Category
Biography

French & Indian War

Causes

"Up to the opening of this period, the history of the several colonies has properly been kept distinct. From [1756] forward, they are to act more or less together; and, consequently, their history blends.

For years, however, that history is little more than a costly and sanguinary struggle with French and Indians, in which they become involved by reason of their connection with the Mother Country, who declares war against France; and her American colonies must sustain her in it on this side the water, as they had done in her previous contests, to the loss of thousands of their citizens, and the great impoverishment of their treasuries. The colonies had now enjoyed peace [for only] about eight years (*), when, on the 17th of May, 1756, England made formal declaration of war against France, which was reciprocated by the latter power, June 9th.

In narrating the principal events of the French and Indian War, we shall have occasion to notice:

 

1754 
The causes which led to it; 
The circumstances which opened it; 
The expedition of Washington against Fort du Quesne; 
Albany plan of union between the colonies.

1755 
Conquest of Nova Scotia; 
Defeat of General Braddock; 
Battle of Lake George; 
Expedition against Niagara.

1756 
Formal declaration of war by England against France; 
Failure of expeditions against Niagara and Crown Point; 
Fall of Fort Oswego.

1757 
Attempted reduction of Louisburg; 
Loss of Fort William Henry.

1758 
Reduction of Louisburg; 
Failure of expedition against Ticonderoga; 
Capture of Fort Frontenac; 
Occupation of Fort du Quesne; 
Treaty with Mohawks, Senecas, etc.

1759 
Surrender of Ticonderoga; 
Surrender of Crown Point; 
Surrender of Niagara; 
Siege and capture of Quebec.

1760 
Battle of Sillsery; 
French siege of Quebec; 
Surrender of Montreal; 
And the rest of Canada.

1763 
Treaty of peace.

 

The general cause, leading to this war, known as the "French and Indian War," was alleged encroachments of the French upon the frontier English colonial settlements. These settlements extended along the ocean from Newfoundland to Florida. On the other hand, the French had extended themselves from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Montreal; had built forts and trading-houses on Lake Ontario; had settled New Orleans; and, having discovered the valley of the Mississippi, they decided to connect their southern and northern settlements by a chain of posts along the line of that river and the Ohio, to Ontario; and, by so doing, to hold territory which they, indeed, claimed by virtue of occupation and exploration, but to which the English laid claim on account of Cabot's early discovery. Thus these two powers were at issue, and upon the tired and impoverished colonies falls the brunt of the war.

The circumstance which served to open the war was the alleged intrusion of the Ohio Company upon the territory of the French. This company consisted of a number of influential men, from London and Virginia, who had obtained a charter grant of six hundred thousand acres of land, on and near the river Ohio, for the purpose of carrying on the fur trade with the Indians, and of settling the country. The Governor of Canada had early intelligence (**) of the transactions of this company; and, fearing that, their plan would deprive the French of the advantages of the fur trade, and prevent communications between Canada and Louisiana, he addressed a letter to the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania, claiming the country east of the Ohio to the Alleghanies, and forbidding the further encroachments of the English traders.

The Ohio Company, thus threatened, appealed to the Lieutenant- Governor of Virginia, Dinwiddie, who laid the subject before the assembly, which ordered a messenger to be dispatched to the French commandant on the Ohio, to demand the reasons of his hostile conduct, and to summon the French to evacuate the forts which they had recently built in that region.

The person entrusted with this service was GEORGE WASHINGTON, who, at the early age of twenty-one, thus stepped forth in the public cause, and began that line of services which ended in the independence of his country. The service to which Washington was appointed was both difficult and dangerous; the place of his destination being above four hundred miles distant, two hundred of which lay through a wilderness, inhabited only by a plan (***) of union adopted, resembling, in several of its features, the present constitution of the United States. But the plan met with the approbation neither of the provincial assemblies nor the king's council. By the former it was rejected, because it gave too much power to the crown; and by the latter, because it gave too much power to the people.

 

* The treaty of Aix la Chapelle was negotiated in 1748, and terminated a war, which, though it lasted but a few years, involved the New England colonies and New York in an expense of not less than a million pounds sterling. Massachusetts alone is said to have paid half this sum, and to have expended nearly four hundred thousand pounds in the expedition against Cape Breton. The expenses of Carolina, for the war in that quarter, were not less in proportion.

To supply the deficiency of money, bills of credit (paper currency) were issued to the amount of several millions. The bills issued by Massachusetts during two or three years of the war, amounted to between two and three millions currency; while, at the time of their emission, five or six hundred pounds were equal to one hundred pounds sterling. Before the complete redemption of these bills, says Dr. Trumbull, in those colonies where their credit was best supported, the depreciation was nearly twenty for one.

The losses sustained by the colonies, in the fall of many of their bravest men, during this and the last Indian war, were severely felt. From 1722 to 1749, a period of twenty-seven years, the losses of Massachusetts and New Hampshire equaled the whole increase of their numbers; whereas, in natural course of population, their numbers would have more than doubled.

 

** As yet, the Pennsylvanians had principally managed the trade with the Indians. But, being now about to be deprived of it by the Ohio Company, which was opening a road to the Potomac, they excited the fears of the Indians, lest their lands should be taken from them, and gave early intelligence to the French of the designs and transsactions of this company.

 

*** According to this plan, a grand council was to be formed, of members chosen by the provincial assemblies, and sent from all the colonies; which council, with a governor-general, appointed by the crown and having a negative voice, should be empowered to make general laws, to raise money in all the colonies for their defense, to call forth troops, regulate trade, lay duties, etc. etc.

The plan, thus matured, was approved and signed, on the fourth of July—the day that Washington surrendered Fort Necessity, and twenty-two years before the Declaration of Independence—by all the delegates, excepting those from Connecticut, who objected to the negative voice of the governor-general.

One circumstance, in the history of this plan, deserves here to be recorded, as evincing the dawning spirit of the Revolution. Although the plan was rejected by the provincial assemblies, they declared, without reserve, that, if it were adopted, they would undertake to defend themselves from the French, without assistance from Great Britain. They required but to be left to employ their supplies in their own way, to effect their security and predominance.

The mother country was too jealous to trust such powers with the Americas; but she proposed another plan, designed to lay a foundation for the perpetual dependence and slavery of the colonies. This plan was, that the governors, with one or more of their council, should form a convention to concert measures for the general defense, to erect fortifications, raise men, etc. etc., with powers to draw upon the British treasury, to defray all charges; which charges should be reimbursed by taxes upon the colonies, imposed by acts of Parliament. But to allow the British Government the right of of taxation, to lay the colonies under the obligation of a debt to be thus liquidated, to subject themselves to the rapacity of king's collectors, we scarcely need say was a proposal which met with universal disapprobation.

 

— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)

Copyright © 2016 CelebrateBoston.com