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1764: the times are changing

Pontiac led a rebellion against the English. After initial success, the rebellion sputtered out.
Pontiac led a rebellion against the English. After initial success, the rebellion sputtered out.

The future began in 1764. The year witnessed the end of Pontiac's Rebellion and the early rumblings of the American Revolution. The gateway to the west opened in Pontiac's defeat while parliament opened the door to colonial separation. Meanwhile, Edward Gibbon began conceptualizing one of the great works of history. He studied Rome's fall while the First British Empire hit its zenith on the way to collapse. Essentially, 1764 continued the march to the American Revolution and a revolution of the mind.

The British completely defeated the French in the Seven Year's War (French and Indian War). The two sides hammered out a peace treaty in 1763, but France's Native American allies did not understand. On top of this, shoddy treatment at British hands offended the Indians. As a result, natives revolted in May 1763. Ottawa chieftain Pontiac became the most prominent native leader. Brutal frontier fighting became a hallmark of the conflict. The British used smallpox to eradicate opposition. The disease ravaged the natives and led to the rebellion's end. As many as 500,000 Indians died in the conflict. Smallpox took most of those lives. The fighting ended in 1764 and a peace treaty officially ended the conflict in 1766. The native peoples begrudgingly accepted British sovereignty.

Pontiac's Rebellion lit up the frontier from Fort Niagara to Fort Michilimackinac. Despite the conflict in the Old Northwest, French settlers formed St. Louis in 1764. Colonists had lived in the region for decades, but never established a city. St. Louis became the gateway to the west for travelers. Lewis and Clark began and ended their famous journey of discovery from St. Louis. The city's strategic position on the Mississippi River allowed for people to leap into the frontier. St. Louis was part of the Louisiana Territory, which passed from Spain to France to the United States over the course of 40 years.

The United States of America did not exist in 1764. Instead, the American colonies existed within the British Empire. The empire found itself massively in debt after the French and Indian War. As a result, parliament decided to tax the colonies to pay for their own protection and upkeep. They passed the Sugar Act in order to raise revenue. The act lowered the tax on molasses by half and increased enforcement. The politicians hoped a tax cut would encourage colonists to comply. However, the war brought economic depression in the colonies. Strict enforcement of the act further slowed the economy and led to protests. In response, the colonists launched a boycott of British goods. Two years later, parliament repealed the Sugar Act.

No one knew it at the time, but the march toward revolution had begun. The First British Empire would collapse with the American Revolution. A greater empire replaced it in the 19th century. As the colonists and British government began their clash, Edward Gibbon conceptualized the collapse of another empire. The author began his life's work and legacy in 1764. It culminated with the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon examines western civilization from Rome's grandeur to the collapse of Constantinople in 1453. Ironically, he published the first volume in 1776 as the colonies issued the Declaration of Independence.

Revolution and rebellion dominated 1764. The military phase of Pontiac's Rebellion ended. The Sugar Act continued the march to the American Revolution. Edward Gibbon began work on western civilization and Rome's collapse at a time when people compared Great Britain to Rome. At the same time, St. Louis was founded. Eventually, it would be the launching point for settlers to conquer the continent. In the end, 1764 proved a transitional year as the world moved toward the current era.