New England and New France

New England and New France

Of course we have all heard of New England, though its composition may confuse us at times, but did we know that there was a New France?

America first:  New England is a region in the north-east, comprising the six states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. If such a thing exists still in America, it is the classiest region in the United States, but not necessarily the richest. If you descend from a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, your permanent residence is likely to be in New England.

We go back to 1614, when Captain John Smith gave this large region its name, very nearly four hundred years ago. From 1620 there was a Council for New England, and both the Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritan New England Company (later re-named the Massachusetts Bay Company) were permitted to settle there. It is not generally known that Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine were off-shoots of Massachusetts. I am indebted to a gentlemanly American professor at a certain Ivy League university for this information.

In 1643 the New England Confederation was set up to coordinate defence and what is perhaps suspiciously called ‘The Indian Policy’. The blogger may ascribe whatever meaning she or he wishes to these three ominous words.

It was James II of England (and Scotland) who managed in his brief reign to centralize the government into the Dominion of New England. ‘Dominions’ are different in every aspect from ‘colonies’. Queen Elizabeth for example is queen of the Dominions as well as Great Britain.

The Dominion quickly settled down to its prime function, agriculture and fishery; fishermen from New England were to be found fishing practically everywhere in American coastal waters and the Caribbean. Unsurprisingly, not all New Englanders felt the same waves of indignant independism as George Washington and his party. Before the Declaration, and after it, many New Englanders took themselves, their families, and whatever fortune they had into Canada. Those that remained (many) were fiercely federalist in the early national period.

New France meant those French possessions in North America that were discovered, explored and settled by the French from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Quebec was a centre (founded in 1698), and Montreal (founded in 1642 on the banks of the St. Laurence River) was another.

By 1712 New France stretched from the Gulf of St. Laurence to beyond Lake Superior. It included Newfoundland (what a splendidly logical name for a newly discovered territory), Acadia now Nova Scotia (or New Scotland!), and the MississippiValleyas far south as the Gulf of Mexico.

Disintegration began with the famous (or infamous according to your point of view) Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, when France lost Acadia, Newfoundland(Newlylostland?) and Hudson Bay, and Britain was awarded Gibraltar, a decision which has caused trouble between Britain and Spain ever since, and continues to do so.

New France became embroiled in both the French and the Indian Wars, invariably (and traditionally) fighting the English. Then General Wolfe and his men scaled the Heights  to the Plains of Abraham in 1759, defeated Montcalm, and French rule ended in 1763. New France as an entity and a name ceased to exist after the Treaty of Paris. Enormous Louisiana, the last French colony on mainland North America, was sold to theUS (The Louisiana Purchase) in 1803.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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