The United States: the greatest country to ever exist in human history, was formed through a gruesome war with the most powerful entity known to man at the time, Great Britain. All Americans know about how the American Revolution birthed this great country, but many do not understand or even know about one of the major driving forces behind the cause of the American Revolution, resulting in the 13 British colonies breaking off from the crown. This driving force was a war that took place some twenty years before the start of the Revolution. The outcome of this war would indefinitely cultivate the conditions in British North America for the spark of revolution to arise. This was the French and Indian War, and its outcomes left a lasting impact on colonial Americans, later ensuing a revolution like no other, and eliciting the birth of a new nation.
Great Britain and France, perhaps historically the biggest rivals in the world, were at war with each other from 1754 to 1763. The French and Indian War was the North American stage of the Seven Years War, which was a worldwide conflict involving every major European power at the time. The war in North America was primarily a result of control over trade disputes between Great Britain and France. Trade routes in North America were vital to the economic success of both France and Great Britain, and the victor of the French and Indian War would ultimately control all territory in North America. In addition to a dispute over trade routes, the French feared British expansion in North America as well as around the globe. British settlers were moving westward into French lands as the population of the British colonies grew. Consequently, the French were also fighting to protect their borders in North America. Despite the fact that the French and Indian War was a conflict between two major European powers, colonists in North America played a significant role in the war effort (“French and Indian War Videos”).
The fighting spirit of colonists on both the French and British sides would ultimately dictate the future of both France and Great Britain, deciding which power would keep their lands in North America, and which power would lose both their territory and much of their economic might. All across the British colonies, militiamen volunteered to fight for the cause of their mother country. However, some colonists were not easily convinced to take up arms. As a result of this, William Pitt, the architect of the mighty British Empire, offered colonists pay if they fought for Great Britain. Because of Pitt’s idea to give colonists a paycheck for their service, many men joined militias and fought for the British. Colonists took charge in the war and helped the British cause. A prime example of colonial leaders in the war is George Washington. Washington lead troops throughout the conflict, aiding the British cause and fighting the French (“Great Meadows”). Washington would later become a major opponent of the British during the American Revolution, commanding the American army throughout the war. Despite the valor and grit displayed by the colonists fighting for their mother country, Britain did not recognize their efforts and mistreated them during and after the war. This mistreatment, among other grievances, would lead the colonists who once fought for Britain to turn against their mother country in order to create a new one.
The French and Indian War resulted in a British victory over the French, which meant that Great Britain gained control of all territory in North America previously occupied by France. This new territorial gain would lead to the mistreatment of British colonists in North America. For as long as Great Britain had colonies in her possession, colonists were treated as second class citizens. This unequal view of colonists by the British government became very evident during and after the French and Indian War. Colonists did not receive recognition for their efforts in the war, nor did they receive any sort of reward. Instead, the British government abused their power over the colonies.
A key example of mistreatment occurred during the war in the year 1758. After colonial forces captured the French port city of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, the British government gave the city back to France in exchange for the city of Madras in India. At the time, India was becoming an important colony for Great Britain economically, and politically, with many untapped resources and an abundance of trade routes. Madras was controlled by the French initially, and the British, seeing the leverage that they had with the capture of Louisbourg, knew that an exchange could be made in order to attain the Indian city. Returning Louisbourg to the French was a ‘slap in the face’ to the British colonists in North America who fought so valiantly in trying to capture Louisbourg. The exchange of Louisbourg for Madras did not benefit the North American colonies in any way, and only benefited the interests of the British government and their ever-growing global empire. The once-strong relationship between Great Britain and her American colonies was beginning to deteriorate, and further injustices brought upon the colonies would eventually push them to their breaking point.
The British victory over France in the French and Indian War ended up costing Great Britain large sums of money, leaving the empire in serious debt. Britain turned to her American colonies to help pay it off. The British government reasoned that since the war was fought in the colonies, the colonies should pay for the cost of the war. This was completely unfair to the colonists, who fought for their mother country even though the conflict was between two major European powers, fought over European issues. Nevertheless, colonists were taxed heavily after the French and Indian War. New taxes such as the “Stamp Act” and the “Sugar Act” were imposed on the colonists (“Effects of the War”). These new taxes took away from the salutary neglect of the colonists. Salutary neglect is, “the policy of the British government from the early to mid-18th century regarding its North American colonies under which trade regulations for the colonies were laxly enforced and imperial supervision of internal colonial affairs was loose as long as the colonies remained loyal to the British government” (“Salutary Neglect”). While implementing these new taxes, the British government did not allow the colonists to have a say about the issue. No colonist could have a seat in Parliament, so no colonist could debate whether taxes should be implemented or not. Because colonists were being taxed without a seat in Parliament, they came up with the phrase, “no taxation without representation,” and this phrase would be a rallying cry of the colonists leading up to the Revolution (“Do You Know What ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ Means?”).
Salutary neglect became a very important issue leading up to the Revolutionary War. Britain started to govern her colonies with more force, taking away their freedoms and completely discarding the policy of loose imperial supervision. Because of the events of the French and Indian War and the attempt of keeping their economic status, Britain “dramatically altered its policies,” (“The Coming of Independence, 1754 – 1776”) towards the American colonies. Two events in the 1760’s would cause a major shift of colonial view towards the mother country of Great Britain. The first event is Pontiac’s Rebellion, which occurred in 1763. Once Britain gained significant territory in North America after the French and Indian War, colonists sought to move westward. This westward expansion angered Native Americans, whose land was being stripped away from them. In addition to taking over Native territory, the British, unlike the French, did not give the Native Americans an annual gift. As a response to these injustices, the Native Americans took up arms against the British (“Pontiac’s Rebellion Begins”). In an effort to make peace with the Natives after Pontiac’s Rebellion, Great Britain issued the Proclamation of 1763, hoping to stop the violence. The Proclamation stated that settlers would stay east of the Appalachian Mountains and Natives would stay west of the mountains, in order to avoid further conflict. (“Proclamation of 1763”) . Just like the unfair taxes, colonists saw the Proclamation to be imposing on their salutary neglect. The British government was now telling the colonists where they could and could not live, governing the colonies with more and more force, taking away their freedoms. With the harsh mistreatment by the British government, as well as the destruction of several of their freedoms, the colonists began to turn away from Great Britain, the country for which they so fearlessly fought for only a few years prior.
One final factor, known as The Great Awakening, drove the American colonies away from Great Britain. This movement, which occurred in the 1730’s, introduced new styles of worship throughout the colonies. Preachers such as Jonathan Edwards preached with fire and fury, damning sinners to hell and describing God as an “Angry Judge.” An important factor about Edwards was that he refused to join the Church of England. Edwards had a completely different preaching style than anyone else, especially those in the Church of England. Because of Edwards, new and different churches sprung up across New England as well as other colonies. People in America could now choose their own religion. “The new faiths that emerged were much more democratic in their approach. The overall message was one of greater equality.” Not all Awakening preachers were ordained, which meant that ?any ?man could could hold the job. These democratic ideas struck colonists in the 1760s and 1770s, when Great Britain became more oppressive to the colonies during and after the French and Indian War. Because of the Great Awakening, colonists reasoned that if they could choose their own religion, why could they not choose their own government? (“The Great Awakening”).
Oppression, mistreatment, taxation without representation, an invasion of salutary neglect, and the revitalization of the ideas of the Great Awakening were all factors that pushed the American colonies of Great Britain over the edge, causing them to take up arms against their own mother country. Militiamen and a rag-tag army were to take head-on the greatest superpower known to man at the time. Despite the odds against the colonists, they had a fighting spirit like no other, tired of being oppressed and treated like second class citizens. The French and Indian War, as well as its aftermath, would lead American colonists to another war some twenty years later, against the very country that it fought to protect.
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