On February 10, 1763, 235 years ago, the great world powers of the day, all European, signed off on the Treaty of Paris ending the first truly ‘world-wide’ war.
As usual it started out when the ‘national interests’ of one country; Prussia in this case, demanded, so its leaders argued, that it reach beyond its own borders to quell conspiracies against it.
Emboldened by its military might coupled with the backing of Great Britain, Frederick II of Prussia, later to be called the Great, pre-emptively invaded neighbouring Saxony in the spring of 1756.
This began the Seven Years’ War.
Before it ended, between 900,000 to 1,400,000 people would die. Empires would be reshaped.
In North America the colonial extension of this war — some call it the French and Indian War — actually had a head start.
It began in 1754 with a British attack on a small French contingent in western Pennsylvania. Led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers, a native of Verchères, New France, they had been reconnoitering the region.
Alerted to their presence, an equally small force of around 40 men, led a young Virginia militia officer named George Washington, surprised them.
A brief battle left 10 French dead and another 21, including Coulon de Villiers, prisoners of the Americans. All but one of them died when Washington lost control of his troops.
Outrage inflamed growing tensions.
“A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire,” a Wikipedia article cites Horace Walpole, a British statesman of the day, as saying.
In North America the conflict actually ended on September 8, 1760, with the capitulation of Montreal, almost a year after the decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham.
The judicious conduct of the new British overlords of Quebec helped allay the worst fears of the former citizens of New France.
Many still expected that a formal peace would bring a return of French rule.
However in the peace negotiations France chose the then rich Caribbean sugar island of Guadeloupe over Quebec.
The French Crown ceded New France and all French lands east of the Mississippi River to the British Crown.
Surprisingly no unrest swept the communities centered on the St. Lawrence River valley.
Far from being fearful of their future, Canadians of that era accepted the change.
The stability of society, they thought, hinged on the monarchy.
All power flowed from the occupant of the throne, whatever throne had sovereignty over them.
In the days of the divine right of kings they acquiesced to the victor’s rule as a manifestation of the will of God.
The treaty also further eased the transition when it affirmed that “His Britannick Majesty, on his side, agrees to grant the liberty of the Catholick religion to the inhabitants of Canada.”
Today we see the concept of sovereignty as originating in the people themselves, not in some hereditary leader.
Arguably, despite our political evolution, many feel fearful of what the future holds for them.
War seems endemic to our time as well.
States led by corporate and geo-economic concerns seem trapped by antiquated eco-destructive policies.
Can we envision a way to get off the mass consumption treadmill?
Will we find a path towards a just, sustainable future or be overwhelmed by our fear of change?
Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. It is a time of spiritual preparation for Christians ending in the spiritual renewal of Easter.
A little reflection leading to actions to renew our Earth might be a good antidote for fear for all of us.