The Seven Years’ War: 1754-1763

The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War was fought between the colonies of Great Britain and New France, supported by American Indian allies on both sides.

Learning Objectives

Describe the political and economic impact of the French and Indian War on the colonies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The French and Indian War (1754–1763) is the name for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War.
  • The war was primarily fought over contested claims between the British and French over the land of the Ohio Country. The outcome of the war was one of the most significant developments in a century of Anglo-French conflict, with Britain gaining control over Canada and Florida.
  • American Indian tribes supporting France included the Wabanaki Confederacy, Algonquin, Caughnawaga Mohawk, Lenape, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Shawnee, and Wyandot.
  • American Indian tribes supporting the British included the Iroquois Confederacy, Catawba, and the Cherokee prior to 1758.

Key Terms

  • Treaty of Paris: A peace agreement signed in 1763 that ended the Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War; also the name for a peace agreement signed in 1783 that ended the American Revolutionary War and recognized the United States’ independence.
  • Seven Years’ War: A global military war between 1756 and 1763 involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines.
  • New France: France’s former possessions and colonies in North America, including Quebec, Acadia, and Louisiana, before 1763.

The Seven Years’ War

The Seven Years’ War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. In some countries, the war is alternatively named after combats in the respective theatres: the French and Indian War (North America, 1754–63), Pomeranian War (Sweden and Prussia, 1757–62), Third Carnatic War (Indian subcontinent, 1757–63), and Third Silesian War (Prussia and Austria, 1756–63).

The French and Indian War (1754–1763) is the name for the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War. The war was fought primarily between the colonies of Great Britain and New France, with both sides supported by forces from Europe as well as American Indian allies. In 1756, the war erupted into a worldwide conflict between Britain and France. The primary targets of the British colonists were the royal French forces and the various American Indian forces allied with them.

Background to the War

The Ohio Country

The war was fought primarily along the frontiers separating New France from the British colonies from Virginia to Nova Scotia. The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio Territory or Ohio Valley by the French) was the name used in the 18th century for the regions of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and in the region of the upper Ohio River south of Lake Erie. The territory encompassed roughly the present-day states of Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia. The issue of settlement in the region is considered to have been a primary cause of the French and Indian War and a later contributing factor to the American Revolutionary War.

In the 17th century, the area north of the Ohio River had been occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Shawnee. Around 1660, during a conflict known as the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois seized control of the Ohio Country, driving out the Shawnee and conquering and absorbing the Erie tribe. The Ohio Country remained largely uninhabited for decades and was used primarily for hunting by the Iroquois.

In the 1720s, a number of American Indian groups began to migrate to the Ohio Country. By 1724, Delaware Indians had established the village of Kittanning on the Allegheny River in present-day western Pennsylvania. The Delawares were migrating because of the expansion of European colonial settlement in eastern Pennsylvania. With them came those Shawnee who had settled in the east. Other bands of the scattered Shawnee tribe also began to return to the Ohio Country in the decades that followed. A number of Senecas and other Iroquois also migrated to the Ohio Country, moving away from the French and British imperial rivalries south of Lake Ontario.

Territorial Dispute

With the invasion of the Europeans, the region was claimed by Great Britain and France, both of which sent merchants into the area to trade with the Ohio Country Indians. The area was considered central to both countries’ ambitions of further expansion and development in North America. At the same time, the Iroquois claimed the region by right of conquest. The rivalry between the two European nations, the Iroquois, and the Ohio natives for control of the region played an important part of the outbreak of the French and Indian War in the 1750s.

The Outbreak of War

The war began in May 1754 because of these competing claims between Britain and France. Twenty-two-year-old George Washington, a Virginian surveyor whose family helped to found the Ohio Company, gave the command to fire on French soldiers near present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. This incident on the Pennsylvania frontier proved to be a decisive event that led to imperial war. For the next decade, fighting took place along the frontier of New France and British America from Virginia to Maine. The war also spread to Europe as France and Britain looked to gain supremacy in the Atlantic World.

After initially remaining neutral, the Ohio Country Indians and most of the northern tribes largely sided with the French, who were their primary trading partner and supplier of arms. The British fared poorly in the first years of the war. In 1754, the French and their American Indian native allies forced Washington to surrender at Fort Necessity, a hastily built fort constructed after Washington’s attack on the French. In 1755, Britain dispatched General Edward Braddock to the colonies to take Fort Duquesne. The French, aided by the Potawotomis, Ottawas, Shawnees, and Delawares, ambushed the 1,500 British soldiers and Virginia militia who marched to the fort. The attack sent panic through the British force, and hundreds of British soldiers and militiamen died, including General Braddock. The campaign of 1755 proved to be a disaster for the British. In fact, the only British victory that year was the capture of Nova Scotia. In 1756 and 1757, Britain suffered further defeats with the fall of Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry.

The war began to turn in favor of the British in 1758, due in large part to the efforts of William Pitt, a very popular member of Parliament. Pitt pledged huge sums of money and resources to defeating the hated Catholic French, and Great Britain spent part of the money on bounties paid to new young recruits in the colonies, helping invigorate the British forces. In 1758, the Iroquois, Delaware, and Shawnee signed the Treaty of Easton, aligning themselves with the British in return for some contested land around Pennsylvania and Virginia. Between 1758 and 1760, the British military successfully penetrated the heartland of New France, with Quebec falling in 1759 and Montreal finally falling in September 1760. The French empire in North America began to crumble.

image

Conference between the French and American Indian leaders around a ceremonial fire by Vernier: This is a scene from the French and Indian War (1754–1763), depicting the alliance of French and American Indian forces.

Treaty of Paris

Most of the fighting between France and Britain in continental North America ended in 1760; however, the fighting in Europe continued. The war in North America officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, and war in the European theatre of the Seven Years’ War was settled by the Treaty of Hubertusburg on February 15, 1763. France ceded French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to its ally Spain, in compensation for Spain’s loss of Florida to Britain (which Spain had given 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 Britain’s position as the dominant colonial power in the eastern half of North America.

Britain gained control of French Canada and Acadia, colonies containing approximately 80,000 primarily French-speaking Roman Catholic residents. The British resettled many Acadians throughout its North American provinces, but many went to France, and some went to New Orleans, which they had expected to remain French.

Following the peace treaty, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 outlining the division and administration of the newly conquered territory. To some extent, this proclamation continues to govern relations between the government of modern Canada and the First Nations. In his proclamation, George III placed Ohio Country in the vast Indian Reserve stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River and from Florida to Newfoundland. Existing European settlers (mostly French) were ordered to leave or get special permission to stay. Despite its acquisition by Great Britain, the area remained officially closed to white settlement—at least for the time being—by the Proclamation of 1763, which arose from the British desire to regain peaceful relations with the Shawnee and other tribes in the region.

A New Dynamic

For France, the military defeat and the financial burden of the war weakened the monarchy and contributed to the advent of the French Revolution in 1789. For many American Indian populations, the elimination of French power in North America meant the disappearance of a strong ally and counterweight to British expansion, which over the following decades would lead to their ultimate dispossession. Although the Spanish takeover of the Louisiana territory (which was not completed until 1769) had only modest repercussions, the British takeover of Spanish Florida resulted in the westward migration of tribes that did not want to do business with the British and a rise in tensions between the Choctaw and the Creek, historic enemies whose divisions the British at times exploited. The change of control in Florida also prompted most of its Spanish Catholic population to leave.

The map shows British possessions, French possessions, and disputed areas in what is now the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. At the time, the British possessed Nova Scotia, a portion of modern-day Maine, a portion of modern-day New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, a portion of modern-day New York, New Jersey, a portion of modern-day Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and a portion of modern-day Virginia. The remainder of the modern-day northeastern United States was disputed territory. To the north, the French controlled New France, which consisted of portions of modern-day Newfoundland and Labrador; Quebec, and Ontario. The map shows the locations of two British forts and nine French forts. It also shows the location of eight British victories and four French victories. Finally, it shows the movements of French and British forces during the war.

Map of the French and Indian War.

The Albany Congress and the Intercolonial Defense

The Albany Congress brought together colonial representatives to discuss relations with American Indian tribes and common defense against the French.

Learning Objectives

Identify the Albany Congress

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In 1754, the British government asked colonial representatives to meet in Albany, New York, to develop a treaty with American Indians and plan the defense of the colonies against France.The Albany Congress was a meeting of representatives from seven of the 13 British North American colonies: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
  • Representatives met daily in Albany, New York, from June 19 to July 11 to discuss better relations with the American Indian tribes and common defensive measures against the French during the French and Indian War.
  • Exceeding their limited objectives, the assembly adopted a plan developed by Benjamin Franklin for government of the colonies by a central executive and a council of delegates.
  • Although rejected by England and the colonies, the Albany Plan became a useful guide in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.

Key Terms

  • Albany Plan: A measure proposed by Benjamin Franklin at the Albany Congress in 1754 in Albany, New York.

Overview

In 1754, the British government asked colonial representatives to meet in Albany, New York, to develop a treaty with American Indians and plan the defense of the colonies against France. Exceeding these limited objectives, the assembly adopted a plan developed by Benjamin Franklin for government of the colonies by a central executive and a council of delegates. Although rejected by England and the colonies, the Albany Plan became a useful guide in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.

The Albany Congress

The Albany Congress was a meeting of representatives from seven of the 13 British North American colonies in 1754: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Representatives met daily in Albany, New York, from June 19 to July 11 to discuss better relations with the American Indian tribes and common defensive measures against the French during the French and Indian War. Delegates did not view themselves as builders of an American nation; rather, they were colonists with the more limited mission of pursuing a treaty with the Mohawks. The episode has achieved iconic status as presaging the formation of the United States of America in 1776, and is often illustrated with Franklin’s famous snake cartoon, “Join, or Die.”

image

“Join, or Die” by Benjamin Franklin: “Join, or Die” by Benjamin Franklin is a woodcut showing a snake cut into eighths, with each segment labeled with the initials of one of the American colonies or regions. The cartoon was used in the French and Indian War to symbolize that the colonies needed to join together with Great Britain to defeat the French and Indians. It later became a symbol of colonial freedom during the American Revolutionary War.

Franklin’s Plan of Union

Benjamin Franklin proposed a plan for uniting the seven colonies that greatly exceeded the scope of the congress. The Albany delegates spent most of their time debating Franklin’s Albany Plan of Union, which would have created a unified colonial entity. The original plan was heavily debated by all who attended the conference, and numerous modifications were proposed until the plan proceeded to be passed unanimously.

The delegates voted approval of a plan that called for a union of 12 colonies. The Union Plan included all of the British colonies in North America, except Delaware and Georgia. The plan called for a single executive, known as a president general, to be appointed and supported by the Crown; the president general would be responsible for American Indian relations, military preparedness, and execution of laws regulating various trade and financial activities. The Union Plan also called for a grand council to be selected by the colonial legislatures, where the number of delegates (anywhere from 2 to 7) would be based on the taxes paid by each colony.

The plan was submitted as a recommendation by the Albany Congress, but it was rejected by the legislatures of the individual seven colonies, as it would remove some of their existing powers. The plan was also rejected by the Colonial Office. Many in the British government, already wary of some of the strong-willed colonial assemblies, disliked the idea of consolidating additional power into the hands of the colonists. Instead, they preferred that the colonists’ focus remain on the forthcoming military campaign against the French and their American Indian allies.

Even though it was rejected, some features of this plan were later adopted in the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. Franklin himself later speculated that had the 1754 plan been adopted, the colonial separation from England might not have happened so soon.

image

The Albany Congress: The mural depicts some of the delegates (from left to right): William Franklin and his father, Benjamin (Pennsylvania); Governor Thomas Hutchinson (Massachusetts); Governor William Delancey (New York); Sir William Johnson (Massachusetts); and Colonel Benjamin Tasker (Maryland).

The War and Its Consequences

The Seven Years’ War changed relations between the European powers, their colonies and colonists, and the American Indians in North America.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the results of the Seven Years’ War

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The French and Indian War took place in the American theatre of the global Seven Years’ War; the Treaty of Paris marked the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763.
  • The Treaty of Paris resulted in France’s loss of all its North American possessions east of the Mississippi except for two small islands off of Newfoundland, marking the beginning of an era of British dominance in North America.
  • Following the treaty, King George III signed the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which temporarily blocked colonists’ westward expansion and reserved western land for American Indian use.
  • The proclamation was less about respecting or preserving the American Indians’ rights to their land; rather, it gave the British Crown a monopoly on all future land purchases from American Indians.
  • Though Britain gained the territory of New France and French Canada, France and Britain both suffered financially because of the war, with significant long-term consequences.
  • The war nearly doubled Britain’s national debt, which it chose to pay off by imposing new taxes on its colonies; resistance to these taxes from the colonists would eventually culminate in the American Revolutionary War.

Key Terms

  • Treaty of Paris: Signed in 1763, a peace agreement that ended the French and Indian War in North America; also the name for the peace agreement that ended the American Revolutionary War in 1783.
  • Royal Proclamation of 1763: An act issued by King George III following Great Britain’s acquisition of French territory in North America after the end of the French and Indian War; it established limits to colonization west of the Appalachian mountains.
  • speculators: A person who engages in commercial or financial purchasing of a good (or land) with the hope that it will become more valuable at a future date.

The Ending of the War

The Treaties of Paris and Hubertusburg

Most of the North American fighting of the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War) ended on September 8, 1760, when the Marquis de Vaudreuil surrendered Montreal—and effectively all of Canada—to the British. However, the war did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. The treaty resulted in France’s loss of all its North American possessions east of the Mississippi except for Saint Pierre and Miquelon, two small islands off of Newfoundland, marking the beginning of an era of British dominance in North America.

Britain also gained control of French Canada, a colony containing approximately 65,000 French-speaking, Roman Catholic residents. Early in the war in 1755, the British had expelled French settlers from Acadia, some of whom eventually fled to Louisiana. Now at peace and eager to secure control of its hard-won colony, Great Britain found itself obliged to make concessions to its newly conquered subjects. The European theatre of the war was settled by the Treaty of Hubertusburg on February 15, 1763.

image

Treaty of Hubertusburg: An image of the 1763 peace settlement reached at the Treaty of Hubertusburg ending the Seven Years’ War in central Europe.

Consequences of the War

The war changed economic, political, governmental, and social relations between Britain, France, and Spain; their colonies and colonists; and the American Indians that inhabited the territories they claimed. France and Britain both suffered financially because of the war, with significant long-term consequences.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763

Following the peace treaty, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on October 7. The proclamation outlined the division and administration of the newly conquered territory. Included in its provisions was the reservation of lands west of the Appalachian Mountains to its original American Indian population, a demarcation that was at best a temporary impediment to a rising tide of westward-bound British invaders. One of the biggest problems confronting the British Empire in 1763 was controlling land speculators whose activities often led to frontier conflicts in both Europe and the British colonies. Many American Indian peoples—primarily in the Great Lakes region—had a long and close relationship with France and were dismayed to find that they were now under British sovereignty.

The proclamation created a boundary line (often called the proclamation line) between the British colonies on the Atlantic coast and American Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. The proclamation line was not intended to be a permanent boundary between white and indigenous lands but rather a temporary boundary which could be extended further west in an orderly, “lawful” (according to the British) manner. The proclamation outlawed private purchase of American Indian land, which had often created problems in the past; instead, all future land purchases were to be made by Crown officials “at some public Meeting or Assembly of the said Indians.” Furthermore, British colonists were forbidden to move beyond the line and settle on indigenous lands, and colonial officials were forbidden to grant grounds or lands without royal approval. The proclamation was less about respecting or preserving the American Indians’ rights to their land; rather, it gave the British Crown a monopoly on all future land purchases from American Indians.

Almost immediately, many British colonists and land speculators objected to the proclamation boundary, since there were already many settlements beyond the line and many existing land claims yet to be settled. Indeed, the Royal Proclamation itself called for lands to be granted to British soldiers who had served in the Seven Years’ War. Prominent American colonists joined with land speculators in Britain to lobby the government to move the line further west. As a result, the boundary line was adjusted in a series of treaties with American Indians. The Treaty of Fort Stanwix and the Treaty of Hard Labor, both signed 1768, and the Treaty of Lochaber of 1770, opened much of what is now West Virginia and Kentucky to British settlement.

Economic Consequences

In addition to vastly increasing Britain’s land in North America, the Seven Years’ War changed economic, political, and social relations between Britain and its colonies. It plunged Britain into debt, nearly doubling the national debt. The Crown, seeking sources of revenue to pay off the debt, chose to impose new taxes on its colonies. These taxes were met with increasingly stiff resistance, until troops were called in to ensure that representatives of the Crown could safely perform their duties of collecting taxes. Over the years, dissatisfaction over the high taxes would steadily rise among the colonists until eventually culminating in the American Revolutionary War.

France returned to the North American stage in 1778 to support American colonists against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. For France, the military defeat and the financial burden of the Seven Years’ War weakened the monarchy and eventually contributed to the advent of the French Revolution in 1789.

Pontiac’s Uprising

British expansion into American Indian land after the French and Indian War led to resistance in the form of Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763.

Learning Objectives

Identify Pontiac’s Rebellion

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Pontiac ‘s Rebellion (1763–1766) was an uprising of a coalition of American Indian tribes who sought to prevent Great Britain from expanding further into western lands.
  • Following the British victory in the French and Indian War, British postwar policies in the Great Lakes region greatly disregarded American Indian rights to their land.
  • Involved in the rebellion were the numerous tribes of the Great Lakes region and the eastern Illinois Country, both of which had been allied with the French; the tribes of the Ohio Country, allied with neither, were also involved.
  • The war began at Fort Detroit under the leadership of Ottawa war chief Pontiac and quickly spread throughout the region as word of Pontiac’s actions inspired other discontented American Indians to join the revolt.
  • Relations between British colonists and American Indians deteriorated further during and after Pontiac’s Rebellion, contributing to deep racial hatred among colonists against all American Indians.
  • For American Indians, Pontiac’s War demonstrated the possibilities of pan-tribal cooperation in resisting Anglo-American colonial expansion.

Key Terms

  • General Amherst: An 18th century officer in the British Army and commander-in-chief of the forces.
  • Pontiac: An Ottawa leader who became famous for his role in the American Indian uprising of 1763, in which a pan-tribal coalition of American Indians resisted British military occupation of the Great Lakes region following the British victory in the French and Indian War.
  • pays d’en haut: A vast territory west of Montreal covering the whole of the Great Lakes north and south and stretching as far into the North American continent as the French had explored.

Changing Dynamics

After the Seven Years’ War, British troops proceeded to occupy the various forts in the Ohio Country and Great Lakes region that had been previously garrisoned by the French. Even before the war officially ended, the British Crown began to implement changes in order to administer its vastly expanded North American territory. While the French had long cultivated alliances among certain of the American Indian tribes, the British post-war approach was to subordinate the tribes, and tensions quickly rose between the American Indians and the British. The most organized resistance, Pontiac’s Rebellion, highlighted tensions the settler-invaders increasingly interpreted in racial terms.

Pontiac’s Rebellion

Tribes Involved

American Indians involved in Pontiac’s Rebellion lived in a vaguely defined region of New France known as the pays d’en haut, “the upper country,” which was claimed by France until the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The tribes of the pays d’en haut consisted of three basic groups. The first group included the tribes of the Great Lakes region: the Ottawas, Ojibwas, Potawatomis, and Hurons. The second group was made up of the tribes of the eastern Illinois Country, which included the Miamis, Weas, Kickapoos, Mascoutens, and Piankashaws. Both groups had a long-standing peace agreement with the French. The members of the third group were the tribes of the Ohio Country: the Delawares (Lenape), Shawnees, Wyandots, and Mingos. These people had migrated to the Ohio valley earlier in the century in order to escape British, French, and Iroquois domination elsewhere and did not have strong relations with the British or French.

Amherst’s Policies Toward American Indians

General Amherst, the British commander-in-chief in North America, was in charge of administering policy toward American Indians, which involved both military matters and regulation of the fur trade. He believed American Indians were militarily weak and thereby subordinate to the British government. One of his policies was to prohibit gift exchange between the American Indians and the British. Once a tradition with the French, gift giving was a symbol of peaceful relations, and the prohibition of such exchanges was interpreted by many American Indians as an insult. Amherst also restricted the American Indians’ gun supply, which generated resentment; American Indian men used gunpowder and ammunition to gain food for their families and fur for trade, and by closing off the supply, Amherst imposed hardships on tribal families.

Additional Conflicts

Land was also a motivating factor in the coming of the uprising. While the French population had been low, there seemed to be no end of incoming settler-invaders from England. Shawnees and Delawares in the Ohio Country, especially, had been displaced by British colonists in the east, motivating their resistance along with food shortages and epidemic disease.

The Outbreak of War

Despite previous rumors of war, Pontiac’s Rebellion began in 1763. Senecas of the Ohio Country (Mingos) circulated messages calling for the tribes to form a confederacy and drive away the British. The Mingos, led by Guyasuta and Tahaiadoris, were concerned about being surrounded by British-occupied forts. While the rebellion was decentralized at first, this fear of being surrounded helped the rebellion to grow.

The war began at Fort Detroit under the leadership of Ottawa war chief Pontiac and quickly spread throughout the region. Eight British forts were taken. Scholars believe that rather than being planned in advance, the uprising spread as word of Pontiac’s actions at Fort Detroit traveled throughout the pays d’en haut, inspiring already discontented American Indians to join the revolt.

The total loss of life resulting from Pontiac’s Rebellion is unknown. About 400 British soldiers were killed in action and perhaps 50 were captured and killed; about 2,000 settler-invaders were killed or captured as well. The war compelled approximately 4,000 Pennsylvanian and Virginian settler-invaders to flee their homes. American Indian losses went mostly unrecorded, though it has been estimated that at least 200 warriors were killed in battle.

Foreshadowing of Future Hostilities

Relations between British colonists and American Indians deteriorated further during Pontiac’s Rebellion, and the British government concluded that colonists and American Indians must be kept apart. On October 7, 1763, the Crown issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, an effort to reorganize British North America after the Treaty of Paris. Officials drew a boundary line between the British colonies along the seaboard and American Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, creating a vast (and temporary) “Indian Reserve” that stretched from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River and from Florida to Quebec. This boundary was never intended to be permanent, but was rather created as a way to continued British expansion westward in a more organized fashion.

For American Indians, Pontiac’s War demonstrated the possibilities of pan-tribal cooperation in resisting Anglo-American colonial expansion. Although the conflict divided tribes and villages, the war also saw the first extensive multi-tribal resistance to European colonization in North America and was the first war between Europeans and American Indians that did not end in complete defeat for the American Indians.

image

Pontiac’s Rebellion: In a famous council on April 27, 1763, depicted in this 19th century engraving by Alfred Bobbet, Pontiac urged listeners rise up against the British.

The Western Lands

Following the French and Indian War, the colonial desire to expand westward was met with resistance from American Indians.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the British policy regarding westward expansion

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The French and Indian War of the 1760s resulted in a complete victory for the British, who took over the lands west to the Mississippi River that had previously been claimed by the French, but was largely inhabited by American Indians.
  • Following the acquisition of new territory, colonists pushed west into the frontier lands. By the early 1770s, British colonists were moving across the Appalachians into western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.
  • The Royal Proclamation of 1763 prohibited the North American colonists from establishing or maintaining settlements west of a line running down the crest of the Appalachian Mountains.
  • This policy had little to do with respect for tribal rights and was more motivated by the high expense of conflicts with American Indians and lack of British soldiers on the continent.
  • The reaction of colonial land speculators and frontiersmen to this proclamation was highly negative. From their perspective, they had risked their lives in the recent war only to be denied the lands they coveted.
  • The attack on a local tribe of Conestoga Indians by a group of Scots-Irish settlers from Paxton, Pennsylvania, in December of 1763, illustrates the deadly situation on the frontier.

Key Terms

  • fur trade: A worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal pelts.

European Patterns of Westward Expansion

Prior to 1776, the land to the west of the British colonies was of high priority for settlers and politicians. In the earliest days of European settlement of the Atlantic coast, from about 1600 to 1680, the “frontier” was essentially any part of the forested interior of the continent beyond the fringe of existing settlements along the coast.

English, French, Spanish, and Dutch patterns of expansion and settlement differed widely. Only a few thousand French migrated to Canada; these habitants settled in villages along the St. Lawrence river, building communities that remained stable for long stretches; they did not leapfrog west the way the British did. Although French fur traders ranged widely through the Great Lakes region, they seldom settled down and instead maintained a nomadic lifestyle. The Dutch set up fur trading posts in the Hudson River valley, followed by large grants of land to rich landowning patroons who brought in tenant farmers to create compact, permanent villages. They did not push westward.

In contrast, the English colonies generally pursued a more systematic policy of widespread settlement of the New World for cultivation and exploitation of the land, a practice that required the application of “legal” property rights to the new conditions. (These policies were legal according to British law but largely disregarded or exploited the rights of American Indians.) The typical English settlements were quite compact and small, typically under a square mile. Conflict with American Indians quickly arose as the British expanded further into their territory.

The French and Indian Wars of the 1760s resulted in a complete victory for the British, who took possession of the lands west to the Mississippi River, which had formerly been claimed by the French but were largely inhabited by American Indian tribes. By the early 1770s, British settler-invaders were moving across the Appalachians into western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.

American Indian Land

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 prohibited the North American colonists from establishing or maintaining settlements west of a line running down the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. There were two motivations for this policy: first, the British wished to avoid warfare with the American Indians. This aim had little to do with respect for tribal rights and was more motivated by the high expense of conflicts with American Indians and the lack of British soldiers on the continent. Some American Indians welcomed this policy, believing that the separation would allow them to resume their traditional ways of life; others realized that the proclamation, at best, would only provide some breathing room before the next onslaught of invaders.

The other intention of the proclamation was to concentrate colonial settlements on the seaboard, where they could be active participants in the British mercantile system. The first priority of British trade officials was to populate the recently secured areas of Canada and Florida, where colonists could reasonably be expected to trade with the mother country; settlers living west of the Appalachians would be highly self-sufficient and have little opportunity to trade with English merchants.

The reaction of colonial land speculators and frontiersmen to this proclamation was highly negative. From their perspective, they had risked their lives in the recent war only to be denied the lands they coveted. Most concluded that the proclamation was only a temporary measure; a number ignored it entirely and moved into the prohibited area anyway. Almost from its inception, the proclamation was modified to suit the needs of influential British people with interests in the American west, including many high British officials as well as colonial leaders. Prominent American colonists joined with land speculators in Britain to lobby the government to move the line further west. As a result, the boundary line was adjusted in a series of treaties.

The map shows the locations of the thirteen British colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; Indian Country, including East Florida, West Florida, the Province of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson Bay Company; and Spanish Territory. The Hudson Bay Company lies above the forty-ninth parallel. The Proclamation Line of 1763 separates the colonies from Indian Country.

The British American colonies in 1763: This map shows the status of the American colonies in 1763, after the end of the French and Indian War. Although Great Britain won control of the territory east of the Mississippi, the Proclamation Line of 1763 prohibited British colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. (credit: modification of work by the National Atlas of the United States)

Conestoga Massacre

In December of 1763, following the end of the French and Indian War and the signing of the proclamation, a vigilante group made up of Scots-Irish frontiersmen known as the Paxton Boys attacked the local Conestoga, a Susquehannock tribe who lived on land negotiated by William Penn and their ancestors in the 1690s. In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the frontier of Pennsylvania remained unsettled. A new wave of Scots-Irish immigrants encroached on American Indian land in the back country. These settlers claimed that American Indians often raided their homes, killing men, women, and children.

Many Conestoga were Christian, and they had lived peacefully with their European neighbors for decades. Although there had been no American Indian attacks in the area, the Paxton Boys claimed that the Conestoga secretly provided aid and intelligence to the hostiles. On December 14, 1763, more than 50 Paxton Boys marched on the Conestoga homes near Conestoga Town, Millersville, and murdered six people and burned their cabins. The colonial government held an inquest and determined that the killings were murder. The new governor, John Penn, offered a reward for their capture. The ruthlessness of these conflicts reflected a growing divide between the British colonists and American Indians.