Civil society, judicial administration and religious institutions were increasingly handled by authorities in Québec City. Nevertheless, Montréal maintained and developed certain traits that set it apart from Québec City.
The Church occupied a prominent position in Montréal society. The Sulpicians were both seigneurs of the island and titular priests of the parish. Religious congregations, mostly female, ran the Hôtel-Dieu, provided primary education and cared for the destitute, who were housed in the Hôpital général. Two prominent religious orders, the Jesuits and the Récollets, settled in Montréal. Religious institutions also played an important economic role, through the construction of numerous institutional buildings, the operation of farms in the countryside and the investment of their revenues. Their hold on the urban landscape was undeniable.
Montréal’s social hierarchy was based on birth, profession and wealth. The military nobility, active in the Troupes de la Marine, formed an elite along with the few remaining administration and justice officials. The fur trade provided opportunities to acquire wealth and climb the social ladder: merchants were also landlords, kept servants and owned slaves.
Craftsmen and tavern keepers lived rather modestly, although they hired apprentices and servants. The city’s many day labourers worked in construction or transportation. As for soldiers, most of their time was spent in the taverns, and they were the main source of social disorder.
Commercial and military expeditions created geographical mobility, which helped shape a typical frontier-town mentality. Once a small French town, Montréal was fast becoming a North-American city.