Canadian Geographic
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Forged in war

Seven Years’ War

None of the meetings of the joint commission struck after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) to settle the boundaries between New France and the British possessions in North America had produced any results, and neither side recognized the claims of the other. In fact, as late as 1755 the central interior of the continent was still native territory. Perhaps 3,000 French people lived there among some 50,000 natives. Of the two European powers that laid claim to the area, France was more ready than Britain to accept this reality. With a small French speaking population along the lower St Lawrence, France made no attempt to displace natives by settlement; the French claim to land outside the St Lawrence colony was a claim against British interference in the fur trade.

By the mid-18th century French foreign trade had expanded at a rate that caused the British commercial community grave concern. A spoiling war to seize the French colonies and disrupt their trade was decided on. In North America British strategy was singularly inept. Instead of massing a strong naval force in the Gulf of St Lawrence which would have quickly starved Canada into submission, in 1755 attacks were launched on the colony’s periphery. Only the attack on Fort Beauséjour in Acadia was successful. French strategy was to keep the British forces tied down as far as possible from the central colony. For the ensuing three years a small French and Canadian army, with the support of allied Indian nations, kept the British at bay, ravaging the American frontier settlements and inflicting crushing defeats on British and American forces in the wilderness. Britain was obliged to send some 23,000 regular troops to America and use the bulk of her navy to try to prevent supplies reaching Québec, this last without success.

Then in 1758 the tide of war turned. Louisbourg fell after a lengthy siege. The western Indian allies, grown war-weary, made a separate peace with the British at Easton, Pennsylvania, forcing the French to abandon the Ohio valley. In 1759 Québec was taken and the French government, pinning its hopes on a long-planned invasion of England to force the British to come to terms, refused to send further aid to its beleaguered forces in Canada. The following year what remained of the French forces were obliged to surrender to the armies of General Jeffery Amherst, 17,000 strong, at Montréal.

In the terms of capitulation Vaudreuil inserted a clause, agreed to by General Amherst, that France’s native allies would not suffer for having borne arms and would maintain their lands unmolested. These terms were ignored, and English-speaking settlers flooded into the Ohio valley. In 1763 native groups led by Pontiac, an Ottawa war chief, and others launched a series of attacks to safeguard their remaining lands. Lacking the logistical support and the direction previously given by the French, they were crushed by the British army after a few campaigns. The Ohio valley was now open for European settlement.

The British estimated that the conquest of Canada had cost them £80,000,000. The total of the Canadian budgets 1755-60 was 115,556,767 livres, or £4,814,865 sterling. In the subsequent peace negotiations France insisted on retaining a fishing base in the Gulf of St Lawrence, the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and fishing rights on the north shore of Newfoundland. She ceded western Louisiana to her ally, Spain, and with little regret ceded Canada to Britain, being convinced that the removal of French power from America would soon result in Britain’s American colonies striking out for independence. The loss of Canada to France, it was held, would be as nothing compared to Britain’s loss of her own colonies.


This map illustrates the campaigns, population centres, and engagements of the Seven Year’s War involving the British and French.


On the next page:

Acadian Expulsion

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Quiz :

Against who did the United States declare war in June 1812 resulting in the invasion of Upper Canada?

Great Britain