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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Louisbourg: A Focus of Conflict 

H E 13


Peter Bower

March 1970

Fortress of Louisbourg

Chapter 1: The Emerging Conflict

In the brutal competition for commercial empire which culminated in the Seven Years' War, but which had its roots and foreshadowing in the preceding decades, Louisbourg was from time to time an important focal point in the conflict. The treaties signed at Utrecht in 1713 weakened the French imperial structure in North America. France yielded Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the areas claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, but retained fishing rights on the Newfoundland shore from Cape Bonavista to Point Riche, and Claimed the cession of Nova Scotia did not include territory west of the Isthmus of Chignecto. Utrecht left the entrance to Canada flanked by British possessions, yet the disastrous failure of the Hovenden Walker expedition which attempted to ascend the St. Lawrence River in 1711 induced the French to believe the heart of their North American possessions was nearly unassailable. [1] Nevertheless, to forestall any possibility of losing the vast empire based on the St. Lawrence, to secure the French fisheries, to create a regulated commerce between France, the West Indies, Canada and Ile Royale, and to provide a base for future operations in the continuing struggle for commercial empire in North America, France planned to fortify and populate Cape Breton Island. [2] Within three or four decades, Louisbourg was the acknowledged anchor of the French territorial and commercial system which stretched along the St. Lawrence and down the Ohio-Mississippi River complex to the Gulf of Mexico, [3] almost encircling the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard.

The potential of Cape Breton Island within the French commercial system was mooted well before the peace of 1713. An anonymous memoir dated 1706 laid before Jérôme Phelypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine, outlined the purposes and advantages of colonies to the mother country. [4]

Cape Breton Island was extolled for the excellence of its fisheries, the good ports, the mildness of its climate, the fertility of its soil and its central location in the French possessions overseas. The memorialist anticipated the island would yield commodities such as timber, tar, pitch, gypsum, marble and other stones, coal and furs; above all, it was exceedingly well located to support the fisheries. Subsequent events proved the memorialist was over-optimistic in his assessment, and exaggerated the scale and scope of the products which could be usefully exploited in the eighteenth century on the island. [5] Nevertheless, the submission gives a clear statement of the mercantilistic attitudes prevalent at the time.

Nations sought to establish a self-contained trading world composed of the mother country and her colonies, wherein the trade balance would favour the mother country, which would become increasingly self-sufficient and independent of foreign countries. The colonies would provide the metropolis with materials for her consumption and manufacturing which might otherwise have to be obtained from foreign places. The colonies in turn obtained from the parent country all those goods which were not produced in the colonies. This commercial empire, directed largely by the requirements of the mother country, would be able to supply Europe, bringing treasure to the nation, but would require as little as possible in the way of  trade goods, raw and manufactured, from the rest of Europe. [6] The power of the empire would grow as the favourable trade balance increased. The French memorialist concluded:

The proposed establishment [on Cape Breton Island] would concentrate the fisheries in the hands of the French, exclude absolutely the English, defend the colonies of Canada, Newfoundland and Acadia against their [the English[ efforts, preventing them from rendering themselves masters of this great country and the fisheries. It would ruin their colony of New England [colonie de Baston] without making war; it would provide refuge for ships in distress, which ships frequent these seas either for the fishery or for voyages to Canada; it would become the rendezvous and entrepôt for ships of the [East] Indies, the West Indies, New Spain; it would augment the number of seamen; it would encourage the commerce of Canada and favour the marketing of grain and foodstuffs; it would furnish His Majesty's naval stores with masts, yards, planking, boards, construction materials, pitch, tar, fish oil, coal, plaster and also cod for victualling ships. The foreigners who are accustomed to supplying all these goods would no longer carry away money from the kingdom. The proposed establishment would increase His Majesty's sway [domination] the tax farming rights [les droits de ses fermes], and the consumption of salt and supplies of the kingdom. All of which is enough to demonstrate the necessity of this establishment .... [7]

Pontchartrain himself advocated a well-fortified establishment on Cape Breton Island. He was convinced that the English were already aware of plans to fortify some harbour on the island and the threat such a position would pose to the English colonies in North America. On February 10, 1715, Pontchartrain wrote to Nicolas Desmaretz, the Controller-General of Finances: 

I am not going to speak further, Sir, of the pressing and indispensable necessity of solidly fortifying this new settlement because you know the consequences. The English are not unaware of the advantages which would accrue to France's commerce from this establishment. They have already taken umbrage in this respect, for it will be very prejudicial to their commerce in time of war, when it will be a menace to their shipping .... Certainly, at the first outbreak of hostilities, they will make every effort to become masters of this establishment; consequently, it is necessary that it be well fortified, for if France lost this island it would be irreparable and would necessarily involve the abandonment of her remaining possessions in North America. [ 8]

In March, 1716, the French government issued a memorial outlining its views which was to serve as instructions for the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur of Ile Royale, as the French now called Cape Breton Island. The memorial stated that it was the King's intention that the establishment on Ile Royale serve for the future not only to secure the fisheries of France, but also to form a regulated commerce between France, Canada and Ile Royale. Canada and Ile Royale should produce those goods necessary and useful to the kingdom. The King was informed that for the most part, the island was considered suitable for agriculture and the raising of livestock, including sheep, from which wool would be particularly useful to the nation's manufacturers. The variety of woods available would be suitable for the construction and masting of ships, and it was anticipated that tar and crude pitch could be obtained of a quality equal to that secured from the North [Baltic?]. Coal had been discovered on the island, and it was hoped productive mines would be dug in the future. The King wished the governor  and commissaire to render annual accounts of the number of settlers and the different cultures so the necessary orders could be given to ensure an advantageous market. [9]

On September 2, 1713, Saint-Ovide de Brouillan, King's Lieutenant and commander of the Semslack, took possession of Ile Royale in the name of His Most Christian Majesty. [10] During the next five years, surveys were made of various bays to determine the best location for the new capital and principal fortifiable position on the island. The choice was gradually reduced to three possibilities: Port Dauphin, formerly known as Havre-Ste-Anne; Port Toulouse; Louisbourg, formerly known as Havre-à-l'Anglais. All three locations had advocates and advantages, [11] but Port Toulouse was partially blocked by a bar across the harbour entrance which might be a significant hazard to larger ships, although during wartime it might prove to be a defensive asset. [12] Port Dauphin offered a site more suitable for fortification than Port Toulouse and was adjacent to fertile lands and good forests; however, it was not considered as advantageously positioned as Port Toulouse was to good fishing grounds. [13] Both Port Toulouse and Port Dauphin had better soil for agriculture than Louisbourg, thus were more attractive to the Acadians whom the French government hoped to lure to Ile Royale. The area immediately about Louisbourg was composed of bogs, rocky-ground and poor forests. [14]

Nevertheless, Louisbourg was considered excellently situated for the fisheries and commerce. The harbour did not freeze over during the winter, and this was possibly a factor in Louisbourg's favour; however, as J.S. McLennan observes, this detail did not receive much, if any, attention from French officials and surveyors. [15] Ultimately the strategic and commercial advantages of Louisbourg outweighed other considerations and in 1718, this place was designated as the site for the principal establishment. Hitherto, Port Dauphin had been the chief settlement, but now the major portion of its garrison was moved to Louisbourg. In 1720, commemorative medals were placed in the foundations of the King's Bastion. [16]

Henceforth, the population of Louisbourg increased fairly rapidly as artisans and labourers, their overseers, and the various higher functionaries of the Crown arrived to construct and administer the fortress and surrounding dependencies. This new activity attracted French traders and fishermen, bringing an increased economic vigor to the region and supplementing the population. Nevertheless, the desired wholesale migration of the Acadians to Ile Royale never materialized as they proved reluctant to abandon their farms already established on the good soil of the parts of Nova Scotia where they were settled. [17]

Enterprising New Englanders were not long in discovering the new markets for their produce and carrying trade, although the 1686 Treaty of Neutrality between France and England forbade their subjects to trade and fish in the possess.ions of the other country, or to enter the harbours of each other save in cases of distress. [18] In 1706, the Intendant of New France, Jacques Raudot, had sent a dispatch to Versailles concerning Ile Royale, in which he recommended that, 

If you wish to establish,this Island and to make a flourishing commerce there, you must allow there the ships of all the ports of France, Spain, the Orient, the French West Indies and of New England. [19]

The suggestion went unheeded and in June, 1717, the French Council of Marine warned both Governor Costebelle and Soubras, the commissaire-ordonnateur, of Ile Royale that they should not tolerate trade in the colony with foreigners under any pretext. The King was displeased that these orders had been badly executed, not only by allowing English ships to trade in the colony, but also by tolerating French trade with the English at Canso. [20] Nevertheless, New England traders continued to traffick with the French of Ile Royale and in 1726, a proclamation was issued from France permitting the importation of building materials, live cattle, poultry and sundry other goods, but prohibiting everything else. [21] Thomas Pichon, the "Judas of Acadia" (so-named for his betrayal of Fort Beauséjour in 1755) wrote that such trade was most advantageous to the French so long as it were well regulated and the English prohibited from trading in any merchandise prejudicial to the commerce of France, especially cod fish, which he stated was France's unparalleled resource. [22] He commented 

that the commerce prohibited with foreigners included flour, biscuit, tar, pitch, and all types of dry goods such as cloths, hardware and other things originating from England and most particularly cod. However, these different goods are sold not only in the ports of Louisbourg, but equally in the other ports,and harbours of these islands [probably Ile Royale and Ile-St-Jean]. [23] 

Pichon recorded that there was any number of means of trafficking in prohibited goods, [24] and that smuggling was carried on extensively by both the French and English. Not only did French officials frequently wink at the contraband trade, but at times they participated in it themselves. [25] McLennan suggests  that Maurepas' objections to this trade were held in common with his contemporaries, but that the ineffectiveness of his opposition to it might be ascribed to his lack of means of enforcing the trade regulations rather than to a "philosophic acquiescence in a state of affairs which was theoretically wrong, but practically extremely profitable." [26] In fact, the illicit trade helped to provide for the demands of the growing population at Louisbourg and furnished a ready and profitable market for articles imported from France, Canada, a nd the French West Indies and traded to the English. [27]

On occasion, as in the fall of 1733-34, the failure to bring adequate supplies from Canada resulted in a near-famine on Ile Royale. In 1733, Governor Saint-Ovide of Ile Royale sent two small vessels to New York to obtain provisions to relieve the distress of the inhabitants. However, these vessels were unable to return to Louisbourg before the spring, and only the arrival of a vessel from Québec and one from New England relieved the situation slightly. [28]

English and French colonial authorities made sporadic attempts to suppress the illegal trade between New England and Ile Roy ale, but both had slight success. [29] Quantification of the extent of illegal trade is at best illusory because of the very nature of the commerce involved. Merrill Jensen writes that "with the exception of the Molasses Act of 1733, it is probable that the vast bulk of colonial commerce was carried on within legal channels." [30] Charles M. Andrews recommends caution in assessing the extent of smuggling carried on by the English colonials. He wrote that "the presence in the records of vice-admiralty courts of but a small number of trials for breaches of the acts of trade points to one of two things, either that there was less smuggling than has usually been supposed, or there was a good deal of smuggling that was never informed upon by the customs officials. [31] On the whole, Andrews tended to believe that "the colonials were not the inveterate smugglers that older writers as well as some modern ones, have thought them." [32]

Nonetheless, illicit trade was enough of a continuing concern to British officials in the Board of Trade, Admiralty and Treasury offices that information on this trade was sought fairly regularly. Early in the year 1744, Captain Robert Young of the Kinsale informed Thomas Corbett, secretary to the Admiralty, that he had left a sloop at Canso to interrupt illegal trade in the area, most particularly the commerce whereby the French were securing masts and other naval stores from the coasts of Nova Scotia with the collusion of the Acadians. [33] Hibbert Newton, customs' collector for Nova Scotia, reported from Canso to Captain Young that the only way of stopping the clandestine trade would be to station an armed cruiser off Louisbourg which would winter at Canso. As soon as the Kinsale left the waters, wrote Newton, 

the sloops, Schooners & other vessels, some now at this place & others going daily from some part or other of his Maj[esty's] Plantatons, besides 18 Sail we know to be at Lewisburg at this time, will w[i]thout any restraint Load & carry from thence to sev[eral] ports of his Maj[esty's] Plantat[ions] Brandy, Wine, Iron Saill Cloth, Rum, Mollasses, & sev[eral]other french Commodities w[i]th w[hi]ch there is from 80 to 90 Sail generally load w[i]th in a Year, those Vessels generally carry Lumber Bricks & Live Stock there, they comonly clear out for Newfo[un]dland, tho' never design to go further then Lewisburg, often they sell their Vessels as well as Cargos there, & are paid for all they sell in the abovementioned Goods, nay many of them carry Considerable Sums of Money likewise to purchase them therew[i]th .... [34] 

Newton estimated "at a modest computation they Yearly carry from Lewisburg 6000 hhds [hogsheads] of Rum & Mollasses besides the Brandy etc few or none paying any Duty even for the Rum & Molasses but run their whole Cargoes in some port or other of his Majesty's Plantations." [35]

The degree of illicit trading at Louisbourg and the other harbours and ports of Ile Royale is difficult to estimate, for apart from the dramatic and undocumented landing of goods under cover of night and isolation, the New England traders used legal goods to gain entry to the port and once in port, they would unload contraband, abetted by the connivance or negligence of Louisbourg port officials. [36] 

Louisbourg port returns indicate that it was an active shipping centre. J.S. McLennan tabulated in his history of Louisbourg the shipping of Ile Royale and concluded that only three ports of the much more populous British colonies entered more ships at the height of Louisbourg's commercial activity and season. McLennan's figures show that in 1733, 70 vessels came from France to Louisbourg; 17 from Canada; 25 from the French West Indies and 46 from New England and Acadia. This total of 158 vessels does not include local fishing boats and coasters. In 1743, according to McLennan, 58 ships came from France; seven from Canada; 32 from the French West Indies and 78 from New England and Acadia. Between 1733 and 1740, the number of ships arriving from New England was second only to the number of ships from France, and but for the years 1734 and 1735, exceeded the number of ships to Louisbourg from Canada and the French West Indies combined. In 1742 and 1743, the number of ships from New England was at least twice the combined number of ships from Canada and the French West Indies. [37] However, the shipping returns for 1737, for instance, show the total monetary value of cargos from the French West Indies was more than twice as great as the value of cargos carried in New England bottoms, even though there were twice as many ships arriving from New England. Apart from the fact that the ships carrying from the French West Indies appeared to be considerably larger than those from New England, the cargos from the French West Indies were made up of relatively high-value, low-bulk goods such as molasses and other sugar products, whereas the cargos from New England were generally composed of relatively low-value, high-bulk goods such as livestock, furniture, building materials and provisions. [38] The commercial contacts between the British colonies and Louisbourg were considerable; yet this mutually beneficial trade did not prevent the New Englanders from initiating the expedition in 1745 to attack the fortress. In fact, the familiarity of New England traders with Louisbourg and adjacent areas was to provide much valuable information for the planning of the expedition. [39]

Don Antonio D'Ulloa, a Spanish scientist who was aboard the Notre Dame de la Dé1iverance when it was captured off Louisbourg in 1745, said that the fortress was not only the key to Canada, but also was the best port for the fishery and commerce of the French West Indies. [40] The fishery question had been a difficult problem during the negotiations leading to the 1713 peace of Utrecht. The French insisted in 1713, as they were to insist in 1763, that the fisheries were an absolutely essential part of French commerce and industry. [41] The British negotiators agreed to the French demands, although the Board of Trade possessed several memorials from British interests strongly opposed to such a concession. [42] Louis XIV earnestly wished to recover Acadia, but France was in such desperate need of peace that he wrote to his plenipotentiaries at Utrecht that 

It is so important to prevent the breaking off of the negotiations that the King will give up both Acadia and Cape Breton, if necessary for peace; but the plenipotentiaries will yield this point only in the last extremity, for by this double cession Canada will become useless, the access to it will be closed, the fisheries will come to an end, and the French marine be utterly destroyed. [43]

The French lost Acadia, but kept Cape Breton and certain fishing rights at Newfoundland.

Dr. William Douglass in 1746-47 wrote that the French had been permitted to keep the most profitable parts of the fishery, consequently "by this concession before the war, anno 1744, the French had the better of us in the Cod-fishery trade." [44] Louisbourg has often enough been called the "Key to Canada"; significantly, Douglass referred to the fortress as "the key of the North-American Cod-Fishery and Fur-Trade." He stated that the cod fishery provided a considerable addition to the trade and wealth of Great Britain, employed many men in the catching and curing of the fish, and supplied seamen for the British navy and merchant marine. Furthermore, 

if the French could by treaty be excluded from this fishery, it would contract their navigation-seminary very much. Canada does not increase their navigation much, their trade employs a very small inconsiderable number of vessels: their inland fur and skins business is managed by a few French Coureurs des Bois, and Indians Les Hommes des Bois; therefore Canada cannot people fast. [45]

An unsigned memorial laid before the Board of Trade, dated October 5, 1743, warned that since it was generally thought Britain might soon become engaged in a war with France, immediate care must be taken to ensure the security of British American commerce and settlements. "The longer we live," reads the submission, 

the more sensibly we shall feel the bad effects of the Treaty of Utrecht. By excepting of Cape Breton, and the other Islands in the Gulph, and River of St. Lawrence out of the Cession of Nova Scotia, we have furnished France with an invincible Bulwark for the Protection of her Northern Possessions in America; and put a thorn into our own sides, not to be drawn' out again; which enables them at their pleasure, to infest our Colonys, and Fisherys in those parts; and without which, they would in some Measure have been destitute of Defence for their own. [46]

The island served the French as a halfway house between France and Canada, alleviating the dangers of navigating the St. Lawrence in large ships, for the cargos could be transferred into smaller vessels at Cape Breton. Apart from their lucrative fishery off Newfoundland, the French had encroached upon the inadequately protected English fishery. In 1737 and 1738, the English fishery off the coasts of Nova Scotia was worth £20,000 sterling per annum and was a growing trade; however, French privateering under Spanish commissions and the want of proper protection by Britain had reduced the Nova Scotia fishery to less than half its former value, while the French fishery increased in value to about £40,000. The upshot of all this, concluded the memorialist, was that the French fishery at Newfoundland and Nova Scotia totalled at least £215,482 yearly, whereas the English fishery amounted to only £195,741. [47] William Shirley, the energetic and influential governor of Massachusetts, informed his patron, the Duke of Newcastle, that Cape Breton was the principal settlement for the expanding French fishery, which employed 7,000 men, and that from this island the French could not only protect their own fisheries, but also attack the English fisheries. [48]

While such comments, statistics and estimates may be exaggerated, they do suggest the importance attached to the fisheries by those who studied the relative values and vigour of the French and English fisheries. What was not so apparent was that, as Harold Innis suggests, the area of the French economy which involved Louisbourg was increasingly undermined by the aggressive commercialism of New England traders and merchants who could supply many goods to the French of Ile Royale more cheaply, more easily and more dependably than could their French counterparts from territories under the control of France. While this English supply worked to the advantage of the French fishery, it hampered Louisbourg's development as a populous and integrated part of an independent and largely self-sufficient French empire. [49]

According to the contemporary attitudes toward empire, Ile Royale ideally should have been able to acquire provisions from French possessions. The island was never able to provide any significant quantity of foodstuffs for the inhabitants, most of whom were engaged principally in activities other than cultivation, such as fishing, supplying skilled and unskilled labour, and manning the garrison. Efforts were made from time to time to encourage agriculture on Ile Royale and especially on the more fertile Ile-St-Jean; however, problems of settlement, cultivation and the relatively low proportion of the population engaged in farming doomed these efforts to all but complete failure. Furthermore, by comparison with the New England colonies, Ile Royale was poorly located for the markets and products of the West Indies and lacked good agricultural land, especially in the vicinity of Louisbourg. [50] Innis points out that vessels coming from France had to bring salt and other supplies for the fishery, and the masters and owners of these ships were not inclined to carry foodstuffs which were bulky and less profitable than fishery supplies. The quality and quantity of flour and other provisions from Canada were unreliable; prices at Ile Royale for such items were forced down by New England competition, with the result that higher prices often could be commanded at Québec than at Louisbourg, especially at time of bad harvests in Canada. The market at Louisbourg for Canadian provisions was unstable because of the fluctuating nature of the staple economy based on the fishery, which depended on factors including the market conditions in Europe as well as the prevailing quality of the fish caught and the quantity of the catch. In addition, vessels from Canada could not reach Louisbourg usually until late May when the St. Lawrence became ice-free, whereas ships from France could brave the late-winter Atlantic storms to reach the fortress in April, and ships from New England could arrive even sooner. [51]

Some time after the Treaty of Utrecht, the New England colonies began to produce fish, lumber and provisions in greater quantities than the British West Indies could absorb. [52]

The less soil-exhausted French West Indies were expanding their sugar production more rapidly than were the English planters, [53] consequently the English sugar interests found the European market demand and prices contracting in the face of foreign competition. [54] Moreover, the demand by the northern colonies for rum and molasses for their North American and African trade was increasing at a time when the British demand for sugar was also increasing. The French West Indies, which could not depend on sufficient lumber, fish and provisions from the French American continental colonies, had to rely on the more expensive and less frequent supplies from France. [55] The English sugar interests sought through monopoly controls to confine the produce of the British northern colonies to the British islands to ensure a cheap and abundant supply and to prevent their foreign rivals from obtaining similar advantages. The English planters also did not wish to extend their cane cultivatior by the acquisition of new territories partly because they anticipated such a move might increase emigration of the white population from the sugar-producing areas already under British control, thereby dispersing the military population available to keep the slaves under control, and because they feared the increased demand for supplies and provisions would push the costs of the necessaries of life upward. The English sugar interests were more inclined to maintain a high price for sugar in a closed home market, [56] whereas increased sugar production by the cultivation of new lands might drive prices down. The Molasses Act of 1733 was passed to secure the cheap and plentiful supplies from the northern colonies to the British West Indies; to prevent the French from obtaining the advantage of these supplies, and to maintain prices and British markets for the British West Indian-planters. [57]

All the ingredients for an extensive smuggling trade were present in the West Indies, and incentives were added by the Molasses Act. The New England colonies sought additional vents for their produce and the French West Indies might welcome cheaper and more frequent supplies even if the sources were not legal. Furthermore, the French islands could provide rum and molasses cheaply and abundantly. The Molasses Act proved to be ineffectual and commercial restrictions encouraged enterprising New Englanders to trade at Canso and at the ports and harbours of Ile Royale where they, could obtain tafia and molasses indirectly from the French West Indies by selling and trading New England products such as lumber, building materials, furniture, housewares, foodstuffs, livestock and even fishing boats to the French. The trade systems which evolved in this situation were complex, as Innis outlines in his various works, [58] and proved to be of benefit to the French fishery in particular and to the French population of Ile Royale as a whole by supplying goods which they could not expect to obtain as cheaply or readily from French sources of supply. However, the French fishery in itself did not stimulate the establishment and growth of economically diversified settlements, [59] by which means increasing self-sufficiency in supplies and provisions might have been encouraged for Atlantic coast French possessions and the French empire generally.

Supplies from France, French possessions and the Acadian population were not adequate to meet the officially encouraged settlement and resident fishery of Ile Royale. [60] New England became an important source of necessities for the French fishery, thereby contributing to the development of this staple industry. The Spanish market for English fish declined with the outbreak of war in 1739, roughly coinciding with New England's increasing demand for products available from the French West Indies. These factors contributed to the decline of the English fishery at Canso, especially as trade with the French at and near Ile Royale and with the French West Indies increased in importance. [61] Not only was New England able to secure the cheap sugar products from the West Indies, but was also able to market its own products which were essentially not in high demand within the old colonial system. The diversification of the New England economy was stimulated, providing a less vulnerable economic base than that produced by a reliance on a few staples. On the other hand, Ile Royale remained dependent on the fishing industry, which in turn was in considerable measure dependent on New England supply. The diversification of New England's economy was advanced while running in the face of both French and British commercial concepts of the period: in fact, it might not be too much to suggest that New England's economy benefitted from both empires, or at least from the problems of regulating and developing these commercial systems. Ile Royale's staple industry, the fishery, was rather vulnerable to a variety of conditions, including the market demand in Europe on which war, diplomacy and politics impinged, as well as on the quality and quantity of fish caught and the maintenance of its supply system of which, as stated above, New England was an important part. A serious disruption in any of the areas on which the economy of Ile Royale depended could result in considerable difficulties; for example, the fall fishery and economy of the island was dealt a severe blow by a bad harvest in Canada in 1733, which forced a number of fishermen to return to France for lack of provisions. [62]

The fishing interests of New England, acutely aware of the weakening of their fishery at Canso and of strong competition in European markets, joined the expedition of 1745 against Louisbourg with enthusiasm. D'Ulloa observed that William Pepperrell, who led the New England volunteers in 1745, was one of the principal Boston merchants, and that he was 11not ignorant of his interest and saw all the weight of  the proposal " to attack the fortress. [63] Commenting on the general economic motivations behind the attack on Louisbourg in 1745, he argued that 

Both England and New England knew the dangers of the French competition which Louisbourg represented. And it was significant that when, in 1745, the frontier fortress was taken, it was the forces of New England that played the most important role. More than this, not only was New England striking its roots deep into the French Empire and sapping its strength; it was becoming always more restless under the restrictions of the British Empire. New England's influence became increasingly evident in Newfoundland and in the West Indies. The collapse of the French Empire, due in part to her, was quickly followed by New England's secession from the mother country. [64] 

In short, the clandestine trade with the French at Ile Royale and Canso benefitted New England by enabling her to supplement direct smuggling from the foreign West Indies with indirect smuggling via the French at Ile Royale. New England also obtained an outlet for her diversity of products which were in little demand in the British empire. In addition, New England helped weaken the French commercial and imperial structure by bringing Ile Royale into a position of material dependency on some of the products of the northern British colonies.

By the third decade of the eighteenth century, there was growing alarm and anxiety in England for the commercial expansion and ambitions of imperial France, as it was commonly believed the gains of a nation competing in trade not only increased the power of the rival but also detracted from the strength of one's own country. [65] Louis XIV had left France in a state of near-bankruptcy, which contrasted strongly with the prosperous condition of England. The historian J.M. Thompson characterized France in the last years of Louis' rule in the following words: 

national defence was sacrificed to dynastic aggression. French commerce, French sea power, and French colonies were thrown away for unsubstantial gains on the land frontier [in Europe]. French wealth was dissipated in private as well as public extravagance. [66]

Soon after the peace, France demonstrated its remarkable capacity for recovery. The empire enjoyed more than 20 years of peace after Utrecht, and in that time there was a general revival of prosperity both at home and abroad, accompanied by one of France's periodic, if short-lived, regenerations of sea power. French influence and authority grew in India, the West Indies, Africa and in the North Atlantic territories. The French mercantile marine multiplied six-fold from 300 vessels in 1715 to 1,800 in 1755. [67] Furthermore, British foreign trade was not so prosperous between 1735 and 1739 as it had been in the earlier years of the decade. [68] British merchants were apprehensive that French trade was growing at the expense of British trade, and from this fear arose talk of a preventive war. The French government was conscious of this feeling in Britain, and many officials believed the war with Spain which began in 1739 was the first move leading to the deliberate destruction of the Spanish empire, which would permit England to establish itself in this sphere, then move to ruin French commerce and empire. [69]

Professor Gerald Graham suggests that in the seventeenth century, there was an instinctive desire on the part of colonial powers to keep colonial rivalries from complicating their European policies. The Treaty of Neutrality of 1686 between France and Britain stated that conflicts in Europe should not be a pretext for hostilities in America, where a "true and firm peace and neutrality shall continue ... as if no ,such rupture had occurred in Europe. [70] Richard Pares argues that the Treaty of Utrecht was supposed to have established a state of equilibrium or balance of power in America, by confirming "the doctrine that the much agitated question of Spanish colonial trade was best resolved by leaving the King of Spain in possession of his empire." [71] The peace of Utrecht left the major colonial powers strong enough in America that no one nation theoretically appeared to be dominant. However, no equilibrium -- especially one so weakly structured as that of Utrecht -- could have been maintained as the balance of trade increasingly became considered an essential part of the European balance of power in the eighteenth century. By 1739, according to Graham, statesmen as well as merchants had begun to react to the fatalistic doctrines of eighteenth century mercantilism. [72] Both Walpole and Fleury pursued policies of peace, within which framework commercial expansion and prosperity were brought to England and France. However, the very development of the rival empires during the decades after Utrecht strained the pacific policies of Fleury and Walpole as the growth of one disturbed the various interests of the other.

Walpole lost control of British policy when his efforts to preserve peace between England and Spain through negotiation failed in 1739. William Pitt voiced the popular opinion of the British press, certain mercantile interests, and Walpole's political opponents when he condemned the Convention of Prado with Spain as a national humiliation and a sacrifice of the rights and trade of England. [73] By October, 1739, England and Spain were at war. Fleury's attitude did not prove to be as friendly as the Spanish government had hoped, even though the Cardinal had to face the courtiers of Versailles who demanded that France should not abandon Spain. [74] Fleury would not enter a closer alliance with Spain without extorting commercial concessions in America, and these Spain was reluctant to give to any rival 'power. [75] But Fleury's authority had been seriously undermined Ly 1740, and when the death of Charles VI of Austria precipitated an international crisis, the aging minister reluctantly gave way before the war party led by the comte de Belleisle, who favoured war against Austria. [76] In January, 1743, Fleury died. 

With the ascendancy of aggressive parties in both France and England, the path to war lay open. The desire for commercial empire and the stifling of rival trade brought France and Britain increasingly to the conviction that their empires could not exist side by side. [77] As W.S. MacNutt wrote, "Colonial governors, both French and English, had for years been writing of a struggle for mastery of the [American] continent." [78] The stage was set for this struggle, and the move against Louisbourg in 1745 drew the curtain aside in the conflict which was not to be settled for nearly two decades.


[1] James A. Williamson, A Short History of British Expansion: The Old Colonial Empire, I, (Toronto: Macmillan, 1965) pp. 359-360, Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries, (Toronto: University Press, 1954) p. 138. For details of the 1711 expedition, see The Walker Expedition to Quebec, 1711, Gerald S. Graham, editor, (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1954).

[2] A.C., C11C, vol. 8, fols. 10-39 passim, "Memoire pour Servir d'Instruction au Gouverneur et commissaire du Roy Servant dans L'Isle Royalle", de la Boula [?] to [?], March 9, 1716; B, vol. 50-2, fols. 576-577, Maurepas to Saint Ovide and de Mézy, June 10, 1727. The French, as the New Englanders concerned with the Louisbourg expedition in 1745, ascribed some of their good fortune to divine intervention. Pontchartrain wrote to Vaudreuil, the Governor General of New France, that Walker's failure "is an interposition of Providence and a visible mark of its protection, for which the entire Colony ought to return God thanks...." Documents relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, V, E.B. O'Callaghan, editor, (Albany, 1855) p. 862, June 28, 1712, quoted in The Walker Expedition, Graham, ed., p. 41, introduction.

[3] P.R.O., CO5, vol. 900, fols. 261-261v, Shirley to Newcastle, October 29, 1745.

[4] A.C., C11C, vol. 8, fols. 10-39 passim, "Memoire a Le Comte de Pontchartrain sur l'Etablissement d'une Colonie dans L'Isle du Cap Breton", Anonymous, November 30, 1706. See also J.S. McLennan, Louisbourg, From its Foundation to its Fall, 1713-1758, (Sydney: Fortress Press, 1957) pp. 22-23.

[5] McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 22-23.

[6] A. C. , C11B, vol. 8, fols. 10-11v, "Memoire sur l'Etablissement d'une Colonie", Anon., November 30, 1706.

[7] Ibid., fols. 38v-39. All translations from original sources in this work were done by the author, except where otherwise noted.

[8] A.C. , série B, vol. 37, fol. 28, Pontchartrain to Desmaretz, February 28, 1715.

[9] A.C., C11B, vol. 1, fols. 448-448v, "Memoire pour Servir d'Instruction dans L'Isle Royalle", de la Boula[?] to [?], March 9, 1716.

[10] Gustave Lanctot, A History of Canada: From the Treaty of Utrecht to the Treaty of Paris, 1713-1763, 111, Margaret Cameron, trans., (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited, 1965) p. 50.

[11] For an example of the discussion on the merits of the various possible sites for the principal establishment on the island, see A.C., série B, vol. 37, fols. 27-28, Pontchartrain to Desmaretz, February 28, 1715.

[12] McLennan, Louisbourg, p. 34.

[13] A.C., série B, vol. 37, fols. 27-28, Pontchartrain to Desmaretz, February 28, 1715. See also McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 34-35.

[14] McLennan, Louisbourg, p. 33; Lanctot, Canada, III, p. 50.

[15] McLennan,. Louisbourg, p. 33.

[16] Ibid., p. 59.

[17] John Bartlet Brebner, New England's Outpost, (Hamden: Archon Press, 1965) pp. 64-70.

[18] William Douglass, A Summary, Historical and Political, of the First Planting, Progressive Improvements, and Present State of the British Settlements in North-America, (London: R. Baldwin, 1755) pp. 6, 13-14. See also Richard Brown, A History of the Island of Cape Breton, (London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1869) p. 152; Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History: England's Commercial and Colonial Policy, IV, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966) pp. 249-250.

[19] A. C . 1, C11C , vol. 8 , fol. 52, "Memoire sur les affaires presentes du Canada et l'etablissement du cap Breton", signed by Raudot, August 7, 1706.

[20] A.M., Al, Article 54, pièce 62, n.p., "Memoire du Roy au Sr. de Costebelle Gouverneur et au Sr. Soubras Commissaire ordonnateur a L'Isle Royale", June 29, 1717.

[21] McLennan, Louisbourg, p. 760 222-225; Brown, A History of Cape Breton, p. 152-153.

[22] Thomas Pichon, Lettres et Memoires Pour servir a 1'Histoire du Cap Breton, depuis Son établissement jusqula la reprise de cette Isle par les Anglois en 1758, (La Haye: Pierre Gosse, 1760), p. 180. Pichon was secretary to comte de Raymond, governor of Ile Royale, 1751-1754.

[23] Ibid., p. 184.

[24] Ibid. , pp. 184-189.

[25] McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 76-78, 84, 100-101.

[26] Ibid., p. 77.

[27] Brown, A History of Cape Breton, p. 152.

[28] McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 81-82. See also P.R.O., CO5, vol. 1191, n.p., Council Minutes at New York, November 16, November 19, 1733.

[29] Brown, A History of Cape Breton, pp. 152-153, related Governor Samuel Shute's unsuccessful attempts in 1720 and 1721 to persuade the Massachusetts legislature to pass a bill preventing trade with the French at Cape Breton in accordance with the Treaty of Neutrality of 1686.

[30] English Historical Documents: American Colonial Documents to 1776, X, Merril Jensen, ed., David C. Douglas, gen. ed., (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964) p. 370.

[31] Andrews, England's Commercial and Colonial Policy, IV, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966) p. 215.

[32] Ibid., p. 240n.

[33] P.R.O., Adm. 1, vol. 2732, n.p., Young to Corbett, January 21, 1744.

[34] Ibid., n.p., Newton to Young, September 1, 1743.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Pichon, Memoires, pp. 184-186; McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 100-101, 225.

[37] McLennan, Louisbourg, pp. 221-222.

[38] A.C., C11C, vol. 9, fols. 50-95 passim, "Etat General des Cargaisons des batiments qui ont fait le Commerce a l'isle Royalle Pendant L'année MVII trente Sept".

[39] Correspondence of William Shirley, I, Charles H. Lincoln, ed., (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912) p. 171, Shirley to Jonathan Law, January 29, 1745.

[40] Don Antonio D'Ulloa, Voyage au Pérou, II, (Paris: Jambert, 1752) p. 108.

[41] Innis, Cod Fisheries, p. 179.

[42] A.P. Newton, "Newfoundland to 1783", The Cambridge History of the British Empire, VI, J. Holland Rose, A.P. Newton, E.A. Benians, gen. eds., (Cambridge: University Press, 1930) p. 138.

[43] "Memoire de Roy à ses Plénipotentiares", March 20, 1712, quoted in Francis Parkman, A Half-Century of Conflict, (New York: Collier Books, 1962) p. 135.

[44] Douglass, A Summary, I, p. 287, footnote.

[45] Ibid., pp. 287-288, footnote.

[46] P.R.O., CO5, vol. 43, fols. 18-19, "Some Considerations relating to the Security of the British Commerce & Colonys in America", unsigned, September 24, 1743.

[47] Ibid., fols. 17-18.

[48] Correspondence of Shirley, I, Lincoln, ed., pp. 162-163, Shirley to Newcastle, January 14, 1745.

[49] Harold A. Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", Royal Society of Canada Transactions, Section 11, (1935) pp. 51-87 passim.

[50] Melville H. Watkins, "A Staple Theory of Economic Growth", The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, vol. XXIX, No. 2, (May, 1963) pp. 153-154.

[51] Ibid., pp. 64-66; Harold A. Innis, Select Documents in Canadian Economic History, 1497-1783, (Toronto: University Press, 1929) p. 72.

[52] Richard Pares, War and Trade in the West Indies, 1739-1763, (London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., 1963) p. 81.

[53] Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", R.S.C.T., p. 76. See also Innis,  Cod Fisheries, for a more detailed discussion of New England Trade and the West Indies, pp. 127-131, 160-180.

[54] Pares, West Indies, p. 79n, did not explain why the English planters could not produce sugar so cheaply as could the French and Dutch, but stated he would discuss this question fully in a future history of the English sugar colonies.

[55] Pares, West Indies, pp. 77-85, 475-476. See also Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", R.S.C.T., pp. 76-78, 85-87.

[56] For a more detailed discussion of the British West Indian interests, see Pares, West Indies, pp. 77-85.

[57] Pares, West Indies, pp. 79-82.

[58] In particular see Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", R.S.C.T., pp. 51-87 passim; Innis Cod Fisheries, especially chapters V, VI, XV.

[59] Innis' argument in detail that the French fishery was not conducive to settlement may be found in Cod Fisheries, pp. 127-138, 168-180, 486-489, and elsewhere in his book. Briefly stated, Innis maintained that the French fishery, carried on over a large area and from scattered seaports, was concerned largely with a summer and green fishery based on a number of ports in France and aimed by in large at domestic markets. The French fishing ship was equipped with provisions and supplies from the home port and the fishery was an extension of French. activity, not a basis for isolated settlement. The French fishery generally had no focus in settlement, shipping and trade, and the regions and techniques of the fishery were not suitable for the growth of settlement.

[60] Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", R.S.C.T., pp. 50-67, 84-87.

[61] Ibid., pp. 74-76.

[62] Ibid., p. 64.

[63] Quoted in Innis, "Cape Breton and the French Régime", R.S.C.T., p. 82 as A. D'Ulloa, A voyage to South America, II, (London, 1772) p. 383.

[64] Innis, Cod Fisheries, p. 167.

[65] W.J. Eccles, The Canadian Frontier, 1534-1760, (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969) pp. 150-151; Williamson, The Old Colonial Empire, I, p. 358.

[66] J.M. Thompson, Lectures on Foreign History, 1494-1798, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962) p. 205,

[67] Williamson, The Old Colonial Empire, I, pp. 358-361.

[68] Arthur M. Wilson, French Foreign Policy during the Administration of Cardinal Fleury, 1726-1743, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936) p. 291.

[69] Gerald S. Graham, Empire of the North Atlantic, (Toronto: University Press, 1950) pp. 112-113; Eccles, Canadian Frontier, pp. 150-151.

[70] Ibid., pp. 113-114.

[71] Pares, West Indies, p. 13.

[72] Graham, North Atlantic, p. 114.

[73] Kate Hotblack, Chatham's Colonial Policy, (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917) pp. 8-10, 14.

[74] M. Alphonse Jobez, La France sous Louis XV, III, (Paris: Didier et Cie., 1866) pp. 196-197.

[75] Pares, West Indies, p. 157.

[76] A.Cobban, "The Decline of Divine-Right Monarchy in France", The New Cambridge Modern History, VII, J.O. Lindsay, ed., (Cambridge: University Press, 1963) pp. 225-227.

[77] Graham, North Atlantic, pp. 113-114.

[78] W.S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712-1857, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1965) p. 33.