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CANADA: A Celebration of Our Heritage
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A Celebration of Our Heritage
Chapter 3: A Century of New France: 1663-1763
By the early 1660s, the colonists of New France numbered less than 3,000 after half a century of occupation; though already over half of them were Canadian-born. Near-empty Acadia was not even in French possession at that time. Claimed as well by England, this Atlantic coastal area had repeatedly changed hands. The French had been driven out of a revived Port Royal in 1613. Instead, Scottish settlers had begun their own colony of Nova Scotia there in 1628, only to see the whole territory restored to France in 1632. Then, after short years of renewed French colonization, Acadia-Nova Scotia had again been taken over by English power in 1654; to be held until France came back once more in 1670 -- which by no means put an end to Acadia's shifts. Meanwhile, in English Newfoundland, "planters" (colonists) largely brought out in the 1630s and 40s had in the main become permanent resident fishermen; though probably were still under a thousand by the 1660s. Of course, by then there were many more thousands of English colonists on the North American seaboard, from New England to Virginia. Yet in all the Canadian territories of the future there were only the mentioned few handfuls of European settlers. Within New France, however, this was about to change.
The new royal government established for that French colony in 1663 sought vigorously to promote settlement, economic development and military security, closely guided and supported by the weighty central bureaucracy of Louis XIV's absolute state. This new governing system, which would last to the end of French rule in Canada, had at its core a Sovereign or Superior Council, directly appointed by the crown and headed by three top officials, the governor, intendant and bishop. The governor, particularly concerned with military and external affairs, was nominally foremost; and in wartime, or in Indian diplomacy and in the fur trade, he well would be. Yet the intendant, dealing broadly with internal administration, especially in regard to settlement, land, law, and economic policies, could loom large indeed. And the bishop did not just lead the influential and established Catholic Church within the colony, but, as a high officer of the ruling Council, could be powerful in social, judicial and other matters brought before it.
Personal factors also had their effects, as witnessed by the career of François de Laval, first bishop of Quebec. The Jesuits' own candidate for that post, and appointed to it by both Pope and King, the forceful Laval not only complemented the Jesuit's own strivings by shaping an active, resident clergy for the people of New France, but also by maintaining a strong religious presence within the colony's ruling Council. In that Council's early years, Laval clashed with Quebec's first governor, the Chevalier de Mésy, whose personal piety still did not make him subservient enough to an authoritative bishop; though Mésy did do some useful work in getting the new government system into operation. More significant, however, was Jean-Baptiste Talon, intendant in New France between 1665 and 1672. A first-rate servant of an outstanding master, the minister Jean Colbert in Paris, Talon was critically important in the first decade of New France under royal government -- which put that colony decisively on a path to lasting growth.
Yet essential to that growth was the ending of the Iroquois fur blockade, and their raiding onslaughts on the colony. In 1665, more than a thousand of the king's regular troops arrived from France to carry the war home to the enemy's lands. The next year, the seasoned Carignan-Salières regiment and a sizeable force of colonial militia marched into Mohawk country with drums beating, banners waving, guns massed, in a grand display of European armed strength. What proved more effective, the French army razed Mohawk villages, burning cornfields and food stores, a heavy blow to settled Iroquois peoples. In 1667 the Five Nations sued for peace. Their power had been blunted, though not broken. But now developments already in hand within the French colony now could readily go forward.
Basic here was settlement. A new stream of immigrants arrived from France, state-assisted even to the provision of farm animals, seeds and implements. Intendant Talon also led the home authorities to agree to Carignan-Salières' officers and soldiers remaining as colonists. Those who chose to do so were granted lands along the Richelieu, thus forming a bulwark against future Iroquois attacks from the south. Furthermore, Colbert, with Talon's backing, sent 1,200 marriageable young women (the filles du roi, wards of the Crown) to this frontier colony, where in 1663 males had outnumbered females nearly two to one. Further still, Talon withdrew hunting or fur-trading privileges from bachelors, and provided money grants to young married men and fathers of large families. This indeed was supporting family values. By 1671, the intendant could happily report about 700 births to Colbert. During the first decade of royal government, in fact, population climbed to over 9,000. From then on, immigration fell away, largely due to declining government aid, as France became caught up in costly new wars in Europe. Nevertheless, the tradition of large French-Canadian families was now well set; and thereafter, a still growing colony went on replacing over ninety percent of its people through natural birth, not immigration.
Settlement also meant land grants, to build a wider base for farming in New France. In this respect, the French seigneurial system of land-holding, already brought to the colony in its days of company rule, continued to set patterns for a rising countryside. Under this traditional system, the crown granted large estates to chosen seigneurs, overlords, in return for obligations of settlement and service. They in turn allotted individual farms to tenants -- "habitants" in New France -- who for their part owed rents and services to their own seigneur. Seigneurialism could be oppressive in a densely occupied Old France; but in New France where land was widely available, it was far less so, and was the means of getting people on to farms. The seigneur or his agent dealt with arriving immigrants to entice them to splendid new land-holdings. (Developers have a long heritage of their own in Canada.) And so cleared farms spread out along the St. Lawrence shore, both eastward of Quebec and west towards Trois-Rivières. A rural, seigneurial French-Canadian society was taking shape apart from the fur-trade world.
Talon had much to do with supervising the whole process. Yet to carry out Colbert's instructions, he also fostered economic developments in far more than farming settlement. The great minister wanted particularly to broaden New France from its narrow reliance on furs; not only to make it much more self-supporting and less dependent on supplies from home, but even to enable it to provide supplies of its own -- say, in grain or lumber -- to France's plantation colonies down in the West Indies. Talon responded diligently. He strove to encourage lumbering, mining and shipbuilding, stressed domestic crafts, and founded a Quebec brewery. His efforts were still hampered by the colony's relative lack of money, labour and internal demand. And Colbert's visions of an industrious, compactly integrated France overseas would effectively be denied by North American distances -- and by the lure of the fur trade in itself. But while the colony was not to become solidly self-supporting, Talon's efforts and the growth of both agriculture and craftsmanship undoubtedly strengthened it: to make it a more substantial base for the great new expansion of French fur trade, which now was increasingly under way.
By the 1670s, the lifting of the hostile Iroquois barrier meant that the French could freely travel the Ottawa or Upper St. Lawrence rivers into the Great Lakes region, and to western furs beyond. Gone were the Huron middlemen, though the Ottawa in some degree took on that role. But generally, the French themselves, coureurs-de-bois and fur entrepreneurs, thrust their canoe routes northwest and southwest into the heart of the continent. They were enthusiastically backed by the Comte de Frontenac as Governor of New France from 1672 to 1682 -- not just in order to expand French-Indian trade, but also to restore that governor's own debt-laden fortunes through fur profits. In 1673, the aggressive Frontenac established an advanced post where the Upper St. Lawrence met Lake Ontario at the future site of Kingston, and granted this Fort Frontenac to one of his ablest fur-trade protegés, the Sieur de La Salle. From here, the ever-audacious La Salle went on to build a further post at Niagara in 1678; launched the first ship on the Upper Lakes, explored the Illinois country; and finally made his epic journey down the Mississippi, which took him southward to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico in 1682. Consequently, La Salle enormously extended the French wilderness empire. Meanwhile, Daniel Greysolon du Lhut, coureur-de-bois, had reached Dakota (Sioux) territory beyond Lake Superior by 1679, and then established a fur post for the northwest at Kaministiquia on the head of Lake Superior. Plainly, by the 1680s the French had spread their loosely-held fur domain over almost half a continent -- to the considerable benefit of Montreal, now chief fur-trade headquarters, and Quebec, the key seaport and governing centre of New France.
Yet a rival English fur trade was advancing at the same time. It had long been growing along the inland margins of the English seaboard colonies in America; but particularly along the Hudson River, where in 1664 England had seized the Dutch colony which hence became the Province of New York. From the Hudson, English fur traders took up dealings with the Iroquois, and ventured further inward along the forest frontiers of other English-American colonies. But much broader in long-range impact was a wholly new English fur trade that began about 1670 well to the north of New France, on the inland coasts of Hudson Bay and James Bay. It all stemmed back to earlier English searches for the Northwest Passage; right back to Martin Frobisher, who had voyaged north from the Atlantic and reached Baffin Island in 1576; but above all, to Henry Hudson, who in 1610 went on past Baffin to sail through the strait and into the giant Bay which now carry his name. Although he died there in 1611, after wintering on the shores of James Bay, Hudson had unlocked a navigable northern seaway from the Atlantic into the very core of Canada.
Years later, in 1659, the French coureurs-de-bois from the St. Lawrence, Radisson and Groseilliers, had found abundant high-quality beaver pelts in lands south of the great Bay. But angered by the official seizure of these unlicensed furs on their return to Quebec in 1660, and then frustrated by failure to win their case in France, they instead took a bold proposal over to London in 1665: to use Henry Hudson's route into the great Bay claimed by England, and tap by sea the wealth of fur within its surrounding territories. A trial voyage in 1668 from England to the Bay proved so successful that in 1670, the "Company of Gentlemen Adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay" was set up in London. Its charter from King Charles II gave it monopoly rights over fur trade, lands and government in all the territory that drained into Hudson Bay: a huge area whose extent was then unknown in Europe of the day, but one which actually reached from northern Quebec and Ontario-to-be west over the prairies to the Rockies, and north far into the Arctic. This enormous segment of Canada would form the basis of an English trading empire that spread across the north and west; and existed, besides, long before the final disappearance of New France in 1763. In short, any assumption that there was only French Canada before that date is not true in northern heritage -- from Labrador to Manitoba at least.
Centrally active in forming the English Hudson's Bay Company of 1670 was the soldier, Prince Rupert of Bavaria, Charles II's cousin. In recognition, the Company's chartered territory would be known as Ruperts Land; and its first post, set on the eastern (Quebec) coast of James Bay, was named Ruperts House in 1670. Moose Factory appeared by 1673 on the Ontario shore, Forts Albany and Severn in 1684 and 1685 farther along the Ontario coastline. By this time, however, the growth of Bay Company competition had come to worry the French, spreading as it did in territories which they considered to belong to New France. And so in 1682 a French Hudson Bay Company took shape in response -- which soon would turn to force, in order to drive the English from their posts around the Bay. Furthermore, far to the south, the Iroquois Confederacy was stirring again, increasingly alarmed by the fur trade flowing out of Great Lakes lands to the French on the St. Lawrence, not to themselves and their major English allies in New York Province along the Hudson. The French had never really been able to conciliate the powerful Five Nations, but rather had tried to soothe and overawe them at the same time. Now, rival inland interests were approaching open war.
On the Bay in 1686, a French expedition sent north overland seized Ruperts House, Moose Factory and other posts, along with fifty thousand prime beaver pelts. In the Great Lakes interior, the Iroquois erupted into Illinois country, an area once held by them but which was now tied into the French fur trade. French counter-blows proved ineffective, including a massive attack on the Senecas and Cayugas in 1687. In their turn, the Iroquois descended on Lachine outside Montreal in 1689, and killed many of that village's inhabitants. But French-Indian war and fur-traders' combat on Hudson Bay soon merged into a far wider struggle between France and England, in both Europe and America. In America, it would be fought in Acadia and Newfoundland as well on the St. Lawrence, the Bay, and in the borderlands between New France and the colonies of New York and New England. Imperial expansion, both French and English, had brought the two colonial powers into major conflict within North America. It was really the opening round in a mighty contest for the continent.
The War of the League of Augsburg was declared in Europe in 1688; but neither its "official" name nor its European background need concern us here, when there are so many Canadian aspects to consider. In Newfoundland, for example, ships from the main French fishing and naval base at the island, Placentia, on its southern coast, ravaged the English outport fishing settlements that had spread along the eastern Avalon shore; in 1696 briefly taking St. Johns itself, the leading English harbour. In Acadia, the French capital, Port Royal, was again seized in 1690 by a fleet up from New England -- another shift in the control of the Acadian colony. French efforts here since the 1670s had to some degree achieved what direct royal government had more fully accomplished on the St. Lawrence. Thus by the 1690s, there were around 1,000 French settlers in Acadia, living chiefly near Port Royal along the Bay of Fundy: farmers on lush tidal marshes, which they diked and drained, plus fishermen, seamen and certainly still some fur traders to the Micmacs. But this small coastal community had once more been neglected by a France caught up with inland expansion; while New Englanders from down the coast had fished in its waters, supplied its settlers by shipboard trade, and shared the view that Acadia should really be theirs. It is also true, that Acadian Indians and French privateers (effectively, licenced pirates) would harass New England ships and outlying settlements from time to time. At any rate, when open war began, Port Royal itself fell easily in 1690 to powerful New England invaders. But the Acadian story was by no means over yet.
Meanwhile at Quebec, Frontenac, the pugnacious former Governor of New France, was back in command. Domineering, scheming and constantly quarrelling, he had been recalled to France in 1682, particularly because of an angry feud with Bishop Laval over trading brandy to the Indians. Laval and the Church had utterly condemned this ruinous trade. The Governor and his fur-trade allies had held that it was essential -- better to have French brandy than English rum. But after his recall, Frontenac's successors had not coped successfully with the Iroquois. Hence the old warrior was sent out again to New France in 1689, an evident symbol of aggressive confidence. He needed all that confidence in 1690, when the fleet under Sir William Phips which had already taken Port Royal sailed up the St. Lawrence to a much bigger target, Quebec itself. Secure in fortifications high on Cape Diamond, Frontenac grandly told the English he would answer them from his cannons' mouths. And he did, while the ill-prepared, poorly-directed attackers battered uselessly away at the shores until they withdrew in failure. Thereafter, the governor was busy with sending forces to raid Iroquois lands or frontier hamlets in New York and New England, in campaigns that, though fiercely destructive, proved largely indecisive.
Far to the north there was another story. On Hudson Bay, the Montreal-born Sieur d'Iberville shaped a distinguished naval career: taking Fort Severn in 1690, capturing York Factory in 1694, the new English headquarters near the mouth of the Nelson River, and defeating a superior English fleet in the chill waters of the Bay. Iberville also sailed to Acadia in 1694, and took Pemaquid, the chief English fort near the entry to the Bay of Fundy, which thus offset the French loss of Port Royal. To cap it all, there was his sweep along the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and the capture of St. Johns in 1696. And so the French had come out well by the war's end in 1697 -- thanks notably to Iberville and other stalwarts like him.
In any event, heavy battling in Europe had settled little, so that the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 proved largely just a truce. Acadia was returned to France. York Factory was similarly to be restored to England -- though in fact it was not; leaving the English only with Fort Albany on James Bay. The French-Iroquois war still continued. Old Frontenac himself grimly pursued it, carried in an armchair during a shattering attack on the Onondagas, until he died, worn out, in 1698. By then the Iroquois, abandoned by their English allies now at peace with France, and devastated by both war and disease, were growing ready to stop fighting. Their own warrior force had been more than cut in half, to some 1,300 men, while French Canada's white population had climbed to around 13,000. The hard facts of numbers, if nothing else, directed the Five Nations to make peace in 1701. This leading native power could no longer hope in itself to overcome the ever-swelling French strength in Canada. Nevertheless, the Iroquois, still well organized and resolute, could undoubtedly yet play a critical role in power balances between the French and English empires, each now contending for its own supremacy in North America.
In Europe, the interim truce only lasted to 1701. Then a new war, the War of Spanish Succession began -- for reasons outside Canada -- and went on till 1713. Within Canada, this second round actually saw less widespread fighting, and the Iroquois largely stayed out. Newfoundland settlements again were swept by French attacks in 1705, while St. Johns fell once more in 1708. In Acadia the English retook Port Royal in 1710: although their seaborne offensive on Quebec in 1711 failed disastrously without even getting near, after their laden transports foundered on reefs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The final outcome, however, was really settled by the decisive victories of England and her allies in Europe. There a battered and depleted France, far overstretched by Louis XIV's visions of continental mastery, had to accept hard peace terms. Accordingly, the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 brought major gains in Britain's holdings in America.
Yet that word "Britain" first needs explaining. In 1707 England and Scotland had joined in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, so that henceforth there was a British empire under one British crown and parliament. And as for the gains that empire made in the Treaty of 1713, the Hudson Bay Territory -- Ruperts Land -- was now acknowledged by France to belong to Britain. So was all of Newfoundland, except for certain fishing and landing rights that France was granted on its western coasts; while Acadia was now definitely transferred to British hands as the Province of Nova Scotia. Plainly, the French American empire had had to yield large and valuable possessions. All the same, it still was vast. New France yet spread out along the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes and the northwest beyond; and was linked as well with the new wilderness French realm to be known as Louisiana, that fronted south on the Gulf of Mexico but reached up the Mississippi and Ohio to the Great Lakes country. Here, then, was an enormous inland French domain behind the relatively narrow strip of British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard -- and that interior domain would soon be pushing farther west again.
The official years of peace which followed the Treaty of 1713 were certainly not free from all armed violence; such as the two French wars with the Fox Indians in the Wisconsin country beyond Lake Michigan in 1714-16 and 1728-33. But these conflicts stayed fairly localized, as did other raids or skirmishes, since both France and Britain really sought to maintain the general accord that had been achieved between them in Europe. Nevertheless, the two empires in America kept up their own competition, rivalry and defensive preparations. One good illustration lies in Nova Scotia-Acadia. Having had to abandon Placentia to a British Newfoundland, France began planning a new main fishing and naval base on Ile Royale, or Cape Breton; for that island and the neighbouring Ile Saint-Jean (later, Prince Edward Island) had not been ceded to Britain only mainland Nova Scotia. And the French still had a valuable North Atlantic fishing fleet to harbour and protect, along with the need to defend the sea approaches to New France, now that Newfoundland no longer held French bases.
Hence the French imperial town of Louisbourg went up in the 1720s on a Cape Breton inlet facing the open Atlantic; not just as a fishing base and naval port (which it would be), but also as a massive stone fortress, the strongest citadel in North America. Lavish amounts were spent on its walls and defences, so that an exasperated King Louis XV asked if the streets were also being paved with gold. At any rate, by the 1740s, Louisbourg was both a powerful stronghold and a bustling French city in America, with some 2,000 citizens (doubling over the next decade), a fishing capital, and a key trading market for ships up from the West Indies and New England, as well as from France or Quebec. But the British authorities in the neighbouring mainland province of Nova Scotia, still mostly peopled with French Acadians, worried increasingly about a hostile fortress so near; while New Englanders grew equally concerned over its constant threat to their own rich Atlantic and West Indies commerce.
This seaboard question rose to crisis in the mid-1740s. But in the meantime, other strains between the empires had developed deep in the western interior, no less important in the long run. Here the French fur trade had had to face the fact that British competition had not merely been confirmed by France's reluctant Treaty recognition of Ruperts Land, but was highly effective, too. British goods laid down in quantity by sea at posts on Hudson Bay were then ready for trade, while French goods shipped out to the St. Lawrence still faced a long, expensive canoe haul westward to the trading areas. Furthermore, inland tribes would willingly travel north to the Bay Company posts for the prices, range and quality of items offered there. Thus, it was virtually essential for the French to reach the natives first, to use their own knowledge of the wilderness and its peoples to bring the Indians into French trading patterns and forestall English contacts. From that need came a sweeping competitive advance of French fur enterprise into the lands of a future Canadian West.
Prominent in leading this advance were the Sieur de La Vérendrye and his four sons. The father, born in Trois-Rivières, but a veteran soldier seriously wounded in 1709 during the war in Europe, had entered the fur trade after his return. In 1728 he was stationed on Lake Nipigon, at one of the French "Postes du Nord" beyond Kaministiquia purposely set across Indian canoe routes up to Hudson Bay. Here La Veréndrye took up the idea of thrusting right on to the Western Sea to by-pass the English -- to the Pacific Ocean itself. He never got there; but from 1731 he and his sons did set up a chain of new posts westward that outflanked the Hudson Bay trade: from Rainy Lake to the Lake of the Woods, then to Lake Winnipeg and the Red River by 1734, out on open western prairie. In 1738 La Vérendrye further built a fort at the site of Portage La Prairie which could intercept parties of Assiniboines heading north for the Bay. His sons went on to the Saskatchewan River, that traverses the Great Plains from the Rockies, and erected a post by its entry in 1743 where Plains Cree might be deflected from going on to British York Factory. Though the Western Sea still lay much further, the work of the La Vérendryes and their comrades had carried the French fur trade deep into Plains Canada.
Meanwhile, the British Hudson's Bay Company had done almost nothing to move into the western interior. True, in 1691 young Henry Kelsey had travelled inland to the Saskatchewan plains from York Factory, and is often portrayed as the first white man to see a western buffalo. The first buffalo to see a white man has never been portrayed. But Kelsey's trip led to very little. The fact was, that the Bay Company did well enough sitting on the shore. Bulk transport by sea, in wind-driven ships, was more efficient and economical than any number of brigades of the biggest French canoes, that had to be paddled or portaged overland by sheer human effort. So why leave the coasts when the Indians would travel there themselves -- and incidentally, bear the costs of bringing furs down to the shore posts? By and large, the apparent lethargy of the Bay Company was good business -- at least for the time being. Consequently, even later, when in 1754-55, Anthony Henday made a striking journey from York Factory up the Saskatchewan with a party of Cree, to winter with the Blackfoot in the Alberta foothills, his effort still did not really alter established Hudson's Bay policy. Indeed, the Company's motto might almost have been, "Have furs, need not travel". Things in the West would change; but not greatly during the remaining days of New France and its own farspread fur enterprise.
Yet those days were running towards a close, even by the mid-1740s. In 1744, Britain and France again met as foes in the War of Austrian Succession in Europe, and from 1745 to 1748 this struggle was also waged in North America. Its results still were inconclusive; yet it foreshadowed the downfall of New France. That would not actually take place until the last round in the long imperial contest, the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763; although the relative positions of both empires -- and the useful advantages of historic hindsight -- enable us to forecast the decisive outcome well before. We will turn from this theme of ultimate French defeat, however, to examine first something far more positive: the vibrant life and society already created in New France, and the enduring, distinctive heritage it left to Canada thereafter, for centuries to come.
By 1745, the settled population of New France along the St. Lawrence had risen to about 45,000, of whom 4,600 living in the capital and port town of Quebec, and 3 500 in Montreal, the fur-trade headquarters and gateway to the interior. There were several settled Indian groups also present: descendants of the Christian Hurons at Lorette outside Quebec, Mohawks who had turned to the French side, dwelling at Kahnawake and elsewhere near Montreal, and some others drawn from Algonquin tribes, located on a few scattered reserves. Yet the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants were of French stock. This, again, was not really the result of a continuing trickle of immigrants from France. It stemmed mainly from natural increase within the colony itself, where the birth rate was definitely higher than in the old land, and probably the survival rate as well, thanks to more and better food, and healthier living conditions in a wide new country.
Certainly, the rural residents, the largest element in the French-Canadian population dwelt fairly comfortably in their square-hewed log farmhouses (though seigneurs and more affluent habitants were now building in stone); and their homes were well heated by large fireplaces supplied with plentiful wood, feeding into massive central chimneys. The farm-dwellers had the room they needed, with a loft above, and cellars below to keep meat frozen through the winter. They had ample fur and deerskin for warm clothing -- not to mention homespun from the wool of their own sheep. And they had ready access to fish and game in the open countryside. Consequently, the habitants faced winter shortages less, and generally lived better than did their counterparts in northwestern France (from where they had largely come); in particular, having more protein in their diet, and wheaten bread, not coarser rye. None of this, of course, should suggest some kind of frontier rural paradise. Wilderness dangers, want and cold, were still never too far away. Work was unending; and women not only tended home and family, but toiled in the fields beside the men. Nevertheless, the rewards were evident, as were the space and opportunities for new farming families. Together, they shaped a robust, self-reliant agrarian society in colonial New France.
This rural community was built and based along the central reaches of the broad St. Lawrence River, that provided it with vital transportation and valuable fishing at the same time. Hence river-frontage was all-important; and farm-lots extended back in long narrow strips from the great waterway. Dotted along the river-front as they were, the sturdy farmhouses thus gave the impression of "one continued village" from below Quebec to Montreal -- so described by the visiting Swedish botanist, Peter Kalm, in 1749. In time, another range (and more) of farm allotments rose behind the original waterfront properties. But the pattern of ribbon-farms, within long, narrow seigneuries oriented to the St. Lawrence, would last long after New France: as maps or an air flight above the region can still reveal today.
In the 1730s, the chemin du roi, the king's road, was run along the north shore of the St. Lawrence from Quebec to Montreal, up to seven metres wide in ploughed dirt, with small wooden bridges over streams, or else fords and ferries. This route, however, was more important at certain periods of the year. In open summer, the river carried far more traffic; in mid-winter the road was good for sleighs, but the river ice could also be. Nevertheless, the importance of the horse for rural land transport as well as ploughing steadily mounted; so that this imported animal, first called "the French moose" by Indians, became indispensable to the habitant farms. It was besides, a favourite source of countryside interest and some expense, not least because of popular winter horse-racing on frozen waterways.
All in all, it followed that the tenant-farmers of New France were far from a downtrodden, exploited European peasantry, but formed a self-respecting and substantial New-World group. They held hereditary possession of their own farms, as long as the set seigneurial dues were paid; and these traditional dues were not that burdensome. They freely engaged in litigation before the courts, enjoying a good land dispute. They were also well aware of their own experienced role in the militia, on slashing raids deep into Indian country. And their life-style was not greatly different from that of most of their seigneurs, themselves busy working their home-farm domaines: in fact, marriages between sons of the seigneurial order and the daughters of well-to-do habitants were assuredly not barred. Hence this was not a closed or oppressive feudal system, whatever its origins in France -- any more than it was a merely economic relationship of landlord and tenant, wherein the former could evict the latter from his land for a whole variety of reasons.
Here was, instead, a system of mutual obligations bound up with land-holding, not land-owning. The seigneur himself did not "own" his land, but held it from the crown; and if he failed in his own obligations of service and settlement, might find his land grant revoked. In general, too, the solid habitant could not be rashly pushed around by some would-be lordly aristocrat. Yet agrarian New France was still far from a social democracy. There was an engrained sense of deference, as well as of mutual obligation. Habitants accepted the seigneur's social leadership, his recognized privileges, although these were largely ceremonial. In short, this was a distinct collective community in at least two ways: distinct from the harsher seigneurialism of Old France; but distinct as well from the individualist farm-ownership of English America.
New France also had an active, influential urban life. Around one-fifth of its population now resided in towns, the centres of commerce and crafts, and of political, religious or military life. Quebec, Montreal and Trois-Rivières also headed local governmental districts; though Quebec, of course, was the seat of government for the whole colony, as well as its prime fortress. In the capital, the structure of royal government continued under its three top figures, governor general, intendant and bishop. Bishops now played a less forceful political part than in the days of Laval; but the power of the Catholic Church was still widespread within a tightly orthodox society, where Roman Catholicism was well maintained by law and supported by tithes -- state-enforced church taxes. The governors of the period, Philippe de Vaudreuil (1703-25) and Charles de Beauharnois (1726-47), made authoritative leaders throughout, while diligent intendants such as Gilles Hocquart (1729-48), a trained civil servant since boyhood, left their own strong on colonial development. Meanwhile, the law courts, the lesser bureaucracy and the officers' class all expanded in a broader but hierarchical society; and all were regularly reflected in the ruling official and garrison world of Quebec.
The economic life of the towns was expressed in both their major wholesale merchants and minor shopkeepers; in artisans from carpenters, masons and blacksmiths to shoemakers and bakers; or in seamen, river boatmen and day-labourers. Quebec, as main port, had its considerable export businesses sending wheat and lumber to Louisbourg and the French West Indies, its importers bringing in French goods, and its shipyard and shipwrights building increasing numbers of river and seagoing vessels. Outside Trois-Rivières, iron-workers at the St. Maurice forges, opened in 1737, were successfully producing stoves together with other ironware for the colony. At Montreal, there were the warehouses, offices and personnel of the far-extended fur trade: but especially the voyageurs, those hard-driving canoemen who left or returned with the seasons, as trade goods and supplies went upriver or western pelts came down to the landing-grounds at Lachine just above the city. The chief merchants of Montreal, moreover, held a special eminence, since the life of the colony still heavily depended on the fur trade; and it was the Montreal fur merchant, the bourgeois, along with his inland agents or partners engaged in dealing with the Indians, who really kept the whole fur empire operating -- and therefore, the vast French claims to dominance across the wilderness interior.
In forest sweeps wholly removed from the busy streets of stone-built towns or the tilled fields of a farming countryside, there lay a very different aspect of New France, the life of the fur trade. By the mid-1740s this largely focused at the farspread inland posts which the French had built; partly for trade with the Indians of a particular area, but partly also to maintain their political and diplomatic presence, and so confirm alliances with native tribes. These post-bases now ranged far beyond Niagara: from Detroit (established 1701) to Fort Miami (1715) in what now is Indiana, then to Fort Chartres (1717) on the Mississippi in Illinois country, and down the Mississippi to New Orleans (founded 1718). Such places as there were not the same as the northwestern line of trading posts intended to draw off furs from the British Hudson's Bay Company; for the southerly forts, lying inward of Britain's Atlantic seaboard colonies, were manned by small but significant French military garrisons, aimed at ensuring Indian loyalties against the wiles of English-American traders invading from the Thirteen Colonies along the coast. In other words, they were meant to keep the Indians tied to French interests in a defensive bulwark against British thrusts westward. And so a "military frontier" under professional officer command would join the older French frontier world of free-ranging coureurs-de-bois; or now their successors, the hired voyageurs and the fur bourgeois out of Montreal. It was no less true, however, that this thinly-held inland New France of soldier, trader and voyageur continued to shape the very destiny of the town-dwellers and seigneurial farmers along the St. Lawrence.
There is one more element still to be added to the total community of New France; limited in number but large in consequence, the Roman Catholic clergy. Most of the clergy were town residents, whether in religious orders or serving in parishes; yet their calling not only extended to the farming countryside, but far into the fur-trade world. To take the last first, Catholic priests and friars had repeatedly proved devoted and daring venturers in the wilderness, from the beginnings of Acadia or the initial French travels to Huronia. They had widely founded Indian missions, in which endeavour the Jesuit efforts among the Hurons had been just one prominent example. They had also accompanied fur trade-explorers on many a classic journey of discovery; such as that of Father Joseph Marquette and the trader Louis Jolliet, the first Frenchmen to trace the Mississippi southward in 1673, though they did not reach its mouth. And Catholic priests were present as well on journeys into the northwest beyond the Great Lakes. As for the agrarian world of New France, from Bishop Laval's day, a local parish clergy had been sent to growing seigneuries: where, indeed, the parishes within a seigneury would become rural social units in themselves, each under its own priest or curé and a vestry of leading parishioners. Yet still, the main core of the Church lay in urban society.
Thus at Quebec, there was the ruling Bishop, the Cathedral, the Seminary founded by Laval to train priests for town or country; and the headquarters of the still-weighty Jesuits. In Montreal, which had once begun (in 1642) as Ville-Marie, a religious mission on a dangerously exposed Indian frontier, its affluent merchant community also supported a rising urban church life; but in particular, the Sulpician Order, which had been granted the highly valuable Island of Montreal as a seigneury, was central in wealth and influence within the swelling eighteenth-century town. There were other male orders of importance in French Canada's Catholic Church, then and in later days; but the female religious orders which crucially served education, hospitals and welfare work demand special attention.
At Quebec in 1639, Mother Marie de l'Incarnation had founded the Ursuline Convent, one of the earliest teaching institutions in North America. Its first pupils were Indians, taught by nuns who had learned both Iroquoian and Algonquian tongues; but the children of well-to-do French colonists also came increasingly to study both arts and science. The Ursuline nuns were mainly drawn from the colonial bourgeoisie, the commercial middle class. On the other hand, the nursing sisters of Canada's first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec, also begun in 1639, were often the daughters of artisan families; while those of Quebec's Hôpital-Générale, opened in 1693, would largely come from more aristocratic circles. And in Montreal, the Grey Nuns established by Madame d'Youville in 1737 cared for the poor, disabled and infirm, the orphans and the elderly. Here in New France lay the beginnings of modern Canadian social and educational services -- and essentially through women's undertakings.
This is heritage, flowing from French Canada well before the British Conquest, but by no means to be forgotten today. Moreover, French colonial women not only worked vigorously in these basic social concerns, but no less showed their own capacity to manage them. And outside the religious frame (which no doubt did give women a scope for their abilities that they would otherwise have lacked), the female residents of New France were not at all the clinging vines of male chauvinist myth. Aside from hard work on the land, country wives might also run their farms while husbands were absent on militia service or engaged in the fur trade. In towns, too, women often had charge of local stores, while the widows of merchants carried on their husbands' businesses -- or, like Marie-Anne Barbel, developed as well a thriving pottery works at Quebec from 1745. French law, based on Roman law, gave women more property rights than did English common law then. And Louise de Ramezay, daughter of a governor of Montreal who died in 1724, joined her mother in profitably managing a sawmill and brick-and-tile factory; then herself went on to build a flour mill and a school, and to deal sizeably in lumber up to her own death in 1776. No one could suggest from such particular examples that this unquestionably patriarchal society was somehow gender-equal. Yet it is true that women had wider freedom of life and action in New France than in Old: a state at times deplored by old-country visitors, or even condemned by church authorities: while Peter Kalm himself found it worth commenting that in Canadian society men did not undertake "matters of importance without their women's advice and approval".
In any case, though the heritage that sprang from this life of New France was not just that of Old France, and had been much modified by North American experience, it still certainly did not express modern North American notions of a free society; or even the degrees of liberty already known in the English-speaking colonies of America. In those provinces there were rich and powerful merchants in New England, New York or Pennsylvania, or great estate-owners in southern plantation colonies. Yet there was no seigneurial order of nobility (although modest) set in a legally superior position on the land. And the average Anglo-American farmer was not by law a tenant but the full proprietor of his own fields and home.
Similarly, in political terms: however well-intentioned was the government of New France, however far from meek and docile were its subjects, the mass of the people still had very little say in their own public affairs. Power came down from above: the King was the ultimate master of this hierarchical society. True, assemblies of inhabitants might occasionally be summoned to present opinions on special issues; while the captains of militia, named to command their local militia units, held a good deal of community respect and some authority as effective rural agents of the intendant. Yet any such expressions of the people of New France were very far from the regularly elected provincial assemblies that were a fundamental part of political life in the English colonies, marking the transfer of the British parliamentary system to those new societies overseas. In sum, whatever the merits (and they were real) of a largely competent, fair and conscientious French system of government, it still had small place for the ordinary citizen and his views on taxes, policies or individual rights -- as would certainly be put forward in words both loud and clear by the elected representative Houses in Britain's Thirteen Colonies in America.
Accordingly, the life of New France was still one where social status, elite privilege and paternal authority in church or state were continually evident. Yet always one must qualify -- regarding this unquestionably "new" France in America. There was always open space and opportunity around it, the wilds beyond it, to make this something other than a closely layered, top-run society. There was, besides, the inherent vigour and self-confidence of the French Canadian people (who were no blind followers); and there was, above all, the enterprise and individualism of the fur trade, the sturdy will to survival against all hardships, Indian wars or increasing weight of the English. These things were rooted in the heritage of New France. They might become somewhat altered over time, or have other aspects added. But French Canada, and all Canada, still owe greatly to the tough inheritance derived from the world of New France -- from the eighteenth century right down to the present day.
In 1745, mounting strains between the British and French in America burst into open conflict, as the War of Austrian Succession spread overseas from Europe. On the Atlantic coast, the long-felt menace of the great French base at Louisbourg -- felt both in British-ruled Nova Scotia and in the New England colonies -- led to a joint assault by New England troops and the British Navy on that fortress-town. It fell late in June, 1745, after a forty-seven-day seige, heavily battered by cannon fire from ship and shore, and after naval reinforcements sent by France had failed to break past the British fleet.
Meanwhile, the continental inland country at first stayed fairly quiet; helped by the fact that the Six-Nations Iroquois Confederacy (the Tuscaroras having joined in the 1720s to make it Six) remained neutral and aloof from either the British or French sides. By 1747, however, the dwindling flow of trade goods from France, due largely to British strength on the distant Atlantic, spurred on an Indian conspiracy against the French in the Detroit-Lake Erie region. Yet once peace was signed in Europe at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, a new flood of French goods soon drowned this Indian hostility. It did indicate how vulnerable the French empire really was, even deep in the interior, to superior British naval power on the high seas. But, aside from some devastating French raids on the New York and Massachusetts frontiers, the war passed off in inland North American without major events. Then Louisbourg itself was handed back to France in the stalemate peace of 1748. New Englanders were outraged; and not at all impressed by the return of Madras to Britain in exchange, a key fortified base in southern India. In truth, the contest of worldwide empires simply continued, and the peace was no more than a breathing-space between rounds of combat.
That was clearly perceived by the Comte de La Galissionière, who had replaced an aging Beauharnois as Governor-General in 1747. After the war had ended, the new governor reported to his masters in Paris that, while peace had "lulled the jealousy of the English in Europe, this bursts forth in all its violence in America, and if barriers ... are not opposed at this very moment, that nation will place itself in a condition to invade the French Colonies". Hence La Galissionière particularly sought to secure the link of empire between New France and the French colony of Louisiana down the Mississippi. To this end, he worked to hold the Ohio country that lay south of Lake Erie and spread west along the Ohio River to its junction with the Mississippi -- an effort which also was taken up by his successors. For the Ohio Valley indeed represented an outlying buffer zone between the British seaboard colonies and the French in the interior. If Anglo-American advances westward could be halted here, the French empire might still hope to dominate and develop in the enormous mid-continental heartland. But if the much more populous and economically developed Thirteen Colonies should break through into France's open inland territories, then the future would almost surely belong to an English America. A great deal hinged on the Ohio Valley, where in the opening 1750s the French began to build a new chain of forts.
At the same time, the British colonies assuredly were looking westward. Most of them had long claimed the lands behind them. In Virginia, which claimed right out to the Western Sea, the Ohio Company had been formed by 1749 to plant settlers in the Ohio Valley. And in 1753 Virginia's governor sent a mission overland to the French forces in the Valley, protesting their military occupation of British territory. The French rejected the protest, inevitably. The next step would be open conflict. It came the following year at the strategic forks of the Ohio where Pittsburgh now stands. Here a small Virginian working party, attempting to build a fort, were driven off by a French detachment who erected a larger structure of their own, Fort Duquesne. In reply, Virginia sent troops and Indian allies under a young major of militia, George Washington. Late in May, 1754, at Great Meadows near For Duquesne, the conclusive war for America really began: when Washington suddenly attacked and overran an armed French force, but afterwards was himself attacked and defeated by a greater French concentration. He and his men were allowed to retreat to Virginia, while the inland tribes, impressed by this telling victory of the French, now swung strongly to their side. In any event, although outright war would not officially begin in Europe until two years later, it soon spread widely within North America.
Both France and Britain, moreover, took this undeclared American conflict very seriously, strengthening fortified places, sending out regular troops and naval units, and preparing campaigns; although a supposed peace still lingered on in Europe. Consequently, sizeable British reinforcements were dispatched to take Fort Duquesne and win the Ohio country. Major General Edward Braddock marched a regular army inland from Virginia in the summer of 1755. But as it neared the fort, floundering along a crude frontier road little better than a trail, the British column encumbered with seige-cannon and supply wagons was struck from surrounding woods by a withering fire from hidden French and Indians. The column broke; its retreat became a flight, with heavy losses, including that of Braddock himself. New France had gained a major success. Still, the war was only starting.
And elsewhere, the British did somewhat better during 1755. Colonel William Johnson, British agent to the Six Nations, led New York-New England militia, along with some Mohawk Iroquois, to a limited victory near Lake George on the classic Hudson-Lake Champlain invasion route into Canada. More significantly, in the Atlantic region combined British and New England forces captured crucial Fort Beauséjour after two weeks of crashing bombardment. With the fall of this main French strongpoint on the Isthmus of Chignecto (where present-day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia meet), France largely lost hold of what had remained to it of former mainland Acadia. But to explain what this implied, and the tragedy that followed for the French-speaking Acadian people, it is necessary to go back in time to pick up the outstanding story of Acadians and their heritage. In fact, we must go back at least to the Treaty of 1713, when Britain received its lasting title to Acadia, henceforth the province of Nova Scotia.
In 1713 there had been some 2,000 Acadians -- who had strikingly increased by the mid-1750s to over 13,000, thanks mostly to their own high birth rate. Few immigrants had been sent out to join them. Even in the seventeenth century, except for brief phases, Acadia had stayed a neglected colony in French hands; or when periodically in English hands as well. Yet at the same time, in very neglect, the original scant French settlers had quietly grown into a distinct society of their own, raising large, healthy families on fertile tidal flats not occupied by native Micmacs, who maintained friendly relations as a result. Acadian village-settlements spread on the low shores of both sides of the Bay of Fundy, and along open reaches like the Annapolis Valley; but not into the Indian-held forest interior. These villages fished profitably, traded grain crops down to New England for West Indies sugar and rum or European goods, and thrived in a simple rural society where the Catholic church and the family unit stood out, but seigneurialism mattered far less: a quiet, withdrawn people wanting just to be left peacefully to themselves. Yet they would not be: since living where they did, on the margins between two great hostile empires, meant that the Acadians dwelt, in effect, on an earthquake shockline.
As for the British element who ruled in mainland Nova Scotia from 1713, they consisted of little more than a small garrison centred at the old French capital of Port Royal -- renamed Annapolis Royal -- and of course of the visiting New England traders and fishermen around the shores. Attempts to draw farm settlers from Britain or New England to this French-peopled territory largely failed. Hence the government of Nova Scotia sought instead to extract oaths of allegiance from the Acadian inhabitants, to make them into safe British subjects. But the mass of Acadians wanted chiefly just to remain neutral between contending empires, although French emissaries also sought to tie them to the cause of France. To some extent, the British of necessity accepted Acadian neutrality, while the French spent efforts, on holding the Micmacs with more success. As the mid-century approached, however, the imperial contest became far more dangerous and critical, even though the wishfully-withdrawn Acadians failed to appreciate that fact, until too late.
The return of Louisbourg to French control by the peace of 1748 had restored the naval and military power of France in the Atlantic region. And this renewed threat led Britain to reply by founding Halifax in 1749, on the central-Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. Under Governor Edward Cornwallis 2,000 English settlers were brought from London to establish this new stronghold. Some others of the King's subjects also came from the Crown's holdings of that age in Germany; but most of these German-speaking Protestants were placed at Lunenburg, a little further down the coast. In any case, Halifax took shape as a garrisoned port-town, palisaded against Micmac raids, but in time strengthened by a hill-top citadel and batteries to defend the entry to its superb harbour, which could contain whole war fleets. The town was made Nova Scotia's capital as well; and it would build a proud inheritance as a major British and later Canadian base through great wars yet to come.
The French were active also. They strove to keep a grip on inland Acadia beyond the Nova Scotian peninsula, claiming that only the peninsula itself had really been yielded by the Treaty of 1713; so that the areas past the Isthmus of Chignecto still belonged to New France. The Treaty had indeed but vaguely ceded "all Nova Scotia or Acadia with its ancient boundaries" -- whatever that meant. Britain, backed by some weight of history, argued that Nova Scotia-Acadia had always extended clear up to the Appalachians. France, which wanted particularly to have ice-free access overland from Canada down to Louisbourg, contended otherwise. In any case, the French now proceeded to confirm their view that the border should run at Chignecto by exacting their own oaths of French allegiance from Acadians of that area in 1749, and by planting forts upon the isthmus, the chief one being For Beauséjour, built in 1751. The British in reply erected For Lawrence on their side of the alleged boundary. Skirmishes and raids went on across the line, but all-out war did not come till 1755, when a sizeable British and New England expedition arrived to beseige and capture Beauséjour -- as has already been described. But further, Acadians were found in its garrison, even though most had been forced by the French to serve "on pain of death".
The British authorities in Nova Scotia now came to a grim resolve. Faced in 1755 with the armed might of Louisbourg, French agents working among the Acadians or inciting Micmac raids, surrounded and vastly outweighed by an unsecured, potentially dangerous French-speaking population, the rulers of the Nova Scotian province decided that Acadians must take a full, unqualified oath of allegiance to Great Britain -- or be deported. The new governor of Nova Scotia, Colonel Charles Lawrence, was central to this drastic decision. He himself had built For Lawrence and met French attacks there. He saw the move proposed as urgent military necessity. And at that moment when English America was reeling from the shock of Braddock's major defeat and French triumph in the Ohio, those in authority would very much agree with him, right back to the imperial government in London.
But the Acadians did not recognize the demand for an unqualified oath as what it was -- a downright ultimatum. From years of previous British failure to enforce such an oath, they had come to believe (wishfully) that it still could be refused. Theirs was the understandable but tragic stand of a small people caught between great forces they did not and would not comprehend. That still is no excuse for what happened to them.
British troops -- or rather keenly Protestant New Englanders quite ready to drive Catholic Frenchmen off their valuable lands -- were sent to herd the Acadians from their homes and into waiting ships that would carry them to exile in British colonies down the Atlantic coast. From Beaubassin and Grand Pré around the head of the Bay of Fundy, from the Annapolis Valley and little Atlantic shore villages, bewildered, unprepared Acadians were driven by Yankee bluecoat troops from farms and burning crops into a confusion of ships where families were broken and split up. This, after all, was a major transport movement of over 6,000 people, often well beyond the hurried plans and facilities of those who had supposedly arranged it. Numbers of Acadians never survived their pent-up passage to ports down the seaboard. The wonder is, that so many did, and then managed to eke out a life in the American colonies. Some would go on to France -- though they seldom fitted in there successfully -- while many others escaped transportation altogether, hiding in the woods, crossing into the forestlands beyond Chignecto, or finding their way to French-held Cape Breton Island or the Island of Saint John. Nevertheless, a society of some 13,000 Acadians was effectively broken up and removed, reduced to only shattered remnants. Or was it left shattered? Here his lies the "miracle" of Acadian survival: the achievement, above all, of a profoundly enduring heritage.
Acadians might journey on to France or to French Louisiana, where they later became the "Cajuns" of American history. But remarkably, many in time came back to their ancestral Acadia, when the Franco-British imperial struggle was over. And in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island -- yet particularly in New Brunswick-to-be -- they would renew their own society, language and culture, still in largely rural settings. Their will and courage to make such a return, the devotion of a humble, exiled people to their home territory, not only forms an impressive historic testament in itself, but no less provides a strengthening message to all Canada. Today, Acadian communities are vigorously evident in the three Maritime provinces; and in bilingual New Brunswick, they comprise close to half the population. Here is a resolute people's living answer to their terrible time of expulsion, during a deadly contest of empires. But to that contest we ourselves must now return.
In 1756 the Seven Years War began in Europe; but in America the conflict simply continued -- witnessing another French success that year, the capture of British Oswego, which was set on Lake Ontario opposite Fort Frontenac, and thus had threatened New France's main water highway on to Niagara and the Ohio. The French victory at Oswego was won by a new commanding general, the Marquis de Montcalm, a professional soldier of highly deserved renown; but who had shortcomings of his own. He scarcely seemed aware that he, a trained regular, might make military misjudgments. He was all too disdainful of the colonial authorities in New France, and the whole Canadien skill in guerilla warfare developed over a century of swift assaults on Indian villages or English frontiers. Montcalm would gain more successes in 1757-8. Yet he disparaged and resisted the strategies of his supposed superior, the Governor-General Pierre de Vaudreuil (Quebec-born son of a notable earlier governor, Philippe de Vaudreuil), who had taken office in 1755 and had pursued a largely successful hold-off policy of French-Indian attacks amid the forests. Montcalm instead believed that the enemy had to be met and decisively defeated European-style, in pitched battles at strongpoints of defence. Each could be partly right: but their command dissensions scarcely helped to defend New France.
The fact remains that, for all the value of guerilla thrusts in keeping the enemy off balance or disrupting his communications, the crucial battles for America would ultimately be won by regular forces and their well-drilled heavy fire; on open battlefields or in the sieges of key fortresses, not by scattered musket shots from behind trees in the wilds. The French at the start held some advantage in their wilderness knowledge and their ties with the western Indians, not to mention that they were not thirteen unconcerted colonies, moving in varied directions or not moving at all. Yet over time New France's much smaller population and resources were bound to become apparent, as the British colonies began to apply their own real strengths. Furthermore, there was the growing stranglehold of British sea-power on the Atlantic, which in due course let only trickles of French reinforcements and munitions get through, while British regular forces and armaments swelled freely overseas. Finally, there was the guiding genius of William Pitt in the British government from 1757. He shaped a co-ordinated war effort in Britain and America, and chose generals and admirals who could carry it out. Accordingly, though the patterns were not fully apparent till 1758, the greater available weight of British power, once effectively used, spelled doom for France's empire in America. All French aptitudes in forest warfare could do little more than delay the final outcome.
The British surge forward showed dramatically in the taking of Louisbourg in July, 1758, after a seven-week seige. That fortress had been much strengthened and better manned since its return to French control. But a powerful British fleet and army that was assembled at Halifax swept up to the great French base; and there successful landings under General James Wolfe led on to massive cannonades that finally forced the shattered town to surrender. This time the British blew up Louisbourg's fortifications. They also occupied Cape Breton Island and the Island of Saint John, while Wolfe went to seize the fishing coasts of Gaspé. Most important, the way by sea to the St. Lawrence and Quebec now lay open: though it was too late in the season to mount an attack before another year. Meanwhile, there were decisive British successes in the interior, as well. A force under Colonel John Bradstreet repaid the loss of Oswego by capturing Fort Frontenac, which now was weakly held and in poor condition -- a strange weakness considering the critical value of this historic post where Lake Ontario met the St.Lawrence. For with its fall, the French chain of forts to westward was broken. The results appeared that November, when For Duquesne in the Ohio, itself under British attack and now cut off from supplies, was abandoned and blown up by its own defenders. Fort Pitt appeared in its place: later to become Pittsburgh in the spread of American settlement into the Ohio country.
The war moved toward a climax in 1759. That July, stout, stone-built Fort Niagara fell to the assaults of British troops, New York militia and Mohawk Indians, all under Sir William Johnson (as he now was). With the loss of this major stronghold, the little French fort at Toronto harbour was burned by its own garrison. British forces were now converging on the St. Lawrence core of Canada: eastward from Lake Ontario, north from the Lake Champlain region, and up the main St. Lawrence river from the sea, where in June a fleet and army under James Wolfe had arrived at Quebec, the capital and very heart of New France.
For several months Wolfe battered ineffectually at Montcalm's strong French defences along the Beauport shore, on the downstream side of Quebec. But in September he finally struck above the city, his men climbing the steep banks by night; so that the morning of September 13 found a British army some 5,000 drawn up on the Plains of Abraham outside the city walls. With Wolfe on this less protected flank of Quebec, and across the remaining French supply line to Montreal, Montcalm reacted all too hastily. He hurried the bulk of his forces out of their Beauport lines in a long march around the city, and sent them right into battle. In numbers, they nearly equalled the British, but they were tired, disarrayed, and in their confusion not equal to the ordered discipline of their waiting enemies. Massed British volleys rang out in sequence, blasting down the hastily advancing French, who swayed, then broke and ran. It was all over in half an hour. Montcalm was mortally wounded trying to rally his men. Wolfe died on the battlefield, likely shot by a Canadian or Indian sniper. Yet Quebec was surrendered on September 18, and British forces moved into possession of this main bastion of New France -- as it indeed had been, ever since Champlain's founding time.
The war went on, for there were still many French-held posts, Indian allies, and the French army now centred on Montreal. Moreover, after the Royal Navy had to leave Quebec to avoid being frozen in over the winter, the British forces holed up in a badly battered city themselves went through attack. In April of 1760, the French army led by the Duc de Lévis came down from Montreal. At Ste. Foy, a village just west of Quebec, Lévis fought a battle harder than that waged on the Plains the autumn before, and the British under General James Murray, Wolfe's successor, were lucky to get back within Quebec's defences. But then British warships came up the river when the ice went out. Lévis had to give up his seige, and the very thin hope of a French war fleet arriving instead. The French retired bitterly to Montreal once more. There the British soon closed in from all sides, on a town far less defensible than Quebec had been. And at Montreal on September 8, 1760, Governor Vaudreuil signed the Articles of Capitulation with General Jeffrey Amherst. French authority had ceased in Canada. New France had fallen.
Still, the Seven Years War had not ended in Europe as yet, and so Canada remained under an interim British military rule. Besides, there was always the chance that a peace treaty might again restore some American holdings to France, especially if French fortunes of war happened to improve elsewhere. With such a possibility in mind, France in 1762 indeed contrived to send a naval expedition to seize St. John's, chief centre in British Newfoundland, largely as a counter to use in bargaining back French North Atlantic fishing rights. A surprised St. John's fell easily to this bold attack -- but a bigger British expedition sent from New York quickly regained it. In the meantime, peace negotiations were already under way between the principal, mutually exhausted European combatants. They resulted in the Peace of Paris, ratified for Britain by its parliament in February, 1763.
The costliest fighting had gone on in Europe -- where actually not over one blood-soaked acre of ground changed hands in the treaty between the main antagonists, France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Britain. But in North America, a defeated France gave up her huge empire. She kept only St. Pierre and Miquelon as bases for her Atlantic fishery, two little islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland, and some fishing rights, still, on that big island's empty western shores. Her other domains -- Acadia to the Appalachians, all French Canada west beyond that, plus the Ohio and Illinois country and all the lands east of the Mississippi -- passed into British possession; while Spain was given France's Louisiana territories west of the Mississippi. Now, definitely, New France had disappeared. A century and more of growth and expansion, suffering, conflict and courage, had ended in conquest and cession.
But it was not all over -- not in pride, not in achievement, nor in heritage. The French who had shaped Quebec and many a lasting settlement, who had carried Canada to the Great Lakes and the Great Plains, or ranged from Labrador to the Gulf of Mexico, were by no means going to disappear as a strong and vital factor in Canadian history. New France might have departed. French Canada and its resolute descendants would not.
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