The Open Door Web Site
Colonies and Empires Index
European Settlement in North America
The Origins of Canada
The Struggle between France and Britain
The American War of Independence
BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE
Colonies and Empires
The Struggle between France and Britain for North America
The competition between France and Britain for colonies in North America would take three wars and fifty years to settle.
In the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which settled the War of Spanish Succession, New France had to give up the provinces of Newfoundland and Acadia, the rich cod fishing lands at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, to Britain. France could keep two islands as fishing stations. On one of them, Ile Royale, the French built a massive stone fortress. New forts were also built in the Mississippi region.
In the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1745), which followed the War of the Austrian Succession, France did not lose any territory, but the war had inflamed bitter feelings between the French and New England settlers, both of whom had used native Indians to attack each other. In general, the native Indians were more sympathetic towards the French settlers, since the New England farmers were determined to clear and farm native Indian lands.
After the War of the Austrian Succession, the British planted 3000 of their own settlers in Acadia, now called Nova Scotia. When the next war began, 6000 French Acadians, despite their protests of neutrality, were forced to leave the land of their ancestors and were shipped off to other parts of America. Many eventually settled at the mouth of the Mississippi, where their French-speaking descendants in modern-day Louisiana, are still called Arcadians.
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763)
The third and final struggle for supremacy in America is known in Britain as the Seven Years' War, and in the USA as the French and Indian War.
It began in the valley of the Ohio, which is on the far side of the Appalachian Mountains and, in 1753, lay between British Virginia and the French Mississippi Valley. This huge region was known as Louisiana. To reinforce their claim to the Ohio, the French had captured a British settlement on the site of modern Pittsburgh and had named it Fort Duquesne. A twenty one-year old English American, called George Washington, (who had invested in Ohio lands and who, therefore, had a personal interest in seeing them remain in British hands), arrived with 200 Virginian militiamen to evict the French. George Washington's mission failed, however.
The survivors of General Braddock's defeated army
In 1755, a much larger professional army, under General Braddock, also failed to dislodge the French from Fort Duquesne. Britain declared war on France in May 1756 and the new British Prime Minister, William Pitt, determined to finish with the French colonies in North America once and for all. He would control the Atlantic sea routes, isolate French colonies from Europe and seize them for Britain.
The most able soldier in North America at the time was considered to be the Marquis de Montcalm. He faced insurmountable problems, however. New France was cut off from France by the British Navy. The French Canadian Governor and Intendant were awkward with him, and he only had a small force of a few thousand French troops plus 9000 Canadian militia to lead. The British took Fort Duquesne and descended the Ohio to the Mississippi. Only the St. Lawrence remained in French hands by 1758
The Marquis de Montcalm
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