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Title: Life in the French Colonies of North America : report
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Title: Life in the French Colonies of North America : report
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Language: English
Creator: Hardy, Deirdre J.
Publisher: Deirdre J. Harvey
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: 1977
Copyright Date: 1977
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Full Text
Life in the French Colonies


North America


Deirdre J. Hardy

AE 67 5
Winter 77
Prof. Phillip Wisely
University of Florida



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Life in the French Colonies of North America

Christopher Columbus' epic voyage to the West

E discovery of the New World in 1492 may not have

reached Cathay E the Spice Islands as hoped, but it

certainly gave the intrepid explorers who followed

him fresh fields to conquer.

England, France were relative Newcomers to the

New World after Spain E Portugal who had, with the

Pope's sanction, divided the territories of Africa

Aisa E the Americas between them in the Treaty of

Tordesillas in 1494. It was France who evolved, from

her position of weakness at the end obF the 100 years

War, the new colonizing theory that monopoly of trade

could only be maintained by permanent occupation

of that region.1

Practising this theory in 1534 the expedition led

by Jacques Cartier and financed by King Francis I

sailed West to explore the Gulf we know as St. Lawrence

8 hopefully find mineral wealth similar to that of

Mexico as well as the passage to Cathay. Instead,

he captured two of the Indians who tried to trade

him furs and sailed back to France having only ventured

as far as Stadacona, an Indian fortified village,

at the site of today's Quebec.2

The appearance of the Indians in France served

to enrich the imaginations of the Europeans who seem

to have mentally pictured the new world as a place

of friendly earth goddesses bidding them feast on the

bounty of the New World3 The Indians unwittingly

added spice to this mental picture by claiming that

gold, silver, spices and a society with a very

advanced civilization lived in the interior of their


Consequenlty, Cartier was commissioned to return

and verify these rumors. H-e was of course'prevented

from travelling farther West than Montreal by the

unnavigable rapid at Lechine and because of the

lateness of the month (October) decided to winter at

Stadacona. The summer's heat E latitudinal position

(20 South of Paris) of course gave no hint of the

severity of the winter to come and most of the

explorers died even with the food E medicinal aid

given them by the Indians.4

As soon as the river ice melted Cartier set off

back to France, this time kidnapping the Indian chief

Donnacona who later perished in France.

Despite the fact that Cartier had brought nothing

more substantial home than tales of hardship E more

rumours of a mythical Kingdom, Francis I was con-

vinced another Peru waited there for this discovery,

but as was to happen many more times in the future -

War in Europe prevented any further implementation of

France's colonization theory. Six years later

Robeval was commissioned to establish a permanent

colony as far up the St. Lawrence as possible and claim

the river it drained for France. However, this colo-

nization attempt, manned to a large extent by convicts

from-French prisons, was alas doomed to failure &

the party had to be rescued partly because Cartier

E Robeval had earlier alienated the Indians by acts

which precipitated massacres and cannibalism against

later pioneers.5

Disappointed, the French reverted their efforts

to privateering in South American waters and fishing

the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, and some

abortive attempts at colonizing Brazil E Florida.

The years of civil strife in France which began

with the slaughter of the Huguenot leaders in Paris

in 1572 ended 34 years later after Henri IV acceded

to the throne. But the years of turmoil had

changed the lifestyle of the people. The destructive

wars had wreaked havoc on the common man whose farms

the battles were fought on, for his family

suffered the effects of pillaging commandeering

and rape. These conditions were in marked contrast

to the splendid lifestyle of the great monarchies which

were sustained by heavy taxes on the already poverty

stricken poor.

It was from this ferment that the characteristics

of the median world emerged capitalism indivi-

dualism secularism and the birth of modern

science, thanks to the enlightened intellectual age

which created such greats as Spinoza, Descartes,

Rubens, Rembrandt, Moliere, Milton, Newton, E


By 1603 events had calmed enough that Henri

IV could again turn his thoughts to colonization

and he commissioned Montmorency as Lieutenant Governor

of the Atlantic Coast from 40-460 latitude.

Montmorency was to settle in Arcadia but expand his

efforts on discovering mineral wealth 8 the elusive

passage to China in exchange for a 10 year monopoly

on the fur trade.

With Samuel de Champlain as his associate, de

Monts established Port Royal on the Bay of Fundy,

and found it a fertile region for the growth of cereal

grains E vegetables E proved it possible to live there

year around. Champlain made excellent maps of the

coastline and de Monts established good relations

with the Miamac and Abenaguis Indians which were to

stand the French in good stead in the years to come.7

Four years later when the merchants in the Northern

French parts succeeded in having de Monts fur mono-

polies rescinded the precarious financial position of

Port Royal which was not yet self-sufficient caused it

to be abandoned 6 all returned to France.

It was 1610 before de Mont's successor Poutrin-

court could outfit a ship to return to Port Royal.

His passenger list included a zealous priest who

baptised more than 80 Miamacs soon after their arrival

in Arcadia. It was hoped that Henri IV would be

impressed by this evangelical feat but his assassination

that year once more threw the home country into

turmoil. However, the Queen Mother had been impressed

and sought to establish the Society of Jesuits as the

missionary group responsible for the conversion of

the New World pagans.

Champlain had founded Quebec as a fur trading

post in 1608 for this strategically located spot

was (not only militarily defensible but alas) con-

veniently located for the middlemen of the fur

trade the Hurons.S

For the next 9 years uQuebec was nothing more

than a summer fur trading post and a military garrison

to deter other nations from seeking a foothold in

the region. Quebec's location was a geographic

bonus for the French. It gave them defensible access

to the Lake region's superior quality furs while the

Dutch were establishing fur trading posts in the Hudson

River. Meanwhile the English agricultural venture in

Virginia had blossomed with its first harvest of

Tobacco and settlers were flocking to that

area, numbering 10,000 by 1614.10

Understandably, Champlain was very concerned taht

his small band of soldiers could not defend their

position either physically or theoretically 6 so he

petitioned the French Chamber of Commerce to finance

a major colonizaing program of 400 families 6 300

soldiers. The Chamber was interested but considered

the venture should be financed by Louis XIII who lhad

just made his famour 1617 announcement "L'etat c'est

Moi" 6 taken oligarchial control. Rebellion among

his nobles, the Huguenots and the newly begun religious

was in Germany kept Louis too busy for colonial affairs

so Champlain turned to the only :other source he had -

the Church. Renewed religious interest during the

Regency had enabled the Church to revitalize its

economy 6 political influence and they welcomed the

chance to expand. The Society of Jesuits reentered

the North American Mission field in 1625 but they were

hampered as much as possible by the Huguenot shipping

merchants of La Rochelle who refused to transport

them or their goods. This religion-based stalemate

resulted in Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis' first

Minister, excluding the Huguenots forever from New

France. He did however form a company the Company of

New France of shareholders to finance a large

colonizing venture, 4000 French & Catholic settlers

within 15 years. In return the Compnay was granted

rights as Seigneur of all the claimed land 'and

a monopoly on all trade except fishing. Since 50% of the

hsareholders were members of the clergy 6 nobility E

no Huguenot participation was allowed it is not

surprising that religious factors were motivating

In May 1628, the Company sent 400 settlers with

the necessary supplies for a years sustenance but

England 6 France were at war by the time the expedi-

tion sailed and the convoy was besieged by an English

Privateer David Kirke in the St Lawrence. Kirke

combined his new resources with those of a Scot, Sir

William Alexander who had a grant from James I of the

land between St. Croix River 8 the St. Lawrence

named Nova Scotia. During teh winter the two

Anglo-Scots siezed Port Royal from the 20 Arcadian

inhabitants and in July of 1629 they sailed to

Quebec where Champlain, cut off from provisions and

their source, was forced to surrender. For the first

time French sovereignty was eliminated from North

America a result of poor management and half-hearted

endeavour and the profits of the fur trade were

in the hands of intrepid advantures.12

When England abandoned the Huguenot cause in

April 1629, peace between France 6 England was

followed by th Treaty of St.-Germain-en-Laye which

returned to France all the territory in North

America seized from her by the English. However,

the original Company of NJew France was financially

ruined and the Crown involved in the Thirty Years'

War certainly had no funds to invest, so individuals

were encouraged to lease commercial rights E finance

expeditions themselves to retake possession of

Arcadia and Canada. Thus private enterprise seeking

profits in the fur trade and the Church seeking souls

to convert to Christianity were again motivated

colonizers both completely dependent on the Indians.

Fortunately, Champlain had established good rapport

with the Indians during his previous residence, for

their aid was indispensable to the 40 settlers E 3

Jesuits who set out in 1632 to renew the French~

toehold in the New World.13 Most importantly

these settlers learned from the Indians the vital

techniques of how to survive E travel in the wilderness.

The Indians really eased the entry of the white man

into the New World by teaching him the use of snow

shoes, mocassins, toboggans E canoes and the art of

wilderness survival. Among the crops whose cultiva-

tion was learned from these indigenous peoples are

listed corn, peanuts, squash, etc. whose production

today makes up more than half the world's total food


The fur trade propsered enough during the first

few years to encourage more private investment but

not enough for the Company to afford the investment of

1,000 livres per person it cost to establish settlers.

Thus the company, hard pressed to keep its contract

of 200-300 settlers per year adopted the seigneur

system of granting land tracts to individuals who were

required to transport their own settlers E use their

aid in clearing land in exchange for a subdivided

piece of that land for themselves for which the censi-

taires in possession paid a modest annual due or cens

to his seigneur. This system was actually feudal in

nature, but in practice the seigneur had to make

the concessions to his consitaires as attractive as

possible in order to encourage the necessary number of

migrants to fulfill his own contract with the company.1

The topography S location of the area deter-

mined the size of the seigneury for each concession

had to have river frontage since that was the only

route for communication 8 transportation.

By 1640 the population numbered 64 families

158 men, 116 women, 29 Jesuits 5 53 soldiers, a

total of 356 all of whom were settled on the eastern

side of Quebec 5 mostly north of the St. Lawrence

because the south side was subject to attack from the

Iroquois tribes. West of~i~ontreal the company

would grant no concessions on either the Ottowa or St.

Lawrence Rivers since .that would have permitted the

settlers to forestall the Indian bringing furs to trade

at Montreal. This confinement of the population

to the St. Lawrence Valley from the island of

Montreal to just below Quebec continued until the

Conquest of Quebec by Wolfe in 1763.16

The river frontage requirement resulted in the

subdivision of the land into rangs with each lot

at right angles to the river flow having one league

of water frontage at the high water line and indetermina

depth. This subdividing had two distinct advantages -

large tracts of land could still have a sense of

solidarity among neighbors and the physical layout pre-

cluded a sense of isolation. The disadvantages of this

system were that farming could be difficult on a long

narrow strip of land which might include several dif-

ferent types of terrain, and it inherently precluded

a village system. It was also difficult to protect

so the settlers had to become a citizen militia.

Through th practise acquired in self-defense they

became expert guerilla fighters and often worked

the fields in armed bands for ambush by the Iroquois

was a constant threat.17

The farms were largely self-sufficient due to

the whole family's labor combined with the resources

of land and sea. The inhabitants within each rang

bartered their excess goods and handicrafts among

themselves because currency was rare. Thsu the econo-

mic basis for a village was absent as too, was a

tax system. Consequently, the inhabitants never

sought representative government for themselves

but passively deferred to the ordinances of the

intendents or seigneurs for their municipal interests

of education and medical care were an integral part

of the parochial system. As the rangs become

settled the greatest ambition of each was to build

a church, for the physical entity of a stone church

endowed the legal status of parish and each habitants

self concept was encompassed by his name, rang, parish

title. That poverty was a "fact of life," is evidenced

by the realization that although each rang dreamed of

parish status only four stone churches (the required

building matieral) existed in 168518

The church exerted a great influence over the lives

of its parishoners E was in fact the common denomina-

tor of the fundamental views of life shared by all -

it regulated the outside influences on the habitants,

provided explorations for the toils of this world

and supported them emotionally by providing rituals

to carry one through life's crises from birth to death.

Tradition and position in the family largely determined

the activities of an individual whether it be marriage,

career or politics and the peer pressures of neighbours

whose entire social contact with each other was within

their own rang and church was very strong for they

depended on each other for survival. Thsu the deve-

10pment of the province custom of premier voisin or

"nearest neighbour" who became more important to

a family than their relatives. In such a tightly

knit community there was little disorganization or crime

and disputes were settled by the intendent or local

siegneur, but the administration of justice doesn't

seem to have been too onerous for blasphemy, drunkeness

E failure to attend Feast Day Masses comprise the bulk

of reported crimes.19

In contrast to the two settlements at Quebec E

Trois Rivieres which began as fortified commercial

outposts with settlement institutions, such as church,

school E hospital being built later, Montreal was unique

for it was really a small unit of Seventeenth Century

French society successfully transplanted across the

Atlantic a~nd set down in the wilderness 3 days travel

from the nearest French outpost. It was created by

an influential French secret society, the Compaignie

de Saint-Sorement which consisted of wealthy devout

layment 8 clergy devoted to puritanical religious

reform E the conversion of the heathen in foreign

parts. Six members of this society formed themselves

into t the Societe de Notre Dame de Montreal which

was granted charter to the greater part of the island

of Montreal by the Company of New France. The Societe

de Notre Dame believed a mission settlement com ~lete

with church, school E hospital would induce the

Indians to settle permanently on the isalnd where

they could benefit from the institutions and thus

be converted to Christianity. The site of Montreal

was chosen because of its remotemness from

Quebec and its geographic location at the confluence

of the two rivers, the St. Lawrence E the Ottawa,

where it would be easily accessible to a large number

of the Indian nations to the West.

The Society chose Paul de Chomedey sieur de

Maisonneuve, a devout 30 yr. old army officer who

regarded the entreprise as a Holy Crusade to be the

Governor of the new colony. He was accompanied by an

equally devout woman Jeanne Nance (who volunteered

to care for th sick) E 70 men skilled at various trades

who were reunited for a three year term.

The settlers in the Quaker area who were experiencing

a difficult time trying to protect themselves from the

Iroquois offenses tried desperately to convince the

newcomers of their certain death if they proceeded

to Montreal but their warnings were ignored 8 the

new settlement was established inside a log palisade

before the end of the summer of 1642. When the Iroquois

who were busy defending their territories elsewhere

failed to attack because they didn't anticipate such a

daring encroachment, the settlers attributed their

luck to Divine intervention!20

Because many of the settlers who had originally

come to Montreal were skilled tradesmen, a stratified

society ensued the clergy, nobles E commoners

were all represented with the latter group divided

into merchants, artisans E common labourers. There was

little egalitarianism but upward mobility was possible

S could occur quickly through both commercial

success E for a labourer, the clearing of land. As

soon as he had cleared 4 arpents of land he could

claim it his own E become a habitant. This normally

amounted to about 3 yrs labour for 1 man. If he then

chose to become a self-employed landholder the Societe

would grant him 30 arpents of land 8 enough livres

to build 8 furnish a house E live on for 1 year.

These conditions encouraged migration but many pros-

pective settlers found the Iroquois attacks disheartening

E returned to France. The Montreal settlement con-

tinued its good Christian work for 2 decades by which

time the excellent trading location of the city saw

commerce overtake religion as the main concern of its

residents .21

The Iroquois who were allied with the Dutch and

English in the fur trade were responsible not only for

keeping the French settlers confined but they also

caused hazardous financial times for the fun trade

particularly when they would attack 6 close trade


A feeling of enthusiasm for for colonization in

France and the periodicity of the fur trade due

to the Iroquois blockades brought the Company of New

France to the verge of bankruptcy in 1650. The

inhabitants of Quebec joined forces in an attempt to

become self governing and supportive but although the

seat of governemtn was now localized, rivalries

between religious orders and resultant power politics

brought the colonies to a desperate stop by 1662

so help was sent from the Crown. Louis XIV assumed

command and the colony was proclaimed a Royal Province

to be administered in the same manner as the Royal

Provinces of France in Europe. This takeover provided

a firm financial base for the trading and agricultural

framework to grow on 6 although the colony was not

self-sufficient at the time, it was soon possible. -

the basic rural E urban fabric was laid 8 a crushing

tax burden absent.22

While the settlements around Quebec, Montreal

E Trois Rivieres were slowly spreading along

the river banks, priests 6 explorers were gradually

moving West establishing Missions (which acted as fur

trading posts) throughout the Huron nation. True to

the promises in its Charter teh Company of New France

encouraged the Jesuits to advance West among the Hurons

who for their part tolerated the missionaries'

presence because it was necessary for them to trade

with the French. A settled agricultural tribe,

whose fur animal supply had been depleted the Hurons

traded western goods for furs with the Algonquins,

thus they did their best to prohibit the French

expanding Westward because they didn't want to lose

their middleman position. The Indians with a

philosophical religious concept of their own were not

quick to accept the dogma of Catholicism E the Jesuits

became convinced that only by their own martydom

could the Indians be convinced to accept Christianity -

perhaps because they knew the Indians schooled them-

selves from childhood to accept torture E pain stoically,

for such horrifying experiences befell any Indian

captured by another tribe. Possibly the Jesuits felt

that by showing stoicism in the face of martyrdom the

Indians would be more able to understand the benefits

of faith. Also at the time a religious revival was

sweeping France G priests seemed to crave martyrdom

for their own persons and were jealous of any of their

brethern who attained this high grace!23

Then again the Jesuits were hampered by the

examples of a different white man's life-style

revealed to the Indians by the Coureur de Bois, those

adventurous men who set off into the wilderness to

trap their own furs for trading. These coureur

de bois were popular with the Indians perhaps because

many of them adopted the Indian mores (and squaws!)

They also upset the church E administrative leaders

of the settled communities who did not want the

young people following the coureur's example. During

Talon's governorship he sought to exercise the

population of the settlements 8 bind the coureur

more tightly to the settlements by bringing shiploads

of women to Quebec. Fifteen days after the~ arrival

of such a ship any man remaining single was fined and

lost his hunting license! A small inducement was offered,

however, along with a wife each man received an ox,

cow, hog, sow, cock E hen, 2 barrels of salted meat

E 11 crowns. Seems the idea was to increase S


The Iroquois encouraged by the decimation of

the Hurons by disease and having exhausted the supply

of furs in their own hunting grounds determined to take

over the Huron "middleman role." Though they wished

to keep the Iroquois as a buffer between themselves

E the English G Dutch colonies the French were powerless

to provide military aid to the Hurons, so although

they temporarily lost their missions in the Huron

villages they counted as a victory for God the souls

they had saved while the Huron villages burned!

Loss of the Huron middlemen meant that the French

had to travel west to obtain furs E within a few

years the French frontiersmen had voyaged to the

Western end of Lake Superior F the Ottawa Nation had

succeeded the Hurons.2

This opening of the West occurred just a few years

before Louis declared New France to be a Royal Province

and for once money capable men E opportunity all coincide

for the colony. Jean-Baptiste Colbert rpoved to be

a very capable minister who endeavoured to increase

both France E the colony's strength by using New

France's goods in the same way England had those of

her colonies. The colony was almost self-sufficent

at this time anyway E with added financial resources

to provide professional military protection and expansion

of the fur trade conditions began to improve.26

A new administrative framework was established

for the province which was governed by a Governor

general usually a prof. soldier who represented the

king. Each of the 3 colonial settlements, Montreal,

Arcadia E Quebec/Trois Rivieres had a local

governor who supervised the judicial E military systems.

Royal government brought sophistication and strict

regulation to the judicial system expanding it to a

three count appeal process and regulating legal

activities and fees. All judicial and administrative

posts were appointive E held at the Crown's pleasure

ensuring both talented officeholders E ones who would

perform efficiently.

Colbert struggled to diversify the economy by

financing ship building F fishing schemes but neither

was successful dut to lack of skilled labour, salt E

the long winters. His efforts to consolidate the

settlements fared better E during each summer shiploads

of indentured servants settlers 8 marriageable girls

of many different nationalities, 8 domesticated

animals arrived.

The basic population was now 10,000 E increasing

by natural means stimulated by dowries given to young

couples at marriage E fines extracted from parents

of sons who were not married at 20 E daughters at 16!

Other techniques used by Colbert to bolster the

population included a secret edict allowing only those

colonists who had accumulated considerable wealth to

return to France E encouraging intermarriage with

Indians after they had been Christianized E

Frenchified. The latter failed the Indians showed

no desire to adopt other ways in fact the young

colonists tended to adopt Indian ways!27

By 1672 the French had 3 settlements, 8

fortified garrisons, 7 missions E 1 fort/mission

combination that stretched to the western end of the

Great Lakes from Quebec E these had opened the way

for Joliet E Marquette's famous expedition down

the Mississippi to the confluence of the Arkansas.28

Although they suspected from Indian reports that the

river flowed into the Gulf of Mexico near a Spanish

settlement the King did not encourage further

exploration because he felt consolidation of the settler

areas more important. Thus it was 4 years before

Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle E his associate

Tonty reached the month of teh Mississippi River and

claimed all the land drained by this mighty river E

its tributaries for France quite a prize! La Salle

was anxious to set up a string of forts along the

Mississippi to provide supply basis for the great

water transportation route he envisaged foining the

settlements on the St. Lawrence with another at the

mouth of teh Mississippi. The disastrous loss of

the 45 (or 60 by some experts) ton sailing vessel

the "Griffon" which he had built at Niagara to facilitat

his fur trading practices did not deter La Salle29

Instead, he returned to France 8 convinced the King

to finance a colonizing settlement for the Mississippi

Delta with himself as the commander of all the land

from the Illinois River south. This doomed voyage

did not even begin well the ship's captain was never

informed of their destination the mouth of the

Mississippi River. Miscalculating, the ships landed

400 miles west of their destination and after months

of fruitless exploration E many hardships La Salle

was murdered. Louis XIV did not even send out a

rescue ship after a courageous trek by some of the

survivors from Mataferda Bay to a French fort on the

Arkansas River informed him of their plight.30

In 1699 Oberville was sent out from France to

rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi River by way

of the Gulf of Mexico, to defend the French claim to

the southern Mississippi Valley and prevent other nations

from using the river. He was accompanied by skilled

masons, carpenters and a 'draftsman and constructed

a palisaded fort on Biloxi Bay. The next year a small

fort de la Boulaye was established in the Mississippi

delta and later, from 1701-17, forts were built on the

shores of Mobile Bay and its major source the Coosa

River as eastward expansion by the English in the

Carolinas casued the French to occupy as much of their

territory as possible.31

The settlements E forts of the delta area were

completely dependent on the Crown for financial support

but since Louis XIV was busily engaged in European

conflicts little money could be spared for the colony

E when settlers arrived in 1711 they found the 200

inhabitants living under such appalling conditions

that they fled to Pensacola or the Carolinas.32

Once again recourse was taken to encouraging

colonization by private enterprise and in 1712 Anthony

Crozat was granted 15 year monopoly on trade in return

for taking responsibility of settlement. Grozat

endeavoured to reap the utmost from his investment,

not only to the colonies detrement but his own, for

the colonly only had, deer skins, buffalo pelts E

poor quality pitch to offer as resources. In order

to produce the crops Louisiana was capable of growing -

tobacco, cotton, sugar slave labor was required

but these were beyond the means of the settlers. When

Crozat relinquished his contract in 1717 it was given

to John Law E his Compagnie des Indies which was required

to transport 6000 settlers 3000 Negro slaves.33

The old Roypl edict that only practising Roman

Catholics E the social undesirables could be transported

was conveniently disregarded E settlers were

recruited from Switzerland I Germans as well

as France's prisons E workhouses. Because many of

these perished on the voyage or soon after arrival,

Louisiana gained the reputation of a penal colony

E no free people could thereafter be encouraged

to migrate.

Settlement was moved to New Orleans and in 1719

the first group of 450 slaves arrived this group grew

to number 6000 during the ensuing decade + the colony

gradually became self sufficient but never produced

enough to stabilize the financial status of the

Compagnie des Indies 8 in 1731 Louisiana reverted to

the Crown.

Land grants in Louisiana were made by the Crown

E seigneurial rights not allowed. Since the officer

corps came from France along with the military and

the colony was always in need of, the officers readily

procured plantations E in fact spent more time on them

than in military duty. Status came to be measured

by teh size of one's plantation 8 number of slaves,

because it was not possible for colonists to gain

status within the military as it had been in Canada.

Class lines however, were blurred because of the lack

of a core of nobility E the small number of women.

Marriage was often thus either down in class or not

possible and concubinage with slaves E Indians

substituted. Official edict was however against

intermarriage E the old policy of assimilating E

converting the Indians abandoned. Thus the Church

in Louisiana found itself without much influence

especially since its economic dependence on the Crown

made it financially weak also.34

The mission ports of Cahokia E Kaskaskia on the

P.T.0. Illinois meanwhile had attracted a small

number of Canadian settlers who developed the rich

land into "the garden of New France" producing enough

wheat flour, wine E meat to ship down-river to the

Louisiana forts but they sent their furs to

Montreal. The remoteness of these establishments however

prevented rapid growth 8 in 1752 the population there

was 1,536 French & 890 Negroes E 147 Indians.35

While the Louisiana settlement was struggling

for survival the French E Indian War was taking

place in New France while simultaneously France was

engaged in a global war fighting for supremacy in

international trade E dominance of the sea. The Iroquod

nations were determined to retain thsir supremacy

in teh fur trade G were threatened by the expansion

of the French in Illinois. The key to the winning of

this war was the faster communication possible

between the Iroauois E their English allies along

the well travelled Indian pathways, but France was

forced to seek a treaty with the Iroquois when she

was unable to supply the necessary troops to New

France to protect the settlements that the Iroquois

were terrorizing.3

The war in Europe culminated with the Treaty of

Utrecht in 1713, and although this treaty did not

settle the fate of teh Arcadian colony it did provide

31 years of peace during which time New France saw

its first real blossoming. The population in 1714

was 19,000 people by 1740 this had increased to

43,000. As the same period the pop. in English

colonies was 275,000 of which 25,000 were negroes.37

The cultivated land area had also doubled with wheat

the main crop because bread was the dietary staple.

Iron foundrys E ship building were the only two

industries of other than local nature which gained a

toehold, but these were constantly in financial

trouble. The creativity of the artisans was good and

they transmitted their talents to others by way

of an apprenticeship program but the majority of the

upward social mobility took place in the military which

formed the largest cohesive group, E the booming

fur trade funded an improved lifestyle for all who

tended to use their financial success to purchase the

luxuries of life instead of returning the profits to

their business.

Good medical care was provided cheaply by the

well-endowed religious orders who operated the hospitals.

An education equal to that obtainable in France was

available at the Jesuit University in Quebec that had

been founded a year before Harvard, Mass. was begun.

Despite the relatively high educational standard E

the fact that many individuals owned private libraries

no literary tradition was established. No newspapers

were available in the settlements there wasn't

even a press for cut off from Europe by ice for

7 8 8 months of the year there was little news to

print. Paris was the cultural capital of all the

dispersed French possessions.

Accompanying the rise in the standard of living

and education was a refinement of manners E good taste,

but simultaneously the church experienced a decline

in its influence and the result was a rise in the crime

rate S numbers of illegitimate children38

Approaching by sea from the Atlantic the settle-

ments now resemlbed as long skinny village of whitewashed

shore farmhouses with thatched roof on each bank. This

175 mile long settlement symbolized what New France

had really become a "River Empire" for it

stretched from Arcadia to Louisiana with sporatic

settlements along the banks of the river E lakes

which joined the two outposts.39

Gradual expansion by the English West from the

Alleghenies into the Ohio Valley disturbed the French

- they knew the increased population E wealth gained

by the British this way would threaten their

watery arterial tie to Louisiana and with it their

precious fur trade. Thus the French determined to

garrison their fort E show their strength in the Ohio

VAlley. The Indians, impressed by the French show of

strength, promptly swered their trade connections with

the British. Soon these colonies were demanding

military aid from England, and William Pitt, the

Prime Minister, was delighted to be able to aid them -

he knew European peace was good for France E bad

for England.40

The French were able to mobilize their citizen

militia forces at no expense to the Crown 8 skilled

in guerrilla fighting tactics by their years of

experience against the Iroquois they decimated the

regimented British soldiers. Their determination was

further strengthened by the expulsion by the British

of all the French settlers from Arcadia they knew

the same fate may befall them if they were to lose

this battle for expansion.

Unfortunately for the French, Fate dealt a deadly

blow when the Marquis de Montcalm was appointed

Major-General in charge of the armed forces, for

he quickly developed a reciprocated detestation for

the Governor General, the Marquis de Vaudreuil.

Montcalm rejected Vandreuil's battle strategy E

insisted on deploying the troops according to the

European method of fighting, completely ignoring the

demonstrated ability of the citizen militia E their

Indian allies, whom he detested. Resident~ losses E

consequent personality clashes demoralized the troops,

but it was ultimately Montcalm's defeatist attitude

which lost New France. After General Wolfe had

conquered the fort at Quebeo, it was retaken by the

French. However, Montcalm's defeatist attitude

had so convinced the King and his ministers at Versaille

of teh probable loss of New France that they did not

send any reinforcements to Quebec the following spring

E the English simply retook the garrison 8 Canada was

theirs. 4

But the war in Europe raged on E the French

succeeded in getting the Spannish to join as allies.

However, they were not as sharp as supposed 6

France quickly realized she would have no such peace

with England before she herself was conquered.

Consequently, as the Treaty of Paris, while France's

territories in the West Indies were traded around the

table she secretly ceded L~ouisiana to Spain so

that Spain could trade Florida to England in exchange

for Cuba 6 France herself could cede the lands

East of the Mississippi 6 navigation on the river to

England in exchange for Martinique, Ste. Lucia E

Guadaloupe whose raw goods she desperately needed at


It was 1762 when France ceded Louisiana to Spain

but 2 years passed before Governor O'Reilly arrived

in New Orleans t administer that colony for Spain.

He met with strong resistance, which was put down

severely but then O'Reilly proceeded to govern with

a light hand E continued to paternalistic policies of

his predecessors allowing the French to administer

in the old French way thus preserving the social


The city of St. Louis was founded in 1763 E to

it flocked the French who had settled in Illinois 6

Ohio. Both St. Louis F, New Orleans experienced an

added dimension to their cultured life when many of

the French Plantation owners fled to those two cities

after the slave uprising in Ste. Domingue in 1788.4

There remained one more chance for France to

regain some of her American colonies Napoleon

reclaimed the lands west of the Mississippi in 1800.

The population was now 50,000 of whom more than half

were slaves. But once again teh colonists were to be

treated as pawns in a game played by imperial

governments and for the third time, without being

conquered or consulted, the Louisianian found his

nationality changed, when Thomas Jefferson made the

bargain buy of all time by purchasing the Louisiana

Territory for $15,0a000,000.5 Within a few genera-

tions the French descendents had become wholly

Americanized 8 only vistiges of this French heritage

remained, unlike those in the Province of Quebec

where French is still the lingua francs 8 the

inhabitants still hope one day to be, if not a French

colony, then certainly self governing E independent.


Berger, Josef. ed. Discoverers of the New World. New York:

American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1960.

Carse, Robert. The Rivermen. New York: Charles Scribner's

Sons. 1969.

Cauthorn, Henry S. A History of the City of Vincennes, Ind~iana.

Terre Haute, Indiana: Maragaret Cauthorn. 1902.

Cumming, W.P. et al. The Exploration of North America 1630-1776.

New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1974.

Eccles, W.J. France in America. New York: Harper 6 Row. 1972.

Eiffert, Virginia S. Of Men and Rivers. New York: Dodd, Mead

E Co., 1966.

Finley, John. The French in the Heart of America. New York:

Charles Scribner's Sons. 1915.

Hofstadter, Richard. America at 1750 A Social Portrait.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1971.

Kagan, Hilde H., ed. Pictorial Atlas of U.S. History, New

York: American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc. 1966.

Ketchum, Richard ed. The American Heritage Book of the Pioneer

Spirit. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.

McDermott, John Francis. ed. The French in the Mississippi

Valley. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.


Peterson, Eugene T. Franc e at Ma ck1inac 1'715-1 7 60. Mackinac

Island, Michigan: Mackinac Island State Park Commission


Rioux, Marcel and Yves, Martin. French-Canadian Society.

Toronto: McClelland 8 Stewart Ltd., 1968.

Wayman, Norbury L. Life on the River. New York: Crown

Publishers, Inc. 1971.

Weisberger, Bernard ed. The American Heritage History of the

American People. New York: American Heritage Publishing

Co., Inc. 1971.


1. Eccles, W.J. ~Francein America, (Harper E Row, 1972)

pp 1-3.

2. Eiffert, Virginia S. Of Men And Rivers, (Dodd, Meade

8 Co., New York, 1966) p. 25.

3. Wheisberger, Bernard A., The American Heritage History of

the American People (American Heritage Publishing Co.,

Inc., New York, 1971) p. 24

4. Eiffert pp 30-32

5. Eccles, pp. 5-7 8 Eiffert pp. 25 E 33.

6. Weisberge pp 22-24.

7. Eccles pp 13-15.

8. p. 16.

9. p. 21-22

10. pp. 18-21

11. pp. 25-27

12. pp. 28-29

13. pp. 29-33

14. Weisberger p. 28.

15. Rioux, Marcel ed. French-Canadian Society McClelland 8

Stewart Ltd., Toronto, 1968. p. 4.

16. Eccles pp. 34 8 35.

17. pp. 36 8 37

18. Rioux pp. 6-28

19. Rioux pp. 58-60.

20. Eccles pp. 46-48.

21. pp. 49-51

22. pp. 52-57.

23. pp. 43-45.

24. Kagan, Hilde ed. Pictorial Atlas of U.S. History (American

Heritage Publishing Co., Inc.) N.Y. 1966 p. 55.

25. Eccles p. 46

26. p. 60

27. p. 73-88.

28. Cumming W.P. 8 Hillier S. et al The Exploration of North

America 1630-1776 (G.P. Putnam's Sons, N.Y. 1974) p. 36.

29. Cummings pp. 38 6 39

30. pp. 147-150

31. McDermott, John F., ed. The French in the _M_!issi;;_ssippi:

Valley (University of Illinois Press, Urbana 1965) pp 105-109

32. Eccles p. 158

33. "p. 164

34. p. 165

35. pp. 107

36. Kagan pp. 57-60.

37. p. 55

38. Eccles pp 114-136.

39. pp. 143-147

40. pp. 178-182

41. pp. 187-206

42. pp. 216-217

43. p. 245

44. McDermott pp. 8 E 51

45. Eccles pp. 246


1. Cartier's Landing (1534) p. 114 Berger, Josef ed.

Discoverers of the Ne~w Wnorld, New York: American Heritage

Publishing Co., Inc. 1960.

2. European Vision of New World p. 24 Weisberger, Bernard.

ed. The American Herit~agSe History of the American People.

New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. 1971.

3. Hochelaga Indian Village & Site of Montreal p. 116


4. Allegory of Life by Pieter Brueghel. p. 26-27 Weisberger.

5. Indian Wilderness Survival Techniques, p. 31 Cumming,

W.P. et al. Exploration of North America 1630-1776. New

York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1974.

6. Beavers at work, Cover Plate, Cunning, W.P.

7. How Indians Trapped Beaver, p. 194. Cumming, W.P.

8. Montreal, 1642. p. 33. Cumming, W.P.

9. How Indians Treated Prisoners. p. 199 Cumming, W.P.

10. Torture of Jesuits (1665) p. 18 Cumming, W.P.

11. French Expansion and the Fur Trade. p. 56, Kagan,

Hilde. ed. Pictorial Atlas of U.S. History, New York:

American Heritage Publishing Co: Inc., 1966.

12. Map of New France p. 36. Kagan, Hilde ed.

13. Joliet 6 Marquette (1673) p. 7. Waybury, Norbury L.

Life on the River. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.


14. Joliet's Map. p. 17 Cumming, W.P.

15. Quebec: Where Champlain died, Berger, p. 115.

16. Quebec (1683) facing p. 116. McDermott, J.F. ed.

The French in the Mississippi Valley. Urbana: University

of Illinois Press. 1965.

17. Building LaSalle's "Griffon" p. 39. Cumming, W.P.

18. Dalta of Mississippi River, p. 37. Waybury, N.L.

19. Biloxi Settlement (1720) p. 157. Cumming, W.P.

20. Food Preparation 8 Growth at Fort Mackinac p. 24

Petersen, Eugene T. France at Mackinac 1715-1760.

Michigan: Mackinac Island State Commission, 1968.

22. Church at Fort Mackinac built by Ainse, 1743. Petersen

p 9

23. Men's Clothing, Fort Mackinac p. 28-29. Petersen

24. Voyageur on Snowshoes, p. 179 Cumming, W.P.

25. Broad Brimmed Beaver Hats p. 32 Petersen

26. Female Clothing, Fort Mackinac p. 34 Petersen

27. Weapons at Fort Mackinac pp. 36 6 37 Petersen.

28. Fort Creve Coeur, (1680) p. 137 Waybury N.L.

29. Ste. Genevieve p. 92 Waybury N.L.

30. Map of French 6 Indian Wars p. 72 Kagan, H.

31. St. Louis, Missouri (1767 6 1794) p. 89 Waybury N.L.

32. Royal Coat of Arms, France. Frontispiece, Berger, Josef.

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