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Subject: Why did New France have so few settlers? rss

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Mark Johnson
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For my next Wargames To Go podcast episodes I'm exploring the French & Indian War. I know from some reading (as well as the different card decks in A Few Acres of Snow!) that the French had far fewer settlers in the North America than the British did. That led to different socio-economic strategies and objectives for use of the land, ones that had military/political consequences two hundred years later, when defeat in the French & Indian War led to the loss of New France to Britain.

What I haven't been able to understand is why those differences in settlements came about. The population of France must've been larger than those of England from 1550-1750, right? Perhaps there was greater land pressure in England? Or a difference in policy toward religious minorities (England wanted to expel theirs, while France wanted to keep their colony purely Catholic)?
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I seem to recall from history class (which was enough years ago now, that it could be called history...) that New France *only* accepted settlers from France, while the 13 colonies accepted them from other places as well. There also may have been reluctance to interfere with the fur trade. But don't take my word for it (no really, don't) as I'm remembering old stuff here.
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I am not an expert (others will correct me as needed) but here are some possibilities:

1. New France had really cold winters. Word gets out that the weather is harsh, scaring some people away.

2. In the period of 1600 to 1750 the population of France was 3 to 4 times larger than the population of England. So in theory France should have more people to send over. But in practice English farmers were having many more children than the farmers in France. The fast growing English population allowed England to send colonists all over the world as well as eventually catching up to France in population. French children stayed in France to inherit the family farm. In England there were 2nd and 3rd sons to go abroad. What I don't know is why population increase in France was so low.

3. As you said, England allowed minority religious groups to go to America. France did not. They wanted to keep new France very catholic.

4. England sent a lot of prisoners into the North American colonies. Only after the USA became independent did they start sending them to Australia.

5. The enclosures policy in England, dispossessed a lot of farmers of their land. These were prime candidates for going to the colonies.

6. England accepted some colonists from countries other than the United Kingdom.

7. France had an inferior colonization model. At first they tried to establish some nobility in New France in the form of "Seigneurs" (lords). In the English colonies, farmers could be much more independent and not owe rents and services to a "seigneur".

8. There may have been tons of poor people in the slums of Paris but they would have been useless in the colonies. What was needed was rugged farmers and they were not having many children. I think that that is the main reason. My guess is that land ownership in France encouraged small families (possibly to avoid dividing up the farms). There must also have been a french tradition of birth control that was not acceptable in England.
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In about 1670, Jean Talon (the king's administrator in New France) introduced an alternative policy to immigration (because no one wanted to come to New France). He implemented a bunch of measures to encourage the New France colonists to have a lot of babies. He gave monetary bonuses to women marrying under the age of 20 and to families with more than 10 children. The effect was that even though the home country, France, had a very low population growth rate, New France ended up having the highest sustained natural growth rate (excluding immigration) in the world for 300 years. Lots of children and way way lower mortality rates than in Europe. My father and all 4 of my grandparents each came from families of 10 or more children.

This compensated a bit for extremely low immigration from France. But there were only a few thousand immigrants to start off with. So New France could not keep up with the British colonies.
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Peter Lloyd
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One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.
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plloyd1010 wrote:
One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.


If I recall correctly, there was also a massive financial swindle involving the new world in France during Louis IV's reign (not sure if that's the correct Louis), that may have put a damper on things.
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Westie wrote:
plloyd1010 wrote:
One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.


If I recall correctly, there was also a massive financial swindle involving the new world in France during Louis IV's reign (not sure if that's the correct Louis), that may have put a damper on things.


I think you are referring to the "mississippi bubble" cause by a financial scheme by John Law during Louis XV reign (when Louis was still a child). The bubble burst in 1720.

But England was hit by the "South sea bubble" which used the same sort of stock scheme. That bubble also burst in 1720.

I am not sure by I believe the bubble burst in France a few months before England. But both countries had a similar bubble in the same year. So I don't think that that can be easily used to explain the differences between the colonies. But maybe the French one affected New France more directly.
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rubberchicken wrote:
Westie wrote:
plloyd1010 wrote:
One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.


If I recall correctly, there was also a massive financial swindle involving the new world in France during Louis IV's reign (not sure if that's the correct Louis), that may have put a damper on things.


I think you are referring to the "mississippi bubble" cause by a financial scheme by John Law during Louis XV reign (when Louis was still a child). The bubble burst in 1720.

But England was hit by the "South sea bubble" which used the same sort of stock scheme. That bubble also burst in 1720.

I am not sure by I believe the bubble burst in France a few months before England. But both countries had a similar bubble in the same year. So I don't think that that can be easily used to explain the differences between the colonies. But maybe the French one affected New France more directly.


That's the one, thanks. Not sure if it did affect settlement in New France.
 
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MarkEJohnson wrote:
I know from some reading (as well as the different card decks in A Few Acres of Snow!) that the French had far fewer settlers in the North America than the British did. That led to different socio-economic strategies and objectives for use of the land, ...

I think you have it backwards. That is, different strategies and objectives led to different levels of colonization. My recollection, and it could be flawed, is that the French were more interested in the military and trade (and missionary) aspects of New France, and less interested in large-scale settlements. Their colony was also more under direct control of the home government than the English colonies were (at first; before 1676).
 
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rubberchicken wrote:
But England was hit by the "South sea bubble" which used the same sort of stock scheme. That bubble also burst in 1720.

England was hit by lots of stock schemes around that time (and don't forget the Tulip Mania in the Netherlands). My favorite was the stock sold with the promise of great profits generated by a method that no one was to be told about (that's what their advertising actually said). After a little bit, those behind this particular scheme took the money and ran, and no one knows to this day who they were. That there was any money to take and run with says a lot about the speculative bubble at the time.

Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24518) is the classic account.
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I think rubberchicken has identified many of the causes.
It seems that the French rulers just didn't have as much interest in continuing the development in the new world and were more concerned with how things were developing at home.

I pulled this off of http://www.lookbackward.com/perrault/perr1/newfrance/
lookbackward wrote:

In fact, France was at the time showing various symptoms of social discontent that should have justified a larger number of refugees fleeing to Canada, whose abundance of resources contrasted with the famine and unemployment among the poorest classes. Although France wasn’t really overpopulated, conditions there were favorable to emigration; these conditions, had they coincided with a real attraction of Canada, would have encouraged the departure of large contingents of settlers for the New World. But few French people migrated, as Canada, a distant, wild, and dangerous country, had a poor reputation. On top of this, the authorities believed that the French population was not growing quickly as it should be – and, in fact, that it was shrinking due to wars, plagues, and general misery.


In response to Intendant Talon, who had asked him to find the means to form a “grand and powerful state” in Canada, which would involve a massive wave of immigrants, Colbert said, in a sentence that was to mark the future of the country, “It would not be prudent [of the king] to depopulate his kingdom as he would have to do to populate Canada.”


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Well, that all could be. However, it still seems to me that many of these factors applied to the English situation. In this same era they were going through their own civil war, had some episodes of plague, and some amount of "general misery." To a Californian such as myself, the differences in weather or climate between the St Lawrence valley and "upstate" New York don't sound like much.

In contrast, all of these below sound like tangible and important differences.
rubberchicken wrote:
2. ...French children stayed in France to inherit the family farm. In England there were 2nd and 3rd sons to go abroad. What I don't know is why population increase in France was so low.

3. As you said, England allowed minority religious groups to go to America. France did not. They wanted to keep new France very catholic.

5. The enclosures policy in England, dispossessed a lot of farmers of their land. These were prime candidates for going to the colonies.

7. France had an inferior colonization model. At first they tried to establish some nobility in New France in the form of "Seigneurs" (lords). In the English colonies, farmers could be much more independent and not owe rents and services to a "seigneur".
 
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I guess my question would be "how attractive was the opportunity for someone in England to re-settle to North America as compared with the opportunity for someone in France to do so?" There could be many reasons for a difference (probably including some of the things referenced in this thread already.) But understanding the viewpoint of someone actually faced with that decision is probably challenging from a distance of several centuries.

I wonder whether we have letters from that time that shed light on this question.
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Another factor is the various first nations.

In general the French got along much better with the various local tribes. But most of the tribes had trouble with the Iroquois of up state New York. But by doing so the French became enemies of the Iroquois. The English therefore sided with the Iroquois who turned out to be formidable warriors. After the 1670s the Iroquois were left dominant in the North East. Many of the other first nations were reduced or eliminated.

Therefore the French settlers still faced attacks from the Iroquois and the settlers of New England face considerably less attacks. This must have had a psychological impact on potential immigrants from Europe.
 
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rubberchicken wrote:
In about 1670, Jean Talon (the king's administrator in New France) introduced an alternative policy to immigration (because no one wanted to come to New France). He implemented a bunch of measures to encourage the New France colonists to have a lot of babies. He gave monetary bonuses to women marrying under the age of 20 and to families with more than 10 children. The effect was that even though the home country, France, had a very low population growth rate, New France ended up having the highest sustained natural growth rate (excluding immigration) in the world for 300 years. Lots of children and way way lower mortality rates than in Europe. My father and all 4 of my grandparents each came from families of 10 or more children.


There was also the filles du roi.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Daughters
 
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jjrbedford wrote:
rubberchicken wrote:
In about 1670, Jean Talon (the king's administrator in New France) introduced an alternative policy to immigration (because no one wanted to come to New France). He implemented a bunch of measures to encourage the New France colonists to have a lot of babies. He gave monetary bonuses to women marrying under the age of 20 and to families with more than 10 children. The effect was that even though the home country, France, had a very low population growth rate, New France ended up having the highest sustained natural growth rate (excluding immigration) in the world for 300 years. Lots of children and way way lower mortality rates than in Europe. My father and all 4 of my grandparents each came from families of 10 or more children.


There was also the filles du roi.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Daughters


absolutely, but the numbers are extremely small, the article mentions about 800 woman brought over to New France. In the article they say that by 1672 the population of New France is a bit over 6000. Not very many people. New England had a population of 68000 by 1680. There is a factor of 10 difference.
 
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plloyd1010 wrote:
One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.


I don’t know much about this topic but knowing what was going on in Europe this would be my guess.

Remember, the 1700’s France was a Monarchy with little wealth outside of the royalty.

England was a constitutional monarchy with a thriving merchant/middle class and a lot of wealth outside of the royalty.

The interest in entrepreneurship was a core aspect of the British economy. The industrial revolution was going on in Britain and the population was already moving from the countryside to the cities. I believe France was a much more agrarian society and had not progressed as far from serfdom as the British. French citizenship was repressed which caused issues such as the French fleeing Canada to Louisiana (modern day Cajuns) and resulted in the French Revolution at the end of the 1700’s.

If there is more money to pay for the voyage and greater citizens right to make the trip for the British I would expect the British would see greater immigration to their colonies.
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Just one clarification or amendment, because this isn't quite so as far as where Cajuns come from: The French Acadians were expelled from what would later become Canada's Maritime provinces by the British during and after the French & Indian War, after they had already refused to become British subjects after their land was annexed some 40 years earlier. They were deported to the Colonies, Britain and France, with some later resettling in Louisiana, but nothing about the Le Grand Dérangement was a matter of their fleeing being in Canada.
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jeb123 wrote:
plloyd1010 wrote:
One serious social effect was lack of appetite for enterprise investment. In England ventures tended to be well funded, including for business in the Americas. In France it was more difficult, a share here another there. Not financing colonial resource enterprises mean less interest in going overseas to seek a new life.


I don’t know much about this topic but knowing what was going on in Europe this would be my guess.

Remember, the 1700’s France was a Monarchy with little wealth outside of the royalty.

England was a constitutional monarchy with a thriving merchant/middle class and a lot of wealth outside of the royalty.

The interest in entrepreneurship was a core aspect of the British economy. The industrial revolution was going on in Britain and the population was already moving from the countryside to the cities. I believe France was a much more agrarian society and had not progressed as far from serfdom as the British. French citizenship was repressed which caused issues such as the French fleeing Canada to Louisiana (modern day Cajuns) and resulted in the French Revolution at the end of the 1700’s.

If there is more money to pay for the voyage and greater citizens right to make the trip for the British I would expect the British would see greater immigration to their colonies.


In 1700 there was not a huge difference between the economies of France and England. The divergence really started in the second half of the 1700s. On average small french farmers were better off than English farmers. This is probably related to the fact that French farmers were having way less children than English farmers. By the french revolution about half of French farmers owned their own land.

The big problem was that France had was privilege. Too many people (the church and nobility) had tax exemptions and loopholes. This made government finances very difficult. England taxed its people 2 to 3 times more per capita than France. The problem was that France's taxes fell entirely on the poor and the middle classes. France had to resort to the privatization of 60000 to 80000 government posts to raise money (they sold off tax collector posts, military commands and thousands of other posts). This short term solution only made things worse.

What saved England from these government finance problems was two things:
1. Back in the 1500s Henry the 8th broke off from the church of Rome. This allowed him to confiscate church wealth which probably amounted to over 20% of the land in England.
2. In England the rich and powerful allowed themselves to be taxed (more than in France but still not too much) in return for political power in the house of commons and the house of lords.

The french revolution allowed France to confiscated church property, to tax the rich and noble, and to nationalize all the government offices that had been privatized. This renewed France in the early 1800s (think of what Napoleon could do, that Louis the XVI couldn't).

But still France had few babies. The population of France between 1800 and 1950 went up from about 24 000 000 to about 50 000 000. During the same period the population of England went up from about 8 000 000 to about 50 000 000. In addition England sent millions of emigrants overseas. Population growth in England was at least 3 or 4 times faster than in France. This huge growth of population had to go somewhere. In the 1800s most people were still farmers, so migration was necessary for the English.

France did not have an overpopulation issue. Industrialization of France was able to absorb the small growth in French population.

Industrialization in England absorbed much of the English growth but the factories of those days were not a great life. So many millions chose to emigrate.
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As mentioned there were subtle societal differences that played a part, as well as more macro ones. It may also have been that France had reached a sort of population equilibrium earlier than other countries. The trend towards smaller families could point towards that. This is also what happened in the rest of Europe later on, and with France’s population booming already in the middle ages they may simply have been ahead of the curve.

There’s also the land issue. Arable land comprises 43% of current French territory, which is the highest figure in the EU and way higher than the UK at 25%. While this may not exactly match historical figures it is probably a good indication. The net result is that France should be able to support a much bigger population, a fact also borne out by the huge difference in population during the middle ages.

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I wonder how many French men were killed in wars from 1650-1750 vs. how many British men were killed. One of the reasons Britain's population was equal to France's in 1950 is the huge casualties France suffered in WWII WWI (I made a typo in my initial post but am leaving traces of it so readers can understand Marc's post in response); I wonder whether a similar thing might have happened in this earlier period. I know Britain engaged in war during this period, but I have the (possibly inaccurate) idea that not as many men were killed in Britain's naval battles as were killed in France's land battles.

If there were a lot of men killed, that would make more opportunities for younger sons to inherit what would have gone to the older sons, and thus stay in France.
 
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Eric Brosius wrote:
One of the reasons Britain's population was equal to France's in 1950 is the huge casualties France suffered in WWII;


I looked it up on Wikipedia.
Population of France in 1939 = 41 680 000
Deaths (military) in WW2 for France = 210 000
Deaths (civilian caused by the war) in WW2 for France = 390 000

Population of United Kingdom (with colonies) in 1939 = 47 760 000
Deaths (military) in WW2 for United Kingdom = 384 000
Deaths (civilian caused by the war) in WW2 for United Kingdom = 67 000

WW2 caused huge deaths in France and England but they were comparable. By comparison Germany lost about 7 000 000 people and the Soviet Union over 20 000 000 people.

British and French deaths in WW2 are about the same and barely affected the population of France relative to England.

The real difference is the number of babies over the centuries. If France had had the same number of babies per capita as the English since 1700 then the population of France would now be between 250 000 000 and 300 000 000 people ! ! ! At least half of those would have emigrated.

All the wars of France between 1600 and 1900 might have cost France around 6 000 000 people ( about 2 000 000 during the Napoleonic wars). This is way way way lower than the 200 000 0000 to 250 000 000 lost from babies not born.
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Thanks, Marc. I made a typo; I was intending to refer to WWI.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Thanks, Marc. I made a typo; I was intending to refer to WWI.


Initially I thought that you meant WW1 but then I got interested in finding out the loss numbers for WW2. I was surprised at how low the numbers were for France and UK compared to Germany and especially Russia.

WWI losses seem to be about 1 to 2 million for UK and France.

One interesting thing is that French population growth actually increased after WW2. Nowadays France has a higher birth rate than England or Germany.Go figure.
 
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rubberchicken wrote:
Eric Brosius wrote:
Thanks, Marc. I made a typo; I was intending to refer to WWI.


Initially I thought that you meant WW1 but then I got interested in finding out the loss numbers for WW2. I was surprised at how low the numbers were for France and UK compared to Germany and especially Russia.

WWI losses seem to be about 1 to 2 million for UK and France.

One interesting thing is that French population growth actually increased after WW2. Nowadays France has a higher birth rate than England or Germany.Go figure.


Not that surprising, really. Germany and Russia were the only two countries to engage in an extended period of uninterrupted ground warfare. Arguably, Japan and China too, but that fighting was no where near the same scale in terms of fighting forces.
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