The initial reaction to the monumental British triumph in the Seven Years' War, in North America called the French and Indian War, was an outburst of pride in both England and the colonies. That unity of spirit did not last long, however.
Britain was now the master of a massive empire, but it quickly became apparent that a huge debt had been incurred in the process. George III's ministers prepared to reduce the debt and increase control over the colonies.
The war soured many British military and political leaders' opinions about the American colonists. The change in perception included the following charges:
American loyalties were found wanting. New England shipping interests had traded with the French in the West Indies during the conflict, which demonstrated a greater loyalty to profit than to the mother country.
American soldiers had sometimes balked at pursuing the enemy in areas far from home and often performed badly under fire. British commanders held American soldiers in low regard and many had spoken openly about the colonists' lack of backbone.
Colonial legislatures had been reluctant to provide funds for the cost of the conflict, but willingly accepted subsidies ordered from the Royal Treasury by William Pitt, the secretary of state. The colonies seemed more willing to rely on funds raised in Britain than to impose taxes at home.
These factors were especially galling to the British, who believed that the war had been fought largely for the colonists' benefit and concluded that the Americans were unappreciative and disloyal.
The same set of facts was viewed differently in America. At the end of the war, many colonists agreed on the following:
Elimination of the French threat in North America was viewed by many colonists as an invitation to move into the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Indians' strategic position had been greatly altered; their trump card pitting the French against the British had been removed from the deck. The unbridled expansionism of many Americans was the opposite of what British policymakers had in mind.
Many Americans no longer felt the need for the presence of regular British soldiers in their towns and cities. Absence of the French foe enabled many colonists to concentrate on local and personal interests, not imperial concerns. A separate American identity was emerging and an increasing number of colonists no longer regarded themselves as British.
An undercurrent of anger had long been a part of the colonial character, but following the war this feeling surfaced. Many men who had served honorably in the conflict deeply resented the British officers' condescending attitudes and refused to forget the many insults they had suffered in silence. The merchant class also seethed. Few accepted the need to curtail their profits in order to fit into the mercantilist mold. They wondered why the economic benefit of those far away was more important than their own.
The afterglow of a great victory could not hide a developing rift between the mother country and her colonies. Ironically, British efforts to tighten controls throughout the empire served to ignite the flame of revolution in America.
See French and Indian War Timeline.
See also Indian Wars Time Table.