CHAPTER VIII. SEVEN YEARS' WAR, 1756-1763 - ENGLAND's OVERWHELMING POWER AND CONQUESTS ON THE SEAS, IN NORTH AMERICA, EUROPE, AND EAST AND WEST INDIES. SEA BATTLES: BYNG OFF MINORCA; HAWKE AND CONFLANS; POCOCK AND D'ACHE' IN EAST INDIES.
In North America, the declaration of peace was followed by renewed agitation, which sprang from and betokened the deep feeling and keen sense of the situation had by the colonists and local authorities on either side. The Americans held to their points with the stubbornness of their race. "There is no repose for our thirteen colonies," wrote Franklin, "so long as the French are masters of Canada." The rival claims to the central unsettled region, which may accurately enough be called the valley of the Ohio, involved, if the English were successful, the military separation of Canada from Louisiana; while on the other hand, occupation by the French, linking the two extremes of their acknowledged possessions, would shut up the English colonists between the Alleghany Mountains and the sea. The issues were apparent enough to leading Americans of that day, though they were more far-reaching than the wisest of them could have foreseen; there is room for curious speculation as to the effect, not only upon America, but upon the whole world, if the French government had had the will, and the French people the genius, effectively to settle and hold the northern and western regions which they then claimed. But while Frenchmen upon the spot saw clearly enough the coming contest and the terrible disadvantage of unequal numbers and inferior navy under which Canada must labor, the home government was blind alike to the value of the colony and to the fact that it must be fought for; while the character and habits of the French settlers, lacking in political activity and unused to begin and carry through measures for the protection of their own interests, did not remedy the neglect of the mother-country. The paternal centralizing system of French rule had taught the colonists to look to the mother-country, and then failed to take care of them. The governors of Canada of that day acted as careful and able military men, doing what they could to supply defects and weaknesses; it is possible that their action was more consistent and well-planned than that of the English governors; but with the carelessness of both home governments, nothing in the end could take the place of the capacity of the English colonists to look out for themselves. It is odd and amusing to read the conflicting statements of English and French historians as to the purposes and aims of the opposing statesmen in these years when the first murmurings of the storm were heard; the simple truth seems to be that one of those conflicts familiarly known to us as irrepressible was at hand, and that both governments would gladly have avoided it. The boundaries might be undetermined; the English colonists were not.
The French governors established posts where they could on the debatable ground, and it was in the course of a dispute over one of these, in 1754, that the name of Washington first appears in history. Other troubles occurred in Nova Scotia, and both home governments then began to awake. In 1755 Braddock's disastrous expedition was directed against Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburg, where Washington had surrendered the year before. Later in the year another collision between the English and French colonists happened near Lake George. Although Braddock's expedition had been first to start, the French government was also moving. In May of the same year a large squadron of ships-of-war, mostly armed en_flute, sailed from Brest with three thousand troops, and a new governor, De Vaudreuil, for Canada. Admiral Boscawen had already preceded this fleet, and lay in wait for it off the mouth of the St. Lawrence. There was as yet no open war, and the French were certainly within their rights in sending a garrison to their own colonies; but Boscawen's orders were to stop them. A fog which scattered the French squadron also covered its passage; but two of the ships were seen by the English fleet and captured, June 8, 1755. As soon as this news reached Europe, the French ambassador to London was recalled, but still no declaration of war followed. In July, Sir Edward Hawke was sent to sea with orders to cruise between Ushant and Cape Finisterre, and to seize any French ships-of-the-line he might see; to which were added in August further orders to take all French ships of every kind, men-of-war, privateers, and merchantmen, and to send them into English ports. Before the end of the year, three hundred trading vessels, valued at six million dollars, had been captured, and six thousand French seamen were imprisoned in England, - enough to man nearly ten ships-of-the-line. All this was done while nominal peace still existed. War was not declared until six months later.
- - 1. That is, with the guns on board, but for the most part not mounted on their carriages in order to give increased accommodation for troops. When the troops were landed, the guns were mounted. [Proofreader's note: This surely refers to "en_flute," but the footnote indicator is not to be found on the page.] - -