Seven Year War
The French and Indian War (1754-1763) is the name for the North American theater of the Seven Years War. The war was fought primarily between the colonies of Great Britain and New France, with both sides supported by forces from Europe. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict involving Britain and France. The two main enemies of the British colonists were the royal French forces and the various Native American forces allied with them, although Great Britain also had Native allies.
The war was fought primarily along the frontiers separating New France from the British colonies from Virginia to Nova Scotia, and began with a dispute over the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, the site of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The French War and Native Territories
At the start of the war, there were no French regular army troops in North America, and few British troops. Most British colonies mustered ill-trained militia companies to deal with native threats, but did not have any standing forces. The colonial governments were also used to operating independently of each other, and of the government in London, a situation that complicated negotiations with natives whose territories encompassed land claimed by multiple colonies. After the war began, the British Army establishment attempted to impose constraints and demands on the colonial administrations.
Most of the northern tribes sided with the French, their primary trading partner and supplier of arms. In 1758 the Pennsylvania government successfully negotiated the Treaty of Easton, in which a number of tribes in the Ohio Country promised neutrality in exchange for land concessions and other considerations. It was not uncommon for small bands to participate on the "other side" of the conflict from formally-negotiated agreements.
After the disastrous 1757 British campaigns (resulting in a failed expedition against Louisbourg and the Siege of Fort William Henry, which was followed by significant atrocities on British victims by Indians), the British government fell, and William Pitt came to power. (Figure 2) Pitt significantly increased British military resources in the colonies, while France was unwilling to risk large convoys to aid the limited forces it had in New France, preferring instead to concentrate its forces against Prussia and its allies in the European theatre of the war. Between 1758 and 1760, the British military successfully penetrated the heartland of New France, with Montreal finally falling in September 1760.
Treaty of Paris
Most of the fighting between France and Britain in continental North America ended in 1760, while the fighting in Europe continued. The war in North America officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, and war in the European theatre of the Seven Years' War was settled by the Treaty of Hubertusburg on February 15, 1763. France ceded French Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to its ally Spain in compensation for Spain's loss to Britain of Florida (which Spain had given to Britain in exchange for the return of Havana, Cuba). France's colonial presence north of the Caribbean was reduced to the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, confirming Britain's position as the dominant colonial power in the eastern half of North America.
A New Dynamic
For France however, the military defeat and the financial burden of the war weakened the monarchy and contributed to the advent of the French Revolution in 1789. For many native populations, the elimination of French power in North America meant the disappearance of a strong ally and counterweight to British expansion, leading to their ultimate dispossession. Although the Spanish takeover of the Louisiana territory (which was not completed until 1769) had only modest repercussions, the British takeover of Spanish Florida resulted in the westward migration of tribes that did not want to do business with the British, and a rise in tensions between the Choctaw and the Creek, historic enemies whose divisions the British at times exploited. The change of control in Florida also prompted most of its Spanish Catholic population to leave.
Britain gained control of French Canada and Acadia, colonies containing approximately 80,000 primarily French-speaking Roman Catholic residents. The British resettled many Acadians throughout its North American provinces, but many went to France, and some went to New Orleans, which they had expected to remain French.
Following the peace treaty, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on October 7, 1763, which outlined the division and administration of the newly conquered territory. To some extent this proclamation continues to govern relations between the government of modern Canada and the First Nations.