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America: 1763-1776

The Colonies and Mother Country at the Close of the French and Indian War


The Colonies and Mother Country at the Close of the French and Indian War, page 2

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When the French and Indian War, and its European counterpart, the Seven Years War, officially came to a close with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, North America was divided territorially between the British and Spanish. Britain had driven the French from the continent, and extended its land claims west to the Mississippi River. It seemed that British holdings in North America and all over the world were more secure than ever, but there were signs of trouble brewing in the American colonies. The French had been driven from the continent by a coalition of Britons, colonists, and Native Americans. However, once peace was restored, this three-pronged alliance showed signs of crumbling.

One source of conflict arose between the colonial and British soldiers. In Britain, it was widely assumed that the professional troops sent to the colonies deserved full credit for British victory in the war. In reality, about 40 percent of the regular soldiers who served in the war enlisted in America. American soldiers complained constantly during and after the war that British public opinion drastically underestimated America's part.

British soldiers, for their part, bemoaned the ineptitude of the colonial troops. They claimed the colonials were useless in battle and had no real sense of duty, tending to return home, even in the midst of a campaign, when their terms were up or they were not paid on time. Colonial troops denied these charges, and complained of British arrogance and contemptuousness in dealings with the colonials.

British troops also quarreled with colonial civilians, who were often reluctant to provide food and shelter to the British, and consistently complained of the troops' poor behavior. Pennsylvania Quakers, as pacifists, voted against appropriating funds for the war effort, and Massachusetts and New York also took a stand against the quartering of British troops in their colonies. British Parliament, and King George III, viewed these actions as antagonistic to the British effort to defend imperial territories.

Another major area of contention was taxation. The colonies had profited greatly form the war. Military contracts and expenditures by British troops had meant a large inflow of British currency. Trade flourished, and many American's traded with the French West Indies. This trade was illegal in peace time, and seen as morally reprehensible during a war against the French, but it proved very profitable. Meanwhile, the British national debt had climbed from 72 million pounds before the war to 132 million at its end. To pay down this debt, Britain instituted a land tax at home, and imposed excise tax on many commonly traded goods.

However, the colonists felt burdened as well. During the war, prosperous colonists had developed a taste for imported goods. In fact, the annual value of British imports to the colonies had doubled. Once the wartime economic boom ended, many Americans went into debt trying to maintain their middle-class lifestyle. Colonial debts to Britain grew rapidly, and many began to suspect that the British were intentionally plotting to enslave the colonists economically.

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