French and British Colonies

The British and the French colonies in North America were strikingly different. France’s territories extended from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, but New France population was concentrated long the St. Lawrence River and it was very small. Indeed, by the end of the French rule, about 60 000 inhabitants lived in Canada. At the same time, the English colonies were populated by at least 1 600 000 settlers.

France was determined to block British expansion on the continent by building forts to link Quebec City to Louisiana, but with no new immigrants this was an impossible task, so the French tried to reinforce their Indian alliances.

In the middle of the 18th Century, the gross of the Canadian population lived in Quebec City and Montreal, and a few other towns existed, such as Trois-Rivieres (Three-Rivers), between Montreal and the capital; Chambly, on the Richelieu River and some other. The fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was also erected to protect the fishing fleet and the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the British.

The vast French colony with a handful of peasants and explorers produced little benefit for its metropolis. The burden was recognized in numerous occasions. The colonies cost far more than they brought in. Yes, they strategic position was evident since New France was the strongest barrier that could be opposed to Britain, but France interior financial difficulties, politics and the protection of the more profitable sugar colonies in the Caribbeans were foremost in the minds of metropolitan administrators.

As to the thirteen English colonies, they had not only a much larger population, but a more varied economy and produced considerable wealth for Britain.

They specialized in fishing, the slave trade, shipbuilding, the carrying trade. Many of the colonies produced large agricultural surpluses; the southern colonies grew tobacco and cotton for the metropolis. Besides, British industries found a huge market in the American colonies, and the colonial trade was very important for the prosperity of the merchant navy.

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