From the settlements in Canada, the French fur traders, missionaries and explorers pushed on through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River, building a chain of forts from the St. Lawrence through the Mississippi Valley to New Orleans, which was founded in 1718. By these activities the French laid a foundation for an empire in America, built on the fur trade. This vast area they held for about a century and a half, but in 1763 they were forced to yield most of it to the English. Like the Spanish, the French transplanted their civilization to the New World and today the French language and other elements of French culture remain in and about New Orleans and in and around Quebec and Montreal. A century of wars between England and France had begun. The French energies in America were turned to protecting themselves and to inciting and taking part in raids on the English settlements. France had hastened to grasp the heart of the continent before Spain could get it, only to lose most of it to England.
The English “Sea Dogs.” Following the voyages of John Cabot (page 31) the English interest in America temporarily declined, for King Henry VIII was more interested in building the English navy than in exploration. English sea power was of great concern to him because English merchants were engaged in trade with near-by coast regions.
As the Spanish colonial empire grew, rivalry with England developed. Spain attempted to maintain a monopoly of her rich trade with her American empire. English traders, however, sold many goods in the Spanish colonies, and English “freebooters,” also known as “sea dogs,” plundered Spanish ships and settlements. The English seaman John Hawkins brought, in 1563, three hundred negroes to Hispaniola and sold them as slaves to the Spanish colonists. He was active in this and other trade until a Spanish fleet attacked his ships and killed hundreds of his men.
Sir Francis Drake, who had been associated with Hawkins, was active in plundering Spanish commerce. In 1577, with a fleet of five vessels and one hundred fifty men, he started on a voyage that took him around the world. He attacked Spanish ships and settlements on the west coast of South America. Four of his ships were destroyed, but he continued in his flagship, the Golden Hind. This ship, in a period of two years and ten months, was the second one to sail around the world.