[Footnote 387: "On esperoit beaucoup de la Compagnie des Indes Occidentales, mais elle ne prit guere plus a coeur les interets de la Nouvelle France, que n'avoit fait la precedente, ainsi que M. Talon avoit prevu. Cependant comme les secours que le Canada avait recus les dernieres annees, l'avoient mis sur un assez bon pied, il s'y conserva quelque tems, et il n'est pas meme retombe depuis dans l'etat de foiblesse et d'epuisement dont le roi venoit de le tirer."—Charlevoix, tom. ii., p. 161.]
[Footnote 388: "Le peuple adoroit Frontenac a cause de sa bonte."—La Potherie, tom. iv., p. 110; Charlevoix, tom ii., p. 246.]
[Footnote 389: The Mississippi.]
[Footnote 390: "Ce lac a porte quelque tems le nom de St. Louis, on lui donna ensuite celui de Frontenac, aussi bien qu'au fort de Catarocoui dont le Comte de Frontenac fut le fondateur, mais insensiblement le lac a repris son ancien nom, qui est Huron ou Iroquois, et le fort celui du lieu ou il est bati (1721)."—Charlevoix, tom. v., p. 287.]
[Footnote 391: "Le Pere J. Marquette, natif de Laon en Picardie, a ete un des plus illustres missionnaires du la Nouvelle France; il en a parcouru presque toutes les contrees, et il y a fait plusieurs decouvertes dont la derniere est celle du Micissipi. Deux ans apres cette decouverte, comme il alloit a Michillimackinack, il entra le 18me de May, 1675, dans la riviere dont il s'agit; il dressa son autel sur le terrein bas, qu'on lassia a droite en y entrant, et il y dit la messe. Il s'eloigna, ensuite un peu pour faire son action de graces, et pria les hommes qui conduisoient son canot, de le laisser seul pendant une demie heure. Ce tems passe, ils allerent le chercher, et furent tres surpris de le trouver mort, ils se souvinrent neanmoins qu'en entrant dans la riviere, il lui etoit echappe de dire qu'il finiroit la son voyage. Aujourd'hui les sauvages n'appellent cette riviere autrement que la riviere de la robe noire; les Francois lui ont donne le nom du Pere Marquette, et ne manquent jamais de l'invoquer, quand ils se trouvent en quelque danger sur le Lac Michigan. Plusieurs ont assure qu'ils se croyoient redevables a son intercession, d'avoir echappe a de tres grands perils."—Charlevoix, tom. vi., p. 21.]
[Footnote 392: "Les sauvages appellent ainsi les Jesuites. Ils nomment les Pretres, les Collets blancs, et les Recollets, les Robes grises."]
[Footnote 393: Relation de Marquette: Recueil de Thevenot, tom. i.]
[Footnote 394: The signification of the word Ohio is "Beautiful River." According to Bancroft, it was called the Wabash in La Salle's time, and long afterward.]
[Footnote 395: "La Chine is a fine village three French miles to the southeast of Montreal, but on the same side, close to the River St. Lawrence. Here is a church of stone, with a small steeple, and the whole place has a very agreeable situation. Its name is said to have had the following origin: As the unfortunate M. de Sales was here, who was afterward murdered by his own countrymen further up the country, he was very intent on discovering a shorter road to China by means of the River St. Lawrence. He talked of nothing at that time but his now short way to China; but, as his project of undertaking this journey in order to make this discovery was stopped by an accident which happened to him here, and he did not at that time come any nearer China, this place got its name, as it were, by way of joke."—Kalm, in Pinkerton, vol. xiii., p. 699.]
[Footnote 396: See Appendix. No. LXIV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 397: "This is the site of New Orleans. New Orleans, holding, from its position, the command of all the immense navigable river-courses of interior America, is making the most rapid progress of any American city, and will doubtless one day become the greatest in that continent—perhaps even in the world. A formidable evil, however, exists in the insalubrity of the air, arising from the extensive marshes and inundated grounds which border the lower part of the Mississippi. The terrible malady that bears the name of the yellow fever, makes its first appearance in the early days of August, and continues till October. During that era New Orleans appears like a deserted city; all who possibly can, fly to the north or the upper country; most of the shops are shut; and the silence of the streets is only interrupted by the sound of the hearse passing through them. In one year two thousand died of this fever. Since the morasses have been partially cleared, its ravages have been less destructive; and, as this work is going on, the city may hope, in time, to be almost free from this terrible scourge."—Murray's America, vol. ii., p. 428.]
[Footnote 398: "Garcilasso de la Vega parle de cette nation comme d'un peuple puissant, et il n'y a pas six ans qu'on y comptoit quatre mille guerriers. Aujourd'hui les Natchez ne pourroient pas mettre sur pied deux mille combattans (1714)."—Charlevoix, tom. vi., p. 177.]
[Footnote 399: "La Louisiane est le nom que M. de la Sale a donne au pays qu'arrose le Mississippi audessous de la Riviere des Illinois et qu'il a conserve jusqu'a present. C'etoit en l'honneur de Louis XIV., qui regnoit alors en France."—Charlevoix, tom. ii., p. 436.]
[Footnote 400: Charlevoix thus speaks of the selection of M. de la Salle by M. de Seignelay: "Il n'est point de vertu qui ne soit melee de quelque defaut: c'est le sort ordinaire de l'humanite. Ce qui met le comble a notre humiliation, c'est que les plus grands defauts accompagnent souvent les plus eminentes qualites, et que la jalousie que celles-ci inspirent trouve presque toujours dans ceux-la un specieux pretexte pour couvrir ce que cette passion a de bas et d'injuste. C'est a ceux qui sont etablis pour gouverner les hommes a se faire jour pour sortir de cette labyrinthe, a degager le vrai des tenebres dont la passion veut l'offusquer, et a connoitre si bien ceux dont ils veulent se servir, qu'en leur donnent lieu de faire usage de ce qu'ils ont de bon, ils se precautionnent sur ce qu'ils ont de mauvais."—Charlevoix, tom. ii., p. 2.]
[Footnote 401: Memoires de l'Amerique Septentrionale par M. le Baron de la Hontan: a Amsterdam, 1705. For the character of these memoirs, see Charlevoix, tom. vi., p. 408. They are translated in Pinkerton, vol. xiii.]
[Footnote 402: The North Pacific Ocean. The South Pacific Ocean had been discovered by the Spaniard Balboa in 1513.]
An embittered disagreement between the governor general, Comte de Frontenac, and the intendant, M. de Cheneau, M. Talon's successor, rendered it necessary to recall both those officers from the colony. The French court attributed the greater share of blame to the governor, but the haughty and unbending disposition of the intendant was probably a principal cause of those untoward disputes. M. le Fevre de la Barre and M. de Meules succeeded them in their respective offices, with special recommendation from the king to cultivate friendly relations with each other, and with M. de Blenac, the governor general of the French American islands.
New France had for many years remained in a state of great confusion, and had made but little progress in prosperity or population, and now the prospects of a disastrous war darkened the future of the colonists. Various causes had united to revive the hostility of the Iroquois, their ancient and powerful foes. Since New York had fallen into English hands, the savages found it more advantageous to carry their trade thither than to barter their furs with the privileged company of France. The falling off of commercial intercourse soon led to further alienation, which the death of an Iroquois chief by the hands of an Illinois, in the territory of the Ottawas, then allies of the white men, soon turned into open hostility. The Comte de Frontenac had failed in his attempts to negotiate with the savages; and on the arrival of his successor, an invasion of the colony was hourly expected. M. de la Barre at once perceived the dangerous state of affairs; he therefore summoned an assembly of all the leading men in the country, ecclesiastical, civil, and military, and demanded counsel from them in the emergency.
The assembly was of opinion that the Iroquois aimed at the monopoly of all the trade of Canada, by the instigation of the English and Dutch of New York, who were also supposed to incite them to enmity against the French, and that, consequently, those nations should be held hostile. It was also believed that the savages had only endeavored to gain time by their negotiations, while they either destroyed the tribes friendly to the colonists, or seduced them from their alliance. With this view they had already assailed the Illinois, and it was therefore the duty of the French to save that nation from this attack, whatever might be the cost or danger of the enterprise. For that purpose the colony could only furnish 1000 men; and to procure even this number, it was necessary that the labors of husbandry should be suspended. Re-enforcements of troops and a supply of laborers were therefore urgently required for the very existence of the settlements; and an earnest appeal for such assistance was forwarded to the king, as the result of the deliberations of the assembly. This application was immediately answered by the dispatch of 200 soldiers to New France, and by a remonstrance addressed to the King of Great Britain, who instructed Colonel Dongan, the English governor of New York, to encourage more friendly relations with his French neighbors.
While M. de la Barre pushed on his preparations for war against the Iroquois, he still kept up the hope of treating with them for peace in such a manner as not to forfeit the dignity of his position. In the mean time, however, he received intimation that a formidable expedition of 1500 warriors had assembled, ostensibly to wage war with the Illinois, but in reality for the destruction of the Miamis and Ottawas, both allies of the French. The governor promptly dispatched an envoy, who arrived at the village where the Iroquois had mustered on the evening of the day appointed for the beginning of their campaign. The envoy was received with dignity and kindness; and he succeeded in obtaining a promise that the expedition should be deferred, and that they would send deputies to Montreal to negotiate with the French chief. But the wily savages had promised only to deceive; and in the month of May following, the governor received intelligence that 700 of these fierce warriors were on their march to attack his Miami and Ottawa allies, while another force was prepared to assail the settlements of the French themselves. He attributed these dangerous hostilities to the instigation of the English.
The governor made urgent representations to the minister at home as to the necessity of crushing two of the Iroquois tribes, the most hostile and the most powerful. For this purpose, he demanded that a re-enforcement of 400 men should be sent to him from France as soon as possible, and that an order should be obtained from the Duke of York, to whom New York then belonged, to prevent the English from interfering with or thwarting the expedition.
The Iroquois found the free trade with the English and Dutch more advantageous than that with the French, which was paralyzed by an injudicious monopoly; but they were still unwilling to come to an open rupture with their powerful neighbors. They therefore sent deputies to Montreal to make great but vague professions of attachment and good will. For many reasons, De la Barre placed but little confidence in these addresses: their object was obviously to gain time, and to throw the French off their guard. He, however, received the deputies with great distinction, and sent them back enriched with presents. But a few months after this, however, a small detachment of Frenchmen was assailed by the Iroquois, and plundered of merchandise which they were bearing to traffic with the Illinois.
After this flagrant outrage, nothing remained for M. de la Barre but war. He had received intelligence that the Iroquois were making great preparations for an onslaught upon the French settlements, and that they had sent embassadors to the Indians of the south for the purpose of insuring peace in that quarter, while they threw all their power into the struggle with the hated pale faces. The governor promptly determined to adopt the bolder but safer course of striking the first blow, and making the cantons of his savage enemies the field of battle. As yet, few and small were the aids he had received from France, and a considerable time must elapse ere the further supplies he anticipated could arrive: he was, therefore, unwillingly compelled to avail himself of the assistance of his Indian allies. The native tribes dwelling around the shores of Lake Michigan entertained a deep and ancient jealousy of the powerful confederacy of the Iroquois or Five Nations, who aspired to universal dominion over the Northern Continent; they, therefore, held themselves equally interested with the French in the destruction of those formidable warriors. M. de la Durantaye, who commanded the fort on the far-distant shores of Lake Michigan, announced to his Indian neighbors that his countrymen were about to march against the Iroquois, and requested that all the native warriors friendly to the white men should meet them in the middle of August at Niagara. He was not, however, very successful in making levies, and with difficulty led 500 warriors to the place of meeting, where, to his dismay, he found that the French had not arrived: his followers were not easily reconciled to this disappointment.
In the mean time, M. de la Barre had, on the 9th of July, 1683, marched from Quebec to Montreal, where he appointed the troops to assemble for the expedition. No precautions to insure success were neglected. He dispatched a message to the English governor of New York to invite him to join in the attack, or, at least, to secure his neutrality. He also sent belts and presents to three of the Iroquois tribes, to induce them to refrain from joining in the quarrel of those among their confederates who alone had injured him and his nation. He arrived at Montreal on the 21st, with 700 Canadians, 130 soldiers, and 200 Indians: his force was organized in three divisions. After a brief stay he continued his march westward.
The governor had not proceeded far when he received intelligence that the other Iroquois tribes had obliged the Tsonnonthouans, his especial enemies, to accept of their mediation with the French, and that they demanded the Sieur le Moyne, in whom they placed much confidence, to conduct the negotiation. At the same time, he learned that the tribe he proposed to assail had put all their provisions into a place of security, and were prepared for a protracted and harassing resistance. His appeals both to the remaining Iroquois tribes and to the English had also failed, for the former would assuredly make common cause against him in case of his refusing their mediation, and the latter had actually offered to aid his enemies with 400 horse, and a like force of infantry. Influenced by these untoward circumstances, he dispatched M. le Moyne to treat, and agreed to await the Iroquois deputies on the shores of Lake Ontario. In the mean time, M. de la Barre and his army underwent great privations from the scarcity and bad quality of their provisions; they could with difficulty hold their ground till the arrival of the savages, and such was their extremity that the name of the Bay of Famine was given to the scene of their sufferings.
The savage deputies met the French chief with great dignity, and, well aware of the advantage given them by the starvation and sickness of the white men, carried their negotiations with a high hand. They guaranteed that the Tsonnonthouans should make reparation, for the injuries inflicted on the French, but at the same time insisted that the governor and his army should retire the very next day. With this ignoble stipulation M. de la Barre was fain to agree. On his return to Quebec, he found, to his chagrin, that considerable re-enforcements had just arrived from France, which would have enabled him to dictate instead of submitting to dictation. The new detachment was commanded by MM. Monterlier and Desnos, captains of marine, who were commissioned by the king to proceed to the most advanced and important posts, and to act independently of the governor's authority. They were further instructed to capture as many of the Iroquois as possible, and to send them to France to labor in the galleys. In this same year the Chevalier de Callieres, an officer of great merit, was sent from France to assume the duties of governor of the Montreal district, as successor to M. Perrot, who had embroiled himself with the members of the powerful Order of St. Sulpicius.
In the year 1685, the Marquis de Denonville arrived at Quebec as governor general in succession to M. de la Barre, whose advanced age and failing health unfitted him for the arduous duties of the office. The new governor was selected by the king for his known valor and prudence; a re-enforcement of troops was placed at his disposal, and it was determined to spare no effort to establish the colony in security and peace. Denonville lost not a moment in proceeding to the advanced posts on the lakes, and, at the same time, he devoted himself to a diligent study of the affairs of Canada and the character of the Indians. His keen perception promptly discovered the impossibility of the Iroquois being reconciled and assimilated to the French, and he at once saw the necessity of extirpating, or at least thoroughly humbling, these haughty savages. But beyond the present dangers and difficulties of Indian hostility, this clear-sighted politician discerned the far more formidable evils that threatened the power of his country from the advancing encroachments of the hardy traders and fearless adventurers of the English colonies. He urged upon the king the advantage of building and garrisoning a fort at Niagara to exclude the British from the traffic of the lakes, and interrupt their communications with the Iroquois, and also to check the desertion of the French, who usually escaped by that route, and transferred the benefits of their experience and knowledge of the country to the rival colonies. The Northwest Company of merchants at Quebec earnestly desired this establishment, and engaged to pay an annual rent of 30,000 livres to the crown for the privilege of exclusive trade at the proposed station.
The suspicions of the Marquis de Denonville as to English encroachments were soon confirmed. He received a letter from the governor of New York, dated 29th of May, 1686, demanding explanations of the preparations which were being made against the Iroquois—the subjects of England—as any attack upon them would be a breach of the peace then existing between England and France. The British governor also expressed surprise that the French should contemplate erecting a fort at Niagara, "because it should be known in Canada that all that country was a dependency of New York." M. de Denonville, in reply, denied the pretensions of the English to sovereignty in New France, and pointed out the impropriety of hostile communications between inferiors, while the kings whom they served remained on amicable terms. He rendered, however, some sort of evasive explanation on the subject of his preparations against the Iroquois.
The following year the governor general received from the court the notification of a most important agreement between England and France, that, "notwithstanding any rupture between the mother countries, the colonies on the American continent should remain at peace." Unfortunately, however, the force of national prejudice, and the clashing of mutual interests, rendered this wise and enlightened provision totally fruitless.
In the summer of 1687, M. de Denonville marched toward Lake Ontario with a force of 2000 French and 600 Indians, having already received all the supplies and re-enforcements which he had expected from France. His first act of aggression was one that no casuistry can excuse, no necessity justify—one alike dishonorable and impolitic. He employed two missionaries, men of influence among the savages, to induce the principal Iroquois chiefs to meet him at the fort of Cataracouy, under various pretenses; he there treacherously seized the unsuspecting savages, and instantly dispatched them to Quebec, with orders that they should be forwarded to France to labor in the galleys. The missionaries who had been instrumental in bringing the native chiefs into this unworthy snare were altogether innocent of participation in the outrage, never for a moment doubting the honorable intentions of their countrymen toward the Indian deputies. One, who dwelt among the Onneyouths, was immediately seized by the exasperated tribe, and condemned to expiate the treachery of his nation, and his own supposed guilt, in the flames. He was, however, saved at the last moment by the intervention of an Indian matron, who adopted him as her son. The other—Lamberville by name—was held in great esteem among the Onnontagues, to whose instruction he had devoted himself. On the first accounts of the outrage at Cataracouy, the ancients assembled and called the missionary before them. They then declared their deep indignation at the wrong which they had suffered; but, at the moment when their prisoner expected to feel the terrible effects of their wrath, a chief arose, and with a noble dignity addressed him:
"Thou art now our enemy—thou and thy race. We have held counsel, and can not resolve to treat thee as an enemy. We know thy heart had no share in this treason, though thou wert its tool. We are not unjust; we will not punish thee, being innocent, and hating the crime as much as we do ourselves. But depart from among us; there are some who might seek thy blood; and when our young men sing the war-song, we may be no longer able to protect thee." The magnanimous savages then furnished him with guides, who were enjoined to convey him to a place of safety.
M. de Denonville halted for some time at Cataracouy, and sent orders to the commanders of the distant western posts to meet him on the 10th of July at the River Des Sables, to the eastward of the country of the Tsonnonthouans, against whom they were first to act. The governor marched upon this point with his army, and, by an accident of favorable presage, he and the other detachments arrived at the same time. They immediately constructed an intrenchment, defended by palisades, in a commanding situation over the river, where their stores and provisions were safely deposited. M. d'Orvilliers, with a force of 400 men, was left for the protection of this depot, and to insure the rear of the advancing army.
On the 13th the French pushed into the hostile country, and passed two deep and dangerous defiles without opposition, but at a third they were suddenly assailed by 800 of the Iroquois, who, after the first volley, dispatched 200 of their number to outflank the invaders, while they continued the front attack with persevering courage. The French were at first thrown into some confusion by this fierce and unexpected onslaught; but the allied savages, accustomed to the forest warfare, boldly held their ground, and effectually covered the rallying of the troops. The Iroquois, having failed in overpowering their enemies by surprise, and conscious of their inferiority in numbers and arms, after a time broke their array and dispersed among the woods. The French lost five men killed and twenty wounded; the Iroquois suffered far more—forty-five were left dead upon the field, and sixty more disabled in the conflict. The Ottawas, serving under M. de Denonville, who had been by no means forward in the strife, with savage ferocity mangled and devoured the bodies of the slain. The Hurons, and the Iroquois Christians following the French standard, fought with determined bravery.
The army encamped in one of the four great villages of the Tsonnonthouans, about eight leagues from the fort at the River Des Sables: they found it totally deserted by the inhabitants, and left it in ashes. For ten days they marched through the dense forest with great hardship and difficulty, and met with no traces of the enemy, but they marked their progress with ruin: they burned about 400,000 bushels of corn, and destroyed a vast number of hogs. The general, fearing that his savage allies would desert him if he continued longer in the field, was then constrained to limit his enterprise. He, however, took this opportunity of erecting a fort at Niagara, and left the Chevalier de la Troye with 100 men in garrison. Unfortunately, a deadly malady soon after nearly destroyed the detachment, and the post was abandoned and dismantled. The constant and harassing enmity of the savages combined with the bad state of the provisions left in the fort, to render the disease which had broken out so fatal in its results.
The French had erected a fort called Chambly, in a strong position on the left bank of the important River Richelieu. This little stronghold effectually commanded the navigation of the stream, and through it, the communication between Lake Champlain and the southern districts with the waters of the St. Lawrence. On the 13th of November, 1687, a formidable party of the Iroquois suddenly attacked the fort; the little garrison made a stout defense, and the assailants abandoned the field with the morning light; the settlement which had grown up in the neighborhood was, however, ravaged by the fierce Indians, and several of the inhabitants carried away into captivity. The French attributed this unexpected invasion to the instigation of their English neighbors, and it would appear with reason, for, on the failure of the assault, the governor of New York put his nearest town into a state of defense, as if in expectation of reprisals.
In this same year there fell upon Canada an evil more severe than Indian aggression or English hostility. Toward the end of the summer a deadly malady visited the colony, and carried mourning into almost every household. So great was the mortality, that M. de Denonville was constrained to abandon, or rather defer, his project of humbling the pride and power of the Tsonnonthouans. He had also reason to doubt the faith of his Indian allies; even the Hurons of the far West, who had fought so stoutly by his side on the shores of Lake Ontario, were discovered to have been at the time in treacherous correspondence with the Iroquois.
While doubt and disease paralyzed the power of the French, their dangerous enemies were not idle. Twelve hundred Iroquois warriors assembled at Lake St. Francis, within two days' march of Montreal, and haughtily demanded audience of the governor, which was immediately granted. Their orator proclaimed the power of his race and the weakness of the white men with all the emphasis and striking illustration of Indian eloquence. He offered peace on terms proposed by the governor of New York, but only allowed the French four days for deliberation.
This high-handed diplomacy was backed by formidable demonstrations. The whole country west of the River Sorel, or Richelieu, was occupied by a savage host, and the distant fort of Cataracouy, on the Ontario shore, was with difficulty held against 800 Iroquois, who had burned the farm stores with flaming arrows, and slain the cattle of the settlers. The French bowed before the storm they could not resist, and peace was concluded on conditions that war should cease in the land, and all the allies should share in the blessings of repose. M. de Denonville further agreed to restore the Indian chiefs who had been so treacherously torn from their native wilds, and sent to labor in the galleys of France.
But, in the mean time, some of the savage allies, disdaining the peaceful conclusions of negotiation, waged a merciless war. The Abenaquis, always the fiercest foes of the Iroquois confederacy, took the field while yet the conferences pended, and fell suddenly upon the enemy by the banks of the Sorel. They left death behind them on their path, and pushed on even into the English settlements, where they slew some of the defenseless inhabitants, and carried away their scalps in savage triumph. On the other hand, the Iroquois of the Rapids of St. Louis and the Mountain, made a deadly raid into the invaders' territories.
The Hurons of Michillimakinack were those among the French allies who most dreaded the conclusion of a treaty of which they feared to become the first victims. Through the extraordinary machinations and cunning of their chief, Kondiaronk, or the Rat, they continued to reawaken the suspicions of the Iroquois against the French, and again strove to stir up the desolating flames of war.
In the midst of these renewed difficulties M. de Denonville was recalled to Europe, his valuable services being required in the armies of his king. In colonial administration he had shown an ardent zeal for the interests of the sovereign and the country under his charge, and his plans for the improvement of Canada were just, sound, and comprehensive, but he was deficient in tenacity of purpose, and not fortunate or judicious in the selection of those who enjoyed his confidence. His otherwise honorable and useful career can, however, never be cleansed from the fatal blot of one dark act of treachery. From the day when that evil deed was done, the rude but magnanimous Indian scorned as a broken reed the sullied honor of the French.
The Comte de Frontenac was once again selected for the important post of governor of New France, and arrived at Montreal on the 27th of October, 1689, where his predecessor handed over the arduous duties of office. The state of New France was such as to demand the highest qualities in the man to whose rule it was intrusted: trade languished, agriculture was interrupted by savage aggression, and the very existence of the colony threatened by the growing power of the formidable Iroquois confederacy. At the same time, a plan for the reduction of New York was being organized in Paris, which would inevitably call for the co-operation of the colonial subjects of France, and, in the event of failure, leave them to bear the brunt of the dangerous quarrel. M. de Frontenac was happily selected in this time of need.
Impelled by the treacherous machinations of the Huron chief Kondiaronk, the Iroquois approached the colony in very different guise from that expected. While M. de Denonville remained in daily hopes of receiving a deputation of ten or twelve of the Indians to treat for peace, he was astounded by the sudden descent of 1200 warriors upon the island of Montreal. Terrible indeed was the devastation they caused; blood and ashes marked their path to within three leagues of the territory, where they blockaded two forts, after having burned the neighboring houses. A small force of 100 soldiers and 50 Indians, imprudently sent against these fierce marauders, was instantly overpowered, and taken or destroyed. When the work of destruction was completed, the Iroquois re-embarked for the Western lakes, their canoes laden with plunder, and 200 prisoners in their train.
This disastrous incursion filled the French with panic and astonishment. They at once blew up the forts of Cataracouy and Niagara, burned two vessels built under their protection, and altogether abandoned the shores of the Western lakes. The year was not, however, equally unfortunate in all parts of New France. While the island of Montreal was swept by the storm of savage invasion, M. d'Iberville supported in the north the cause of his country, and the warlike Abenaquis avenged upon the English settlers the evils which their Iroquois allies had inflicted upon, Canada. Upon his arrival, the Comte de Frontenac determined to restore the falling fortunes of his people by means of his great personal influence among the triumphant Iroquois, backed as he was with the presence of those prisoners who had been so treacherously seized by his predecessor, but whose entire confidence and good-will he had acquired while bringing them back to their native country. A chief named Oureouhare, the most distinguished among the captives, undertook to negotiate with his countrymen—a duty which was performed more honestly than efficiently: an exchange of prisoners took place, but nothing further was accomplished.
The Northern Indians, allies of the French, had long desired to share the benefits of English commerce with the Iroquois; it had, however, been the policy of the Canadian government to keep these red tribes continually at war, with the view of interrupting the communications of traffic through their country. But the allied savages soon began to see the necessity of making peace with the Iroquois, in order to establish relations with the traders of the British settlements. With this view the Ottawas sent embassadors to the cantons of the Five Nations, restoring the prisoners captured in the war, and proffering peace and amity. The agents and missionaries of the French strongly remonstrated against these proceedings, but in vain; their former allies replied by insulting declarations of independence, and contemptuous scoffs at their want of power and courage to meet the enemy in the field; their commerce, too, was spoken of as unjust, injurious, and inferior to that of the English, of which they had endeavored to deprive those whom they could not protect in war; the French were also accused of endeavoring to shelter themselves under a dishonorable treaty, regardless of the safety and interests of the Indians who had fought and bled in their cause.
When M. de Frontenac became aware of this formidable disaffection, he boldly determined to strike a blow at the English power that should restore the military character of France among the savages, and deprive the recreant Indians of their expected succor. He therefore organized three expeditions to invade the British settlements by different avenues. The first, consisting of 110 men, marched from Montreal, destined for New York, but only resulted in the surprise and destruction of the village of Corlar, or Schenectady, and the massacre and capture of some of the inhabitants. They retreated at noon the following day, bearing with them forty prisoners; after much suffering from want of provisions, they were obliged to separate into small parties, when they were attacked by their exasperated enemies, and sustained some loss. Many would have perished from hunger in this retreat, but that they found a resource in living upon horse flesh: their cavalry, from fifty, was reduced to six by the time they regained the shelter of Montreal.
The second invading division was mustered at Three Rivers, and only numbered fifty men, half being Indians. They reached an English settlement, called Sementels (Salmon Falls), after a long and difficult march and succeeded in surprising and destroying the village, with most of its defenders. In their retreat they were sharply attacked, but succeeded in escaping, through the aid of an advantageous post, which enabled them to check the pursuers at a narrow bridge. They soon after fell in with M. de Mamerval, governor of Acadia, with the third party, and, thus re-enforced, assailed the fortified village of Kaskebe upon the sea-coast, which surrendered after a heavy loss of the defenders.
To regain the confidence of his Indian allies, M. de Frontenac saw the necessity of rendering them independent of English commerce, and safe from the hostility of the Iroquois. To accomplish these objects, he dispatched a large convoy to the west, escorted by 143 men, and bearing presents to the savage chiefs. On the way they encountered a party of the Five Nations, and defeated them after a sanguinary engagement.
All these vigorous measures produced a marked effect: the convoy arrived at Michillimackinack at the time when the embassadors of the French allies were on the point of departing to conclude a treaty with the Iroquois. When, however, the strength of the detachment was seen, and the valuable presents and merchandise were displayed, the French interests again revived with the politic savages, and they hastened to give proofs of their renewed attachment: 110 canoes, bearing furs to the value of 100,000 crowns, and manned by 300 Indians, were dispatched soon after for Montreal, to be laid before the governor general. He dismissed the escort with presents, and exhorted them and their nation to join with him in humbling their mutual and deadly foe. They departed well pleased with their reception, and renewed professions of friendship for the French.
In the mean time the terrible war-cry of the Iroquois was never silent in the Canadian settlements. Bands of these fierce and merciless warriors suddenly emerged from the dense forests when least expected, and burst upon isolated posts and villages with more or less success, but always with great loss of life to the assailants and assailed, and with great destruction of the fruits of industry. These disastrous events caused much disquietude to the governor. He called to his counsels the Iroquois chief Oureouhare, who still remained attached to him by the closest bonds of friendship and esteem, and complained of the bitter hostility of his nation: "You must either not be a true friend," said M. de Frontenac, "or you must be powerless in your nation, to permit them to wage this bitter war against me." The generous chief was mortified at this discourse, and answered that his remaining with the French, instead of returning to his own hunting grounds, where he was ardently beloved, was a proof of his fidelity, and that he was ready to do any thing that might be required of him, but that it would certainly need time and the course of circumstances to allay the fury of his people against those who had treacherously injured them. The governor could not but acknowledge the justice of Oureouhare's reply; he gave him new marks of esteem and friendship, and determined more than before to confide in this wise and important ally.
But now the greatest danger that had ever yet menaced the power of France upon the American continent hung over the Canadian shores. The men of New England were at last aroused to activity by the constant inroads and cruel depredations of their northern neighbors, and in April, 1690, dispatched a small squadron from Boston, which took possession of Port Royal and all the province of Acadia. In a month the expedition returned, with sufficient plunder to repay its cost. Meanwhile the British settlers deputed six commissioners to meet at New York in council for their defense. On the first of May, 1690, these deputies assembled, and promptly determined to set an expedition on foot for the invasion of Canada. Levies of 800 men were ordered for the purpose, the contingents of the several states fixed, and general rules appointed for the organization of their army. A fast-sailing vessel was dispatched to England with strong representations of the defenseless state of the British colonies, and with an earnest appeal for aid in the projected invasion of New France; they desired that ammunition and other warlike stores might be supplied to their militia for the attempt by land, and that a fleet of English frigates should be directed up the River St. Lawrence to co-operate with the colonial force. But at that time England was still too much weakened by the unhealed wounds of domestic strife to afford any assistance to her American children, and they were thrown altogether on their own resources.
New York and New England boldly determined, unaided, to prosecute their original plans against Canada. General Winthrop, with 800 men, was marched by the way of Lake Champlain, on the shores of which he was to have met 500 of the Iroquois warriors; but, through some unaccountable jealousy, only a small portion of the politic savages came to the place of muster. Other disappointments also combined to paralyze the British force: the Indians had failed to provide more than half the number of canoes necessary for the transport of the troops across the lake, and the contractor of the army had imprudently neglected to supply sufficient provisions. No alternative remained for Winthrop but to fall back upon Albany for subsistence.
In the mean time, Major Schuyler, who had before crossed Lake Champlain with a smaller British force, pushed on against the French post of La Prairie de la Madeleine, and attacked it with spirit. He soon overcame the handful of Canadian militia and Indians who formed the garrison, and compelled them to fall back upon Chambly, a fort further to the north. Having met M. de Sanermes and a considerable force advancing to their relief, they turned and faced their pursuers. Schuyler rashly ventured to attack this now superior enemy; he was soon forced to retire, with the loss of nearly thirty men. The French, however, suffered much more severely in this affair, no less than thirteen officers and nearly seventy of their men having been killed and wounded.
The naval expedition against Quebec was assembled in Nantasket Road, near Boston, and consisted of thirty-five vessels of various size, the largest being a 44-gun frigate. Nearly 2000 troops were embarked in this squadron, and the chief command was confided by the people of New England to their distinguished countryman, Sir William Phipps, a man of humble birth, whose own genius and merit had won for him honor, power, and universal esteem. The direction of the fleet was given to Captain Gregory Sugars. The necessary preparations were not completed, and the fleet did not get under way till the season was far advanced; contrary winds caused a still further delay; however, several French posts on the shores of Newfoundland and of the Lower St. Lawrence were captured without opposition, and the British force arrived at Tadoussac, on the Saguenay, before authentic tidings of the approaching danger had reached Quebec.
When the brave old Frontenac learned from his scouts that Winthrop's corps had retreated, and that Canada was no longer threatened by an enemy from the landward side, he hastened to the post of honor at Quebec, while by his orders M. de Ramsey and M. de Callieres assembled the hardy militia of Three Rivers and the adjoining settlements to re-enforce him with all possible dispatch. The governor found that Major Provost, who commanded at Quebec before his arrival, had made vigorous preparation to receive the invaders; it was only necessary, therefore, to continue the works, and confirm the orders given by his worthy deputy. A party, under the command of M. de Longueuil, was sent down the river to observe the motions of the British, and, if possible, to prevent their landing. At the same time, two canoes were dispatched by the shallow channel north of the island of Orleans to seek for some ships with supplies, which were daily expected from France, and to warn them of the presence of the hostile fleet.
The Comte de Frontenac continued the preparations for defense with unwearied industry. The regular soldiers and militia were alike constantly employed upon the works, till in a short time Quebec was tolerably secure from the chances of a sudden assault. Lines of strong palisades, here and there armed with small batteries, were formed round the crown of the lofty headland, and the gates of the city were barricaded with massive beams of timber and casks filled with earth. A number of cannon were mounted on advantageous positions, and a large wind-mill of solid masonry was fitted up as a cavalier. The lower town was protected by two batteries each of three guns, and the streets leading up the steep, rocky face of the height were embarrassed with several intrenchments and rows of "chevaux de frise." Subsequently during the siege two other batteries were erected a little above the level of the river. The commanding natural position of the stronghold, however, offered far more serious obstacles to the assailants than the hasty and imperfect fortifications.
At daylight on the 5th of October the white sails of the British fleet were seen rounding the headland of Point Levi, and crowding to the northern shore of the river, near the village of Beauport; at about ten o'clock they dropped anchor, lowered their canvas, and swung round with the receding tide. There they remained inactive till the following morning. On the 6th, Sir William Phipps sent a haughty summons to the French chief, demanding an unconditional surrender in the name of King William of England, and concluding with this imperious sentence: "Your answer positive in an hour, returned with your own trumpet, with the return of mine, is required upon the peril that will ensue."
The British officer who bore the summons was led blind-fold through the town, and ushered into the presence of Comte Frontenac in the council-room of the castle of Quebec. The bishop, the intendant, and all the principal officers of the government surrounded the proud old noble. "Read your message," said he. The Englishman read on, and when he had finished, laid his watch upon the table with these words: "It is now ten; I await your answer for one hour." The council started from their seats, surprised out of their dignity by a burst of sudden anger. The comte paused for a time ere he could restrain his rage sufficiently to speak, and then replied, "I do not acknowledge King William, and I well know that the Prince of Orange is a usurper, who has violated the most sacred rights of blood and religion ... who wishes to persuade the nation that he is the saviour of England and the defender of the faith, though he has violated the laws and privileges of the kingdom, and overturned the Church of England: this conduct, the Divine Justice to which Phipps appeals will one day severely punish."
The British officer, unmoved by the storm of indignation which his message had aroused, desired that this fierce reply should be rendered to him in writing for the satisfaction of his chief. "I will answer your master by the mouth of my cannon," replied the angry Frenchman, "that he may learn that a man of my rank is not to be summoned in this manner." Thus ended the laconic conference.
On the return of the messenger, Sir William Phipps called a council of war: it was determined at once to attack the city. At noon, on the 8th, 1300 men were embarked in the boats of the squadron, under the command of Major Walley, and landed without opposition at La Canardiere, a little to the east of the River St. Charles. While the main body was being formed on the muddy shore, four companies pushed on toward the town, in skirmishing order, to clear the front; they had scarcely begun the ascent of the sloping banks when a sharp fire was poured upon them by 300 of the Canadian militia, posted among the rocks and bushes on either flank, and in a small hamlet to the right. Some of the British winced under this unexpected volley, fired, and fell back; but the officers, with prompt resolution, gave the order to charge, and themselves gallantly led the way; the soldiers followed at a rapid pace, and speedily cleared the ground. Major Walley then advanced with his whole force to the St. Charles River, still, however, severely harassed by dropping shots from the active light troops of the French: there he bivouacked for the night, while the enemy retreated into the garrison.
Toward evening of the same day the four largest vessels of Phipps's squadron moved boldly up the river, and anchored close against the town. They opened a spirited but ineffectual fire; their shot, directed principally against the lofty eminence of the Upper Town, fell almost harmless, while a vigorous cannonade from the numerous guns of the fortress replied with overwhelming power. When night interrupted the strife, the British ships had suffered severely, their rigging was torn by the hostile shot, and the crews had lost many of their best men. By the first light of morning, however, Phipps renewed the action with pertinacious courage, but with no better success. About noon the contest became evidently hopeless to the stubborn assailants; they weighed anchor, and, with the receding tide, floated their crippled vessels down the stream, beyond the reach of the enemy's fire.
The British troops, under Major Walley, although placed in battle array at daylight, remained inactive, through some unaccountable delay, while the enemy's attention was diverted by the combat with Phipps's squadron. At length, about noon, they moved upon the formidable stronghold along the left bank of the River St. Charles. Some allied savages plunged into the bush in front to clear the advance, a line of skirmishers protected either flank, and six field-pieces accompanied the march of the main body. After having proceeded for some time without molestation, they were suddenly and fiercely assailed by 200 Canadian volunteers under M. de Longueuil; the Indians were at once swept away, the skirmishers overpowered, and the British column itself was forced back by their gallant charge. Walley, however, drew up his reserve in some brushwood a little in the rear, and finally compelled the enemy to retreat. During this smart action, M. de Frontenac, with three battalions, placed himself upon the opposite bank of the river, in support of the volunteers, but showed no disposition to cross the stream. That night, the English troops, harassed, depressed, diminished in numbers, and scantily supplied, again bivouacked upon the marshy banks of the stream: a severe frost, for which they were but ill prepared, chilled the weary limbs of the soldiers and enhanced their sufferings.
On the 10th, Walley once more advanced upon the French positions, in the hope of breaching their palisades by the fire of his field pieces; but this attempt was altogether unsuccessful. His flanking parties fell into ambuscades, and were very severely handled, and his main body was checked and finally repulsed by a heavy fire from a fortified house on a commanding position which he had ventured to attack. Utterly dispirited by this failure, the British fell back in some confusion to the landing-place, yielding up in one hour what they had so hardly won. That night many of the soldiers strove to force their way into the boats, and order was with great difficulty restored; the next day they were harassed by a continual skirmish. Had it not been for the gallant conduct of "Captain March, who had a good company, and made the enemy give back," the confusion would probably have been irretrievable. When darkness put an end to the fire on both sides, the English troops received orders to embark in the boats, half a regiment at a time. But all order was soon lost; four times as many as the boats could sustain crowded down at once to the beach, rushed into the water, and pressed on board. The sailors were even forced to throw some of these panic-stricken men into the river, lest all should sink together. The noise and confusion increased every moment, despite the utmost exertions of the officers, and daylight had nearly revealed the dangerous posture of affairs before the embarkation was completed. The guns were abandoned, with some valuable stores and ammunition. Had the French displayed, in following up their advantages, any portion of the energy and skill which had been so conspicuous in their successful defense, the British detachment must infallibly have been either captured or totally destroyed.
Sir William Phipps, having failed by sea and land, resolved to withdraw from the disastrous conflict. After several ineffectual attempts to recover the guns and stores which Major Walley had been forced to abandon, he weighed anchor and descended the St. Lawrence to a place about nine miles distant from Quebec, whence he sent to the Comte de Frontenac to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners. Humbled and disappointed, damaged in fortune and reputation, the English chief sailed from the scene of his defeat; but misfortune had not yet ceased to follow him, for he left the shattered wrecks of no less than nine of his ships among the dangerous shoals of the St. Lawrence. The government of Massachusetts was dismayed at the disastrous news of which Phipps was himself the bearer. He arrived at Boston on the 19th of November, with the remains of his fleet and army, his ships damaged and weather beaten, and his men almost in a state of mutiny from having received no pay. In these straits the colonial government found it impracticable to raise money, and resorted to "bills of credit," the first paper money which had ever been issued on the American continent.
Great indeed was the joy and triumph of the French when the British fleet disappeared from the beautiful basin of Quebec. With a proud heart the gallant old Comte de Frontenac penned the dispatch which told his royal master of the victory. He failed not to dwell upon the distinguished merit of the colonial militia, by whose loyalty and courage the arms of France had been crowned with success. In grateful memory of this brave defense, the French king caused a medal to be struck, bearing the inscription, "FRANCIA IN NOVO ORBE VICTRIX: KEBECA LIBERATA.—A.D., M.D.C.X.C." In the lower town a church was built by the inhabitants to celebrate their deliverance from the British invaders, and dedicated to "Notre Dame de la Victoire."
On the 12th of November, the vessels, long expected from France, arrived in safety at Quebec, having escaped the observation of the English fleet by ascending for some distance the land-locked waters of the Saguenay. Their presence, however, only tended to increase a scarcity then pressing upon the colony, the labor of the fields in the preceding spring having been greatly interrupted by the harassing incursions of the Iroquois. The troops were distributed into those parts of the country where supplies could most easily be obtained, and were cheerfully received by those who had through their valor been protected from the hated dominion of the stranger.
[Footnote 403: Afterward called Sorel.]
[Footnote 404: The River Iroquois, or Sorel. "Dans les premieres annees de notre etablissement en Canada les Iroquois, pour faire des courses jusque dans le centre de nos habitations, descenderent cette riviere a laquelle pour cette raison on donna le nom de riviere des Iroquois. On l'a depuis appelle la Riviere de Richelieu, a cause d'un fort qui portoit ce nom et qu'on avoit construit a son embouchure. Ce fort ayant ete ruine, M. de Sorel en fit construire un autre auquel on donna son nom; ce nom s'est communique a la riviere qui le conserve encore aujourd'hui, quoique le fort ne subsiste plus depuis longtemps (1721)."—Charlevoix, tom. v., p. 221.
"There is another Iroquois river marked on the French maps, falling into the Teakiki. It received this name from a defeat experienced by the Iroquois from the Illinois, a race whom they had always despised."—Charlevoix, vol. vi., p. 118.]
[Footnote 405: Charlevoix says of Montreal in 1721, "Elle n'est point fortifiee, une simple palisade bastionnee et assez mal entretenue fait toute sa defence, avec une assez mauvaise redoute sur un petit tertre, qui sert de boulevard, et va se terminer en douce pente a une petite place quarree. C'est ce qu'on rencontre d'abord en arrivant de Quebec. Il n'y a pas meme quarante ans, que la ville etoit toute ouverte, et tous les jours exposee a etre brulee par les sauvages ou par les Anglois. Ce fut le Chevalier de Callieres, frere du plenipotentiaire de Riswick, qui la fit fermer, tandis qu'il en etoit gouverneur. On projette depuis quelques annees de l'environner de murailles, mais il ne sera pas aise d'engager les habitans a y contribuer. Ils sont braves et ils ne sont pas riches: on les a deja trouve difficiles a persuader de la necessite de cette depense, et fort convaincus que leur valeur est plus que suffisante pour defendre leur ville centre quiconque osoit l'attaquer."]
[Footnote 406: "Ce projet est presentement execute 1740."]
[Footnote 407: "Corlar was the name of a Dutchman of consideration, who founded the village of Schenectady. This man enjoyed great influence with the Indians, who, after his death, always addressed the governor of New York with the title of Corlar, as the name most expressive of respect with which they were acquainted."—Graham, vol. ii., p. 288.
"Au-dessus de la ville d'Orange il y a un fort avec une bourgade, qui confinent avec les cantons Iroquois, el qu'on appelle Corlar, d'ou ces sauvages se sont accoutumes a donner le nom de Corlar au gouverneur de New York."—Charlevoix, tom. i., p. 222.]
[Footnote 408: "Colden relates that, during the war between the French and Iroquois, two old men were cut to pieces, and put into the war-kettle for the Christian Indians to feast on."—Colden, vol. i., p. 81.
"Frontenac stands conspicuous among all his nation for deeds of cruelty to the Indians. Nothing was more common than for his Indian prisoners to be given up to his Indian allies to be tormented. One of the most horrible of these scenes on record was perpetrated under his own eye at Montreal in 1691."—Colden, vol. i., p. 441, quoted by Howitt.
"Les habitans en firent bruler, persuades que le seul moyen de corriger ces barbares de leurs cruantes, etoit de les trailer eux-meme comme ils traitoient les autres."—Charlevoix, Jesuite, tom., iii., p. 139.]
[Footnote 409: "Oureouhare mourut en vrai Chretien, l'an 1697. Le missionnaire qui l'assista pendant sa maladie, lui parlant un jour des opprobres et des ignominies de la passion du Sauveur des hommes; il entra dans un si grand mouvement d'indignation centre les Juifs, qu'il s'ecria, 'Que n'etois-je la? je les aurois bien empeche de traiter ainsi mon Dieu.' The similar exclamation of the Frank monarch, Clovis, is well known."—Charlevoix, tom. iii., p. 332.]
[Footnote 410: "It does not appear that the fortifications of Quebec were of much importance till after the year 1690, when eleven stone redoubts which served as bastions, were erected in different parts of the heights of the Upper Town. The remains of several of these redoubts are still in existence. They were connected with each other by a strong line of cedar picketing, ten or twelve feet high, banked up with earth on the inside. This proved sufficient to resist the attacks of the hostile Indians for several years."—Lambert's Travels, vol. i., p. 39.
"In 1720 a more extensive system of fortification was commenced, under the direction of M. de Lery."—Smith's Canada, vol. i., p. 184.]
[Footnote 411: The flag of the rear admiral was shot away, and, drifting toward the shore, a Canadian swam out into the stream and brought it in triumphantly. For many years the precious trophy was hung up in the parish church of Quebec.]
In May, 1691, the Iroquois, to the number of about 1000 warriors, again poured down upon the settlements near Montreal, and marked their course with massacre and ruin. Other bands, less numerous, spread themselves over the fertile and beautiful banks of the Richelieu River, burning the happy homesteads and rich store-yards of the settlers. At length, the Sieur de la Mine, with a detachment of militia, surprised a party of these fierce marauders at Saint Sulpice, and slew them without mercy. Twelve of the Iroquois escaped into a ruinous house, where they held out for a time with courage and success; but the French set fire to the building, and they were obliged to abandon it: some were killed in their efforts to escape, but five fell alive into the hands of their exasperated enemies, and were burned, with a savage cruelty such as they themselves would have exhibited.
Intelligence now arrived that a formidable force of English, Iroquois, and Mahingan Indians were advancing upon Montreal by the River Richelieu or Sorel; 800 men led by the Chevalier de Callieres, were sent to oppose their progress, and encamped on the Prairie de la Madeleine, by the borders of the St. Lawrence. Before daylight, the following morning, the invaders carried an important position by surprise, slaying several of the defenders, and finally retreated in good order and with little loss. On falling back into the woods, they met and destroyed a small French detachment, and boldly faced a more considerable force under M. de Valrenes. For an hour and half these formidable warriors withstood the fire, and repelled the charges of the Canadian troops; but at length they were overpowered and dispersed, not, however, before inflicting a loss of no less than 120 men upon their conquerors. An Englishman captured in the engagement declared that the invaders had purposed to destroy the harvest, which would have reduced the colony to the last extremity. The design, in a great measure, failed, and an abundant crop repaid the industry and successful courage of the French.
At the first news of this alarming inroad, M. de Frontenac hastened to the post of danger, but tranquillity had already been restored, and the toils of the husbandman were again plied upon the scene of strife. At Montreal he found a dispatch from the governor of New England, proposing an exchange of prisoners and a treaty of neutrality with Canada, notwithstanding the war then carried on between the mother countries. The Canadian governor mistrusted the sincerity of the English proposals, and they were not productive of any result. During the remainder of the year the Iroquois continued to disturb the repose of the colony by frequent and mischievous irruptions, and many valuable lives were lost in repelling those implacable savages.
The war continued with checkered results and heavy losses on both sides in the two following years. An invasion of the canton of the Agniers, by the French, was at first successful, but in the retreat the colonists suffered great privation, and most of their prisoners escaped, while any of their number that strayed or fell in the rear were immediately cut off by their fierce pursuers. The fur trade was also much injured by these long-continued hostilities, for the vigilant enmity of the Iroquois closed up the communication with the Western country by the waters of the St. Lawrence and its magnificent tributaries.
We have seen that for a long period the history of the colony is a mere chronicle of savage and resultless combats, and treacherous truces between the French and the formidable Iroquois confederacy. This almost perpetual warfare gave a preponderance to the military interests among the settlers, not a little injurious to their advance in material prosperity. The Comte de Frontenac had, by his vigorous administration, and haughty and unbending character, rendered himself alike respected and feared by his allies and enemies. But, while all acknowledged his courage and ability, his system of internal government bore upon the civil inhabitants with almost intolerable severity; upon them fell all the burden and labor of the wars; they were ruined by unprofitable toil, while the soldiers worked the lands for the benefit of the military officers whom he desired to conciliate. He also countenanced, or at least tolerated, the fatal trade in spirituous liquors, which his authority alone could have suppressed. Owing to these causes, the colony made but little progress, commerce languished, and depression and discontent fell upon the hearts of the Canadian people.
In the year 1695, M. de Frontenac re-established the fort of Catarocouy, despite the universal disapprobation of the settlers and the positive commands of the king. The object was, however, happily and ably accomplished by M. de Crisasy in a very short time, and without the loss of a man. This brave and active officer made good use of his powerful position. He dispatched scouts in all directions, and, by a judicious arrangement of his small forces, checked the hostilities of the Iroquois upon the Canadian settlements.
The Sieur de Reverin, a man of enlightened and enterprising mind, had long desired to develop the resources of the Canadian waters, and in 1697 at length succeeded in associating several merchants with himself, and establishing a fishery at the harbor of Mount Louis, among the mountains of Notre Dame, half way between Quebec and the extremity of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the southern side. The situation was well chosen, the neighboring soil fertile, and the waters abounded in fish. But, where nature had provided every thing that industry could require, the hand of man interfered to counteract her bounty. The hostility of the English embarrassed the infant settlement and alarmed its founders. Despite of these difficulties, a plentiful harvest and successful fishing at first rewarded the adventurers; subsequently, however, they were less fortunate, and the place was for some time neglected and almost forgotten.
Louis de Buade, comte de Frontenac, died in the seventy-eighth year of his age, 1698, having to the last preserved that astonishing energy of character which had enabled him to overcome the difficulties and dangers of his adventurous career. He died as he had lived, beloved by many, respected by all; with the unaided resources of his own strong mind, he had preserved the power of France on the American continent undiminished, if not increased, through years of famine, disaster, and depression. He loved patronage and power, but disdained the considerations of selfish interest. It must, however, be acknowledged that a jealous, sullen, and even vindictive temper obscured in some degree the luster of his success, and detracted from the dignity of his nature. The Chevalier de Callieres, governor of Montreal, was appointed his successor, to the satisfaction of all classes in the colony.
The new governor applied himself vigorously to the difficult task of establishing the tranquillity of his territories. He endeavored to procure the alliance of all the Indian tribes within reach of French intercourse or commerce, but the high price charged by the Canadian merchants for their goods proved a constant difficulty in the way of negotiation, and ever afforded the savages a pretext for disaffection and complaint. In the midst of his useful labors, this excellent chief was suddenly cut off by death; his upright and judicious administration won the esteem of all the colonists, and the truth and honesty of his dealings with the native tribes gave him an influence over them which none of his predecessors had ever won. On the petition of the inhabitants of Canada, the king willingly appointed the Marquis de Vaudreuil to the vacant government. Soon after his accession a deputation of the Iroquois arrived at Quebec, and for the first time formally acknowledged the sovereignty of France, and claimed the protection of her flag.
M. de Raudot, the intendant, introduced various important judicial and fiscal improvements in the affairs of the colony at this time; by his influence and mediation he effectually checked a litigious spirit which had infused itself among the Canadians to a ruinous extent, and by strong representations induced the king to remove the cruel restrictions placed upon colonial industry by the jealousy of the mother country.
In the spring of 1708 a council was held at Montreal to deliberate upon the course to be pursued in checking the intrigues of the English among the allied savages: the chiefs of all the Christian Indians and the faithful and warlike Abenaquis were present on the occasion. It was resolved that a blow should be struck against the British colonies, and a body of 400 men, including Indians, was formed for the expedition, the object of which was kept secret. After a march of 150 leagues across an almost impracticable country, the French attacked the little fort and village of Haverhill, garrisoned by thirty New Englandmen, and carried them after a sharp struggle; many of the defenders were killed or captured, and the settlement destroyed. The neighboring country was, however, soon aroused, and the assailants with difficulty effected a retreat, losing thirty of their men.
Intelligence reached the French in the following year that Colonel Vetch, who, during a residence of several years at Quebec, had contrived to sound all the difficult passages of the River St. Lawrence, had successfully instigated the Queen of England to attempt the conquest of New France; that a fleet of twenty ships was being prepared for the expedition, and a force of 6000 regular troops were to sail under its protection, while 2000 English and as many Indians, under the command of General Nicholson, were to march upon Montreal by the way of Lake Champlain. M. de Vaudreuil immediately assembled a council of war to meet the emergency, where some bold measures were planned, but a misunderstanding between the governor general and one of his principal officers paralyzed their execution. Finally, indeed, a considerable force was marched to anticipate the British attack; but the dissensions of the leaders, the insubordination of the troops, and the want of correct intelligence, embarrassed their movements, and drove them to an inglorious retreat. On the other hand, the English, mistrusting the faith of their Indian allies, and suffering from a frightful mortality, burned their canoes and advanced posts, and retreated from the frontier. The perfidious Iroquois, while professing the closest friendship, had poisoned the stream hard by the British camp, and thus caused the fatal malady which decimated their unsuspecting allies. The fleet destined for the attack of Quebec never crossed the Atlantic: it was sent to Lisbon instead, to support the falling fortunes of Portugal against the triumphant arms of Castile.
In the following year, another abortive expedition was undertaken by the English against Canada. Intelligence was brought to M. de Vaudreuil that ten ships of war of 50 guns each and upward had arrived from England, and were assembled at Boston, together with 35 transports capable of conveying 3000 men, while a force of provincial militia and Indians of New York, nearly 2000 strong, were collected in that state to assail him by land. The French governor immediately called together the Iroquois deputies, and successfully urged their neutrality in the approaching struggle. He also secured the somewhat doubtful allegiance of the allied tribes, but only accepted the proffered services of a few warriors of each nation, and this more as hostages than for the purpose of increasing his strength.
M. de Vaudreuil then hastened from Montreal to Quebec, where he found that his lieutenant, M. de Boucourt, had effectually executed his orders to strengthen the defenses. The settlements along the coast below that important stronghold were sufficiently guarded to render a hostile debarkation difficult and dangerous. The governor immediately re-ascended the St. Lawrence, and formed a corps of 3000 men under M. de Longueiul, at Chambly, to await the approach of the English. The invading army, however, retreated without coming to action, having received information of a great disaster which had befallen their fleet. The British admiral had neglected the warnings of an experienced French navigator, named Paradis, who accompanied him, and approached too near a small island in the narrow and dangerous channel of the Traverse; a sudden squall from the southeast burst upon him at that critical moment, and his own, with seven other ships of the fleet, were driven on the rocky shore, and utterly destroyed: very few men escaped from these ill-fated vessels.
The generosity and loyalty of the merchants of Quebec furnished the governor with 50,000 crowns, to strengthen the fortifications of their town, on the occasion of a rumor that the English were again preparing an invasion of Canada, in 1712, aided by the Iroquois, to whom they had become reconciled. At the same time, a new enemy entered the field—the fiercest and bravest of the native tribes; this people, called Outagamis or Foxes, joined in a confederacy with the Five Nations, and undertook to burn the French fort at Detroit, and destroy the inhabitants. A large force of their warriors advanced upon the little stronghold, but Du Buisson, the able and gallant commandant, having summoned the neighboring allies to the assistance of his garrison of twenty Frenchmen, defeated the dangerous invaders after a series of conflicts almost unparalleled for obstinacy in Indian war, and destroyed more than a thousand of their best and bravest.
These important successes, however, could not secure to the French an equality in trade with their English rivals; their narrow and injudicious commercial system limited the supply of European goods to be exchanged for the spoils of the Red Man's forests; the fur trade, therefore, fell almost wholly into the hands of British merchants, and even those native tribes in closest alliance with the Canadian governor obtained their scanty clothing from the looms of Yorkshire, and their weapons of the chase from the industrious hands of our colonists.
By the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Louis the Magnificent ceded away forever, with ignorant indifference, the noble province of Acadia, the inexhaustible fisheries of Newfoundland, and his claims to the vast but almost unknown regions of Hudson's Bay; his nominal sovereignty over the Iroquois was also thrown into the scale, and thus a dearly-purchased peace restored comparative tranquillity to the remnant of his American empire.
The fierce Outagamis, more incensed than weakened by their losses at Detroit, made savage and murderous reprisals upon all the nations allied to the French. Their vindictive vigilance rendered the routes between the distant posts of Canada, and those southward to Louisiana, for many years almost impracticable. At one time, indeed, when overwhelmed by a successful invasion, these implacable savages made a formal cession of their territories to M. de Vaudreuil; but, the moment opportunity offered, they renewed hostilities, and, although beaten in repeated encounters, having united the remnant of their tribe to the powerful Sioux and Chichachas, they continued for a long time to harass the steps of their detested conquerors.
On the 10th of April, 1725, M. de Vaudreuil closed his useful career. For one-and-twenty years he had discharged his important duties with unswerving loyalty, ability, and vigilance. Good fortune crowned him with well-merited success, and he went to rest from his earthly labors with the blessings of a grateful people, who, under his wise rule, had rapidly progressed to prosperity.
The Marquis de Beauharnois, captain of the marine, succeeded to the government of the now tranquil colony. His anxiety was aroused, however, the year after his accession, by the vigorous efforts of the English to extend their commerce even into the heart of the Canadian territories. Governor Burnet, of New York, had erected a fort and trading post at Oswego, with the view of monopolizing the rich traffic of the Western lakes. To counteract this design, M. de Beauharnois sent the Baron de Longueuil to negotiate with the Indians in the neighborhood of Niagara, for their consent to the erection of a French fort and establishment upon the banks of their magnificent river, where it enters the waters of Ontario. After many difficulties in reconciling the jealousy of the native tribes, the French succeeded in effecting their object. On the other hand, the men of New York strengthened their defenses at Oswego, and increased the garrison. Angry communications then passed between the French and English governors in peremptory demands for its abandonment by the one, and prompt refusals by the other. Each was well aware of the importance of the position: it served as a means of diverting nearly all the Indian trade by Albany and the channel of the Hudson into the British colonies, and also formed a frontier protection to those numerous and flourishing settlements which Anglo-Saxon industry and courage were rapidly forming in the wilderness.
In the vain hope of checking the irrepressible energies of rival colonization, Beauharnois erected a fort at Crown Point, on Lake Champlain, commanding its important navigation, and also serving to hold in terror the settlers on the neighboring banks of the Hudson and Connecticut. The English remonstrated without effect against this occupation, and the French remained in peaceable possession of their establishment. The next war that broke out between the mother countries spread rapine and destruction over the colonial frontiers, without any real result beyond mutual injury and embittered hatred. From this fort at Crown Point, and other posts held by the Canadians, marauding parties poured upon the British settlements, and destroyed them with horrid barbarity. A party of French and Indians even penetrated to Saratoga, within forty miles of Albany, attacked and burned the fort, and slew or carried into captivity the unhappy defenders.
For many subsequent years the history of Canada is but a chronicle of the accession of governors and the registration of royal edicts. In comparison with her southern rivals, the progress in material prosperity was very slow. Idleness and drunkenness, with all their attendant evils, were rife to a most injurious extent. The innumerable fetes, or holidays of the Church, afforded opportunities to the dissolute, and occasioned frequent instances of serious disorders, till the king was urged to interfere: the number of these fete-days was then very much reduced, to the great benefit of the colony. The feudal system of tenure also operated most unfavorably upon the development of agricultural resources, and the forced partition of lands tended to reduce all the landholders to a fraternity of pauperism. The court of France endeavored vainly to remedy these evils, without removing the causes, and passed various edicts to encourage the further clearance of wild land, and to stimulate settlement.
In 1745, the year when the power of France in Europe was exalted by the splendid victory of Fontenoy, a dangerous blow was struck at her sovereignty in America by the capture of Louisburg, and with it the whole island of Cape Breton, by the New Englanders under Mr. Pepperel, aided by Admiral Warren's squadron. This disaster was no sooner known in Paris than an extensive armament was equipped under the command of the Duc d'Anville, an officer of known valor and ability. The wounded pride of the French hurried on rapidly the preparations for this expedition, which they confidently hoped would redeem the tarnished honor of their arms in the Western world. Early in May the fleet was already completely appointed; but the elements did not second these energetic preparations, and contrary winds detained the armament till the 22d of June. Then it at last put to sea, in the formidable strength of eleven ships of the line, thirty smaller vessels of war, and transports containing 3000 regular soldiers. Nova Scotia, the Acadia of other days, was their destination. There it was expected that the old French settlers, who had unwillingly submitted to English conquest, would readily range themselves once more under the fleur-de-lys: Canada had already sent her contingent of 1700 men under M. de Ramsay to aid the enterprise, and M. de Conflans, with four ships of the line from the West Indies, was directed to join the squadron.
This formidable fleet was but a short time at sea when the ships separated and fell into hopeless confusion. On the 12th of September, indeed, the Duc d'Anville reached the Western continent in the Northumberland, accompanied by a few other vessels, but there no laurels awaited the gallant admiral: he was suddenly seized with apoplexy, and in four days his body was committed to the deep. The vice admiral immediately proposed returning to France, on account of the absence of the greater part of his force; but other officers strongly opposed this desponding counsel, and urged a bold attack upon Nova Scotia rather than an inglorious retreat. The more vigorous course was adopted by a council of war, which threw the vice admiral into such a state of frantic excitement that he ran himself through the body, fancying he had fallen into the hands of the enemy. De la Jonquiere succeeded to the command, and, although more than three-score years of age, acted with unimpaired energy. But the elements were again hostile to France; the fleet was dispersed by a violent storm off Cape Sable, and the shattered remnant of the expedition returned ingloriously to their country, without having accomplished any of the objects for which they had been sent forth.
The government at Paris was, however, by no means cast down by these untoward occurrences, and the armament was speedily equipped to renew their efforts against the English colonies. The expedition was prepared at Brest, under the command of M. de la Jonquiere, and, at the same time, a squadron under M. de St. George was armed with a view to threaten the coasts of British India.
The English ministry, early informed of all the movements of their opponents, resolved to intercept both these squadrons, which they had been apprised would sail from port at the same time. Admiral Anson and Rear-admiral Warren were ordered upon this enterprise with a formidable fleet, and, taking their departure from Plymouth, steered for Cape Finisterre, on the Gallican coast. On the third of May, 1746, they fell in with the French squadrons of six large men-of-war, as many frigates, four armed East Indiamen, and a valuable convoy of thirty ships. The enemy's heavier vessels immediately formed in order of battle, while the merchantmen made all sail away, under the protection of the frigates. The British were also ready for action, and a severe combat ensued. Before night all the French line of battle ships were captured after a spirited defense, but two thirds of the convoy escaped through the darkness of the night. A considerable quantity of bullion fell into the hands of the victors, and their grateful sovereign rewarded the courage and good fortune of the admirals by raising Anson to the peerage, and decorating Warren with the ribbon of the Bath.
Admiral de la Jonquiere, the newly-appointed governor of Canada, was among the numerous captives who graced the triumph of the British fleet. When the news of this event reached Paris, the king appointed to the vacant dignity the Comte de la Galissoniere, an officer of distinguished merit and ability. The wisdom of this selection was speedily displayed; the new governor no sooner entered upon the duties of office than his active zeal found employment in endeavoring to develop the magnificent resources of his province. He made himself thoroughly acquainted with the face of the country, the climate, population, agriculture, and commerce, and then presented an able statement to the French court of the great importance of the colony, and a system which, had it been adopted in time, might have secured it against English aggression.
The Comte de la Galissoniere proposed that M. du Quesne, a skillful engineer, should be appointed to establish a line of fortifications through the interior of the country, and, at the same time, urged the government of France to send out 10,000 peasants to form settlements on the banks of the great lakes and southern rivers. By these means he affirmed that the English colonies would be restricted within the narrow tract lying eastward from the Allegany Mountains, and in time laid open to invasion and ruin. His advice was, however, disregarded, and the splendid province of Canada soon passed forever from under the sway of France.
Under the impression that the expected peace between the mother countries would render it important to define the boundaries of their colonial possessions, the active governor of Canada dispatched M. de Celeron de Bienville, with 300 men, to traverse the vast wilderness lying from Detroit southeast to the Apalachian Mountains. Assuming this range as the limit of the British colonies, he directed that leaden plates, engraved with the arms of France, should be buried at particular places in the western country, to mark the territories of France, and that the chief of the expedition should endeavor to secure a promise from the Indians to exclude for the future all English traders. At the same time, he gave notice to the governor of Pennsylvania that he was commanded by the King of France to seize all British merchants found in those countries, and to confiscate their goods. De Celeron fulfilled his difficult commission to the best of his powers, but the forms of possession which he executed excited the jealous apprehension of the Indians, who concluded that he designed to subject or even enslave them.