The French and Indian War is often seen as the event that began the “imperial crisis” that destroyed the First British Empire. Would the American Revolution have happened without the French and...

The French and Indian War is often seen as the event that began the “imperial crisis” that destroyed the First British Empire. Would the American Revolution have happened without the French and Indian War?  Why or why not?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The North American conflict of the French and Indian War was, indeed, part of a much larger imperial conflict known as the Seven Years' War waged between France and Great Britain. Begun in 1754 in an effort to control the Ohio country, the French and Indian War ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763. While the victory of Britain in this war afforded England massive territorial gains in North America, further disputes over frontier policy and the huge debt incurred by the war led to much colonial discontent, and ultimately the American Revolution. 

Complications of the conflict for territorial possession between France and England led to stalemate in the French and Indian War for several years; then, in 1757 the war began to turn in favor of Great Britain, who defeated the forces of France in India, and invaded and conquered Canada in 1759. After these defeats, France sought peace negotiations, but Britain demanded cession of Canada as well as major commercial concessions as part of these negotiations, concessions that the French government found unacceptable. Further, after these negotiations failed, Spanish King Charles III offered to aid his cousin, French King Louis XV, and an alliance was formed: The Family Compact of August 15, 1761. This alliance escalated conflicts as the French government then felt encouraged to continue the war with Britain, and, later, England declared war on Spain, as well. Finally, in 1763, French and Spanish diplomats began to seek peace with the resulting Treaty of Paris; with this treaty, Great Britain scored significant territorial gains, which included all French territory east of the Mississippi river and Spanish Florida, even though the treaty returned Cuba to Spain.

Despite Great Britain's victory, the end result for this country was that this long war was extremely expensive; therefore, in order to help replenish its coffers, the British government attempted to impose taxes on colonists in America. This action fueled colonial resentment of British attempts to expand imperial authority in the colonies. Furthermore, British attempts to limit expansion in the West by colonists and the provocation of a major Indian war angered British subjects living in the American colonies. These taxes and British imposition upon the colonists eventually led to rebellion of colonial subjects with such actions as the dumping of the tea in Boston in opposition to the British tax, an action that became the catalyst to a full-scale war for independence.

Whether or not the American Revolution would have occurred is a matter of speculation; however, chances are that Great Britain with its penchant for imperial rule would probably have placed many impositions upon the colonists which probably would have fomented revolution. For instance, Britain wanted to restrict the Western expansion and there were British soldiers that stood in the doorways of businesses, taverns etc.

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