French colonization of the Americas

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The French colonization of the Americas began in the 16th century, and continued in the following centuries as France established a colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America. Most colonies were developed to export products such as fish, sugar, and furs. As they colonized the New World, the French established forts and settlements that would become such cities as Quebec and Montreal in Canada; Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Mobile, Biloxi, Baton Rouge and New Orleans in the United States; and Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien in Haiti.

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North America

The French first came to the New World as explorers, seeking a route to the Pacific ocean and wealth. Major French exploration of North America began under the rule of Francis I, King of France. In 1524, Francis sent Italian-born Giovanni da Verrazano to explore the region between Florida and Newfoundland for route to the Pacific Ocean. Verrazzano gave the names Francesca and Nova Gallia to that land between New Spain and English Newfoundland, thus promoting French interests.[1]

Later, in 1534, Francis sent Jacques Cartier on the first of three voyages to explore the coast of Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River. The French subsequently tried to establish several colonies throughout North America that failed, due to weather, disease or conflict with other European powers. Cartier attempted to create the first permanent European settlement in North America at Cap-Rouge (Quebec City) in 1541 with 400 settlers but the settlement was abandoned the next year after bad weather and Indian attacks. A small group of French troops were left on Parris Island, South Carolina in 1562 to build Charlesfort, but left after a year when they were not resupplied from France. Fort Caroline established in present-day Jacksonville, Florida in 1564, lasted only a year before being destroyed by the Spanish from St. Augustine. An attempt to settle convicts on Sable Island off Nova Scotia in 1598 failed after a short time. In 1599, a sixteen-person trading post was established in Tadoussac (in present-day Quebec), of which only five men survived the first winter. In 1604, Saint Croix Island, Maine was the site of a short-lived French colony, much plagued by illness, perhaps scurvy. Fort Saint Louis was established in Texas in 1685, but was gone by 1688.

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