Classic History Books


The History of England by A. E. Pollard

Madras, and Bombay laid the foundations of the three great Presidencies of the British Empire in India.

A fatal blow was struck at the Dutch carrying trade by the Navigation Acts of 1650-1651, which
provided that all goods imported into England or any of its colonies must be brought either in English

ships or in those of the producing country. The Dutch contested these Acts in a stubborn naval war. The

great Admirals, Van Tromp and Blake, were not unevenly matched; but the Dutch failed to carry their

point. The principle of the Navigation Acts was reaffirmed, with some modifications, after the

Restoration, which made no difference to England's commercial and colonial policy. A second Dutch war

accordingly broke out in 1664, and this time the Dutch, besides failing in their original design, lost the

New Netherland colony they had established in North America. Portions of it became New York, so

named after the future James II, who was Duke of York and Lord High Admiral, and other parts were

colonized as Pennsylvania by the Quaker, William Penn. The great importance of this acquisition was

that it drove out the wedge dividing the New England colonies to the north from Virginia and Maryland,

which had been founded in Charles I's reign, mainly as a refuge for Roman Catholics, to the south; and

this continuous line of British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard was soon continued southwards by

the settlement of the two Carolinas. The colonization of Georgia, still further south, in the reign of

George II, completed the thirteen colonies which became the original United States.

France now overshadowed Holland as England's chief competitor. Canada, originally colonized by the
French, had been conquered by the English in 1629, but speedily restored by Charles I; and towards the

close of the seventeenth century France began to think of uniting Canada with another French colony,

Louisiana, by a chain of posts along the Mississippi. Colbert, Louis XIV's minister, had greatly

developed French commerce, navy, and navigation; and the Mississippi Company was an important

factor in French history early in the eighteenth century. This design, if successful, would have neutralized

the advantage England had secured in the possession of the Atlantic seaboard of North America, and

have made the vast West a heritage of France.

Nevertheless, the wars of William III and Anne were not in the main colonial. Louis' support of James II,
and his recognition of the Old Pretender, were blows at the heart of the empire. Moderate success on

James's part might have led to its dismemberment, to the separation of Catholic Ireland and the Scottish

Highlands from the remainder of the British Isles; and dominion abroad would not long have survived

disruption at home. The battle of the Boyne (1690) disposed of Irish independence, and the Act of Union

with Scotland (1707) ensured Great Britain against the revival of separate sovereignties north and south

of the Tweed. Scotland surrendered her independent parliament and administration: it received instead

the protection of the Navigation laws, representation in both houses of the United Parliament, and the

privilege of free trade with England and its colonies - which put an end to the tariff wars waged between

the two countries in the seventeenth century; and it retained its established Presbyterian church.

Forty-five Scottish members were to sit in the House of Commons, and sixteen Scottish peers elected by

their fellows for each parliament in the House of Lords. Scottish peers who were not thus chosen could

neither sit in the House of Lords nor seek election to the House of Commons.

In time this union contributed materially to the expansive energy of the British Empire, but it did not
substantially help Marlborough to win his brilliant victories in the war with France (1702-1713). Apart

from the general defeat of Louis XIV's ambition to dominate Europe, the most important result, from the

British point of view, was the definite establishment of Great Britain as a Mediterranean power by the

acquisition of Gibraltar and Minorca. English expeditions against Canada had not been very successful,

but the Peace of Utrecht (1713) finally secured for the empire the outworks of the Canadian citadel -

 

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