A cold uncomfortable uninviting region, from which nothing but furrs and fish were to be had

Samuel Johnson, writing in 1756, “An Introduction to the Political State of Great-Britain”. Here he discusses how the French ended up in Quebec.

About this time, it was, that the French first began to turn their thoughts to traffick and navigation, and to desire like other nations an American territory. All the fruitful and valuable parts of the western world were already either occupied or claimed, and nothing remained for France but the leavings of other navigators, for she was not yet haughty enough to seize what the neighbouring powers had already appropriated.

The French therefore contented themselves with sending a colony to Canada, a cold uncomfortable uninviting region, from which nothing but furrs [sic] and fish were to be had, and where the new inhabitants could only pass a laborious and necessitous life in perpetual regret of the deliciousness and plenty of their native country….

In this region of desolate sterility they settled themselves, upon whatever principle; and as they have from that time had the happiness of a government by which no interest has been neglected, nor any part of their subjects overlooked, they have, by continual encouragement and assistance from France, been perpetually enlarging their bounds and increasing their numbers….

The French settlement in the mean time went slowly forward, too inconsiderable to raise any jealousy, and too weak to attempt any incroachments. (Johnson [1756] 1968: 6-8)

I also found this quite interesting, also about Quebec.

If the Spaniards, when they first took possession of the newly discovered world, instead of destroying the inhabitants by the thousands, had either had the unanimity or the policy to have conciliated them by kind treatment and to have united them gradually to their own people, such an accession might have been made to the power of the king of Spain, as would have made him far the greatest monarch that ever yet ruled the globe; but the opportunity was lost by foolishness and cruelty, and now can never be recovered…. [6-7]

[As for Quebec] their greater security is the friendship of the natives, and to this advantage they have certainly an indubitable right; because it is the consequence of their virtue. It is ridiculous to imagine, that the friendship of nations, whether civil or barbarous, can be gained and kept but by kind treatment; and surely they who intrude, uncalled, upon the country of a distant people, ought to consider the natives as worthy of common kindness, and content themselves to rob without insulting them. The French, as has been already observed, admit the Indians, by intermarriage, to an equality with themselves, and those nations, with which they have no such near intercourse, they gain over to their interest by honesty in their dealings. [16-17]

Johnson, Samuel. [1756] 1968. “An Introduction to the Political State of Great-Britain.” In Johnson, Samuel 1968. The Political Writings of Dr Johnson. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

1 thought on “A cold uncomfortable uninviting region, from which nothing but furrs and fish were to be had

  1. Pingback: A cold uncomfortable uninviting region, from which nothing but furrs and fish were to be had - The Rabbit Hole

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