In the two years of drifting which passed between the death of Henry Pelham and the outbreak of the [Seven Years] war, the one international fact forced to 'the front was the inevitability of a contest in' America. In India affairs quieted down with the recall of Dupleix. Robert Clive was in England, trying to get himself into parliament, while the two companies bad agreed to abstain from meddling with the native powers and were at any rate in a state of truce. But in America the Acadian question was acute, since the French and British frontiers had not been denned, and the French population within the unquestionably ceded territory were kept in a state of restless disaffection towards the British government by the French Canada. Moreover, the aggressive policy was in active progress; the French had already set to work to create a chain of forts extending from the great lakes down the line of the Ohio. The British colonists had attempted to force them back, but had the worst of the encounter.

Franklin's Colonial Plan
In 1754 Benjamin Franklin propounded a scheme for federating the colonies, which would have provided for united action under a common central government; but the spirit of particularism was too strong and the scheme was rejected. It became necessary therefore to appeal to toe home government The appeal was answered by the despatch to America of a couple of regiments under the command of General Braddock, a valiant veteran who understood the formal methods of fighting practised on the European continent, but knew nothing of backwoods warfare. The French govern­ment responded by preparing and despatching reinforcements to Canada, though there was no declaration of war.

Nevertheless Admiral Boscawen received orders to cut off the French expedition; this was at the end of April 1755. A second fleet was also being prepared to take the seas under Hawke. At this time the British ministers were still under the impression that what they had to fear was the alliance, not yet formally abrogated, between France and Prussia. George was desperately afraid that Frederick would be moved to attack Hanover, and the Government negotiated both with the Tsarina and with Austria for the protection of Hanover and the Netherlands, in case the colonial struggle between France and Great Britain should issue in an attack on those regions by France and Prussia. The Tsarina had no objection to being subsidised for an attack upon Prussia; but Austria rejected the proposals, which would obviously have destroyed her own private scheme of securing the neutrality if not the actual co-operation of France in an attack upon Prussia itself.

Bad news accumulated. Boscawen failed to intercept the French expedition, and Braddock, marching against the French post ot Fort Duqesne, was ambushed and killed, and his force was cut to pieces. The only British success, if success it can be called, was the effective seizure of Acadia by the deportation of the French, commemorated a century later in Longfellow's poem Evangeline.

Convention of Westminster
Now the thing that King George and his ministers wanted was to secure the neutrality of Prussia, the supposed ally of France To that end they had obtained the convention with Russia, which was to expose Prussia to Russia's immediate attack if she moved against Hanover in the French interest. To this end also the Convention of Westminster was now negotiated with Frederick, directly binding him to neutrality. Frederick had no inclination at all to be dragged into a war for the extension of the French colonial empire, a war in which he could not choose his own time for action, and in which he could by no means count on being effectively defended by France against Russia and Austria, which would quite certainly attack him at their own convenience.

Frederick accepted the convention in January 1756; with decisive, but perhaps unexpected, results. When the Tsarina learnt of it she became extremely angry, and Vienna was no longer in doubt that Russia would join actively in the destruction of Prussia. It was decisive moreover for France. Since she could no longer Use Prussia as a weapon against Great Britain, she would join Austria and secure herself against Austrian interven­tion on the side of Great Britain. Besides, the superstitious Louis had an idea that he could compromise with Heaven for his private immoralities by joining a Catholic Power in attacking Protestant states. The old system of alliances and antagonisms was completely broken up, and it had become inevitable that Great Britain and Prussia should stand together in the coming struggle.

The Progress of the War
The almost unparalleled inefficiency of the British Government would have been absolutely ruinous if it had not been matched by that of France. The destruction of Prussia was no business of France. Her business was to maintain Prussia in Central Europe as a counterpoise to Austria, riot to join in the attempt to restore an overwhelming Austrian ascendency. By allowing herself to be seduced into the Austrian alliance, she was drawn away from devoting her energies whole-heartedly to the duel with England. For the purposes of that, duel it was imperative that she should organise her fleets to their highest capacity, while Great Britain's actually very superior sea-power was neutralised by incompetent administration. She would have had nothing to fear from Austrian intervention; the real question for her was whether the preservation of Prussia called for her own intervention in spite of the British duel. She chose instead to exhaust herself in an attack upon Prussia, from which she could derive no advantage, while its inexpediency was certainly not counterbalanced by any moral considerations. And she neglected her navy until the British administration had been permeated by a new spirit which restored the British fleet to the plenitude of vigour that made its supremacy unassailable.

Alliance with Prussia
Not by far-sighted policy, but by drifting along in complete misapprehension of the whole situation, the British Government blundered into the alliance with Prussia; whereby in effect Great Britain got the help of Prussia and Hanover in fighting France. France suffered more from that combination than she would have suffered from a British alliance with Austria; but it was not in the least what the British government had intended. And apart from this, although it was perfectly well known that war with France for the colonies was inevitable, no proper precautions were taken. The garrisons of Minorca and Gibralter were inadequate; neither Port Mahon nor the Rock was in fit condition to resist a strenuous attack, and the fleet which ought to have been ready to sweep the seas was not made ready at all.

These things were owing to the fact that the Government had no real head, no one to guide it, with clear and definite idea of methods. Newcastle's idea of policy was party management; not the same thing, though a necessary means to it. He was too jealous to co-operate even with the men of ability who were nominally members of his administration. His most formidable critics in the House of Commons were Henry Fox and William Pitt, who booth spoke from the government benches, until presently Pitt went out of office, and Fox was silenced as a critic in the House by official advancement and in the Cabinet by the fear of losing his emoluments. The man to whom the people of England turned their eyes was Pitt, whom neither Newcastle nor the king could endure; and Pitt was entirely without the qualities of a party manager, nor would anything induce him to condescend to the business of party management.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's point of view may not be currently accepted by modern historians, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

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