The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The Conquest of Canada

Category: 18th century

In America as in India the French had consider­able success at the opening of the war. Here the Brit­ish colonies lay in a long line from Maine to Florida, facing the Atlantic Ocean with the Appalachian Moun­tains standing as a barrier between them and the inte­rior. The French had two main settlements, Canada in the North along the St. Lawrence and Louisiana around the mouth of the Mississippi. From these they pushed up the Ohio River and down through the Great Lakes, attempting to occupy the land behind the English col­onies and prevent their further westward expansion. In this movement the key point was Fort Duquesne that lay at the western end of the only easy way through the mountains.

Fighting began in earnest with an attack on Fort Duquesne in 1755. The attack, however, was defeated with heavy losses. Canada had only about 150,000 in­habitants against almost 2,000,000 British colonists, but despite of that at this time the French held a consider­able advantage because of their centralized, .military organization. Many of the English colonies were far removed from the scene of war. Besides, the colonists were unaccustomed to act together. Later the British naval blockade prevented the French reinforcements from reaching Canada while carrying there a large invading army.

In 1758-1760 General James Wolfe overran Canada in a series of campaigns culminating in the capture of Quebec. Fort Duquesne was taken in 1759 and renamed Pittsburgh. The conquest of Canada involved also the conquest of the huge unsettled area between the Ap­palachian Mountains and the Mississippi.

During the same years Senegal in West Africa, Flori­da, and some of West Indian islands were seized. At the time, these islands with their valuable sugar plan­tations were regarded as more important than Cana­da. When the preliminaries of the Treaty of Paris were under discussion there was a serious debate as to whether Canada or Guadeloupe should be retained.

That Canada was in the end preferred to Guadeloupe was due to strategic rather than economic reasons: the danger from France in North America was rated high­er than the danger from any possible rebelliousness on the part of the colonists.

When in 1763 the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War, England kept its Indian conquests, Canada, Senegal, and some of the French West Indian islands. The British Empire had now attained her greatest di­mensions.

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