French & Indian/Seven Years' War

Aftermath: An Empire Lost, An Empire Gained

A colonial protest against the Stamp Act of 1765. Photograph Source: Public Domain

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The Treaty of Paris

Having abandoned Prussia, clearing the way to make a separate peace with France and Spain, the British entered into peace talks in 1762. After winning stunning victories around the globe, they vigorously debated which captured territories to keep as part of the negotiating process. This debate essentially distilled to an argument for keeping either Canada or islands in the West Indies. While the former was infinitely larger and provided security for Britain's existing North American colonies, the latter produced sugar and other valuable trade commodities. Left with little to trade except Minorca, the French foreign minister, the Duc de Choiseul, found an unexpected ally in the head of the British government, Lord Bute. Believing that some territory had to be returned in order to restore a degree of balance of power, he did not press to complete the British victory at the negotiating table.

By November 1762, Britain and France, with Spain also participating, completed work on a peace agreement dubbed the Treaty of Paris. As part of the agreement, the French ceded all of Canada to Britain and relinquished all claims to territory east of the Mississippi River except New Orleans. In addition, British subjects were guaranteed navigation rights over the length of the river. French fishing rights on the Grand Banks were confirmed and they were allowed to retain the two small islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon as commercial bases. To the south, the British maintained possession of St. Vincent, Dominica, Tobago, and Grenada, but returned Guadeloupe and Martinique to France. In Africa, Gorée was restored to France, but Senegal was kept by the British. On the Indian Subcontinent, France was permitted to re-establish bases that had been founded before 1749, but for trading purposes only. In exchange, the British regained their trading posts in Sumatra. Also, the British agreed to allow former French subjects to continue practicing Roman Catholicism.

A late entry into the war, Spain fared badly on the battlefield and in negotiations. Forced to cede their gains in Portugal, they were locked out of the Grand Banks fisheries. In addition, they were forced trade all of Florida to Britain for the return of Havana and the Philippines. This gave Britain control of the North American coast from Newfoundland to New Orleans. The Spanish were also required to acquiesce to a British commercial presence in Belize. As compensation for entering the war, France transferred Louisiana to Spain under the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau.

The Treaty of Hubertusburg

Hard pressed in the war's final years, Frederick the Great and Prussia saw fortune shine on them when Russia exited the war following Empress Elizabeth's death in early 1762. Able to concentrate his few remaining resources against Austria, he won battles at Burkersdorf and Freiburg. Cut off from British financial resources, Frederick accepted Austrian entreaties to begin peace talks in November 1762. These talks ultimately produced the Treaty of Hubertusburg which was signed on February 15, 1763. The terms of the treaty were an effective return to status quo ante bellum. As a result, Prussia retained the wealthy province of Silesia which it had gained by the1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and which had been a flashpoint for the current conflict. Though battered by the war, the result led to a newfound respect for Prussia and an acceptance of the nation as one of the great powers of Europe.

The Road to Revolution

Debate over the Treaty of Paris began in Parliament on December 9, 1762. Though not required for approval, Bute felt it a prudent political move as the treaty's terms had unleashed a great deal of public outcry. The opposition to the treaty was led by his predecessors William Pitt and the Duke of Newcastle who felt that the terms were far too lenient and who criticized the government's abandonment of Prussia. Despite the vocal protest, the treaty passed the House of Commons by a vote of 319-64. As a result, the final document was officially signed on February 10, 1763.

While triumphant, the war had badly stressed Britain's finances plunging the nation into debt. In an effort to alleviate these financial burdens, the government in London began exploring various options for raising revenues and underwriting the cost of colonial defense. Among those pursued were a variety of proclamations and taxes for the North American colonies. Though a wave of goodwill for Britain existed in the colonies in the wake of the victory, it was quickly extinguished that fall with the Proclamation of 1763 which forbade American colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. This was intended to stabilize relations with the Native American population, most of which had sided with France in the recent conflict, as well as reduce the cost of colonial defense. In America, the proclamation was met with outrage as many colonists had either purchased land west of the mountains or had received land grants for services rendered during the war.

This initial anger was escalated by a series of new taxes including the Sugar Act (1764), Currency Act (1765), Stamp Act (1765), Townshend Acts (1767), and Tea Act (1773). Lacking a voice in Parliament, the colonists claimed "taxation without representation," and protests and boycotts swept through the colonies. This widespread anger, coupled with a rise in liberalism and republicanism, placed the American colonies on the road to the American Revolution.

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Hickman, Kennedy. "French & Indian/Seven Years' War." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Hickman, Kennedy. (2020, August 26). French & Indian/Seven Years' War. Retrieved from Hickman, Kennedy. "French & Indian/Seven Years' War." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).