French and Indian War
Causes of the French and Indian War
Several factors have largely contributed to the growing tension between the British and French colonies. The end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748 has marked the establishment of a rather fragile balance of power and urged the rivals to spread the conflict on other territories. In fact, the armed conflict was a direct result of the gradual expansion of the British and French colonies during the 1750s into the Ohio Valley. The territories in dispute were an important strategic area and an abundant source of natural resources. By gaining control over the region, the British hoped to expand their colonial possessions westward and divide the French forces. The occupation of the Ohio Valley was a way for the British colonists to escape the inevitable competition between the manufacturers of the colonies and the metropole caused by the demographic growth.
Meanwhile, the threat of foreign occupation was a pressing challenge for New France due to several factors. The free access to the area was necessary for maintaining a steady communication channel with Upper Louisiana. Since the beginning of the 18th century, these settlements, stretched along the Mississippi River, were the centers of farming, fur trading, and lead mining. Moreover, the maintenance of control over Louisiana had a strategic meaning. The fortified outpost would deny access to the river routes that allowed unrestricted travel across the continent and the development of trade. The proximity to colonial borders would force Great Britain to spend considerable resources on protecting the colonies while shifting its focus from European affairs to North America. Evidently, both sides had numerous reasons to oppose the military ambitions of the neighboring state.
The Armed Conflict and Peace Treaty
The first hostilities between rivals occurred soon after both sides decided to build forts on the Ohio Valley. The French authorities were the first ones to take excessive measures against the British agents in the disputed area. New France launched the massive construction of forts Presque Isle on Lake Erie, Le Boeuf on French Creek, Machault in modern-day Pennsylvania, and Duquesne near the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. It was intending to surround the American colonies. Great Britain responded by giving the order to build forts in Ohio and remove the French by force in 1753. The rivalry between the colonial empires reached the stage of an armed conflict after the death of the French officer, Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, during George Washington's campaign on reclaiming the territory of the Forks of the Ohio River in 1754. Jumonville carried the message from his superior officers that urged the British troops to leave the area. Upon receiving the news of the enemy's arrival from Indian scouts, Washington orchestrated an ambush. During it, the French officer was supposedly killed by the insubordinate Seneca Indians. The mentioned event became the culmination of the long-standing confrontation between the European superpowers and soon turned into a full-scale war.
The war battles can be divided into two stages. During the first one, the British army exhibited deep ignorance about fighting in the American wilderness. In October 1754, the British government sent the reinforcement for the American colonies and commenced the recruitment campaign among the local civilians. The metropole planned to assemble the army necessary for the execution of a swift attack. The three army divisions under the command of General Braddock were instructed to seize Fort Duquesne, Fort Niagara, Fort St. Frederic at Crown Point, and Fort Beausejour in Nova Scotia. However, numerous factors largely contributed to the low mobility and bad performance of the British troops. The transportation of the heavy British artillery required the time-consuming construction of roads through the wilderness. The river voyages proved to be difficult without the knowledge of navigation routes. In addition, the provision of soldiers, boats, wagons, guns, clothing, and shelter became a significant burden for American colonies.
Moreover, the inexperienced soldiers had no knowledge of the partisan style of war. As General Braddock's column of 1,200 men approached Fort Duquesne on July 8, 1754, the British soldiers became the easy targets for the French forces being dispersed in the woods. According to the witness's accounts, [T]he enemy attacked the main body ... [The British] engaged them but could not see whom they fired at [as] the trees were thick ... The description suggests that the forest provided the shelter for the firing of French soldiers while allowing them to kill 800 British men and lose no more than 123 persons including the Indians. The British forces suffered another major blow in 1757. During the attack on the French Fort Carillon, General Abercromby made a wrongful decision to lead the front attack without any support from the artillery. The 20-minute flight in the forests near Carillon resulted in numerous British casualties due to the skillfully designed attack of the French troops. The tactical error of General Abercromby surprised even his officers. On that occasion, Captain Lee sullenly noted that a miscarriage may be brought about by the incapacity of a single person I really did not think that so great a share of stupidity and absurdity could be in possession of any man. The results of the first encounters with the enemy strongly suggest that the British leaders failed to take into consideration the unfamiliar landscape.
The situation changed only in 1758. The successful capture of the French fort at Louisbourg marked the beginning of the massive British attack on New France. After a long siege, the French garrison surrendered on July 26 since the continuous bombardments and the capture of ships made it impossible to oppose the enemy. The victory was followed by the successful military advancement toward the last French outpost in Montreal. In 1760, Major General James Amherst led a three-stage attack on the city while commanding more than 17,000 soldiers. The considerable number of the British forces and lack of provisions, caused by the marine blockade by the Royal Navy, forced the French army to surrender on September 8, 1760. Under the conditions of the capitulation act, the French army was obliged to lay the arms and promise to refrain from military service during wartime. According to Daniel Marston, the humiliating conditions were the result of the French indifference toward the war crimes, committed by their Indian allies against the civil population and British surrenders.
In addition, the defeated party suffered a deeper humiliation after the end of the Seven Years War in Europe. On February 10, 1763, France, Great Britain, and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris. This agreement delegated the control over the French possessions east to the Mississippi River, Quebec, and Cape Breton, and Spanish Florida to Great Britain. Under the treaties provisions, the British Empire became the sole European power that controlled the entire North American coastline from Newfoundland in the north to Florida in the south. Therefore, the victory in the French and Indian War brought tremendous territorial gains and the status of the world hegemon for Britain.
Results of the War
Importantly, the French capitulation had far-reaching effects on the domestic and foreign policy of both states. Great Britain and its enemy faced tremendous economic stagnation. Due to the British Naval blockade, France lost a considerable amount of revenues that was necessary for sustaining the armies in North America and Germany. Along with the blockade, the underdeveloped agriculture, poor harvests, widespread corruption, and desertion greatly contributed to the French capitulation. By the end of the war, the national debt of the British adversary reached the staggering mark of 2, 250 million lives, compared to 1, 360 million in 1753.
The British intentions to enjoy the victory and achieve the economic recovery had drastic consequences. Britains desire to share the war costs with the colonies was a reason for tensions since the colonial governors fiercely opposed the metropoles demands for soldiers and provisions. The tension had grown after the war as the metropole imposed a series of harsh legislation to support the remaining British troops in North America in 1764. While the American Duty Act prescribed taxes for commodities, commonly used by settlers, the Currency Act restricted the issue of the local currency, producing adverse effects on the intercolonial trade. Later on, the adoption of the Stamp Act in 1765 that imposed new taxes on paper led to the rise of numerous riots across the colonies. On May 30, the Virginia Assembly passed the resolution that strongly condemned the imperialistic policy of the British monarchy. It became the first official document that undermined the authority of King George III.
Meanwhile, the colonies witnessed the rising wave of social disobedience. Boston mobs destroyed the residence of the British official and threatened other royalists with the same retributions if they did not refrain from enforcing the Stamp Act. The new opposition group Sons of Liberty rigorously promoted the interests of Americans by delivering petitions to the British government. The hostile collisions between the colonies and metropole had continued till 1775 only to culminate in the nationwide uprising against the tyranny. The adoption of the Quebec Act in 1774 that gave the French-speaking population control over the Ohio Valley became the final event. It caused the American Revolution. Clearly, the metropole could not tolerate any expression of disregard and its actions provoked the rise of discontent and violent aggression among the American settlers.
The British victory had a similar effect on the relations with the native Indians. In 1761, the tribal representatives of the Six Nations appealed to the Governor of Pennsylvania, suggesting that the British government did not fulfill the promises of lands west of the Alleghenies, low prices on goods sold by the colonies, and the sufficient payment for provided furs and skins. The common disregard of the Indian's discontent was manifested in the massive Indian Uprising. In 1763, the members of the Senecas, Ottawas, Hurons, Delawares, and Miamis under the command of the Ottawa chief Pontiac attempted to capture Fort Detroit and ceased some forts by surprise assaults. The British forces responded rather quickly by launching the counterattack. By August 10, the army led by Colonel Bouquet had managed to stop the uprising by brutal force and tactic maneuvers. Nevertheless, the Indian Uprising reflected the general discontent with the colonial policy of Great Britain and the importance of settling the disputes between the settlers and the Native population.
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The historical significance of the French and Indian War is undeniable. The conflict was the direct outcome of the long-standing struggle between the European colonial empires; thus, it produced unanticipated results. Despite the high economic costs, Great Britain emerged as the world hegemon by obtaining sole control over the eastern coast of the future USA. Moreover, the post-war events in the colonies led to the eruption of revolutionary events as well as the aggressive response from the Native Indians.