MONTCALM AND WOLFE
With a New Introduction by
SAMUEL ELIOT MORISON
NEW YORK, N.Y.
This Collier Book is set from the 1884 edition
Collier Books is a division of The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company
First Collier Books Edition 1962
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62:16974
Copyright (c) 1962 by The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company All Rights Reserved Hecho en los E.E.U.U. Printed in the United States of America
the alma mater under whose influence the
purpose of writing it was conceived,
is affectionately inscribed.
The names on the titlepage stand as representative of the two nations whose final contest for the control of North America is the subject of the book.
A very large amount of unpublished material has been used in its preparation, consisting for the most part of documents copied from the archives and libraries of France and England, especially from the Archives de la Marine et des Colonies, the Archives de la Guerre, and the Archives Nationales at Paris, and the Public Record Office and the British Museum at London, the papers copied for the present work in France alone exceed six thousand folio pages of manuscript, additional and supplementary to the "Paris Documents" procured for the State of New York under the agency of Mr. Brodhead, the copies made in England form ten volumes, besides many English documents consulted in the original manuscript. Great numbers of autograph letters, diaries, and other writings of persons engaged in the war have also been examined on this side of the Atlantic.
I owe to the kindness of the present Marquis de Montcalm the permission to copy all the letters written by his ancestor, General Montcalm, when in America, to members of his family in France. General Montcalm, from his first arrival in Canada to a few days before his death, also carried on an active correspondence with one of his chief officers, Bourlamaque, with whom he was on terms of intimacy. These autograph letters are now preserved in a private collection. I have examined them, and obtained copies of the whole. They form an interesting complement to the official correspondence of the writer, and throw the most curious side-lights on the persons and events of the time.
Besides manuscripts, the printed matter in the form of books, pamphlets, contemporary newspapers, and other publications relating to the American part of the Seven Years' War, is varied and abundant; and I believe I may safely say that nothing in it of much consequence has escaped me. The liberality of some of the older States of the Union, especially New York and Pennsylvania, in printing the voluminous records of their colonial history, has saved me a deal of tedious labor.
The whole of this published and unpublished mass of evidence has been read and collated with extreme care, and more than common pains have been taken to secure accuracy of statement. The study of books and papers, however, could not alone answer the purpose. The plan of the work was formed in early youth; and though various causes have long delayed its execution, it has always been kept in view. Meanwhile, I have visited and examined every spot where events of any importance in connection with the contest took place, and have observed with attention such scenes and persons as might help to illustrate those I meant to describe. In short, the subject has been studied as much from life and in the open air as at the library table.
These two volumes are a departure from chronological sequence. The period between 1700 and 1748 has been passed over for a time. When this gap is filled, the series of "France and England in North America" will form a continuous history of the French occupation of the continent.
BOSTON, Sept. 16, 1884.
CHAPTER I 1745-1755 The Combatants
England in the Eighteenth Century. Her Political and Social Aspects. Her Military Condition. France. Her Power and Importance. Signs of Decay. The Court, the Nobles, the Clergy, the People. The King and Pompadour. The Philosophers. Germany. Prussia. Frederic II. Russia. State of Europe. War of the Austrian Succession. American Colonies of France and England. Contrasted Systems and their Results. Canada. Its Strong Military Position. French Claims to the Continent. British Colonies. New England. Virginia. Pennsylvania. New York, Jealousies, Divisions, Internal Disputes, Military Weakness.
CHAPTER 2 1749-1752 Celoron de Bienville
La Galissoniere. English Encroachment. Mission of Celoron. The Great West. Its European Claimants. Its Indian Population. English Fur-Traders. Celoron on the Alleghany. His Reception. His Difficulties. Descent of the Ohio. Covert Hostility. Ascent of the Miami. La Demoiselle. Dark Prospects for France. Christopher Gist. George Croghan. Their Western Mission. Pickawillany. English Ascendency. English Dissension and Rivalry. The Key of the Great West.
CHAPTER 3 1749-1753 Conflict for the West
The Five Nations. Caughnawaga. Abbe Piquet. His Schemes. His Journey. Fort Frontenac. Toronto. Niagara. Oswego. Success of Piquet. Detroit. La Jonquiere. His Intrigues. His Trials. His Death. English Intrigues. Critical State of the West Pickawillany Destroyed. Duquesne. His Grand Enterprise.
CHAPTER 4 1710-1754 Conflict for Acadia
Acadia ceded to England. Acadians swear Fidelity. Halifax founded. French Intrigue. Acadian Priests. Mildness of English Rule. Covert Hostility of Acadians. The New Oath. Treachery of Versailles. Indians incited to War. Clerical Agents of Revot. Abbe Le Loutre. Acadians impelled to emigrate. Misery of the Emigrants. Humanity of Cornwallis and Hopson. Fanaticism and Violence of Le Loutre. Capture of the "St. Francois." The English at Beaubassin. Le Loutre drives out the Inhabitants. Murder of Howe. Beausejour. Insolence of Le Loutre. His Harshness to the Acadians. The Boundary Commission. Its Failure. Approaching War.
CHAPTER 5 1753, 1754 Washington
The French occupy the Sources of the Ohio. Their Sufferings. Fort Le Boeuf. Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. Mission of Washington. Robert Dinwiddie. He opposes the French. His Dispute with the Burgesses. His Energy. His Appeals for Help. Fort Duquesne. Death of Jumonville. Washington at the Great Meadows. Coulon de Villiers. Fort Necessity.
CHAPTER 6 1754, 1755 The Signal of Battle
Troubles of Dinwiddie. Gathering of the Burgesses. Virginian Society. Refractory Legislators. The Quaker Assembly It refuses to resist the French. Apathy of New York. Shirley and the General Court of Massachusetts. Short-sighted Policy. Attitude of Royal Governors. Indian Allies waver. Convention at Albany. Scheme of Union. It fails. Dinwiddie and Glen. Dinwiddie calls on England for Help. The Duke of Newcastle. Weakness of the British Cabinet. Attitude of France. Mutual Dissimulation. Both Powers send Troops to America. Collision. Capture of the "Alcide" and the "Lis."
CHAPTER 7 1755 Braddock
Arrival of Braddock. His Character. Council at Alexandria. Plan of the Campaign. Apathy of the Colonists. Rage of Braddock. Franklin. Fort Cumberland. Composition of the Army. Offended Friends. The March. The French Fort. Savage Allies. The Captive. Beaujeu. He goes to meet the English. Passage of the Monongahela. The Surprise. The Battle. Rout of Braddock. His Death. Indian Ferocity. Reception of the Ill News. Weakness of Dunbar. The Frontier abandoned.
CHAPTER 8 1755-1763 Removal of the Acadians
State of Acadia. Threatened Invasion. Peril of the English. Their Plans. French Forts to be attacked. Beausejour and its Occupants. French Treatment of the Acadians. John Winslow. Siege and Capture of Beausejour. Attitude of Acadians. Influence of their Priests. They refuse the Oath of Allegiance. Their Condition and Character. Pretended Neutrals. Moderation of English Authorities. The Acadians persist in their Refusal. Enemies or Subjects? Choice of the Acadians. The Consequence. Their Removal determined. Winslow at Grand Pre. Conference with Murray. Summons to the Inhabitants. Their Seizure. Their Embarkation. Their Fate. Their Treatment in Canada. Misapprehension concerning them.
CHAPTER 9 1755 Dieskau
Expedition against Crown Point. William Johnson. Vaudreuil. Dieskau. Johnson and the Indians. The Provincial Army. Doubts and Delays. March to Lake George. Sunday in Camp. Advance of Dieskau. He changes Plan. Marches against Johnson. Ambush. Rout of Provincials. Battle of Lake George. Rout of the French. Rage of the Mohawks. Peril of Dieskau. Inaction of Johnson. The Homeward March. Laurels of Victory.
CHAPTER 10 1755, 1756 Shirley. Border War
The Niagara Campaign. Albany. March to Oswego. Difficulties. The Expedition abandoned. Shirley and Johnson. Results of the Campaign. The Scourge of the Border. Trials of Washington. Misery of the Settlers. Horror of their Situation. Philadelphia and the Quakers. Disputes with the Penns. Democracy and Feudalism. Pennsylvanian Population. Appeals from the Frontier. Quarrel of Governor and Assembly. Help refused. Desperation of the Borderers. Fire and Slaughter. The Assembly alarmed. They pass a mock Militia Law. They are forced to yield.
CHAPTER 11 1712-1756 Montcalm
War declared. State of Europe. Pompadour and Maria Theresa. Infatuation of the French Court. The European War. Montcalm to command in America. His early Life. An intractable Pupil. His Marriage. His Family. His Campaigns. Preparation for America. His Associates. Levis, Bourlamaque, Bougainville. Embarkation. The Voyage. Arrival. Vaudreuil. Forces of Canada. Troops of the Line, Colony Troops, Militia, Indians. The Military Situation. Capture of Fort Bull. Montcalm at Ticonderoga.
CHAPTER 12 1756 Oswego
The new Campaign. Untimely Change of Commanders. Eclipse of Shirley. Earl of Loudon. Muster of Provincials. New England Levies. Winslow at Lake George. Johnson and the Five Nations. Bradstreet and his Boatmen. Fight on the Onondaga. Pestilence at Oswego. Loudon and the Provincials. New England Camps. Army Chaplains. A sudden Blow. Montcalm attacks Oswego. Its Fall.
CHAPTER 13 1756, 1757 Partisan War
Failure of Shirley's Plan. Causes. Loudon and Shirley. Close of the Campaign. The Western Border. Armstrong destroys Kittanning. The Scouts of Lake George War Parties from Ticonderoga. Robert Rogers. The Rangers. Their Hardihood and Daring. Disputes as to Quarters of Troops. Expedition of Rogers. A Desperate Bush-fight. Enterprise of Vaudreuil. Rigaud attacks Fort William Henry.
CHAPTER 14 1757 Montcalm and Vaudreuil
The Seat of War. Social Life at Montreal. Familiar Correspondence of Montcalm. His Employments. His Impressions of Canada. His Hospitalities. Misunderstandings with the Governor. Character of Vaudreuil. His Accusations. Frenchmen and Canadians. Foibles of Montcalm. The opening Campaign. Doubts and Suspense. London's Plan. His Character. Fatal Delays. Abortive Attempt against Louisbourg. Disaster to the British Fleet.
CHAPTER 15 1757 Fort William Henry
Another Blow. The War-song. The Army at Ticonderoga. Indian Allies. The War-feast. Treatment of Prisoners. Cannibalism. Surprise and Slaughter. The War Council. March of Levis. The Army embarks. Fort William Henry. Nocturnal Scene. Indian Funeral. Advance upon the Fort. General Webb. His Difficulties. His Weakness. The Siege begun. Conduct of the Indians. The Intercepted Letter. Desperate Position of the Besieged. Capitulation. Ferocity of the Indians. Mission of Bougainville. Murder of Wounded Men. A Scene of Terror. The Massacre. Efforts of Montcalm. The Fort burned.
CHAPTER 16 1757, 1758 A Winter of Discontent
Boasts of Loudon. A Mutinous Militia. Panic. Accusations of Vaudreuil. His Weakness. Indian Barbarities. Destruction of German Flats. Discontent of Montcalm. Festivities at Montreal. Montcalm's Relations with the Governor. Famine. Riots. Mutiny. Winter at Ticonderoga. A desperate Bush-fight. Defeat of the Rangers. Adventures of Roche and Pringle.
CHAPTER 17 1753-1760 Bigot
His Life and Character. Canadian Society. Official Festivities. A Party of Pleasure. Hospitalities of Bigot. Desperate Gambling. Chateau Bigot. Canadian Ladies. Cadet. La Friponne. Official Rascality. Methods of Peculation. Cruel Frauds on the Acadians. Military Corruption. Pean. Love and Knavery. Varin and his Partners. Vaudreuil and the Peculators. He defends Bigot; praises Cadet and Pean. Canadian Finances. Peril of Bigot. Threats of the Minister. Evidence of Montcalm. Impending Ruin of the Confederates.
CHAPTER 18 1757, 1758 Pitt
Frederic of Prussia. The Coalition against him. His desperate Position. Rossbach. Leuthen. Reverses of England. Weakness of the Ministry. A Change. Pitt and Newcastle. Character of Pitt. Sources of his Power. His Aims. Louis XV. Pompadour. She controls the Court, and directs the War. Gloomy Prospects of England. Disasters. The New Ministry. Inspiring Influence of Pitt. The Tide turns. British Victories. Pitt's Plans for America. Louisbourg, Ticonderoga, Duquesne. New Commanders. Naval Battles.
CHAPTER 19 1758 Louisbourg
Condition of the Fortress. Arrival of the English. Gallantry of Wolfe. The English Camp. The Siege begun. Progress of the Besiegers. Sallies of the French. Madame Drucour. Courtesies of War. French Ships destroyed. Conflagration. Fury of the Bombardment. Exploit of English Sailors. The End near. The White Flag. Surrender. Reception of the News in England and America. Wolfe not satisfied. His Letters to Amherst. He destroys Gaspe. Returns to England.
CHAPTER 20 1758 Ticonderoga
Activity of the Provinces. Sacrifices of Massachusetts. The Army at Lake George. Proposed Incursion of Levis. Perplexities of Montcalm. His Plan of Defence. Camp of Abercromby. His Character. Lord Howe, His Popularity. Embarkation of Abercromby. Advance down Lake George. Landing. Forest Skirmish. Death of Howe. Its Effects. Position of the French. The Lines of Ticonderoga. Blunders of Abercromby. The Assault. A Frightful Scene. Incidents of the Battle. British Repulse. Panic. Retreat Triumph of Montcalm.
CHAPTER 21 1758 Fort Frontenac
The Routed Army. Indignation at Abercromby. John Cleaveland and his Brother Chaplains. Regulars and Provincials. Provincial Surgeons. French Raids. Rogers defeats Marin. Adventures of Putnam. Expedition of Bradstreet. Capture of Fort Frontenac.
CHAPTER 22 1758 Fort Duquesne
Dinwiddie and Washington. Brigadier Forbes. His Army. Conflicting Views. Difficulties. Illness of Forbes. His Sufferings. His Fortitude. His Difference with Washington. Sir John Sinclair. Troublesome Allies. Scouting Parties. Boasts of Vaudreuil. Forbes and the Indians. Mission of Christian Frederic Post. Council of Peace. Second Mission of Post. Defeat of Grant. Distress of Forbes. Dark Prospects. Advance of the Army. Capture of the French Fort. The Slain of Braddock's Field. Death of Forbes.
CHAPTER 23 1758, 1759 The Brink of Ruin
Jealousy of Vaudreuil. He asks for Montcalm's Recall. His Discomfiture. Scene at the Governor's House. Disgust of Montcalm. The Canadians Despondent. Devices to encourage them. Gasconade of the Governor. Deplorable State of the Colony. Mission of Bougainville. Duplicity of Vaudreuil. Bougainville at Versailles. Substantial Aid refused to Canada. A Matrimonial Treaty. Return of Bougainville. Montcalm abandoned by the Court. His Plans of Defence. Sad News from Candiac. Promises of Vaudreuil.
CHAPTER 24 1758, 1759 Wolfe
The Exiles of Fort Cumberland. Relief. The Voyage to Louisbourg. The British Fleet. Expedition against Quebec. Early Life of Wolfe. His Character. His Letters to his Parents. His Domestic Qualities. Appointed to command the Expedition. Sails for America.
CHAPTER 25 1759 Wolfe at Quebec
French Preparation. Muster of Forces. Gasconade of Vaudreuil. Plan of Defence. Strength of Montcalm. Advance of Wolfe. British Sailors. Landing of the English. Difficulties before them. Storm. Fireships. Confidence of French Commanders. Wolfe occupies Point Levi. A Futile Night Attack. Quebec bombarded. Wolfe at the Montmorenci. Skirmishes. Danger of the English Position. Effects of the Bombardment. Desertion of Canadians. The English above Quebec. Severities of Wolfe. Another Attempt to burn the Fleet. Desperate Enterprise of Wolfe. The Heights of Montmorenci. Repulse of the English.
CHAPTER 26 1759 Amherst. Niagara
Amherst on Lake George. Capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Delays of Amherst. Niagara Expedition. La Corne attacks Oswego. His Repulse. Niagara besieged. Aubry comes to its Relief. Battle. Rout of the French. The Fort taken. Isle-aux-Noix. Amherst advances to attack it. Storm. The Enterprise abandoned, Rogers attacks St. Francis. Destroys the Town. Sufferings of the Rangers.
CHAPTER 27 1759 The Heights of Abraham
Elation of the French. Despondency of Wolfe. The Parishes laid waste. Operations above Quebec. Illness of Wolfe. A New Plan of Attack. Faint Hope of Success. Wolfe's Last Despatch. Confidence of Vaudreuil. Last Letters of Montcalm. French Vigilance. British Squadron at Cap-Rouge. Last Orders of Wolfe. Embarkation. Descent of the St. Lawrence. The Heights scaled. The British Line. Last Night of Montcalm. The Alarm. March of French Troops. The Battle. The Rout. The Pursuit. Fall of Wolfe and of Montcalm.
CHAPTER 28 1759 Fall of Quebec
After the Battle. Canadians resist the Pursuit. Arrival of Vaudreuil. Scene in the Redoubt. Panic. Movements of the Victors. Vaudreuil's Council of War. Precipitate Retreat of the French Army. Last Hours of Montcalm. His Death and Burial. Quebec abandoned to its Fate. Despair of the Garrison. Levis joins the Army. Attempts to relieve the Town. Surrender. The British occupy Quebec. Slanders of Vaudreuil. Reception in England of the News of Wolfe's Victory and Death. Prediction of Jonathan Mayhew.
CHAPTER 29 1759, 1760 Sainte-Foy
Quebec after the Siege. Captain Knox and the Nuns. Escape of French Ships. Winter at Quebec. Threats of Levis. Attacks. Skirmishes. Feat of the Rangers. State of the Garrison. The French prepare to retake Quebec. Advance of Levis. The Alarm. Sortie of the English. Rash Determination of Murray. Battle of Ste.-Foy. Retreat of the English. Levis besieges Quebec. Spirit of the Garrison. Peril of their Situation. Relief. Quebec saved. Retreat of Levis. The News in England.
CHAPTER 30 1760 Fall of Canada
Desperate Situation. Efforts of Vaudreuil and Levis. Plans of Amherst. A Triple Attack. Advance of Murray. Advance of Haviland. Advance of Amherst. Capitulation of Montreal. Protest of Levis. Injustice of Louis XV. Joy in the British Colonies. Character of the War.
CHAPTER 31 1758-1763 The Peace of Paris
Exodus of Canadian Leaders. Wreck of the "Auguste." Trial of Bigot and his Confederates. Frederic of Prussia. His Triumphs. His Reverses. His Peril. His Fortitude. Death of George II. Change of Policy. Choiseul. His Overtures of Peace. The Family Compact. Fall of Pitt. Death of the Czarina. Frederic saved. War with Spain. Capture of Havana. Negotiations. Terms of Peace. Shall Canada be restored? Speech of Pitt. The Treaty signed. End of the Seven Years War.
CHAPTER 32 1763-1884 Conclusion
Results of the War. Germany. France. England. Canada. The British Provinces.
It is the nature of great events to obscure the great events that came before them. The Seven Years War in Europe is seen but dimly through revolutionary convulsions and Napoleonic tempests; and the same contest in America is half lost to sight behind the storm-cloud of the War of Independence. Few at this day see the momentous issues involved in it, or the greatness of the danger that it averted. The strife that armed all the civilized world began here. "Such was the complication of political interests," says Voltaire, "that a cannon-shot fired in America could give the signal that set Europe in a blaze." Not quite. It was not a cannon-shot, but a volley from the hunting-pieces of a few backwoodsmen, commanded by a Virginian youth, George Washington.
To us of this day, the result of the American part of the war seems a foregone conclusion. It was far from being so; and very far from being so regarded by our forefathers. The numerical superiority of the British colonies was offset by organic weaknesses fatal to vigorous and united action. Nor at the outset did they, or the mother-country, aim at conquering Canada, but only at pushing back her boundaries. Canada—using the name in its restricted sense—was a position of great strength; and even when her dependencies were overcome, she could hold her own against forces far superior. Armies could reach her only by three routes,—the Lower St. Lawrence on the east, the Upper St. Lawrence on the west, and Lake Champlain on the south. The first access was guarded by a fortress almost impregnable by nature, and the second by a long chain of dangerous rapids; while the third offered a series of points easy to defend. During this same war, Frederic of Prussia held his ground triumphantly against greater odds, though his kingdom was open on all sides to attack.
It was the fatuity of Louis XV. and his Pompadour that made the conquest of Canada possible. Had they not broken the traditionary policy of France, allied themselves to Austria, her ancient enemy, and plunged needlessly into the European war, the whole force of the kingdom would have been turned, from the first, to the humbling of England and the defence of the French colonies. The French soldiers left dead on inglorious Continental battle-fields could have saved Canada, and perhaps made good her claim to the vast territories of the West.
But there were other contingencies. The possession of Canada was a question of diplomacy as well as of war. If England conquered her, she might restore her, as she had lately restored Cape Breton. She had an interest in keeping France alive on the American continent. More than one clear eye saw, at the middle of the last century, that the subjection of Canada would lead to a revolt of the British colonies. So long as an active and enterprising enemy threatened their borders, they could not break with the mother-country, because they needed her help. And if the arms of France had prospered in the other hemisphere; if she had gained in Europe or Asia territories with which to buy back what she had lost in America, then, in all likelihood, Canada would have passed again into her hands.
The most momentous and far-reaching question ever brought to issue on this continent was: Shall France remain here, or shall she not? If, by diplomacy or war, she had preserved but the half, or less than the half, of her American possessions, then a barrier would have been set to the spread of the English-speaking races; there would have been no Revolutionary War; and for a long time, at least, no independence. It was not a question of scanty populations strung along the banks of the St. Lawrence; it was—or under a government of any worth it would have been—a question of the armies and generals of France. America owes much to the imbecility of Louis XV. and the ambitious vanity and personal dislikes of his mistress.
The Seven Years War made England what she is. It crippled the commerce of her rival, ruined France in two continents, and blighted her as a colonial power. It gave England the control of the seas and the mastery of North America and India, made her the first of commercial nations, and prepared that vast colonial system that has planted new Englands in every quarter of the globe. And while it made England what she is, it supplied to the United States the indispensable condition of their greatness, if not of their national existence.
Before entering on the story of the great contest, we will look at the parties to it on both sides of the Atlantic.
Montcalm and Wolfe
The latter half of the reign of George II. was one of the most prosaic periods in English history. The civil wars and the Restoration had had their enthusiasms, religion and liberty on one side, and loyalty on the other; but the old fires declined when William III. came to the throne, and died to ashes under the House of Hanover. Loyalty lost half its inspiration when it lost the tenet of the divine right of kings; and nobody could now hold that tenet with any consistency except the defeated and despairing Jacobites. Nor had anybody as yet proclaimed the rival dogma of the divine right of the people. The reigning monarch held his crown neither of God nor of the nation, but of a parliament controlled by a ruling class. The Whig aristocracy had done a priceless service to English liberty. It was full of political capacity, and by no means void of patriotism; but it was only a part of the national life. Nor was it at present moved by political emotions in any high sense. It had done its great work when it expelled the Stuarts and placed William of Orange on the throne; its ascendency was now complete. The Stuarts had received their death-blow at Culloden; and nothing was left to the dominant party but to dispute on subordinate questions, and contend for office among themselves. The Troy squires sulked in their country-houses, hunted foxes, and grumbled against the reigning dynasty; yet hardly wished to see the nation convulsed by a counter-revolution and another return of the Stuarts.
If politics had run to commonplace, so had morals; and so too had religion. Despondent writers of the day even complained that British courage had died out. There was little sign to the common eye that under a dull and languid surface, forces were at work preparing a new life, material, moral, and intellectual. As yet, Whitefield and Wesley had not wakened the drowsy conscience of the nation, nor the voice of William Pitt roused it like a trumpet-peal.
It was the unwashed and unsavory England of Hogarth, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne; of Tom Jones, Squire Western, Lady Bellaston, and Parson Adams; of the "Rake's Progress" and "Marriage a la Mode;" of the lords and ladies who yet live in the undying gossip of Horace Walpole, be-powdered, be-patched, and be-rouged, flirting at masked balls, playing cards till daylight, retailing scandal, and exchanging double meanings. Beau Nash reigned king over the gaming-tables of Bath; the ostrich-plumes of great ladies mingled with the peacock-feathers of courtesans in the rotunda at Ranelagh Gardens; and young lords in velvet suits and embroidered ruffles played away their patrimony at White's Chocolate-House or Arthur's Club. Vice was bolder than to-day, and manners more courtly, perhaps, but far more coarse.
The humbler clergy were thought—sometimes with reason—to be no fit company for gentlemen, and country parsons drank their ale in the squire's kitchen. The passenger-wagon spent the better part of a fortnight in creeping from London to York. Travellers carried pistols against footpads and mounted highwaymen. Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard were popular heroes. Tyburn counted its victims by scores; and as yet no Howard had appeared to reform the inhuman abominations of the prisons.
The middle class, though fast rising in importance, was feebly and imperfectly represented in parliament. The boroughs were controlled by the nobility and gentry, or by corporations open to influence or bribery. Parliamentary corruption had been reduced to a system; and offices, sinecures, pensions, and gifts of money were freely used to keep ministers in power. The great offices of state were held by men sometimes of high ability, but of whom not a few divided their lives among politics, cards, wine, horse-racing, and women, till time and the gout sent them to the waters of Bath. The dull, pompous, and irascible old King had two ruling passions,—money, and his Continental dominions of Hanover. His elder son, the Prince of Wales, was a centre of opposition to him. His younger son, the Duke of Cumberland, a character far more pronounced and vigorous, had won the day at Culloden, and lost it at Fontenoy; but whether victor or vanquished, had shown the same vehement bull-headed courage, of late a little subdued by fast growing corpulency. The Duke of Newcastle, the head of the government, had gained power and kept it by his rank and connections, his wealth, his county influence, his control of boroughs, and the extraordinary assiduity and devotion with which he practised the arts of corruption. Henry Fox, grasping, unscrupulous, with powerful talents, a warm friend after his fashion, and a most indulgent father; Carteret, with his strong, versatile intellect and jovial intrepidity; the two Townshends, Mansfield, Halifax, and Chesterfield,—were conspicuous figures in the politics of the time. One man towered above them all. Pitt had many enemies and many critics. They called him ambitious, audacious, arrogant, theatrical, pompous, domineering; but what he has left for posterity is a loftiness of soul, undaunted courage, fiery and passionate eloquence, proud incorruptibility, domestic virtues rare in his day, unbounded faith in the cause for which he stood, and abilities which without wealth or strong connections were destined to place him on the height of power. The middle class, as yet almost voiceless, looked to him as its champion; but he was not the champion of a class. His patriotism was as comprehensive as it was haughty and unbending. He lived for England, loved her with intense devotion, knew her, believed in her, and made her greatness his own; or rather, he was himself England incarnate.
The nation was not then in fighting equipment. After the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, the army within the three kingdoms had been reduced to about eighteen thousand men. Added to these were the garrisons of Minorca and Gibraltar, and six or seven independent companies in the American colonies. Of sailors, less than seventeen thousand were left in the Royal Navy. Such was the condition of England on the eve of one of the most formidable wars in which she was ever engaged.
Her rival across the Channel was drifting slowly and unconsciously towards the cataclysm of the Revolution; yet the old monarchy, full of the germs of decay, was still imposing and formidable. The House of Bourbon held the three thrones of France, Spain, and Naples; and their threatened union in a family compact was the terror of European diplomacy. At home France was the foremost of the Continental nations; and she boasted herself second only to Spain as a colonial power. She disputed with England the mastery of India, owned the islands of Bourbon and Mauritius, held important possessions in the West Indies, and claimed all North America except Mexico and a strip of sea-coast. Her navy was powerful, her army numerous, and well appointed; but she lacked the great commanders of the last reign. Soubise, Maillebois, Contades, Broglie, and Clermont were but weak successors of Conde, Turenne, Vendome, and Villars. Marshal Richelieu was supreme in the arts of gallantry, and more famous for conquests of love than of war. The best generals of Louis XV. were foreigners. Lowendal sprang from the royal house of Denmark; and Saxe, the best of all, was one of the three hundred and fifty-four bastards of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. He was now, 1750, dying at Chambord, his iron constitution ruined by debaucheries.
The triumph of the Bourbon monarchy was complete. The government had become one great machine of centralized administration, with a king for its head; though a king who neither could nor would direct it. All strife was over between the Crown and the nobles; feudalism was robbed of its vitality, and left the mere image of its former self, with nothing alive but its abuses, its caste privileges, its exactions, its pride and vanity, its power to vex and oppress. In England, the nobility were a living part of the nation, and if they had privileges, they paid for them by constant service to the state; in France, they had no political life, and were separated from the people by sharp lines of demarcation. From warrior chiefs, they had changed to courtiers. Those of them who could afford it, and many who could not, left their estates to the mercy of stewards, and gathered at Versailles to revolve about the throne as glittering satellites, paid in pomp, empty distinctions, or rich sinecures, for the power they had lost. They ruined their vassals to support the extravagance by which they ruined themselves. Such as stayed at home were objects of pity and scorn. "Out of your Majesty's presence," said one of them, "we are not only wretched, but ridiculous."
Versailles was like a vast and gorgeous theatre, where all were actors and spectators at once; and all played their parts to perfection. Here swarmed by thousands this silken nobility, whose ancestors rode cased in iron. Pageant followed pageant. A picture of the time preserves for us an evening in the great hall of the Chateau, where the King, with piles of louis d'or before him, sits at a large oval green table, throwing the dice, among princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, ambassadors, marshals of France, and a vast throng of courtiers, like an animated bed of tulips; for men and women alike wear bright and varied colors. Above are the frescos of Le Brun; around are walls of sculptured and inlaid marbles, with mirrors that reflect the restless splendors of the scene and the blaze of chandeliers, sparkling with crystal pendants. Pomp, magnificence, profusion, were a business and a duty at the Court. Versailles was a gulf into which the labor of France poured its earnings; and it was never full.
Here the graces and charms were a political power. Women had prodigious influence, and the two sexes were never more alike. Men not only dressed in colors, but they wore patches and carried muffs. The robust qualities of the old nobility still lingered among the exiles of the provinces, while at Court they had melted into refinements tainted with corruption. Yet if the butterflies of Versailles had lost virility, they had not lost courage. They fought as gayly as they danced. In the halls which they haunted of yore, turned now into a historical picture-gallery, one sees them still, on the canvas of Lenfant, Lepaon, or Vernet, facing death with careless gallantry, in their small three-cornered hats, powdered perukes, embroidered coats, and lace ruffles. Their valets served them with ices in the trenches, under the cannon of besieged towns. A troop of actors formed part of the army-train of Marshal Saxe. At night there was a comedy, a ballet, or a ball, and in the morning a battle. Saxe, however, himself a sturdy German, while he recognized their fighting value, and knew well how to make the best of it, sometimes complained that they were volatile, excitable, and difficult to manage.
The weight of the Court, with its pomps, luxuries, and wars, bore on the classes least able to support it. The poorest were taxed most; the richest not at all. The nobles, in the main, were free from imposts. The clergy, who had vast possessions, were wholly free, though they consented to make voluntary gifts to the Crown; and when, in a time of emergency, the minister Machault required them, in common with all others hitherto exempt, to contribute a twentieth of their revenues to the charges of government, they passionately refused, declaring that they would obey God rather than the King. The cultivators of the soil were ground to the earth by a threefold extortion,—the seigniorial dues, the tithes of the Church, and the multiplied exactions of the Crown, enforced with merciless rigor by the farmers of the revenue, who enriched themselves by wringing the peasant on the one hand, and cheating the King on the other. A few great cities shone with all that is most brilliant in society, intellect, and concentrated wealth; while the country that paid the costs lay in ignorance and penury, crushed and despairing. Of the inhabitants of towns, too, the demands of the tax-gatherer were extreme; but here the immense vitality of the French people bore up the burden. While agriculture languished, and intolerable oppression turned peasants into beggars or desperadoes; while the clergy were sapped by corruption, and the nobles enervated by luxury and ruined by extravagance, the middle class was growing in thrift and strength. Arts and commerce prospered, and the seaports were alive with foreign trade. Wealth tended from all sides towards the centre. The King did not love his capital; but he and his favorites amused themselves with adorning it. Some of the chief embellishments that make Paris what it is to-day—the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees, and many of the palaces of the Faubourg St. Germain—date from this reign.
One of the vicious conditions of the time was the separation in sympathies and interests of the four great classes of the nation,—clergy, nobles, burghers, and peasants; and each of these, again, divided itself into incoherent fragments. France was an aggregate of disjointed parts, held together by a meshwork of arbitrary power, itself touched with decay. A disastrous blow was struck at the national welfare when the Government of Louis XV. revived the odious persecution of the Huguenots. The attempt to scour heresy out of France cost her the most industrious and virtuous part of her population, and robbed her of those most fit to resist the mocking scepticism and turbid passions that burst out like a deluge with the Revolution.
Her manifold ills were summed up in the King. Since the Valois, she had had no monarch so worthless. He did not want understanding, still less the graces of person. In his youth the people called him the "Well-beloved;" but by the middle of the century they so detested him that he dared not pass through Paris, lest the mob should execrate him. He had not the vigor of the true tyrant; but his langour, his hatred of all effort, his profound selfishness, his listless disregard of public duty, and his effeminate libertinism, mixed with superstitious devotion, made him no less a national curse. Louis XIII. was equally unfit to govern; but he gave the reins to the Great Cardinal. Louis XV. abandoned them to a frivolous mistress, content that she should rule on condition of amusing him. It was a hard task; yet Madame de Pompadour accomplished it by methods infamous to him and to her. She gained and long kept the power that she coveted: filled the Bastille with her enemies; made and unmade ministers; appointed and removed generals. Great questions of policy were at the mercy of her caprices. Through her frivolous vanity, her personal likes and dislikes, all the great departments of government—army, navy, war, foreign affairs, justice, finance—changed from hand to hand incessantly, and this at a time of crisis when the kingdom needed the steadiest and surest guidance. Few of the officers of state, except, perhaps, D'Argenson, could venture to disregard her. She turned out Orry, the comptroller-general, put her favorite, Machault, into his place, then made him keeper of the seals, and at last minister of marine. The Marquis de Puysieux, in the ministry of foreign affairs, and the Comte de St.-Florentin, charged with the affairs of the clergy, took their cue from her. The King stinted her in nothing. First and last, she is reckoned to have cost him thirty-six million francs,—answering now to more than as many dollars.
The prestige of the monarchy was declining with the ideas that had given it life and strength. A growing disrespect for king, ministry, and clergy was beginning to prepare the catastrophe that was still some forty years in the future. While the valleys and low places of the kingdom were dark with misery and squalor, its heights were bright with a gay society,—elegant, fastidious, witty,—craving the pleasures of the mind as well as of the senses, criticising everything, analyzing everything, believing nothing. Voltaire was in the midst of it, hating, with all his vehement soul, the abuses that swarmed about him, and assailing them with the inexhaustible shafts of his restless and piercing intellect. Montesquieu was showing to a despot-ridden age the principles of political freedom. Diderot and D'Alembert were beginning their revolutionary Encyclopaedia. Rousseau was sounding the first notes of his mad eloquence,—the wild revolt of a passionate and diseased genius against a world of falsities and wrongs. The salons of Paris, cloyed with other pleasures, alive to all that was racy and new, welcomed the pungent doctrines, and played with them as children play with fire, thinking no danger; as time went on, even embraced them in a genuine spirit of hope and goodwill for humanity. The Revolution began at the top,—in the world of fashion, birth, and intellect,—and propagated itself downwards. "We walked on a carpet of flowers," Count Segur afterwards said, "unconscious that it covered an abyss;" till the gulf yawned at last, and swallowed them.
Eastward, beyond the Rhine, lay the heterogeneous patchwork of the Holy Roman, or Germanic, Empire. The sacred bonds that throughout the Middle Ages had held together its innumerable fragments, had lost their strength. The Empire decayed as a whole; but not so the parts that composed it. In the south the House of Austria reigned over a formidable assemblage of states; and in the north the House of Brandenburg, promoted to royalty half a century before, had raised Prussia into an importance far beyond her extent and population. In her dissevered rags of territory lay the destinies of Germany. It was the late King, that honest, thrifty, dogged, headstrong despot, Frederic William, who had made his kingdom what it was, trained it to the perfection of drill, and left it to his son, Frederic II. the best engine of war in Europe. Frederic himself had passed between the upper and nether millstones of paternal discipline. Never did prince undergo such an apprenticeship. His father set him to the work of an overseer, or steward, flung plates at his head in the family circle, thrashed him with his rattan in public, bullied him for submitting to such treatment, and imprisoned him for trying to run away from it. He came at last out of purgatory; and Europe felt him to her farthest bounds. This bookish, philosophizing, verse-making cynic and profligate was soon to approve himself the first warrior of his time, and one of the first of all time.
Another power had lately risen on the European world. Peter the Great, half hero, half savage, had roused the inert barbarism of Russia into a titanic life. His daughter Elizabeth had succeeded to his throne,—heiress of his sensuality, if not of his talents.
Over all the Continent the aspect of the times was the same. Power had everywhere left the plains and the lower slopes, and gathered at the summits. Popular life was at a stand. No great idea stirred the nations to their depths. The religious convulsions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were over, and the earthquake of the French Revolution had not begun. At the middle of the eighteenth century the history of Europe turned on the balance of power; the observance of treaties; inheritance and succession; rivalries of sovereign houses struggling to win power or keep it, encroach on neighbors, or prevent neighbors from encroaching; bargains, intrigue, force, diplomacy, and the musket, in the interest not of peoples but of rulers. Princes, great and small, brooded over some real or fancied wrong, nursed some dubious claim born of a marriage, a will, or an ancient covenant fished out of the abyss of time, and watched their moment to make it good. The general opportunity came when, in 1740, the Emperor Charles VI. died and bequeathed his personal dominions of the House of Austria to his daughter, Maria Theresa. The chief Powers of Europe had been pledged in advance to sustain the will; and pending the event, the veteran Prince Eugene had said that two hundred thousand soldiers would be worth all their guaranties together. The two hundred thousand were not there, and not a sovereign kept his word. They flocked to share the spoil, and parcel out the motley heritage of the young Queen. Frederic of Prussia led the way, invaded her province of Silesia, seized it, and kept it. The Elector of Bavaria and the King of Spain claimed their share, and the Elector of Saxony and the King of Sardinia prepared to follow the example. France took part with Bavaria, and intrigued to set the imperial crown on the head of the Elector, thinking to ruin her old enemy, the House of Austria, and rule Germany through an emperor too weak to dispense with her support. England, jealous of her designs, trembling for the balance of power, and anxious for the Hanoverian possessions of her king, threw herself into the strife on the side of Austria. It was now that, in the Diet at Presburg, the beautiful and distressed Queen, her infant in her arms, made her memorable appeal to the wild chivalry of her Hungarian nobles; and, clashing their swords, they shouted with one voice: "Let us die for our king, Maria Theresa;" Moriamur pro rege nostro, Maria,—one of the most dramatic scenes in history; not quite true, perhaps, but near the truth. Then came that confusion worse confounded called the war of the Austrian Succession, with its Mollwitz, its Dettingen, its Fontenoy, and its Scotch episode of Culloden. The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle closed the strife in 1748. Europe had time to breathe; but the germs of discord remained alive.
The American Combatants
The French claimed all America, from the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains, and from Mexico and Florida to the North Pole, except only the ill-defined possessions of the English on the borders of Hudson Bay; and to these vast regions, with adjacent islands, they gave the general name of New France. They controlled the highways of the continent, for they held its two great rivers. First, they had seized the St. Lawrence, and then planted themselves at the mouth of the Mississippi. Canada at the north, and Louisiana at the south, were the keys of a boundless interior, rich with incalculable possibilities. The English colonies, ranged along the Atlantic coast, had no royal road to the great inland, and were, in a manner, shut between the mountains and the sea. At the middle of the century they numbered in all, from Georgia to Maine, about eleven hundred and sixty thousand white inhabitants. By the census of 1754 Canada had but fifty-five thousand. Add those of Louisiana and Acadia, and the whole white population under the French flag might be something more than eighty thousand. Here is an enormous disparity; and hence it has been argued that the success of the English colonies and the failure of the French was not due to difference of religious and political systems, but simply to numerical preponderance. But this preponderance itself grew out of a difference of systems. We have said before, and it cannot be said too often, that in making Canada a citadel of the state religion—a holy of holies of exclusive Roman Catholic orthodoxy,—the clerical monitors of the Crown robbed their country of a trans-Atlantic empire. New France could not grow with a priest on guard at the gate to let in none but such as pleased him. One of the ablest of Canadian governors, La Galissoniere, seeing the feebleness of the colony compared with the vastness of its claims, advised the King to send ten thousand peasants to occupy the valley of the Ohio, and hold back the British swarm that was just then pushing its advance-guard over the Alleghanies. It needed no effort of the King to people his waste domain, not with ten thousand peasants, but with twenty times ten thousand Frenchmen of every station,—the most industrious, most instructed, most disciplined by adversity and capable of self-rule, that the country could boast. While La Galissoniere was asking for colonists, the agents of the Crown, set on by priestly fanaticism, or designing selfishness masked with fanaticism, were pouring volleys of musketry into Huguenot congregations, imprisoning for life those innocent of all but their faith,—the men in the galleys, the women in the pestiferous dungeons of Aigues Mortes,—hanging their ministers, kidnapping their children, and reviving, in short, the dragonnades. Now, as in the past century, many of the victims escaped to the British colonies, and became a part of them. The Huguenots would have hailed as a boon the permission to emigrate under the fleur-de-lis, and build up a Protestant France in the valleys of the West. It would have been a bane of absolutism, but a national glory; would have set bounds to English colonization, and changed the face of the continent. The opportunity was spurned. The dominant Church clung to its policy of rule and ruin. France built its best colony on a principle of exclusion, and failed; England reversed the system, and succeeded.
[Footnote 1: Censuses of Canada, iv. 61. Rameau (La France aux Colonies, ii. 81) estimates the Canadian population, in 1755, at sixty-six thousand, besides voyageurs, Indian traders, etc. Vaudreuil, in 1760, places it at seventy thousand.]
I have shown elsewhere the aspects of Canada, where a rigid scion of the old European tree was set to grow in the wilderness. The military Governor, holding his miniature Court on the rock of Quebec; the feudal proprietors, whose domains lined the shores of the St. Lawrence; the peasant; the roving bushranger; the half-tamed savage, with crucifix and scalping-knife; priests; friars; nuns; and soldiers,—mingled to form a society the most picturesque on the continent. What distinguished it from the France that produced it was a total absence of revolt against the laws of its being,—an absolute conservatism, an unquestioning acceptance of Church and King. The Canadian, ignorant of everything but what the priest saw fit to teach him, had never heard of Voltaire; and if he had known him, would have thought him a devil. He had, it is true, a spirit of insubordination born of the freedom of the forest; but if his instincts rebelled, his mind and soul were passively submissive. The unchecked control of a hierarchy robbed him of the independence of intellect and character, without which, under the conditions of modern life, a people must resign itself to a position of inferiority. Yet Canada had a vigor of her own. It was not in spiritual deference only that she differed from the country of her birth. Whatever she had caught of its corruptions, she had caught nothing of its effeminacy. The mass of her people lived in a rude poverty,—not abject, like the peasant of old France, nor ground down by the tax-gatherer; while those of the higher ranks—all more or less engaged in pursuits of war or adventure, and inured to rough journeyings and forest exposures—were rugged as their climate. Even the French regular troops, sent out to defend the colony, caught its hardy spirit, and set an example of stubborn fighting which their comrades at home did not always emulate.
Canada lay ensconced behind rocks and forests. All along her southern boundaries, between her and her English foes, lay a broad tract of wilderness, shaggy with primeval woods. Innumerable streams gurgled beneath their shadows; innumerable lakes gleamed in the fiery sunsets; innumerable mountains bared their rocky foreheads to the wind. These wastes were ranged by her savage allies, Micmacs, Etechemins, Abenakis, Caughnawagas; and no enemy could steal upon her unawares. Through the midst of them stretched Lake Champlain, pointing straight to the heart of the British settlement,—a watery thoroughfare of mutual attack, and the only approach by which, without a long detour by wilderness or sea, a hostile army could come within striking distance of the colony. The French advanced post of Fort Frederic, called Crown Point by the English, barred the narrows of the lake, which thence spread northward to the portals of Canada guarded by Fort St. Jean. Southwestward, some fourteen hundred miles as a bird flies, and twice as far by the practicable routes of travel, was Louisiana, the second of the two heads of New France; while between lay the realms of solitude where the Mississippi rolled its sullen tide, and the Ohio wound its belt of silver through the verdant woodlands.
To whom belonged this world of prairies and forests? France claimed it by right of discovery and occupation. It was her explorers who, after De Soto, first set foot on it. The question of right, it is true, mattered little; for, right or wrong, neither claimant would yield her pretensions so long as she had strength to uphold them; yet one point is worth a moment's notice. The French had established an excellent system in the distribution of their American lands. Whoever received a grant from the Crown was required to improve it, and this within reasonable time. If he did not, the land ceased to be his, and was given to another more able or industrious. An international extension of her own principle would have destroyed the pretensions of France to all the countries of the West. She had called them hers for three fourths of a century, and they were still a howling waste, yielding nothing to civilization but beaver-skins, with here and there a fort, trading-post, or mission, and three or four puny hamlets by the Mississippi and the Detroit. We have seen how she might have made for herself an indisputable title, and peopled the solitudes with a host to maintain it. She would not; others were at hand who both would and could; and the late claimant, disinherited and forlorn, would soon be left to count the cost of her bigotry.
The thirteen British colonies were alike, insomuch as they all had representative governments, and a basis of English law. But the differences among them were great. Some were purely English; others were made up of various races, though the Anglo-Saxon was always predominant. Some had one prevailing religious creed; others had many creeds. Some had charters, and some had not. In most cases the governor was appointed by the Crown; in Pennsylvania and Maryland he was appointed by a feudal proprietor, and in Connecticut and Rhode Island he was chosen by the people. The differences of disposition and character were still greater than those of form.
The four northern colonies, known collectively as New England, were an exception to the general rule of diversity. The smallest, Rhode Island, had features all its own; but the rest were substantially one in nature and origin. The principal among them, Massachusetts, may serve as the type of all. It was a mosaic of little village republics, firmly cemented together, and formed into a single body politic through representatives sent to the "General Court" at Boston. Its government, originally theocratic, now tended to democracy, ballasted as yet by strong traditions of respect for established worth and ability, as well as by the influence of certain families prominent in affairs for generations. Yet there were no distinct class-lines, and popular power, like popular education, was widely diffused. Practically Massachusetts was almost independent of the mother-country. Its people were purely English, of sound yeoman stock, with an abundant leaven drawn from the best of the Puritan gentry; but their original character had been somewhat modified by changed conditions of life. A harsh and exacting creed, with its stiff formalism and its prohibition of wholesome recreation; excess in the pursuit of gain—the only resource left to energies robbed of their natural play; the struggle for existence on a hard and barren soil; and the isolation of a narrow village life,—joined to produce, in the meaner sort, qualities which were unpleasant, and sometimes repulsive. Puritanism was not an unmixed blessing. Its view of human nature was dark, and its attitude towards it one of repression. It strove to crush out not only what is evil, but much that is innocent and salutary. Human nature so treated will take its revenge, and for every vice that it loses find another instead. Nevertheless, while New England Puritanism bore its peculiar crop of faults, it produced also many good and sound fruits. An uncommon vigor, joined to the hardy virtues of a masculine race, marked the New England type. The sinews, it is true, were hardened at the expense of blood and flesh,—and this literally as well as figuratively; but the staple of character was a sturdy conscientiousness, an undespairing courage, patriotism, public spirit, sagacity, and a strong good sense. A great change, both for better and for worse, has since come over it, due largely to reaction against the unnatural rigors of the past. That mixture, which is now too common, of cool emotions with excitable brains, was then rarely seen. The New England colonies abounded in high examples of public and private virtue, though not always under the most prepossessing forms. They were conspicuous, moreover, for intellectual activity, and were by no means without intellectual eminence. Massachusetts had produced at least two men whose fame had crossed the sea,—Edwards, who out of the grim theology of Calvin mounted to sublime heights of mystical speculation; and Franklin, famous already by his discoveries in electricity. On the other hand, there were few genuine New Englanders who, however personally modest, could divest themselves of the notion that they belonged to a people in an especial manner the object of divine approval; and this self-righteousness, along with certain other traits, failed to commend the Puritan colonies to the favor of their fellows. Then, as now, New England was best known to her neighbors by her worst side.
In one point, however, she found general applause. She was regarded as the most military among the British colonies. This reputation was well founded, and is easily explained. More than all the rest, she lay open to attack. The long waving line of the New England border, with its lonely hamlets and scattered farms, extended from the Kennebec to beyond the Connecticut, and was everywhere vulnerable to the guns and tomahawks of the neighboring French and their savage allies. The colonies towards the south had thus far been safe from danger. New York alone was within striking distance of the Canadian war-parties. That province then consisted of a line of settlements up the Hudson and the Mohawk, and was little exposed to attack except at its northern end, which was guarded by the fortified town of Albany, with its outlying posts, and by the friendly and warlike Mohawks, whose "castles" were close at hand. Thus New England had borne the heaviest brunt of the preceding wars, not only by the forest, but also by the sea; for the French of Acadia and Cape Breton confronted her coast, and she was often at blows with them. Fighting had been a necessity with her, and she had met the emergency after a method extremely defective, but the best that circumstances would permit. Having no trained officers and no disciplined soldiers, and being too poor to maintain either, she borrowed her warriors from the workshop and the plough, and officered them with lawyers, merchants, mechanics, or farmers. To compare them with good regular troops would be folly; but they did, on the whole, better than could have been expected, and in the last war achieved the brilliant success of the capture of Louisburg. This exploit, due partly to native hardihood and partly to good luck, greatly enhanced the military repute of New England, or rather was one of the chief sources of it.
The great colony of Virginia stood in strong contrast to New England. In both the population was English; but the one was Puritan with Roundhead traditions, and the other, so far as concerned its governing class, Anglican with Cavalier traditions. In the one, every man, woman, and child could read and write; in the other, Sir William Berkeley once thanked God that there were no free schools, and no prospect of any for a century. The hope had found fruition. The lower classes of Virginia were as untaught as the warmest friend of popular ignorance could wish. New England had a native literature more than respectable under the circumstances, while Virginia had none; numerous industries, while Virginia was all agriculture, with but a single crop; a homogeneous society and a democratic spirit, while her rival was an aristocracy. Virginian society was distinctively stratified. On the lowest level were the negro slaves, nearly as numerous as all the rest together; next, the indented servants and the poor whites, of low origin, good-humored, but boisterous, and some times vicious; next, the small and despised class of tradesmen and mechanics; next, the farmers and lesser planters, who were mainly of good English stock, and who merged insensibly into the ruling class of the great landowners. It was these last who represented the colony and made the laws. They may be described as English country squires transplanted to a warm climate and turned slave-masters. They sustained their position by entails, and constantly undermined it by the reckless profusion which ruined them at last. Many of them were well born, with an immense pride of descent, increased by the habit of domination. Indolent and energetic by turns; rich in natural gifts and often poor in book-learning, though some, in the lack of good teaching at home, had been bred in the English universities; high-spirited, generous to a fault; keeping open house in their capacious mansions, among vast tobacco-fields and toiling negroes, and living in a rude pomp where the fashions of St. James were somewhat oddly grafted on the roughness of the plantation,—what they wanted in schooling was supplied by an education which books alone would have been impotent to give, the education which came with the possession and exercise of political power, and the sense of a position to maintain, joined to a bold spirit of independence and a patriotic attachment to the Old Dominion. They were few in number; they raced, gambled, drank, and swore; they did everything that in Puritan eyes was most reprehensible; and in the day of need they gave the United Colonies a body of statesmen and orators which had no equal on the continent. A vigorous aristocracy favors the growth of personal eminence, even in those who are not of it, but only near it.
The essential antagonism of Virginia and New England was afterwards to become, and to remain for a century, an element of the first influence in American history. Each might have learned much from the other; but neither did so till, at last, the strife of their contending principles shook the continent. Pennsylvania differed widely from both. She was a conglomerate of creeds and races,—English, Irish, Germans, Dutch, and Swedes; Quakers, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Romanists, Moravians, and a variety of nondescript sects. The Quakers prevailed in the eastern districts; quiet, industrious, virtuous, and serenely obstinate. The Germans were strongest towards the centre of the colony, and were chiefly peasants; successful farmers, but dull, ignorant, and superstitious. Towards the west were the Irish, of whom some were Celts, always quarrelling with their German neighbors, who detested them; but the greater part were Protestants of Scotch descent, from Ulster; a vigorous border population. Virginia and New England had each a strong distinctive character. Pennsylvania, with her heterogeneous population, had none but that which she owed to the sober neutral tints of Quaker existence. A more thriving colony there was not on the continent. Life, if monotonous, was smooth and contented. Trade and the arts grew. Philadelphia, next to Boston, was the largest town in British America; and was, moreover, the intellectual centre of the middle and southern colonies. Unfortunately, for her credit in the approaching war, the Quaker influence made Pennsylvania non-combatant. Politically, too, she was an anomaly; for, though utterly unfeudal in disposition and character, she was under feudal superiors in the persons of the representatives of William Penn, the original grantee.
New York had not as yet reached the relative prominence which her geographical position and inherent strength afterwards gave her. The English, joined to the Dutch, the original settlers, were the dominant population; but a half-score of other languages were spoken in the province, the chief among them being that of the Huguenot French in the southern parts, and that of the Germans on the Mohawk. In religion, the province was divided between the Anglican Church, with government support and popular dislike, and numerous dissenting sects, chiefly Lutherans, Independents, Presbyterians, and members of the Dutch Reformed Church. The little city of New York, like its great successor, was the most cosmopolitan place on the continent, and probably the gayest. It had, in abundance, balls, concerts, theatricals, and evening clubs, with plentiful dances and other amusements, for the poorer classes. Thither in the winter months came the great hereditary proprietors on the Hudson; for the old Dutch feudality still held its own, and the manors of Van Renselaer, Cortland, and Livingston, with their seigniorial privileges, and the great estates and numerous tenantry of the Schuylers and other leading families, formed the basis of an aristocracy, some of whose members had done good service to the province, and were destined to do more. Pennsylvania was feudal in form, and not in spirit; Virginia in spirit, and not in form; New England in neither; and New York largely in both. This social crystallization had, it is true, many opponents. In politics, as in religion, there were sharp antagonisms and frequent quarrels. They centred in the city; for in the well-stocked dwellings of the Dutch farmers along the Hudson there reigned a tranquil and prosperous routine; and the Dutch border town of Albany had not its like in America for unruffled conservatism and quaint picturesqueness.
Of the other colonies, the briefest mention will suffice: New Jersey, with its wholesome population of farmers; tobacco-growing Maryland, which, but for its proprietary government and numerous Roman Catholics, might pass for another Virginia, inferior in growth, and less decisive in features; Delaware, a modest appendage of Pennsylvania; wild and rude North Carolina; and, farther on, South Carolina and Georgia, too remote from the seat of war to take a noteworthy part in it. The attitude of these various colonies towards each other is hardly conceivable to an American of the present time. They had no political tie except a common allegiance to the British Crown. Communication between them was difficult and slow, by rough roads traced often through primeval forests. Between some of them there was less of sympathy than of jealousy kindled by conflicting interests or perpetual disputes concerning boundaries. The patriotism of the colonist was bounded by the lines of his government, except in the compact and kindred colonies of New England, which were socially united, through politically distinct. The country of the New Yorker was New York, and the country of the Virginian was Virginia. The New England colonies had once confederated; but, kindred as they were, they had long ago dropped apart. William Penn proposed a plan of colonial union wholly fruitless. James II. tried to unite all the northern colonies under one government; but the attempt came to naught. Each stood aloof, jealously independent. At rare intervals, under the pressure of an emergency, some of them would try to act in concert; and, except in New England, the results had been most discouraging. Nor was it this segregation only that unfitted them for war. They were all subject to popular legislatures, through whom alone money and men could be raised; and these elective bodies were sometimes factious and selfish, and not always either far-sighted or reasonable. Moreover, they were in a state of ceaseless friction with their governors, who represented the king, or, what was worse, the feudal proprietary. These disputes, though varying in intensity, were found everywhere except in the two small colonies which chose their own governors; and they were premonitions of the movement towards independence which ended in the war of Revolution. The occasion of difference mattered little. Active or latent, the quarrel was always present. In New York it turned on a question of the governor's salary; in Pennsylvania on the taxation of the proprietary estates; in Virginia on a fee exacted for the issue of land patents. It was sure to arise whenever some public crisis gave the representatives of the people an opportunity of extorting concessions from the representative of the Crown, or gave the representative of the Crown an opportunity to gain a point for prerogative. That is to say, the time when action was most needed was the time chosen for obstructing it.
In Canada there was no popular legislature to embarrass the central power. The people, like an army, obeyed the word of command,—a military advantage beyond all price.
Divided in government; divided in origin, feelings, and principles; jealous of each other, jealous of the Crown; the people at war with the executive, and, by the fermentation of internal politics, blinded to an outward danger that seemed remote and vague,—such were the conditions under which the British colonies drifted into a war that was to decide the fate of the continent.
This war was the strife of a united and concentred few against a divided and discordant many. It was the strife, too, of the past against the future; of the old against the new; of moral and intellectual torpor against moral and intellectual life; of barren absolutism against a liberty, crude, incoherent, and chaotic, yet full of prolific vitality.
Celeron de Bienville
When the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed, the Marquis de la Galissoniere ruled over Canada. Like all the later Canadian governors, he was a naval officer; and, a few years after, he made himself famous by a victory, near Minorca, over the English admiral Byng,—an achievement now remembered chiefly by the fate of the defeated commander, judicially murdered as the scapegoat of an imbecile ministry. Galissoniere was a humpback; but his deformed person was animated by a bold spirit and a strong and penetrating intellect. He was the chief representative of the American policy of France. He felt that, cost what it might, she must hold fast to Canada, and link her to Louisiana by chains of forts strong enough to hold back the British colonies, and cramp their growth by confinement within narrow limits; while French settlers, sent from the mother-country, should spread and multiply in the broad valleys of the interior. It is true, he said, that Canada and her dependencies have always been a burden; but they are necessary as a barrier against English ambition; and to abandon them is to abandon ourselves; for if we suffer our enemies to become masters in America, their trade and naval power will grow to vast proportions, and they will draw from their colonies a wealth that will make them preponderant in Europe.
[Footnote 2: La Galissoniere, Memoire sur les Colonies de la France dans l'Amerique septentrionale.]
The treaty had done nothing to settle the vexed question of boundaries between France and her rival. It had but staved off the inevitable conflict. Meanwhile, the English traders were crossing the mountains from Pennsylvania and Virginia, poaching on the domain which France claimed as hers, ruining the French fur-trade, seducing the Indian allies of Canada, and stirring them up against her. Worse still, English land speculators were beginning to follow. Something must be done, and that promptly, to drive back the intruders, and vindicate French rights in the valley of the Ohio. To this end the Governor sent Celoron de Bienville thither in the summer of 1749.
He was a chevalier de St. Louis and a captain in the colony troops. Under him went fourteen officers and cadets, twenty soldiers, a hundred and eighty Canadians, and a band of Indians, all in twenty-three birch-bark canoes. They left La Chine on the fifteenth of June, and pushed up the rapids of the St. Lawrence, losing a man and damaging several canoes on the way. Ten days brought them to the mouth of the Oswegatchie, where Ogdensburg now stands. Here they found a Sulpitian priest, Abbe Piquet, busy at building a fort, and lodging for the present under a shed of bark like an Indian. This enterprising father, ostensibly a missionary, was in reality a zealous political agent, bent on winning over the red allies of the English, retrieving French prestige, and restoring French trade. Thus far he had attracted but two Iroquois to his new establishment; and these he lent to Celoron.
Reaching Lake Ontario, the party stopped for a time at the French fort of Frontenac, but avoided the rival English post of Oswego, on the southern shore, where a trade in beaver skins, disastrous to French interests, was carried on, and whither many tribes, once faithful to Canada, now made resort. On the sixth of July Celoron reached Niagara. This, the most important pass of all the western wilderness, was guarded by a small fort of palisades on the point where the river joins the lake. Thence, the party carried their canoes over the portage road by the cataract, and launched them upon Lake Erie. On the fifteenth they landed on the lonely shore where the town of Portland now stands; and for the next seven days were busied in shouldering canoes and baggage up and down the steep hills, through the dense forest of beech, oak, ash, and elm, to the waters of Chautauqua Lake, eight or nine miles distant. Here they embarked again, steering southward over the sunny waters, in the stillness and solitude of the leafy hills, till they came to the outlet, and glided down the peaceful current in the shade of the tall forests that overarched it. This prosperity was short. The stream was low, in spite of heavy rains that had drenched them on the carrying place. Father Bonnecamp, chaplain of the expedition, wrote, in his Journal: "In some places—and they were but too frequent—the water was only two or three inches deep; and we were reduced to the sad necessity of dragging our canoes over the sharp pebbles, which, with all our care and precaution, stripped off large slivers of the bark. At last, tired and worn, and almost in despair of ever seeing La Belle Riviere, we entered it at noon of the 29th." The part of the Ohio, or "La Belle Riviere," which they had thus happily reached, is now called the Alleghany. The Great West lay outspread before them, a realm of wild and waste fertility.
French America had two heads,—one among the snows of Canada, and one among the canebrakes of Louisiana; one communicating with the world through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the other through the Gulf of Mexico. These vital points were feebly connected by a chain of military posts,—slender, and often interrupted,—circling through the wilderness nearly three thousand miles. Midway between Canada and Louisiana lay the valley of the Ohio. If the English should seize it, they would sever the chain of posts, and cut French America asunder. If the French held it, and entrenched themselves well along its eastern limits, they would shut their rivals between the Alleghanies and the sea, control all the tribes of the West, and turn them, in case of war, against the English borders,—a frightful and insupportable scourge.
The Indian population of the Ohio and its northern tributaries was relatively considerable. The upper or eastern half of the valley was occupied by mingled hordes of Delawares, Shawanoes, Wyandots, and Iroquois, or Indians of the Five Nations, who had migrated thither from their ancestral abodes within the present limits of the State of New York, and who were called Mingoes by the English traders. Along with them were a few wandering Abenakis, Nipissings, and Ottawas. Farther west, on the waters of the Miami, the Wabash, and other neighboring streams, was the seat of a confederacy formed of the various bands of the Miamis and their kindred or affiliated tribes. Still farther west, towards the Mississippi, were the remnants of the Illinois.
France had done but little to make good her claims to this grand domain. East of the Miami she had no military post whatever. Westward, on the Maumee, there was a small wooden fort, another on the St. Joseph, and two on the Wabash. On the meadows of the Mississippi, in the Illinois country, stood Fort Chartres,—a much stronger work, and one of the chief links of the chain that connected Quebec with New Orleans. Its four stone bastions were impregnable to musketry; and, here in the depths of the wilderness, there was no fear that cannon would be brought against it. It was the centre and citadel of a curious little forest settlement, the only vestige of civilization through all this region. At Kaskaskia, extended along the borders of the stream, were seventy or eighty French houses; thirty or forty at Cahokia, opposite the site of St. Louis; and a few more at the intervening hamlets of St. Philippe and Prairie a la Roche,—a picturesque but thriftless population, mixed with Indians, totally ignorant, busied partly with the fur-trade, and partly with the raising of corn for the market of New Orleans. They communicated with it by means of a sort of row galley, of eighteen or twenty oars, which made the voyage twice a year, and usually spent ten weeks on the return up the river.
[Footnote 3: Gordon, Journal, 1766, appended to Pownall, Topographical Description. In the Depot des Cartes de la Marine at Paris, C. 4,040, are two curious maps of the Illinois colony, made a little after the middle of the century. In 1753 the Marquis Duquesne denounced the colonists as debauched and lazy.]
The Pope and the Bourbons had claimed this wilderness for seventy years, and had done scarcely more for it than the Indians, its natural owners. Of the western tribes, even of those living at the French posts, the Hurons or Wyandots alone were Christian. The devoted zeal of the early missionaries and the politic efforts of their successors had failed alike. The savages of the Ohio and the Mississippi, instead of being tied to France by the mild bonds of the faith, were now in a state which the French called defection or revolt; that is, they received and welcomed the English traders.
[Footnote 4: "De toutes les nations domiciliees dans les postes des pays d'en haut, il n'y a que les hurons du detroit qui aient embrasse la Religion chretienne." Memoirs du Roy pour servir d'instruction au S'r. Marqius de Lajonquiere.]
These traders came in part from Virginia, but chiefly from Pennsylvania. Dinwiddie, governor of Virginia, says of them: "They appear to me to be in general a set of abandoned wretches;" and Hamilton, governor of Pennsylvania, replies: "I concur with you in opinion that they are a very licentious people. Indian traders, of whatever nation, are rarely models of virtue; and these, without doubt, were rough and lawless men, with abundant blackguardism and few scruples. Not all of them, however, are to be thus qualified. Some were of a better stamp; among whom were Christopher Gist, William Trent, and George Croghan. These and other chief traders hired men on the frontiers, crossed the Alleghanies with goods packed on the backs of horses, descended into the valley of the Ohio, and journeyed from stream to stream and village to village along the Indian trails, with which all this wilderness was seamed, and which the traders widened to make them practicable. More rarely, they carried their goods on horses to the upper waters of the Ohio, and embarked them in large wooden canoes, in which they descended the main river, and ascended such of its numerous tributaries as were navigable. They were bold and enterprising; and French writers, with alarm and indignation, declare that some of them had crossed the Mississippi and traded with the distant Osages. It is said that about three hundred of them came over the mountains every year.
[Footnote 5: Dinwiddie to Hamilton, 21 May, 1753. Hamilton to Dinwiddie,—May, 1753.]
On reaching the Alleghany, Celeron de Bienville entered upon the work assigned him, and began by taking possession of the country. The men were drawn up in order; Louis XV. was proclaimed lord of all that region, the arms of France, stamped on a sheet of tin, were nailed to a tree, a plate of lead was buried at its foot, and the notary of the expedition drew up a formal act of the whole proceeding. The leaden plate was inscribed as follows: "Year 1749, in the reign of Louis Fifteenth, King of France. We, Celeron, commanding the detachment sent by the Marquis de la Galissoniere, commander-general of New France, to restore tranquillity in certain villages of these cantons, have buried this plate at the confluence of the Ohio and the Kanaouagon [Conewango], this 29th July, as a token of renewal of possession heretofore taken of the aforesaid River Ohio, of all streams that fall into it, and all lands on both sides to the source of the aforesaid streams, as the preceding Kings of France have enjoyed or ought to have enjoyed it, and which they have upheld by force of arms and by treaties, notably by those of Ryswick, Utrecht, and Aix-la-Chapelle."
This done, the party proceeded on its way, moving downward with the current, and passing from time to time rough openings in the forest, with clusters of Indian wigwams, the inmates of which showed a strong inclination to run off at their approach. To prevent this, Chabert de Joncaire was sent in advance, as a messenger of peace. He was himself half Indian, being the son of a French officer and a Seneca squaw, speaking fluently his maternal tongue, and, like his father, holding an important place in all dealings between the French and the tribes who spoke dialects of the Iroquois. On this occasion his success was not complete. It needed all his art to prevent the alarmed savages from taking to the woods. Sometimes, however, Celoron succeeded in gaining an audience; and at a village of Senecas called La Paille Coupee he read them a message from La Galissoniere couched in terms sufficiently imperative: "My children, since I was at war with the English, I have learned that they have seduced you; and not content with corrupting your hearts, have taken advantage of my absence to invade lands which are not theirs, but mine; and therefore I have resolved to send you Monsieur de Celoron to tell you my intentions, which are that I will not endure the English on my land. Listen to me, children; mark well the word that I send you; follow my advice, and the sky will always be calm and clear over your villages. I expect from you an answer worthy of true children." And he urged them to stop all trade with the intruders, and send them back to whence they came. They promised compliance; "and," says the chaplain, Bonnecamp, "we should all have been satisfied if we had thought them sincere; but nobody doubted that fear had extorted their answer."
Four leagues below French Creek, by a rock scratched with Indian hieroglyphics, they buried another leaden plate. Three days after, they reached the Delaware village of Attique, at the site of Kittanning, whose twenty-two wigwams were all empty, the owners having fled. A little farther on, at an old abandoned village of Shawanoes, they found six English traders, whom they warned to begone, and return no more at their peril. Being helpless to resist, the traders pretended obedience; and Celoron charged them with a letter to the Governor of Pennsylvania, in which he declared that he was "greatly surprised" to find Englishmen trespassing on the domain of France. "I know," concluded the letter, "that our Commandant-General would be very sorry to be forced to use violence; but his orders are precise, to leave no foreign traders within the limits of his government."
[Footnote 6: Celoron, Journal. Compare the letter as translated in N.Y. Col. Docs., VI. 532; also Colonial Records of Pa., V. 325.]
On the next day they reached a village of Iroquois under a female chief, called Queen Alequippa by the English, to whom she was devoted. Both Queen and subjects had fled; but among the deserted wigwams were six more Englishmen, whom Celoron warned off like the others, and who, like them, pretended to obey. At a neighboring town they found only two withered ancients, male and female, whose united ages, in the judgment of the chaplain, were full two centuries. They passed the site of the future Pittsburg; and some seventeen miles below approached Chininguee, called Logstown by the English, one of the chief places on the river. Both English and French flags were flying over the town, and the inhabitants, lining the shore, greeted their visitors with a salute of musketry,—not wholly welcome, as the guns were charged will ball. Celoron threatened to fire on them if they did not cease. The French climbed the steep bank, and encamped on the plateau above, betwixt the forest and the village, which consisted of some fifty cabins and wigwams, grouped in picturesque squalor, and tenanted by a mixed population, chiefly of Delawares, Shawanoes, and Mingoes. Here, too, were gathered many fugitives from the deserted towns above. Celoron feared a night attack. The camp was encircled by a ring of sentries; the officers walked the rounds till morning; a part of the men were kept under arms, and the rest ordered to sleep in their clothes. Joncaire discovered through some women of his acquaintance that an attack was intended. Whatever the danger may have been, the precautions of the French averted it; and instead of a battle, there was a council. Celoron delivered to the assembled chiefs a message from the Governor more conciliatory than the former, "Through the love I bear you, my children, I send you Monsieur de Celoron to open your eyes to the designs of the English against your lands. The establishments they mean to make, and of which you are certainly ignorant, tend to your complete ruin. They hide from you their plans, which are to settle here and drive you away, if I let them. As a good father who tenderly loves his children, and though far away from them bears them always in his heart, I must warn you of the danger that threatens you. The English intend to rob you of your country; and that they may succeed, they begin by corrupting your minds. As they mean to seize the Ohio, which belongs to me, I send to warn them to retire."
[Footnote 7: There was another Chiningue, the Shenango of the English, on the Alleghany.]
The reply of the chiefs, though sufficiently humble, was not all that could be wished. They begged that the intruders might stay a little longer, since the goods they brought were necessary to them. It was in fact, these goods, cheap, excellent, and abundant as they were, which formed the only true bond between the English and the Western tribes. Logstown was one of the chief resorts of the English traders; and at this moment there were ten of them in the place. Celoron warned them off. "They agreed," says the chaplain, "to all that was demanded, well resolved, no doubt, to do the contrary as soon as our backs were turned."
Having distributed gifts among the Indians, the French proceeded on their way, and at or near the mouth of Wheeling Creek buried another plate of lead. They repeated the same ceremony at the mouth of the Muskingum. Here, half a century later, when this region belonged to the United States, a party of boys, bathing in the river, saw the plate protruding from the bank where the freshets had laid it bare, knocked it down with a long stick, melted half of it into bullets, and gave what remained to a neighbor from Marietta, who, hearing of this mysterious relic, inscribed in an unknown tongue, came to rescue it from their hands. It is now in the cabinet of the American Antiquarian Society. On the eighteenth of August, Celoron buried yet another plate, at the mouth of the Great Kenawha. This, too, in the course of a century, was unearthed by the floods, and was found in 1846 by a boy at play, by the edge of the water. The inscriptions on all these plates were much alike, with variations of date and place.