1763-65: The War Ends in Europe, but Conflicts Continue in North America

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1763-65: The War Ends in Europe, but Conflicts Continue in North America

British and French leaders signed the Treaty of Paris in February 1763, officially ending the French and Indian War (1754-63; known in Europe as the Seven Years' War). The terms of the treaty reflected the powerful position that Great Britain had achieved over the course of the war. Great Britain gained control over all of the French territory in North America east of the Mississippi River, including eastern Canada and the Ohio Country. Great Britain also took possession of several other French colonies in India, Africa, and the West Indies. The British returned the sugar-producing Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe to France, and in exchange they got back their military base on Minor-ca in the Mediterranean.

Spain, which had formed an alliance with France near the end of the war, turned over its territory in Florida to Great Britain. In exchange, the Spanish received the port city of New Orleans from France, and Great Britain returned the conquered Spanish territory of Cuba. Great Britain's ally, Prussia, made peace with Austria in 1763 by signing the Treaty of Hubertusburg. This treaty preserved the territory the two sides held at the end of the war, which was very similar to the territory they had held at the beginning of the war.

The Treaty of Paris was the most favorable treaty in European history. It gave Great Britain control over an empire that was larger than the one the Romans had controlled at the height of their power. Nevertheless, the terms of the treaty still came under criticism in London. Many people, including former secretary of state William Pitt (1708-1788; see entry), thought that Great Britain should be allowed to keep all the territory it had conquered during the war. They argued that Great Britain, as the victor, should dictate the terms of the treaty rather than negotiate with the French and Spanish. Public outcry over the treaty led to the resignation of John Stuart, third earl of Bute, who had forced Pitt out of office in 1761. The resignation of Bute, former tutor and closest friend of King George III (1738-1820; see box in William Pitt entry), created confusion in the British government, as various factions struggled for power over the next year.

Conflicts continue between Indians and British settlers

The fall of Canada had ended the fighting between French and British forces in North America in 1760. Yet conflict continued between the British settlers who moved into the newly conquered territory and the Indians (Native Americans) who had lived there for generations. When the French had controlled the territory before the war, the Indians had generally found them to be good neighbors. The French traded fairly with the Indians and did not try to settle on the land. In contrast, the British colonies sent thousands of settlers westward as soon as the war ended. These people often cut down trees, drove away game animals, and claimed the land as their own. To make matters worse, British leaders placed restrictions on trade that prevented the Indians from getting ammunition and other goods they needed. These factors combined to make the Indians worry about their future under British rule.

The Indians did not think the outcome of the war should allow the British to claim their land. As William Johnson (1715-1774; see entry), the official representative of the British government among the Indians, explained: "The Six Nations, Western Indians, etc., having never been conquered, either by the English or French, nor subject to their Laws, consider themselves a free people." The Indians had not signed the Treaty of Paris and believed it should not apply to them.

This situation convinced an Ottawa war chief named Pontiac (c. 1720-1769; see entry) to take action against the British. Pontiac and the Ottawa people had already fought against the British during the war. They had helped defeat the army of General Edward Braddock (1695-1755; see entry) on the Monongahela River, and they had led raids of British settlements along the Pennsylvania frontier. Pontiac called a meeting of the Indian nations near Fort Detroit in April 1763. Representatives arrived from as far as a thousand miles away to discuss their concerns about the British.

At the meeting, Pontiac made a speech in which he criticized the Indians for becoming dependent on the British. He claimed that adopting the ways of the white man had caused them nothing but trouble. He called upon the Indians to quit trading with the British and go back to their traditional ways. He said he had a dream in which all the tribes overcame their differences and worked together. Pontiac concluded by challenging the other Indian nations to join him in launching an attack against the British invaders. "We must exterminate from our land this nation whose only object is our death. There is nothing to prevent us," he stated. "Why should we not attack them? What do we fear? The time has arrived.… Let us strike. Strike! There is no longer any time to lose."

Pontiac's Rebellion

Pontiac's plan involved attacking all the British forts located west of the Allegheny mountains at the same time. Most of these forts were small and isolated, and since the war had ended they were defended by very few soldiers. If his plan was successful, Pontiac thought the French might rejoin the fight. The Indians launched a series of attacks against British forts in mid-May. They succeeded in capturing many smaller forts in the Great Lakes region, including Fort Ouiatenon (near modern-day Lafayette, Indiana), Fort Sandusky (on the south shore of Lake Erie), Fort St. Joseph (near Lake Michigan), Fort Edward Augustus (site of modern-day Green Bay, Wisconsin), Fort Miami (site of modern-day Fort Wayne, Indiana), and Fort Michilmackinac (on the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan).

Pontiac himself led one thousand warriors from various tribes in the attack on the largest target, Fort Detroit. Detroit was a compound that consisted of a strong fort, a trading post, and a hundred other buildings. The fort was defended by 125 British soldiers under Major Henry Gladwin (1729-1791), along with 40 British traders. First, Pontiac attempted a sneak attack. He asked Gladwin to allow his warriors inside the fort for a meeting, and the Indians secretly carried guns under their blankets. But Gladwin's Chippewa girlfriend revealed the plan to the British, and they had armed guards waiting when the Indians approached the fort. When his first plan failed, Pontiac surrounded the fort and set up a siege, hoping to starve the defenders out. British leaders tried to send troops and supplies to Detroit from Fort Niagara, but their boats were intercepted by the Indians. The Indians killed the British soldiers and sent their dead bodies floating past the fort as a warning to its defenders.

In late July, a heavy fog allowed another fleet of British boats, led by Captain James Dalyell (?-1763), to land safely with supplies and reinforcements. Shortly after his arrival, Dalyell decided to attack Pontiac's nearby camp. But a French trader slipped out of Detroit to warn Pontiac about the coming raid. The Indians ambushed Dalyell's forces while they were crossing a bridge over a creek, capturing one hundred British soldiers and killing or wounding sixty more. Dalyell was among those killed, and his mutilated body was left for the British to find.

As the siege of Detroit stretched into the summer, the Indians of the Ohio Country captured several more British forts. The Indians were unable to capture Fort Pitt, which was the strongest fort in the Ohio Country, but they surrounded the British stronghold and set up a siege. Without the forts to provide protection, British settlers along the frontier became vulnerable to Indian raids. Many settlers panicked and abandoned their homesteads for the safety of the cities.

As the extent of the Indian rebellion became clear, an angry General Jeffery Amherst (1717-1797; see entry) grew determined to solve the problem once and for all. Amherst gave his field commanders strong orders to attack the Indians and kill any they captured. He also suggested that they intentionally spread smallpox (an often deadly disease to which the Indians had no immunity) among the tribes as a way to reduce their numbers (see box in Jeffery Amherst entry). Amherst told his troops that the Indians should be treated "not as a generous enemy, but as the vilest [most horrible] race of beings that ever infested the earth, and whose riddance from it must be esteemed [considered] a meritorious [praiseworthy] act, for the good of mankind."

The first British forces to reach the Ohio Country were 460 troops under Colonel Henry Bouquet (1719-1765). They came under attack from the Indians near the Monongahela River, only a few miles from where General Braddock's army had been defeated by French and Indian forces eight years earlier. Bouquet learned from Braddock's mistakes, however. When Bouquet's forces had trouble fighting against Indians hiding in the woods, he ordered them to fake a retreat. The Indians emerged from the woods to chase the fleeing soldiers. Meanwhile, some of Bouquet's forces circled around to surround the enemy. The British claimed victory in the battle, although they lost fifty men and counted sixty more wounded. Still, Bouquet pushed forward and broke the Indians' siege of Fort Pitt on August 10.

Meanwhile, Pontiac's siege of Fort Detroit began falling apart in September. The Indians were running out of ammunition, and many warriors returned home in order to hunt for food to feed their families over the coming winter. Pontiac finally gave up the siege in October 1763. By that time, however, the Indian Wars had taken the lives of four hundred British soldiers and two thousand British settlers on the frontier. Upset over the continued unrest in the American colonies, British leaders recalled Amherst to London. They chose Major General Thomas Gage (1719-1787) to replace Amherst as commander of the remaining British forces in North America.

The following spring, Bouquet returned to the west with fifteen hundred troops and forced the Indians to return all of their white captives. In July 1764, William Johnson held a meeting with representatives of nineteen Indian nations atFort Niagara. Johnson agreed to remove all the restrictions that Amherst had placed upon trade, and in return the Indians agreed to make peace on the frontier.

British leaders try to control the colonies

Between the fall of Canada in 1761 and the Treaty of Paris in 1763, British leaders concentrated on the war in Europe and left the American colonies to deal with postwar issues on their own. Once the war ended in Europe, however, British leaders turned their attention to the colonies again. Throughout the war, British commanders Amherst, Braddock, and John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun (1705-1782), had complained about the Americans in the reports they sent back to London. The generals talked about the troubles they encountered in convincing the colonies to provide men, supplies, and money to support the war effort. They also discussed the poor training and discipline of the colonial troops. As a result, many British leaders developed a negative view of Americans. They assumed the colonies needed strong guidance and supervision from London in order to conduct their affairs. In addition, fighting the war in North America and around the world had cost Great Britain a huge amount of money. The British government struggled with heavy debts and a faltering economy as it tried to maintain control over all of its newly conquered territory. British leaders decided to address these problems by passing a number of new laws designed to establish firm authority over the colonies and collect taxes to help pay for the war.

But the British leaders did not have a full understanding of the situation in the colonies and how it had changed as a result of the war. They assumed the money they had granted to the colonial governments had paid for all of the colonies' wartime expenses. In reality, this money paid for less than half the cost of the war, and the colonial governments paid for the rest. As a result, many colonies were still struggling to pay heavy war debts of their own. American leaders felt they had already done their part to support the war effort. They viewed the British victory as the successful outcome of cooperation between equal partners. They did not understand why British leaders expected them to continue to pay money and provide troops after the fighting had ended. In addition, the colonial governments had to deal with the rush of settlers westward into the Ohio Country and northward into Nova Scotia. The colonies argued amongst themselves about controlling the new territories and struggled to protect their expanding borders from Indian attacks.

The differences between British leaders' views and actual conditions in America led to disagreements when Great Britain tried to reestablish control over the colonies. The first step in this process took place when the British parliament passed the Proclamation Act of 1763. This act officially established new colonies in Quebec and Florida and opened them up for settlement. But it also set aside most other former French lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River—including the Ohio Country—as Indian territory. Although Great Britain claimed ownership of this territory, it reserved the land for the present use of the Indians and for the future use of the king of England. The act prohibited the American colonies from expanding westward. The idea behind the act was to prevent further conflict between British settlers and Indians by keeping settlers away from the frontier. Many Americans resented the Proclamation Act, however, because they thought the point of the war against the French and Indians was to make this land safe for British settlers. They felt as if their reward had been taken away.

In early 1764, British leaders began passing a series of new taxes on the colonies. The money collected through these taxes was supposed to help pay Great Britain's war debts and support the British troops that remained in North America. The American Duties Act, more commonly known as the Sugar Act, placed new taxes on many items that were commonly used in the colonies, including sugar. It also included several measures designed to make tax collection more efficient. The Currency Act, passed a short time later, took away the colonial governments' power to issue their own paper money and use it to pay their debts. The idea behind this measure was to make sure that powerful London merchants received full payment for goods they shipped to America. But in reality, the Currency Act only made it more difficult for the colonies to do business amongst themselves.

Many Americans took exception to these actions of the British government. They felt no need for British troops to remain in North America, and did not want to pay taxes to support them. Most of all, the colonists objected to losing their rights and freedom in the face of tighter restrictions and control. Some people argued that British leaders could not impose taxes on the colonies without allowing American representatives to become members of parliament.

At first, opposition to the new policies was disorganized. Each of the colonies faced a different situation, so they tended to have different reactions to the new laws. In addition, the colonies still needed British help to deal with the ongoing Indian wars, so they were not willing to pick a fight with the mother country.

Riots break out in opposition to the Stamp Act

In 1765, however, the British government passed the Stamp Act, which placed a new tax on paper used in the colonies. Under this law, any paper that was used for business or legal purposes—including printed money, court documents, papers accompanying shipments of goods, and newspapers—had to have a small stamp printed on it. This stamp proved that the tax had been paid on the paper. Anyone who used paper without a stamp on it could be charged with a crime.

British leaders viewed the Stamp Act as a minor reform that would allow them to get a little more financial help from the colonies. In order to minimize opposition to the law, they gave the job of administering the stamps to prominent Americans. But as it turned out, this legislation created anger and resentment throughout the colonies.

Colonial governments began discussing the Stamp Act in May 1765. The government of Massachusetts was the first to express concern about the new law. Massachusetts leaders agreed to sponsor a meeting of representatives of all the colonies in New York in October to discuss it. But it was in Virginia that debate over the Stamp Act became most heated. Patrick Henry (1736-1799), a twenty-nine-year-old lawyer and new member of the Virginia Assembly, waited until most conservative members of the assembly had left and then gave a fiery speech against the new law. He sponsored a series of resolutions stating that only the colonial government had the right to place taxes on its residents. Henry argued that the British government had no right to tax the colonists without their consent. He also noted that the colonists could not give consent without having representatives in parliament.

The resolutions passed the Virginia Assembly on May 30, and Henry and his supporters left Williamsburg. The following day, conservative members of the assembly returned and attempted to repeal (officially revoke or take back) all of Henry's resolutions. But they were successful in repealing only the fifth resolution, which specifically addressed the belief that only the colonial government should have the power to tax its citizens. This resolution was considered particularly shocking because directly questioning the authority of the king in this way was practically unheard of at that time. Virginia's more conservative leaders worried that Henry's words might be considered treason (the crime of betraying one's country).

But Henry's ideas did not die, because his ground-breaking resolutions were soon published in newspapers throughout the colonies. In fact, some papers added two additional resolutions that contained even stronger language against the Stamp Act and the British government. As Americans read about the Virginia Assembly's tough stand, organized opposition to the law grew among ordinary citizens. In Boston, Massachusetts, angry mobs destroyed the home of the man who had been appointed to administer the stamps and forced him to resign from his position. Then they went to the homes of other public officials and threatened to destroy their property if they did not refuse to comply with the Stamp Act.

The success of the Boston mobs encouraged similar actions in other colonies. Many people decided that violent opposition was the best way to prevent the law from taking effect. Opposition groups called themselves "Sons of Liberty," a phrase taken from a controversial speech in support of the Americans that had been delivered in the British parliament by one of its members, Lieutenant Isaac Barre (1726-1802; see box). As the colonial governments struggled to control the mobs and reestablish order, each one ended up passing resolutions against taxation without consent. When representatives of all the colonies came together in the fall, they signed a joint petition asking King George III to repeal the Stamp Act. Despite the controversy, most of these measures were polite in tone. The colonial assemblies wanted to pressure the British government to repeal the Stamp Act without provoking them to impose their authority by force.

When the first shipment of stamped paper arrived in New York in October, thousands of people turned out to meet the ship and tried to destroy the paper. But the British troops that were stationed in the city managed to take the paper to nearby Fort George for safekeeping. When angry mobs surrounded the fort, though, Gage ordered the troops to give up the stamps.

British leaders were shocked by the violent opposition to the Stamp Act. They debated about what action to take. They worried that repealing the law would reduce their authority over the colonies. But using force to make the colonists obey the law would turn the Americans into enemies. (The British parliament ended up repealing the Stamp Act the following year, although at the same time they passed several resolutions that condemned the colonists' behavior and emphasized their authority over the colonies.)

As British leaders considered their options, some Americans marveled at how the colonies had overcome their differences and joined together to oppose the Stamp Act. John Adams (1735-1826)—a Harvard-educated lawyer who would eventually become the second president of the United States—wrote several editorials for newspapers (often under the name Humphry Ploughjogger) about the new kind of politics he saw emerging in the colonies. "This Year," Adams wrote, "brings Ruin or Salvation to the British Colonies. The Eyes of all America, are fixed on the B[ritish] Parliament. In short Britain and America are staring at each other.—And they will probably stare more and more for sometime."

The French and Indian War's impact on American and world history

Although the French and Indian War is not as well known as some other wars—such as the American Revolution (1775-83), the Civil War (1861-65), or World War II (1939-45)—it played a significant role in shaping American and world history. In fact, some historians argue that the United States may never have become an independent nation without the French and Indian War. If the British and American colonists had not taken control of eastern North America from the French in 1763, then the thirteen British colonies along the Atlantic Ocean might have been surrounded by a vast, French-speaking nation.

Instead, the French and Indian War gave Great Britain a huge empire that it would struggle to control. The conflict also left France in a weakened position, holding little territory around the world and suffering under a mountain of war debts. This situation created a strong desire for revenge among the French people. As a result, the French provided valuable support to the American colonies in their fight against Great Britain during the American Revolution. In 1789, France's severe debts from the war and widespread social unrest flared into the French Revolution. This conflict, which eventually spread throughout Europe, reduced the power of the king and created an elected government in France.

War changes the relationship between Great Britain and its colonies

The French and Indian War created fundamental changes in the relationship between Great Britain and its American colonies. Before the war, British leaders had adopted a "hands-off" policy toward the colonies. Since the booming trade with the colonies helped make the mother country wealthy and powerful, they were willing to allow the colonies to govern themselves. But British leaders grew concerned about what they viewed as the colonies' lack of cooperation during the war years. They resented it when the colonies resisted their demands to provide money, supplies, and troops to aid in the war effort. They were also angry that some American merchants had continued to trade with France illegally during the war. Although smuggling goods across the border to New France was profitable for the merchants, it helped support the French war effort and may have made the war last longer than it would have otherwise.

These wartime experiences convinced many members of the British parliament that they needed to place the American colonies under firmer control. This idea gained even more support after the war ended, when settlers rushed headlong into the new territories and met with violent resistance from the Indians. Finally, the war had cost Great Britain a great deal of money. Faced with large debts and a slow economy, British leaders decided to place taxes upon the colonists in order to collect money to help pay for the war.

But the war had also changed the way many Americans viewed their relationship with Great Britain. Thousands of American men had served under British military leaders and alongside British soldiers during the war. Many of these men developed a negative opinion of the British Army. They watched arrogant British commanding officers make poor decisions that sent hundreds of men to their deaths. They also witnessed many examples of the brutal physical punishment that was routinely used to maintain discipline and order among the troops. Over time, Americans came to believe that the British Army was not the powerful, un-beatable force they had once thought.

At the same time, many American soldiers played an important role in the British victory. They gained confidence in their own skills and abilities and felt as if they were equal to the British soldiers. For example, they noticed that American forces had defeated the French at the Battle of Lake George and in other clashes, while British forces had suffered several terrible defeats in battle. Yet the Americans found that British leaders did not appreciate their contributions and thought of them as inferior to regular British Army soldiers.

Colonists' wartime experiences provide the foundation for a new nation

When British leaders tried to place strict controls and new taxes on the colonies after the war ended, their policies created strong resistance among the Americans. The colonists' wartime experiences had given them less respect for British leaders and military power, as well as greater confidence in their own abilities. Since they no longer faced threats from the French and Indians, they had less need for British protection and felt greater freedom to express their opposition to government policies.

Finally, the French and Indian War had created a generation of American men that had shared a common experience. They started to develop an identity as Americans, rather than as residents of a specific American colony. Several of these men emerged as leaders during the war. For example, George Washington (1732-1799; see entry) served in several important campaigns and led the defense of the Virginia frontier. He gained valuable skills and experience and was recognized throughout the colonies as a brave and capable military commander. When the American colonies fought for their independence from Great Britain fifteen years later, Washington proved his courage and leadership once again in the American Revolution. And—in what is perhaps his most courageous contribution of all—he loyally served as the first president of the United States.

King Louis XV of France

King Louis XV (1710-1793) occupied the throne of France during the French and Indian War in North America. Born in 1710, he was only five years old when his predecessor, King Louis XIV (1638-1715), died. Louis XV was quickly coronated France's new king, but until he reached adulthood he was guided by Philippe II (1674-1723), the duke of Orleans, who served as regent (someone who governs when the rightful ruler is absent, disabled, or too young to rule). When Philippe died in 1723, André-Hercule de Fleury (1653-1743) emerged as Louis XV's main advisor. In 1725, the young king married a member of the Polish nobility, Marie Leszczynska (1703-1768).

During King Louis XV's reign (1715-74), France became embroiled in a number of wars, including conflicts in Poland and Austria. The most destructive war, however, was the French and Indian War (known in Europe as the Seven Years' War) with England. This clash first erupted in North America, where France and Great Britain became locked in a bitter battle for control of that continent and its rich natural resources. In the early years of this war, French forces gained the upper hand. But by the end of the 1750s, British armies were on the march against French territories all around the globe.

Alarmed at the prospect of losing the war in Europe, King Louis XV decided to keep most of his military resources in Europe rather than send them to protect the French settlements and outposts in North America. This decision ensured that the British and the American colonists would eventually be able to claim the continent for themselves. By 1760, most of the eastern half of North America was firmly in the hands of England.

In 1763, France ended the war by agreeing to the terms of the Treaty of Paris. This agreement established Britain as the world's leading power and reduced the influence of both Louis XV and France across Europe. France tried to recover, but its financial health had been ruined by the costly war and the king's own expensive tastes. The French people hoped that Louis XV would guide the country back to its former prosperity, but he failed to make meaningful reforms. For example, poor peasants continued to pay more in taxes than wealthy members of the nobility and clergy, and the government often interfered in the private lives of French citizens. The king who was once nicknamed "the well-beloved" had become a weak and ineffective ruler.

In 1774, Louis XV died of smallpox, and Louis XVI (1754-1792), his grandson, took the throne. But the financial and political mess left behind by Louis XV haunted the new monarch. In 1789, growing unhappiness with France's political, financial, and legal systems finally exploded in a popular revolt known as the French Revolution. This rebellion destroyed the French monarchy, replacing it with a succession of new governments that made many changes in the country's social, political, and economic fabric. Louis XVI, meanwhile, was imprisoned in the first months of the Revolution. He was finally executed on January 21, 1793.

A British Parliament Member Stands Up for the Americans

As the British Parliament debated about the Stamp Act in February 1765, many members spoke about the American colonies and their duty toward the mother country. One member of parliament, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Barre, had spent time in North America and served under General James Wolfe (1727-1759; see entry) during the Battle of Quebec. Over time, Barre became fed up with what he felt were unfair statements about Americans made by his fellow members.

Barre then delivered a fiery speech in which he defended the colonists' loyalty to the king of England, but warned that the Americans valued their liberty too much to tolerate the Stamp Act. Barre's description of the Americans as noble, tough, independent-minded people made him a hero in the colonies. In fact, many groups that formed to oppose the Stamp Act borrowed the phrase "Sons of Liberty" from his speech. An excerpt from Barre's famous speech before parliament follows:

Your oppressions [abuses of power] planted them in America. They fled from your tyranny [severe authority] to a then uncultivated and unhospitable country.… And yet, actuated [moved] by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with what they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those who should have been their friends.…

They grew by your neglect of them: as soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, … to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions and to prey upon them; men whose behaviour on many occasions has caused the blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil [draw back] within them.…

They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted a valor [shown strength or bravery] amidst their constant and laborious industry [in the middle of their hard work] for the defence of a country, whose frontier, while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded all its little savings to your emolument [benefit]. And believe me, remember I this day told you so, that same spirit of freedom which actuated [moved] that people at first, will accompany them still.… However superior to me in general knowledge and experience the reputable body of this House may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant [talked to people] in that country. The people I believe are as truly loyal as any subjects the King has, but a people jealous of [careful about guarding] their liberties … will vindicate [defend] them, if ever they should be violated.

Source: From the diary of Nathaniel Ryder. Reprinted in Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments Respecting North America, 1754-1783. Edited by R. C. Simmons and Peter D. G. Thomas. Millwood, NY: 1983.

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1763-65: The War Ends in Europe, but Conflicts Continue in North America

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1763-65: The War Ends in Europe, but Conflicts Continue in North America