Since Giovanni da Verrazzano’s first trip to the east coast of North America, to the first French settlement at Charlesbourg-Royal, this northern territory was considered “claimed” by France, and would make up much of what would be known as Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. French claimed land, though, would extend all the way down to Mexico. To claim this land, much more was needed. x
Since its first French travelers, who were simple fishermen sailing the Atlantic, there has always been a market for crops and merchandise coming from the New World. Gold was not the only commodity for which Europeans were looking. Some of the greatest materials to be brought back to France consisted of wood, native crafts, crops, and - the most desired from the Northern Territories - fur. Remember that the wildlife in France and England were nearly hunted and harvested to extinction. The wildlife was seen as more of a commodity than nature to be admired. Because of the lack of supply for furs and pelts, French trading companies, and their trappers, found their way south from their first landing. Here, they would hunt animals of all types, thought to be an endless supply in this undiscovered land of the Americas. These groups, entirely made up of men, would travel wherever they found animals to hunt, bringing back only their pelts, to sell to France.
The indigenous people would also trade the French furs and other commodities for manufactured items, such as glass beads; the only thing the Europeans would not trade was iron made weapons. Weapons were not traded for many reasons. Remember that, at that time, every gun and sword was made by hand and were awfully expensive, so it wasn’t only that the Europeans didn’t want the natives to have guns for a possible uprising, but also that they couldn’t afford to lose them.
Much like the English, there were Protestant settlers that were forced to leave France to be able to live out their faith in peace. Their other choice was to convert to Catholicism. Under threat of execution, one million converted, and 500,000 fled France. They found their way to almost any settlement that would take them, including Brazil, where they built forts to protect them from the Portuguese; South Africa, where they were designated land by the Dutch; and North America. One of these groups were the Huguenots, Protestants who held to the reforms on faith made by John Calvin. They would come to settle in English and Spanish claimed areas, such as Fort Carolina in Spanish-owned Florida. They tried to take this land and establish a fort of their own, but it was soon attacked and taken over by Spanish Admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who then turned it into St. Augustine. Those protestants that were captured were executed. Remember, because they wouldn’t convert, they were not allowed to settle in New France. They then turned to the Dutch again, and settled in the Dutch colony of New Netherland. They found peace in the British colony of Nova Scotia and the lands around Hudson Bay.
While the Dutch and British were building settlements throughout North America, the French were working to establish their own. French trading posts began to pop up throughout the land, starting with Sable Island, off the coast of Acadia, in 1598, and many more over the span of only a few years. Some French settlers tried to establish Port Royal again, but it was destroyed in 1613; the settlers who survived scattered and started multiple settlements throughout the area.
In 1608, King Henry IV sponsored Samuel de Champlain, Pieere Dugua, and Sieur de Mons to settle what was to be the first sustainable colony in New France, Quebec city. He sent 28 men to settle the land, but many died. More and more settlers would travel there only to die from the harsh weather. By 1630, though hundreds had come, only 103 survived. From the start, Champlain had a shrewd idea: he would align himself with three larger tribes in the area - the Algonquin, the Huron, and Montagnais - and fight with them, against their enemies - the Iroquois. By this time, the Iroquois and the French were already sworn enemies of each other. In 1609, Champlain, two French soldiers, and the allied tribes attacked. With this win against the Iroquois, these tribes solidified a relationship with the French, and would allow them to stay and trap where needed. This would reassure the establishment of this territory called New France. Champlain’s relationship with the indigenous people also allowed him to send young Frenchmen to live among their tribes, learning their language and cultures. They would then learn what the French needed to survive in their harsh wilderness.
With the Iroquois packing up and moving south after their great defeat, the French began to move south in settling this territory. The French and Iroquois would continue this war as they expanded their territory.
The English and French were also competing, not only in Europe, but in the colonies. While the English colonies were thriving, the French were struggling. To boost France’s presence, Louis XIII gathered the Company of One Hundred Associates to invest in New France, and with promises of riches, made them fund the strengthening of New France. Champlain was made Governor over the territory. The most prominent rule was that the settlers had to be Catholic; Protestants were required to renounce their faith or move to the English colonies. The French also sent missionaries to convert the native population within their territory, sending over Jesuit priests to live among them and work to convert. In the colonies, the people lived under a near feudal system of farming, with landowners dividing their land among the common folk, and allowing them to rent the land for a portion of their crop.
In 1627, the city of Quebec was ransacked by three English privateers. With only 85 settlers, there wasn’t much they could do to stop them. In 1629, the French expanded into the St. Lawrence River Valley, which upset the British, who then attacked and seized Quebec City, until 1632, when they relinquished it. During that time, they continued to establish smaller colonies. After the death of Champlain the Bishop of Quebec took power.
During the 1600s, many Jesuit priests traveled to New France to explore the new world and do missionary work among the Indigenous people, including Charles Albanel. Much like Mother T
eresa, of recent times, Albanel served the people - both settlers and indigenous, alike - during two outbreaks, including the smallpox epidemic of 1688. During this time, he became ill, from contact with those that were infected, but he continued to serve as much as possible. Afterwards, he became a cultural expert and interpreter between the French and Indian population.
In 1663, New France was taken back from the Company of One Hundred Associates by Louis XIV, and the French government began paying settlers to move to the New World, to stimulate their expansion. The colonies grew from a few hundred, to a few thousand, and the French continued to expand south and west, all the way down the Mississippi to Louisiana and Texas. The settlement of Villa-Maria, now called Montreal Island, became the French center for fur trade and fisheries in the Atlantic. In 1627, the Company of New France was permitted to hunt, trap, and trade furs and pelts throughout French territories. This would be an economic boom to New France, increasing taxes for the city, as well as the country of France. The high taxation caused many trappers to rebel, and begin selling on the black market.
Activity: Establishing your first Fort – In the 17th and 18th centuries, companies from France, England, and the Netherlands would travel to territories claimed by their countries, gather natural materials, and bring them to their country, or other countries, to sell. If you were to start a company in New France and could gather and sell any commodity, what would it be? Ask these questions:
1. What would you sell? (Examples: wood, fur, crafts)
2. Would you process it, or sell it raw to your country? _____________________________________________ Other Questions to Ask Yourself: 3. Would you limit how much you would gather or gather as much as possible, as fast as possible? 4. Would you allow others in your market and, if so, would you try to regulate how much they sell? 5. Would you report back to the crown how much you earned, or lie and possibly be sentenced to be executed? 7. Would you enter your neighboring country’s land to collect this commodity? Would it be worth it?