The War That Made America by Fred Anderson could just as easily been subtitled
"Everything You Wanted To Know About The French And Indian War But Were Afraid
To Ask." Indeed, though the actual subtitle calls the book “A Short History of the French and Indian War,” it is a pretty thorough one that is both well-written and well-researched.
To understand what led Americans to become known as Americans, to understand what led up to the American Revolutionary War and shaped our consciousness as an independent nation of states instead of a loose confederacy of colonies, knowledge of the French and Indian War (a.k.a. the Seven Years’ War) is essential. Fred Anderson makes this period of our country’s history live again, aided by his use of anecdotes, personal background on the individuals involved, and his overall writing style.
How did George Washington get the military training he needed to become the brilliant strategist he was and later the first president of America? By his participation in the French and Indian War, a costly and bloody one that lasted seven years (1754-1760). He fought then as a loyal soldier for the British empire (and their Indian allies) against the French, their American territory’s colonies (called, collectively, New France) and their Indian allies. Though many Indian tribes participated on either the French or the English sides during the war, the Iroquois League successfully played both sides against the middle, at times helping or fighting against both groups.
In a touch of irony, the British government was the force behind fostering a sense of unity among the American colonies in an attempt to get them to fight jointly against their common enemy, France. To attain this end, Anderson writes, the British government appointed Major General Braddock as “Britain’s viceroy in North America.” The British government desired Braddock “to impose a degree of unity on the colonists that they had never before known.” The roots of the American Revolution were very much a product of the French and Indian War, indeed, making the title The War That Made America quite apropos.
The Six Nations, or the Iroquois League, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and the Tuscaroras tribes, was a formidable empire in its own right. Fred Anderson writes eloquently about the Indians’ role in the French and Indian War and how they influenced its outcome both diplomatically and through the use of warfare. They were the puppets of no one, hiring themselves out to whichever side that, at the time, best met their own goals and desires. To become more powerful and rich themselves, they even made power grabs for the land of other Indian tribes then sold the land. For example, “the Six Nations were willing to sell land out from under the Delawares and other peoples, now conveniently defined as the wards of the League,” in Pennsylvania, and the Penn family profited by being “able to buy it in quantity and begin reselling it to white settlers.”
Ever wonder how and why we grew from being a bunch of colonies loyal to Britain to rebellious revolutionaries who felt forming a Union was only the way to go? The War That Made America presents concisely how events inexorably unfolded to lead people proud of their British heritage to consider revolution the only viable alternative. The demands of some British authorities such as Braddock for the colonies to offer up more men for fighting and money to pay for the war against France and its Indian allies
- without the colonists having much, if any, input - proved eventually to be insufferable.
The War That Made Americaa shows how influential the French and Indian War was in changing and shaping the colonists’ attitudes from pride and compliance to resentment and open hostility. A great example of this is the infamous Stamp Act, where the colonists believed that “to submit to taxation without representation was to accept an essentially limitless British authority over their lives and estate.” Taxation itself, and grievances such as the forced conscription of soldiers, became not the main reason for the American Revolution, but more like the basis for the argument to defy the increasing level of tyranny that Americans felt was being imposed upon them from across the sea. If we give in to taxation, in other words, there will be no end to further demands that Britain imposes on us, so we must take a stand now.
If you want a greater understanding of how America came to be, The War That Made America by is required reading. The French and Indian War helped give George Washington the background he needed to lead the country to eventual victory in the Revolutionary War; without us ever having been involved in it, it’s difficult to imagine whether we’d have ever had a Revolutionary War at all. If you like reading well-written books about history in general and American history in particular, then The War That Made America is sure to be your cup of tea.