January 05, 2007

Indians fought, Washington assassinated

America's forgotten war

Smithsonian exhibition on the French and Indian conflict fills out a chapter of U.S. history.A quick summary: It's the 1750s. The North American continent is in play, coveted by European powers. The French are in Canada and Louisiana, the British along the Atlantic seaboard. Meanwhile there are tens of thousands of Indians, of many different tribes and bands, who hold the balance of power.

"They're not background artists, skulking in the woods. They're players in this international drama. The prize is North America," says Masich.
And what was the outcome?[T]he first thing we ask the historian at the new French and Indian War exhibit down at the Smithsonian is "Who won?"

"That's a good question," says Andy Masich, president of the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center. "I take the long view. We'll find out in another 100 years or so."

It wasn't the French or the Indians. On paper the British won, decisively, which may be one reason this sentence is written in English. But the British victory carried an asterisk: The complications of possessing so much territory in North America turned the British into tax-crazed tyrants (to hear the uppity Colonials tell it), and the crown soon had a revolution on its hands. Which, as you recall, it lost. Thus we're free today to forget about the great British triumph in the French and Indian War.

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