Never had England played so great a part in the history of mankind as in the year 1759. It was a year of triumphs in every quarter of the world. In September came the news of Minden, and of a victory off Lagos. In October came tidings of the capture of Quebec. November brought word of the French defeat at Quiberon. "We are forced to ask every morning what victory there is," laughed Horace Walpole, "for fear of missing one." But it was not so much in the number as in the importance of its triumphs that the Seven Years' War stood and remains still without a rival. It is no exaggeration to say that three of its many victories determined for ages to come the destinies of mankind. With that of Rossbach began the re-creation of Germany, the revival of its political and intellectual life, the long process of its union under the leadership of Prussia and Prussia's kings. With that of Plassey the influence of Europe told for the first time since the days of Alexander on the nations of the East. The world, in Burke's gorgeous phrase, " saw one of the races of the north-west cast into the heart of Asia new manners, new doctrines, new institutions." With the triumph of Wolfe on the heights of Abraham began the history of the United States. By removing an enemy whose dread had knit the colonists to the mother country, and by breaking through the line with which France had barred them from the basin of the Mississippi, Pitt laid the foundation of the great republic of the west.
Nor were these triumphs less momentous to Britain. The Seven Years' War is a turning-point in our national history, as it is a turning-point in the history of the world. Till now the relative weight of the European states had been drawn from their possessions within Europe itself. But from the close of the war it mattered little whether England counted for less or more with the nations around her. She was no longer a mere European power, no longer a mere rival of Germany or Russia or France. Mistress of Northern America, the future mistress of India, claiming as her own the empire of the seas, Britain suddenly towered high above the nations whose position in a single continent doomed them to comparative insignificance in the after history of the world. The war indeed was hardly ended when a consciousness of the destinies that lay before the English people showed itself in the restlessness with which our seamen penetrated into far-off seas. The Atlantic was dwindling into a mere strait within the British Empire; but beyond it to the westward lay a reach of waters where the British flag was almost unknown.
[Authorities. - The two sides of the American quarrel have been told with the same purpose of fairness and truthfulness, though with a very different bias, by Lord Stanhope (" History of England from the Peace of Utrecht"), and Mr. Bancroft (" History of the United States"). The latter is by far the more detailed and picturesque, the former perhaps the cooler and more impartial of the two narratives. For England see Mr. Massey's " History of England from the Accession of George the Third;" Walpole's " Memoirs of the Early Reign of George the Third;" the Rockingham Memoirs; the Grenville Papers; the Bedford Correspondence; the correspondence of George the Third with Lord North; the Letters of Junius; and Lord Russell's "Life and Correspondence of C. J. Fox." Burke's speeches and pamphlets during this period, above all his "Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents," are indispensable for any real knowledge of it. The Constitutional History of Sir Erskine May all but compensates us, in its fulness and impartiality, for the loss of Mr. Hallam's comments.] [Mr. Lecky's "History of England in the Eighteenth Century" has been published since this book was written. - Ed].
In the year which followed the Peace of Paris two English ships were sent on a cruise of discovery to the Straits of Magellan; three years later Captain Wallis reached the coral reefs of Tahiti; and in 1768 Captain Cook traversed the Pacific from end to end, and wherever he touched, in New Zealand, in Australia, he claimed the soil for the English Crown, and opened a new world for the expansion of the English race. Statesmen and people alike felt the change in their country's attitude. In the words of Burke, the Parliament of Britain claimed "an imperial character in which as from the throne of heaven she superintends all the several inferior legislatures, and guides and controls them all, without annihilating any." Its people, steeped in the commercial ideas of the time, saw in the growth of their vast possessions, the monopoly of whose trade was reserved to the mother country, a source of boundless wealth. The trade with America alone was in 1772 nearly equal to what England carried on with the whole world at the beginning of the century.
To guard and preserve so vast and lucrative a dominion became from this moment not only the aim of British statesmen but the resolve of the British people.
From the time when the Puritan emigration added the four New England States, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to those of Maryland and Virginia the progress of the English colonies in North America had been slow, but it had never ceased. Settlers still came, though in smaller numbers, and two new colonies south of Virginia received from Charles the Second their name of the Carolinas. The war with Holland transferred to British rule a district claimed by the Dutch from the Hudson to the inner Lakes; and this country, which was granted by Charles to his brother, received from him the name of New York. Portions were soon broken off from its vast territory to form the colonies of New Jersey and Delaware. In 1682 a train of Quakers followed William Penn across the Delaware into the heart of the primaeval forest, and became a colony which recalled its founder and the woodlands among which he planted it in its name of Pennsylvania. A long interval elapsed before a new settlement, which received its title of Georgia from the reigning sovereign, George the Second, was established by General Oglethorpe on the Savannah as a refuge for English debtors and for the persecuted Protestants of Germany. Slow as this progress seemed, the colonies were really growing fast in numbers and in wealth.