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

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How did the French and Indian War affect the colonies?

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The Seven Years' (in America, French and Indian) War was actually an imperialist war in which Britain, France, and others competed for dominance in Europe, America, and Asia as well. The English colonists were, in some sense, empowered by this conflict, playing a decisive role in expelling the French from North America. The result was a huge increase in British power with the takeover of Canada and the undisputed (from a European standpoint) British control of all the territory from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi river.

The divergence between the British perspective on this outcome and that of the colonists was one of the causes of the War of Independence twelve years later. The British put forth the idea that the war had been fought to protect the colonists and therefore that the colonists "owed them." This was then used to rationalize the taxation schemes that ended up causing massive resentment in the colonies.

The colonists, more realistically, knew that the war was another in the endless stream of conflicts between the European powers who were fighting to settle their own differences, regardless of the welfare of their colonial subjects. Despite the more expected possibility that the colonists would be grateful to the mother country for protecting them and making their lives safer against encroachment from the French and their Native American allies, the war had the opposite effect of antagonizing the colonists.

This was augmented by the British response to Pontiac's War, the Native American uprising occurring in the year the French and Indian War ended. The British, in order to placate the Ottowa and other American Indian Nations in the Great Lakes region (and also, partly out of a genuine sense of fair play toward the indigenous people) passed the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting white settlement west of the Alleghenies.

This unfortunately backfired, given that the colonists continued to move west through the mountain passes which the British, with their limited forts and outposts, could not police effectively. It was another factor that would contribute to war in 1775 and the secession of the colonies from Britain in 1776, resulting in the creation of the United States.

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In the short term, the French and Indian Wars gave the colonists invaluable experience fighting alongside the British regular troops to put down the coalition of the French and their Indian allies.  The colonists were able to severely weaken one of the most significant of the French allies, the Huron tribe; this would pay dividends later in terms of acquiring land.  The colonists tried to organize under the Albany Plan in order to better help the British cause, but Britain made clear their disapproval of colonial organization.  This convinced the colonists that Parliament did not want a united front against them in the New World.

In the long term, after the French and Indian War, Britain rewarded its Indian allies by creating the Proclamation Line of 1763, which prohibited white settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains.  To colonists already living west of the line or those who had plans to move their families later, this was an outrage.  Also, the colonists were not happy with rewarding the Native Americans who attacked their settlements.  During the war, the British officials got to see firsthand how colonists flouted tax laws and duties. After the war, Parliament tightened its control over the American colonists in order to get them to pay for their own defense.  This put the colonists and Parliament on a collision course and would ultimately lead to the American Revolution.  

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The French and Indian War had a dramatic effect on the American colonies. Britain was occupied with the Seven Years War with France and had kind of left the American colonies to its own devices. The crown was very lax in tax collection during the war. Colonial leaders enjoyed a great deal of autonomy in this period.

At the conclusion of the American theater of the Seven Years War, the relationship with the English crown was in flux. The war changed the economic and political dynamic. Britain had incurred heavy debt in the process of conducting war. Its plan was to collect more revenue from the colonists. The American colonists were not happy with this process because it affected important import industries like rum production.

With increased agitation because of the taxation policy, the British felt the need to increase military presence in the American colonies. This action led to warfare between the colonies and England.

The war also created a certain unity amongst the colonies. Before the conflict, there was no cohesion between the thirteen colonial governments. After fighting against a common enemy in the French and Indian War, the colonists felt a common bond that had not existed earlier. The fact that the French were forced to vacate their colonies to Britain also meant that the lands to the west of the colonies became an attractive incentive for freedom from England.

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