Arcanum 1780: A New World
The New French Empire
The New French Empire
Following the Gomorrah Event and the destruction of European civilization, the former colonies of King Louis XV were more scattered than those of the other formerly-great powers. Their greatest colonies were in the West Indies and Americas, but relied heavily on slave labor and in any case would come directly into conflict with the Spanish and British colonies in the Caribbean and New World. Their African territories were at the other end of the slave trade, and suddenly had no customers who were not otherwise engaged in their own survival, as well as being hard pressed to survive themselves in the face of indigent incursions after food and weapons. Only in India was there enough of a base of colonisation and no major European rival colony – the British East India Company having at that time only small and easily overrun outposts. Post-Event, French India became the nucleus of a French imperial renaissance – but it was an Empire that would have been almost unrecognisable to the former European lords who died in the cataclysm.
In the long cold years after the Event, the 60,000 or so French settlers and troops who lived in Canada and North America found themselves starving, freezing and outnumbered more than ten to one by the British colonists, and even more so by Spain. Over the next decade most of the survivors went native, or drifted to join the New British state more as a matter of practicality than anything else. The remainder, those that could make the long journey through hostile and now weirdly wild lands, headed south into New Orleans and its surrounding countryside – there bolstering the population and making the Free City of New Orleans a viable proposition as well as a buffer between the new Spanish and British nations.
In the Caribbean, the French colonies were in the main small islands and heavily contested by the British even before the Event. Afterwards, New Britain took all but the largest -Haiti – and a cluster of islands in the Lesser Antilles, often by simple virtue of being better organised, better able to feed and protect its people. Whole islands changed sides voluntarily and a few fell to abandonment, conquest by force of arms and in one case to de-population by nightmares from the depths. In 1769, Haitian slaves – outnumbering their white masters ten to one – rose up in revolt with the aid of the New British and claimed freedom as a new British Shire. To this day, Haiti is the only Shire with a black Governor (Sir Toussaint L’Ouverture Liberty, Bart). In 1780, the remaining Caribbean colonies are the French Antilles islands – Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Grenada, and a dozen or so small islands with populations of less than 1,000 each. They are interspersed with British islands in the Antilles chains, and the area is a constant source of worry and tension for both nations.
The French holdings in Africa at the time of the Event were limited to only two small outposts – the recently captured (and expected to be re-captured) James Island and Albreda Forts. Both sat on the Gambia river, on opposite banks, and were able to co-operate to survive despite repeated attempts by local tribes to assault the forts, which were hated as former trading points and anchors for slaving. Luckily for both, a frigate returning to Europe from India in 1746 to see what, if anything, was left of France stopped to take on water and re-established contact with Pondicherry. The forts became important stops for ships heading out from Pondicherry and Yanaon for the Caribbean and Europe as Franco-India established itself in the decades following, and in 1763 troops were landed to begin the expansion of French Gambia into a new part of the new Empire. In 1780, all of Gambia and Senegal are under French rule.
India is the heart of the new France. In the chaos post-Event, as magic made its re-appearance, Governor Joseph-François Dupleix arose from the upper ranks of the local French administration to take control of the French colonies on the sub-continent. The former Governor-General was old and ill, while Dupleix had lived in French India for almost 25 years and amassed a considerable fortune. He understood the people and their potential. He entered into relations with the native princes, and adopted a style of oriental splendour in his dress and surroundings. He built an army of native troops, called sepoys, who were trained as infantrymen men in his service. In 1746, he attacked and took the smaller British colony at Madras and followed that with a campaign that wiped out the British East India Company’s meagre remnants. The seat of the resulting French Empire is Pondicherry, on the West coast of India, and its second city is at Yanaon to the North but French India soon extended – including vassal small states – over more than a third of the sub-continent. At the same time, Dupleix began to send ships out to the Caribbean and to Europe, to re-establish contact with whatever of French power might be left and integrate them into his growing area of control by any means at his disposal.
By 1750, Dupleix knew that his former homeland was gone forever, and that the growing French and allied territories in India would have to be the nucleus of any rebuilding. Again, he trusted his immersion in Indian ways – adopting Indian customs wholesale where they benefitted the new nation or could not be overcome (like the caste system) while keeping others – such as the comparative emancipation of women in French society, able to own property and businesses – from Old France. Dupleix became Emperor Joseph the First in 1753, and his son, born in 1741 and having only ever know the post-Event world, is now Joseph II after the old Emperor died in 1763.
This Franco-mughal society has managed to avoid the worst excesses of the nobility of both its predecessors and has been notable in broadening women’s rights to include working in the caste of their father should they wish – even the warrior caste. Fashions often have a distinct Indian trend, and especially for women are far more daring than would be considered appropriate in polite New British society. While slavery is still legal in the French Empire, there is a growing abolitionist movement and trade across the seas in slaves is now illegal.
There are still many Catholic Christians in the New French Empire, although almost all reject the New Spanish Pope as an imposter and heretic. However, it has become increasingly acceptable even in the highest reaches of imperial society to believe (or say that you believe) that Jesus was simply the Ninth Avatar of Vishnu, and that like the 8th avatar Krishna he is “one and the same as Lord Vishnu, one of the trimurti, and as the supreme god in his own right.” Vishnu, or better sought in His 8th avatar, Krishna, was also the Son of God. He appeared unexpectedly in the womb of His mother, impregnated by no one. Undeniably, He was also from a family of a shepherd like Jesus. Both, or maybe the Individual, spread truthfulness and nobleness with divinity in the heart. In this syncretic religion, there is no contradiction in worshipping Jesus Christ solely or in deciding instead to worship him as part of the Hindu system. From the Hindu perspective, heaven (Sanskrit: swarga) and hell (naraka) are temporary places, where every soul has to live, either for the good deeds done or for their sins committed. After a soul suffers its due punishment in hell, or after a soul has enjoyed enough in heaven, it again enters the life-death cycle. There is no concept in Hinduism of a permanent hell like that in Christianity; rather, the cycle of “karma” takes over. Permanent heaven or bliss is “moksha”. This system holds a certain obvious optimism when considering theological answers to “why did the Event occur?”
The hybrid nation has proved vital and creative, and grown fast. The French Empire is marginally superior to New Britain in terms of industrialization and technology, especially the use of steam and clockwork, although it lags behind in the use of magic and techno-magic. Its available manpower is easily equal to that of New Spain or China, however. It is rightfully regarded as one of the Great Powers of the New World.