The Influence of the Iroquois on the development of New France 1603-1663
Bridge, B. M.
It was ever the policy of France in America to take an active part in the politics of the forest and from the outset the fortunes of the French colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence were closely bound up with those of the neighboring Indian tribes. The long strife with the Iroquois lies in the background of the whole history of Franceâ€™s effort in Canada. The history of the first sixty years is little more than the tale of the struggle of trader, priest and colonist and their savage allies against the Five Nations of the Iroquois. In the following pages an attempt will be made to determine the influence of these Iroquois wars upon the development of New France during this early period (1603-1663). For this purpose the field has been divided chronologically into three periods. The first, 1603-1629, which we have entitled â€œThe Beginnings of New Franceâ€ , takes the story up to the capture of New France by the English. Itâ€™s closing date, 1969, coincides roughly with the expulsion of the Mahican from Hudson region, a development which enabled the Mohawk to turn their attention northward to the St. Lawrence valley which for twenty years they had left in comparative peace. During this period, then, the influence of the Iroquois on the development of New France appears to be negligible. The second period (1632-1645) is the story of New France under the direct rule of the Company of New France. It is a period marked throughout by Mohawk activity on the St. Lawrence which by the close of 1645 had begun to make its influence felt on the trade of New France. The significant fact of these years is the arming of the Mohawk with guns obtained in trade from the Dutch on the Hudson, weapons which were to prove one of the decisive factors in the developments of 1648-50. These years are marked by a gradual decline of the Indian allies of the French in numbers and strength as a result of disease and war. The French settlement grows very slowly but is too weak to be more than a spectator in the ruinous conflict between the Hurons and Algonkin and their Iroquois foes. The period 1646-1663 reveals the Iroquois at the height of their power. They scatter the savage allies of the French and harass the French settlements. The trade of New France is disrupted and disorganized, the best hopes of the missions swept away. Yet in spite of almost incessant war the colony grows in population if not in strength. The year 1663 marks the end of the era of the trading company in New France and for this change of policy on the part of the French government the Iroquois wars seem to have been in the main responsible. In Chapters II to IV these developments are traced in some detail. In chapter V are summed up the conclusions reached. Chapter I has been devoted to a brief description of the outstanding geographic features and of the opposing Indian factions, without which a complete understanding of the events of these years cannot be acquired.