Chapter Eleven: America
Prior to 1748, the divide of the Appalachian Mountains in North America marked the dividing line between two entirely different types of human societies.
All of the of people on the west side of this divide had been raised in and lived in societies built on the principles of natural law. They had been raised to believe, and raised their children to believe, that humans are just residents on this planet; we do not own it. They had been raised by people who told them that land lasts forever but people are fragile and temporary; we depend on the land for our survival, not the other way around. They had been raised to believe that the laws of nature are above all laws any humans could create, so no organization of humans could legislate ownership or ownability of any part of the planet. Calling the group by a fancy name like a ‘nation,’ sewing up fancy flags and putting fancy squiggles on parchment didn’t change this fundamental reality of existence. The planet we live on could not be owned, in whole or in part, and was not owned by any human or group of humans.
Since no one owns the land, no one owns the gifts it gives. The societies west of the Appalachian Mountains had no natural mechanism to force the bounty the land created to go to certain people (owners). The people had to have meetings and make joint decisions about what to do with this wealth. They shared the bounty the land produced in whatever way they thought best.
The people on the Atlantic side of the mountains lived in societies based on an entirely different belief system. They were raised to believe that the Creator of existence, an entity called ‘God,’ had created the planet in 6 days. On the final day, the Creator made man and started to give away the land to certain groups of people. After 1700 years, God was so dissatisfied with his work that he destroyed everything in a giant flood, and then started with a new model, dividing the world into ‘nations’ with imaginary lines called ‘borders,’ and granting each nation to certain people and their descendents forever. The book these people were raised to accept was the word of God (the first five books of the Old Testament, which are accepted by all Abrahamic religions) as canonical texts also claimed that an all-powerful spirit in the sky (‘God’) sanctioned the use of many different procedures, including purchases, deceit, trickery, and war to change the ownership of land. They had used the tools their holy book sanctioned to gain control of all land east of the mountains, so it belonged to them, absolutely and totally, with the consent and approval of the all-powerful Creator of existence.
To these people, ownership of land was a very simple concept, the same as ownership of something simple, temporary, and consumable, like an apple. If you own an apple, you can do anything you want with it. You can—in fact, you are expected to—destroy it totally for your own benefit, by ‘consuming’ or eating the apple. People in these societies were raised to believe that the owners of land had the same rights: They could do anything they wanted with it, all benefits of its existence belonged to them and, if they wanted to destroy it, they had every right in the world to do this. It had been granted to them directly by the Creator of existence, God, through his sanctions of the methods they used to obtain it.
Once He gave them the land, they had the right to dominate it (fight over it) and subdue it (exploit) it. In fact, they had the responsibility to treat their land this way: this was clearly stated in the very first words that the all-powerful Creator of existence said to his new human creations. They were not just allowed to destroy it if they could benefit from this; they were required to do this.
Who Gets the Bounty of the World?
Natural law societies leave the things the world produces unowned. If no one owns them, no one has any special right to them. The people of the world have to reach some sort of agreement about what happens to them.
In the societies on the eastern side of the divide, there were no such meetings. Nothing was considered unowned. Everything belonged to some person or specific group (which may be a ‘corporation’ or may be the people who run and own a ‘nation’).
In these societies, about a fourth of the people were ‘property slaves,’ meaning slaves of races that were considered to be the property of the white race, which generally means people with dark skin. Between half and two thirds of the other ¾ (‘whites’) were ‘non-property slaves’ commonly called ‘indentured servants’ or white slaves. ( to source.) This left about a third of the population to be ‘free persons.’
This figure substantially overstates the number of free persons, however, because male free whites were absolute masters of these systems. Daughters were considered to belong to their fathers until they were ‘given away,’ and then they became property of their husbands. The women and children had only indirect control over important variables of society, with perhaps the ability to ask or beg the men who made the decisions to favor them, but the men had no obligation to listen and could make any decisions they wanted. About 10% of the population were in the favored class, the class that made all decisions about wealth distribution, called ‘free white men.’
Being a ‘free white man,’ by itself, didn’t give rights over anything: the ‘free white man’ had to actually own a part of the planet to have any right to determine what happened to anything the planet produced.
A very, very few members of the favored class (free white men) owned giant plantations. These plantations were large enough to produce enough to feed thousands of people. (Remember, an acre is the amount of standard farmland that can produce enough to support one person. Washington owned 50,000 acres.) The owners of these plantations controlled fantastic amounts of wealth. They made the decisions about what happened to the great majority of the wealth the land on the east side of the divide produced or contained.
In these systems, owners control the supply of food. Owners control the right to the drinking water; they control the rights to walk on and sleep on the parts of the planet they own. As of the 1700s, they had come up with a system that allowed people who wanted to walk on land, drink its water, eat the food the land produced, or otherwise benefit from the existence of the land to buy these rights using the metals ‘gold’ and ‘silver.’
The God of Money
The original land grants had gone to corporations. The corporations wanted to sell land, preferably in very large parcels. To encourage people to buy, they set up a system that allowed the buyers of large parcels of land to participate in the ‘upper house’ of the government. The ‘upper house’ made all-important decisions about laws and rules, ran the military, and made all financial decisions. People who owned smaller parcels could vote for representatives in the ‘lower house.’ The corporations kept rights to veto the decisions of the governments by appointing ‘governors.’ If things were going well, the governors didn’t have to do anything: the ‘houses’ of the government would make the rules, the judges and courts would make sure the rules were consistent with the primary laws the corporations had made when they set up the system, and the militias (military bodies under the control of the governments) would enforce the rules.
To make commerce run more smoothly, the governments stamped disks of rare metals (gold and silver) into ‘coins’ and printed paper that they called ‘money.’
People needed food, places to live, and other necessities. These people would have to get this ‘money’ somehow. Once they had the money, they could trade it to the owners for the right to live on a certain part of the world (they could rent the land), or for some of the food a part of the world produced. The owners could offer this money to people who performed services for them.
People who took these ‘jobs’ would get money. They would then have to give the money right back to the owners in exchange for food and other things the land produced, and as ‘rent’ for the right to live on land that belonged to the owners. The money kept going in a circle, always ending up with the owners, who could decide who got money (and therefore who got food) and therefore decide which among the non-owners lived and died.
The money itself was nothing but paper certificates and metal disks.
These things have no use (and therefore no value) to humans in and of themselves. However, the people on the east side of the mountains had been born into societies where these pieces of paper and metal disks meant the difference between life and death. All non-owners had to have money or they would not have any right to anything the land produced or contained. The owners decided what people had to do to get money.
Since no money meant no food (and therefore meant death), money became an extremely important part of people’s lives (in the societies east of the divide). In fact, money becomes a kind of a god in these societies, because it determines how well people live: If people had no money, they couldn’t get any food and died. If they had barely enough money to survive, they barely survived. If they had more money, they could buy more and better food, pay rent on better places, and they could live in comfort.
If they could get into a situation where they ended up with more money than they needed to buy the necessities of life, they could use the extra money to buy a part of the planet: they could buy a farm, buy a mine that produced metals, or buy some other part of the world that produced something valuable. Once they owned, they could sell the value the land produced for money. If they owned small farms, they may make barely enough to support them, but at least they (as owners of a part of the world) were their own bosses. People who owned larger farms could hire people to do the required work, pay these people with a part of the money they got selling the things the farm produced, and keep the rest of the money themselves.
They could essentially buy themselves out of the economic slavery they were born into.
If they could get still more money, they could buy more land and get more and more income. At some point, they could own so much land that they wouldn’t even have to do any work at all.
Now, they would be the masters. They could buy workers (either indentured servants—white slaves—or non-white ‘property slaves’) if they wanted, or they could hire workers. Even when workers were called free in this society, they weren’t really free, because the masters controlled their days and wouldn’t pay them if they didn’t do what they were told; no money meant no food and this meant death. In this system, only owners were truly free; the rest were all slaves.
In societies built on this principle, these simple paper certificates and metal disks become an obsession for a large percentage of the population.
If they had none, they died. If they had a small money income, they could eat and survive in misery. If they had larger money incomes they could eat and survive in comfort. If they had very large amounts of money, they could buy parts of the world and turn themselves into masters. If they had extremely large amounts of money, they could become rulers.
In this system, money becomes a sort of god. It determines all of the most important realities of existence for the majority of the people. While the money itself has no real value (it is just pieces of paper with numbers on them or metal disks), people will do almost anything to get it. To most people in this society, nothing is in the same category of importance as money.
Money and Land
The land on the west side of the divide was inhabited by people with societies built on the principle of natural law. Such societies don’t have any natural forces that encourage the construction of factories and other facilities that can used to make weapons and the exploding powder that the weapons needed. The people on the west side of the divide did not have factories and couldn’t make weapons and ammunition. The people on the east side of the divide had facilities that churned out immense quantities of weapons. They knew they had a huge military advantage over people without the factories. If they wanted to conquer the land where these people lived, they could do it.
As of 1748, the people on the east side had not tried to conquer the land west of the divide. There are important practical reasons for this. We need to understand these reasons before the events of the next few years will make any sense. The events that took place in the 50-year period between 1748 and 1798 were largely responsible for shaping the world as it is today. They led to new types of corporations that had powers that were far beyond the powers of the corporations that existed earlier. They led to a new kind of nation, one that was built by and for corporations, and coordinated the tools of the new kind of corporation with the government in ways that gave this new type of nation powers that no nations had had in the past. We can’t really understand how and why corporations gained the power they gained today, and why the world is as it is today, without understanding these events.
Since these events are so critically important to understanding the world we live in, this chapter and the next chapter will go into considerably more detail about events than the discussions earlier in the book. I think this is necessary to understand exactly how the planet we were born onto got into the condition and state it was in as of the time you and I were born.
The Blue Ridge Divide
The dividing line of the two cultures was called ‘the Blue Ridge Divide.’ This was called a ‘divide’ because it ‘divided’ the waters that fell from the sky as rain. Land was west of or east of the divide depending on what happened to a drop of rain that fell on it. If the rainwater would eventually end up rivers that drained to the west, toward the Ohio or Mississippi river, that land was ‘west of the divide.’ If the rain would eventually flow toward the east, into one of the rivers that drained into the Atlantic, it was ‘east of the divide.’
The formal western boundaries of the states of North and South Carolina and Georgia had been drawn exactly at the divide, as formally stated here:
The lands of the Virginia Company and the lands granted to William Penn had been not been totally clear about the western boundaries of the land grants. Although the corporations and proprietors did claim some land on the west side of the divide, they hadn’t exploited any land west of the divide for practical reasons. To understand the important events that changed as of 1748, we have to understand these reasons:
The Virginia Company was in business to make money for its shareholders. The company had put together a certain system to do this and the system worked well. The system worked like this:
The company had a committee called the ‘Board of Trade and Plantations.’ This committee made planning decisions. The members of the committee would pick a tract of land for the corporation to focus on. They would map and survey the area. They would pick the best places for towns, commercial properties, building lots, large farms (plantations), and small farms. They would then create a use plan that would subdivide the land into lots of various sides with different uses. (The ‘use plans’ are commonly called ‘zoning rules.’) They would design the roads and other structures needed to create a European-style system of working farms, towns, and businesses.
The Virginia Company didn’t actually develop the land itself. Once it had a plan, it would work with smaller ‘development companies’ to get the improvements made. The development companies would put in the roads and other improvements in exchange for a certain number of acres of the land. The development companies would have to sell most of the land they got this way to cover their costs; the shareholders in the development company would then decide what to do with the extra land. In some cases, they kept it and turned it into plantations; in other cases, they sold it and distributed the money among shareholders.
At some point, the improvements would be finished and the development companies would have sold large amounts of land to private owners. These private owners, in the new towns, plantations, and farms, would have a community and markets. The Virginia Company would still own the majority of the land in that area. (The company had only given away part of the land to the development companies.) The Board of Plantations would then decide how to best use the land they had left. In some cases, they would sell it; in others, they would turn it into plantations that would be operated for the benefit of the shareholders.
The company had not developed any land west of the divide because of the cost. If you have ever been to the Blue Ridge Mountains, you will know why: these mountains are extremely rugged and steep. The heavy rains that fall in these mountains have washed away everything but the granite bedrock. The rock is in steep cliffs with wild rivers running through the gorges.
These is some very good land west of the divide. But to make exploitation profitable, the company would have to offer to give away so enough land to the development companies so that they could make money, even after paying the immense expenses of building a road across the blue ridge and building the additional roads and putting in the other improvements. The company was in business to make money for its shareholders and, as of 1748, it could make more money filling in the empty areas east of the divide than developing land on the west side, so it had developed anything on the west side.
By the late 1740s, the company was running out of land on the eastern side of the divide. Investors began to realize it was only a matter of time before the land to the west was opened up. They began to start advance planning.
and his partner ran one of the development companies that helped the Virginia Company develop its land. Jefferson had obtained a large land grant from the Virginia Company in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, Virginia. After putting in the required improvements and selling enough land to cover his costs, he had had an 11,000-acre tract of land, and enough money to buy the slaves needed to clear the land and work it, left over.
He turned the land into a plantation. He bought 175 slaves, had them clear the land, and began to use their labor to raise tobacco there.
His slaves also built a mansion for him, which he named ‘Monticello.’ This essentially turned Jefferson into a member of the landed gentry of America. He was now a ‘gentleman investor.’ He had an enormous income from his land, so he no longer had any interest in small development projects. He still wanted to make money, but he was now looking for the truly big projects that had the potential to put him into the same category as the richest and most powerful people on the planet.
Jefferson and Fry’s land development corporation was called the . The company had a large surveying division and team of explorers and mapmakers. Jefferson and Fry knew that the land on the other side of the divide would eventually be developed. They wanted to know where the best land was so that, when this happened, they would be able to move in and claim the best land for themselves. Their explorers drew up the map shown below, the first known map of land west of the divide.
The map shows the divide as a line of peaks marked ‘The Blue Ridge.’ This ridge starts in the lower right corner and runs upward to the top center of the map. The surveyors looked for places to build roads to provide access to the land. The red lines on the map indicate the places that the surveyors for Jefferson’s corporation (called the ‘Loyal Land Company’) decided they could build the major roads. The squiggly red line to the east of the divide would run up to a pass that the engineers who designed the road would ultimately name the The major north-south road to the west of the divide would later be named the ; it would provide access for the people with the ownability-based societies to the lands that are now a part of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
The first step in the project involved getting the land grants. They were requesting enormous amounts of land, more than 1.4 million acres to start, with additional requests to follow that would include all land between the Appalachian divide and the Mississippi river that are north of 35 degrees north latitude (the current southern border of Tennessee) and south of the Great Lakes.
Jefferson and Fry decided to get together with other gentlemen investors to ask for additional land grants, making it profitable to work together to build the very expensive roads that would be needed to provide wagon access to the areas they intended to develop. The other investment group was headed by the Washington family of Virginia (Augustus and his three sons, Augustus Jr, Lawrence, and George, who was then just a teenager but was given an equal share with his older brothers) and included all of the investors listed in the text box . The second corporation would be called the They would split the land this way: all land south of the Ohio River (the current states of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee) would go to the Loyal Land Company (Jefferson and Fry’s company) and all land north of the river (the current states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and the parts of western Pennsylvania that were at the time inaccessible and undeveloped) would go to the Ohio Company (Washington’s company.)
On November 6, 1747 the two companies filed official petitions with the Virginia Board of Plantations laying out their plans and requesting 1.45 million acres, about equally split between the two corporations. The board of Plantations considered the request but eventually decided that the requested land was outside of the scope of the original land grants to the corporation: the Virginia Company did not have the authority to approve the land grants. They would have to take their request to the Ministry of Colonial Trade and Plantations in London for a decision.
The Prime Minister of England
In order to really understand what happened next, you have to understand some very unusual events in the history of England that led to absentee kings. As a result of some arcane provisions of the secession laws, the leadership of England passed to the first in 1714.
Hanover was a part of Germany. The first Hanover king, (George 1 to British historians), had never even seen England when he became king, and didn’t speak English. He had no interest in affairs in England and let the make policy. His son, George II, was the second ‘Hanover king.’ George II was born and raised in Hanover. His native language was German; he only learned English late in life and never became fluent in it. Like his father, he didn’t have any real interest in politics in England and let the Privy Council rule the country. Over the first 48 years of the Hanover administration, British government was a highly political organization; with many unscrupulous people taking advantage of the fact that the boss was away to advance their own political agendas.
Two important players in this game were the Pelham brothers, who both eventually ascended to become Prime Ministers of England. Both of these men were noted for their expansionist views and their belief that England should come to control as much territory as possible in the Americas. Historians paint these two men, and particular Thomas Pelham, as great defenders of the rights of corporations, with a particular interest in the rights of the Ohio Company, which is thought to have been paying Pelham for his support during the entire time the Ohio Company existed. At the time of the application, Thomas Pelham was the head of the Ministry of Colonial Trade and Plantations. Pelham appeared to have taken on his assignment to get the land grants approved as almost a personal crusade, ignoring all other issues and pulling in all possible political favors to get the grants through the Privy Council. Pelham drafted a measure that would extend the authority of the Virginia Company’s Board of Plantations to allow it to make land grants west of the divide. (Since most of the investors who had an interest in the Ohio Company and Loyal Land Company were on the Board of Plantations, this would guarantee approval of the request, and make it appear that it was not Pelham’s fault if anything went wrong.) He submitted this proposal to the Privy Council on February 23, 1748.
He knew he would get a great deal of resistance.
The main problem was potential problems with France. England and France had been at war for 8 years and were in the final stages of negotiating a peace treaty. (The ending the war had been approved the same week that Pelham submitted the proposal to the Privy Council.
The Privy Council knew that France would not be happy if the land grants were approved. The French government had granted the land west of the divide to two giant French corporations. The French companies had been granted monopolies (meaning no other corporations could operate in the same areas) and the corporate charters had required the French government to defend these monopolies, using military force if necessary. If the British government granted land west of the divide to British-chartered corporations, and the British corporations started operating on these lands, the French would be required by their own laws to move in with military force to remove them.
Pelham appears to have called in all his political favors to get the measure passed and, in April of 1749, the Privy Council granted the Virginia Board of Plantations authority to authorize the land grants.
The Formation of the Ohio Company of Virginia
At the time, Augustus Washington and his oldest son, Lawrence, were acting as the liaison with the British. Pelham was in constant communication with them and sent them a letter in late summer of 1748 that told them he had secured the necessary votes and the measure was going to be approved. Washington called an investor meeting at his home, Mount Vernon for October 20, 1748. This was when the Ohio Company of Virginia was officially formed.
They company started with an initial public offering of 40 shares of stock, which they would sell for ₤100 per share (this is about $8,000 per share in 2015 United States money). Of this 40 shares, two would go to Augustus Washington, two to Augustus Jr, two to Lawrence, and 2 to George Washington. This would make the Washington family the controlling shareholders, with 8 of the 40 shares. (No one else had more than 2 shares.) From the first, the Ohio Company of Virginia was under the control of the Washington family.
At the first meeting, the shareholders approved the capital structure, elected the first officer (James Wardrop, who would be the treasurer), and passed some resolutions about how the corporation would operate. Here is a to the transcripts of the first meeting.
Final approval of the measure came from the Privy Council in May of 1749. The Virginia Company’s Board of Plantations had already tentatively accepted the Loyal Land Company and Ohio Company’s development plans. On July 11, 1749, the board approved the grant of 800,000 acres Jefferson had submitted, the grant of 200,000 acres Washington had submitted, and 2 other grants totaling 450,000 acres. Although the land went to four separate corporations, the lead partner would be the Ohio Company of Virginia and all development plans would go through the Ohio Company. ( to source).
The companies had the land they wanted; now they could go on to the next step: making money.
The (Real) First World War
As noted above, many in the Privy Council opposed the land grants, on the grounds that it had a high potential to lead to another war between England and France. Their fears were well founded because the grants did lead to a war. In fact, this particular war was a kind of turning point for wars in the history of the Earth, because it is the first truly global conflict that has ever occurred on the planet, with both hemispheres involved in monumental battles that foreshadowed the events that were to come in the 1800s and 1900s. This war would have profound effects on the realities of human existence and I don’t think anyone can really understand the events of the next few decades (that led to the formation of the United States) without understanding at least a little bit about this important year.
The war started out as a battle of corporate rights. As noted above, France had already granted the land west if the divide to two corporations. In the early 1600s, explored the Great Lakes on behalf of a French trading firm. In 1637, he returned to France to form a trading company of his own. He got together with a group of investors (exactly 100, as the name of the company implies) to form a company called . This company obtained land grants for all of the land that is now eastern Canada north of the southern shores of the great lakes. The company created a development plan for the eastern part of New France (later renamed ‘Canada’), and founded the cities of Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto.
In the late 1600s, a second French company, the (the French East India Company) petitioned the French government for the right to begin operating in the area around the mouth of the Mississippi River. The company obtained the land grants and founded the cities of New Orleans, Mobile, and Biloxi on land it was given by the French government. The company made requests for land grants further north on the Mississippi river. It eventually obtained grants that extended all the way up to the border of the land that had already been granted to the Compagnie des Cent-Associés.
As a result of these land grants, France claimed all land west of the divide of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Mississippi river. The land officially belonged to the two corporations. The shareholders of the corporations were extremely wealthy French aristocrats or high government officials. The corporate charters granted these corporations protected monopolies. The French government was required to defend these monopolies, using military force if necessary.
As of 1750, neither of these companies had even started to develop the land in the Ohio River valley. The British knew all this when they considered the requests to allow settlement west of the divide. They guessed that France would not interfere in their operations in the Ohio Valley, because the French companies had not shown any interest in the area. But this guess turned out to be wrong.
The Ohio Company sent the young George Washington out to the area with the head survey team. Washington and his workers built a fort on the Ohio River where the company would store supplies. The fort would protect the supplies and workers as they expanded outward. The operations officers of the French companies sent scouts to investigate and saw what the British companies were doing. They informed their shareholders. The shareholders filed lawsuits with the government, requiring that the government protect their rights. The shareholders won the lawsuits and the government had no choice: It had to bring in military units to remove the British corporations.
The French military started its first fort in 1752 on a fork of French Creek, in present-day Waterford, in northwest Pennsylvania, calling it The second fort, close to the current city of Pittsburgh, was started the next year; it was called Two other forts would fill in the area between these two main forts, creating a line that the French military could defend.
These forts were right in the middle of the land grants that had been made to the Ohio Company. The new forts were clearly designed specifically to prevent Washington and the other investors from developing their land. George Washington was heading the parties that were surveying this land and building forts of his own, to protect the land his company had been given. He saw what the French were doing and decided it needed a military response of its own. His government (the government of England) had granted his company rights. A foreign power was infringing on these rights. His government had an obligation to defend the rights it had been granted.
The War: The Short Version
A book published in 1757 called ‘’ contains the records of the actions that led to the war. This book includes copies of the official documents and many transcripts of eyewitnesses, together with the text of George Washington journals and letters to other shareholders at the Ohio Company, describing his actions from his own perspective. A great deal of additional information is available in the official records of the Ohio Company, available from and .
When the French began building forts, the Ohio Company shareholders called several meetings to decide how to respond to the French actions. One key shareholder of the Ohio Company, , was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia and in charge of the Virginia Militia. Dinwiddie wrote a letter to the commander of the French forces on behalf of the Virginia Militia. This letter claimed that colonial officials had received ‘many and repeated complaints’ about French ‘acts of hostility,’ it claimed that France had acted ‘in violation of the laws of nations’ and ‘in violation of treaties now existing between the two crowns.’ The letter then orders the French to leave the area peacefully; it then threatens war if they did not do this. Here is a to the full text of the letter.
The Mount Vernon plantation had its own military unit (see sidebar for more information). George’s brother, Lawrence, had commanded this unit, with a rank of major. When Lawrence Washington died in 1752, he bequeathed his rank and command to George.
Washington carried the letter to the French in what he claimed was an official capacity: he was acting as a major in the Virginia militia, which was duly authorized as a military unit under the laws of England, so he claimed he should be considered an British military officer. Washington put on his uniform and, with an honor guard selected from his unit, carried the letter to , the commander of , arriving on December 15. The letter claimed that the land was English soil and the French were trespassing. It ordered Saint-Pierre to remove his fort and all his men, and never return, or face immediate military action by the British. (Here is a link to the text of the original letter.)
Saint-Pierre didn’t recognize the Mount Vernon Militia as a legitimate unit of the British military; he considered it to be a private security force (which it was) with no authority to act on behalf of England. He drafted a cordial reply, explaining that his commanders had assigned him to this post and, if anyone wanted him to move, they would have to take up the issue with the authorities in Toronto, who had issue his orders. He promised to forward a copy of the letter to his superiors and to follow their instructions, whatever they were. But he explained he didn’t have the authority to remove the court on his own volition, regardless of what letters anyone gave him. (Here is a to the complete text of the reply letter.)
Washington was furious with this.
He had inherited controlling interset in the corporation and used all its power—including its London connections—to create conditions that would lead to a war. He started by firing off letters to Pelham and other people in London who had backed the grants, calling the French action and invasion of England. He then raised the largest military he could afford—140 men—to head back to the Ohio Company’s land and start building a fort to create a military presence there.
The Jumonville Incident
The event that started the war was called the ‘Jumonville’ incident.’
On May 26, 1754, Washington’s scouts told him of a party of French in the vicinity. Washington decided (or at least claims to have decided) that they were the spearhead of an invasion force, sent to take over all of the corporate lands, including Virginia itself.
He decided (or, again, claims to have decided) that the only way to protect his motherland was to attack them first. The night of May 26, his group surrounded the French and, at dawn. Washington’s journals clearly state that everyone was under orders: No one was to fire until Washington had fired. At dawn, they began firing into the tents where the members of the Jumonville party were still sleeping, killing 10 of the 32 people in the party. (Although Washington claims the French were firing on them so they had to defend themselves, other witnesses claimed under oath at inquests that were later held that the French were all still asleep, they had no sentries, and no fire came from their side. The official result of the inquests: the event was called a massacre.)
The head of the party, De Jumonville, came out of his tent with a white flag. He attempted to surrender and was shot in the head, killing him. Others came out of their tents and tried to surrender. A large group of American natives had been with Washington’s party and they interfered to allow these helpless people to surrender. (Their claim: if not for their interference, all of the French would have been killed.)
There is still a great deal of historical controversy over this event. The French claim that Jumonville was an ambassador for peace, sent to carry a message to Washington to try to avoid conflict, and that his party consisted entirely of civilians, with no military markings at all. Although Washington concedes that they were all wearing civilian clothing and there were no military markings, he claimed this was ruse to catch him off guard, and that they actually were the tip of a spearhead that would invade England, by first taking land west of the divide and then using their power to take land east of the divide. History books written in the United States tend to back Washington’s version; books written in France tend to back the French version. The 21 men that Washington captured may have been able to clear this up, but they were never heard from again and were probably executed. The only eyewitnesses that testified were the one French member of the party that escaped and numerous Indians, who all backed the French version.
The event the French call ‘the massacre at Jumonville glen’ and that Washington called the ‘battle of Jumonville Glen’ started the first truly global war, a war that lead to 1.4 million deaths. Although historians still debate the exact intent of the Jumonville party, with historians writing for United States audiences claiming he was the advance guard of a secret military force intending to attack land controlled by British-chartered corporations across the Appalachian mountains, and historians writing for audiences elsewhere claiming that Jumonville was a civilian ambassador sent out with his entourage to try to prevent violence, there are certain very disturbing facts that are not in dispute.
First, the prisoners asked for permission to bury the dead, but Washington refused to allow this. He left the corpses in the open to be devoured by carrion. Second, Washington and his men mutilated the bodies of the people who were killed, cutting off body parts to carry as souvenirs. This kind of action is common with people trying to start wars: they want to offend the other side so much that it has no choice but to react. In his journals, Washington justifies his mutilation and refusal to allow burial by claiming ‘this the custom of the red men.’ (Link to source.) I have a hard time understanding renegades from some local tribe had massacred why he would abandon his claims to Christian values unless, at some point, he considered the idea of denying responsibility and claiming the group.
But this was not possible. His 140 men all knew the truth, as did the one member of the Jumonville party that escaped and managed to make it back to Fort Duquesne, and all of the American natives that had been in the area and witnessed the massacre. (French documents, disclosed in the , site the Jumonville incident as the event that turned the natives into staunch opponents of Washington and anyone who would side with Washington. The French took advantage of this, helping the natives spread stories of the action and atrocities Washington committed and all of the American native people came on board, supporting the French in the war that started as a result of the incident at Jumonville Glen. Although the war that followed was a global war, the American theater of this war is called the ‘French and Indian War,’ because it involved the French and virtually the entire American native community in battle against George Washington and the soldiers that came from England to defend the interests of Washington’s corporation.)
The War (Short Version)
The French commander, , knew about the conflict over the area. He knew that the Ohio Company had invested vast amounts of money in the road over the mountains and other improvements in the area. He knew that the Washington family had controlling interest in the company and would lose enormous amounts of money if the company couldn’t drive the French out. He also appears to have realized that the atrocities on Jumonville Glen were committed in an attempt to provoke a response that would force the British government to respond, leading to a war. He didn’t want this to happen. He sent to try to recover the 21 men that Washington had captured and was holding hostage, with specific orders to not use any violence if the Washington and his men would leave peacefully. Although there was some fighting, in the end Washington agreed to return the hostages but claimed they had been sent back east and he would have to send them back later (they were never heard from again). After Washington gave his promise that the hostages would return in writing (link to document Washington signed), followed his orders and allowed Washington to leave without interference.
Washington returned to Virginia to plan his next move.
By this time, his letters to Pelham and his other allies in London had arrived. The politicians were working hard to get the government of England behind another war with France. The shareholders in the Ohio Company were lucky because, on March 6, 1754, Pelham had become the Prime Minister of England.
Their advocate was the second highest official in England, after the king. Since the king, George II, was not even living in England at that time and was not interfering in the decisions of the Prime Minister, Thomas Pelham, the Ohio Company’s ally from the first, was the highest government official in England. Pelham immediately ordered 2,000 soldiers (two British regiments) to the Ohio Valley to drive the French out. The French then sent 6,000 additional soldiers to back up their existing forces. The British responded with a naval blockade of the St Lawrence Seaway to prevent the reinforcements from arriving. The French then ordered their warships to escort the ships through the blockade.
The war was already happening, but was not officially declared until 1756. By this time, the French had pulled large numbers of troops off of their eastern border with Prussia, to reinforce the American forces. Fredrick II of Prussia took advantage of this and attacked France. France had to pull its troops out of India (then protecting the French East India Company, it is competition with the British East India Company) to defend the homeland, and England routed the French and gained control of India.
The war went on for 7 years. It went by several different names, depending on the theaters of war, being called variously ,’ the the and the Although this war went by different names in different areas, it was all the same war. Military deaths were reported at 1.3 million. (Governments rarely announce civilian deaths, at least not publicly, because it is bad for morale, do we don’t know how many civilians were killed.)the ‘
In the end, the war was decided by Prussia’s Fredrick II, who made very large territorial gains in France. The French had to pull all their troops out of foreign theaters of war to defend the homeland. This included the forts in the Ohio Valley and, for that matter, all of Canada, which were surrendered to the British.
Before the , the colonial powers had never formally agreed to the authority of the different European countries in America. The British government had granted the land on the east coast to British Corporations, starting in 1609, but this land was not officially British territory. The corporations had been granted the right to make their own laws, without regard to the laws of England.
One example that shows this clearly involves slavery: since the 1569 case, slavery had been illegal in England. The corporations administered land that was not officially British Territory, so the laws did not apply to them. (Various rulings in England had shown that when slaves arrive on British soil, they become free; but as long as they were on corporate land, they could be held under the laws of the corporations.) All of the corporations with land grants in America benefited greatly from slave labor and all authorized and regulated slavery.
With the Treaty of Paris, however, this all changed. This treaty, either signed or affirmed by all major powers in Europe, specifically granted ALL land in North America west of the Mississippi river (except the city of New Orleans itself, which remained French) to England. This land was now formally British land. Here are the words of the treaty:
In order to reestablish peace on solid and durable foundations, and to remove for ever all subject of dispute with regard to the limits of the British and French territories on the continent of America; it is agreed, that, for the future, the confines between the dominions of his Britannick Majesty and those of his Most Christian Majesty, in that part of the world, shall be fixed irrevocably by a line drawn along the middle of the River Mississippi, from its source to the river Iberville, and from thence, by a line drawn along the middle of this river, and the lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the sea; and for this purpose, the Most Christian King cedes in full right, and guaranties to his Britannick Majesty the river and port of the Mobile, and every thing which he possesses, or ought to possess, on the left side of the river Mississippi, except the town of New Orleans and the island in which it is situated, which shall remain to France.
England now had clear title to 6.5 million sq mi of land.
Most of this land was in Canada or east of the Appalachian divide and had been French territory before. The great bulk of the remaining territory granted to England was west of the divide of the Appalachian Mountains. Included in this vast land grant was the tiny strip of land that had been under the control of British corporations and proprietorships before the war, with a land area of roughly 360,000 square miles.
The land that American children are taught to call the ‘colonies’ was less than 6% of the total land that had become British territory.
Trouble In Paradise
The shareholders in the corporations that had rights to western lands had cause to celebrate. The French had tried to remove them from their lands. George Washington had made a huge gamble, starting a world war in an attempt to save his corporate land, and it appears to have paid off. The British had come and removed the French; they were no longer there. They thought that their side had won. They naturally expected that they would now begin to move onto their lands and start making money from it.
But this didn’t happen.
The peace treaties were signed in February of 1759. On October 25, 1760, King George II, the second of the absentee Hanover kings, passed away. The son of George II had fought for the Prussians in the war and made some decisions that his father disapproved of, so George II did not want his son to inherit the crown. It passed to George William Frederick, George II’s grandson. On November 11, the new king was crowned in Westminster Abby.
King George III was only 22 years old at the time.
Like most 22 year olds, he was idealistic. He wanted to change the world. He did not approve of the activities of Pelham and the people Pelham had put into office. He fired them all and put new people in their place. The earlier leaders had been firmly on the side of American corporate interests. The new people were the opposite.
If England had been a constitutional system, where the government was not allowed to make decisions that overturned the decisions of past governments, the American corporations may have had a chance. But England did not have a constitutional government, it had a monarchy. The king could decide he didn’t like the policies of the past and change them. This is exactly what happened.
The king went over his options very carefully. He finally decided that he wanted America to have new rights that its people did not have at that time. Slavery was already illegal on British lands. He would give the Americans a timetable by which they would have to bring themselves into compliance with these and other laws. The corporations had written all of the rules of government on colonial lands in America, and these rules strongly favored large landowners. He would create truly representative governments there, where everyone—including former slaves and American natives—would have the same rights and same representation in government.