14 July

France Retains Islands

Little noticed and seldom visited are the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off Burin Peninsula, southwest Newfoundland. They are all that is left of the vast possessions France once held in North America.

France seemed glad to get rid of Canada through the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, but she kept St. Pierre and Miquelon as bases for French fishing vessels. Fishing rights along the coasts were probably the most valuable thing Canada had to offer in those days. Britain agreed to France's retaining St. Pierre and Miquelon, provided they would be used only as fishing bases. No fort could be built, and the police force was never to exceed fifty men.

France put the Baron de l'Espérance in charge of the islands on July 14, 1763. Although many Acadians had drifted back to Canada after the expulsion of 1755, some of them refused to become British subjects. The Baron de l'Espérance gave them land in St. Pierre-Miquelon, and hoped they would become good settlers.

This was a mistake. The Acadians were farmers and the soil of the island was unsuitable for agriculture. Many of them were so unhappy that they were taken to France. They were unhappy in France too, and decided that the barren soil of St. Pierre-Miquelon was preferable to the tyranny and oppression in France in 1768. So back they came! A large number made a living by fishing rather than farming. Smuggling was a profitable sideline.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Admiral Montague, Governor of Newfoundland, evacuated nearly 2,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre-Miquelon and sent them to France. Most of them returned at the end of the war and there was peace and quiet until Britain became involved in war again with Napoleon and the French Revolution.

There were even problems during World War II when France was governed by Vichy. It was always possible that Germany would take over France completely, and that St. Pierre-Miquelon could be used as bases for submarines or spies. The inhabitants were allowed to stay on the islands, but a proposal to build a powerful radio station was cancelled.

Gradually, St. Pierre-Miquelon, through their direct link with old and new France, are becoming increasingly attractive to tourists. The tourist trade will probably become the islands' most important source of revenue.


14 July

-1643    Charles La Tour sailed from Boston to attack Charnisay, his rival for Nova Scotia.

-1696    Iberville and Bonaventure captured the British ship Newport near St. John's, Newfoundland.

-1760    General Murray left Quebec with 2,500 troops to attack Montreal.

-1789    Alexander Mackenzie reached the Arctic Ocean the same day as the fall of the Bastille (see June 3) .

-1915    Sir Robert Borden was the first Dominion Prime Minister to attend a British cabinet meeting.

-1940    A. G. L. McNaughton was made lieutenant-general and placed in command of a British corps as well as Canadian troops in Britain.