Month after month the great continent lay wrapped in snow. Far along the edge of the western wilderness men kept watch and ward in lonely blockhouses, or scoured the forest on the track of prowling war-parties. The provincials in garrison at forts Edward, William Henry, and Oswego dragged out the dreary winter; while bands of New England rangers, muffled against the piercing cold, caps of fur on their heads, hatchets in their belts, and guns in the mittened hands, glided on skates along the gleaming ice-floor of Lake George, to spy out the secrets of Ticonderoga, or seize some careless sentry to tell them tidings of the foe. Thus the petty war went on; but the big war was frozen into torpor, ready, like a hibernating bear, to wake again with the birds, the bees, and the flowers.
[Footnote 360: On Pennsylvanian disputes,—A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania (London, 1755). A Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania (London, 1756). These are pamphlets on the Governor’s side, by William Smith, D.D., Provost of the College of Pennsylvania. An Answer to an invidious Pamphlet, intituled a Brief State, etc. (London, 1755). Anonymous. A True and Impartial State of the Province of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1759). Anonymous. The last two works attack the first two with great vehemence. The True and Impartial State is an able presentation of the case of the Assembly, omitting, however, essential facts. But the most elaborate work on the subject is the Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania, inspired and partly written by Franklin. It is hotly partisan, and sometimes sophistical and unfair. Articles on the quarrel will also be found in the provincial newspapers, especially the New York Mercury, and in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1755 and 1756. But it is impossible to get any clear and just view of it without wading through the interminable documents concerning it in the Colonial Records of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Archives.]
On the eighteenth of May, 1756, England, after a year of open hostility, at length declared war. She had attacked France by land and sea, turned loose her ships to prey on French commerce, and brought some three hundred prizes into her ports. It was the act of a weak Government, supplying by spasms of violence what it lacked in considerate resolution. France, no match for her amphibious enemy in the game of marine depredation, cried out in horror; and to emphasize her complaints and signalize a pretended good faith which her acts had belied, ostentatiously released a British frigate captured by her cruisers. She in her turn declared war on the ninth of June: and now began the most terrible conflict of the eighteenth century; one that convulsed Europe and shook America, India, the coasts of Africa, and the islands of the sea.