French and Indian War, Consequences of

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The capitulation of Montreal to British troops in September 1760 ended the French and Indian War in North America but ushered in a host of new problems for the British Empire. Previously, when European powers ended wars they exchanged conquered colonial possessions with an eye to keeping a balance of power between their American empires. This war, however, was different. It had begun in North America in an Anglo-French dispute over control of the Ohio Valley. British colonists, who had expended far more blood and treasure in this war than any prior one, were anxious for Britain to seize control of French Canada so that they might expand westward without threat of foreign reprisals. In Britain some policymakers argued for restoring Canada to the French but keeping the Caribbean sugar colony Guadeloupe, which British forces had also taken during the war. Others argued that Canada was far more valuable than a sugar colony because of its fur trade and the access it would provide to the continent's interior.

When the Peace of Paris was finally signed in 1763, the advocates for the retention of Canada won out. By the terms of the treaty, Britain acquired all of France's North American possessions east of the Mississippi River. In addition, Britain acquired Florida from Spain. The balance of power in North America had shifted decisively in Britain's favor, but so too had the costs of governing and defending imperial possessions there. Before the French and Indian War, British policymakers had looked upon the North American colonies chiefly as self-sustaining commercial enterprises, to be governed as cheaply as possible through the regulation of their trade. After the Treaty of Paris, British North America became a vast imperial dominion containing British subjects, conquered foreigners, and Native Americans all in need of government and protection from each other and external enemies.

The chief consequence of the French and Indian War, therefore, was a reorientation in Britain's perception and administration of its American colonies. This reorientation unfolded over the next dozen years, as British policymakers grappled with the expanded responsibilities and costs of their American empire. Their efforts fell into three broad categories shaped by the Peace of Paris: the maintenance of a North American army, the management of Indian affairs, and the government of new territories and peoples.

The acquisition of Canada and Florida made the maintenance of British troops in North America after the war a fait accompli. Colonial militias and provincial troops had proven themselves notoriously unreliable in garrison duty during the war, so British regulars were needed to police newly conquered subjects and to staff forts and posts abandoned by the French and Spanish. The British ministry planned to maintain about 7,500 British troops in North America, at an estimated annual cost of £350,000. This policy would add a substantial burden to a royal treasury already heavily indebted by the war effort. In 1764 Prime Minister George Grenville introduced the Sugar Act to Parliament, the first of a series of taxation measures pursued by the British ministry over the following decade designed to shift a portion of this financial burden onto the shoulders of the colonists, who, according to Grenville and his successors, could well afford to pay for it. The colonists, of course, saw it another way, and launched a series of protests, beginning with the Stamp Act riots in 1765, that condemned such measures as "taxation without representation."

Quartering of troops was another issue that arose out of the decision to maintain regular troops in America after the war. When the effort to raise tax revenues in America stalled, Parliament passed Quartering Acts in 1765, 1766, and 1774 that required the American colonists to provide barracks and supplies for the troops. Quartering had arisen as a point of contention during the French and Indian War in Massachusetts and New York, but local compromises and generous subsidies from the government ministry of William Pitt had helped paper over these differences. With the passage of the Quartering Act of 1765, the issue arose again, this time in the context of parliamentary efforts to tax the colonists without their consent. The colonial opposition to quartering intensified in 1768, when the ministry, in an attempt to cut expenses, ordered troops to vacate most western posts and relocate in eastern cities.

The administration of the army in North America after the French and Indian War was intertwined with British efforts to place Indian affairs under the centralized management of imperial officials. The French had maintained an extensive network of commercial and military alliances with Indian nations in the Great Lakes, Ohio, and Mississippi regions, playing the role of a diplomatic "father" who supplied his "children" with presents of trade goods and helped mediate their relations with traders, missionaries, and other Indians. The British inherited this role but played it very poorly. General Jeffrey Amherst, commander in chief of the British forces in North America, regarded the Indians as conquered peoples rather than allies and ordered that the flow of diplomatic presents to them be stopped. In May 1763 Anglo-Indian tensions created by Amherst's highhandedness erupted into a widespread and devastating frontier war known, after the American Ottawa chief, as Pontiac's War.

The violence and cost of this war spurred the British Board of Trade to expand the powers and responsibilities of the two superintendents for Indian affairs the crown had appointed during the French and Indian War. According to a plan formulated in 1764, the Indian superintendents—William Johnson in the northern colonies and John Stuart in the southern colonies—would oversee all Indian land purchases, regulate the fur trade, and negotiate a boundary line between Indian and colonial territory. The implementation of this new policy was stymied by the colonists' reluctance to follow the dictates of the crown's Indian superintendents. In 1768 the ministry restored management of the fur trade to the individual colonial governments, which lowered the crown's expenses but also increased the exploitation and abuses that fueled Indian discontent along the frontier in the years preceding the American Revolution.

The British ministry's efforts to fund the army and pacify Indians in North America were directly related to the third major focus of policymaking initiated by the French and Indian War. The territorial acquisitions of the war opened a vast new frontier to American land speculators and squatters anxious to exploit territory west of the Appalachian Mountains. Even before the ink was dry on the Peace of Paris, settlers were pushing into the Ohio Country, over the objections of Indians who claimed that region as their own. In the Proclamation of 1763, the British ministry tried to stem this tide by temporarily prohibiting settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. Over time, this injunction became more permanent as the Indian superintendents negotiated treaties to create a fixed boundary line between colonial and Indian populations. Squatters ignored such restrictions, and well-connected land speculators lobbied the crown for land grants to establish new colonies in the continent's interior.

The British effort to impose control over its new western territories in North America came to a head in 1774 with Parliament's passage of the Quebec Act. While the chief purpose of this legislation was to establish a plan of civil government in Canada, it extended the authority of the new Quebec government over the western territories ceded by the French in 1763. Various provisions in the Quebec Act curtailed liberties Anglo-American colonists considered their birthright, including trial by jury and local government by elected assemblies. Anglo-Americans interpreted these measures as an effort to impose French-style despotism over any new colonies established west of the Appalachians.

Historians have long argued over the significance of these policies in the coming of the American Revolution. Some assert that the origins of the American Revolution lay in the western policy pursued by the British ministry after 1760, because this policy generated the need for the taxes that proved so obnoxious to the colonists. Others discount the impact of such measures as the Proclamation of 1763 and Quebec Act, especially when compared to the widespread protests ignited by the Stamp Act, Townshend Duties, and Tea Act. Regardless, the French and Indian War fundamentally changed Britain's approach to governing its North American colonies. The efforts to maintain a North American army, centralize Indian affairs, and manage a vast and unruly frontier no doubt contributed to the souring of Anglo-American relations after 1763 and helped define the issues upon which the empire split apart in 1776.

See alsoBritish Army in North America; British Empire and the Atlantic World; Canada; French and Indian War, Battles and Diplomacy; Pontiac's War; Proclamation of 1763; Stamp Act and Stamp Act Congresses; Sugar Act; Tea Act; Townshend Act .


Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Dowd, Gregory Evans. War under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, and the British Empire. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Gipson, Lawrence Henry. "The American Revolution as an Aftermath of the Great War for the Empire, 1754–1765." In The American Revolution: Two Centuries of Interpretation. Edited by Edmund S. Morgan. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965.

Murrin, John M. "The French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Counterfactual Hypothesis: Reflections on Lawrence Henry Gipson and John Shy." Reviews in American History 1 (1973): 307–317.

Timothy J. Shannon

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French and Indian War, Consequences of

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