The French and Indian war as is mainly called in USA was a war between the British and their enemies who were the French and their Native Americans allies. The Indian tribes were allied to the French as they were more trusting of the French than the British. But in all this the Indians were very protective of their people’s independence and nothing could deter them from that. This paper will analyze the war focusing on causes of the war, the participation of the Native Americans (Indian tribes), the events of the war, the effects of the war and the resulting treaty.
2.0 Background of the War
The war began due to the disputed confluence of rivers Allegheny and Monongahela which is the site of present day Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania; this resulted in the battle of Jumonville Glen in May 1754. The war officially lasted for seven years from 1756-1763, but in actual sense the war on mainland of North America lasted for six years from 1754-1760. The war was named the French and Indian war by the British; the Americans also call it the French and Indian war. Most European literature call it the seven years’ war (this corresponds to the period between the official declaration of the war in 1756 to the signing of the treaty to end the war in 1763).The Canadians call it the war of the conquest while the Native Americans called it the last Great War. It is of great significance to the modern American society as it paved the way for the formation of the 13 colonies that formed the United States of America where they finally came to notoriety in the 21st century.
3.0 The Native Americans’ Role
The Native Americans occupied the large areas between the French and British territories. The Mi’kmaq and the Abenaki held the north and had influence in parts of Nova Scotia, Acadia and the eastern part of the Canadian province and Maine. The present day upstate New York and Ohio was held by the Iroquois confederation. There were also other tribes in Ohio such as Delaware, Shawnee, and Mingo who were under the confederation.5 In the south the land was occupied by the Catawba, Creek, and Choctaw and Cherokee tribes.
The French actively recruited fighters from the various tribes from the west of the great lakes region, using their trading connections. The tribes recruited by the French were the Huron, Mississauga, Ojibwa, Winnebago and Potawatomi. The Iroquois confederation and the Cherokee supported the British but there were differences between the British and the Cherokee that led to the Anglo-Cherokee war of 1758. In that year the government of Pennsylvania negotiated the Easton treaty, where a number of the Ohio country tribes promised to be neutral in exchange of concessions for land and other considerations.6 The French were allied to most of the tribes from the North. The British and the French also tried diplomatic avenues with the creek and Cherokee to gain cooperation or neutrality.
4.0 Causes of the War
The war was mainly caused by the desired expansion of territories abroad by both the French and British which resulted in disputed territories. The major disputed territory that sparked this particular war was the dispute over the confluence of rivers Allegheny and Monongahela which is the site of present day Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania The French undertook several expeditions so as to determine the level of British influence upon the Indians, to find out the original French claim to the territory and also to show their might to the Indians. One such expedition is one undertaken by Pierre-Joseph Celoron in 1747, who was appointed by the governor general of new France Roland-Michael Barrin De La Galissoniere. He was to lead a military expedition through the Ohio country area. The expedition covered about 3,000 miles from the great lakes region to the Chautauqua portage and then moved inland to the Allegheny river, where Celoron had lead plates engraved with the claim of Ohio country by the French buried and whenever he met with British traders, he informed them of the claim and asked them to leave. He also discouraged the Indians from trading with the British but some of them refused and declared that they would trade with whomever they want. He finally returned to Montréal with the conclusion that most of the Native Americans were devoted to the British and disliked the French.
The French also chased away or captured the British traders from the territories they claimed belonged to them. This was carried out by Paul Marin De La Malgue who constructed forts at Fort Presque isle on the shore of Lake Erie and Fort Le Boeuf. All this alarmed the British and the attempts by the Native Americans to threaten the French with war if they continued with the expansion and expulsion of British traders were dismissed. The Iroquois sent a delegation to the British and they met in Albany, New York with Governor Clinton and other officials from some of the American colonies. The chief of the Iroquois, Chief Hendricks asked the British to abide by their obligations and block French expansion but he got a non-satisfactory answer from Clinton. The chief then proclaimed that the friendly relationship” the covenant chain” between the British and the Iroquois confederacy was severed.
The British were also looking to expand their territory and they were ready to fight in order to do so, like the expansionist governor William Shirley who was the governor of the Massachusetts Bay province was pushing for this stating that the Britons were not safe with the French present.8 The British in the Virginia territory established the Ohio Company, whose purpose was the development of trade and settlements in the Ohio country and it received a grant from the King which included some requirements. They had to create a colony for 100 families and also undertake the construction of a fort for their protection. The company managed to negotiate with the Indian tribes and sign treaties such as the treaty of Logs town in 1752.
In 1753, the Ohio Company sent Major George Washington of the Virginia militia through the governor of Virginia Robert Denwiddie to warn the French to vacate the Virginia territory. He was accompanied by some of the Indians from the Mingo tribe on the mission and made their way to Fort Le Bouef. He met with Jacques Legardeur De Saint-Pierre the commander of the French forces and presented to him a letter that demanded the immediate withdraw of the French from the country of Ohio. George Washington also led an army to attack Fort Dequesne where on the way they met a small French scouting party and they attacked them and killed most of them including their commanding officer. He then constructed Fort Necessity which the French attacked in 1754 and George Washington surrendered. Both the French and British sent reinforcements to the new world.
The other underlying cause of the war is the religious differences between the French and the British. The French were predominantly catholic while the British were Protestants. The British were used to the religious freedom and feared being controlled by the French and the Catholic Church.11
5.0 The events and effects of the War
The war originally started in the North American territories in 1754 after the defeat of George Washington and it spread to Europe in 1756 starting what was to be known as the seven year war. After the defeat of George Washington at Fort Necessity, the British sent Major General Edward Braddock into the Virginia territory and attacked Fort Desquesne. The major general was later killed in the battle due to the guerilla tactics that the French and there Indian allies utilized. The British still believed in the long held tradition of using formation. The French obtained the British war plans that alerted them of the British strategies of attacking Fort Niagra, Fort St. Fredric and Fort Beausejour and fortifying Fort Oswego. The French were therefore more successful in their military exploits than the British in the years 1756 and 1757. The French led by Major General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm were extremely successful in defeating the British and acquiring their territories.
The turning point came when the British government fell and William Pitt took over and developed a plan to defeat the French in 1758. The culmination of all this was the winning back of Québec by the British led by General James Wolfe. He defeated Montcalm at the battle for Québec although generals died in that battle. The British continued with their successful campaign and reclaimed most of the territories that they had lost to the French. In 1760, Governor Vaudreuil negotiated surrender with the new British general, General Jeffrey Amherst. Most of the fighting in the North American territories ended in 1760 and General Jeffrey Amherst oversaw the taking over of most of the territories and forts that were under the French.
The French and Indian war resulted in loss of life as well as a lot of financial losses and other long term consequences. The war might have started in North America but its effects were felt in Europe and Asia (where it caused the “Third Canartic War”). The French lost their territories in North America and gained other lucrative colonies that provided them with the needed crops and raw materials. The French also incurred a lot of expenses during the war and the country was in huge national debt, which weakened the monarchy and eventually lend to the French revolution in 1789.
The British also incurred a large national debt due to the huge expenses that they incurred during the war and they were seeking for other sources of income and thus instituted new taxes on the colonies, which didn’t auger well with the people. This led to stiff resistance and this coupled with the experience gained by the Native Americans in the war and the interaction of the militia from different colonies (this led to the unification of the different colonies in North America) eventually led to the American revolutionary war that saw United States of America gain independence.13The war also greatly affected the Native Americans as they saw the French as great allies and also as counter weights to the British expansion, which led to their dispossession from their lands. This led to many conflicts between the settlers and the Native Americans.
6.0 The Treaty of Paris
The treaty was signed on the 10th of February; 1763.The French took the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and negotiated the custody of the small fishing islands Saint Pierre and Miquelon, in the St. Lawrence gulf and fishing rights in the area. The Caribbean islands were of more value to the French because of the abundance of sugar crops and also they were much easier to defend. The British took the French lands that were east of the Mississippi. The British also gained Florida from the Spanish who in turn gained Cuba. The Spanish also gained Louisiana and New Orleans from the French as a form of compensation for the losses that they incurred.14
It can be concluded that the French and Indian war changed the face of the world and shaped the destinies of many countries. It precipitated several wars in the world including the Canartic war in Asia, the American revolutionary war that led to the United States of America independence and later the French revolution. The war can be attributed to the desire of the French and the British to acquire more territories in the so called new world leading to land disputes. The Indians who were the natives of the disputed joined the French in fighting the British albeit in an attempt to avoid losing their land to the British. Initially the French triumphed but the British prevailed in the late stages of war. The war ended after negotiations leading to signing of the treaty of Paris on the 10th of February. The effects of this war that started in North America were felt in other parts of the world such as Asia and Europe.
Borneman R. Walter The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007.
Cave, Alfred. The French and Indian War. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004.
Fowler, William M. Empires at war:the French and Indian War and the struggle for North America, 1754-1763. New York: Walker & Company, 2006.
Fred, Anderson. Crucible of War: The Seven Year’s War and the Fate of Empire in British North America 1754-1766. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
Mapp., Paul. "The Spanish Empire and the Seven Years’ War." The Interactive Journal of Early American Life 3, no. 1: (2000) 234-256.
Maass R. John. "The French and Indian War: A Review Essay." Journal of Backcountry Studies 14, no. 3 (2006): 23-37.
Santella, Andrew. The French and Indian War. New York: Compass Point Books, 2004.