War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697)
(King William's War)
The major players in this conflict were France and England, but other European countries were also involved. The members of the League, which were Spain, Holland, Sweden and some German principalities, formed a union to thwart Louis XIV, King of France's ambitions for conquest.
After several years of confrontations in Europe and the Americas, and despite some French victories, it was becoming obvious that there could be no real winner. Louis XIV was obliged to sign the Treaty of Ryswick, which officially ended the hostilities but was not advantageous for France, which lost part of its North American territory-Newfoundland-to the English.
War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1712)
In this conflict, France and Spain faced off against a European coalition that included Britain. The main point of contention was the Crown of Spain, which in the eyes of the European powers represented the domination of Europe. This last major war fought by Louis XIV quickly depleted France's financial resources, and the country was barely able to repel an invasion.
Because France was too busy defending itself, it could not send many ships to defend New France. Except during one year, 1709, France sent no more than three ships to protect its colony. Because of this situation, Philippe Rigaud de Vaudreuil, the Governor General of New France, openly encouraged young men to become privateers. He also invested his own money in raids. During the War of the Spanish Succession, Canadian privateering activity reached its peak.
War of the Austrian Succession (1744-1748)
This conflict, which involved all the European powers, arose over who would succeed Emperor Charles VI. The war was fought on a number of different fronts and would worsen the hostility between Britain and France. This had major implications for the North American colonies.
The settlement of Plaisance had to be evacuated, and its inhabitants moved to Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). France was unable to hold on to any territory in Newfoundland, except for a few seasonal posts. Hudson Bay also came under British control. In Acadia, France kept only Île Royale, Île Saint Jean (Prince Edward Island) and the Gaspé and New Brunswick coasts. Baie Française (the Bay of Fundy) and almost the entire Atlantic shoreline of Nova Scotia became British territory.
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763)
The Seven Years' War was one in a series of conflicts between the most powerful European nations. In Europe, it may have been a war like any other, but in the American colonies, it had many repercussions.
This war, which was the result of colonial rivalries between France and Britain, as well as Austria's desire to take back Silesia, which it had lost during the War of the Austrian Succession, once more involved all of the major European powers. After winning a few battles, France was forced to cede almost all of its possessions in the Americas and India. Quebec City fell in 1759, and Montreal in 1760. The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, established British domination in North America.
The War of American Independence (1775-1783)
Beginning in 1775, the thirteen British American colonies rebelled against the authority of London. Of all the conflicts that affected Canada, this was the only one that played out largely on its own territory. The Americans decided to attack the British territories, to which Canada belonged, in order to put an end to British domination in North America. In the winter of 1775, American troops moved north. They succeeded in capturing Montreal and held Quebec City under siege. The Americans thought the Canadians would join them in their fight against the British, but they were wrong.
The attempt to capture Quebec City failed, and the Americans retreated. However, they remained hopeful that the Canadians, especially the French Canadians and the Aboriginal peoples, would be on their side. Since the majority of British ships belonging to the Royal Navy supported Britain, the American Congress began issuing letters of marque and encouraging Americans to take up privateering. Thus, hundreds of ships were armed for raiding and began attacking British interests in the St Lawrence River and Gulf.
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Britain was still at war against France and used its naval power to block France's trade and weaken the country. In doing this, the British harmed the Americans' trade and aroused their discontent. Moreover, the British Crown still did not recognize the American Declaration of Independence. British ships frequently stopped commercial ships from the United States, which was neutral, and forcibly pressed American sailors into service in the Royal Navy. In 1809, the U.S. Congress, by a slim majority, declared war on Britain.
In this war, most of the confrontations took place on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, but there were also a few battles along the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of St Lawrence. It was the last conflict involving Canada in which the authorities resorted to using privateers. Privateering was finally abolished by the major European powers on April 16, 1856.