The Price of Peace
Britain defeated France and Spain in the Seven Years War but at an extraordinary domestic cost and with substantial new global responsibilities. The conflict almost doubled the British national debt, which hit £132,600,000 in 1763 (£7,700,000 alone had been spent fighting the French in North America). To pay for it, Parliament taxed the people of Great Britain—especially the English—nearly to their limit. By the end of the war, land taxes consumed 25 percent of the income of property owners and a tax on cider caused riots in southern England so severe that a contemporary recalled that no public measure in 30 years "had occasioned so great a ferment to the nation." And the costs would rise. The price of maintaining 7,500 soldiers in America to protect the newly-acquired territories was estimated at £225,000 every year and the need for that protection, judged by the keen disaffection of France's former Native American allies, was growing ever clearer. For many Britons, the time had come for Americans to be no longer exempt from paying taxes. To do so, in the words of one observer, "would be to the ruin of the parent country."