I. France Finds a Foothold in Canada
- Like England and Holland, France was a latecomer in the race for colonies.
- It was convulsed in the 1500s by foreign wars and domestic strife.
- In 1598, the Edict of Nantes was issued, allowing limited toleration to the French Huguenots.
- When King Louis XIV became king, he took an interest in overseas colonies.
- In 1608, France established Quebec, overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
- Samuel de Champlain, an intrepid soldier and explorer, became known as the “Father of New France.”
- He entered into friendly relations with the neighboring Huron Indians and helped them defeat the Iroquois.
- The Iroquois, however, did hamper French efforts into the Ohio Valley later.
- Unlike English colonists, French colonists didn’t immigrate
to North America by hordes. The peasants were too
poor, and the
Huguenots weren’t allowed to leave.
II. New France Fans Out
- New France’s (Canada) one valuable resource was the beaver.
- Beaver hunters were known as the coureurs de bois
(runners of the woods) and littered the land with
including Baton Rouge (red stick), Terre Haute (high land), Des Moines
(some monks) and Grand Teton (big
- The French voyageurs also recruited Indians to
hunt for beaver as well, but Indians were decimated
by the white
man’s diseases, and the beaver population was heavily
- French Catholic missionaries zealously tried to convert Indians.
- To thwart English settlers from pushing into the Ohio Valley, Antoine Cadillac founded Detroit (“city
of straits”) in 1701.
- Louisiana was founded, in 1682, by Robert de LaSalle, to halt Spanish expansion into the area near the
Gulf of Mexico.
- Three years later, he tried to fulfill his dreams by returning, but
instead landed in Spanish Texas and was murdered
by his mutinous men in
- The fertile Illinois country, where the French established forts
and trading posts at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes,
garden of France’s North American empire.
III. The Clash of Empires
- King William’s War and Queen Anne’s War
- The English colonists fought the French coureurs de bois and their Indian allies.
- Neither side considered America important enough to waste real troops on.
- The French-inspired Indians ravaged Schenectady, New York, and Deerfield, Mass.
- The British did try to capture Quebec and Montreal, failed, but did temporarily have Port Royal.
- The peace deal in Utrecht in 1713 gave Acadia (renamed Nova
Scotia), Newfoundland, and Hudson Bay to England, pinching
settlements by the St. Lawrence. It also gave Britain limited trading
rights with Spanish America.
- The War of Jenkins’s Ear
- An English Captain named Jenkins had his ear cut off by a Spanish
commander, who had essentially sneered at him to
go home crying.
- This war was confined to the Caribbean Sea and Georgia.
- This war soon merged with the War of Austrian Succession and came to be called King George’s
War in America.
- France allied itself with Spain, but England’s troops
captured the reputed impregnable fortress of Cape Breton
- However, peace terms of this war gave strategically located
Louisbourg, which the New Englanders had captured, back
outraging the colonists, who feared the fort.
IV. George Washington Inaugurates War with France
- The Ohio Valley became a battleground among the Spanish, British, and French.
- It was lush, fertile, and very good land.
- In 1754, the governor of Virginia sent 21 year-old George Washington to the Ohio country as a lieutenant
colonel in command of about 150 Virginia minutemen.
- Encountering some Frenchmen in the forest about 40 miles from Fort Duquesne, the troops opened fire,
killing the French leader.
- Later, the French returned and surrounded Washington’s hastily constructed Fort Necessity, fought
“Indian style” (hiding and guerilla fighting), and after a 10-hour siege, made him surrender.
- He was permitted to march his men away with the full honors of war.
V. Global War and Colonial Disunity
- The fourth of these wars between empires started in America, unlike the first three.
- The French and Indian War (AKA Seven Years’ War) began with Washington’s
battle with the French.
- It was England and Prussia vs. France, Spain, Austria, and Russia.
- In Germany (Prussia), Fredrick the Great won his title of
“Great” by repelling French, Austrian, and Russian
even though he was badly outnumbered.
- Many Americans sought for the American colonies to unite, for strength lay in numbers.
- In 1754, 7 of the 13 colonies met for an inter-colonial congress held in Albany, New York, known simply as the Albany
- A month before the congress, Ben Franklin had published his famous
“Join or Die” cartoon featuring a snake
symbolizing the colonies.
- Franklin helped unite the colonists in Albany, but the Albany plan
failed because the states were reluctant to give
up their sovereignty
or power. Still, it was a first step toward unity.
VI. Braddock’s Blundering and Its Aftermath
- In the beginning, the British sent haughty 60 year-old Gen. Edward Braddock to lead a bunch of inexperienced
soldiers with slow, heavy artillery.
- In a battle with the French, the British were ambushed routed by French using “Indian-tactics.”
- In this battle, Washington reportedly had two horses shot from
under him and four bullets go through his coat, but
never through him.
- Afterwards, the frontier from Pennsylvania to North Carolina felt the Indian wrath, as scalping occurred everywhere.
- As the British tried to attack a bunch of strategic wilderness posts, defeat after defeat piled up.
VII. Pitt’s Palms of Victory
- In this hour of British trouble, William Pitt, the “Great Commoner,” took the lead.
- In 1757, he became a foremost leader in the London government and later earned the title of “Organizer of Victory”
- Changes Pitt made…
- He soft-pedaled assaults on the French West Indies, assaults which
sapped British strength, and concentrated on Quebec-Montreal
they controlled the supply routes to New France).
- He replaced old, cautious officers with younger, daring officers
- In 1758, Louisbourg fell. This root of a fort began to wither the New France vine since supplies dwindled.
- 32 year-old James Wolfe, dashing and attentive to
detail, commanded an army that boldly scaled the
cliff walls of a part
protecting Quebec, met French troops near the Plains of Abraham, and in
a battle in which he and
French commander Marquis de Montcalm both
died, the French were defeated and the city of Quebec surrendered.
- The 1759 Battle of Quebec ranks as one of the most
significant engagements in British and American
history, and when
Montreal fell in 1760, that was the last time French flags would fly on
- In the Peace Treaty at Paris in 1763…
- France was totally kicked out of North America. This meant the
British got Canada and the land all the way to the Mississippi
- The French were allowed to retain several small but valuable sugar
islands in the West Indies and two never-to-be-fortified
islets in the
Gulf of St. Lawrence for fishing stations.
- France’s final blow came when they gave Louisiana to Spain to compensate for Spain’s losses in the war.
- Great Britain took its place as the leading naval power in the world, and a great power in North America.
VIII. Restless Colonists
- The colonists, having experienced war firsthand and come out victors, were very confident.
- However, the myth of British invincibility had been shattered.
- Ominously, friction developed between the British officers and the colonial “boors.”
- I.e., the British refused to recognize any American officers above the rank of captain.
- However, the hardworking Americans believed that they were equals with the Redcoats, and trouble began to brew.
- Brits were concerned about American secret trade with enemy traders
during the war; in fact, in the last year of the
war, the British
forbade the export of all supplies from New England to the middle
- Also, many American colonials refused to help fight the French until Pitt offered to reimburse them.
- During the French and Indian War, though, Americans from different
parts of the colonies found, surprisingly to them,
that they had a lot
in common (language, tradition, ideals) and barriers of disunity began
IX. War’s Fateful Aftermath
- Now that the French had been beaten, the colonists could now roam freely, and were less dependent upon Great Britain.
- The French consoled themselves with the thought that if they could
lose such a great empire, maybe the British would
one day lose theirs
- Spain was eliminated from Florida, and the Indians could no longer
play the European powers against each other, since
it was only Great
Britain in control now.
- In 1763, Ottawa Chief Pontiac led a few
French-allied tribes in a brief but bloody campaign through
Valley, but the whites quickly and cruelly retaliated after being
caught off guard.
- One commander ordered blankets infected with smallpox to be distributed.
- The violence convinced whites to station troops along the frontier.
- Now, land-hungry Americans could now settle west of the Appalachians, but in 1763, Parliament issued its Proclamation
of 1763, prohibiting any settlement in the area beyond the Appalachians.
- Actually, this document was meant to work out the Indian problem by
drawing the “out-of-bounds” line. But,
colonists saw it as
another form of oppression from a far away country. Americans asked,
“Didn’t we just
fight a war to win that land?”
- In 1765, an estimated one thousand wagons rolled through the town
of Salisbury, North Carolina, on their way “up
defiance of the Proclamation.
- The British, proud and haughty, were in no way to accept this
blatant disobedience by the lowly Americans, and the
stage was set for
the Revolutionary War.
X. Makers of America: The French
- Louis XIV envisioned a French empire in North America, but defeats in 1713 and 1763 snuffed that out.
- The first French to leave Canada were the Acadians.
- The British who had won that area had demanded that all residents either swear allegiance to Britain or leave.
- In 1755, they were forcefully expelled from the region.
- The Acadians fled far south to the French colony of Louisiana,
where they settled among sleepy bayous, planted sugar
cane and sweet
potatoes, and practiced Roman Catholicism.
- They also spoke a French dialect that came to be called Cajun.
- Cajuns married the Spanish, French, and Germans.
- They were largely isolated in large families until the 1930s, when
a bridge-building spree engineered by Governor Huey
Long, broke the
isolation of these bayou communities.
- In 1763, a second group of French settlers in Quebec began to
leave, heading toward New England because poor harvests
led to lack of
food in Quebec because…
- The people hoped to return to Canada someday.
- They notably preserved their Roman Catholicism and their language.
- Yet today, almost all Cajuns and New England French-Canadians speak English.
- Today, Quebec is the only sign of French existence that once ruled.
- French culture is strong there in the form of road signs,
classrooms, courts, and markets, eloquently testifying to
vitality of French culture in North America.
The History Database