By the 1530s French explorers had scouted the coast of America from Newfoundland to the Carolinas. Samuel de Champlain built the foundations of what would become French Canada (New France). From 1604 to 1606 he established a settlement at Acadia in Nova Scotia, and in 1608 he traveled up the St. Lawrence River, made contact with the Huron and Algonquin peoples, and established a French settlement at Québec.
From the beginning, New France concentrated on two activities: fur trade and Catholic missions. Missionaries and traders were often at odds, but both knew that the success of New France depended upon friendly relations with the native peoples. While Jesuits converted thousands of Native Americans, French traders roamed the forests. Both were among the first white explorers of the interior of North America, and France’s ties with Native Americans would have important implications for the next 150 years.
By 1700 the French population of New France was 14,000. French Canada was a strategically crucial brake on English settlement. But the much smaller sugar islands in the Caribbean—Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Guadeloupe, and Martinique—were economically far more valuable to France.
Another contender for influence in North America was the Dutch, inhabitants of the leading commercial nation in the early 17th century. Sailing for the Dutch in 1609, Henry Hudson explored the river that now bears his name. The Dutch established a string of agricultural settlements between New Amsterdam (New York City) and Fort Orange (Albany, New York) after 1614.
They became the chief European traders with the Iroquois, supplying them with firearms, blankets, metal tools, and other European trade goods in exchange for furs. The Iroquois used those goods to nearly destroy the Huron and to push the Algonquins into Illinois and Michigan. As a result, the Iroquois gained control of the Native American side of the fur trade.
The Dutch settlements, known as New Netherland, grew slowly at first and became more urban as trade with the indigenous peoples outdistanced agriculture as a source of income. The colony was prosperous and tolerated different religions. As a result, it attracted a steady and diverse stream of European immigrants. In the 1640s the 450 inhabitants of New Amsterdam spoke 18 different languages. The colony had grown to a European population of 6,000 (double that of New France) on the eve of its takeover by England in 1664. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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