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Pontiac's Rebellion and the Seeds of the American Revolution

The French and Indian War is over. The British are consolidating their win by bringing in Scotch-Irish colonists to farm the land. Chief Pontiac is angry with this encroachment and starts skirmishing along the Pennsylvania frontier. The "Fighting Parson" of Paxton Church is worked up about the Indian attacks. As his rifle leans against the pulpit, he delivers a fiery sermon. His vigilante group, the Paxton Boys, have murdered several unarmed Indians who they believe were providing information to the enemy. Then on December 27th, they grab several Indian children and hack them to death. The "Fighting Parson" is sure this was a one time lapse in judgement and it all could have been avoided if only the Governor had listened to their protests. Now the Paxton Boys are marching on Philadelphia. The Quakers abandon their pledges of non-violence and arm themselves to defend the Indians. Benjamin Franklin manages to diffuse the situation by agreeing to read their protest pamphlets. The Paxton Boys disperse, but Pontiac's Rebellion continues. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The seeds of the American Revolution may have been planted here. Benjamin Franklin had just returned from a demeaning negotiation session with officials in London. (It was official. They hated his guts.) They made it crystal clear that Americans were second-class citizens and that the colonial legislatures had only an advice-and-consent role when it came to the British Parliament. That turned Franklin from an enthusiastic royalist into a true blue American. Secondly, the Royal Proclamation of (October) 1763 limited British expansion, giving a lot of the disputed land back to Chief Pontiac. This created resentment amongst the American colonists who had already been granted plots of land in the region and particularly George Washington, who had been issued land grants for his service in the French and Indian War. Further treaties got Washington's lands back, but the casual dismissal of his prerogatives must have angered him. Washington had a heck of a temper which he mostly kept in check, but that didn't stop him from feeling it. [4] [5] [6]

The Mason-Dixon Survey Begins

The original royal charters for Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia were a little vague, and since the colonies are well-established they'd like their borders well established too. The problem is that if they actually follow the charters as written, the capital of Pennsylvania is currently in Maryland. This situation is considered suboptimal and we are talking about a heck of a lot of land under dispute. There are many surveyors in the colonies but for this project they want super precision. The Royal Society recommends Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. They are the ones who successfully tracked Venus as it transited the face of the Sun in 1761. They are commissioned and begin the survey which will be completed in 1766, but they will stay for two years to take measurements on behalf of the Royal Society. Then they will head out to measure Venus on its second transit. [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Mason and Dixon came under a cloud after the first Venus transit because they didn't take their measurement in Sumatra which was their original destination, but they did get a measurement unlike many other scientists. The Mason-Dixon Survey helped them burnish their reputation and now they are best known for this work. Today the Mason-Dixon line is used to mark the cultural separation of the Northern and Southern states of the United States. Some suggest that the term "Dixieland" (meaning the Southern states) is derived from the Mason-Dixon line. Others suggest that the name came from the money used in the South called "Dixies". Whatever the case, the name stuck once the song "I Wish I Was in Dixie" became popular in 1859. The song was composed by Daniel Emmett... a resident of Ohio which is NOT in Dixie. FYI, the line dividing Slave States from non-Slave states was about 3 degrees south of the Mason-Dixon line with Missouri being the exception. [10] [11]

Devil's Island... The 'Dry Guillotine'

No worries. Devil's Island is not a place of punishment... yet. But France just acquired it along with French Guiana in South America as part of the treaty ending the Seven Year's War (also known as the French and Indian War). France will try to colonize French Guiana but the effort will be a dismal failure. During the French Revolution, tens of thousands of French prisoners will be sent to Devil's Island. The survival rate will be about 10%. It will be called France's "Dry Guillotine". [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1763, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster. 0684807610. ISBN 0684807610. 
  2. Paxton Boys - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “He placed the remaining sixteen Conestoga in protective custody in Lancaster but the Paxton Boys broke in on December 27, 1763. They killed, scalped and viscously dismembered six adults and eight children. The government of Pennsylvania offered a new reward after this second attack, this time $600, for the capture of anyone involved. The attackers were never identified.”
  3. Pontiac's War - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “Benjamin Franklin, who had helped organize the local militia, negotiated with the Paxton leaders and brought an end to the immediate crisis. Franklin published a scathing indictment of the Paxton Boys. 'If an Indian injures me,' he asked, 'does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians?'”
  4. McAlarney, Mathias Wilson (September 18, 1890). History of the Sesqui-centennial of Paxtang Church. Harrisburg Publishing Company. 
  5. Royal Proclamation of 1763 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “British colonists and land speculators objected to the proclamation boundary since the British government had already assigned land grants to them. Many settlements already existed beyond the proclamation line, some of which had been temporarily evacuated during Pontiac's War, and there were many already granted land claims yet to be settled. For example, George Washington and his Virginia soldiers had been granted lands past the boundary. Prominent American colonials joined with the land speculators in Britain to lobby the government to move the line further west.”
  6. Prerogatives - definition of prerogatives (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “An exclusive right or privilege held by a person or group, especially a hereditary or official right.”
  7. Mason–Dixon line - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 February 2016. “The Mason–Dixon line, also called Mason's and Dixon's line, was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America. It is still a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (originally part of Virginia).”
  8. Jeremiah Dixon - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “Jeremiah Dixon served as assistant to Charles Mason in 1761 when the Royal Society selected Mason to observe the transit of Venus from Sumatra. However, their passage to Sumatra was delayed, and they landed instead at the Cape of Good Hope where the transit was observed on June 6, 1761. Dixon returned to the Cape once again with Nevil Maskelyne's clock to work on experiments with gravity.”
  9. Charles Mason - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “Mason and Dixon, accompanied by a large party of assistants, established three important boundaries: (1) the south boundary line of Pennsylvania separating it from Maryland and Virginia; (2) the west boundary of the three lower counties of Pennsylvania (now Delaware) separating it from Maryland; and (3) the south boundary of the three lower counties. The pair also conducted a number of experiments for the Royal Society such as measuring a degree of longitude. Mason’s journal provides the most complete record of the survey and its progress. The journal includes his astronomical observations and personal notes about the American frontier environment and his experiences in colonial America.”
  10. Dixie - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “'I Wish I Was in Dixie' is a popular song about the South. It was allegedly written by composer Daniel Emmett, a Northerner from Mount Vernon, Ohio, and published in 1859.”
  11. Parallel 36°30′ north - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “This parallel of latitude is particularly significant in the history of the United States as the line of the Missouri Compromise, which was used to divide the prospective slave and free states west of the Mississippi River, with the exception of Missouri, which is mostly north of this parallel.”
  12. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Knopf. ISBN 9780307265722. “Archetypical may have been Guyane, which was formally acquired by France in a treaty in 1763. Initial colonization efforts proved so disastrous that the nation almost forgot its existence until three decades later, when a military-backed coup overthrew the parliament established by the French Revolution. The new dictatorship piled 328 unwanted deputies, clergymen, and journalists into small vessels and dumped them in the colony. P. falciparum greeted them on the shore. Within two years more than half were dead, either killed by malaria or sufficiently weakened by it to be slain by other ailments. Undeterred, the French state kept sending over criminals and undesirables. French prisoners had in the past served as galley slaves on special prison ships in the Mediterranean. After the steam engine made galleys obsolete convicts were dispatched to Guyane. Violent offenders ended up in the infamous prison on Devils Island, seven miles off the coast; the rest joined chain gangs of agricultural labor. Disease claimed so many that Guyane became known as a 'dry guillotine'—a blade that killed without needing to wet itself with blood. Perhaps eighty thousand Frenchmen made the passage. Very, very few returned.” 
  13. French Guiana - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 April 2016. “The first French effort to colonize Guiana, in 1763, failed utterly when tropical diseases and climate killed all but 2,000 of the initial 12,000 settlers. During its existence, France transported approximately 56,000 prisoners to Devil's Island. Fewer than 10% survived their sentence.”

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