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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
of Abraham1 and attacked the French (1759). In the terrible battle both commanders found the truth of the words, "The paths of glory lead but to the grave,"2 which Wolfe quoted to his brother officers on the eve of the contest; for both were killed. They met death as only heroes can. The English general exclaimed when he heard that his men had gained the hard-fought field, "Now, God be praised, I die in peace." The French leader, when told that he must soon breathe his last, said, "So much the better; I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec."
The fall of Quebec practically ended the war; but four years later, Pontiac, chief of a tribe of Michigan Indians and friendly to the French, rose in revolt. He formed a secret league with other tribes, -- the Iroquois, of New York (§ 40), refusing to join, -- to drive the English from the whole Western country. A young Indian girl betrayed the plot to the commander of the fort at Detroit. Many white settlers were massacred, but Pontiac's attack failed, and he himself was forced to beg for peace. The Indians did not make another general attempt to reconquer the land which the white man had taken from them until Tecumseh rose (§ 225) nearly fifty years later.
143. What the French and Indian War settled; the Treaty of 1763. The battle of Quebec was "one of the great battles of the world," for it marked a turning point in American history. When Wolfe with his brave men climbed in the darkness up the rocky heights back of that great fortress (1759), the whole West,
1 The Heights of Abraham extend for three miles along the St. Lawrence southwest of Quebec. The French believed that these Heights were inaccessible from the river.
2 Gray's "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard," 1749. "Gentlemen," said Wolfe to his officers, "I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec."
THE ENGLISH AND FRENCH WARS
from Quebec to the Mississippi and New Orleans, belonged to France. (Map, p. 111.)
When the sun went down the following day, France had lost her hold on America forever. By the treaty of peace of 1763 the French king gave to England the whole of his possessions on this continent. Of all the magnificent territory which he had owned on this side the Atlantic he now had nothing left except a small portion of the West Indies, and two little barren islands (Miquelon and St. Pierre) off the coast of southern Newfoundland, which the English permitted him to keep, to dry fish on.
The war settled the fact that America was not to be an appendage of France, but was to become the home of the chief part of the English-speaking race. Spain had owned Florida ever since its discovery by Ponce de Leon (§ 18). She had fought on the side of France against England: now that France was defeated Spain was forced to give up Florida to Great Britain, who held it for twenty years and then ceded it back to Spain (1783).
Thus by the end of 1763 the British flag floated over the whole eastern section of this continent, from the Atlantic to the great river of the West, with the single exception of New Orleans, which, with the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi, France had secretly transferred to Spain.
Another result of the treaty of 1763 was that England (in order to make Spain a rival of France) now recognized Spain's claim to the great province of Louisiana. This made the Mississippi the western boundary of the American colonies, so that none of them could henceforth claim territory extending to the Pacific. (Maps, pp. 111, 170.)
144. Results of the Four English and French Wars. The four great wars between the English and the French in this country (§§ 134-136) had decisive results:
1. They united the inhabitants of the colonies -- especially those north of the Carolinas -- and inspired them with new strength.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
2. They trained thousands of resolute men in the use of arms, taught them to face an enemy, and thus in a measure prepared them for the War of Independence not many years distant.
3. They removed all danger of attack by the French and so made the colonists feel less need of British protection.
4. They cleared the ground east of the Mississippi of rival and hostile forces, and left it open for our ancestors to lay -- when the right time should come -- the corner stone of the United States.
GENERAL STATE OF THE COUNTRY IN 1763
145. The Thirteen Colonies in 1763; Growth of the Country; Number and Character of the Population. The growth of the colonies from the first permanent English settlements in 1607 (§ 46) and 1620 (§ 73) to the end of the French and Indian War, 1763 (§ 143), had been slow but steady. When a gardener finds that a healthy young plant shows but little progress, he is not discouraged. He says cheerfully, "It is all right; it is making roots, and will last the longer." For a century and a half the colonies had been "making roots," -- getting that firm hold so necessary for the future growth of a free and powerful nation.
In 1763, when England made peace with France (§ 143), the entire population of the thirteen colonies probably did not greatly exceed half that of New York City now. Of this about one sixth were negro slaves; every colony had some, but by far the larger part were owned south of the Potomac. The population was nearly all east of the Alleghenies. West of those mountains the country was an almost unbroken wilderness. The majority of the colonists, especially in Virginia and New England, were English or of English descent. Next in number came the Germans in Pennsylvania (§ 119), the Dutch in New York (§ 59), the Irish and Scotch-Irish (§ 92), who had settled to some extent in all of the colonies, and finally, the descendants of the Huguenots, or French Protestants, most numerous in South Carolina (§ 115).
146. Language; Religion; Social Rank; Cities; Trade. Nearly all of the colonists spoke English, and nearly all were Protestants.1 Most of them had sprung from the same social class in the mother country. A witty Frenchman of that day said that the people of England reminded him of a barrel of their own beer-froth on the top, dregs at the bottom, but clear and sound in the middle. That energetic, industrious, self-respecting middle class furnished the greater part of the emigrants to this country.
In none of the colonies was there a titled aristocracy holding land and established by law, as in Europe. In Virginia, however, the great plantations were usually handed down to the eldest son, after the English fashion. America had men of intelligence and wealth, but no lords; she had learned and influential clergymen, but, outside of certain royal provinces (§ 147), she had no bishops.
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston were the chief cities, yet even Philadelphia, then the largest, had only about twenty thousand inhabitants, and not one of these cities published a daily paper and did not until more than twenty years later.2
The foreign trade of the country was prosperous. The South exported tobacco, rice, indigo, tar, and turpentine; the North, fish, lumber, furs, and iron. New England built and sold so many sailing vessels that the ship carpenters of Great Britain complained that the Americans were ruining their business.
Manufactories were comparatively few. England treated her colonies in a broader and more generous spirit than any other nation in Europe, but she wished, so far as practicable, to compel the Americans to buy all their goods from her. On this account she endeavored to prevent them from weaving a yard of fine woolen cloth, casting an iron pot, or printing a copy of the
1 The greatest number of Catholics were in Maryland; there they may have constituted a fifteenth of the population.
2 The Boston News Letter, 1704 (weekly), was the first regular newspaper published in America. The American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, 1784, is said to have been the first daily.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Bible. Furthermore, England passed laws, like the Navigation Acts (§ 54), to compel the colonists to confine all their most profitable commerce to English ports. On the other hand, England paid the colonists liberal premiums or bounties for exporting such products as indigo, and "naval stores" such as hemp, tar, pitch, turpentine, rosin, and masts for vessels. Besides this England bought all the tobacco they wanted to sell and also purchased a good deal of their iron. The people of this country did not openly dispute the right, or supposed right, of the mother country to restrict their trade; but they smuggled goods, especially tea, wines, silks, and other luxuries, from Europe; and the customhouse officers at Philadelphia, New York, and Boston winked at the landing of such articles.
147. Government of the Colonies; Law; Unity of the People. The colonies did not all have the same form of government. Connecticut and Rhode Island held charters, by which they practically managed their own affairs in their own way. Eight of the remaining colonies were royal provinces1 ruled by governors appointed by the King; the three others, Pennsylvania with Delaware (§ 120) and Maryland (§ 100), were governed by their proprietors, the descendants of William Penn and of Lord Baltimore.
All the colonies had legislative assemblies elected by the people; by means of these assemblies they levied their own taxes and had the chief voice in making their own laws.2 In New England all matters of public interest were openly and fearlessly discussed in town meeting; in Virginia, county meetings were held occasionally for the same purpose. Every white man in the thirteen colonies had the right to trial by jury and to the protection given by the common law of England (§ 44).
The colonists, though loyal to the King, were full of sturdy independence of character. Some of them adopted a flag (1775) on which was a rattlesnake coiled ready to strike, and the words,
1 Massachusetts had a charter, but could make only such laws as her Governor, appointed by the King, saw fit to approve.
2 The laws enacted by the colonial assemblies required the Governor's approval, except in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the people elected the Governor and could legislate, if they chose, without his consent.
LIFE AMONG THE FARMERS
"DON'T TREAD ON ME"; that flag expressed what their real spirit had always been. Though there was but little communication between the colonies, yet they were essentially one people, -- they spoke the same language, they appealed for justice to the same general law, they held, with some few exceptions, the same religion.
148. Life among the Farmers. Few of the colonists were very rich; fewer still were miserably poor. The mass of the people lived simply but comfortably. The farmhouses were generally built of huge timbers covered with rough, unpainted clapboards, often with the upper story projecting, so that in case of an attack by Indians the owner could fire down on the savages and give them a reception they would remember.
Usually the center of such houses was taken up by an immense open fireplace, so big that. it was a fair question whether the chimney was built for the house or the house for the chimney. On a stormy winter's night there was no more cheerful sight than such a fireplace piled up with blazing logs, around which our forefathers and their sturdy families sat contentedly, watching the flames as they leaped up the chimney.1 But these roaring fires meant work. During the day the woodchopper seemed to hear them forever crying "More, more," and if by ill chance they went out at night, there were no matches to rekindle them. That had to be done by striking a spark with flint and steel, catching it on a bit of old half burnt rag, and then blowing that spark to a flame. If we are tempted to envy our ancestors their cosy winter evenings, probably few would envy them their winter mornings in case the fire failed to keep over.
1 Read the description of such a fireside in Whittier's delightful poem of "Snow-Bound."