Social Economic and Political Significance of the Military EST of New France Book Report

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Social Economic and Political Significance of the Military Establishment of New France

This paper presents an analytic review of the article titled the "Social, Economic and Political Significance of the Military Establishments in New France" by Eccles. The paper critically examines various aspects of this article including its strengths and weaknesses in addressing the main issues in addition to establishing important relationships with other scholarly articles and works in the field. The article begins by exploring the socio-economic spectrum of New France which provided the basis for the military establishments. It is perhaps prudent enough to take a general overview of New France so as to get an understanding of what the article is all about.

New France was an area in North America that was colonized by the French for a period of over two hundred years, beginning in 1534 when French explorers toured the Saint Lawrence River until the colony was seceded to Britain and Spain in 1976. At around 1710, New France was a very large territory that extended from Newfoundland in the north to the Rocky Mountains in the south and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Hudson Bay. Following the treaty of Utrecht, New France was divided into five independent colonies each. These colonies were Acadia, Canada, Newfoundland, Hudson Bay and Louisiana. Each one of them had its own system of administration. The treaty resulted to France relinquishing its claims to three of the colonies; Newfoundland, Acadia and Hudson Bay. A new colony called Cape Breton Island was established as a successor of Acadia (Addall 85)[footnoteRef:2]. [2: Addall, 1]

In the subsequent Treaty of Paris, France agreed to cede the rest of New France to Spain and Britain so as to end the war between the French and the Indians which had devastated the colony. In this new arrangement, Britain the area of the colony, east of the Mississippi River and this included Canada, some parts of Louisiana and Acadia as Spain received the area to the west of the river, largely Louisiana.

In 1800, Spain returned its portion to France which in turn sold it to the United States in the landmark Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This act officially ended the French colonial claim to the North American mainland. It is important to note here that French attempts to establish colonies in the western hemisphere were fuelled by the imperialist desire to weaken Spain's growing sea and colonial power. To this end, the French relied more and more on the good will of the fishermen of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Channel ports. Later on, the fur trade flourished enough and warranted the French permanent establishment in Acadia and Quebec (Boose, 67-71)[footnoteRef:3]. [3: Boose, 67-71]

Following the religious revival in France and some parts of Europe at the beginning of the 16th century, the French were encouraged to stem up their colonial efforts. Accordingly, the French established a commercial base at Quebec and consequently, the French government had to consider some form of military action to support the Indians who were their main commercial partners in their war with the Iroquois (Axelrod, 101)[footnoteRef:4]. [4: Axelrod, 101]

Critical review of the main theme and its relevance to the colonial history of Canada

The article underscores the significance of military triumphs of the French army in establishing and maintaining a colonial presence in North America. While the population of this region was relatively small as from the fifteenth century, French troops we pumped in considerable numbers to help the Indians and protect the interests of the colonialists. The article shows that in contrast to the British colonies in the western hemisphere and particularly in north America, French colonies were characterized by heavy military presence and at times relied upon commercial companies engaged in fur trade to provide troops. This shows that the French were in constant fear of losing their colony to the enemy which could in turn weaken their imperial powers in Europe (Jobb, 51-64)[footnoteRef:5]. [5: Jobb, 51-64]

In slightly loose statements, the review article refers to a number occasions when the French crown felt the need to pump in more soldiers to reinforce security in New France. The article does however not state the underlying factors that necessitated such a move, whether it was to show off France's military strength or to support its interest. In its analysis of the topic, that is the colonial development and military establishment of New France, the review article takes a rather single-sided approach. It focuses more on the role of the French colonial administrators and mentions little about the military role of the local community who other scholarly articles indicate that they shaped the French presence in the colony (Armstrong 45-51)[footnoteRef:6]. [6: Armstrong, 45-51]

The article describes in great details the how the French troops besides helping gain security for the European settlers, brought about economic prosperity to the colony. In the aftermath of the French occupation of the colony, important commercial activities were set into motion and these benefited both the colony and its inhabitants on one side and their colonial master in Europe on the other side. Quickly enough, the fur trade proliferated and this might have been one of the reasons that prompted the French crown to constantly send in more regular troops to the colony.

A key strength of the military establishment in New France was that the colonial masters never subjected the civilian population to military laws not unless there were general unrests in the colony or a threat of invasion from the English colonies which placed great the military activities of the French into jeopardy. In essence, the review article does not explore into great details how the military establishments in New France related to the Anglo-American interests in the continent and what role the colony played to weaken Britain or Spain's competing imperial influence in the area (Grenier 21-30)[footnoteRef:7]. [7: Grenier 21-30]

As already mentioned before, New France was later on ceded to new imperial powers, the Spaniards and the British but the review article does not give any account of this or the military considerations that prompted the French to relinquish their already established imperial interests in North America. This is perhaps one of the greatest structural weaknesses of this review article. In any event, history teaches that the French interest in the North American continent were constantly in conflict with the Spaniard and British interests (Zuehlk)[footnoteRef:8]. [8: Zuehlk]

Occasionally, the rival powers could engage each other in heavily armed military combats. Accordingly, France's decision to first subdivide New France into a number of independent colonies and later on to give up its claim totally was driven by the country's inefficiency to maintain a strong imperial policy that could match Spain or British. It is thus logical to infer that the review article gives a cross-sectional review of Canada's historical development, right from the time of first colonial establishment in North America. This skewed review, much as it underscores the significance of the military establishments in the colony does not present a critical account of the pre-confederation Canadian history. The article does not for instance mention important military transitions that took place following French's surrender to colonial claims in the region. In its best, the review article seems to have concentrated more on the military involvement of the French during the period at which the country reigned at the colony (Raddall, 18-21)[footnoteRef:9]. [9: Raddall,18-21]

Equipped well enough to project modern day Canada in its right historical context, the review article lists various roles that the local Canadian community of the time as well as the Indian played which in turn was the driving force behind France's success in the region. For instance, the article mentions that when Iroquois, a predominant local community in the colony stemmed up hostilities against the French 1683, France authorities in Europe responded by sending in more troops and military personnel to who not only served to weaken the growing influence of this local community but also guarded the French naval bases besides serving in various positions in the colony. This shows that France's military decisions were in many instances shaped by their stingy relationships with the local communities (Raddall and Reid)[footnoteRef:10]. [10: Raddall and Reid]

The author of the review article effectively narrates that dissident uprisings and constant surprise attacks on the French interests were the driving forces behind consolidation of French military presence in the colony. As (Grenier 123-125)[footnoteRef:11] puts it, the Frenchmen, in spite of their strong military forces felt miserable in New France not necessarily because of the strength of the Iroquois, but because of poor coordination of military activities and lack of proper communication on the side of the French colonialists. This is perceived by many to have been the precursor for France's eventual withdrawal from North America and the subsequent establishment of British and Spaniard colonies in the region. [11: Grenier 123-125]


The review article presents a critical analysis of France's military establishments and activities…

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