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.

In the spring of 1755, vigorous preparations were made for carrying on the war. An expedition was sent against Nova Scotia, which met with entire success: the colonial forces, with trifling loss, subdued the French, and gained complete and permanent possession of the whole country.

An expedition under General Braddock, directed against the French on the Ohio, was unfortunate. Owing to the arrogance and rashness of the commander, the British troops were surprised and defeated with great loss by a very inferior force of French and Indians. General Braddock was mortally wounded, and the conduct of the retreat devolved on Washington, who was in command of the colonial militia, and by whom the army was saved from total destruction.

The American arms were more successful in the north. The French were signally defeated on the borders of Lake George, and their commander, Baron Dieskau, was mortally wounded. The moral effect of this victory-, following within a few weeks the discomfiture of Braddock, was very great and salutary in its influence upon the colonies.

In the year, 1756, war was formally declared between Great Britain and France; and in Europe began what is called the seven years' war, in which Prussia was united with England against France. In America the campaign of 1756 was very disastrous to the colonists; they were unable even to attempt gaining of Niagara and Grown Point, places of great importance in the hands of the French, and the reduction of which was in the plan of operations. The French, under Montcalm, took Fort Oswego, thus gaining entire command of the Lakes Ontario and Erie, besides inflicting upon the English a very severe loss, amounting to sixteen hundred men made prisoners, one hundred and twenty cannon, with fourteen mortars, two sloops-of-war, and two hundred bateaux.

The British government made great preparations for the campaign of 1757. A large force was destined for the reduction of Louisburg; but the indecision and incapacity of Lord Loudon, the commander-in-chief, caused the expedition to be abandoned. Meantime, Montcalm, the French commander, besieged and took Fort William Henry, on Lake George, after a most spirited defense by Colonel Munroe. The English troops, after being admitted to honorable capitulation, were treacherously massacred by the Indians attached to Montcalm's army.

The campaign of 1758 was more prosperous. Lord Chatham had now become prime minister, and infused new energy into the prosecution of the war. In answer to a call made by him upon the colonies, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, united and raised fifteen thousand men. The tide of success now turned in favor of the English. Three expeditions had been planned: one against Louisburg, another against Ticonderoga, and the third against Fort du Quesne on the Ohio. Louisburg was taken, with great loss to the French in prisoners, ships, and munitions of war. Fort du Quesne was abandoned by the French, taken possession of by the English, and named Pittsburgh. The expedition against Ticonderoga failed, but the failure was compensated by the capture of Fort Frontinac, an important fortress at the outlet of Lake Ontario.

The campaign of 1759 commenced with a nearly simultaneous attack upon all the French strongholds in Canada, namely, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Niagara, and Quebec. One division of the army, under General Amherst, the commander-in-chief, proceeded against Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which were successively taken. Another division, under General Prideaux, advanced and took Niagara. General Wolfe was no less successful in the great enterprise of conquering Quebec. The French, under Montcalm, were defeated on the plains of Abraham, and Quebec fell into the hands of the British. General Wolfe died upon the field of battle.

In 1760, the French made an unsuccessful attempt to recover Quebec. In less than a year from the capture of that city, Montreal, Detroit, and all other places in the possession of the French, were surrendered to the British, and the conquest of Canada was completed.

By the treaty of peace definitively concluded at Paris in 1763, Nova Scotia, Canada, Cape Breton, and all other islands in the gulf and river St. Lawrence, were ceded to the British crown.

The protracted contest with the French and the Indians being brought to a close by the complete triumph of the English, the American Colonies were seemingly in the full tide of prosperity. The great exertions they had made during the last war had taught them the secret of their strength; that war had cost them, it was computed, about 30,000 lives and over sixteen millions of dollars, of which only five millions were repaid by the British ministry. Immigration rapidly increased, and the vast forest in the interior began to be explored by those who were in search of a new home. The Delaware and Hudson rivers were crossed by a thronging multitude, the Alleghanies were surmounted, and white settlements were formed upon the upper tributaries of the Ohio. No longer hemmed in, as with a ring of iron, by the French and the savages, the internal principle of expansion, which has been at work ever since, received its first free development, and carried the limits of civilization every year farther west. Trade flourished on the sea-coast; Boston had long been distinguished for enterprising traffic, and Newport, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore were rising rapidly in commercial importance. Printing presses and newspapers, schools and colleges, flourished, though the literature of the Colonies as yet existed only in the humble form of sermons. Yet the metaphysical writings of Jonathan Edwards slowly acquired a European reputation, and the fame of Dr. Franklin was carried, by his brilliant discoveries in electricity, to the bounds of the civilized world.