Assimilation and Racialism in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century French Colonial Policy

Plowing, when it is honoured, has softened savage peoples.

Although the idea of race is increasingly being historicized, its emergence in the context of French colonization remains shadowy.[2] This is despite the fact that colonization was central to the emergence of race in French culture.[3] The French are either credited with a generous vision and treatment of Amerindians or they are kept in limbo.[4] The publication of Richard White’s Middle Ground in 1991 shook up these conventional ideas by showing that French conciliation toward indigenous peoples had to be explained by particular political and economic factors rather than by national character.[5] Yet the issue of race has remained almost untouched, and French America has still not taken its place in the current debate about race, color, and civility.[6]

The present essay is an empirical contribution to the discussion on the origins of European racialism as applied to colonial situations. It argues that racial prejudice in colonial Canada emerged only after an assimilationist approach had been tried for almost a century and had failed. In the seventeenth century, French policy toward the indigenous peoples of New France relied on the assimilation of the natives to French religion and culture. The aim was to mix colonial and native peoples in order to strengthen the nascent New France. This policy of francisation (sometimes translated as “Frenchification”) was based on a paternalistic vision of cultural difference: the French officials viewed the Amerindians as “savages,” socially, economically, and culturally inferior to the Europeans.[7] As such, they had to be educated and brought to civility. This policy remained the official “native policy” employed throughout the period of the French regime in Canada despite the internal tensions and contradictions displayed by French officials. Historians have traditionally emphasized the implementation of this policy by missionaries and, consequently, have neglected or, at best, diminished the significance of francisation for civil authorities.[8] The conversion of Amerindians to Christianity was undoubtedly an important part of the policy of francisation, but that importance has been overstated: francisation was more a political program than a religious one. An understanding of the central role played by the state in the promotion of the policy of assimilation has profound consequences for our comprehension of the relations between the French and Amerindians.

Moreover, it is necessary to understand the civil basis of the policy of assimilation to discern the consequences of the civil government’s recognition in the eighteenth century that the policy had failed. The awareness of this failure was a crucial step from the perception of native peoples in terms of a cultural prejudice to a perception by the civil government of Amerindians through racial prejudice. The history of the civil authorities’ experiments and failures with assimilation is, therefore, no less than the history of the inclusion of race in the language of French colonial government policy.

Familiarity with mostly well-known and often-quoted sources from the Correspondance Générale, the Série C11A of the Archives des Colonies (the sources of civil government) especially, has prevented scholars from questioning the significance of those sources over the issue of race. Indeed, familiarity seems to have engendered tediousness and reluctance to go beyond what these sources have already told us—or seem to have told us—about related or different issues. Yet these sources still have a lot to say about the significance of francisation and its racial outcomes.

It is mainly through the major issue of métissage (miscegenation)—interethnic cohabitation and intermarriage—that I will examine this question.[9] Although I am well aware that much can be said about hybridity in general (about hybrid places, artifacts, practices, peoples, and languages), this essay will nonetheless focus on mixed neighboring and coupling.[10] Other related and important issues—such as intermarriage and the (re)construction of gender relations; miscegenation in the peripheral French settlements; the colonial experience of native peoples; the involvement of the church in francisation; and the significance of West African slavery in the construction of racial boundaries in French America as well as in France—are addressed even if they are not my focus.[11] Attitudes to miscegenation in the heart of New France inform us of officials’ openness or anxiety toward natives. Indeed, the choice of whether or not to mix with the indigenous peoples was a choice of inclusion or exclusion; and the first consequence of the emergence of racial prejudice in Canada was a dread of mixed descendants.[12]

It is true that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries on the North American continent, miscegenation was encouraged as a means of eliminating Native Americans, and this policy was partly motivated by racial prejudice.[13] This later period of officially sanctioned miscegenation was underpinned by the overwhelming numerical domination of European Americans over indigenous Americans. It was confidently predicted that Amerindian blood would be diluted to the point of disappearance in European blood. The contrast with this later period underlines one of the most striking features of the policy of miscegenation in seventeenth-century New France: the French colonizers were a very small minority of the population of the territory over which they claimed sovereignty, and they were overwhelmingly numerically dominated by Native Americans. In this context, the policy of miscegenation also reflects great confidence—the confidence of cultural paternalism, the belief that Native Americans would assume European ways once exposed to European culture. Importantly, however, the context of this policy seems to indicate the absence of an idea of race: that is, despite their numerical inferiority, the French had no fear that they could be biologically overwhelmed. On the contrary, miscegenation was seen as the means of strengthening the colony demographically, economically, and militarily.

Although historians and postcolonial theorists have often stressed that racial prejudice was the result of colonial exploitation, I shall argue, by contrast, that, in eighteenth-century Canada, the failure of the policy of assimilating the indigenous peoples was a catalyst in the emergence of the idea of race. As such, in this essay, I am largely concerned with people who had no concept of race. Moreover the development of racial assumptions should not be equated to “racism.” Scholars have been sometimes too quick to describe French official statements about intermarriage as “racist” whereas we can find only the emergence of some of the assumptions of the idea of race in eighteenth-century French colonial policy.[14]

Because the idea of race is a sensitive issue hotly debated among scholars, anyone conducting a local study on the foundations of racialization needs to avoid pitfalls relating to the larger origins debate. While it is largely accepted that race is a historical phenomenon constructed by Europeans, differences still exist over what was characteristic of the idea and when it first emerged.[15] The idea of race with which I am concerned is scientific and was articulated in eighteenth-century and particularly nineteenth-century scientific discourse. The scientific disciplines emerging from the Enlightenment searched for an explanation for differences between human societies that lay in nature rather than culture. This was the “discovery” of race.[16] Of central concern to this enterprise was the identification of physical and mental differences between humans of different groups.

A number of studies have recently demonstrated the emergence of race in discourses of physical differences in colonial America, focusing particularly on the experience of the southern colonies.[17] The language of physical difference can be shown to have emerged in the colonization of New France in a fashion comparable to the English colonies.[18] French officials identified a few bodily differences between Europeans and natives: they praised the height of native men, their good posture, their strength, their endurance, and their agility. The French also believed the Amerindians to have an inextinguishable thirst for alcohol, which they struggled to explain.[19] What meanings were ascribed to these physical differences? According to French officials, hardships imposed by nature gave the native body virtues that the comforts of technology had denied the European body. By contrast, indigenous primitive technology did not prepare the native body for European products such as alcohol. Thus physical difference was at first attributed to environmental difference and not intrinsic qualities.

Prior to and necessary to the development of discourses of physical differences was the development of a discourse that explained difference through immutable nature. At the heart of the scientific language of race is the idea that groups of humans possess different natures. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, French colonizers assumed that the differences between them and Amerindian societies were cultural. By the eighteenth century, they concluded that the differences were in “nature.” This assumption of a different nature was a fundamental premise for the scientific idea of race. Natural difference between humans could, of course, be then subject to scientific scrutiny and from that scrutiny would emerge arguments about different physical characteristics and different temperaments.

The colonization of New France, first entrusted to a few great financiers and merchants, often Huguenots or foreigners living in France, developed rapidly into an essentially economic enterprise to the detriment of the population and development of the colony. Policies regarding native peoples were nevertheless officially portrayed in terms of religious aims, which legitimized the French enterprise and demanded its successful prosecution.[20] It was only when a serious effort at settlement was made along the St. Lawrence River after 1632 that the Christianization of the natives became a genuine concern rather than merely royal rhetoric. The installation of French dwellings and the continental extension of the fur trade inspired an attempt to integrate the natives and provide them with a role within the confines of French settlements. The sending of missionaries overseas enabled both this problem to be addressed and the protection of civil society threatened by the surrounding “savagery.” Despite these practical motives, in the period of post-Tridentine spiritual revival, it is probable that the French colonial administration sincerely sought the conversion of the American peoples.

As early as 1603, the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, deemed that the assimilation of Amerindians was a necessary means of increasing the colonial population. Champlain reportedly promised the Ottawas and the Hurons that when the French were established, “our young men will marry your daughters, and we shall be one people.”[21] Indeed, the demographic development of the colony was extremely slow and irregular compared to that of the English colonies. Following the mercantilist argument that a country’s power depended upon the size of its population, the French crown never strongly sustained the peopling of Canada for fear of weakening the kingdom: in 1666, Secretary of State Jean-Baptiste Colbert expressed Louis XIV’s view that “it would not be wise to depopulate his kingdom in order to populate Canada.”[22] The king wanted to maintain his own population, which was already, though wrongly, perceived as weak, to support his claim for a preeminent position in Europe. As opposed to England, the French crown did not believe that it had people to spare (the Thirty Years War from 1618–1648 had been a drain on its population); nor did it try, at that time, to get rid of marginal groups whether they were religious or social. The policy of grandeur, as understood by the crown, demanded France’s expansion through colonization without compromising the kingdom’s claims for preeminence in Europe.[23]

French reluctance to send emigrants to Canada gave, therefore, a distinctive feature to the colony: Canada’s population was to be generated through the miscegenation of a small group of settlers with natives. In 1666, Colbert argued that:

To increase the colony …, it seems to me that, instead of waiting to benefit from the new settlers who could be sent from France, the most useful way to achieve it would be to try to civilize the Algonquins, the Hurons, and the other Savages who have embraced Christianity; and to persuade them to come to settle in a commune with the French, to live with them, and educate their children in our mores and our customs.[24]

The successful settlement of the colony demanded that Amerindians had to be involved in the French colonial project. Without them, the French settlers could not overcome their small numbers to create a colonial society. Without them, the colony could not extend the fur trade, which was its main economic activity, nor could it defend its settlements and guarantee its military security. Without them, the settlers could barely feed themselves and adapt to their new environment. To remedy these difficulties, Amerindians were asked to participate in colonial growth as agents of demographic reproduction, instruments of economic development, and warriors.

Amerindians’ inclusion in the French colonial project as key actors rather than passive and exploited instruments indicates not only the general strength of native peoples in the nascent colony but also the absence of an idea of race in the minds of French officials.[25] Cultural tradition represented Amerindians as savage people, meaning unfinished people who had to be humanized.[26] To achieve this goal, Christians had the moral duty to bring them faith and reason. According to lawyer and propagandist Marc Lescarbot, who went to Canada with Champlain at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the dispossession of Amerindians could not be challenged for two reasons: first because indigenous peoples had shown their inability to improve the land; and second because they were not Christians. Therefore, the spiritual responsibility in which the Europeans genuinely believed legitimized expansion as well as colonization: France originally founded its colonial titles on natives’ lack of religion and, consequently, on its evangelical duty.[27]

In the seventeenth century, necessity intensified the French officials’ belief that natives could be civilized into thinking that they had to be francisés. Intermarriage and interethnic cohabitation were all the more appropriate in that they brought together populations whose social conditions were similar—common settlers (roturiers) and Amerindians who were seen as common people too. There was, at first sight, no risk of misalliance, and if French noblemen did marry Amerindian women, it happened rarely enough not to put into question the policy of intermarrying.[28] Although it has been argued that the “white” skin color of Amerindians facilitated the promotion of assimilation, no convincing evidence has been provided to show that seventeenth-century French officials discussed this issue.[29] Culture, and not physical difference, was the central point according to which Amerindians were perceived in the seventeenth century. When scholars awkwardly translate French statements on assimilation, replacing the word peuple (people) with “nation” and “race,” they have further clouded the question.[30] In seventeenth-century French, “nation” meant “all the people of a certain country” whereas “race” meant “lineage.” Even if the idea of race conveyed an ideology of inborn differences, it was an ideology that explained difference based on social inequality and not biological characteristics.[31] When Colbert famously encouraged French settlers and native peoples to “constitute one people and one blood,” his probable meaning was “creating a commonwealth through intermarriage.”[32] Although it has been argued that in 1684 François Bernier first introduced in France the word “race” with its contemporary significance, recent scholarship has shown that such a meaning was not clearly apparent before 1749 when Georges Buffon published his Histoire naturelle de l’homme, that is, at the end of the period with which we are concerned here.[33]

The reasons why miscegenation was successful or not were largely concerned with official policy, native agenda, and settlers’ designs. From the early seventeenth century, the French used natives’ assimilation to French customs and manners as an instrument of power. To dominate the Amerindians, the crown did not deem it necessary to resort to force for two reasons: to save money and, paternalistically, because it was convinced that a gentle approach would bring submission. As “savages,” the Amerindians had to be “reduced to civil life and made able to fulfill all the duties of an honest life, every one according to the condition into which God had given him birth.”[34] Several factors were perceived to favor the conversion of the natives: material conditions (demographic, economic, and military); optimism as to the malleability of their characters; confidence in the power of education; and a cultural assumption that all peoples move from savagery to civility, placing them at an early stage of an inevitable historical development.[35] Accordingly, Amerindians could, with the help of their new master, improve their condition so that they could fulfill their potential as humans.[36]

The conversion of natives into French people had to follow three stages. Because civility was a precondition to conversion, the Amerindians first had to be francisés.[37] The understanding of what constituted “French” national identity at a time when cultural and social diversities were great is not entirely clear. Nevertheless, French officials used the terms franciser and francisation to describe the process of assimilation. Indeed, it was in part through the contrast of European self and New World other that the language of national identity would crystallize.[38] Amerindians were encouraged to settle and farm the land—to grow wheat and hemp instead of corn and to raise cows, chickens, and pigs. They were also required to submit to French laws and adopt French language, customs, “French-type clothes,” food, trades, occupations, and housing (fitting their houses with “French-type chimneys”).[39]

French officials never wrote a coherent program clarifying what should be done to assimilate Amerindians, but they did agree that this process had to meet the needs of the colony as much as possible. Intendant Jacques Duchesneau (the colony’s chief administrator from 1675 to 1682) wanted native men to keep their traditional clothes and diet “so that they would not become effeminate and they would be fitter and less constrained for the hunt, which makes their wealth and ours,” an aim that was not entirely consistent with the desire to develop settled forms of agriculture. In an attempt to develop the colonial economy, Duchesneau’s successor promoted the teaching of spinning and sewing to native girls so that they would be able to work in the industries that would be established in Canada.[40]

As pagans, Amerindians then had to be Christianized. In 1627, Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu, granted to the Amerindian neophytes the automatic status of French subjects, without restriction of privileges.[41] Through baptism, indigenous peoples would then return to life as both Christian and French. The granting of French citizenship allowed the cardinal skillfully to deal two political blows: the first against the Amerindians themselves as they were told that their submission to Christian law was inseparable from their subjection to the colonizer’s law; in other words, Christianization legitimized usurpation by revoking native title over the land. The second blow was aimed at the rival colonial powers that were thereby denied any claim to lands inhabited by French natives.

Once made French and Christian, natives would be mixed with the settlers. Three concrete measures were adopted to advance miscegenation. First, from the beginning of the seventeenth century, French officials encouraged native initiatives to migrate in the St. Lawrence Valley so that the Amerindians could easily observe the French and, by good example, imitate their way of life.[42] Political motivations influenced this decision. Indeed, French authorities aimed at obtaining the obedience of indigenous hunters and warriors, vital for colonial development, as well as ensuring a uniform social frame for everybody, settlers and natives. Even if colonial authorities had little control over native migrations and settlements, seventeenth-century officials acknowledged the strategic benefit brought by native villages to the defense of the colony, regarding native warriors to be generally faithful allies.[43] This cohabitation, however, had to be limited. The number of Amerindians welcomed among the French dwellings had to be less than the size of the colonial population to preserve the settlers’ dominance of their indigenous neighbors.[44]

As the second measure to advance assimilation, the French authorities strongly encouraged the education of native children to secure the conversion of the next generation. In 1668, Louis XIV invited the religious orders to pursue the comprehensive instruction in French customs for children initiated a few decades earlier. That was the only way “to constitute just one people.” More schools for native children were therefore opened in Quebec and Montreal to promote the royal desire. As this measure was still insufficient given the modesty of the public funds compared with the enormous number of children who had to be educated, French officials encouraged religious congregations and wealthy settlers to receive Amerindian children into their homes and to raise them.[45]

Colonial authorities strongly encouraged their native allies to send their daughters to the Ursuline convent. Once Christianized and educated, these girls would be married to settlers and would establish Catholic families instead of going back to their villages to marry infidel native men. French officials also thought that intermarriage within Christian practice would prevent Frenchmen from falling into savagery (ensauvagement) as they had in Brazil about fifty years earlier. A royal fund to endow the assimilated native girls was set up in 1680 to facilitate the project.[46] Although it was never clearly stated that intermarriage should concern only native women and male settlers, French secular and religious authorities never encouraged or even mentioned the possibility of Frenchwomen marrying native men, and the teaching of Amerindian girls was strongly encouraged for this very reason.

Demographic as well as cultural, political, and economic reasons could be given to understand the kind of intermarriage promoted. First, the lack of nubile French females in the colony, aggravated by demographic weakness, partly explains official attitudes. Between 1608 and 1699, only 1,772 women (nuns excepted) emigrated to Canada as compared with 12,621 men. The sexual imbalance remained a feature of colonial society to the end of the century.[47]

A further basis for the policy of intermarriage lay in traditional European gender practices. When establishing a new France, authorities tried to replicate metropolitan gender organization, which was patriarchal and patrilineal. By contrast, some native cultures, mainly Iroquoian, had a matrilineal system which, for the Europeans, testified to their savagery.[48] Following their gender conventions, the French put the male at the head of the household. Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian doctrine had established the authority of the father over his wife and children: they formed a natural society governed by the father because he was believed to be the one who could best provide resources, look after the family’s interests, preserve its unity, and link it to the previous generations. The early modern conception of paternity assumed that the father alone transmitted his qualities to the children and established their legitimacy; that theory attributed to the father the dominant role in the procreation of children. The mother, comparatively, had a minor role: she was thought to catch her husband’s semen and transmit the paternal qualities to the children without passing on anything herself. The mother cared for the child’s body whereas the father was responsible for the care of the soul; he had the sacred duty to educate his sons in particular. This conception of paternity was exalted by the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century, and the catechism of the Council of Trent clearly presented the father as the priest’s intermediary.[49] Given that children belonged to the father, one can better understand why French officials promoted the union of Frenchmen with Amerindian women (and not the reverse): such unions provided the only promise of creating French families and the security that their children would be integrated into the colonial community.[50]

Miscegenation was not only a colonial strategy of peopling based on metropolitan gender order; it was also conceived as an instrument of empire.[51] The imperial and commercial designs of the French included the promotion of intermixing—therefore the use of sex—as a means to develop the fur trade and consolidate French-Amerindian relations. According to indigenous customs, the French-native alliance rested on economic, political, cultural, and social bonds.[52] Intermarriage helped strengthen trading ties, which would in turn reinforce political and military bonds.[53] Although it has been recently argued that late eighteenth-century British commentators promoted intermarriage as a way to legitimize usurpation through the transmission of property rights to the children of mixed unions, this observation cannot be generalized to the French experience. In the sixteenth century, the French established their colonial titles on cession (notably through Christianization and native acquisition of French citizenship) and conquest of non-Christian lands; in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, native stateless societies (European states were also very weak) and supposed nomadism justified the seizure of land that had not yet been claimed by other European nations.[54]

A first shift from the initial policy of intermarriage occurred in 1682, when Intendant de Meulles (in charge from 1682 to 1686) criticized the endowment of native girls. He believed it was a useless expenditure for “there is hardly one or two who marry each year.” Statistical evidence concerning intermarriage has always been difficult to obtain, and the numbers available are not reliable because mixed unions were commonly celebrated à la façon du pays, that is, according to indigenous customs and without consulting the civilian and religious authorities.[55] According to de Meulles, native women who were assimilated had to be encouraged to marry native men. With this argument, de Meulles did not reject French-native marriages: rather he criticized the position according to which intermarriage was the main way to accomplish francisation. Because that policy had had few concrete results, another needed to be adopted. Accordingly, de Meulles promoted the endowment of native women in kind rather than in money, proposing to “give them a pig, wheat, and a few hemp seeds.” These women would assimilate their husbands by daily confronting them with another way of life:

Being brought up in this spirit, I do not doubt that once married to savage men, they would gradually introduce their husbands to this way of life which could lead them to dress, eat, and live like us and would, with time, get the savage mind out of them.[56]

De Meulles’s project was therefore to use native women to educate native men who, given their role as hunters, were the most inclined to a nomadic life. In this respect, de Meulles echoed the concern expressed by Father Paul Le Jeune, S.J., almost fifty years earlier when he was trying to Christianize Amerindian boys. According to Le Jeune, native girls had to be securely evangelized to provide Christian wives for native men.[57] Native women were targeted for moral as well as social reasons. The corruption of women was believed to reflect a greater corruption of the natural order. Therefore establishing civility within indigenous societies had to be achieved through women: assimilated women would pass on a culture based on French civility to their husbands and children, a culture promoting male authority, controlled sexuality, and stable married households.

To achieve natives’ assimilation, French officials could not rely on missionaries’ enthusiasm. Religious orders, despite being officially in charge of francisation, found it difficult to apply a policy they had stopped believing in almost twenty years earlier. Indeed, in the first half of the seventeenth century, Recollects, Jesuits, and Sulpicians had all experimented with francisation, thinking that indigenous peoples first had to adopt French laws and mores before being converted to Christianity. This civil evangelism did not succeed, however. Very few native children came to Christian schools, and those who did ran away when possible; their parents often interfered. Moreover, these children could not promote French culture and Christianity once back among their people because they had no influence. At the end of the 1630s, the Jesuits had already turned their back on interethnic living, arguing that French settlers were undermining their evangelical work by their scandalous behavior and brandy trade. They gradually moved all their missions and isolated them from colonial settlements.[58] After 1640, the Jesuits abandoned francisation as well for the reason that it was unnecessary for conversion. They no longer believed that native cultures and societies were an obstacle to conversion, and when they tried to translate the Christian message to native languages, they tried as well to find a compromise between Christian principles and native customs. This new program was undoubtedly contrary to the state’s policy toward indigenous peoples and, in the second half of the seventeenth century, continuous conflicts opposed colonial authorities to the Jesuit order.[59] Since this policy had already been unsuccessfully pursued, why did the state continue to promote it so strongly? The various motivations we have already seen justified official interest and involvement; and the clergy’s incompetence was held responsible for the failure of earlier experiments.[60]

What did indigenous peoples think about miscegenation as promoted by the French? It is generally agreed that they welcomed it as it strengthened existing alliances. In Acadia, the French settled on inhabited lands with the approval of the native community. Amerindians happily welcomed the tiny European population because its size did not threaten them; besides, they could trade with the French and acquire European goods without having to travel far. French settlements in the vicinity of Huron and Algonquin tribes and later in the West were also welcomed. The French presence was always small, and it allowed the establishment of close economic, military, and personal ties.[61] Except for the Iroquois, even those settled in the midst of the colonial towns who were reluctant to marry Europeans, native peoples generally advocated intermarriage and women chose to marry Frenchmen, with their family’s approval. For Great Lakes communities, intermarriage could secure a regular supply of European merchandise by encouraging traders to return to their wives’ villages and by increasing the traders’ generosity toward native kinfolk.[62] Native women may have married French traders because of sexual imbalance and possibly also to avoid soral polygamy, both of which were prevalent in Great Lakes societies.[63] Through intermarriage, native women became intermediaries between their world and that of their husbands, and thereby enhanced their prestige and authority among their people: native women served as guides, interpreters, diplomatic envoys, and spies; they transferred their husbands’ property to their families; and they firmly established military and trade ties between kin families.[64]

French settlers had mixed feelings concerning miscegenation. They welcomed Amerindian visitors in their towns for economic reasons at least. They happily traded brandy, usually illegally, and were glad to get furs in exchange.[65] If the habitants (farmers) were generally not interested in marrying native women, the coureurs de bois (the settlers involved in the fur trade) found it very advantageous.[66] Native wives provided access to their kin trading networks as well as food and information. They could also help their husbands in their work by treating and repairing the furs, walking as far and as long as needed, farming the land, and generally enduring the hardships of a trader’s life.[67]

In 1686, Governor General Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville (in office from 1685 to 1689) advocated the first definite move away from interethnic cohabitation, arguing that although “For a long time, it was believed that domiciling the Savages near our dwellings was likely to accustom them to live like us … I realize Monseigneur, that the very opposite has happened because, instead of becoming familiar with our laws … they communicate to us all they have that is the very worst, and they take on likewise all that is bad and vicious in us.” According to Denonville, French-native cohabitation presented the seduction of indigenous lifestyle to transplanted Frenchmen instead of bringing savage men to civil society. As Denonville believed that living together had very harmful sociocultural effects, he wanted the two groups to be separated to protect colonial youth from the Amerindians, whose acculturation seemed to him far lower than that of the settlers. This segregation required that colonial authorities gather non-Christian natives living in the vicinity of Montreal inside villages;[68] Denonville also encouraged the further establishment of Jesuit reservations.

When criticizing miscegenation, Denonville was articulating more strongly a doubt, already expressed by his predecessors, concerning the way it was pursued rather than really calling into question francisation. Denonville supported native evangelization despite, he believed, their reluctance to convert and the Iroquois’ rejection of Christian proselytism.[69] He estimated that the French had to subdue their allies militarily to force them to listen more carefully to the missionaries; they also had to conquer the Iroquois who had supposedly martyred missionaries in the past and who were still slowing down the evangelization of allied tribes with their continual wars.[70]

At the end of the seventeenth century, colonial authorities started expressing serious doubts concerning the assimilation of Amerindians. If earlier a few officials admitted that the policy was difficult to put into practice, they still thought that its achievement was possible with patience, encouragement, and means. Their doubts may have been more serious but if so, they were wise to keep them private to not disappoint Colbert, who was very committed to francisation. Commenting on his private involvement in the education of native children, Intendant Jacques Duchesneau confessed that “it is very difficult to tame them. Three have already left me after I dressed them very well.” To account for his failure, the intendant commented that the “savage mood” of these children demanded a great deal of softness and patience on his part.[71] If Duchesneau still thought that he had to be determined in his efforts, Intendant Jean Bochart de Champigny (in office 1686–1702) did not show any hope nineteen years later:

The difficulty in civilizing remote nations, revealed by the example we have that almost none of the savages educated among us choose to stay, … is a certain prejudice showing that we will not succeed … [and] it happens more commonly that a Frenchman becomes savage than a savage becomes a Frenchman.[72]

Agreeing with the intendant, other French officials began to state the futility of attempting to civilize natives: they ceased using the word francisation, a sign that this policy had been abandoned.

Why did francisation fail? Amerindians appropriated many material goods and a few military and economic practices but rejected French language, customs, and laws. They did not feel inferior to the French; nor did they believe that their sociocultural practices were inferior to those of the French. It has been argued that a successful assimilative policy relies on three essential factors: namely, the numerical inferiority of the nation to be absorbed; a weak consciousness of native identity; and the willingness of the natives to be assimilated. Lacking these conditions, colonial authorities needed to dominate the natives politically, militarily, and technologically; they also needed the support of a strong colonial population to achieve their goals. Yet, none of these conditions was present in French Canada.[73]

Official disappointment with the attempts to assimilate the natives had several concrete results. First, emphasis shifted to the Christianization of natives since it could supposedly extend French influence.[74] French officials thought that they could dominate those natives who were subject to the guidance of missionaries as spiritual advisers.[75] Second, the budget dedicated to endow Catholic native women was annulled in 1702.[76] Intermarriage was no longer encouraged even if it was not yet banned. Official disillusion with intermarriage was partly due to the way the coureurs de bois used it to defy the colonial order. These men were often illegal traders who not only challenged trade monopolies but also disobeyed diplomatic order by entering the English colonies.[77] Colonial authorities kept complaining about the coureurs de bois for these reasons and because these young men were living for several years at a time among indigenous peoples, almost outside French social and religious frames.[78] Official attempts to regulate the fur trade and prevent more and more Frenchmen from being involved in the trade all failed and, in 1696, western trading posts were abandoned and traders ordered to return to the heart of the colony.[79] Neither general amnesty nor death threats convinced traders to give up their lucrative commerce.[80] To maintain their activity and remain safely in the West despite the official ban, the coureurs de bois used intermarriage as a way to establish personal relations with Indians. When western posts reopened in the eighteenth century, officializing the expansion of the fur trade, intermarriage exploded—between 1698 and 1765, forty-eight percent of recorded marriages at Michilimackinac, the most important western post of Canada, were mixed marriages (Frenchmen with Amerindian/métis women).[81]

The debate about the issue of miscegenation reached its peak when the colony of Detroit was founded at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It opposed not only two men, namely the founder of Detroit, Antoine Lamothe Cadillac, and the governor general of New France, Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (1703–1725), but also opposed two visions, that of the seventeenth and that of the eighteenth centuries.[82] The establishment of Detroit started badly as very few colonists agreed to settle in the region. Lamothe Cadillac then followed the example of Champlain and advocated the integration of the numerous indigenous peoples into the French colony. Once again, this integration had to be pursued through assimilation, which was in turn inseparable from cohabitation with the French. Against a now skeptical French crown, Cadillac also argued that francisation was the only way to civilize natives and dominate them in a region where the French presence was almost nonexistent.

Intermarriage was also part of Cadillac’s project of setting Detroit. Frenchmen could only marry native women who were converted to Catholicism and French-speaking; in other words, women who had virtually assimilated. Cadillac’s idea of miscegenation, consistent with the original policy of French authorities, was not motivated by recognition and acceptance of native culture but rather by the desire to erase it and substitute a European society. On a practical level, Cadillac hoped that intermarriage would strengthen alliances and promote peace.[83]

It could be argued that for Cadillac, who was an opportunistic man, miscegenation was merely the rhetoric of his project. He cynically used the policy of francisation to give more power to his proposal. The project was no less serious, however, for its rhetoric. Indeed, cynicism reveals the boundaries of what constitutes a legitimate political argument.[84] Clearly, Cadillac judged that the policy of francisation would continue to have a place in French politics and, correspondingly, would be a moral force.

The minister of the Marine’s reply to Cadillac’s proposal was quick and reflected growing royal indifference or even disenchantment concerning francisation. Every aspect of the project was refused with the exception of intermarriage.[85] This was in the end the only important issue in a region where Frenchmen could barely find partners outside the indigenous world. The practice of marrying native women à la façon du pays, which was strongly condemned by colonial authorities, was almost the norm. With the persistent lack of Frenchwomen in Detroit, Cadillac occasionally had to ask his minister’s approval of intermarriages, which were forbidden by Governor General Vaudreuil.[86] What mattered, then, was no longer the question of miscegenation but simply the necessity of finding a woman for every soldier and settler. Following the change in these attitudes, native women would be sought solely for their sexual function.[87] The crown allowed these unions on the condition that “it does not force the Frenchmen to stay with the savages, which would cause a loss of men [in wartime].”[88]

Determined to make a decision on an issue so controversial in the colony, Secretary of State Jérôme Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain invited Governor Vaudreuil to justify his hostility to these marriages.[89] Vaudreuil first argued that intermarriage had resulted in the creation of divisions among the French: as husbands were integrated into their wives’ clan, they were necessarily involved in intertribal feuds. This created two problems: they could be pitted against each other and they could involve French authorities in tribal disputes. More importantly, he claimed that:

One should never mingle a bad blood with a good one. Our experience in this country shows that the French who married savage women have become dissolute, idle, and have an unbearable independence. And their children are as lazy as the savages themselves. This must prevent us from permitting such marriages … Every child from these unions seems to try constantly to do a lot of harm to the French.[90]

Thus the consequence of intermarriage was not only the acculturation of the French spouse, to the detriment of his own culture, but also the loss of the children to their native mother’s clan. Pessimistic and distrustful, Vaudreuil claimed that he felt hostility from the offspring of mixed marriages toward French people. One might have thought that Vaudreuil’s hostility to the métis was related to diplomatic problems encountered with métis leaders. I have found no evidence, however, of such a link. On the contrary, French commanders continued to use Frenchmen married to native women and their children, métis légitimes, to maintain French influence among their allies and to secure loyalty toward Onontio, the French governor general.[91] Further, it has been shown that even if eighteenth-century officials believed that intermarriage meant the assimilation of the father and the children to native culture, numerous families were integrated into colonial society.[92]

Could Vaudreuil’s harsh condemnation of miscegenation have been related to French diplomatic achievements at the beginning of the eighteenth century? Recent scholarship has shown that the French were the real winners of the Great Peace of Montreal of 1701 that ended fifty years of Iroquois wars.[93] Diplomatic success could have given the French more confidence toward their allies; it could also have provoked arrogance, but not pessimism. The pessimism Vaudreuil expressed arose from a larger disillusionment. That the métis might be considered to be the colony’s enemies testified to the Europeans’ cultural defeat, to their inability to supplant native culture. In seventeenth-century France, the word métis referred, in a disparaging way, to the children who were born of mésalliances (misalliances); these were unequal marriages bringing the stain of an inferior blood into a good lineage.[94] Vaudreuil then employed the language of biological nature to stigmatize the idea of intermarriage: the blend of French and Amerindian blood was not healthy for the colony.[95] He forbade these decadent unions in order to protect his people from the disaster of moral corruption.

Vaudreuil’s condemnation of intermarriage must also be related to the French failure to assimilate Amerindian women who were held responsible for introducing bad blood. Even when they married Frenchmen, they chose to remain barbarous, indeed even dangerous as they kept their sexual freedom, divorced their husbands when they wanted to, and continued to observe their traditional values. Yet their acceptance of European gender models was the prerequisite for their successful union with Frenchmen.

It might be argued that Vaudreuil’s words against miscegenation could be placed into the preexistent discourse of race as genealogy, but further analysis shows that he was using a different ideological approach to the intermarriage issue. The contrast between seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century official statements on intermarriage and the use of the word sang (blood) reveals this mutation. When Colbert advocated the creation of “one people and one blood,” the word “blood” meant “kinship” and “lineage”—the mixture of indigenous and settler bloods would create kinship and lineage between both peoples.[96] By contrast, when Vaudreuil condemned the mixture of bloods, the word “blood” gained a biological meaning: a bad blood no longer meant just an inferior lineage; it had become more than that: it referred to an entire people. The expressions “good blood” and “bad blood” went beyond the complex problem of genealogy by referring to the biological nature of blood. The issue of good lineage changed dramatically when there started to be confusion between the meanings of blood, between the biological meaning and the social one. And the very confusion between the biological and the social is crucial to racial thinking.[97]

Furthermore, evidence found in other territories of New France also supports the proposal that Governor Vaudreuil was using a new language on the intermarriage question. In 1715, the same year that Vaudreuil condemned intermarriage, Louisiana administrator Jean-Baptiste du Bois Duclos de Montigny argued against intermarriage and wrote in a similar way that “Experience shows every day that the children that come from such marriages are of an extremely dark complexion … half-breeds who are naturally idlers, libertines and even more rascals.”[98] Reference to color, absent under Vaudreuil’s pen, appeared in the debate in a slave colony. From Canada to Louisiana, New France was developing racialized ideas about differences between the French and the Amerindians (and the Africans in Louisiana and in the French Caribbean[99]); and one of the first expressions of racial categorization was the stigmatization of mixed descendants.

The metropolitan reaction to racialized developments in the colonies was at first skeptical. Secretary of State Pontchartrain retorted to Canada’s officials that intermarriage contributed to the maintenance of peace with the natives, and recommended that they authorize them. But Vaudreuil’s arguments against these unions eventually prevailed. When he became governor of Louisiana, Lamothe Cadillac banned intermarriages. Cadillac’s change of mind could be explained by his own promotion. When he was responsible for daily relations with the natives, he supported intermarriage to secure trading and military interests.[100] Once charged with the growth of Louisiana, which was based on the establishment of slavery and therefore a different economic relationship between settlers and Africans than prevailed between settlers and Amerindians, he used racial categorizations to codify social relations between the French, natives, and Africans.

Official opposition toward miscegenation and intermarriage in particular had several immediate expressions. In the West, colonial administrators restricted the rights of Amerindian widows to inherit their French husbands’ property.[101] In 1722, the government of Canada prohibited the adoption of illegitimate French children by Amerindian families, even by native families who were Catholic and, according to the earlier policy of assimilation, would have been defined as French.[102] Although adoption was uncommon and illegal in early modern France, colonial officials perhaps tolerated it for the reason that it was impossible to remove the children from their native adoptive families given that French laws were not enforced in native villages.[103] In 1717, Sieur de Lino, the crown attorney of Quebec, challenged this practice by arguing to the Conseil de la Marine that adoption was opposed to royal interests: “Firstly, … the intention of Her Majesty has always been to Frenchify [franciser] the Savages and to familiarize them with our customs; and not to familiarize the French with savage customs.” A further problem with the practice, Lino argued, was that it would allow the “Savages” to increase their population, threatening the safety of the colony. It would also encourage the French youth to fall into debauchery: “the Whites who are brought up by the Savages are more alcoholic and vicious than the Savages themselves.”[104] Lino’s arguments, supported by color categorizations, prevailed, and in 1722 colonial authorities had to reissue the edict of 1556 that threatened with death women who hid their pregnancy.[105] Given that colonial justice could not be applied to natives, this threat was the only means of preventing adoption. In spite, however, of official prohibition, illegitimate French children were still given to native Christian families in the 1750s.[106]

Discouraging intermarriage did not inhibit the coureurs de bois. The prevalence of intermarriage among them continued to put secular and religious authorities at odds throughout the eighteenth century: whereas officials condemned intermarriage but tolerated de facto relationships as they were considered temporary, missionaries thought intermarriage helped combat moral disorder.[107] The administrators complained that the missionaries thereby encouraged traders who were challenging royal power and a nascent colonial ideology based on racial categories.

In 1735, the same year that the Superior Council of Louisiana, which had ruled the Illinois country since 1717, issued a decree restricting intermarriage, the new secretary for the colonies, Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux de Maurepas, officially condemned intermarriage on the grounds that it was disgraceful for the French and perilous for the colony:

Marriages between Frenchmen and savage women become frequent in the Illinois [country], … such alliances are dishonorable for the nation, they can have very dangerous consequences for the colony’s tranquility … [and] the children born from these unions are more libertine than the savages.[108]

Changing French attitudes to Amerindians show that intellectual discussion on the idea of civility and progress had no influence on policy makers. Important works like Montesquieu’s De l’esprit des lois (1748), Buffon’s Histoire naturelle de l’homme (1749), and Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1754) were published much too late to have any impact on French colonial policy. The shift to racial prejudice happened twenty years before Voltaire expressed his polygenist considerations on humans and more than forty years before Montesquieu, Rousseau, and others expressed their views on human nature.[109] Even the highly regarded Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France by the Jesuit historian Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix (1744) was published too late to influence policy makers. Changing French attitudes toward Amerindians owed much to the very experience of colonization. Royal acceptance of colonial change derived from the influence colonial administrators had on metropolitan minds and policies concerning the Amerindians. In the eighteenth century, the king and the secretaries of the Marine paid little attention to Canada other than for strategic purposes: Canada was a military fortress representing French imperialism but also a wall that would stop British expansion.[110] The ministers’ interest, not to mention the king, rarely went further.[111] Behind the deceiving prose conventionally used by royal and colonial governments that seems to indicate that the crown was fully in charge of colonial matters and initiatives, colonial officials were the real policy makers.[112]

In the Ministry of the Marine, the premiers commis (chief clerks) were responsible for summarizing all the colonial correspondence and suggesting responses. After Colbert’s death, these premiers commis became more important and the creation of the Bureau des Colonies (Office for the Colonies) in 1710 reinforced their power by institutionalizing the bureaucracy responsible for colonial affairs. Premiers commis knew more about the colonies than the king and his ministers who usually followed their advice without question. Our knowledge of the premiers commis is unfortunately too insufficient to make specific statements about them. We can nonetheless assume that, as years passed, they owed much of their understanding and visions of Amerindians to their colonial correspondents.

Royal acceptance of colonial change also reveals the development of the idea of race inside the metropolis. Scholarship on French racial ideology has shown that racism emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century partly because of the kingdom’s increasing participation in the transatlantic slave trade and the increasing dependency on colonial products.[113] By claiming Africans’ inferiority, racist ideology justified their enslavement and legitimized slave society, which was contrary to French notions of freedom. Thus racism in France was a compromise resolving the tension between colonial slavery and France’s prerevolutionary principle of liberty as much as it was a result of other colonial influences, notably relations with Amerindians and Africans. The expression of racialized ideas in New France in the beginning of the eighteenth century, that is almost fifty years before their appearance in the metropolis, indicated that racial ideology first emerged in the colonies: in Canada, it was born out of the government’s political failure to create a uniform colonial society that would include natives and settlers. The ideological transformation that took place in the colonies would be a significant factor in the formation of metropolitan attitudes.[114]

Fully to understand the strong rejection of miscegenation in the eighteenth century, demographic, political, and economic developments need to be recalled. Canada overcame the failure of the founding demographic project—the peopling of Canada by the descendants of French settlers and native women—through French immigration and especially natural population growth. Self-population growth and the development of the French colony diminished the interest that colonial authorities held for native people. Furthermore, the strengthening of the French-Algonquian alliance provided the French with slightly more freedom from their desire to dominate their partners. The changed economic focus promoted by the end of the seventeenth century—the official encouragement of a more diverse economy based no longer on the fur trade but on agriculture, commerce, and industry—also contributed to changing official attitudes to Amerindians. Trade-based colonies generally needed close relations with indigenous peoples to satisfy their economic goals—thus the need for miscegenation and intermarriage—whereas farming settlements even among indigenous nations, such as Detroit, did not create the need for intermarriage.[115] Once the government started challenging the centrality of trade in colonial activity, relations with natives changed as well.[116]

But of greater importance in the changing French vision of natives was the failure of the assimilation policy. While a few indigenous groups, like the Hurons and the Abenakis, were effectively converted to Christianity, the failure of assimilation was beyond doubt by the beginning of the eighteenth century:

It is surprising that, considering that there are so many nations, there is still none who takes our manners; and even by being among us and every day with the French, they still govern themselves the same way they did in the past … We would need infinite work and time to free those peoples and to be able to reduce them to take our ways and our customs … I assure you that this work will last several centuries.[117]

To explain the native rejection of assimilation, colonial authorities employed the idea of a native nature whereas earlier they had denounced native culture. French officers adopted the opinion of earlier Recollect and Jesuit missionaries according to whom Amerindian nature could not submit to the fundamental principle of obedience contained in Christian and European societies. The French thought the Amerindians rejected the truth they were offered because of their “independent nature,” meaning their “pride.”[118] The invocation of a perceived “independent nature” drew on the explanation of native behavior by nature. It was not the natives’ nature but their moral code, founded on the principle of individual liberty, that hindered their acceptance of European codes. This emphasis on nature was of course crucial in the development of the idea of race: nature is marked by permanence; nature confines every individual to attitudes and behaviors from which she or he cannot escape.[119]

The savagery of Amerindians was now considered to be visceral. As a consequence, colonial authorities’ fear of the “Savages” also increased. They believed the deep-rooted nature of their savagery would triumph over civilization, as the example of the métis had supposedly made abundantly clear. The risk posed by the possibility that settlers could become savage was all the more serious given that Amerindian progression was now deemed impossible. The fragility of European culture in a savage world led the authorities to limit the interpenetrations between settlers and natives and to reject anything that resembled a transgression of their social and religious norms—for fear of falling into inhumanity.[120]

Because the Amerindians could not become French subjects, with the social recognition this transformation would have implied, French authorities tried to find a new policy that would allow them to deal with their allies without sacrificing colonial interests. Indigenous reality was therefore pragmatically reconciled with French needs. Authorities would exploit what was exploitable: as most Amerindians practiced hunting and war, these male activities were married with colonial interests and were presented in the language of nature. Native bellicosity would come, especially during the Seven Years’ War, to help the French against the British. As officer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville pointed out, “without them, the contest would be too unequal for us.”[121] French generals always pushed native warriors to be as violent as possible to frighten the British; they would later claim to have no power over their allies if they had to answer for their actions.[122] When British authorities demanded that the French withdraw their support for the massacres perpetrated by their allies, French officials used native “nature” to justify themselves: the “Savages” were naturally ferocious and nothing could be done or said to stop them from acting in such a barbarous way.

In the seventeenth century, French officials tried to create a colonial society in North America that would include national settlers as well as indigenous peoples. This new France would be ethnically mixed but culturally French as Amerindians were encouraged to assimilate to French religion and civility. It was a time when French officials did not think that intermarrying native women with Frenchmen would corrupt French blood; nor would it dishonor the French nation. Miscegenation was officially encouraged and financially funded. Despite French efforts, that policy was a total failure: Amerindians refused to assimilate, thus to integrate into French colonial society according to French terms. That failure provoked disillusion and pessimism among French officials. Political disillusionment had a dramatic outcome: namely, the racialization of Amerindians. Indeed, from the failure to include the natives in the colonial body emerged a disposition to divide people (colonial and Amerindian) in terms of nature. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, French administrators started articulating a new ideology that reconsidered the terms of membership in civil and political society: first, miscegenation was discouraged and intermarriage prohibited (at least discursively) for political and biological reasons—the confusion of both terms was a crucial step in the construction of the new ideology; second, native policy was now firmly grounded on exploitation. The construction of the Sauvage (Savage) as a hunter and a fierce warrior legitimized natives’ instrumentalization.[123] Colonial context allowed the official expression of racialism. Colonial development decreased the French dependency on natives though their military support would remain vital. However, the increasing rivalry with British colonies made evangelization, which supposedly had a hold on the Amerindians, all the more necessary.

A local study on the emergence of racialism in Canada can tell us a lot about the colonial-metropolitan relationship. It shows that race was very much the fruit of colonialism; it arose directly out of the political experience of colonization. It seems that the first premise of racial theory—a difference between humans written in nature—has to be found in the colonies rather than in modern science. There are good reasons for placing the emergence of race in the context of post-Enlightenment scientific discourse. Nineteenth-century science had theorized race and given it the form that is recognizable today (and would not be recognizable to the premodern mind): namely, an emphasis on natural and physical differences between humans that have been subjected to “scientific” analysis. It is clear, however, that it was colonial experience rather than modern science that brought into practice the fundamental categories of race.[124] This first and fundamental shift in human understanding later received the support of the rapidly emerging empirical sciences. The progressive theory of history, a beacon of the Enlightenment’s universal optimism, was destined to be confined within European boundaries—confined, that is, to European “progress”—even before it found its full expression.[125] The pessimism of race moved into the void and was evident as early as 1709 when Governor Vaudreuil argued “One should never mingle a bad blood with a good one.”

Finally, it is striking to note the persistence of colonial ideas in different temporal and spatial spheres. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, Europeans strongly promoted the assimilation of indigenous peoples before becoming deeply disillusioned by their failure. In the nineteenth century, when colonizing Africa, the French adopted assimilation as the basis of their colonial policy. In Australia, the English promoted a similar policy in their relations with the Aboriginals.[126] The idea of assimilation, far from emerging from the Enlightenment or the French Revolution as has been advanced, was very similar to that promoted in the seventeenth century. That the idiom of francisation continued in French colonial history right down to the beginning of the twentieth century does not mean that the shift of the early eighteenth century has been overstated. Rather, it shows that the French failure to assimilate Amerindians did not challenge the idea of assimilation. Assimilation had not failed; the Amerindians had. Their failure to “improve” did not rebound on other peoples; nor did it question the relevance of assimilation as a political project. From monogenist views of humankind emerged the idea that “improvement” was a moral duty for colonized peoples as well as a political responsibility for the Europeans. Therefore, assimilation was promoted in Africa as well as in Australia. As in Canada, it failed because aboriginal peoples rejected it. These failures brought disillusionment and pessimism in European minds that did not question the prerequisites of that policy: that is, that native populations had to “improve” according to European terms.[127] Undoubtedly, we could get a better sense of the reasons racialism emerged if the ideas and policies that led to its construction could be diachronically understood; that is, the historical development of the idea of assimilation needs to be traced to provide a better historical framework for understanding the emergence of race.[128] Therefore a history of the idea of “human improvement” in the longue durée, whether we call it assimilation, francisation, or something else, has still to be written.

My deep gratitude is due to Andrew Fitzmaurice, John A. Dickinson, Jean Heffer, and the AHR’s anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this essay—en français comme en anglais, mille mercis à tous.
Saliha Belmessous completed her Ph.D. at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and now lives in Australia, where she is a research associate in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. This article is the first stage of a book called Assimilation and Empire, which explores the history of assimilation in European colonial policies from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.


1� François de Fénelon, Dialogues des morts: Composés pour l’éducation d’un prince (Paris, 1718), dialogue 10.
2� On discussions of race in French thought, see André Devyer, Le sang épuré: Les préjugés de race chez les gentilhommes français de l’Ancien Régime, 1560–1720 (Brussels, 1973); Arlette Jouanna, L’idée de race en France au XVIe et début du XVIIe siècle (Montpellier, 1981); and Sue Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (New York, 1996). On race in French colonization, see Tony Chafer and Amanda Sackur, eds., Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and Visions of Empire in France (Basingstoke, 2002); Sue Peabody and Tyler Stovall, eds., The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France (Durham, N.C., 2003).
3� Peabody and Stovall, Color of Liberty, 4–5.
4� On French “colonial genius,” see eighteenth-century Jesuit historian Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix who wrote, “Only our Nation knows the secret of winning the Americans’ affection.” Charlevoix, Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France, 6 vols. (Paris, 1744), 1: vij. See also Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century (Boston, 1898), 44; Mason Wade, “The French and the Indians,” in Howard Peckham and Charles Gibson, eds., Attitudes of Colonial Powers toward the American Indian (Salt Lake City, 1969), 61–80; Gilles Paquet and Jean-Pierre Wallot, “Nouvelle-France/Québec/Canada: A World of Limited Identities,” in Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden, eds., Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World (Princeton, N.J., 1987), 98; Cornelius Jaenen, “French and Native Peoples in New France,” in J. M. Bumsted, ed., Interpreting Canada’s Past, 2nd edn., 2 vols. (Toronto, 1993), 1: 80. For skepticism of this historiographic tradition, see Robert Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present (New York, 1978), 116; Bruce Trigger, Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” Reconsidered (Montreal, 1985), 299–300; John A. Dickinson, “French and British Attitudes to Native Peoples in Colonial North America,” Storia Nordamericana 4, nos. 1–2 (1987): 41–56.
5� Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815 (Cambridge, 1991).
6� A few exceptions must be acknowledged: Cornelius J. Jaenen, “‘Les Sauvages Ameriquains’: Persistence into the Eighteenth Century of Traditional French Concepts and Constructs for Comprehending Amerindians,” Ethnohistory 29, no. 1 (1982): 43–56; Olive P. Dickason, The Myth of the Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonialism in the Americas (Edmonton, 1984); Allan Greer, “Colonial Saints: Gender, Race and Hagiography in New France,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 57, no. 2 (2000): 323–48; Jennifer M. Spear, “Colonial Intimacies: Legislating Sex in French Louisiana,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 60, no. 1 (2003): 75–98; Guillaume Aubert, “‘The Blood of France’: Race and Purity of Blood in the French Atlantic World,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 61, no. 3 (2004): 439–78; Frédéric Régent, Esclavage, métissage, liberté: La Révolution française en Guadeloupe, 1789–1802 (Paris, 2004).
7� On the use of the word franciser (to Frenchify), see, for example, Governor General Louis de Buade de Frontenac to Minister, November 13, 1673, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1926–27 (Québec, 1927), 34. According to the governor general it would be wiser “to try to franciser the Savages and to teach them our language and our customs” within the existing Jesuit missions instead of creating new ones (all translations are mine unless otherwise noted). Frontenac added, “I hope I will be a good missionary, and maybe I will be able to franciser the Savages as well as anyone else,” 43; see also Frontenac to Minister, October 20, 1691, Archives Nationales de France (hereafter, AN), Paris (microfilms), série C11A, vol. 11, fol. 234; and Intendant Jacques Duchesneau to Minister, November 20, 1679, lines 10, 12: AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 49. These words were occasionally still used in the eighteenth century—see Sr de Lino, procureur du roi de Québec, au Conseil de la Marine, c. 1717, AN, C11A, vol. 38, fol. 210.
8� George F. G. Stanley, “The Policy of ‘Francisation’ as Applied to the Indians during the Ancien Regime,” Revue d’Histoire de l’Amérique Française 3, no. 3 (December 1949): 333–48; Cornelius J. Jaenen, Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York, 1976) is right to underline that “French policy towards the Amerindians … was based on assimilationist concepts,” but he fails to analyze the consequences of the policy of francisation. James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (New York, 1985), 23–70, deals particularly with the Jesuit missionaries’ activity, and his presentation of the civil policy of francisation is both descriptive and very brief; moreover, colonial authorities are considered in relation to their opposition to the Jesuits.
9� Although the word métissage did not appear in the French language before 1834, I have chosen to use it, even if it may be seen as anachronistic, to refer to a situation it best describes. On the importance of miscegenation in colonial policies, see the comparative study of Patrick Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference: Elementary Structures of Race,” AHR 106, no. 3 (2001): 866–905.
10� On hybrid places, see White, Middle Ground; on hybrid artifacts, see Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, Mass., 1991) and Serge Gruzinski, La pensée métisse (Paris, 1999); on hybrid peoples, see Daniel K. Richter, “Cultural Brokers and Intercultural Politics: New York-Iroquois Relations, 1664–1701,” Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 40–67.
11� On intermarriage and gender relations, see Peggy Pascoe, “Race, Gender, and Intercultural Relations: The Case of Interracial Marriage,” Frontiers 12, no. 1 (1991): 5–18; on miscegenation in the peripheral French settlements, see Spear, “Colonial Intimacies”; and Carl J. Ekberg, French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times (Urbana, Ill., 1998); on colonial experiences with native peoples, see especially Trigger, Natives and Newcomers; and White, Middle Ground; on the action of the church in francisation, see mainly Cornelius Jaenen, The Role of the Church in New France (Toronto, 1976), and Friend and Foe; see also Axtell, Invasion Within; on the construction of racial boundaries in France, see Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”; and Peabody and Stovall, Color of Liberty.
12� Olive P. Dickason has studied intermarriages in “From ‘One Nation’ in the Northeast to ‘New Nation’ in the Northwest: A Look at the Emergence of the Métis,” in Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds., The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America (Winnipeg, 1985), 19–36. The perspective chosen in this article (the creation of a métis identity) has, however, limited her analysis of these marriages. Dickason writes correctly that they were increasingly forbidden and discusses the material conditions that justified this interdiction, but she does not look at the consequences of this decision.
13� On miscegenation as a way to erase Amerindians physically and/or culturally in the nineteenth-century United States, see Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference,” 885–93.
14� Such quick judgments can be found in White, Middle Ground, 69–70.
15� Alden T. Vaughan, Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (New York, 1995); Ivan Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, 1996); Benjamin Braude, “The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 54, no. 1 (1997): 103–42; Joyce E. Chaplin, Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1676 (Cambridge, Mass., 2001); for a comprehensive summary of these debates, see Chaplin, “Race,” in David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500–1800 (Basingstoke, 2002), 154–72.
16� George L. Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (New York, 1978); Jacqueline Duvernay-Bolens, Les Géants Patagons: Voyage aux origines de l’homme (Paris, 1995); Hannaford, Race; Kenan Malik, The Meaning of Race: Race, History and Culture in Western Society (Houndsmills, 1996).
17� On the construction of race in the British colonies, see Joyce E. Chaplin, “Natural Philosophy and an Early Racial Idiom in North America: Comparing English and Indian Bodies,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 54, no. 1 (1997): 229–52; and Chaplin, Subject Matter; on race in Spanish America, see Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, “New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Indian and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600–1650,” AHR 104, no. 1 (1999): 33–68; on the Amerindian invention and use of racial categories, see Nancy Shoemaker, “How Indians Got to Be Red,” AHR 102, no. 3 (1997): 625–44.
18� Compare Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580–1640 (Totowa, N.J., 1980) and Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America (Ithaca, N.Y., 2000).
19� On the effects of alcohol on religion, see André Vachon, “L’eau-de-vie dans la société indienne,” Canadian Historical Association Annual Report (1960): 22–32; on natives’ social use of alcohol to solve internal conflicts without weakening the community, see John A. Dickinson, “‘C’est l’eau-de-vie qui a commis ce meurtre’: Alcool et criminalité amérindienne à Montréal sous le régime français,” études Canadiennes/Canadian Studies 35 (1993): 83–94; see also Peter Mancall, Deadly Medicine: Indians and Alcohol in Early America (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995).
20�Commissions du Roy et de Monseigneur l’Admiral au sieur de Monts pour l’habitation des terres de l’Acadie, Canada, et autres endroits en la Nouvelle-France (1605), in Albert Duchêne, La politique coloniale de la France: Le ministère des colonies depuis Richelieu (Paris, 1928), 15.
21� Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 73 vols. (New York, 1959), 5: 211 for the quote, and 10: 26.
22� Jean-Baptiste Colbert to Intendant Jean Talon, January 5, 1666, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1930–31 (Québec, 1931), 41. In the second half of the eighteenth century, the philosopher Denis Diderot could still argue that “it would be going against the very purpose of the colonies to establish them by depopulating the ruling country.” Encyclopédie, s.v. “Colonies,” cited in Jean Meyer et al., Histoire de la France coloniale: I, La conquête (Paris, 1991), 19, my translation.
23� On the expansionist content of the ideology of grandeur, see David Armitage, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge, 2000); on French colonial ambitions, see William J. Eccles, France in America (New York, 1972); Meyer et al., Histoire de la France coloniale, 38–41; Philippe Haudrère, L’Empire des rois, 1500–1789 (Paris, 1997).
24� Colbert to Jean Talon, January 5, 1666, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1930–31, 45. Colbert’s promotion of interracial mixing has been strangely overlooked in James Pritchard, In Search of Empire: The French in the Americas, 1670–1730 (Cambridge, 2004), 18–19.
25� On the absence of racial prejudice, as opposed to cultural prejudice, see Bruce Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660 (Montreal, 1976), 274. However, intermarriage and mixed sexual relations taken out of their political context did not imply, as it has recently been argued, that racial and social prejudices could be overcome by the elite. For this statement, see Gary B. Nash, “A Tale of Three Cities (and Their Hinterlands): Race Mixture in Colonial North America,” in Serge Gruzinski and Nathan Wachtel, eds., Le Nouveau Monde, Mondes Nouveaux: L’expérience américaine (Paris, 1996), 54. This statement should be strongly qualified as marriages could be a political or social act not related to the perception of the partner as an individual; moreover, sexual relations with women seen as socially inferior, such as servants or slaves, did not erase class or racial prejudice. See Arlette Gautier, Les soeurs de solitude: La condition féminine dans l’esclavage aux Antilles du XVIIe au XIXe siècle (Paris, 1985).
26� Berkhofer, Jr., White Man’s Indian; Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (Cambridge, 1982); Frank Lestringant, Le Huguenot et le Sauvage: L’Amérique et la controverse coloniale, au temps des Guerres de religion (1555–1589) (Paris, 1990); Dickason, Myth of the Savage.
27� Marc Lescarbot, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1612), xvi–xvii, 4; “Edit du Roy contenant le pouvoir et Commission donnée par sa Majesté au Marquis de Cottenmeal et de la Roche pour la conquête des terres de Canada, Labrador, Ile de Sable, Norembergue, et pays adjacens,” January 12, 1598, in Lescarbot, History of New France, H. P. Biggar and W. L. Grant, eds., 3 vols. (Toronto, 1907), 2: 398–405; the patent Henri IV gave to Sieur de Monts on November 8, 1603 gave the same title and the same justification for colonization (History of New France, 2: 409).
28� A few examples of such unions can be found in Dickason, “From One Nation,” 25–26. Similarly, misalliance between common people and nobles in France did not put into question the institution of marriage.
29� That unsubstantiated argument is found in Dickason, Myth of the Savage, 146–47.
30� Confusing translations can be found in Dickason, Myth of the Savage, 21, 27, 28; and Axtell, Invasion Within, 68. On the “anachronistic use of new concepts of [our] times to translate somewhat similar ancient terms,” see Bernard Crick, “Foreword,” in Hannaford, Race, xii.
31� Pierre Richelet, Dictionnaire françois (1679; rpt. edn., Geneva, 1970); on race as a belief in inherited inequality, see Jouanna, L’idée de race en France, 23; on moral and physical dispositions inherited through lineage, see Devyer, Le sang épuré, 36, 164–69; on the development of the idea of race as a belief in biological inequality in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe, see Hannaford, Race, chap. 7.
32� “Ils ne fassent plus ainsy qu’un mesme people et un mesme sang,” Colbert to Jean Talon, November 13, 1666, AN, C11A, vol. 2, fol. 332.
33� François Bernier, “Nouvelle division de la terre, par les differentes Especes, ou Races d’hommes qui l’habitent, envoyée par un fameux Voyageur à M. l’Abbé de la *** à peu près en ces termes,” Journal des Sçavans (1684): 133–40. On the historical significance of Bernier’s discourse on race, see Siep Stuurman, “François Bernier and the Invention of Racial Classification,” History Workshop Journal 50 (Autumn 2000): 1–21; and Pierre H. Boulle, “François Bernier and the Origins of the Modern Concept of Race,” in Peabody and Stovall, Color of Liberty, 20.
34� King Louis XIV to Governor General Frontenac, April 22, 1675, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1926–27, 80.
35� On the pre-Enlightenment origins of the progressive theory of history, see Peter Burke, “America and the Rewriting of World History,” in Karen Kupperman, ed., America in European Consciousness, 1493–1750 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1995), 33–51; and David Armitage, “The New World and British Historical Thought,” in Kupperman, America in European Consciousness, 52–75.
36� Pagden, Fall of Natural Man, 98–99.
37� The English missionaries argued similarily that “In order to make them Christians, they [the Amerindians] must first be made Men.” See Axtell, Invasion Within, chap. 7, and 131 for the quote.
38� The construction of a “French” identity is not discussed in the present essay. I have examined it at length in Saliha Belmessous, “Etre français en Nouvelle-France: Identité française et identité coloniale aux dix-septième et dix-huitième siècles,” French Historical Studies 27 (Summer 2004): 507–40.
39� Governor Frontenac to Minister, November 13, 1673, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1926–27, 43; Intendant Jacques Duchesneau to Minister, November 13, 1681, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 290; Intendant Jacques de Meulles to Minister, November 12, 1682, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fols. 87–88; and November 4, 1683, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fols. 193–94; Governor General Jacques René de Brisay de Denonville to Minister, November 13, 1685, AN, C11A, vol. 7, fol. 106. Acquiring literacy was also part of the program: on writing and the possession of reason, see Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Writing ‘Race’ and the Difference It Makes,” in Gates, Jr., ed., “Race,” Writing, and Difference (Chicago, 1985): 8; on the perceived necessity of literacy and writing for the possession of history, and on savagery and the absence of literacy, see Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford, Calif., 2001), 114–29.
40� Intendant Duchesneau to Minister, November 13, 1681, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 291; on this question, see also W. J. Eccles, “Sovereignty-Association, 1500–1783,” Canadian Historical Review 65, no. 4 (1984): 482; on native labor in colonial industry, see Intendant De Meulles to Minister, November 4, 1683, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fol. 194; September 28, 1685, AN, C11A, vol. 7, fol. 152.
41� “Article XVII de la charte de la compagnie des Cent-Associés,” in Mercure de France, XIV, 245, cited by Pierre Clément, ed., Lettres, instructions et mémoires de Colbert, 7 vols. (Paris, 1865), 3: 2, 404.
42� Samuel de Champlain, The Works of Samuel de Champlain, H. P. Biggar, ed., 6 vols. (Toronto, 1929), 3: 4, 145–46.
43� Intendant Duchesneau to Minister, November 13, 1681, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fols. 290, 317; Marc Jetten, Enclaves amérindiennes: Les réductions du Canada, 1637–1701 (Sillery, Québec, 1994), 130–34. On the history of native Catholic villages, see this brief and useful synthesis.
44� Colbert to Governor Frontenac, May 8, 1679, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1926–27.
45� Louis XIV to Bishop Laval, March 2, 1668, cited by G. Stanley, “Policy of Francisation,” 340; Colbert to Jean Talon, February 20, 1668, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1930–31, 94–95; and February 11, 1671, 147; Louis XIV to Governor Frontenac, April 22, 1675 and May 12, 1678; and Colbert to Frontenac, May 8, 1679, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1926–27.
46� Allan Greer, The People of New France (Toronto, 1997), 17, followed by Aubert, “Blood of France,” 454–55, has recently claimed that the state-funded transportation of about 770 French single women (filles du roi) to Canada between 1663 and 1673 showed that the policy of intermarrying was already abandoned. Greer states that “the ‘king’s daughters’ program represented a racial reorientation as much as a demographic developmentalist agenda.” Yet the endowment of Christian native women, twenty years after the supposed abandonment of intermarriage, invalidates such statements: intermarriage was still promoted even if few blessed unions were celebrated. The crown sent French women to invigorate colonial demographic development. The “filles du roi” program was parallel to francisation; it was not an alternative. It was a short-term program whereas francisation was still the long-term one.
47� Hubert Charbonneau, Bertrand Desjardins, et al., Naissance d’une population: Les Français établis au Canada au XVIIe siècle (Paris and Montreal, 1987), 8–9, 15, 58.
48� Sarah M. S. Pearsall, “Gender,” in Armitage and Braddick, The British Atlantic World, 1500–1800, 120.
49� Jean Delumeau and Daniel Roche, eds., Histoire des pères et de la paternité (Paris, 1990), 44, 58, 61–62, 71–72, 131, 136; Jean-Louis Flandrin, Familles: Parenté, maison, sexualité dans l’ancienne société, rev. edn. (1976; Paris, 1984), 117–18; Pierre Darmon, Le mythe de la procréation à l’âge baroque (Paris, 1977); Jouanna, L’idée de race en France, 75; on the physical differences thought to exist between men and women, see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass., 1990).
50� On gender and colonialism, see especially Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York, 1995); Kathleen M. Brown, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1996); and Martha Hodes, ed., Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (New York, 1999).
51� Isabelle Perrault, “Le métissage en Nouvelle-France” (M.Sc. thesis, Université de Montréal, 1980), 235; Dickason, “From One Nation,” 19, 21–22.
52� On the political use of sex in French America, see Spear, “Colonial Intimacies”; on French-Amerindian alliance, see Denys Delâge, “L’alliance franco-amérindienne, 1660–1701,” Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 19, no. 1 (1989): 3–15; and White, Middle Ground, chap. 4.
53� Similar policies were used when the French tried to colonize the island of Maranhâo in northern Brazil between 1612 and 1614 and in the early days of colonization of the Illinois country and Florida in the eighteenth century (see Dickason, “From One Nation,” 33 n. 16).
54� On the use of assimilation to dispossess indigenous peoples, see Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference,” 867, 885; on French early colonial claims, see Brian Slattery, “French Claims in North America, 1500–59,” Canadian Historical Review 59, no. 2 (1978): 139–69; on the European religious argument to justify colonization, see Robert A. Williams, Jr., The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest (New York, 1990), 66, 80–81; on the development of French claims throughout French rule, see Belmessous, “D’un préjugé culturel à un préjugé racial: La politique indigène de la France au Canada” (Ph.D. dissertation, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, 1999), 316–40.
55� De Meulles to Minister, November 12, 1682, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fol. 90. Demographers have confirmed De Meulles’s estimate, recording six official intermarriages for the seventeenth century (that is 1.6 marriages for a thousand) and ninety-five for the whole period of the French regime. See Hubert Charbonneau and Yves Landry, “La politique démographique en Nouvelle-France,” Annales de démographie historique (1979): 54. Historians have found different and conflicting numbers: Cornelius Jaenen has recorded sixteen intermarriages in the seventeenth century (Role of the Church, 29) whereas André Lachance and Sylvie Savoie have found higher numbers—145 marriages between Frenchmen and Amerindian women and thirty-five between Frenchwomen and Amerindian men (“Les Amérindiens sous le Régime français,” in Lachance, ed., Les marginaux, les exclus et l’Autre au Canada aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles [Saint-Laurent, Québec, 1996], 191).
56� De Meulles to Minister, November 12, 1682, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fols. 87–88.
57� Paul Le Jeune, “Relation of What Occurred in New France in the Year 1633,” in Thwaites, The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 5: 145; on Jesuit efforts to convert Amerindians to Christianity, see Axtell, Invasion Within, 46–127.
58� Jetten, Enclaves amérindiennes, 128.
59� Officials’ opposition to the Jesuits was part of a larger effort to decrease ecclesiastical authority to the benefit of royal power. See Axtell, Invasion Within, 67, 69; and James F. Traer, Marriage and Family in Eighteenth-Century France (Ithaca, N.Y., 1980), 22–47.
60� Colbert, “Instruction pour M. de Bouterone, intendant du Canada, 5 avril 1668,” in Clément, Lettres, instructions et mémoires de Colbert, 3: 2, 404.
61� Eccles, “Sovereignty-Association,” 479, 493, 498; White, Middle Ground 69, 74, 165.
62� Bruce M. White, “The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns and Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade,” Ethnohistory 46, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 128, 138.
63� White, Middle Ground, 65–66.
64� Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670–1870 (1980; Norman, Okla., 1983), 4; White, Middle Ground, 65, 69; White, “Woman Who Married a Beaver”; Susan Sleeper-Smith, “Women, Kin, and Catholicism: New Perspectives on the Fur Trade,” Ethnohistory 47, no. 2 (Spring 2000): 423–51.
65� Jan Grabowski, “The Common Ground: Settled Natives and French in Montreal, 1667–1760” (Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Montréal, 1993).
66� On the close link between the fur trade and intermarriage, see Jacqueline Peterson, “Many Roads to Red River: Métis Genesis in the Great Lakes Region, 1680–1815,” in Peterson and Brown, The New Peoples, 53.
67� Farming was the responsibility of women in northeastern and northwestern indigenous societies: see Bruce G. Trigger, ed., Northeast, vol. 15 of Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, ed. (Washington, D.C., 1978).
68� Governor Denonville to Minister, November 13, 1685, AN, C11A, vol. 7, fols. 90–91 for the quote; September 10, 1686, vol. 8, fol. 146; Denonville, “Mémoire à Monseigneur de Seignelay,” August 10, 1688, vol. 10, fol. 66; Denonville, “Mémoire concernant le Canada pour Monseigneur le marquis de Seignelay fait en janvier 1690,” vol. 11, fol. 188.
69� Denonville to Minister, May 8, 1686, AN, C11A, vol. 8, fol. 11; Denonville to Governor Dongan, September 29, 1686, AN, C11A, vol. 8, fols. 101–02; Denonville to Minister, September 11, 1686, AN, C11A, vol. 8, fol. 161; August 25, 1687, vol. 9, fol. 82; January 1687, vol. 9, fol. 249; August 10, 1688, vol. 10, fol. 69; Denonville to King, no date, AN, C11A, vol. 10, fol. 26.
70� Denonville’s plea for military conquest was not exceptional: François de Laval, bishop of Quebec and apostolic vicar between 1658 and 1688, called several times for military action against the Iroquois to ensure the evangelization of indigenous peoples. See Luca Codignola, “The Holy See and the Conversion of the Indians in French and British North America, 1486–1760,” in Kupperman, America in European Consciousness, 211.
71� Duchesneau to Minister, November 20, 1679, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 51; November 13, 1680, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 178 for the quote; November 13, 1681, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 291; and Memoir, November 13, 1681, AN, C11A, vol. 5, fol. 317.
72� “Sentiments du Sr de Champigny sur le Mémoire du Sr Lamotte Cadillac,” October 20, 1699, AN, C11A, vol. 17, fol. 101.
73� Stanley discusses the three essential factors for assimilation in “Policy of Francisation,” 347.
74� Governor Frontenac to Minister, November 1696, AN, C11A, vol. 14, fol. 47; Governor Vaudreuil to Minister, September 16, 1714, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1947–48 (Québec, 1948), 268; Commandant Louvigny to Minister, 1724, AN, C11A, vol. 46, fol. 307; Intendant Hocquart, “Mémoire,” 1737, AN, C11A, vol. 67, fol. 104; “Mémoire ou Journal sommaire du voyage de Jacques Repentigny Legardeur de Saint Pierre chevalier de l’Ordre Royal et Militaire de St Louis, capitaine d’une compagnie des troupes détachées de la Marine en Canada, chargé de la découverte de la mer de l’Ouest (1750–1752),” Explorations du nord-ouest: Journal de La Vérendrye (1738–1739), 160, Newberry Library, Chicago, Ayer Collection, 169.8, N8 L2; “Relation de Mr Poulariès envoyée à Mr le Marquis de Montcalm, 1757,” Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1931–32 (Québec, 1932), 61.
75� See Louise Tremblay, “La politique missionnaire des Sulpiciens au XVIIe et début du XVIIIe siècle” (M.A. thesis, Université de Montréal, 1981); and Catherine M. Desbarats, “The Cost of Early Canada’s Native Alliances: Reality and Scarcity’s Rhetoric,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 52, no. 41 (1995): 619–20. Attempts to manipulate the natives should not, however, be interpreted as a sign of indifference to conversion. Even if Christianity was no longer at the heart of early modern nobiliary thought and culture, the de-Christianization of the French elites had not yet transpired. Jean Quéniart, Les hommes, l’église et Dieu dans la France du XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1978), 264.
76� Since 1683, this money had already been used for other purposes like endowing Frenchwomen: see Governor General Joseph-Antoine Lefebvre de La Barre to Minister, November 4, 1683, AN, C11A, vol. 6, fol. 140.
77� Louise Dechène, Habitants et marchands de Montréal au XVIIe siècle (1974; rpt. edn., Montreal, 1988), 173–76.
78� Denonville to Minister, August 25, 1687, AN, C11A, vol. 9, fol. 75.
79� In the eighteenth century, furs represented seventy percent of exports from Canada and fifty percent of exports from New France. On the eve of the Seven Years’ War, the fur trade still remained, despite a significant slowing, the most lucrative activity. Jean Hamelin et al., Histoire du Québec (Toulouse, 1976), 20.
80� On the life of illegal traders, see Helen Hornbeck Tanner, “The Career of Joseph La France, Coureur de Bois in the Upper Great Lakes,” in Jennifer S. H. Brown, W. J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman, eds., The Fur Trade Revisited (East Lansing, Mich., 1994), 171–87.
81� Peterson, “Many Roads to Red River,” 42–45, 48; White, Middle Ground, 68.
82� Historians quite often confuse Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, born in France in 1643 and governor general of New France from 1703 to 1725, with his son Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, born in Canada in 1698 and the last governor general of New France from 1755 to 1760.
83� “Mémoire de Lamothe Cadillac au comte de Maurepas,” 1698, AN, C11E, vol. 14, fols. 35–36, 58.
84� Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven, Conn., 1992), 12–13; Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge, 1998), 105–06; Andrew Fitzmaurice, Humanism and America: An Intellectual History of English Colonisation, 1500–1625 (Cambridge, 2003), 19.
85� Minister to Cadillac, June 14, 1704, AN, C11E, vol. 14, fols. 194–95.
86� “Ordres de Vaudreuil à Lamothe Cadillac,” June 20, 1706, AN, F3, vol. 9, fol. 7; Governor Vaudreuil to Minister, April 28, 1706, October 30, 1706, November 1, 1706, and November 4, 1706 (this letter has four dates), Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1938–39 (Québec, 1939), 108; Cadillac to Minister, September 15, 1708, AN, C11E, vol. 15, fol. 27.
87� The reality, however, of the relations between settlers and natives ensured an important social and economic role for Amerindian women: see Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties; and White, “Woman Who Married a Beaver.”
88� The comments of the naval secretary are written in the margin of Cadillac’s letter, 1709, AN, C11E, vol. 15, fol. 27.
89� Pontchartrain to Governor Vaudreuil, July 6, 1709, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1942–43 (Québec, 1943), 406.
90� Governor Vaudreuil and Intendant Jacques Raudot to Minister, November 14, 1709, Rapport de l’archivste de la province de Québec pour 1942–43, 420.
91� White, Middle Ground, 214–15.
92� Dickason, “From One Nation,” 25–27.
93� See Gilles Havard, The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century, Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, trans. (Montreal, 2001).
94� Jouanna, L’idée de race en France, 86–87.
95� In Saint Domingue, métis were similarly stigmatized by the Spanish: see, for instance, Hugo Tolentino, Origines du préjugé racial aux Amériques (Paris, 1984), 86–93.
96� Antoine Furetière, Dictionaire universel, contenant generalement tous les mots françois, tant vieux que modernes, et les termes des sciences et des arts (1610; rpt. edn., Paris, 1978). The statement, recently made by Aubert, “Blood of France,” 453, that Colbert was using a “quasi-biological” language to conceptualize Amerindians remains unsubstantiated.
97� Hannaford, Race; Pritchard, In Search of Empire, 102, has claimed that Vaudreuil understood “blood” in terms of “class,” by which he seems to refer to the question of genealogy, but he does not account for the changing meaning of the term “blood” in the eighteenth century.
98� Duclos to Minister, December 25, 1715, quoted in Spear, “Colonial Intimacies,” 95.
99� See also Spear, “Colonial Intimacies,” 95–96.
100� On French commanders’ acceptance of intermarriage, see Peterson, “Many Roads to Red River,” 42–43, and White, Middle Ground, 69.
101� Dickason, “From One Nation,” 28.
102� Michèle Marcadier, “Vision du Canada et de ses habitants au XVIIIe siècle” (Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Poitiers, 1981), 371. Canadian single mothers would sometimes give their children to native families who then adopted them: see Denys Delâge, “Les Iroquois chrétiens des ‘réductions,’ 1667–1770, Part I: Migration et rapports avec les Français,” Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 21, nos. 1–2 (1991): 64; and Yoland Bouchard, “Les ‘enfants du roi’ dans le gouvernement de Montréal,” in Lachance, Les marginaux, les exclus et l’Autre, 84.
103� On adoption in early modern France, see Jean-Pierre Gutton, Histoire de l’adoption en France (Paris, 1993); and Kristin Elizabeth Gager, Blood Ties and Fictive Ties: Adoption and Family Life in Early Modern France (Princeton, N.J., 1996). On native independence and French laws, see John A. Dickinson, “Native Sovereignty and French Justice in Early Canada,” in Jim Phillips, Tina Loo, and Susan Lewthwaite, eds., Crime and Criminal Justice (Toronto, 1994), 17–40; and Jan Grabowski, “French Criminal Justice and Indians in Montreal, 1670–1760,” Ethnohistory 43, no. 3 (1996): 405–29.
104� “Sr de Lino, procureur du roi de Québec, au Conseil de la Marine,” c. 1717, AN, C11A, vol. 38, fol. 210.
105� “Ordonnance de l’intendant Michel Bégon sur les femmes qui deviennent enceintes par voies illicites du 6 février 1722,” in Pierre-Georges Roy, ed., Inventaire des ordonnances des intendants de la Nouvelle-France conservées aux Archives Provinciales de Québec, 4 vols. (Beauceville, Québec, 1919), 1: 216–17.
106� Louis Franquet, Voyages et mémoires sur le Canada (Montreal, 1974), 107.
107� Spear, “Colonial Intimacies,” 86. Blessing intermarriages did not mean that the missionaries promoted such unions: their hierarchy certainly did not as it required that the missionaries seek their bishop’s approval, as well as the consent of the governor and the groom’s family, before celebrating a mixed marriage. Jaenen, Role of the Church, 29.
108� Comte de Maurepas to Governor General Charles de Beauharnois, 1735, AN, B, vol. 63, fol. 88.
109� On the French Enlightenment, see Michèle Duchet, Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières (1971; rpt. edn., Paris, 1995); and Duchet, Le partage des savoirs: Discours historique, discours ethnologique (Paris, 1984); see also George W. Stocking, Jr., Victorian Anthropology (New York, 1987), chap. 1. Ironically, the model of civilization the philosophes established in the late eighteenth century to save the Amerindians from extinction owed very much to the policy of francisation: natives had to settle down and farm the land; they had to assimilate to European culture through intermarriage. Finally, the Europeans had to encourage the Amerindians to develop new needs in order to stimulate agriculture and commerce. Duchet, Anthropologie et histoire, 209–26.
110� La Galissonière and Silhouette, “Mémoire sur les colonies de la France dans l’Amérique Septentrionale,” December 1750, AN, C11A, vol. 96, fols. 265–70; William J. Eccles, “The Social, Economic, and Political Significance of the Military Establishment in New France,” in Essays on New France (Toronto, 1987), 110–24.
111� Compare with Maurice Filion, La pensée et l’action coloniales de Maurepas vis-à-vis du Canada, 1723–1749: L’âge d’or de la colonie (Ottawa, 1972).
112� Guy Frégault, Le XVIIIe siècle canadien: études (Montreal, 1970), 179; Leslie Choquette, “Center and Periphery in French North America,” in Christine Daniels and Michael V. Kennedy, eds., Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820 (New York, 2002), 202.
113� Yvan Debbasch, Couleur et liberté: Le jeu du critère ethnique dans un ordre juridique et esclavagiste, vol. 1: L’affranchi dans les possessions françaises de la Caraïbe (1635–1833) (Paris, 1967); Pierre Boulle, “In Defense of Slavery: Eighteenth-Century Opposition to Abolition and the Origins of Racist Ideology in France,” in Frederick Krantz, ed., History from Below: Studies in Popular Protest and Popular Ideology (Oxford, 1988); Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France,” chap. 4.
114� Pierre Boulle, “La construction du concept de race dans la France d’ancien régime,” Outre-Mers: Revue d’histoire 89, nos. 336–37 (2002): 155–75.
115� Peterson, “Many Roads to Red River,” 53; Spear, “Colonial Intimacies,” 96; William Wicken, “Re-examining Mi’kmaq-Acadian Relations, 1635–1755,” in Sylvie Dépatie et al., Habitants et marchands vingt ans après: Lectures de l’histoire des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles canadiens (Montreal, 1998), 95–108.
116� The British officially encouraged intermarriage in Acadia after the French strongly rejected it. Although intermarriage had been formally proscribed in the English colonies from the seventeenth century for ideological reasons that were related to the development of the idea of race, in 1729 British authorities in Acadia offered material incentives to any British man who would marry a native woman. Their aim was to challenge the French-Abenaki alliance by establishing kinship between British settlers and indigenous peoples. On English rejection of intermarriage, see David D. Smits, “‘We Are Not to Grow Wild’: Seventeenth-Century New England’s Repudiation of Anglo-Indian Intermarriage,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 11, no. 4 (1987): 1–32; and Smits, “‘Abominable Mixture’: Toward the Repudiation of Anglo-Indian Intermarriage in Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 95 (1987): 157–92. On British promotion of intermarriage in Acadia, see Public Archives of Canada, Archives des Colonies, Misc. Docs., 2: 196, cited in Dickason, “From One Nation,” 36 n. 64.
117� Intendant Antoine-Denis Raudot [wrongly attributed to P. Antoine Silvy, S.J.], Relation par lettres de l’Amérique Septentrionalle (années 1709 et 1710) (Paris, 1904), letter 23, 61–62.
118� Yet “pride and savagery were seen as inextricably intertwined.” See Karen O. Kupperman, “Introduction,” in Kupperman, America in European Consciousness, 10.
119� Interestingly, the French change in perception of Amerindians can be compared to changing attitudes toward Andeans in New Spain a century earlier. There, too, Spanish failure to Christianize and assimilate Andeans generated deep skepticism in colonial minds, and the native refusal to renounce ancestral religious practices was blamed on their bodies whereas earlier deviance had been blamed on the devil. Cañizares-Esguerra, “New World, New Stars.”
120� On the fear of Amerindians shown by French officials, see Belmessous, “D’un préjugé culturel à un préjugé racial,” 120–34. On the issue of “going native,” see Frank Lestringant, “Le Français ensauvagé: Métissage et échec colonial en Amérique (XVIème-XVIIIème siècles),” in Jean-Claude Marimoutou and Jean-Michel Racault, eds., Métissages, vol. 1: Littérature-Histoire (Saint-Denis and Paris, 1992), 214; and Owen White, “The Decivilizing Mission: Auguste Dupuis-Yakouba and French Timbuktu,” French Historical Studies 27, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 541–68. See also Jean-Pierre Vernant, La mort dans les yeux: Figures de l’Autre en Grèce ancienne (Paris, 1998), 17–18.
121� Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Journal, September 1757, Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec pour 1923–24 (Québec, 1924), 313.
122� For an account of French maneuvering, see Ian K. Steele, Betrayals: Fort William Henry and the “Massacre” (New York, 1990).
123� Although exploitation, legitimized by racialization, was the new colonial policy toward Amerindians, the French never had the means to implement it; on the field, they had to recognize native agency and content themselves with a formal rather than real authority. See White, Middle Ground; Grabowski, “French Criminal Justice and Indians”; Belmessous, “D’un préjugé culturel à un préjugé racial,” 404–07.
124� Chaplin, “Natural Philosophy”; Cañizares-Esguerra, “New World, New Stars.”
125� Compare Burke, “America and the Rewriting of World History”; and Armitage, “The New World and British Historical Thought.”
126� See for comparison Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, Calif., 1998); and John Gascoigne, The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia (Cambridge, 2002), chap. 8.
127� In our postcolonial era, policies of “development” proposed for, even sometimes imposed on, a large number of countries seem to be the historical recipients of a premodern intellectual structure.
128� Wolfe, “Land, Labor, and Difference,” 871.