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If anything startlingly new could be said about the old fight at Norridgewock, in which Father Sebastian Rasles1 lost his life, it would seem to be that the Jesuit was disliked by many of his own Indians. His champions would spring forward in his defense, quoting the contemporary accounts in the Jesuit Relations. But p542 if it could be shown that these documents are heavily falsified and were mere propaganda to cover a disastrous defeat, and that even the true age of Father Rasles was not known until two centuries after his death,2 we should have a full measure of what passes for news.
For two hundred years, very nearly, historians, depending upon these documents, have pictured Father Rasles as a meek and saintly martyr, adored by his dusky neophytes, facing a rabble of English soldiers, and falling, pierced by a hail of bullets, at the foot of the village cross, surrounded by seven of his converts who tried to shield him with their own bodies. Few have questioned the story.3 In giving it a new and unfamiliar turn, it should be definitely understood that the character of Father Rasles is not called into question. The purpose of this paper is to expose a fiction about him, built up after his death by the French authorities for political purposes. Father Rasles was an exceptionally able and devoted man, who spent his life in unselfish, hazardous work. His love of country and devotion to his own faith have been acknowledged freely by those who were neither of his nation nor his religion. His fame rests safely on the facts of his life even after the fictions have been stripped away from the circumstances of his death.
Considering the great reputation which Father Rasles has always had for his influence over the Indians, it comes as a surprise to discover that many Indians to‑day, over a wide range of country, p543 hate his name bitterly. For more than two hundred years their ancestors and they have been accusing Father Rasles of having been the cause of the destruction of their old home and the dispersion of their tribe. These are the descendants of the ancient Norridgewocks, to whom Rasles was a missionary. Well as my own family had known the Indians of Maine for generations, I had never suspected that any such feeling existed until August, 1930. Then, seated one day on the steps of a general store in Washington County, Maine, I happened to chat with an old Passamaquoddy Indian who, with his load of baskets, was waiting for the mail-stage. The man was friendly and talked freely, though a stranger, and when he discovered that I understood the old traditions and beliefs of his people, he suddenly and most unexpectedly launched into a dramatic account of the death of Father Rasles. I took down his story just as he gave it.
His ancestor, he said, a man of mature years, with four or five married children at the time of the fight, was a shaman, or medicine man, with clairvoyant powers. That this shaman, his two sons-in‑law, and two or three sons, with their wives — five canoes in all — escaped the massacre, was due to a vision.
He dreamed and seen it. "We all goin' be killed off, let's go Penobscot." He called all old people together, told 'em they'd been sold, was all of 'em goin' be destroyed by English. Priest was goin' call all of 'em to church to hear word from away — all of 'em must be there. Then English would come. But people said: "Soctomah all time whining, all time fearing! Nobody can come here, kill us all off!" — "All right!" — The took all family, went off on Friday; went down to Boothbay Sat'day night; said, "Stay on island in Boothbay Harbor." He eat no supper, no breakfast, hold head down, wouldn't speak. After ten o'clock held up head, said: "Too bad; all over; all our folks dead now; all killed off by English and Mohawks." They was all in church, didn't see enemy. Woman had sick child, stayed home; went to door to empty something and seen 'em all around church; screamed, and they come out of church and was killed. Three of 'em escaped. When got Oldtown he says: "Soctomah, ef we took your word, we all escaped." Old priest sold 'em out. Had beaver hat full of silver money from English to get 'em together where English could kill 'em. All in Father Fatimore's book! He got pictures of place and fighting. Old priest he was goin' sell out Indians.
p544 Father Vetromile's Indian Good Book does have a picture of the attack at Norridgewock, but he did not intend that it should be used as evidence in support of this wild tale. The charge against Rasles is absurd — his dearest enemies knew that he was incorruptible. Though I saw the Indian again the next year and took down his story once more, it was manifestly not something to be spread abroad. I should not have returned to the subject had I not come upon it again quite unexpectedly. The story was already in print, and with unimpeachable authority to back it.
Frontispiece from Indian Good Book, 1856.
Death of Father Sebastian Rale of the Society of Jesus
Dr. Frank G. Speck, who speaks the Algonquin dialects fluently and has the confidence of the Indians, writes in one of the government reports on ethnology:
Much has been written, both by French and English historians, showing that Father Rasles was murdered and mutilated by the English in this unfortunate massacre, but another version of the affair is related by the Wawenock informant. In this it is claimed that Rasles secretly betrayed the mission to the English.4
Then, in a foot-note, Dr. Speck gives the story as he heard it at Béçancour, near Quebec, in 1912, from descendants of the ancient Wawenocks of Maine, who were involved with the Norridgewocks in their disaster.
The legend runs as follows: When the English came to Norridgewock the French priest sold the Indians to the English. The English gave him a bag of gold and they promised that he should not be killed when the attack was made. On that day he called the Indians into the church, but one of the old women (the Malecite call her Pukdjinsqwess) warned them not to go, as she had had a presentiment of trouble. Her folks ridiculed her, saying that she was silly with old age. When they had gathered in the church the English attacked and the old woman was the only one to escape, taking with her her grandchild on a cradle board and swimming Kennebec River. The rest of the people were killed. During the massacre one of the Indians tomahawked or shot Rasles in revenge. The same story, strange to say, is well known among the Penobscot and the Malecite. Among the Penobscot there are supposed descendants of this grandchild, whose name was Bamzi, according to an historical legend.
In June, 1932, I heard the same story again, this time from a very aged Penobscot Indian woman, who said that she was the p545 grandchild of the baby saved on the cradle-board, who became Chief Francis Joseph of the Passamaquoddy tribe, the friend and ally of Colonel John Allan in the Revolution. Six families, in all, came across by land to the Penobscot and were three weeks in getting to Machias. Her uncle, who told her the story, said he had it from his grandmother, the woman who saved the baby; but the grandmother's name was forgotten. I did not suggest Pudjinsqwess — that would have been an insult; for Pudjinsqwess was the worst old witch in the Indian mythology. Nor did I push any inquiry about Rasles, Indian etiquette enjoining consideration for the very aged, to whom one should not suggest themes which might be disagreeable to them. She said that the English were discovered by an old woman who went out to collect firewood; that the people were all in church at the time, and the priest was killed first of all, and then the church was set on fire.
There is still another version of the story, probably fragmentary, but proof that the tale is no recent invention. In 1845, Dr. Convers Francis wrote of Norridgewock:
A tradition is sometimes mentioned in that neighborhood that when the English troops reached Rale's village, the Indians and their priest were all in their church, engaged in some religious service; and that the English, before they were aware of their danger, rushed in and cut them all down without mercy, priest and people, in the midst of their solemnities. I know not the slightest historical evidence for such a story.5
If Dr. Francis heard anything about Rasles having sold his people for money, he wisely decided not to repeat it, knowing that it could not be true; but here is our Indian legend as it must have been told before the Revolution to the early settlers of Anson, Stark, and Norridgewock by the Indians lingering around when the white pioneers first came.
Indian traditions should not be taken too seriously; but a story which is known to‑day from Quebec to Passamaquoddy Bay, from the St. John River to the Penobscot, which has been a continuous tradition for two centuries, and a close family tradition at p546 that, must have something behind it. The fact that all the versions reported agree in the wholly unhistoric detail of the people and the priest being together in the church when the attack was made, indicates a spread from a common focus, probably Norridgewock itself, instead of a drift across country: this would place the date at about the time when the tribe tried to gather again at its old home, in 1728. It is now known among four widely-separated tribes, speaking four different dialects,6 proof enough of that tenacious Indian grip upon an ancient grudge, carried so far as even to make an Indian the slayer of his own priest. Inaccurate as it is, the legend cannot be lightly dismissed. Yet there is an universal belief that during his lifetime Father Rasles was almost worshipped by his Indians. Can the contradiction be explained?7
Though the personal prestige of the French missionaries among the Indians was great, and Father Rasles through many years enjoyed a popularity which he earned well with his unremitting sacrifices for them,8 yet when the French government, after the treaty of Utrecht, used its missionaries to stir up Indian war with the English in time of peace, the Indians, understanding that they were the pawns in a political game, exhibited a spirit of revolt which was alarming.9 They had come to distrust their priests and said openly that they lied.10 Though the missionaries p547 held control, they were losing their popularity; if they should lose their power to compel obedience, the government fully realized that however much the French might recut and sew the boundaries of Acadia,11 the English would soon hold Maine and would eventually drive France out of her more northerly possessions. The more desperately the priests worked for France, the more firmly did their own Indians oppose them. There is ample documentary evidence on the French side to support the Indian tradition that Rasles was unpopular with a large faction of his own Indians. Upon what, then, rests the belief that they almost worshipped him? Upon four contemporary French documents — and innumerable uncritical repetitions of the same.
Of the four, three are printed in both French and English in the Thwaites edition of the Jesuit Relations; the fourth is in Charlevoix's L'Histoire de la Nouvelle France.12 The array of p548 authority seems overwhelming — the royal historiographer of New France, the head of the Jesuit order there, and Rasles himself. All these testify to the unbounded devotion of the Indians to their missionary. But when we examine the evidence itself, it is less imposing. Invaluable as was his work, Charlevoix was no historian — Governor Shute, of Massachusetts, described him as "one Charlevoix who comes from the Court of France in the quality of an Inspector to make Memoirs on Acady and Missisipi and the other Countrys thereabouts,"13 and his history of the Norridgewock tragedy is a mere recrudescence of the other documents, plus some unpardonable falsifications of his own. Dr. Shea's foot-note to the chapter is judicious: "Charlevoix's arrangement here is singularly confusing. He has already treated of Abenaqui matters down to 1725, and now recurs to 1714. Apparently the history was completed before Rale's death, and the matter subsequently introduced."14
Of the letters, no one seems to have observed that they are not private letters at all, but informal articles clearly intended for publication in the Lettres Édifiantes et Curieuses, écrites des Missions Étrangères, par quelques Missionaires de la Compagnie de Jesus; the ascription to particular persons is a mere literary device. The fact that not one of the three was printed until 1726, two years after the death of Rasles, leaves the dates upon them at least open to suspicion. The date of printing does not prove that Rasles did not write the two letters assigned to him, but it makes it very difficult to prove that he did write them. "I can no longer refuse the affectionate entreaties which you have made, in all your letters,"15 is the beginning of the letter to his brother; and forthwith he starts out with the date of his sailing from France more than thirty-two years before. If he had written home before, they would hardly be interested in the date of his voyage and early experiences; if he had not, a familiar letter of about fifteen thousand words is breaking the barrier of his silence with a cataract of correspondence. Clearly the letter was for publication.
But any one who acknowledges so much and still insists that p549 Father Rasles wrote the letter, has grasped a dilemma with very sharp horns when once he comes to an examination of the contents. "Au commencement de Juin, et lorsque la neige est presque toute fondu, ils sèment du skamȣnar [Indian corn]," he writes to his brother.16 And Goyau, following Rochemonteix,17 interprets this as referring to Norridgewock: "C'était une paroisse ambulante que la paroisse de Nanrantsouak." But when, pray, did the snow ever lie on cultivated land in Maine till the first of June? It is gone two months before.
In the same letter the writer says that in the fall, "jusqu'après la Toussaints," the Indians go a second time to the seashore and enjoy good living. "Outre les grands poissons, les coquillages et les fruits, ils trouvent des outardes, des canards, et toutes sortes de gibiers, dont la Mer est toute couverte."18 They stay there until "vers la Purification, ou au plus tard le Mercredi des Cendres." One wonders at this abundance of big fish, ducks, and game, but particularly of fruits on the Maine seacoast in midwinter; but the word outardes, translated "bustards," alone concerns us. We have no bustards in North America; but the Indian word, which Rasles himself renders as outarde,19 is the Abnaki name of the wild goose. Any modern Indian will give the same word for the wild goose; while a French-Canadian to‑day will give you outarde. "The identity of this bird is placed beyond question by the descriptions of it given by Lescarbot, and especially by Denys," says Professor W. F. Ganong.20 But we have no wild geese on the Maine coast in winter; we all have seen them flying south in the fall and have heard their honking as they came back in the spring. Between All Saints (November 1) and Candlemas (February 2), or even Ash Wednesday, Rasles's Indians could not have feasted on wild geese — as the letter says.
If, after thirty years of living in Maine, Father Rasles could p550 have made two such unpardonable blunders in one letter, what dependence can we put on his other statements? If he did not write the letter himself, its autobiographical value entirely disappears. It may be interesting, it may contain much that is correct, but it is not what it pretends to be: it is no longer trustworthy. The fact that it was not printed until two years after his death, and three years after it is supposed to have been written, adds to the difficulties of defending it. One notes also that after thirty years spent in Maine, the writer of this letter, if he were Rasles, goes back to his brief two-year sojourn in Illinois and fills a very large part of the letter with an account of the customs and traditions of the Illinois Indians, from whom Charlevoix had just returned after an extended stay "to make Memoirs." The only evidence any one has brought forward to show that Rasles ever went to the western Indians is Charlevoix's statement. Charlevoix's chronology of Rasles is that he arrived at Quebec, October 23, 1689; lived at St. Francis de Sales in Quebec until 1691; then for two years was sent to the Illinois Indians; and after that was recalled to the Abnakis of Maine. "Il y fonda, en 1694, la mission Nanrantsouak,"21 and from that time to his death in 1724, he lived in Maine. The statements of Charlevoix are not challenged, although he did not know Rasles's age, and, using his own dates, did not reckon correctly the length of time Rasles had been in America; but they meet a curious obstacle of Rasles's own making. At the head of the famous Dictionary, in place of a title, is written in Rasles's own hand: "1691. Il y a un an que je suis parmi les Sauvages, je commence à mettre en ordre en forme de dictionaire les mots que j'apprens." In the very year, therefore, when he is transferred to Illinois, he begins his Dictionary. Did he begin it in the St. Francis dialect and then set it aside for years and resume in Abnaki? Why, if he was among the Illinois, did he not shift to their tongue, that being also an Algonquin language? There had been no copying from another book into this: the inscription is so old that, in 1894, when Dr. E. C. Cummings examined the dictionary, he had to use a lens in reading this heading.22 p551 After using the dictionary almost daily for years, I have found nothing but Maine Abnaki Indian in it. Was Rasles ever in Illinois? If we have only Charlevoix's word for it, is that sufficient? What if, knowing too little of the Maine Abnakis to write entertainingly of them, he invented the western episode in order to draw upon his own experiences?
We are not interested in proving that Rasles did not write the autobiographical letters, or that Charlevoix probably did write them. We do undertake to show that there exists a reasonable doubt of their authenticity, sufficient to make the statements in them as to Rasles's great personal popularity with the Indians in his later years of much less value than has been supposed. There may be some historic ground for the Indian tradition.
Of the eulogistic letter of de la Chasse and the later redaction of it by Charlevoix in his history, it may be said with emphasis that it is a string of falsehoods. It was deliberately made up to send to France, when Vaudreuil and de la Chasse found that they had lost the most important outpost of France toward New England. Twenty years later Charlevoix printed it, not only without corrections, but with the enlargement of some of the most offensive details. By the time that letter was written, both Vaudreuil and de la Chasse knew that there were not eleven hundred English and Indians engaged in the fight, as they say — and because they wrote out "onze cens," it can not be a numerical misprint for one hundred, as Shea suggests.23 De la Chasse had himself been a missionary to the Abnakis for about twenty years24 and he was in Norridgewock in July, 172125 and he knew that the alluvial fields near Norridgewock were corn-fields. He should not have spoken of the "dense thickets with which that Village is surrounded," nor have said that "it was not enclosed with palisades."26 p552 We know to‑day the plan of the town, the number of houses, the situation of the church, and the height of the palisades.27 The English plan of attack is consistent with the plan of the town, but the French account is not. Neither the French, none of whom was there except the priest, nor the fleeing Indians could have known that "more than two thousand gun shots" were fired by the English;28 or that the body of the missionary had been "percé de mille coups" [coups de fusil] or even by one per cent of a thousand bullets, the English would hardly have cared to remove the cassock from the body; and they would have been hypercritical if, having done so, they had tossed it aside merely because it was threadbare. "They threw it again upon his body, and it was sent to us at Quebec."29 The best proof the Indians could show that their priest was dead, would be the garment he habitually wore; but here de la Chasse is only confirming the English claim that Rasles was killed by a single bullet through the head, which left his much-worn garb whole and unstained. The rest of the story about the mutilation of his body by the English may be judged by this sample.
It is not necessary to dispute the details of Père de la Chasse's and Charlevoix's fiction; the English and French archives give ample proof of what happened, why it was such an overwhelming calamity to the French, and why de la Chasse, the superior of the Jesuits, and Vaudreuil, the governor, were at their wits' ends as to how to meet the crisis. Vaudreuil was a very old man, past the age for prompt action,30 and de la Chasse, who was efficient, resolute, and the real head in this war, took the lead,31 pushing the p553 governor to one side, even while appearing to defer to him. It was more than three months after the attack on Norridgewock before the governor made his report to France:
. . . The Village was surprised on the 23rd of August last. The English accompanied by some Indians, called La Porcelaine, arrived there under cover of the long grass and brushwood with which the environs were filled, and came on the cabins unawares. This village was without palisades and the Narantsouans considered themselves sufficiently secure there in consequence of the care they took to send out scouts. . . . The Narantsouans then in the village numbered fifty warriors. Those who were not hit by the bullets which riddled the bark of the wigwams,32 having immediately rushed to arms, made a few moments resistance, crying to the women and children to fly to the river, which was yet open.33
Father Râlle,º the ancient missionary of the Abenakis . . . went out of his house on hearing the noise, but the moment he made his appearance, the English fired a volley at him by which he was immediately killed. Those of the Indians who possessed not the courage to resist, fled towards the river as soon as they perceived that the Father was slain.34 The bravest [l'eslittes — les élites] of the warriors who had held out a long time against the English, seeing that they were on the point of being surrounded, flung themselves into the river like all the rest, and the English Indians pursued them to the water's edge with their shots.35 Firing, as they did, unimpeded, against a mass of frightened people who were crossing a river, some in canoes and some swimming, it is surprising that a single man should have escaped. They killed in this action only 7 men, 7 women, 14 children and wounded 14 persons very slightly. The mass of the village which escaped amounts to 150 persons, among whom there still remain 29 warriors. . . .36
p554 This is the official report to the government. We find under the date of 24 April, 1725, an abstract of the letter, clearly intended for the minister, in case the original letter was lost in passage. This abstract repeats the essential points.37
The governor speaks of the brushwood and the grass and the undefended cabins — but he is not the first to do it. A month before, in his letter of October 29, Father de la Chasse, in his "Letter to a Brother Jesuit" had said the same things; the governor is copying the priest — and we know now that what the priest was saying was not true. Moreover, we may be quite sure that he knew at the time what he wrote was not the truth. Sixty-seven days by the French calendar38 had elapsed since the attack on p555 the village, and this letter of de la Chasse is the first mention of it by the French that we find. And sixty-seven days was ample time, after allowing for the slow progress of the destitute Indians, for sending a party from Quebec to Norridgewock to investigate and for its return, and then for sending messengers even to Boston to get the English side of the story. For an unincumbered party of messengers it was no fifteen days' journey from Norridgewock to Quebec, as the "Letter to a Brother Jesuit" relates;39 in the fall, five days should suffice. Nor was it so great a distance as we may think to go from Quebec (by the inland Indian routes, used in their raiding)40 to Boston, where the French had their informers. In due place we shall produce evidence hard to dispute that the de la Chasse and the governor had information from English sources and were not depending, as has always been assumed, upon the exaggerated reports of frightened Indians. Their story was deliberately contrived to cover the loss of their strongest fortified Indian town, destroyed in an attack by daylight, when it was full of warriors, by a small troop of the enemy.
The official report expresses no grief over Father Rasles's death. "An old missionary of the Abenakis," the governor describes him — not a word of praise, nothing de la Chasse had just written about his self-devotion in drawing the fire of the English upon himself, about the seven brave champions, about his falling at the foot of the cross. To Vaudreuil, Rasles was only a superannuated priest (five years older than de la Chasse said) who had failed in the task appointed him.
The only other reference to Rasles in the French official documents which is of importance here, is in the Memoir of 1718, which is unsigned but seems to have been done by de la Chasse:41
Father Rale, Missionary at Naurantsoak, did, indeed, make some efforts to prevent this settlement [of the English on the Kennebec], the consequences of which he foresaw, but he did not consider himself bound to make any stronger demonstrations because p556 it would be a useless risk of his own life; the English would not be the less established, and aware of the Jesuit's designs against them, would have done him serious harm. He knew that a price had been set on the head of his confrère, Father Aubry, for the same reason, at the beginning of the last war, but the Father succeeded in removing the English and had nothing to fear from any of the Abenaquis; circumstances which no longer exist.42
The official French documents prove that de la Chasse's account of the destruction of Norridgewock was falsified, and nothing has been discovered to verify his story of the great personal prestige of Rasles.43 Once we begin to inquire into the two autobiographical letters, we become suspicious that they were prepared after Rasles's death by some other person who arranged facts drawn from official reports still on file, personal recollections of friends and parts of letters, to make very readable stories — not without value by any means, but lacking the authority (with which they have always been credited) as the generous productions of Rasles himself.44 One who has spent a lifetime in touch with the Maine woods and Maine Indians sees in these letters too many points indicating ignorance of Maine conditions to p557 accept them unchallenged. The alternative is to suppose that Rasles made the blunders and is, himself, untrustworthy.
On de la Chasse's representation it has been taken for granted that these Maine Indians were submissive, docile, tractable creatures, entirely obedient to their priest. Any one who has studied the official documents of the French knows better. Whoever wrote the "Memoir of 1718" has left a vivid impression of the desperate situation of the French in Canada; he thoroughly understood the dangers threatening and the importance of holding the Norridgewocks from becoming friendly to the English. The Indians were claiming all the Maine coast west of Casco Bay.
It is for our interest to sustain them in their pretensions. In fact, it is the only means we possess to prevent the English establishing themselves throughout the entire country up to the height of land — that is, very near Quebec and Montreal. . . . More than half the tribe is already English by inclination, and retained only by Religion; their missionaries alone have the power, it is admitted, to persuade them to submit to the will of the Governor-general. 4th. If matters be allowed to proceed ever so little in the course they have been for some time pursuing, New France will be bounded on the south by the River St. Lawrence.
The writer goes on to tell a story about the Norridgewocks.
However, the Indians of Naurautsoak45 beginning, last summer, to take some umbrage at their new guest [the English settlers] . . . deputed some among them to wait on the Marquis de Vaudreuil . . . to demand of him, who called himself their father, and to whom they had always been submissive as children, whether he was disposed to assist them against the English in case of a rupture, as they had assisted him at the expense of their blood on every occasion that he had required them. The general assured them that he would never fail them in time of need. But what assurance, Father, will you give us? they asked. My children, answered Monsieur de Vaudreuil, I shall secretly send you some hatchets, some powder and lead. Is this the way, then, the Indians retorted, that a Father aids his children, and was it thus that we assisted you? A Father, they added, when he sees his son engaged p558 with an enemy stronger than he, comes forward to extricate his son, and tells the enemy that it is with him he has to do. Well, replied Monsieur de Vaudreuil, I will engage the other Indian tribes to furnish you aid. At these words the deputies retorted with an ironical laugh — Know, that we all who inhabit this vast continent will, whensoever we please, as long as we exist, unite to expel all foreigners from it, be they who they may.
This declaration surprised the General. . . .46
The writer adds that the delegates "took care to report throughout all the villages, and perhaps even with exaggeration, as is their wont, what had transpired at M. de Vaudreuil's and the missionary assures us that the entire nation is dissatisfied, and nothing is wanting to make them adopt some untoward resolution." These are the Indians of Rasles's own village, out of hand and mutinous.47 The writer adds: "What will become of ourselves if these Indians be worsted, and the English become masters of their villages, some of which are in our midst?" It was a very difficult post which Father Rasles was appointed to hold, far more of a forlorn hope than de la Chasse represented in his "Letter to a Brother Jesuit."
One feature of the situation which never has been noted is the frequent presence of Englishmen in Norridgewock at this time. From 1713 to 1722, when Dummer declared an Indian war, it was nominally a time of peace between France and England and their Indian allies, and people came and went. Captain Heath and Minot were there, mapping the Kennebec and taking notes of the town. Englishmen were there, building a church and a dwelling-house for Father Rasles, and the "Jebis" he complains of bitterly was, it is known, Captain Jabez Bradbury, the commandant at Fort Richmond, who the next year was sent to Norridgewock on a mission by the governor. Captain Joseph Bean, Captain John Gyles, and Captain Samuel Jordan were all more or less in the vicinity. These four men, Bean (or Bane), Bradbury, Gyles, and Jordan, were official interpreters as well as military officers, and at least three of them had learned the language in Indian captivity. The Indians liked and trusted them; p559 Gyles was even rated as a chief48 and he had his "privat informar" in Quebec.49 It would be singular, indeed, if men like these did not have great influence with the peace party to counteract Rasles's efforts and authority over the Indians.
Another major obstacle which Rasles, in common with all the missionaries, encountered was the opposition of the Indian shamans, or medicine men. Many of them were rank impostors and some were clever charlatans; but many also were men of character and capability, often gifted with occult powers. They were a sort of native priesthood, conducting ceremonial observances, preserving the traditional rituals and songs, receiving the revelations of the manitowak, or deities, and healing the sick. As physicians, their skill was negligible, though their intentions may have been good. But as to their telepathic and clairvoyant gifts, the testimony is too strong and various for any one to doubt that these powers were not uncommon among the Indians. As a class, they repulsed their own dignity and upheld their own privileges. As Parkman says, the shamans regarded priests as medicine men with beneficent "medicine" and superior fetishes.50 They felt that they themselves deserved some recognition from the priests, because they all belonged to the same profession! No doubt Rasles's duty required him not to recognize the shamans, but in the end this sealed his fate. Our Indian tradition eventually will match up with his own words to prove that the shaman's warning of danger was known to Rasles.
If the "Memoir of 1718" admitted that Rasles had reason to be afraid of his own Indians, the situation did not improve after that date. The old men, when war broke out, were more and more desirous of peace with the English, and of the two factions into which the tribe was divided, the peace party was the stronger. This the French could not tolerate. By his sheer personal domination and by his power of excommunication, which he threatened to use, Rasles held down the peace party and imposed his will p560 upon the tribe.51 In his letter of February 7, 1720, to Captain Moody, he wrote:
All debates in Indian's Councils, If I approve, it stands. If not It's changed or nulled.
Any Treaty with the Governor, particularly that of Arrowsick is null, If I don't approve it, though the Indians have consented52 —
and more in the same strain. He was not invited into the Indian councils, as we should infer from the autobiographical letters; he forced his way in. He wrote letters in the name of the Indians which they repudiated as not theirs, and at the Arrowsick conference of 1721, he and de la Chasse, by their own representations, packed the council in a disgraceful manner.53 It may be said that it was a necessity: they must win, or lose everything to the English. Fear drove them on.
The Indians resented these actions and said very bluntly, "The Jesuit lied."54 Without arguing as to the facts of the case, their merely saying so shows that the father had lost much of his influence over them: he was no longer ruling by love. Even more deeply did they resent another interference in their tribal matters, which was regarded as an insult to the whole tribe. When, late in 1720, or early in the next year,55 the warlike chief Taxus, or Toxus, died, the majority of the tribe selected as his successor a leader inclined to peace with the English. This Rasles would not endure. He brushed aside the new chief, selected another approved by himself, and arranged with the governor at Quebec to have his candidate received with salvos of musketry, while "the degraded one" was publicly humiliated.56 To browbeat our Indians in this way was a dangerous procedure, only desperation or p561 insanity would have conceived the idea. After that Rasles could not fail to have plenty of enemies among his own Norridgewocks.
It has been too generally assumed that this half-century struggle between the French and the English was primarily a religious strife, and that the English were animated by hatred of the Catholics.57 It is true that, after a bitter experience, England had expelled the Jesuits from England and their own royal family along with them; that the French were sympathetically indignant at the impiety of the heretics; and that the feeling on both sides was reflected here; but in the New World people were not breaking each other's heads merely to decide who was to have the sole right to convert Indians. The settlers were fighting for their own lives, each side afraid of the other, each fearing it could not hold out. The French were pitifully weak in man-power — only 4,484 men in Canada, says Vaudreuil in 1716, "while in New England there are 60,000 between the ages of fourteen and sixty." The Indians could provide man-power; but only the Jesuits could direct them. New England had men but no money. They were crushed by taxation; their currency was almost worthless; they were divided in their councils, always squabbling with their royal governors, harried by the frightful Indian raids upon their far-flung borders, and by the destruction of their fishing-fleet. On both sides fear played a larger part than religion. Father Rasles might have converted all the Indians on the continent, provided he kept them at home. The gist of the English side is in Governor Shute's letter of April 23, 1722, to Governor Vaudreuil:
As to Monsieur Rallé's Mission among the Indians, I shall be Glad, if by his preaching he has brought those poor Salvages any thing nearer to the Kingdom of Heaven, than they were before he went thither; But that which I have to say to him, and to you upon his Account is, That Norridgewack the seat of his Mission, is within the Territory of His Majesty King George, and that it is Contrary to an Act of Parliament of Great Britain, and a Law of this Province for a Jesuit or Romish Priest to Preach or even reside in any part of the British Dominions.58
The governor was correct: Norridgewock was in British territory. Yet Father Rasles ran hazards because it was vitally important p562 to the French to possess it. It was not enough to retain the inhabitants, removing them elsewhere — they had to have the place itself. The treaty of Utrecht, by ceding to England Hudson's Bay, with its fur-trade; Newfoundland, with its fisheries; and Acadia, "according to its ancient limits," with its habitable regions and possibilities of trade, had bottled up Canada into quarters intolerably narrow, not to be relieved even by the discovery of the Mississippi and the control of that valley. The Kennebec River was the line of cleavage where France might split off the country to the eastward, and the Norridgewock tribe was the point of the wedge. The Kennebec was the shortest trade route between the Gulf of Maine and Quebec; but the English already held the mouth of it by fortifications and were creeping up by degrees, their uppermost fort being at Richmond. It was necessary for the French to hold the river at least as far down as Augusta on account of the inland routes. Norridgewock itself, just opposite the mouth of Sandy River, controlled the inland route to upper New Hampshire and Lake Champlain; but the more important route to the Penobscot started at Waterville, in the town of Winslow, where later Governor Shirley built old Fort Halifax, a block-house which is still standing. This "Short Route" from Penobscot by way of Sebasticook Stream to the Kennebec, and so by the route which Arnold took later to Quebec, had to be maintained, or the French would lose the whole country — at least as far eastward as the eastern bank of the Penobscot. If the English were allowed to settle the coast to which they held good deeds (still on record), the loss would extend much farther.
France was deaf to warnings and entreaties. A boy king, a corrupt regent, a bankrupt country paid no heed to the memoirs addressed to them. The governor of Canada could not use troops, if he had them, because it was a time of peace. The Jesuits were there, intelligent, disciplined, controlling great numbers of Indians, obedient to the authority over them but not technically answerable to the state. What happened is a matter of record; the horrible details are known only to those who work on old documents.
For Father Rasles to remain at Norridgewock, on English land, among a tribe of Indians who were increasingly distrusting him p563 and some of whom must have been bitter against him, even though he had many devoted friends among them, showed great personal courage. The place was very unsafe. Twice the English had raided it, hoping to capture him, and twice he had been saved only by friendly warnings and instant retreat. The winter raid of Colonel Westbrook was thus reported in the New-England Courant:
Boston, Feb. 12 [1721/1722] Last Week his Excellency received a Letter from the Forces at the Eastward, giving an Account, that as they were marching to seize Father Ralle, he made his Escape out of the House with so much hast that (being then writing) he left his Papers on the table, among which was found a Letter from the Governour of Canada, directing the Indians to use their utmost Force, to keep the English from settling at the Eastward, and promising to supply them with Powder and Ball for that End, at the same Time charging the Jesuit to keep the matter Private. 'Tis said his Excellency has wrote to England of this Affair.
At this time was captured the noted "strong box" with its secret drawer containing the Indian Dictionary, Rasles's copy of Busenbaum's Medulla Theologiaeº Moralis, and his incriminating correspondence with the authorities at Quebec.59 Precious as all these things were to him, Father Rasles abandoned them that he might consume the sacred hosts and hide the vessels of the altar; but the loss of the work of a lifetime on his dictionary, of the book which was his daily companion, and of letters which might prove his undoing, must have preyed upon him. De la Chasse would have us believe that he was strong and vigorous, though admitting that many years before, by a fall, he had broken his right thigh and his left leg, which was set so badly that it had to be broken again and re-set, and always hindered him in walking. "He had robust health; and I do not know that, excepting the accident of which I have just spoken, he had ever had the least indisposition."60 But there is, or was, a curious autobiography of an eccentric clergyman, the Reverend Hugh Adams, written in his spare hours between December 7, 1724, and March 27, 1725, p564 and known to us through the historian Jeremy Belknap61 which says that in 1716, when he was living at Arrowsick on the Kennebec, Father Rasles came to him "troubled with an arthritic tumor [humour (?)] and pains in his shoulders" and Adams, who was something of a physician, treated him and "in two or three days completed his cure." Be the facts what they may, arthritis and rheumatism would accord well with Father Rasles's injuries and his life of exposure and hardship, and would explain many passages in his generous letters which show him as unreasonable, arrogant, fractious, like a man on the point of a nervous breakdown. If he was five years older than has been supposed, feeling his responsibilities too heavy for a frail and disabled body, wracked with pain, we can better understand his bitter railing, and often undiplomatic utterances, and we can respect the more his indomitable spirit. "They Enquire about my words: he writes Captain Moody: "do they intend to unite against me to drive me from my Mission? that would be a retirement from misery; . . . besides, I shall have the same Merit before God as if I had finished my Life in the misery to which I consented at my coming among the Indians."62 This is not the utterance of a man who was finding life easy.
There is this wide difference between conditions as represented in the documents known to be authentic and those which depict Father Rasles as living in good health and placidly among his docile and contented neophytes. In challenging the so‑called autobiographical letters as post-dating Rasles's death, we have given only a part of the reasons for suspecting them; in declaring that Father de la Chasse purposely misrepresented the facts in his eulogy, we can supply a motive which would account for both his characterization of Rasles and for the invention of documents to support it. If the truth could not well be confessed, there was no wrong done the memory of a good man in representing him as more saintly than he was. It was a case where, if ever, the end justified the means.
The desperate situation in which the French found themselves can be inferred from the fact that the two letters of Vaudreuil and p565 de la Chasse bear the same date: October 29. The Jesuit was most affecting on the subject of the death of the martyr.63 Vaudreuil wrote a long, blustering epistle to Governor Dummer, prating about the anger of the Indians at having their lands invaded, and volunteering to save the English from their vengeance by acting as mediator, if only the English would pull down all their forts at once and meet the Indian demands.64 "I am not so scare of your breathings," he wrote; but he was scared, and he showed it.65 His letter was sent by the way of Albany, in care of Governor John Schuyler, who, probably purposely, let a large cat out of the bag when he wrote that he saw by a letter to himself "that Monsieur Vaudreuil is very sory and weary of that warrant and as far as he can perceive would willingly See one or two gentlemen Impoured by New England Government to Endeavour to make an End of that Warrant which would be Very Acceptable to Canada."66 So the letter to Dummer was a bluff! The letter of de la Chasse probably went back to France, for the next spring, when the ships came back, they brought condolences from the French king, who "a été fachée de la mort du Père Raslé" whom he loved too much to leave him without being covered, wherefore he sends a rich gift to four Indian villages, even as far east as Woodstock, New Brunswick.67 How came the King of France to have such affection for a poor missionary?
The indication that these letters of October 29 were not written until some agent had been to Boston and reported, lies in the number Vaudreuil hit upon as slain. He says that twenty-eight were killed — and just twenty-eight scalps were presented for bounty in Boston. De la Chasse conjures up the seven brave defenders — and the Boston newspapers mention by name just seven chiefs, including Rasles himself, who were slain. It is a remarkable fatality list, this of the French, in which the only men killed are the seven best chiefs in the tribe, the rest being all p566 women and children! Two such coincidences could not have come from the report of refugees, who did not know with any certainty what had happened. Nor could the precise number of twenty-eight have been hit upon by exhuming the bodies buried at Norridgewock; for the morning after the fight only twenty-seven bodies were found there by the English. That twenty-eighth scalp was probably Bomazeen's, who was killed at a distance, or possibly his daughter's, shot two days before to prevent her giving warning when she took to water instead of surrendering with her mother. It would seem that after investigating and finding the situation even worse than they expected, the governor and the Jesuit sat down together to plan the best retreat they could.
The loss of the mission must be reported in France, whence came their supplies of money and of men for the missions. They had lost their most important Indian town, well-fortified and full of warriors (as we shall show), in a daylight attack by a force, hardly equal to the defenders', which did not lose a soldier. Rasles was dead, their mission totally destroyed, the Indians terror-stricken. Moreover, these were making strange charges against their priest as the cause of all their misfortunes, claiming that he had been warned of the danger, and that had they minded their shaman all would have escaped. One who knows Indians can guess what they were saying.
The accusations against the priest were incredible, but disconcerting. It was a story which must not be noised abroad. The disaster must be minimized, the details most disadvantageous suppressed. So the stockade disappears, and thickets replace the corn-fields. To represent the militant Rasles as a meek and martyred saint, resting securely in the hearts of his loving and gentle converts, would be better than confessing that he need not have lost the mission if he had taken a warning given him in ample time. Better to paint Norridgewock as a paradise to which ardent young men might yearn to take up the holy work against the heretical English! How the natives loved their good father! How freely they died to defend him!
Nous n'avons que trop éprouvé, m'ont-ils dit eux-mêmes, quand ce cher Père nous parlait de l'abondance du coeur; nous l'avons vu d'un air tranquille et serein affronter la mort, s'opposer lui seul p567 à la fureur de l'ennemi, retarder ses premiers efforts pour nous donner le temps de fuir le danger, et de conserver nos vies.68
Now the Indians could not have seen that, whatever they may have reported; but it made a good line of retreat, carefully thought out. We should not judge Father de la Chasse as if he were writing history — he was making it. Neither was Charlevoix writing history (the more's the pity); for, twenty years later, he printed the same story and even enlarged upon it. After all, it was for French consumption!
We have followed Vaudreuil's report of the Norridgewock disaster as being probably the most reliable of the three French versions. Of the four English accounts which may be called contemporary,69 we choose the sworn statement of Colonel Johnson Harmon, commander of the English forces, with some slight additions from the first newspaper report and from Governor Hutchinson's careful study of the facts, using photostats of the original newsprints in which they appeared but quoting them only in part to save space.70
Indian Norridgewock was not, as most suppose, on the site of the present town of Norridgewock. It was in Madison, •seven miles up the river, on the east bank of the Kennebec where the Wesserunset, coming in from the eastward, forms "Old Point." The village lay almost opposite the mouth of Sandy River, which joins the Kennebec from the west, and about •three hundred feet above some rapids. Captain Joseph Heath's map of 1719 thus describes the town:
p568 Neridgawalk Fort, Built with Round Loggs nine foot Long one end set into the Ground: is 160 foot Square with 4 Gates but no Bastions; within it are Twenty Six Houses Built much after the English manner, the Streets reguler, that from west Gate to the East is 30 foot wide; their Church stands 4 perch without the East gate, and their men able to Bear Arms, are about Three Score.71
Father Rasles's own correspondence has left the information that the church was fifty-five feet long, twenty-four wide, and sixteen high, with a belfry and five doors. His own house was nineteen feet long, eleven-and‑a‑half wide, and seven high at the eaves.72 This probably also stood outside the east gate, near the church, an arrangement similar to that in Indian Oldtown at the same date,73 thus removing the priest a little from the noise and smells of an Indian village, yet making it easy to seek protection in the town.
In August, 1724, an English force of 205 whites and three Mohawk Indians, in four companies, under command of Captain Johnson Harmon, of York, went up the river in seventeen whale-boats, which they left at what is now Waterville in charge of an officer and forty men. The third day thereafter, approaching Norridgewock about noon, they left ten men to guard their baggage74 and divided the rest of the force into two about equal companies of almost eighty each. Captain Harmon took his force to ravage the corn-fields on Sandy River, while Captain Jeremiah Moulton, of York, led his men directly to attack the town. Arriving about three o'clock, he found no Indians in sight. Dividing his men into three parties, he posted two in ambush outside the north and the south gates; while he himself, with only twenty-two men, advanced against the east gate, leaving the water-gate on the west purposely uninvested.
p569 There was not an Indian to be seen, being all in their wigwams. Our men were ordered to advance softly, and to keep a profound silence. At length an Indian came out of one of the wigwams . . . and discovered the English close upon him. He immediately gave the warwhoop and ran in for his gun . . . the warriors ran to meet the English, the rest fled to save their lives. Moulton, instead of suffering his men to fire at random through the wigwams, charged every man not to fire, upon pain of death, until the Indians had discharged their guns. It happened as he expected; in their surprise they overshot the English, and not a man was hurt. The English then discharged in their turn, and made great slaughter, but every man still kept his rank. The Indians then fired a second volley, and immediately fled towards the river.75
. . . they made the best of their way to the River, where they had about 40 canoes; we followed them so close that they put off, without their Paddles, not having time to take them; we then presently beat them out of their Canoes, Killing the greatest part of them; the River being about 60 Yards over and Shallow, our Men followed them over . . . with such fury, that but one of their Canoes arrived upon the other side, but others Waded and Swam over, so that we judge about 50 Men, Women and Children got over. . . .76
We then returned to the Town, where we found Monsieur Ralle the Jesuit, their chief Commander, in one of the Indians houses, who had been continually firing upon a Party of our Men, that were still in the Town: the said Ralle having Wounded one of our people, Lieut. Jaques soon Stove open the door of said house, and found him loading his Gun, who upon Jaque's coming in, Declared Voluntarily, That he would give no quarter, nor take any; Jaques hearing that, and seeing him loading, shot him thro' the head; the said Jesuit had with him an English Boy about 14 Years of Age, whom he had about Six Months in his Possession, which Boy, in the time of the Engagement, he spitefully shot thro' the Thigh, and stabbed him in the Body with a Sword, and so left him; but the Boy not being Dead, we took him with us, and thro' the Care and Skill of the Surgeon is like to Recover. . . .77
Captain, henceforth Lieutenant-Colonel, Harmon also stated:
The Chiefs that we know among the Dead, were the said Jesuit, Colonel Bomarzeen, Captain Mogg, Captain Job, Captain Carabasset, Captain Wissememet, Bomarzeen's Son-in‑law, and some others whose Names I cannot Remember.79
Thus there were more chiefs killed than the seven named. Captain Harmon's troop "did not come up til near night, when the action was over." That night both divisions lodged in the Indian wigwams, keeping a guard of forty men, and the next morning, taking with them three barrels of gunpowder, some small arms, blankets, kettles, the church plate, four Indian captives, and three released English prisoners, one of them the wounded boy,80 "they marched early for Taconick, being in some pain for their men and whale-boats, but found all safe."81 After they had begun their march, Old Christian, the Mohawk, whose brother had been killed by Mogg, went back and set fire to the town and the church, "and burnt all to Ashes, and coming up with us again, we Marched to Teuconick."82 They reached Richmond the sixteenth, just eight days after they left it. Harmon was in Boston the twenty-second, took his oath the twenty-fifth; and the newspaper printed his story August twenty-eighth (old style), sixteen days after the fight, or fifty-one days before there is any French mention of the disaster.
Most of this straightforward English story will pass unchallenged by any one. The points for difference of opinion are whether Rasles refused to surrender and the incident of the captive boy, which all Catholics and many Protestants have refused p571 to believe. The story is incredible if we maintain, in spite of the evidence, Father de la Chasse's story of the death of the priest. But if we admit as evidence Rasles's own unfinished letter, to which we shall come duly, and the Indian tradition (with which we began), the story of the captive boy can be accepted without losing our respect for a man who was caught in a far blacker tragedy than any one has imagined. The boy recovered, said Hutchinson,83 and Colonel Harmon had no need to perjure himself by a story which had no bearing upon his expedition and which could have been disproved by every member of it.
Nearer, simpler, and perversely mocking the French accounts of the much-worn cassock, is the fact that the town was burned to ashes before any of the Indian refugees had come back. They did not return that night because the English slept in the town. The next morning the English had gone only a short distance before the Mohawk went back and burned everything. This was, no doubt, planned beforehand as a military necessity. What, then, becomes of the tale of the devoted neophytes washing and kissing the wounds of their dear father? Who could testify to the barbarities of the English of which de la Chasse tells in such detail? It is easy to say that the Indians lied; but — did they carry the tattered cassock back to Quebec with them? We purposely passed the point when it was first brought up; for unless the English themselves buried the priest, or removed the body outside the stockade before it was fired, there was no cassock left when the Indians returned.
The most important document after Colonel Harmon's own statement is one which has never been fully weighed — that unfinished letter which Father Rasles was writing when death stayed his hand. Dr. Shea called it "suspicious"; M. Goyau calls it "unintelligible"; both lacked the key to it. When understood, it gives us a remarkable picture of what was happening up to the very hour that the English stormed the gates of the town, it confirms the main point of the Indian tradition and explains the awful tragedy of the priest's last hour.
The letter is addressed to his superior, Father de la Chasse, and is a long, chatty epistle, telling all the news. Clearly Father Rasles p572 is enjoying something unusual in his busy life, a few hours of entire leisure. The letter reflects just that peaceful quietude of an August afternoon which impressed Moulton and his men when they arrived. The priest is in his own house outside the stockade, writing, and through the open doorway comes the murmur of the rapids below the town and the shrill music of cicadas rasping the stillness. Beside him, most likely, is the captive English boy, invited there out of kindness, for the priests often had pity on these poor English children held as slaves by the Indians: by no other supposition can we explain so well what followed, or that phrase "and so left him," showing that the boy was not in the Indian wigwam in which Rasles met his own death.
After a long introduction to which we shall return later, the letter tells of recent events. The people of the town have just come back from an expedition. On Monday, this being Wednesday, nine Béçancourians from near Quebec came in. "Yesterday 12 or 15 Pannaouanskeians [Penobscots] four Hurons with One wounded arrived here almost Starved — Therefore They must be supplied tho the Corn is not ripe. They must take it as it is, for we are almost reduced to a Famine Provisions being so Scarce." He has already gathered and dried most of his own field in order to save it. When the harvest is over "they Design to quit the Village for a fortnight to go five or Six Leagues up the River." "It is but a few days since we came to the Village, and the last are arrived this Morning." "Three Hurons are this morning to depart." Thus far the letter appears to have been written in the morning; an interruption must have come, for it goes on: "I just now received a Letter from Father Loverjat with Four Codd Fish out of Eight he sent me. The Bears [bearers] have Eat four by the way, and said it was a case of necessity being for want of Provisions." Then comes an account of Father Lauverjat's war on the fishing vessels in Penobscot Bay.
We see at a glance the situation in the village. It is full of people. All their own warriors are there, and numerous visitors from three or four tribes. They are just planning a fresh incursion upon the English; "by the Confession of Maug [Mogg] just before he was killed, they were then preparing for and were to be joined by 200 men from Penobscut in a few Days."84 The English p573 struck at the critical moment. Two days before only a small part of these warriors were in the town; a few days later, by the time have Penobscot fighting men had arrived, the English would have been overwhelmed; a week later, probably the whole village would have been dispersed, and the Indians would have been off raiding the English settlements. Father Rasles set down for us facts which no one else knew, the significance of which no historian has noted.
The attack was timed to the hour, also. There is no imagination in depicting what had happened in the two days just passed: for Indians do not vary in their customs. The town was full of hungry visitors, who must be fed; and food was scarce. None the less there must be a war feast. Green corn they had, and they would use that. They would kill some dogs and prepare a dog feast,85 the proper preliminary to the departure of warriors on the next day. And they would have a great dance, a war dance, on Tuesday night. That night no one would get any sleep. On Wednesday morning, the twelfth of August, before the Hurons set out, there would be the celebration of the Mass in the church. Then there would be another heavy meal, shared perhaps by the Penobscots, who brought the cod-fish. By noon the Indians would be stuffed with food and so worn out with dancing and whooping all night that they would creep away into their dark wigwams to get some sleep; while Father Rasles, glad of the silence after the night of drumming and howling, sat in his cabin writing the long letter to his superior, which was never to be finished. In it he expressed his thanks for a gift of wine (which de la Chasse assures us he never drank),86 and the last words he ever wrote were: "Therefore I pray the 3d. time to send me no more Wine. I shall send for more Wine. I shall send for more when I want it —"
The gates of the town are open; it is full of warriors;87 no scouts are out; no one dreams of danger. A medicine man had predicted the coming of the English several days before, but the priest had laughed him down. So they slept in broad day, their homes all undefended while the enemy silently encompassed p574 them. How completely they were off their guard is shown by the priest's letter. Obviously some words are lacking to complete the transition from the first sentence to the second: either Father Rasles or the translator unintentionally omitted these. The second sentence begins abruptly in the middle of the description of the approaching danger, as prophesied by the medicine-man, whom the Jesuit derided.
Norridgwalk, 23d August N.S., 12 O.S.
My Reverend Father:
My people are returned from their last Expedition, wherein one of their Bravest Champions was killed. Believing there were above two hundred English divided in three Parties or Bands to drive them out of their Camp, And expecting a further number to Enforce them in order to ruin all the Corn in the Fields without doubt — But I said to them, how Could that be, Seeing we are daily Surrounding and making Inroads upon them everywhere in the midst of their Land, and they not coming out of their Fort, which they have upon your own Land, Besides in all the War you have had with them, did you ever see them Come to Attack you in the spring, Summer or in the fall; when they knew you were in your habitations. You know it, You Say Yourselves that they never did, but when they knew you were not, but when you were in the Woods. For if they knew there were but fifteen or twelve Men in your dwellings they dare not Approach you with One hundred. We told you after the fall fight of Ke‑Ke-penagliesek that the English would come with the Nation of the Iroquois to Revenge themselves. You opposed it and said they should not, and yet they did, you see now whether You are in the right.88
With such words he had ridiculed them, making light of their apprehensions at the shaman's warning, denying there was danger. p575 And the English came. "You see now whether You are in the right."
When the Indian who came outside the stockade that quiet afternoon raised the war-cry and the shout that the English were at their doors, it was a call to arms for the priest as well: no man at that time could be without weapons. His powder-horn and bullet-pouch and his loaded gun, ready for priming, would be hanging within reach; he would have other small arms also. If, at that moment, the captive boy asked what the commotion meant, it is quite possible that, in the frenzy which suddenly possessed him, as he realized that it was he himself who was responsible for the unpreparedness of his people, the priest fell upon the lad with sword and pistol, as the symbol of the destroyers so close upon him.89 He would be beside himself, because he knew that but for his derision of the shaman's warning his people would have removed to safety days before. There was no deliberate malice in the act, no deep-seated moral obliquity, only the unreasoning mad and of a tempest of emotions, rising cyclonic from profound calm. Those who deny the episode, as well as those who magnify it, make too small allowance for human nature.a
It is but a few rods at most from the door of his house to the east gate, and the lame old priest, with his gun, runs as fast as he can to the refuge. The English are very close; they were almost within gunshot when the warrior discovered them and gave the alarm.90 But he is in no danger from them: their orders not to shoot until fired upon were imperative; besides, they wished to take the priest alive. He can not save the holy vessels of his church, as he did once before when pursuit was so hot that he had, as now, to abandon his own papers; but he can, and does, get behind the stockade to take part in its defense; and when, after making a brave stand, the Indians break and flee for the river, the record reads that the veteran warrior, old Chief Mogg, and the priest were still firing from wigwams in the town, inflicting the only damage sustained by the English in the whole fight. An p576 English Mohawk was killed by Mogg, and an English soldier was wounded by each of them.
The final scene is known only from the report of the lieutenant who admitted killing the priest against the express order of his commanding officer. That a strong young man of twenty-seven, with a loaded gun, could not have overborne a lame old man of almost seventy-two, whose gun was empty, when they were together in the limits of cabin in a town already taken, seems doubtful.91 But that Rasles refused to surrender and invited death, is wholly in keeping with the situation and his resolute character. If, by one of those bitter and insulting remarks for which he was famous, he could provoke the hot-headed young lieutenant to give him the coup de grâce, death swift and sure would be preferred to anything life could offer him. If he surrendered or was taken, he must spend the rest of his life in a Boston jail. That was the English law, and it would hold him.92 But even life and freedom would be worse than captivity. His work among his Indians was ended. The village he had spent his lifetime in serving was taken and would be destroyed; his converts were dead or scattered; the church he loved and had labored to make beautiful was doomed; his whole life-work was to vanish like a dream. He saw that his children, as he called them, would never again receive him, even if he lived. He had argued down the warnings of the shaman, vanquishing him as so many times before he had overcome the medicine-men — and the shaman had been right. He saw his converts lapsing into their old barbarism, the conjurers triumphing over the priest, p577 himself maligned and hated and accused of betraying them because, innocently enough, he had put them off their guard at the precise moment when the enemy could do the greatest possible amount of damage. He could have welcomed death as a deliverer, a grey old man, drawn with pain, with helpless old age before him; he could have survived the death of his converts and the destruction of his mission, if they but kept the faith; but to have his "children" lose their religion by his own act was an agony beyond expression.93
The tragedy of Father Rasles is one his friends never conceived. He could have smiled in the face of such an end as his superior depicted — that would have been victory. But he went down in the blackness of utter defeat — disaster which he had brought down upon himself. His converts had lost faith in the religion he preached them, when they lost faith in him; they would, and many of them did, for a time at least, revert to their old superstitions. Of those who came back later, John Gyles wrote, "Many of them Dont Pray, and sum ar Wisards among them."94 "You see now whether You are in the right," had been his own challenge, and the shamans had won.
The bitterness of death must have laid hold upon Father Rasles in that moment of clear vision at the end. This was the supreme misfortune: to perish by his own zeal in trying to unite a temporal and a spiritual kingdom. It is a more dramatic, a better and a more consistent story than that of the mild, improbable martyr. p578 The Indian tradition has opened a vista of human experience terrifying, but severely logical, as genuine tragedy is always. Not surrounded by calm and devout believers, falling in a pageant at the foot of the village cross; but a crippled old priest, all alone at the end, gun in hand, fighting stubbornly to the last, provoking death by the sarcasms which never failed to make men angry, going out in a spiritual agony amid the utter ruin of all he had toiled and suffered to establish, neither a saint nor a martyr, but very much a man — this was the death of Father Rasles.
1 Fifteen spellings of the name have been noted in preparing this paper. Dr. John Gilmary Shea adopted Rale, from his signature; Father Schuyler and Sister M. Celeste Leger prefer the same. M. Goyau uses Racle, from the birth certificate. Following the Lettres Edifiantes, Pickering in the Dictionary, and Bishop Fenwick on the monument at Norridgewock, I take Rasles. Contemporary usage commonly made two syllables of the word, Governor Hutchinson, in two spellings and Governor Vaudreuil, in three, agreeing on this. In quotations, the spelling used by the author is followed.
I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to my colleague in ballad study, Mr. Phillips Barry, of Cambridge, for going through all the Catholic historical periodicals in Harvard College Library and selecting those which had anything bearing on the episode in question. Through his kindness I was enabled to examine material otherwise inaccessible to me.
2 M. Georges Goyau, member of the French Academy, has discovered that Father Rasles was born January 4, 1652. The baptismal register is in the church of Sainte-Bénigne, Pontarlier, France.
3 On the other hand, the ablest Catholic historians have not been the ones to advocate this view. Sixty years ago the scholarly and fair-minded John Gilmary Shea abandoned the popular theory and accepted "the fact that he [Rale] was killed in a cabin from which a vigorous defense was made": Charlevoix, Histoire de la Nouvelle France (Paris, 1744), (J. G. Shea, Editor, 1871), V, 280, note. Father Henry Schuyler and Sister M. Celeste Leger, more recently, accept the same view.
4 Bureau of Ethnology, Forty-third Annual Report (Washington, 1925‑1926), 172, 173: "Wawenock Myth Texts from Maine."
5 Lives of John Ribault, Sebastian Rale, and William Palfrey (Boston, 1845): Volume VII, Second Series, of The Library of American Biography, Jared Sparks, Editor, 159‑333: "Life of Sebastian Rale, Missionary to the Indians," by Convers Francis.
6 Wawenock, St. Francis, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy; also Malecite, if one wishes to distinguish it from the last named.
7 Space forbids full documentation of what follows, and preference is given to authorities easily accessible in libraries, instead of to references in the archives in London, Paris, and Boston. The Reuben Gold Thwaites edition of the Jesuit Relations is used throughout; the Shea edition of Charlevoix. The Massachusetts archives are largely reprinted in Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series; the Paris archives by Dr. E. B. O'Callaghan, in Documents relative to the Colonial History of New York (Albany, 1855‑1861); papers in the Public Record Office by J. P. Baxter in Pioneers of New France in New England (Albany, 1894).
8 Thomas Hutchinson, a contemporary, pays a generous tribute to Rasles: History of Massachusetts (Boston, 1795), II, 238‑239. The tribute reflects Charlevoix, whose account of the tragedy Hutchinson prints in full, side by side with the official English record, which he checked up by conversation with Jeremiah Moulton, who took the town and lived until 1765.
9 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, II, 200.
10 Letter of Captain Joseph Heath and John Minot, surveyors, written May 1, 1719, just after their return from Norridgewock: Maine Historical Society Collections, Second Series, Documentary History, IX, 447; 2 Collections, Massachusetts Historical Society, VIII, 264; Baxter, Pioneers, 91, 92. See also "Journal of the Reverend Joseph Baxter, missionary 1717‑1721," in New England Historical and Genealogical Register, XXI, 56; Shea, Charlevoix, V, 268, note, clears Baxter of the charges made in the "Letter to his Nephew," Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 96‑101, of attempting to proselytize the Indian children.
11 Fixing the limits of Acadia is like bounding a cloud. Louis XIV gave the Sieur d'Aulnay de Charnizay "Acadia . . . from the Great River St. Lawrence . . . as far as Virginia [that is, Massachusetts]." In 1681, du Chesneau, intendent of France, says the English territory "extends from the River Pentagouet [Penobscot], which is in Acadia. . . ." New York Colonial Documents, IX, 165. In 1697, the treaty of Ryswick placed St. George's River as the boundary. In 1698, Governor Villebon claims the Kennebec as the limit: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 92, note. In 1718, the Indians claim west to Casco Bay: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 878. In 1720, Father Aubéry wishes it understood that Acadia consists of the peninsula of Nova Scotia only: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 895. But in 1725 the Indians say they have a right to the land as far west as the Connecticut River: Begon to Count Maurepas, 21 April: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 943. Three weeks later Lovewell's Fight cropped their combs. The English patents held to 45 degrees, or well above Norridgewock. Dr. William Douglas states the case fairly: "Father Ralle, a late ingenious Jesuit and French Missionary with the New-England Abnaquie Indians, about 26 Years since, did kindle a War or Insurrection of those Indians in New England; by inculcating that they held their Lands of God and Nature in succeeding Generations, that Fathers could not alienate the Earth from their Sons": Summary, Historical and Political, I (Boston, 1749), 160. On this basis the French held as little right as the English in North America.
12 In detail, the four contemporary accounts are: Rasles, "Letter to his Nephew," October 15, 1722: Jesuit Relations, LXVII, Number CXCIV, 85‑119; Rasles, "Letter to his Brother," October 12, 1723: Jesuit Relations, LXVII, Number CXCVII, 133‑229; Père de la Chasse, "Letter to a Brother Jesuit," October 29, 1724: Jesuit Relations, LXVII, Number CXCVIII, 231‑247; Charlevoix, History of New France (1871), V, chapter XX.
13 Public Record Office, London, "Colonel Shute to Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations," Boston, March 13, 1721: Baxter, Pioneers, 304.
14 Charlevoix, New France, V, 303, note.
15 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 133.
16 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 142.
17 Georges Goyau, "Le P. Sebastian Racle," Revue d'Histoire des Missions (September, 1924) 168, quoting Rochemonteix, Les Jesuites et la Nouvelle France enº XVIIe Siècle (Paris, 1896), III, 240, note.
18 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 218.
19 Abnaki Dictionary, 393, oiseaux; 496, outarde.
20 W. F. Ganong, The Identity of the Animals and Plants Mentioned by the Early Voyagers to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland: Transactions, Royal Society of Canada, Third Series, III (1910), section II, 229.
21 Goyau, "Le P. Sebastian Racle," 166, quoting Rochemonteix, III, 440, note 2.
22 E. C. Cummings, "The Rasles Dictionary," read December 12, 1894, before the Maine Historical Society.
23 Charlevoix, New France, V, 278; Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 232.
24 "The Missionaries and Father de la Chasse, Superior-general of the Missions, who has been nearly twenty years among the Abenaquis" — Memoir respecting the Abenaquies of Acadia. 1718: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 879. Vaudreuil and Begon to Louis XV, 1721 (Ibid., IX, 904), say he was at three Abnaki villages. He served many years at Oldtown, and the Newberry Library, Chicago, has his original census of several hundred Indians, made at Castine, 1709.
25 At the conference at Arrowsick [Georgetown], to reach which he had to pass through Norridgewock both coming and going.
26 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 233; also Report of Vaudreuil to Minister, 28 November, 1724: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 937.
27 In the Maine Historical Society, Portland, among the original "Pejepscot Papers," VIII, Number 50, is a large map of the whole Kennebec River from Norridgewock to the mouth, made in 1719 by Captain Joseph Heath and John Minot, the surveyors. Parkman is wrong in saying, in A Half Century of Conflict, I, 218, that the map was made in 1716. Upon this map is drawn the town of Norridgewock, with a written description of seventy-one words beside it. The palisades were "Built with Round Loggs nine foot Long one end set into the Ground."
28 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 235.
29 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 243.
30 Governor Vaudreuil died October 10, 1725, aged eighty-four years.
31 Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, X, 241, 242: "Letter of Samuel Thaxter and William Dudley, Commissioners about a Peace to Lieutenant Governor Dummer, dated Montreal, 26 March, 1725." See also Baxter, Pioneers, 352.
32 The English reports state particularly that the troops were forbidden to shoot into the wigwams at random. Lead was too heavy to be carried so far and shot away waste fully.
33 The fact that the way to the river was open bears out the English accounts that the river-gate of the town was purposely left open for the Indians' flight — the north, east, and south gates, only, being invested.
34 The English accounts say that Rasles was one of the last killed. The orders were to take him alive. Not an Indian knew just when he was killed.
35 There were only three Indians with the English — Old Christian, his brother, Jeremy Queach (who was killed by Mogg), and his son, Young Christian.
36 "Vaudreuil to the Minister," 28 November, 1724: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 936, ff.
In explanation of "some Indians called "La Porcelaine," Dr. O'Callaghan suggested that this might be the name of a squaw who guided the English. But no squaw was of the party, and it needed no guides, the English knowing the route perfectly well. Hodges's "Synonymy of Indian Tribes": Handbook of the American Indian, II, Appendix, shows no such tribe as La Porcelaine, and we know that the three Indians on the expedition were all Mohawks. French informers, perhaps, had reported that the English were employing Indians from the south, Narragansetts, Gay Head, or Montauk Point Indians. We find that Captain Bourne had a company of them, and a letter from Lieutenant-Governor Dummer to Captain Westbrook, undated but clearly of September, 1724, says: "Upon sight thereof you must forthwith dismiss Captain Bournes Company of Indians and send them hither in one of the Sloops That so they may lose no Time for Following the Whale Fishery, which is agreable to my Promise made to them at Enlisting": Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, X, 225. This clearly describes Indians from some of the islands south of Rhode Island. Now it was in this region that the making of peage, or wampum used as money, was carried on as an industry, encouraged by the Plymouth Colony, who introduced it as a medium of trade with the Kennebeck Indians. W. Wallace Tooker, in his Indian Names for Long Island (Algonquian Series, Number 4, 1901), gives a good account of the traffic, the makers of the peage, and the place-names on Long Island resulting from it. It is nowhere stated that these Indians were called "the Bead-makers" but it is probable, the more so as an old French dictionary defines "porcelaine" not only as china, but as "sea-snail, or Venus shell, purple fish, purslain." The wampum was made from parts of the periwinkle, and the purple spot in the quahog, Venus mercenaria, thus fairly supporting the hypothesis that by La Porcelaine, the French meant the southern allies of the English, the whale-fishing Indians of Montauk, Gay Head, or the Vineyard.
But if this be so, it is strong evidence of the wholly fictitious character of the French report. There were no such Indians in the attack on Norridgewock; but it was assumed that merely because such Indians were just then enlisted under Captain Bourne they went on the expedition against Norridgewock. This was not so.
37 New York Colonial Documents, IX, 945.
38 At this time the French calendar was eleven days ahead of the English calendar. The French date the fight August 23, the English usually, even to‑day, leave it in "old style" as August 12.
39 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 196.
40 In the Massachusetts Historical Society is an original scout map, drawn by Captain Joseph Bean, February 1740‑1741, which shows diagrammatically the routes "where the French and Indians come uppon our Fronteers."
41 "Memoir respecting the Abenaquies of Acadia. 1718," in New York Colonial Documents, IX, 878, ff. The memoir is unsigned, but internal evidence indicates Father de la Chasse as the author.
42 "Memoir of 1718," 880. Father Rasles owes most of his fame to his enemies. Of the three most appreciative biographies of him, an orthodox minister wrote the first, an Episcopalian bishop the second, and a Unitarian divine the third. His enemies saved his dictionary from destruction, and it was they who printed it. Father Aubéry, on the other hand, being left to his friends, is unknown.
43 In addition to the sources in the archives mentioned in note 7, the more recent studies by Father Schuyler and Sister M. Celeste Leger should be mentioned: American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Records, XVIII 121‑154; 306‑353; and Catholic Historical Review, I (April, 1915). "The Catholic Indian Missions in Maine (1611‑1820)," a doctoral thesis submitted by Sister M. Celeste Leger, M.A., (Catholic University of America, 1929) deals with Rasles, 75‑81.
Thayer's Note: Something is wrong here. The Catholic Historical Review, I (April, 1915) predates Leger's 1929 dissertation of course, but also contains nothing whatsoever relating to this subject. Our author's notes may have got tangled: a review of Leger's work is found in The Catholic Historical Review, XVII, No. 1 (April, 1931).
44 Leger, "Indian Missions," 76, 77, note, cites a scrap of writing by Father Rasles which Governor Enoch Lincoln of Maine discovered more than a century ago in the Indian Dictionary "In the manuscript dictionary of the Norridgewock language, compiled by Rallé, I found a small loose scrap of paper, from which I present a short extract, strikingly descriptive of his habits and temper. 'Here I am,' says he, 'in a cabin in the woods on the borders of the sea, where I find both crosses and religious observances among the Indians. At the dawn of morning I say the mass in a chapel made of the branches of a fir tree. The residue of the day I spend in visiting and consoling the savages: — a severe affliction to see so many famished persons without being able to relieve their hunger.' " 1 Maine Historical Collections, I, 336.
45 Many are troubled by the innumerable spellings of the name the English render as some form of Norridgewock and the French of Nanrantsoak. The two words are the same, and, properly pronounced, sound much alike. Rasles's Naṅraṅtsȣak, with two dotted n's to show nasals and a character for the English w, was not Nan-rant-soak, but Nah-lahts-wak, the r becoming l in modern Abnaki and in many forms of the word, and the nasals strong. The English Nollidgewoc is a fair equivalent. Most of the variations are of no importance.
Thayer's Note: The printed text has two dots over those n's, where I have just ṅ. Although Unicode theoretically has a "combining character" for the dieresis, as of writing (Dec 09) most browsers don't read it.
46 "Memoir of 1718," 878, 880.
47 There is ample evidence that the Indians did not always obey their priests. In his own last letter, Father Rasles says, "They harken to all my Reasons aforegoing, but follow their own": Baxter, Pioneers, 252.
48 "We look upon Captain Gyles as a Captain of the Tribes in our Parts" — so declared an Indian in a conference at Boston on January 3, 1727‑1728. Rasles, it need hardly be said, disliked Gyles: Baxter, Pioneers, 99.
49 The "private informer" was some trusted Indian (whom Gyles never names), who travelled for him from the Maine coast to Quebec and reported what was said and done.
50 Francis Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict (Boston, 1892), I, 216.
51 Rasles, "Letter to Captain Moody," February 7, 1720, which was read in council, Boston, March 7, 1720.
52 This is not so suavely expressed as the same substance in the "Letter to his Nephew": Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 91. The conference at Arrowsick [Georgetown] here referred to was that of August 12, 1717.
53 This conference at Arrowsick was held July 21, 1721: 2 Collections, Massachusetts Historical Society, VIII, 25. Vaudreuil and Begon's "Report to the Ministry," which tells the story, is given in French by Baxter, Pioneers, 110‑113.
55 John Gyles, September 17, 1720, reported Toxus as sick: "there is a large Crue of them gon with thier Cieff toxsos to Canaday to have friars seremonys put on him."
56 Vaudreuil to Rasles, September 25, 1721: Baxter, Pioneers, 299‑301.
58 The whole letter is in Baxter Pioneers, 305‑309.
59 The Maine Historical Society owns the copy of Busenbaum, the strong box, so‑called, the bell, and a crucifix from the chapel.
60 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 237. Thwaites translates "cuisse" as hip.
61 1 Proceedings, Massachusetts Historical Society, III, 324: Charles Deane, "Report on the Belknap Donation."
62 Baxter, Pioneers, 99.
63 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 230‑247.
64 Baxter, Pioneers, 341‑346.
65 What is probably the original of Vaudreuil's letter is to be found in the Massachusetts archives, LII, 77‑84.
66 Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, X, 233.
67 From Versailles, 15 May, 1725. The term "to cover" a death signifies the bestowing of gifts upon surviving relatives — in this case, upon the Abnaki villages: Baxter, Pioneers, 272‑273.
68 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 238.
69 New-England Courant, August 17‑24, 1724: the earliest account, gathered from the returned troops, containing errors but also some facts not elsewhere recorded. This has never been reprinted. The Boston News-Letter, August 28, published Colonel Johnson Harmon's sworn statement. Samuel Penhallow, The History of the Wars of New-England with the Eastern Indians (Boston, 1726). The best account of all is Governor Thomas Hutchinson's version in his History of Massachusetts, II (1767). He was a boy of thirteen, living in Boston when the troops returned and must have had a vivid recollection of the event. He had access to all the public papers and by conversation with Captain, then Colonel, Jeremiah Moulton, the leader in the fight, who lived until 1765, he enlarged and corrected his account. He also knew the French story. Beside such sources as these the French version is seen to be palpably, and no doubt intentionally, false.
70 The Boston News-Letter statement was reprinted by Colonel Charles E. Banks in The History of York, Maine (Boston, 1931), 326, 327.
71 Maine Historical Society, "Pejepscot Papers," VIII, Number 50.
72 Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, XXIII, 89‑93. There can be no question who wrote this unsigned letter, especially when the author comes to complain how "Jebis . . . has acted in building my house" and gives the dimensions of the house. Because it was unsigned, Sister M. Celeste Leger accidentally omitted it from her list of Rasles's letters.
73 Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, X, 146.
74 It is Penhallow who mentions this baggage guard; but it was a very necessary precaution, the neglect of which, within a year, cost Lovewell and many of his men their lives.
75 The quotation is from Hutchinson, History, II, 280, but the statement about twenty-two men being in the division which attacked at the east gate is from the New-England Courant.
76 Boston News-Letter, August 28, 1724.
77 Hutchinson, writing many years later, says the boy did recover; most waters assume that he was killed and that no one could tell who hurt him. But the boy, a son of William Mitchell, of Scarborough, knew what happened; the surgeon knew, and 205 white soldiers must have seen him. In addition, the commander of the expedition stated the fact on oath. Why call the evidence "insufficient"?
78 Colonel Banks omits these lines to save space.
79 Rasles was the commander-in‑chief of the Indians, and was reckoned as a chief. The military titles of the Indians mean nothing more than that they were recognized leaders, Bomazeen being the most notable. There has been considerable difference in the statements about Bomazeen's death.
80 Boston News-Letter, August 28.
81 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, II, 283.
82 Boston News-Letter, August 28. Baxter's statement that Old Christian did not go back until they had arrived at Taconnet [Waterville], thirty miles away, is a bad slip. See, also, Baxter, Pioneers, 245.
83 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, II, 282.
84 New-England Courant, August 24. This article contains the account of the devotional banner of Father Rasles, sometimes mentioned. Its principal error is the statement that Rasles was "said to be an Irishman born," probably based upon the pronunciation of his name as "Rawley."
85 On the strength of Rasles's letter, Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 203.
86 Jesuit Relations, LXVII, 243: "In a spirit of mortification he forbade himself the use of wine, even when he was among Frenchmen."
87 Douglas, Summary, Historical and Political, I, 199.
88 The original of this letter is not known. The text was first printed 2 Collections, Massachusetts Historical Society, VIII, 245‑249, from a document found among the Pincheon Papers, owned by the Society since about 1800. The transcriber, who clearly was not the translator, says he copied the paper verbatim et literatim. But another copy (in Baxter's Pioneers, 251‑258, copied verbatim et literatim by Baxter himself from a paper in the Public Record Office in London), which was certified by Josiah Willard, secretary of state for Massachusetts, varies just enough on close collation to show that there must have been an intermediate copy for one or the other. Yet both lack the few very necessary words at the beginning of the second sentence, for which our Indian tradition supplies a meaning. There is no question of the authenticity of the letter. No one could possibly have forged a letter which could be explained only by a wild Indian tradition, not printed for two centuries.
89 The warrant for arming Father Rasles is that it was the custom of the times.
90 Colonel Harmon's sworn statement declares that the English were within pistol shot when the Indians fired their first volley.
91 Lieutenant Richard Jaques was of Huguenot stock from Newbury, Massachusetts, and probably spoke some French. Hutchinson says that Rasles could speak some English. Jaques was the son-in‑law of Harmon, the commander, who was the brother-in‑law of Captain Moulton; so he probably escaped court-martial through family influence. The records show that not long after the fight he asked to be dismissed from the service in order to attend to his business. A little later he appears charged with selling rum to the Indians. The English have been condemned for scalping Father Rasles, but young Jaques would seem to be the sort of person who would have done it without orders. Moulton had every reason to be displeased with his conduct.
92 The act of May, 1647, provided banishment for friars and Jesuits found in the colonies, except under certain conditions. In 1700 this was amended to perpetual imprisonment, if they did not leave the province by September 10, 1700: Acts and Laws of the General Court of Massachusetts, IV, 107. Rasles knew the law: his own letters show this.
93 That they tended to revert to their old heathenism is shown in Captain John Gyles's letter to the governor, May 19, 1727: Maine Historical Collection, Documentary Series, X, 392.
94 It has been remarked, somewhat tauntingly, that after all, in spite of the English, the Jesuits came back to Norridgewock and re-established their mission. It should be added that they were permitted to return. After Lovewell's Fight in May, 1725, the English were in firm control and, realizing that most of the Indians desired to be friendly, they encouraged them to come back: Maine Historical Collections, Documentary Series, X, 393. That the permission was understood in Quebec to allow re-establishment of the mission is shown by the Jesuit Fathers at Québec, October 20, 1727, petitioning France for a new missionary to Norridgewock and for church plate and other furniture: New York Colonial Documents, IX, 994. The memoir of Louis XV to Governor Beauharnois and his intendant May 14, 1728, approves sending the missionary to Norridgewock, a chalice, ciborium, ostensorium, and other church furniture, the plate to be made in Quebec: New York Colonial Documents, X, 1002.
a That Rale shot and stabbed the English boy is either true or not. If it is true, there are many better explanations than frenzies (eked out with a sort of psychoanalysis): Jesuits, by their very training, are far more given to calm rational calculation than to frenzies.
I'm sorry even to have to think of it, but recent news in America, Ireland, and Austria make it a possibility, although one I personally am disinclined to believe: what was a priest doing with a 14‑year-old boy?
Whatever the basis though of his familiar acquaintance with Rasles, it seems likely to me that he was an English spy taking advantage of it — and deserved what he got, at the hands of what amounts to a French government agent suddenly realizing what had happened; even today, the usual penalty for espionage in time of war is summary execution. Today we think of a young teenager as a child, but the reader will notice (above, p561) that Vaudreuil, in tallying the military strength of New England, starts at 14 years old. At any rate, if the boy (why does he not have a name?) was spying for the British, that would account for the remarkably good timing of the attack (noted above by the author, pp572‑573); also for the feeling among the Abnaki that they were set up.
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