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7th Grade Social Studies / Lesson 10 - Struggle for North America

What will we be learning in this unit?

  • What problems did settlers in New France face?
  • What traditions of government evolved in the 13 English colonies?
  • How did competition for power affect Europeans and Native Americans?


  Building a New France

 

  • By the early 1500s, French fishing ships were crossing the Atlantic each year to harvest rich catches of cod off Newfoundland, Canada. Distracted by wars at home, however, French rulers at first paid little attention to Canada-New France, as they called it. Not until 1608 did Samuel de Champlain build the first permanent French settlement in Quebec. Jesuits and other missionaries, hoping to spread Christianity to Native Americans, soon followed. They advanced into the wilderness, trying to convert Native Americans they met.


   Building a New France

  • Helped by Native American allies, French explorers and fur traders traveled inland, claiming vast territory. Soon, France's American empire reached from Quebec to the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi to Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The population of New France grew slowly. Wealthy landlords owned huge tracts, or areas of land, along the St. Lawrence River. They sought settlers to farm the land, but the harsh Canadian climate attracted few French peasants.
  • Many who went to New France soon abandoned farming in favor of fur trapping and trading. They faced a hard life in the wilderness, but the soaring European demand for fur ensured good prices. Fishing, too, supported settlers who lived in coastal villages and exported cod and other fish to Europe.


Building a New France

  • In the late 1600s, the French king Louis XIV set out to strengthen royal power and boost revenues, or income from taxes, from his overseas empire. He appointed officials to oversee justice and economic activities in New France. He also sent more settlers and soldiers to North America. The Catholic Louis, however, prohibited Protestants from settling in New France.
  • By the early 1700s, French forts, missions, and trading posts stretched from Quebec to Louisiana. Yet the population of New France remained small compared to that of the 13 English colonies expanding along the Atlantic coast.


 13 English Colonies

  • The English built their first permanent colony at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Its early years were filled with disaster. Many settlers died of starvation and disease. The rest survived with the help of friendly Native Americans. The colony finally made headway when the settlers started to grow and export tobacco, a crop they learned about from the Indians. 
  • In 1620, other English settlers, the Pilgrims, landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were seeking religious freedom, rather than commercial profit. Before coming ashore, they signed the Mayflower Compact, in which they set out guidelines for governing their North American colony. A compact is an agreement among people. Today, we see this document as an important early step toward self-government.


   13 English Colonies

  • Many Pilgrims died in the early years of the Plymouth colony. Local Indians, however, taught them to grow corn and helped them survive in the new land. Soon, a new wave of Puritan immigrants arrived to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 
  • In the 1600s and 1700s, the English established 13 colonies. Some, like Virginia and New York, were commercial ventures, organized for profit. Others, like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, were set up as havens for persecuted religious groups.


  13 English Colonies

  • Geographic conditions helped shape different ways of life in the New England, middle, and southern colonies. In New England, many settlers were farmers who transferred to North America the village life they had enjoyed in England. In parts of the South, there emerged a plantation economy based on tobacco, rice, and other crops. 
  • Like New Spain, the English colonies needed workers to clear land and raise crops. A growing number of Africans were brought to the colonies and sold as slaves. In several mainland colonies, enslaved Africans and their descendants outnumbered people of European descent.


 13 English Colonies

  • Like the rulers of Spain and France, English monarchs asserted control over their American colonies. They appointed royal governors to oversee colonial affairs and had Parliament pass laws to regulate colonial trade. Yet, compared with settlers in the Spanish and French colonies, English colonists enjoyed a large degree of self-government. Each colony had its own representative assembly elected by propertied men. The assemblies advised the royal governor and made decisions on local issues. 
  • The tradition of consulting representative assemblies grew out of the English experience. Beginning in the 1200s, Parliament had played an increasingly important role in English affairs. Slowly, too, English citizens had gained certain legal and political rights. England's American colonists expected to enjoy the same rights. When colonists later protested British policies in North America, they viewed themselves as "freeborn Englishmen" who were defending their traditional rights.


 Competing for Power

  • By the 1600s, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands were competing for colonies and trade around the world. All four of these nations had colonies in North America, where they often fought over territory. After several naval wars with the Netherlands, the English seized the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1664 and renamed it New York. English settlers in Georgia clashed with the Spanish in nearby Florida. 
  • Competition was also fierce in the Caribbean region. Dutch planters developed sugar production in the Caribbean into a big business. The French acquired Haiti, the richest of the sugar colonies, as well as Guadeloupe and Martinique. The English took Barbados and Jamaica. By the 1700s, the French and English Caribbean islands, worked by enslaved Africans, had surpassed the whole of North America in exports to Europe.


Competing for Power

  • During the 1700s, Britain and France emerged as bitter rivals for power around the globe. They clashed in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. In North America, the French and Indian War raged from 1754 to 1763. A worldwide struggle, known as the Seven Years' War, erupted in Europe in 1756 and spread to India and Africa. 
  • Although France held more territory in North America, the British colonies had more people. Trappers, traders, and farmers from the English colonies were pushing west into the Ohio Valley, a region claimed by France. The French, who had forged alliances with local Indians, fought to oust the intruders.


 Competing for Power

  • During the war, British soldiers and colonial troops launched a series of campaigns against the French in Canada and on the Ohio frontier. At first, France won several victories. Then, in 1759, the tide turned in Britain's favor. From ships anchored in the St. Lawrence River, British troops launched an attack on Quebec, the capital of New France. The British scaled steep cliffs along the river and captured the city. Though the war dragged on until 1763, the British had won control of Canada. 
  • The 1763 Treaty of Paris officially ended the worldwide war. The treaty ensured British dominance in North America. France ceded Canada and its lands east of the Mississippi River to Britain. As you have read, the British also forced the French out of India. France, however, regained the rich sugar-producing islands in the Caribbean and the slave-trading outposts in Africa that the British had seized during the war.


 Impact on Native Americans

 

  • Frequently, however, clashes erupted. As settlers claimed more land, Native Americans resisted their advance. Bitter fighting resulted. In the end, superior weapons helped the English to victory. Year by year, the flood of new settlers pushed the frontier-and the Indians-slowly westward. 
  • As elsewhere, the Native American population of North America plummeted. Disease weakened or killed large numbers. For example, in 1608, an estimated 30,000 Algonquins lived in Virginia. By 1670, there were only about 2,000 Algonquins remaining.


    Impact on Native Americans

  • While encounters with Europeans often brought disaster to Native American societies, the Indian way of life helped shape the emerging new culture of North America. Settlers adopted Native American technologies. From Indians, they learned to grow corn, beans, squash, and tomatoes and to hunt and trap forest animals. Today's Thanksgiving menu of turkey and pumpkin pie reflects Indian foods. 
  • Trails blazed by Indians became highways for settlers moving west. Across the continent, rivers like the Mississippi, lakes like Okeechobee, and mountains like the Appalachians bear Indian names. Some Europeans came to respect Native American medical knowledge. Today, many people are taking a new look at Indian religious traditions that stress respect for the natural environment.