In the woodcut image of a magazine published in 1758, the image is unclear. In the artwork is an Indian man choosing between two sides (In the reality television series, Survivor, he would be known as a swing vote - one whose vote could "swing" to either side is considered to be a position of strength on the program.). The two sides are the British and the French. The offering from the British is a Bible and a bolt of cloth, while the French offer him a purse of money and a tomahawk. Which will he choose?
The image presents a decision that has been coming for at least a hundred years. With the French settling in New France, now known mostly as Canada, and the English settling further south along the coast of the Atlantic, both have sought to expand their land holdings and their wealth on the North American continent.
And each has courted Indian support through alliances, trade, and defenses.
Among the most successful Indian practitioners of this new, commercialized war were the Five Nations of the Iroquois, a religious and ceremonial league made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples of what is now upstate New York.
The cessation of hostilities, however, served them even better. During the Long Peace - the thirty years between the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and the outbreak of the next Anglo-French war in 1744 - the Five Nations became increasingly adept at maintaining the delicate balance between empires to their own advantage. Now they found themselves not only in a position to continue controlling the flow of information between New France and New York but also to act as middlemen in the smuggling trade that went on between the two colonies via Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. The admission of the Tuscaroras to the League as a sixth nation in 1726 greatly enhanced Iroquois military power and enabled them to expand their raids against a variety of southern Indian groups, notably the Cherokees and the Catawbas. This limited form of mourning war enabled the Iroquois to continue rebuilding their population and spiritual power without the risk of French retaliation, for these enemies were either allied with the British of the Carolinas or with the Spanish in Florida.
And all of this sets the stage for the upcoming battles of the French and Indian dilemma.
The Indiana are usually presented as chorus in this play, actors with no lines, but the truth is they would play major roles on the world stage in the war that Winston Churchill called the "first world war". Not only were they constantly manipulated by the two world powers grounded in Europe, but they also used their swing-vote power to manipulate right back. Don't get the idea that the Indians were stupid in all of these developments, and don't leave the room without understanding that they had the ability to brutally attack their political opponents with blunt force if necessary - in ways that would shock the Europeans.
As I read forth in The War that Made America, I will soon be introduced to a young Major George Washington and an Indian ally known as Half King, each of whom bear great responsibility in triggering the French and Indian War.
I am reading this volume to help me prepare for a week-long Teacher Institution at Fort Ticonderoga,
on the east bank of Lake Champlain in upstate New York, this summer.