History of French Immigration to America: The Major Waves of French Immigration
The history of French Immigration to America started when the first French settlers
*** French Protestant Huguenots attempted to colonize Florida in the 1500's to escape religious persecution in France.
*** The first significant wave of French Immigration to America was in the 1660's when New France was placed under military control
*** The next major wave of French immigration was in the mid 1800's due to the Potato Blight and political persecution following the February Revolution
History of French Immigration to America: Religion
In the 1500's significant attempts were made to reform the practices of Roman Catholic Church - it was called the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 and divided the whole of Western Europe on the subject of religion. The French Protestants were inspired by the writings of French theologian John Calvin (1509 – 1564). The state religion of France remained Roman Catholic which led to various, bloody conflicts between the Catholics and French Protestants (Huguenots). The religious persecution of French Protestants led to a mass exodus of over 500,000 Huguenots - many fled France and some immigrated to the New World. The history of mass French Immigration to America was driven by French Catholics who claimed various areas on the North American continent and established various colonies that were collectively known as New France (Gallia Nova).
History of French Immigration to America in the 1500's: Giovanni da Verrazano
Giovanni da Verrazano (1485 – 1528), in the service of France, explored the coasts of North America in 1524 from the Carolinas north to Nova Scotia. The name Gallia Nova (New France) was first recorded in 1529 on a map prepared by the brother of Giovanni da Verrazano. The reports and maps supplied by Giovanni da Verrazano provided France with the opportunity to claim some of the lands and the wealth that America had to offer, sparking further explorations that led to the colonization of New France and French Immigration to America.
History of French Immigration to America: New France (Gallia Nova)
The history of the early French Immigration to America was dictated by the colonies of New France (Gallia Nova) between the time periods of 1534 to 1763. Early French Immigration to America was initiated by the discoveries of the French explorers starting with Jacques Cartier in 1534. The massive area claimed by New France would eventually cover over 3 million square miles but ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 when all New France east of the Mississippi, except the area surrounding New Orleans, was ceded to Great Britain.
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France
The history of the early French Immigration to America started with the race of the super powers in Europe to grab lands in America. France failed in their first attempts - the British, Spanish and Dutch beat them to it. The British and the Dutch controlled the northern Atlantic coast and Spain controlled the south Atlantic coast, Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean. The British, Spanish and Dutch had a firm foothold on their colonies in these areas and wiped out the early French settlements that were established during the 1500's.
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France
The history of the early French Immigration to America saw later success as France concentrated its efforts in the Northern lands of the New World and established its dominance via the areas surrounding the St. Lawrence river, eventually claiming the entire Mississippi River Valley. The five colonies of New France consisted of Canada (1534), Arcadia (1604), Plaisance (1662), Hudson Bay (1663) and the French colony of Louisiana (1682).
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France - Canada Colony
1534: Canada was the name of the French colony that was established in 1534 and stretched along the St. Lawrence River. Canada was ceded to Britain 10 February 1763.
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France - Arcadia
1604: Acadia was a colony in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec and modern-day Maine to the Kennebec River. The British conquest of Acadia was in 1710.
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France - Plaisance
1662: France established a colony at Plaisance (now Placentia) in Newfoundland in 1662 - France controlled more than half of the island of Newfoundland. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht forced the French to abandon their Placentia Bay settlements and Placentia became a British possession.
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France - Hudson Bay Colony
1663: The French Hudson Bay colony was established that included parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Nunavut, as well as areas in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. France abandoned its claims under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713
History of French Immigration to America: The Colonies of New France - Colony of Louisiana
1682: The French colony of Louisiana included the basin of the Mississippi River and stretched 3000 miles from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rocky Mountains. Under French control from 1682–1762 when the West was ceded to Spain in 1762 under the Treaty of Fontainebleau and the East was ceded to Britain in 1763 under Treaty of Paris. The west was returned from Spain on 15 October 1802. The Louisiana Purchase was negotiated on 30 April 1803 and the lands were transferred to the United States on 10 March 1804.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1500's: Jacques Cartier
The French colony of 'Canada' was established along the St. Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534. Jacques Cartier (1491 – 1557) led three expeditions to Canada and established a settlement, Charlesbourg Royal but the attempt at colonization at Charlesbourg fails due to the disagreements between the settlers. The Charlesbourg settlement was finally abandoned the following year although France continued with fur trading expeditions. Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit later founded first fur trading post in North America, at Tadoussac in 1600.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1500's: Jean Ribault and the Florida Massacre
A small surge of French Immigration to America began as French Protestants, led by the nobleman Gaspard de Coligny (1519 – 1572), secretly worked to protect fellow Huguenots by attempting to establish colonies in the New World in which Huguenots could find a refuge. Jean Ribault (1520 – 1565) was chosen to lead an expedition to Florida to establish a colony. Jean Ribault left Le Havre in France on February 18, 1562 commanding two ships carrying 150 Huguenot soldiers bound for America. The Jean Ribault expedition entered the St. Johns River near modern Jacksonville, Florida and erected a stone column claiming the territory for France, built a fort, established a small settlement and were soon joined by other French colonists. The Spanish colonists believed that they had an exclusive claim to Florida and conflict erupts between the French and the Spanish. Jean Ribault and about 350 of his men are taken prisoner. Under the explicit orders of King Philip II of Spain, Jean Ribault and the other prisoners were asked if they were professing Catholics. Those who were Huguenots were killed - the event occurred on September 29, 1565 and is referred to as the Florida Massacre. Following the Florida Massacre, and the aggressive stance by Spain, France concentrated in building new colonies in the Northern lands of the New World they called New France.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: Samuel Champlain
Samuel Champlain was initially in the service of Spain and during this period visited the Spanish colonies and plotted numerous maps and charts to take back to France. The king of France commissioned Champlain to establish a permanent colony for France. He explores and charts the territories from the mouth of the St Lawrence River to Montreal. He was the first European to explore the Great Lakes. Champlain made the decision to establish the French Catholic settlement called Port Royal at the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic coast of North America between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Port Royal was later destroyed by English Protestants from the colony at Jamestown, Virginia. In 1608 Samuel Champlain founded Quebec that controlled the narrowing of the St. Lawrence River estuary. Samuel Champlain was immortalized as the "Father of New France" and the Father of French Immigration to America.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: French Catholic Missionaries
The French Immigration to America provided an opportunity for the Catholic church to convert the indigenous population to Christianity. In 1625 Jesuit and Recollet (Franciscan) missionaries began to accompany the early explorers and colonists to the territories claimed by France. Catholic missions were established from the shores of the St-Lawrence River to those of the Great Lakes. The missionaries were motivated by religious fervor but the ordinary Frenchmen showed no such interest in joining the French Immigration to America.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: The Company of New France
Stories of the fierce tribes of Native American Indians and conflicts with the Spanish and English settlers reached France. The potential dangers outweighed the desire to move to America and few French colonists were attracted to the New World. The French government was forced to take action to encourage people to immigrate. In 1627 Company of New France (Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France) was temporarily granted a charter for the colony of New France and the complete monopoly of the fur trade. In return the Company of New France agreed to take 200 to 300 settlers a year to New France. The French Immigration to America started with just a slow trickle of reluctant French colonists.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's
The French exploration of America continued when in 1673 Louis Joliet and the Jesuit priest Father Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas River and the areas of the Great Lakes pathing the way for additional destinations for the French Immigration to America. In 1682 Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle followed the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and in 1699 Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville discovered Biloxi, Mississippi and explored the surrounding Gulf Coast. Louisiana was poised for the French Immigration to America.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: The First Major Wave of French Colonists
In 1663 King Louis XIV decided to cancel the charter of the Company of New France and make New France into a royal colony. A governor and military commander were appointed to govern the territories of New France. Lieutenant General Alexandre de Prouville, the marquis de Tracy, waged a brutal war against the Native Indians and defeated the Iroquois and Mohawk tribes forcing them to make peace. This made it possible to populate and develop New France. More than 3,000 colonists were sent out in the 1660s, the first major wave of French Immigration to America. By 1672, the population of New France had risen to 6,700. The wave of French Immigration to America had temporarily ended, a small number of new colonists arrived supplemented by French Indentured Servants called Engagés and female colonists referred to as the King's Daughters.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: The 'King's Daughters'
French Immigration to America had consisted of mostly male colonists. There was a shortage of Frenchwomen in New France and this problem was addressed between 1663 and 1673 by an immigration system referred to as the 'King's Daughters' in which girls of marriageable age were given free passage to America. The 'King's Daughters' was sponsored by King Louis XIV to boost the population of the Canada colony.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600's: French Indentured Servants - Engagés
After the initial burst of interest in the New France colony in the 1600's French Immigration to America significantly decreased bolstered only by adopting a form of indentured labor. French Indentured servants were called Engagés. Under the Indenture system the Engagés emigrated to America under contract to work between 5 to 7 years in exchange for transportation and the prospects of employment and a new life in America. The next wave of French Immigration to America would be to the Louisiana Colony prompted by the financial Mississippi Scheme which would become known as the 'Mississippi Bubble'.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1600 and 1700's: The French Indian Wars
French Immigration to America in the 1600 and 1700's was hampered by the French Indian Wars (1688-1763) and conflict with the British colonies and Native American Indians. The wars in Europe had spilled into the American colonies resulting in a bitter series of wars between Great Britain and France for the possession of North America.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: Louisiana and the Mississippi Bubble
The massive French colony of Louisiana stretched for 3,000 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River up to Canada and included the areas surrounding the Mississippi River including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In 1717 the Company of the West run by John Law, a friend of the French regent, the Duke d’Orléans, took over the slow-growing Louisiana colony agreeing to bring across more colonists. Jean-Baptiste Bienville followed by forming a successful French colony in New Orleans in 1718 which became strategically important the struggle for the control of North America. John Law attracted French colonists by advertising but made up the numbers with French convicts who were forced to immigrate together with a number of indentured servants known as engagés. John Law increased French Immigration to America to over 7,000 Europeans in under 4 years. Small farms and some tobacco and indigo plantations were established. Law also brought more than 3000 black African slaves to Louisiana. Law had engineered the financial Mississippi scheme to attract investors and colonists that triggered a speculative frenzy. But the quick profits had failed to materialize, life in the New France colony was harsh and dangerous. The Mississippi scheme ended in financial collapse in 1720 - it was referred to as the "Mississippi Bubble". The French colony of Louisiana and French Immigration to America was returned to the control of the crown in 1731.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The French Indian Wars
French Immigration to America in the 1700's plummeted during the French Indian Wars (1688-1763) and during this time French soldiers were the only Frenchmen who came to America. The name of the fourth and final conflict was the French Indian War (1754-1763). The bitter series of wars ended with victory for the British and the peace Treaty of Paris in 1763.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Secret Treaty of Fontainebleau
At the end of the the French Indian War, in September 1762, France lost the the Battle of Signal Hill and control of Canada (New France) to Great Britain. The Spanish and French were allies and rather than allow Louisiana to also go to the British, King Louis XV of France made a secret agreement with King Charles III that France should give Spain "the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans...". The secret agreement between the two countries was made on November 13, 1762 and called the Treaty of Fontainebleau.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Treaty of Paris
France lost the French Indian Wars and its colonies in New France. The British knew nothing about the secret agreement with Spain as the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris were negotiated. France ceded its North American territory to Great Britain that resulted in the British taking Newfoundland, Acadia, and Hudson's Bay Territory from France. Louisiana was divided into two parts - the eastern half was ceded to Britain and the western half and New Orleans was kept by France. Under the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded Florida to the British - the Spanish knew they would gain western Louisiana as it its compensation for Florida. French colonists who did not want to live under British rule were allowed to freely emigrate to other French colonies. Many made their way to Louisiana. The cession of Louisiana to Spain was eventually revealed in April 1764. The French emigrants to Louisiana were furious to discover that they were living under Spanish, rather than French rule. French Immigration to the New France colonies in America was over.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Louisiana Creoles
Louisiana developed a three-tiered society and culture consisting of white Creoles, mixed-race Creoles of European and African descent and African slaves who lived Lower Louisiana. Louisiana Creole people, speaking the French language and adhering to the Roman Catholic religion, descend from the colonial settlers in Louisiana of mainly French, Spanish and African descent.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Louisiana Cajuns
French Immigration to America included a group of people known as the Cajuns of Louisiana. The name Cajun is a corruption of the word Acadian and these French-speaking people who were exiles from the New France colony of Acadia (now the Maritimes). The Expulsion of the Arcadians (1755–1764) occurred during the French and Indian War and was part of the British campaign against New France. The British deported over 11,500 Acadians to the 13 Colonies and some made their way to the French Louisiana colony and established the Cajun culture.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The American War of Independence
The American War of Independence (1775 - 1783) erupted and many colonists who considered themselves French-Americans fought in the American Revolutionary War. France grabbed the opportunity to wreak revenge on the British and supplied the Americans with soldiers, arms and money. Volunteers from France joined the American army such as Pierre Charles L'Enfant and Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. The financial support given by France resulted in the country being plunged into great debt and this together with the American ideals of liberty and republicanism led to the French Revolution.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The French Revolution
The French Revolution (1789 to 1799) increased French Immigration to America during this period. However the revolution resulted in the religious persecution of the Catholics in France, and the even the destruction of the Christian religion itself. It is estimated that over 10,000 religious and political refugees and aristocrats left France for America during the French Revolution.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Louisiana Purchase
Napoleon Bonaparte gained control of France and in forced Spain to return Louisiana to the French. The secret Treaty of San Ildefonso was signed on October 1, 1800 by which Spain returned the territory of Louisiana which France had ceded to Spain in 1763. In less than three years Napoleon agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The Louisiana Purchase was made on April 30, 1803 and under its terms 828,000 square miles of land was sold by France to America for 15 million dollars.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1800's: Famine and the Potato Blight
French Immigration to America started slowly in the 1800's with less than 1000 people moving to the United States each year. A similar immigration pattern continued and in 1845 there were 3,155 French immigrants. Then suddenly there was a great surge in the French Immigration to America. In 1846 the number of French immigrants jumped to 10,583 and in 1847 the figure doubled to a massive 20,040 By 1848 the figure dropped to 7,743. What caused this massive rush of French Immigration to America? The same blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) also affected many other European countries including France. Desperate people fled to America to escape the famine, poverty and disease caused by this disaster.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1800's: The February Revolution
French Immigration to America increased again due to political turmoil in France. The February Revolution or French Revolution of 1848 erupted and Republican riots forced King Louis-Philippe to abdicate and Louis Napoleon Bonaparte became the first president of the French Republic. The political upheaval in France worsened as one year after his coup d'état, president Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte became dictator as Napoleon III of France. Political persecution led to 9,389 immigrants in 1850 and 20,126 French immigrants in 1851.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1800's: Ellis Island
French Immigration to America steadily dropped from the 1850's and the political and economic situation in France stabilized. This was not the situation in many other European countries and the 1880's witnessed a massive increase in immigration to America resulting in immigration laws to restrict the number of immigrants. In 1892 the Ellis Island immigration center (1892 - 1954) was opened. Preference was shown to the "Old Immigrants" and few French immigrants were turned away.
History of French Immigration to America in the 1900's - to Present
French Immigration to America continued to slow during the 1900's. Between 1820 and 1920, 530,000 French people came to the United States. According to the US Bureau of the Census of 2011 a total of 9,136,092 Americans claimed to be solely or partially of French descent, it is no wonder that French-Americans have made a significant impact on the culture of Americans.
French Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Important facts about the history of French Immigration to America and US laws that effected the migrants from France are contained in the following Facts Sheet and history timeline.
French Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Fact 1 - 200: The Roman Catholic religion is established in France
Fact 2 - 1517: The Protestant reformation, initiated by Martin Luther, leads to the establishment of the French Protestants (Huguenots)
Fact 3 - 1524: Giovanni da Verrazano explores the coasts of North America from the Carolinas north to Nova Scotia.
Fact 4 - 1534: The French colony of 'Canada' was established along the St. Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier
Fact 5 - 1536: The writings of French theologian John Calvin inspire the Protestant French Huguenots
Fact 6 - 1562: Jean Ribault enters the St. Johns River in Florida and claims the territory for France
Fact 7 - 1565: The French Huguenot colonists are killed by the Spanish in the Florida Massacre
Fact 8 - 1600: Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit founded first fur trading post in North America, at Tadoussac
Fact 9 - 1604: Acadia was established as a French colony in northeastern North America
Fact 10 - 1608: Explorer Samuel Champlain founded Quebec
Fact 11 - Jesuit and Recollet missionaries started to establish Catholic missions in New France
Fact 12 - 1627: The Company of New France was granted the colony of New France and the complete monopoly of the fur trade. In return the Company of New France agreed to take 200 to 300 settlers a year to New France.
Fact 13 - 1662: The French colony at Plaisance in Newfoundland was established by France
Fact 14 - 1663: The massive French Hudson Bay colony was established by France
Fact 15 - 1663: New France made into a royal colony. Alexandre de Prouville forces peace with the Native Americans and the first major wave of French Immigration to America begins
Fact 16 - 1670: French Indentured Servants, called Engagés, emigrate to America
Fact 17 - 1673: Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette explore the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas River
Fact 18 - 1682: The massive French colony of Louisiana was established by France
Fact 19 - 1682: Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle explores the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico
Fact 20 - 1688: The French and Indian Wars (1688-1763) erupted between Britain and France, lasting for 75 years
Fact 21 - 1699: Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville discovers Biloxi, Mississippi and explores the surrounding Gulf Coast
Fact 22 - 1717: The Company of the West run by John Law brings 7000 Europeans and 3000 slaves to the Louisiana Colony
Fact 23 - 1718: The city of New Orleans was founded
Fact 24 - 1721: The "Mississippi Bubble" burst and control French Immigration to America was returned to the French monarchy
Fact 25 - 1755: The Expulsion of the Arcadians begins and exiles from Arcadia migrate to the French Louisiana colony establishing the Cajun culture.
Fact 26 - 1762: The secret Treaty of Fontainebleau in which France gave Louisiana, as well as New Orleans to Spain
Fact 27 - 1763: The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian Wars when most of New France was ceded to Great Britain
Fact 28 - 1775: French became the allies of America during the War of Independence (1775 - 1783) supplying military support, ammunition and money to the US.
Fact 29 - 1789: The French Revolution (1789 to 1799) increased French Immigration to America with religious and political refugees
Fact 30 - 1800: Spain is forced to return the territory of Louisiana to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso
Fact 31 - 1803: The Louisiana Purchase was agreed and 828,000 square miles of land was sold by France to the US for 15 million dollars.
Fact 32 - 1846: Famine and the Potato Blight led to a massive increase in French Immigration to America from 1846 - 1848
Fact 33 - 1850: Political persecution follows the coup d'état of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte
Fact 34 - 1892: The Ellis Island immigration center was opened where immigrants from Europe, including France, were required to undergo medical and legal examinations
French Immigration to America has declined from this time
French Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline
Push and Pull Factors of French immigration to America for kids
For specific examples and a list of political, economic, environmental and social reasons and push and pull factors of French immigration to America refer to:
Push and Pull Factors of French immigration
French Immigration to America for kids
This article contains a brief overview of French Immigration to America from the first Immigrants from the Colonial era through the 1800's and 1900's. Important historical events have been highlighted which had a significant impact on French Immigration to America. A brief description of the effect of the first immigrants from France. Our article on French Immigration to America also outlines subjects such as the effect of the French Indian Wars and the French Revolution. A helpful educational resource for kids on the subject of French Immigration to America.
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