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The settlers' wars


River of Mississippi
River of Mississippi

Seventeenth–century colonists fought wars with the coastal Native American peoples upon whom they had intruded. Eighteenth-century colonial wars, in contrast, usually began in Europe, and they pitted the English colonies against French and Spanish empires in North America. These empires posed a number of problems for English colonists. Spanish Florida offered refuge to runaway slaves from the southeastern colonies. The French built an interior arc of settlements from Québec to New Orleans; they also made trading agreements with Native Americans. The French trading empire impeded the expansion of English settlements, and the strength of the French and their Native American allies was a constant concern to the British and to American settlers. The English and French fought frequently: in King William’s War (1689-1697; known in Europe as the War of the League of Augsburg), in Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713; the War of the Spanish Succession), in King George’s War (1744-1748;

War of the Austrian Succession), and in the French and Indian War (the Seven Years’ War), which began in America in 1754 and ended in Europe in 1763. In all of these wars, the French had the assistance of most Native Americans of the interior.

During the course of these wars, the English gained strength in relation to their French and Spanish rivals, and in the French and Indian War, with strong help from colonial militias, they expelled the French from mainland North America. In 1763 Britain became the lone European imperial power in North America between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.

The Spanish, allies of the French, gave up Florida but took over French claims in New Orleans and in lands west of the Mississippi as compensation.) Within 20 years the British would lose most of what they had gained.

Victory in the French and Indian War gave the British an enlarged mainland empire but also brought new problems. First, the war had been expensive: The interest alone on Britain’s debt required half the government’s revenues, and the overtaxed British people could not be asked to pay more. Second, the acquisition of French and Spanish territory gave the British new administrative tasks. They acquired not only vast tracts of land, but also the French settlers and indigenous peoples who lived there.

The difficulties became clear in early 1763, when an Ottawa chief named Pontiac became worried about losing the French allies who had helped keep British settlers out of the interior. Pontiac led an uprising of a broad Native American coalition that included Seneca, Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, and other nations.

They attacked British forts and frontier settlements in Pennsylvania and Virginia. During the summer of 1763 they killed as many as 2,000 settlers, but they could not dislodge the British from their fortified strongholds at Detroit, Niagara, and other places in the interior. Settlers responded by murdering Native Americans, most of whom had done nothing. The British government realized that it needed not only more revenue but also a military presence and a colonial administrative policy to establish British authority and keep the peace in North America. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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