The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America

The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America

The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America

The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America


In this superb volume in Oxford's acclaimed Pivotal Moments series, Colin Calloway reveals how the Treaty of Paris of 1763 had a profound effect on American history, setting in motion a cascade of unexpected consequences, as Indians and Europeans, settlers and frontiersmen, all struggled to adapt to new boundaries, new alignments, and new relationships.

Britain now possessed a vast American empire stretching from Canada to the Florida Keys, yet the crushing costs of maintaining it would push its colonies toward rebellion. White settlers, free to pour into the West, clashed as never before with Indian tribes struggling to defend their way of life. In the Northwest, Pontiac's War brought racial conflict to its bitterest level so far. Whole ethnic groups migrated, sometimes across the continent: it was 1763 that saw many exiled settlers from Acadia in French Canada move again to Louisiana, where they would become Cajuns. Calloway unfurls this panoramic canvas with vibrant narrative skill, peopling his tale with memorable characters such as William Johnson, the Irish baronet who moved between Indian campfires and British barracks; Pontiac, the charismatic Ottawa chieftain; and James Murray, Britains first governor in Quebec, who fought to protect the religious rights of his French Catholic subjects.

Most Americans know the significance of the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation, but not the Treaty of Paris. Yet 1763 was a year that shaped our history just as decisively as 1776 or 1862. This captivating book shows why.

Winner of the Society of Colonial Wars Book Award for 2006


Remember the year 1763,” the celebrated stage actor David Garrick told James Boswell. He predicted great things for the twenty-two-year-old Scot. Boswell, however, seemed more interested in picking up prostitutes from the night streets of London than in striving for great things. the first four months of his year would be memorable mainly for the disease he caught from “the fair Louisa,” an actress whom he had courted for several weeks and then quickly tired of once his amorous conquest was complete. He had “expected at least a winter’s safe copulation” with Louisa and thought himself the injured party. But in May Boswell met Dr. Samuel Johnson and began a relationship that was to secure him lasting literary fame. Johnson encouraged Boswell to keep a journal of his life. Boswell was already doing so, recording “all sorts of little incidents” in it. “Sir,” said Dr. Johnson “there is nothing too little for so little a creature as man.”

Johnson doubtless meant his comment to apply to the issues of empire with which kings and ministers were busying themselves that year as well as to Boswell’s petty doings. While Boswell confided his conquests and affairs of the heart to his journal, the nation’s conquests and affairs of state were debated publicly in Parliament and pamphlets, in newspapers and coffee houses. London in 1763 was abuzz. On February 10, 1763, Britain, France, and Spain, the superpowers of the time, signed the Peace of Paris. the Seven Years’ War was over and the world breathed a sigh of peace. Nowhere was peace more welcome than in North America where the conflict, usually known as the French and Indian War, had lasted for nine years.

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