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- Formation of the Union - 7/46 -
colonies had one significant moral advantage: they desired the land that they might occupy it; the French wished only to hold it vacant for some future and remote settlement, or to control the fur-trade.
13. COLLISIONS ON THE FRONTIER (1749-1754).
[Sidenote: The Iroquois]
For many years the final conflict had been postponed by the existence of a barrier state,--the Iroquois, or Six Nations of Indians. This fierce, brave, and statesmanlike race held a strip of the watershed from Lake Champlain to the Allegheny River. For many years they had been subject to English influence, exercised chiefly by William Johnson; but the undisturbed possession of their lands was the price of their friendship. They held back the current of immigration through the Mohawk. They aimed to be the intermediary for the fur-trade from the northwest. They remained throughout the conflict for the most part neutral, but forced the contestants to carry on their wars east or south of them.
[Sidenote: English claims.]
Southwest of the territory of the Iroquois lay the region of the upper Ohio and its tributaries, particularly the valleys of the Tennessee, the Muskingum, the Allegheny, the Monongahela and its mountain-descending tributary, the Youghioghany, of which the upper waters interlace with branches of the Potomac. In this rich country, heavily wooded and abounding in game, there were only a few Indians and no white inhabitants. In 1749 France began to send expeditions through the Ohio valley to raise the French flag and to bury leaden plates bearing the royal arms. A part of the disputed region was claimed by Pennsylvania as within her charter limits; Virginia claimed it, apparently on the convenient principle that any unoccupied land adjacent to her territory was hers; the English government claimed it as a vacant royal preserve; and in 1749 an Ohio company was formed with the purpose of erecting the disputed region into a "back colony." A royal grant of land was secured, and a young Virginian, named George Washington, was sent out as a surveyor. He took the opportunity to locate some land for himself, and frankly says that "it is not reasonable to suppose that those, who had the first choice,... were inattentive to ... the advantages of situation."
[Sidenote: Attempts to occupy.]
Foreseeing the struggle, the French began to construct a chain of forts connecting the St. Lawrence settlements with the Mississippi. The chief strategic point was at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers,--the present site of Pittsburg. The Ohio company were first on the ground, and in 1753 took steps to occupy this spot. They were backed up by orders issued by the British government to the governors of Pennsylvania and Maryland "to repel force by force whenever the French are found within the undoubted limits of their province." Thus the French and English settlements were brought dangerously near together, and it was resolved by Virginia to send George Washington with a solemn warning to the French. In October, 1753, he set forth, and returned in December to announce that the French were determined to hold the country. They drove the few English out of their new post, fortified the spot, and called it Fort Duquesne. The crisis seemed to Benjamin Franklin so momentous that at the end of his printed account of the capture of the post he added a rude woodcut of a rattlesnake cut into thirteen pieces, with the motto, addressed to the colonies, "Join or die."
[Sidenote: No compromise.]
This was no ordinary intercolonial difficulty, to be patched up by agreements between the frontier commanders. Both French and English officers acted under orders from their courts. England and France were rivals, not only on the continent, but in the West Indies, in India, and in Europe. There was no disposition either to prevent or to heal the breach on the Pennsylvania frontier.
[Sidenote: Washington attacks.]
When Washington set out with a small force in April, 1754, it was with the deliberate intention of driving the French out of the region. As he advanced towards Fort Duquesne they came out to meet him. He was the quicker, and surprised the little expedition at Great Meadows, fired upon the French, and killed ten of them. A few days later Washington and his command were captured at Fort Necessity, and obliged to leave the country. As Half King, an Iroquois chief, said, "The French behaved like cowards, and the English like fools." The colonial war had begun. Troops were at once despatched to America by both belligerents. In 1755 hostilities also broke out between the two powers on the sea; but it was not until May 18, 1756, that England formally declared war on France, and the Seven Years' War began in Europe.
14. THE STRENGTH OF THE PARTIES (1754).
[Sidenote: England and France.]
The first organized campaign in America was in 1755. Its effect was to show that the combatants were not far from equally matched. France claimed the position of the first European power: her army was large, her soldiers well trained; her comparative weakness at sea was not yet evident. The English navy had been reduced to 17,000 men; the whole English army counted 18,000 men, of whom there were in America but 1,000. Yet England was superior when it came to building ships, equipping troops, and furnishing money subsidies to keep her allies in the field. The advantage of prestige in Europe was thrown away when France allied herself with her hereditary enemy, Austria, and thus involved herself in wars which kept her from sending adequate reinforcements to America.
[Sidenote: The colonies.]
Until 1758 the war in the western world was fought on both sides chiefly by the colonists. Here the British Americans had a numerical advantage over the French. Against the 80,000 white Canadians and Louisianians they could oppose more than 1,100,000 whites. Had the English colonists, like the Canadians, been organized into one province, they might have been successful within a year; but the freedom and local independence of the fourteen colonies made them, in a military sense, weaker than their neighbors. In Canada there was neither local government nor public opinion; governors and intendants sent out from Paris ruled the people under regulations framed in Paris for the benefit of the court centred in Paris. While the colonies with difficulty raised volunteer troops, the French commander could make a _levée en masse_ of the whole adult male population. During the four campaigns from 1755 to 1758 the Canadians lost little territory, and they were finally conquered only by a powerful expedition of British regular troops and ships.
[Sidenote: Indians.] [Sidenote: Theatre of war.]
One reason for this unexpected resistance was the aid of the Indians. The Latin races have always had more influence over savage dependents than the Anglo-Saxon. The French knew how to use the Indians as auxiliaries by letting them make war on their own account and in their own barbarous fashion. Nevertheless the Indians did not fight for the mere sake of obliging the French, and when the tide turned, in 1759, they were mostly detached. One other great advantage was enjoyed by the French: their territory was difficult of access. The exposed coast was protected by the strong fortresses of Louisbourg and Quebec, On the east, in the centre, and on the Ohio they were in occupation and stood on the defensive. Acting on the interior of their line, they could mass troops at any threatened point. In the end their line was rolled up like a scroll from both ends. Louisbourg and Fort Duquesne were both taken in 1758, but Montreal was able to hold out until 1760.
15. CONGRESS OF ALBANY (1754).
[Sidenote: Indian treaty.] [Sidenote: Union proposed]
Foreseeing a general colonial war, the Lords of Trade, in September, 1753, directed the colonial governors to procure the sending of commissioners to Albany. The first purpose was to make a treaty with the Iroquois; but a suggestion was made in America that the commissioners also draw up a plan of colonial union. In June, 1754, a body of delegates assembled from the New England colonies, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The Indian treaty was duly framed, notwithstanding the ominous suggestion of one of the savages: "It is but one step from Canada hither, and the French may easily come and turn you out of your doors." On June 24 the Congress of Albany adopted unanimously the resolution that "a union of all the colonies is at present absolutely necessary for their security and defence;" and that "it would be necessary that the union be established by Act of Parliament."
[Sidenote: Franklin's scheme.]
Since the extinction of the New England Confederation in 1684 (Colonies, § 69) there had been no approach to any colonial union. The suggestions of William III., of the Lords of Trade, of ministers, of colonial governors, and of private individuals had remained without effect To Benjamin Franklin was committed the task of drawing up a scheme which should at the same time satisfy the colonial assemblies and the mother government. The advantages of such an union were obvious. Combined action meant speedy victory; separate defence meant that much of the border would be exposed to invasion. Franklin hoped to take advantage of the pressure of the war to induce the colonies to accept a permanent union. His draft, therefore, provided for a "President General," who should have toward the union the powers usually enjoyed by a governor towards his colony. This was not unlike a project in view when Andros was sent over in 1685. The startling innovation of the scheme was a "Grand Council," to be chosen by the colonial assemblies. The duty of this general government was to regulate Indian affairs, make frontier settlements, and protect and defend the colonists. The plan grew upon Franklin as he considered it, and he added a scheme for general taxes, the funds to be raised by requisitions for specific sums on the separate colonial treasurers.
[Sidenote: The union fails.]
The interest of the plan is that it resembles the later Articles of Confederation. At first it seemed likely to succeed; none of the twenty- five members of the congress seem to have opposed it, but not one colony accepted it. The charter and proprietary colonies feared that they might lose the guaranty afforded by their existing grants. The new union was to be established by Act of Parliament. Of government by that body they knew little, and they had no disposition to increase the power of the Crown. The town of Boston voted "to oppose any plan of union whereby they shall apprehend the Liberties and Priviledges of the People are endangered." The British government also feared a permanent union, lest it teach the colonies their own strength in organization. The movement for the union had but the faint approval of the Lords of Trade, and received no consideration in England. As Franklin said: "The assemblies all thought there was too much _prerogative_, and in England it was thought to have too much of the _democratic_."
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