I spent a couple of evenings this week watching “The War That Made America,” a 4-hour PBS special made in 2006, to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War. The intro added the words: “And it’s not the war you think.”
It is, arguably, the most significant war in American history. If it had ended differently, we might have been French and Catholic. Instead, we speak English and have freedom of religion.
Prior to 1754 the British had control of the eastern seaboard. The French were in control of the “Ohio country.” From Canada to Louisiana, they had a series of forts that controlled the center of what is now the US. These forts stopped Americans from moving westward. They were trying to strengthen these forts when conflict arose between Britain and France.
George Washington fired the first shot, as a member of the colonial Virginia Regiment, a provincial militia. It was the first shot in what was really the first world war, a war that saw fighting in India, the Philippines, Africa and Europe as well as North America. Outside of the US, the war is known as the Seven Years War.
After more than seven years of brutal fighting, the French were driven out of North America. The threat from the Roman Catholic Church, which did not tolerate freedom of religion, was over. The French king no longer ruled over North America, replaced by an English king who was a constitutional monarch.
When told the news that he had lost Canada, Louis XV was talking to Voltaire, the famous French philosopher. In an attempt to console him, Voltaire asked what the French had actually lost. It was, he said, just “a few acres of snow.”
Fast forward fifteen years, to 1775. This was the year that saw the beginning of major changes that lay the groundwork for the world we now live in.
From Wikipedia: “In the Hebrew Bible, forty is often used for time periods, forty days or forty years, which separate “two distinct epochs.” Several Jewish leaders and kings are said to have ruled for “forty years,” that is, a generation.”
1775 was truly the end of one epoch. 1815 was the beginning of another.
- MANASSEH SEPARATED FROM EPHRAIM
The forty-year period began with the separation from the “multitude of nations,” of a ”great people,” Manasseh. The multitude remained united under the Crown.
“Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
“Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”
“So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:14-20)
2. CANADA ALSO BECAME A NATION.
One of the consequences of the US victory at Yorktown was the expansion of Canada and of it becoming its very own nation. The British had control of the 14th colony, Quebec (Lower Canada), which refused to join the “Protestant Republic” forming to the south. Britain had conquered Quebec in 1759, guaranteeing the French their Roman Catholicism. Many of America’s Tories fled to Ontario, then Upper Canada, and, with Lower Canada, formed a new nation of Canada. Later, in 1867, they would be given independence under the Crown, forming the Dominion of Canada, the first nation of the British Commonwealth.
3. FRANCE LOSES ITS SUPREMACY TO ENGLAND
The first blow against French domination was struck in 1759 when the British gained Montreal and Quebec. But it was the 22-year period of on-again, off again, military conflict with France that led to a century of British domination. The Napoleonic Wars weakened France and strengthened England. The defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, on 18th June, 1815, saw the end of France as a great military power.
4. The LOUISIANA PURCHASE of 1803, financed by a British bank, gave America the Ohio country and enabled it to expand westward.
5. NAVAL SUPREMACY
The Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, one of the greatest British victories of all time, gave Britain naval supremacy. For over a century, the Royal Navy ruled the seas, protected British territories and the US and ensured the peace.
- ABOLISHMENT OF THE SLAVE TRADE
The trade in slaves ended for the British Empire in 1807. The US followed a year later. It wasn’t until 1833 that the British ended slavery throughout their empire. For the US it was thirty years later during the Civil War. But the end of the slave trade boosted the growth of the British Empire, which was seen throughout Africa as a Liberator. The West Africa Squadron of the British Royal Navy patrolled the Gulf of Guinea, and was authorized to stop any naval vessel (of whatever country) and free their slaves. In the fifty years of the Squadron it is estimated that 150,000 slaves were freed.
During the Revolutionary War, the British were supported by most of the slaves in the thirteen colonies, slaves who were promised their freedom at the end of the war. With defeat, they took those slaves on board ships, many of which went to found a new nation, Sierra Leone, in West Africa.
Three new countries emerged in the 40-year period we are looking at – the United States, Canada and Sierra Leone.
- WAR OF 1812
This war showed that the US was a serious nation. Canada was, too. The two fought and established their separate identities. Canadians made it clear they wanted to stay under the Crown.
THE COST OF ARROGANCE
The PBS documentary showed quite clearly the role of the Indians in the struggle for North America. The French started the war with great advantage – most of the Indian tribes were on their side. But their arrogance toward the Indians caused that to change.
At the same time, British arrogance toward George Washington cost them the American colonies twenty years later. They refused to allow Washington advancement in the ranks because he was a “provincial.” He quit the military in 1758, returning in 1775 to lead the Patriots” against the British.
The DVD is well worth four hours. You could also read the book “A Few Acres of Snow” by Robert Leckie, “the saga of the French and Indian Wars.” Published in 2006.
MAY VISITS GRIMSBY
Mrs. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, visited my hometown of Grimsby this morning. She was there to make a pitch for her latest Brexit proposals, to be voted on in parliament on Tuesday. Grimsby is one of the towns that most supported Brexit. She made it clear that, if her proposals are rejected, the UK might have to remain in the EU.
Even if her proposals receive the support of parliament (a big IF), there is no guarantee that the EU will go along with them.
The people voted to leave the European Union. Now they are being told it’s not as simple as that. Why not let the people have what they voted for? That will never do!