There have been periods of isolationism and non-interventionism in the history of America. There have also been periods of interventionism and expansionism in the history of America. Some want you to forget the latter and are committed to propagate the narrative that America has a non-interventionist past while ignoring other times in American history. This is the first in a series of posts which will outline spans in which America participated in expansionism and/or interventionism.
During the 1750′s both the British and French had dealings with the Indians. Since the French colonies had weak economies the French colonists viewed the Indians as trade partners and had personal relationships with them while the British colonies had strong economies based on farming so the British viewed the Indians differently than the French. The British had “Go Betweens” which could interpret the different languages and which understood the various culture customs. They were not mere translators – these “Go Betweens” were also diplomats.
The French and Indian war started with a turf war in the Ohio Valley between the British and French and (the Indians)?. Both the French and British colonists laid claim to the land west of the Allegheny Mountains in the Ohio Valley.
The Ohio River Valley Indians wanted to maintain their lifestyle, their land, and control their future but were dependent on some European goods such as gunpowder, knives, guns et al. at the same time so they needed to trade with them while preventing the British from settlement. The French depended on the Ohio Valley Indians for trade and economic sustenance so when they found out that the Indians were trading with the British they were furious.
As the British settled more land that forced Indians to move West. The French used the river systems as a transportation route and wanted their traders, priests and soldiers to live freely through the region. The French wanted to maintain control over the lands but wasn’t interested in settling the land. When the British had settled as far West as the eastern base of the Allegheny mountains they saw wealth and opportunity in those lands, specifically the ability to make a profit on land speculation. So, in essence the British needed this land to advance their growth in numbers and the economy.
Because the British relied on farming for sustenance and emphasized owning land they viewed the Indians as their competitors whereas conversely the French viewed the Indians as allies.
In 1749 the French carried out an expedition where they took legal possession of the land by ceremonially burying lead plates in the ground with their nation’s claim to the land engraved on the surface. Captain Pierre-Joseph Celoron de Blainville, who lead that expedition, also gave speeches to the Indians in the area warning them to avoid trade with the British, and in 1752 Marquis Duquesne made it known that his ambition was to drive the British from their lands. To further plant their ownership of the Ohio Valley the next year the French built forts along Lake Erie, Presque Isle, and Fort LeBoeuf.
After hearing the news that the French had been building forts in the area that the King of England claimed as his own Robert Dinwiddie sent a young George Washington, under orders from the King, to deliver a written demand that the French quit the territory. The French refused to leave the Ohio River Valley.
While George Washington was making the long, rough trek to Fort LeBoeuf, as written in his journal, he discovered a place at the Fork where he could view and take control of the two rivers. This land is known as Pittsburgh, PA today. While the French were finishing building Fort Machault close to where the Allegheny and the French Creek met the British were building a fort at the “Forks of the Ohio” which George Washington had discovered a year earlier. After they had finished hanging the gate they were surprised by the sudden appearance of 500 French troops along with cannons so realizing they were outnumbered the British were forced to flee. The French gained control of the area, which they called Fort Duquesne.
Washington and the British militia followed orders to take both the lands and waters in Ohio, and to widen the pathways for the wagons. The British continued with construction of the road even though Washington had learned that the French were in control of the Forks of the Ohio. They hoped the road would allow them to retake control of the Ohio River Valley.
A Seneca Indian named Tanaghrisson – given the title Half King – who was sympathetic to the British, relayed a message to George Washington warning him that the French troops were close by. After Washington and his troops marched through the night they surrounded the French as they slept. They weren’t spotted until it was too late. The battle lasted only 15 minutes. Tamaghrisson delivered the fatal blow to the French commander, Jumonville. The shots fired in this confrontation were the first shots of what was to become the French and Indian War.
I found all of my information on what precipitated the start of the French and Indian War at Relive: French and Indian War History . You can find additional information on it there.