The Imperial Perspective and the Movement towards Americanism

    Whereas the French and Spanish had attempted to maintain close royal control of their American colonies; the British had allowed a significant degree of autonomy in British America, primarily as a matter of convenience. The dispute between Parliament and the Stuart monarchs prevented the British government from devising a systematic policy or the necessary agencies to tightly control Colonial affairs. The government was also reluctant to incur the expense of maintaining a colonial bureaucracy. Even after the restoration of Charles II, British administration of the colonies was inefficient. Americans quickly grew accustomed to loose control from England, and by the time the British government attempted to impose controls similar to those it exercised in India, Americans had grown too accustomed to having things their way, and vigorously resisted attempts to regulate them.

    Throughout the colonial period, the ultimate source of authority in America was the British King. The colonies operated as "dependencies of the Crown," and colonial officials held office "at the pleasure of His Majesty." The primary agency responsible for colonial administration was the King’s Privy Council, a group of advisors appointed by the King, and responsible to him. It was often too busy to worry with colonial affairs, and as a result, in 1634, Charles I designated eleven members of the Council as Lords Commissioners for Plantations in General. The group was presided over by William Laud, the archbishop of Canterbury.

    Mercantilism: England at this time adopted the economic system of Mercantilism: based on the premise that national wealth and power were best served by increasing exports and collecting precious metals in return. Mercantilist nations were impressed by the fact that the precious metals, especially gold, were in universal demand as the ready means of obtaining other commodities; hence they tended to identify money with wealth. As the best means of acquiring bullion, foreign trade was favored above domestic trade, and manufacturing or processing. If a nation were to obtain and keep wealth, it must maintain a favorable balance of trade: exports should exceed imports in total value. Colonies were both a source of cheap raw materials as well as a market for manufactured goods. Ideally under the mercantilist system, Britain would obtain raw materials from America and sell manufactured goods to the colonists at a profit. However, the colonists often traded with other nations, primarily the Dutch, which did nothing to promote the British economy

The Navigation Acts: In 1651, during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, Parliament passed the first Navigation Act which required that no goods grown or manufactured in Asia, Africa, or America should be transported to England except in English vessels, and that the goods of any European country imported into England must be brought in British vessels, or in vessels of the country producing them. Additionally, the majority of the crew of all British ship must be English. The law was directed against the Dutch, but it was nowhere strictly enforced, and in New England scarcely at all. The Colonies engaged in a thriving trade with nations other than England, primarily with the Dutch which was technically illegal, but who was watching? [Colonial ships and sailors were considered English.] It was primarily because of the advantage held by the Dutch that Cromwell had pushed the Navigation Act through Parliament. Following the restoration of Charles II, the policy of restricting colonial trade continued.

    A Second Navigation Act was passed in 1660, which specified that three-quarters of the ships’ crews must be English, and certain goods produced in America could be shipped ONLY to England or to other English colonies. The list included tobacco, cotton, indigo, sugar, rice, ships’masts, furs, copper ore and hemp. In essence, England and its colonies were to be the sole outlet for products produced in America.

    In 1663, a Third Navigation Act was passed. It was often called the Staple Act because under the terms of the Act, England became the "staple" (that is the market or center of trade) for all goods sent TO the colonies. The Act provided that almost all goods shipped to the colonies, regardless of the point of origin, must be landed in England and a duty paid before reshipment. Finally a fourth act was passed in 1673 known as the Plantation Duty Act which required every sea captain loading certain articles bound for America to give bond that he would land them in England (pursuant to the terms of the Staple Act) or otherwise he must pay on the spot a duty equal to the duty which would be paid had the goods in fact landed there. The idea was to protect both English markets and the English shipping industry. Great Britain was to be the primary market for Colonial goods, the primary vendor to the colonies, and the sole owner of the means of shipment.

    Mercantilism made perfect sense to the mother country; however to the colonists, it was a bane, as it limited their markets. Limited markets also meant limited prices for the raw materials and ship supplies which they furnished.

    The Navigation Acts were a means of fulfilling the purpose of maintaining colonies in the first place, a source or raw materials and a market for manufactured goods. However, because of political turmoil in England during the Civil War and Protectorate, enforcement was spotty at best until the Restoration of Charles II. In 1675, Charles appointed certain of the members of his Privy Council as the Lords of Trade. They were responsible for naming Colonial Governors and handling all colonial affairs in England.

    Between 1673 and 1678, Customs Agents appeared in all the colonies, with orders to enforce the Navigation Acts. Needless to say, the colonists, who saw their profitable (although illegal) trade with other countries in jeopardy, bitterly resented the Agents.

    In 1676, Edward Randolph, a Customs Agent arrived in Boston and later filed a report with the Lords of Trade charging that the Massachusetts Bay Colony had allowed merchants and shippers to ignore the Navigation Acts, had operated a mint (illegal at the time), and that Massachusetts officials had told him "the legislative power is and abides in them solely to act and make laws by virtue of their charter." As a result of Randolph’s reports, the Lords of Trade received a Court Order which dissolved the Charter of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

    After the annulment of the charter, government of Massachusetts Bay was handled by a royal commission. However, in 1685, Charles II died and was succeeded by James II (his brother) and the first Catholic Monarch of England since Mary Tudor. James approved the creation of the Dominion of New England which would govern all colonies north of New Jersey.

    Charles appointed Sir Edmund Andros as Royal Governor of the Dominion of New England. A soldier who was accustomed to giving and receiving orders rather than negotiating, Andros considered tact and diplomacy to be luxuries he could ill afford. Although honest and efficient, he was also tactless and dictatorial. In Massachusetts, he levied taxes without the consent of the General Court and imprisoned those who protested. He also rigorously enforced the Navigation Acts and stopped the smuggling, a good move for the mother country, but bad news for the colonists. In a particularly bad move, he took over a Puritan church in Boston to be used for Anglican worship. The Puritan leaders of Boston rightfully believed their authority was in jeopardy.

    The Dominion of New England didn’t last long. In 1688, James II was ousted and William and Mary placed on the throne. When word of the Glorious Revolution reached Boston, Andros was arrested and Massachusetts reverted to its former government. All other colonies absorbed into the Dominion quickly followed suit. William and Mary made no attempt to restore the Dominion, and the colonies returned to their former status.

    Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when William and Mary ascended the English Throne, Parliament passed and required them to assent to (as a condition of their accepting the throne) the Bill of Rights and the Toleration Act in 1698. The Revolution set an important precedent which would play itself out later in America: revolt against an unjust monarch. Additionally, John Locke published his Two Treatises on Civil Government (1690). The First Treatise refuted the theory of the Divine Right of Kings. The Second Treatise promulgated Locke’s theory of government by contract. In it, he argued that in the state of nature, human beings were endowed with a natural right to life, liberty and property. People formed governments among themselves to protect those rights. Kings, said Locke, were parties to such an agreement, and were obligated contractually to protect the lives and property of their subjects. If they failed to do so, the government had the right to remove them, and change the government.

    Locke’s argument was of course hypothetical rather than historical, and was used to justify the Glorious Revolution. However, such American governments as existed at that time had arisen from contractual relationships, such as the Mayflower Compact, and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. Even the royal charters had been contractual in nature. Locke’s theory appealed to the colonists, and had more influence in America than in England.

    Thomas Jefferson relied on Locke’s theory in the Declaration of Independence, in which he [Jefferson} argued that the misuse of authority by George III entitled the Colonies to form a new government.

    In 1696, after William and Mary had ascended the throne, Parliament passed the Navigation Act of 1696. This required the colonial governors to enforce the Navigation Acts, and empowered customs agents to use Writs of Assistance to search for violations. The Writs were actually search warrants that did not specify the place to be searched, thus allowing Customs Agents authority to enter any building or dwelling to search for evidence of violations. The Act also provided that those accused of violating the Navigation Acts should be tried in the Court of Admiralty. Colonial juries uniformly refused to convict their fellow Americans, and, since the Admiralty cases were decided by judges appointed by the governor, the possibility of a conviction was enhanced.

    Also in 1696, King William created the Lords of Trade and Plantations to replace the Lords of Trade. Colonial officials were required to report to the board. The Board investigated enforcement of the Navigation Acts and also recommended ways to limit colonial manufacturing (since this would compete with manufactured goods made in England) and methods of encouraging the production of raw materials to be shipped to England.

NOTE: All of this is substantially in compliance with Mercantile Economic policy.

    The Board of Trade enforced mercantile policy in the colonies from 11696 to 1725, and arranged a rather efficient royal control of the colonies. Things changed after the death of William and Mary. They were succeeded by their Daughter, Queen Anne; who had 13 Children, and survived all 13 of them. The Act of Succession required that new monarch must be Protestant; and the nearest Protestant relative was Sophia, Electress of Hanover in Germany (an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire); but she died before Anne, also. Her son, George Hanover, became George I on the death of Anne in 1714. "German George," (he spoke not a word of English, nor made any attempt to learn it) reigned from 1714 to 1727, and his son George II from 1727 to 1760.

Salutary Neglect: Under George I and II, the cabinet (an inner committee of the Privy Council) was the central administrative agency. Robert Walpole became first minister, and deliberately followed a policy which the philosopher Edmund Burke called "a wise and salutary neglect." The Board of Trade was used for appointment of patrons in exchange for favors, who were more interested in making money from their governmental position than in enforcing Colonial administration. As a result, the colonies were left largely alone to fend for, and govern themselves.

Origins of Self Government in the Colonies

    Colonial Governments developed certain practices and policies inconsistent with the law in England. Royal Governors retained powers which the monarch had surrendered, but at the same time, Colonial Assemblies acquired powers which Parliament had not yet attained.

    Royal Governors: held absolute veto over Colonial Assemblies and could convene or adjourn them at his will. The English monarch never vetoed acts of Parliament after 1707. The governors could appoint and remove judges and officials, command the colonial militia, and grant pardons.

    Colonial Assemblies: Assemblies were elected, unlike the governors and council members who were appointed either by the crown, or other outside authority. Religious tests as a qualification for voting had been abandoned; any male who owned property was allowed to vote. Such persons were deemed to have a "stake in society." In the eighteenth century, more people could vote in Colonial America than anywhere else in the world. The amount of property one must own to vote was normally determined very leniently, however a greater "stake in society" was required if one wished to hold office. Only those with substantial land holdings were eligible, and as a result, elected officials tended to be the well to do of society. Women, Indians, children and blacks, even if freedmen were excluded from the electoral process.

Carl Degler argues that popular suffrage this led to a certain amount of "popular sovereignty," because so many people, even poor people, owned property in the colonies. In England, only the very wealthy owned property, so the very wealthy controlled parliament.

Colonial governors often attempted to exercise authority that even the monarch could no longer exercise in England following the Civil War and Glorious Revolution. The colonist knew this, and also knew the arguments against it, particularly arguments for the rights and liberties of the people’s elected representatives. By the early 1700’s the colonial assemblies held two powers similar to those of the British Parliament, and were very much aware of it: They had the power of the purse, as they had the right to vote on taxes and expenditures and they had the right to initiate legislation independent of the governor. They were able to slowly expand their power by exercising that which they already had. As an example, since they voted taxes and expenditures, they insisted on the authority to set salaries, name tax collectors and treasurers. Eventually, they even claimed the right to appoint Indian Agents and other public officials. Their power in some instances exceeded that of Parliament. (Appointment of officials had long been a royal prerogative; in the colonies it became the prerogative of the assemblies.

Over time, the colonies and assemblymen grew quite accustomed to this degree of self-government. Eventually, it was elevated from a habit to a "right."

Developments in Spanish and French America

Spanish: The Spanish empire in North America had become a colossal failure compared to other European settlements in North America. By 1821, the most populated Hispanic settlement in Spanish North America outside Mexico (Santa Fe) had only 6,000 residents. There were several reasons for this:

· The Spanish only wanted gold and silver – there was none in sufficient quantity in North America – none that they found anyway. There also was not the large native population that existed in South America whom they could convert to Catholicism as well as enslave.

· Unrest in Mexico kept them preoccupied; they didn’t have time to fool with North America.

· Those who colonized more concerned with converting Indians and establishing a military presence. They never thought about economic factors; establishing thriving colonies, or trading. The Spanish never sent women into their colonies; the who stayed and married did so with Indian women, thus creating a large mestizo population. Also, they strictly limited trade with Indians preferring to emphasize converting them to Catholicism, and built forts instead of settlements or trading posts. Oddly, Spain forbade any manufacturing of any sort in its territories.

    The French who settled in North America were predominantly male, but much smaller in number than the English or Spanish who emigrated. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, roughly 40,000 Frenchmen emigrated. This actually worked to their advantage, as it forced them to develop cooperative relationships with the Indians. Rather than farms, they built trading posts, often adopted Indian clothes, and served as mediators in disputes between Indian tribes, something the British considered beneath their dignity. They also established trading posts in areas not claimed by the Indians, which helped them avoid hostility. The British had been famous for countermanding lands cleared by the Indians for themselves, or allowing their livestock to trample through (and ruin) Indian crops. Rather than force the Indians to adopt Catholicism, as had the Spanish, they rather encouraged them to do so. They also taught them to hate the British. The relationship between the French and Indians became almost fraternal. As a result, the French enjoyed the support of the Indians in wars with the British, and as a result, New France survived until 1760, even though they were heavily outnumbered by British settlers.

    Samuel de Champlain was the first Frenchman to explore New France. He landed near the St. Lawrence River in 1603, and later founded a settlement at present day Nova Scotia, which he called Acadia. In 1608 he founded Quebec (one year after Jamestown [1607]). Subsequently, he explored the area of the Great Lakes as far as Port Huron.

    In a fateful turn of events, Champlain joined a group of Huron and Algonquin Indians in an altercation with a group of Iroquois. Attempting to help his newfound friends, he fired his gun, a Harquebus (see picture below) into the Iroquois, and killed two chiefs. The end result was that the Iroquois had no use for the French after that. Later, when they had a friendly meeting with Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing for the Dutch, and also managed to trade for firearms with the Dutch and English, the Iroquois allied with the English rather than the Dutch; and provided a buffer which prevented the French from attacking the English middle colonies. The ultimate outcome of this foolish blunder was to prevent further French expansion into the Atlantic seaboard area. The middle colonies of British America thus enjoyed protection from the French because the Iroquois stood between.

    Champlain ruled New France until his death in 1635 under the auspices of a trading company; however the company’s charter provided that only French Catholics could move into the area. Although the company made a handsome profit, it excluded Huguenots (French Protestants) and any foreigners, regardless of their religious affiliation. Instead, large land grants were made to settlers who attempted to work them under a feudal system in which they were bound to the trading company. As a result, New France was never heavily populated.

    In 1663, New France became a royal colony, and new settlers, including women were sent there. Also tools and farm animals were sent in an attempt to make the colony self-sufficient. Attempts to expand the empire led to the founding of Fort Detroit on Lake Erie.

    In 1673, Louis Joliet and Pere Jacques Marquette ( A Catholic Priest) explored the Mississippi River, as far as the Arkansas River before they turned around for fear of running into the Spanish. They were satisfied that the large river they traveled eventually emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. Later, in 1682, Robert Cavalier, sieur de La Salle sailed to the Gulf, and named the area after Louis XIV – Louisiana.

   The first French colony was near Biloxi, Mississippi in 1699. In 1710 the settlement was moved to present day Mobile, Alabama. In 1718, New Orleans was founded and became the capital of Louisiana. It was at first a proprietary colony but became a royal colony in 1731.

    The French had a great advantage as they had access to the Mississippi and its tributaries which led to the heartland of North America as well as to the Great Lakes of the North. Settlements appeared at a number of places, including Terre Haute ("high ground") and Des Moines ("some monks"). However, because of their desire to trade rather than settle, the area never developed as did British North America. The climate and mosquitoes kept many people away from the area, such that in 1732, its population was 2,000 whites and 3,800 slaves. By 1750, English colonists outnumbered the French 1.5 million to 80,000.

    The French had some advantages that compensated for their lack of population. They were imminently more successful at relations with Indians than were British or Spanish, with the exception of the Iroquois, after Champlain’s blunder. French governors could mobilize troops without worrying about religious or ethnic differences that seemed to be a problem in the English colonies. British colonies often worked at cross-purposes to one another. The colonists in British America often turned this to their advantage, as they were often asked to defend against French; they often would demanded concessions from the governor before they would agree to furnish troops. Many colonial merchants sold foodstuffs to the French, even smuggled supplies to them when England and France were at war with one another on the continent.

The Colonial Wars

For most of the seventeenth century, the British and French Colonies developed in isolation from one another at a time when the mother countries also enjoyed peaceful relations. With the Glorious Revolution of 1688, things changed. For the next sixty four years, the two countries fought each other in four separate wars that spilled over into North America. The series of conflicts , participants, Colonial Wars, dates, and Treaties ending each are described in the following table:

   European War                      Participants              Colonial War                 Dates                         Treaty          

War of the League of Hapsburg (War of the Palatinate England and Holland vs. France King William's War 1689-1697 Treaty of Ryswick (1697)
War of the Spanish Succession England, Austria and Holland vs. France and Spain Queen Anne's War 1702-1713 Peace of Utrecht (1713)
War of the Austrian Succession England and Austria vs. France and Prussia King George's War 1744-1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)
Seven Year's War England and Prussia vs. France, Spain, Austria, and Russia French and Indian War 1754-1763 Peace of Paris (1763)

An excellent narrative, very readable and exciting in its detail which describes the wars in America is A Half Century of Conflict by Francis Parkman. His account of the Indian massacre at Deerfield, Massachusetts is enough to keep one awake at night. Extra credit might be available for those willing to read it.

With the exception of the Seven Years War, the wars in America were but a spark compared to major conflagrations in Europe, but there were consequences. Massachusetts lost 900 men from Boston in the fighting, 2/5% of its population. The result was that the City of Boston was forced to provide public assistance for a large number of widows and orphans. Additionally, Britain had to establish a substantial navy and large standing army to fight the wars, which created an enormous debt. Nationalism ran rampant in Great Britain, to the point of jingoism.

Ø Definition: Jingoism: extreme nationalism characterized by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism. The term derives from the phrase, "by jingo," a variation of "by Jesus," in a rather bellicose English drinking song. To use the phrase "by Jesus," was considered an oath, and improper language.

In England, the expenses and political consequences of the wars led many to claim that their traditional liberties as Englishmen were being supplanted by the central government which was growing more and more tyrannical. In America, the same claims would be made. Additionally, for the first time, colonists developed a sense of fighting for their own country to protect their own interests; that they were in fact Americans, not simply Englishmen living in America. It is no coincidence that the American Revolutionary War as well as the Declaration of Independence followed the Peace of Paris (1763) by only 13 years.

King William’s War: (1689 – 97) Had few major engagements in America. Colonies returned to former prewar status by Peace of Ryswick.

Queen Anne’s War: (1702-1713) Occurred five years after King William’s War. In this war, the Iroquois, who had sided with the British previously, remained neutral, as they were tired of fighting the French. A substantial portion of this war was fought between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. A major portion of this war was the Tuscarora War, led by that tribe against German and Swedish settlers in North Carolina. The war ended when South Carolina slave merchants mobilized friendly Indians to fight the Tuscaroras. In the ensuing war, over 1,000 of them were killed, and 700 enslaved. Those who survived moved North and became the sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederation.

In New England, an exposed frontier from Maine to Massachusetts led to repeated raids by Indians. Many were slaughtered or marched through the snow to be kept in captivity by Indians or French Canadians.

For a compelling account of an Indian attack, read Francis Parkman’s account of the Deerfield Massacre in Massachusetts. It contains sufficient detail to cause one to look under his bed at night.

The War ended with the Peace of Utrecht (1713). Under its terms, France recognized Britain’s title to Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Arcadia (present day Nova Scotia), and sovereignty over the Iroquois, although no one bothered to ask the Iroquois if they consented to this sovereignty. Spain agreed not to transfer any American holdings to a third party, and granted the British a contract to supply Spanish America with 4,800 slaves annually for a period of thirty years.

Indian fighting erupted again in 1715 in South Carolina when the Yemassee and Creek Indians attacked Charleston. This was the Southern Equivalent of King Philip’s War in New England. The Indians once more were unable to present a united front, and this proved their undoing. They were forced to abandon the area after defeat, and retired to Florida.

King George’s War was preceded by a preliminary skirmish between Britain and Spain known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Jenkins was an English seamen who lost an ear to a Spanish soldier, and often brandished the shriveled ear in an effort to arouse passions against Spain’s treatment of smugglers. (How dare they attempt to prevent smuggling!)

Britain at first organized a large expedition to attack Panama. The expedition included thousands of colonists. It proved to be a debacle in which many died of yellow fever. One of the survivors was Lawrence Washington who memorialized the event by naming his Virginia Estate Mount Vernon, in honor of the British Admiral who had led the expedition.

France entered the war in 1744, and it became the War of the Austrian Succession. It ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, and was essentially a draw.

The French and Indian War: More properly noted by Historians as the Seven Years War. Problems arose in North America because British colonists began moving into the Ohio Valley; land claimed by France as part of Louisiana; first fir traders then land speculators who hoped to lay claim the land and later sell it at a profit to settlers. One such group was the Ohio Company which secured a royal grant of 200,000 acres with more promised. Said one French agent to the Indians, "The English are much less anxious to take away your peltries than to become masters of your lands."

Important:  A significant fact that must be remembered is that the Indians did not ally exclusively with the French or British. There were uneasy relationships on both sides. When the French buried lead plates as surveyor markers (mentioned below) the Indians often removed them as they considered it a French claim to Indian lands. The several Indian tribes typically allied with the European power which offered the greatest trade concessions. More often than not, Indian alliances were in opposition to other Indian tribes whom they considered enemies.  The Iroquois fought with the British because they hated the Hurons who sided with the French, and vice versa.

 In an effort to nip the problem in the bud, in 1749 French scouts spied out the land and wooed the Indians. They also buried plates in the soil stating that the land was the property of France, sort of surveyor’s markers. In 1753, the Marquis Duquesne became Governor General of French Canada, and built forts in the area to enforce the French claim. This created major problems for the British, as the French claim to the Ohio River Valley would have left British America surrounded and confined to a narrow strip on the Atlantic Coast, east of the major rivers of present day Pennsylvania.

The Outbreak of War, and a stupid Indian: The British Americans considered the French actions a trespass, (although it could just have easily have been considered a British trespass on French territory) and the governor of Virginia sent an emissary to shoo the French away. In Spring, 1754. a Colonel in the British Army, twenty-eight year old George Washington, and younger brother of one of the owners of the Ohio Company, volunteered. Washington's expedition of thirty men was guided  by an old Indian chieftain known as Tanaghrisson, but called the "Half-King" by the British. Washington had little use for Indians, once stating that they had "nothing human about them, but the shape," but he had no choice if he were to find the French. He encountered a small garrison of forty French soldiers, and a brief skirmish ensued after which the French asked for a truce. The leader of the French garrison, a thirty five year old ensign named Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville lay wounded, but indicated he bore a letter which would resolve the entire issue. The letter from Jumonville's commandant stated he came as an emissary of King Louis XV of France requesting the English to peaceably withdraw from his territory. His translator had difficulty, and Washington turned to get his own translator. While he turned away, the Half-King Indian went to where Jumonville lay on the ground, shouted in French, "Tu n'est pas encore mort, mon pere ("Thou art not yet dead, my father") raised his hatchet and shattered Jumonville's skull. He then pulled out a handful of brain tissue and washed his hands in it. The other Indians took the signal, and immediately opened fire, killing all the Frenchmen but one. Washington was forced to withdraw before the larger French contingent attacked. ort Dequesne on the spot. (It is present day Pittsburgh.) In Spring, 1714, Washington and a group of volunteers erected a short lived stockade known as Fort Necessity. Within a short time, he was forced to surrender it to the French and withdraw.

This minor skirmish led to a major war in Europe and America, but Washington survived it with his reputation untarnished, and had a become world famous, even though he was only 28 years old. The French and Indian war was the first major European war which was ignited on American soil. It soon erupted into a bloody major world war. It had the fourth highest rate of molbilization and was the third bloodiest conflict in American history, exceeded only by World War II, the Civil War, and the American Revolution.

A more recent and excellent book on the Seven Years War is Crucible of War by Fred Anderson. The book not only describes the significant events of the conflict; it also describes the relationship between these events and the outbreak of the American Revolution.

 The Albany Plan of Union: The Board of Trade in London called a meeting in Albany, New York of all Colonies from Maryland northward to plan a defense. A major issue, of course, was the drafting of soldiers to fight, and funding the war. Parliament at this early stage left no doubt that it considered the war an American war and that Americans should both fight and pay for it. The Albany Congress was called to consider a means of joint defense. The Albany Congress (1754) accomplished little, other than a half-hearted promise of support from the Iroquois, but by unanimous vote it adopted the Albany Plan of Union. The Plan had been proposed by Benjamin Franklin, in an article published in his Pennsylvania Gazette. He called it his "Short Hints towards a Scheme for Uniting the Northern Colonies." The plan called for A Chief Executive – "President General of the United Colonies." A Supreme Assembly – "Great Council" members chosen by Colonial Assemblies. The Union would oversee defense, Indian relations, trade and settlement of the West; and could levy taxes to support its programs. He had accompanied his article with a political cartoon of a segmented snake, reading "join or die."

The Plan received virtually no support from the colonies. Newspapers did not discuss it, and every colony rejected it, most with little or not debate. In many colonies, the vote to reject it was unanimous. Only Massachusetts came close to adopting it, as it had borne the heaviest burden in the earlier conflicts. The colonies were simply not ready to work together. They considered their own interests more important than their joint interests; they did not yet seem themselves as "Americans.".The Board of Trade also rejected the plan, as it did not think the colonies were capable of working together, and if they were, it would set a dangerous precedent. Franklin later remarked that it must have been a good plan, because the assembly members thought it gave to much power to the King, and the crown thought it gave to much power to the colonies. The Albany Plan of Union, although rejected, is significant as this was first attempt to unite the Colonies into a United body.

The French and Indian War was very bloody; with many losses on both sides. The decisive battle was the Battle of Quebec, on Plains of Abraham (1759) in which the British Commander, James Wolfe defeated the Marquis de Montcalm. Both leaders were killed in the battle; but Wolfe knew he had won before he died. The War did not end immediately – it continued on for four more years; primarily because the Indians refused to stop fighting. The Ottawa Indians under Pontiac entered war on the side of the French after the defeat of Wolfe in an attempt to lead a pan-Indian revolt. Additionally, the Cherokees in South Carolina led a brutal campaign against settlers there, pushing the frontier back over 100 miles. South Carolina was forced to seek help from the British commander in Chief, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, who sent troops to assist and brutally destroyed Indian villages.

The War finally ended with the Peace of Paris: (1763) under the terms of which Britain took all of French possessions East of Mississippi River (except New Orleans) and all of Spanish Florida. At this point, France had no land claims in North America.Spain received New Orleans and all of Louisiana.

The British invited Spanish settlers in Florida to stay, but the Spanish King ordered them out, and offered them free transportation to Caribbean settlements. Most of the Spanish in Florida sold their land to British speculators at bargain prices – the first Florida real estate swindle.

    The war appeared to completely settle once and for all Britain's claims to North America. Unknowingly, however, the British had set in motion events that would lead to the Revolution. The costs of the war, and the thorny Indian question presented problems which the colonists wished for Parliament to resolve, but were unwilling to accept the terms Parliament dictated. Historians largely agree that the Seven Years War was the opening salvo of the American Revolution, which followed the Treaty of Paris by a mere five years.