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Colonies and Empires Index

15th Century 'Voyages of Discovery'
In the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries

European Settlement in North America

Introduction
The First Colony : Virginia
The Pilgrim Fathers
The Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact
Plymouth Settlement
The First Thanksgiving

The Origins of Canada

Introduction : New France
The Hudson Bay Company
France Claims the Mississippi River

The Struggle between France and Britain
for North America

Introduction
The Seven Years' War

The American War of Independence

Introduction
Britain Taxes its Colonies
The Boston Massacre
The "Boston Tea Party"
The First Continental Congress
The War for Independence Begins
The Second Continental Congress
American Victories
The Declaration of Independence

History Chapters Main Index

 

General Wolfe by Schaak

General Wolfe by Schaak

 

James Cook

James Cook

 

 

BRITAIN : ISLAND STATE TO EMPIRE

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Colonies and Empires

The Fall of Quebec (1759)

Led by General James Wolfe, British soldiers forced their way up the St. Lawrence River in the summer of 1759. A young officer, called James Cook, was navigating the treacherous waters of the river. Wolfe tried, unsuccessfully, to attack Quebec from the front and bombard the town. With his men falling ill and winter approaching, it seemed that the greatest prize in New France would elude him.

Hearing of a narrower path that led straight up from the river to the Plains of Abraham above the town of Quebec, Wolfe led his men, by night, past the French guards. At dawn, his army of 5000 men were assembled, ready for battle against the 4500 troops of Montcalm. On the 13th September 1759, France lost Quebec to the British.

Both General Wolfe and General Montcalm were killed in the battle. In losing Quebec, France effectively lost New France and, with it, its North American empire. By the end of 1760, all French forces in North America had surrendered.

 

The Fall of Quebec

The Fall of Quebec

 

The Treaty of Paris (1763)

In the peace settlement which followed the Seven Years' War, Canada was handed over to Britain by France, (along with trading posts in India). However, French sugar islands in the West Indies, captured by the British, were given back to France. France was also allowed fishing rights off the Newfoundland coast (the islands of St. Pierse and Miquelon).

 

Fort St Louis, Quebec

An 1834 engraving of Fort St Louis, Quebec

 

The British government, in deciding whether to keep Guadeloupe or Canada, had chosen, to the world's surprise, Canada. The business interests in the City of London were horrified. If France was going to be allowed to keep one of its two colonies in America, let it keep the useless, frozen wastelands in the north, but not the fabulously productive sugar islands. Two and a half centuries later, however, the British government's decision would seem to have been the correct one.

By making Canada British, however, the Government in London eliminated one of the forces that bound the Thirteen Colonies to their mother-country. This force was fear of the French threat to the west, over the Appalachians. Since they no longer needed British protection from France, the American colonists looked more critically at the government in London.

Britain's favourable treatment of the French and Canada, as well as the Indians who lived in the area, accelerated the disillusionment Americans felt with their British rulers. The Proclamation of 1763 reserved huge tracts of former French land for Canada's native Indian population, blocking the expansion westward of farmers in the thirteen colonies.

The Quebec Act of 1774 was even more hated. It allowed the French population of Canada to keep their old civil law and their right to participate in the government of Canada without having to give up their Roman Catholicism. Worst of all, the Quebec Act allocated lands in the Ohio area, (i.e. the lands which the colonists had fought for in the Seven Years' War), to British Canada rather than to any of the Thirteen Colonies. The Quebec Act was a major cause of the coming American Revolution.

 

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