1763 - 2013 French & Indian War Commemoration - 250 Years


  • 1763:

    In August 1763, colonial Bostonians gathered at the Massachusetts capitol—today’s Old State House—to celebrate the end of the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War. Victorious over French and Spanish rivals, a greatly enlarged British empire appeared gloriously ascendant. But London faced the daunting challenge of integrating new peoples and places into its domains while overhauling imperial administration and finance. This online presentation of the 2013 Old State House exhibition, “1763: A Revolutionary Peace,” retells an epic story of war, peace, and history’s surprises in an enhanced digital edition.

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    By His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq;…A Proclamation for a Thanksgiving (Boston,1763)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    Boston’s 1763 peace observances also had their sober side. The day following the peace celebrations, this proclamation directs, was to be one of “Public Prayer and Thanksgiving” in gratitude for God’s “great Mercies in conducting us through this long, bloody, and expensive War unto an honorable, advantageous, and, as We may well hope,a lasting Peace.” As an official act of Royal Governor Francis Bernard, the proclamation was “Given at the Council-Chamber”—250 years later gallery space for the Old State House exhibition “1763: A Revolutionary Peace.”


  • Worlds of War, 1739-63

    In the 18th century’s middle years, rivalries among Britain, France, and Spain brought war to places around the globe—not least to North America, where powerful Native nations keen to contain European settlement complicated European imperial calculations. Provincial legislators and royal governors working in Boston’s Old State House superintended Massachusetts’s aggressive participation in this contest. In the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War that culminated this epoch of international violence, effective British mobilization of colonial American human and material resources underpinned sweeping conquests of French and Spanish colonial possessions.

  • 12-pound round shot struck with the fleur de lys, French, before 1759

    The Fort Ticonderoga Museum
    France, Britain, and Spain all used military force to defend and extend their claims and colonies in the Western hemisphere. The fleur de lys proclaims French ownership of this round (cannon) shot excavated at Fort Ticonderoga. Called “Carillon” by its French builders and erected in 1755-8, this Lake Champlain fort anchored a chain of posts guarding a key route into New France’s St. Lawrence valley heartland. As the chain’s southernmost terminus, Carillon/Ticonderoga stood athwart a key portage connecting Lake Champlain via Lake George to the Great Lakes, and was also well positioned to serve as a base for French strikes against western New England and northern New York.

  • A Plan of the City and Harbour…of Louisb[o]urg (Boston, 1746) (detail)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    Located on Cape Breton Island—today part of Nova Scotia, Canada—the fortified French fishing port and naval base of Louisbourg was twice besieged and captured during the mid-century imperial wars, first in 1745 by an expedition organized by Massachusetts Royal Governor William Shirley with substantial legislative and popular support. With defenses that ranked among North America’s most elaborate, yet deeply connected to New England by ties of trade, Louisbourg exemplifies both France’s emphasis on fortified places as anchors of empire and the seemingly-paradoxical economic interdependence of the epoch’s imperial rivals.

  • Grenadier cap, British or British American, probably 1740s

    Courtesy the Rhode Island Historical Society, RHi XI 7 ll78A
    European militaries in the Americas combined part-time (or limited enlistment) soldiers drawn from local civilian populations—usually if not always precisely referred to as “militia”—and professional units sent from home. Among these “regulars” were grenadiers, elite troops distinguished by their tall embroidered caps. This grenadier cap was either made in Britain before new regular army insignia regulations took effect at mid-century, or produced for either a British or British American militia unit seeking to emulate this prestigious professional soldier. A potent emblem of eighteenth-century military prowess, the British grenadier lives on in the name of one of the world’s most famous marching tunes.

  • Mourning pendant for George Augustus, Viscount Howe, containing locket of hair, c.1758-9

    The Fort Ticonderoga Museum
    Relations between professional European soldiers and colonial comrades-in-arms could be difficult, and the British found this especially true during the early years of the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War. But the case of Brigadier General George Howe—a charismatic and innovative British officer who earned the affections of provincial troops and politicians—shows that frictions could be surmounted. Following Howe’s 1758 death during operations against Carillon (Ticonderoga), the Massachusetts legislature meeting in the Old State House voted to fund a Westminster Abbey monument in his honor.

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    Der Überfall bei [Raid on] Hochkirch, H. de la Pegna, c. 1760

    Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, licensed under CC BY 2.0
    While conflict zones in the Americas, Asia, and coastal West Africa loomed increasingly large in the 1739-63 period, the European balance of power—in the midst of a transformative confrontation between the Austrian empire and the rising German state of Prussia—was a central concern to France, Spain, and even the island nation of Britain. But France committed much more of its resources to the Continent (where the scale of warfare dwarfed anything in the Americas) than did Britain, leaving French colonies and commerce highly vulnerable to British offensives.

  • Spike tomahawk, inscribed “En[sign?] Wm. Denison 1760”

    Courtesy the Rhode Island Historical Society, RHi XI 7 1913B
    Despite its associations with Native warmaking, the tomahawk was wielded by colonial troops as well. While their steel and iron blades were generally European-made, as close-combat weapons these light and lethal hatchets also bear a relation to indigenous war clubs, some of which themselves came to be fitted out with metal blades and/or spikes. The tomahawk’s ready adoption as a weapon by all parties in the contest for North American lands and resources underlines deep cultural entanglements between Natives and newcomers, even in the waging of war.

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    “Resumen del caudal…” record of gold and silver deposited in the royal treasury, Madrid, 15 Oct 1761

    España. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. Archivo General de Simancas, DGT 143, 24.
    In the global imperial wars of the 1739-63 era, finance was the greatest weapon of all. Britain raised great sums from lenders at home and abroad to finance its military exertions; France, with its shakier credit history, had to borrow badly-needed funds at less attractive rates. For its part, Spain—with colonial silver and gold flowing into the royal treasury—borrowed relatively little for military purposes during this era. Indeed, Madrid paid for its relatively brief involvement in the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War largely from funds on hand. But all three powers would find the postwar period one of fiscal hangover and accompanying political instability.

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    Pistol, given by Edward Braddock to George Washington

    Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History
    Leading a 1755 expedition against French “encroachments” in today’s Western Pennsylvania, British general Edward Braddock gave this pistol to his one of his aides, a young Virginia provincial officer named George Washington. Braddock’s death on that disastrous campaign temporarily elevated Massachusetts Royal Governor William Shirley (architect of the prior decade’s conquest of the French colonial port of Louisbourg) to the supreme British command in North America. This turn of events brought Washington to Boston in hopes of gaining a British regular army officer’s commission. Washington heads a long list of American Revolutionary War protagonists shaped by the conflicts of the 1739-63 era.

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    Title page, Antoine-Léonard Thomas, Jumonville: Poëme (1759)

    Collection of David A. Bell
    The wars of the 1739-63 period were also conducted in the realm of public opinion. While a freewheeling British press easily tapped deep existing reservoirs of popular anti-Catholicism and xenophobia, on the French side the monarchy itself worked to fan patriotic fervor. One example of covertly-sponsored royal propaganda, the epic poem Jumonville, dramatized as an act of quintessentially English barbarism the 1754 killing of a young French Canadian officer following the (peacetime) backwoods ambush of his party by a force commanded by the young George Washington.

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    Punch strainer, made in Boston from captured Spanish silver, c. 1742-4

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    British offensives against the Spanish empire—a power whose historical role in shaping North America is often understated—bookended the wars of 1739-63. Spanish America, with its vast precious metals deposits and tens of thousands of potential customers for British exports, proved an irresistible target for Anglo adventurers and imperialists. After beating back most British forays in the 1740s, Spain stayed neutral during the next decade’s wars. But in 1762 Madrid entered the war on France’s side, with calamitous results: within the year, Havana and Manila had fallen to British expeditions.

  • By His Honour Spencer Phips, Esq;…A Proclamation…(Boston, 1755)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    In an age of imperial war, many of North America’s Native nations faced a difficult choice: choosing sides in an escalating conflict or maintaining a precarious neutrality. The Penobscot people living in New England’s northern and eastern borderlands found their unwillingness to militarily support Massachusetts interpreted as active connivance with the French. This edict, issued from the Old State House’s Council chamber, declared the Penobscot “Enemies, Rebels and Traitors to His Majesty” and placed cash bounties on adult and child prisoners and scalps.

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    The Invincible French Ship of war… from J. Charnock, An History of Marine Architecture… Vol. III (London, 1802)

    National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, licensed under CC BY 2.0
    The 18th century’s global empires were maritime entities bound together by trade routes and sea power. France and Spain both maintained large navies, but during the wars of the 1739-63 period failed to hold their own against Britain. Even French superiority in naval engineering was insufficient compensation for chronic shortages of men and money, as the fate of their innovative 74-gun warship l’Invincible attests. Captured in 1747 and taken into the Royal Navy, a whole new class of British warship was modeled on its (French) lines.

  • Brace of pistols believed to have belonged to John Thomas (1724-1776)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    A veteran of the 1740s war with France, Massachusetts physician-soldier John Thomas commanded troops assisting the 1755 mass deportation of the French-descended settlers of Nova Scotia, a colony brought under British rule earlier in the century. The determined neutrality of these Acadians—not to mention the prime farmlands they occupied—led local British authorities and Massachusetts leaders to develop this notorious scheme of removal. Thomas subsequently led Massachusetts troops in the 1760 British campaign against Montreal, and later still was a senior colonial commander in the Revolution’s opening phases.

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    French East India Company “pagoda” coin, 18th century

    © Trustees of the British Museum
    While the European balance of power remained an overriding concern, during the 1739-63 era globalizing trends in trade were matched by those in warfare. Rival powers fought over not only “New World” commerce and colonies but West African slaving posts—unfree labor being a core engine of imperial wealth—and trading privileges in India. Indeed, so struck have subsequent historians been by the prominence of extra-European theaters in the era’s culminating “French and Indian” or Seven Years War—fighting even reached the Philippines—that they have often styled it the “first” world war.

  • The Death of General Wolfe, Benjamin West, 1770

    National Gallery of Canada
    Finally achieved in the 1759 battle mythologized here, Britain’s conquest of New France’s capital Quebec realized imperial ambitions going back to the 17th century. For New Englanders especially, the withdrawal of French power from the continental mainland—a reality the 1763 Treaty of Paris would ratify—appeared to herald a glorious future of expansion and prosperity. For French inhabitants brought under British rule, “La Conquête” would prove a wrenching moment of transition, while Native nations accustomed to French support against the westward push of Anglo-American settlement faced an uncertain future.


  • Making Peace, 1763-6

    Formally ending the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War between Great Britain (and its ally Portugal) and their antagonists France and Spain was the Treaty (or Peace) of Paris of 1763. While addressing issues in “the four parts of the world,” the agreement’s greatest impact was on the North American mainland, where all French and Spanish colonies and claims east of the Mississippi except New Orleans passed to Great Britain. But translating words on paper into facts on the ground would prove dauntingly complex, especially in places occupied by still-powerful Native nations.

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    Etienne-François de Stainville, duc de Choiseul [attributed], Memoire historique sur la négociation (Paris, 1761)

    Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
    Ending the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War proved a protracted process, with major military operations continuing even as leaders exchanged peace proposals of varying levels of realism and sincerity. 1761’s abortive Anglo-French negotiations seem to have been primarily pursued by French chief minister Choiseul to buy time to bring Spain into the war as an ally, although the famous Memoire historique cleverly pinned the talks’ failure on British intransigence. Another year’s worth of militarily- and financially-costly defeats—crowned by Spain’s stunning loss of Havana—helped concentrate French and Spanish minds in 1762-3.

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    The Comparative Importance of our Acquisitions from France…(London, 1762)

    Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
    Prospects of peace raised the question of the comparative value of France’s various American possessions. Aside from merchants invested in the Canada trade, French opinion more broadly regarded Canada (and Louisiana) as expendable in comparison to their Caribbean sugar islands. In Britain, competing economic and political interest groups waged a veritable pamphlet war over “Canada or Guadeloupe,” as the issue was framed. Some advocated keeping Canada to secure the American frontier and enable westward expansion, while others argued that the economic value of France’s conquered sugar islands should carry the day. In the end, British leaders chose security over economics, and France got its key islands back.

  • “Definitive Treaty of Peace and Alliance between Great Britain, France and Spain,” 10 February 1763, principal signature page

    The National Archives of the UK, SP108/123
    One of the original signed manuscript copies of the “Definitive Treaty of Peace and Alliance” of 10 February 1763 —known to history as the Treaty or Peace of Paris—was displayed during its 250th anniversary year at Boston’s Old State House museum. The 27 principal articles of the 24-page document addressed not only the transfer of territories and restitution of conquests, but also fishing rights, prisoner exchanges, troop demobilization, and the religious and property rights of the colonial inhabitants of transferred territories.

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    Paris treaty signer portraits

    Åsa Lundén/Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (left); From the Woburn Abbey Collection (center); Public domain via Wikimedia Commons (right)
    From left to right, French foreign minister César Gabriel de Choiseul-Praslin, the duc de Praslin (portrait by Roslin, 1762); British minister plenipotentiary John Russell, fourth duke of Bedford (by Reynolds, c. 1760); and Spanish ambassador Pablo Jerónimo y Pallavinci, marquis de Grimaldi (by Ramos after c. 1779 von Maron). Absent from this lineup is the personality who dominated the negotiations: chief French minister the duc de Choiseul. The treaty’s central provisions were hammered out in a series of confidential exchanges between Choiseul, the French signer’s senior cousin, and the British cabinet.

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    Hubertusburg treaty medal, obverse and reverse; Schloss Hubertusburg, Wermsdorf, Saxony, Germany

    Münzkabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Paul Roger photo (top)/Jörg Schöner, Dresden (bottom)
    Two of the war’s remaining great antagonists—Britain’s ally Prussia and France’s ally Austria—were not party to the Paris treaty. (Russia, the other major member of the anti-Prussian coalition, had made a separate peace.) On 15 February 1763, at the Saxon hunting lodge of Hubertusburg, Austria and Prussia ended hostilities with an accord permanently recognizing Prussia’s 1741 seizure of the rich Austrian province of Silesia. Thus ended years of struggle by empress-queen Maria Theresa to regain this territory torn from her domains by her arch-enemy, Prussian King Frederick II (“the Great”).

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    Bedford bill for luxury tablewares, paid 28 December 1762

    From the Woburn Abbey Collection
    Eighteenth-century international diplomacy involved its share of social display. During the duke of Bedford’s nine-month embassy to France, the duke and duchess maintained no fewer than three French residences—a mansion in Paris, a mansion at Fontainebleau (the treaty preliminaries were negotiated at that palace in the fall of 1762), and a townhouse at Versailles. This invoice for luxury tablewares is one of nearly 300 bills documenting ambassadorial expenses ranging from wine to housewares to interior decorating services preserved in the Bedford archives at Woburn Abbey.

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    Items from Sèvres gift service presented to the duchess of Bedford, 1763

    From the Woburn Abbey Collection
    Gift exchange is among the most enduring and universal of diplomatic practices, one that was significant to European and Native North American diplomacies alike. Soon after the Paris treaty’s conclusion, French foreign minister and treaty signer the duc de Praslin arranged for a massive Sèvres dinner service, consisting of 180 pieces of tableware and 120 decorative vases and figurines, to be given in the name of Louis XV to the duchess of Bedford. The fact that it was the ambassador’s wife who was the recipient of this prestigious royal present points to the powerful if unofficial roles elite women could play in eighteenth-century high politics.

  • The Definitive Treaty of Peace and Friendship… (London, 1763), opening text of Article IV

    Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
    Reflecting its international scope, the 1763 Paris treaty was published in Spanish, French, British, and Portuguese editions. Shown here is the beginning of Article IV—the article ceding to Britain “Canada, with all its dependencies”—from the bilingual London edition. A subsequent article (VII) clarified the extent of France’s cession by establishing the course of the Mississippi as the new Anglo-French dividing line, with everything to the east excepting New Orleans confirmed as British. But France had already secretly transferred that Mississippi port and its western claims to Spain: 1763 thus truly erased the French empire from the North American mainland.

  • Traité de Paix… (Paris, 1763)

    Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University
    The triumphal presentation of the Paris treaty’s official French printed edition belies the depth of France’s reverses during the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War, and underscores the monarchy’s urgent need to reassert its dignity. Despite all the losses, however, under the treaty’s terms France did regain or retain key elements of its trading empire, most notably valuable Caribbean sugar islands and access to the vital North American cod fishery. Even in India—where France was obliged to accept British primacy in the rich state of Bengal—it retained a significant foothold.

  • A New Map of North America… (London: Bowles after Delarochette, 1763), cartouche detail

    Richard H. Brown Collection
    By displaying relevant treaty articles adjacent to the territories affected, this “New Map” of 1763 shows how the Paris treaty literally redrew the map of North America. In this detail view, just to the left of the cartouche can be found text from Article VI ceding “the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon” to “serve as a shelter for the French fishermen.” In light of France’s loss of Louisbourg port on Cape Breton Island, securing a new fishing base in the Gulf of St. Lawrence had been a core French goal in the treaty negotiations.

  • A New Map of North America… (London: Bowles after Delarochette, 1763), Gulf Coast region detail

    Richard H. Brown Collection
    Article XX of the 1763 Paris treaty gave Spanish Florida and the Gulf coast to Britain in exchange for the return of the captured Cuban capital of Havana. (News of Manila’s late-1762 capture did not reach Europe until after the treaty’s conclusion.) In combination with France’s sweeping cessions, Britain’s treaty acquisitions from Spain made London master of all of continental North America east of the Mississippi. But many Britons were disgusted to see Havana, the jewel of the Caribbean, traded for a vast tract of apparent Floridian wasteland. For its part, Spain not only regained Havana under the treaty, but (thanks to a secret prior deal with France) added New Orleans and western Louisiana to its imperial portfolio.

  • A New Map of North America… (London: Bowles after Delarochette, 1763), St. Lawrence River Valley region detail

    Richard H. Brown Collection
    Catholic inhabitants of lands ceded to Britain were guaranteed religious rights under the Paris treaty, a key concession from a staunchly Protestant state. Most French Canadians (the majority farmers living in the St. Lawrence River Valley) elected to live under the new regime, while most Spanish inhabitants of Florida and the Gulf Coast relocated to either Mexico or Cuba. Some members of another Catholic group—Acadians expelled from Nova Scotia and adjacent areas during the war—filtered back to that region; others settled in Louisiana, planting the seeds of “Cajun” culture there.

  • A New Map of North America… (London: Bowles after Delarochette, 1763), Great Lakes region detail

    Richard H. Brown Collection
    Leaders of Native nations in the Great Lakes and Ohio River Valley regions ceded by France to Britain expected the British to follow the French example and treat them as allies. Instead, postwar British policies—the sharp curtailment of diplomatic gifts from wartime levels, restrictions on the trade of ammunition essential for the hunt, and reversal of promises to dismantle supposedly temporary military posts—conveyed the message that Native peoples were instead to be viewed as conquered subjects. The ensuing backlash, initiated by Odawa war chief Pontiac’s May, 1763 attack on Detroit, soon spread throughout the backcountry.

  • “By the King, A Proclamation” (London, 7 October 1763)

    Courtesy of the Massachusetts Archives
    While framing policies regarding the administration of new North American territories, British officials received alarming news of the overturning of imperial authority in the continental interior by insurgent Native nations. These grim tidings gave added urgency to policy ideas already under consideration regarding the regulation of Native-colonial relations, including the establishment of an “Indian reserve” west of the Appalachians. Nearly half of the completed document, promulgated by Royal decree on 7 October 1763, consisted of measures addressing the grievances of the “several Nations or Tribes of Indians…who live under our Protection.”

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    “By the Honourable Sir William Johnson…A Proclamation” (New York province, 1763)

    Library and Archives Canada/AMICUS 7468714/e010865736While its provisions also established the new British colonies of Quebec, East and West Florida, and Grenada, the “Royal Proclamation” is best remembered for articulating the principal that Native nations brought under British dominion still possessed a degree of sovereignty. The Proclamation mandated that no colonist could settle Native “Hunting Grounds” west of the Appalachian ridge until and unless Crown agents could negotiate a mutually-acceptable purchase agreement with Native occupants. The battered condition of this copy of the 1763 Proclamation—a reprint issued by Crown “Indian Superintendent” Sir William Johnson for distribution to Native leaders—suggests extensive travels through the North American backcountry.

  • Page from “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” signed by Sir William Johnson and four Huron leaders, 1764

    Library and Archives Canada/e011066949 (facsimile was exhibited)
    In July, 1764 emissaries representing some 24 Native nations from the Northeastern woodlands to the Mississippi converged at Fort Niagara on southwestern Lake Ontario for a peace conference convened by British Crown “Indian Superintendent” Sir William Johnson. While leaders of nations—like the Odawa leader Pontiac—directly engaged in the resistance war were absent, by resetting British relations with so many important Native powers on the grounds of the 1763 Royal Proclamation’s apparent recognition of Native sovereignties, Niagara marked a turning point in the restoration of peace in the interior and in the legitimization of Britain’s acquisition of French rights and obligations there.

  • Ojibwa-style pipe bowl bearing Iroquoian inscription, c. 1760-79

    Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
    Pipes with bowls like this example were smoked many times by delegates to the Niagara peace conference, for the sharing of tobacco to clear minds and stimulate dialogue was an essential ritual of Native diplomacy in North America. Connecticut clergyman Ebenezer Moseley is believed to have collected this carved stone pipe bowl during his 1765-73 mission to the Oneida Iroquois settlement of Oquaga or Onaquaga (located not far from present-day Binghamton, New York). Given this provenance, this pipe could thus well have been smoked during the intensive regional diplomacy of the early 1760s.

  • 1764 Treaty Belt, digitally enhanced image of 1852 graphic record of original

    After A.F. Hunter, “Wampum Records of the Ottawas,” Figure 25, Belt No. 1, Annual Archaeological Report, 1901 (Toronto, 1902)
    Like the smoking of tobacco, the exchange of belts assembled from rows of polished shell wampum beads was a distinctive and essential ritual of North American diplomacy. Recording important diplomatic agreements, these belts were carefully preserved by Native nations—often by an elder appointed to the role of wampum keeper—as enduring physical proof of promises made around the council fire. The 22-row, 10,000 bead belt documented in this image is believed to be the “Great Belt of the Covenant Chain” that Crown “Indian Superintendent” Sir William Johnson presented to Native delegates at the 1764 Niagara conference.

  • George III “Happy While United” peace medals, 1764 and 1766 issues

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society (left); McCord Museum, Montreal, M1891 (right)
    While the 1764 Niagara peace conference memorialized by the “Happy While United” medal is justly famous, several Native nations continued resisting British authority in the interior, and the lands vacated by the French were not fully pacified until 1765. Pontiac himself did not treat directly with Johnson until the following year, when the two met at Oswego in a treaty conference occasioning a new issue of the “Happy While United” medal. As a number of later-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century portraits of Native leaders attest, peace medals were gestures of respect highly prized by their recipients.

  • Nine-row wampum belt, Northeastern North America, with “17–66” worked into its design

    Pitt Rivers Museum 1887.32.2. Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
    The exchange of a “Belt 9 rows” is twice mentioned in the treaty minutes from the 1766 Oswego peace conference that finally brought British “Indian Superintendent” Sir William Johnson face-to-face with Odawa leader Pontiac. While nothing certain is known of this artifact’s pre-accession history (its 1887 donor had been in Canada three years before), this nine-row belt is certainly of 18th-century eastern North American make, and it bears the date of the 1766 Oswego treaty, closing act of the Native resistance movement so strongly associated with Pontiac’s name.


  • A Revolutionary Peace

    The “French and Indian” or Seven Years War, and the 1763 Paris peace that ended it, had profound—and potentially revolutionary—repercussions for the histories of North America and the world. To varying but important degrees, the American and French Revolutions, India’s experience of British imperial rule, and Canada’s eventual emergence as a bilingual federation encompassing a Francophone minority and a mosaic of First Nations are developments that can all be seen as legacies of geopolitical realignments at once codified and magnified by the treaty of 1763.

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    Henry Caner, M.A. The Great Blessing of Stable Times… (Boston, 1763)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    For many colonial British Americans, the advent of peace appeared to herald a glorious future of peace and prosperity under a benevolent monarch, the conscientious and serious-minded young George III. But the “Great Blessings” and “Stable Times” anticipated in this August, 1763 Boston peace sermon proved elusive indeed. Instead, the confluence of an empire-wide economic contraction triggered by the ending of wartime spending, political polarization in London, and colonial resistance to new revenue-raising schemes and imperial governance reforms would make the eighteenth century’s sixties a volatile decade indeed on both sides of the Atlantic.

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    Vue…des Cérémonies qui Doivent etre Observées le Jour de la Publication de la Paix… (Paris, 1763)

    Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library
    France’s June 1763 “publication” or ritual public proclamation of the Paris peace treaty’s terms coincided with the unveiling of a new statue of Louis XV, a monument originally commissioned to celebrate the 1748 accords that had ended the first installment of the great imperial wars of 1739-63. Facing great challenges to its credibility in the wake of its performance in the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War, the French monarchy sought to use the 1763 treaty as an opportunity to claim for itself, if not the victor’s laurels, at least the prestige of the peacemaker.

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    The Proclamation of Proclamations, or the most glorious and memorable Peace that ever was proclaimed… (London, c.1763), detail

    © Trustees of the British Museum
    While the coming of peace was broadly welcomed in all the belligerent nations, the specific terms of the Paris treaty pleased almost no one. Britain’s negotiating stance was conciliatory enough to generate political opposition at home while being insufficient to dampen French and Spanish desires for revenge. And while skillful French diplomacy had achieved a better peace for the losers than brute military realities warranted, the treaty brought its architects no glory. This satirical print was one of many British lampoons of the two public figures most closely associated with the treaty, chief minister Lord Bute, and the accord’s British signer the duke of Bedford.

  • An Authentic Account of the Proceedings against John Wilkes, Esq. (London and Boston, 1763)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society
    In Britain, leading the rhetorical charge against the 1763 Paris treaty’s terms as too soft on France was English parliamentarian and provocateur John Wilkes. This Boston publication combines a reprint of Wilkes’s North Briton periodical issue number 45—in which he notoriously attacked the pro-treaty passages of chief minister Bute’s “King’s Speech” to Parliament in language so incendiary that Wilkes was charged with libeling the monarch himself—with an account of his subsequent legal adventures. “Wilkes and Liberty!” became a rallying cry against government overreach on both sides of the Atlantic, and Wilkes himself became an ardent defender of American colonial rights in the ensuing fight over postwar imperial reforms.

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    l’Anti-Financier, ou Relevé de quelqu’unes des malversations…
    (Amsterdam, 1763)

    Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, Collection jésuite des Fontaines, SJ IF 266/152
    In France as well as Britain, the war’s enormous costs had strained national finances. Unable to pay military-related financial obligations following its loss of Canada, the French monarchy was forced to partially repudiate its debts, and the years around 1763 witnessed a great debate in France about public finance in which the space for critiques of government expanded to unprecedented dimensions. While entrenched interests ultimately stymied needed reforms to the French system, the British—driven by exaggerated fears of their own fiscal situation—did act, passing measures to raise revenue from the American colonies that brought disastrous consequences of their own.

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    Planos de los castillos…(1771), detail showing Havana’s new Cabaña fort

    España. Ministerio de Defensa. Archivo Cartográfico y de Estudios Geográficos del Centro Geográfico del Ejército.
    During the years following the 1763 Paris treaty’s signing, France and Spain worked to rebuild colonial and naval power so gallingly humbled during the “French and Indian” or Seven Years War. Logistical and financial constraints frustrated hopes for a speedy rebound, but by the mid-1770s the Bourbon allies had built up their navies to the point where their combined tonnage surpassed Britain’s—a threatening turn of events British policy had long sought to prevent. Spain also strove to streamline imperial administration, and spent lavishly to bolster the defenses of Havana (appropriating Mexican silver to pay for the work) and other key Spanish American cities.

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    Treaty of Allahabad, 16 August 1765, signatures detail

    © The British Library Board, MSS Eur G.49
    In India, the full implications of the 1763 Paris treaty—which restored most French trading posts in the Subcontinent while prohibiting any future French military presence in the rich and important state of Bengal—would not become evident for another two years. But in 1765, following his defeat by British East India Company forces, Mughal emperor Shah ‘Alam II was obliged to sign the Allahabad treaty placing Bengal’s fiscal administration in British hands. This made the British traders Bengal’s effective ruler and the beneficiary of an enormously lucrative income stream. From this foundation would be built the nineteenth-century British “Raj.”

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    H. Faber, The Treaty of Hubertusburg, 1763

    The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham
    This allegorical painting places Prussian King Frederick II (“the Great”) at center stage, where he stands dictating terms of peace to Austrian empress-queen Maria Theresa, his great antagonist during the wars of the 1739-63 era. The 1763 Hubertusburg treaty cemented Prussia’s rise to European great power-status at the expense of Austria and its ally France: a personal triumph for the famous Prussian soldier-king, but one supported by massive British military subsidies. While 1763 saw no redrawing of the European map comparable to that of the North American mainland, it marked a new era in the Continent’s power politics.

  • Embossed Stamp Act revenue stamp with printed stamp pasted on verso (London, 1765)

    Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society (right-hand artifact image courtesy the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum)
    The (in)famous Stamp Act of 1765—which mandated that a wide variety of colonial publications and business and legal documents use special sheets of taxed paper, each bearing a revenue stamp—was one of a series of postwar British measures intended to raise revenue from colonial taxpayers. Designed to help defray the costs of policing a North American empire vastly expanded by the 1763 Paris treaty, the Stamp Act also sought to reassert Parliament’s right to legislate for the colonies, a principal London saw recent colonial behavior as calling into question. For colonial British Americans expecting to reap the fruits of shared victory after 1763, news of the seemingly-punitive new tax came as a rude shock.

  • “No Stamp Act” Teapot, Derby, England, 1765-71

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase (reproduction was exhibited)
    British policymakers were right to suspect that Parliament’s legislative authority over internal colonial affairs was by no means broadly accepted in North America, but they completely underestimated the depth of opposition the Stamp Act would provoke. Violent protests and crowd actions in port towns from Boston to St. Kitts made the tax impossible to implement, and an intercolonial boycott of British imports inflicted such economic pain that London was forced to rescind the Act. Colonial American consumption of British manufactures—like this English-made teapot celebrating the Act’s 1766 reversal—soon rebounded, but the root question of Parliamentary authority was left ominously undecided. Tea itself would become a flashpoint in the not-too-distant future.

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    Paul Revere after Henry Pelham, The Bloody Massacre Perpetuated in King Street… (Boston, 1770)

    The Bostonian Society
    In March 1770, less than seven years after Bostonians had gathered in the street below the balcony of the Town House (today’s Old State House) to celebrate the fruits of victory sealed by the 1763 Paris treaty, the same patch of ground became the site of a very different encounter between government and citizenry. The so-called “Boston Massacre”—the clash between a crowd of angry locals and British troops charged with policing Boston’s unruly streets—left five civilians dead, and showed how low relations with London had sunk since the palmy days of 1763. Soldiers once hailed as comrades-in-arms were now viewed by many as an occupying army.

  • Tea Caddy, China, c. 1740-70, believed to contain tea from the Boston “Tea Party” of December, 1773

    The Bostonian Society
    Despite securing control of Bengal following France’s 1763 removal as a serious competitor there, by early 1770s the British East India Company was in deep financial trouble. The Tea Act of 1773 sought to help the Company stabilize its finances through monopoly rights on the sale of (discounted) tea to consumers in British America. But Parliament—still intent on demonstrating its legislative authority even after having had to backpedal on one revenue scheme after another—had retained a tax on tea, making the East India Company’s tea monopoly a taxed tea monopoly. The resulting confrontation over Parliament’s reasserted right to tax the colonies would provoke the final imperial crisis.

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    Attributed to James Peale, Washington and His Generals at Yorktown, 1782-91, detail

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase
    When worsening relations between London and the American colonies finally exploded into outright conflict, hundreds if not thousands of “French and Indian” or Seven Years War veterans served on all sides, and at all levels. Among the rebels, not only Washington, but Putnam, Gates, Morgan, and von Steuben had all learned soldiering in the earlier war; so too had Gage, Burgoyne, and the Howe brothers among the British. As for the French—whose intervention in the Revolution was itself payback for losses the 1763 Paris treaty ratified—Rochambeau, de Grasse, and many of their subordinates had fought in the earlier conflict, while the young Lafayette (shown at extreme left in this contemporary painting) had lost his own father to the war.

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    Province of Québec automobile license plate, 1992

    Wikimedia Commons
    The automobile license plate of the Canadian province of Québec bears the French fleur-de-lys and the motto “I remember,” simultaneously proclaiming the province’s French identity and the fact that that identity was forged under conditions of conquest (as does another Québécois catchphrase, “la survivance,” or the survival). A child of 1763, Canada is an Anglo-French bilingual country ever searching for the ideal political and cultural relationship between its increasingly-multicultural Anglophone majority and Francophone minority concentrated in Québec.

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    “A Design to Represent the Beginning and Completion of an American Settlement or Farm,” (London, 1761), detail

    Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
    For the Native peoples of the North American interior, 1763 and the loss of France as a potential military ally ushered in two centuries of intensifying Anglo-American settlement and development at the expense of land rights and autonomy. Even before the Revolution, the settlement moratorium mandated by the 1763 “Royal Proclamation” proved a feeble bulwark against Anglo-American settlers surging into the interior through trans-Appalachian passages like the Cumberland Gap. Adjusted westward in 1768 through treaties with the Six Nations (Iroquois) and Cherokee, the Proclamation Line’s passage into irrelevance was completed when the thirteen rebelling British American colonies achieved independence from London.

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    Idle No More “Royal Proclamation” 250th Poster, 2013 (cropped for display)

    IdleNoMore/Tannis Nielsen
    Native activists in Canada took a greater interest in the 1763 250th than any other North American constituency, not for the Paris treaty anniversary per se, but for that of the “Royal Proclamation.” In the United States, while the 19th-century legal concept of Native peoples as “domestic dependent nations” was grounded in readings of the 1763 decree, independence from Britain rendered its protections of Native lands irrelevant. In Canada, by contrast, the 1982 Charter of Rights and Liberties resurrected the Proclamation by enshrining its protections in the Canadian constitution. With the nominal head of state still the sitting British monarch, in Canada a 250-year-old Royal Proclamation can be a powerful rhetorical and perhaps even legal weapon in the struggle to define the 21st century parameters of Native rights.



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A Revolutionary




Extended “Curator’s View” Captions by
Donald C. Carleton, Jr.