ADVANCED PLACEMENT UNITED STATES HISTORY
The Great Awakening and the French and Indian War


*The Puritans believed they were building a City upon a Hill, but they also believed in a declension model of history:  mankind's history was the history of his Fall, and things had generally been getting worse since the expulsion from Eden.  Even in their Godly Commonwealth, the purity of their faith seemed in decline and full church membership with it.

*Church membership was vital to the Puritan communities of New England, as only (adult male) church members could vote and only church members could have their children baptised and receive the Lord's Supper.  In such a religious society, to be outside the church was, essentially, to be outside the entire community.

*Church membership began with infant baptism, but it did not end there.  To be admitted to full church membership, a person had to testify to a conversion experience, a powerful moment when he had experienced God's grace.  For the first generation of Puritans, neither of these things was hard:  each had been baptised as an infant in the Church of England, and each had suffered persecution in England and made the sacrifices and endured the hardships involved in travelling to the New World--in those traumatic and emotional experiences, a person could find evidence of some point when God's grace had been apparent and the person had truly been converted into a visible saint.

*For the children of the first Puritans, though, it was harder to find that miraculous moment.  They had not grown up in a sink of depravity that they had rejected nor had they suffered for their beliefs or even made the perilous journey to the New World to seek the freedom to worship as they saw fit.  While they had been baptised into the church by their parents, who were full church members, many of them never were able to testify to their own conversion, and were not full church members themselves even though they believed in all the tenets of the Christian faith--believing was not enough by itself, though:  evidence of salvation was required.  They could attend church services, but could not partake in the Lord's Supper, and when they had children of their own whom they wished to have baptised, the Puritan ministers found themselves in a quandary.

*Not only were the children of the first settlers were less likely to have had conversion experiences, but more recent immigrants faced the same problem, and many could not achieve full membership in New England's churches either.

*Declining church membership (especially among men) endangered the souls of the unredeemed as well as the stability of the community, but admitting just anyone to the church would undermine its purity.  However, to exclude the infants of baptised but unregenerate people seemed cruel, as well as counterproductive, as declining church membership would lead to declining church influence.

*As early as 1634, Pastor John Cotton allowed a grandfather to present his grandchild for baptism on the condition that the grandfather raise him.  Later other ministers did (or considered doing) the same thing, and a series of synods discussed the issue, but did not reach a solution.

*In 1662, eighty ministers and laymen from most of the thirty-four Massachusetts churches met in Boston.  This synod could not command the various congregations to obey its decisions, but they could make strong recommendations, and their recommendation was known as the Half-Way Covenant.  Baptised non-members could also have their children baptised (but still not receive the Lord's Supper or vote), creating a large class of half-way church members.  It was hoped that being partial membership in the church would eventually lead them to becoming full members, but many of them had the same problem of demonstrating a true conversion experience that their parents had.

*While some ministers and many older Puritans who had experienced personal regeneration felt that this was watering down the church, in time, church after church began to even allow full communion to people who had not had an obvious moment of saving grace.  This kept the Puritan church large, active, and significant, but less fervent and devout.

*In the late 1600s, many of the old standards of the Puritan community seemed to be weakening, and even Massachusetts' own independence was lost when it became a royal colony in 1691.  Preachers warned of the decline of society in fiery sermons of doom known as Jeremiads.  A growing merchant class also seemed to be gaining power at the expense of small farmers, and in general society seemed less equal and less cohesive.  In the midst of all this stress came a deadly accusation:  witchcraft!

*Most people sincerely believed that witches did exist--they were mentioned (and condemned to death) in the Bible, after all.  Although many educated people had doubts about how often or easily they might be found, and were often sceptical of accusations of witchcraft, not even they completely ruled it out, and there had been witchcraft trials and executions in New England on a few occasions throughout the 1600s.

*In February, 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris began to have fits, shake and scream uncontrollably, and report that they felt like they were being stabbed with pins.  Later other young women in the village began to show similar signs of torment.

*The first three people accused of witchcraft were a homeless beggar named Sarah Good who did not show the Puritan ideals of hard work and responsibility, Sarah Osborne who rarely attended church and who had recently remarried an indentured servant, and a slave named Tituba who was owned by Reverend Parris. 

*Later other accusations were made, a total of 165, many of them involving people who were social outcasts or involved in one of the many feuds and lawsuits for which Salem was already infamous as a quarrelsome town.  However, as time passed, even well-respected people were accused, undermining everyone's confidence, for if even fully covenanted church members could be witches, anyone could be a servant of the devil.

*Those accused of witchcraft were jailed and offered the chance to confess.  Some did confess, and even accused others of having led them to the devil, but some refused to do so (and some who did confess later recanted).  During this time, hysteria grew.

*It took a while for a court to be held, and when it was held, no physical evidence could be found of witchcraft.  Reluctantly, the court began to accept spectral evidence based on the testimony of the afflicted girls about things visions they had seen or things they had felt done to them invisibly.  Although most legal and religious authorities were sceptical or completely opposed to this, it formed the basis of several convictions (and when it was finally forbidden in further trials, the conviction rate rapidly dropped).

*The trials ran until May, 1693, when enough religious and political leaders had turned against it (particularly after the governor's wife and sister were accused of witchcraft).  In total, nineteen people (and two dogs) were hanged and one man was pressed to death with stones.

*To this day there are debates about the cause of the accusations.  Some people believe it was a subconscious working out of social and political rivalries between the rich and the poor or farmers and merchants (and accusations always seemed to be made by members of one group against another, not against members of one's own group).  Others think it was a reaction of fear and uncertainty as the old Puritan faith seemed to be in decline.  Some have suggested that it was briefly a way for some young women to become the centre of attention and have the power of life and death over an entire community.  There was once a theory, largely discredited today, that the girls had been driven mad by eating bread made from wheat with a type of hallucinogenic fungus growing called ergot on it.  In any event, it was probably not a conspiracy, but an hysterical response to social, political, economic, and religious tensions--or maybe there really were witches at work.

*A later response to the stagnation of the Puritan church, and of religious communities across the English world, began in the 1720s in England and spread to the colonies in the succeeding decades, where it became the first experience that all the colonies had in common.  It was a new outburst of religious fervour known as the Great Awakening.

*The Great Awakening began with the preaching of several charismatic ministers who were able to reach out to people lacking spiritual leadership.  The official churches were often sceptical of them, so they would preach outdoors, which simply allowed even larger crowds to attend them.  One of the first and greatest of these preachers, George Whitefield, could supposedly speak to at least 30,000 (and perhaps as many as 50,000) people before the invention of the microphone, based in part on calculations done by Benjamin Franklin.

*The Great Awakening was a very individualistic revival, with its great preachers proclaiming that each person must seek God's salvation, repent of his sins, and depend entirely on God's grace and love.  Without those, humanity was doomed, but with them, anyone could be saved. 

*Jonathan Edwards warned his listeners that they were 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' that 'God... holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire... and is dreadfully provoked... and there is no other Reason to be given why you have not dropped into Hell since you arose in the Morning, but that God’s Hand has held you up.'

*Those who heard these great speakers felt enlivened and touched by God.  Many were overcome by the Holy Spirit and wept, cried out, or even jerked their bodies or rolled around on the ground.  Thousands became deeply spiritual, regardless of their denomination, although some groups, like the Baptists and the Methodists were more open to emotionalism in their religious expression.  In fact, Methodism began as a branch of the Church of England at this time, but eventually separated from it and spread rapidly during the Great Awakening.

*The Congregationalists were split over the Great Awakening, with strictly Calvinist 'Old Lights' being sceptical of the spontaneity and emotionalism of this revival, while 'New Lights' welcomed a revival of religious enthusiasm even if it suggested a measure of Arminian free will. 

*Some historians have even suggested that the Great Awakening's emphasis on the individual and a certain rejection of traditional religious leadership may have been an influence on the American Revolution, by promoting individualism, personal decision-making, a declining respect for authority, and as a unifying experience as Whitefield and others preached up and down the colonies.

*In the mid-1700s, the colonies would also find a unifying experience in a massive war with the French and the Indians.

*The English colonists in America fought against the Indians from time to time in the 1600s, and as the Seventeenth Century drew to a close, they were increasingly drawn into European wars. 

*In 1689 the War of the League of Augsburg spread to North America where it was known as King William’s War (after King William III, then king of England). 

*In 1701 war began in Europe over who would inherit the throne of Spain when the deeply inbred king of Spain died without any heirs and the great powers of Europe fought over who would control the vast Spanish Empire.  In 1702 the war spread to America, where it was called Queen Anne’s War.  The Spanish attacked Charleston in 1703, providing some of the impetus for the later foundation of the buffer colony of Georgia.

*On 29 February, 1704, French soldiers and their Indian allies attacked the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts.  Snow had drifted up against the wooden stockade built around the town, and the French and Indians climbed up these drifts to get over the walls in the dead of night.  56 English men, women, and children were killed in the Deerfield Massacre, and over 100 more were taken captive and driven on a forced march through the snow to Canada, where those who survived were made prisoners of the Indians.  Some were killed, some were ransomed back by their community, and some chose to stay with the Indians.

*At the end of Queen Anne’s War, the British gained Acadia from France and renamed it Nova Scotia.  During later wars between Britain and France the British would treat the French-speaking Acadians badly and eventually force many of them into exile.  Many of them went to Louisiana, where Acadians became known as Cajuns.

*The treaty that ended Queen Anne’s War did not really satisfy anyone in Europe, particularly because the British continued to smuggle goods into Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.  In 1731, a Spanish coastguard captain boarded the ship Rebecca, searched it for contraband, and, upon finding it, cut off the ear of the ship’s captain, Robert Jenkins.  Seven years later, Jenkins took the ear (which he had pickled and saved in a bottle) to Parliament, where Prime Minister Robert Walpole supposedly fainted upon seeing it.  England was already mad at Spain, so they declared war—the War of Jenkins’s Ear, which in and of itself did not solve anything, because it soon became part of a larger conflict.

*In December 1740, much of Europe went to war over whether a woman could rule an empire, when Maria Theresa of Austria inherited the throne from her father.  Britain (and many other countries) went to war to support her against Prussia and its many allies.  When the fighting spread to America in 1744, it was known as King George’s War.

*During the war, in 1745, New England militia besieged and captured Fortress Louisbourg, which guarded the entrance to the Gulf of St Lawrence and was a major base for French fishing fleets and potentially the French navy.

*The capture of Louisbourg was a great victory for the New Englanders, and should have been a great strategic gain for the British Empire, but in 1748 the British government returned it to France in the treaty that ended the war.  From the point of view of many Americans, they had fought and won a great victory for nothing, leading to resentment against Britain.

*By the mid-1700s the British colonists in North America were increasingly jealous of the French, and the French were increasingly worried about the British.

*The British colonies in North America had grown rapidly since their foundation in the early 1600s, and by 1750 they had about 1,500,000 people in them.  However, they were confined to the eastern seaboard, with no settlement and little trade west of the Appalachian Mountains.

*In the 1600s and 1700s the French government had done little to encourage settlement in the New World, and had often placed many restrictions on it.  By 1750 there were about 50,000 French settlers in North America, mostly in a few large cities such as Quebec, Montreal, and New Orleans.  The rest were traders, trappers, and missionaries.  On the whole, though, they got along much better with the American Indians and, although few in number, laid claim to the vast territories of New France and Louisiana.

*British colonists increasingly coveted France’s possessions, particularly the rich lands of the Ohio River valley, which were also claimed by New York and Virginia.

*Not only did this area have rich farmland and good rivers for trade, but it was rich in furs, one of the most lucrative trade goods in America.  Furs were made into coats and other garments, or into felt that could be made into hats.

*Aware of Britain’s desire for land in the Ohio Country, the French began building forts in the Ohio River Valley.

*This was a problem for many prominent Virginians who had invested in the Ohio Company, which had been created for the purpose of claiming, selling, and settling the land of the Ohio River Valley.  Among the leaders of the Ohio Company were Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie and Lawrence and Augustine Washington.

*In 1753, the Ohio Company sent Lawrence and Augustine’s little half-brother George to investigate the French presence and tell them to leave.  He travelled to Fort Le Boeuf, just south of Lake Erie and demanded the French leave.  They refused and began construction of Fort Duquesne in what is now South-western Pennsylvania.

*When Washington returned to Virginia he was sent back with more militia.   They approached Fort Duquesne in May 1754, ambushed a group of French soldiers sent out to order Washington back to Virginia, and defeated them.

*Knowing that many more French soldiers were stationed nearby in Fort Duquesne, Washington ordered his men to build a stockade that they named Fort Necessity.  The French (who outnumbered Washington about 600 to 400) attacked on 3 July, 1754, and on July 4th, Washington surrendered after losing a third of his men.

*Although Washington was defeated and sent back to Virginia, he showed such bravery under fire (and was one of the few Virginians to have fought the French at all) that his reputation continued to grow, and as the war continued, he led Virginia militia in defence of the frontier against the Indians.  However, he bore a grudge against the British who refused to recognise his colonial rank of colonel.  Many other American leaders also felt slighted by regular British officers (who, in turn, considered their own forces to be more professional).

*This was the beginning of the French and Indian War, which pitted the English and their Indian allies (such as the Iroquois and sometimes the Cherokee) against the French and their Indian allies (such as the Huron and the Ottawa).

*In some ways, though, it was the first world war--the two sides eventually fought in Europe (where it was called the Seven Years War and most European countries became involved), in their colonies in North America, in the Caribbean, and in Asia, particularly India, where the British truly began to consolidate their power—and it all began over furs in the Ohio River Valley.

*While Washington was building Fort Necessity, colonial leaders from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were meeting in the Albany Conference.  Their initial purpose was to negotiate with the Iroquois and give them gifts to make sure they continued their alliance with Britain, or at least remained neutral.  Thirty wagonloads of presents accomplished this.

*However, while at the Conference, the delegates from the different colonies also discussed creating a government to unify the colonies under one President-General who would be in charge of Indian affairs, military matters, and some aspects of finance and trade.  Benjamin Franklin was the main designer of the plan, which was inspired in part by the Iroquois Confederation, in which each tribe had control of its own towns while working with the other tribes when dealing with outsiders.  Franklin also promoted the plan with what may be the first political cartoon in American History, Join or Die.  In the end, though, none of the colonies wanted to give up any power even to be better able to defend against the French and the Indians.

*In 1755, the British government sent Edward Braddock with two regiments of regulars to America.  When the French became aware of these plans, they sent 3,000 French regulars to defend Canada.

*Braddock planned to return to Fort Duquesne and capture or destroy it.  The French, meanwhile, had strengthened the fort and stationed more men there. 

*Braddock led about 2,000 men, many of whom were or later became famous.  One of his wagon drivers was Daniel Boone and a number of future British and American officers during the Revolutionary War served with Braddock, including George Washington. They began cutting a road 110 miles long from western Maryland through the Allegheny Mountains into western Pennsylvania.

*Braddock’s large, slow-moving force attracted a lot of attention, and his men in their bright red uniforms were clearly visible in the woods.  On 9 July, 1755, they encountered a force of about 800 French and Indians (primarily Indians).

*This may have been a deliberate ambush, or it may have been a chance meeting that the French handled well and Braddock handled poorly.

*Braddock was wounded and carried off the field.  Washington and other officers tried to rally the men, but the army was forced to retreat.  At least 500 British soldiers were killed and left to rot—their bleached bones were still visible to other armies passing through five years later.  At least as many more British soldiers were wounded.  Fewer than 40 French and Indians were killed or wounded.

*Braddock died four days after the battle and was buried in the middle of the road his men had worked so hard to build (to make sure the Indians did not dig up his body and desecrate it). 

*In New France, the commander-in-chief was the Marquis de Montcalm. 

*At first the British government vacillated between trying to fight a limited war or a global one and could not decide what part of the globe to focus on.  That changed in 1757 when William Pitt became Secretary of State for the Southern Department, a powerful office that included supervision of Britain’s colonies.  He believed that the war could best be won by focusing Britain’s energies on America.  It would take a while, though, before his efforts would pay off.

*As 1757 began, the French seemed to have all the advantages.  They had stopped almost all British advances into French territory and had even captured some territory from the British around the Great Lakes.  Their Indian allies raided settlements all along the frontier, killing, looting, and taking captives, some of whom were later killed, some adopted, some enslaved, and some tortured to death—to the Indians, torture was both a form of public entertainment and an opportunity for a prisoner to exhibit his bravery. 

*Although the British made plans to attack Canada, they were slow getting underway and ended up leaving the New York frontier poorly defended in the process.  One of the under-manned forts on the frontier was Fort William Henry on the shores of Lake George (just south of Lake Champlain).

*Fort William Henry held about 600 British regulars and 1,200 militia when Montcalm’s forces and their Indian allies (about 8,000 men in total) laid siege to it in the summer of 1757. 

*After a long siege, the British surrendered.  They were given very generous treatment, allowed to march out with their regimental colours and personal possessions, and promised safe passage to Fort Edward.

*The next day, as the British marched south, they were attacked by Montcalm’s Indian allies.  At least 700 British soldiers and militia were killed, wounded, or missing.  Those who were killed or wounded were typically knocked in the head with tomahawks and war clubs or scalped.

*1757 ended badly for the British with the Massacre of Fort William Henry.  However, under William Pitt, things began to change.

*Pitt planned a major attack on New France for 1758. 

*Fort Louisbourg was re-taken on 26 July, 1758. 

*On 24 November, 1758, with the British approaching, the French burnt Fort Duquesne and abandoned it.  After its capture, the fort was rebuilt, and renamed Fort Pitt, and later Pittsburgh.

*Having secured the colonial frontier and cut off the Saint Lawrence River with the capture of Louisbourg, the British were ready to strike at the heart of New France:  Quebec.

*After many skirmishes around Quebec, General James Wolfe was finally ready to attack the city on 13 September, 1759 because he had discovered a way up the cliffs from the St Lawrence to the Plains of Abraham that lay in front of Quebec, and in the battle that followed, the French under Montcalm were defeated.

*Wolfe died on the field of battle.  Montcalm died the next day of his wounds.  The British lost about 60 men killed and 600 wounded, the French lost 200 killed and 1,200 wounded.  Furthermore, although some battles remained, the war was essentially over—Montreal surrendered without a fight almost exactly a year later, on 8 September, 1760.

*Some officials back in France were shocked that Montreal had been surrendered without a shot being fired, but King Louis XV, more interested in the fighting in Europe anyway, was cheered up by the philosopher Voltaire, who said, ‘After all, Sire, what have we lost—a few acres of snow?’

*A few battles were fought in the South, too, including at Fort Loudoun (south of modern Knoxville), which surrendered after a long siege by the Cherokee, who promised safe passage to the surrendering soldiers, then massacred them on their way home on 10 September, 1760.  The British commander, Paul Demere, was scalped, forced to dance, beaten with sticks, and finally had his arms and legs chopped off.  As he lay dying, they stuffed his mouth with dirt and said, ‘You English want land, we will give it to you.’

*In response, more British soldiers were sent to slaughter the Cherokee and burn their crops, eventually forcing them to sign a peace treaty.

*Finally, in 1763, the Peace of Paris ended the French and Indian War and the Seven Years’ War.

*Britain gained Canada from France and Florida from Spain (who had allied with France because their royal families were related).

*France got back sugar islands it lost in the Caribbean (it got to choose between those or Canada).

*France gave New Orleans and Louisiana to Spain to make up for the loss of Florida.

*Britain also gave Havana and Manila back to Spain. 

*No borders in Europe changed.

*Britain was now master of North America, but as Britain became more involved in the lives of the American colonists, the effects of the War would drive them apart.


This page last updated 8 July, 2020.
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