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Illinois in the 17th and 18th century


Hills DeCaro house Illinois
Hills DeCaro house Illinois

Between 1689 and 1763 the British and the French, with their respective Native American and colonial allies, fought a series of four North American wars for domination on the continent. The wars began after a three-way balance of power broke down. This balance involved the French, the British, and the Iroquois Confederacy—an alliance of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples, and after 1722, the Tuscarora. The Iroquois Confederacy occupied the middle ground between French and British colonies and had successfully excluded both from the strategic Ohio Valley. The Iroquois nations had rendered all previous conflicts indecisive by playing off French against British interests to maintain their own freedom of action.

The Treaty of Paris


In 1763 the Treaty of Paris ended the last of these wars, the French and Indian War. Under the treaty, France ceded the Louisiana territory east of the Mississippi to Great Britain. British attempts to take over control of the Illinois country from the French were temporarily thwarted by an anti-British uprising by hostile Native Americans under the leadership of the Ottawa chief Pontiac.

To drive the British from their frontier possessions and reestablish Native American autonomy, Pontiac organized a confederacy that embraced most of the native peoples from the head of Lake Superior almost to the Gulf of Mexico. According to the arrangement, the warriors of each tribe were to attack the garrison in their immediate neighborhood early in May 1763. Pontiac himself was to lead the assault at Detroit.

Fourteen British posts stretched from the Pennsylvania frontier to Lake Superior. The most important were Forts Pitt, Detroit, and Mackinaw. The Native Americans captured all but four of the posts, Niagara, Pitt, Ligonier, and Detroit. The entire British garrison was killed at Mackinaw. A plot to capture Detroit failed (it may have been betrayed by a Native American woman), but Pontiac immediately began a siege that lasted for five months.

After British reinforcements finally reached Detroit, Pontiac’s men began to desert him, and news of a peace treaty between France and Great Britain removed all hopes of French aid. As a result Pontiac ended the siege and on August 17, 1765, entered into a formal peace treaty, which he confirmed in 1766. The British made little effort to develop the Illinois region during their brief rule but they did antagonize the French settlers, many of whom moved to St. Louis or New Orleans.

In 1774 the British Parliament passed the Québec Act. One of the articles of the act designated the land north of the Ohio River, including Illinois, as part of the province of Québec. The act was seen by British colonists as one of the so-called Intolerable Acts, laws punishing the 13 British colonies in North America for hostile acts, including the dumping of British tea into Boston Harbor. The acts greatly angered the settlers and contributed to the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783). "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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