This Day In History: The British Defeat The French In Canada (1759)

On this day in history, in 1759,  the British achieve a great victory in Canada. As a result of this victory, the British are able to conquer Canada and eventually added it to their Empire.  The Seven Years War was a global war between the French and the British for territory and control of trade routes. The French with their Indian allies had been involved in a brutal war with the British and American colonists, since 1756. The British under General James Wolfe, invaded Canada and in a brilliant maneuver, they scaled the cliffs over the city of Quebec. The French marched out of Quebec, the capital of Canada or New France and advanced to meet Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham.  This battle was to seal the fate of Canada. Wolfe’s army was well supplied and well equipped. The French had been practically cut off from France for some time, because of the British navy’s almost complete control of the sea.  Wolfe achieved a dramatic victory, defeating the Marquis de Montcalm’s French army on this day in history. Wolfe himself was fatally wounded during the battle, but he died knowing that he had won a great victory and that he had won Canada for Great Britain. The commander of the French forces Montcalm, regarded as a gallant and chivalrous opponent by the British also died from a wound after the battle.

In the early 1740s and 1750s, the French were expanding into the Ohio River valley and this brought them into conflict with the colonists. The Ohio Valley was regarded as British territory but the French disputed this or did not care. The French were more interested in furs, than farming and had no real interest in taking the Indians lands. This allowed them to establish a network of alliances with the Native American tribes.  During the early years of the Seven Years War, or as they were known in America, ‘the French and Indian Wars’, the French went on the offensive. They inflicted several heavy defeats on the British and the colonists.

Battle of the plains of Abraham

By 1757 the British Prime Minister recognized that more had to be done to protect the American colonies and he also saw an opportunity to expand British territory in North America. He financed a large army under Wolfe with the aim of driving the French from Canada. After the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the French and Francophone settlers only offered sporadic resistance. By 1760 the British had expelled the French from Canada, although the French settlers remained in Quebec.

The war between France and Britain ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris. Under the terms of the Treaty Paris  lost all claims to Canada and was obliged to transfer  Louisiana to Spain.  In effect, the French Empire in North America was finished, even though it later briefly regained Louisiana.  The French in a sense avenged their defeat at the hands of the British some fifteen years later when they helped the patriots to defeat the British at Yorktown.