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The Final Remaining Territory of New France in North America

Detailed sea chart of the strategically important island of Saint Pierre, off the coast of Newfoundland.  The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were of sufficient importance that they have been passed back and forth between the France and Britain on a number of occasions under multiple treaties.

The chart was produced by the Depot de la Marine toward the end of the Seven Years War (French & Indian War) .

St. Pierre & Miquelon

The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, along with French fishing rights along a portion of the coast of Newfoundland, were of great strategic importance in the 17th, 18th and 19th Century and even into the 20th Century.

The Portuguese explorer João Álvares Fagundes is claimed to be the first European to have landed on the islands on October 20, 1520 and named the St. Pierre island group the 'Eleven Thousand Virgins'. In 1536 Jacques Cartier claimed the islands as a French possession on behalf of the King of France. 

In 1670, during Jean Talon's second tenure as Intendant of New France, a French officer annexed the islands when he found a dozen French fishermen camped there.  By the early 1700s the islands were again uninhabited, and France ceded them to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713. The British renamed St Pierre to 'St Peter', and small numbers of British and American settlers began arriving. 

Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), France ceded all its North American possessions, but Britain returned Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to France. France also maintained fishing rights on the coasts of Newfoundland (which came to be called the French Shore). 

During the American Revolutionary War, Britain invaded the French colony in 1778, sending the entire population of 2,000 back to France. In 1793, the British landed in Saint-Pierre and, the following year, again expelled the French population, and tried to install British settlers. The British colony was in turn sacked by French troops in 1796. The Treaty of Amiens of 1802 returned the islands to France, but Britain reoccupied them when hostilities recommenced the next year.

The Treaty of Paris (1814) gave the islands back to France, though Britain occupied them yet again during the Hundred Days War in 1815. France then reclaimed the now uninhabited islands and the islands were resettled in 1816. The settlers, mostly Basques, Bretons and Normans, were joined by various other peoples, particularly from the nearby island of Newfoundland. Only around the middle of the 19th century did increased fishing bring a certain prosperity to the little colony.

In 1903 the colony toyed with the idea of joining the United States, but in the end nothing came of the idea.  During the early 1910s the colony suffered severely as a result of unprofitable fisheries, and large numbers of its people emigrated to Nova Scotia and Quebec.  The draft imposed on all male inhabitants of conscript age after the 1914 beginning of World War I crippled the fisheries 

Smuggling had always been an important economic activity in the islands, but it became especially prominent in the 1920s with the institution of Prohibition in the United States from January 1920.  The end of Prohibition in 1933 plunged the islands once more into economic depression. 

Depot de la Marine Biography

The Dépôt de la Marine, known more formally as the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine, was the central charting institution of France. The centralization of hydrography in France began in earnest when Jean-Baptiste Colbert became First Minister of France in 1661. Under his watch, the first Royal School of Hydrography began operating, as did the first survey of France’s coasts (1670-1689). In 1680, Colbert consolidated various collections of charts and memoirs into a single assemblage, forming the core of sources for what would become the Dépôt.

The Dépôt itself began as the central deposit of charts for the French Navy. In 1720, the Navy consolidated its collection with those government materials covering the colonies, creating a single large repository of navigation. By 1737, the Dépôt was creating its own original charts and, from 1750, they participated in scientific expeditions to determine the accurate calculation of longitude.

In 1773, the Dépôt received a monopoly over the composition, production, and distribution of navigational materials, solidifying their place as the main producer of geographic knowledge in France.  Dépôt-approved charts were distributed to official warehouses in port cities and sold by authorized merchants. The charts were of the highest quality, as many of France’s premier mapmakers worked at the Dépôt in the eighteenth century, including Philippe Bauche, Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, Rigobert Bonne, Jean Nicolas Buache, and Charles-François Beautemps-Beaupré.

The Dépôt continued to operate until 1886, when it became the Naval Hydrographic Service. In 1971, it changed names again, this time to the Naval and Oceanographic Service (SHOM). Although its name has changed, its purpose is largely the same, to provide high quality cartographic and scientific information to the France’s Navy and merchant marine.