New France

New France
Viceroyalty of New France
Vice-royauté de Nouvelle-France
French colony
Flag from 1663 Coat of arms
Capital Quebec
Language(s) French
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Monarchy
 - 1663-1715 King Louis XIV
 - 1715-1763 King Louis XV
Legislature Sovereign Council of New France
 - Royal Control 1663
 - Articles of Capitulation of Quebec 1759
 - Articles of Capitulation of Montreal 1760
 - Treaty of Paris (1763) February 10 (1763) 1763
Currency New France livre
Succeeded by
Province of Quebec (1763-1791)
Nova Scotia
Rupert's Land
Newfoundland (island)
Louisiana (New Spain)
Today part of  Canada
 United States
History of Canada
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New France (French: Nouvelle-France) was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763. At its peak in 1712 (before the Treaty of Utrecht), the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The territory was then divided into five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland (Plaisance),[1] and Louisiana. The Treaty of Utrecht resulted in the relinquishing of French claims to mainland Acadia, the Hudson Bay and Newfoundland, and the establishment of the colony of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) as the successor to Acadia.[2][3]

France ceded the rest of New France to Great Britain and Spain at the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War). Britain received all lands east of the Mississippi River, including Canada, Acadia, and parts of Louisiana, while Spain received the territory to the west – the larger portion of Louisiana. Spain returned its portion of Louisiana to France in 1800, but French leader Napoleon Bonaparte sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, permanently ending French colonial efforts on the North American mainland.


Early exploration

Around 1523, the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano convinced the king, Francis I, to commission an expedition to find a western route to Cathay (China).[4] Late that year, Verrazzano set sail in Dieppe, crossing the Atlantic on a small caravel with 50 men.[4] After exploring the coast of the present-day Carolinas early the following year, he headed north along the coast, eventually anchoring in the Narrows of New York Bay. The first European to discover the site of present-day New York, he named it Nouvelle-Angoulême in honour of the king, the former count of Angoulême. Verrazzano’s voyage convinced the king to seek to establish a colony in the newly discovered land. Verrazzano gave the names Francesca and Nova Gallia to that land between New Spain (Mexico) and English Newfoundland.[4]

Map of New France made by Samuel de Champlain in 1612.

In 1534, Jacques Cartier planted a cross in the Gaspé Peninsula and claimed the land in the name of King Francis I.[5] It was the first province of New France. However, initial French attempts at settling the region met with failure.[5] French fishing fleets, however, continued to sail to the Atlantic coast and into the St. Lawrence River, making alliances with First Nations that became important once France began to occupy the land. French merchants soon realized the St. Lawrence region was full of valuable fur-bearing animals, especially the beaver, which were becoming rare in Europe. Eventually, the French crown decided to colonize the territory to secure and expand its influence in America.

Another early French attempt at settlement in North America was Fort Caroline, established in what is now Jacksonville, Florida, in 1564. Intended as a haven for Huguenots, Caroline was founded under the leadership of René Goulaine de Laudonnière and Jean Ribault. It was sacked by the Spanish led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés who then established the settlement of St. Augustine on September 20, 1565.

Acadia and Canada (New France) were inhabited by indigenous nomadic Algonquian peoples and sedentary Iroquoian peoples. These lands were full of unexploited and valuable natural riches which attracted all of Europe. By the 1580s, French trading companies had been set up, and ships were contracted to bring back furs. Much of what transpired between the natives and their European visitors around that time is not known for lack of historical records.[5]

Early attempts at establishing permanent settlements were failures. In 1598, a trading post was established on Sable Island, off the coast of Acadia, but was unsuccessful. In 1600, a trading post was established at Tadoussac, but only five settlers survived the winter.[5] In 1604, a settlement was founded at Île-Saint-Croix on Baie François (Bay of Fundy) which was moved to Port-Royal in 1605.[5] It was abandoned in 1607, reestablished in 1610, and destroyed in 1613, after which settlers moved to other nearby locations, creating settlements that were collectively known as Acadia, and the settlers as Acadians.[5]

In 1608, sponsored by Henry IV, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons and Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec with 28 men, the second permanent French settlement in the colony of Canada.[6][7][8] Colonization was slow and difficult. Many settlers died early, because of harsh weather and diseases. In 1630, there were only 103 colonists living in the settlement, but by 1640, the population had reached 355.[9]

Champlain quickly allied himself with the Algonquin and Montagnais peoples in the area, who were at war with the Iroquois. In 1609, Champlain, along with two other French companions, accompanied by his Algonquin, Montagnais and Huron allies, travelled south from the St. Lawrence valley to Lake Champlain, where he participated decisively in a battle against the Iroquois, killing two Iroquois chiefs with the first shot of his Arquebus. This military engagement against the Iroquois solidified the position of Champlain with New France's Huron and Algonquin allies, bonds vital to New France in order to keep the fur trade alive. However, for the better part of a century the Iroquois and French clash in a series of attacks and reprisals.[10] He also arranged to have young French men live with the natives, to learn their language and customs and help the French adapt to life in North America. These men, known as coureurs des bois (runners of the woods) (such as Étienne Brûlé), extended French influence south and west to the Great Lakes and among the Huron tribes who lived there.

Map of western New France, including the Illinois Country, by Vincenzo Coronelli, 1688.

For the first few decades of the colony's existence, the French population numbered only a few hundred, while the English colonies to the south were much more populous and wealthy. Cardinal Richelieu, adviser to Louis XIII, wished to make New France as significant as the English colonies. In 1627, Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates to invest in New France, promising land parcels to hundreds of new settlers and to turn Canada into an important mercantile and farming colony. Champlain was named Governor of New France. Richelieu then forbade non-Roman Catholics from living there. Protestants were required to renounce their faith to establish themselves in New France; many therefore chose instead to move to the English colonies. The Roman Catholic Church, and missionaries such as the Recollets and the Jesuits, became firmly established in the territory. Richelieu also introduced the seigneurial system, a semi-feudal system of farming that remained a characteristic feature of the St. Lawrence valley until the 19th century. While Richelieu's efforts did little to increase the French presence in New France, they did pave the way for the success of later efforts.[11]

At the same time, however, the English colonies to the south began to raid the St. Lawrence valley, and, in 1629, Quebec itself was captured and held by the English until 1632.[12] Champlain returned to Canada that year, and requested that Sieur de Laviolette found another trading post at Trois-Rivières, which he did in 1634. Champlain died in 1635.

Jesuit missions

Le Grand Voyage du Pays des Hurons, Gabriel Sagard, 1632.

The French Catholic Church, which after Champlain’s death was the most dominant force in New France, wanted to establish a utopian Christian community in the colony.[13] In 1642, they sponsored a group of settlers, led by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, who founded Ville-Marie, precursor to present-day Montreal, farther up the St. Lawrence.[14] Throughout the 1640s, Jesuit missionaries penetrated the Great Lakes region and converted many of the Huron natives. The missionaries came into conflict with the Iroquois, who frequently attacked Montreal. By 1649, both the Jesuit mission and the Huron society were almost completely destroyed by Iroquois invasions (see Canadian Martyrs).

The transport infrastructure in New France was almost nonexistent, with few roads and canals.The canals would be up to 3 miles long at times and boats were thin and simple. Thus people used the waterways, especially the St. Lawrence River, as the main form of transportation, by canoes. In the winter, when the lakes froze, both the poor and the rich travelled by sleds pulled by dogs or horses. A land transportation system was not developed in the region until the 1830s, when stretches of road were built along the river, and the Rideau Canal project was not completed until 1840.

Royal takeover and attempts to settle

Great Seal of King Louis XIV used in New France after the colony was reformed as a province of France in 1663.

In the 1650s, Montreal still had only a few dozen settlers and a severely underpopulated New France almost fell completely to hostile Iroquois forces. In 1660, settler Adam Dollard des Ormeaux led a Canadian and Huron militia against a much larger Iroquois force; none of the Canadians survived, but they succeeded in turning back the Iroquois invasion. In 1663, New France finally became more secure when Louis XIV made it a royal province. In 1665, he sent a French garrison, the Carignan-Salières Regiment, to Quebec. The government of the colony was reformed along the lines of the government of France, with the Governor General and Intendant subordinate to the Minister of the Marine in France. In 1665, Jean Talon was sent by Minister of the Marine Jean-Baptiste Colbert to New France as the first Intendant. These reforms limited the power of the Bishop of Quebec, who had held the greatest amount of power after the death of Champlain.

The 1666 census of New France was conducted by France's intendant, Jean Talon, in the winter of 1665–66. It showed a population of 3,215 habitants in New France, many more than there had been only a few decades earlier, but also a great difference in the number of men (2,034) and women (1,181).[15] This was because most of the explorers, soldiers, fur traders and settlers who had come to New France were men. To strengthen the colony and make it the centre of France's colonial empire, Louis XIV decided to dispatch more than 700 single women, aged between 15 and 30 (known as les filles du roi) to New France. At the same time, marriages with the natives were encouraged and indentured servants, known as engagés, were also sent to New France. One such engagé, Etienne Truteau (La Rochelle, 1641 – Montréal, 1712) was the ancestor of the Trudeaus in America, such as the Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Talon also tried to reform the seigneurial system, forcing the seigneurs to actually reside on their land, and limiting the size of the seigneuries, in an attempt to make more land available to new settlers. These schemes were ultimately unsuccessful. Very few settlers arrived, and the various industries established by Talon did not surpass the importance of the fur trade.

Military conflicts

Since Henry Hudson had claimed Hudson Bay, and the surrounding lands for England, English colonists had begun expanding their boundaries across what is now the Canadian north beyond the French-held territory of New France. In 1670, with the help of French coureurs des bois, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers, the Hudson's Bay Company was established to control the fur trade in all the land that drained into Hudson Bay (known as Rupert's Land).[16] This ended the French monopoly on the Canadian fur trade. To compensate, the French extended their territory to the south, and to the west of the American colonies. In 1682, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle explored the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, and claimed the entire territory for France as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.[17] He named this territory Louisiana. La Salle attempted to establish the first colony in the new territory in 1685, but inaccurate maps and navigational issues led him to instead establish his colony, Fort Saint Louis, in what is now Texas. The colony was exterminated by disease and Indian attack in 1688.

Map of North America in 1702 showing forts, towns and areas occupied by European settlements. Britain (pink), France (blue), and Spain terrestrial claim (orange)

Although little colonization took place in this part of New France, many strategic forts were built there, under the orders of Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac. Forts were also built in the older portions of New France that had not yet been settled. Many of these forts were garrisoned by the Troupes de la Marine, the only regular soldiers in New France between 1682 and 1755.

In 1689, the English and Iroquois launched a major assault on New France, after many years of small skirmishes throughout the English and French territories. This war, known as King William's War, ended in 1697, but a second war (Queen Anne's War) broke out in 1702. Quebec and Acadia survived the English invasions of both these wars, and during the wars France seized many of the English Hudson's Bay Company fur trading centres on Hudson Bay including York Factory, which the French renamed Fort Bourbon.

The final Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. In 1713, peace came to New France with the Treaty of Utrecht.[18] Although the treaty turned Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and part of Acadia (peninsular Nova Scotia) over to Great Britain, France remained in control of Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), as well as Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) and the northern part of Acadia, what is today New Brunswick. Construction of Fortress Louisbourg on Île Royale, a French military stronghold intended to protect the approaches to the St. Lawrence River setttlements, began in 1719.[19]

After the Treaty of Utrecht, New France began to prosper. Industries, such as fishing and farming, that had failed under Talon began to flourish. A "King’s Highway" (Chemin du Roy) was built between Montreal and Quebec to encourage faster trade. The shipping industry also flourished as new ports were built and old ones were upgraded. The number of colonists greatly increased, and, by 1720, Canada had become a self-sufficient colony with a population of 24,594 people. The Church, although now less powerful than it had originally been, controlled education and social welfare. These years of peace are often referred to by French Canadians as New France's "Golden Age".

Peace lasted until 1744, when news of the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession reached Fort Louisbourg. The French forces went on the attack first in a failed attempt to capture Annapolis Royal, the capital of the British Nova Scotia. In 1745 William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, led a counterattack on Louisbourg. Both France and New France were unable to relieve the siege, and Louisbourg fell to the British. With the famed Duc d'Anville Expedition, France attempted to retake Acadia and the fortress in 1746 but failed. The fortress was returned to France under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, but the peace treaty, which restored all colonial borders to their pre-war status, did little to end the lingering enmity between France, Britain, and their respective colonies, nor did it resolve any territorial disputes. Within Acadia and Nova Scotia, Father Le Loutre's War (1749–1755) began with the British founding of Halifax.

Map of territorial claims by 1750 in North America, before the French and Indian War, that is part of the greater world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War (1756 to 1763). - possessions of Britain (pink), France (blue), and Spain (orange, California, Pacific Northwest, and Great Basin not indicated) -

Fort Duquesne, located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers at the site of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, guarded the most important strategic location in the west at the time of the Seven Years' War. It was built to insure that the Ohio River valley remained under French control. A small colonial force from Virginia began a fort here but a French force under Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur drove them off in April 1754. New France claimed this as part of their colony and the French were anxious to keep the British from encroaching on it. The French built Fort Duquesne here to serve as a military stronghold and as a base for developing trade and strengthening military alliances with the Aboriginal peoples of the area.

The fight for control over Ohio Country, led to the French and Indian War, begun as the North American phase of the Seven Years' War (which did not technically begin in Europe until 1756). It began with the defeat of a Virginia militia contingent led by Colonel George Washington by the French troupes de la marine in the Ohio valley. As a result of that defeat, the British decided to prepare the conquest of Quebec City, the capital of New France. The British defeated France in Acadia at the Battle of Fort Beausejour (1755) and immediately began the expulsion of the Acadians.

In the meantime the French continued to explore westwards and expand their trade alliances with indigenous peoples. Fort de la Corne was built in 1753 by Louis de la Corne, Chevalier de la Corne just east of the Saskatchewan River Forks in what is today the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. This was the furthest westward outpost of the French Empire in North America to be established before its fall.


Map showing British territorial gains following the Treaty of Paris in pink, and Spanish territorial gains after the Treaty of Fontainebleau in yellow.

New France now had over 70,000 inhabitants, a massive increase from earlier in the century, but the British American colonies greatly outnumbered them, with over one million people (including a substantial number of French Huguenots). It was much easier for the British colonists to organize attacks on New France than it was for the French to attack the British. In 1755, General Edward Braddock led an expedition against the French Fort Duquesne, and although they were numerically superior to the French militia and their Indian allies, Braddock's army was routed and Braddock was killed.

While the British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710, the French continued to remain a significant force in the region with Fort Beausejour and Fortress Louisbourg. The dominant population in the region remained Acadian. In 1755, the British were successful in the Battle of Beausejour and immediately after began the expulsion of the Acadians. The intent of the expulsion, in military terms, was to neutralize the Acadian military threat and stop the vital supply lines they maintained for Louisbourg.

In 1758, British forces again captured Louisbourg, allowing them to blockade the entrance to the St. Lawrence River. This proved decisive in the war. In 1759, the British besieged Quebec by sea, and an army under General James Wolfe defeated the French under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September. The garrison in Quebec surrendered on September 18, and by the next year New France had been completely conquered by the British after the successful attack on Montreal, which had refused to acknowledge the fall of Canada. The last French governor-general of New France, Pierre François de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, surrendered to British Major General Jeffrey Amherst on September 8, 1760. France formally ceded Canada to the British in the Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10, 1763.[20]

Political organization of New France, circa. 1759

French culture and religion remained dominant in most of the former territory of New France, until the arrival of British settlers led to the later creation of Upper Canada (today Ontario) and New Brunswick. The Louisiana Territory, under Spanish control since the end of the Seven Year's War, remained off-limits to settlement from the thirteen American colonies.

Twelve years after the British defeated the French, the American Revolution broke out in Britain's lower thirteen colonies. Many Quebecers would take part in the war, including Major Clément Gosselin and Admiral Louis-Philippe de Vaudreuil. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 gave all former British claims in New France below the Great Lakes into the possession of the nascent United States. A Franco-Spanish alliance treaty returned Louisiana to France in 1801, allowing Napoleon Bonaparte to sell it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. This represented the end of the French colonial empire in North America, except for the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which are still controlled by France today.

The portions of the former New France that remained under British rule were administered as Upper Canada and Lower Canada, from 1791–1841, and then as the Province of Canada from 1841–1867, when the passage of the British North America Act of 1867 instituted home rule for most of British North America and established French-speaking Quebec (the former Lower Canada) as one of the original provinces of the Dominion of Canada.

The only remnant of the former colonial territory of New France that remains under French control to this day is the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (French: Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), consisting of a group of small islands 25 kilometres (13 nmi; 15 mi) off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Legal Issues of New France

  • The principal law of New France was the Coutume de Paris.
  • Lower Courts or Royal Courts were located in Quebec, Trois-Rivières and Montreal
  • The chief legal officer of the Royal Courts was the civil and criminal lieutenant general or royal judge
  • Other courts
    • Amirauté - Marine Courts
    • Officialité - Bishops' Court (civil and criminal)
    • Court of Appeals were made to the Sovereign Council of New France and Sovereign Council of Louisbourg (after 1713)
    • Seigneuries heard minor legal issues[21]

Political divisions

See also


  1. ^ "The French Settlement of Placentia: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage". Heritage Canada. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  2. ^ Control and Order in French Colonial Louisbourg, 1713-1758, Andrew John Bayly Johnston, 2001, MSU Press pp. 8-9 [1]
  3. ^ "Archaeology Program 2010". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  4. ^ a b c "1524: The voyage of discoveries". Verrazzano Centre for Historical Studies. 2002. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Riendeau, Roger E (2007). A brief history of Canada. Facts on File, cop. p. 36. ISBN 9780816063352. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  6. ^ Grenon, Jean-Yves. Pierre Dugua De Mons: Founder of Acadie (1604-5), Co-Founder of Quebec (1608). Translated by Phil Roberts. Annapolis Royal, NS: Peninsular Press, 2000.
  7. ^ Liebel, Jean. Pierre Dugua, sieur de Mons, fondateur de Québec. Paris: Le Croît vif, 1999.
  8. ^ Binot, Guy. Pierre Dugua de Mons: gentilhomme royannais, premier colonisateur du Canada, lieutenant général de la Nouvelle-France de 1603 à 1612. [Vaux-sur-Mer]: Bonne anse, 2004.
  9. ^ "Estimated population of Canada, 1605 to present". Statistics Canada. 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  10. ^ Douglas Hunter, God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal and the Dream of Discovery, Random House of Canada Limited, 2000, pp. 240-242
  11. ^ Knecht, R.J. (1991). RIchelieu. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 165. ISBN 0582437571. 
  12. ^ Fry, Michael (2001). The Scottish Empire. Tuckwell Press. p. 21. ISBN 184158259X. 
  13. ^ Shenwen, Li (2001). Stratégies missionnaires des Jésuites Français en Nouvelle-France et en Chine au XVIIieme siècle. Les Presses de l'Université Laval, L'Harmattan. p. 44. ISBN 2747511235. 
  14. ^ Miquelon, Dale. "Ville-Marie (Colony)". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  15. ^ "Statistics for the 1666 Census". Library and Archives Canada. 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  16. ^ Fuchs, Denise (2002-03) (Subcription required). Embattled Notions: Constructions of Rupert's Land's Native Sons, 1760 To 1861. Manitoba History. pp. (44): 10–17. 0226–5044. 
  17. ^ "Our History: People". Hudson's Bay Company. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 
  18. ^ Axelrod, Alan (2007). Blooding at Great Meadows: young George Washington and the battle that .... Running Press. p. 62. ISBN 0762427698.,+Nova+Scotia,+other+than+Cape+Breton+Hudson+Bay+territory+,+was+ceded+to+the+British+by+the+Treaty+of+Utrecht#v=onepage&q&f=true. Retrieved 2010-08-16. 
  19. ^ "History of Louisbourg". The Fortress Louisbourg Association. 2008. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  20. ^ "Canada: History" (PDF). Country Profiles. Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  21. ^ "Exhibitions/Administration/The Administration of Justice". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 

Further reading


  • Greer, Allan. "National, Transnational, and Hypernational Historiographies: New France Meets Early American History," Canadian Historical Review, Dec 2010, Vol. 91 Issue 4, pp 695–724

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • New France — New′ France′ n. amh. the French possessions in North America up to 1763 …   From formal English to slang

  • New France — French possessions in North America, from the end of the 16th cent. to 1763, including E Canada, the Great Lakes region, & the Mississippi valley …   English World dictionary

  • New France — the French colonies and possessions in North America up to 1763. * * * Possessions of France in North America from 1534 to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. After the first land claim for France by Jacques Cartier (1534), the company of New France was …   Universalium

  • New France —    Name given to the French possessions in North America, otherwise known as Canada and Acadia. First discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1534. First settlement made in Acadia by De Monts, in 1604; and in Canada, by Champlain, in 1608.    Index: E… …   The makers of Canada

  • New France — geographical name the possessions of France in North America before 1763 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • New France — noun Frances former possessions and colonies in North America, including Quebec, Acadia, and Louisiana, before 1763 …   Wiktionary

  • New France — old name for French Canada …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • New France — /nju ˈfrans/ (say nyooh frahns), /fræns/ (say frans) noun the name of Canada while under French rule, before 1763 …   Australian-English dictionary

  • New France — the French colonies and possessions in North America up to 1763 …   Useful english dictionary

  • New France, Digby County, Nova Scotia — New France in …   Wikipedia

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