4 December

George Washington (1732-1799)

French Take Posts

George Washington is so revered as "the father of the United States" that it is difficult to remember that he was once Colonel George Washington, a British officer. Former officers like Sir Guy Carleton and John Graves Simcoe regarded him as a traitor.

Washington came into prominence when he was only twenty-one years old. In 1748, the Virginians had organized the Ohio Company to develop the interior, and in 1753, they were disturbed to hear stories that the French from Canada were developing trading posts there. Young Washington, whose career was being promoted by a wealthy British resident of Virginia, was sent to investigate.

On December 4, 1753, at a place called Venango, 60 miles north of the present city of Pittsburg, Washington and his companions noticed a French flag over a post which belonged to a British trader. Washington investigated, and found that it was occupied by Chabert dc Joncaire, a French officer. Britain and France were not at war so Washington and Joncaire were able to meet sociably, and they engaged in some heavy drinking. Washington told Joncaire that he would have to get off British territory, but Joncaire refused to move, and was incautious enough to disclose French plans to take possession of the Ohio Valley and link Canada with Louisiana.

When Washington reported the French plans to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, it was decided to build a fort where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers met, to block the entrance to the Ohio River. It was begun in the spring of 1754, but was quickly captured by the French even though there was supposed to be peace. Dinwiddie then sent out a force of 300 men led by Colonel Joshua Fry, with Major George Washington as second-in-command. There was fighting at Great Meadows and Fort Necessity, during which Washington took command. He was defeated and forced to retreat, having lost 100 men. Horace Walpole, British author, wrote later: "A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire." The Seven Years' War, in which France lost Canada, was to follow. George Washington therefore helped Britain seize Canada from France, but soon needed the help of France to acquire the States from Britain!


4 December

-1800    David Thompson crossed the Rocky Mountains.

-1837    Eight hundred rebels gathered at Montgomery's Tavern, Yonge Street, 'Toronto.

-1838     "General" Bierce of the Brotherhood of Hunters attacked Windsor from Detroit and was defeated.

-1856    Bonding arrangements were made so that American goods could pass through Canada.

-1866    The Confederation delegates began meetings with the British Government at the Westminster Palace Hotel, London, England.

-1961    Dr. Marcel Chapin, Quebec separatist leader, resigned from the Defense Research Board.