New France (French: Nouvelle-France) was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Great Britain and Spain in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris (1763).
At its peak in 1712 (before the Treaty of Utrecht), the territory of New France, also sometimes known as the French North American Empire or Royal New France, consisted of five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, the most developed colony and divided into the districts of Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal (before 1717, extending south through the Illinois Country); Hudson's Bay; Acadie, in the northeast; Plaisance, on the island of Newfoundland, and Louisiane (after 1717, extending north through the Illinois Country); Thus, it extended from Newfoundland to the Canadian prairies and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, including all the Great Lakes of North America.
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The excavated hull remains of La Belle
La Belle was one of Robert de La Salle's four ships when he explored the Gulf of Mexico with the ill-fated mission of starting a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1685. La Belle was wrecked in present-day Matagorda Bay the following year, dooming La Salle's Texas colony to failure. For over three centuries the wreckage of La Belle lay forgotten until it was discovered by a team of state archaeologists in 1995. The discovery of La Salle's flagship was regarded as one of the most important archaeological finds of the century, and a major excavation was launched by the state of Texas that, over a period of about a year, recovered the entire shipwreck and over a million artifacts.
In the late 17th century, much of North America had been claimed by European countries. Spain had claimed Florida, and New Spain included both modern-day Mexico and much of the southwestern part of the contintent. The northern Atlantic coast was claimed by Britain, and New France covered much of what is now Canada as well as the Illinois Country. The French feared that their territory in the center of the continent was vulnerable to the expansionist whims of their neighbors. In 1681, French nobleman René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, launched an expedition down the Mississippi River from New France, at first believing he would find a path to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, La Salle found a route to the Gulf of Mexico. Although Hernando De Soto had explored and claimed this area for Spain 140 years before, on April 9, 1682 La Salle claimed the Mississippi River valley for the French king, Louis XIV, naming the terrotiry Louisiana in his honor.
La Salle knew that French control of the Mississippi would split Spanish Florida from New Spain, and he believed that the Mississippi River was near the edge of New Spain. On his return to France in 1683, La Salle argued that a small number of Frenchmen could successfully invade New Spain by relying on the help of 15,000 Indians who were angry over Spanish enslavement.
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Did you know?
- ...On July 3, 2008, Quebec City celebrated its 400th birthday! It was the first city founded by Europeans in North America, always on the same site. All year 2008 is devoted to festivities.
- ...The Battle of Quebec occurred on October 16, 1690 between the British and French forces. When the British sent a request for the city to surrender, Frontenac replied "I have no reply to make to your general other than from the mouths of my cannons and muskets.". This legendary response, and a poor assessment of the fortifications by the British, allowed France to keep Quebec for almost another seventy years.
- ...During the Great Upheaval of the Acadians in 1755, seventy-eight survivor families settled on Belle Île in France while the British took possession of French colonies in America. Since then, their descendents have remained on the island. Today most islanders have Acadian ancestry.
Timelines of New France history
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Saint Marguerite d'Youville (October 15, 1701 – December 23, 1771) was a Canadian widow who founded the religious order the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns of Montreal. She was canonized by Pope John-Paul II of the Roman Catholic Church in 1990.
With her two surviving sons already in the priesthood, Marguerite and three other women founded in 1737 a religious association to provide a home for the poor in Montreal. At first the home only housed four or five members, but it grew as the women raised funds.
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Québec or Quebec City, also Quebec City or Québec City (French: Québec, or Ville de Québec), is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located within the Capitale-Nationale region. It is the second most populous city in the province – after Montreal, about 233 kilometres (145 mi) to the southwest. Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America.
Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain on 3 July 1608 at the site of a long abandoned St. Lawrence Iroquoian settlement called Stadacona. It was to this settlement that the name "Canada" refers. Although called the cradle of the Francophone population in North America, the Acadian settlement at Port-Royal antedates it. The place seemed favourable to the establishment of a permanent colony.
The New France circa 1750