Marquis de la Galissoniere Memoir on the French Colonies in North America December 1750


By no means were the French in North America defenseless. They began to prepare for what they considered an inevitable confrontation with the British colonies. In a section of the memoir entitled "The Importance and Necessity of Preserving Canada and Louisiana," Galissoniere set the tone and direction for the French effort. His views were heeded by the French authorities, and orders soon arrived to prepare the line of fortifications.

Indeed, the memoir concludes: "In fine, nothing must be spared to strengthen these colonies, since they may, and are to be considered as the bulwark of America. Since they [Canada and Louisiana] cannot be abandoned to their actual strength alone, without being delivered over in some sort to the English, who, by the wealth they would draw thence, to the exclusion of other Nations, would most certainly acquire the superiority in Europe."

Motives of honor, glory and religion forbid the abandonment of an established Colony; the surrender to themselves, or rather to a nation inimical by taste, education and religious principle, of the French who have emigrated thither at the persuasion of the Government with the expectation of its protection, and who eminently deserve it on account of their fidelity and attachment; in fine, the giving up of so salutary a work as that of the conversion of the heathen who inhabit that vast Continent.

Yet we shall not insist on these motives; and how great soever may be the inconveniences set forth in the preceding article, neither will we object to them, the future and uncertain revenues both of Canada and of Louisiana, although nevertheless, these are extremely probable, since they have for basis an immense country, a numerous people, fertile lands, forests of mulberry trees, mines already discovered, etc.

We shall confine ourselves to regarding Canada as a barren frontier, such as the Alps are to Piedmont, as Luxembourg would be to France, and as it, perhaps, is to the Queen of Hungary. We ask if a country can be abandoned, no matter how bad it may be, or what the amount of expense necessary to sustain it, when by its position it affords a great advantage over its neighbors.

This is precisely the case of Canada: it cannot be denied that this Colony has been always a burthen to France, and it is probable that such will be the case for a long while; but it constitutes, at the same time, the strongest barrier that can be opposed to the ambition of the English.

We may dispense with giving any other proofs of this than the constant efforts they have made, for more than a century, against that Colony.

We will add, however, that it alone is in a position to wage war against them in all their possessions on the Continent of America; possessions which are as dear to them as they are precious in fact, whose power is daily increasing, and which, if means be not found to prevent it, will soon absorb not only all the Colonies located in the neighboring islands of the Tropic, but even all those of the Continent of America.

Long experience has proved that the preservation of the major portion of the settlements in the Tropical islands is not owing so much to their intrinsic strength, as to the difficulty of conveying troops thither from Europe in sufficient numbers to subjugate or keep them, and of supporting such troops there; but if the rapid progress of the English Colonies on the Continent be not arrested, or what amounts to the same thing, if a counterpoise capable of confining them within their limits, and of forcing them to the defensive, be not formed, they will possess, in a short time, such great facilities to construct formidable armaments on the Continent of America, and will require so little time to convey a large force either to St. Domingo or to the Island of Cuba, or to our Windward islands, that it will not be possible to hope to preserve these except at an enormous expense.

This will not be the case if we make a more energetic and generous effort to increase and strengthen Canada and Louisiana, than the English are making in favor of their Colonies; since the French Colonies, despite their destitute condition, have always waged war against the English of the Continent with some advantage, though the latter are, and always have been, more numerous; it is necessary to explain here the causes to which this has been owing.

The first is the great number of alliances that French keep up with the Indian Nations. These people, who hardly act except from instinct, love us hitherto a little and fear us a great deal, more than they do the English; but their interest, which some among them begin to understand, is that the strength of the English and French remain nearly equal, so that through the jealousy of these two nations those tribes may live independent of, and draw presents from, both.

The second reason of our superiority over the English is, the number of French Canadians who are accustomed to live in the woods like the Indians, and become thereby not only qualified to lead them to fight the English, but to wage war even against these same Indians when necessity obliges.

Hence `twill be seen that this superiority of the French in America is in some sort accidental, and if they neglect to maintain it, whilst the English are making every effort to destroy it, `twill pass into the hands of the latter. There is no doubt but such an event would be followed by the entire destruction of our settlements in that part of the Globe. This, however serious it may seem, would not be our only loss; it would drag after it that of the superiority which France must claim over England.

If anything can, in fact, destroy the superiority of France in Europe, it is the Naval force of the English; this alone sustained the house of Austria at the commencement of the war of the Spanish succession, as it caused France to lose, at the close of the last war, the fruit of the entire conquest of the Austrian Lower Countries.

We must not flatter ourselves with being able long to sustain an expenditure equal to theirs; no other resource remains then but to attack them in their possessions; that cannot be effected by forces sent from Europe except with little hope of success, and at vast expense, whilst by fortifying ourselves in America and husbanding means in the Colonies themselves, the advantages we possess can be preserved, and even increased at a very trifling expense, in comparison with the cost of expeditions fitted out in Europe.

The utility of Canada is not confined to the preservation of the French Colonies, and to rendering the English apprehensive for theirs; that Colony is not less essential for the conservation of the Spanish possessions in America, especially of Mexico.

So long as that barrier is well secured; so long as the English will be unable to penetrate it; so long as efforts will be made to increase its strength, `twill serve as a rampart to Louisiana, which hitherto sustains itself only under the shadow of the forces of Canada, and by the connection of the Canadians with the Indians.

Should any unforeseen revolution disturb the intimate union now existing between the two Crowns, we should even be able, by means of Louisiana, to share with the Spaniards the profit of the rich settlements they possess in America; but this event appears so distant, that it is the opinion that France, for its own interest, and in order to remove every jealousy, must not seek to extend its possessions Westward, that is to say, towards the Spaniards, but apply all its resources to strengthen itself at the East, that is, in the direction of the English.

In fine, Canada, the fertility whereof is wonderful, can serve as the granary of the Tropical Colonies, which, in consequence of the men they destroy, sell their rich products very dear. It is proved that the number of Canadians who die in these Colonies that are admitted to be the most unhealthy, is much less than that of European French.

All that precedes sufficiently demonstrates that it is of the utmost importance and of absolute necessity not to omit any means, nor spare any expense to secure Canada, inasmuch as that is the only way to wrest America from the ambition of the English, and as the progress of their empire in that quarter of the globe is what is most capable of contributing to their superiority in Europe.