But England might have retained her settlements too, so far as Europe was concerned; the real cause of her discomfiture lay in the fact that her colonists were mainly people of her own blood, all of them with an inextinguishable love of liberty, which was fostered and confirmed by their marriage with the wilderness; and many of whom were also actuated by considerations of religion and conscience, the value of which they placed above everything else. They wished to be "loyal," but they would not surrender what they termed innate rights; they would not be taxed without representation, nor be debarred from manufacturing; nor consent to make England their sole depot and source of supplies. They would not surrender their privilege to be governed by representatives elected by themselves. England, as we have seen, contended against this spirit by all manner of more or less successful enactments and acts of despotism; until at last, near the opening of the Eighteenth Century, it became evident to a few far-seeing persons on both sides that the matter could only be settled by open force. But this method of arbitrament was postponed for half a century by the Colonial Wars, which made of the colonists a united people, and educated them, from farmers and traders, into a military nation. Then the war came, and the United States was its consequence.
The Colonial Wars were between England on one side, and Spain and France on the other. Spain was not a serious foe, or obstacle; England had no special hankering after Florida and Mexico, and she knew nothing about the great Californian region. But France harried her on the north, and pushed her back on the west, the first collisions in this direction occurring at the Alleghanies and along the Ohio River. France had discovered, claimed, and in a certain sense occupied, a huge wedge of the present United States: an area which (apart from Canada) extended from Maine to Oregon, and down in converging lines to the Gulf of Mexico. They called it Louisiana. The story of the men who explored it is a story of heroism, devotion, energy and sublime courage perhaps unequaled in the history of the world. But France failed to follow up these men with substantial colonies. Colonies could not help the fur trade at the north, and the climate there was anything but attractive; and mishaps of various kinds prevented the colonizing of the great Mississippi valley. There was a little French settlement near the mouths of that river, the descendants of which still give character to New Orleans; but the rest of the enormous triangle was occupied chiefly by missionaries and trappers, and, during the wars, with the operating military forces. France would have made a far less effective resistance than she did, had she not observed, from the first, the policy of allying herself with the Indian tribes, and even incorporating them with herself. All converted Indians were French citizens by law; the French soldiers and settlers intermarried to a large extent with the red men, and the half-breed became almost a race of itself. The savages took much more kindly to the picturesque and emotional Church of Rome than to the gloomy severities of the Puritan Calvinists; the "praying Indians" were numerous; and the Cross became a real link between the red men and the white. This fact was of immense value in the wars with the English; and had it not been for the neutrality or active friendliness of a group of tribes whom the Jesuit missionaries had failed to win, the English colonies might have been quite obliterated. The policy of employing savages in warfare between civilized states was denounced then and afterward; it led to the perpetration of sickening barbarities; but it was France's only chance, and, speaking practically, it was hardly avoidable. Besides, the English did not hesitate to enlist Indians on their side, when they could. Had the savages fought after the manner of the white men, it would have been well enough; but on the contrary, they imposed their methods upon the whites; and most of the conflicts had more of the character of massacres than of battles. Women and children were mercilessly slain, or carried into captivity. But it must be remembered that the American continent, at that time, did not admit of such tactics as were employed in Europe—as Braddock found to his cost; operations must be chiefly by ambuscade and surprise; when the town or the fort was captured, it was not easy to restrain the wild men; and if they plied the tomahawk without regard to sex or age, the white soldiers, little less savage, readily learned to follow their example. After all, the wars were necessarily for extermination, and there is no better way to exterminate a people—as Spain has uniformly shown from the beginning to the end of her history—than by murdering their women and children. They are "innocent," no doubt, so far as active hostilities are concerned; but they breed, or become, men and thereby threaten the future. Moreover, not a few of the women did deeds of warlike valor themselves. It was a savage time, and war has its hideous side always, and in this period seemed to have hardly any other.
The pioneering on this continent of the Spanish and the French, though in itself a captivating story, cannot properly be dwelt on in a history of the growth of the American principle. Ponce de Leon traversed Florida in the first quarter of the Sixteenth Century, hunting for the Fountain of Immortality, and finding death. Hernando de Soto wandered over the area of several of our present Southern States, and discovered the lower reaches of the Mississippi; he was a man of blood, and his blood was shed. Some score of years later Spaniards massacred the Huguenot colony at St. Augustine, and built that oldest of American cities. Beyond this, on the Atlantic slope, they never proceeded, having enough to do further south. But they lay claim, even in these closing years of the Nineteenth Century, to the entire American continent—"if they had their rights."
The French began their American career with an Italian employe, Verrazano, who spied out the coast from Florida to Newfoundland in 1524. Then Cartier peered into the wide mouth of the St. Lawrence, and tried to get to India by that route, but got no further than the present Montreal. In the next century, Champlain, one of the great explorers and the first governor of Canada, laid the corner-stone of Quebec; it became at once the center of Canadian trade which it has ever since remained. This was in 1608. In respect of enterprise as explorers, the French easily surpassed the farm-loving, home-building, multiplying colonists of England. But England took advantage of French discoveries, and stayed, and prevailed. God makes men help each other in their own despite.
Richelieu said in 1627 that the name, New France, designated the whole continent of America from the North Pole down to Florida. The Jesuits, who arose as a counteracting force to Luther and the Reformation, supplanted the Franciscans as missionaries among the heathen, and performed what can only be called prodigies of self-sacrifice and intrepidity. Loyola was a worthy antagonist of Calvin, and the first achievements of his followers were the more striking. But the magnificent exploits of these men were not the preliminary of commensurate colonization. The spirit of Calvin inspired large bodies of men and women to establish themselves in the wilderness in order to cultivate his doctrines without interference; the spirit of Loyola embodied no new religious principle; it simply kindled individuals to fresh exertions to promulgate the unchanging dogmas of the Roman Church. The Jesuits were leaders without followers; their mission was to bring the Church to the heathen, and the heathen into the Church; and the impressiveness of their activity was due to the daring and faith which pitted units against thousands, and refused to accept defeat. They were the knight-errantry of religion. The fame of their deeds inspired enthusiasm in France, so that noble women gave up their luxurious lives, for the sake of planting faith in the inhospitable immensities of the Canadian forests; but the mass of the common people were not stimulated or attracted; the profits of the fur-trade employed but a handful; and the blood of the Jesuit martyrs—none more genuine ever died—was poured out almost without practical results. Our estimate of human nature is exalted; but there are no happy communities to-day which owe their existence to the Jesuit pioneers. The priests themselves were wifeless and childless, and the family hearthstone could not be planted on the sites of their immolations and triumphs. Nor were the disciples of Loyola aided, as were the Calvinists, by persecution at home. All alike were good Catholics. But had the Jesuits advocated but a single principle of human freedom, France might have been mistress of America to-day.
So, under the One Hundred Assistants, as the French colonizing Company of the early Seventeenth Century was called, missions were dotted throughout the loneliness and terror of the wilderness; Breboeuf and Daniel did their work and met their fate; Raymbault carried the cross to Lake Superior; Gabriel Dreuilettes came down the Kennebec; Jogues was tortured by the Mohawks; Lallemand shed his blood serenely; Chaumont and Dablon built their chapel where now stands Syracuse; and after all, there stood the primeval forests, pathless as before, and the red men were but partially and transiently affected. The Hundred Assistants were dissolved, and a new colonial organization was operating in 1664; soldiers were sent over, and the Jesuits, still unweariedly in the van, pushed westward to Michigan, and Marquette and Joliet, two young men of thirty-six and twenty-seven, discovered the Mississippi, and descended it as far as Des Moines; but still, all the inhabitants of New France could easily have mustered in a ten-acre field. Then, in 1666 came Robert Cavelier La Salle, a cadet of a good family, educated in a Jesuit seminary, but destined to incur the enmity of the order, and at last to perish, not indeed at their hands, but in consequence of conditions largely due to them. The towering genius of this young man—he was but just past his majority when he came to Montreal, and he was murdered by his treacherous traveling companion, Duhaut, on a branch of Trinity River in Texas, before he had reached the age of five and forty—his indomitable courage, his tact and firmness in dealing with all kinds of men, from the Grand Monarch to the humblest savage, his great thoughts and his wonderful exploits, his brilliant fortune and his appalling calamities, both of which he met with an equal mind:—these qualities and the events which displayed them make La Salle the peer, at least, of any of his countrymen of that age. What must be the temper of a man who, after encountering and overcoming incredible opposition, after being the victim of unrelenting misfortune, including loss of means, friends, and credit, of deadly fevers, of shipwreck,—could rise to his feet amid the destruction of all that he had labored for twenty years to build up, and confidently and cheerfully undertake the enterprise of traveling on foot from Galveston in Texas to Montreal in Canada, to ask for help to re-establish his colony? It is a formidable journey to-day, with all the appliances of steam and the luxury of food and accommodation that science and ingenuity can frame; it would be a portentous trip for the most accomplished modern pedestrian, assisted though he would be by roads, friendly wayside inns and farms, maps of the route, and hobnailed walking boots. La Salle undertook it with thousands of miles of uncharted wilderness before him, through tribes assumed to be hostile till they proved themselves otherwise, with doubtful and quarreling companions, and shod with moccasins of green hide. Even of the Frenchmen whom he might meet after reaching Illinois, the majority, being under Jesuit influence, would be hostile. But he had faced and conquered difficulties as great as these, and he had no fear. At the time the scoundrel Duhaut shot him from ambush, he was making hopeful progress. But it was decreed that France was not to stay in America. La Salle discovered the Ohio and the Illinois, built Fort Crevecoeur, and started a colony on the coast of Texas; he received a patent of nobility, and lost his fortune and his life. The pathos of such a death lies in the consideration that his plans died with him. It was the year before the accession of William of Orange; and the first war with France began two years later.
France, after all drawbacks, was far from being a foe to be slighted. The English colonists outnumbered hers, but hers were all soldiers; they had trained the Indians to the use of firearms, had taught them how to build forts, and by treating them as equals, had won the confidence and friendship of many of them. The English colonies, on the other hand, had as yet no idea of co-operation; each had its own ideas and ways of existence; they had never met and formed acquaintance with one another through a common congress of representatives. They were planters, farmers and merchants, with no further knowledge of war than was to be gained by repelling the attacks of savages, and retaliating in kind. They had the friendship of the Five Nations, and they received help from English regiments. But the latter had no experience of forest fighting, and made several times the fatal mistake of undervaluing their enemy, as well as clinging to impracticable formations and tactics. The English officers did not conceal their contempt for the "provincial" troops, who were not, indeed, comely to look at from the conventional military standpoint, but who bore the brunt of the fighting, won most of the successes, and were entirely capable of resenting the slights to which they were unjustly subjected. What was quite as important, bearing in mind what was to happen in 1775, they learned to gauge the British fighting capacity, and did not fear, when the time came, to match themselves against it.
King William's War lasted from 1689 to 1697. Louis XIV. had refused to recognize William as a legitimate king of England, and undertook to champion the cause of the dethroned James. The conduct of the war in Europe does not belong to our inquiry. The proper course for the French to have adopted in America would have been to encourage the English colonies to revolt against the king; but the statesmanship of that age had not conceived the idea of colonial independence. Besides, the colonies would not at that epoch have fallen in with the scheme; they might have been influenced to rise against a Stuart, but not against a William. There was no general plan of campaign on either side. There was no question as yet about the western borders. There was but one point of contact of New France and the English colonies—the northern boundaries of New England and New York. The position of the English, strung along a thousand miles of the Atlantic coast, did not favor concentration against the enemy, and still less was it possible for the latter, with their small force, to march south and overrun the country. What could be done then? Obviously, nothing but to make incursions across the line, after the style of the English and Scottish border warfare. Nothing could be gained, except the making of each other miserable. But that was enough, since two kings, neither of whom any of the combatants had seen, were angry with each other three thousand miles away. Louis does not admit the right of William, doesn't he?—says the Massachusetts farmer to the Canadian coureur des bois; and without more ado they fly at each others' throats.
The successes, such as they were, were chiefly on the side of the French. Small parties of Indians, or of French and Indians combined, would steal down upon the New York and New England farms and villages, suddenly leap out upon the man and his sons working in their clearings, upon the woman and her children in the hut: a whoop, a popping of musket shots and whistling of arrows, then the vicious swish and crash of the murderous tomahawk, followed by the dexterous twist of the scalping-knife, and the snatching of the tuft of hair from the bleeding skull. That is all—but, no: there still remains a baby or two who must be caught up by the leg, and have its brains dashed out on the door-jamb; and if any able-bodied persons survive, they are to be loaded with their own household goods, and driven hundreds of miles over snows, or through heats, to Canada, as slaves. Should they drop by the way, as Mrs. Williams did, down comes the tomahawk again. Or perhaps a Mrs. Dustin learns how to use the weapon so as to kill at a blow, and that night puts her knowledge to the proof on the skulls of ten sleeping savages, and so escapes. Occasionally there is a more important massacre, like that at Schenectady, or Deerfield. But these Indian surprises are not only revolting, but monotonous to weariness, and, as they accomplished nothing but a given number of murders, there is nothing to be learned from them. They are meaningless; and we can hardly imagine even the Grand Monarch, or William of Orange, being elated or depressed by their details.
There were no French farms or small villages to be attacked in requital, so it was necessary for the English to proceed against Port Royal or Quebec. The aged but bloodthirsty Frontenac was governor of Canada at this time, and proved himself able (aided by the imbecility of the attack) to defend it. In March of 1690 a sort of congress had met at Albany, which sent word to the several colonial governors to dispatch commissioners to Rhode Island for a general conference for adopting measures of defense and offense.
The delegates met in May or the last of April, at New York, and decided to conquer Canada by a two-headed campaign; one army to go by way of Lake Champlain to Montreal, while a fleet should proceed against Quebec. Sir William Phips of Massachusetts was off to Port Royal within four weeks, and took it without an effort, there being hardly any one to defend it. But Leisler of New York and Winthrop of Connecticut quarreled at Lake Champlain, and that part of the plan came to a disgraceful end forthwith. A month or so later, Phips was blundering pilotless into the St. Lawrence, with two thousand Massachusetts men on thirty-four vessels. Their coming had been prepared for, and when they demanded the surrender of the impregnable fortress, with a garrison more numerous than themselves, they were answered with jeers; and it is painful to add that they turned round and set out for home again without striking a blow. A storm completed their discomfiture; and when Phips at last brought what was left of his fleet into harbor, he found the treasury empty, and was forced to issue paper money to pay his bills.
No further talk of "On to Quebec" was heard for some time. Port Royal was retaken by a French vessel. Parties of Indians, encouraged by the Jesuits, again stole over the border and did the familiar work. Schuyler, on the English side, succeeded in making a successful foray in 1691; and a fort was built at Pemaquid—to be taken, five years afterward, by Iberville and Castin. In 1693 an English fleet, which had been beaten at Martinique, came to Boston with orders to conquer Canada; but as it was manned by warriors half of whom were dying of malignant yellow fever, Canada was spared once more. The only really formidable enemies that Frontenac could discover were the Five Nations, whom he tried in vain to frighten or to conciliate. He himself, at the age of seventy-four, headed the last expedition against them, in the summer of 1696. It returned without having accomplished anything except the burning of villages and the laying waste of lands. The following year peace was signed at Ryswick, a village in South Holland. France had done well in the field and by negotiations; but England had sustained no serious reverses, and having borrowed money from a group of private capitalists, whom it chartered as the Bank of England in 1694, was financially stronger than ever. Louis accepted the results of the English Revolution, but kept his American holdings; and the boundaries between these and the English colonies were not settled. The Five Nations were not pacified till 1700. The French continued their occupation of the Mississippi basin, and in 1699 Lemoine Iberville sailed for the Mississippi, and built a fort on the bay of Biloxi. Communication was now established between the Gulf of Mexico and Quebec. The English, through the agency of a New Jerseyman named Coxe, and a forged journal of exploration by Hennepin, tried to get a foothold on the great river, but the attempt was fruitless. Fruitless, likewise, were French efforts to find gold, or, indeed, to establish a substantial colony themselves in the feverish Louisiana region. Iberville caught the yellow plague and never fully recovered; and the desert-girded fort at Mobile seemed a small result for so much exertion.
In truth, on both sides of the Atlantic, peace existed nowhere except on the paper signed at Ryswick; and in 1702 William saw that he must either fight again, or submit to a union between France and Spain, Louis XIV. becoming, by the death without issue of the Spanish king, sovereign of both countries, to the upsetting of the European balance of power. Spain had become a nonentity; she had no money, no navy, no commerce, no manufactures, and a population reduced by emigration, and by the expulsion of Jews and Moors, to about seven millions: nothing remained to her but that "pride" of which she was always so solicitous, based as it was upon her achievements as a robber, a murderer, a despot and a bigot. She now had no king, which was the least of her losses, but gave her the power of disturbing Europe by lapsing to the French Bourbons.
William himself was close to death, and died before the opening year of the war was over. Louis was alive, and was to remain alive for thirteen years longer; but he was sixty-four, was becoming weary and discouraged, and had lost his ministers and generals. On the English side was Marlborough; and the battle of Blenheim, not to speak of the European combination against France, showed how the game was going. But the peace of Utrecht in 1713, though it lasted thirty years, was not based on justice, and could not stand. Spain was deprived of her possessions in the Netherlands, but was allowed to keep her colonies, and the loss of Gibraltar confirmed her hatred of England. Belgium, Antwerp and Austria were wronged, and France was insulted by the destruction of Dunkirk harbor. England embarked with her whole heart in the African slave trade, securing the monopoly of importing negroes into the West Indies for thirty years, and being the exclusive dealer in the same commodity along the Atlantic coast. Half the stock in the business was owned by the English people, and the other half was divided equally between Queen Anne and Philip of Spain. The profits were enormous. Meanwhile the treaty between Spain and England allowed and legitimatized the smuggling operations of the latter in the West Indies, a measure which was sure to involve our colonies sooner or later in the irrepressible conflict. England, again, got Hudson's Bay, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, but not the Mississippi valley, from France. Boundary lines were not accurately determined; and could not be until the wars between 1744 and 1763 finally decided these and other matters in England's favor. The most commendable clause in the treaty was the one inserted by Bolingbroke that defined contraband, and the rights of blockade, and laid down the rule that free ships should give freedom to goods carried in them.
Anne, a daughter of James II., but a partisan of William, succeeded him in 1702 at the age of thirty-seven; she was herself governed by the Marlboroughs and Mrs. Mashamam—an intelligent woman of humble birth, who became keeper of her majesty's privy purse. The war which the queen inherited, and which was called by her name, lasted till the final year of her reign. Only New England on the north and Carolina on the south were participants in the fray on this side, and no great glory or advantage accrued to either. New York was sheltered by the neutrality of the Five Nations, and Pennsylvania, Virginia and the rest were beyond the reach of French operations.
The force raised by South Carolina to capture St. Augustine had expected to receive cannon for the siege from Jamaica; but the cannon failed them, and they retreated with nothing to show but a debt which they liquidated in paper. They had better luck with an expedition to sever the Spanish line of communication with Louisiana; the Spanish and Indians were beaten in December, 1705, and the neighboring inhabitants along the Gulf emigrated to South Carolina. Then the French set out to take Charleston; but the Huguenots were mindful of St. Bartholomew and of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and they set upon the invaders when they landed, and slew three out of every eight of them. The South Carolinians were let alone thereafter.
In the north, the French secured the neutrality of the Senecas, but the English failed to do the like with the Abenakis, and the massacring season set in with marked severity on the Maine border in the summer of 1703. It was in the ensuing winter that the Deerfield affair took place; the crusted snow was so deep that it not only gave the French and Indian war party good walking down from Canada, but enabled them to mount up the drifts against the palisades of the town and leap down inside. The sentinels were not on guard that morning, though, warned by the Mohawks, the people had been looking for the attack all winter long. What is to be said of these tragedies? When we have realized the awful pang in a mother's heart, wakened from sleep by that shrill, triumphant yell of the Indian, and knowing that in a moment she will see her children's faces covered with the blood and brains from their crushed skulls, we shall have nothing more to learn from Indian warfare. How many mothers felt that pang in the pale dawn of that frosty morning in Deerfield? After the war party had done the work, and departed exulting with their captives, how many motionless corpses, in what ghastly attitudes, lay huddled in the darksome rooms of the little houses, or were tossed upon the trodden snow without, the looks of mortal agony frozen on their features? But you will hear the howl of the wolves by-and-by; and the black bear will come shuffling and sniffing through the broken doors; and when the frightful feast is over, there will be, in place of these poses of death, only disordered heaps of gnawed bones, and shreds of garments rent asunder, and the grin of half-eaten skulls. Nothing else remains of a happy and innocent community. Why were they killed? Had they harmed their killers? Was any military advantage gained by their death?—They had harmed no one, and nothing was gained, or pretended to be gained, by their murder: nothing except to establish the principle that, since two countries in Europe were at war, those emigrants of theirs who had voyaged hither in quest of peace and happiness should lie in wait to destroy one another. Human sympathies have, sometimes, strange ways of avouching themselves.
People become accustomed even to massacre. But the children born in these years, who were themselves to be the fathers and mothers of the generation of the Revolution, must have sucked in stern and fierce qualities with the milk from their mothers' breasts. No one, even in the midst of Massachusetts, was safe during that first decade of the Eighteenth Century. A single Indian, in search of glory, would spend weeks in creeping southward from the far border; he would await his chance long and patiently; he would leap out, and strike, and vanish again, leaving that silent horror behind him. Such deeds, and the constant possibility of them, left their mark upon the whole population. They grew up familiar with violent death in its most terrible forms. The effect of Indian warfare upon the natures of those who engage in it, or are subjected to its perils, is different from that of what we must call civilized fighting. The end as well as the aim of the Indian's battle is death—a scalp. Murder for the mere pleasure of murdering has an influence upon a community far more sinister than that of death by war waged for recognizable causes. The Puritans of the Eighteenth Century were another people than those of the Seventeenth. There had been reason in the early Indian struggles, when the savages might have hoped to exterminate the settlers and leave their wilderness a wilderness once more; but there could be no such hope now. The desire for revenge was awakened and fostered as it had never been before. Many other circumstances combined to modify the character of the people of New England during this century; but perhaps this new capacity for revenge was not the least potent of the influences that made the seven years of the Revolution possible.
Peter Schuyler protested in vain against the "savage and boundless butchery" into which the conflict between "Christian princes, bound to the exactest laws of honor and generosity," was degenerating; but the only way to stop it appeared to be to extirpate the perpetrators; and to that end a fifth part of the population were constantly in arms. The musket became more familiar to their hands than the plow and spade; and their marksmanship was near perfection. They gradually developed a system of tactics of their own, foreign to the manuals. The first thing you were aware of in the provincial soldier was the puff of smoke from the muzzle of his weapon; almost simultaneously came the thud of his bullet in your breast, or crashing through your brain. He loaded his gun lying on his back beneath the ferns and shrubbery; he advanced or retreated invisibly, from tree to tree. Your only means of estimating his numbers was from your own losses. It was thus that the American troops afterward gained their reputation of being almost invincible behind an intrenchment; it gave its character to the engagements at Concord and along the Boston Road, and sent hundreds of redcoats to death on the slopes of Bunker Hill. It was not magnificent—to look at; but it was war; combined with the European tactics acquired later on, it survived reverses that would have driven other troops from the field, and, with Washington at the head, won our independence at last.
The least revolting feature of the Indian warfare was the habit they acquired, through French suggestion doubtless, of taking large numbers of persons captive, and carrying them north. If they weakened on the journey, they were of course tomahawked out of the way at once; but if they survived, they were either sold as slaves to the Canadians, or were kept by the Indians, who adopted them into their tribes, having no system of slavery. Many a woman and little girl from New England became the mother of Indian children; and when the captives were young enough at the beginning, they generally grew to love the wild life too well to leave it. Indeed, they were generally treated well by both the Canadians and the Indians after they got to their destination. On the other hand, there were the fathers and mothers and relatives of the lost planning their redemption or rescue, and raising money to buy them back. Many a thrilling tale could be told of these episodes. But we must imagine beautiful young women, who had been taken away in childhood, found after years of heart-breaking search and asked to return to their homes. What was their home? They had forgotten New England, and those who loved them and had sorrowed for them there. The eyes of these young women, clear and bright, had a wildness in their look that is never seen in the children of civilization; their faces were tanned by sun and breeze, their figures lithe and athletic, their dress of deerskin and wampum, their light feet clad in moccasins; their tongues and ears were strange to the language of their childhood homes. No: they would not return. Sometimes, curiosity, or a vague expectation, would induce them to revisit those who yearned for them; but, having arrived, they received the embraces of their own flesh and blood shyly and coldly; they were stifled and hampered by the houses, the customs, the ordered ways of white people's existence. A night must come when they would arise silently, resume with a deep in-breathing of delight the deerskin raiment, and be gone without one last loving look at the faces of those who had given them life, but from whom their souls were forever parted. There is a harrowing mystery in these estrangements: how strong, and yet how helpless is the human heart; all the world cannot break the bonds it ties, nor can all the world tie them again, once the heart itself has dissolved them.
Thus, in more ways than one, the blood of the English colonists became wedded to the soil of the wilderness, if wilderness the settlements could now be called. And they became like the captives we have just been imagining, who cared no longer for the land and the people that had been their home. Not more because they were estranged by England's behavior than because they had formed new attachments beside which the old ones seemed pale, were they now able to contemplate with composure the idea of a final separation. America was no longer England's daughter. She had acquired a life of her own, and could look forward to a destiny which the older country could never share. The ways of the two had parted more fully than either, as yet, quite realized; and if they were ever to meet again hereafter, it must be the older, and not the younger, who must change.
Apart from the Indian episodes, little was done until 1710, when a large fleet left Boston and again captured Port Royal, to which the name of Annapolis was given as a compliment to the snuffy little woman who sat on the English throne. This success was made the basis of a proposition to put an end to the development of the French settlements west of the Alleghanies. It was represented to the English government that the entire Indian population in the west was being amalgamated with the French; the Jesuits ensnaring them on the spiritual side, and the intermarrying system on the other. The English Secretary of State was Bolingbroke—or Saint-John as he was then—a man of three and thirty, brilliant, graceful, gifted, versatile; but without principle or constancy, who never emancipated his superb intellect from his restless and sensuous nature. After hearing what the American envoys had to say, and thinking the matter over, Saint-John made up his mind that it could do no harm, as a beginning, to capture Quebec; and that being safe in English hands, the rest of the programme could be finished at leisure. Seven regiments of Marlborough's veterans, the best soldiers in the world at that time, a battalion of marines, and fifteen men-of-war, were intrusted to the utterly incompetent and preposterous Hovenden Walker, with the not less absurd Jack Hill, brother of Mrs. Masham, as second in command. In short, the expedition was what would now be called a "job" for the favorites and hangers-on of the Court; the taking of the Canadian fortress was deemed so easy a feat that even fools and Merry-Andrews could accomplish it. The Americans had meantime made their preparations to co-operate with this imposing armada; an army of colonists and Iroquois were at Albany, ready for a dash on Montreal. But week after week passed away, and the fleet, having got to Boston, seemed unable to get away from it. No doubt Hovenden, Hill and the rest of the rabble were enjoying themselves in the Puritan capital. The Boston of stern-visaged, sad-garmented, scripture-quoting men and women, of unpaved streets and mean houses, was gone; Boston in the first quarter of the Eighteenth Century was a city—a place of gayety, fashion and almost luxury. The scarlet coats of the British officers made the narrow but briskly-moving streets brilliant; but even without them, the embroidered coats, silken small clothes and clocked stockings, powdered wigs and cocked hats of the fine gentlemen, and the wide hoops and imposing head-dresses of the women, made a handsome show. People of many nationalities mingled in the throng, for commerce had brought the world in all its various forms to the home of the prayers of Winthrop and Higginson; the royal governors maintained a fitting state, and traveled Americans, then as now, brought back with them from Europe the freshest ideas of modishness and style. There were folk of quality there, personages of importance and dignity, forming an inner aristocratic circle who conversed of London and the Court, and whose august society it was the dear ambition of the lesser lights to ape, if they could not join it. Democratic manners were at a discount in these little hotbeds of amateur cockneyism; the gloomy severities of the old-fashioned religion were put aside; there was an increasing gap between the higher and the lower orders of the population. This appearance was no doubt superficial; and the beau-monde is never so numerous as its conspicuousness leads one to imagine. When the rumblings of the Revolutionary earthquake began to make themselves heard in earnest, the gingerbread aristocracy came tumbling down in a hurry, and the old, invincible spirit, temporarily screened by the waving of scented handkerchiefs, the flutter of fans, and the swish of hoop-skirts, made itself once more manifest and dominant. But that epoch was still far off; for the present court was paid to Hovenden and his officers; and the British coffee-house in King Street was a noble sight.
What bottles of wine those warriors drank, what snuff they took, what long pipes they smoked, how they swore and ruffled, and what tales they told of Marlborough and the wars! The British army swore frightfully in Flanders, and in King Street, too. There, also, they read the news in the newspapers of the day, and discussed matters of high policy and strategy, while the civilians listened with respectful admiration. And see how that dapper young officer seated in the window arches his handsome eyebrows and smirks as two pretty Boston girls go by! Yes, it is no wonder that the British fleet needed a long time to refit in Boston harbor, before going up to annihilate those French jumping-jacks on the banks of the St. Lawrence. "La, Captain, I hope you won't get hurt!" says pretty Miss Betty, with her white wig and her beauty spots; and that heroic young gentleman lifts her hand to his lips, and swears deeply that, for a glance from her bright eyes, he would go forth and capture Quebec single-handed.
While these dalliances were in progress, the French jumping-jacks were putting things in order to receive their expected guests in a becoming manner. They held a great pow-wow of representatives of Indian tribes from all parts of the seat of the projected war, and bound them by compacts to their assistance. Everybody, even the women, worked on the fortifications, or on anything that might aid in the common defense. Before the end of August, at which time the outlookers reported signs of a fleet of near a hundred sail, flying the British flag, all was ready for them in the French strongholds. So now let the mighty combat begin.
But it was not to come this time: the era of William Pitt and General Wolfe was nearly half a century distant. The latter would not be born for sixteen years, and the former was a pap-eating babe of three. Meanwhile the redoubtable Hovenden was snoring in bed, while his fleet was struggling in a dense fog at night, being driven on the shoals of the Egg Islands near the mouth of the St. Lawrence. "For the Lord's sake, come on deck!" roars Captain Goddard, thrusting his head into the cabin for the second time, "or we shall all be lost!" Thus adjured, the old imbecile huddles on his dressing gown and slippers, and finds himself, sure enough, close on a lee shore. He made shift to get his own vessel out of harm's way, but eight others went down, and near nine hundred men were drowned. "Impossible to go on," was the vote of the council of war the next morning; and "It's all for the best," added this remarkable admiral; "for had we got to Quebec, ten or twelve thousand of us must have perished of cold and hunger; Providence took eight hundred to save the rest!"
So back they went, with their tails between their legs, without having had a glimpse of the citadel which they were to have captured without an effort; and of course the army waiting at Albany for the word to advance got news of a different color, and Montreal was as safe as Quebec. In the west, the Foxes, having planned an attack on Detroit, did really lay siege to it; but Du Buisson, who defended it, summoned a swarm of Indian allies to his aid, and the Foxes found that the boot was on the other leg; they were all either slain or carried into slavery. Down in the Carolinas, a party of Tuscaroras attacked a settlement of Palatines near Pamlico Sound, and wiped them out; and some Huguenots at Bath fared little better. Disputes between the governor and the burgesses prevented aid from Virginia; but Barnwell of South Carolina succeeded in making terms with the enemy. A desultory and exhausting warfare continued however, complicated with an outbreak of yellow fever, and it was not until 1713 that the Tuscaroras were driven finally out of the country, and were incorporated with the Iroquois in the north. The war in Europe had by that time come also to an end, and the treaty of Utrecht brought about an ambiguous peace for a generation.
George I. now became king of England; because he was the son of Sophia, granddaughter of James I., and professed the Protestant religion. He was a Hanoverian German, and did not understand the English language; he was stupid and disreputable, and better fitted to administer a German bierstube than a great kingdom. But the Act of Settlement of 1701 had stipulated that if William or Anne died childless, the Protestant issue of Sophia should succeed. That such a man should prove an acceptable sovereign both to Great Britain and her American colonies, showed that the individuality on the throne had become secondary to the principles which he stood for; besides, George profited by the easy, sagacious, good-humored leadership of that unprincipled but common-sensible man-of-the-world, Sir Robert Walpole, who was prime minister from 1715 to 1741, with an interval of only a couple of years. Walpole's aim was to avoid wars and develop commerce and manufactures; and while he lived, the colonies enjoyed immunity from conflicts with the French and Spanish.
They were not to forget the use of arms, however; for the Indians were inevitably encroached upon by the expanding white population, and resented it in the usual way. In 1715 the Yemasses began a massacre on the Carolina borders; they were driven off by Charles Craven, after the colonists had lost four hundred men. The proprietors had given no help in the war, and after it was over, the colony renounced allegiance to them, and the English government supported their revolt, regarding it in the light of an act of loyalty to George. Francis Nicholson, a governor by profession, and of great experience in that calling, was appointed royal governor, and made peace with the tribes; and in 1729 the crown bought out the claims of the proprietors. North Carolina, without a revolt, enjoyed the benefits obtained by their southern brethren. The Cherokees became a buffer against the encroachments of the French from the west.
In the north, meanwhile, the Abenakis, in sympathy with the French, claimed the region between the Kennebec and the St. Croix, and applied to the French for assistance. Sebastian Rasles, a saintly Jesuit priest and Indian missionary, had made his abode at Norridgwock on the Kennebec; he was regarded by Massachusetts as an instigator of the enemy. They seized his post, he escaping for the time; the Indians burned Brunswick; but in 1723 Westbrooke with a company of hardy provincials, who knew more of Indian warfare than the Indians themselves, attacked an Indian fort near the present Bangor and destroyed it; the next year Norridgwock was surprised, and Rasles slain. He met his death with the sublime cheerfulness and courage which were the badge of his order. French influence in northeastern Massachusetts was at an end, and John Lovewell, before he lost his life by an ambush of Saco Indians at Battle Brook, had made it necessary for the Indians to sue for peace. Commerce took the place of religion as a subjugating force, and an era of prosperity began for the northeastern settlements.
There was no settled boundary between northern New York and the French regions. Each party used diplomatic devices to gain advantage. Both built trading stations on doubtful territory, which developed into forts. Burnet of New York founded Oswego in 1727, and gained a strip of land from the Iroquois; France built a fort on Lake Champlain in 1731. Six years before that, they had established, by the agency of the sagacious trader Joncaire, a not less important fort at Niagara. Upon the whole, the French gained the better of their rivals in these negotiations.
Louisiana, as the French possessions, or claims, south of Canada were called, was meanwhile bidding fair to cover most of the continent west of the Alleghanies and north of the indeterminate Spanish region which overspread the present Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Mexico. No boundary lines could be run in those enormous western expanses; and it made little practical difference whether a given claim lay a thousand miles this way or that. But on the east it was another matter. The French pursued their settled policy of conciliating the Indians wherever they hoped to establish themselves; but though this was well, it was not enough. Narrow though the English strip of territory was, the inhabitants greatly outnumbered the French, and were correspondingly more wealthy. Spotswood of Virginia, in 1710, was for pushing out beyond the mountains, and Logan of Pennsylvania also called Walpole's attention to the troubles ahead; but the prime minister would take no action. On the other hand, the white population of Louisiana was ridiculously small, and their trade nothing worth mentioning; but when Anthony Crozar resigned the charter he had received for the district, it was taken up by the famous John Law, the English goldsmith's son, who had become chief financial adviser of the Regent of France; and immediately the face of things underwent a change like the magic transformations of a pantomime.
The Regent inherited from Louis XIV. a debt which there was not money enough in all France to pay. Law had a plan to pay it by the issue of paper. Louisiana offered itself as just the thing for purposes of investment, and a pretext for the issue of unlimited "shares." Not to speak of the gold and silver, there was unlimited wealth in the unknown country, and Law assumed that it could be produced at once. Companies were formed, and thousands of settlers rushed to the promised paradise. But we have to do with the Mississippi Bubble only as it affected America. The Bubble burst, but the settlers remained, and were able to prosper, in moderation, like other settlers in a fertile country. A great area of land was occupied. Local tribes of Indians joined in a massacre of the colonists in 1729. They in turn were nearly exterminated by the French forces during the next two years, but the war aroused a new hostility among the red tribes against the French, which redounded to the English advantage. In 1740, Bienville was more than willing to make a peace, which left to France no more than nominal control of the tract of country drained by the southern twelve hundred miles of the Mississippi. The population, after all the expense and efforts of half a century, numbered about five thousand white persons, with upward of two thousand slaves. The horse is his who rides it. The French had not proved themselves as good horsemen as the English. The English colonies had at the same time a population of about half a million; their import and export trade aggregated nearly four million dollars; they had a wide and profitable trade; and the only thing they could complain of was the worthless or infamous character of the majority of the officials which the shameless corruption of the Walpole administration sent out to govern—in other words, to prey upon—them. But if this was the only subject of complaint, it could not be termed a small subject. It meant the enforcement of the Navigation Acts in their worst form, and the restriction of all manner of manufactures. Manufactures would tend to make the colonies set up for themselves, and therefore they must be forbidden:—such was the undisguised argument. It was a case of the goose laying golden eggs. America had in fact become so enormously valuable that England wanted it to become profit and nothing else—and all the profit to be England's. They still failed to realize that it was inhabited by human beings, and that those human beings were of English blood. And because the northern colonies, though the more industrious, produced things which might interfere with British goods, therefore they were held down more than the southern colonies, which grew only tobacco, sugar, rice and indigo, which could in no degree interfere with the sacred shopkeepers and mill-owners of England. An insanity of blindness and perversity seized upon the English government, and upon most of the people; they actually were incapable of seeing justice, or even their own best interests. It seems strange to us now; but it was a mania, like that of witchcraft, though it lasted thrice as many years as that did months.
The will of England in respect of the colonies became as despotic as under the Stuarts; but though it delayed progress, it could not break down the resistance of the assemblies; and Walpole would consent to no suggestion looking toward enforcing it by arms. Stamp duties were spoken of, but not enacted. The governors raged and complained, but the assemblies held the purse-strings. Would-be tyrants like Shute of Boston might denounce woe, and Crosby of New York bellow treason, but they were fain to succumb. Paper money wrought huge mischief, but nothing could prevent the growing power and wealth of the colonies, fed, also, by the troubles in Europe. In 1727 the Irish, always friends of liberty, began to arrive in large numbers. But what was of better augury than all else was the birth of two men, one in Virginia, the other in Boston. The latter was named Benjamin Franklin: the former, George Washington.
QUEM JUPITER VULT PERDERE
There are times when, upon nations as upon individuals, there comes a wave of evil tendency, which seems to them not evil, but good. Under its influence they do and think things which afterward amaze them in the retrospect. But such ill seasons are always balanced by the presence and opposition of those who desire good, whether from selfish or altruistic motives. And since good alone has a root, connecting it with the eternal springs of life, therefore in the end it prevails, and the movement of the race is on the whole, and in the lapse of time, toward better conditions.
England, during the Eighteenth Century, came under the influence of a selfish spirit which could not but lead her toward disaster, though at the time it seemed as if it promoted only prosperity and power. She thought she could strengthen her own life by restricting the natural enterprise and development of her colonies: that she could subsist by sucking human blood. She believed that by compelling the produce of America to flow toward herself alone, and by making America the sole recipient of her own manufactures, she must be immeasurably and continually benefited; not perceiving that the colonies could never reach the full limit of their productiveness unless freedom were conceded to all the impulses of their energy, or that the greater the number of those nations who were allowed freely to supply colonial wants, the greater those wants would become. Moreover, selfishness is never consistent, because it does not respect the selfishness of others; and England, at the same time that she was maintaining her own trade monopolies, was illicitly undermining the similar monopolies of other nations. She promoted smuggling in the Spanish West Indies, and made might right in all her dealings with foreign peoples. The assiento—the treaty giving her exclusive right to supply the West Indian islands with African slaves—was actively carried out, and the slave-trade reached enormous proportions; it is estimated that from three to nine millions of Africans were imported into the American and Spanish colonies during the first half of the Eighteenth Century, yielding a revenue for their importation alone of at least four hundred million dollars. But the profit did not end there; for their labor on the plantations in the southern colonies (where alone they could be used in appreciable numbers) multiplied the production and diminished the cost of the articles of commerce which those colonies raised. There were individuals, almost from the beginning, who objected to slavery on grounds of abstract morality; and others who held that a converted African should cease to be a slave. But these opinions did not impress the bulk of the people; and laws were passed classing negroes with merchandise. "The trade is very beneficial to the country" was the stereotyped reply to all humanitarian arguments. The cruelties of transportation in small vessels were regarded as an unavoidable, if disagreeable, necessity; it was pointed out that the masters of slaves would be prompted by self-interest to treat them well after they were landed; and it was obvious that negroes, after a generation of captivity, were less remote from civilization than when fresh from Africa.
The good to balance this ill was supplied by the American colonies. Their resistance to English selfishness may have been in part animated by selfishness of their own; but it none the less had justice and right behind it. In any argument on fundamental principles, the colonists always had the better of it. Their rights as free men and as chartered communities were indefeasible, were always asserted, and never given up. They did not hesitate to disregard the more unjust of England's exactions and restrictions; it was only by such defiance that they maintained their life. And against the importation of slaves there was a general feeling, even among the Southern planters; because, not to speak of other considerations, they multiplied there to an alarming extent, and the fact that they cheapened production and lowered prices was manifestly as unwelcome to the planters as it was favorable to English traders.
But in order to be effective, the protest of a people—their enlightenment, their virtue and patriotism, their courage and philosophy, their firmness and self-reliance, their hatred of shams, dishonesty and tyranny—must be embodied and summed up in certain individuals among them, who may thus be recognized by the community as their representatives in the fullest sense, and therefore as their natural champions and leaders. America has never lacked such men, adapted to her need; and at this period they were coming to maturity as Franklin and Washington. They will be with us during the critical hours of our formative history, and we shall have opportunity to measure their characters. Meanwhile there is another good man deserving of passing attention; not born on our soil, but meriting to be called, in the best sense, an American. In the midst of a corrupt and self-seeking age, he was unselfish and pure; and while many uttered pretty sentiments of philanthropy, and devised fanciful Utopias for the transfiguration of the human race, he went to work with his hands and purse as well as with his heart and head, and created a home and happiness for unhappy and unfortunate people in one of the loveliest and most fertile spots in the western world. If he was not as wise as Penn, he was as kind; and if his colony did not succeed precisely as he had planned it should, at any rate it became a happy and prosperous settlement, which would not have existed but for him. He had not fully fathomed the truth that in order to bestow upon man the best chance for earthly felicity, we must, after having provided him with the environment and the means for it, let him alone to work it out in his own way. But he had such magnanimity that when he found that his carefully-arranged and detailed schemes were inefficient, he showed no resentment, and did not try to enforce what had seemed to him expedient, against the wishes of his beneficiaries; but retired amiably and with dignity, and thus merited the purest gratitude that men may properly accord to a man.
James Edward Oglethorpe was already five years old when the Eighteenth Century began. He was a Londoner by birth, and had a fortune which he did not misuse. He was a valiant soldier against the Turks; he was present with Prince Eugene at the capitulation of Belgrade; and he sat for more than thirty years in Parliament. He died at the age of ninety; though there is a portrait of him extant said to have been taken when he was one hundred and two. If long life be the reward of virtue, he deserved to survive at least a century.
The speculative fever in England had brought about much poverty; and debtors were lodged in jail in order, one might suppose, to prevent them from taking any measures to liquidate their debts. Besides these unhappy persons, there were many Protestants on the Continent who were persecuted for their faith's sake. England compassionated these persons, having learned by experience what persecution is; and did not offer any objection to a scheme for improving the lot of debtors in her own land, if any feasible one could be devised.
General Oglethorpe had devised one. He was then, according to our reckoning, a mature man of about seven-and-thirty; he had visited the prisons, and convinced himself that there was neither political economy nor humanity in this method of preserving the impecunious class. Why not take them to America? Why not found a new colony there where men might dwell in peace and comfort, with the aim not of amassing wealth, but of living sober and useful lives? On the southern side of South Carolina there was a region fitted for such an enterprise, which, owing to its proximity to the Spanish colony at St. Augustine, had been vexed by border quarrels; but Oglethorpe, with his military experience, would be able to keep the Spaniards in their place with one hand, while he was planting gardens for his proteges with the other. Thus his colony would be useful on grounds of high policy, as well as for its own ends. And in order additionally to conciliate the good will of the home government, controlled as it was by mercantile interests chiefly, the silk-worm should be cultivated there, and England thus saved the duties on the Italian fabrics. Should there be slaves in the new Eden?—On all accounts, No: first because slavery was intrinsically wrong, and secondly because it would lead to idleness, if not to wealth, among the colonists. For the same reason, land could only pass to the eldest son, or failing male issue, back to the state; if permission were given to divide it, or to sell it, there would soon be great landed properties and an aristocracy. Nor should the importation of rum be permitted, for if men have rum, they are prone to drink it, and drunkenness was incompatible with the kind of existence which the good General wished his colonists to lead. In a word, by removing temptations to vice and avarice, he thought he could make his people forget that such evils had ever belonged to human nature. But experiments founded upon the innate impeccability of man have furnished many comedies and not a few tragedies since the world began.
The Oglethorpe idea, however, appealed to the public, and became a sort of fashionable fad. It was commended, and after Parliament had voted ten thousand pounds toward it, it was everywhere accepted as the correct thing. The charter was given in June, 1732, and a suitable design was not wanting for the corporation seal—silkworms, with the motto, Non Sibi, sed Aliis. This might refer either to the colonists or to the patrons, since the latter were to receive no emoluments for their services, and the former were to work for the sake, in part at least, of vindicating the nobility of labor. It is true that the silkworm is an involuntary and unconscious altruist; but we must allow some latitude in symbols; and besides, all executive and legislative power was given to the trustees, or such council as they might choose to appoint.
In November the general conducted his hundred or more human derelicts to Port Royal, and, going up the stream, chose the site for his city of Savannah, and laid it out in liberal parallelograms. While it was building he tented beneath a quartette of primeval pines, and exchanged friendly greetings and promises with the various Indian tribes who sent deputies to him. A year from that time, the German Protestant refugees began to arrive, and started a town of their own further inland. A party of Moravians followed; and the two Wesleys aided to introduce an exalted religious sentiment which might have recalled the days of the Pilgrims. For the present, all went harmoniously; the debtors were thankful to be out of prison; the religious folk were happy so long as they might wreak themselves on their religion; and the silk-culture paid a revenue so long as England paid bounties on it. But the time must come when the colonists would demand to do what they liked with their own land, and other things; when they would import rum by stealth and hardly blush to be found out; when some of the less democratically-minded decided that there were advantages in slaves after all; and when some of the more independent declared they could not endure oppression, and migrated to other colonies. After struggling a score of years against the inevitable, the trustees surrendered their trusteeship, and the colony came under the management of the Second George. Oglethorpe had long ere this retired to England, after having kept his promise of reducing the Spaniards to order; and at his home at Cranham Hall in Essex he continued to be the friend of man until after the close of the American Revolution.
The war with Spain, of which Oglethorpe's unsuccessful attack upon St. Augustine and triumphant defense of his own place was but a very minor feature, raged for a while in the West Indies with no very marked advantage to either contestant, and then drew the other nations of Europe into the fray. Nothing creditable was being fought for on either side. England, to be sure, had declared war with the object of expunging Spain from America; but it had been only in order that she herself might replace Spain there as a monopolist. France came in to prevent England from enjoying this monopoly. The death of the Austrian king and a consequent dispute as to the succession added that power to the melee. Russia received an invitation to join, and this finally led to the Peace of Aix La Chapelle in 1748, which replaced all things in dispute just where they were before innumerable lives and enormous treasure had been expended. But the Eighteenth was a fighting Century, for it was the transition period from the old to the new order of civilized life.
The part borne by the American colonies in this struggle was quite subordinate and sympathetic; but it was not the less interesting to the Americans. In 1744 the Six Nations (as the Five had been called since the accession of the Tuscaroras) made a treaty of alliance with the English whereby the Ohio valley was secured to the latter as against the French— so far, that is, as the Indians could secure it. But the Pennsylvanians understood that more than Indian treaties would be needed against France, and as their country was likely to be among the first involved, they determined to raise money and men for the campaign. There were, of course, men in Pennsylvania who were not of the Quaker way of thinking; but even the Quakers forbore to oppose the measure, and many of them gave it explicit approval. The incident gains its chief interest however from the fact that the man most active and efficient in getting both the funds and the soldiers was Benjamin Franklin, the Boston boy, in whose veins flowed the blood of both Quaker and Calvinist, but who was himself of far too original a character to be either. He was at this epoch just past forty, and had been a resident of Philadelphia for some twenty years, and a famous printer, writer, and man of mark. He hit upon the scheme—which, like so many of his, was more practical than orthodox—of persuading dollars out of men's pockets by means of a lottery. He knew that, whatever a fastidious morality might protest, lotteries are friendly to human nature; and if there be any part of human nature with which Franklin was unacquainted, it has not yet been announced. Having got the money, his next care was for the men; and his plans resulted in assembling an organized force of ten or twelve thousand militiamen. But the energy and ingenuity of this incomparable Franklin of ours could be equaled only by his modesty; he would not accept a colonelcy, but shouldered his musket along with the rank and file; and doubtless the company to which he belonged forgot the labors of war in their enjoyment of his wit, humor, anecdotes, parables, and resources of all kinds.
After so much waste and folly as had marked the conduct of the war in Europe, it is good to hear the tale of the capture of Louisburg. It was an adventure which gave the colonists merited confidence in themselves, and the character of the little army, and the management of the campaign, were an excellent and suggestive dress rehearsal of the great drama of thirty years later. The army was a combination of Yankees with arms in their hands to effect an object eminently conducive to the common welfare. For Louisburg was the key to the St. Lawrence, it commanded the fisheries, and it threatened Acadia, or rather Nova Scotia, which was inhabited chiefly by Bretons, liable to afford succor to their belligerent brethren. The fort had been built, after the close of the former war, by those who had preferred not to live under the government of the House of Hanover, on the eastern extremity of the island called Cape Breton, itself lying northeast of the Nova Scotian promontory. The site was good for defense, and the fortifications, scientifically designed, were held to be impregnable. Had Louisburg rested content with being strong, it might have been allowed to remain at peace; but at the beginning of the war, and before the frontier people in Nova Scotia had heard of it, a French party swooped down from Louisburg on the settlement at Canso (the gut between Cape Breton and Nova Scotia), destroyed all that was destructible, and carried eighty men as prisoners of war to their stronghold. After keeping them there during the summer, these men were paroled and went to Boston. This was a mistake on the Louisburgers' part; for the men had made themselves well acquainted with the fortifications and the topography of the neighborhood, and placed this useful information at the disposal of William Shirley, a lawyer of ability, who was afterward governor of the colony, and a warrior of some note. It was Shirley's opinion that Louisburg must be taken, and the idea immediately became popular. It was the main topic of discussion in Boston, and all over New England, during the autumn and winter; Massachusetts decided that it could be done, and that she could do it, though the help of other colonies would be gladly accepted. Yet the feeling was not unanimous, if the vote of the legislature be a criterion; the bill passed there by a majority of one. Be that as it may, once resolved upon, the enterprise was pushed with ardor, not unmingled with prayer—the old Puritan leaven reappearing as soon as deeds of real moment were in the wind. In every village and hamlet there was excitement and preparation —the warm courage of men glad to have a chance at the hated fortress, and the pale bravery of women keeping down the heavy throbbing of their hearts so that their sons and husbands might feel no weakness for their sakes. The fishermen of Marblehead, used to face the storms and fogs of the Newfoundland Banks; the farmers and mechanics, who could hit a Bay shilling (if one could be found in that era of paper money) at fifty paces; and the hunters, who knew the craft of the Indians and were inured to every fatigue and hardship—finer material for an army was never got together before: independent, bold, cunning, handy, inventive, full of resource; but utterly ignorant of drill, and indifferent to it. Their officers were chosen by themselves, of the same rank and character as they; their only uniforms were their flintlocks and hangers. They marched and camped as nature prompted, but they had common-sense developed to the utmost by the exigencies of their daily lives, and they created, simply by being together, a discipline and tactics of their own; they even learned enough of the arts of fortification and intrenchment, during the siege, to serve all their requirements. They had the American instinct to break loose from tradition and solve problems from an original point of view; they laughed at the jargon and technicalities of conventional war, but they had their own passwords, and they understood one another in and out. The carpenters and other mechanics among them carried their skill along, and were ever ready to put it in practice for the general behoof. Most of them left wives and children at home; but "Suffer no anxious thoughts to rest in your mind about me," writes his wife to Seth Pomeroy, who had sent word to her that he was "willing to stay till God's time comes to deliver the city into our hands":—"I leave you in the hands of God," added she; and subjoined, by way of village gossip, that "the whole town is much engaged with concern for the expedition, how Providence will order the affair, for which religious meetings every week are maintained." We can imagine those meetings, held in the village meeting-house, with an infirm old veteran of King William's War to lead in prayer, and the benches occupied by the women, devout but spirited, with the little children by their sides. What hearty prayers: what sighs irrepressibly heaving those brave, tender bosoms; what secret tears, denied by smiles when the face was lifted from the clasping hands! Righteous prayers, which were fulfilled.
Over three thousand men went from Massachusetts alone; New Hampshire added five hundred, and more than that number arrived from Connecticut, after the rest had gone into camp at Canso. The three hundred from little Rhode Island came too late. Other colonies sent rations and money. But the four thousand were enough, with Pepperel of Kittery for commander, and a good cause. They set out alone while the Cape Breton ice still filled the harbors; for Commodore Warren of the English fleet at Antigua would not go except by order from England—which, however, came soon afterward, so that he and his ships joined them after all before hostilities began. The expedition first set eyes on their objective point on the day before May day, 1745.
The fortress bristled with guns of all sizes, and the walls were of enormous thickness, so that no cannon belonging to the besiegers could hope to make a breach in them. But the hearts of the garrison were less stout than their defenses; and when four hundred cheering volunteers approached a battery on shore, the Frenchmen spiked their guns and ran away.
The siege lasted six weeks, with unusually fine weather. In the intervals of attacks upon the island battery, which resisted them, the men hunted, fished, played rough outdoor games, and kept up their spirits; and they pounded Louisburg gates with their guns; but no advantage was gained; and a night-attack, in the Indian style, was discovered prematurely, and nearly two hundred men were killed or captured. Finally, there seemed to be nothing for it but to escalade the walls, Warren—who had done nothing thus far except prevent relief from approaching by sea—bombarding the city meanwhile. It hardly seems possible the attempt could have succeeded; at best, the losses would have been enormous. But at the critical moment, depressed, perhaps, by having witnessed the taking of an incautious French frigate which had tried to run the blockade, what should the French commander do but hang out a white flag! Yes, the place had capitulated! The gates that could not be hammered in with cannon-balls were thrown open, and in crowded the Yankee army, laughing, staring, and thanking the Lord of Hosts for His mercies. Truly, it was like David overcoming Goliath, without his sling. It was a great day for New England; and on the same day thirty years later the British redcoats fell beneath the volleys on Bunker Hill.
The French tried to recapture the place next year, but storms, pestilence and other disasters prevented; and the only other notable incident of the war was the affair of Commander Knowles at Boston in 1747. He was anchored off Nantasket with a squadron, when some of his tars deserted, as was not surprising, considering the sort of commander he was, and the charms of the famous town. Knowles, ignorant of the spirit of a Boston mob, impressed a number of wharfmen and seamen from vessels in the harbor; he had done the same thing before in England, and why not here? But the mob was on fire at once, and after the timid governor had declined to seize such of the British naval officers as were in the town, the crowd, terrible in its anger, came thundering down King Street and played the sheriff for itself. The hair of His Majesty's haughty commanders and lieutenants must have crisped under their wigs when they looked out of the windows of the coffee-house and saw them. In walks the citizens' deputation, with scant ceremony: protests are unavailing: off to jail His Majesty's officers must straightway march, leaving their bottles of wine half emptied, and their chairs upset on the sawdusted floor; and in jail must they abide, until those impressed Bostonians have been liberated. It was a wholesome lesson; and among the children who ran and shouted beside the procession to the prison were those who, when they were men grown, threw the tea into Boston Harbor.
In 1748 the Peace was made, and the Duke of Newcastle, a flighty, trivial and faithless creature, gave place to the strict, honest, and narrow Duke of Bedford as Secretary of the Colonies. The colonies had been under the charge of the Board of Commissioners, who could issue what orders they chose, but had no power to enforce them; and as the colonial assemblies slighted their commands except when it pleased them to do otherwise, much exasperation ensued on the Commissioners' part. The difficulties would have been minimized had it not been the habit of Newcastle to send out as colonial officials the offscourings of the British aristocracy: and when a British aristocrat is worthless, nothing can be more worthless than he. The upshot of the situation was that the colonists did what they pleased, regardless of orders from home; while yet the promulgation of those orders, aiming to defend injustices and iniquities, kept up a chronic and growing disaffection toward England. So it had been under Newcastle, who had uniformly avoided personal annoyance by omitting to read the constant complaints of the Commissioners; but Bedford was a man of another stamp, fond of business, granite in his decisions, and resolved to be master in his department. It was easy to surmise that his appointment would hasten the drift of things toward a crisis. England would not tamely relinquish her claim to absolute jurisdiction over her colonies. But the bulwarks of popular liberty were rising in America, and every year saw them strengthened and more ably manned. English legislative opposition only defined and solidified the colonial resistance. What was to be the result? There would be no lack of English statesmen competent to consider it; men like Pitt, Murray and Townshend were already above the horizon of history. But it was not by statesmanship that the issue was to be decided. Man is proud of his intellect; but it is generally observable that it is the armed hand that settles the political problems of the world.
There were in the colonies men of ability, and of consideration, who were traitors to the cause of freedom. Such were Thomas Hutchinson, a plausible hypocrite, not devoid of good qualities, but intent upon filling his pockets from the public purse; Oliver, a man of less ability but equal avarice; and William Shirley, the scheming lawyer from England, who had made America his home in order to squeeze a living out of it. These men went to England to promote the passage of a law insuring a regular revenue for the civil list from the colonists, independent of the latter's approval; the immediate pretext being that money was needed to protect the colonies against French encroachments. The several assemblies refused to consent to such a tax; and the question was then raised whether Parliament had not the right to override the colonists' will. Lord Halifax, the First Commissioner, was urgent in favor of the proposition; he was an ignorant, arbitrary man, who laid out a plan for the subjugation of the colonies as lightly and willfully as he might have directed the ditch-digging and fence-building on his estates. Murray, afterward Lord Mansfield, held that Parliament had the requisite power; but in the face of the united protest of the colonies, that body laid the measure aside for the present. Meanwhile the conditions of future trouble were preparing in the Ohio Valley, where French and English were making conflicting claims and planting rival stations; and in Nova Scotia, where the town of Halifax was founded in an uninviting fir forest, and the project was mooted of transporting the French Acadians to some place or places where they would cease to constitute a peril by serving as a stage for French machinations against the English rule.
Another and final war with France was already appearing inevitable; the colonists must bear a hand in it, but they also were at odds with England herself on questions vital to their prosperity and happiness. In the welter of events of the next few years we find a mingling of conditions deliberately created (with a view, on England's part, of checking the independent tendencies of the Americans and of forcing tribute from them) and of unforeseen occurrences due to fortuitous causes beyond the calculation and control of persons in power. Finally, the declaration of war against France in 1756—though it had unofficially existed at least two years before—and its able management by the great Pitt, enabled England to dictate a peace in 1763 giving her all she asked for in Europe and the East, and the whole of the French possessions in America, besides islands in the West Indies. Her triumph was great; but she did not foresee (though a few acute observers did) that this great conquest would within a few years fall into the hands of the colonists, making them potentially the greatest of nations. At the era of the Revolution, the white inhabitants in the colonies numbered about two millions, and the black about half a million.
In 1754, the French had upward of sixty posts west of the Alleghanies, and were sending expeditions to drive out whatever Englishmen could be found. The Indian tribes who believed themselves to own the land were aroused, and appealed to the Americans to assist them; which the latter were willing to do, though not for the Indians' sake. Virginia was especially concerned, because she claimed beyond the western mountains, and had definite designs in that direction. In order to find out just what the disposition of the French might be, Robert Dinwiddie, a Scot, governor of Virginia, selected a trustworthy envoy to proceed to the French commanders in the disputed districts and ask their purposes. His choice fell upon George Washington, a young man of blameless character, steady, courageous and observant, wise in judgment and of mature mind, though he was but one and twenty years of age. He was the son of a Virginia planter, had had such schooling as his neighborhood afforded until he was sixteen, and had then begun life as a surveyor—a good calling in a country whose inhabitants were daily increasing and whose lands were practically limitless. Life in the open air, and the custom of the woods and hills, had developed a frame originally powerful into that of a tall and hardened athlete, able to run, wrestle, swim, leap, ride, as well as to use the musket and the sword. His intellect was not brilliant, but it was clear, and his habit of thought methodical; he was of great modesty, yet one of those who rise to the emergency, and are kindled into greater and greater power by responsibilities or difficulties which would overwhelm feebler or less constant natures. None would have been less likely than Washington himself to foretell his own greatness; but when others believed in him he was compelled by his religious and conscientious nature to act up to their belief. The marvelous selflessness of the man, while it concealed from him what he was, immeasurably increased his power to act; to do his duty was all that he ever proposed to himself, and therefore he was able to concentrate his every faculty on that alone. The lessons of experience were never thrown away upon him, and his faith in an overruling Providence rendered him calm at all times, except on the rare occasions when some subordinate's incompetence or negligence at a critical moment caused to burst forth in him that terrific wrath which was more appalling to its object than the guns of a battery. There was always great personal dignity in Washington, insomuch that nothing like comradeship, in the familiar sense, was ever possible to any one with him; he was totally devoid of the sense of humor, and was therefore debarred from one whole region of human sympathies which Franklin loved to dwell in. It is one of the marvels of history that a man with a mind of such moderate compass as Washington's should have gained the reputation, which he amply deserved, of being the foremost American of his age, and one of the leading figures in human annals. But, in truth, we attach far too much weight to intellect in our estimates of human worth. Washington, was competent for the work that was given him to do, and that work was one of the most important that ever fell to the lot of a man. Faith, firmness, integrity, grasp, simplicity, and the exceptional physical endowment which enabled him to support the tremendous fatigues and trials of his campaigns, and of the opposition he encountered from selfish and shortsighted politicians in Congress—these qualities were almost sufficient to account for Washington. Almost, but perhaps not quite; there must have been in addition an inestimable personal equation which fused all into a harmonious individuality that isolates him in our regard: a wholeness, which can be felt, but which is hardly to be set down in phrases.
Washington's instructions required him to proceed to Venango and Waterford, a distance of more than four hundred miles, through forests and over mountains, with rivers to cross and hostile Indians to beware of; and it was the middle of November when he set out, with the most inclement season of the year before him. Kit Gist, a hunter and trapper of the Natty Bumppo order, was his guide; they laid their course through the dense but naked forests as a mariner over a sullen sea. Four or five attendants, including an interpreter, made up the party. Day after day they rode, sleeping at night round a fire, with the snow or the freezing rain falling on their blankets, and the immense silence of the winter woods around them. On the 23d of the month they came to the point of junction between two great rivers—the Monongahela and the Alleghany. A wild and solitary spot it was, hardly visited till then by white men; the land on the fork was level and broad, with mighty trees thronging upon it; opposite were steep bluffs. The Alleghany hurried downward at the rate a man would walk; the Monongahela loitered, deep and glassy. Washington had acted as adjutant of a body of Virginia troops for the past two or three years, and he examined the place with the eyes of a soldier as well as of a surveyor. It seemed to him that a fort and a town could be well placed there; but in the pure frosty air of that ancient forest, untenanted save by wild beasts, there was no foreshadowing of the grimy smoke and roar, the flaring smelting-works, the crowded and eager population of the Pittsburgh that was to be. Having fixed the scene in his memory, Washington rode his horse down the river bank, and plunging into the icy current, swam across. On the northwest shore a fire was built, where the party dried their garments, and slept the sleep of frontiersmen.
Conducted now by the Delawares, they crossed low-lying, fertile lands to Logstown, where they got news of a junction between French troops from Louisiana and from Erie. Arriving in due season at Venango, Washington found the French officer in command there very positive that the Ohio was theirs, and that they would keep it; they admitted that the English outnumbered them; but "they are too dilatory," said the Frenchman, staring up with an affectation of superciliousness at the tall, blue-eyed young Virginian. The latter thanked the testy Gaul, with his customary grave courtesy, and continued his journey to Fort Le Boeuf. It was a structure characteristic of the place and period; a rude but effective redoubt of logs and clay, with the muzzles of cannon pouting from the embrasures, and more than two hundred boats and canoes for the trip down the river. "I shall seize every Englishman in the valley," was the polite assurance of the commander; but, being a man of pith himself, he knew another when he saw him, and offered Washington the hospitalities of the post. But the serious young soldier had no taste for hobnobbing, and returned at once to Venango, where he found his horses unavailable, and continued southward on foot, meeting bad weather and deep snow. He borrowed a deerskin shirt and leggins from the tallest of the Indians, dismissed his attendants, left the Indian trail, and struck out for the Forks by compass, with Gist as his companion. A misguided red man, hoping for glory from the white chief's scalp, prepared an ambush, and as Washington passed within a few paces, pulled the trigger on him. He did not know that the destiny of half the world hung upon his aim; but indeed the bullet was never molded that could draw blood from Washington. The red man missed; and the next moment Gist had him helpless, with a knife at his throat. But no: the man who could pour out the lives of his country's enemies, and of his own soldiers, without stint, when duty demanded it, and could hang a gallant and gently nurtured youth as a spy, was averse from bloodshed when only his insignificant self was concerned. Gist must sulkily put up his knife, and the would-be assassin was suffered to depart in peace. But in order to avoid the possible consequences of this magnanimity, the envoy and his companion traveled without pausing for more than sixty miles. And then, here was the Alleghany to cross again, and no horse to help one. Swimming was out of the question, even for the iron Washington, for the river was hurtling with jagged cakes of ice.
A day's hacking with a little hatchet cut down trees enough—not apple trees—to make a raft, on which they adventured; but in mid-stream Washington's pole upset him, and he was fain to get ashore on an island. There must they pass the night; and so cold was it, that the next morning they were able to reach the mainland dry shod, on the ice. What was crossing the Delaware (almost exactly twenty-three years afterward) compared to this? Washington was destined to do much of his work amid snow and ice; but for aught anybody could say, the poles or the equator were all one to him.
In consequence of his report a fort was begun on the site of Pittsburgh, and he was appointed lieutenant-colonel to take charge of it, with a hundred and fifty men, and orders to destroy whomsoever presumed to stay him. Two hundred square miles of fertile Ohio lands were to be their reward. An invitation to other colonies to join in the assertion of English ownership met with scanty response, or none at all. The idea of a union was in the air, but it was complicated with that old bugbear of a regular revenue to be exacted by act of Parliament, which Shirley and the others still continued to press with hungry zeal; while the assemblies were not less set upon making all grants annual, with specifications as to person and object. While the matter hung in the wind, the Virginians were exposed to superior forces; but in the spring of 1754 Washington, with forty men, surprised a party under Jumonville, defeated them, killed Jumonville, and took the survivors prisoners. Washington was exposed to the thickest showers of the bullets; they whistled to him familiarly, and "believe me," he assured a correspondent, "there is something charming in the sound." His life was to be sweetened by a great deal of that kind of charm.
But the French were gathering like hornets, and the Lieutenant-colonel must needs take refuge in a stockaded post named Fort Necessity, where his small force was besieged by seven hundred French and Indians who, in a nine hours' attack, killed thirty of his men, but used up most of their own ammunition. A parley resulted in Washington's marching out with all his survivors and their baggage and retiring from the Ohio valley. The war was begun; and it is worth noting that Washington's command to "Fire!" on Jumonville's party was the word that began it. But still the other colonists held off. The Six Nations began to murmur: "The French are men," said they; "you are like women." In June, 1754, a convocation or congress of deputies from all colonies north of the Potomac came together at Albany. Franklin was among them, with the draught of a plan of union in his ample pocket, and dauntless and deep thoughts in his broad mind. He was always far in advance of his time; one of the most "modern" men of that century; but he had the final excellence of wisdom which consists in never forcing his contemporaries to bite off more than there was reasonable prospect of their being able to chew. He lifted them gently up step after step of the ascent toward the stars.
Philadelphia is a central spot (this was the gist of his proposal), so let it be the seat of our federal government. Let us have a triennial grand council to originate bills, allowing King George to appoint the governor-general who may have a negative voice, and who shall choose the military officers, as against the civil appointees of the council. All war measures, external land purchases and organization, general laws and taxes should be the province of the federal government, but each colony should keep its private constitution, and money should issue only by common consent. Once a year should the council meet, to sit not more than six weeks, under a speaker of their own choosing.—In the debate, the scheme was closely criticised, but the suave wielder of the lightning gently disarmed all opponents, and won a substantial victory—"not altogether to my mind"; but he insisted upon no counsel of perfection. England, and some of the colonies themselves, were somewhat uneasy after thinking it over; mutual sympathy is not created by reason. England doubted on other grounds; a united country might be more easy to govern than thirteen who each demanded special treatment; but then, what if the federation decline to be governed at all? Meanwhile, there was the federation; and Franklin, looking westward, foresaw the Nineteenth Century.
Doubtless, however, outside pressure would be necessary to re-enforce the somewhat lukewarm sentiment among the colonies in favor of union. A review of their several conditions at this time would show general prosperity and enjoyment of liberty, but great unlikenesses in manners and customs and private prejudices. Virginia, most important of the southern group, showed the apparent contradiction of a people with republican ideas living after the style of aristocrats; breeding great gentlemen like Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Patrick Henry, who were to be leaders in the work of founding and defending the first great democracy of the world. Maryland was a picturesque principality under the rule of a dissolute young prince, who enjoyed a great private revenue from his possessions, and yet interfered but little with the individual freedom of his subjects. Pennsylvania was administering itself on a basis of sheer civic equality, and was absorbing from Franklin the principles of liberal thought and education. New York was so largely tinged with Dutchmanship that it resented more than the others the authority of alien England, and fought its royal governors to the finish. New England was an aggregation of independent towns, each a little democracy, full of religious and educational vigor. In Delaware, John Woolman the tailor was denouncing slavery with all the zeal and arguments of the Garrisons of a century later. These were incongruous elements to be bound into a fagot; but there was a policy being consolidated in England which would presently give them good reason for standing together to secure rights which were more precious than private pet traditions and peculiarities. Newcastle became head of the English government; he appointed the absurd Duke of Cumberland, captain-general of the English army, to the direction of American military affairs; and he picked out an obstinate, ruffianly, stupid martinet of a Perthshire Scotchman, sixty years old and of ruined fortunes, to lead the English forces against the French in America. Braddock went over armed with the new and despotic mutiny bill, and with directions to divest all colonial army officers of their rank while in his service. He was also to exact a revenue by royal prerogative, and the governors were to collect a fund to be expended for colonial military operations. This was Newcastle's notion of what was suitable for the occasion. In the meantime Shirley, persistently malevolent, advocated parliamentary taxation of the colonies and a congress of royal governors; and to the arguments of Franklin against the plan, suggested colonial representation in Parliament: which Franklin disapproved unless all colonial disabilities be removed, and they become in all political respects an integral portion of England. During the discussion, the colonies themselves were resisting the royal prerogative with embarrassing unanimity. Braddock, on landing and finding no money ready, was exceeding wroth; but the helpless governors told him that nothing short of an act of Parliament would suffice; possibly not even that. Taxation was the one cry of every royal office-holder in America. What sort of a tax should it be? —Well, a stamp-tax seemed the easiest method: a stamp, like a mosquito, sucks but little blood at a time, but mosquitoes in the aggregate draw a great deal. But the stamp act was to be delayed eleven years more, and then its authors were to receive an unpleasant surprise.