Three nations dominated the colonization of North America: England, France and Spain. From the first settlement at Jamestown, Englishmen controlled the American east coast. The Spanish had been first to found a community in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, but they never succeeded in establishing settlements farther north. The French claimed possession of New France - the area now known as Canada when Jacques Cartier explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534. In 1671, French explorers laid claim to the interior of North America.
Two years later, Father Marquette and Louis Joliet, a fur trader, set out from Canada in two canoes on a voyage of exploration that took them down the Mississippi to the Arkansas River. In 1674 LaSalle, in the name of King Louis XIV, explored the Mississippi all the way to its mouth.The French tried for more than a century to carry the royal emblem of France into the very heartland of the New World. Their efforts led to military conflict with the English and the Colonial Americans - the French and Indian War in America, the Seven Years’ War in Europe.
In 1754 the French claimed all the land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. They built Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio (site of present-day Pittsburgh) and ordered the English traders, trappers and settlers to return east over the Allegheny Mountains. General John Forbes’ army of English and Americans entered the smoldering ruins of the evacuated Fort Duquesne on November 25, 1758, and the French were never to return to the valley of the Ohio.
Some Seventy years of conflict finally closed in 1763 when England took all of Canada from France and Florida from Spain. By the treaty of peace signed that year, all of North America from the Atlantic to the Mississippi-with the exception of New Orleans and two French Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence - became British.