Colonial Experiments, New France
Saint-Domingue, Catholic missions, French settlement, New France, English settlement
By the 1530s French explorers had scouted the coast of America from Newfoundland to the Carolinas. Samuel de Champlain built the foundations of what would become French Canada (New France). From 1604 to 1606 he established a settlement at Acadia in Nova Scotia, and in 1608 he traveled up the St. Lawrence River, made contact with the Huron and Algonquin peoples, and established a French settlement at Quebec.
From the beginning, New France concentrated on two activities: fur trade and Catholic missions. Missionaries and traders were often at odds, but both knew that the success of New France depended upon friendly relations with the native peoples. While Jesuits converted thousands of Native Americans, French traders roamed the forests. Both were among the first white explorers of the interior of North America, and France’s ties with Native Americans would have important implications for the next 150 years. By 1700 the French population of New France was 14,000. French Canada was a strategically crucial brake on English settlement. But the much smaller sugar islands in the Caribbean—Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Guadeloupe, and Martinique—were economically far more valuable to France.
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