Colonial Period: French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the sixth and final lesson in the Colonial Period unit. It was preceded by the Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Marquette and Joliet, Bacon’s Rebellion, and The Great Awakening.
The pre-Colonial Period saw European explorers, through the use of triangular trade and particularly the Atlantic Slave trade, colonize indigenous people while establishing indentured servitude and slavery as sources of labor. In mainland North America, settlers would establish thirteen colonies, areas that are now the states known as:
- New York
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
There were other scattered colonies like St. Augustine in what is now known as Florida. In the early days of the colonial period, the settlers did not know how to live in the wilderness, and they faced many hardships.
In Massachusetts, for example, the Plymouth settlers, spent most of their first winter (1620–21) on board the Mayflower. The following winter, the Pilgrims lived on land but in wigwams and sailcloth tents. Many were sick and all were hungry, with nearly one-quarter of them dying, before a ship from England brought fresh supplies.
In time, the colonists learned how to live in the wilderness — through trial and error and the help of some of the more friendly Native American tribes. By the 1700s, small cities and towns were well established. The colonists slowly developed their own customs and lifestyles. Eventually they began to feel that this new land was now their true home.
Life In Colonial America
Life in colonial America centered around the family. Most people worked, played, learned, and worshiped at home. A large family was necessary in colonial days to get all the work done.
The father was considered the head of the household. He made all of the decisions concerning their families and earned money through farming and jobs outside the home. Women worked in the home, raising the children, preparing the meals, sewing clothes, preserving food for the winter, scrubbing laundry, fetching water, and stoking fires.
Most children in early colonial times never saw the inside of a schoolhouse. Instead, colonial children usually learned about the adult world by doing things the way their parents did. But, just because they didn’t go to school, their lives were not easy.
Children were expected to help with a share of the family’s work. Boys helped their fathers and girls did chores at home. By a time a girl was four she could knit stockings!
By the time they had reached age 14, most children were already considered adults. Boys would soon take up their father’s trade or leave home to become an apprentice. Girls learned to manage a house and were expected to marry young, probably by the time they were 16 and surely before they were 20.
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War (1754–1763) pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, each side supported by military units from the parent country and by Native American allies. At the start of the war, the French colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 settlers, compared with 2 million in the British colonies. The outnumbered French particularly depended on the natives.
The European nations declared a wider war upon one another overseas in 1756, two years into the French and Indian War, and some view the French and Indian War as being merely the American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War of 1756–63; however, the French and Indian War is viewed in the United States as a singular conflict which was not associated with any European war. French Canadians call it Guerre de la Conquête (‘War of the Conquest’).
The British colonists were supported at various times by the Iroquois, Catawba, and Cherokee tribes, and the French colonists were supported by Wabanaki Confederacy member tribes Abenaki and Mi’kmaq, and the Algonquin, Lenape, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Shawnee, and Wyandot tribes. Fighting took place primarily along the frontiers between New France and the British colonies, from the Province of Virginia in the south to Newfoundland in the north. It began with a dispute over control of the confluence of the Allegheny River and Monongahela River called the Forks of the Ohio, and the site of the French Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The dispute erupted into violence in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in May 1754, during which Virginia militiamen under the command of 22-year-old George Washington ambushed a French patrol.
In 1755, six colonial governors met with General Edward Braddock, the newly arrived British Army commander, and planned a four-way attack on the French. None succeeded, and the main effort by Braddock proved a disaster; he lost the Battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755 and died a few days later. British operations failed in the frontier areas of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Province of New York during 1755–57 due to a combination of poor management, internal divisions, effective Canadian scouts, French regular forces, and Native warrior allies.
In 1755, the British captured Fort Beauséjour on the border separating Nova Scotia from Acadia, and they ordered the expulsion of the Acadians (1755–64) soon afterwards. Orders for the deportation were given by Commander-in-Chief William Shirley without direction from Great Britain. The Acadians were expelled, both those captured in arms and those who had sworn the loyalty oath to the King. Natives likewise were driven off the land to make way for settlers from New England.
The British colonial government fell in the region of Nova Scotia after several disastrous campaigns in 1757, including a failed expedition against Louisbourg and the Siege of Fort William Henry; this last was followed by the Natives torturing and massacring their colonial victims. William Pitt came to power and significantly increased British military resources in the colonies at a time when France was unwilling to risk large convoys to aid the limited forces that they had in New France, preferring to concentrate their forces against Prussia and its allies who were now engaged in the Seven Years’ War in Europe. The conflict in Ohio ended in 1758 with the British–American victory in the Ohio Country.
Between 1758 and 1760, the British military launched a campaign to capture French Canada. They succeeded in capturing territory in surrounding colonies and ultimately the city of Quebec (1759). The following year the British were victorious in the Montreal Campaign in which the French ceded Canada in accordance with the Treaty of Paris (1763).
France also ceded its territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain, as well as French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to its ally Spain in compensation for Spain’s loss to Britain of Spanish Florida. (Spain had ceded Florida to Britain in exchange for the return of Havana, Cuba.) France’s colonial presence north of the Caribbean was reduced to the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, confirming Great Britain’s position as the dominant colonial power in America.
Consequences of French and Indian War
The war changed economic, political, governmental, and social relations among the three European powers, their colonies, and the people who inhabited those territories. France and Britain both suffered financially because of the war, with significant long-term consequences.
Britain gained control of French Canada and Acadia, colonies containing approximately 80,000 primarily French-speaking Roman Catholic residents. The deportation of Acadians beginning in 1755 made land available to immigrants from Europe and migrants from the colonies to the south. The British resettled many Acadians throughout its American provinces, but many went to France and some went to New Orleans, which they expected to remain French. Some were sent to colonize places as diverse as French Guiana and the Falkland Islands, but these efforts were unsuccessful. The Louisiana population contributed to founding the Cajun population. (The French word “Acadien” changed to “Cadien” then to “Cajun”.)
Royal Proclamation of 1763
King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on October 7, 1763 which outlined the division and administration of the newly conquered territory, and it continues to govern relations to some extent between the government of Canada and the First Nations. Included in its provisions was the reservation of lands west of the Appalachian Mountains to its Indian population, a demarcation that was only a temporary impediment to a rising tide of westward-bound settlers. The proclamation also contained provisions that prevented civic participation by the Roman Catholic Canadians.
A copy of the Quebec Act passed in 1774 which addressed a number of grievances held by French Canadians and Indians angering American colonists. The Quebec Act of 1774 addressed issues brought forth by Roman Catholic French Canadians from the 1763 proclamation, and it transferred the Indian Reserve into the Province of Quebec. The Act maintained French Civil law, including the seigneurial system, a medieval code removed from France within a generation by the French Revolution.
The Quebec Act was a major concern for the largely Protestant Thirteen Colonies over the advance of “popery”. It is typically associated with other Intolerable Acts, legislation that eventually led to the American Revolutionary War. The Quebec Act served as the constitutional document for the Province of Quebec until it was superseded by the Constitutional Act 1791.
The Seven Years’ War nearly doubled Great Britain’s national debt. The Crown sought sources of revenue to pay it off and attempted to impose new taxes on its colonies. These attempts were met with increasingly stiff resistance, until troops were called in to enforce the Crown’s authority, and they ultimately led to the start of the American Revolutionary War.
France attached comparatively little value to its American possessions, apart from the highly profitable sugar-producing Antilles islands which it retained. Minister Choiseul considered that he had made a good deal at the Treaty of Paris, and Voltaire wrote that Louis XV had lost “a few acres of snow”. However, the military defeat and the financial burden of the war weakened the French monarchy and contributed to the advent of the French Revolution in 1789.
The fear of slave insurrections caused the colonies to exclude blacks from militia service by law. However, since there were not enough white men to fill militia quotas, necessity required the colonies to recruit free black men as soldiers during the War.
The elimination of French power in America meant the disappearance of a strong ally for some Indian tribes. The Ohio Country was now more available to colonial settlement due to the construction of military roads by Braddock and Forbes. The Spanish takeover of the Louisiana territory was not completed until 1769, and it had modest repercussions.
The British takeover of Spanish Florida resulted in the westward migration of Indian tribes who did not want to do business with them. This migration also caused a rise in tensions between the Choctaw and the Creek, historic enemies who were competing for land. The change of control in Florida also prompted most of its Spanish Catholic population to leave. Most went to Cuba, although some Christianized Yamasee were resettled to the coast of Mexico.
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