Dinsmore Documentation  presents  Classics of American Colonial History

Author: Greene, Evarts Boutell
Title: Provincial America, 1690-1740.
Citation: New York, N.Y.: Harper and Brothers, 1905
Subdivision:Chapter X
HTML by Dinsmore Documentation * Added February 11, 2003
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AFTER seven years of indecisive conflict, during which the colonists had been left largely to their own resources, the English government began to direct its attention more seriously to the North American situation. The desirability of the conquest of Canada had been repeatedly urged upon the home government, and now had an unusually zealous advocate in the person of Colonel Samuel Vetch, an adventurous Scotchman, who, after some service in the British army, came first to New York, where he married into the Livingston family, and afterwards engaged in trade at Boston. In 1706, Vetch, with a number of other prominent Boston merchants, was convicted of trading with the enemy and fined, though the sentence was annulled by the crown on technical grounds. This incident does not appear to have affected his standing in England, and he had the advantage of considerable local knowledge of Canadian affairs gained during a recent visit.1

     1 Order in council of September 24, 1707, in Hutchinson, Hist. of Mass. Bay (ed. of 1795), II., 144; Patterson, “Hon. Samuel Vetch,” in Nova Scotia Hist. Soc., Collections, IV., 1-20.


     In March, 1709, a royal circular was issued to the northern governors announcing an expedition against the French in accordance with Vetch’s proposals. A fleet was to be sent out from England with five regiments of British regulars, who were to be reinforced by Massachusetts and Rhode Island militia, and then to proceed by sea against Quebec; Montreal was to be attacked by a land force from Albany, consisting of militia from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and an auxiliary force of Indians. Vetch was given general supervision of the enterprise, and the colonial governments were required to furnish supplies and fixed quotas of militia.1

     The plan was received with enthusiasm in New England, where it seemed to offer a permanent solution of the perplexing French and Indian problem. The necessary preparations were therefore pushed forward with vigor.2 In the middle colonies the problem was less simple. For New York the new enterprise meant a departure from the quasi-neutral position which had hitherto saved the province from border warfare. Nevertheless, the expulsion of the French from Canada was a prize for which it was worth while to take some risks, so that the New York assembly contributed liberally in men and supplies; and, by the help of the Schuylers, some

     1 N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., V., 70-74; Instructions to Vetch in Nova Scotia Hist. Soc., Collections, IV., 64-68.
     2 Parkman, Half-Century of Conflict, I., 131.


Map Facing This Page: Frontier Warfare of New England (1689-1713)

of the Iroquois were induced to co-operate. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania the Quaker influence proved a serious obstacle. New Jersey finally made an appropriation of £3000, but Pennsylvania refused to take any part in the enterprise. Nevertheless, a strong force was collected and a commander chosen in the person of Francis Nicholson, who as governor or lieutenant-governor in New York, Virginia, and Maryland, had had an unusually varied experience. His military capacity was never severely tested, but he was zealous and energetic.1 After all these preparations the colonists were finally disappointed by the failure of the home government to do its part. The supposedly more urgent demands of the European war led to a change of plan, and the troops formerly intended for Quebec were sent to Portugal. It was now proposed that with the help of English men-of-war then in American waters an attack should be made on Port Royal. The naval officers, however, refused their co-operation, and the year of hard work and heavy outlay ended with no tangible result.2

     Nevertheless, the leaders in America refused to give up the enterprise. Nicholson and Schuyler went to England to urge vigorous measures upon the government, and the latter took with him a

     1 N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., V., 78-81; Penn-Logan Correspondence, II., 351.
     2 Parkman, Half-Century of Conflict, I., 137-140; Hutchinson, Hist. of Mass. Bay (ed. of 1795), II., 160-163.


party of Mohawk sachems who attracted much attention.1 The more ambitious expedition to Canada was allowed to drop for the present, but one substantial result of these appeals was the Port Royal expedition of 1710, of which Nicholson himself was commander-in-chief, with Vetch as adjutant-general. Four regiments of militia were furnished by New England, and the English government contributed a few men-of-war with a regiment of marines. The French governor at Port Royal was too weak to resist so strong a force, and a week after the arrival of the fleet he was obliged to surrender. Acadia thereupon became the British province of Nova Scotia and Port Royal became Annapolis Royal.2

     After the capture of Port Royal, Nicholson returned to England to urge once more the larger enterprise against Canada. During the summer of 1710 the ministry of Godolphin and Marlborough, which, though not distinctly partisan, had finally allied itself closely with the Whigs, was overthrown and a new Tory ministry came into office, of which the leading members were Robert Harley, soon after created Earl of Oxford, and Henry St. John, who was also soon raised to the peerage as Viscount Bolingbroke. These men represented the reaction

     1 Schuyler, Colonial New York, II., 32-39.
     2 Nicholson, Journal, in Nova Scotia Hist. Soc., Collections, I., 59-104; Penhallow, Wars of New England, 57-62; N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., IX., 853.


against the continental war policy of their predecessors, and they soon set themselves to secure peace with France. On the other hand, the idea of the conquest of Canada appealed strongly to St. John, who wrote of the plan, “It is my favorite project, which I have been driving on ever since I came last into business, what will be an immense and lasting advantage to our country, if it succeeds, and what if it fails, will perhaps be particularly prejudicial to me.”1

     A new campaign was therefore planned. Again, as in 1709, it was proposed to undertake simultaneous movements by sea from Boston against Quebec and by land from Albany against Montreal. The attack on Quebec was to be made by a British fleet carrying seven regiments of regular troops, and an additional force to be raised in New England. The land expedition was to consist of a few regulars, militia from Connecticut and the middle colonies, and Iroquois Indians, all under the command of General Nicholson.

     The desire of the government to keep the expedition as secret as possible left the colonists only a scant allowance of time to make their contributions in men and supplies; but they seem, on the whole, to have given cordial and effective support.

     1 Stanhope, England, 1701-1713, pp. 424-427, 438-441, 469-473; St. John to Hunter, February 6, 1711, quoted in Palfrey, New England, IV., 280; cf. Bolingbroke, Letters and Correspondence, I., 232, 252.


A conference of governors was held at New London to discuss the necessary arrangements, and even Pennsylvania consented to make a contribution in money.1 After some discussion the leading Quakers decided that they might “give the Queen money, notwithstanding any use she might put it to, that being not our part, but hers.”2 In Boston there was some friction between the royal officers and the citizens, but the general court seems to have done all that could reasonably have been expected. In New York there was another diplomatic contest between Peter Schuyler and the able French agent Joncaire, which resulted in securing the co-operation of eight hundred Iroquois for the attack on Montreal.3

     Once more the colonists were doomed to disappointment, and the responsibility for the failure must rest mainly with the British naval and military commanders. The admiral of the fleet, Sir Hovenden Walker seems to have been faint-hearted as well as incompetent. The commander of the military forces, the notorious “Jack Hill,” a brother of the queen’s favorite, Mrs. Masham, had been rapidly promoted in the face of Marlborough’s protests and had never shown capacity for important military command.4 The fleet entered the St.

     1 N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., V., 257-261.
     2 Penn-Logan Correspondence, II., 436.
     3 N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., V., 252.
     4 Coxe, Marlborough, V., 127; Bolingbroke, Letters and Correspondence, I., 94.


Lawrence in August, 1711, but never reached Quebec: through a serious blunder, for which Walker was at least partially responsible, several transports were wrecked in the river with a loss of several hundred soldiers. There still remained a force decidedly superior to any that Vaudreuil could muster at Quebec, but neither Walker nor Hill had any heart for the undertaking, and after taking the advice of a council of war they determined to retreat. The failure of the Quebec movement required the abandonment of the New York enterprise also, greatly to the disgust of its commander.

     Few episodes in English colonial history are more humiliating than the failure of this Quebec expedition; and in New England, especially, there was sharp criticism of the management, “some imputing it to cowardice, but most to treachery.” An attempt was also made to throw the blame upon the Massachusetts government and people for lack of proper support, but the charge was effectively answered by Dummer, the Massachusetts agent in London, in his Letter to a Noble Lord.1

     Notwithstanding their disappointment, the colonists urged upon the home government a new attempt upon Canada, but the Tory ministers were deep in the negotiations for peace, and in 1712 secured a general suspension of hostilities. After a long and exhausting war both parties were

     1 Penhallow, Wars of New England, 70-74; Dummer, Letter to a Noble Lord.


ready for concessions, and in 1713 they agreed to the peace of Utrecht. The Spanish succession was settled by a compromise which was reluctantly and after some delay accepted by the Austrians; the establishment of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain and its colonial dependencies was recognized, but the union of the French and Spanish crowns was care fully guarded against. Nevertheless, the tendency of the two related houses to act together proved more than once an important factor in the subsequent history both of Europe and America.1

     Of great significance for America are the provisions of the peace of Utrecht which mark the advance of England as a maritime power. Her position in the Mediterranean was strengthened by the acquisition of Port Mahon, in Minorca, and the fortress of Gibraltar, captured in 1704. Her interest in the Spanish trade was recognized by the Asiento clause, which gave to English merchants for thirty years the exclusive privilege of carrying on the African slave-trade with the Spanish-American colonies. In the West Indies the net result was comparatively small. St. Christopher became a wholly English possession, but the French retained their chief islands, which continued to be important stations for French privateers.2

     1 Palfrey, New England, IV., 285; Treaty with France, Art. vi., in Chalmers, Collections, I., 340-386.
     2 Treaty with Spain, Arts. x., xi, xii., ibid., II., 40-107; treaty with France, Art. xii., ibid., I., 340-386.


     The North American settlement brought serious disappointment to both parties. Louis XIV. was reluctant to give up Acadia and offered instead various concessions elsewhere; but he was finally forced to yield, although an opening was left for future controversy by the statement that the province was ceded “with its ancient limits.” With Acadia, England also established her claim to the Hudson Bay country and Newfoundland, though with certain reservations in the interests of the French fisheries. The old claim that the Iroquois were subjects of the king of England was now formally recognized by the French, though their efforts to bring the confederates under French influence were by no means finally abandoned.1

     For the New-Englanders the conquest of Canada had seemed one of the desirable and possible results of the war. Dummer, the Massachusetts agent, in his Letter to a Noble Lord, insisted that the English colonies could never be at ease while the French remained master of Canada. Writing in 1712, after the failure of Walker’s expedition, he urged that Canada as well as Acadia be retained. Doubtless a minister of the type of Pitt, supported by a general like Wolfe, would have anticipated by half a century the English conquest of Canada. A serious defect in the settlement from the English point of view was the retention of Cape Breton Island by

     1 Treaty with France, Arts. x.-xv., in Chalmers, Collections, I., 340-386.


the French. The English had proposed a joint occupation of the island, refusing to either party the right to fortify it; but the French rejected this proposal, and in their hands Louisbourg became a formidable base for hostile operations against New England.1

     The cessation of war between France and England enabled the New-Englanders to come to terms with the eastern Indians. In July, 1713, Governor Dudley held a conference at Portsmouth with representatives of various tribes and a treaty of peace was agreed to. The Indians acknowledged the sovereignty of the queen, promised to respect the rights of the colonists to the territory occupied by them, and to seek redress for future wrongs by peaceful methods. In spite of this solemn treaty another border war broke out a few years later, but for the time being the return of peace encouraged the English to extend their settlements.2

     The year of the general peace was marked also by the end of a serious Indian disturbance in North Carolina, the so-called Tuscarora war, which required the co-operation of the neighboring colonies and for a time caused some uneasiness so far north as New York. The coming of a new Swiss colony into North Carolina had excited the jealousy of this strong tribe of Indians, and the murder of the provincial surveyor, John Lawson, was followed

     1 Bolingbroke, Letters and Correspondence, II., 286; Dummer, Letter to a Noble Lord; Kingsford, Canada, II., 481.
     2 Penhallow, Wars of New England, 77-84.


by a general uprising in September, 1711, when some two hundred frontier settlers were massacred. The governments of Virginia and South Carolina were asked for assistance, and South Carolina promptly sent Colonel Barnwell into the neighboring colony. In midwinter of 1712, Barnwell defeated the Tuscaroras in a severe engagement near the Neuse River and compelled them to make peace, but this treaty was soon broken and the war continued. In 1713 another South Carolina force, under the command of Colonel James Moore, son of the man who had led the expedition against St. Augustine, captured the Indian fortress with some eight hundred prisoners. The Tuscaroras were now so demoralized that most of them abandoned the province altogether.1

     The Five Nations considered themselves bound by kinship to the Tuscaroras, and there was some anxiety in New York lest they might combine forces against the English, especially as the French were then suggesting to the Iroquois doubts as to the sincerity of English friendship. This danger was, however, averted. After their final defeat the Tuscaroras took refuge with the Five Nations, becoming the sixth tribe of the confederacy; and with some hesitation this arrangement was finally accepted by the English governor of New York.2

     1 N. C. Col. Records, I., 810 et seq.; McCrady, South Carolina under Proprietary Government, 496-503, 525.
     2 Schuyler, Colonial New York, II., 50-53; N. Y. Docs. Rel. to Col. Hist., V., 343, 387.


     For North America as a whole the peace of Utrecht marks, as no previous treaty with France had done, a real advance in the prestige of England. It was true that the French raids had retarded the spread of English settlements and that much damage had been done to New England trade and fisheries. Yet these losses were soon repaired and the net result of French military and diplomatic effort was a serious though not a decisive defeat.

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Dinsmore Documentation  presents  Classics of American Colonial History