"They Made Us Many Promises": The American Indian Experience, 1524 To the Present

By Philip Weeks | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Mutual Distrust and Mutual
Dependency:
Indian-White Relations in the Era of the
Anglo-French Wars for Empire, 1689 –1763

Dwight L. Smith

At the close of the seventeenth century, mainland British North America consisted of twelve colonies spread along the Atlantic coastline from New Hampshire to South Carolina. Georgia would be established some three decades later. Roughly half of the colonies—Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—had charter-defined boundaries that extended their territorial jurisdiction westward into Indian lands in the North American interior. In New England, New York also claimed present-day Vermont, and Maine was part of Massachusetts. The British colonies were encircled to the north and west by the French in the Maritimes, the St. Lawrence Valley, the Great Lakes, and the trans-Appalachian interior, and to the west and south by the Spanish in the lower Mississippi Valley and Florida.

Forces of change were in process by the late seventeenth century that would substantially redraw the political boundaries of North America. In 1689, when Protestants William and Mary ascended the throne of England against the wishes of France's Catholic king, Louis XIV, war erupted in which the three North American colonial powers—England, France, and Spain—became antagonists. From then until 1763, this and the three other wars involved their empires in varying degrees. The second war, ending in 1713, expanded the British empire by pushing the French out of the Hudson Bay country, Acadia (Nova Scotia), and Newfoundland in Canada. The fourth and final war, the most consequential to the peoples of North America, was launched over Anglo-French territorial rivalry in the Pennsylvania wilderness. At its conclusion in 1763, the map was redrawn to erase all French claims to the continent, with Great Britain now having treaty title to North America from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. Except for Russian activity in Alaska and the far Northwest, the rest of the continent remained part of Spain's empire.

In these tumultuous decades between 1689 and 1763, what, then, was the situation with respect to the North American Indians as the English were push-

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