This Week in History


The Capitulation of New France

For the week of Monday September 4, 2000

On September 8, 1760, French rule came to an end in North America when, in Montréal, New France capitulated to the British army.

The French surrender at Louisbourg,<br>July, 1758

The French surrender at Louisbourg,
July, 1758

© Library and Archives Canada / C-8991/ Pyle

Established in the 16th century, France's colony in Canada (New France) enveloped the entire St. Lawrence Valley from the maritime provinces to the Great Lakes Basin, and down to Louisiana. Its nearest European neighbors were the British in the American colonies. When war was declared in 1756 between France and Great Britain (the Seven Years' War), the conflicts were carried over into America. By invading New France, British patriots in the American colonies planned to increase their territorial holdings and help Great Britain eliminate its French rivals.

Initially, efforts to take New France resulted in failure due to poor military leadership. But by 1758, the tide shifted as the British adopted a multi-pronged attack. The British Royal Navy blockaded the coast of France, effectively cutting off supplies to New France. In July 1758, the British fleet, under the command of General James Wolfe, bombarded Louisbourg and forced the fort to surrender. As Louisbourg was positioned at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, this laid open the way to Québec, the capital city of New France.

General Wolfe delayed his advance until the following spring. In June 1759, he led his men and some Aboriginal allies in an attack against Québec. It took them several months to overcome the Marquis de Montcalm's army, which included French troops, Canadians and Aboriginals, but in the days following Montcalm's defeat in the battle on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759, Québec surrendered to the British. Though its capital was taken, New France survived. The French army abandoned Québec and regrouped around Montréal.

Entry of the British troops into Montréal, 1760

Entry of the British troops into Montréal, 1760
© LAC / C-11043 / A.S. Scott

With the approach of winter, both armies awaited the thaw to renew the war. In the spring of 1760, a large British fleet set sail for Montréal and surrounded the island. After several months of attack, Governor Vaudreuil signed the Articles of Capitulation. French authority ceased to exist in North America; the territory was now under British military rule.

France and Great Britain eventually signed a peace treaty in 1763. Though the Treaty of Paris officially relinquished New France to Great Britain, the colony had ceased to exist three years earlier. In 1952, the Capitulation of New France in Montréal was designated an event of national historic significance.

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