The French and Indian War (The Seven Years' War)

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How did the British try to strengthen their control over the colonies after the French and Indian War, and how did the colonists respond?

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The end of the French and Indian War (and the broader Seven Years' War of which it was a part) brought Great Britain to the forefront of the world's imperial powers. In North America, the Crown gained all of North America east of the Mississippi River, including Canada. Because of...

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The end of the French and Indian War (and the broader Seven Years' War of which it was a part) brought Great Britain to the forefront of the world's imperial powers. In North America, the Crown gained all of North America east of the Mississippi River, including Canada. Because of this change, and because the war had been astronomically expensive, the British sought to take a more active role in regulating their colonies, especially in raising revenue from them.

The first real example of this imperial reform was the Proclamation of 1763. This banned colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. The purpose of this measure was to avert conflict with Native peoples, especially in the Ohio Valley, and to avoid the cost of maintaining garrisons at forts in the trans-Appalachian West.

Another measure was the Sugar Act, passed in 1764. This law was intended to more tightly regulate the sugar trade, which had been the subject of rampant smuggling. It was later replaced by subsequent measures at achieving the same end—the Revenue Act of 1766 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. These measures illustrated the British desire to formalize the mercantilist relationship between the mother country and the colonies.

Finally, the Stamp Act, passed in 1765, attempted to raise revenue by placing a direct tax on official documents and publications. The revenue stamp, which had to be purchased from a tax collector, was to be affixed on any of several enumerated publications.

Of course, each of these measures met with virulent colonial opposition, especially the Stamp Act, which violated, the colonists argued, the English constitutional tradition of "no taxation without representation." Attempts to raise or to alter import duties also met with opposition, especially in colonial port cities. But it is important to understand that these measures occurred in the context of a broader English effort to establish a sustainable imperial relationship with its colonies.

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After the French and Indian War ended, Britain found itself heavily in debt. As a result, it's policy towards the American colonies radically shifted. For most of the history of colonization, Britain largely left the colonies with a great degree of autonomy—this was a policy known as salutary neglect. However, in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the British government became much more interventionist within the colonies, leading to an increase in resentment within the Colonies against Britain.

With the Sugar Act of 1764, Britain actively began enforcing mercantile law, while 1765's Stamp Act vastly expanded the scope of British taxation. These acts of legislation inflamed the first waves of anti-British sentiment within the colonies and inspired the organization of rebellious groups such as the Sons of Liberty. Meanwhile, the colonists also used economic pressure, with large numbers of colonial merchants agreeing to institute a boycott, in order to pressure the British government to repeal the Stamp Act. While this did work, and the Stamp Act was repealed, this history of conflict with the British government was only beginning.

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Despite achieving victory, the French and Indian War had a devastating impact on the British economy. To address this, the British implemented a number of strategies in order to safeguard their interests as well as recover from the detrimental consequences of the war.

  • The British parliament authorized that over 5,000 British soldiers be ferried to North America in order to protect their territory against potential threats from their foes.
  • In order to avoid any further costly wars with the Indians and to concentrate the population in a strategic locality suitable for trade with the mother country, the Proclamation of 1763 was declared. This proclamation forbade any settlement by the colonists to the west of Appalachian Mountains.
  • To recover from the financial predicament, the British introduced a number of Acts that enforced taxes and regulated the use of paper cash. These included the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Currency Act.

However, the above measures left the colonists disgruntled, and they retaliated in various ways.

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After the French and Indian War, the British were in a great deal of debt, and they tried to recoup that debt by strengthening the already existing Navigation Acts, which forced the American colonies to buy finished goods only from Britain. To enforce these acts, the British stationed officers at customs offices in ports. In addition, the British passed new forms of taxes like the the Stamp Act, which required colonists to buy seals to place on documents. The colonists reacted by protesting against these acts and by continuing to smuggle in goods. They also boycotted English-made goods in favor of domestic products such as homespun clothing and mounted dramatic protests such as the Boston Tea Party. After years of "salutary neglect," meaning the general non-enforcement of the Navigation Acts, the colonists were not prepared to accept the enforcement of these laws.

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The British government did several things to increase their control over the colonies after the French and Indian War ended. The Proclamation of 1763 was issued. This prevented the colonists from moving to the lands that Great Britain gained from France after the French and Indian War ended. The British believed they were protecting the colonists while the colonists felt the British were trying to control to where they could move. The Quartering Act was passed in 1765. This required the colonists to provide housing and supplies for the British soldiers who were enforcing the widely unpopular Proclamation of 1763.

The British also tried to increase their financial control over the colonies. The Sugar Act was passed in 1764. While this lowered the tax on molasses, it signaled the British were going to more closely enforce various trade laws that had been ignored for years. Writs of assistance allowed the British to search for smuggled goods. The Stamp Act in 1765 and Townshend Acts in 1767 were new tax laws that were passed to try to raise revenue. The colonists opposed both laws because they did not have elected representatives in Parliament that could speak about and vote on these new taxes.

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