WITH two expanding colonial empires situated as were those of France and England in North America at the middle of the eighteenth century, conflict over the upper Ohio Valley was inevitable. The character of the struggle was greatly influenced, however, and to a large extent its outcome was determined, by differences between those colonial empires. New France consisted of a small agricultural settlement in the St. Lawrence Valley, a still smaller one on the lower Mississippi, and a few villages at wide intervals from one another in the interior. The character of French colonization is indicated by its typical institutions--the trading post, the fort, and the mission--one or more of which was to be found in each settlement, while others occupied isolated sites in the wilderness. The natural increase among the habitants was large, but immigration, restricted to French Catholics, was very small. The total white population of New France, including Louisiana, probably did not exceed eighty thousand.
The English colonies occupied a more restricted territory stretching along the coast from New Hampshire to Georgia and hemmed in on the west by the mountains. Already the first mountain barrier, the Blue Ridge, had been crossed, and the frontiersmen were knocking at the portals of the Allegheny Front. The original English, Dutch, and Swedish settlers had multiplied rapidly, and large accessions of immigrants from Europe, especially of Germans and Scotch-Irish, had brought the total white population to about a million and a quarter. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania, the two colonies most concerned in this story, had a population several times as large as that of all New France. The typical institutions of the English colonies were the farm, the plantation, and the commercial town. Indian traders operated on the frontier, as has been seen, but the main interest of the settlers in the English colonies was the establishment of permanent homes where they could sustain themselves by agricultural operations.