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Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon,
Marquis de Saint-Veran                      
C. W. Jefferys, 1869 – 1951

France in the Eighteenth Century

During the eighteenth century, France was not as vigilant as it could or should have been regarding the management of its North-American colonies. The motherland had considerable problems of its own that culminated in the French Revolution (1789 – 1794).

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

Yes, there were battles, the most significant being the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in Quebec City. It took place on 13 September 1759. The British won, but the battle claimed the life of Major-General James P. Wolfe (2 January 1727 – 13 September 1759). General Wolfe was 32.  Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran (28 February 1712 [O.S. 17 February 1712] – 14 September 1759) was mortally wounded and died a day later. He was 47. There were sufficient men on both sides, but “many of the French were ill-trained militia,” not “regulars.” In other words, the French were not in a position to fight Major-General  Wolfe’s professional soldiers.[i] 

C. W. Jefferys (1869 – 1951)

The Death of General Montcalm depicts the Marquis de Montcalm mortally wounded in 1759. He died on 14 September 1759.

The Treaty of Paris, 10 February 1763

Signed on 10 February 1763, the Treaty of Paris brought to a close both a European conflict, not to say the first world war, the Seven Years’ War, and the North-American French and Indian War. Nouvelle-France was ceded to Great Britain on 10 February 1763.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the King of Great Britain

  • granted “the liberty of the Catholick [sic] religion to the inhabitants of Canada,”
  • agreed that the French inhabitants of Canada might withdraw from Canada without hindrance, and
  • gave to French fishermen “the liberty of fishing in the gulph [sic] of St. Lawrence” and “the liberty of fishing and drying on a part of the coasts of the island of Newfoundland”, as well as
  • the ownership of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, “to serve as a shelter to the French fishermen.”[ii]

The Canadiens

For the Canadiens (French-speaking Canadians), the loss of New France was a devastating blow. The Canadien felt he had been abandoned by the motherland, in which he was mostly correct. The shores of the St Lawrence River had become his country. He could not return to France. According to the Treaty of Paris, the Canadiens would be free to practice their religion and farmers did not lose their farms, nor did city dwellers lose their homes. However, aristocrats working in Nouvelle-France returned to France. This was also a stipulation of the Treaty of Paris. 

The Voyageurs

However, as I wrote in an earlier post the voyageurs may not have learned they had become British subjects immediately. But they learned. Certain fur-trading posts were no longer French, but British or American. Under the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, signed on 24 December 1814, ending the War of 1812 between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, a border would have to be drawn between British and American territories in the Northern limits of the continental United States of America.

For one thing, many voyageurs would work for John Jacob Astor (17 July 1763 – 29 March 1848), the owner of the American Fur Trade Company, established in 1808.  Ramsay Crooks urged John Jacob Astor to hire Canadiens as boatmen. Americans, who had first been hired, lacked the ability to work as a team and could not respect Amerindians.

In theory, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Trade Company could not hire Canadiens who were British subjects. However, during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, an exception was made to the Embargo Act of 1897. Here is a link to a narrative of these events: https://michelinewalker.com/2012/01/14/john-jacob-astor-the-voyageur-as-settler-and-explorer/

In a famous council on 27 April 1763, Pontiac urged listeners to rise up against the British. (19th-century engraving by Alfred Bobbet)
(please click on the picture to enlarge it)

The Pontiac Rebellion

The Treaty of Paris had not made provisions for North-American natives, the Amerindians. Somehow and regretfully, the negotiators had not thought of them.  This shameful oversight led to the Pontiac Rebellion which lasted from 1763 to 1766 and opposed the British and Chief Pontiac’s forces. Chief Pontiac was the leader of the Ottawas.  On 25 July 1766, Pontiac met with the British superintendent of Indian affairs, Sir William Johnson, at Fort Oswego, New York. Hostilities ended on that day. As for Chief Pontiac, he was murdered on 20 April 1769. His assassination was not investigated.


I will end this blog here, but it will be followed by an account of the battles that took place during the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years’ War). All I will say for now is that Montcalm died on 14 September 1760. When he learned that his wound would take his life, he is reported to have said that his death was a blessing. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham had also claimed the life of General James P. Wolfe.  (please click on picture to enlarge it)

Wolfe dying, The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Benjamin West (1738 – 1820)

[i] I am quoting the Quebec Encyclopedia (Marianopolis College) and the Canadian Encyclopedia. <http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/encyclopedia/TreatyofParis1763-QuebecHistory.htm>
W. Stewart Wallace, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. V, Toronto, University Associates of Canada 1948, p. 87
[ii] C. P. Stacey (revised by Norman Hillmer), “Battle of the Plains of Abraham”
© Micheline Walker

24 March 2012