The departure of O'Reilly for Spain was soon followed by that of the royal comptroller, Don Estevan Gayarre. This officer had applied to the court for leave to return to Spain, and to be put on the list of retired pensioners, on account of his many years of service and of his impaired vision. On the 22d of September, 1770, the Marquis of Grimaldi wrote to the royal comptroller a letter in which he informed him that the favor for which he had petitioned (his return to Spain) was granted, and requested him, on his arrival in the Peninsula, to give information of it and of the state of his health to the government, in order that his majesty might determine on calling him to some other employment or allow him to retire, with the pension to which he was entitled. In consequence of this communication, Estevan Gayarre left the colony in the beginning of 1771, carrying away with him more than one document,1 showing conclusively the good understanding which had always existed between Aubry and the Spanish authorities, during all the phases of the revolution of 1768, and a certificate in which the French governor testified, in warm terms of acknowledgment and eulogy, to the important services rendered by the comptroller both to the kings of France and Spain. He was succeeded in office by Antonio Joseph de Aguïar; p43 his son, Don Juan Antonio Gayarre, who had, under him, acted as chief officer in the comptroller's office (1ro official de contadoria), and who on the 23d of September, 1768, notwithstanding he was then only sixteen years of age, had been, on the eve of the insurrection, appointed commissary of war by the intendant Joseph de Loyola, in which office he was subsequently confirmed by O'Reilly on the 5th of January, 1770, remained in the colony to serve under Aguïar. The old contador and companion of Ulloa died in Spain at the close of the century. To complete the sketch which I gave of his life and character, when depicting that of the other actors who appeared on the stage at that eventful period of the history of Louisiana, and also to illustrate the manners and feelings of another age, it may not be inappropriate to give here a short extract from a letter which, in 1796, he wrote from Coruna in Gallicia, to one of his grandsons in Louisiana:
"My son, I may say that I have already one foot in the grave. I have little of earthly goods to bequeathe, or to dispose of, contenting myself with leaving, at my death, what will be necessary to bury me in seven feet of ground, with the left but honorable exhibition of military pomp, within which have shrunk all my vain hopes in this miserable world. Yea, such is this world! Its flitting glories fade away — and there remains nothing but the alternate lassitude and self-torment of thought. Therefore a pure and sound mind ought ever to have its eyes fixed on heaven."2
p44 Don Luis de Unzaga, whom O'Reilly had designated as his successor, was colonel of the regiment of Havana, and was subsequently confirmed as governor of Louisiana, by a royal schedule of the 17th of August, 1772, with a salary of $6000. When he entered upon the duties of his office, he found that the commerce of Louisiana had greatly decreased under the ill-advised policy of Spanish restrictions; for, it will be recollected that, by the royal ordinance which Ulloa had caused Aubry to publish in 1766, the trade of the colony had been confined to Seville, Alicant, Carthagena, Malaga, Barcelona, and Coruna, and that no vessels were to engage in this trade, restricted as it was, but those that were Spanish built and commanded by Spaniards. Even these vessels, when sailing to and from Louisiana, were prohibited from entering any Spanish port in America, except in case of distress, and then they had to be submitted to a strict examination and to heavy charges. It is true that, in 1768, an exemption from duty had been granted by the king to the commerce of Louisiana on foreign and Spanish goods, either when exported from the six ports already mentioned, or when imported into New Orleans; but the exportation of specie or produce from Louisiana was burdened with a duty of four per cent. The colonists had lately obtained a very slight and insufficient mitigation of the evils of which they complained, and it consisted in a permission granted for the admission of two vessels from France annually.
This oppressive system was exceedingly foolish, as it could benefit neither the colony nor the mother country. Which of the goods they most wanted for their consumption could the colonists have procured to advantage, in Seville, Alicant, Carthagena, Malaga, Barcelona and Coruna, the only ports they could trade to? And if procured, how could they have paid for them? p45 Importations are paid with exportations; and what could they have successfully exported to those ports, that would have defrayed the costs of transportation? Was it their indigo? But it could not have encountered the competition of the indigo of Guatimala, Caraccas and other Spanish possessions, to which it was greatly inferior in quality. Was it their furs and peltries? But these objects were little cared for in the warm climate of Spain. Was it their rice and corn? But this they raised in too small a quantity, and wanted altogether for their own home consumption. Was it their timber and lumber, which was their most important branch of revenue? But what cargo of the kind would have sold sufficiently high in Spain, to cover the bare expenses of transportation across the Atlantic? Moreover, setting all these considerations aside, how could the merchants of New Orleans compete with the English, who had engrossed the contraband trade of the colony, through the facilities afforded them by the privilege of navigating the Mississippi? Their vessels were constantly ploughing the river up and down; and, under the pretence of going to their possessions of Manchac,a Baton Rouge and Natchez, the English contrived clandestinely to supply the inhabitants of New Orleans and the planters above and below that town with goods and slaves. They took in exchange whatever their customers had to spare,3 and extended to them a most liberal credit, which the good faith of the purchasers amply justified. Besides, they had very large warehouses at Manchac, Baton Rouge and Natchez, and a number of vessels constantly moored a short distance above New Orleans, opposite to the spot now known as the city of Lafayette. To these places the inhabitants of Louisiana used to resort, and to p46 carry on their contraband dealings, which were hardly, if in any way, checked by the Spanish authorities. Encouraged by this tacit connivance, the English had gone farther, and had contrived to convert into floating warehouses two vessels, the cabins of which they fitted up as stores, with shelves and counters. These ingeniously devised shops were kept moving up and down the river, stopping, like our present line of coast steamboats, at every man's door, and tempting him and his family with the display of their goods and trinkets. Thus, in this indirect way, the English having monopolized the trade of Louisiana, this colony had, in a commercial point of view, become for its owner an entirely worthless possession.
Without this infraction of the unwise provisions of the commercial and revenue laws of Spain, it is difficult to imagine how the colony could have subsisted, and, therefore, Unzaga acted judiciously for the province and for Spain, when he disregarded the Chinese-like regulations which he was commanded to enforce, and when he winked at their violation. The poor merchants of New Orleans, whose occupation, like Othello's, was gone, were permitted to indulge in impotent clamors, and in slyly whispered insinuations that the Spanish governor had some reason of his own, besides the alleged one of supplying the wants of the colony, for the indulgence which he extended to British traders. But their complaints were as unnoticed as the idle wind, and things went on as usual, without even any show of attempted interruption.
This year (1771) the Marquis of Grimaldi informed Unzaga, that his majesty had consented to what, he, Unzaga, had applied for, that is, that eleven capuchins from the province of Champagne in France be permitted to come to Louisiana, and had granted the prayer of the p47 Ursuline Nuns — that a church be built as an appendage to their convent.
In the beginning of 1772, Colonel Estecheria arrived, and assumed the command of the regiment of Louisiana. There came also from Spain, at the king's expense, a priest with two assistants, who were sent to instruct the rising generation in the Spanish language, and from Havana, four young women, who took the veil in the convent of the Ursuline Nuns of New Orleans, and who were destined to teach Spanish to young persons of their sex.
The winter of 1772 was made remarkable for its extreme severity, and all the orange trees perished, as in 1748 and 1768.
If the winter had been Siberian-like, the summer which followed showed itself tropical in all its character, and the country was visited by a hurricane, which was much more furious and destructive than all those which had yet been seen, and which, beginning on the 31st of August, lasted to the 3d of September. Strange to say, however, it was hardly perceptible in New Orleans, where the weather retained its serenity, although it was severely felt in the immediate neighborhood of that town. The sea was driven over the islands along the coast of the gulf, and rushed in mountainous waves, not through, but, as it were, over the passes of the Rigolets and Chef-Menteur, to meet Lake Pontchartrain, which rose to a prodigious height. As the wind blew from the sea, all the vessels at the Balize, with the exception of one that foundered, and was lost with all on board, were lifted up like feathers by the joint fury of the warring elements, and blown over into the midst of those swamps of reeds which line the mouth of the Mississippi. Along the sea-coast, from Lake Borgne to Pensacola, the wind ranged from South-South‑East; but farther west, it blew with still greater violence from North-North‑East and p48 East. Judge Martin relates, in his History of Louisiana, that a schooner, belonging to the British government, and having a detachment of troops on board, was driven westerly as far as Cat Island, under the western part of which she cast anchor; but the water rose so high, that she parted her cable, and floated over the island. The wind swept with such irresistible power through the woods, that they were almost entirely destroyed within a radius of •about thirty miles from the sea-shore. At Mobile, the strong hand of the hurricane seized the vessels, boats, logs and every thing else that were in the bay, and scattered them about the streets of that town, just as a boy, in a mad freak, flings round his playthings. There was such an accumulation of logs in the gullies and hollows about the town and in its lower grounds, that it supplied the inhabitants with fuel during the whole of the ensuing winter.
The foaming sea seemed to have been lashed into nothing but spray, which, rising up to an immense height, was carried inland by the wind to the distance of •four or five miles from the shore, where it descended in thick showers. For •thirty miles up a branch of the Pascagoula river, called Cedar Creek on account of the number of cedar trees with which its banks were shaded, the tempest prostrated almost every tree, as if myriads of axes had been emulously at work with destructive rage. Some had been torn by the roots and fantastically tossed about, others were broken into splinters, and, among the few that remained standing, some were stripped of every limb, or twisted together, trunks and branches, into a shapeless mass. The awful scene of desolation looked like the work of a million of intoxicated demons. But one of the most astonishing effects of this hurricane remains to be related. Within four weeks after it had been over, such of the mulberry p49 trees as had escaped its fury, produced a second growth of leaves and fruit. They budded anew, blossomed, and, to complete the phenomenon, produced fruit as plentifully as they had done before.
On the 17th of August, 1772, the King granted to the province of Louisiana, some extension of commerce, in conformity with the suggestions made by O'Reilly in his despatch of the 17th of October, 1769, but the favor, after all, was so restricted, that it did not prove of much importance to the welfare of the colony.
The conflict which had sprung up between the Jesuits and Capuchins, in 1755, as to the exercise of spiritual jurisdiction in Louisiana, may not have been forgotten. The Bishop of Quebec had appointed a Jesuit his Vicar-General in New Orleans, but the Capuchins pretended that they had, according to a contract passed with the India company, obtained exclusive jurisdiction in Lower Louisiana, and therefore had opposed therein the exercise of any pastoral functions by the Jesuits. The question remained undecided by the Superior Council, which felt considerable reluctance to settle the controversy by some final action, from fear perhaps of turning against itself the hostility of both parties, although it leaned in favor of the Capuchins. From sheer lassitude there had ensued a sort of tacit truce, when father Hilaire de Géneveaux, the Superior of the Capuchins, who, for one of a religious order proverbially famed for its ignorance, was a man of no mean scholarship and of singular activity, quickened by a haughty and ambitious temper, went to visit Europe, without intimating what he was about, and returned with the title of Apostolic Prothonotary, under which he claimed, it seems, the power to lord it over the Jesuit who was the Vicar-General of the Bishop of Quebec. Hence an increase of wrath on the part of the Jesuits and a renewal of the p50 old quarrel, which ceased only when the Jesuits were expelled from all the French dominions. But the triumph of father Géneveaux was not of long duration; for, in 1766, the Superior Council, finding that he was opposed to their scheme of insurrection, had expelled him as a perturber of the public peace, and father Dagobert had become Superior of the Capuchins. They lived all together in a very fine house of their own, and there never had been a more harmonious community than this one was, under the rule of good father Dagobert.
He had come very young in the colony, where he had christened and married almost everybody, so that he was looked upon as a sort of spiritual father and tutor to all. He was emphatically a man of peace, and if there was anything which father Dagobert hated in this world, if he could hate at all, it was trouble — trouble of any kind — but particularly of that sort which arises from intermeddling and contradiction. How could, indeed, father Dagobert not be popular with old and young, with both sexes, and with every class? Who could have complained of one whose breast harbored no ill feeling towards anybody, and whose lips never uttered a harsh word in reprimand or blame, of one who was satisfied with himself and the rest of mankind, provided he was allowed to look on with his arms folded, leaving angels and devils to follow the bent of their nature in their respective departments? Did not his ghostly subordinates do pretty much as they pleased? And if they erred at times — why — even holy men were known to be frail! And why should not their peccadilloes be overlooked or forgiven for the sake of the good they did? It was much better (we may fairly suppose him so to have thought, from the knowledge we have of his acts and character), for heaven and for the world, to let things p51 run smooth and easy, than to make any noise. Was there not enough of unavoidable turmoil in this valley of tribulations and miseries? Besides, he knew that God was merciful, and that all would turn right in the end. Why should he not have been an indulgent shepherd for his flock, and have smiled on the prodigal son after repentance, and even before, in order not to frighten him away? If the extravagance of the sinning spendthrift could not be checked, why should not he, father Dagobert, be permitted, by sitting at the hospitable board, to give at least some dignity to the feast, and to exorcise away the ever lurking spirit of evil? Did not Jesus sit at meal with publicans and sinners? Why then should not father Dagobert, when he went out to christen, or to marry at some private dwelling, participate in convivialities, taste the juice of the grape, take a hand in some innocent game, regale his nostrils with a luxurious pinch of snuff, and look with approbation at the merry feats of the dancers? Where was the harm? Could not a father sanctify by his presence the rejoicings of his children? Such were perhaps some of the secret reasonings of the reverend capuchin.
By some pedantic minds father Dagobert might have been taxed with being illiterate, and with knowing very little beyond the litanies of the church. But is not ignorance bliss? Was it not to the want of knowledge, that was to be attributed the simplicity of heart, which was so edifying in one of his sacred mission, and that humility to which he was sworn? Is it not written: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." What should he understand Latin, or so many other musty inexplicable things? Was not the fruit of the tree of knowledge the cause of the perdition of man? Besides, who ever heard of a learned capuchin? Would it not have been a portentous anomaly? If his p52 way of fasting, of keeping the holydays, of saying mass, of celebrating marriages, of christening, of singing prayers for the dead, and of hearing confessions, of inflicting penance, and of performing all his other sacerdotal functions, was contrary to the ritual and to the canons of the church — why — he knew no better. What souls had been thereby endangered? His parishioners were used to his ways? Was he, after fifty years of labor in the vineyard of the Lord, to change his manner of working, to admit that he had blundered all the time, to dig up what he had planted, and to undertake, when almost an octogenarian, the reform of himself and others? Thus, at least, argued many of his friends.
They were sure that none could deny, that all the duties of religion were strictly performed by his parishioners. Were not the women in the daily habit of confessing their sins? And if he was so very mild in his admonitions, and so very sparing in the infliction of harsh penance on them, why not suppose that it was because the Saviour himself had been very lenient towards the guiltiest of their sex? It was the belief of father Dagobert, that the faults of women proceeded from the head and not from the heart, because that was always kind. Why then hurl thunderbolts at beings so exquisitely delicate and so beautifully fragile — the porcelain work of the creator — when they could be reclaimed by the mere scratch of a rose's thorn, and brought back into the bosom of righteousness by the mere pulling of a silken string? As for the men, it is true that they never haunted the confessional, but perhaps they had no sins to confess, and if they had, and did not choose to acknowledge them, what could he do? Would it have been sound policy to have annoyed them with fruitless exhortations, and threatened them with excommunication, when they would have laughed at the brutum fulmen? Was it not p53 better to humour them a little, so as to make good grow out of evil? Was not their aversion to confessions redeemed by manly virtues, by their charity to the poor and their generosity to the church? Was not his course of action subservient to the interest both of church and state, within the borders of which it was calculated to maintain order and tranquillity, by avoiding to produce discontents, and those disturbances which are their natural results? Had he not a right, in his turn, to expect that his repose should never be interrupted, when he was so sedulously attentive to that of others, and so cheerfully complying with the exigencies of every flitting hour? When the colonists had thought proper to go into an insurrection, he, good easy soul, did not see why he should not make them happy, by chiming in with their mood at the time. Did they not, in all sincerity, think themselves oppressed, and were they not contending for what they believed to be their birthrights? On the other hand, when the Spaniards crushed the revolution, he was nothing loth, as vicar general, to present himself at the portal of the cathedral, to receive O'Reilly with the honors due to the representative of royalty, and to bless the Spanish flag. How could he do otherwise? Was it not said by the Master: "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's?" Why should the new lords of the land be irritated by a factious and bootless opposition? Why not mollify them, so as to obtain as much from them as possible, in favor of his church and of his dearly beloved flock? Why should he not be partial to the Spaniards? Had they not the reputation of being the strictest catholics in the world?
Such was the character of father Dagobert even in his youth. It had developed itself in more vigorous and co‑ordinate proportions, as his experience extended, and it had suggested to him all his rules of action p54 through life. With the same harmonious consistency in all its parts it had continued to grow, until more than threescore years had passed over father Dagobert's head. It was natural, therefore, notwithstanding what a few detractors might say, that he should be at a loss to discover the reasons why he should be blamed, for having logically come to the conclusions which made him an almost universal favorite, and which permitted him to enjoy "his ease in his own inn," whilst authorizing him to hope for his continuing in this happy state of existence, until he should be summoned to the "bourne whence no traveller returns." Certain it is that, whatever judgment a rigid moralist might, on a close analysis, pass on the character of father Dagobert, it can hardly be denied, that to much favor would be entitled this man, who, were he put to trial, could with confidence like this poor priest, turn round to his subordinates and fellow-beings, and say unto them: "I have lived among you for better than half a century; which of you have I ever injured?" Therefore, father Dagobert thought himself possessed of an unquestionable right to what he loved so much: his ease, both in his convent and out of it, and his sweet uninterrupted dozing in his comfortable arm chair.
But the evil One was hovering round the walls of Eden, and desolation was nigh. A short time after the province had become Spanish, and the Superior Council had been abolished, father Génoveaux startled father Dagobert by his sudden reappearance before him. At first, the humble spirit of the old Capuchin quailed, and his heart sank within him, when he saw one, whose resources of mind, love of power, and indomitable pride he but too well knew. But it seemed that misfortune had operated a salutary change in father Génoveaux, and the outward man much belied the inward one, if p55 that also was not altered, for he looked like one ready to kiss the rod of chastisement. His head was bent as it were with contrition, his eyes were lowly fixed on the ground, his hands were meekly crossed on his breast. In this posture of humiliation, he informed father Dagobert that he had returned to serve where he had formerly ruled, and he begged for admittance, as an humble subordinate, into the holy house from which he had been ignominiously expelled as a superior. With a rather faltering voice, father Dagobert uttered some words of welcome to his unexpected guest, and expressed assent to his prayer. Keen, no doubt, were his misgivings, but they were soon allayed by the conduct of father Génoveaux, who not only gave the example of submission, but who also was the very pattern of apostolic humility. He seemed to have lost sight entirely of the concerns of this world, and, when not engaged in the few ecclesiastical functions which were assigned to him, and which he discharged with the most exact fidelity, he was wrapped up in prayer or in study — particularly the study of the Spanish language — so far, at least, as what father Génoveaux did could be ascertained, for he came out of his cell as little as he could; and, by keeping so much out of everybody's way, he, by degrees, almost ceased to be considered as a thing of life; or if so, certainly there could not be a more harmless sort of creature, or a more insignificant entity in flesh and blood.
These were halcyon days, indeed, the enjoying of which was only marred by the news, that Spanish Capuchins were soon expected. How they would agree with their French brethren, was a question which excited no little anxiety in the breasts of the latter, when, in the beginning of July, 1772, it was positively known that father Cirilo was coming with some few assistants, in the p56 name of the bishop of Cuba, Don Santiago Hechevarria, to investigate into the affairs of the church and the state of religion in the colony; and, on the 19th of the same month, which was consecrated to the celebration of a holyday, father Dagobert, at the head of his Capuchins, and accompanied by a large crowd of people, went in procession to the Levee in front of the public square, where father Cirilo and his companions were received with due honors and with great demonstrations of joy. The next day, the Spanish priests were presented to the Governor, to whom father Cirilo delivered his credentials, and the letters addressed by the bishop to that functionary. Governor Unzaga expressed still warmer satisfaction than the people at the arrival of these ministers of peace and instructors in morals and religion, and declared publicly to father Cirilo, that he was ready to make use of all the powers with which he was clothed, to carry into execution the sacred instructions and mandates of his Grace, the bishop of Cuba.
On the very day of the arrival of the Spanish priests in the colony, father Génoveaux doffed the garb of humility and submission which he had assumed, and proudly raising his head, told father Dagobert, in an insulting tone and very abusive language, that a radical change would soon take place, that ignorance, profaneness, wickedness and dotage would speedily be driven out of the convent and of the country, to yield their usurped power to virtue, learning, religion, active zeal and pious labor. He further added, that the avengers of his wrongs had come at last, and that now was the turn of his enemies to tremble. In order to carry his threats into execution, he immediately ingratiated himself with the Spanish priests, and, being much their superior in intelligence and energy, he became their secret adviser and the prompter of all the manoeuvres p57 and attacks from which the French Capuchins had to suffer.
Having landed on the 19th of July at New Orleans, father Cirilo lost no time in prying into the Lord's vineyard, and, on the 6th of August communicated to his diocesan at Havana the result of his observations, of which I give here a condensed abstract: "The people of this province," said he, "are in general religiously disposed, and seem anxious for the salvation of their souls. They observe a profound silence during divine worship, and, when the Most Holy Ghost is brought out (which is on the principal holydays), both sexes prostrate themselves on the ground. With regard to the women, they are more honest than in Spain, and live more in accordance with the precepts of the church. There are some small things in the morals and in the religious observances of these people, which might be better, but time will remedy these trifling evils. As to the clergy, that is, the French Capuchins, I agree with his Excellency, the Governor, whose despatch to your grace I have seen, in saying that father Dagobert, having had the spiritual government of this province for so long a time, deserves every sort of regard and consideration, and that, on account of his age and services, he is entitled to enjoy the most favorable treatment, and to be permitted to be relieved from his official fatigues. But I cannot allow to pass unnoticed what I have remarked in the deportment of those [. . .] how shall I designate them? for, certainly, I cannot call Capuchins those whom I consider as unworthy of this holy name. In a true Capuchin, according to the rules and discipline established by St. Francis, there is naught to be seen but austerity and poverty. But such is not the case with these men. In their dress, such, for instance, as their shirts, breeches, stockings and shoes, they p58 resemble the laity much more than members of their religious order. They say that they have a dispensation from the Pope; but of what nature? I have not seen it yet. Whether it is in existence or not, certain it is that the doctrine which we profess, commands us to be satisfied with the strictest necessities of life and with the extremest poverty. Therefore I do not believe in the grant of any such dispensation by the Popes, beyond what may be absolutely requisite to keep soul and body together. But it never could extend so far as to authorize every one of these fathers, to have a watch in his fob and a clock striking the hour in his room, and another in their refectory which cost two hundred and seventy dollars. Nor do I believe that they have permission from our Sovereign Lords the Popes, to possess so many silver spoons and forks, that it is doubtful whether your Grace owns the like. Not only have they silver spoons of the ordinary size, but they have also small ones, to take coffee with, as if wooden spoons were not good enough for Capuchins! I will not speak of the furniture of their rooms, nor of the luxuries of their table. But be it sufficient to say, that although, since our arrival and on our account, they have somewhat moderated their good living, their table is still reputed to be better than any other in this capital. Hence, what was it before? Very often they do not eat at the common refectory, but invite one another to dine at their private apartments.
"This abuse your grace can remedy, as well as that of their having, to wait upon them at table, so many young mulattresses or negresses who are not married. I cannot put a stop to this scandal, having no authority over them. But I infer from a letter written to me by the Superior of our order in Cataloña, that there is some probability of his being appointed to take charge of this p59 province. With the strength which I might derive from this fact, should it prove to be true, and from your Grace's countenance and support, I would endeavor to make it known that we are capuchins, and to force those who live in violation of our sacred rules and without caring for God, either to reform their evil ways or go back whence they came. But, for the present, we can make no innovation, except with regard to the parsonage of this parish, because, in this matter, you can order and dispose as you please, inasmuch as father Dagobert has promised the governor that he would obey all the mandates of your grace, and for this reason, it is agreed between us and the governor, that you commission father Dagobert as the vicar general of this province, until we can learn the French language, because, without its knowledge, it is impossible that we should discharge our functions. But in case your Grace, most excellent sir, should be of opinion that said individual ought not to be appointed vicar general, your Grace might, for the present, postpone all nomination to that office, leaving everything as it is, writing to father Dagobert and to me what you wish to be done in this province, and charging us with the execution of the good intentions of your Grace and of his majesty (whom may God preserve for ever!). And in order that your Grace, the governor and myself may attain our ends with greater facility, and plant here, without noise and opposition, the Lord's vineyard, as it is in Havana, I am of opinion that you should state, when you write, that you are determined to postpone the nomination of the vicar general, until you have the report of him whom you may send to inspect the affairs of the church in this province. Thus, father Dagobert, either through fear, or to please your grace, will execute what your grace will command him to do. It is important to p60 secure his influence, not only because the people of this colony, for thirty years past, have known no other spiritual jurisdiction than that of this father, but also because he has obtained the esteem and affection of all, so that whatever father Dagobert orders is obeyed without reluctance. It seems proper to me that your Grace should write none but joint letters to us both, because father Dagobert does not understand the Spanish language, and God knows to whom he would give your letters to be read. This might produce disturbances whilst, if I am the person to communicate the contents of your letters to him, I will take care to impress them upon him with prudence and dexterity, and procure that your wishes be complied with. In this way, the governor and myself think that we can obtain all that we desire without trouble and noise.
"If it be discovered that said father does not obey your instructions, I shall give your Grace due information thereof, in order that you may appoint a vicar general; and if you deign to favor my suggestions, you might bestow on him and myself the faculty of granting dispensation, particularly with regard to the publications required before the marriage ceremony can be performed. The first thing you ought to do, is to commission somebody who, in the name of your Grace, would take possession, in the manner you may determine, of the church of the Nuns and of the plantation which the capuchins have, in order to show that your Grace is the head of this apostolic see and the administrator of all its possessions. In this way we shall know how matters stand, for it is said that the plantation of the holy fathers is under mortgage. What is certain, is that it yields nothing for want of proper management, and your Grace might, for the future, make such regulations as would p61 prevent the ruin of those fathers from being entirely accomplished.4
"With regard to our parochial and judicial rights and privileges, it is sufficient to refer to the governor's letter to your Grace. As to the administration of the sacraments, I have observed no abuse, but on the contrary, I must say that they are received with great piety — particularly the sacrament of marriage. I must state, however, that there is no preaching every Sunday according to the mandate of the Council; but, at the same time, I must admit that, so far as my information goes, sermons are delivered on the principal holydays of the year. The French capuchins keep three books, one in which they record the baptisms, another the marriages, and in the third, the deaths of the whites and blacks, as they occur; which practice is to be corrected. I must also remark that these books ought to be kept in Spanish, and the governor and myself (for we shall both be always of the same mind) will look to the reforms which it may be proper to introduce in relation to these books.
"As to masses pro populo, it is certain that they are not said; for, these priests take no notice of any of the apostolic bulls and letters which have been issued for these last thirty years. This makes it necessary that your Grace should command them to be complied with, in order that, with your Grace's authority, we may correct these Monks, who have been living to this day, with the same morals which they brought with them on their first arrival in these parts. As to religious conferences, they have no idea of any such thing. But I pass over this point without any further notice, and will only say, that, if our most reverend provincial father of Cataloña be p62 appointed commissioner for this province, I shall take care that this practice, which we observe once a week among ourselves, be introduced among the French Capuchins.
"The confessionals, in their shape and construction, are more decent and better than ours in Spain, and, far from changing any thing in them, I would recommend that those which may for the future be made here, be exactly on the same model. What is to be regretted is — that none of these priests confess in these confessionals, but in the vestry, where they sit in an arm chair, by the side of which the penitent kneels. On the first day of this month, when many ladies came to confession, it was done as I have related, with the exception of the Spanish ladies, who were shriven by us — the Spanish ladies confessing in the morning, the French in the evening. On witnessing such an abuse, I could not help asking for its cause, and I was answered that it was owing to the heat. But it is not the less a fact, that I shrove my penitents in the morning, in the confessionals of the church, not in the vestry, and, if I felt the heat, surely I had suffered more from the same cause on other occasions and in other places. With regard to the habits of these priests, I know very little; but I have remarked in them an independent spirit, which is not disposed to obedience and subjection. As to their going to balls, I do not see any probability in it, because the youngest of them is fifty years old; but they frequently attend dinner parties, particularly when they perform marriage ceremonies. This is always done, not in church but in private houses, where they usually remain to enjoy all the pleasures of the feast. This is contrary to our holy habits, and your Grace will order, no doubt, that, henceforth, all marriages be celebrated in church, except in case of ill-health in the parties, or for some other important p63 cause; and, above all, that no priest be permitted to accept of any invitation to dinner, or to partake of any convivialities at the houses of those whom he may be called to unite in the bonds of wedlock.
"The report is, that these Capuchins play cards. It is for your Grace to put a stop to a practice, which is repugnant to the character of a minister of God and especially of a Capuchin. With regard to the Nuns, I cannot give you any information, unless it is that they live as they always have done, without being cloistered, and as if they were not nuns at all. They have for their ordinary confessor, father Prosper, who is seventy-two years old, but very strong and robust, and capable of directing them. As to any violations of rules and discipline, I shall say nothing, and satisfy myself with repeating, that no Pope's bulls and apostolic decretals ever reach this capital. What gives me the greatest concern is, that the slaves live and die in a state of concubinage; and, what is worse, this is to the knowledge and with the consent of their masters, who tolerate their living together like man and wife. This evil must be immediately remedied. When Count O'Reilly was here, he prohibited this kind of scandalous connection, and he succeeded in having forty of these people married coràmº facie Ecclesiae; but, since his departure, it is of this matter as heretofore. The reason which the slaves give for not getting married is, that they are exposed to being sold by their masters and to be thus separated. It seems to me that the most effective way to prevent the commission of such sins, is to impose upon the masters the obligation of watching over the morals of their slaves.
"Our holy fathers have no lack of negroes and mulattresses, since they have eighteen of them in the convent, of both sexes and of different ages, among whom there p64 are but two married couples, when eight women and two men are marriageable, and still are suffered to live in a state of celibacy. Besides, there are two boys and two girls, three of whom are the issue of a mulattress, who has the direction of the convent. This woman has a sister, who is in a delicate situation, and yet who is not known to have a husband. I felt so much solicitude on the subject, that I procured to see, one day, at four o'clock in the morning, a white man sallying out of the chamber of this mulattress, and I am informed by persons of high standing and of great religious zeal, such as the colonel of the regiment and others, that the young negresses and mulattresses, immediately after having attended us at supper, go out of the convent to meet their lovers, and spend with them the greater part of the night. If such of them as live under the immediate inspection of the fathers behave in this way, what must it be with those who live on the plantation? It will be necessary to find a remedy to these scandals. I am of opinion, however, that, to expel all these women from the convent, would be to inflict too painful a blow on father Dagobert. Therefore he might, for the present, be permitted to retain his three black men and three black wenches or mulattresses, provided they are ascertained to be married, or get married one man and his wife to be for the kitchen, two men to wait on us at table, and their wives, to take care of the house. And, as these women have their dwellings in the yard of the convent, it might be prescribed that, for no motive, and under no pretext whatsoever, they shall be authorized to enter the chambers occupied by the friars. The governor of this province has no black women nor mulattresses to wait upon him. Why should they? Your Grace and other personages of exalted rank require no mulattresses. Why should the French Capuchins need any? I do not hesitate p65 to say, that, in matters of this kind, the glory and service of God is the only thing to be regarded, without caring for worldly considerations. Let these women be expelled from the convent, and be sent to the plantation. There, if they cannot be useful (and I am of opinion that they are not wanted), let them be sold, and let those who may be retained, and who may be of age to wed, take husbands. This would be giving the good example, and let it be understood that, if they work on the plantation, they must be supplied with sufficient food and clothing, as justice requires; and let it not be with them, as it is, if I am correctly informed, with the generality of slaves here, who are furnished by their masters but with one barrel of corn per month, which is less than is given to a horse. This barrel of corn is to be both food and clothing to them; and, as this is impossible, their necessities drive them into prostitution and other shameful vices. But if your Grace should determine that any black woman or mulattress may be retained in the convent, I would suggest the propriety of her being put under lock and key every night, and recommend that the key be delivered to whomsoever you might designate."
The worthy friar Cirilo now goes into details, as to the measures which he thinks most advisable to be adopted for the better administration of the temporalities of the order, and says:
"I think that many other reforms will be necessary in the course of time, but I have mentioned, I believe, all that was most important to be attended to, in order to cure a body which has been diseased from its very creation; for father Dagobert has allowed a free course to the distemper. It is certain that when he came to the colony, all those who saw him then say that he was poorer than we are, and that he had nothing but his p66 breviary and his gown, whilst the king has provided us with all our necessities. But I know that I am a capuchin; that, as such, I cannot even own any of the things I need, and that only their temporary use is permitted to me. For this reason, as well as to save my soul, and in order that I may not have to answer before God for the souls of others, should it become my lot to organize and reform this mission, I would do the work with the most careful precision, and be the first to give the good example in my person; because, if the said father Dagobert, who has been Superior so long, had been a true capuchin and had behaved as such, there would have been no necessity for reforms in this convent, or mission. In all sincerity I entreat your grace not to think of me as vicar general of this province, not that I anticipate the fate of St. Benoit,º who was murdered by the very monks who had elected him their abbot. I do not suspect these to be capable of such a crime, nor do I fear death, because I should be too happy to die for the greater glorification of the Lord; but I think my abilities unequal to the task. I conclude with praying God to enlighten your Grace in this affair, as on those occasions in which you have displayed so much zeal, prudence and gentleness of heart."
The governor's letter, to which father Cirilo refers, had been addressed by that functionary, on the 11th of July, to the bishop of Havana, and contained a detailed and minute statement of the ecclesiastical organization of the province of Louisiana. "Under the king of France, her former master, she enjoyed," said he, "the fullest and most entire liberty. Her inhabitants were subjected to no other authority than that of the laws, and were ruled by no other customs than those of Paris. The principal and almost only act of sovereignty exercised by the king, consisted in appointing the judges. The whole aim of the French government was to people and cause to flourish p67 a country, which gave the promise, through its fertility, of being converted into an immense and profitable realm, when its primitive wildness should have been subdued by the labors of cultivation. In order to accomplish this end, favors and rewards were granted to the colonists, to stimulate their exertions. They met with no impediments, provided they were active, industrious, and laborious, and they were not in their religious sentiments, in order that the disturbances which a contrary course would have produced, should not retard the increase of the population. The king used to pay out of his treasury a mission of capuchins, who ministered to the spiritual wants of the colony, under the superintendence of the bishop of Quebec. This bishop appointed for his vicar general a Jesuit, to whom he delegated the authority of granting dispensations with regard to marriage publications, and the impediments to wed arising from the blood relations of the parties. But the friar, Hilaire de Génoveaux, having been made Superior of the mission of capuchins by the provincial of the province of Champagne in France, began to question the Jesuit's powers, which he pretended to be vested in him alone, as the high prelate and curate of this parish. He further asserted that the bishop's jurisdiction was limited to mere acts of supervision. This produced the noise which is the natural consequence of disputes of this kind. In the meanwhile, father Génoveaux went to France, and returned with the title of apostolic prothonotary, on the strength of which he claimed such privileges, that he added new fuel to the Jesuit's rage, and their wranglings were renewed. The Jesuit, in his capacity of vicar general of the bishop of Quebec, asked of the Superior Council the expulsion of his antagonist as a perturber of the public peace and usurper of episcopal jurisdiction, and succeeded in his application. This event and the subsequent p68 exile of the Jesuits were the cause that father Dagobert became the Superior of the mission and the vicar general of the bishop. He is a pacific man, much liked by the people and by those placed under his jurisdiction. Thus stood matters when his Majesty took possession of the province, and his excellency, Count O'Reilly, made no change in its religious organization beyond expelling some Jews and Protestants."
The Governor then went into an enumeration of the priests of the colony, of the places where they were located, and of the functions they discharged. "All those friars," said he, "are excellent men, and give the good example; but among them there are some who are well informed, and others scarcely instructed as to the duties of their sacred calling; all, however, labor zealously to the best of their abilities and knowledge, and they are familiar with the great poverty and destitution of their parishioners. Among them, father Dagobert obtained the esteem of Count O'Reilly and the good will of all the Spaniards by his kindness and the prudence of his deportment. He is beloved by the people, and, on the grounds which I have stated, I consider him entitled to the favor of your Grace."
The Governor goes into many details as to the revenues of the church and the emoluments of the priests, who, to use his expressions, had more than enough to live with as much decency and decorum as their position required. "The Nuns, who are very few," said he, "are supported by the king on the same footing with the capuchins, and his Majesty pays them a pension for a certain number of orphans they educate. They possess a plantation with slaves, and another without any, under the administration of the prioress, who lives cloistered, and under the direction of their chaplain. These plantations are as badly managed, through want of proper knowledge, as p69 that of the capuchins, and they are all a source of expense both to the capuchins and the Nuns, rather than of revenue. The excessive kindness of father Dagobert permits, that there be in the convent of these friars young blackwomen and mulattresses, who are their slaves, and who were born on their plantation. This is contrary to the sacred dispositions of the canons of the church, and the prudence of your Grace will know how to cure this distemper without cauterizing the patient.
"The bishop of Quebec seems to have delegated to his vicar here the faculty of granting dispensations, with regard to marriage prohibitions, and the impediments to wed arising from consanguinity, and also the privilege of permitting the celebration of marriages, according to his judgment, at the residences of parties either in the country or in the town. But in general that ceremony is performed at church, in conformity with the wishes of the parties themselves. Marriage is a very solemn contract among the French, and a sacrament of felicities (y un sacramento de felicidades).º According to the laws and old customs of the territory, minors cannot marry without the express consent of their parents; such marriages were declared null and clandestine, and reprobated as conducive to seducing away young girls from the legitimate authority under whose keeping they were placed. This is harsh, and your Grace will determine what is suitable in so serious a matter, from which depends public tranquillity.
"It is not the practice here to force any one to submit to the Church, and the process of excommunication is held in utter abomination. I assure your Grace, however, that those who live out of the pale of the Church are very few. These people are devout, respectful, and edifying in their deportment when in church. But, to go to confession and receive the sacrament, is a thing unknown p70 with the male part of the population. They look upon it as an act of hypocrisy, and as treating with levity the holiest sacrament, whose mystery they worship with the deepest and humblest veneration. Hence it results that they approach, for the first and last time, the communion table, on reaching the age of puberty.
"The Church here enjoys no immunities and privileges, and its jurisdiction is entirely confined to the spiritual. The affiancing of parties, the nullity or validity of the marriage contract, the granting of a perpetual divorce, or a temporary separation, all this falls under the cognizance of the secular power, to which the clergy itself is subjected for any crime which may be committed by one of its members. Marriage here was considered in the light of a civil contract only, and the clergy, as in France, exercised no judicial prerogative over their fellow-subjects. In order to establish in this province the ecclesiastical jurisdiction without any disturbance or scandal, it would be proper that your vicar-general should be satisfied with making known, verbally, what are the matters, among those of little importance, which he considers to be of his competency, and that he should proceed therein with moderation, without the bustling apparatus of a court of justice, and without costs to the parties. But in cases of a serious nature, such as those which may arise from the act of affiancing, from the alleged validity or nullity of a marriage, or an application for a final divorce, when the parties, or the facts of the case, are of sufficient importance to excite public attention, it would be advisable not to proceed here beyond the taking down of all the testimony required, and to submit it to your Grace, or to your vicar-general in Havana, for adjudication; and, considering that father Dagobert, your vicar-general here, is no jurist, your Grace might advise him to p71 consult, in such matters, my auditor, &c. In this way, should my suggestions meet your approbation, our laws and customs would be introduced insensibly, without clashing too abruptly with those to which the people of this country have been accustomed."
The Governor went on informing the bishop of Havana, that the ecclesiastical registries were in the greatest state of disorder, being kept in the most ridiculous and filthy manner, and recommended the adoption of the plan which was followed in Havana, for the keeping of similar records. He also said that it was customary in the province, to administer to those convicts who were sentenced to death the sacred sacrament of penitence only, but that he saw no inconvenience in following the regulations of the Spanish clergy on the subject.
"It seems proper to me," said he, "that all the Friars who have now some employment, should be retained in the same, and father Dagobert, for one year, in that of vicar-general. In the mean time, the Spanish Friars will have acquired all the knowledge they may want, and then one of them may be selected to succeed the present incumbent, on the ground that a man who has worked so long is entitled to repose. Nevertheless, he will always be glad to officiate, because singing in church is with him a passion. The other Friars will follow his orders, as to the discharge of their sacred functions. It is their duty to take charge of the souls, and, in its accomplishment, they will move to the right or to the left, as the necessity of the case may require, and with that entire submission which is to be expected from the sons of obedience," (hijos de obediencia).
It is evident, from the tone of these two letters, that father Cirilo was laboring under a delusion, as subsequent events will show, when he said that: "the governor and himself would always be of the same mind." On the p72 15th of September, he had become much exasperated, and expressed himself as follows to the bishop of Cuba.
"Most illustrious sir, I will proceed to make known to your Grace the circumstances which caused father Dagobert to become the Superior of this province. When Louisiana was ceded to Spain, the chiefs of the insurrection which broke out shortly after, communicated their rebellious intentions to father Hilaire de Génoveaux, who was then the ecclesiastical superior of the colony, and requested him to lend them his assistance in driving the people into the premeditated revolution. He, who fully appreciated the consequences of such an act, would not consent to it, and then they applied to this father Dagobert, to whom they made the same proposition. This friar, who aimed at nothing but power, not only assented to what was asked of him, but did a great many other things. Matters being thus arranged, the chiefs of the sedition seized father Génoveaux, embarked him loaded with chains, and transported him out of the colony. Father Dagobert, having thus got rid of his Superior, wrote to the head of the order in Champagne, that this father Génoveaux had run away to the English, and, on this representation, got himself confirmed in the office to which he had been promoted. But, with regard to this father Dagobert, it happens that he has forgotten to notify the faithful of the coming of Ember weeks. His attention being called to this omission, he solved the difficulty by transferring the observance of these sacred days to the week following. We replied to him that we did not feel authorized to pursue such a course, and he then observed: "Very well; you may fast this week, if you please, but the public will on the next." Thus you see that he arrogates to himself more power than is possessed by the Pope, and that he changes, on his own private authority, all the regulations of the church. p73 After all, these things but confirm the truth of this axion: where fails the fear of God, there fails every thing else. What remains for us to do is to write to the Court, to obtain the dismission of father Dagobert, and, perhaps, of some other persons. I think that it would require very little effort to obtain this dismission, and if, to replace these men, there did not come Capuchins enough from Castile, there would be no lack of them in my province of Cataloña that would come here."
This despatch had hardly been closed, when his indignation, it seems, gathering fresh strength with the passing hour, forced him to resume his pen on the very same day, and to disburthen himself in the following strain: "Illustrious sir, the evils by which we are surrounded compel us to expose the wicked actions which these monsters, rather than Capuchins, perpetrate against our persons,5 against God and his holy things.6 It is not my intention, most excellent sir, to trouble you with trifles, and therefore, with regard to what concerns ourselves, I shall merely say that the very Spanish name is an object of abomination to these Friars, because they cannot even bear the sight of the things which are of God, and which appertain to our divine religion, and because these Friars or monsters think that we have come to repress the abuses which they love, and to reform their evil ways. Therefore they hate us, and such is the reason why we cannot obtain from them even what is necessary to the so very limited wants of a poor Capuchin — such, for instance, as a table to write on, an humble box wherein to put our wearing apparel, paper, ink, quills and other trifles. When they have bags so full of dollars, we are obliged to have recourse to our friends to relieve our necessities.
p74 "What is most deplorable is to see in the convent the concubine of the friars, for such is the reputation she bears. She has three sons, although who her husband is only God knows. They eat at our table and off the plates of father Dagobert, who, without shame, or fear of the world at least, if not of God, permits them to call him papa. She is one of the mulattresses who are kept in the house. She is the absolute mistress of the whole establishment, and the friars have for her as much attachment, that they strive who shall send to the cherished paramour the best dish on the table, before any one of us is allowed to taste it. To witness such things, and to be silent out of the sheerest complaisance, is what gives additional poignancy to our grief. But these sufferings, being supported for the sake of God, to whose service we have consecrated ourselves, will make more meritorious the labors which we have undergone to please our God and our monarch (whom may God have in his holy keeping!). There are, however, greater evils which afflict our hearts, and which are the sins they clearly commit against God and against his holy sacraments. Baptism is administered without any of the ceremonies prescribed by the Romishº ritual, and the consecrated oil itself is impure and stale. Children are christened when it suits the whim or caprice of their parents, and hence months will elapse previous to the performance of this ceremony. But father Dagobert never fails eating at the house of the parents of the newly christened child. All of which things are unworthy of a man who is the ecclesiastical head of this province. As to the Eucharist, that mystery which makes the angels tremble with awe, we found that the sacramental elements were so full of insects which fed on them, and presented so disgusting an appearance, that it was necessary to fling them into the jakes, as if they had been the veriest filth. So great p75 is the detestable negligence of these men, that I think they are the disciples either of Luther or Calvin! The consecrated oil is never renewed, because they think that it is incorruptible, or because, like the heretics, they do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist after the utterance of the consecrating words; and the proof of it is, that, on our remonstrating with them on this state of things, one of them answered with the greatest serenity that he had kept two years a large consecrated wafer, and had not thought necessary to change it. Nor is less the irreverence with which they behave when they exhibit the Host to the people; for without singing, or burning any incense, they take it out of its small tabernacle, and expose it in the most indecent manner; or, at Vespers, they sing the Salve Regina, and also on the first Sundays of every month. The Host being exposed, they sing the Miserere, de Profundis, and requiem, &c. — which practices are contrary to the rules of the breviary and to the decretals.
"This father Dagobert is a great hand at giving with the sacrament the benediction to the people, whenever it is desired by them. Thus, in a little more than a month, he gave it eight times. He is no less fond of making processions, for which he has no authority, and for which there is no necessity; and, what is still more singular, when thus going out in procession, he abandons the Host without leaving any priest to watch over it. Once I saw him go out with the Viaticum without ordering the bells to be rung, and with as little ceremony as if he was bent only on taking a walk. I say that I have seen him carry the Viaticum but once, although many are the deaths that have occurred since I am here. You must also be made to know, most excellent Sir, that the Viaticum is not administered to the blacks, to the mulattoes, nor to the culprits who are sentenced to death; p76 and, having asked father Dagobert for the cause of it, I was answered that it was to establish a distinction between the blacks and whites. Did you ever hear a more cruel answer? Moreover, having inquired if he shrove them, he told me that he did, but that they never took the sacrament of the Eucharist. Was there ever such ignorance in any priest? Who will account to God for this neglect and for the sins of these poor people, who are not taught to participate in the blessed sacrament of communion at the hour of their death? Nor is less the indecency with which, in sight of the exposed Host, these priests demean themselves in the choir, where they are seen stuffing their noses with tobacco, crossing one leg on top of the other, staring round in every direction, scandalizing the people, and moving the very angels to wrath.
"With regard to the sacrament of penitence, as God alone can know how it is administered, we must leave it to Him to express His judgment upon it, when the day shall come. I shall only say that these priests do not know nor ever have known, nor ever will know anything of morals and religion, for since our coming to this colony, we have never known them to remain in their convent beyond the time required to eat and sleep; and with regard to father Dagobert, here is in a few words how he lives: he rises at six in the morning, says or does not say mass (such mass as he says!) preparing himself in this way for the duties of the day. He then goes to church, hardly makes the proper genuflection, claps on his bonnet, says his mass which does not last a quarter of an hour, without any of the prescribed ceremonies, uncovers his head, makes another genuflection as for grace, and taking his three-cornered hat, which is a very superfluous and unworthy appendage for a capuchin, he goes (without thinking of saying any Ave Maria, except p77 it be for goodly dollars, and in abundance) to a somewhat suspicious house, where he plays until the dinner hour. When that meal is over, he resumes the occupation in which he was engaged, and continues in it until supper time, so that it is very doubtful whether he complies with divine worship. With regard to extreme unction, I have not been able to ascertain how this sacrament is administered, and I do not know whether it is administered at all, but I believe that they carry it in their purse.7
"With regard to the holy sacrament of marriage, it is in its administration that the greatest abuses are committed. In the first place, we have good grounds to suppose that they observe none of the ceremonies of their ritual, which is the Romish, and I have already remarked that, with the exception of the poor and the blacks, none marry in church, but that our Superior goes about, either in the town or out of it, marrying people in their own houses, where he says mass and remains with them to participate in all the festivities of the occasion. Since my coming here there have been many marriages, but the parties have every time being granted a dispensation for the required publications, for no other purpose than that of getting money, which is his god. I know that all this is to be paid for and well too, because I am informed that thirty dollars have to be given for a mass with a Libera me Domine, and one hundred and fifty for a solemn service for the dead. I am not aware of what is paid for the other sacraments. We have never seen these priests celebrate the marriage ceremony for any black couple, except it be for a negro who resided in the house of a Spaniard, and even this was done with a good deal of repugnance on the part p78 of father Dagobert, who objected that this was not customary, and that this negro, like all those of his class, was living, to the knowledge of his masters, in a state of concubinage; finally, in order to get the assent of father Dagobert, it was necessary to resort to the authority of the Governor."
Father Cirilo next complains that no care is taken to teach and propagate the Christian doctrine. He enumerates other abuses and ecclesiastical malfeasances, and recommends the introduction of certain reforms and practices. He then winds up saying: "On reading all this, your Grace must be greatly astonished that the Governor has recommended this Father Dagobert to be continued one year in office as vicar-general of this province, and still more — that I should have joined in that recommendation, although I must confess that the Governor had told me that this priest was excessively ignorant, but I could not persuade myself that it was to such an extent. It now appears certain to me that his ignorance is such, that he is incapable of being trusted with the spiritual government of this colony, and therefore I say (and I am supported in my opinion by my companions, by the most responsible people in this province, and by the colonel, whose understanding is of the highest order) that not only ought father Dagobert to be deprived of his charge, but that he ought also to be expelled from the colony, to be punished according to his deserts, and sentenced to a proper penance for his personal faults and the enormous sins which he has caused some of his flock to commit, and for which there are the gravest reasons to believe that those who have died are now in hell.
"Your Grace, knowing so well the good nature and the pacific dispositions of the Governor, will easily conceive how it is that he is desirous of giving satisfaction p79 to these friars, not because he is not fully aware of their misdeeds, not because he does not see that there is no punishment which they have not deserved, and that it would be proper to drive them out of the land, as himself has expressed it to me, but because, when these capuchins knew that the Spaniards were coming up the river, they stirred up the town and persuaded the Governor that, if they were sent away, all the people would also depart; whereupon that officer quieted their fears by telling them that the Spaniards were not coming to turn them out of the country. But your Grace must not believe in the general emigration with which we are threatened. It would be confined to a few of father Dagobert's relations, who would starve, if they were not supported by him. This father Dagobert has promised the Governor that he would do all that your Grace would prescribe, and, satisfied with this pledge, the Governor is willing that the friar should remain vicar-general for one year, and that I should then take his place. Perhaps it would be good policy that he who has done so much harm should be the person to repair it. But how can it be expected from one who is not only evil minded, but who is also strongly suspected of some error of faith? With regard to all the promises which he has given to the Governor, I know that he has not kept one; the Governor, however, with his usual good nature, contents himself with saying that the father will in due time redeem his pledges. But should he do so, he would have better reasons to complain of his being deprived of the dignity of vicar-general, and should he remain in office, it would be extremely difficult to reconcile to such a disappointment those who imagine that they will soon see him dismissed, not only all the Spaniards, who would rejoice at such an event, but also a good many of the French, who already perceive the difference which exists p80 between us and those priests. The motive of all the delays to which the Governor resorts is — that he hopes to receive, at every moment, permission to retire from the colony, and he thinks that if he were once out of the way, we and the French capuchins would be forced to come to some understanding. But may it please God that this Governor do not depart before we take possession of the church here, if we are ever destined to do so, because with some other governor (and God only knows what his turn of mind may be!) we should perhaps be obliged to appeal to the court — which we might, without fear of trouble, undertake to do with this governor. The language which I speak is as plain as it is well founded, because, on my mentioning to the Governor what I had written, and on my telling him that I reproached myself with having consented to father Dagobert's being continued in the office of vicar-general for another year, that my conscience upbraided me with having acted with such levity, and that we both should have to account to God for the sins which we had permitted, he approved me in everything, and expressed the opinion (which is mine also) that this father Dagobert being once removed, the evil would be cut by the root; and this said Governor has also confessed to me that he would petition the court for the removal of this friar!
"Under such circumstances, I would advise your Grace either to send here an impartial person to look into the state of the church, or to intrust me with all the necessary powers to go through the work of reform; for, when once in possession of the Lord's vineyard, I shall not lose sight of my obligation to labor therein as I ought, and I shall act accordingly, and in conformity with the sentiment of St. Martin and St. Paul who said: "that they feared no created thing, nor death, nor any et caetera." With the information which I have laid before p81 your Grace, it is in your Grace's power to judge of the extent of the work to be done. What is certain is that I cannot believe that father Dagobert is to remain vicar-general.
"I feel much compunction at having been obliged to make your Grace acquainted with the faults of these bad men, which I would have kept from your knowledge, if my motive in disclosing them had not been the glorification of God. I can safely affirm that father Dagobert will not perform any of the things which he has promised to do, nor will remedy any of the existing evils. Thus, on my having inquired why he did not recommend to the public the observance of such holydays as were celebrated in Spain, he answered me, in the presence of many witnesses, that it was because he did not choose to do so, that no one had the right to give him orders, and that nothing should be done in the colony except according to his will. From this you may judge whether we could feel justified in entertaining any hope of operating the slightest salutary reform. I have not failed to throw out a good many insinuations to these priests, but their uniform answer is: that they are not Spaniards, and that, besides our mere assertion, they have no other proof that your Grace is the bishop of this diocese. It must be confessed that they have some grounds for the excuse, because the Governor has thought proper to keep in his possession the letter in which your Grace invested me with all the powers which you had given to father Angel. I have since had no further sight of this letter, and it is certain that the Governor has not communicated its contents to these Friars, because things are as they were before, and the perversity of these men is such, that they are not satisfied with being wicked themselves, but that they also wish us to follow their example, and to abstain from p82 fasting and observing the holydays. As an excuse for their doings, they say that they are not Spaniards. I entreat you, whenever you have any orders to give which you wish to be executed, to send them directly to me. I can assure your Grace that they spare no efforts to make me like one of them, and to induce me to wear a shirt and stockings, and to become as lax in my morals and habits as they are. They think that, if they could seduce me, they would have no trouble with my companions. But having voluntarily assumed the heavy burden of a Capuchin's life, and, by leaving my country, having thrown myself into purgatory although still in this world, I will tax myself to the utmost to be true to the position in which I have placed myself, and to discard the world and its allurements, in order not to lose the merits of all my sacrifices by following the example of these priests (which God forbid!). On the contrary, I hope that He may give me the power to reform them, to make them conscious of the wickedness of their life, and to induce them to purify themselves by prayer — prayer! — which is the soul of the priesthood.8
"It is said that these priests have secreted all the silver plate and money which they possess. This is very bad, but of very little importance to us who know that, with the help of the king and of God, we shall never be wanting in any thing, and shall have bread enough to live. I hope that your Grace will soon afford some consolation to the Spaniards, and that you will not oblige us to remain subjected to an unworthy Superior. In thus hoping, I rely on God, who, in every thing, has so far guided your Grace in such a way as to make all your acts redound to His greater glory, &c., &c. I hope that He will fill his breast with His grace, so as to p83 enable you to help and direct us in weeding His vineyard here, which requires more labor than if it was to be planted for the first time," &c., &c.
On the 14th of September (1772), father Dagobert wrote to the Bishop to thank his Grace for having appointed him his vicar-general, a dignity which had been already conferred upon him by the Bishop of Quebec, when Louisiana formed a part of that diocese. Father Dagobert gives to the Spanish bishop an account of his ecclesiastical administration, enumerates the reforms which it requires, and, with great humility, expresses his anxious wish to be guided by the superior wisdom of his apostolic chief, whose orders he declares himself ready to execute to the very letter. Father Dagobert's communication to the Bishop is written with great propriety, with dignified subordination and Christian meekness, and is not such a document as could be expected from the individual described by father Cirilo.
On the 26th of the same month, Governor Unzaga wrote to the bishop a despatch in which he denounced the conspiracy which had been formed by some unquiet spirits against the poor French capuchins, whom they wished to be censured justè vel injustè. "It has resulted from this persecution," said he, "that father Dagobert, who does not know what it is to complain, spoke of retiring to France with his companions. At first I could not understand what was the cause of this resolution, as I attributed it to his fear of the discipline which your Grace might establish. But, when I was informed of the true state of things, I sent for him and told him to remain quiet, and that your Grace would give him satisfaction. He showed himself contented with this assurance; and promised that, whatever your orders might be, they would be scrupulously and blindly obeyed, and, in the meantime, he begged me to afford him some relief p84 by preventing father Hilaire de Génoveaux from abusing him, as he was in the habit of doing every day. Thus matters stand, and I have left them, on account of their ecclesiastical nature, to the judgment of your Grace, in order that your Grace may settle them with that prudence of which so many proofs have already been given. Of this quality father Cirilo does not possess one particle."
The whole letter of the Governor seems to be written in exculpation of father Dagobert, and of the other French capuchins. "I heartily approve," said he to the bishop, "some of the instructions which you have given, and which are such as to secure the rights and interests of the king, and the object of which is to retain his subjects under his rule by conforming as much as possible with their genius, their character, and manners. This is what I call acting in accordance with the spirit of the apostolic mission; this is voluntarily making one's self the servant of all in order to gain many, and working for the service of God by assuming the garb of the Jew among the Jews, of the pagan among the pagans, and by sharing even in the infirmities of the sick. On the whole, I refer myself to what I have previously communicated to your Grace, and from which your Grace will no doubt infer that many of the synodical regulations cannot be applied to this province without injury to the interests of the king, the number of whose vassals might be diminished considerably, if those regulations were attempted to be carried into execution, and your Grace will easily understand that it is not always that the laws made for one region can be safely adapted to another." This document is certainly a fair specimen of the Spanish governor's prudence and liberality.
On the 14th of November (1772) father Cirilo, whose indignation had, it seems, gathered more intensity from p85 its own broodings, wrote two letters to the Bishop, and brought with additional vehemence fresh accusations against the friars, whom he represented as the most abandoned of all human beings. Those letters, in some of their parts, are very much in the style of certain passages in Juvenal and Suetonius which are hardly compatible with the chastity of modern languages. The oft repeated burden of all of father Cirilo's communications was his professed willingness, in all humility, and for the greater glory of God, with the Bishop's consent, and on his being invested with full powers, to undertake the ungracious and painful task of reforming all the abuses which he described, and reprobated with such indefatigable zeal.
The quarrel of these priests was far from being settled in 1773, and on the 10th of July, Governor Unzaga wrote as follows to the Bishop: "I cannot understand what grounds father Cirilo can have to rest his complaints upon; and, had not your Grace informed me that he complains, I could not have believed it possible; for he and father Dagobert appear now to agree very well and to move in concert in everything they do. With regard to father Dagobert's alleged infraction of your orders, it is true that he has not as yet executed them all, in all their parts, particularly in relation to your command to expel for the convent the black women and no longer to dispense with the required publications for the celebration of marriages. But I never doubted his willingness soon to obey your Grace in these matters, and therefore I felt no hesitation in giving him time for summoning to his aid the necessary fortitude to throw out of doors a set of people whom he has raised and kept about him from the cradle, and I well understand the weakness which causes his delays. If you should take into consideration the difficulty which there is in eradicating p86 practices, usages and customs, and if you knew the individual, you would see clearly that the omission on his part to which your attention has been called, has not been the result of obstinacy but of simplicity. After all, the black women are now kept on the plantation of the fathers during the day, and the dispensations as to marriages are no longer granted.
"In one of your letters, you communicate to me the complaints of the fathers as to the deportment of father Hilaire de Génoveaux. In one of my previous despatches, I made you acquainted with the character of this friar, and with the cause of his expulsion from the colony when under the French domination. I have also mentioned his talents to your Grace with the commendation they deserve, and I have stated that he was entitled to justice at our hands. On his solicitations, the king permitted him to come here in order that he might proceed, in concert with the authorities, to an examination of his case and of the violence which he said was used towards him by the Superior Council of the late French colony, which not only expelled him without cause from the province, but also deprived him of the ecclesiastical dignity with which he was clothed. I therefore took cognizance of this affair, gathered all the documents relating thereto, and referred the case to the king, who is the only competent authority to decide on its merits. I did not neglect at the same time to acquaint your Grace with all its circumstances. The royal decision has not yet been received, and I shall wait for it. For this reason, and because I consider as slanderous the denunciations submitted to your Grace against this friar, I have abstained from interfering with him. It is true that, at first, he joined the Spanish friars against father Dagobert. But, for the present, he keeps aloof from both parties and remains quiet in his chamber, where he devotes himself p87 entirely to study, in the silence of solitude. I repeat that he is a good man, and that his talents make him very useful to the church, although his pride disqualifies him for the position of a chief or superior. Finally, you will think as you please on this subject, but with regard to myself, I know how difficult it is to come to a correct appreciation of the true merits of men of that sacred calling, when they choose to quarrel among themselves.
"In your last communication, you said that you were informed that each of the French capuchins had received one thousand dollars for his share of the perquisites collected during the year for the funeral rites and ceremonies only, and that father Dagobert made light of the bull of the Santa Cruzada. Both assertions are false. The first will provoke a smile, and the second, a sorrowful indignation. How is it possible not to laugh at the impudence of the first assertion, when it is known that there is not in New Orleans and its environs a population of two thousand souls of all professions and conditions; and the greater portion of those people are so poor that, when they die, they are buried with no other charges or expenses than four reales paid to the man who goes to the graveyard to give them sepulture. The origin of the extraordinary information sent to your Grace proceeds no doubt from the fact that this capital has suffered greatly from the small pox, and that there have been a great many deaths; but many of the dead were black and white children, whose parents were too poor to pay any funeral charges.
"All that I could learn concerning the alleged contempt of father Dagobert for the bull of the Santa Cruzada9 is that, in conversation, he said that it was p88 unknown in France, and that in the Indies it was valuable only on account of the graces and privileges attached to it, &c. &c. I have conveyed to the knowledge of the king that it is obnoxious to his subjects in this province; that all means of persuasion are vain to reconcile them to it; that they consider it as a tribute paid to the clergy; that they look upon it with horror, and that they would prefer to it any other tax or exaction. As the royal intentions of his Majesty are that nothing be done which may be calculated to breed discontent among his subjects, I mention this fact to your Grace that you may govern yourself accordingly."
This letter offended the Bishop, and called for the following explanatory one which Governor Unzaga wrote to him on the 12th of September, 1773: "Most excellent sir, you inform me that the expressions, I well know how difficult it is to come to a correct appreciation of the true merits of men of that sacred calling, when they choose to quarrel among themselves, had caused you to look into all the correspondence which lay before you, and that you could find nothing in it that could justify the language which I have used. You conclude with saying that you have submitted the whole of it to the king, and that you are awaiting the decision of his royal wisdom. As I naturally suppose that you have also submitted all my letters to his Majesty, I have nothing to add on this controversy; because the exquisitely sagacious judgment with which he is gifted will decide every thing according to the best interests of his royal service. I will merely observe that I do not conceive p89 where you have seen in any part of my correspondence that I have, as you say, characterized as barbarous the language of the Spanish Capuchins, and much less that I have called this colony a French province, in violation of the oath of allegiance which the colonists have sworn to their new prince, who is as celebrated for his equity as for the goodness of his heart. It is to be regretted, most excellent sir, that words do not bear the stamp of the soul of him who uses them. There would not be so many misconceptions in this world. God knows that my heart loves your Grace most tenderly, that my hands press without distrust the generous ones of a prelate, who has long ago honored me with his friendship, and that I would lay down my life to wipe off the expressions which have mortified your Grace. Turn them over and over, on every side, and you will see that they are applicable only to the Friars and to their disputes. I so expressed myself for the discharge of my conscience; and, doubting my ability to act satisfactorily in the premises, I referred all decision thereon to your Grace, as the only competent judge. I entreat your Grace to consider those expressions as having been dictated by an honorable delicacy of feelings, and not to look upon them as the inspirations of a sentiment of irritation which is foreign to my character and incompatible with my official position. It seems to me that the common lot of human nature is for each one to judge for himself and act for the best. If we do not agree in the means to be employed, let us abide by the decision of our sovereign master, who, besides being animated with the tenderest love for his subjects, possesses a mind of such sagacity that he soon discovers what their welfare requires. In all this I do not see any cause of complaint for either of us; at least such is my way of thinking. I attach no importance to the mere fact of prevailing p90 over any body. My interest, in all this affair, is to receive with due veneration the manifestations of the royal intentions, and to comply with them in every point. Contain they shall be made known to me, I will execute them strictly, according to my habit."
The bishop of Havana, not satisfied with the indifference which he thought that Unzaga had manifested in this religious controversy, had applied to the Marquis de la Torre, governor and captain general of the island of Cuba, and had requested him to stimulate what he called the indolence of the Governor of Louisiana. In reply to a communication from La Torre on this subject, Unzaga wrote a long despatch reciting to the Captain General the causes of all these religious difficulties which, after all, consisted in a mere struggle for power among those priests, in which the interests of the king were not implicated in the slightest degree. He evidently sided with the French Capuchins, in whose favor he showed that his feelings were enlisted, and whom he defended against most of the accusations brought against them. He represented the Spanish Capuchins as being fully as ignorant as the French, and indeed it is impossible to read all he says, without coming to the conclusion that both the French and Spanish clergy in Louisiana, at the time, were not altogether worthy of their sacred mission. "I know the extent of the evil," said he, "but I believe that the application of the remedy is not in my power. To whichever side I might incline, I discover a shoal which prevents me from acting with the activity and firmness which I might otherwise exhibit. If, doing violence to my conscience and honor, I supported father Cirilo, it would be securing the triumph of artifice and malignity, and oppressing innocence. Were I to favor the other side, I should be obliged to remove father Cirilo to the remotest part of the province, and his p91 Grace, the bishop, might persuade himself that I deprive him of his man, and that I oppose his designs, whilst my most earnest wish is to execute them, provided they do not conflict with the interests of the king, and have not the tendency to cause the province to lose the little which has remained of its former population. It would give much satisfaction, if his Grace would pay a visit to this colony to become acquainted with his flock and with the true state of things. He would soon be undeceived on many points, and perhaps would reform certain abuses. The people here will remain quiet as long as they are gently treated; but the use of the rod would produce confusion and ruin. Their dispositions are the result of the happy state of liberty to which they have been accustomed from the cradle, and in which they ought to be maintained, so far as is consistent with the laws of the kingdom."
Unzaga, after having written this reply marked with so much independence and liberality to the Marquis de la Torre, addressed, on the same day, an elaborate defence of the course he had pursued to the bailiff de Arriaga, one of the king's ministers. In this communication he does not spare the Bishop, whom he accuses of an indiscreet severity which would have depopulated the colony, if he had, as governor, carried his Grace's pastoral instructions into execution. "The first document by which," said he, "the new prelate made himself known to the French Friars was a tissue of phrases, in which he reproached them with having committed crimes. What must have been their feelings towards him when they received such a manifesto against their deportment, and particularly when they saw themselves upbraided for so many acts of a heinous character, which were sheer calumnies! With regard to the people, they found themselves threatened with excommunication if p92 they did not receive the sacrament at Easter, and they had to fear, as consequences of their refusal, to be subjected to temporal punishments, such as imprisonment, confiscation, and even the application of the discipline of the holy office of the Inquisition, under the jurisdiction of which they were not born, and to which they are not accustomed, It was easy for me to foresee, that if the French Capuchins became disgusted with their new position, they would soon take refuge on some English vessel and be followed by a large portion of the population; and, that should any body be excommunicated for not complying with the precept to take annually the sacrament at easter, the same results would ensue; because the people would run away from the ecclesiastical rod, for which they have no relish.
"One of the chief revenues of the clergy here had been the granting of dispensations, which the Bishop now reserves to himself. But if the heart were to draw within itself all the blood which runs through the different parts of the human body, those parts would wither from want of nutrition. How comes then the Bishop of Cuba, who says that he is not sparing of communicating to his subordinates the powers he possesses, to retain in this case the most valuable? And through what means does he expect the members of his diocese to subsist, except they should be reduced to a state of spirituality and be above the wants of mortality?
"How can he pretend to be serving the king, he who, all the while, is stirring up with a firebrand the patience of his majesty's vassals? He addresses them in a surly tone, and deprives them of their perquisites on the very day that he makes himself known to them! I confess that there are in the province abuses which must be corrected, although I deny the excesses in the existence of which his Grace believes, because he is incorrectly informed. p93 Granting the disease with which the colony is afflicted, it argues only that she wants the attendance of a physician — and the tender nursing of a pastor a wise physician who will graduate the doses of his treatment in accordance with the temperament of the patient — and a benevolent pastor who will conceal the rod and the shears.
"I had offered my services to his Grace from the beginning; but, far from adopting my views, which were such as to favor the interests of the king, without interfering with the real substance of religion, he agreed with me on trifles and disregarded my opinion on all matters of importance. Hence the discord which is complained of. In order to appease the disorder, I used the authority with which our pious king has invested me, with such measure and propriety as to prevent the public tranquillity from being disturbed. But to those who had been injured by a wrong beginning contentment was not restored.
"Although I am aware of the importance of repressing abuses, and of establishing good habits, because they originate good laws and secure their execution, yet I must affirm that there is here no such moral deformity as has been depicted to his Grace, none which threatens society with the slightest damage, and which could tend to a breach in the observance of those duties that faithful subjects have to discharge towards their prince. Why then all this clamor and outcry? Why this anger? Why this furious persecution which is capable of rousing into resistance submission itself?
"I have acted according to the rules of sound policy, when I have refused to lay a heavy hand on some abuses which, if they are such in the eye of the strict discipline of the church, cannot be held to have that character with regard to society or the body politic, or p94 which deserve at least no other than clerical punishment or repression. What is it to the king, for instance, whether the French Capuchins consider the teal as amphibious and eat it on fast days, and follow other practices quite as insignificant, and which, through immemorial custom, have been thought to be legitimate among these people? There were more important abuses to which I called their attention, and which I have been the first to denounce. I have corrected them through the gentle means of persuasion, and I have obtained most excellent results without noise and scandal, by merely employing the powerful weapon of ridicule, and by clothing with rags which I wished to make contemptible.10
"Nevertheless his Grace, resenting the information I have laid before the Governor of Cuba, puts himself in motion against me, takes up offensive weapons, attacks me on certain expressions to which he has given a meaning for which I am at a loss to account, goes into a critical examination of my correspondence, and, in order to shelter himself, endeavors to prepossess the judgment of your Excellency, and to enlist in favor of his acts the piety of his Majesty."
The Governor proceeds to a review of all the Bishop's acts, which he represents as impolitic and unnecessarily severe, and hints that he might have good grounds to consider himself insulted by the Bishop, who chose to disregard his representations as untrue, and to believe other individuals less entitled than he is to credit and respect. "The people here," said he, "are neither vicious nor addicted to debauchery, nor opposed to our habits, although, in many respects, those habits disagree with their tastes. They have some of their own, as p95 other people have, to which they are much attached — and this is very natural. Those habits are not in conflict with the primordial obligations of society; they are not to be eradicated at once, but must be removed gradually and almost imperceptibly.
"His Grace says, that so anxious was he to keep up good harmony between himself and me, that he took care to send all his orders through me, submitting them to my judgment, and that, in this way, I was quite as much the Bishop as the Governor of the province; but the truth is that he wanted to constitute me his executive officer and bailiff (fiscal de vara), rather than his adviser.
"The Prelate exalts the virtues of father Cirilo! I do not know whether the ambition11 which lurks beneath the coarse woollen gown of the monk can be held up as a pattern of virtue, but I am sure that, for a monk, to have sown dissensions between his brethren and the Prelate who is their Superior, is an act sufficiently mean to make him fall from that pedestal of probity to which his Grace wishes to raise him, on account of his opposition to imaginary licentiousness."
The Governor then takes up one by one all the accusations brought against the French Capuchins, and avers that there is no foundation for them. "What they may do in their cells," said he, "and what their secret sins may be, I cannot tell; but I know that they give no bad examples, and that they inculcate no unsound doctrine. And how many times does it not happen that the preacher's sermons and his acts are at variance! How comes the Prelate to be acquainted with the existence of crimes, which, monstrous as they are represented to be, I have not been able to detect, although I am on the spot. I rely, as a last resort, on the judgment of the p96 king, who will not put faith in the denunciations of certain individuals prompted by personal ambition or baser motives, in preference to the assertions of his governor, whom he knows to be worthy of belief. I trust in the humane intentions of his Majesty, who never loses sight for one moment of the welfare and happiness of his subjects, and who has always striven to introduce the influence of religion and morality in his domains, not by abrupt force, nor by producing affliction and complaints, but through the salutary effects of sweet and mild persuasion, of good example and of wholesome admonition. These are the flowery and pleasant paths through which the Holy Evangelists and their true followers have invariably proceeded in establishing a religion of peace. His Majesty will decide whether the conduct of the Bishop of Havana, who has presented himself sword in hand, is in conformity with the pious intentions of the royal breast, and is worthy of the apostolic ministry.
"An enlightened prudence and a good deal of toleration are necessary here, for although this is a Spanish province, and although Count O'Reilly endeavored to make its inhabitants forget the former domination under which they had lived so long, still I cannot flatter his majesty so much as to say that the people have ceased to be French at heart, and that in them is not to be found that spirit of independence which causes resistance to oppressive laws. But I will affirm that they are susceptible of being submissive and loyal subjects, that they entertain great veneration for their ancient laws, and that the state of felicity which they now enjoy is a guaranty to me that they are not to be suspected do being disposed to fail in their duties towards the crown. Therefore do I endeavor to keep them in the colony, and to secure their love and services to the king, without caring in the p97 least for what I deem to be fooleries.12 After the blow which the colonists drew upon themselves by their late revolution, the infliction of another would be tantamount to utter destruction."
Considering that this document was addressed to the Court of Spain, and that it was written against a high dignitary of the church in a country where it is supposed to have possessed for centuries so much power, it is impossible not to be struck with Governor Unzaga's bold language. The Spanish government, which has the reputation of being so considerate and temporizing in all its decisions, acted on this occasion with its usual prudence. It supported the Bishop in all that he had written or done, save a few exceptions, but, at the same time, it abstained from censuring the Governor, and contented itself with signifying to both functionaries that it was confidently expected that they would make some mutual sacrifices of their views for the sake of harmony, and would no longer expose the king's service to suffer in consequence of their dissensions. This hint was taken, it seems; and, whether some compromise or other was effected between the French and Spanish capuchins, peace appears to have spread its broad wings over the convent of this reverend fraternity, and nothing further was heard of their former quarrel.
As the clergy is so important an element in the composition of every social and political organization, I have not deemed it inappropriate to introduce this ecclesiastical episode as an historical illustration of Louisiana in 1772.
In 1773, the colonists were beginning to be reconciled to their new government, which was recommended to them by the mildness of Unzaga's administration. The p98 planters, in particular, found considerable resources in the clandestine trade which they carried on with the English, who supplied them with negroes at a cheap price. The heavy sums brought from Vera Cruz to meet the expenses of the government were circulating freely, and, by increasing the amount of specie, had enabled the planters to sell their crops advantageously and to give more extension to their establishments. It is well known that our planters seldom resist the temptation to buy more land or more negroes, when the golden opportunity presents itself. Such had been the case on the present occasion, and, instead of employing the proceeds of their crops to pay their old debts, they had bethought themselves of a different application of their moneys, and ever increased their liabilities to their creditors. "Keep thy pen from lender's book, and defy the foul fiend," says Shakspeare, in his poetical wisdom. The planters committed the indiscretion of violating this precept, and could not defy the foul fiend that presented himself in the shape of a hurricane, which occasioned such ravage on their plantations, that, when the time came for settlement with their creditors, they could pay neither capital nor interest, but, on the contrary, wanted advances. The creditors stuck to their bond, and wanted, if not their pound of flesh, at least part of it. They became clamorous, and some of them resorted to legal measures to expropriate their creditors. The debtors — including those who could pay and those who could not — entered into a confederacy, and resolved on resistance per fas et nefas. At their head was St. Maxent, a wealthy planter, whose daughter Governor Unzaga had married, and who thought that he could avail himself of this circumstance to set his creditors at defiance. In a Spanish colony, at that time, a governor was almost omnipotent, and, therefore, all the contending parties gathered in earnest supplication p99 round that functionary. In these circumstances, Unzaga acted with the strictest impartiality, and with his customary discretion. He began with forcing his father-in‑law to pay every cent of what he owed, and also employed coercion against all those who were able to pay their debts, but who had sought to postpone discharging them by availing themselves of this popular excitement. To the really distrest and honest debtors he granted the delays which they required, and even reconciled the creditors to this indulgence, having convinced them that it was favorable to their own interest. The course pursued by the governor in this emergency obtained universal approbation.
By a royal schedule of the 4th of August, 1774, says Judge Martin, in his History of Louisiana, the power of granting lands in the colony was vested in the colony, according to the regulations made by O'Reilly, on the 8th of January, 1770. Hence the question presents itself, whether all grants made by subsequent governors were not null and void, when made in violation of those regulations, if it be not shown that those regulations had been repealed or modified. With regard to the private sale of lands and other immovables, Unzaga had issued, on the 9th of November, 1770, a prohibitory decree, which is of some importance, in relation to the laws governing the transfer of property under the Spanish administration, and which will be found in the Appendix.13
The province continued, in 1775, to be so thinly inhabited, that it was easy for the runaway slaves to conceal themselves for any length of time, even in the vicinity of New Orleans. They had the audacity to form themselves into gangs, which committed great depredations on the plantations. It was found necessary to remedy p100 this pressing evil, and to put a stop to a state of things which served as a fatal example to the rest of the negroes, and Governor Unzaga issued a proclamation, by which he offered an amnesty or free pardon to those slaves who should return voluntarily to their masters, and threatened with severe punishment those who should not avail themselves of the opportunity offered to them to obtain mercy for their past misdemeanors. This measure seems to have had a salutary effect.
In 1776, Don Bernardo de Galvez succeeded Estecheria in the command of the regiment of Louisiana. The year previous, hostilities had broken out between Great Britain and her thirteen colonies of North America, and that great contest had begun which was to give birth to one of the mightiest nations of the present century. There were at that time in New Orleans a number of merchants from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia whose feelings were strongly enlisted on behalf of their countrymen, who were struggling against oppression. Among them, Oliver Pollock was one of the most conspicuous and most active. They procured a good supply of arms and ammunition for the inhabitants of the western part of Pennsylvania, which they delivered to Colonel Gibson, who had come for it from Pittsburg.º This was done with the connivance of the Spanish governor; for Spain, like France, was inimical to Great Britain, and was willing to add fuel to the flames which threatened her old and potent rival.
On the 28th of February, the Court of Madrid had requested Unzaga to specify what were the means of defence which he possessed in the colony, and what would be his plans of operation should he be attacked. On the 19th of June, he answered by sending a detailed statement of the number of troops in the colony, and their equipments — of the munition, provisions, and materials p101 of which he could dispose — of the fortifications then existing at New Orleans and in its immediate vicinity, with his reflections relative to the best mode of defence. He commented on the small number of regulars and militia he had under his command, and observed that they were far from being adequate to the protection of a country having •more than fifteen hundred miles in extent. He represented the fortifications as insignificant, and their artillery as insufficient. "Besides, as the country was open on all sides," said he, "it was perfectly useless to attempt making a show of resistance in front, when the enemy could attack on the flank and on the rear, without meeting any defence. Two small vessels of war, such as there is one already, being introduced, and taking their station in the rear above New Orleans, would cut off my retreat." He also represented the fortifications at Manchac, Pointe Coupée, Natchitoches,º Arkansas, and Illinois, as being equally unavailable, and he informed his government that, in case of war, should he be attacked by superior forces, he would, unless he received contrary orders, retreat to the frontiers of Mexico, leaving it to the treaty of peace that would be concluded in the end, to determine finally on the fate of Louisiana.
He also communicated to his government all the information he had been able to gather, in relation to the designs which he suspected the English to have formed against the colony of Louisiana. "The last news we have," said he, "were brought by the English vessels which navigate this river on their way to the settlements of that nation, and they are of a dubious character; for the insurgents and the royalists make contradictory reports. But, on weighing and comparing them carefully, I have come to the conclusion that it may be p102 correctly estimated that Great Britain now disposes, in the waters of North America, of ninety vessels of war, carrying each from sixteen to fifty guns, and has an army of 25,000 men. It seems that, since the engagement at Boston, the English have not made much progress, and have confined their operations to the blockading of ports, &c., &c., and that the insurgents have taken Montreal, and raised the siege of Quebec, after having lost one thousand men, and the general who commanded them, &c., &c.
"I shall not, however, allow myself to be thrown off my guard, and cease to use those precautions which I ought to resort to in the present circumstances, because I suspect that, at any moment, the royalists and the insurgents may make up their quarrel and unite their forces, in order to take possession by surprise of one of the domains of some European power, and thus to indemnify themselves for their losses and expenses, or in order to carry into execution any other design, which I shall endeavor to penetrate by using all the means at my disposal; and, to that effect, I have despatched a trusty man to Philadelphia, who, under the pretext of looking for flour, with a passport, and with permission to transport the flour to Cadiz in a Spanish vessel and with a Spanish crew, will endeavor to discover their designs by stopping at some of their ports."
On the 22nd of the same month, Unzaga, who had been made Brigadier-General, again petitioned the court to be allowed to retire to Malaga, with the pay of Colonel, on account of his advanced age, the bad state of his health and his impaired sight. He represented that he had served the king forty-one years in the army, the eight first years of which in Spain, Italy, and Africa, and the thirty-three remaining years in America, where p103 the royal patronage had bestowed upon him the government of Louisiana, the duties of which he had been performing for more than six years.
On the 13th of August, he again communicated to his government all the information he had been able to collect in relation to the American war, and insisted on having leave of retiring from active service.
"On the 7th of September, he informed his government that he had despatched to Philadelphia a packet commanded by Bartholomew Beauregard, apparently for the purpose of procuring flour for the wants of New Orleans, but really to pry into the designs of the royalists and insurgents.
Unzaga, in a despatch of the 28th of December, called the attention of the government to the prejudice and injuries to which was exposed the safety of the colony from the fact that said colony was dependent, as to its military administration and government, on the Governor and Captain General of the island of Cuba, and, among other reasons, he gave the following:
"In case of war, it is vain to hope for any help from Havana, nor for proper directions or orders from the captain general, who is not acquainted with the country and its localities. For want of such knowledge, the captain general would probably issue no orders, and the governor of Louisiana would then remain inactive, as he would not be willing to incur any responsibility; and thus his hands being tied up, the opportunity of securing the most important successes might be neglected, and the honor of the Spanish arms might be tarnished, the captain general of Cuba excusing himself, on the impossibility in which he would be to act or to give orders, and the governor of Louisiana pleading the want of instructions. I have been, for nearly seven years, the chief officer in command of this province. I have lived p104 in that dependent state to which I allude, and, although I do not say that I have suffered from it, because I have always gloried in serving and obeying with implicit readiness, yet I must assure the king, on my honor, that, under the present colonial organization, the royal interests are liable to be put in jeopardy, and that the governor of this province, whoever he may be, will be exposed to many mortifications, more or less aggravating according to the humor of the captain general of Cuba."
The leave to retire from active service, with permission to reside at Malaga, which Unzaga had prayed for, was refused, and he was appointed Captain General of Caraccas. He had won the esteem and affection of the population, and his departure caused unbounded regrets. His administration had been that of a gentle and indulgent father, and his having dared to connive at the breach by the British of the fiscal and commercial laws of Spain, a strict observance of which would have been fatal, materially increased the prosperity of the colony. His conduct, in this respect, was not absolutely approved by the king's ministers, but it did not deprive him of the confidence of the sovereign, as is fully proved by his promotion.
2 Hijo mio, yo estoy yá con el pie en la sepultura y tengo no efectos de consideracion de que testar ni disponer, contentandome yó con que, á mi fallecimiento se halle lo necessario para enterrarme en siete quartas de tierra con la corta y honrada pompa militar con que solo he fundado la esperanza vana de este miserable mundo. Lo que es el mundo! Cesen glorias pasadas — Del pensamiento unas veces fatiga y otras tormento; el spiritu bueno siempre há de estar mirando al cielo.
3 Martin's History of Louisiana, p26, vol. 2.
4 If capuchins are sworn to poverty and ought not to have silver spoons, why should regulations be made to prevent their ruin from being accomplished, and to enable them to retain possession of a plantation and of slaves?
5 The Spanish Capuchins.
6 Y sus cosas sagradas.
7 Por que creo que lo traen á la faltriquera.
8 Que es la alma de los sacerdotes.
9 The primitive object of the Bull of the Santa Cruzada was to grant indulgences to all Spaniards that would engage personally in waging war against the infidels, or contribute to it by alms. The price of this Bull was fixed at 21 quartos, (p88)or 14 to 15 cents. No catholic, inhabiting Spain, could abstain from purchasing this Bull, without exposing his orthodoxy to suspicion. When provided with this Bull, he had among other privileges, that of eating flesh, with the consent of his physician and confessor, and also of using eggs and milk, on days of fast and during Lent.
10 Ridiculizandolos y vistiendo los de andragos.
11 La ambicion oculta bajo el grueso sayal.
12 Cuidando poco lo que juzgo por frioleras.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Gayarré's 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 Apr 10