France and Britain engaged in a succession of wars in Europe and the Caribbean throughout the 18th century . Though Britain secured certain advantages — primarily in the sugar-rich islands of the Carib- bean — the struggles were generally indecisive, and France remained in a powerful position in North Ameri- ca . By 1754, France still had a strong relationship with a number of Na- tive American tribes in Canada and along the Great Lakes . It controlled the Mississippi River and, by estab- lishing a line of forts and trading posts, had marked out a great cres- cent-shaped empire stretching from Quebec to New Orleans . The British remained confined to the narrow belt east of the Appalachian Moun- tains . Thus the French threatened not only the British Empire but also the American colonists themselves, for in holding the Mississippi Valley, France could limit their westward expansion .

An armed clash took place in 1754 at Fort Duquesne, the site where




Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is now lo- cated, between a band of French reg- ulars and Virginia militiamen under the command of 22-year-old George Washington, a Virginia planter and surveyor . The British government attempted to deal with the conflict by calling a meeting of representa- tives from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the New England colonies . From June 19 to July 10, 1754, the Albany Congress, as it came to be known, met with the Iro- quois in Albany, New York, in order to improve relations with them and secure their loyalty to the British .

But the delegates also declared a union of the American colonies “ab- solutely necessary for their preserva- tion” and adopted a proposal drafted by Benjamin Franklin . The Albany Plan of Union provided for a pres- ident appointed by the king and a grand council of delegates chosen by the assemblies, with each colony to be represented in proportion to its financial contributions to the gen- eral treasury . This body would have charge of defense, Native American relations, and trade and settlement of the west . Most importantly, it would have independent authority to levy taxes . But none of the colonies accepted the plan, since they were not prepared to surrender either the power of taxation or control over the development of the western lands to a central authority .

England’s superior strategic posi- tion and her competent leadership ultimately brought victory in the

conflict with France, known as the French and Indian War in Ameri- ca and the Seven Years’ War in Eu- rope . Only a modest portion of it was fought in the Western Hemisphere .

In the Peace of Paris (1763), France relinquished all of Canada, the Great Lakes, and the territory east of the Mississippi to the Brit- ish . The dream of a French empire in North America was over .

Having triumphed over France, Britain was now compelled to face a problem that it had hitherto ne- glected, the governance of its em- pire . London thought it essential to organize its now vast possessions to facilitate defense, reconcile the diver- gent interests of different areas and peoples, and distribute more evenly the cost of imperial administration .

In North America alone, British territories had more than doubled . A population that had been predom- inantly Protestant and English now included French-speaking Catholics from Quebec, and large numbers of partly Christianized Native Ameri- cans . Defense and administration of the new territories, as well as of the old, would require huge sums of money and increased personnel . The old colonial system was obviously inadequate to these tasks . Measures to establish a new one, however, would rouse the latent suspicions of colonials who increasingly would see Britain as no longer a protector of their rights, but rather a danger to them . 9

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