Monday, May 23, 2016

Don't Blame Washington for the F&I War

It was in May, 262 years ago, the Jumonville Glen incident occurred. You know that was the "battle" where Lieutenant George Washington started the French and Indian War. Or at least that is what historians tell us was the “spark” that ignited the Seven Years War between France and England.

Lighten up, the French and English had been "going at it" long before they even came to North America and once here nothing changed. So, as I see it, blaming 22 year old Lieutenant Washington is giving the guy a bum rap.

In the early 1600’s, in North America, both French and British imperial officials and colonists sought to extend each country’s sphere of influence in frontier regions and hostilities in North America began long before Jumonville and long before war was declared.

The aggression on both sides started in the late 16 century and kept escalating. In 1642 the 
British encouraged and supplied the Iroquois to attack Quebec on a regular basis. In 1688, King Williams War began and the English and Iroquois launched a major assaults on New France. These hostilities were followed by Queen Anne's War in 1710, Father Rale's War in 1722, King George's War in 1744 and Father La Loutre's war in 1749. The latter four resulted in the Conquest of Acadia (Nova Scotia) by the British. Some of these "sparks" began before Lt. Washington was born.

In 1755, in order to stem more British aggression, the French sent additional battalions of reinforcements to New France. When the English government got wind of this it immediately ordered the Royal Navy to intercept any French ships with troops on board.

If historians need a "spark", to start the war, how about this? 

On June 8,1755 when off the coast of Newfoundland. British Admiral Edward Boscawen's squadron sighted three French ships separated from their own squadron by fog: these were the Alcide, the Lys and the Dauphin royal. With the English and French ships within hailing distance, the commander of the Alcide asked, "Are we at peace or at war?" "We can't hear," answered the HMS Dunkirk, the nearest of the English ships, before adding, "Peace, Peace!" But after moving to within 100 metres of the Alcide, the Dunkirk opened fire Some 80 French sailors were cut down. The broadside was a complete surprise. The French gunners did what they could to respond to the English fire, but the battle was already lost. The Alcide and the Lys had to lower their flags. Only the Dauphin royal was able to escape and reach Louisbourg. 
It was following this bloody incident, that war was declared between France and England, even though hostilities would not be officially declared until a year later.