Contest of the English with the French for the Possession of North America
The English revolution, which placed William III on the throne, while it freed the colonies from the oppressions they endured during the reign of his predecessor, involved them in the calamities of the war between France and England, which lasted from 1690 to the peace of Ryswick in 1697. The French in Canada directed an expedition against the English colonies, instigating the Indians to join them in their hostilities. In return, an armament was fitted out by Massachusetts for the invasion of the French settlements. Port Royal in Nova Scotia was taken. A second expedition was undertaken by the colonies of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, for the reduction of Montreal and Quebec. It failed in its object, and had the effect of producing dissatisfaction among the Indian tribes in New York, who were the allies of the English. This war, commonly called King William's war, was marked by the most savage atrocities on the part of the French and Indians.
Scarcely had the colonies begun to recover from this war, when in 1702 they were plunged into another with the French, Indians, and Spaniards, commonly called Queen Anne's war, arising from disputes about the bound aries, which had been left unsettled at the peace of Ryswick. The colonies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire were the chief sufferers, being most exposed to the devastating and murderous incursions of the French and Indians from Canada. Several expeditions were sent into Canada; but the only success that attended the English arms was the taking again of Port Royal, which had been restored to the French at the close of the former war. It was now named Annapolis. The peace of Utrecht, in 1713, put an end to the war in the northern colonies; but South Carolina continued to be annoyed for some time by the Indians. By the treaty of Utrecht, France ceded Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to England.
In 1744, England again declared war against France and Spain, which again involved the colonies in hostilities with the enemies of the mothercountry and with their Indian allies. The principal event of this war, in America, was the capture of Louisburg from the French by forces from New England. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 again gave peace to the colonies. Prisoners were to be released on both sides without ransom, and all conquests to be mutually restored.
This war was extremely disastrous to the colonies. Many lives were lost the growth of population was checked great losses were sustained in the commercial interests of the country and finally a burdensome debt of several millions had been incurred to defray the expenses of the war. With the return of peace, however, commerce revived the settlements began to extend, and public credit was restored.
But only a brief interval of repose was allowed to the colonies. In 1756, eight years from the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, Great Britain again declared war against France, on the ground of the encroachments of the French upon the English territories in America.
Some years previous to this war the French had commenced a chain of posts, designed to extend from the head of the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi, with a view to maintain a communication between their northern possessions and Louisiana.
In 1750, the English government granted a large tract of land on the Ohio river to a company called the Ohio company, formed for the purpose of settling the country, and carrying on a trade in furs with the Indians. The French governor of Canada, apprehending both the loss of the fur trade and the interruption of his communications with Louisiana, claimed the whole country between the Ohio and the Alleghanies, and prohibited the further encroachments of the English. He also opened a new communication between Lake Erie and the Ohio, and stationed troops at posts along the line. The Ohio company, thus threatened in their trade, persuaded Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, in 1753, to send a remonstrance to the French commandant. GEORGE WASHINGTON was the bearer. The commandant returned for answer that he had taken possession of the country by order of the governor-general of Canada, whose orders alone he could regard.
The British government, on learning the claim set up by the French, directed the Virginians to resist it by force. In 1754, an expedition was conducted against the French by Washington; but the superior force of the French obliged him to capitulate, with the privilege of returning with his troops to Virginia. This was properly the commencement of what is commonly styled the French war, although the formal declaration was not yet made.
In the meantime, the British government recommended the colonies to unite for their common defense. A convention of delegates from all of the northern colonies accordingly met at Albany in 1754, and adopted a plan of union: but it was rejected, both by the provincial assemblies and by the home government: by the former because it gave too much power to the crown, and by the latter because it gave too little.