Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


William and Mary Quarterly

Third Series, Volume LXVIII July 2010


Ambiguous Concession: What Diplomatic Archives Reveal about Article 15 of the Treaty of Utrecht and France’s North American Policy

Dale Miquelon

In 1713, and for many decades thereafter, regions in northeastern North America were strategically and economically linked by waterway. This interactive supplement provides the opportunity to study different watersheds, which were the basis for economic systems, in particular the connections of Indian nations with French or British partners in the fur trade. Such connections had a significant political dimension.

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  • “Boundary Line” – Shows a French idea for an ideal boundary dating from the time when the Treaty of Utrecht was being negotiated. While the boundary is based on the principle of division by watershed or height of land, the position of the Five Nations Iroquois is somewhat equivocal. Are we to think of them as primarily connected to the province of New York via the Mohawk and Hudson rivers or to Canada via Lake Ontario, as the French mapmaker would have it? Clearly, given the importance of these peoples, neither the French nor the British would submit to a purely "natural" boundary based on watersheds. The thirty or so Indian nations that signed a treaty with Canada at Montreal in 1701 came primarily from west of this boundary line.
  • “Regions” – Shows the centrality of the Five Nations Iroquois and how their cantons lay between the French in Canada and the English colonies.
  • “Forts” – Gives only a hint of the French connection the “Boundary Line” illuminates. Many more French forts would be established after 1715. The positions of Fort Niagara and Fort Oswego remind us of Anglo-French confrontation in the Lower Lakes.
  • “Cities” – Reveals major nodes in a trading system that connected this new world with the great political and commercial centers of the old.

The Five Nations and their neighbors in the early eighteenth century, showing the boundary line proposed by Jean-Baptiste de Couagne’s map of December 1712. Drawn by Rebecca Wrenn.