Tensions over the shifting balance of power in Europe that exploded during the War of Austrian Succession carried over into the North American colonies of the great powers of Europe. After the treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle that ended the War of Austrian Succession, Maria Theresa of Austria began building alliances with her former enemies, France and Spain, in an effort to counter Prussia’s growing power on the continent. Britain allied with Frederick II of Prussia in an effort to prevent Maria Theresa and the Hapsburg dynasty from regaining their former domination. Only six years after the treaty of Aix-La-Chapplle, the new alliances went to war again, engaging in conflict on both the European continent and within the North American colonies, where the conflict was known as the French and Indian War. Great Britain saw a growing danger in France’s new alliance with Austria and continuing expansion on the North American continent. Allied with the Seven Indian Nations of Canada, the French struggled to maintain a presence in Canada and in the disputed Ohio River valley. By 1760, the French had effectively lost any claim to the Ohio River valley and were pushed further back into Canada.
Captain George Washington leading troops through the wilderness
To the General Assembly, held at Newbern, the Twelfth Day of December, 1754.Gentlemen of his Majesty’s Council, Mr. Speaker, and Gentlemen of the Assembly,Having in my Speech to you at your Meeting, told that I should, in a more ample Manner, lay before you the Grand Plan of France, to ruin and distress all the British Colonies on this Continent, I take the earliest Opportunity of laying their wicked and enslaving Scheme before you, that you may see the Necessity there is of granting a reasonable and immediate Supply, and entering into a Plan of Union with all the British Colonies, for our mutual future Defence:The French, ever active and ambitious, under the insatiable and rapacious House of Bourbon, whose Ministers having destroyed the Gallic Liberties by the establishing an arbitrary Power in the King alone, have, for near Two Centuries, laid a Plan for enslaving Europe, by ruining the Liberties of the Germanick Body, and Protestant Interest of Europe: Their first Attempt was to ruin the House of Austria, by playing the Germanick Body against their Head, and raising themselves upon its Ruin; and made Use of the Germanick Protestant Powers for that Purpose, when, at the same Time, they were ruining the Protestants in France, and depriving the French of their Liberties; whilst they were extending their Limits, and the Expence of Germany, and the Spanish Branch of the House of Austria; and by that Means had forced the House of Spain, for the Sake of Peace, to intermarry with the House of Bourbon, upon their Solemn Enunciation of their Right of Succession to the Spanish Monarchy: That fatal Match has been the Cause of the late expensive Wars, and has endangered the Loss of the Liberties of Europe; for by the Gallic Intrigues, they have established a younger Branch of the House of Bourbon, to govern the Spanish Monarchy; which by its l’retention to, and Possession of, above half of America, which they claim as their Right only by a Papal Donation, have acquired a Dominion more extensive and rich than any Empire ever known on the Globe: Thus France, from a Powerful Enemy, have made the Spanish Monarchy a confirmed and potent Ally, with some Hopes, I fear too well grounded, of its being sooner or later united to the Gallic Monarchy.But the French, after Two long and bloody Wars, having been obstructed in their Plan of aggrandizing themselves in Europe, by failing in their Attempt of ruining the House of Austria, by the Prudence, Magnanimity, and steady Conduct of our most gracious King, the Father of his People, who, supported by the Courage, Wealth, and Naval Power of the British Empire, by powerfully supporting and assisting his Allies, hath defeated the Gallic future Schemes in Europe: The French, made at their Disappointment, finding that the British Liberties and Protestant Interest are secure under his Majesty’s Government, and confirmed by the Protestant Succession in his illustrious House; and that Britain can’t be conquered or reduced but by ruining Commerce, by confining, invading, and conjuring all our American Colonies, by first attempting the Colonies on the Continent; for by securing the Fisheries, and Naval Stores of America, they would increase their Marina, and ruin the Commerce, and with it the Naval Power of Britain; and then they wou’d divide America with the Spaniards, and the whole wou’d center in the House of Bourbon, for then, by the Assistance of France, Portugal must fall an early Prey to the Power of Spain, and the French wou’d stipulate to have the Brazil, Africa, and India, yielded to them as the elder Branch of the House of Bourbon, and then the Wealth and Power of Britain being reduced, all the Powers of Europe, tho’ united, could not withstand the united Power and Wealth of the House of Bourbon, it being demonstrable, that those who have the Wealth, Power, and Commerce of America, Africa, and the Indies, must be Masters of the Liberties of Europe.The Gallic Branch of the House of Bourbon, distinguished of late for their worse than punic Faith, have, for at least a Century, never ended one War, but with a View to extend their Power and Dominions in Time of Peace, by Force or Intrigues, and to prepare for another War; and think it no Crime to invade or incroach upon their Neighbours, who obstruct their Schemes, in profound Peace, thinking themselves not bound by the most solemn Treaties, if they prevent their aggrandizing their Empire.
This has been very notorious formerly in Europe, but their Schemes proving abortive there, they have of late prosecuted their Plan in America: Have they not, contrary to the most solemn Treaties, deprived us of the greatest and best Part of Nova Scotia, to the Westward of the Bay of Fundi? Erected Forts at Chinecto, to confine us within the Peninsula? and made another, and are forming a Settlement on the River of St. John’s, to ruin the Trade of New-England, and the Northern Colonies, by their Privateers in the next War, when we shall be couped up by their Shipping there, and at Lousburg? Have not they by their hellish Missionaries, spirited up all their Indian Allies to massacre and make Depredations, not only in Nova Scotia, but against all our Northern Colonies? Have they not erected a Fort at Crown-point, to distress and confine our Colonies of New England, and New York, on Lands which are the undoubted Right of his Majesty? Have they not erected a Fort at Niagara, upon the Lands of the Six Nations, our acknowledged and declared Allies by the Treaty of Utrecht? Have they not laid a Claim to, and erected Forts upon his Majesty’s Lands on the back of Virginia, and pretend a Right to all the Lands beyond the Mountains, as far as the Mississippi? Have they not, contrary to the Right of Treaties, deprived us of the Indian Trade, and seized our Traders and all their Goods, in Time of profound Peace? Have not they privately sent over and increased their Forces, from Time to Time, both in Louisiana, and Canada? And have not they sent Forces from Louisiana, to erect a Fort on the Entrance of the Ouabach, or River of St. Jerome, into the Ohio? Are not these enormous Invasions and Incroachments in Time of Peace? Are not they gaining all the Indian Nations, intercepting and depriving us of our Indian Allies, and daily instigating their Allies to scalp, massacre, and destroy our Settlers: These are all Facts too notorious and recent to be denied; and must naturally discover to us the whole Plan and Scheme laid by the French to confine, conquer, and enslave all our Colonies.
A Scheme grand in its Extent, romantic in Appearance, and even beyond the Power of France to execute, altho’ the Crown has an absolute Power over all the Private Purses of his Subjects, when he has a Call for them; provided the Colonies exert their native Force Immediately, and repel them to their inhospitable cold Colony of Canada, and confine them to the hot Sands of Louisiana. The Plan that they have laid, is no less than immediately to confine our Colonies betwixt the Mountains and the Eastern Ocean, by erecting Forts from Canada to Louisiana, upon the Ohio, and Principal Rivers betwixt the Two Colonies, fixing strong Garrisons in them, and so forming a Chain for above 2000 Miles to prevent our corresponding or trading with our Indian Allies. When that is done; and they have, by Menaces, or by their hellish Jesuitical Missionaries, made Proselytes of them, not to the true Christian Religion, founded on Peace, Benignity, and Brotherly Love, but to the Pomps and outward Trappings of the Popish Hierarchy and Superstition; and have inspired an enthusiastick Fury into them against Protestants, whom they call Hereticks, making it meritorous in them to massacre and destroy them, upon which they assure them their future Happiness depends; then they propose proceeding further, and to seize and secure all the Passes on the Mountains, and head the Indians against all our Colonies, and force us to become tributary, or to submit to the arbitrary Government of France, and become their Slaves, or be massacred by them and their Indians, or be forced out of our Religion, Liberties, and Properties; a fatal Dilemma, should they execute their Scheme!
This Scheme, hatched in Hell, and supported by the Court of Rome, so iniquitous and unlikely to be brought to Perfection, could never be adopted by the Court of France, if they were not pre-possessed that the British Colonies were unwilling, or incapable of uniting and exerting their Force; imagining, (for which they have some Grounds,) that the several Colonies are like a Rope of Sand, each guided by selfish partial Views; and that each Planter is more wedded to his own private Gain, than to defend the Rights of his Community, or of the Neighbouring Colonies, and will not part with a Share of his Wealth, to secure the Remainder, imagining, that he will be the last that shall suffer, or vainly expecting, that Britain can and will be at the whole Expence, and let them indolently look on, so that before they can be brought to act, the French will have formed the Chain, and gain their Ends: They also consider the military Genious of the French Gentry, who are all educated with a View to Pomp and Power, and their whole Thoughts are turn’d to support the Glory of the Grand Monarque, and therefore are never easy in Time of Peace, but always forming Projects for aggrandizing France by the next War; so that this villainous Opinion they have of the British Planters in the Colonies, and the enthusiastic Spirit of their military Gentry, induce the French Ministry to undertake Schemes beyond their Power to execute.
If we then give the French Time to execute the Scheme they have begun, the Liberties, Properties, and Protestant Religion in these Colonies, will be unavoidably lost.
How miserable must be the Condition then of all our Colonies, when confined within the Mountains, deprived of all the Inland Trade of the Continent, and the Indians, from being our faithful Allies, obliged to become our inveterate Enemies, drove by them from the Mountains toward the Sea Coast, our Sea Coast attacked by flying French Squadrons, and Privateers: In this Situation we must submit to be Slaves to France, become their hewers of Wood, and drawers of Water, supporting them with most enormous Taxes.
God Almighty, who by his Providence under the Conduct of our Messiah, hath, in many remarkable Instances, defeated all Popish Schemes, when the Protestant Interest and Liberties of Britain seem’d to be at the Brink of Ruin: Our Messiah, who is ever a beneficent Guardian to his true Protestant Church, founded on Justice, Humanity, and social Love, hath now put it into our Power to make their whole Scheme abortive; if we exert our whole Native Force without loss of Time by infatuating their Councils, and permitting them to discover and enter upon the Execution of their Plan, before they are prepared and strengthened by a sufficient Force from France; it being evident at present, that we out number the French Colonies upon this Continent by above Forty to One, and are yet strengthened with many brave Indian Allies, so that we vastly exceed both in Wealth and Number all the French upon the Continent, or those they can support, if sent from France, in their present inhospitable Colonies.
Great Britain, which has formed and nursed up these Colonies from their Infancy to a State of Manhood, and hath greatly increased their Numbers and Wealth, by protecting them hitherto, and fending or permitting many British Families to come and settle in their Colonies; and who, by their mild free Government, have encouraged many Foreign Protestants to come over and settle and increase their Numbers; and though they are loaded with Debts and enormous, tho’ necessary, Taxes; hath not only protected these Colonies, but indulged them in paying a small Quit-Rent, and the easiest Taxes (spent in their own Support,) of any civilized Nation on the Globe. Whilst Britain, and every State in Europe, are loaded with Taxes, and most of the trading nations with heavy Debts; whilst Britain is struggling under these Difficulties, altho’ the Parliament hath a Power of taxing the Colonies for their own Support, by taking off the Premiums they pay us for some of our Export; and laying on Duties upon what we export to Britain, or elsewhere; yet his Majesty, in Regard to his faithful Colonies, is only desirous that they should unite and form a Society amongst themselves, to raise a proper and adequate Quota or Fund for their mutual Support and Defence, that the united Force of the Colonies may act together and have its due Weight; and leaves it to the Colonies, to consider of the most equitable and proper Method of raising the Taxes which are necessary for the Support of his Government, their own Peace and Safety; and a reasonable Sum from each of the Colonies to be laid up as a Fund, to support and increase our Indian Allies, and to prevent all Foreign Invasions and Incroachments: And if France shou’d still go on with their romantic Scheme, when they see we shall exert our whole Native Force, and should pour in Troops from France to enslave us, then his Majesty will exert his Power, and maintain the Rights of Britain by their Naval Power, and enable the Colonies to support their just Rights and Properties.
In this critical Situation, let us, his Majesty’s faithful Subjects of the Colony of North Carolina, shew that we are true sons of Britain, whose Ancestors have been ever famous for defending their valuable Religion, and Liberties; and that we are still inspired with the same Spirit of Liberty, and are determined to support our Religious and Civil Rights, and hand them down to our Posterity: Let us shew, that tho’ we are one of the latest settled Colonies, and scarcely arrived at the State of Manhood that our neighbouring Colonies have attained to, either in Wealth or Number, yet that we are still ready to exert our Power, and grant an immediate Supply to assist in the General Defence of the Colonies; and that as we have already shewn a good Example, so we shall continue to be a laudable Precedent to the rest of the more opulent Colonies; and instead of entering into Private Party Quarrels, as some have done, or postponing or putting off proper Supplies, as some others have done, by an ill-judged Economy, or out of a penurious selfish Consideration, as some Proprietary and Charter Colonies have done, vainly imagining that the Danger is at a Distance, and that they will leave the Brunt of it to others; and that Britain, loaded with Debts and Taxes, will defend them, and indulge them in living without Taxes, or assisting in the General Defence of the Colonies. Let us then chearfully give what is reasonable and proper for us, by an immediate Supply, as well knowing that a moderate Sum now granted, will go farther in securing our Rights and Properties, than Ten Times as much if longer delayed: Let us then inspire the other Colonies with an equal Fire to maintain their Religion and Liberties, and to preserve the Friendship, and defend the Rights of our Indian Allies. this, as grateful Men, we owe to them, for the Happiness we enjoy in possessing these fine Climates and rich lands of America, which was once theirs, either by Possession or Conquest; this we owe to them, as free Men and true Christians, to promote their Happiness, and make them Partakers of our happy Constitution, and extending it thro’ the Continent, by endeavouring to civilize and incorporate with them, and to lay a Foundation for their becoming Christians; and this true Christian Zeal will heap Blessings upon all our Colonies and our Posterity.
Let us then behave like generous Brave Men and true Christians; for a little while confine our Appetites and Luxuries, and part with a reasonable Part of our Wealth to preserve the Remainder, and our happy Constitution in Church and State, to our latest Posterity; this will shew the Gallic Monarch, and his insatiable Ministry, that we are not to be intimidated or to be bullied out of our Rights, and that if he should insist upon his romantic Scheme of surrounding, confining, and enslaving us, that we will jointly and unanimously support our valuable Religion, Liberties, and Properties, with our Lives and Fortunes; and that whilst we behave like brave Men, and true Christians, we are sure of the Protection of God our Messiah, and that we shall not only be happy in this World, but to endless Ages.
The unwarrantable Proceedings of the French in the West Indies, and North America, since the Conclusion of the Treaty of Aix la Chapelle, and the Usurpations and Encroachments made by them upon Our Territories, and the Settlements of Our Subjects in those Parts, Particularly in Our Province of Nova Scotia, have been so notorious, and so frequent, that they cannot but be looked upon as a sufficient Evidence of a formed Design and Resolution in that Court, to pursue invariable such Measures, as should most effectually promote their ambitious Views, without any Regard to the most solemn Treaties and Engagements. We have not been wanting on Our Part, to make, from time to time, the most serious Representations to the French King, upon these repeated Acts of Violence, and to endeavour to obtain Redress and Satisfaction for the Injuries done to Our Subjects, and to prevent the like Causes of Complaint for the future: But though frequent Assurances have been given, that every thing should be settled agreeable to the Treaties subsisting between the Two Crowns, and particularly, that the Evacuation of the Four Neutral Islands in the West Indies, should be effected (which was expressly promised to Our Ambassador in France) the Execution of these Assurances, and of the Treaties on which they were founded, has been evaded under the most frivolous Pretences; and the unjustifiable Practices of the French Governors, and of the Officers acting under their Authority, were still carried on, till, at length, in the Month of April, One thousand seven hundred and fifty four, they broke out in open Acts of Hostility, when, in Time of profound Peace, without any Declaration of War, and without any previous Notice given, or Application made, a Body of French Troops, under the Command of an Officer bearing the French King’s Commission, attacked in a hostile Manner, and possessed themselves of the English Fort on the Ohio in North America.
But notwithstanding this Act of Hostility, which could not but be looked upon as a Commencement of War, yet, from Our earnest Desire of Peace, and in Hopes the Court of France would disavow this Violence and Injustice, We contented Ourselves with fending such a Force to America, as was indispensably necessary for the immediate Defence and Protection of Our Subjects against fresh Attacks and Insults.
In the mean Time great Naval Armaments were preparing in the Ports of France, and a considerable Body of French Troops embarked for North America; and though the French Ambassador was sent back to England with specious Professions of a Desire to accommodate these Differences, yet it appeared, that their real Design was only to gain Time for the Passage of those Troops to America, which they hoped would secure the Superiority of the French Forces in those Parts, and enable them to carry their ambitious and oppressive Projects into Execution.
In these Circumstances We could not but think it incumbent upon Us, to endeavour to prevent the Success of so dangerous a Design, and to oppose the Landing of the French Troops in America ; and, in Consequence of the just and necessary Measures We had taken for that Purpose, the French Ambassador was immediately recalled from Our Court; The Fortifications at Dunkirk, which had been repairing for some Time, were enlarged; great Bodies of Troops marched down to the Coast; and Our Kingdoms were threatened with an Invasion.
In order to prevent the Execution of these Designs, and to provide for the Security of Our Kingdoms, which were thus threatened, We could no longer forbear giving Orders for the seizing at Sea the Ships of the French King, and his Subjects. Notwithstandingwhich, as We were still unwilling to give up all Hopes that an Accommodation might be effected, We have contented Ourselves hitherto with detaining the said Ships, and preserving them, and (as far as was possible) their Cargoes intire, without proceeding to the Confiscation of them ; but it being now evident, by the hostile Invasion actually made by the French King of Our Island of Minorca, that it is the determined Resolution of that Court to hearken to no Terms of Peace, but to carry on the War, which has been long begun on their Part, with the utmost Violence, We can no longer remain, consistently with what We owe to Our own Honour, and to the Welfare of Our Subjects, within those Bounds, which, from a Desire of Peace, We had hitherto observed.
We have therefore thought proper to declare War; and We do hereby Declare War against the French King, who hath so unjustly begun it, relying on the Help of Almighty God, in Our just Undertaking, and being assured of the hearty Concurrence and Assistance of Our Subjects, in support of so good a Cause; hereby willing and requiring Our Captain General of Our Forces, Our Commissioners for executing the Office of Our High Admiral of Great Britain, Our Lieutenants of Our several Counties, Governors of Our Forts and Garrisons, and all other Officers and Soldiers under them, by Sea and Land, to do and execute all Acts of Hostility, in the Prosecution of this War against the French King, his Vassals and Subjects, and to oppose their Attempts: Willing and requiring all Our Subjects to take Notice of the same, whom We henceforth strictly forbid to hold any Correspondence or Communication with the said French King, or his Subjects. And We do hereby command Our own Subjects, and advertise all other Persons, of what Nation soever, not to transport or carry any Soldiers, Arms, Powder, Ammunition, or other Contraband Goods, to any of the Territories, Lands, Plantations, or Countries of the said French King; Declaring, That whatever Ship or Vessel shall be met withal, transporting or carrying Soldiers, Arms, Powder, Ammunition, or any other Contraband Goods, to any of the Territories, Lands, Plantations, or Countries of the said French King, the same, being taken, shall be condemned as good and lawful Prize.
And whereas there are remaining in Our Kingdom divers of the Subjects of the French King, We do hereby declare Our Royal Intention to be, That all the French Subjects who shall demean themselves dutifully towards Us, shall be safe in their Persons and Effects.
Given at Our Court of Kensington, the Seventeenth Day of May, 1756, in the Twenty ninth Year of Our Reign.
God save the King.