The French Treason That Forged the Quebec of Today



            The Battle of The Plains of Abraham has several unclear points in the developments of the official historic; therefore, it merits a better historic analysis than has been done. The battle is remember today as full of the heroic acts of French soldiers and their leader Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, known as Marquis de Montcalm or simply Montcalm as well as the military cunning of the British commander General James Wolfe [1][4]. The official history does a very lineal reading of this battle concluding that, because of Montcalm’s military tactic errors, “Nouvelle France[1] was lost [1][2][5]; nonetheless, many pre-, during and post- battle acts show that this simple and politically convenient myopic reading could be wrong, and the hypothesis of an agreement between British and French takes more force and consistency. This agreement, if it was carried out, could be considered French treason. The outcomes of the battle allowed unification of today Canadian territory by the English Empire, and there is no doubt that the relationship between French and English Canadians changed at this point of the history; therefore, the Canadian history started a narrow way, and continued before and after the signature of the Canadian Confederation Act. French Canadian history was stopped for two hundred years due to this battle and the Treaty of Paris; therefore, deeper studies as well as several discussions are necessaries for knowing the true acts around this battle and the possible French treason that left Quebec to its own fate.

            The conquest avarice of the European nations brought looting, blood and death to America [12]. For Canada, this could be divided in three periods, the first of them finished with the The Battle of The Plains of Abraham, the second until the creation of Canadian Confederation on July 1st, 1867, and the third until present days. In spite of Italian, English, Portuguese and Viking expeditions, the French Jacques Cartier expedition is considered the first organized toward what today is known as the eastern of Canadian territory [7][8]. There are indicators of Viking settlement long before the Jacques Cartier expedition; also, there were a lot of native communities living across the Canadian territory with a very sophisticated social organization, some of them with matriarchal as government systems such as the Iroquois in Quebec, some of them pacific, other warriors [7]. Usually, for historians, the richest Canadian history starts with Cartier's expeditions, demonstrating that the history and the importance of each event are written by the winners in the history. A clear but cruel example of this are the approximately 150 million people killed, the hundreds of destroyed cultures and billions of dollars stolen from America in the name of European civilization and Christianity [12] [13], mainly for Spain, England, Portugal and France. Jacques Cartier came three times to eastern Canada, what he called the "Nouvelle France", in 1534, 1535 and 1541, but it was not possible for him to go further south because both English and Spanish expeditions anticipated the French one and they occupied what today is the eastern USA. Cartier’s first reports spoke of the difficulty of living in these lands, but the possibility of developing the fur trade. Cartier reached to build a fort that was destroyed by the natives when the Europeans abandoned it before the winter. Cartier died before seeing the fur trade developed, but French expeditions continued for decades after Cartier’s death. In 1608 Samuel de Champlain led the expedition that fixed a permanent French settlement in Canada, founding on July 3 the "Ville de Quebec"[2], which became the capital of "Nouvelle France". Today, we celebrate the 400 year anniversary of what some people consider the oldest city in Canada [12], the "Ville de Quebec", ignoring and scorning all the first nation culture, their organization and cities, the Viking settlement and also ignoring the "Ville de Tadoussac", which was founded in 1599 by Francis Grave and Pierre Chauvin. This is another example that the history is written by the winners. The successive French expeditions developed the fur trade organizing a network of first nation people in east-central Canada and the north-eastern USA; furthermore, they expanded toward the west and establish a lot of cities and stations of trade across this region. The English Empire was organized in the Thirteen Colonies in the eastern USA, but the Spanish and French pressure in the south, the ambition for the fur trade business and the permanent confrontation of the Empires in Europe, drove the English Empire expansion toward the north, producing an unavoidable collision with the French Colonial Empire [7][8]. Expeditions by both countries was organized in companies that developed the political, social and military activities of the territories having as their goal the fur trade and the exploitation of these lands; thus, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and “Compagnie des Cent-Associés” (CCA) were the most important English and French companies respectively [7][8]. The French expedition generally had peaceful first nations as allies, the same that they allowed to fix the settlements in the coast of “Saint-Laurent” river, such as Algonquian, Iroquoian and Inuit groups, while the English expedition had to develop a network of allies with more aggressive and violent first nation groups, such as Eskimo, Aleut, Siouan and Catawban [7]; certainly, justified by the necessity to take quickly the territory. In this context we arrive around 1750 with two expeditions fighting for fur trade control and using all informal strategies and allies. This year, the CCA had control of the east-central Canada and the north-east USA, while the HBC had the control what it was known as Rupert’s land, a vast territory that today represent the west-central Canada and the north-west USA. The HBC advanced quickly, taking control of what today is Ontario as well as a part of Quebec. In addition, the English Empire conquered the east of Canada, including Nova Scotia and “Nouveau Brunswick” producing in 1755 the deportation and murder of Acadians with bloody methods, characteristics of every war [7]. The next step for the English troops was to advance toward Quebec, the capital of the “Nouvelle France”.

            The European context was not very different: conquests, wars, allies, thefts, treasons, blood and death; this is a part of what European called civilization and Christianization when they brought their culture to America. Years and years of barbarism, wars, treaties and marriages to take control of the European people and lands led to the Seven Years’ War [10]; namely, seven years of horror, from 1756 to 1763. This was the largest war until that time between the European Empires, and left around one million people dead[3] [10]. Prussia, which had the more powerful European army, Great Britain, which had the more powerful European navy, and others, fought against France, Austria, the Russian Empire and their allies. The fight was a land and sea in Europe as well as in the colonies. The French strategy concerning the colonies was opposite the British strategy: the “Nouvelle France” colony, primitive and under developed, was a low priority for France, while the British Empire gave the Thirteen Colonies great financial and military support. The British Empire was consistent in the defense of its colonies during the Seven Years' War and the outcome was eviden. The British Empire and its allies not only won in the European battle fields, also in all its colonies. Finally, the war finished with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, and it was given to France the possibility to retain only one of its colonies, “L’Île Guadalupe” or the “Nouvelle France”. Guadalupe Island's sugar resources prompted France to choose it, and "Nouvelle France" was given to Britain as part of the booty of war, becoming Upper and Lower Canada division [10]. The former "Nouvelle France" citizens were left to their own luck and fate, and they never forgot this and the pour blood in the name of France.

            In this European and local context before 1760, the fall of “Nouvelle France” was a question of time; consequently, the French troops didn’t have motivation why and who to fight. Only the native French people and the French rulers who had land possessions had some interest; however, Seven Years’ War wasn’t the way to solve their problems because they knew that any war against the British troops was lost before it started. The combats happened over the years, and although the French troops in general defended position against British advance, sometime they reached to contain the advance, such as in the Battle of Carillion in July 1758, where the French troops were led by Montcalm and the Chevalier de Levis [17]. At this point in the history it is interesting to stress that these French military leaders were the same as in the Battle of The Plains of Abraham. Some historians consider this battle to be a classic example tactical military incompetence [17]; therefore, this battle was not won by the French commanders, but rather lost by the English commanders. In August 1759 “Fort Frontenac” fell cutting an important way for restocking for Quebec; as a result, there remained two big cities under French control, Quebec and Ville-Marie (today Montreal). The political and military power of “Nouvelle France” was concetrated under the control of “Gouverneur Général” Pierre François de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, and the “Général” Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran. As part of the last English offensive, the General Wolfe arrived to lead the British troops, and one of his first actions was to order the siege of Quebec; consequently, by September 1759, Quebec had suffered three months of siege by the British troops, who fixed their position in the “Île d’Orléans”, supporting British bombings and skirmishes. Both commandants Montcalm and Wolfe, played to know the strategies, positions and reaction of the other. In this military chess game, Wolfe played with around 8000 well trained soldiers: 400 officers, 7,000 regular troops and 300 gunners, while Montcalm played with around 14000 men, 200 of them of cavalry, but most of these 14000 men did not have a vast experience in combat [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. Wolfe also had 49 ships and 140 smaller craft, while Montcalm had several pieces of artillery around Quebec, but the most critical factor was that Wolfe had the initiative while Montcalm had the land advantage, more troops and the cavalry for the unavoidable open field combat. Quebec is surrounded by a very high cliff with a perfect view of “Saint Laurent” river and the “Île d’Orléans”. Wolfe’s forces were based in ships; so, Montcalm’s position was ideal in this battle. On July 31, Wolfe was a little farther with his skirmishes and attacked with 3500 men in what was called the Battle of Montmorency, in the MontMorency water fall. The battle outcome was bad for the English troops because an undisciplined charge against the French troops lost 450 men against 60 French. Montcalm’s cavalry, artillery and land position had the advantage in this fight [4] [5] [6]. Montcalm waited for other attack in the same place, an area naturally divided by the Montmorency River that would allowed to the English troops to take a beach head beside the river. However, Wolf's plan, or at least Wolf's officials plan, was something else. On September 12, as he had several times before, Wolfe moved his ships, but this time he had other plans. Indeed, some historians say that Wolfe wanted to attack in Montmorency again, but he was pressured by his highest officers to attempt to establish the Plain of Abrahams cliff [2][4][5][5]. In the morning of September 13, still dark, Wolfe's army disembarked, climbed the cliff in the Plains and formed a beach head. The French officer who normally patrolled the cliffs, was unable that night because one of his horses had been stolen and his two others were lame. In addition, the first notice of the landing came from a runner, but one of Montcalm's officers thought that the man was mad and sent him away, then he went back to bed [1][5][18]. Early in the morning, the British troops were 3500 men under a very well military discipline; the French troops arrived from Beauport, but the cavalry and the artillery were not available and Montcalm was one of few mounted men on the field battle. The historians say that Montcalm, under his European military education, decided not to attack the English troops when they were still organized themselves because he preferred a large, set-piece battles in which regiments and soldiers moved in precision order [1][2][3][4][5][6][18]; nevertheless, training for such actions took up to 18 months of exercise for each soldier, but Montcalm troops were inexperienced and without workout. Montcalm’s decision allowed to English troops to reach a good position of combat and to confront the French troops with the tactic that they better knew; besides, Montcalm didn’t want to wait the arrival of more French troops and the 3500 soldiers forming the French defense attacked, without cavalry nor artillery, in a good example of military disorder and indiscipline [4][5][6][18]. Wolfe died on the field battle; Montcalm was mortally wounded in his retreat, and he died early the next morning in the fortification of Quebec. Quebec was taken the same day of the battle, Ville-Marie one year later; and, the French capitulated on September 8th, 1760, when the British took possession of Ville-Marie. Finally, the Treaty of Paris gave possession of “Nouvelle France” to the British Empire. The numbers of the Battle of The Plains of Abraham say 644 French and 658 English men were killed or injured. The consequences of this battle can be seen today.

            The battle as well as the agreement between France and England in the Treaty of Paris resulted in France abandoning “Nouvelle France” to its own fate. This was culturally expensive and significant for the people in the former “Nouvelle France” for the following two hundred years. They suffered the same actions that all people and lands suffer when they are conquered by a dominant nation, but the "Nouvelle France" French native people resisted for years against this cultural and religious subjection, trying to conserve their culture, religion and habits. They were isolated for around two hundred years from the rest of the world, and more significantly from France[4]. Several explanations could be offered taking in consideration these events in the history; certainly, one of the most interesting is about why Quebecois[4] language is so different from international French. Historians say that because the Quebecoises from the rest of the world, their language did not evolve lik other fracophone countries; in consequence, the French language spoken today in the province regions of Quebec is the same French language that the French King Louis XIV spoke around 1760[16]. Finally, thousands of acts, cultural movements, music, dances and thoughts of Quebecoises could be explained by this isolation showing how a simple military outcome could strongly affect the fate of a people.

            Analyzing the context surrounding the battle, both the European and American scenarios have similarities: power, invasions, treaties, treasons, robberies and death between; in this case British and French Empires, and all people that they could manipulate [5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]. There were no differences the European and the American scenarios besides the weather, the land and people submitted in each one. The reasons, facilities and leaders were the same. The military and political leaders had the same European education and formation, also their thought, ambition, conduct and behavior about similar events and their conclusions, as the consequences of the battles and convenience of agreements to conserve lands and power [6] [9][12][13][14]. Keeping in mind the events both in Europe and North America, we can stress:

-          Several treaties, agreements and treasons were done in Europe; so, it is highly probable to have the same behavior in North America because the leaders in both scenarios were the same;

-          On night where the British troops were making critical movements, the French patrol official had problems with his three horses;

-          Another official didn’t believe in the report about the attack of British troops and he continued sleeping;

-          Montcalm’s big strategic errors after three month of skirmish and battles at Battle of Montmorency;

-          Montcalm’s incomprehensible order not to attack the English troops before they had formed the beach head;

-          Montcalm’s belief about the respect for the enemy and the decision to develop the battle in field open;

-          Montcalm’s strategy to fight in field open with a unprepared troops;

-          Montcalm charge order without use of his superiority force, such as the number of soldiers, artillery and cavalry.

And knowing that only one of these events could change the history of this battle and their consequences, in logical conclusion it is more probable that the battle was decided before to start by means of an agreement. But why did Montcalm and Wolf die in the battle? Historians say that Montcalm was fleeing the field battle toward Quebec he was shot in the shoulder producing a mortal injure [4][18]. Who shot him? The British troops by error or maybe his own troops or officials knowing that he was escaping. The official history says that the British troops shoot him. Wolfe died was possible killed by his own officers too. In the hours before the attack, Wolfe, who had been leading the British troops only a few months, had a heated discussion with his officers where prompted Wolfe’s decision to attack on Plains of Abraham instead of Montmorency water falls again, remembering that The Battle of Montmorency had been Wolfe’s military error. Murdering officers in the field battle was common at this time [12]. At this point it is necessary to study each one of the British officers, mainly Brigadier-General George Townshend, who wrote [11] "by some intelligence the General had, he has changed his mind as to the place he intended to land”. For the French side, it could be interesting to investigate the actions of the “Gouverneur Général” Pierre François de Rigaud Vaudreuil, as well as the artillery and cavalry commandants. With these men we could find the explanation of the agreement that forged the French treason to give Quebec.





[1] Wolfe et Montcalm : la véritable histoire de deux chefs ennemis, by Joy Carroll ; traduit de l'anglais par Suzanne Anfossi, by Joy Carroll, Éditions de l'Homme, 2006, 362 pp

[2] The Plains of Abraham, by Brian Connell. Hodder and Stoughton Edition, 1959, 288 pp

[3] The probable site of the battle of the Plains of Abraham [microforme], by Arthur G. Doughty, ISBN 0665945094, 1994

[4] Wolfe and Montcalm, by Casgrain, H.-R., Morang Editions, 1911, 296 pp.

[5] Les batailles des Plaines d'Abraham et de Sainte-Foy, by Casgrain, P.-B., Éditions Daily telegraph, 1908, 93 pp

[6], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[7], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[8], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[9], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[10], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[11], in line, consulted 2008/02/10

[12] Argentinos: Tomo 1, Jorge Lanata, Ediciones B Grupo Zeta, Avril 2003, ISBN-10: 9501522598, 671 pp


  9319th_century), in line, consulted 2008/02/16


        ce14009efdc8, in line, consulted 2008/02/16

[15], in line, consulted 2008/02/16

[16] Personal communication with Simon Ferchette, Université de Sherbrooke.

[17], in line, consulted 2008/02/16

[18], in line, consulted 2008/02/16


[1] In this document, cities and names will be maintained in their original language.

[2] The "Ville de Quebec" will be referred simply as Quebec. In the time surrounding these events didn’t exist the “Province du Quebec”; so, it is not necessary to make the difference between. 

[3] This war is considered for some historians as the real First World War [10]; for others it was only a European Civil War as well as we know today as the First World War (1914 to 1918) [16].

[4] The name Quebecois is used as the people who live and lived in the territory of the Province of Quebec.



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