A. French–British Rivalry in the Ohio Country
French fur traders had a long-term alliance with Indians in the Ohio country; in the 1740s
Pennsylvanian and Virginian land speculators asserted claims to the same Ohio territory,
obtained a land grant from the British king, and planned to sell land to Anglo-American
colonists seeking fresh land.
French soldiers advanced into Indian territory in the Ohio Country and built a series of
forts, hoping to create a western barrier to British-American expansion.
In 1753, Robert Dinwiddie, Virginia's royal governor, sent George Washington as a
messenger to warn the French that they were trespassing on Virginia land; he returned
with crucial intelligence about French military plans.
Dinwiddie, impressed with Washington's handling of the mission, appointed the youth to
lead a small military expedition west to assert and, if need be, defend Virginia's claim,
but to respond with force only if the French attacked first.
Washington returned to the Ohio Country with 160 armed Virginians aided by Indian
allies of the Mingo tribe.
In May 1754, a detachment of some of Washington's men, led by Mingo chief
Tanaghrisson, surprised French soldiers in the woods; the resulting panicked skirmish led
to fourteen French deaths at the hands of the Americans and Indians and marked the
violent start of the Seven Years' War.
In response, French soldiers attacked the American Fort Necessity in July 1754, killing or
wounding a third of Washington's men, and making it clear that the French would not
leave the disputed territory.
B. The Albany Congress and Intercolonial Defense
Even as Virginians, Frenchmen, and Indians fought and died in the Ohio Country, British
imperial leaders still hoped to prevent the struggle from turning into a larger war.
In June and July 1754, twenty-four delegates from seven colonies met with Iroquois
Indians of the Six Nations in Albany, New York to strengthen British alliances with the
powerful and seemingly neutral Indian tribes who might otherwise support the French.
But Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Hutchinson took the opportunity to coauthor the
Albany Plan of Union, which proposed to provide for colonial defense by instituting a
unified but limited government over all the colonies.
Having learned of Washington's defeat at Fort Necessity during their congress, the
Albany Delegates approved the Albany Plan, which called for a president general
appointed by the crown, together with a grand council, who would meet annually to
consider questions of war, peace, and trade with the Indians.
Not a single colony approved the plan, and it likewise failed to garner British or Indian
C. The War and Its Consequences