Let's take just a moment to think about how much the French and Indian War resembles the Star Trek universe. In a recent reflection, I mentioned how much the land between Canada and New York City sound like the neutral zone between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Empire. Then I read this in Fred Anderson's book, The War that Made America:
Rather than issuing an ultimatum to Britain, the French foreign ministry calmly proposed that the Ohio country from the Forks of the Ohio to the Wabash be declared a neutral zone, and permanently demilitarized.
Once in a while, an expert testifies that my thinking is on track (usually not, but let me feel good for just a moment before we move on).
I won't profess to comprehend all of the intricacies of either was - that of the French and Indian War and that of the Great War of the early 1900s - but I am starting to understand some overlying causes and motives of each war. (I mention these, because a comparison of the two wars is the focus of the upcoming Teacher Institute at Fort Ticonderoga. I get to participate in the week-long residency next month. To learn more it, find my Fort Ticonderoga page.)
The themes of ethnic cleansing and religious exclusion may be among those similarities. The author points out the degree to which the Natives in the area were used for the benefit of both the British and the French. First, take a look at how Major General Braddock regarded his Indian allies:
The Ohio Indians were in fact quite interested in helping Braddock remove the French and the hundreds of French-allied Indian warriors - Potawatomis, Ottawas, Abenakis, and others - who had accompanied them to the Forks. They now dominated the region in ways infinitely more intrusive than the Iroquois ever had, depriving the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos of the self-rule they longed to exercise. All that Shingas and his fellow chiefs asked was that Braddock promise no permanent English settlement would be established in the Ohio country once the French had been driven out. Braddock, however, understood neither how much he needed the Indians nor how much they wanted his aid in establishing their independence. Thus when the chiefs asked him what he planned for the future of the Forks, he bluntly repolied, "that the English should inhabit and inherit the land." Would he at least allow the Indians to live among the English, they asked, and leave them sufficient hunting grounds to support their families? Braddock's gruff reply, "No savage should inherit the land," convinced them that they had come to the wrong man for help. Replying that "if they might not have liberty to live on the land they would not fight for it," all the Ohio chiefs but Scarouady returned to their homes and came to terms with the French.
...Montcalm took no account of the wishes of his Indian allies. After the articles had been signed, he summoned the war chiefs to explain to them that they and their warriors would have none of the prisoners or plunder they believed they had fought to obtain. The chiefs listened impassively to what they regarded as an utterly dishonorable set of prohibitions, then returned to their followers with the news that the little man they had called Father was no father at all, for he intended to deprive them of what was rightfully theirs. If they were to have the prisoners, trophies, and plunder they had come for, they would have to take them by force...
But I digress. In 1755, well before any serious talk of space exploration, the English and English colonists had captured some 7,000 French Acadians. Anderson even uses the word assimilate to described what the Borg, er, the British hoped would happen.
By the end of 1755, approximately seven thousand Acadians had been deported as de facto prisoners of war. Shirley and Lawrence expected that most would be sold as indentured servants in the colonies to which they were sent, to serve for whatever contractual period local authorities cared to stipulate. They believed that the Acadians would soon learn to speak English, forget their Catholic religious identity, and assimilate into colonial populations as loyal British subjects.
- Pilgrims originally settled in North America a few centuries before the French and Indian War. One deciding factor in making that colossal move was religious freedom.
- A couple of decades after the French and Indian War, there will be a Revolution fought. One factor cited as a goal in the Revolutionary War was the right of an individual to choose religion without government interference.
But at this moment, the British are disallowing Catholicism as a choice, preferring instead the Church of England. In fact:
The willingness, even eagerness, of New England provincials to participate in the ethnic cleansing of Nova Scotia beginning in late 1755 indicated how dully they particpated in the anti-French, anti-Catholic, anti-Indian spirit of British imperialism.