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New France

NEW FRANCE

NEW FRANCE. For nearly two and a half centuries up to 1763, the term "New France" designated those regions of the Americas claimed in the name of French kings or occupied by their subjects. Early in the eighteenth century, New France reached its greatest extent. On official maps, it then stretched from Plaisance (presentday Placentia) in Newfoundland, through Acadia, Canada, the Great Lakes region (with a northern, recently conquered outlier on Hudson Bay), and the Mississippi Valley to the Gulf of Mexico. French settlers were concentrated in only a few parts of this vast arc of territory. The authorities laid claim to the rest by dint of a network of posts and forts, a minimal French presence made possible by an alliance with the Native nations whose land this was. While French power in this area tended to grow, it remained limited until the British conquest of 1759–1760 (confirmed, for the territory east of the Mississippi, in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris).

Early Settlement of New France

The idea of a new France situated an ocean away from the old gained currency after explorer Giovanni da Verrazano's 1524 voyage along the east coast of North America. If the notion contained an element of projection up to the very end, in the beginning, it was only that—a name on a 1529 map proclaiming eastern North America to be Nova Gallia. Other early New Frances were associated with exploration and, beginning in the early 1540s, short-lived settlements: in the St. Lawrence Valley, Brazil, and Florida. Only later would such efforts prove successful, as the trade with Native people, initially a by-product of the fishery, grew more intense after 1580. This both encouraged and permitted French merchant interests, official charter in hand, to establish permanent bases in the Northeast. The nuclei of the colonies of Acadia and Canada were created in 1605 and 1608, respectively, at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.) and Quebec. Neither of these mainly commercial establishments attracted many settlers in the early years. Be it with the Mi'kmaqs and the Abenakis in Acadia or the Innus, the Algonquins, and soon the Hurons in Canada, trade implied some form of military cooperation. Missionaries, who initiated exchanges of another, more unilateral sort, were a logical part of the bargain from the French point of view.

Such were the foundations of a long collaboration between the French and a growing number of Amerindian nations. Bringing together peoples of contrasting cultures and of opposing long-term interests, the arrangement was by no means preordained. Even after it became a tradition, much hard work on the part of intermediaries on either side of the cultural divide (and a few of mixed origin who were in the middle) was required to maintain it, and their blunders could threaten it. But for the moment, the two groups' interests often converged, for reasons that ultimately had much to do with demography. While the French colonial population would grow rapidly by natural increase, by British American standards a paltry number of immigrants set the process in motion. For the moment, the French posed a correspondingly limited threat to Native lands. Moreover, as conflicts among aboriginal nations and colonial and European rivalries gradually merged, both the French and a growing number of Native peoples, facing population decline, found an alliance to their advantage.

New France's Colonial Population

Meanwhile, a colonial population took root. Most of New France's colonists would live in the St. Lawrence Valley. With over 65,000 inhabitants in the late 1750s, Canada was France's flagship colony on the continent, its settlers accounting for some three-fourths of the total colonial population under French rule. Colonial development accelerated noticeably in the 1660s, thanks to a series of royal measures. These included substituting for company rule a royal administration headed by a governor-general and an intendant; sending troops to encourage the Iroquois to make peace; organizing the recruitment of emigrants, including some 800 marriageable women, in France; and permitting Jean Talon, the first intendant, to spend freely on various development projects, most of them premature. The emergence late in the decade of a new group, the coureurs de bois, illegal traders who soon all but replaced their Native counterparts in the trade linking Canada and the Great Lakes region, signaled growing specialization in the colonial economy. By the 1720s, licensed traders, who recruited canoemen mostly in rural areas and dealt with a handful of Montreal merchants, had largely replaced the coureurs. By then, the vast majority of "Canadiens" gained their livelihood on family farms or in artisan

shops, most of the latter concentrated in the colony's main towns of Quebec and Montreal. The colonial elite comprised the top government and church officials sent from France, as well as a local noblesse whose men usually served as officers in the colonial regular troops. They and the religious orders, active in education and hospitals, held most of the colony's seigneuries. Merchants, those in Quebec oriented more toward Atlantic markets and the Montrealers toward the interior, maintained a discreet but influential presence in this ancien régime society. Several groups of Native allies residing on a half-dozen reserves in the valley provided military aid; some helped carry out the Montreal-Albany contraband trade. With a few companions in misfortune of African origin, other, enslaved Natives generally performed domestic service for the well off.

Acadia in peninsular Nova Scotia, with smaller settlements in present-day New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, contained the Atlantic region's largest French population—some 13,000 by 1755. The Nova Scotia Acadians, most of whom grew wheat and raised livestock behind dikes in the Fundy marshlands, experienced both the advantages and the disadvantages of life in a borderland: trade with all comers (including Bostonians), a weak official or even noble presence, and extended periods of rule by the rival colonial power. The last of these began in 1710 with the British conquest of the peninsula. It would


be marked by the deportation and dispersal from 1755 to 1762 of the Acadians, whom the new rulers came to regard, no doubt erroneously in the vast majority's case, as a security risk. The Fundy marshlands having been reserved for New Englanders, Acadian fugitives, and returning exiles settled mainly in New Brunswick, now British territory, after the return of peace to the region.

Plaisance in Newfoundland, which had emerged in the 1680s as a year-round base for the French fishery, was by then but a distant memory; the French had ceded it to the British in 1713. Many of its inhabitants moved to Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). Here, fishing villages sprang up and construction soon began on the fortress of Louis-bourg. In the town (its population of about 4,000 in 1752 counting for some three-fourths of the colony's), merchants set the tone. This port, strategically located for the intercolonial trade and the banks fishery, became one of eastern North America's busiest. As the eastern buttress of New France, Louisbourg was twice captured, in 1745 and again, for good, in 1758. The British demolished the fortress in the early 1760s.

At New France's other extremity, Louisiana, founded at Biloxi in 1699, would for some twenty years amount to little more than a shaky French foothold on the Gulf of Mexico. Mobile, established in 1702, was the main French base in this early period, marked by an expanding trade with the nations of the interior. From 1718 to 1721, at great human cost, a chaotic period of speculation and ineptly administered settlement laid the basis for a plantation society with newly founded New Orleans at its center. Indigo, tobacco, and rice headed the list of crops. By 1730, African slaves were in the majority among the colony's non-Native inhabitants, whose total number would reach about 9,000 by the end of the French regime. Distant from France, Louisiana maintained commercial relations with neighboring colonies, be they French, British, or Spanish, as well as with the metropole. New Orleans and the lands west of the Mississippi were ceded to Spain in 1762, and the rest of Louisiana to Britain the following year. Native people were not consulted.

The evolving modus vivendi with Native people both attracted French people toward the heart of the continent and increased the chances that even the settlers among them would be tolerated there. By the 1750s, some forty posts and forts in the Great Lakes region and beyond were supplied from Montreal and a few more from New Orleans or Mobile. Some were garrisoned, and many were entrusted to commandants interested in the fur trade and charged with conducting diplomacy with the Natives. While some French traders and their employees ended up remaining in the interior, often marrying Native women, only in a few places did substantial French settlements eventually emerge. All but one had non-Native populations of a few hundred people at the end of the French regime. At Detroit, a major center of the Canadian fur trade, migrants from Canada began arriving soon after the construction of the French fort there in 1701. Louisiana's major interior dependencies were situated at Natchitoches and in the Natchez country. Finally, the Illinois country, an offshoot of Canada but increasingly tied to Louisiana, offered fertile bottomlands, a mild climate, and a ready market downriver for agricultural produce. Here, the first settlers took root discreetly around 1700, nearly two decades before an administration arrived from lower Louisiana. They practiced a productive open-field agriculture increasingly reliant on slave labor. By the early 1750s, the population of the area's six colonial villages reached about 1,400, more than a third of them slaves.

Founded at different times in a wide range of environments and with varying degrees of official participation, the principal settled areas of New France were a study in contrasts. They formed an expanding, shifting archipelago of lands where colonists and sometimes their slaves outnumbered free Native people. Beyond, among tens of thousands of Native people, the French presence was much more tenuous. That contrast takes a different form in the early twenty-first century: old French family and place names are spread across the continent, while French-speakers are concentrated in a few regions, Quebec first among them.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ekberg, Carl J. French Roots in the Illinois Country. The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Greer, Allan. The People of New France. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

Griffiths, Naomi E. S. The Contexts of Acadian History, 1686–1784. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992.

Harris, R. Cole, ed. Historical Atlas of Canada. Vol. 1: From the Beginning to 1800. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

Ingersoll, Thomas N. Mammon and Manon in Early New Orleans: The First Slave Society in the Deep South, 1718–1819. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999.

Krause, Eric, Carol Corbin, and William O'Shea, eds. Aspects of Louisbourg: Essays on the History of an Eighteenth-Century French Community in North America. Sydney, N.S.: University College of Cape Breton Press, Louisbourg Institute, 1995.

Miquelon, Dale. New France, 1701–1744: "A Supplement to Europe." Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987.

Moogk, Peter N. La Nouvelle France: The Making of French Canada: A Cultural History. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000.

Trudel, Marcel. Histoire de la Nouvelle-France. Montréal: Fides, 1963.

Usner, Daniel H., Jr. Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

———. American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

ThomasWien

See alsoExplorations and Expeditions: French .

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New France

NEW FRANCE


New France refers to the collective holdings of France in North America during colonial times. At its height New France consisted of the colonies of Canada, Acadia, and Louisiana. The first land claims were made in 1534 by French explorer Jacques Cartier (14911557) as he sailed the St. Lawrence River in eastern Canada. In 1604 Sieur de Monts (c. 1568c. 1630) established a settlement at Acadia (in present-day Nova Scotia, Canada). French claims later extended the region to include present-day New Brunswick, Canada, and eastern Maine. Explorer Samuel de Champlain (c. 15671635) founded Quebec in 1608. He then penetrated the interior (present-day Ontario) as far as Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. In this way he extended French land claims westward. In 1672 French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet (16451700) and French missionary Jacques Marquette (16371675) became the first Europeans to reach the upper part of the Mississippi River. Ten years later French explorer Robert Cavelier (16431687) followed the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. He claimed the river valley for France and named it Louisiana. The majority of French settlers lived in the colony of Canada during the time when the French were expanding their North American claims. The fur trade was the major industry. The French called the colony a comptoir, a warehouse for animal pelts. It was never very successful in attracting colonists. France lost the colony to Great Britain in the French and Indian War (17541763). Louisiana changed hands numerous times before it was finally sold to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase; it was France's last claim on the North American mainland. French culture remained prevalent in the former colonies of New France during modern times.

See also: Louisiana, Louisiana Purchase, Maine

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New France

New France Area of North America claimed by France in the 16th–18th centuries. It included the St Lawrence valley, the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi valley. Parts were lost during the Anglo-French wars of the 18th century, and the whole of New France passed to Britain in 1763.

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New France

New France: see Canada.

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