Thanks To The French And Indian War, There Is An America.

by Daniel Russ on July 4, 2013


 George Washington Leads Troops Against Ft. Duquesne


Prior to the American Revolutionary War, the British and the Colonials fought side by side against the French. So it was a bit odd to be at the business end of each other’s muskets so quickly after the grand win against the French. And it must have been odd to see French troops march shoulder to shoulder with Colonials against the British only a few years after they were shooting at the Colonials. However no two enemies in Europe blooded each other with such ferocity and time invested as the British and the French. Their wars created the template for warfare  and maneuver in the age of gunpowder and cavalry. Two hundred years prior to the Revolution, Britain and France fought a century long series of wars, and in a perfect example of the effort these two nations made to extinguish each other. The 100 Years War between the French and the British was actually 116 years; but it gave us Poitiers and Agincourt and Henry V and the Longbow. So during the 1750s, it goes without saying that while the British and the French were fighting each other in the French and Indian Wars over here, they were fighting each other in Europe just under a different moniker: The Seven Years War.

The ongoing wars between the British and French Empires in the 18th century was the womb within which America was born. Had they not been in a struggle with each other, each Monarchy may have had the resources to conquer the New World and keep it under their thumb.

The strategic Achilles Heel of the French manifested itself in two simultaneous wars fought that the French Monarchy couldn’t afford unless at least one ended in a victory. The enmity that manifested between the French and the British in the New World only escalated when the two empires were at each other’s throats in the old world. This was one of the first times two European empire armies were engaged in two theaters of war simultaneously. The French Monarch was certain he would prevail. But the gasconades coming out the court of Louis XVI would soon be followed by a series of shocking defeats. The vast pristine and inhospitable terrain in North America, and the complex politics between inscrutable tribes were challenges the French couldn’t have foreseen, and frankly even the British underestimated. The Colonies  here were filled with fearful and hostile Indians, and of course Tories, or colonists loyal to the British Crown. From the outset, the French really had little chance to establish a foothold in North America uncontested by British. That all said, they did enjoy some victories.


I mean, French is the language spoken in Quebec today.


In Canada, French and British forces armed allied and competing Indian tribes. Now festooned with tomahawks and matchlocks, the Indians were turned on to each other, willing patsies in a proxy war between two European powers; they added to the bloodshed and the purloining of land and rivers in the Ohio valley.


The French and Indian Wars were about the Ohio River Valley. This is where the French and the Colonials rubbed against each other.


Meanwhile in India, Britain’s navy helped King George III conquer and take possession of French holdings at Benghazi, Pondicherry and Wandiwash. While colonists were building log cabins and struggling with the Indians, across the Atlantic, Britain’s superior naval forces decisively defeated French fleets at Lagos, and Quiberon Bay. Adding insult to injury, the British took Guadeloupe Island and Martinique. These may seem like small claims, but seaports are necessary for an empire on a planet that is 66% ocean. Removing these two ports from French purview limited the force projection of the empire. In North America, British Forces under Braddock took Fort Duqesne (today Pittsburgh) and pushed French outposts off the St Lawrence River.


The British commander in the French and Indian Wars planned to take Fort Niagra in July 1759 and cut western Canada off from the St. Lawrence River, and then onto Quebec. British troops took two months to figure out how to take Quebec, the city itself was a sort of geographical redoubt protected by high cliffs. Covered by a sudden and furious naval bombardment, 5000 British troops scaled a thin pass and came to the Plains of Abraham outside of Quebec. After five days of fighting, the French surrendered. The arc of defeat ended with Montreal falling to the British. French power ebbed worldwide and demoralized by the losses, the French had to cut back on foraging around the world for holdings. It took their own revolution to bring France back in the forefront of world power.  


The French and Indian Wars did create two huge fundamental changes for King George III, one good and one not so good. The British emerged victorious against the French and increased their holdings considerably. The second change was that the British coffers were depleted.


The cost of sending ships of the line filled with British and mercenary troops to defend the Colonies was something like 60,000,000 Crown Sterling. Desperate for cash, King George III and his Parliament had one idea: Britain had defended the Colonies, so the Colonies should therefore take part in helping the Crown recoup these costs. The idea was called the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act required that transactions had to be made on a specially printed paper that was itself a sort of tax. All British citizens under the Crown had to pay the tax, whether the citizen as in India or London or Pennsylvania. That said, it was the Stamp Act that created the conflict where this country was born.


The English people in Britain and British citizens around the world in King George III’s empire were being taxed to death and were frequently rioting and could afford no more.  The raging wars between Britain and the French and the Dutch and the Spanish were depleting everyone’s coffers.


Oh…one more thing: Americans had really never been taxed by the King before.


America was born out of a misunderstanding about people. It’s quite possible that had the colonies not revolted, and agreed to pay the tax, the King’s coffer would have been replenished by the worldwide taxation in just a few short years. The King lowered the tax on tea at the same time because he was offering a small compromise. Tea was a highly treasured resource and Parliament was showing they would bend a bit. Of course America would have been a British holding. Therein lies the misunderstanding. The people who identified themselves as citizens of the British Empire still had a problem paying a tax to a government 4000 miles away. The colonies actually gave a more thoughtful reaction and asked that they had representation in the British government. Since no British monarch ever gave voice to protectorates and territories, and up until this time people living under British purview had to follow instructions or suffer an army on their land, lawmakers just thought the colonies should be forced to pay their fair share of defense or face punishment.


The first shot was really not the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party was partly an expression of anger that tea was so cheap that even smugglers could not make money on it. The fighting began when half the colonists began stockpiling weaponry and the British sent forces to secure the stockpile. On April 18th 1775 General Thomas Gage took 700 troopers to Concord , a small hamlet about 20 miles south of Boston. When the Brits arrived they were fired on by inexperienced colonial fighters. However most of the arms had been taken, and he ordered what wasn’t battened down to be burned.


The first shot of the American Revolution was fired when the British then marched back to Boston. All the way they were picked off and harassed by Minutemen and other local militia who gathered from local towns in a running guerrilla action. Local militia members sometimes joined casually as the news spread, grabbing their muskets, heading into the woods and followed the Redcoats as they passed through by their hamlet. After a few potshots at the Redcoats the militia faded into the forest. Around 270 of Gage’s 700 men were left on the path back in an engagement where the enemy had barely shown his face. The British Relief force was also shot to pieces.


Yes sir, that was the first taste of Revolution, American style.


Oddly, King George III was considered one of the most successful sovereigns in British history. What!!!??? Yes, because they soundly defeated the French and the Dutch and the Spanish across the world. They doubled their Empire.


They only lost…to us.


Source: Written extemporaneously




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