THE CONQUEST OF NEW FRANCE
A CHRONICLE OF THE COLONIAL WARS
By George M. Wrong
I. THE CONFLICT OPENS: FRONTENAC AND PHIPS II. QUEBEC AND BOSTON III. FRANCE LOSES ACADIA IV. LOUISBOURG AND BOSTON V. THE GREAT WEST VI. THE VALLEY OF THE OHIO VII. THE EXPULSION OF THE ACADIANS VIII. THE VICTORIES OF MONTCALM IX. MONTCALM AT QUEBEC X. THE STRATEGY OF PITT XI. THE FALL OF CANADA
THE CONQUEST OF NEW FRANCE
CHAPTER I. The Conflict Opens: Frontenac And Phips
Many centuries of European history had been marked by war almost ceaseless between France and England when these two states first confronted each other in America. The conflict for the New World was but the continuation of an age-long antagonism in the Old, intensified now by the savagery of the wilderness and by new dreams of empire. There was another potent cause of strife which had not existed in the earlier days. When, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the antagonists had fought through the interminable Hundred Years' War, they had been of the same religious faith. Since then, however, England had become Protestant, while France had remained Catholic. When the rivals first met on the shores of the New World, colonial America was still very young. It was in 1607 that the English occupied Virginia. At the same time the French were securing a foothold in Acadia, now Nova Scotia. Six years had barely passed when the English Captain Argall sailed to the north from Virginia and destroyed the rising French settlements. Sixteen years after this another English force attacked and captured Quebec. Presently these conquests were restored. France remained in possession of the St. Lawrence and in virtual possession of Acadia. The English colonies, holding a great stretch of the Atlantic seaboard, increased in number and power. New France also grew stronger. The steady hostility of the rivals never wavered. There was, indeed, little open warfare as long as the two Crowns remained at peace. From 1660 to 1688, the Stuart rulers of England remained subservient to their cousin the Bourbon King of France and at one with him in religious faith. But after the fall of the Stuarts France bitterly denounced the new King, William of Orange, as both a heretic and a usurper, and attacked the English in America with a savage fury unknown in Europe. From 1690 to 1760 the combatants fought with little more than pauses for renewed preparation; and the conflict ended only when France yielded to England the mastery of her empire in America. It is the story of this struggle, covering a period of seventy years, which is told in the following pages.
The career of Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, who was Governor of Canada from 1672 to 1682 and again from 1689 to his death in 1698, reveals both the merits and the defects of the colonizing genius of France. Frontenac was a man of noble birth whose life had been spent in court and camp. The story of his family, so far as it is known, is a story of attendance upon the royal house of France. His father and uncles had been playmates of the young Dauphin, afterwards Louis XIII. The thoughts familiar to Frontenac in his youth remained with him through life; and, when he went to rule at Quebec, the very spirit that dominated the court at Versailles crossed the sea with him.
A man is known by the things he loves. The things which Frontenac most highly cherished were marks of royal favor, the ceremony due to his own rank, the right to command. He was an egoist, supremely interested in himself. He was poor, but at his country seat in France, near Blois, he kept open house in the style of a great noble. Always he bore himself as one to whom much was due. His guests were expected to admire his indifferent horses as the finest to be seen, his gardens as the most beautiful, his clothes as of the most effective cut and finish, the plate on his table as of the best workmanship, and the food as having superior flavor. He scolded his equals as if they were naughty children.
Yet there was genius in this showy court figure. In 1669, when the Venetian Republic had asked France to lend her an efficient soldier to lead against the rampant Turk, the great Marshal Turenne had chosen Frontenac for the task. Crete, which Frontenac was to rescue, the Turk indeed had taken; but, it is said, at the fearful cost of a hundred and eighty thousand men. Three years later, Frontenac had been sent to Canada to war with the savage Iroquois and to hold in check the aggressive designs of the English. He had been recalled in 1682, after ten years of service, chiefly on account of his arbitrary temper. He had quarreled with the Bishop. He had bullied the Intendant until at one time that harried official had barricaded his house and armed his servants. He had told the Jesuit missionaries that they thought more of selling beaver-skins than of saving souls. He had insulted those about him, sulked, threatened, foamed at the mouth in rage, revealed a childish vanity in regard to his dignity, and a hunger insatiable for marks of honor from the King—"more grateful," he once said, "than anything else to a heart shaped after the right pattern."
France, however, now required at Quebec a man who could do the needed man's tasks. The real worth of Frontenac had been tested; and so, in 1689, when England had driven from her shores her Catholic king and, when France's colony across the sea seemed to be in grave danger from the Iroquois allies of the English, Frontenac was sent again to Quebec to subdue these savages and, if he could, to destroy in America the power of the age long enemy of his country.
Perched high above the St. Lawrence, on a noble site where now is a public terrace and a great hotel, stood the Chateau St. Louis, the scene of Frontenac's rule as head of the colony. No other spot in the world commanded such a highway linking the inland waters with the sea. The French had always an eye for points of strategic value; and in holding Quebec they hoped to possess the pivot on which the destinies of North America should turn. For a long time it seemed, indeed, as if this glowing vision might become a reality. The imperial ideas which were working at Quebec were based upon the substantial realities of trade. The instinct for business was hardly less strong in these keen adventurers than the instinct for empire. In promise of trade the interior of North America was rich. Today its vast agriculture and its wealth in minerals have brought rewards beyond the dreams of two hundred years ago. The wealth, however, sought by the leaders of that time came from furs. In those wastes of river, lake, and forest were the richest preserves in the world for fur-bearing animals.
This vast wilderness was not an unoccupied land. In those wild regions dwelt many savage tribes. Some of the natives were by no means without political capacity. On the contrary, they were long clever enough to pit English against French to their own advantage as the real sovereigns in North America. One of them, whose fluent oratory had won for him the name of Big Mouth, told the Governor of Canada, in 1688, that his people held their lands from the Great Spirit, that they yielded no lordship to either the English or the French, that they well understood the weakness of the French and were quite able to destroy them, but that they wished to be friends with both French and English who brought to them the advantages of trade. In sagacity of council and dignity of carriage some of these Indians so bore themselves that to trained observers they seemed not unequal to the diplomats of Europe. They were, however, weak before the superior knowledge of the white men. In all their long centuries in America they had learned nothing of the use of iron. Their sharpest tool had been made of chipped obsidian or of hammered copper. Their most potent weapons had been the stone hatchet or age and the bow and arrow. It thus happened that, when steel and gunpowder reached America, the natives soon came to despise their primitive implements. More and more they craved the supplies from Europe which multiplied in a hundred ways their strength in the conflict with nature and with man. To the Indian tribes trade with the French or English soon became a vital necessity. From the far northwest for a thousand miles to the bleak shores of Hudson Bay, from the banks of the Mississippi to the banks of the St. Lawrence and the Hudson, they came each year on laborious journeys, paddling their canoes and carrying them over portages, to barter furs for the things which they must have and which the white man alone could supply.
The Iroquois, the ablest and most resolute of the native tribes, held the lands bordering on Lake Ontario which commanded the approaches from both the Hudson and the St. Lawrence by the Great Lakes to the spacious regions of the West. The five tribes known as the Iroquois had shown marked political talent by forming themselves into a confederacy. From the time of Champlain, the founder of Quebec, there had been trouble between the French and the Iroquois. In spite of this bad beginning, the French had later done their best to make friends with the powerful confederacy. They had sent to them devoted missionaries, many of whom met the martyr's reward of torture and massacre. But the opposing influence of the English, with whom the Iroquois chiefly traded, proved too strong.
With the Iroquois hostile, it was too dangerous for the French to travel inland by way of Lake Ontario. They had, it is true, a shorter and, indeed, a better route farther north, by way of the Ottawa River and Lake Nipissing to Lake Huron. In time, however, the Iroquois made even this route unsafe. Their power was far-reaching and their ambition limitless. They aimed to be masters of North America. Like all virile but backward peoples, they believed themselves superior to every other race. Their orators declared that the fate of the world was to turn on their policy.
On Frontenac's return to Canada he had a stormy inheritance in confronting the Iroquois. They had real grievances against France. Devonvine, Frontenac's predecessor, had met their treachery by treachery of his own. Louis XIV had found that these lusty savages made excellent galley slaves and had ordered Denonville to secure a supply in Canada. In consequence the Frenchman seized even friendly Iroquois and sent them over seas to France. The savages in retaliation exacted a fearful vengeance in the butchery of French colonists. The bloodiest story in the annals of Canada is the massacre at Lachine, a village a few miles above Montreal. On the night of August 4, 1689, fourteen hundred Iroquois burst in on the village and a wild orgy of massacre followed. All Canada was in a panic. Some weeks later Frontenac arrived at Quebec and took command. To the old soldier, now in his seventieth year, his hard task was not uncongenial. He had fought the savage Iroquois before and the no less savage Turk. He belonged to that school of military action which knows no scruple in its methods, and he was prepared to make war with all the frightfulness practised by the savages themselves. His resolute, blustering demeanor was well fitted to impress the red men of the forest, for an imperious eye will sometimes cow an Indian as well as a lion, and Frontenac's mien was imperious. In his life in court and camp he had learned how to command.
The English in New York had professed to be brothers to the Iroquois and had called them by that name. This title of equality, however, Frontenac would not yield. Kings speak of "my people"; Frontenac spoke to the Indians not as his brothers but as his children and as children of the great King whom he served. He was their father, their protector, the disposer and controller of mighty reserves of power, who loved and cared for those putting their trust in him. He could unbend to play with their children and give presents to their squaws. At times he seemed patient, gentle, and forgiving. At times, too, he swaggered and boasted in terms which the event did not always justify.
La Potherie, a cultivated Frenchman in Canada during Frontenac's regime, describes an amazing scene at Montreal, which seems to show that, whether Frontenac recognized the title or not, he had qualities which made him the real brother of the savages. In 1690 Huron and other Indian allies of the French had come from the far interior to trade and also to consider the eternal question of checking the Iroquois. At the council, which began with grave decorum, a Huron orator begged the French to make no terms with the Iroquois. Frontenac answered in the high tone which he could so well assume. He would fight them until they should humbly crave peace; he would make with them no treaty except in concert with his Indian allies, whom he would never fail in fatherly care. To impress the council by the reality of his oneness with the Indians, Frontenac now seized a tomahawk and brandished it in the air shouting at the same time the Indian war-song. The whole assembly, French and Indians, joined in a wild orgy of war passion, and the old man of seventy, fresh from the court of Louis XIV, led in the war-dance, yelled with the Indians their savage war-whoops, danced round the circle of the council, and showed himself in spirit a brother of the wildest of them. This was good diplomacy. The savages swore to make war to the end under his lead. Many a frontier outrage, many a village attacked in the dead of night and burned, amidst bloody massacre of its few toil-worn settlers, was to be the result of that strange mingling of Europe with wild America.
Frontenac's task was to make war on the English and their Iroquois allies. He had before him the King's instructions as to the means for effecting this. The King aimed at nothing less than the conquest of the English colonies in America. In 1664 the English, by a sudden blow in time of peace, had captured New Netherland, the Dutch colony on the Hudson, which then became New York. Now, a quarter of a century later, France thought to strike a similar blow against the English, and Louis XIV was resolved that the conquest should be thoroughgoing. The Dutch power had fallen before a meager naval force. The English now would have to face one much more formidable. Two French ships were to cross the sea and to lie in wait near New York. Meanwhile from Canada, sixteen hundred armed men, a thousand of them French regular troops, were to advance by land into the heart of the colony, seize Albany and all the boats there available, and descend by the Hudson to New York. The warships, hovering off the coast, would then enter New York harbor at the same time that the land forces made their attack. The village, for it was hardly more than this, contained, as the French believed, only some two hundred houses and four hundred fighting men and it was thought that a month would suffice to complete this whole work of conquest. Once victors, the French were to show no pity. All private property, but that of Catholics, was to be confiscated. Catholics, whether English or Dutch, were to be left undisturbed if not too numerous and if they would take the oath of allegiance to Louis XIV and show some promise of keeping it. Rich Protestants were to be held for ransom. All the other inhabitants, except those whom the French might find useful for their own purposes, were to be driven out of the colony, homeless wanderers, to be scattered far so that they could not combine to recover what they had lost. With New York taken, New England would be so weakened that in time it too would fall. Such was the plan of conquest which came from the brilliant chambers at Versailles.
New York did not fall. The expedition so carefully planned came to nothing. Frontenac had never shown much faith in the enterprise. At Quebec, on his arrival in the autumn of 1689, he was planning something less ideally perfect, but certain to produce results. The scarred old courtier intended so to terrorize the English that they should make no aggressive advance, to encourage the French to believe themselves superior to their rivals, and, above all, to prove to the Indian tribes that prudence dictated alliance with the French and not with the English.
Frontenac wrote a tale of blood. There were three war parties; one set out from Montreal against New York, and one from Three Rivers and one from Quebec against the frontier settlements of New Hampshire and Maine. To describe one is to describe all. A band of one hundred and sixty Frenchmen, with nearly as many Indians, gathers at Montreal in mid-winter. The ground is deep with snow and they troop on snowshoes across the white wastes. Dragging on sleds the needed supplies, they march up the Richelieu River and over the frozen surface of Lake Champlain. As they advance with caution into the colony of New York they suffer terribly, now from bitter cold, now from thaws which make the soft trail almost impassable. On a February night their scouts tell them that they are near Schenectady, on the English frontier. There are young members of the Canadian noblesse in the party. In the dead of night they creep up to the paling which surrounds the village. The signal is given and the village is awakened by the terrible war-whoop. Doors are smashed by axes and hatchets, and women and children are killed as they lie in bed, or kneel, shrieking for mercy. Houses are set on fire and living human beings are thrown into the flames. By midday the assailants have finished their dread work and are retreating along the forest paths dragging with them a few miserable captives. In this winter of 1689-90 raiding parties also came back from the borders of New Hampshire and of Maine with news of similar exploits, and Quebec and Montreal glowed with the joy of victory.
Far away an answering attack was soon on foot. Sir William Phips of Massachusetts, the son of a poor settler on the Kennebec River, had made his first advance in life by taking up the trade of carpenter in Boston. Only when grown up had he learned to read and write. He married a rich wife, and ease of circumstances freed his mind for great designs. Some fifty years before he was thus relieved of material cares, a Spanish galleon carrying vast wealth had been wrecked in the West Indies. Phips now planned to raise the ship and get the money. For this enterprise he obtained support in England and set out on his exacting adventure. On the voyage his crew mutinied. Armed with cutlasses, they told Phips that he must turn pirate or perish; but he attacked the leader with his fists and triumphed by sheer strength of body and will. A second mutiny he also quelled, and then took his ship to Jamaica where he got rid of its worthless crew. His enterprise had apparently failed; but the second Duke of Albemarle and other powerful men believed in him and helped him to make another trial. This time he succeeded in finding the wreck on the coast of Hispaniola, and took possession of its cargo of precious metals and jewels—treasure to the value of three hundred thousand pounds sterling. Of the spoil Phips himself received sixteen thousand pounds, a great fortune for a New Englander in those days. He was also knighted for his services and, in the end, was named by William and Mary the first royal Governor of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts, whose people had been thoroughly aroused by the French incursions, resolved to retaliate by striking at the heart of Canada by sea and to take Quebec. Sir William Phips, though not yet made Governor, would lead the expedition. The first blow fell in Acadia. Phips sailed up the Bay of Fundy and on May 11, 1690, landed a force before Port Royal. The French Governor surrendered on terms. The conquest was intended to be final, and the people were offered their lives and property on the condition of taking, the oath to be loyal subjects of William and Mary. This many of them did and were left unmolested. It was a bloodless victory. But Phips, the Puritan crusader, was something of a pirate. He plundered private property and was himself accused of taking not merely the silver forks and spoons of the captive Governor but even his wigs, shirts, garters, and night caps. The Boston Puritans joyfully pillaged the church at Port Royal, and overturned the high altar and the images. The booty was considerable and by the end of May Phips, a prosperous hero, was back in Boston.
Boston was aflame with zeal to go on and conquer Canada. By the middle of August Phips had set out on the long sea voyage to Quebec, with twenty-two hundred men, a great force for a colonial enterprise of that time, and in all some forty ships. The voyage occupied more than two months. Apparently the hardy carpenter-sailor, able enough to carry through a difficult undertaking with a single ship, lacked the organizing skill to manage a great expedition. He performed, however, the feat of navigating safely with his fleet the treacherous waters of the lower St. Lawrence. On the morning of October 16, 1690, watchers at Quebec saw the fleet, concerning which they had already been warned, rounding the head of the Island of Orleans and sailing into the broad basin. Breathless spectators counted the ships. There were thirty-four in sight, a few large vessels, some mere fishing craft. It was a spectacle well calculated to excite and alarm the good people of Quebec. They might, however, take comfort in the knowledge that their great Frontenac was present to defend them. A few days earlier he had been in Montreal, but, when there had come the startling news of the approach of the enemy's ships, he had hurried down the river and had been received with shouts of joy by the anxious populace.
The situation was one well suited to Frontenac's genius for the dramatic. When a boat under a flag of truce put out from the English ships, Frontenac hurried four canoes to meet it. The English envoy was placed blindfold in one of these canoes and was paddled to the shore. Here two soldiers took him by the arms and led him over many obstacles up the steep ascent to the Chateau St. Louis. He could see nothing but could hear the beating of drums, the blowing of trumpets, the jeers and shouting of a great multitude in a town which seemed to be full of soldiers and to have its streets heavily barricaded. When the bandage was taken from his eyes he found himself in a great room of the Chateau. Before him stood Frontenac, in brilliant uniform, surrounded by the most glittering array of officers which Quebec could muster. The astonished envoy presented a letter from Phips. It was a curt demand in the name of King William of England for the unconditional surrender of all "forts and castles" in Canada, of Frontenac himself, and all his forces and supplies. On such conditions Phips would show mercy, as a Christian should. Frontenac must answer within an hour. When the letter had been read the envoy took a watch from his pocket and pointed out the time to Frontenac. It was ten o'clock. The reply must be given by eleven. Loud mutterings greeted the insulting message. One officer cried out that Phips was a pirate and that his messenger should be hanged. Frontenac knew well how to deal with such a situation. He threw the letter in the envoy's face and turned his back upon him. The unhappy man, who understood French, heard the Governor give orders that a gibbet should be erected on which he was to be hanged. When the Bishop and the Intendant pleaded for mercy, Frontenac seemed to yield. He would not take, he said, an hour to reply, but would answer at once. He knew no such person as King William. James, though in exile, was the true King of England and the good friend of the King of France. There would be no surrender to a pirate. After this outburst, the envoy asked if he might have the answer in writing. "No!" thundered Frontenac. "I will answer only from the mouths of my cannon and with my musketry!"
Phips could not take Quebec. In carrying out his plans, he was slow and dilatory. Nature aided his foe. The weather was bad, the waters before Quebec were difficult, and boats grounded unexpectedly in a falling tide. Phips landed a force on the north side of the basin at Beauport but was held in check by French and Indian skirmishing parties. He sailed his ships up close to Quebec and bombarded the stronghold, but then, as now, ships were impotent against well-served land defenses. Soon Phips was short of ammunition. A second time he made a landing in order to attack Quebec from the valley of the St. Charles but French regulars fought with militia and Indians to drive off his forces. Phips held a meeting with his officers for prayer. Heaven, however, denied success to his arms. If he could not take Quebec, it was time to be gone, for in the late autumn the dangers of the St. Lawrence are great. He lay before Quebec for just a week and on the 23d of October sailed away. It was late in November when his battered fleet began to straggle into Boston. The ways of God had not proved as simple as they had seemed to the Puritan faith, for the stronghold of Satan had not fallen before the attacks of the Lord's people. There were searchings of heart, recriminations, and financial distress in Boston.
For seven years more the war endured. Frontenac's victory over Phips at Quebec was not victory over the Iroquois or victory over the colony of New York. In 1691 this colony sent Peter Schuyler with a force against Canada by way of Lake Champlain. Schuyler penetrated almost to Montreal, gained some indecisive success, and caused much suffering to the unhappy Canadian settlers. Frontenac made his last great stroke in duly, 1696, when he led more than two thousand men through the primeval forest to destroy the villages of the Onondaga and the Oneida tribes of the Iroquois. On the journey from the south shore of Lake Ontario, the old man of seventy-five was unable to walk over the rough portages and fifty Indians shouting songs of joy carried his great canoe on their shoulders. When the soldiers left the canoes and marched forward to the fight, they bore Frontenac in an easy chair. He did not destroy his enemy, for many of the Indians fled, but he burned their chief village and taught them a new respect for the power of the French. It was the last great effort of the old warrior. In the next year, 1697, was concluded the Peace of Ryswick; and in 1698 Frontenac died in his seventy-ninth year, a hoary champion of France's imperial designs.
The Peace of Ryswick was an indecisive ending of an indecisive war. It was indeed one of those bad treaties which invite renewed war. The struggle had achieved little but to deepen the conviction of each side that it must make itself stronger for the next fight. Each gave back most of what it had gained. The peace, however, did not leave matters quite as they had been. The position of William was stronger than before, for France had treated with him and now recognized him as King of England. Moreover France, hitherto always victorious, with generals who had not known defeat, was really defeated when she could not longer advance.
CHAPTER II. Quebec And Boston
At the end of the seventeenth century it must have seemed a far cry from Versailles to Quebec. The ocean was crossed only by small sailing vessels haunted by both tempest and pestilence, the one likely to prolong the voyage by many weeks, the other to involve the sacrifice of scores of lives through scurvy and other maladies. Yet, remote as the colony seemed, Quebec was the child of Versailles, protected and nourished by Louis XIV and directed by him in its minutest affairs. The King spent laborious hours over papers relating to the cherished colony across the sea. He sent wise counsel to his officials in Canada and with tactful patience rebuked their faults. He did everything for the colonists—gave them not merely land, but muskets, farm implements, even chickens, pigs, and sometimes wives. The defect of his government was that it tended to be too paternal. The vital needs of a colony struggling with the problems of barbarism could hardly be read correctly and provided for at Versailles. Colonies, like men, are strong only when they learn to take care of themselves.
The English colonies present a vivid contrast. London did not direct and control Boston. In London the will, indeed, was not wanting, for the Stuart kings, Charles II and James H, were not less despotic in spirit than Louis XIV. But while in France there was a vast organism which moved only as the King willed, in England power was more widely distributed. It may be claimed with truth that English national liberties are a growth from the local freedom which has existed from time immemorial. When British colonists left the motherland to found a new society, their first instinct was to create institutions which involved local control. The solemn covenant by which in 1620 the worn company of the Mayflower, after a long and painful voyage, pledged themselves to create a self-governing society, was the inevitable expression of the English political spirit. Do what it would, London could never control Boston as Versailles controlled Quebec.
The English colonist kept his eyes fixed on his own fortunes. From the state he expected little; from himself, everything. He had no great sense of unity with neighboring colonists under the same crown. Only when he realized some peril to his interests, some menace which would master him if he did not fight, was he stirred to warlike energy. French leaders, on the other hand, were thinking of world politics. The voyage of Verrazano, the Italian sailor who had been sent out by Francis I of France in 1524, and who had sailed along a great stretch of the Atlantic coast, was deemed by Frenchmen a sufficient title to the whole of North America. They flouted England's claim based upon the voyages of the Cabots nearly thirty years earlier. Spain, indeed, might claim Florida, but the English had no real right to any footing in the New World. As late as in 1720, when the fortunes of France were already on the wane in the New World, Father Bobe, a priest of the Congregation of Missions, presented to the French court a document which sets forth in uncompromising terms the rights of France to all the land between the thirtieth and the fiftieth parallels of latitude. True, he says, others occupy much of this territory, but France must drive out intruders and in particular the English. Boston rightly belongs to France and so also do New York and Philadelphia. The only regions to which England has any just claim are Acadia, Newfoundland, and Hudson Bay, ceded by France under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. This weak cession all true Frenchmen regret and England must hand the territories back. She owes France compensation for her long occupation of lands not really hers. If she makes immediate restitution, the King of France, generous and kind, will forego some of his rights and allow England to retain a strip some fifty miles wide extending from Maine to Florida. France has the right to the whole of the interior. In the mind of the reverend memorialist, no doubt, there was the conviction that England would soon lose the meager strip, fifty miles wide, which France might yield.
These dreams of power had a certain substance. It seems to us now that, from the first, the French were dreaming of the impossible. We know what has happened, and after the event it is an easy task to measure political forces. The ambitions of France were not, however, empty fancies. More than once she has seemed on the point of mastering the nations of the West. Just before the year 1690 she had a great opportunity. In England, in 1660, the fall of the system created by Oliver Cromwell brought back to the English throne the House of Stuart, for centuries the ally and usually the pupil of France. Stuart kings of Scotland, allied with France, had fought the Tudor kings of England. Stuarts in misfortune had been the pensioners of France. Charles II, a Stuart, alien in religion to the convictions of his people, looked to Catholic France to give him security on his throne. Before the first half of the reign of Louis XIV had ended, it was the boast of the French that the King of England was vassal to their King, that the states of continental Europe had become mere pawns in the game of their Grand Monarch, and that France could be master of as much of the world as was really worth mastering. In 1679 the Canadian Intendant, Duchesneau, writing from Quebec to complain of the despotic conduct of the Governor, Frontenac, paid a tribute to "the King our master, of whom the whole world stands in awe, who has just given law to all Europe."
To men thus obsessed by the greatness of their own ruler it seemed no impossible task to overthrow a few English colonies in America of whose King their own was the patron and the paymaster. The world of high politics has never been conspicuous for its knowledge of human nature. A strong blow from a strong arm would, it was believed both at Versailles and Quebec, shatter forever a weak rival and give France the prize of North America. Officers in Canada talked loftily of the ease with which France might master all the English colonies. The Canadians, it was said, were a brave and warlike people, trained to endure hardship, while the English colonists were undisciplined, ignorant of war, and cowardly. The link between them and the motherland, said these observers, could be easily broken, for the colonies were longing to be free. There is no doubt that France could put into the field armies vastly greater than those of England. Had the French been able to cross the Channel, march on London and destroy English power at its root, the story of civilization in a great part of North America might well have been different, and we should perhaps find now on the banks of the Hudson what we find on the banks of the St. Lawrence—villages dominated by great churches and convents, with inhabitants Catholic to a man, speaking the language and preserving the traditions of France. The strip of inviolate sea between Calais and Dover made impossible, however, an assault on London. Sea power kept secure not only England but English effort in America and in the end defeated France.
England had defenses other than her great strength on the sea. In spite of the docility towards France shown by the English King, Charles II, himself half French in blood and at heart devoted to the triumph of the Catholic faith, the English people would tolerate no policies likely to make England subservient to France. This was forbidden by age-long tradition. The struggle had become one of religion as well as of race. A fight for a century and a half with the Roman Catholic Church had made England sternly, fanatically Protestant. In their suspicion of the system which France accepted, Englishmen had sent a king to the scaffold, had overthrown the monarchy, and had created a military republic. This republic, indeed, had fallen, but the distrust of the aims of the Roman Catholic Church remained intense and burst into passionate fury the moment an understanding of the aims of France gained currency.
There are indeed few passages in English history less creditable than the panic fear of Roman Catholic plots which swept the country in the days when Frontenac at Quebec was working to destroy English and Protestant influence in America. In 1678, Titus Oates, a clergyman of the Church of England who had turned Roman Catholic, declared that, while in the secrets of his new church, he had found on foot a plot to restore Roman Catholic dominance in England by means of the murder of Charles II and of any other crimes necessary for that purpose. Oates said that he had left the Church and returned to his former faith because of the terrible character of the conspiracy which he had discovered. His story was not even plausible; he was known to be a man of vicious life; moreover, Catholic plotters would hardly murder a king who was at heart devoted to Catholic policy. England, however, was in a nervous state of mind; Charles II was known to be intriguing with France; and a cruel fury surged through the nation. For a share in the supposed plots, a score of people, among them one of the great nobles of England, the venerable and innocent Earl of Stafford, were condemned to death and executed. Whatever Charles II himself might have thought, he was obliged for his own safety to acquiesce in the policy of persecution.
Catholic France was not less malignant than Protestant England. Though cruel severity had long been shown to Protestants, they seemed to be secure under the law of France in certain limited rights and in a restricted toleration. In 1685, however, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes by which Henry IV a century earlier had guaranteed this toleration. All over France there had already burst out terrible persecution, and the act of Louis XIV brought a fiery climax. Unhappy heretics who would not accept Roman Catholic doctrine found life intolerable. Tens of thousands escaped from France in spite of a law which, though it exiled the Protestant ministers, forbade other Protestants to leave the country. Stories of plots were made the excuse to seize the property of Protestants. Regiments of soldiers, charged with the task, could boast of many enforced "conversions." Quartered on Protestant households, they made the life of the inmates a burden until they abandoned their religion. Among the means used were torture before a slow fire, the tearing off of the finger nails, the driving of the whole families naked into the streets and the forbidding of any one to give them shelter, the violation of women, and the crowding of the heretics in loathsome prisons. By such means it took a regiment of soldiers in Rouen only a few days to "convert" to the old faith some six hundred families. Protestant ministers caught in France were sent to the galleys for life. The persecutions which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes outdid even Titus Oates.
Charles II died in 1685 and the scene at his deathbed encouraged in England suspicions of Catholic policy and in France hope that this policy was near its climax of success. Though indolent and dissolute, Charles yet possessed striking mental capacity and insight. He knew well that to preserve his throne he must remain outwardly a Protestant and must also respect the liberties of the English nation. He cherished, however, the Roman Catholic faith and the despotic ideals of his Bourbon mother. On his deathbed he avowed his real belief. With great precautions for secrecy, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and comforted with the consolations which it offers to the dying. While this secret was suspected by the English people, one further fact was perfectly clear. Their new King, James II, was a zealous Roman Catholic, who would use all his influence to bring England back to the Roman communion. Suspicion of the King's designs soon became certainty and, after four years of bitter conflict with James, the inevitable happened. The Roman Catholic Stuart King was driven from his throne and his daughter Mary and her Protestant husband, William of Orange, became the sovereigns of England by choice of the English Parliament. Again had the struggle between Roman Catholic and Protestant brought revolution in England, and the politics of Europe dominated America. The revolution in London was followed by revolution in Boston and New York. The authority of James II was repudiated. His chief agent in New England, Sir Edmund Andros, was seized and imprisoned, and William and Mary reigned over the English colonies in America as they reigned over the motherland.
To the loyal Catholics of France the English, who had driven out a Catholic king and dethroned an ancient line, were guilty of the double sin of heresy and of treason. To the Jesuit enthusiast in Canada not only were they infidel devils in human shape upon whose plans must rest the curse of God; they were also rebels, republican successors of the accursed Cromwell, who had sent an anointed king to the block. It would be a holy thing to destroy this lawless power which ruled from London. The Puritans of Boston were, in turn, not less convinced that theirs was the cause of God, and that Satan, enthroned in the French dominance at Quebec, must soon fall. The smaller the pit the fiercer the rats. Passions raged in the petty colonial capitals more bitterly than even in London and Paris. This intensity of religious differences embittered the struggle for the mastery of the new continent.
The English colonies had twenty white men to one in Canada. Yet Canada was long able to wage war on something like equal terms. She had the supreme advantage of a single control. There was no trouble at Quebec about getting a reluctant legislature to vote money for war purposes. No semblance of an elected legislature existed and the money for war came not from the Canadians, but from the capacious, if now usually depleted, coffers of the French court at Versailles. In the English colonies the legislatures preferred, of all political struggles, one about money with the Governor, the representative of the King. At least one of the English colonies, Pennsylvania, believing that evil is best conquered by non-resistance, was resolutely against war for any reason, good or bad. Other colonies often raised the more sordid objection that they were too poor to help in war. The colonial legislatures, indeed, with their eternal demand for the privileges and rights which the British House of Commons had won in the long centuries of its history, constitute the most striking of all the contrasts with Canada. In them were always the sparks of an independent temper. The English diarist, Evelyn, wrote, in 1671, that New England was in "a peevish and touchy humour." Colonists who go out to found a new state will always demand rights like those which they have enjoyed at home. It was unthinkable that men of Boston, who, themselves, or whose party in England, had fought against a despotic king, had sent him to the block and driven his son from the throne, would be content with anything short of controlling the taxes which they paid, making the laws which they obeyed, and carrying on their affairs in their own way. When obliged to accept a governor from England, they were resolved as far as possible to remain his paymaster. In a majority of the colonies they insisted that the salary of the Governor should be voted each year by their representatives, in order that they might be able always to use against him the cogent logic of financial need. On questions of this kind Quebec had nothing to say. To the King in France and to him alone went all demands for pay and honors. If, in such things, the people of Canada had no remote voice, they were still as well off as Frenchmen in France. New England was a copy of Old England and New France a copy of Old France. There was, as yet, no "peevish and touchy humour" at either Quebec or Versailles in respect to political rights.
Canada, in spite of its scanty population, was better equipped for war than was any of the English colonies. The French were largely explorers and hunters, familiar with hardship and danger and led by men with a love of adventure. The English, on the other hand, were chiefly traders and farmers who disliked and dreaded the horrors of war. There was not to be found in all the English colonies a family of the type of the Canadian family of Le Moyne. Charles Le Moyne, of Montreal, a member of the Canadian noblesse, had ten sons, every one of whom showed the spirit and capacity of the adventurous soldier. They all served in the time of Frontenac. The most famous of them, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, shines in varied roles. He was a frontier leader who made his name a terror in the English settlements; a sailor who seized and ravaged the English settlements in Newfoundland, who led a French squadron to the remote and chill waters of Hudson Bay, and captured there the English strongholds of the fur trade; and a leader in the more peaceful task of founding, at the mouth of the Mississippi, the colony of Louisiana. Canada had the advantage over the English colonies in bold pioneers of this type.
Canada was never doubtful of the English peril or divided in the desire to destroy it. Nearly always, a soldier or a naval officer ruled in the Chateau St. Louis, at Quebec, with eyes alert to see and arms ready to avert military danger. England sometimes sent to her colonies in America governors who were disreputable and inefficient, needy hangers-on, too well-known at home to make it wise there to give them office, but thought good enough for the colonies. It would not have been easy to find a governor less fitted to maintain the dignity and culture of high office than Sir William Phips, Governor of Massachusetts in the time of Frontenac. Phips, however, though a rough brawler, was reasonably efficient, but Lord Cornbury, who became Earl of Clarendon, owed his appointment as Governor of New Jersey and New York in 1701, only to his necessities and to the desire of his powerful connections to provide for him. Queen Anne was his cousin. He was a profligate, feeble in mind but arrogant in spirit, with no burden of honesty and a great burden of debt, and he made no change in his scandalous mode of life when he represented his sovereign at New York. There were other governors only slightly better. Canada had none as bad. Her viceroys as a rule kept up the dignity of their office and respected the decencies of life. In English colonies, governors eked out their incomes by charging heavy fees for official acts and any one who refused to pay such fees was not likely to secure attention to his business. In Canada the population was too scanty and the opportunity too limited to furnish happy hunting-grounds of this kind. The governors, however, badly paid as they were, must live, and, in the case of a man like Frontenac, repair fortunes shattered at court. To do so they were likely to have some concealed interest in the fur trade. This was forbidden by the court but was almost a universal practice. Some of the governors carried trading to great lengths and aroused the bitter hostility of rival trading interests. The fur trade was easily controlled as a government monopoly and it was unfair that a needy governor should share its profits. But, after all, such a quarrel was only between rival monopolists. Better a trading governor than one who plundered the people or who by drunken profligacy discredited his office.
While all Canada was devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, the diversity of religious beliefs in the English colonies was a marked feature of social life. In Virginia, by law of the colony, the Church of England was the established Church. In Massachusetts, founded by stern Puritans, the public services of the Church of England were long prohibited. In Pennsylvania there was dominant the sect derisively called "Quakers," who would have no ecclesiastical organization and believed that religion was purely a matter for the individual soul. Boston jeered at the superstitions of Quebec, such as the belief of the missionaries that a drop of water, with the murmured words of baptism, transformed a dying Indian child from an outcast savage into an angel of light. Quebec might, however, deride Boston with equal justice. Sir William Phips believed that malignant and invisible devils had made a special invasion of Massachusetts, dragging people from their houses, pushing them into fire and water, and carrying them through the air for miles over trees and hills. These devils, it was thought, took visible form, of which the favorite was that of a black cat. Witches were thought to be able to pass through keyholes and to exercise charms which would destroy their victims. While Phips and Frontenac were struggling for the mastery of Canada, a fever of excitement ran through New England about these perils of witchcraft. When, in 1692, Phips became Governor of Massachusetts, he named a special court to try accused persons. The court considered hundreds of cases and condemned and hanged nineteen persons for wholly imaginary crimes. Whatever the faults of the rule of the priests at Quebec, they never equaled this in brutality or surpassed it in blind superstition. In New England we find bitter religious persecution. In Canada there was none: the door was completely closed to Protestants and the family within were all of one mind. There was no one to persecute.
The old contrast between French and English ideals still endures. At Quebec there was an early zeal for education. In 1638, the year in which Harvard College was organized, a college and a school for training the French youth and the natives were founded at Quebec. In the next year the Ursuline nuns established at Quebec the convent which through all the intervening years has continued its important work of educating girls. In zeal for education Quebec was therefore not behind Boston. But the spirit was different. Quebec believed that safety lay in control by the Church, and this control it still maintains. Massachusetts came in time to believe that safety lay in freeing education from any spiritual authority. Today Laval University at Quebec and Harvard University at Cambridge represent the outcome of these differing modes of thought. Other forces were working to produce essentially different types. The printing-press Quebec did not know; and, down to the final overthrow of the French power in 1763, no newspaper or book was issued in Canada. Massachusetts, on the other hand, had a printing-press as early as in 1638 and soon books were being printed in the colony. Of course, in the spirit of the time, there was a strict censorship. But, by 1722, this had come to an end, and after that the newspaper, unknown in Canada, was busy and free in its task of helping to mold the thought of the English colonies in America.
CHAPTER III. France Loses Acadia
The Peace of Ryswick in 1697 had settled nothing finally. France was still strong enough to aim at the mastery of Europe and America. England was torn by internal faction and would not prepare to face her menacing enemy. Always the English have disliked a great standing army. Now, despite the entreaties of a king who knew the real danger, they reduced the army to the pitiable number of seven thousand men. Louis XIV grew ever more confident. In 1700 he was able to put his own grandson on the throne of Spain and to dominate Europe from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Netherlands. Another event showing his resolve soon startled the world. In 1701 died James II, the dethroned King of England, and Louis went out of his way to insult the English people. William III was King by the will of Parliament. Louis had recognized him as such. Yet, on the death of James, Louis declared that James's son was now the true King of England. This impudent defiance meant, and Louis intended that it should mean, renewed war. England had invited it by making her forces weak. William III died in 1702 and the war went on under his successor, Queen Anne.
Thus it happened that once more war-parties began to prowl on the Canadian frontier, and women and children in remote clearings in the forest shivered at the prospect of the savage scourge. The English colonies suffered terribly. Everywhere France was aggressive. The warlike Iroquois were now so alarmed by the French menace that, to secure protection, they ceded their territory to Queen Anne and became British subjects, a humiliating step indeed for a people who had once thought themselves the most important in all the world. By 1703 the butchery on the frontier was in full operation. The Jesuit historian Charlevoix, with complacent exaggeration, says that in that year alone three hundred men were killed on the New England frontier by the Abenaki Indians incited by the French. The numbers slain were in fact fewer and the slain were not always men but sometimes old women and young babies. The policy of France was to make the war so ruthless that a gulf of hatred should keep their Indian allies from ever making friends and resuming trade with the English, whose hatchets, blankets, and other supplies were, as the French well knew, better and cheaper than their own. The French hoped to seize Boston, to destroy its industries and sink its ships, then to advance beyond Boston and deal out to other places the same fate. The rivalry of New England was to be ended by making that region a desert.
The first fury of the war raged on the frontier of Maine, which was an outpost of Massachusetts. On an August day in 1703 the people of the rugged little settlement of Wells were at their usual tasks when they heard gunshots and war-whoops. Indians had crept up to attack the place. They set the village on fire and killed or carried off some twoscore prisoners, chiefly women and children. The village of Deerfield, on the northwestern frontier of Massachusetts, consisted of a wooden meeting-house and a number of rough cabins which lodged the two or three hundred inhabitants. On a February night in 1704 savages led by a young member of the Canadian noblesse, Hertel de Rouville, approached the village silently on snowshoes, waited on the outskirts during the dead of night, and then just before dawn burst in upon the sleeping people. The work was done quickly. Within an hour after dawn the place had been plundered and set on fire, forty or fifty dead bodies of men and women and children lay in the village, and a hundred and eleven miserable prisoners were following their captors on snowshoes through the forest, each prisoner well knowing that to fall by the way meant to have his head split by a tomahawk and the scalp torn off. When on the first night one of them slipped away, Rouville told the others that, should a further escape occur, he would burn alive all those remaining in his hands. The minister of the church at Deerfield, the Reverend John Williams, was a captive, together with his wife and five children. The wife, falling by the way, was killed by a stroke of a tomahawk and the body was left lying on the snow. The children were taken from their father and scattered among different bands. After a tramp of two hundred miles through the wilderness to the outlying Canadian settlements, the minister in the end reached Quebec. Every effort was made, even by his Indian guard, to make him accept the Roman Catholic faith, but the stern Puritan was obdurate. His daughter, Eunice, on the other hand, caught young, became a Catholic so devoted that later she would not return to New England lest the contact with Protestants should injure her faith. She married a Caughnawaga Indian and became to all outward appearance a squaw. Williams himself lived to resume his career in New England and to write the story of the raid at Deerfield.
It may be that there were men in New England and New York capable of similar barbarities. It is true that the savage allies of the English, when at their worst, knew no restraint. There is nothing in the French raids on a scale as great as that of the murderous raid by the Iroquois on the French village of Lachine. But the Puritans of New England, while they were ready to hew down savages, did not like and rarely took part in the massacre of Europeans.
As the outrages went on year after year the temper of New England towards the savages grew more ruthless. The General Court, the Legislature of Massachusetts, offered forty pounds for every Indian scalp brought in. Indians, like wolves, were vermin to be destroyed. The anger of New England was further kindled by what was happening on the sea. Privateers from Port Royal, in Acadia, attacked New England commerce and New England fishermen and made unsafe the approaches to Boston. This was to touch a commercial community on its most tender spot; and a deep resolve was formed that Canada should be conquered and the menace ended once for all.
It was only an occasional spirit in Massachusetts who made comprehensive political plans. One of these was Samuel Vetch, a man somewhat different from the usual type of New England leader, for he was not of English but of Scottish origin, of the Covenanter strain. Vetch, himself an adventurous trader, had taken a leading part in the ill-fated Scottish attempt to found on the Isthmus of Panama a colony, which, in easy touch with both the Pacific and the Atlantic, should carry on a gigantic commerce between the East and the West. The colony failed, chiefly, perhaps, because Spain would not have this intrusion into territory which she claimed. Tropical disease and the disunion and incompetence of the colonists themselves were Spain's allies in the destruction. After this, Vetch had found his way to Boston, where he soon became prominent. In 1707 Scotland and England were united under one Parliament, and the active mind of Vetch was occupied with something greater than a Scottish colony at Panama. Queen Anne, Vetch was resolved, should be "Sole Empress of the vast North American Continent." Massachusetts was ready for just such a cry. The General Court took up eagerly the plan of Vetch. The scheme required help from England and the other colonies. To England Vetch went in 1708. Marlborough had just won the great victory of Oudenarde. It was good, the English ministry thought, to hit France wherever she raised her head. In the spring of 1709 Vetch returned to Boston with promises of powerful help at once for an attack on Canada, and with the further promise that, the victory won, he himself should be the first British Governor of Canada. New York was to help with nine hundred men. Other remoter colonies were to aid on a smaller scale. These contingents were to attack Canada by way of Lake Champlain. Twelve hundred men from New England were to join the regulars from England and go against Quebec by way of the sea and master Canada once for all.
The plan was similar to the one which Amherst and Wolfe carried to success exactly fifty years later, and with a Wolfe in command it might now have succeeded. The troops from England were to be at Boston before the end of May, 1709. The colonial forces gathered. New Jersey and Pennsylvania refused, indeed, to send any soldiers; but New York and the other colonies concerned did their full share. By the early summer Colonel Francis Nicholson, with some fifteen hundred men, lay fully equipped in camp on Wood Creek near Lake Champlain, ready to descend on Montreal as soon as news came of the arrival of the British fleet at Boston for the attack on Quebec. On the shores of Boston harbor lay another colonial army, large for the time—the levies from New England which were to sail to Quebec. Officers had come out from England to drill these hardy men, and as soldiers they were giving a good account of themselves. They watched, fasted, and prayed, and watched again for the fleet from England. Summer came and then autumn and still the fleet did not arrive. Far away, in the crowded camp on Wood Creek, pestilence broke out and as time wore on this army slowly melted away either by death or withdrawal. At last, on October 11, 1709, word came from the British ministry, dated the 27th of July, two months after the promised fleet was to arrive at Boston, that it had been sent instead to Portugal.
In spite of this disappointment the resolution endured to conquer Canada. New York joined New England in sending deputations to London to ask again for help. Four Mohawk chiefs went with Peter Schuyler from New York and were the wonder of the day in London. It is something to have a plan talked about. Malplaquet, the last of Marlborough's great victories, had been won in the autumn of 1709 and the thought of a new enterprise was popular. Nicholson, who had been sent from Boston, urged that the first step should be to take Port Royal. What the colonies required for this expedition was the aid of four frigates and five hundred soldiers who should reach Boston by March.
The help arrived, though not in March but in July, 1710. Boston was filled with enthusiasm for the enterprise. The legislature made military service compulsory, quartered soldiers in private houses without consent of the owners, impressed sailors, and altogether was quite arbitrary and high-handed. The people, however, would bear almost anything if only they could crush Port Royal, the den of privateers who seized many New England vessels. On the 18th of September, to the great joy of Boston, the frigates and the transports sailed away, with Nicholson in command of the troops and Vetch as adjutant-general.
What we know today as Digby Basin on the east side of the Bay of Fundy, is a great harbor, landlocked but for a narrow entrance about a mile wide. Through this "gut," as it is called, the tide rushes in a torrential and dangerous stream, but soon loses its violence in the spacious and quiet harbor. Here the French had made their first enduring colony in America. On the shores of the beautiful basin the fleurs-de-lis had been raised over a French fort as early as 1605. A lovely valley opens from the head of the basin to the interior. It is now known as the Annapolis Valley, a fertile region dotted by the homesteads of a happy and contented people. These people, however, are not French in race nor do they live under a French Government. When on the 24th of September, 1710, the fleet from Boston entered the basin, and in doing so lost a ship and more than a score of men through the destructive current, the decisive moment had come for all that region. Fate had decreed that the land should not remain French but should become English.
Port Royal was at that time a typical French community of the New World. The village consisted of some poor houses made of logs or planks, a wooden church, and, lying apart, a fort defended by earthworks. The Governor, Subercase, was a brave French officer. He ruled the little community with a despotism tempered only by indignant protests to the King from those whom he ruled when his views and theirs did not coincide. The peasants in the village counted for nothing. Connected with the small garrison there were ladies and gentlemen who had no light opinion of their own importance and were so peppery that Subercase wished he had a madhouse in which to confine some of them. He thought well of the country. It produced, he said, everything that France produced except olives. The fertile land promised abundance of grain and there was an inexhaustible supply of timber. There were many excellent harbors. Had he a million livres, he would, he said, invest it gladly in the country and be certain of a good return. His enthusiasm had produced, however, no answering enthusiasm at Versailles, for there the interests of Port Royal were miserably neglected. Yet it was a thorn in the flesh of the English. In 1708 privateers from Port Royal had destroyed no less than thirty-five English vessels, chiefly from Boston, and had carried to the fort four hundred and seventy prisoners. Even in winter months French ships would flit out of Port Royal and bring in richly laden prizes. Can we wonder at Boston's deep resolve that now at last the pest should end!
It was an imposing force which sailed into the basin. The four frigates and thirty transports carried an army far greater than Subercase had thought possible. The English landed some fourteen hundred men. Subercase had less than three hundred. Within a few days, when the English began to throw shells into the town, he asked for terms. On the 16th of October the little garrison, neglected by France and left ragged and half-starved, marched out with drums beating and colors flying. The English, drawn up before the gate, showed the usual honors to a brave foe. The French flag was hauled down and in its place floated that of Britain. Port Royal was renamed Annapolis and Vetch was made its Governor. Three times before had the English come to Port Royal as conquerors and then gone away, but now they were to remain. Ever since that October day, when autumn was coloring the abundant foliage of the lovely harbor, the British flag has waved over Annapolis. Because the flag waved there it was destined to wave over all Acadia, or Nova Scotia, and with Acadia in time went Canada.
A partial victory, however, such as the taking of Port Royal, was not enough for the aroused spirit of the English. They and their allies had beaten Louis XIV on the battlefields of Europe and had so worn out France that clouds and darkness were about the last days of the Grand Monarch now nearing his end. In America his agents were still drawing up papers outlining grandiose designs for mastering the continent and for proving that England's empire was near its fall, but Europe knew that France in the long war had been beaten. The right way to smite France in America was to rely upon England's naval power, to master the great highway of the St. Lawrence, to isolate Canada, and to strangle one by one the French settlements, beginning with Quebec.
There was malignant intrigue at the court of Queen Anne. One favorite, the Duchess of Marlborough, had just been disgraced, and another, Mrs. Masham, had been taken on by the weak and stupid Queen. The conquest of Canada, if it could be achieved without the aid of Marlborough, would help in his much desired overthrow. Petty motives were unhappily at the root of the great scheme. Who better to lead such an expedition than the brother of the new favorite whose success might discredit the husband of the old one? Accordingly General "Jack" Hill, brother of Mrs. Masham, was appointed to the chief military command and an admiral hitherto little known but of good habits and quick wit, Sir Hovenden Walker, was to lead the fleet.
The expedition against Quebec was on a scale adequate for the time. Britain dispatched seven regiments of regulars, numbering in all five thousand five hundred men, and there were besides in the fleet some thousands of sailors and marines. Never before had the English sent to North America a force so great. On June 24, 1711, Admiral Walker arrived at Boston with his great array. Boston was impressed, but Boston was also a little hurt, for the British leaders were very lofty and superior in their tone towards colonials and gave orders as if Boston were a provincial city of England which must learn respect and obedience to His Majesty's officers "vested with the Queen's Royal Power and Authority."
More than seventy ships, led by nine men-of-war, sailed from Boston for the attack on Canada. On board were nearly twelve thousand men. Compared with this imposing fleet, that of Phips, twenty-one years earlier, seems feeble. Phips had set out too late. This fleet was in good time, for it sailed on the 30th of July. Vetch, always competent, was in command of the colonial military forces, but never had any chance to show his mettle, for during the voyage the seamen were in control. The Admiral had left England with secret instructions. He had not been informed of the task before him and for it he was hardly prepared. There were no competent pilots to correct his ignorance. Now that he knew where he was going he was anxious about the dangers of the northern waters. The St. Lawrence River, he believed, froze solidly to the bottom in winter and he feared that the ice would crush the sides of his ships. As he had provisions for only eight or nine weeks, his men might starve. His mind was filled, as he himself says, with melancholy and dismal horror at the prospect of seamen and soldiers, worn to skeletons by hunger, drawing lots to decide who should die first amidst the "adamantine frosts" and "mountains of snow" of bleak and barren Canada.
The Gulf and River St. Lawrence spell death to an incompetent sailor. The fogs, the numerous shoals and islands, make skillful seamanship necessary. It is a long journey from Boston to Quebec by water. For three weeks, however, all went well. On the 22d of August, Walker was out of sight of land in the Gulf where it is about seventy miles wide above the Island of Anticosti. A strong east wind with thick fog is dreaded in those waters even now, and on the evening of that day a storm of this kind blew up. In the fog Walker lost his bearings. When in fact he was near the north shore he thought he was not far from the south shore. At half-past ten at night Paddon, the captain of the Edgar, Walker's flagship, came to tell him that land was in sight. Walker assumed that it was the south shore and gave a fatal order for the fleet to turn and head northward, a change which turned them straight towards cliffs and breakers. He then went to bed. Soon one of the military officers rushed to his cabin and begged him to come on deck as the ships were among breakers. Walker, who was an irascible man, resented the intrusion and remained in bed. A second time the officer appeared and said the fleet would be lost if the Admiral did not act. Why it was left for a military rather than a naval officer to rouse the Admiral in such a crisis we do not know. Perhaps the sailors were afraid of the great man. Walker appeared on deck in dressing gown and slippers. The fog had lifted, and in the moonlight there could be seen breaking surf to leeward. A French pilot, captured in the Gulf, had taken pains to give what he could of alarming information. He now declared that the ships were off the north shore. Walker turned his own ship sharply and succeeded in beating out into deep water and safety. For the fleet the night was terrible. Some ships dropped anchor which held, for happily the storm abated. Fog guns and lights as signals of distress availed little to the ships in difficulty. Eight British transports laden with troops and two ships carrying supplies were dashed to pieces on the rocks. The shrieks of drowning men could be heard in the darkness. The scene was the rocky Isle aux Oeufs and adjacent reefs off the north shore. About seven hundred soldiers, including twenty-nine officers, and in addition perhaps two hundred sailors, were lost on that awful night.
The disaster was not overwhelming and Walker might have gone on and captured Quebec. He had not lost a single war-ship and he had still some eleven thousand men. General Hill might have stiffened the back of the forlorn Admiral, but Hill himself was no better. Vetch spoke for going on. He knew the St. Lawrence waters for he had been at Quebec and had actually charted a part of the river and was more familiar with it, he believed, than were the Canadians themselves. What pilots there were declared, however, that to go on was impossible and the helpless captains of the ships were of opinion that, with the warning of such a disaster, they could not disregard this counsel. Though the character of the English is such that usually a reverse serves to stiffen their backs, in this case it was not so. A council of war yielded to the panic of the hour and the great fleet turned homeward. Soon it was gathered in what is now Sydney harbor in Cape Breton. From here the New England ships went home and Walker sailed for England. At Spithead the Edgar, the flag-ship, blew up and all on board perished. Walker was on shore at the time. So far was he from being disgraced that he was given a new command. Later, when the Whigs came in, he was dismissed from the service, less, it seems, in blame for the disaster than for his Tory opinions. It is not an unusual irony of life that Vetch, the one wholly efficient leader in the expedition, ended his days in a debtor's prison.
Quebec had shivered before a menace, the greatest in its history. Through the long months of the summer of 1711 there had been prayer and fasting to avert the danger. Apparently trading ships had deserted the lower St. Lawrence in alarm, for no word had arrived at Quebec of the approach of Walker's fleet. Nor had the great disaster been witnessed by any onlookers. The island where it occurred was then and still remains desert. Up to the middle of October, nearly two months after the disaster, the watchers at Quebec feared that they might see any day a British fleet rounding the head of the Island of Orleans. On the 19th of October the first news of the disaster arrived and then it was easy for Quebec to believe that God had struck the English wretches with a terrible vengeance. Three thousand men, it was said, had reached land and then perished miserably. Many bodies had been found naked and in attitudes of despair. Other thousands had perished in the water. Vessel-loads of spoil had been gathered, rich plate, beautiful swords, magnificent clothing, gold, silver, jewels. The truth seems to be that some weeks after the disaster the evidences of the wrecks were discovered. Even to this day ships are battered to pieces in those rock-strewn waters and no one survives to tell the story. Some fishermen landing on the island had found human bodies, dead horses and other animals, and the hulls of seven ships. They had gathered some wreckage—and that was the whole story. Quebec sang Te Deum. From attacks by sea there had now been two escapes which showed God's love for Canada. In the little church of Notre Dame des Victoires, consecrated at that time to the memory of the deliverance from Phips and Walker, daily prayers are still poured out for the well-being of Canada. God had been a present help on land as well as on the sea. Nicholson, with more than two thousand men, had been waiting at his camp near Lake Champlain to descend on Montreal as soon as Walker reached Quebec. When he received the news of the disaster he broke up his force and retired. For the moment Canada was safe from the threatened invasion.
In spite of this apparent deliverance, the long war, now near its end, brought a destructive blow to French power in America. Though France still possessed vigor and resources which her enemies were apt to underrate, the war had gone against her in Europe. Her finest armies had been destroyed by Marlborough, her taxation was crushing, her credit was ruined, her people were suffering for lack of food. The allies had begun to think that there was no humiliation which they might not put upon France. Louis XIV, they said, must give up Alsace, which, with Lorraine, he had taken some years earlier, and he must help to drive his own grandson from the Spanish throne. This exorbitant demand stirred the pride not only of Louis but of the French nation, and the allies found that they could not trample France under their feet. The Treaty of Utrecht, concluded in 1718, shows that each side was too strong as yet to be crushed. In dismissing Marlborough, Great Britain had lost one of her chief assets. His name had become a terror to France. To this day, both in France and in French Canada, is sung the popular ditty "Monsieur Malbrouck est mort," a song of delight at a report that Marlborough was dead. When in place of Marlborough leaders of the type of General Hill were appointed to high command, France could not be finally beaten. The Treaty of Utrecht was the outcome of war-weariness. It marks, however, a double check to Louis XIV. He could not master Europe and he could not master America. France now ceded to Britain her claim to Acadia, Newfoundland, and Hudson Bay. She regarded this, however, as only a temporary setback and was soon planning and plotting great designs far surpassing the narrower vision of the English colonies.
It was with a wry face, however, that France yielded Acadia. To retain it she offered to give up all rights in the Newfoundland fisheries, the nursery of her marine. Britain would not yield Acadia, dreading chiefly perhaps the wrath of New England which had conquered Port Royal. Britain, however, compromised on the question of boundaries in a way so dangerous that the long war settled finally no great issues in America. She took Acadia "according to its ancient limits,"—but no one knew these limits. They were to be defined by a joint commission of the two nations which, after forty years, reached no agreement. The Island of Cape Breton and the adjoining Ile St. Jean, now Prince Edward Island, remained to France. Though Britain secured sovereignty over Newfoundland, France retained extensive rights in the Newfoundland fisheries. The treaty left unsettled the boundary between Canada and the English colonies. While it yielded Hudson Bay to Britain, it settled nothing as to frontiers in the wilderness which stretched beyond the Great Lakes into the Far West and which had vast wealth in furs.
CHAPTER IV. Louisbourg And Boston
For thirty years England and France now remained at peace, and England had many reasons for desiring peace to continue. Anne, the last of the Stuart rulers, died in 1714. The new King, George I, Elector of Hanover, was a German and a German unchangeable, for he was already fifty four, with little knowledge of England and none of the English, and with an undying love for the dear despotic ways easily followed in a small German principality. He and his successor George II were thinking eternally of German rather than of English problems, and with German interests chiefly regarded it was well that England should make a friend of France. It was well, too, that under a new dynasty, with its title disputed, England should not encourage France to continue the friendly policy of Louis XIV towards James, the deposed Stuart Pretender. England had just made a new, determined, and arrogant enemy by forcing upon Spain the deep humiliation of ceding Gibraltar, which had been taken in 1704 by Admiral Rooke with allied forces. The proudest monarchy in Europe was compelled to see a spot of its own sacred territory held permanently by a rival nation. Gibraltar Spain was determined to recover. Its loss drove her into the arms of the enemies of England and remains to this day a grievance which on occasion Spanish politicians know well how to make useful.
Great Britain was now under the direction of a leader whose policy was peace. A nation is happy when a born statesman with a truly liberal mind and a genuine love of his country comes to the front in its affairs. Such a man was Sir Robert Walpole. He was a Whig squire, a plain country gentleman, with enough of culture to love good pictures and the ancient classics, but delighting chiefly in sports and agriculture, hard drinking and politics. When only twenty-seven he was already a leader among the Whigs; at thirty-two he was Secretary for War; and before he was forty he had become Prime Minister, a post which he really created and was the first Englishman to hold. Friendship with France marked a new phase of British policy. Walpole's baffled enemies said that he was bribed by France. His shrewd insight kept France lukewarm in its support of the Stuart rising in 1715, which he punished with great severity. But it was as a master of finance that he was strongest. While continental nations were wasting men and money Walpole gloried in saving English lives and English gold. He found new and fruitful modes of taxation, but when urged to tax the colonies he preferred, as he said, to leave that to a bolder man. It is a pity that anyone was ever found bold enough to do it.
Walpole's policy endured for a quarter of a century. He abandoned it only after a bitter struggle in which he was attacked as sacrificing the national honor for the sake of peace. Spain was an easy mark for those who wished to arouse the warlike spirit. She still persecuted and burned heretics, a great cause of offense, in Protestant Britain, and she was rigorous in excluding foreigners from trading with her colonies. To be the one exception in this policy of exclusion was the privilege enjoyed by Britain. When the fortunes of Spain were low in 1713, she had been forced not merely to cede Gibraltar but also to give to the British the monopoly of supplying the Spanish colonies with negro slaves and the right to send one ship a year to trade at Porto Bello in South America. It seems a sufficiently ignoble bargain for a great nation to exact: the monopoly of carrying and selling cargoes of black men and the right to send a single ship yearly to a Spanish colony. We can hardly imagine grave diplomats of our day haggling over such terms. But the eighteenth century was not the twentieth. From the treaty the British expected amazing results. The South Sea Company was formed to carry on a vast trade with South America. One ship a year could, of course, carry little, but the ships laden with negroes could smuggle into the colonies merchandise and the one trading ship could be and was reloaded fraudulently from lighters so that its cargo was multiplied manyfold. Out of the belief in huge profits from this trade with its exaggerated visions of profit grew in 1720 the famous South Sea Bubble which inaugurated a period of frantic speculation in England. Worthless shares in companies formed for trade in the South Seas sold at a thousand per cent of their face value. It is a form of madness to which human greed is ever liable. Walpole's financial insight condemned from the first the wild outburst, and his common sense during the crisis helped to stem the tide of disaster. The South Sea Bubble burst partly because Spain stood sternly on her own rights and punished British smugglers. During many years the tension between the two nations grew. No doubt Spanish officials were harsh. Tales were repeated in England of their brutalities to British sailors who fell into their hands. In 1739 the story of a certain Captain Jenkins that his ear had been cut off by Spanish captors and thrown in his face with an insulting message to his government brought matters to a climax. Events in other parts of Europe soon made the war general. When, in 1740, the young King of Prussia, Frederick II, came to the throne, his first act was to march an army into Silesia. To this province he had, he said, in the male line, a better claim than that of the woman, Maria Theresa, who had just inherited the Austrian crown. Frederick conquered Silesia and held it. In 1744 he was allied with Spain and France, while Britain allied herself with Austria, and thus Britain and France were again at war.
In America both sides had long seen that the war was inevitable. Never had French opinion been more arrogant in asserting France's right to North America than after the Treaty of Utrecht. At the dinner-table of the Governor in Quebec there was incessant talk of Britain's incapacity, of the sheer luck by which she had blundered into the occupation of great areas, while in truth she was weak through lack of union and organization. A natural antipathy, it was said, existed between her colonies and herself; she was a monarchy while they were really independent republics. France, on the other hand, had grown stronger since the last war. In 1713 she had retained the island of Cape Breton and now she had made it a new menace to British power. Boston, which had breathed more freely after the fall of Port Royal in 1710, soon had renewed cause for alarm in regard to its shipping. On the southern coast of Cape Breton, there was a spacious harbor with a narrow entrance easily fortified, and here France began to build the fortress of Louisbourg. It was planned on the most approved military principles of the time. Through its strength, the boastful talk went, France should master North America. The King sent out cannon, undertook to build a hospital, to furnish chaplains for the service of the Church, to help education, and so on. Above all, he sent to Louisbourg soldiers.
Reports of these wonderful things reached the English colonies and caused fears and misgivings. New England believed that Louisbourg reflected the pomp and wealth of Versailles. The fortress was, in truth, slow in building and never more than a rather desolate outpost of France. It contained in all about four thousand people. During the thirty years of the long truce it became so strong that it was without a rival on the Atlantic coast. The excellent harbor was a haven for the fishermen of adjacent waters and a base for French privateers, who were a terror to all the near trade routes of the Atlantic. On the military side Louisbourg seemed a success. But the French failed in their effort to colonize the island of Cape Breton on which the fortress stood. Today this island has great iron and other industries. There are coal-mines near Louisbourg; and its harbor, long deserted after the fall of the power of France, has now an extensive commerce. The island was indeed fabulously rich in coals and minerals. To use these things, however, was to be the task of a new age of industry. The colonist of the eighteenth century—a merchant, a farmer, or a fur trader—thought that Cape Breton was bleak and infertile and refused to settle there. Louisbourg remained a compact fortress with a good harbor, free from ice during most of the year, but too much haunted by fog. It looked out on a much-traveled sea. But it remained set in the wilderness.
Even if Louisbourg made up for the loss of Port Royal, this did not, however, console France for the cession of Acadia. The fixed idea of those who shaped the policy of Canada was to recover Acadia and meanwhile to keep its French settlers loyal to France. The Acadians were not a promising people with whom to work. In Acadia, or Nova Scotia, as the English called it, these backward people had slowly gathered during a hundred years and had remained remote and neglected. They had cleared farms, built primitive houses, planted orchards, and reared cattle. In 1713 their number did not exceed two or three thousand, but already they were showing the amazing fertility of the French race in America. They were prosperous but ignorant. Almost none of them could read. After the cession of their land to Britain in 1713 they had been guaranteed by treaty the free exercise of their religion and they were Catholics to a man. It seems as if history need hardly mention a people so feeble and obscure. Circumstances, however, made the role of the Acadians important. Their position was unique. The Treaty of Utrecht gave them the right to leave Acadia within a year, taking with them their personal effects. To this Queen Anne added the just privilege of selling their lands and houses. Neither the Acadians themselves, however, nor their new British masters were desirous that they should leave. The Acadians were content in their old homes; and the British did not wish them to help in building up the neighboring French stronghold on Cape Breton. It thus happened that the French officials could induce few of the Acadians to migrate and the English troubled them little. Having been resolute in acquiring Nova Scotia, Britain proceeded straightway to neglect it. She brought in few settlers. She kept there less than two hundred soldiers and even to these she paid so little attention that sometimes they had no uniforms. The Acadians prospered, multiplied, and quarreled as to the boundaries of their lands. They rendered no military service, paid no taxes, and had the country to themselves as completely as if there had been no British conquest. They rarely saw a British official. If they asked the British Governor at Annapolis to settle for them some vexed question of rights or ownership he did so and they did not even pay a fee.