Author Topic: New France or the French in America.  (Read 3381 times)

Offline Maverick

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New France or the French in America.
« on: June 03, 2012, 11:36:37 PM »
Reading a little on the Revolutionary War, one wonders what changes would have occured in North America had Napoleon not ceded New France to the US in 1803?  Obviously another question would be would there have been a United States without the significant French involvement in the first instance, but that seemed too obvious.

(On that, I always wonder about some Americans and their rather derogatory attitude towards France in general.  I suspect it has something to do with WW2, but given the nation was a fairly important benefactor towards nationhood, it surprises me that some have that attitude).

Anyhoo, New France.  What would have the impact have been during the Civil War? (or would there have been a Civil War in the first instance?)  What future changes would have taken place in, say, the 20th Century?



Offline Litvyak

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Re: New France or the French in America.
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2012, 12:28:37 AM »
Well, to be nitpicky, New France proper wasn't ceded to the US - it was taken by the British after the battle of the Plains of Abraham... and is now part of Quebec.

But if Napoleon never sold the Louisiana territory to the US? Then eventually there would have been a Franco-American war: "Manifest Destiny" and all that would've brought the US to invading the French territory.

Assuming the War of 1812 went as it did, and the American invasion of Louisiana happened after that - say, the 1820s or 1830s - then I could see the French getting British assistance against  the Americans, as with a second war being started on the continent by the Americans, the British/Canadians would start viewing the US as an even greater threat than before, and either removing the threat by conquering the US or bottling it up such that they have no room to expand westwards.

Scenario: The US invades Louisiana, France resists. Britain evaluates the situation, and determines that it is not in the Empire's interests to allow the US to acquire that territory. So, the RN heads out to blockade American ports, while crossing the river to capture Detroit, and probably making other invasions, into Maine and/or upstate New York. The US at this point is forced to rely entirely on itself - France was probably its most important supporter, but by invading French territory they shot themselves in the foot, while Prussia would be simply unable to get any supplies to the US - either their fleets get bottled in at the Skaggerak or the Channel, or they can't get past the RN blockading the American ports.

Britain and France, however, are in a very good position here. Even if the Americans are able to hold out for a time, their resources will start to dwindle, whereas the British and French have their supply routes pretty well completely open and thus can simply wait the Americans out.

Sooner or later, it gets to the US having one of two options: fight it out until their territories end up split between Britain and France and be removed from the map completely (Option A), or sue for peace, make some territorial concessions (south shores of the Great Lakes going to Canada, for example), but remain independent (Option B). Any fantasies about manifest destiny would, of course, have to be given up.

Option A: the US fights to the bitter end, eventually its entire territory is occupied by Britain and France. All the important political figures are removed... in the British-held territories, the exiled Loyalists return, being given back whatever they lost and perhaps more. There may well be some form of guerrilla resistance happen for a while, but eventually, that will subside. The race for the west is now a three (maybe four)-way thing between Britain, France, Spain and maybe Russia. Of course, no Civil War as such, and the 20th century would be vastly different...

Option B: the US sues for peace, making some territorial concessions (upstate New York along the St Lawrence River to Canada, along with Michigan and maybe some other bits, Mississippi to France, maybe... not that important right now, though). But the important thing is, the US continues to exist, if in a smaller form, and without the room to grow into a major power. If a Civil War were to happen, it may be more likely that the two Great Powers get involved. I could see a number of interesting scenarios there - Britain and France both support one side or the other, or each supports one and it turns into a Britain vs France war fought on US territory, or both sit aside and wait to see what happens, perhaps to pounce on the ruins afterwards. Given this, though, I think the Americans would think much harder about starting such an internal conflict, as the worry about /two/ great powers right on their borders would give pause. So, assuming no civil war happens, the 20th century is still vastly different. The US is certainly a significant regional power, as is the Republic of Louisianne, Mexico is likely much larger, Texas is an independent state, and Canada is much as it is now, perhaps with the addition of Alaska. I'd say in modern times the US would have the significance about equivalent to that of RW India in modern times - a very important player in American affairs, not one to ignore on the world stage either, but not one of the Key Players.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: New France or the French in America.
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2012, 06:02:41 AM »
John: On American attitudes towards the French, remember that pre-Revolutionary War American soldiers had been fighting the French and their Indian allies for decades. That may explain an apparent lack of gratitude to Franch for later assistance (although individual participants like Lafayette were very highly regarded).

Scenario: Let's assume that the US claim to former New France territories applies only to Louisiana, not to Canada (Quebec). Britain concludes that neutrality is its best policy in the event of a US invasion of Louisiana. A French-only blockade of US ports might be overcome (especially if Britain chose to see such action as denying British industry the profits of war).

Were the Americans successful in taking the Louisiana territory, the United States might extends its claims to the remaining French territories in the Western Hemisphere (not much of a stretch with Manifest Destiny). If successful, the US would also gobble up the French West Indies and French Guyana (giving the Americans a toe-hold in South America).

Jumping forward to the American Civil War, would the Confederate States have natural allies in the slave-economies of the Caribbean islands and Guyana? Or would the slave rebellion that turned Saint-Domingue into Haiti in 1804 have spread to other ex-French colonies when Lincoln promised freedom for slaves? You could probably make a plausible case for either outcome (I lean toward the CSA finding itself surrounded).

In the 20th Century, there may not have been major changes. The British and French were habitual enemies before 1914 yet went to war as allies. The US probably would've entered the Great War for the same reasons it did in the RW timeline.
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Offline Alvis 3.1

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Re: New France or the French in America.
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2012, 11:35:53 PM »
I don't see Canada picking up Alaska, as the tendancy then was to never spend money on anything risky, and Alaska was pretty risky financially. I'd be more inclined to see the Russians hanging onto it, and a three way squabble erupting in the Pacific Northwest between Britain/Canada, Russia and Spain.

Without a dominant USA as a powerful threat, the squabblings that led to Canadian Confederation may never have happened, and the result would have been a very different outcome for the British colonies in North America. Quebec would still have bridled under British rule, the Maritime provinces would likely have remained independant colonies of Britain, and Upper Canada would have stayed firmly a British colony. Westward expansion would have been problematic, without the USA gobbling up territory, they area could just have easily remained property of the Hudson's Bay Company. France wasn't exactly a rapidly moving, dynamic colonial power, so I could see their territory remaining very static. Spain and Russia weren't very expansionist either, and what you might have had instead were competing corporate interests (fur trade, gold claims, etc) driving the move west, but at a much slower pace, and without much governmental influence. Perhaps even the formation of serious paramilitary/private armies fighting for territories.

Without a continent spanning USA, railroads would not have spread as fast. Without the rapidity of them, societies would have been more independant, and cultural differences between areas would have been vast. By the early 21st century, you'd likely have an environment similar to Europe, and not the monoculture we see now in North America.

The natives. This is where it gets interesting. Both the British and the French used tribal differences to employ the natives onto their side in conflicts, and this would have remained the same in the event of a French Louisiana. A slower westward expansion would have allowed the natives to become stronger over time, and perhaps even be able to stand up to their European masters. It's not impossible that the British may have promised the Louisiana territory to the natives as payment for support in a war against France, should it have come to that, as they did the same during the War of 1812. That time it was meant as a hedge against westward American expansion. Then again, they reneged on that one.

With a French run Louisiana existing, how would Quebec deal with that? It would likely be a thorn in the side of the British, reminding the Quebecois that they had another option. Rebellion might be an ongoing issue there, and I'm sure France would not hesitate to help anyone who could annoy the British!

A restricted USA would be an interesting scenario..would it revert to a Jeffersonian agrarian society, or would it become a bitter, angry society bent on revenge? I guess the economics of the outcome would dictate that.

Something that I do wonder however: How strong were the French in Louisiana to begin with? I cannot see that they were much of a force, with the way things had been running in Imperian France, and after the Revolution, I doubt things improved as far as trained soldiers and arms going over to the New World. They had enough trouble in Europe keeping their neighbors out. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that Britain didn't seize Louisiana during all the chaos back in France. In any case, how hard would it have been for the Americans to walk into Louisiana instead of buying it?

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