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Struggles for Power
Digital History ID 74

Author:   Thomas Danforth


Two parallel struggles for power took place in eastern North America during the late seventeenth and early and mid-eighteenth centuries. One was an imperial struggle between France and England. Four times between 1689 and 1763, France, England, and their Indian allies engaged in struggles for dominance. The other was a power struggle among Indian groups, pitting the Iroquois and various Algonquian-speaking peoples against one another.

These two struggles were closely interconnected. Both France and England were dependent upon Indian peoples for furs and military support. The English outnumbered the French by about 20 to 1 during this period, and therefore the survival of French Canada depended on the support of Algonquian-speaking nations. For Native Americans, alliances with England and France were a source of wealth, providing presents, supplies, ammunition, and captives whom the Indians either adopted or sold. Such alliances also kept white settlers from encroaching on Indian lands.

During times of peace, however, Indians found it much more difficult to play England and France off against each other. It was during the period of peace in Europe that followed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that England and France destroyed the Natchez, the Fox, and the Yamasee nations.

In this letter, Thomas Danforth (1622-1699), who had served as deputy governor of Massachusetts Bay colony and president of Maine, refers to King William's War (1689-1697), the first French and Indian War. Like Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) and King George's War (1744-1748), two later French and Indian wars, this conflict grew out of a struggle in Europe. After Indians allied to the English raided French settlements near Montreal, the French and their Indians allies retaliated by staging raids on New York and New England. Two English assaults on the province of Qu├ębec ended in failure and a stalemate ensued. The war was finally ended in 1697 by the Treaty of Ryswick, which returned to England and France all territory each side had lost during the war.


You are [to take] all care & go to Boston [to] gather of your soldiers together.... You shall in all glory & by all ways & means to your power take, kill, & destroy [th]e enemy without limitation of place or time as you shall have opportunity, & you are also empowered to commission any other do the like.

You shall carefully inspect all the garrisons in your purview, & reduce them to such a number, & appoint such [officers] as shall do most to the preservation of the people....

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Thomas Danforth to Charles Frost

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