Musketeer: Soldier on foot armed with a musket (rifle).
Muslin: Light wool or cotton fabric.
Negress(e): Historic term, offensive, a Black woman.
Ordonnance du roi/ordonnance criminelle, 1670: Formal decree, ordinance by the king dealing with criminal procedure.
Panis: Amerindian slave; in English ‘Pawnee’.
Paraph: A flourish after a signature, originally as a precaution against forgery.
Pareatis: In French law, Letters of Pareatis were documents required for the extension of a legal decision into jurisdictions other than that where it was originally made.
Parish, the: Common expression for a parish church and territory under the religious responsibility of a parish curate or priest.
Pigeon house: Structure for homing pigeons, often in a loft or attic space.
Playing-card money: Playing card used as currency in Nouvelle-France.
Practitioner: One who is familiar with court proceedings.
Provost: Officer of a jurisdiction.
Provostship: Territory under legal jurisdiction.
Quire: Packet of 25 sheets of paper.
Registry: Location where the registers and the transcripts of judgements, arrests and various other proceedings are kept, such as enquiries, expert reports, etc, and where some declarations are made.
Roughcasting: Filler on walls using mortar, lime or coarse sand.
Salt trafficker: Individual who sells salt illegally; this salt is not taken from the king’s reserves. Taxes imposed on salt (salt tax or gabelle) were very high in some provinces of France and lower in others. Salt traffickers were counterfeiters who trafficked salt without paying the imposed tax.
Sauvage: Offensive, term used to refer to Amerindians who were not from the Panis tribe, but rather from the Sioux or Renard tribes.
Savage: Offensive, archaic term meaning uncivilised, primitive.
Seigneur: Landowner under the seigneurial system.
Seigneur haut justicier: Owner of a seigneurie who has the legal power to oversee major civil and criminal causes.
Seigneurial system: System in Nouvelle-France of justice and other services, and of land ownership, where seigneurs owned the land and rented it out to tenant farmers. Based on the European feudal system of land ownership. Abolished in 1854.
Seigneurie, seigneury: Tract of land under the seigneurial system.
Shackles/yoke: Metal loop around the neck, hands or feet tied with chains and attached to a post.
Snuffer: Instrument used to snuff out candles.
Status: Civil status, occupation of a person. The accused and the witnesses are asked to state their name, age, status and place of residence.
Storekeeper: Officer and clerk in charge of the king’s stores.
Summons: In terms of legal procedure, signifies to summon someone by way of a bailiff to appear before a judge.
Temporal: Income earned by ecclesiastics for their work; contrary to spiritual.
Tenaille: A low outwork in front of the wall between two bastions in a fortification ditch.
Tie beam: Wood plank that connects two separate sections of roofing.
Torch: Wax torch or candle.
To wit: That is to say; namely.
Vault/arch: Series of wooden arches for roofing.
Visa: A word written by the Lord Chancellor on the backside
of Edicts, and Charters, to signify his examination, and approbation of them.
Wedge: Angled wooden piece wedged into the ‘boot’ during a torture session.
Wheelwright: Artisan who built wheels for carts and wagons.
Wicket: Small opening for speaking or passing something to someone.
Wimple: Veil worn by a religious order of nuns.
Writ: Court order delivered by a bailiff.
Yoke/shackles: Metal loop around the neck, hands or feet tied with chains and attached to a post.