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Chapter XXI

France Contends for the fisheries and the Great West

such were the events which gave to the French
Chap. XXI.}
not only New France and Acadia, Hudson's Bay and Newfoundland, but a claim to a moiety of Maine, of Vermont, and to more than a moiety of New York, to the whole valley of the Mississippi, and to Texas even, as far as the Rio Bravo del Norte. Throughout that wide region, it sought to introduce its authority, under the severest forms of the colonial system. That system was enforced, with equal eagerness, by England upon the sea-coast. Could France, and England, and Spain, have amicably divided the American continent; could they have been partners, and not rivals, in op pression; I know not whence hope could have beamed upon the colonies.

But the aristocratic revolution of England was the signal for a war with France, growing out of ‘a root of enmity,’ which Marlborough described as ‘irreconcilable to the government and the religion’ of Great Britain. Louis XIV. took up arms in defence of legitimacy; and England had the glorious office of asserting the right of a nation to reform its government. But, though the progress of the revolutionary principle was the root of the enmity, France could not, at once, obtain the alliance of every European power which was [176] unfriendly to change. She had encroached on every

Chap. XXI.}
neighbor; and fear, and a sense of wrong, made all of them her enemies. From regard to the integrity of its territory, the German empire, with Austria, joined with England; and, as the Spanish Netherlands, which constituted the barrier of Holland and Germany against France, and the path of England into the heart of the continent, could be saved from conquest by France only through the interposition of England and Holland, an alliance followed between the Protestant revolutionary republic and monarchy, on the one side, and the bigoted defender of the Roman Catholic church and legitimacy, on the other. Hence, also, in the first war of King William, the frontiers of Carolina, bordering on the possessions of Spain, were safe against invasion: Spain and England were allies.

Thus the war of 1689, in Europe, roused Louis XIV. in behalf of legitimacy, and, at the same time, rallied against him, not England only, but every power which dreaded his lawless ambition. William III. was not only the defender of the nationality of England, but of the territorial freedom of Europe.

In the colonies, the strife was, on behalf of their respective mother countries, for the fisheries, and for territory at the north and west. The idea of weakening an adversary, by encouraging its colonies to assert independence, did not, at that time, exist; the universal maxim of European statesmen assumed the fact, that colonies have a master. In the contests that followed, the religious faith, and the roving enterprise of the French Canadians, secured to Louis XIV. their active support. The English colonists, on the contrary, sided heartily with England: the English revolution was to them the pledge for freedom of mind, as [177] marked by Protestantism; for national freedom, as il-

Chap. XXI.}
lustrated in the exile of a tyrant, and in the election of constitutional king. Thus the strife in America was
between England and France for the possession of colonial monopolies; and, in that strife, England rallied her forces under the standard of advancing freedom.

If the issue had depended on the condition of the colonies, it could hardly have seemed doubtful. The French census for the North American continent, in 1688, showed but eleven thousand two hundred and forty-nine persons—scarcely a tenth part of the English population on its frontiers; about a twentieth part of English North America.

West of Montreal, the principal French posts, and

those but inconsiderable ones, were at Frontenac, at Mackinaw, and on the Illinois. At Niagara, there was a wavering purpose of maintaining a post, but no permanent occupation. So weak were the garrisons, that English traders, with an escort of Indians, had ventured even to Mackinaw, and, by means of the Senecas, obtained a large share of the commerce of the lakes. French diplomacy had attempted to pervade
the west, and concert an alliance with all the tribes from Lake Ontario to the Mississippi. The traders were summoned even from the plains of the Sioux; and Tonti and the Illinois were, by way of the Ohio and the Alleghany, to precipitate themselves on the Senecas, while the French should come from Montreal, and the Ottawas and other Algonquins, under Durantaye, the vigilant commander at Mackinaw, should descend from Michigan. But the power of the Illinois was broken; the Hurons and Ottawas were almost ready to become the allies of the Senecas. The savages still held the keys of the great west; no inter-
[178] course existed but by means of the forest rangers, who
Chap. XXI.}
penetrated the barren heaths round Hudson's Bay, the
morasses of the north-west, the homes of the Sioux and Miamis, the recesses of every forest where there was an Indian with skins to sell. ‘God alone could have saved Canada this year,’ wrote Denonville, in 1688. But for the missions at the west, Illinois would have been abandoned, the fort at Mackinaw lost, and a general rising of the natives would have completed the ruin of New France.

Personal enterprise took the direction of the fur-

trade: Port Nelson, in Hudson's Bay, and Fort Albany, were originally possessed by the French. The attention of the court of France was directed to the fisheries; and Acadia had been represented by De Meules as the most important settlement of France. To protect it, the Jesuits Vincent and James Bigot collected a village of Abenakis on the Penobscot; and a flourishing town now marks the spot where the baron de St. Castin, a veteran officer of the regiment of Carignan, established a trading fort. Would France, it was said, strengthen its post on the Penobscot, occupy the islands that command the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and send supplies to Newfoundland, she would be sole mistress of the fisheries for cod. Hence the strife with Massachusetts, in which the popular mind was so deeply interested, that, to this day, the figure of a cod-fish is suspended in the hall of its representatives.

Thus France, bounding its territory next New England by the Kennebec, claimed the whole eastern coast, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Hudson's Bay; and, to assert and defend this boundless region, Acadia and its dependencies counted but nine hundred French inhabitants. The missionaies, [179] swaying the mind of the Abenakis, were the sole

Chap. XXI.}
source of hope.

On the declaration of war by France against Eng-

1689 June 25.

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