In the early 18th century, the French-American Empire stretched from Acadia to Louisiana, covering a large part of the continent. It was based on a political alliance with the Amerindians, the cornerstone of which was the Great Peace of Montréal. This treaty was signed in 1701 by France, thirty-odd Amerindian nations under French influence and the Iroquois League of the Five Nations.
Four major wars opposing France and England broke out in Europe between 1689 and 1763. Their impact was felt in North America, and Montrealers took part in the military effort. Several noblemen became officers in the French army, while merchants, crafsmen and peasants enrolled in the Canadian militia.
No one more brilliantly illustrated Montréal’s participation in France’s military action and expansionist strategy than Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, the son of merchant Charles Le Moyne. Between 1686 and 1697, he joined numerous campaigns against English settlements in Hudson’s Bay, colonial New York, Acadia and Newfoundland. In 1699, he founded Louisiana and built its first French fort.
The presence of officers and soldiers from the Troupes de la Marine, French troops serving full-time in the colony, had been a fact of life in Montréal since 1683. They were supplied by France at first, but Canadian merchants and farmers gradually took over military provisioning, thus stimulating the local economy.
In the long run, however, the balance of power was detrimental to Canada. The Seven Year War (1756-1763) allowed Anglo-American troops to deal New France a fatal blow. In 1759, Québec City fell to the invaders, and three British armies marched on Montréal in the summer of 1760. Governor Vaudreuil, who had retreated to the city, realized that resistance would be futile, and surrendered on September 8th. And so ended the French-American Empire.
Pierre Lemoyne d'Iberville
View of Montréal