These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Arrival of Governor Kerlerec — He shows himself favorable to the Indians — His dealing with them — His Opinion of the Inhabitants of Louisiana — His description of the State of the Colony — His Opinion of the French and Swiss Troops — Reduction of the Forces and of the Expenses of the Colony — Arrival of some Emigrants from Lorraine — Apprehensions of an Attack from the English — Cruelty of the French Commander at Cat Island — He is murdered by his Soldiers — Manner in which they are punished — Hard Fate of Baudrot — Defensive Preparations against the English — Curious Fact as to Balize Island — Revulsion of Kerlerec's Sentiments in relation to the Indians — Heavy Expenses of the French Administration in Louisiana — Warfare between the Capuchins and Jesuits — The English cut off all Communication between France and Louisiana — Defenceless State of the Colony — Military Power of the Choctaws and Alibamons in 1758 — Arrival of the Intendant Rochemore — Paper Money Operations of Rochemore — He is blamed for them by his Government — Quarrels between Rochemore and Kerlerec — Rochemore is dismissed from Office and his Friends are embarked for France — Attempt to Manufacture Sugar from the Cane — New Orleans fortified with a Ditch and a Palisade — Arrival of Foucault as King's Commissary — His Description of the Colony — Cession of Louisiana to Spain and to the English — Protest of the Indians against the Cession — Kerlerec is recalled and thrown into the Bastille — D'Abbadie appointed Governor — Description of the Colony by Redon de Rassac — The English take Possession of Mobile and Tombecbee — Bickerings between the French and English — Hostility of the Indians of Louisiana to the English — Engagement between the English Major Loftus and the Indians on the River Mississippi — Expulsion of the Jesuits from the Colony — D'Abbadie's Description of the Colony — Petition of the Merchants of New Orleans to D'Abbadie — His Opinion of that Petition — Monopoly of Printing granted to Braud — Letter of Louis XV to D'Abbadie on the Treaty of Cession.
Kerlerec, the successor of the Marquis of Vaudreuil, was a captain in the Royal Navy. He was a distinguished officer who had been in active service at sea twenty-five years, and who had been in four engagements, p68 in which he had displayed ability and courage, and had received several wounds. He reached the Balize on the 24th of January, 1753, New Orleans on the 3d of February, and was installed as Governor on the 9th of that month.
Kerlerec began his administration by showing himself very well disposed towards the Indians, in whose favor he seems to have imbibed very decided impressions on his arrival in Louisiana. On the 11th of June, he convened a court-martial, to take into consideration the representations made by the Choctaws on behalf of certain deserters who had been arrested by them and delivered up to the French, under the stipulations of a treaty, by which the Choctaws were bound to arrest all the French deserters, and the French, on the other side, had obligated themselves to pardon those that should be arrested and delivered up by the Choctaws. The Indians had faithfully complied with their part of the treaty; but the French seemed disposed to forget their obligations, and were detaining in prison, probably with the intention of proceeding to more rigorous means of punishment, three deserters who had been put in their possession under the treaty. The Indians had justly threatened to consider themselves as released from their obligation of arresting French deserters, if those that were in prison did not receive a full pardon. The court-martial, presided over by Kerlerec, decided in favor of the demand of the Indians, who were exceedingly gratified when Kerlerec gave them the official information of that fact, and assured them that, for the future, the rights of the Indians and of the French would be impartially weighed in the same scales.
On the 20th August, the new Governor wrote to his government: "I am satisfied with the Choctaws. It p69 seems to me that they are true to their plighted faith. But we must be the same in our transactions with them. They are men who reflect, and who have more logic and precision in their reasoning than it is commonly thought."
At a meeting of the Choctaw chiefs, Kerlerec reproached them, in a friendly tone, with their receiving English traders in their villages. He told them that, so long as they extended one hand to the French and the other to the English, they were to expect constant troubles, because they ought not to forget that the English were the originators of all the difficulties which had happened between the Choctaws and the French, and which had divided the Choctaw themselves into hostile parties. To these observations the Indians replied, with a good deal of sense and truth: "The original wrongs and faults are on the side of the French. They are the first of the white race whom we have known, and who have inspired us with new wants from which we cannot free ourselves, and for the satisfaction of which they are often but partially prepared, when not totally unprovided. The English study our tastes with more care than you do; they have a more diversified and a richer stock of merchandise. Hence we are driven to trade with them, when our hearts are with you. It is a matter of necessity, not of choice. Satisfy all our wants, and we shall, now and for ever, renounce the English."
Kerlerec admitted the strength of these observations, to which he called the attention of the French government, and took this circumstance as a theme for requesting a larger supply than usual of every sort of merchandise. He also convened the chiefs of the Arkansas, whom he feasted with great liberality, and whom he p70 dismissed much delighted with their reception at New Orleans, after having urged them to send, all along the Mississippi, for •about forty leagues up and down, war expeditions against the Chickasaws, the Cherokees, and the Chaouannons.
With regard to the Chickasaws, although their numbers had been much curtailed, they were still very troublesome, and had lately killed all the men of a convoy destined for the Illinois district, sparing only one girl, ten years old, whom they carried away. Kerlerec betook himself to ransoming several prisoners who had long been among the Indians. For the ransom of every male adult the governor gave •one hundred pounds weight of deer skin, and proportionately less for females and children.
Kerlerec also proceeded to make some mutations among the officers of the several posts. "I have recalled," says he, in one of his despatches, "Mr. de Pontalba, who had the command of Pointe Coupée, although he ought to have been kept there for the good of that locality; but I was obliged to give way under the pressure of the calumnies of a gang of intruders, who had spread the rumor that Mr. de Pontalba would retain his post, because he had annually paid to the Governor a stipend of twelve thousand livres; and that the same influence would be brought to bear upon me with the same results. Before the departure of Mr. de Vaudreuil, a petition signed by forty of the most respectable inhabitants of Pointe Coupée had been presented to me, to retain Mr. de Pontalba in command. But I had to yield to malicious insinuations, and I must confess that this circumstance has filled me with grief, humiliation, contempt and disgust toward the people of this country."
p71 The fact is that Kerlerec, in less than six months after his arrival, was beginning to see tides of a sea of trouble and vexations rising fast upon him. Many of the officers were discontented, and the Capuchins, whom he seems to have offended, were using against him all their priestly influence.
The state of the colony itself was not such as to present a very gratifying spectacle to its Governor, and, in connection with this subject, Kerlerec wrote to his government: "The German Settlement has not recovered from the unfortunate blow which it received from the Indians, in or about the year 1748. The inhabitants of that post withdraw from it insensibly, and therefore their numbers diminish every day. To those who remain nothing can inspire a feeling of security, and they are so disgusted with their present position, that many of them have petitioned me for lands elsewhere, unless I grant them an increase of troops for their protection. They even desire that those troops be Swiss, on account of the sympathies and affinities which they have with men of that nation, and because the Swiss, being disposed to hard working, will help them in their agricultural labors, and will marry and settle among them, much more than the French are likely to do. Another reason is, that the troops of our nation, on account of the horrid acts of which they are known to be capable, have inspired the German settlers, who have retained a proper sense of their worth and dignity, with a deep aversion to having with them any communication. I have sent to these Germans fifteen men of the Swiss company of Vélezand, and, for the reasons here given, I solicit an increase of the Swiss troops. The Swiss behave exceedingly well: it would be necessary to carry their number to three hundred. I would p72 prefer reducing the French troops and augmenting the Swiss; such is the superiority of the latter over the former!"
When reading the despatches of the governors of Louisiana for a series of fifty-four years, one is tempted to believe that the French Government used to select from the convicts in the King's jails the men who were sent as soldiers to Louisiana. Bienville complained of the disgrace and grief inflicted upon him by putting under his command certain specimens of humanity, whose dwarfish size did not exceed •four feet and a half, whose stunted and crooked proportions offended the sight, and whose vices were only equalled by their cowardice. Périer blushed at the necessity of confessing, that his soldiers usually fled at the first flash of an Indian gun. He even said, in one of his despatches, that his troops were so wretchedly bad, that they seemed to have been picked purposely for the colony, and that it would be much better to trust negroes on the battle-field, and use them as soldiers, were they not too valuable property, because they, at least, were brave men. Now comes Kerlerec, who, pouring out the last and bitterest drop remaining in the vial of vituperation, informs his government that it would be more expedient to send him Swiss instead of French troops, on account of the decided superiority of the former, and because the apprehension of the horrid acts of which the French troops were known to be capable, had induced the colonists to wish to avoid the contaminating and dangerous contact of such villains. What had become, one is tempted to exclaim, of the soldiers of Turenne and of Condé? What had become of the chivalry that had threatened, under Louis XIV, to subdue the whole of Europe? What had become of the heroism that had p73 blazed uninterruptedly through so many centuries, and so freely spilt the noble blood of France in every part of the world, from the days when the sword of a Gaul weighed so heavily in the Roman scales at the foot of the Capitol, down to the recently fought battle of Fontenoy? The fields of Canada were soon destined to show that the French soldiers, under Montcalm and others, had undergone no degeneracy. But the stern impartiality of the historian makes it his duty to record these words, which were written by a French officer (Périer) when giving an account of a panic: "I am grieved to see that there is less of the French temperament in Louisiana than anywhere else." It is a relief, however, to remark that every Governor, although applying the most withering expressions of contempt to the colonial French soldiers, who, generally, were commanded by officers of distinguished abilities and great intrepidity, seldom fails to pay a flattering homage to the courage of the French colonists and of the few Creoles or natives of Louisiana.
After the departure of Vaudreuil, the troops were reduced to thirteen hundred and fifty men. The rest of the forces of the colony was composed of four companies of militia and one company of land waiters (gardes-côtes), the whole amounting to about five hundred men. The object of this reduction was to diminish the expenses, which for this year, 1753, rose to 887,205 livres.
The colony had been advancing in age, without having gathered strength enough to cease to be tributary to the Indians; for at the beginning of the year 1754, Kerlerec wrote to his government: "I lack merchandise to trade with, and, particularly, to make to the Choctaws the customary presents which they expect, and of which three have now become due, without this debt having p74 been discharged. This is the cause of their addressing me vehement and even insolent reproaches. They threaten to call in the English."
This year, the population of the colony was slightly increased by the arrival of some families from Lorraine. They were located at the German settlement, which, as we have seen, was undergoing a gradual process of depopulation that was checked by this circumstance. They were industrious people, and proved a valuable acquisition.
The colony was, at this time, under great apprehension of being attacked by the English, and, on the 9th of July, Kerlerec wrote to his government in very strong language, to represent the utterly defenceless state of the colony, which was open on all sides and destitute of everything. "And yet," said Kerlerec, "the English are moving everywhere about us, and threaten to interrupt our communications with the Illinois."
From the fear of danger coming from abroad the attention of the colonists was diverted, for a time, by an event which filled them with horror, and the impression of which has been transmitted to us from generation to generation by the traditions of the fireside.
In Cat Island there was a small garrison commanded by an officer named Roux, or Duroux, who was extremely cruel and avaricious. He used to employ his men in making charcoal which he sold for his private benefit; and for the slightest offence, ordering them to strip stark naked, he had them tied to trees, in the midst of a swamp, and in the thickest of swarms of musquitoes. There he doomed them to endure the torments of a long night. The natural result ensued; the victims rose upon the tyrant, put him to death, fled to the mainland near Mobile, and, joining some English traders, endeavored to p75 reach Georgia across the Indian territories. But, at the bidding of the French, a party of Choctaws pursued the fugitives, and made them prisoners, with the exception of one, who destroyed himself. They were taken to New Orleans, where they were tried. Two were broken on the wheel, and one them, who was a Swiss, was, in conformity, it is said, with the penal code observed by the Swiss in the service of France, placed in a coffin, and (horresco referens) sawed asunder across the waist by two sergeants of the Swiss troops. In our days, it is more than doubtful, considering the provocation, whether these men would have been punished at all. So different are the judgments of man under the never-ceasing modifications produced by time!
The Indians, whose greediness and acuteness never lost an opportunity of obtaining some presents or indemnities from the French, pretended that their territory had been polluted by the suicide of the French soldier who had put an end to his life; and they claimed a present as an atonement for the crime. It was the Alibamons who urged this pretension, and Kerlerec, who wished to conciliate them, acceded to their demand.
When Roux was murdered by the soldiers under his command, there was on Cat Island a man named Baudrot, who had been thrown into prison by Roux, for disobedience to one of his arbitrary and oppressive orders. Baudrot had frequently been employed by the successive governors of Louisiana, to negotiate with the Indian nations, and had always shown himself worthy of the trust reposed in him. He was held in high estimation by the Indians, of whose languages he had acquired a perfect knowledge, and he was well acquainted with their manners, their customs, their laws, and the geography of the territories which they claimed as their own. Wonders p76 were related of his physical strength, and had made him known far and wide. The Choctaws, in particular, had conceived such respect and friendship for him, that they had adopted him, and had granted him all the privileges possessed by one of their race. The soldiers of Roux, after having murdered their commander, forced Baudrot to act as their guide, to a certain distance through the territory of the Indians, and then sent him back with a certificate that he had yielded only to violence on their part. He was tried, however, and found guilty as accomplice to the flight of the soldiers. To the horror of all the inhabitants of Louisiana, with almost every one of whom he had become acquainted in the course of his travels and wanderings, and whose sympathies he had gained, he was broken on the wheel and his body, being denied Christian sepulture, was flung into the Mississippi, as if it had been the offensive carcase of the vilest animal. Such were the scenes acted in Louisiana in 1754! This barbarous deed struck with astonishment even the savages, and inspired them with an indignation which they did not fear loudly to express to Governor Kerlerec. The descendants of Baudrot are still in existence in Louisiana.
As already mentioned, the colony was under a lively sense of the danger of foreign invasion, and it became necessary to quiet the apprehensions of the inhabitants by defensive preparations. On the 20th of September, Kerlerec and the Intendant Commissary D'Auberville said, in a despatch to their government: "The land which is formed of alluvial deposits at the mouth of the Mississippi is so deficient in substance and solidity, that it is not possible, without considerable expenses, to establish thereon a settlement, or durable fortifications. The fortifications which the India Company had caused p77 to be erected there, and which were extensive, are destroyed. There are remaining but few vestiges of them, which are daily sinking into the mud, and are always under water when the tide rises, notwithstanding the repairs made to them in 1741 and 1742. It is important, however, to have at that locality a shelter for a small garrison, for pilots and their necessities, and for those things of which the coming and departing vessels may stand in need.
"A fifty-gun ship, with a solid bottom, a well-caulked waist, and the rablets from stern to stem, up and down, starboard and larboard, lined with a sheet of lead, •four inches wide, sheathed with nails and red cypress wood to preserve it from the worms, would last at least thirty years in the river. It would be the best substitute for a fort which the nature of the soil renders impossible."
A fact of some importance is mentioned in this very same despatch: "Balize Island, they said, which, twenty years ago, was •half a league at sea, has now fallen back •one league and a half on one side of the river, and joins that projection of land which the Mississippi gradually forms in carrying its waters into the Gulf. In this way the island is now distant from the ships coming from sea. This circumstance makes it the more imperative to establish a floating post."
If there is no exaggeration in the assertion of the fact mentioned in this despatch, the Mississippi had gained on the Gulf •six miles in twenty years, and if his progress has ever after continued in the same proportion, the great Father of Rivers must be, in 1850, •about twenty-nine miles farther than in 1754 in his career of conquest over the sea, and in his loving approach toward the fair Island of Cuba.
In the month of December, there was at Mobile a p78 great festival, given on the occasion of the distribution of presents to the Indians. Satisfied with their share, the Choctaws solemnly voted to Kerlerec the title of Father of the Choctaws. But Kerlerec seemed, at this time, to have a sad opinion of the virtues of his children, for he wrote to his government: "I am sufficiently acquainted with the Choctaws to know that they are covetous, lying and treacherous; so that I keep on my guard without showing it." This is a very different appreciation from the one made by Kerlerec the year preceding, when he said of the Choctaws: "I am satisfied with them. It seems to me that they are true to their plighted faith. They are men who reflect, and who have more logic and precision in their reasoning than it is commonly thought." Thus Kerlerec had changed his mind, as other men have done, and will do, on more than one subject.
Whatever was the real character of the Choctaws, they had remained true to the French in making war against the Chickasaws, who would have long since been destroyed, if the Cherokees and Chaouannons, who were in the habit of marrying among them, had not supplied them with constant recruits. But their losses had been so heavy for a series of years, that it was evident that the triumph of the French was soon to be complete over these inveterate enemies.
Although the French Government had recommended the strictest economy, and had diminished the number of the troops, the expenses of the year 1754 rose to 963,124 livres.
The year 1755 brought on an increase of the fear of British invasion. In the month of June, Kerlerec sent twelve men to Cat Island, to watch the approach of the English, who were expected soon to make their appearance p79 at Ship Island; and these men were instructed to give him timely notice of the operations of the enemy. He also increased the fortifications at the English Turn, and he wrote to his government for an additional force of five hundred men. This year, the English had attacked the French in Canada, and Kerlerec had great fears for Louisiana, which the English had always coveted. He became therefore clamorous for help from the mother country. But France was then undergoing the deleterious influence resulting from the Orleans regency, and from the corrupt and pusillanimous reign of Louis XV. Her exhausted energies were not such as to enable her to protect effectually and to preserve her distant possessions.
At that time, there sprang up in the colony a sort of religious warfare, which added to the distraction produced by the expectation of perils from abroad. In 1717, the Capuchins of the province of Champagne, in France, had secured for their body exclusive ecclesiastical jurisdiction over New Orleans and a large portion of the territory of Louisiana. In 1726, the Jesuits had also obtained permission to settle in the colony; and in order to avoid all collision with the Capuchins, their jurisdiction had been confined to a remote region in the upper part of the colony. But they had taken care to procure, as an apparently insignificant favor, that their Superior might reside in New Orleans, on condition that he should not discharge there any ecclesiastical function, unless it should be with the consent of the Superior of the Capuchins. This was an entering wedge, which the well known and exquisite dexterity of the Jesuits turned to good purpose, so far as their interest was concerned. Enough had been granted to men in whom the energy of enterprise was equal to the sagacious daring of conception p80 and to the artful readiness of execution. Thus they began with obtaining for their Superior, from the Bishop of Quebec, in whose diocese Louisiana was included, a commission of Grand Vicar, to be carried into effect within the limits of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Capuchins, with which they had no right to interfere, in virtue of the stipulated conditions of the contract entered into between the Capuchins and the India Company, in 1717. The Jesuits pretended that this was not a violation of that contract, because their Superior did not assume to act as Jesuit, but as Grand Vicar and representative of the Bishop of Quebec in his diocese of Louisiana. But the Superior Council, siding with the Capuchins, had refused to admit and to record the nomination made by the Bishop. Nevertheless, the Jesuits had gradually usurped many of the functions of the Capuchins, in spite of the strenuous opposition ofº the latter, and had carried their audacity so far as to threaten to interdict their rivals altogether. The poor Capuchins, who were completely bewildered, and who were wanting in the spirit and ability necessary to cope with such adversaries, contented themselves with uttering loud complaints, and clamoring for the help of the government. Unluckily for their cause, they had committed the fault of acting with too much expansion of good nature towards the Jesuits. For instance, on the 9th of March, 1752, Reverend Father Dagobert, the Superior of the Capuchins, had had the imprudent courtesy of inviting Father Baudoin, the Superior of the Jesuits, to give his benediction to the Chapel of the Hospital, built for the poor of the parish of New Orleans. Father Baudoin, the Jesuit, assented with pious alacrity to the proposition of Father Dagobert, the Capuchin, which alacrity was stimulated by the circumstance that Father p81 Dagobert, on that occasion, had, with Christian meekness, had offered to act, and did act, as aid or assistant, to the proud Jesuit, that is, in an inferior capacity. Father Baudoin availed himself of this circumstance as a weapon against the Capuchins. He said that he had published his letters patent as Grand Vicar, immediately after having received them, and that, although he had assumed this title, and announced his determination to act as such, no objection had been raised to his causing, in this capacity, certain publication to be made, on the 26th of February, 1752, with regard to the celebration of the Jubilee in the parish of New Orleans; that, subsequently, he had given his benediction, in the same capacity, to the Chapel of the Hospital, and that, having thus been openly recognized Vicar General of Lower Louisiana, it was now too late for the Capuchins to dispute his title and the prerogatives thereto appertaining. This was the question which had agitated the colony for several years, and which still remained undecided in 1755. It was called the War of the Jesuits and the Capuchins, and produced much irritation at the time. It gave rise to acrimonious writings, quibs, pasquinades, and satirical songs. The women, in particular, made themselves conspicuous for the vivacity of their zeal either for one or the other party.
The year 1756 passed off without leaving in its course anything worth recording. Kerlerec continued to complain of the grievous state of destitution from which the colony was suffering, and of the intrigues of the English, whom he represented as gaining much ground and influence with the Indians. In a despatch of the 1st of April, he says:— "The governors of Virginia and Carolina have offered rewards for our heads. I believe that the English government is not aware of it; otherwise, p82 it would be an abomination. Our Indians have frequently proposed to bring me English scalps, and I have always rejected their offer with indignation." Notwithstanding the destitution in which the colony was represented to be, its expenses went up, this year, to 829,398 livres.
On the 14th of March, 1757, the Intendant Commissary D'Auberville died, and was succeeded ad interim by Bobé Desclozeaux.
The English had nearly cut off all communication between France and Louisiana, and Kerlerec found himself so much in want of ammunition, that he sent to Vera Cruz for powder, but all he could obtain from the Governor of that place, was •twenty-one thousand six hundred and twenty-three pounds of an inferior quality.
On the 21st of October, Kerlerec informed his government that he had written fifteen despatches in cypher without receiving an answer, and that the colony was so defenceless, that it would yield to the first attack, particularly if the French were abandoned by the Indians, who, so far, had been their allies, and who were showing much dissatisfaction. "The English," Kerlerec wrote, "have taken very efficacious means to capture all ships bound to Louisiana. They have established a permanent cruise at Cape St. Antonio de Cuba, and their privateers, spreading desolation among our coasters, pounce upon them at the very mouth of the Mississippi. In a word, we are lacking in every thing, and the discontent of our Indians is a subject of serious fears. So far, I have quieted them, but it has been at considerable expense. Had it not been for the distribution among them of some merchandise, procured from small vessels which had eluded the vigilance of our enemies, p83 some revolution fatal to us would have sprung up among the Indians."
Three critical years had elapsed, during which Louisiana seems to have been severed from all communication with France, when, in August, 1758, a new Intendant Commissary, De Rochemore, arrived from the parent country, with some of the supplies which had been so long prayed for. Never had help been more opportune; for the Choctaws, impatient at not receiving their customary presents, had begun acts of hostility against the French. According to a statement made by Kerlerec, the Choctaws could then bring into the field four thousand warriors, and the Alibamons three thousand. "These two nations," said Kerlerec, "are the bulwarks of the colony, and they must be conciliated, cost what may."
Kerlerec also informed his government that his plan, for two years, had been to unite all the Indians of the South and West into a great confederacy, to march at their head against the English settlements, and thus to operate a diversion in favor of De Vaudreuil, who was struggling at the North in the defence of Canada, but that he had, in vain, waited two years for the necessary means to carry his plan into execution.
On the 20th of December, Kerlerec applied for the Cross of St. Louis in favor of Captain Aubry, who was destined, at a future period, to be Governor of Louisiana, and who was to play a conspicuous part in the drama by which her destinies were closed as a French colony. This officer had recently distinguished himself at Fort Duquesne, and previously, on several other occasions. It seems that, on the 14th of September, at six o'clock in the morning, Fort Duquesne had been attacked by an English detachment of nine hundred men. Aubry, p84 who commanded the Louisiana troops, sallied out at their head to meet the enemy. Notwithstanding three murderous discharges of artillery and musketry, he fell upon the English troops with fixed bayonets, and crushed them entirely. The English left on the battle ground three hundred men, dead or mortally wounded; many were drowned, and two hundred made prisoners. Such is the French report.
The year 1759 was marked in Louisiana by one of those paper money operations, from which she had already suffered so many evils at different times. Hardly had Rochemore been installed in office as Intendant Commissary, when he called in one million eight hundred thousand livres of paper money which circulated in the colony, and converted it into drafts on the treasury in France. He replaced the withdrawn currency by another emission of paper money to the same amount, under the singular pretext of making his administration distinct from that of his predecessor. In so doing he had the hardihood to act in direct opposition to his instructions, and was justly and severely reprimanded for it by his government.
Rochemore seems to have cared very little for the blame he had incurred, and did not hesitate to engage in bitter hostility against Governor Kerlerec, whom he accused of being guilty of an illegal and corrupt traffic with the Indians, secretly carried on under cover of the Governor's Secretary, Titon de Sibèque. He also complained of the extravagant expenses in which the Governor indulged, and informed the French government that the costs of the administration of the colony would, this year, rise to one million of livres.
It appears, however, that Rochemore had irregularities enough of his own to be forgiven, and that he ought not p85 to have felt justified in looking too closely and too critically into the conduct of others; thus, not only had he assumed the power of issuing paper money, but he had also annulled certain concessions of lands, to bestow those lands on members of his own family. He proceeded to dispose, in the most arbitrary manner, of the King's merchandise, to the safe keeping of which he had appointed his brother-in‑law. He whimsically appointed to the office of Comptroller his friend and adviser, Destréhan, who was the Treasurer of the colony: so that Destréhan, the Comptroller, was expected to supervise, direct and control the acts of Destréhan, the Treasurer. He went into suspicious partnerships with certain individuals, to whom he had granted the execution of the public works, to whom he had made considerable and injudicious advances. For these reasons, and on account of hostility to Kerlerec, Rochemore was dismissed from office by a ministerial decree of the 27th of August, 1759. His secretary, Bellot, a sort of pettifogger, was arrested and sent to France. In the possession of Bellot were found forty thousand livres, which, considering his small salary, could not have be honestly acquired in the course of one year, elapsed since his arrival in the country. Destréhan was ordered back to France, as being too rich and dangerous. All those who had supported Rochemore in his opposition to the Governor, and they were numerous, highly connected and powerful, incurred displeasure, reprimand, or dismissal from office, at the hands of the French government, and some of them were forcibly embarked by Kerlerec and transported to France.
There is but too much evidence that, from the foundation of the colony, the French government, the princely merchant Crozat and the India Company had been p86 shamefully defrauded. Thus, two of the King's ships, which had been sent to Louisiana with merchandise, having arrived on the 17th of August, 1758, were not ready to depart before the 2d of January, 1759, and their expenses, during this unaccountable delay, amounted to 194,099 livres. The Minister of the Marine department made it a ground of energetic complaint against the administration of Louisiana, and he, no doubt with reason, suspected that gross fraud had been practised on the King. The fact is that the fate of Louisiana, as a French colony, was rapidly approaching a crisis, and that the French government had grown disgusted with a possession which had been, for more than half a century, the cause of heavy expenses, without giving even a faint promise of adequate compensation in the future. It is not, therefore, astonishing that the King, for the sake of economy, suppressed at once thirty-six companies of the Louisiana troops, and thereby reduced to almost nothing the forces of the Colony. The colonists, however, were striving to increase their resources and to ameliorate their condition, by engaging with more perseverance, zeal and skill in agricultural pursuits. Dubreuil, one of the richest men of the colony, whose means enabled him to make experiments, and who owned that tract of land where now is Esplanade street, and part of the Third Municipality of New Orleans, seeing that the canes introduced by the Jesuits in 1751 had grown to maturity, and had ever since been cultivated with success, as an article of luxury, which was retailed in the New Orleans market, built a sugar mill and attempted to make sugar. But the attempt proved to be a complete failure.
Although an order had been issued in France, on the 27th August, 1759, to recall Rochemore, he was still in p87 office on the 2d of January, 1760, and, as Intendant Commissary, he took part in a Court Martial, in which it was unanimously resolved that it was expedient to surround New Orleans with a ditch and palisade, in conformity with a plan made by the engineer Devergés.a These fortifications were to be erected at the King's expense, because the inhabitants of New Orleans were too poor to undertake such works, and would be sufficiently taxed with the obligation of keeping them up. The Court Martial was composed of Kerlerec, as Governor, of Rochemore, as Intendant Commissary, and of the following officers: Devergès, D'Herneuville, Grand‑Pré, Grand-Champ, Maret de la Tour, Bellehot, Favrot, Pontalba, Dorville, and Trudeau. On the 21st of December of the same year, 1760, the projected fortifications were completed, but Kerlerec wrote to his government that, to render them efficient, he wanted artillery, men and ammunition.
The officers who had sided with Rochemore against Kerlerec, and whom Kerlerec had forcibly sent back to France, had been so clamorous against the Governor and had advocated the cause of Rochemore with such zeal, that they had succeeded in suspending the execution of the ministerial order dismissing the Commissary from office. Among these officers, the most active and influential were Grondel and Marigny de Mandeville, and it was not long before Kerlerec perceived that they were no contemptible enemies.
But, in 1761, new complaints, which were countenanced by the Superior Council, having been made against Rochemore, he was definitely recalled, and Foucault, his successor, arrived in June of the same year. Describing the state of the colony in a despatch addressed to his government, Foucault said: "I have found the King's p88 warehouses entirely empty, merchandise selling at enormous prices, the papers and registers of the administration scattered about and intrusted to clerks, some of whom are no longer in the employment of the colony. There is afloat more than seven millions of paper money. Drafts on the Treasury in France are discounted at 400 and 500 per cent."
Hence it is difficult to imagine a more painful and precarious situation than that in which the colony found itself at the time. A few words, extracted from a despatch written by Kerlerec on the 12th of July, will complete the picture: "The Choctaws and the Alibamons," said he, "harass us daily, to have supplies and merchandise. They threaten to go over to the English, if we cannot relieve them, and, in the mean time, during their frequent visits they devour the little that remains of our provisions and exhaust our meagre stock of merchandise. We have just ground to fear and to expect hostilities from them. Therefore our situation is not tenable, and the whole population is in a state of keen anxiety."
Whilst Kerlerec was drawing up such a delineation of Louisiana, the ambassador of France at the Court of Madrid presented to that government, on the 31st of October, 1761, a memorial in which he made the humiliating confession, that France was unable to protect Louisiana any longer, and solicited the help and co‑operation of Spain, to supply the necessary wants of that colony, and to prevent it from falling into the hands of the English. The principal argument used to awaken the sympathy of Spain and to elicit favorable action on her part, was, that Louisiana was then the only bulwark between p89 the English and her own colonies. "This circumstance alone," said the French ambassador, "would be deserving of the attention of Spain, if his Catholic Majesty was not disposed, as he is, to afford to France all the assistance in his power." The Ambassador concluded his memorial with the declaration that France would reimburse Spain, with the greatest punctuality, for all the pecuniary advances which she would make, and for all the supplies and ammunition with which she would furnish Louisiana.
Kerlerec was made acquainted with this application to the Spanish government, and sent couriers in every direction to inform the Indians that, as the Spaniards were going to join the French in the protection of Louisiana, he would soon be in a situation to supply all their wants, and to trade with them on the largest scale. He therefore counselled the Indians to show, on all occasions, their friendship and gratitude to the Spaniards. With a view to strengthen his administration and to prevent opposition to his measures, he proceeded to make some considerable changes among the officers in command. Thus, he gave the command of New Orleans to De la Houssaye, in the place of Belleisle, a friend of Rochemore, and put De Grand‑Pré in command of Mobile, removing the incumbent on account of some partiality shown to Rochemore.
But Kerlerec was doomed to see all his hopes blasted, and to break all his promises. Spain, with her customary prudence, was pondering or dozing on the application made by the French government, and had not allowed herself to be betrayed into any departure from her usually slow mode of acting. She had remained passive so far, and had left Louisiana to her fate, and to the ineffectual protection of France. In 1762, however, p90 some ships arrived at the New Orleans from the parent country, but contributed very little to the relief of the colony. Alluding to these ships, Kerlerec wrote on the 24th of June: "They have brought none of the articles we wanted most, and hardly any of the things mentioned in the invoices. What they have brought is either not to the taste of the Indians, or is of so inferior or bad a quality, that it is without value. I am, therefore, under the shameful and humiliating necessity of not keeping my plighted faith to the savages. What shall I do with those Indian tribes I had convened, under the expectation of the supplies which I was led to believe would soon be at hand? What will be their feelings? How shall I keep them quiet? I am in a frightful position. Is the province of Louisiana destined to be the sport of cupidity and avarice?
Rochemore, who had remained in the colony since his removal from office in 1761, now departed for France in July. In a despatch to his government, Kerlerec said: "Rochemore has departed in the Medea, with a pocket-bookful of bills of credit, which are drawn in favor of another name than his, but which will secure to him a brilliant fortune in France. The object of this substitution of name is to prevent the government from knowing the truth." This despatch contained bitter complaints against certain officers of the colony, such as Belleisle, Grondel, Grand-Champ, D'Hauterive, Marigny de Mandeville, Rocheblave, Broutin, etc. Kerlerec transmitted also to his government a certificate as to the maladministration and evil doings of Rochemore, which was signed by sixty of the most respectable citizens and by the members of the superior Council.
Foucault, who had succeeded Rochemore, was the very personification of treachery. He managed to keep on p91 good terms with the Governor, and this functionary, in his despatches, bestowed the highest commendation on the new Commissary. But, whilst Kerlerec was acting so kindly towards Foucault, this individual was far from returning the favor, and, on the contrary, secretly accused Kerlerec of every sort of malfeasances, of a wasteful expenditure of the public moneys, and of their appropriation to his own uses and purposes.
Thus matters stood, when, on the 3d of November, 1762, the Marquis of Grimaldi, the Ambassador of Spain at the Court of Versailles, and the Duke of Choiseul, the premier in the French ministry, signed at Fontainebleau, an act by which the French king ceded to his cousin of Spain, and to his successors, for ever, in full ownership and without any exception or reservation whatever, from the pure impulse of his generous heart, and from the sense of the affection and friendship existing between these two royal persons, all the country known under the name of Louisiana. This apparent act of generosity had been so spontaneous and unforeseen on the part of the French king, that the Spanish minister had no instructions on the subject, and accepted the gift conditionally, that is, sub spe rati, subject to the ratification of his Catholic Majesty.
On the 13th of the same month, the King of Spain declared that, in order the better to cement the union which existed between the two nations as between the two kings, he accepted the donation tendered him by the generosity of his Most Christian Majesty.
These acts of donation and acceptance were kept secret, and the King of France continued to act as sovereign of Louisiana. Thus, on the 1st of January, 1763, he appointed Nicholas Chauvin de la Frénière, Attorney-General, and, on the 10th of February, he appointed, as p92 Comptroller, Foucault, who already held the office of Intendant Commissary.
On the same day, a treaty of peace was signed at Paris, between the kings of Spain and of France on the one side, and the King of Great Britain on the other, with the consent and acquiescence of the King of Portugal. The Art. 7 said:
"In order to re‑establish peace on solid and durable foundations, and to remove for ever all causes of dispute in relation to the limits between the French and British territories on the continent of America, it is agreed that, for the future, the limits between the possessions of his Most Christian Majesty and those of his Britannic Majesty in that part of the world shall be irrevocably fixed by a line drawn along the middle of the River Mississippi, from its source to the River Iberville, and from thence by a line in the middle of that shrine and of the Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the sea; and to that effect, the Most Christian King cedes, in full property and with full guaranty, to his Britannic Majesty, the river and the port of Mobile, and all that he possesses, or has a right to possess, on the left side of the Mississippi, with the exception of the town of New Orleans and the island on which it stands, and which shall be retained by France, with the understanding that the navigation of the Mississippi shall be free and open to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty as well as those of his Most Christian Majesty, in all its length from its source to the sea, and particularly that part of it which is between said Island and New Orleans and the right bank of the River, including egress and ingress at its mouth. It is further stipulated that the ships of both nations shall not be stopped on the river, visited, or subjected to any duty."
p93 By this treaty the King of France renounced his pretensions to Nova Scotia or Acadia, and guarantiedº the whole of it with its dependencies to Great Britain, ceding also Canada with its dependencies, and whatever remained of his ancient possessions in that portion of North America.
The King of Spain ceded also to Great Britain the province of Florida, with the port of St. Augustine and the Bay of Pensacola, as well as all the country he possessed, on the continent of North America, to the east and south-east of the River Mississippi.
It will be observed that, by this treaty, the King of France transferred to Great Britain, in 1763, part of what he had already given to Spain in November, 1762. But, probably, Spain had very little objection to resign a portion of an acquisition which had been forced upon her, and to which she did not at the time attach much value.
Thus France, with one stroke of the pen, found herself stripped of those boundless possessions which she had acquired at the cost of so much heroic blood and so much treasure, and which extended in one proud, uninterrupted line, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to that of the Mississippi. The adventure and much-enduring population which had settled there, and had overcome so many perils under the flag of France, and for her benefit, was coldly delivered over to the yoke of foreign masters. Tradition points to the spot called "El ultimo suspiro del Moro," "the last sigh of the Moor," where the infidel king, driven away from his fair city of Granada, looked back on her white towers glittering in the distance, and wept like a woman for the loss of that which he had not defended like a man. But he of France — the Most Christian Majesty — did he sigh p94 at the immensity of his loss — he who never had either the tenderness of a woman's heart, the pride of a king, or the courage of a man!
The English called West Florida that portion of territory they had acquired from Spain. George Johnston, having been appointed Governor of West Florida, soon arrived at Pensacola in company with Major Loftus, who was to take command of the Illinois district, and they both lost no time in sending detachments to take possession of forts Condé, Toulouse, Baton Rouge, and Natchez. Thus the British Lion had at last put his paw on a considerable portion of Louisiana, with no doubt a strong desire and with a fair prospect of grasping the rest at no distant time.
On the 16th of March, the King of France, who still acted as Sovereign in that part of Louisiana which he had not ceded to Great Britain, but which he had given away to Spain, announced by a royal ordinance, that he had determined to disband the troops serving in Louisiana, where his intention was to keep only a factory, with four companies of infantry for its protection and police. D'Abbadie was appointed Director of the factory, with the powers of a military commander.
The Indians were much incensed, when they heard of the treaty of cession. They said that the King of France had no right to transfer them over to any white or red chief in the world, and dispose of them like cattle, and they threatened resistance to the execution of the treaty. Several of the small nations, that were much attached to the French, when they saw the French flag pulled down, abandoned their lands, and came down to New Orleans. The Governor praised their fidelity, and granted them lands on the West bank of the Mississippi.
p95 On the 2d of May, Governor Kerlerec wrote to his government that it was expedient to make the customary presents to the Indians, notwithstanding the state of penury in which the treasury then was — 1st. Because the government was pledged to it according to its promises, in return for which promises, real services had been performed. 2d. Because this honest and loyal dealing would secure for ever the attachment of the Indians, which would be handed down from generation to generation, and which might be of great help to the French, in case, on a favorable occasion, France should ever attempt to recover by force that of which she had been deprived by force. He added that the Cherokees, the Choctaws and the Alibamons, when united, might set afoot more than twelve thousand warriors, and, therefore, that they would be no despicable auxiliaries in case of need.
On the 29th of June, 1763, D'Abbadie landed at New Orleans, and Kerlerec soon after departed for France, where, on his arrival, he was thrown into the Bastile. He had been Governor of Louisiana about ten years and five months. He was accused of several violations of duty and assumptions of power, and he was reproached, in particular, with having spent ten millions in four years, during the administration of the Intendant Commissary, Rochemore, under the pretence of preparing for war.
When Kerlerec and Rochemore accused each other with such virulence, the colony became divided into two camps, and the French government hesitated between the conflicting testimony adduced by the contending parties; but it is a matter of little importance to posterity to know which of the two was right, or whether both had not acted with impropriety. It is enough to p96 be informed that their dissensions, like those of their predecessors, proved injurious to the colony; and when each of them, being weighed in his turn, was found wanting in the scales, and alternately kicked the beam, it is probable that both of them deserved the treatment which they received at the hands of their government.
In the archives of the Department of Marine in France is to be found a memorial, written on the 15th of August, 1763, on the situation of Louisiana, by one Redon de Rassac, who seems to have occupied an official position in the colony. Among the causes which he gives, as having operated as obstacles to the prosperity of Louisiana, are the three following, described in his own style:
"1. Under Mr. De Vaudreuil, half of the married women sent to Louisiana had no children, and were between fifty and sixty years of age.
"2. A good many families were located below the English Turn, on marshy and unwholesome ground, requiring incessant labor to make and keep up embankments. To this must be added the deleterious influence of poverty, and of every variety of misery, the abjection of the men, and the prostitution of the women.
"3. The officers, addicted to trading, and converting their soldiers into slaves; a shameful system of plunder, authorized by the governors, provided they had their share of it; the dissolute morals of the military; drunkenness, brawls and duels, by which half of the population was destroyed."
What a frightful synopsis in these few words! What a picture, if it be a representation of truth!
On the 20th of October, Robert Farmer took possession of Mobile in the name of his Britannic majesty, p97 and Tombecbee was delivered up to Thomas Ford, on the 23d of November. Hardly had the English set foot on their newly-acquired territory, when the French perceived that they had to deal with neighbors of a very exacting disposition. Thus, on the 5th of December, Colonel Robertson wrote to D'Abbadie, to claim the artillery which had been withdrawn from Mobile, because it belonged, said he, to Great Britain, in virtue of the treaty of cession.
On the 7th of the same month, D'Abbadie answered that his construction of the treaty was different from that of Colonel Robertson, because, in his opinion, the words: "The Most Christian King cedes to his Britannic majesty the river and the port of Mobile, and all that he possesses or has a right to possess on the left side of the River Mississippi, with the exception of New Orleans and the island on which it is situated," could apply only to the soil and to the structures standing thereon. He said, however, that, as a favor, he would not remove the guns from Fort Tombecbee and from the fort at the Alibamons, on account of the difficulty which the English might experience in supplying their place; and also that he would leave a few guns in Illinois, in case the English wanted them, but that it should be under a strict inventory, and with the promise on their part to give them back, if he was supported by the French and English governments in his construction of the treaty.
Thus the French governor was acting with a courtesy which does not seem to have been acknowledged by the English, who made for it but a sorry return. "They never fail on every occasion," wrote D'Abbadie, to harass me with innumerable objections and artifices of the pettiest and most groundless chicanery. For instance, p98 among other things, they maintain that we are bound to protect them against the incursions of the Indians!"
In the Illinois district the Indians showed a disposition to resist the English, and to prevent them from taking possession of the country. Nyon de Villiers, who was the commander of that district, wrote to D'Abbadie that it was the fault of the English if the Indian nations manifested such enmity to them. "The English," said he, "as soon as they became aware of the advantages secured to them by the treaty of cession, kept no measure with the Indians, whom they treated with the harshness and the haughtiness of masters, and whose faults they punished by crucifixion, hanging, and every sort of torments. They wish to wipe away from the minds of the Indians the very recollection of the French name; and, in their harangues to these people, in order to induce them to forego their old attachment for us, they use, in reference to our nation, expressions which are very far from being respectful, not to say gross and rude. I will, however, endeavor to dispose the Indians favorably towards the English, although their hostility to them is very great, and although they refuse to listen to words of peace on this subject. I doubt, therefore, whether the English will be able, for some time, to take possession of this district."
An amiable man this Nyon de Villiers was, who carried Christian humility and charity so far as to attempt to dispose the Indians favorably towards the English, by whom they were crucified and hung, to punish them, no doubt, for the fault, among others, of regretting the French! It is indeed curious to observe such anxiety in a Frenchman to serve the English, who, not satisfied with having stript the French of almost all their magnificent American possessions, used, in speaking of their p99 vanquished foes, gross and disrespectful expressions!! The conduct of this Villiers was the more remarkable, from the fact that this gentleman was a chivalrous officer, who had highly distinguished himself in battle against the English, and who had had the honor to force Washington to capitulate, at Fort Necessity, on the 4th of July, 1756.b When it is considered that, in the opinion of Villiers, his brother Jumonville had been basely assassinated by the English, it must be admitted that his letter, as recorded here, is a monument of his moderation and magnanimity, and is one of the proofs of the more than good faith with which the treaty of cession was executed by the French officers, and another demonstration that the complaints of the English about the obstacles thrown in their way by those officers were not well founded. The circumstances accompanying the death of Jumonville de Villiers had produced in France, at the time, a considerable degree of excitement, and became the subject of a short epic poem by the well-known French author, Thomas.
It will be remembered that the Capuchins had been struggling against the encroachments of the Jesuits, since 1755. But, in 1764, they were rid of their redoubtable adversaries, in consequence of the famous order of expulsion issued by the French Government against this celebrated religious order. All their property in Louisiana was seized, confiscated, and sold for $180,000, a large sum at that time. It is well known that the Jesuits of Spain and Naples shared the same fate with those of France, and that they were almost simultaneously expelled from all the domains appertaining to those three kingdoms. It was thought that these men, who held, it was said, every consideration secondary to the prosperity of their association, and whose attachment p100 to it did not yield to that of Horatius, Scaevola, or Brutus to Rome, had become too powerful; and even kings had been taught to fear their doctrines, which had been represented as dangerous, and their ambition which had expanded in proportion to the vast wealth of their order. When it was subsequently abolished by the Pope himself, in 1773, the shallow multitude, whose look does not penetrate beyond the epidermis of things, thought that the mighty society created by Loyola was really dissolved. But those who were better acquainted with the prodigious organization of the Company of Jesus, and with the vitality it derives from it, smiled at the ignorant credulity of mankind. Were they not right? Does not the year of our Lord, 1850, find the Jesuits in full resurrection everywhere, and is it not likely that they now possess more property in Louisiana than in 1764?
D'Abbadie, in a letter of the 10th of January, 1764, continued to complain bitterly of the conduct of the English. "Immediately," said he, "after the delivering up of Mobile to Mr. Farmer, who took possession of it in the name of his Britannic Majesty, this officer issued a captious decree, which is calculated to produce the greatest anxiety in the minds of the French inhabitants.
"1. He requires the French inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance within three months, if they wish to be protected in their property. What right has he to impose any such obligation on those inhabitants, since the treaty grants them a delay of eighteen months to emigrate, if they choose, and since it is stipulated that they shall be, under no pretext, subjected to any restraint whatsoever?
"2. The French inhabitants are prohibited from p101 disposing of any land or real estate, until their titles thereto are verified, registered and approved by the commanding officer. No titles are accepted as good, except those which are founded on concessions in due form, given by the governors and the Intendant Commissary of New Orleans, when, on account of the small number of the inhabitants, and of the immense extent of public lands, the mere fact of taking possession and the continuation of it, on permission given to select a tract of land to clear it of its timber, has always been looked upon as a sufficient title."
On the 17th of April, Aubry, who commanded the four companies left in New Orleans, wrote to the French government: "The English being prevented from going to Illinois by the way of Canada, on account of the hostile attitude of the Indians, have been driven to attempt to ascend the Mississippi up to that territory. Consequently, a number of officers, with three hundred and twenty soldiers, twenty women, and seventeen children, left New Orleans on the 27th of February, under the command of an officer named Loftus, in ten boats and two pirogues. Mr. D'Abbadie had caused the Indians to be harangued in favor of the English, and had ordered the French commanders stationed at the several posts on the bank of the river, to afford aid and protection to Loftus and his party, and had given them Beaurand as interpreter. He had thus done all that he could to ensure the success of their expedition."
On the 15th of March, the convoy had arrived without accident at Pointe Coupée, save the desertion of eighty men. When the English were at Pointe Coupée, something turned up which was very near bringing them into collision with the French. It seems that an Indian slave had fled from New Orleans, and taken p102 refuge on board of one of the English boats. At Pointe Coupée, this Indian was recognised by his former master, and claimed as a slave. The demand was backed by several persons who knew the man to be a slave, and the French commander granted the order to arrest him, but gave courteous information of the fact to Loftus, before permitting the order to be executed. Loftus, however, disregarding all the reasonings assigned to justify the arrest, declared haughtily that he would protect the slave at all risks, and ordered his detachment to betake themselves to their arms in support of the position he had assumed. The French commander, wishing to avoid a conflict, the consequences of which might be exceedingly serious, had the prudence to yield, and the slave remained free, in spite of the justice of the claim set up to him, in violation of the right of the master, and much to the annoyance and vexation of the inhabitants of Pointe Coupée and of the neighboring Indians, who would have been glad of an opportunity to give, by hard blows, substantial evidence of their feelings towards the English.
At the upper limit of the Parish of Pointe Coupée, Beaurand, the interpreter, took his departure, as it had been agreed upon, but not before having warned the English to beware of the Indians. The advice was kindly meant, but the English took it for an ironical and treacherous show of sympathy.
The English had come up to Davion's Bluff, or Fort Adams, when, on the 19th of March, at ten o'clock in the morning, some Indians, who were in ambuscade on both sides of the river, fired at the two pirogues, which were reconnoitring ahead of the bulk of the convoy, killed six men and wounded seven. The pirogues fell back on the main body of the English, who, without p103 firing a shot, slunk back to New Orleans, where they arrived on the 22d. The Indians who had attacked them did not number more than thirty men, and might easily have been repulsed. But Loftus and his party were frightened by the bugbear of French treachery, and were under the impression that whole Indian tribes had been instigated to lie in wait for them on their way to Illinois. But no fears can have been more groundless, as demonstrated by the correspondence of the French officers, who acted not only with strict good faith, but also with something like a wonderful abnegation of sensitiveness, of pride, and of long-nourished prejudice towards an hereditary foe.
"On the return of the English commander to New Orleans," says Aubry, in one of his despatches, "Mr. D'Abbadie expressed to him his regrets at the untoward event which had happened, and tendered all the assistance in his power. But the English officer, far from answering this act of kindness as he should, and far from showing any gratitude for it, said that Mr. D'Abbadie was the cause of the failure of the English expedition, that the Indians had attacked his party in obedience to the orders of D'Abbadie, who afterwards, as he alleged, received from the chief of the Indians in person an account of what had been done. There never was a blacker or more atrocious calumny. Mr. D'Abbadie used his best efforts to induce the Indians to remain quiet, and the English commander seeks in vain to excuse himself for the weakness of his nerves, and the little determination and judgment which he showed on that occasion."
Much to the displeasure of the English, some of the Indian tribes continued to emigrate and to settle among the French. Two hundred Taensas and about as many p104 Alibamons were allowed to form two villages on Bayou Lafourche. In relation to these emigrations, D'Abbadie said to his government that they were productive of a good deal of expense, but that it was inevitable, and that he took care that it would be as moderate as possible. He further observed, that these Indians could be turned to useful purposes, and might help in the defence of the colony, which therefore would receive the equivalent of the money they cost the government. But he severely animadverted on other sources of expense.
"The expenses of the several posts in the colony," said he, "are analogous to those incurred in Canada, where, as here, everybody has some sort of justification for everything. It is a chaos of iniquities, the cause of which must be traced up to the chiefs, who ought to have been the first to check all abuses, and who have not done so. I cut down every claim on the government to one fourth, etc., etc.
"With regard to the possession of that part of the colony which has remained ours, I shall always consider it very precarious, until it is made sure by new arrangements; for, how can I keep it without troops, without ammunition, and without ships to protect the navigation of the Gulf, and to defend the mouths of the Mississippi?"
On the 7th of June, D'Abbadie wrote to his government a very interesting letter, contain his views on the situation of the country:
"I have the honor," said he, "to submit my observations on the character and dispositions of the inhabitants of Louisiana. The disorder long existing in the colony, and particularly in its finances, proceeds from the spirit of jobbing which has been prevalent here at all times, and which has engrossed the attention and faculties of p105 the colonists. It began in 1737, not only on the currency of the country, but also on the bills of exchange, on the merchandise in the King's warehouse, and on everything which was susceptible of it. It is to this pursuit that the inhabitants have been addicted in preference to cultivating their lands, and to any other occupation, by which the prosperity of the colony would have been promoted. I have entirely suppressed the abuse existing in connection with the King's warehouses, out of which merchandise was extracted to be sold to individuals, and frequently to the King himself.
"The old paper currency, not having been converted by the government into bills of exchange on the French treasury, has no fixed value, but only that which public confidence assigns to it; and it has fallen so low, that it loses three hundred per cent when exchanged for bills of credit on the treasury at home.
"If the inhabitants of Louisiana had turned their industry to anything else beyond jobbing on the King's paper and merchandise, they would have found great resources in the fertility of the land and the mildness of the climate. But the facility offered by the country to live on its natural productions had created habits of laziness. The immoderate use of taffia (a kind of rum) has stupifiedº the whole population. The vice of drunkenness had even crept into the highest ranks of society, from which, however, it has lately disappeared.
"Hence the spirit of insubordination and independence which has manifested itself under several administrations. I will not relate the excesses and outrages which occurred under Rochemore and Kerlerec. Notwithstanding the present tranquillity, the same spirit of sedition does not the less exist in the colony. It re‑appears in the thoughtless expressions of some madcaps, p106 and in the anonymous writings scattered among the public. The uncertainty in which I am, with regard to the ultimate fate of the colony, has prevented me from resorting to extreme measures, to repress such license; but it will be necessary to come to it at last, to re‑establish the good order which has been destroyed, and to regulate the conduct and the morals of the inhabitants. To reach this object, what is first to be done is, to make a thorough reform in the composition of the Superior Council. I have already had the honor of expressing my opinion on the members of the council, and particularly on the Attorney-General Lafrénière. Subjects chosen in France, to fill the offices of Counsellors and of Attorney-General, would assist me in the intention I have, to devote myself exclusively to promoting the welfare of this colony, which has been ruined by the effects of jobbing, that first cause of all the evils from which we suffer here. Three-fourths, at least, of the inhabitants are in a state of insolvency. But everything will again be set to rights, and with some advantage, through the severity which is required to enforce the observation of the laws and to maintain good order.
"As I was finishing this letter, the merchants of New Orleans presented me with a petition, a copy of which I have the honor to forward. You will find in it those characteristic features of sedition and insubordination of which I complain. Its allegations are false in every respect, etc., etc."
D'Abbadie concludes his letter with the observation, that the complaints set forth in this petition of the merchants are presented in a style and manner which deserve to be treated by the minister with the utmost severity. In the petition to which D'Abbadie alludes, the merchants complained of the frightful condition of affairs in the p107 colony, of the repeated postponement of the liquidation of the paper currency, and of the concession by which D'Abbadie granted to a company the exclusive right of trading with the Indians. This petition, which had ruffled D'Abbadie so much, was signed by the principal merchants of New Orleans.
Whilst D'Abbadie was thus addressing the French government, his predecessor, Kerlerec, who was still detained in the Bastile, was striving to excite the sympathies of that same government in his favor, and to prevent himself from being forgotten in his dungeon. To accomplish this object, he laid before the ministry a memorial, in which he attempted to show the utility for France to convert Louisiana, in concert with Spain, into a commercial depot, in order to turn that colony to some profitable account. The minister to whose consideration this document was specially referred, endorse it with this note:
"Considering that there are in this memorial some details, which might point out to the Court of Madrid proximate causes of conflict with the English, and therefore render the cession of Louisiana less acceptable to Spain, it seems proper that this memorial be recast, so as to produce a favorable impression upon that government."
It is evident from this circumstance, and from many others, that the French government considered Louisiana as a burden of which it was anxious to disencumber itself, and that it was so fearful of the King of Spain's altering or withdrawing his act of acceptance that it took every precaution to prevent his Catholic Majesty from rejecting the gift tendered to him.
It is not to be wondered at, after all, that France felt inclined to fling away Louisiana, in despair at her want p108 of success in colonizing that distant possession. Louisiana had proved a dead weight in the hands of the great merchant, Crozat, who had buried several millions in the wilderness. The India Company had, with the same result, devoted over twenty millions to carry into execution, on the banks of the Mississippi, the grand scheme in which her charter originated. With regard to the French government, it does not seem an exaggeration to suppose, that it had squandered from forty to fifty millions of livres in the attempt to colonize Louisiana. Thus an enormous capital had been disbursed, no return had been made for it, and what was still more discouraging, was the conviction brought home to France that if she retained possession of Louisiana, she would be under the necessity of incurring still more considerable expenses, for, at the very moment when the cession of that province was made to Spain, D'Abbadie was informing his government, in repeated despatches, that the colony was in a state of complete destitution; that it was a chaos of iniquities, and that to re‑establish order therein, it would be necessary to have recourse to measures of an extreme character. Hence the anxiety of the French government to part with a territory which, at a later period and in abler hands, was destined to astonish the world by its rapid and gigantic prosperity.
In presenting his memorial on Louisiana, the object of Governor Kerlerec had been, no doubt, to show that, although laboring under the displeasure of his government, and immured between the four walls of a prison, he was disposed to act as a useful servant, and he probably hoped, in this way, to procure his release. But his enemies, or at least those who thought they had been his victims, were, at the same time, and in a manner not calculated to help him, calling the attention of the government p109 to his acts whilst Governor of Louisiana. Thus Philippe Marigny de Mandeville, an officer of the marine troops sent to Louisiana, who had been arrested by Governor Kerlerec, and dismissed back to France, was petitioning the Prime Minister, the Duke of Choiseul, to know the cause of the ill-treatment inflicted upon him, and accusing Kerlerec of abuse of power, and other violations of duty. To this petition Marigny had annexed two certificates, one from Bienville and the other from Vaudreuil, in which the highest commendation was bestowed upon him by these functionaries, under whom he had served. He was the son of Marigny, who had died in command of New Orleans, as major, and who was a Knight of St. Louis.
On the eve of losing his faithful subjects of Louisiana, the King, to reward some of them for their good services, distributed a few favors among them, and granted the Cross of St. Louis to Favrot, a captain of foot, who had been wounded in the attack on the Village of Ackia, in 1736, and to Nyon de Villiers, who had long been commander of the Illinois District. An individual, named Braud, obtained, on the recommendation of D'Abbadie, the exclusive privilege of printing and of selling books in Louisiana. It was the last monopoly conceded by the French government.c
On the 21st of April, 1764, the King wrote to D'Abbadie a letter containing an official communication of the cession of Louisiana to Spain. To this document were annexed copies of the act of cession and of the act of acceptance. The letter of the King ran thus:
"Louis XV to Mr. D'Abbadie:
"Monsieur D'Abbadie, by a private act passed at Fontainebleau, on the 3d of November, 1762, having, p110 of my own free will, ceded to my very dear and beloved cousin, the King of Spain, and to his successors and heirs, in full property, completely, and without reserve or restriction, all the country known under the name of Louisiana, and also New Orleans, with the island in which it is situated; and by another act, passed at the Escurial, and signed by the King of Spain, on the 13th of November of the same year, his Catholic Majesty having accepted the cession of Louisiana and of the town of New Orleans, as will appear by copies of said acts hereunto annexed, I write you this letter to inform you, that my intention is, that, on the receipt of it, and of the documents thereto annexed, whether they are handed to you by officers of his Catholic Majesty, or, in a direct line, by the French ships to which they are intrusted, you deliver up into the hands of the Governor, or of the officer appointed to that effect, the said country and colony of Louisiana, with the settlements or posts thereto appertaining, together with the town and island of New Orleans, it being my will that, for the future, they belong to his Catholic Majesty, to be governed and administered by his governors and officers, as belonging to him, fully, and without reserve and exception.
"I order you, accordingly, as soon as the Governor and the troops of that monarch shall have arrived in said country and colony, to put them in possession thereof, and to withdraw all the officers, soldiers, or other persons employed under my government, and to send to France, and to my other colonies of America, such of them as will not be disposed to remain under the Spanish dominion.
"I desire, moreover, that, after the entire evacuation of the said port and town of New Orleans, you gather p111 up all the papers relative to the finances and administration of the colony of Louisiana, and that you come to France to account for them.
"My intention, is, however, that you deliver up to said Governor, or other officers duly authorized, all papers and documents which concern specially the government of that colony, either with regard to the limits of that territory, or with regard to the Indians and the different posts, after having obtained proper receipts for your discharge, and that you give to said Governor all the information in your power, to enable him to govern said colony to the mutual satisfaction of both nations.
"My will is, that a duplicate inventory of all the artillery, warehouses, hospitals, vessels and other effects which belong to me in said colony, be made and signed by you and the Commissary of his Catholic Majesty, in order that, after your having put said Commissary in possession of the same, there be drawn up a verbal process of the appraisement of such of said effects as will remain in the colony, and the value of which shall be reimbursed by his Catholic Majesty, in conformity with said appraisement.
"I hope at the same time, for the advantage and tranquillity of the inhabitants of the colony of Louisiana, and I flatter myself, in consequence of the friendship and affection of his Catholic Majesty, that he will be pleased to instruct his Governor, or any other of his officers employed by him in said colony and said town of New Orleans, that all ecclesiastics and religious communities shall continue to perform their functions of curates and missionaries, and to enjoy the rights, privileges and exemptions granted to them; that all the Judges of ordinary jurisdiction, together with the Superior Council, shall continue to administer justice according to the laws, p112 forms and usages of the colony; that the titles of the inhabitants to their property shall be confirmed in accordance with the concessions made by the Governors and ordaining Commissaires (Commissaires Ordonnateurs) of said colony; and that said concessions shall be looked upon and held as confirmed by his Catholic Majesty, although they may not, as yet, have been confirmed by me; hoping, moreover, that his Catholic Majesty will be pleased to give to his subjects of Louisiana the marks of protection and good will which they have received under my domination, and which would have been made more effectual, if not counteracted by the calamities of war.
"I order you to have this letter registered by the Superior Council of New Orleans, in order that the people of the colony, of all ranks and conditions, be informed of its contents, and that they may avail themselves of it, should need be; such being my sole object in writing this letter.
"I pray God, Monsieur D'Abbadie, to have you in his holy keeping.
Thus ended, in Louisiana, the reign of Louis XV, which was as fatal to France itself, as to its colonial possessions in America.
When D'Abbadie published the instructions he had received, the colony of Louisiana was plunged into the deepest consternation. So far, mere surmises had been afloat as to the misfortune which threatened the colonists; there had been alternate fits of fear and hope, but hope, as is generally the case, had predominated; when, suddenly, truth came in a shape not to be questioned, p113 and sad reality put to flight all the fond delusions of the heart. Although partially prepared for the present evil by the dismemberment of Louisiana, which had been effected so recently in favor of the English, the fortitude of the colonists had not been steeled to meet this new blow. As Frenchmen, they felt that a deep wound had been inflicted on their pride by the severing in twain of Louisiana, and the distribution of its mutilated parts between England and Spain. As men, they felt the degradation of being bartered away as marketable objects; they felt the loss of their national character and rights, and the humiliation of their sudden transformation into Spaniards or Englishmen without their consent. As colonists, as property owners, as members of a civilized society, they were agitated by all the apprehensions consequent upon a change of laws, manners, customs, habits and government. Such was the state of feeling in Louisiana, when D'Abbadie published the letter of Louis XV in October, 1764.
a Sic, with an acute accent; a few lines down, with a grave. Elsewhere (II.1, passim) Gayarré — or his typesetter — will spell the name with no accent. I've been unable to find the correct spelling; I would plump for Devergès.
b The battle of Fort Necessity was more than a parenthesis: it was the opening shot of the French & Indian War, of which these cessions of territory to the English were the result and conclusion.
c For Denis Braud — who will appear again in Chapter 6, pp308, 313 in a more consequential connection — see Douglas McMurtrie, "The Pioneer Printer of New Orleans", Southern Printer's Journal, Jan.‑Feb. 1929.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
History of Louisiana
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 7 Jun 13