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Series I, #2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of Louisiana

by
Charles Gayarré

in the edition published by
William J. Widdleton,
New York, 1867

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Series I, #4
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p79 Series I, Third Lecture

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Sauvolle had died on the 22d of July, 1701, and Louisiana had remained under the sole charge of Bienville, who, though very young, was fully equal to meet that emergency, by the maturity of his mind and by his other qualifications. He had hardly consigned his brother to the tomb, when Iberville returned with two ships of the line and a brig laden with troops and provisions. The first object that greeted his sight, on his landing, was Bienville, whose person was in deep mourning, and whose face wore such an expression as plainly told that a blow, fatal to both, had been struck in the absence of the head of the family. In their mute embraces, the two brothers felt that they understood each other better than if their grief had vented itself in words, and Iberville's first impulse was to seek Sauvolle's tomb. There he knelt for hours, bathed in tears, and absorbed in fervent prayer for him whom he was to see no more in the garb of mortality. This recent blow reminded him of a father's death, whom he had seen carried off, bleeding, from the battlefield; and then his four brothers, who had met the same stern and honorable fate, rose to his sight with their ghastly wounds; and he bethought himself of the sweet and melancholy face of his mother, who had sunk gradually p80into the grave, drooping like a gentle flower under the rough visitations of the wind of adversity. On these heavy recollections of the past, his heart swelled with tears, and he implored heaven to spare his devoted family, or, if any one of its members was again destined to an early death, to take him, Iberville, as a free offering, in preference to the objects of his love. But there are men, upon whom grief operates as fire upon steel: it purifies the metal, and gives more elasticity to its spring; it works upon the soul with that same mysterious proceed by which nature transforms the dark carbuncle into the shining diamond. These men know how to turn from the desolation of their heart, and survey the world with a clearer, serener eye, to choose the sphere where they can best accomplish their mission on this earth — that mission — the fulfilment of duties whence good is to result to mankind, or to their country. One of these highly gifted beings Iberville was, and he soon withdrew his attention from the grave, to give it entirely to the consolidation of the great national enterprise he had undertaken — the establishment of a colony in Louisiana.

According to Iberville's orders, and in conformity with the king's instructions, Bienville left Boisbriant, his cousin, with twenty men, at the old fort of Biloxi, and transported the principal seat of the colony to the western side of the river Mobile, not far from the spot where now stands the city of Mobile. Near the mouth of that river, there is an island, which the French had called Massacre Island, from the great quantity of human bones which they found bleaching on its shores. It was evident that there some awful tragedy had been acted; but tradition, when interrogated, laid her choppy finger upon her skinny lips, and answered not. This uncertainty, giving a free scope to the imagination, p81shrouded the place with a higher degree of horror, and with a deeper hue of fantastical gloom. It looked like the favorite ball-room of the witches of hell. The wind sighed so mournfully through the shriveled up pines, whose vampire heads seemed incessantly to bow to some invisible and grisly visitors: the footsteps of the stranger emitted such an awful and supernatural sound, when trampling on the skulls which strewed his path, that it was impossible for the coldest imagination not to labor under some crude and ill-defined apprehensions. Verily, the weird sisters could not have chosen a fitter abode. Nevertheless, the French, supported by their mercurial temperament, were not deterred from forming an establishment on that sepulchral island, which, they thought, afforded some facilities for their transatlantic communications. They changed its name, however, and called it Dauphine Island. As, to many, this name may be without signification, it may not be improper to state, that the wife of the eldest born of the King of France, and consequently, of the presumptive heir to the crown, was, at that time, called the Dauphine, and her husband the Dauphin. This was in compliment to the province of Dauphiné, which was annexed to the kingdom of France, on the abdication of a Count of Dauphiné, who ceded that principality to the French monarch in 1349. Hence the origin of the appellation given to the island. It was a high-sounding and courtly name for such a bleak repository of the dead!

Iberville did not tarry long in Louisiana. His home was the broad ocean, where he had been nursed, as it were; and he might have exclaimed with truth, in the words of Byron:—

— "I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy

Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be

p82 Borne, like bubbles, onward: from a boy

I wantoned with thy breakers — they to me

Were a delight; and if the freshening sea

Made them a terror — 'twas a pleasing fear,

For I was as in which a child of thee,

And trusted to thy billows far and near,

And laid my hand upon thy mane."

But, before his departure, he gave some wholesome advice to his government:— "It is necessary," said he, in one of his dispatches, "to send here honest tillers of the earth, and not rogues and paupers, who come to Louisiana solely with the intention of making a fortune, by all sorts of means, in order to speed back to Europe. Such men can not be elements of prosperity to a colony." He left those, of whom he was the chief protector, abundantly supplied with every thing, and seeing that their affectionate hearts were troubled with manifold misgivings as to their fate, which appeared to them to be closely linked with his own, he promised soon to return, and to bring additional strength to what he justly looked upon as his creation. But it had been decreed otherwise.

In 1703, war had broken out between Great Britain, France and Spain; and Iberville, a distinguished officer of the French navy, was engaged in expeditions that kept him away from the colony. It did not cease, however, to occupy his thoughts, and had become clothed, in his eye, with a sort of family interest. Louisiana was thus left, for some time, to her scanty resources; but, weak as she was, she gave early proofs of that generous spirit which has ever since animated her; and, on the towns of Pensacola and San Augustine, then in possession of the Spanish, being threatened with an invasion by the English of South Carolina, she sent to her neighbors what help she could, in men, ammunition, p83and supplies of all sorts. It was the more meritorious, as it was the obolus of the poor!

The year 1703 slowly rolled by, and gave way to 1704. Still, nothing was heard from the parent country. There seemed to be an impassable barrier between the old and the new continent. The milk which flowed from the motherly breast of France could no longer reach the parched lips of her new-born infant; and famine began to pinch the colonists, who scattered themselves all along the coast, to live by fishing. They were reduced to the veriest extremity of misery, and despair had settled in every bosom, in spite of the encouragements of Bienville, who displayed the most manly fortitude amid all the trials to which he was subjected, when sudden a vessel made its appearance. The colonists rushed to the shore with wild anxiety, but their exultation was greatly diminished when, on the nearer approach of the moving speck, they recognized the Spanish, instead of the French flag. It was relief, however, coming to them, and proffered by a friendly hand. It was a return made by the governor of Pensacola, for the kindness he had experienced the year previous. Thus, the debt of gratitude was paid: it was a practical lesson. Where the seeds of charity are cast, there springs the harvest in time of need.

Good things, like evils, do not come single, and this succor was but the herald of another one, still more effectual, in the shape of a ship from France. Iberville had not been able to redeem his pledge to the poor colonists, but he had sent his brother Chateaugué in his place, at the imminent risk of being captured by the English, who occupied, at that time, most of the avenues of the Gulf of Mexico. He was not the man to spare either himself, or his family, in cases of emergency, and his heroic soul was inured to such sacrifices. Grateful p84the colonists were for this act of devotedness, and they resumed the occupation of those tenements which they had abandoned in search of food. The aspect of things was suddenly changed; abundance and hope reappeared in the land, whose population was increased by the arrival of seventeen persons, who came, under the guidance of Chateaugué, with the intention of making a permanent settlement, and who, in evidence of their determination, had provided themselves with all the implements of husbandry. We, who daily see hundreds flocking to our shores, and who look at the occurrence with as much unconcern as at the passing cloud, can hardly conceive the excitement produced by the arrival of these seventeen emigrants among men who, for nearly two years, had been cut off from communication with the rest of the civilized world. A denizen of the moon, dropping on this planet, would not be stared at and interrogated with more eager curiosity.

This excitement had hardly subsided, when it was revived by the appearance of another ship, and it became intense, when the inhabitants saw a procession of twenty females, with veiled faces, proceeding arm in arm, and two by two, to the house of the governor, who received them in state, and provided them with suitable lodgings. What did it mean? Innumerable were the gossipings of the day, and part of the coming night itself was spent in the endless commentaries and conjectures. But the next morning, which was Sunday, the mystery was cleared by the officiating priest reading from the pulpit, after mass, and for the general information, the following communication from the minister to Bienville: "His majesty sends twenty girls to be married to the Canadians and to the other inhabitants of Mobile, in order to consolidate the colony. All these p85girls are industrious, and have received a pious and virtuous education. Beneficial results to the colony are expected from their teaching their useful attainments to the Indian females. In order that none should be sent except those of known virtue and of unspotted reputation, his majesty did intrust the bishop of Quebec with the mission of taking these girls from such establishments, as, from their very nature and character, would put them at once above all suspicions of corruption. You will take care to settle them in life as well as may be in your power, and to marry them to such men as are capable of providing them with a commodious home."

This was a very considerable recommendation, and very kind it was, indeed, from the great Louis the XIVth, one of the proudest monarchs that ever lived, to descend from his Olympian seat of majesty, to the level of such details, and to such minute instructions for ministering to the personal comforts of his remote Louisianan subjects. Many were the gibes and high was the glee on that occasion; pointed were the jokes aimed at young Bienville, on his being thus transformed into a matrimonial agent and pater familiae. The intentions of the king, however, were faithfully executed, and more than one rough but honest Canadian boatman of the St. Lawrence and of the Mississippi, closed his adventurous and erratic career, and became a domestic and useful member of that little commonwealth, under the watchful influence of the dark-eyed maid of the Loire or of the Seine. Infinite are the chords of the lyre which delights the romantic muse; and these incidents, small and humble as they are, appear to me to be imbued with an indescribable charm, which appeals to her imagination.

Iberville had gone back to France since 1701, and p86the year 1705 had now begun its onward course, without his having returned to the colony, according to his promise, so that the inhabitants had become impatient of further delay. They were in that state of suspense, when a ship of the line, commanded by Ducoudray, arrived soon after the opening of the year, but still to disappoint the anxious expectations of the colonists. No Iberville had come: yet there was some consolation in the relief which was sent — goods, provisions, ammunition; flesh-pots of France, rivaling, to a certainty, those of Egypt; sparkling wines to cheer the cup; twenty-three girls to gladden the heart; five priests to minister to the wants of the soul and to bless holy alliances; two sisters of charity to attend on the sick and preside over the hospital of the colony, and seventy-five soldiers for protection against the inroads of the Indians. This was something to be thankful for, and to occupy the minds of the colonists for a length of time. But life is chequered with many a hue, and the antagonistical agents of good and evil closely tread, in alternate succession, on the heels of each other. Thus, the short-lived rejoicings of the colonists soon gave way to grief and lamentations. A hungry epidemic did not disdain to prey upon the population, small as it was, and thirty-five persons became its victims. Thirty-five! This number was enormous in those days, and the epidemic of 1705 became as celebrated in the medical annals of the country, as will be the late one of 1847.a

The history of Louisiana, in her early days, presents a Shaksperian mixture of the terrible and of the ludicrous. What can be more harrowing than the massacre of the French settlement on the Wabash in 1705; and in 1706, what more comical than the threatened insurrection of the French girls, who had come to settle p87in the country, under allurements which proved deceptive, and who were particularly indignant at being fed on corn? This fact is mentioned in these terms in one of Bienville's dispatches: "The males in the colony begin, through habit, to be reconciled to corn, as an article of nourishment; but the females, who are mostly Parisians, have for this kind of food a dogged aversion, which has not yet been subdued. Hence, they inveigh bitterly against his grace, the Bishop of Quebec, who, they say, has enticed them away from home, under the pretext of sending them to enjoy the milk and honey of the land of promise." Enraged at having thus been deceived, they swore that they would force their way out of the colony, on the first opportunity. This was called the petticoat insurrection.

There were, at that particular time, three important personages, who were the hinges upon which every thing turned in the commonwealth of Louisiana. These magnates were, Bienville, the governor, who wielded the sword, and who was the great executive mover of all; La Salle, the intendant commissary of the crown, who had the command of the purse, and who therefore might be called the controlling power; and the Curate de la Vente, who was not satisfied with mere spiritual influence. Unfortunately, in this Liliputian administration, the powers of the state and church were sadly at variance, in imitation of their betters in larger communities. The commissary, La Salle, in a letter of the 7th of December, 1706, accused Iberville, Bienville, and Chateaugué, the three brothers, of being guilty of every sort of malfeasances and dilapidations." They are rogues," said he, "who pilfer away his Majesty's goods and effects." The Curate de la Vente, whose pretensions to temporal power Bienville had checked, backed La Salle, and undertook to discredit the governor's p88authority with the colonists, by boasting of his having sufficient influence at court to cause him to be soon dismissed from office.

On Bienville's side stood, of course, Chateaugué, his brother, and Major Boisbriant, his cousin. But Chateaugué was a new man (novus homo) in the colony, and consequently had, as yet, acquired very little weight. Boisbriant, although a zealous friend, had found means to increase the governor's vexations, by falling deeply in love. He had been smitten, perhaps, for the want of something better, with the charms of a lady, to whose charge had been committed the twenty girls selected by the Bishop of Quebec, and who had been appointed, as a sort of lay abbess, to superintend their conduct on the way and in Louisiana, until they got provided with those suitable monitors who are called husbands. That lady had reciprocated the affections of Boisbriant, and so far, the course of love ran smooth. But, as usual, it was doomed to meet with one of those obstacles which have given rise to so many beautiful literary compositions. Bienville stoutly objected to the match, as being an unfit one for his relation and subordinate, and peremptorily refused his approbation. Well may the indignation of the lady be conceived! Boisbriant seems to have meekly submitted to the superior wisdom of his chief, but she, scorning such forbearance, addressed herself to the minister, and complained, in no measured terms, of what she called an act of oppression. After having painted her case with as strong colors as she could, she very naturally concluded her observations with this sweeping declaration concerning Bienville: "It is therefore evident that he had not the necessary qualifications to be governor of this colony." Such is the logic of p89Love, and although it may provoke a smile, thereby hangs a tale not destitute of romance.

These intestine dissensions were not the only difficulties that Bienville had to cope with. The very existence of the colony was daily threatened by the Indians; a furious war, in which the French were frequently implicated, raged between the Chickasaws and the Choctaws; and the smaller nations, principally the Alibamons, that prowled about the settlements of the colonists, committed numerous thefts and murders. It seemed that all the elements of disorder were at work to destroy the social organization which civilization had begun, and that the wild chaos of barbarian sway claimed his own again. Uneasy lay the head of Bienville in his midnight sleep, for fearfully alive was he to the responsibility which rested on his shoulders. In that disturbed state of mind, with what anxiety did he not interrogate the horizon, and strain to peep into the vacancy of space, in the fond hope that some signs of his brother's return would greet his eyes! But, alas! the year 1707 had run one half of its career, and yet Iberville came not. To what remote parts of heaven had the eagle flown, not to hear and not to mind the shrieks of the inmates of his royal nest? Not oblivious the eagle had been, but end in carrying Jove's thunderbolts, he had steadily pursued the accomplishment of his task.

Dropping the metaphorical style, it will be sufficient to state, that during the five years he had been absent from Louisiana, Iberville had been, with his usual success, nobly occupied in supporting the honor of his country's flag, and in increasing the reputation which he had already gained, as one of the brightest gems of the French navy. If the duration of a man's existence is to be measured by the merit of his deeds, then Iberville p90had lived long, before reaching the meridian of life, and he was old in fame, if not in years, when he undertook to establish a colony in Louisiana. From his early youth, all his days had been well spent, because dedicated to some useful or generous purpose. The soft down of adolescence had hardly shaded his face, when he had become the idol of his countrymen. The foaming brine of the ocean, the dashing waters of the rivers, the hills and valleys of his native country and of the neighboring British possessions, had witnessed his numerous exploits. Such were the confidence and love with which he had inspired the Canadians and Acadians for his person, by the irresistible seduction of his manners, by the nobleness of his deportment, by the dauntless energy of his soul, and by the many qualifications of his head and heart, that they would, said Father Charlevoix, have followed him to the confines of the universe. It would be too long to recite his wonderful achievements, and the injuries which he inflicted upon the fleets of England, particularly in the Bay of Hudson, either by open force, or by stealth and surprise. When vessels were icebound, they were more than once stormed by Iberville and his intrepid associates. Two of his brothers, Ste. Hélène and Méricourt,º both destined to an early death, used to be his willing companions in these adventurous expeditions. At other times, when the war of the elements seemed to preclude any other contest, Iberville, in a light buoyant craft, which sported merrily on the angry waves, would scour far and wide the Bay of Hudson, and the adjacent sea, to prey upon the commerce of the great rival of France, and many were the prizes which he brought into port. These were the sports of his youth.

The exploits of Iberville on land and at sea acquired p91for him a sort of amphibious celebrity. Among other doings of great daring, may be mentioned the taking of Corlar, near Orange, in the province of New York.b In November, 1694, he also took, in the Bay of Hudson, the fort of Port Nelson, defended by forty-two pieces of artillery, and he gave it the name of Fort Bourbon. In 1696 he added to his other conquests, the Fort of Pemkuit in Acadia. When Chubb, the English commander, was summoned to surrender, he returned this proud answer: "If the sea were white with French sails, and the land dark with Indians, I would not give up the fort, unless when reduced to the very last extremities." In spite of this vaunt, he was soon obliged to capitulate. The same year, Iberville possessed himself of the Fort of St. John, in Newfoundland, and in a short time forced the rest of that province to yield to his arms. The French, however, did not retain it long. But his having revived La Salle's project of establishing a colony in Louisiana, constitutes, on account of the magnitude of its results, his best claim to the notice of posterity. We have seen how he executed that important undertaking.

After a long absence from that province, the colonization of which was his favorite achievement, he was now preparing to return to its shores, and arrived at San Domingo, having under his command a considerable fleet, with which he meditated to attack Charleston in South Carolina; from whence he cherished the hope of sailing for Louisiana, with all the pomp, pride, and circumstance of glorious victory. He had stopped at San Domingo, because he had been authorized to reinforce himself with a thousand men, whom he was to take out of the garrison of that island. The ships had been revictualed, the troops were embarked, and Iberville was ready to put to sea, when a great feast p92was tendered to him and to his officers, by the friends from whom he was soon to part. Loud the sound of revelry was heard in hall and bower, when Iberville, whose thoughts dwelt on the responsibilities of the expedition which had been intrusted to his care, withdrew from the assembly, where he had been the observed of all, leaving and even encouraging his subordinates to enjoy the rest of that fairy night, which he knew was soon to be succeeded for them by the perils and hardships of war. He was approaching that part of shore where his boat lay, waiting to carry him to his ship, when, as he trod along, in musing loneliness, his attention was attracted by the beauties of the tropical sky, which gleamed over his head. From that spangled canopy, so lovely that it seemed worthy of Eden, there appeared to descend an ambrosial atmosphere, which glided through the inmost recesses of the body, gladdening the whole frame with voluptuous sensations. Iberville's pace slackened as he admired, and at last he stopped, rooted to the ground, as it were by a sort of magnetic influence, exercised upon him by the fascinations of the scene. Folding his arms, and wrapt up in ecstasy, he gazed long and steadily at the stars which studded the celestial vault.

O stars! who has not experienced your mystical and mysterious power! Who has ever gazed at you, without feeling undefinable sensations, something of awe, and a vague consciousness that ye are connected with the fate of mortals! Ye silent orbs, that move with noiseless splendor through the infiniteness of space, how is it that your voice is so distinctly heard in the soul of man, if his essence and yours were not bound together by some electric link, as are all things, no doubt, in the universe? How the eyes grow dim with rapturous tears, and the head dizzy with wild fancies, when holding communion p93with you, on the midnight watch! Ye stars, that, scattered over the broad expanse of heaven, look to me as if ye were grains of golden dust, which God shook off his feet, as he walked in his might, on the days of creation, I love and worship you! When there were none in the world to sympathize with an aching heart, with a heart that would have disdained, in its lonely pride, of show its pangs to mortal eyes, how often have I felt relief in your presence from the bitter recollection of past woes, and consolation under the infliction of present sufferings! How often have I drawn from you such inspirations as prepared me to meet, with fitting fortitude, harsher trials still to come! How often have I gazed upon you, until, flying upon the wings of imagination, I soared among your bright host, and spiritualized myself away, far away, from the miseries of my contemptible existence! Howsoever that ephemeral worm, cynical man, may sneer, he is no idle dreamer, the lover of you, the star-gazer. The broad sheet of heaven to which ye are affixed, like letters of fire, is a book prepared by God for the learned and the ignorant, where man can read lessons to guide him through the active duties and the struggles of this life, and to conduct him safely to the portals of the eternal one which awaits mortality!

Thus, perhaps, Iberville felt, as he was spying the face of heaven. But death was around him — it was in the very air which he breathed. The soft balmy breeze in which he luxuriated, was impregnated with an insidious poison, fatal to those not born in tropical climates.d The pestilence so well known under the name of yellow fever was sweeping over the land. Giving no warning of its presence, it was among yonder revellers whom Iberville had just left, and whose music and mundane mirth still reached his ears. Morning came, p94and Iberville fell ill, and on the third day was gathered to his forefathers' bosom. Thus died this truly great and good man, in compliment to whose name the name of Iberville was given to one of our most important parishes.

Ill was the wind that carried to Louisiana the melancholy information of Iberville's death. It blasted the hearts of the poor colonists, and destroyed the hope they had of being speedily relieved. Their situation had become truly deplorable: their numbers were rapidly diminishing: and the Indians were daily becoming more hostile, and more bold in their demands for goods and merchandise, as a tribute which they exacted for not breaking out into actual warfare. Bienville convened the chiefs of the Chickasaws and of the Choctaws, in order to conciliate them by some trifling presents of which he could yet dispose, and to gain time by some fair promises as to what he would do for them under more favorable circumstances. With a view of making an imposing show, Bienville collected all the colonists that were within reach: but notwithstanding that display, a question, propounded by one of the Indian chiefs, gave him a humiliating proof of the slight estimation in which the savages held the French nation. Much to his annoyance, he was asked if that part of his people which remained at home was as numerous as that which had come to settle in Louisiana. Bienville, who spoke their language perfectly well, attempted, by words and comparisons suited to their understanding, to impart to them a correct notion of the extent of the population of France. But the Indians looked incredulous, and one of them even said to Bienville, "If your countrymen are, as you affirm, as thick on their native soil as the leaves of our forests, how is it that they do not send more of their warriors here, to avenge the death of p95such of them as have fallen by our hands? Not to do so, when having the power, would argue them to be of a very base spirit. And how is it that most of the tall and powerful men that came with you, being dead, are replaced only by boys, or cripples, or women, that do you no credit? Surely the French would not so behave, if they could do otherwise, and my white brother tells a story that disparages his own tribe."

Thus Bienville found himself in a very critical situation. He was conscious that his power was despised by the Indians, who knew that he had only forty-five soldiers at his disposal, and he felt that the red men could easily rise upon him and crush the colony at one blow. He was aware that they were restrained from doing the deed by their cupidity only, bridled as they were by the expectation of the arrival of some ship with merchandise, which, they knew from experience, would soon have to come to their huts to purchase peace, and in exchange for furs. Bienville felt so weak, so much at the mercy of the surrounding nations, and entertained such an apprehension of some treacherous and sudden attack on their part, that he thought it prudent to concentrate his forces, and to abandon the fort where he kept a small garrison on the Mississippi.

On the other hand, the death of Iberville had encouraged the hostility of Bienville's enemies. They knew that he was no longer supported by the powerful influence of his brother at court, and they renewed their attacks with a better hope of success. The commissary La Sallec pushed on his intrigues with more activity, and reduced them to a sort of systematic warfare. He divided the colony into those that were against and those that were for Bienville. All such persons as supported the governor's administration were branded as felons: and those that pursued another course, whoever p96they might be, were angels of purity. At that time, there was in the colony a physician, sent thither and salaried by the government, who was called the king's physician. His name was Barrot: from the circumstance of his being the only member of his profession in the country, and from the nature of his duties, he was in a position to exercise a good deal of influence. La Salle attempted to win him over to his side, and having failed in his efforts, he immediately wrote to the minister, "that Barrot, although he had the honor of being the king's physician in the colony, was no better than a fool, a drunkard and a rogue, who sold the king's drugs and appropriated the money to his own purposes."

Authors, who have written on the structure of man, have said that if his features were closely examined, there would be found in them a strange resemblance with some of the animals, of the birds, or of the reptiles that people this globe. I remember having seen curious engravings exemplifying this assertion with the most wonderful effect. In a moral sense, the resemblance is perhaps greater, and the whale, the lion, the eagle, the wolf, the lamb, and other varieties of the brutish creation, may, without much examination, be discovered to exist, physically and spiritually, in the human species. Among the bipeds that are reckoned to belong to the ranks of humanity, none was better calculated than La Salle to personate the toad. His mission was to secrete venom, as the rose exhales perfumes. Nature delights in contrarieties. Fat, short, and sleek, with bloated features and oily skin, he was no unfit representative of that reptile, although certainly to him the traditionary legend of a jewel in the head could not be applied.e Puffed up in self-conceit, an eternal smile of contentment was stereotyped on the gross p97texture of his lips, where it was mixed with an expression of bestial sensuality. His cold grayish eyes had the dull squint of the hog, and as he strutted along, one was almost amazed not to hear an occasional grunt. This thing of the neuter gender, which, to gift with the faculty of speech, seemed to be an injustice done to the superior intellect of the baboon, did, forsooth, think itself an orator. Whenever this royal commissary had a chance of catching a few of the colonists together, for instance, on all public occasions, he would gradually drop the tone of conversation, and sublimate his colloquial address into a final harangue. Thus, the valves of his brazen throat being open, out ran the muddy water of his brain, bespattering all that stood within reach. Pitched on a high and monotonous key, his prosy voice carried to his hearers, for hours, the same insane, insipid flow of bombastic phrases, falling on the ear with the unvaried and ever-recurring sound of a pack-horse wheel in a flour-mill. A coiner of words, he could have filled with them the vaults of the vastest mint; but if analyzed and reduced to their sterling value, they would not have produced a grain of sense. This man, contemptible as he was, had actually become a public nuisance, on account of the impediments with which he embarrassed the administration of Louisiana. He was externally meddling with every thing, under the pretext of correcting abuses, and although he was incapable of producing any thing of his own that could stand on its legs for a minute, he was incessantly concocting some plan, as ill-begotten as his own misshapen person. He was, in his own delirious opinion, as complete a financier, as skillful a statesman, as great a general, and, above all, as profound a legislator, as ever lived; so that this legislative Caliban had even gone so far as to imagine he could frame a code of laws for the p98colony; and, because all his preposterous propositions were resisted by Bienville, he had conceived for him the bitterest hatred. To do him justice, it must be said that he was in earnest, when he reproached others with malversation and every sort of malfeasances. There are creatures whose accusations it would be wrong to resent. They see themselves reflected in others, and, like yelping curs, pursue with their barkings the sinful image; it would be as idle to expect them to understand the workings of a noble heart and of a great mind, as it would be to imagine that a worm could raise itself to the conception of a planet's gravitations.

So, perhaps, thought Bienville, and he passed with silent contempt over La Salle's manoeuvers. Was he not right? He who thinks himself your adversary, but who, if you were to turn upon him with the flashes of honest indignation, with the uplifted spear of physical and mental power united, with the threatening aspect of what he does not possess and dreams not of, a soul, convulsed of a storm, would shrink into an atom and flatten himself to the level of your heels, can not be a real adversary: his enmity is to be regarded as a vain shadow, the phantom of impotent envy. This is no doubt the most dignified course to be pursued, but perhaps not the most prudent; and Bienville soon discovered that, however it may be in theory, there is, in practice, no attack so pitiful as not to require some sort of precautionary defense. Thus on the 13th of July, 1707, the minister dismissed Bienville from office, appointed De Muys in his place, and instructed this new governor to examine into the administration of his predecessor, and into the accusations brought against him, with the authorization of sending him prisoner to France, if they were well founded. A poor chance it was for Bienville, to be judged by the man that pushed him from his stool, and p99whose continuance in office would probably depend upon the guilt of the accused! This was but a sorry return for the services of Bienville and for those of his distinguished family. But thus goes the world!

La Salle had no cause to triumph over the downfall of Bienville, for he himself was, at the same time, dismissed from office, and was succeeded by Diron d'Artaguette. Nay, he had the mortification of seeing Bienville retain his power, while he lost his; because De Muys never reached Louisiana, having died in Havana, on his way to the colony of which he had been appointed governor. To increase his vexation, he saw that most of the colonists, even those who had been momentarily opposed to Bienville, became suddenly alive to his merits, when they were on the eve of losing him, and with spontaneous unanimity subscribed a petition, by which they expressed their satisfaction with Bienville's administration, and supplicated the minister not to deprive them of such a wise and faithful governor. This was sufficiently distressing for La Salle's envious heart; but his spleen was worked into a paroxysm of rage, when he was informed that his successor, the royal commissary, Diron d'Artaguette, had made a report to the king, in which he declared, that all the accusations brought against Bienville, were mere slanderous inventions, which rested on no other foundation than the blackest malice. Writhing like a snake under the unexpected blow, he still attempted to sting, and he wrote to France, "that d'Artaguette was not deserving of any faith or credit; that he had come to an understanding with Bienville, and that they were both equally bad and corrupt."

It was by such misunderstandings among the chiefs of the colony, that its progress was checked so long. In 1708, its population did not exceed 279 persons. p100To this number must be added sixty Canadian vagabonds, who led a wandering and licentious life among the Indians. Its principal wealth consisted in 50 cows, 40 calves, 4 bulls, 8 oxen, 1400 hogs, and 2000 hens. This statement shows the feebleness of the colony after an existence of nine years. But the golden eggs had been laid in the land, and although kept torpid and unprofitable for more than a century, by the chilling contact of an imbecile despotism, they, in the progress of time, were hatched by the warm incubation of liberty into the production of that splendid order of things, which is the wonder of the present age.

But, at that time, the colony seemed to be gifted with little vitality, and the nursling of Bienville threatened to expire in his hands at every moment. The colonists were little disposed to undertake the laborious task of securing the subsistence by the cultivation of the soil, and they expected that the mother country would minister to all their wants. Servile hands would have been necessary, but Indian slavery was not found to be profitable, and Bienville wrote to his government to obtain the authorization of exchanging Indians for negroes with the French West India Islands. "We shall give," said he, "three Indians for two negroes. The Indians, when in the islands, will not be able to run away, the country being unknown to them, and the negroes will not dare to become fugitives in Louisiana, because the Indians would kill them." This demand met with no favorable reception. Bienville was so anxious to favor the development of the colony, that he was led by it into an unjust and despotic measure, as is proved by the following extract from one of his dispatches. "I have ordered several citizens of La Rochelle to be closely watched, because they wish to quit the country. They have scraped up something by p101keeping taverns. Therefore it appears to me to be nothing but justice to force them to remain in the country, on the substance of which they have fattened." This sentiment, howsoever it may disagree with our modern notions of right and wrong, was not repugnant to the ethics of the time.

In spite of the spirited exertions of Bienville, famine reappeared in the colony, and in January, 1709, the inhabitants were reduced to live on acorns. As usual under such circumstances, the intestine dissensions of which such a melancholy description has been already given became more acrid. The minds of men are not apt to grow conciliating under the double infliction of disappointment and famine, and the attacks upon Bienville were renewed with unusual fierceness. La Salle, although now stripped of the trappings of office, still remained in the colony, to pursue his game, and to force the noble lord of the forest to stand at bay. His associate in persecution, the Curate de la Vente, hallooed with him in zealous imitation, and it is much to be regretted that they were joined in the chase by Marigny de Mandeville, a brave and noble-minded officer, lately come to the country, who informed his government "that the colony never would prosper until it had a governor with an honest heart and with an energetic mind;" which meant that Bienville was deficient in both. It was an error committed by Marigny de Mandeville, and into which he was no doubt led by the misrepresentations of La Salle and of the Curate de la Vente.

Bienville had so far remained passive, but was at last stung into angry recriminations, which he retorted on all his adversaries, particularly on the Curate de la Vente, who, said he, "had tried to stir up every body against him by his calumnies, and who, in the mean p102time, did not blush to keep an open shop, where his mode of trafficking showed that he was a shrewd compound of the Arab and of the Jew."

The scarcity of provisions became such in 1710, that Bienville informed his government that he had scattered the greatest part of his men among the Indians, upon whom he had quartered them for food. This measure had been more than once adopted before, and demonstrates that the Indians could hardly have been so hostile as they have been represented; otherwise, they would have availed themselves of such opportunities to destroy the invaders of their territory. Be it as it may, the colony continued in its lingering condition, gasping for breath in its cradle, until 1712, when, on the 14th of September, the King of France granted to Anthony Crozat the exclusive privilege, for fifteen years, of trading in all that immense territory which, with its undefined limits, France claimed as her own under the name of Louisiana. Among other privileges, were those of sending, once a year, a ship to Africa for negroes and of possessing and working all the mines of precious metals to be discovered in Louisiana, provided that one fourth of their proceeds should be reserved for the king. He also had the privilege of owning forever all the lands that he would improve by cultivation, all the buildings he would erect, and all the manufactures that he might establish. His principal obligation, in exchange for such advantages, was to send every year to Louisiana, two ships' loads of colonists, and, after nine years, to assume all the expenses of the administration of the colony, including those of the garrison and of its officers; it being understood that, in consideration of such a charge, he would have the privilege of nominating the officers to be appointed by the king. In the mean time, the annual sum of fifty thousand livres p103($10,000) was allowed to Crozat for the king's share of the expenses required by Louisiana. It was further provided that the laws, ordinances, customs, and usages of the Prevostship and Viscounty of Paris should form the legislation of the colony. There was also to be a government council, similar to the one established in San Domingo and Martinique.

This charter of concessions virtually made Crozat the supreme lord and master of Louisiana. Thus Louisiana was dealt with, as if it had been a royal farm, and leased by Louis the XIVth to the highest bidder. It is a mere business transaction, but which colors itself with the hue of romance, when it is remembered that Louisiana was the farm, Louis the XIVth the landlord, and that Anthony Crozat was the farmer.

Anthony Crozat was one of those men who dignify commerce, and recall to memory those princely merchants, of whom Genoa, Venice, and Florence boasted of yore. Born a peasant's son, on the east of one of the great patricians of France, he was, when a boy, remarked for the acuteness of his intellect; and having the good fortune of being the foster brother of the only son of his feudal lord, he was sent to school by his noble patron, received the rudiments of education, and at fifteen was placed, as clerk, in a commercial house. Then, by the protection of that nobleman, who never ceased to evince the liveliest interest in his fate, and particularly by the natural ascendency of his strong genius, he rose, in the course of twenty years, to be a partner of his old employer, married his daughter, and shortly after the auspicious event, found himself, on the death of his father-in‑law, one of the richest merchants in Europe. He still continued to be favored by circumstances, and having had the good fortune of loaning large sums of money to the government in cases p104of emergency, he was rewarded for his services by his being ennobled and created Marquis du Chatel.

So far, Crozat had known but the sunny side of life; but for every man the hour of trial must strike, sooner or later, on the clock of fate, and the length or intenseness of the felicity that one has enjoyed, is generally counterbalanced by a proportionate infliction of calamity. Happy is he, perhaps, whom adversity meets on the threshold of existence, and accompanies through part of his career. Then, the nerves of youth may resist the shock, and be even improved by the struggle. The mind and body, disciplined by the severe trial through which they have passed, have time to substitute gains for losses in the account book of life. At any rate, when the tribute of tears and sufferings is early paid, the debtor may hope for a clear and bright meridian; and when the sun of his destiny sinks down in the west, he has some right to expect, if clouds should gather round the setting orb, that it will only be to gladden the sight by the gorgeousness of their colors. But if smiling fortune, after having rocked her favorite in his cradle, gives him her uninterrupted attendance until his manhood is past, she is very apt to desert him on the first cold approach of old age, when he is most in need of her support; for, the stern decree that man is born to suffer, must be accomplished before the portals of another life are open; and then, woe to the gray-headed victim, who, after long days of luxurious ease, finds himself suddenly abandoned, a martyr in the arena of judgment, to the fangs and jaws of the wild beasts of an unfeeling and scoffing world. Woe to him, if his Christian faith is not bound to his heart by adamantine chains, to subdue physical pain, to arm his soul with divine fortitude, and grace his last moments with sweet dignity and calm resignation!

p105 Crozat was doomed to make this sad experiment. The first shaft aimed at him fell on his wife, whom he lost, ten years after the birth of his only child, a daughter, now the sole hope of his house. Intense was his sorrow, and never to be assuaged, for no common companion his wife had been. Looking up to him with affectionate reverence as one, whom the laws, both divine and human, had appointed as her guide, she had lived rather in him than in herself. She had been absorbed into her husband, and the business of her whole life had been to study and to anticipate his wishes and wants. Endowed with all the graces of her sex, and with a cultivated intellect chastened by modesty, which hardly left any thing to be desired for its perfection, she rendered sweeter the part of ministering angel which she had assumed, to bless him in this world. With feminine art, she had incorporated herself with his organization, and gliding into the very essence of his soul, she had become the originating spring of all his thoughts and sentiments. It was beautiful to see, how, entwining herself round his conceptions, his volition and actions, she had made herself a component part of his individuality, so that she really was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. Is it to be wondered at, that when she died, he felt that the luminary which lighted up his path had been extinguished, and that a wheel had suddenly stopped within himself? From that fatal event, there never was a day when the recollections of the past did not fill his soul with anguish.

Crozat's only consolation was his daughter. The never-ceasing anxiety with which he watched over her, until she grew into womanhood, would beggar all description; and even then she remained a frail flower, which, to be kept alive, required to be fanned by the gentlest zephyrs, and to be softly watered from that p106spring which gushes from the deep well of the heart, at the touch of true affection. She was exquisitely beautiful, but there was this peculiarity in her beauty, that although her person presented that voluptuous symmetry, that rich fullness of form, and that delicate roundness of outline which artists admire, yet soul predominated in her so much over matter, that she looked rather like a spirit of the air, than an incarnation of mortality. She produced the effect of an unnatural apparition: forgetting the fascinations of the flesh, one would gaze at her as something not of this world, and feel for her such love as the angels may inspire. She appeared to be clothed in terrestrial substance, merely because it was necessary to that earthly existence which she wore as a garment not intended for her, and which had been put on only by mistake. She was out of place: there was something in her organization, which disqualified her for the companionship of the sons of Eve: she looked as if she had strayed from a holier sphere. Those who knew her were impressed with an undefinable feeling that she was a temporary loan made to earth by heaven, and that the slightest disappointment of the heart in her nether career, would send her instantly to a fitter and more congenial abode. Alas! there are beings invested with such exquisite sensibility, that the vile clay which enters into their composition, and which may be intended as a protecting texture, without which human life would be intolerable for the spirit within, imbibing too much of the ethereal essence to which it is allied, ceases to be a shield against the ills we are heirs to, in this valley of miseries. It is a mark set upon them! It is a pledge that the wounded soul, writhing under repeated inflictions, will wear out its frail tenement, and soon escape from its ordeal. Such was the threatened fate of Andrea, p107the daughter of Crozat. And he knew it, the poor father! he knew it, and he trembled! and he lived in perpetual fear: and he would clasp his hands, and in such agonies as the paternal heart only knows, kneeling down, humbling himself in the dust, he would pour out prayers (oh, how eloquent!) that the Almighty, in his infinite mercy, would spare his child!

Crozat had sedulously kept up the closest relations with his noble friend and patron, to whom there had also been born but one heir, a son, the sole pillar of a ducal house, connected with all the imperial and royal dynasties of Europe. A short time after his wife's death, Crozat had had the misfortune to follow to the grave the duke, his foster brother; and his daughter Andrea, who was known to lack at home the gentle nursing of a mother, had been tendered the splendid hospitality of the dowager duchess, where she had grown up in a sort of sisterly intimacy with the young duke. There she had conceived, unknowingly to herself at first, the most intense passion for her youthful companion, which, when it revealed itself to her dismayed heart, was kept carefully locked up in its inmost recesses. Poor maiden! The longum bibere amorem was fatally realized with her, and she could not tear herself from the allurements of the banquet upon which she daily feasted her affections. Unknown her secret, she lived in fancied security, and, for a while, enjoyed as pure a happiness as may be attained to — the happiness of dreams!

One day, a rumor arose that a matrimonial alliance was in the way of preparation for that lineal descendant of a princely race, for the young duke, who was the concealed idol of her heart. There are emotions which it would be too much for human endurance to hide from a sympathetic eye, much less from parental penetration, p108and on that day the terrible truth burst upon Crozat, and stunned him with an unexpected blow. It was a hurricane of woes sweeping through his heart: he felt as if he and his child were in a tornado, out of which to save her was impossible. Too well he knew his Andrea, and too well he knew that she would not survive the withering of her hopes, wild as they were! "Time!" exclaimed he, as he paced his room with hurried steps, holding communion with himself, "Time, that worker of great things, must be gained! But how?" A sudden thought flashed through his brain! Thank God, he clutched the remedy! Was it not currently reported and believed that the betrothed of the duke loved one, of equally noble birth, but whose proffered hand had been rejected by an ambitious father, merely because fortune, with her golden gifts, did not back his pretensions? That was enough! And Crozat, on that very day, had sought and found the despairing lover. "Sir!" said he to the astonished youth, "in the civil wars which desolated France during the minority of Louis the XIVth, and which ruined your family, several millions were extorted from your father by one, who then had the power. Here they are — it is a restitution — ask no name — I am a mere agent and bound to secrecy." The strange tale was taken as true, and in a short time the betrothed of the young duke was led to the hymeneal altar by a more successful rival.

Crozat had been a traitor and a liar! — a traitor to his friend and benefactor's son! But he was a father! — and he saw his daughter's tomb already wide open and gaping for the expected prey! And was she not to be rescued at any cost? And was he to stand with folded arms, and to remain passive, while, in his sight, despair slowly chiseled the cold sepulchral marble destined for his child? No! — he saved her, and did not p109stop to inquire whether the means he employed were legitimate. Now, he saw her smile again and resume, as it were, that current of life which was fast ebbing away! — and he was happy! And had he not a sufficient excuse to plead at that seat of judgment which every man has within his breast, when the shrill voice of conscience rose against him in accusation, and said, "Thou hast done wrong! to save thyself, or thine, thou hast been recreant to thy trust — thou hast injured thy neighbor, and acted dishonorably?" Crozat, however, was not the man to lay a flattering unction to his soul. There was in him no false logic of a corrupt mind to argue successfully against the plain voice of truth: his were not the ears of the wicked, deaf to the admonitions of our inward monitor. However gently conscience might have spoken her disapprobation, he heard it, and stood self-condemned.

He went to his patron's widow, to the duchess, and told her all — and prostrating himself at her feet, awaited her sentence. She raised him gently from his humble posture, and self-collected, soaring as it were above human passions, while she riveted upon him the steadfast look of her calm, blue eyes, thus she spoke with Juno-like dignity, and with a sweet, musical voice, but seeming as cold to the afflicted father, in spite of its bland intonations, as the northern wind: "Crozat, this is a strange and moving tale. You stand forgiven, for you have acted as nature would prompt most men to do, and even if your error had been more grievous, your manly candor and frank confession would redeem the guilt. Therefore, let it pass; let your conscience be relieved from further pangs on this subject. My esteem and friendship stand the same for you as before. What grieves me to the heart, is the deplorable situation of your Andrea, who is mine also, and whom I love like p110a daughter, although she can not be permitted to assume such a relation to me in the eye of the world. She is young, and it shall be our special care, by gentle means, to cure her by degrees of the wild passion which has possessed her soul, poor child. As this, our first conversation on this painful topic, shall be the last, I wish to express my sentiments to you with sufficient fullness, that I may be clearly understood. I wish you to know, that my heart is not inflated with vulgar pride. I do not think that my blood is different from yours in its composition, and is noble solely because I descend from a particular breed, and that yours is vile, because the accidental circumstance of birth has placed you among the plebeians and what we call the base and the low-born. A peasant's son, if he be virtuous and great in soul and in mind, is more in my estimation than a king's, if an idiot or a wicked man. Thus far, I suppose, we understand each other. There is but one valuable nobility — that in which hereditary rank is founded on a long succession of glorious deeds. Such is the case with our house. It has been an historical one, trunk and branches, for much more than twelve centuries. Kings, emperors, claim a kindred blood with ours. Our name is indissolubly bound with the history of Europe and Asia, and the annals of the kingdom of France, in particular, may be said to be the records of our house. We have long ceased to count the famous knights, the high constables, the marshals, generals, and other great men who have sprung from our fruitful race, This is what I call nobility. To this present day, none of that race has ever contracted an alliance which was not of an illustrious and historical character. It is a principle, nay more, Crozat, it is a religion with us, and it is too late for us to turn apostates. It is to that creed, which we have cherished p111from time immemorial, that we are indebted for what we are. If once untrue to ourselves, there is an instinctive presentiment which tells us that we shall be blasted with the curse of heaven. Right or wrong, it is a principle, I say; and there is such mysterious vitality and power in a principle, be it what it may, that if strictly and systematically adhered to for ages, it will work wonders. Therefore the traditions of our house must stand unbroken forever, coeval with its existence, and remain imperishable pyramids of our faith in our own worth.

"I know that your daughter, whom I have raised in my lap, and whose transcendent qualities I appreciate as they deserve, would be the best of wives, and bless my son with earthly bliss. But, Crozat, those of my race are not born to be happy, but to be great. This is the condition of their existence. They do not marry for themselves, but for the glorification of their house. It is a sacred mission, and it must be fulfilled. Every animated thing in the creation must follow the bent of its nature. The wooing dove may be satisfied with the security of its lot in the verdant foliage of the forest, but the eagle must speed to the sun, even if he be consumed by its rays. Such being the fate of our race, a hard one in many respects, you see, my dear Crozat — and I say so with deep regret at the consequences which you anticipate, not however without a hope that they may be averted — you must clearly see that an alliance between our families is an impossibility. It would be fatal to your daughter, who would be scorched by ascending, Phaeton-like, into a sphere not calculated for her; and it would be also fatal to my son, who would be disgraced for his being recreant to his ancestors and to his posterity. You deserve infinite credit for having risen to the summit where you now stand. You have p112been ennobled, and you are one of the greatest merchants of the age, but you are not yet a Medici! You have not forced your way, like that family, into the ranks of the potentates of the earth. If, indeed — but why talk of such idle dreams? Adieu, Crozat, be comforted — be of good cheer. — Things may not be as bad as you think for your daughter. Her present attachment not being encouraged, she may in time form another one. Farewell, my friend, put your faith in God he is the best healer of the wounds of the heart!"

Crozat bowed low to the duchess, whose extended hand he kissed reverentially, and he withdrew from the chilling frigidity of her august presence. Crouching under the weight of his misfortune, and under the consciousness of the invincible and immortal pride he had to deal with, he tottered to his solitary room, and sinking into a large gothic chair, buried his feverish head into his convulsive hands. Hot tears trickled through the contracted fingers, and he sobbed and groaned aloud, when he recalled, one by one, all the words of the duchess, as they slowly fell from her lips, burning his soul, searing his brains, filtering through his heart like distilled drops of liquid fire. Suddenly he started up with fierce energy; his face was lighted with dauntless resolution: he ground his teeth, clenched his fist, as if for a struggle, and shook it in defiance of some invisible adversary, while he moved on with expanded chest and with a frame dilating into the majesty of some imaginary command. "O Daughter," he exclaimed, "thou shalt be saved, and if necessary, I will accomplish impossibilities. Did not the proud duchess say that if I were a Medici! . . . the ruler of provinces! — if I had an historical name? She did! and I know that she would keep her word. Well then! ye powers of heaven or hell, that helped the Medici, I bow to ye, and call ye to my aid, by the only incantation which I know, the strong magic of an energetic mind. I invoke your assistance, be the sacrifice on my part whatever it may:— I will sign any bond ye please — I will set my all on the cast of a die — and gamble against fate. My daughter is the stake, and death to her and to me the forfeit!" This was a sinful ebullition of passion — the only excuse the paroxysm of a delirious mind. But still it was impious, and his protecting angel averted his face and flew upward. Alas! poor Crozat!

Hence the origin of that charter, by which Louisiana was ceded, as it were, to Crozat. He flattered himself with the hope that, if successful in his gigantic enterprise, a few years might ripen the privileges he had obtained in the concession of a principality, which he would form in the New World, a principality which, as a great feudatory vassal, he would hold in subjection to the crown of France. Then he would say to the proud duchess, "I am a Medici. My name outweighs many a haughty one in the scales of history:— my nobility rests not only on title, but on noble deeds. These were your words — I hold you to them — redeem your pledge — one of your blood can not be false — I claim your son — I give him a princess for his bride, and domains ten times broader than France, or any kingdom in Europe, for her dowry!"

So hoped the heart of the father — so schemed the head of the great merchant! What man ever had stronger motives to fire his genius? What ambition more sacred and more deserving of reward than his? And yet none, save one, guessed at the motives which actuated him! He was taxed with being insatiable of wealth: people wondered at his gigantic avidity. Some there were, who shrugged their shoulders, and p114said that he was tempting fate, that it was time for him to be satisfied with what he had, without exposing his present wonderful acquisitions for the uncertainty of a greater fortune. Such are the blind judgments of the world! Crozat was blamed for being too ambitious, and envy railed at the inordinate avidity of the rash adventurer, when pity ought to have wept over the miseries of the broken-hearted father. On the dizzy eminence whither he had ascended, Crozat, when he looked round for sympathy, was met by the basilisk stare of a jealous, cold-blooded world, who stood by, calculating his chances of success, and grinning in anticipation at the wished-for failure of his defeated schemes. At such a sight, his heart sank within his breast, and elevating his hands, clasped in prayer, "Angels and ministers of grace," he said, "ye know that it is no ambitious cravings, but the racked feelings of a father, that urge me to the undertaking, upon which I call down your blessings. Be ye my friends and protectors in heaven, for Crozat has none on this earth."


Thayer's Notes:

a Yet another marker of the date of first composition of Gayarré's work. As we saw in an earlier chapter, the lectures were first written in 1847, and that epidemic was very present to the mind of the writer. Before the work was consolidated into its final form, however, a far worse epidemic had struck, in 1853. For a comparative look at the two epidemics, and a quick glance at others of the first half of the 19c, see Chapter 10 of Kendall's history of New Orleans; Grace King's account of them will also be instructive (New Orleans, The Place and the People, Chapter 12).

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b The unprovoked surprise attack on Corlar ("Corlear's fort", now Schenectady, NY — not "Maine", as seen elsewhere on the Web) by a French and Indian scalping party on Feb. 8/18, 1690, and the massacre that followed, are graphically detailed by John Fiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, Vol. II, pp179 ff. where a portrait of Iberville, appearing to reproduce a contemporary engraving, is also found.

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c The fatalistic opinion that yellow fever was inevitable among newcomers to the region was widespread among Louisiana natives in the 19c, and is in some measure responsible for the high death tolls from the fever, as well as a certain lack of alacrity in seeking preventive measures; see Kendall, History of New Orleans, Chapter 10.

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d It is useful to point out here that the bureaucrat whom Gayarré is preparing to pillory is not the discoverer of the Mississippi, Robert Cavelier de la Salle, who had died in 1687; but a much lesser man, Nicolas de la Salle; this is why he takes care always to refer to him as the commissary La Salle; they are no relation, by the way. For a somewhat more neutral look at him, see The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

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e For the toadstone, see Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, III.13 and especially the notes, which include a good sampling of 17c opinion and investigations on it. The subject is inextricably tangled up with that of bezoars (Pseudodoxia III.23 and notes), the teeth of fish, etc.


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