International Affairs

As one of the main port cities of America, the city of Boston was very much affected by international warfare, and often citizens found themselves taking sides and participating in battles between European empires. As a result of these conflicts, the American people adapted new political ideologies, and often suffered from economic declines due to embargoes, trade blocks, or combat on their own property. Boston was hit most by these economic struggles, and ultimately became very involved in the international affairs of the time. Below some major international historical events are listed from which the city of Boston evolved and developed.

  • Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) – 1754-1763
Seven Years War - Troops from Massachusetts allied with British and some tribes against French and other Indian groups

Seven Years War – Troops from Massachusetts allied with British and some tribes against French and other Indian groups

The struggle between the British, French, and Native Americans over control of eastern North America involved colonists in Boston and throughout the colonies. Bostonians fought alongside the British to protect their homes and property, and battles were often fought on their land, causing environmental and economic issues. Massachusetts supplied a militia, and lost the most men from all the colonies during the battles. This battle acted as the first world war in the sense that it involved empires from around the globe, and led to a disruption of power.  It was fought across many continents, and led to the exchange of ideas between men, including perspectives on the Enlightenment. A new phase of imperialism and colonialism was ushered in when the British imposed new taxes on the colonies to pay war debts, with Massachusetts paying almost 500,000 pounds sterling. This British tyranny angered colonists, and Massachusetts became a leader in the resulting American Revolution.

  • American Revolution – 1775-1783
British Surrender at Yorktown, Americans and their allies win the Revolution

British Surrender at Yorktown, Americans and their allies win the Revolution

Most of the battles in the Revolutionary War were fought in Massachusetts, causing people in the eastern part of the colony to move toward Boston to avoid direct involvement in the fights. The massive movement of people into the city lead to a smallpox epidemic between 1775-1782, killing at least 40 Bostonians. With international powers such as the French, Spanish, and Dutch aiding the Americans and German mercenaries fighting for the British, the Revolution acted as another world war. France had been involved since 1776, supplying the colonists with aid, clothing, and guns, but after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, the French sent troops as well. Spain began to participate in 1779 and the Dutch in 1780, sending more men to fight alongside the Americans. The exchange of ideas and perspectives between international persons was not lost after the battle, and newly independent American men returned home to Boston with these new thoughts. The friendships formed between these men and their nations brought economic benefits as well, and Boston’s ports were soon filled with ships from their former allies.

  • French Revolution – 1789-1799
Liberty Leading the People - The ideas of the French Revolution were very much felt in Boston, more than other colonies

Liberty Leading the People – The ideas of the French Revolution were very much felt in Boston, more than other states

The French Revolution began a series of European wars that changed the course of American politics. The people of Boston had mixed feelings on the battle, torn between aiding the democratic reforms of their ally or shying away from the political instability of the French when their own country was still trying to form its own government. French refugees moved to American cities like Boston alongside refugees from the Haitian Revolution, and shared their perspectives with their neighbors while engaging in the day to day life of Boston. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1796 limited the voices of these immigrants, causing some to return back to France and Haiti. With new revenue and ideas leaving Boston and other American cities, Americans became more sympathetic to the French, leading to the election of Thomas Jefferson, a former French ambassador.

 

  • Haitian Revolution – 1791-1804
Battle of Vertières in 1803 during the Haitian Revolution

Battle of Vertières in 1803 during the Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a slave revolt in the French colony of Sainto Domingue, resulting in the elimination of slavery and the beginning of the state of Haiti. Boston, which had not had slavery since 1780, became an ally of Haiti, bringing economic prosperity and the immigration of Haitians into the city with its new friendship. The influence of Enlightenment philosophies was mirrored in America during the French Revolution, and Haitian refugees came to cities with these ideas and ideas of equality between all men, regardless of race. The abolition movement in the United States is reflected in the exchange of these beliefs, and Boston became a leading city for racial equality.

 

  • Napoleonic Wars – 1803-1815
Napoleon and Jefferson agree to the American purchase of 828,000 square miles from France in 1803

Napoleon and Jefferson agree to the American purchase of 828,000 square miles from France in 1803

Napoleon seized power and overthrew the French government in 1799, bringing with him a new era of revolutions and disruption of power. A major historical event in American history was the Louisiana Purchase, in which Napoleon sold over 828,000 square miles of French territory in the south to Jefferson for only four cents an acre. Such a deal was made because the Louisiana territory was not valuable to Napoleon without Haiti, which had recently won its independence, and he would be unable to defend it during war with the British. The new influx of people coming into Boston ports and settling in the new territory furthered the exchange of goods and ideas in America. The United States did suffer from impressment by the British, with ships from Boston and other port cities being targeted and their sailors being forced into joining the British Navy. Jefferson combatted with an embargo on all foreign trade in 1807, which was replaced in 1809 with the Non-Intercourse Act that embargoed trade with France and England. The economy of Boston was hit heavily with this legislation, as England and France were the countries with which Americans traded the most. This led to an increase of smuggling in and out of Boston harbor. The US eventually engaged in the war in 1812, when it fought against Britain in the War of 1812.

 

  • War of 1812 – 1812-1815
War of 1812 - Seen as a continuation of the American Revolution, Americans again had to fight the British for control of their lands

War of 1812 – Seen as a continuation of the American Revolution, Americans again had to fight the British for control of their lands

The War of 1812 was viewed as a continuation of the American Revolution, with Americans again fighting to secure their power over their territory. The American victory gave the country international status and credibility, resulting in more trade and economic endeavors with other countries. The British tried to impede on the trade between France and America with a blockade, which did affect Bostonian merchants and the local economy. New trade paths were created and the American Navy was increased to avoid the British and increase the naval power of the country. The British armed and supplied some Indian tribes, causing some men not originally involved in the conflict to pick up their guns and defend their homes. Some battles between tribes were fought in Massachusetts, with men from Boston entering into militias to fight the British and Indians on land.

 

Sources used on this page –

 

“Chapter 4: American Military History, Volume I.” Chapter 4: American Military History, Volume I.           American Military History, 2005. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://history.army.mil/books/AMH-V1/ch04.htm>.
“French & Indian War.” Origins of the French and Indian War. CelebrateBoston, 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.celebrateboston.com/history/french-and-indian-war/causes.htm>.
“Napoleonic Wars and the United States, 1803–1815 – 1801–1829 – Milestones – Office of the Historian.” Napoleonic Wars and the United States, 1803–1815 – 1801–1829 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <https://history.state.gov/milestones/1801-1829/napoleonic-wars>.
Sutherland, Claudia E. “Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Blackpast.org, 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.blackpast.org/gah/haitian-revolution-1791-1804>.
“Trans-Atlantic Crisis: The French Revolution.” Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ushistory.org/us/19a.asp>.
“The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799 – 1784–1800 – Milestones – Office of the Historian.” The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799 – 1784–1800 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <https://history.state.gov/milestones/1784-1800/french-rev>.
“The War of 1812.” NMAH. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-war-of-1812.aspx>.
Click here to get back to the Home Page *