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The French Empire in the Americas Spain’s rich gold and silver mines in Mexico and Peru made it the envy of other European nations. France, England, Sweden, and the Netherlands sent their own explorers to hunt for treasures in the New World— although they found no treasure, they all planted colonies in North America. By the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century, Spanish influence in the southeastern US was declining as a result of English expansion into present‐day South Carolina and Georgia. Native Americans came to rely on English trade goods and formed alliances with the English settlers against the Spanish. Like the Spanish, England and France were attracted to North America by promises of great wealth in gold, silver, and other precious metals. Like the Spanish, the French were also interested in converting the “pagan” Amerindians to Roman Catholicism, thus combining conquest with a Christian mission. Neither France nor England imitated the large and expensive colonial bureaucracies established by both Spain and Portugal. France and England were distracted by ventures elsewhere and/or increasing military confrontations in Europe. As a result, private companies/proprietorships played a much larger role in the development of English/French colonies—more so in English colonies (led to greater regional variety/diversity in terms of economic activities, political institutions, culture, society, etc.). • French efforts at colonizing North America began in the early sixteenth century. • 1523: A group of Italian merchants in the French cities of Lyons and Rouen persuaded the King of France, Francis I, to sponsor a voyage to North America in the hope of finding the Northwest Passage (a direct sea route to Asia via the Pacific Ocean) as Asia was becoming a profitable trading partner of France. Verrazano gave one of the earliest firsthand account/description of native peoples living in North America in a letter to the French king, Francis I—the account below describes his party’s initial encounter with Amerindians near Cape Fear, North Carolina: … .[Around January 18, 1524] we reached a new country, which had never before been seen by any one, either in ancient or modern times….Many people who were seen coming to the se‐side fled at our approach, but occasionally stopping, they looked back upon us with astonishment, and some were at length induced, by various friendly signs, to come to us. These showed the greatest delight on beholding us, wondering at our dress, countenances, and complexion. They then showed us by signs where we could more conveniently secure our boat, and offered us some of their provisions. That your Majesty may know all that we learned, while on shore, of their manners and customs of life, I will relate what we saw as briefly as possible. They go entirely naked, except that about the loins they wear skins of small animals like martens [carnivorous animals related to the weasel] fastened with a girdle of plaited grass [a type of belt made with braided grass], to which they tie, all around the body, the tails of other animals hanging down to the knees; all other parts of the body and head are naked. Some wear garments similar to birds’ feathers. The First French settlements • Early 1500s: French fisherman discovered rich fishing grounds off the coast of Newfoundland. • Each summer, fisherman sailed across the Atlantic and caught tons of cod—they dried the fish on shore before sailing back to France with their catch. • The fishermen did not settle in Newfoundland; rather, they traded with Native Americans (they exchanged knives, kettles, and cloth for furs, especially beaver skins as these furs sold for high prices in Europe. Prior to Jacques Cartier’s reports of a warm climate and fertile land in the areas he discovered/explored (e.g. New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula) during his first expedition, the region(s) he explored were previously considered suitable for fishing but not for settlement or commercial trade. The French established a colony in New Brunswick (Canadian province north of Maine) in 1604 and moved it to Nova Scotia a year later. Intrigued by Cartier’s report, the French King, Francis I planned/sponsored a second voyage. Despite being a success, Cartier did not manage to found a permanent settlement during his second voyage—nor did Jean‐ François de La Rocque, sieur de Roberval. Eventually, King Francis I abandoned his plans for settling New France. Patterns of French settlement • Patterns of French settlement more closely resembled those of Spain/Portugal than those of England. • The French were committed to missionary activity among Amerindian peoples and emphasized the extraction of natural resources (like the Spanish and Portuguese, the French government hoped to find easily extracted forms of wealth or great indigenous empires—fur as opposed to minerals). Fur trappers and traders • Early 1600s: France took steps to encourage the fur trade. • The French settlement of Quebec (1) on the banks of the St. Lawrence River grew into a thriving fur trade center. Quebec was situated near the mouth of the Chaudiere River on the St. Lawrence River (north bank) just across the river from the Plains of Abraham. • Most French colonists were trappers and traders. • Because they lived in the woods, they became known as coureurs de bois (“runners of the woods”). • coureurs de bois enjoyed more freedom because they lived far from French settlements. • Coureurs de bois learn how to trap and survive in the woods from Native Americans. • Many coureurs de bois lived among native tribes, mastering their languages and customs and inter‐marrying Indian women, procreating a mixed ethnic group (metis). Fur trappers and traders • Amerindians taught coureurs de bois how to build and use canoes as well as how to make snowshoes (important when climbing through deep snow to find/check traps). • coureurs de bois helped direct the fur trade as well as guide French expansion south and west. • In the fall, Indians and French trappers paddled up the St. Lawrence to winter trapping ground (the trip was difficult because they had to carry canoes around the rapids). • Throughout the winter, trappers slept in wigwams (Indian houses made of poles and birch bark). • When the snow melted, trappers loaded furs into their canoes for the trip back down the St. Lawrence (the pelts were traded at the French settlements for blankets, kettles, and other goods they would use the next winter). Indians offering a pelt to a trapper in a lithograph by Jean‐Adolphe Bocquin ca. 1870. Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY Importance of the St. Lawrence River to the French • The Appalachian Mountains blocked most routes inland from the Atlantic. • The St. Lawrence River led deep into the heart of America. • Led by their Indian guides, French trappers and traders explored the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes. • The French called the St. Lawrence River “the River of Canada”—the St. Lawrence became the main gateway for French exploration of Canada for over two centuries. French Missionaries • French Catholic missionaries often traveled with the fur traders. • French missionary activities largely undertaken by Jesuits in French Canada. • Built on earlier evangelical efforts in Brazil and Paraguay • Created boarding schools • Set up model agricultural communities for converted Amerindians • Established churches • Indigenous culture(s) proved resilient to conversion/assimilation • Similar to Latin America, as epidemics undermined conversion efforts in mission settlements and, as evidence of indigenous resistance to conversion mounted, the church redirected some of its resources from the evangelical effort to the larger French settlements and to founding schools, hospitals, and churches. Jesuits • Catholic missionaries who accompanied French explorers like Champlain to New France. • Jesuits were members of the Society of Jesus and they were known throughout the world for their ability to adapt to foreign cultures and thus draw in converts to Catholicism. • Attired in distinctive black tunics, Jesuit priests were called the “Black Robes” by the Hurons. • The Jesuits ministered to French settlers and Hurons until the fall of Quebec in 1629 (they then moved south into territory around the Great Lakes in what is now the U.S.). • As the French combined colonization with religion, some of the Jesuits were explorers themselves. French colonies Despite Canada’s small population, limited resources, and increasing vulnerability to attack by the English and their native allies, French exploration/expansion south and west was ambitious and aggressive. European market for fur fueled French exploration and settlement toward the west and south. Responsibility for finding settlers and for supervising the colonial economy was initially granted to a monopoly company chartered in France. First French colony: New France at Quebec on the St. Lawrence in 1608 (founded by Samuel de Champlain). This colony provided ready access to Amerindian trade routes. Compelled the French settlers to take sides in the region’s ongoing warfare French empire stretched from the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Louisiana was established in 1699 (though sparsely populated and greatly dispersed) development dependent upon fur trade. To keep Spain and England out of Louisiana, the French built forts along the Mississippi. In the north, Antoine Cadillac built Fort Detroit near Lake Erie. In the South, New Orleans was built at the mouth of the Mississippi (New Orleans would soon grow into a busy trading center). The French hold on Louisiana was weak, however. French settlements inhabited by fur traders and Jesuit priests. French empire closer to Spanish/Portuguese empire than England: Like Spain, France ruled its colony strictly—settlers were given little freedom Catholicism (evangelism) Extract natural resources (furs rather than minerals) French Settlements Fort Niagara (2) is situated at the point where Lake Erie empties into Lake Ontario. This fort is on the eastern bank of the tributary and the southern shore of the lake. Fort Frontenac (4) is situated on the northern side of the St. Lawrence River, at its mouth, as it feeds into the northern extremity of Lake Ontario. Fort Carillon (6) is situated at the extreme southern point and western shore of Lake Champlain. Fort St. Frederic (7) is situated about 10 miles north of Fort Carillon on the western shore of Lake Camplain. Montreal (8) was a French outpost that was situated on the largest island in the St. Lawrence River about 150 miles up the St. Lawrence from its convergence with Lake Ontario. Fort Chambly (10) is situated about 25 miles due north of Lake Champlain. New France Despite a flourishing fur trade, the French colony at New France grew slowly. Aside from trappers and traders, few French settled there. 1627: French Canadian population was 1/20th that of VA despite being founded at about the same time. Canada’s French population increased but remained at only 7,000 in 1673. 1660s: Louis XIV (right) decided to encourage farmers to go to New France. Louis XIV put a new governor in charge of New France— the new governor set sail for New France in 1665 with 1,000 new farmers. In an attempt to encourage family life, the governor brought many young women (most women were single and they came from the noble, middle, and peasant class). Most single women found husbands among the settlers (peasant women were the most popular because they were used to the hard work of farming). New France contd. Despite efforts to encourage farming, trappers still outnumbered farmers. People made more money trapping than farming. Only nobles owned the land. Because farmers could not own their own land, they either had to work for the nobles directly or else pay them rent. Farmers lived under the close watch of French officials. Effects of the fur trade on the Amerindians: • Change in material culture—Amerindians participated in the trade because they quickly became dependent upon the goods they received in exchange for their furs: firearms, metal tools and utensils, textiles, alcohol, etc. Still, Canada’s small settler population and fur trade’s dependence on voluntary participation of Amerindians allowed the indigenous peoples’ to retain greater independence and more control over their traditional lands than was possible within the empires of Spain, Portugal, and/or England. • Increased competition and warfare • Proliferation of firearms among Amerindian societies—Whereas Spain checked firearm proliferation in its colonies, the French could not. During the late 18th/early 19th century, European expansion into North American west was checked by increased military power of Sioux, Comanche, Cheyenne, and other indigenous people thanks to the intersection of the horse frontier (Spain) and firearm frontier (French) French and their Amerindian allies vs the Iroquois Confederacy • The French sided with the Huron and the Algonquin versus the Iroquois Confederacy. • In 1609, the famous French explorer, Samuel de Champlain joined the Huron tribe and their allies in a great battle against a band of Iroquois raiders on Lake Champlain near present‐day Crown Point, New York. • The French and Hurons defeated the Iroquois, thus turning the Iroquois, one of the most powerful tribal nations in North America, against the French. • Although French firearms and armor helped tip the balance of power initially in favor of France’s allies, the Iroquois Confederacy responded to increased military strength of France’s allies by forging commercial and military links with the Dutch and later English settlements in the Hudson River Valley. • The Iroquois presence continued to be troublesome to the French colonists. • When the French, in alliance with the Hurons and Algonquians, unsuccessfully attacked an Iroquois stronghold at a site in modern‐day New York State, Champlain was seriously wounded and spent the winter recuperating among the Hurons. • Well armed, the Iroquois Confederacy nearly eradicated the Huron (1649) and inflicted serious military defeats on the French. • Iroquois power wasn’t finally checked until 1701 • In Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604‐1618 Champlain provided a detailed account of the aftermath of the battle the Hurons and their allies waged against the Iroquois in 1609. Champlain wrote about the torture of an Iroquois prisoner by the Hurons (a common practice among Native Americans in the seventeenth century). Chamlain listed the various torture techniques used (branding, scalping, mutilation) and he admitted it was difficult to watch another human being suffer, but he also spoke of the strength of the victim, who displayed “such firmness that one would have said, at times, that he suffered hardly any pain at all.” • When Champlain turned his back on the torture, the Hurons allowed him to kill the prisoner with a shot from a musket—after which the Hurons performed ritualistic mutilations of the dead body (e.g. cutting off the head, legs, and arms). • Champlain noted that following the ritual “we set out on our return with the rest of the prisoners, who kept singing as they went along, with no better hopes for the future than he had had who was so wretchedly treated.” • Champlain concluded his account by saying that when the French, Iroquois, and Hurons went their separate ways, they parted “with loud protestations of mutual friendship.” Huguenots attempt to start a settlement • Huguenots, or French Protestants, attempted to start a settlement off the coast of present‐day South Carolina. • At the time, the Huguenots and Roman Catholics were engaged in a bitter struggle over such issues as Protestant freedom of worship and the power of the Catholic nobility. • 1562: the Protestant leader Gaspar de Châtillon, comte de Coligny sent five ships carrying 150 male settlers under the command of Jean Ribault to the Carolina coast. • Their plan was to start a refuge for Huguenots. • They sailed into the Saint Johns River, which Ribault called the River May, and went ashore in Florida (in present‐day Brevard County). • Ribault claimed the land for France and then led the party north to Port Royal Sound off the coast of South Carolina. • Ribault’s party built Charlesfort, a small fort, on an island in the sound (now Parris Island). • Shortly afterward, Ribault left for France, expecting to return to Charles‐fort. • Instead, he fled to England when he found France engulfed in the first of the Wars of Religion (aka Huguenot Wars; 1562‐1598). Huguenot settlement fails • While in England, Queen Elizabeth I tried to persuade Ribault to join an English colonizing expedition to Florida. • Queen Elizabeth then accused Ribault of planning to escape to France on English ships and imprisoned him in the tower of London. • Meanwhile, the stranded Huguenots abandonded Charlesfort and made their way back to France. • 1564: Another Huguenot leader, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, led a second expedition to the Atlantic coast, founding fort Caroline near the mouth of the Saint Johns River. • Shortly before Laudonnière was to return to France, Ribault showed up with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Caroline. • By now the Spanish had become aware of the French presence, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived from Saint Augustine with ships to drive them out. • Laudonnière survived the Spanish attack on Fort Caroline, escaping to France. • When the Wars of Religion ended in 1598 with the Protestants victorious, the Protestant King, Henry IV once again turned France’s attention toward North America. • 1717: John Law (Scottish adventurer and financier) started French Company of the West • French Company of the West was granted exclusive development rights in Mississippi River Valley and around the Gulf of Mexico. • Soon Law and his partners controlled the tobacco and African slave trades in the Louisiana Territory. Mississippi Bubble • 1718: Law and his partners requested that Louisiana Governor Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, establish New Orleans. • 1719: The French Company of the West changed its name to Company of the Indies and embarked on an elaborate program called the Mississippi Bubble to encourage settlement in Louisiana. • Promoters brought in German and Dutch immigrants, promising then property and supplies if they agreed to farm the land. • The plan attracted thousands of immigrants to New Biloxi, Natchez, and other settlements in Louisiana. • The Company also managed to monopolize French trade in the colonies. • By 1720 the scheme had triggered a buying frenzy that inflated company shares to more than thirty times their actual worth. • Profits could not keep pace with stock values causing a stock market crash in France. • Result: nearly everyone involved in the company was financially ruined. • The population of Louisiana boomed from 1718 to 1720 as a result of the failed Mississippi Bubble scheme. • The failure of the scheme also resulted in the removal from office of Jean‐Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, who, along with his brother, Peierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, led the French settlement of Louisiana beginning in 1699. • Although the Mississippi Bubble was a failure, it had boosted the population of Louisiana and prevented England or Spain from gaining a foothold in the region. • When Bienville began his third term as governor (1733), over eight thousand people lived in Louisiana. • Over the years, Louisiana served as a penal colony (settlement for convicted criminals), as a home for indentured servants, and a slave import center. • Still, death rates were high: by 1763 France surrendered most of Louisiana to the Spanish at the end of the French and Indian War—the inhabitants included 3,654 Europeans and 4,598 African slaves. French Settlement(s) • The Mississippi Valley was opened to French settlement in two principal areas: 1. Illinois country (le pays des Illinois) around the Great Lakes, stretching from a French settlement at Cahokia across the Mississippi River from present‐day St. Louis, Missouri (founded in 1699 as a mission for the conversion of Amerindians) fifty miles downriver to another settlement at Kaskaskia (established as a fort in 1703). Both Cahokia and Kaskaskia attracted coureurs de bois 2. Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico, which the French began settling in 1699. Old Biloxi (founded on the site of present‐day Ocean Springs, Mississippi) had been named the capital of Louisiana Territory. Other sites/settlements were founded as well (e.g. Fort Louis on the present‐day site of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana which became the capital of Louisiana in 1722). French influence(s) in America (limited success): • Although France did not establish permanent settlements in the territory that became the United States, French explorers extended the frontiers around the Great Lakes, along the Mississippi River valley, and around the Gulf of Mexico. • As they hunted for fur, the French explored large parts of North America, mapping routes from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Canada as they followed Indian trails. • French explorers saw the Rocky Mts. for the first time in 1743. • French towns, trading posts, and missions were built across their large colony. • French influence is seen in place names such as Vermont—green mountain, Terre Haute—high land, and Baton Rouge—red stick.