The French And Indian War As A Cause Of The American Revolution At the outset of the eighteenth century, the Ohio Valley can identified as the main catalyst in triggering open hostilities between the French and the Americans. The French occupied parts of Canada but also wanted a stake in America. Its means to do this was through the Ohio Valley it maintained. However, the colonists were bound to permeate this area in their push towards the west. And as they did, competition for the lush lands flared up and came to a breaking point. This directly lead to the French and Indian War with the Indians, for the most part, siding with the French against Britain. The events and sentiments that took place during and immediately after the French and Indian War (1754-1763) were extremely important in contributing to the outset of the American Revolution.
By looking at the perspectives of the two diverging peoples, it is evident there is a strong contrast, which lead to increasing tensions. The intermingling of arrogant British redcoats and the proud colonial militiamen precariously produced a strong mutual dislike and contempt. The majority of British officers hated colonial service and took great care to avoid it. After all, America was a strange wilderness to them. The West Indies specifically were infested with disease-carrying pests, and fevers were known to kill hundreds of men. Britains found the colonists uncooperative and very reluctant to serve for their country.
Religious minority groups especially opposed to war “could play hell with appropriations.” (Chidsey) For example, the Quakers absolutely would not fight to protect their very own homes and refused to be taxed for a war because they thought, according to their religion, it was sinful. Most colonists altogether refused to contribute money. It was not until William Pitt offered to reimburse them a share of the money did they render some wealth, though not much (Bailey 98). When American recruits finally dribbled in, they were primitive in military customs. Some even deserted camp, and when they were seized and brought back to camp, they were whipped.
British General Braddock went so far as to forewarn his soldiers of a penalty of hanging for the next that deserted him. The colonists, having always thought the British militia to be noble and indomitable, were shocked at their behavior. The almighty Redcoats were actually running and hiding in battle times when they should have proved valorous. The British were probably embarrassed too over a childish rivalry between English generals William Johnson and Governor William Shirley at Fort Albany. Competition arose because of Shirley’s greed for Indian allies, and neglecting Johnson simultaneously. They immaturely wrote secret letters about each other, getting others involved and annoyed.
A factor also contributing to the disappointment of the colonists is how the British consistently fought a European war instead of a new style war, particularly guerrilla warfare (based on sneak attack and using camouflage), which limited their success and sometimes determined failure. Impressment prevailed for part of the war, adding insult to outrage. Impressment refers to the British sending “press gangs” from their warships to bring in mariners to serve in the British ships. They received little to no pay, and about 900 of the seamen died leaving their families bereft and embittered (Reeder). With both the Americans and the English referring to each other as cowardly dogs, conflict became more personal between people than just between two land areas.
Although still disunited, the colonies were beginning to melt this hindrance, sometimes without knowing it, to realize they shared more in common with each other than with those of the mother country. The disunity that had predominated since the founding of the colonies can be accounted for and understood because of geographical barriers like rivers and lack of roads, diverse religions, mixed nationalities, various governments, boundary disputes, social classes, different currencies at altered worths in each colony, and jealousy. As British Sir Winston Churchhill said, “They were united in distrusting the home government but in little else.” However, steps were being taken, sometimes not even purposely, to promote rapport among the colonies. Newspapers, for instance, not only covered the war effort, but they also promoted a unity of consciousness for the colonies. Through these reports and therefore awareness, the English were warned of French troops moving southward from Canada and of the French master plan to capture the continent in 1753. The Albany Plan of Union was a positive step in achieving union.
The ingenious Benjamin Franklin proposed a layout of creating a central military fund and appointing a military governor. He was, unfortunately, ahead of his time and the colonies voted his proposal down because it provided too much central power and therefore less power to the states. The king also would have vetoed it because it “smelled of independence.” (Chidsey) Despite this failure, unity was still obtained somewhat through the simplicity of soldiers gathering from different colonies. Interaction with each other, in times of battle and also just in eating dinner together and gathering around campfires to ward off the cold, revealed their singularity and questioned the British monarch, with whom they often had nothing in common. They found they spoke the same language, shared the same problems concerning England, and for the most part had mutual ideals. Having unity, especially in having a common defense and a strong common cause, is extremely important in a revolution.
One could even say that it is indispensable. Therefore, building a common cause and subsequent unity was in direct conflict with the English. To the disgust and aversion of the British, some of the colonists were committing treason by smuggling goods to the enemy. Officials in Paris had, partly because of the British Navy, abruptly limited importation on items such as rum and molasses in the French West Indies. These planters were desperate to feed themselves and also their slaves, and found salvation through the colonists.
Commerce centers, in particular Newport, Rhode Island, Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia enjoyed surplus wealth through this traitorous trade. The English, of course, were shocked at their subjects’ disloyalty. The British navy was determined and working ardently to starve the French by blockading their ports, and at the same time the colony’s shippers were using fraudulent papers to trade foodstuffs with the adversary. The blockading of the St. Lawrence River, the only entrance to New France, was especially dangerous and difficult.
This treachery led directly to the end of a period of salutary neglect, where the Navigation and Trade Laws were loosely enforced. This itself led later on to the loathed writs of assistance, which were unrestrained search warrants that entirely violated the colonists’ privacy. What the British perceived as reprehensible treason, the colonists saw as a golden trade which they had an absolute right to do. Upon issuance of the Proclamation Act of 1763, a misinterpretation in the colonies and failure to communicate thoroughly provoked outrage in America. The British government, fearing that settlers migrating into the new lands would provoke a series of Indian wars, like that of Pontiac’s Rebellion, believed that the lands should be opened to colonists on a more gradual basis (Reeder).
The King’s Cabinet Council therefore prohibited settlement in the area east of the Appalachian Mountains. The English saw little other alternative. Both the Treaty of Easton in 1758 with the Ohio Valley Indians (which was ratified by the king), and in the avowals of such military vanguards as Colonel Bouquet, the Indians were assured security in the lands west of the Appalachians. This was their compensation for deserting their French allies (Gipson 87). However, the colonists found extreme indignity in this. After all, had they not just shed blood and endured a war to obtain this land? In 1788, groups such as the Patrick Henry group in Virginia and the Richard Henderson group in North Carolina decided to move west, in open defiance of the crown.
Within that same year people were moving west by the thousands. The Proclamation of 1763 was one of the first documents issued to govern the colonies, and it required those already settled in the specified regions to return east. Although it was laxly enforced, the colonists refused to tolerate this, and tension over the Proclamation Act was inevitable. The British felt the colonies they had protected should shoulder some of the responsibility of the enormous debt England had incurred, but were faced with discrepancy from the colonists. The debt of England was the largest ever induced in a war, totaling 140 million pounds, about half of which had been contracted in defending the American colonies. The severe debt, though, was of little concern compared to the thirty-five hundred thousand pounds it would cost to supply and train 10,000 troops for the protection of the colonies (Jennings 145).
When the French were removed from the North, the British wanted the seacoast colonies to continue raising fresh bodies of militia so that they could take over routine guard duties, releasing regulars for service in the Caribbean area (Chidsey 145). The colonies, however, were generally altogether sick of war. They simply did not want a standing army and did not want to be taxed. The colonists felt this was justified through the notorious slogan “no taxation without representation”. There were no colonists in the English Parliament, therefore they felt they could not be taxed. The Grenville Program, first consisting of revenues with the sole purpose of generating funds, was abhorred in the colonies.
Their determination to have their way fiancinally, although residents of England most definitely carried the burden of the debt, was a threat to British government, and harsher programs were enforced, paving the way to revolution. The war helped to bring about important changes in the British colonies. In addition to the fact of their ocean-wide distance from the mother country, the colonies felt themselves less dependent militarily on the British by the end of the war. They became most concerned with their own problems and put greater value on their own institutions. The French and Indian War prepared colonists for later battles; it was then that good leaders such as Washington, Stark, Putnam, and Pomeroy gained invaluable experience.
In other words, the colonists began to think of themselves as American rather than British. The English had become exasperated in handling the unsatisfiable colonies. Everything they did seemed to do was met with discordance. Revolution, though not known at the time, was imminent. Bibliography Bailey, Thomas and Kennedy, David. The American Pageant.
9th ed. Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991. Chidsey, Donald. The French and Indian War. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.,1969. Gipson, Lawrence.
“The American Revolution As An Aftermath Of the Great War For the Empire.” The Causes Of the American Revolution. Ed. by John Wahkle. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1950, 82-94. Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune.
1st Ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988. Reeder, Colonel Red. The French and Indian War.
New York: Thomas Nelson Inc.,1972. History Essays.