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

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In what ways did the French and Indian War alter the ideological ways of thinking between Britain and its American colonies?

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Since the founding of the earliest British colonies in North America, the colonists had almost always been given a large degree of autonomy over how they governed themselves. Given the great distance between the lawmakers in London and their subjects in America, this was necessary if things were to run smoothly in the colonies. The colonists considered themselves to be English and fervently supported the British fight against the French during the war. They saw it as a fight over their right to settle the continent and therefore were often eager to contribute.

That is why many colonists were very upset with changes in British policy after the war. The conflict had been very expensive. The British racked up a lot of debt in waging the war and felt that, since it was largely fought to protect their colonies, the colonists should help pay for it.

Parliament began to levy significant taxes on the colonies, something that they had never done on this scale before. While the Navigation Acts, which restricted trade, had been in effect for some time, the practice of salutary neglect meant that they had seldom been enforced. The colonists had grown accustomed to doing things their way. However, the financial strains that Great Britain was now feeling meant that they felt that they could no longer govern their colonies with such a loose hand. Old laws that had been mostly ignored were now being enforced, and new taxes under the infamous Stamp Act and Townshend Acts were levied.

Furthermore, the British took a greater role in restricting the settlement of their colonists. The greatest spoil of the French and Indian War was perhaps gaining control over the Ohio River Valley. Many colonists were eager to settle that area. However, the British government was worried that such settlement would disrupt the delicate balance they had with the Native Americans there. Consequently, they forbade English settlers from moving west of the Appalachian Mountains with the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This was the first time that the government had so greatly restricted the movement of their colonists. As you might imagine, this greatly upset many colonists who felt it infringed on their freedoms.

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The French and Indian War transformed the relationship between Britain and its colonies and ultimately set into motion the sequence of events that would lead to the American Revolution.

Throughout the long span of colonial history, North American colonists had tended to regard themselves as loyal subjects of England. However, the distance which separated the colonies from Europe meant that (for most of that history), the colonies were largely free to act and govern themselves with a great deal of autonomy.

However, what you need to recognize is that the French and Indian War was only one part of a much larger global struggle, often referred to as the Seven Years War. This conflict put tremendous strain on the British economy, which resulted in key changes to colonial policy.

In 1764, Britain passed the Sugar Act, which greatly strengthened the enforcement of British mercantile laws (thus directly threatening colonial smugglers). The following year, in 1765, the Stamp Act would place all official forms of documentation under taxation. These sorts of interventions created a great deal of resentment and concern within the colonies. However, this only marks the beginning of a longer trajectory, in which tensions between Britain and the colonies would continue to intensify, eventually resulting in the Revolution.

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The French and Indian War altered the ideological thoughts of both the British and the colonists. While the British always believed they could run the colonies as they saw fit to do, after the war ended, the British wanted the colonies to share in some of the costs of operating the colonies. As a result, various tax laws were passed to help raise money to run the colonies. These tax laws were the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts. Additionally, the British decided to limit colonial movement to the west by issuing the Proclamation of 1763.

After the French and Indian War, the colonists began to believe the British were being unreasonable. They felt that since the colonies were Britain’s colonies, they should bear the cost of running them. When times were simpler and the British made a lot of money from the colonies, there wasn’t a rush to share the profits with the colonies. At the very minimum, if the colonists were going to have to pay taxes to help offset the cost of running the colonies, they should, at least, have representatives in Parliament that could speak about and vote on these taxes. Since the colonists didn’t have representatives in Parliament, they felt the taxes were unfair.

Another change in the thinking of the colonists was the willingness to take actions against the unfair taxes and the unfair laws. The colonists refused to buy British goods until the Stamp Act was removed. They also took this action when the taxes from the Townshend Acts were established. When the Townshend Acts were passed, some colonists also started making their own products that could have a long-term, negative impact on British businesses. Some colonists refused to follow the Proclamation of 1763 that was issued right after the French and Indian War ended. The colonists were more willing to openly protest British actions through their own reactions to these British actions.

After the French and Indian War ended, both sides saw their ideological way of thinking shift.

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