A quiet anniversary: 1763 Treaty of Paris and the first “world war”

Famous image from the Seven Years’ War:”The Death of General Wolfe”                        (Benjamin West, National Gallery of Canada)

Back in school, the Seven Years’ War struck me as eminently forgettable – and I like history.

Yada, yada…some quarrel between France and Great Britain that spilled into their North American Colonies under a sub-title of the French and Indian War. It didn’t seem all that important, except as a precursor to the American Revolution.

Besides, after the Hundred Years’ War, or the Thirty Years’ War, what’s a mere seven? (Those Europeans were always fighting about something.)

Now I live where that conflict took place, or nearly so. From here, it’s easier to see how the Seven Years’ War shaped so much of what followed.

250 years ago today, February 10th, “The Treaty of Paris of 1763” went into effect, under which Great Britain, France, and Spain put the wide-ranging dispute to rest.

Writing in the National Post, author and historian Mark Bourrie calls the Seven Years’ War “The War that made Canada” and likens it to the world’s first global conflict: 

It was fought in Europe, North America, the Caribbean, parts of Africa, India and on the seas. About 500,000 soldiers were killed in total, along with tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of civilians.

It’s the war that ended with most of what’s eastern Canada and part of the U.S. northeast handed from France to Britain. Quebec is still trying to adapt to the severing of those bonds with the mother country. For most of their history, the descendants of the settlers of New France have fought against the political, cultural and social impact of the “conquest.” It was, for good or ill, the defining moment in Quebec’s history.

On the other hand, the Royal Proclamation, which set out the rules for the government of the new British North American lands, is one of the most liberal manifestos ever issued by any government that had just taken control of an enemy territory.

It’s an astounding document that, in itself, had far more impact on the development of Canada than any single piece of legislation, and was certainly more important to the development of modern Canada than, say, the War of 1812.

If that excerpt is to your taste, I recommend reading the whole article, which has much more to say on the ramifications of that conflict in this region and the world.

American historian and “Empires at War” author William Fowler spoke on a 2006 TVO interview about how the Seven Years’ War changed North America, and the world. He also theorizes that the North American portion of that conflict was exacerbated by 22-year-old George Washington, as the result of a skirmish (unprovoked attack?) in the Pennsylvania wilderness. This referes to a well-known – but still controversial – episode in Washington’s military career. Virginia militia under Washington’s command attacked a sleeping French encampment, before war had been declared. (The incident is an excellent example of how historians can interpret the same event quite differently.)

Mark Bourrie finds it curious there will be so little attention paid to the Feb 10th anniversary, though the Canadian War Museum did host a major exhibition “Clash of Empires: The War That Made Canada, 1754-1763” back in 2006.

It’s political, of course. Current War of 1812 commemorations are being presented as a feel-good triumph of unity: Brits, French-Canadians, Anglo-Canadians, First Nations, men and women – all together! – beating back a greedy invasion from an agressive U.S.A. This plays well to modern national pride in Canada – even though there was no nation of Canada in 1812.

Meanwhile, the far more important Seven Years’ War is still prickly because it marks the beginning of French Canada’s domination by English Canada, which presents sensitive cultural and political issues to this day.

Here’s more on the conflict and the Treaty of Paris from the University of Ottawa, and citation of the treaty language most relavent to Quebec, from the Quebec History Encyclopedia.

There’s no great point to be made in this post. I simply found Bourrie’s op-ed worth sharing as a good Sunday read on the actual anniversary date.

The only “popular” treatment of the Seven Years’ War I can think of is Daniel Day-Lewis and the late Russell Means in the motion picture “Last of the Mohicans” (1992).

Fort Ticonderoga (Fort Carillon) was build by the French during that conflict, but why stop there? New York was a prime battle ground.

What relics or after-effects of that conflict do you still note in your neck of the woods?

Tags: , , , , ,

25 Comments on “A quiet anniversary: 1763 Treaty of Paris and the first “world war””

Leave a Comment
  1. mervel says:

    That is an awesome painting! I saw it in the Gallary last summer.

    I find the war very interesting as it was a world war as you point out. I think it is a confusing war for Americans so they kind of ignore it.

  2. newt says:

    The Seven Years war is, to me, at least as interesting as the American Revolution. It also was a necessary prerequisite for it, for many, often ironic, reasons.

    -Before the war, the American colonies were scattered, constantly squabbling, and totally unconcerned with the notion of independence. The War changed all this, or at least set the changes into motion.

    -The French and Indian threat to colonies at the beginning of the conflict (though ongoing for over 100 years), resulted in the calling, led by Ben Franklin, of the Albany Convention, where a united colonies, under British rule, was proposed. The plan failed, but it got colonial leaders together, and talking about unification, for the first time ever. It laid the groundwork for the Continental Congress, and it’s successors up to the present day.

    -Before the war, the colonial legislatures were unwilling to tax their their people to raise sufficient forces to protect their own frontiers from Indian and French raids. After hostilities began, disastrously, for the British-American forces, Prime Minister Wm. Pitt poured billions of pounds into raising sufficient land and navel forces to win the war. Americans gained priceless experience in the raising and supplying of armies.

    -This resulted in thousands of of Americans receiving training and experience in the best army in the world at that time, not the least of these being George Washington. This training and experience would be used against the British twenty years later. Not with out importance, the Americans often resented the high-handed and disdainful attitudes of British towards American officers and troops. Washington included. This would also be remembered by Americans.

    -As moderately-educated Americans know, the British (very reasonable in principal, if disastrously executed ) attempts to tax the colonies to help recover the crippling cost of the of the war was the principal causes of the calling of Continental Congress, and subsequent outbreak of the Revolution.

    -Americans also know that the entrance of France on the side of the colonies (Franklin, again) was the deciding factor in American victory. This was inspired in large part by French desires to get revenge on Britain for it’s victory in the Seven Years War, as well as hopes of regaining Canada.

    -Finally, and often overlooked., while the Treaty of Paris was being negotiated, a few perceptive British writers warned that France should not be stripped of Canada, since fear of French Canada , and this alone, was the principal reason for the Colonies perceived need to stay in the Empire. Removing this fear would result in the Colonies no longer believing they needed British protection, and British rule. They proved to be devastatingly correct.

    Pitt gained Canada, and lost the American Colonies in another Treaty of Paris, almost exactly 20 years later. It is very hard for me to imagine how the United States would ever have come to pass without there having been first the Seven Years/French and Indian War.

  3. newt says:

    I forgot to say thanks for the post, Lucy. I can’t wait to explore all the links.

  4. Lucy Martin says:

    My pleasure Newt.

    Thanks for your insightful comments – excellent perspective to the “back story” of how the U.S. and Canada evolved.

  5. Jeff says:

    Having come from the area where one of the trigger points took place (southwest PA) I have been aware of the war most of my life. One thread I find interesting is George Washington’s presence in that trigger point at what is now Jumonville Glen in 1754 and Braddock’s Defeat in 1755 and in 1753 sent to a fort near Erie to tell the French to get out.

    In the time I’ve lived in New York it has been interesting to further flesh out events and places in my travels that were tied to that war. Additionally, an ancestor of mine who was about the same age as George and apparently never married until after the Revolutionary war started came from Winchester Virginia. I can’t help think that he, like Daniel Boone may have been involved in Braddock’s campaign. We do know where he spent the revolutionary war.

    I’ve stood on the sites of Fort Pitt, Duquesne, Necessity, Stanwix and Ticonceroga, Forbes Trail and Braddock’s grave. They are relevant in the same way one can often ponder what if x, y or z did not happen, what then? Washington had holes through his clothing in Braddock’s defeat. He could have been killed.

  6. Mervel says:

    Don’t forget Ogdensburg.

  7. The Original Larry says:

    Good stuf, Newt. We need a history blog!

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The Seven Years War was also a great opportunity for Geo. Washington to further his passion for land speculation and robbing Indians of their land:

    In 1754, Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie issued a proclamation designed to encourage enlistment in the local militia for the war against the French. In addition to their pay, those who enlisted in Lieutenant Colonel George Washington’s fledgling Virginia Regiment were offered a share in two hundred thousand acres west of the Ohio River. Unfortunately for the men who fought under Washington in the Braddock and Forbes expeditions against the enemy at Fort Duquesne, they were not to see these bounty lands until more than twenty years had passed, during which time Washington led the struggle to secure their title.

    At first, the formal conclusion in 1763 of the worldwide war between Britain and France, of which the French and Indian War had been a part, aroused hope that the land would be quickly granted. These expectations were overshadowed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which (among other provisions) forbade colonial governors from issuing land grants west of the Allegheny Mountains. Yet Washington chose to forge ahead, as evinced by a September 1767 letter to William Crawford, a Pennsylvania surveyor:

    . . . I can never look upon the Proclamation in any other light (but this I say between ourselves) than as a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians. It must fall, of course, in a few years, especially when those Indians consent to our occupying those lands. Any person who neglects hunting out good lands, and in some measure marking and distinguishing them for his own, in order to keep others from settling them will never regain it. If you will be at the trouble of seeking out the lands, I will take upon me the part of securing them, as soon as there is a possibility of doing it and will, moreover, be at all the cost and charges surveying and patenting the same . . . . By this time it be easy for you to discover that my plan is to secure a good deal of land. You will consequently come in for a handsome quantity.12″

    The desire of the British Crown to keep settlers out of Indian territory is the least talked about reason for the Revolution. People love to talk about “taxation without representation” and while Washington had a lot to lose in his treason against the Crown he had a lot to gain — tens of thousands of acres of land in the Ohio Territory.

  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Oops, forgot the link:

  10. newt says:

    All of the above showing why this war is so fascinating.

    Washington, truly the Father of Our Country, there right at the beginning as a very young man, almost being killed at least half a dozen times, and yet surviving and going on to, for all his land grabbing, undisputed greatness. In many ways he was the embodiment of some of the best, and worst aspects of the country he was so vital in creating.

    Interesting too is the fact that, while the War is of greater interest to Canadians, all but the final chapters, mostly the battle of Quebec, took place on what is now the American side of the border. From western PA, to the southern shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, down the Champlain and Hudson Valleys to the outskirts of Albany.

    It was reported that American troops occupying Ft. Ticonderoga in 1776, found, and used as tent pegs, the leg bones of British troops who had died, and been left there, after General Abercrombie’s disastrous campaign of 1758.

    Winston Churchill, in his multi-volume “History of the English Speaking Peoples” entitled his chapter on it, “The First World War.”

  11. mervel says:

    What was the net impact on the Native tribes who participated?

  12. newt says:

    I think KHL indicated what happened to the “American” tribes. They stood in the way of the land schemes of Virginia Colonial elites, and the settlers who craved the land. In spite of British Colonial attempts to protect their land and keep the peace, the American Revolution resulted in their largely being dispossessed, and either confined to small reservations, or forces to migrate west, where the process repeated itself. The Iroquois saw this coming, and, with the exception of the Oneida, sided with the British in the Revolution, with devastating results to frontier settlements, and, eventually, the Iroquois themselves.

    Tribes in Canada seemed to have fared much better. You just don’t hear about much white-native conflict up there post-1763. I am unaware of a Canadian “Indian War”, ever. The British Colonial government appears to have been reasonably fair and effective. Of course, much smaller white population to put pressure on those lands. But there also seems to be an absence of the kind of land frenzy coming from Canadian whites that you see in American History, from sea to shining sea. Like a lot of Canadian History, white-native relations seem to be kind of, well, boring, because it is so peaceful. Or maybe I’m just ignorant.

  13. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Well, part of the reason for the formation of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police to to quell white-indian issues. There are many instances of white-indian clashes in Canadian history. I forget the guys name, Ruell or something like that, was the big one the spurred the Mounties formation. What Britain/Canada did, that we should have, is that they didn’t segregate the indians. They basically attempted to integrate them into their society, more or less. They also used some extremely harsh methods to force this integration, including taking indian kids fromt heir families and putting them in boarding schools. I believe there was a large law suit about this a few years back as the Canadian gov’t continued the practice into the 1950’s or 60’s.

    Knuckle, could you explain the difference between Geo Washingtons “robbing the indians of their lands” and the indians robbing other indians of their lands? Acquisition of land by conquest has occured on every continent through out history. While I forget the tribal names, the Iroquois took lands from other indians by conquest and the indians they forced out, or enslaved, had taken the lands from others that they killed, drove off or enslaved. It’s a very, very old story.

  14. Lucy Martin says:

    I can’t speak authoritatively on any over-all assessment of how First Nation people fared in Canada verses white/indian history in the U.S.

    Clearly, the U.S. picture included much more violence & hostile conflict.

    Canada seems very pleased to claim the patina of better relations. As a New Canadian of Caucasian extraction, I hesitate to say if that reputation is well-justified or not, though I watch it with interest.

    The thing is, there’s no shortage of baggage (past and present) to contend with here too.

    I’m thinking of the legacy of residential schools, cultural suppression, unequal legal status, the fact of unresolved land claims, disputes about management of resources or resource revenue, poor living conditions on reserves, absolutely scandalous rates of suicide and substance abuse, an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, etc. etc. (Not all of which can be blamed on “Canada” as a whole, but a lot of it can be attributed to government policy or inaction.)

    These issues do flare up in an acrimonious manner from time to time. (see Oka Crisis or Caledonia Land Claim) Here’s a CBC summary page of aboriginal issues.

    Idle no more being the most recent expression of dissatisfaction.

    It seems to me this question (“Did Indians get better treatment in Canada than in the U.S.?”) should not detract from issues that need improvement or resolution on both sides of the border.

  15. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Well said Lucy. I think the aim today should be for the indians to take it upon themselves to improve themselves and their condition rather than to play the victim and game the system. Locally, this is the way things are done. I’ve talked to people from out west who tell me other tribes have created very prosperous and solid local economies with great living standards. I think it’s up to the individuals in the end. Embrace your history and culture, that’s fine. But don’t use it as a crutch.

  16. newt says:

    I’m not going to track in down, but I think the guy you are referring to led some kind of revolt of a group called “Metis”, mixed-race descendants of natives and French trappers. Interesting that this group was so large it had it’s own identity, never mind it’s own war. And it wasn’t much of a war and it was about the worst one the Canadians and their (sort-of) Indians ever had.

    I don’t know about Canadian native-integration policies, but we tried the same thing with the Dawes Severality Act of 1882,( I think). It attempted to get our Indians to leave their lands and become like white farmers and so forth. Forced removal of kids to boarding schools, and all that stuff( In one of my earlier US History textbooks there was an excellent illustration showing a before-and-after picture of a young man,at such a school, first with long hair and Indian-type clothing and then with hair cut short and wearing a suit and tie. He did not look overjoyed in his new suit of clothes, however. ) The Dawes Act is generally considered to have been a disaster. As was leaving them alone on the res, after destroying the buffalo herds I guess.

    You are quite right that Indians frequently took other Indians’ land without qualm. I remember seeing Dakota woman on a PBS show telling about how her grandfather bragged to her about how the Dakotas took the Blackfeet lands from them. But that doesn’t make it right. And the Canadians demonstrated that there are better ways of working through the inevitable conflicts that migrations often cause. I think.

  17. newt says:

    Thanks again, Lucy.

  18. Lucy Martin says:

    Rancid, I’m sure you are thinking of Louis Riel, hanged as a traitor in 1885, but now honored as a founder of Manitoba and a hero of the Metis people.

    Here’s a useful biographical summary of his life and actions from a webpage devoted to famous trials, including Riel’s.

    Quoting from that site:

    As long as Canada exists, its citizens will want to read about Louis Riel because his life summarizes in a unique way the tensions of being Canadian: English versus French, native versus white, east versus west, Canadian versus American.

    –Thomas Flanagan, Riel and the Rebellion: 1885 Reconsidered (Preface)

  19. Great stuff, my only book on this subject that i read was “White Devil” Major Robert Rogers and his Rangers.
    On the morning of October 4,1759, Rogers and his men suprised the Abenaki Indian village of St.Francis, slaughtering its sleeping inhabitants with out mercy. A nightmarish retreat followed. When, after terrible hardships, the raiders finally returned to safety, they were hailed as heros by the colonist, and their leader was immortalized as “the brave Major Rogers.” But the Abenakis remember Rogers differently: To them he was Wobomagonda – “White Devil”. An excerpt from the books back cover, a great read

  20. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Yup, Riel was the guy.

    Another fascinating person from that period was George Rodgers Clark, one of Washington mentors IIRC. Clark was a surveyor along the frontier of the day. The hardships they endured simply stagger the imagination.

  21. Glenn L. Pearsall says:

    Yes, and we forget that the French and Indian War was perhaps the first world war as it involved not only France and England (and the colonies), but also what would become Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Russia. In high school it is also conveniently also left out that the war here was triggered by a night ambush by a raiding party led by George Washington. A great book on the war is “The Crucible of War” by Fred Anderson

  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Crabtree, the difference between the Colonists stealing Indian land and Tribes taking other Tribes” land is that the Colonists were living under the laws of England and they were breaking the law.

    Nearly everyone in the NCPR listening area in the States is living in what was at the time declared to be Indian territory by the Crown. The British/Canada were much fairer in their dealings with Native tribes than the colonists of what would become the US and the US itself. It seems unnecessary to note that time and again, and again, an again Native Peoples (sovereign people) made legal treaties with the US which were nearly invariably broken by the US.

    The autobiography of Black Hawk is a good demonstration of what I point out above. The Crown made a treaty with the US in which the US agreed not to take Indian lands from peaceful tribes. We broke that one too. British representatives cautioned Black Hawk not to fight when “settlers” moved in to take his tribes farmlands and Black Hawk refused to fight for a long time while most of his tribes lands were taken.

    So it is kind of funny to hear people say today, “we are a nation of laws.”

  23. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Yup, people lie, nations lie. Bill Clinton told us he’d brought peace to the Korean Peninsula. NK lied. And? We broke treaties, they broke treaties. The myth of the noble red man who never lied, never broke a treaty before a white, etc, is just that- a myth. Breaking treaties or any law or agreement is always wrong, you’re correct. Since you are so PO’d about the whites breaking treaties with indians so long ago, I suppose that means you must really be hot over the illegal immigration issue today! The laws and agreements and treaties the illegals are breaking, and often with the help of their gov’t, is happening right now! You must be about ready to declare war on Mexico!

  24. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Weren’t you a cop? Do you think breaking laws is just fine?

    Hey, what the heck, everyone breaks laws; you break your laws, I’ll break my laws and everything will work out in the end.

  25. Rancid Crabtree says:

    No, I worked in corrections. I’m asking if you’re as ready to castigate other nations and people that break treaties and laws as you are to castigate the US? Indian tribes broke treaties and agreements between themselves too. I’m just pointing out that taking land by conquest is normal throughout the history of the world and that we’re no worse or better than any other culture in that respect. I don’t like that treaties with indians we’re broken, but I’m not going to spend my days feeling guilty over it either. Same with slavery or a million other things I had nothing to do with. Our indians are responsible for themselves. They have every opportunity to better their conditions, often at taxpayer expense. If they choose not to do so that’s their fault, not ours.

Leave a Reply