The French and Indian War’s Chilling Effect on Colonist-British Relations 1754-1763

The European continent was no stranger to border and territory conflicts during the 17th and 18th centuries. Between 1689 and 1763, four major wars were fought in the Old and New World over property and the strength of borders within the European continent: King William’s War (1689-1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), King George’s War (1744-1748), and the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The latter war was perhaps most significant because it solidified the claims of England to a significant chunk of North American territory, including Canada and the thirteen colonies of America. However, the war was not the unifying force that the British had hoped it would be, at least in the thirteen colonies; rather, by 1763, colonial frustrations were beginning to rise and the revolution of 1776 was in the making.

The central conflict that drove the French and Indian War was the pressure between the French and English colonial efforts in North America. France held Canada and areas of the “Old Northwest” (currently states like Ohio and Indian), while England dominated the Atlantic Coast territories and were making inroads to the Canadian territory. Trouble had been brewing in the 1740s, to the point where British colonel George Washington warned the French in the Ohio Valley that their indiscretions would not stand. The beginning of the war in earnest was the surrender of Fort Duquesne in 1754 (also lost in 1755 by General Braddock) and the French, with the aid of Ohio Valley Indian tribes, were able to push the British advance back from the Ohio Valley and back into the mid-Atlantic colonies.

However, the British began to win more battles by 1758, given their superior military presence in America and by 1759 had won a major battle in Quebec. The French, realizing that they could not afford to win at all costs, gave up Canada in 1760 and were given back the right to community in Quebec in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. The British were able to expel the French presences from a large part of the North American territory following the war and permanently rid the continent of the French in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.

The American colonists were active in fighting against the French and began to develop the relationships that would lead to the push for independence. Prolific thinker Benjamin Franklin attempted to unify the colonies in a conference at Albany during the war. The Albany Plan created during this conference included common defense by colonies against the French, intercolony taxation, a colonial defense force, and home rule for colonial politicians. The problem with the Plan was that the prevailing wisdom within the leadership community of the American colonies was more conservative and small government oriented, as well as the fact that the British were not ready to give up such control during a time of war to their own colonists. However, the American politicians and thinkers who met in Albany networked and created the relationships necessary for the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.

The British began to tighten their grip on the American colonists with the Proclamation of 1763 and the increase in “red coats,” or troops, that were present in the colonies. The Proclamation of 1763 dealt with the “Indian” problem, essentially ignoring the native people and restricting colonial ventures to all territory east of the Appalachian Mountains. This act was the beginning of a greater incursion by the Parliament into American life and their conversion of an economically profitable territory into a military outpost ran up against newfound senses of independence and self government (which was given in many local cases prior to 1763) within many Americans. The writings of John Locke in 1680 (advocating revolt against unjust governments), the frustrations with Great Britain’s paternalist government, and the rise in immigrants from Europe created a great community for change within the American colonies.

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