The British Take and Lose Control, 1763-1814
When the British government attempted to consolidate its vast North American holdings after the French withdrawal in 1763, it found itself confronted by what turned out to be insoluble problems about how to control and pay for its new empire. The government immediately established a Proclamation Line along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, beyond which white settlement was to be prohibited. A decade later it placed what would later become the Northwest Territory under the governance of the French-speaking province of Quebec, in defiance of the preferences of English settlers moving toward and into that area. English and particularly Scottish fur-trading companies moved in aggressively to replace the French control of that trade and reap its benefits. Such imperial politics had little appeal or relevance to many American colonists. In terms of its numbers, British America was overwhelmingly a settlers' frontier, moving west and overland from the Atlantic coast. In 1760 there had been only 80,000 inhabitants in all of French North America. By contrast, a decade later, there were 1,500,000 inhabitants in the British colonies, and the growth in numbers was explosive. Migration to the west was a habit, and, for many Americans (as they were coming to be called), it had become a right.
The Upper Midwest was beyond the reach of most of the Revolutionary War, but the treaty of peace in 1783 practically created it as an American province. The boundary established at that treaty made that region, and almost everything east of the Mississippi, nominally part of the United States. In fact, despite the treaty, the British remained in control of the area for another decade, and the situation remained unstable until a new war had been fought and a new treaty concluded in 1814.
The British lost political control through such wars and treaties, but English cultural influence in the new nation was pervasive. English speech and a host of English institutions were taken for granted in the new nation and in what became the Northwest Territory.
"Fort Mackinac in 1905: Photograph from pasture southwest of the fort, between the village and the Grand Hotel"
Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Volume 18 (1908).
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The Land |
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The Northwest and the Ordinances
The Yankee Empire | The Pineries and the Mines | American But More So