The Seven Years' War encompassed many conflicts fought on battlefields around much of the world and pitted France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and Spain against an alliance composed of Great Britain, Prussia, and Hanover. During this period, Britain and France fought over land and trade in India, North America and the Caribbean. By the time the war ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1763, Britain had wrested control of Canada and all of the land east of the Mississippi in the United States.
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War was primarily fought between the colonists of British America and the colonists of New France, but both sides received support in the form of military units sent by their respective countries. The conflict became known as the French and Indian War after some Native American tribes allied with the French and joined the skirmish. Though Britain ultimately won the war, the ripple effects caused tensions that eventually led to the American Revolution. For example, Britain increased some taxes on the colonists to recoup part of the costs of war, and it put strict limitations on exports, such as molasses, which could disrupt its own trade system.
After the French and Indian War ended, colonists continued to move westward and fight with Native Americans for land. At the same time, Native Americans who had been allied with the French during the war became unhappy when the new British rulers stopped the practice of gift giving to tribal leaders. After the leader of the Ottawa tribe rallied with other tribes to attack British forts in the west, the British government issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which forbid settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Purchase of Western lands was only permitted with the Crown's consent.
Enforcement of the Proclamation
The U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian notes that enforcement of the proclamation was ineffective. Britain did not have the money or the manpower to properly guard the territory or to punish those who violated the proclamation. This eventually led to increased hostilities between Britain and the Native Americans, who wanted to protect their land, and between Britain and the colonists, who bristled at the additional taxes for the outposts required in the territory. The tensions fueled the chain of events that led to the American Revolution only a year later.
Effects in Canada
Britain also took control of Canada at the end of the French and Indian War, and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 applied to lands in Canada, as well. The proclamation established the territory of Quebec, and anything west of the Atlantic coast at Quebec was considered off limits to settlers.Though the proclamation was overturned by the American Revolution in the United States, it was never officially overturned in Canada, and legal disputes still arise from it. The treaty is known as the "Indian Magna Carta" in Canada, and it was considered an important step toward recognizing the rights of aboriginal peoples.
- U.S. History.org: The French & Indian War
- History.com: Seven Years' War
- The University Of British Columbia: Royal Proclamation, 1763
- U.S. Department Of State: Office Of The Historian: Milestones: 1750-1775
- Constitutional Rights Foundation: Timeline For American Independence
- U.S. History.org: Proclamation Of 1763
- TeachingHistory.org: The Proclamation Of 1763
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images