Nobility Lost

Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France

Christian Ayne Crouch
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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    Nobility Lost
    Book Description:

    Nobility Lost is a cultural history of the Seven Years' War in French-claimed North America, focused on the meanings of wartime violence and the profound impact of the encounter between Canadian, Indian, and French cultures of war and diplomacy. This narrative highlights the relationship between events in France and events in America and frames them dialogically, as the actors themselves experienced them at the time. Christian Ayne Crouch examines how codes of martial valor were enacted and challenged by metropolitan and colonial leaders to consider how those acts affected French-Indian relations, the culture of French military elites, ideas of male valor, and the trajectory of French colonial enterprises afterwards, in the second half of the eighteenth century. At Versailles, the conflict pertaining to the means used to prosecute war in New France would result in political and cultural crises over what constituted legitimate violence in defense of the empire. These arguments helped frame the basis for the formal French cession of its North American claims to the British in the Treaty of Paris of 1763.

    While the French regular army, the troupes de terre (a late-arriving contingent to the conflict), framed warfare within highly ritualized contexts and performances of royal and personal honor that had evolved in Europe, the troupes de la marine (colonial forces with economic stakes in New France) fought to maintain colonial land and trade. A demographic disadvantage forced marines and Canadian colonial officials to accommodate Indian practices of gift giving and feasting in preparation for battle, adopt irregular methods of violence, and often work in cooperation with allied indigenous peoples, such as Abenakis, Hurons, and Nipissings.

    Drawing on Native and European perspectives, Crouch shows the period of the Seven Years' War to be one of decisive transformation for all American communities. Ultimately the augmented strife between metropolitan and colonial elites over the aims and means of warfare, Crouch argues, raised questions about the meaning and cost of empire not just in North America but in the French Atlantic and, later, resonated in France's approach to empire-building around the globe. The French government examined the cause of the colonial debacle in New France at a corruption trial in Paris (known as l'affaire du Canada), and assigned blame. Only colonial officers were tried, and even those who were acquitted found themselves shut out of participation in new imperial projects in the Caribbean and in the Pacific. By tracing the subsequent global circumnavigation of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a decorated veteran of the French regulars, 1766-1769, Crouch shows how the lessons of New France were assimilated and new colonial enterprises were constructed based on a heightened jealousy of French honor and a corresponding fear of its loss in engagement with Native enemies and allies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7039-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. [Maps]
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Glory beyond the Water
    (pp. 1-15)

    Clad in local and imported finery, a diverse crowd assembled at Montreal in 1756 to see, welcome, and interact with the newly arrived French army commanders in North America. After two years of unofficial war in the Ohio River Valley fought by New France (Canada), the river region’s Native inhabitants, and Britain’s colonies, troops from the metropole—mainland France—had finally arrived to assist in the conflict. The French regulars’ canvas tents and white flags emblazoned with the royal gold fleur de lys began dotting some of the fields on the outskirts of Montreal; other pastoral spaces on the southern...

  6. Chapter 1 Onontio’s War, Louis XV’s Peace
    (pp. 16-37)

    Joseph Marin de La Malgue’s service report filed with the Naval Ministry recorded him as being in Acadia (Nova Scotia) in 1748. It was there, ranging the territory contested by France and Britain, that the marine captain learned of the ending of the War of Austrian Succession; New France’s governor general, Roland-Michel Barrin, Marquis de La Galissonière, ordered Marin to “cease all acts of hostility and come back,” which he did.¹ The terms of peace returned Cape Breton and its fortress of Louisbourg, captured by New England militia in 1746, to New France, but they also upheld the 1713 cession...

  7. Chapter 2 Interpreting Landscapes of Violence
    (pp. 38-64)

    In the early 1750s the Ohio Country erupted in violence as indigenous peoples, French, and English all attempted to impose their authority there. Though ownership of this region had long been disputed, this renewal of conflict resulted directly from the incomplete conclusion to the War of Austrian Succession in 1748. The European struggle to determine the Habsburg succession had promoted the long territorial dispute between British New England and New France’s claims to the north and west. The peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle did not resolve European sovereignty over the Ohio River lands, nor did it take into consideration indigenous Americans’...

  8. Chapter 3 Culture Wars in the Woods
    (pp. 65-94)

    As icy winds howled across snowbanks, the government of New France planned for the upcoming 1756 campaign season and the new troubles it would have to face. The roiling North Atlantic ruptured communication lines between Canada and Versailles, leaving Governor Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, to imagine what difficulties English designs, a new French commander, and French reinforcement troops might bring in May. Without an official declaration of war, the governor’s planning had to follow the policies of his predecessors, the Marquis de Duquesne, the Marquis de Jonquière, and the Marquis de La Gallisonière. All three men had expanded...

  9. Chapter 4 Assigning a Value to Valor
    (pp. 95-125)

    After nine months of official war, violence visited the very seat of monarchical and imperial power in France on January 5, 1757. A disgruntled former servant and religious fanatic named Robert François Damiens was deeply frustrated with his monarch, “Louis le Bien Aimé,” as Louis XV liked to think of himself. Armed with a modest penknife, Damiens stabbed the king at the Trianon as Louis XV walked through a covered passage toward a waiting carriage. The act shocked France, exposing the strained relationship between monarchical authority, the church, and the regional parliaments. Damiens, who had been a servant at a...

  10. Chapter 5 The Losing Face of France
    (pp. 126-152)

    Buffeted by strong winds portending winter and barred from serving in North America by the terms of New France’s capitulation, the troops of France’s armies embarked for home in autumn 1760, leaving behind a Canada ravaged by the last six years of war. The desperate spring campaign of 1760 had not saved the colony—by September, three British armies had encircled Montreal, the last free city of New France, and offered the choice of capitulation or annihilation. Canada’s leaders chose the former and acquiesced to Gen. Jeffery Amherst’s terms because he promised a generous treatment of thehabitants, including the...

  11. Chapter 6 Paradise
    (pp. 153-177)

    After basking in warm, salty air scented with tiare and coconut and admiring the vibrant fuchsia–colored flowers that would eventually bear his name, Louis–Antoine de Bougainville authored a fantasy account of Tahiti that endures even today. His narrative of his travels to the Pacific, including this “New Cythera,” appeared in 1771 as theVoyage autour du monde fait par la frégate Boudeuse et la flûte Étoile,1766–1769. Distanced by thousands of miles from the French Atlantic world, Tahiti soothed Bougainville after the trauma of his experiences in the Seven Years’ War and inspired in him an exciting...

  12. Epilogue: Mon Frère Sauvage
    (pp. 178-190)

    The journey from Kahnawake, Kanesatake, or Akwesasne to Philadelphia entailed dangerous risks for an Iroquois in the early autumn of 1778, the third year of the North American colonies’ rebellion against Britain. The hostility of the white Anglo-American colonists toward the indigenous peoples, focused on Mohawks, led by the pro-British chief, Joseph Brant, had increased since the failed invasion of New York colony by Gen. John Burgoyne in 1777. The sensational murder at that time of Jane McRae (fiancée of one of Burgoyne’s own officers) by a Native American and tales of “depredations” by British and British-allied Native troops in...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 191-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-250)