A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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LOUIS HÉBERT: A Legacy of Tenacity
Immigration History
Legacy

Getting New France's colossus of a colony up on its feet was slow process, but the economy experienced a boom during the period of peace from 1713 to 1744. France built an imposing fortress at Louisburg to protect its fishing zones, as well as its land and commercial trade with the colony. After 1720, a high birthrate led to a rapid population increase, which in turn led to the creation of parishes(13).

In 1735, a road linked Québec City and Montréal for the first time. The fur trade still accounted for 70% of the colony's exports. And this period of peace was only being used to prepare for war: 80% of the colony's budgets - which never equalled the sums spent on the king's amusements - went for military expenses. Much more was spent on constructing European-style fortifications than on strengthening alliances with the aboriginals(14).

Colonial society was influenced by the French elite who led it and was modelled on the mother country. Yet at the same time the colony grew further apart from France because of the small population and very different, land-based, economic and geographic circumstances. Nobles, the middle class, military officers, seigneurs, civil administrators and traders formed a high society which was extremely sensitive to the favours of the colonial authorities. Eighty percent of the population followed in the legacy of Louis Hébert: living on the land and by the land. Each generation produced new pioneers who cleared and settled land, acclimatized themselves, managed some new territory and came to know their neighbours(15).

All the while, France was feeling that the nascent New France cost too much and yielded too little. The British colonies, with 2 million inhabitants, were often pitted against a mere 70,000 French colonists - a dismal reminder of the very limited success of French colonization in North America(16).

After some spectacular military successes(the result of strategy well-adapted to the local terrain with which they were so familiar) France eventually fell back on the defensive. On September 13, 1759, the troops of General James Wolfe defeated those of the Marquis de Montcalm in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham near Québec City. Montréal fell the next year. And France finally surrendered its colony to England in the Treaty of Paris in 1763(17).

This was the end, or nearly so, of French political power in North America - but not of French presence. France left a legacy in "the Canadiens." They refused assimilation and have affirmed their existence and fostered identity ever since. Protected by their language, religion and institutions, concentrated in the limited geographic area of Québec and Acadia, then moving west into pockets of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, they developed a way of life, social customs and attitudes uniquely their own(18).

Endnotes:
1-18 - The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

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