There’s a genre of fiction called ‘Alternate history‘.
You know: Abraham Lincoln survived John Wilkes Booth’s assassination attempt or someone managed to kill Hitler before WW II – that sort of thing. Romps that mix what we know did happen with how things could have gone quite differently.
Well, here’s a historical document from 1759 that practically screams ‘write this’.
As reported by Randy Boswel of Postmedia news:
A New York auction house has revealed the discovery of a previously unknown document from a pivotal moment in Canadian history — a hand-written report detailing an “obscure” and startling December 1758 proposal by an unnamed French official to relocate the 60,000 people of New France to Louisiana in the event of a British victory in the Seven Years’ War.
Hmm. If that had happened, the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 would have become less probable. At 4 cents per acre, the total sum of 15 million paid to France was no small chunk of money back in the day. As we all learned in school, that sale enabled the young U.S. to expand westward and incorporate the tremendously important Mississippi River watershed. The Library of Congress calls it the “greatest real estate deal in history”. (Thomas Jefferson basically bought the parts encompassed by the green lines in the map below.)
A previously unknown manuscript account of an obscure French project to relocate some 60,000 French inhabitants of Canada to Louisiana during the French and Indian War. This plan was not known to historians until 1954 when Lionel Grouls published a study of another similar, but shorter, manuscript from the Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer (C11 A, 103), dated 27 December 1758, in Revue d’Histoire de l’Amérique française(vol. VIII : 97-118).
The anonymous author details the advantages of such a project: increasing the population of Louisiana; making it a stronger colony, capable of withstanding English encroachment; developing the agriculture of the region; and establishing new trade routes and partners. The author also is adamant that the any émigrés must be persuaded to join the project voluntarily because of the personal advantages to them—they are not to be coerced or forced to move. He actually tabulates twenty-seven points that can be used to convince the settlers to abandon Canada for Louisiana, and he also speculates that camels might be sent to the settlers in their new southern homeland. The movement of settlers is to be preceded by a military convoy, which will then report on how many people can travel at once, as well as the feasibility of traveling on board vessels across the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. The author assumes that the entire project would be paid for by Louis XV, but in addition to the enormous logistical problems this project would have faced, the French treasury simply could not have afforded an expenditure on this scale at that time, and the project never developed beyond the proposal stage.
This manuscript is in a clerical hand, and there is no clue to the identity of the actual author, but some possible authors include Colonel Louis Antoine de Bougainville, deputy to General Montcalm; Jean Antoine Nicolas François de Capellis, marquis de Capellis, who wrote several “mémoires” about France’s North American colonies; François-Pierre de Vaudreuil, whose brother had been the French colonial governor of Louisiana and of New France.
Convoys of French to sette the American ‘heartland’! (Louisiana was the whole middle of modern-day America back then, not just Louisiana.)
Camels, oh my! Not to mention how different Canada would be, had the French pulled up and left at that time.
OK, these were just proposals on paper. Implausible, never happened.
But still, it’s amusing imagining it playing out.