The state of the English colonies, 1755
The French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, was primarily fought along the frontier between New France and the British colonies in North America from 1754 to 1763. This newspaper article, printed in the Maryland Gazette on May 22, 1755, was originally published in London’s Gentlemen’s Magazine in January 1755 to drum up support for the war. It demonstrates the British perspective on why this war—the fourth war between France and Britain in seventy-five years—was worth fighting.
The anonymous author described the economic value of each of the American colonies, highlighting the commodities each produced:
Virginia, is the most ancient of all the Colonies, and is of great Extent, having about 180 Miles Sea Coast; and its Extent back in the Country is unbounded. The Soil is extremely good, producing all Sorts of European and Indian Corn, in great Abundance; but is most famous for Tobacco. As it lies in 37 Degrees it is not
so cold as the other Northern Colonies, and therefore, as the Farmer is not obliged to procure so much Hay for his Cattle in Winter, they have great Stocks of black Cattle. They have very fine Rivers, all well supplied with Fish, and wild and tame Fowl in prodigious Quantities. The People live in great Plenty, but are not quite so Numerous as in some other Colonies, because they employ Negroes in the raising of their Tobacco. Williamsburg is the Capital of the Province, but is not large. Here their Courts are kept and their Governor resides: Here they also have a College, at which the Youth receive their Education. In New-England are two Universities, Cambri[d]ge and Newhaven, which are very large and elegant Buildings, and have very considerable Libraries. No Country is better supplied with fine Rivers than Virginia; so that Ships from England go 150 Miles up them to load at the Planter’s Door with Tobacco, the Revenue of which Article to the Crown is prodigious; and vast Quantities of it are imported to Britain, and exported again to other Countries, which we pay in Cloths, Stuffs, Hardware, and every other Manufacture.
He argues that:
the British Empire in North-America; which from Nova-Scotia to Georgia, is a Tract of 1600 Miles Sea-Coast; [is] a Country productive of all the Necessaries and Conveniencies of Life. . . .
This is the Country, which the French have many Years envied us, and which they have been long meditating to make themselves Masters of . . . Every one knows, that the English were the first and only Europeans who settled Virginia . . . the Invaders from Canada all act under one Governor; to unite 13 Provinces which fill an Extent of 1600 Miles is not easy . . . "Canada must be subdued."