An Economic History of Canada

By Mary Quayle Innis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE FRENCH STRUGGLE FOR THE ST. LAWRENCE, 1600-1663

For every year the Iroquois now prepare new ambushes for them and if they take them alive, they wreak on them all the cruelty of their tortures, and this evil is almost without remedy, for . . . the Iroquois now use firearms which they buy from the Flemings.

Settlement, as well as the fur trade, had its origin in Canada when the French were driven to the mainland and then to the St. Lawrence. Fishermen from the Channel ports continued to supply an eager home market with green fish from the Banks. Biscayan and Basque fishermen carried on dry fishing, chiefly at Gaspé and Cape Breton, competing with the English in the Spanish and Mediterranean trade. The penetration of the English to the mainland at once brought them into conflict with the French. The English captured Acadia and Sir William Alexander tried to set up a colony, but with small success, and Acadia and Canada were returned to France. Acadia was too near New England to be safe from attack and too much exposed to be safe for monopoly. The French accordingly pushed into the narrow St. Lawrence Valley, where monopoly could be controlled and enemies more easily repelled. But in the St. Lawrence they came into contact not only with agents of an abundant fur trade, but with a new enemy.

In Cartier's time the Indians of the eastern part of Canada had fallen into two groups. The St. Lawrence Valley was occupied by the Huron-Iroquois tribes, who were agriculturists, raising maize, squashes, and beans, and living a comparatively settled life. In the rock-bound forest region north of the St. Lawrence River, hunting Indians lived by catching beaver, moose and other game. After Cartier in 1541 visited the "Countreys of Canada and Hochelaga," obscurity falls over Canadian history for more than sixty years. When in 1602 Champlain visited the same region, the towns of Stadacona and Hochelaga had disappeared. He met Algonquins at Tadoussac on their way back from a fight

____________________
E.H.--2

-7-

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