The Feudal Chiefs of Acadia
ON the 12th of June, 1643, the people of the infant town of Boston saw with some misgiving a French ship entering their harbor. It chanced that the wife of Captain Edward Gibbons, with her children, was on her way in a boat to a farm, belonging to her husband, on one of the islands in the harbor. One of La Tour ’s party, who had before made a visit to Boston, and had been the guest of Gibbons, recognized his former hostess. A boat was towed astern of the St. Clement, and he, with La Tour and a few sailors, east off from the ship and went to speak to her. Mrs. Gibbons, seeing herself chased by a boatload of outlandish foreigners, took refuge on the island where Fort Winthrop was afterwards built, and which was then known as the “ Governor’s Garden,” as it had an orchard, a vineyard, and “many other conveniences.” The islands in the harbor, most of which were at that time well wooded, seem to have been favorite places of cultivation, as sheep and cattle were there safe from those pests of the mainland, the wolves. La Tour, no doubt to the dismay of Mrs. Gibbons and her children, landed after them, and was presently met by the governor himself, who, with his wife, two sons, and a daughter-in-law, had apparently rowed over to their garden for the unwonted recreation of an afternoon’s outing. La Tour made himself known to the governor, and, after mutual civilities, told him that a ship bringing supplies from France had been stopped by his enemy, D’Aunay, and that he had come to ask for help to raise the blockade and bring her to his fort. Winthrop replied that before answering he must consult the magistrates. As Mrs. Gibbons and her children were anxious to get home, the governor sent them to town in his own boat, promising to follow with his party in that of La Tour, who had placed it at his disposal. Meanwhile, the people of Boston had heard of what was taking place, and were in some anxiety, since, in a truly British distrust of all Frenchmen, they feared lest their governor might be kidnapped and held for ransom. Some of them accordingly took arms, and came in three boats to the rescue. In fact, remarks Winthrop, “ if La Tour had been illminded towards us, he had such an opportunity as we hope neither he nor any other shall ever have the like again.” The castle, or fort, which was on another island hard by, was defenseless, its feeble garrison having been lately withdrawn, and its cannon might easily have been turned on the town.
Boston, now in its thirteenth year, was a straggling village, with houses principally of boards or logs, gathered about a plain wooden meeting-house which formed the heart or vital organ of the place. The rough peninsula on which the infant settlement stood was almost void of trees, and was crowned by a hill split into three summits, whence the name of Tremont, or Trimount, still retained by a neighboring street. Beyond the narrow neck of the peninsula were several smaller villages with outlying farms ; but the mainland was for the most part a primeval forest, still possessed by its original owners, wolves, bears, and rattlesnakes. These last undesirable neighbors made their favorite haunt on a high rocky hill called Rattlesnake Hill, not far inland, where, down to the present generation, they were often seen, and where good specimens may occasionally be found to this day.1
Far worse than wolves or rattlesnakes were the Pequot Indians, a warlike race who had boasted that they would wipe the whites from the face of the earth, but who, by hard marching and fighting, had lately been brought to reason.
Worse than wolves, rattlesnakes, and Indians together were the theological quarrels that threatened to kill the colony in its infancy. Children are taught that the Puritans came to New England in search of religious liberty. The liberty they sought was for themselves alone. It was the liberty to worship in their own way, and to prevent all others from doing the like. They imagined that they held a monopoly of religious truth, and were bound in conscience to defend it against all comers. Their mission was to build up a western Canaan, ruled by the law of God, to keep it pure from error, and, if need were, purge it of heresy by persecution ; to which ends they set up one of the most detestable theocracies on record. Church and state were joined in one. Church members alone had the right to vote. There was no choice but to remain politically a cipher, or embrace, or pretend to embrace, the extremest dogmas of Calvin. Never was such a premium offered to cant and hypocrisy; yet in the early days hypocrisy was rare, so intense and pervading was the faith of the founders of New England.
It was in the churches themselves, the appointed sentinels and defenders of orthodoxy, that heresy lifted its head and threatened the state with disruption. Where minds different in complexion and character were continually busied with subtle questions of theology, unity of opinion could not be long maintained ; and innovation found a champion in one Mrs. Hutchinson, a woman of great controversial ability and inexhaustible fluency of tongue. Persons of a mystical turn of mind, or with a natural inclination for dissent and contrariety, were drawn to her preachings, and the church of Boston, with three or four exceptions, went over to her in a body. “Sanctification,” “ justification,” “ revelations,” the “ covenant of grace,” and the “ covenant of works ” mixed in furious battle with all the subtleties, sophistries, and venom of theological war, while the ghastly spectre of Antinomianism hovered over the fray, carrying terror to the souls of the faithful. The embers of the strife still burned hot when La Tour appeared to bring another firebrand.
As a “papist” or “ idolater,” though a mild one, he was sorely prejudiced in Puritan eyes, while his plundering of the Plymouth trading-house, some years before, and killing two of its five tenants, did not tend to produce impressions in his favor; but it being explained that all five were drunk, and had begun the fray by firing on the French, the ire against him cooled a little. Landing with Winthrop, he was received under the hospitable roof of Captain Gibbons, whose wife had recovered from her fright at his approach. He went to church on Sunday, and the gravity of his demeanor gave great satisfaction, a solemn carriage being of itself a virtue in Puritan eyes. Hence he was well treated, and his men were permitted to come ashore daily in small numbers. The stated training-day of the Boston militia fell in the next week, and La Tour asked leave to exercise his soldiers with the rest. This was granted, and, escorted by the Boston trained band, about forty of them marched to the muster field, which was probably the Common, a large tract of pasture land, in which was a marshy pool, the home of a colony of frogs perhaps not quite exterminated by the sticks and stones of Puritan boys. This pool, cleaned, paved, and curbed with granite, preserves to this day the memory of its ancient inhabitants, and is still the Frog Pond, though bereft of frogs.
The Boston trained band, in steel caps and buff coats, went through its exercise, and the visitors, we are told, expressed high approval. When the drill was finished, the Boston officers invited La Tour’s officers to dine, while his rank and file were entertained in like manner by the Puritan soldiers. There were more exercises in the afternoon, and this time it was the turn of the French, who, says Winthrop, “ were very expert in all their postures and motions.” A certain " judicious minister,” in dread of popish conspiracies, was troubled in spirit at this martial display, and prophesied that “ store of blood would be spilled in Boston,” a prediction that was not fulfilled, although an incident took place which startled some of the spectators. The Frenchmen suddenly made a sham charge, sword in hand, which the women took for a real one. The alarm was soon over; and as this demonstration ended the performance, La Tour asked leave of the governor to withdraw his men to their ship. The leave being granted, they fired a salute and marched to the wharf where their boat lay, escorted, as before, by the Boston trained band. During the whole of La Tour’s visit he and Winthrop went amicably to church together every Sunday, the governor being attended, on these and all other occasions while the strangers were in town, by a guard of honor of musketeers and halberd men. La Tour and his chief officers had their lodging and meals in the houses of the principal townsmen, and all seemed harmony and good will.
La Tour, meanwhile, had laid his request before the magistrates, and produced among other papers the commission to Mouron, captain of his ship, dated in the last April, and signed and sealed by the vice-admiral of France, authorizing Mouron to bring supplies to La Tour, whom the paper styled lieutenant-general for the king in Acadia ; La Tour also showed a letter, genuine or forged, from the agent of the Company of New France, addressed to him as lieutenant--general, and warning him to beware of D’Aunay: from all which the Boston magistrates inferred that their petitioner was on good terms with the French government,2 notwithstanding a letter sent them by D’Aunay the year before, assuring them that La Tour was a proclaimed rebel, which in fact he was. Throughout this affair one is perplexed by the French official papers, whose entanglements and contradictions in regard to the Acadian rivals are past unraveling.
La Tour asked only for such help as would enable him to bring his own ship to his own fort, and, as his papers seemed to prove that he was a recognized officer of his king, Winthrop and the magistrates thought that they might permit him to hire such ships and men as were disposed to join him.
La Tour had tried to pass himself as a Protestant, but his professions were distrusted, notwithstanding the patience with which he had listened to the longwinded sermons of the Reverend John Cotton. As to his wife, however, there appears to have been but one opinion. She was approved as a sound Protestant “of excellent virtues;” and her denunciations of D’Aunay no doubt fortified the prejudice which was already strong against him for his seizure of the Plymouth trading-house at Penobscot, and for his aggressive and masterful character, which made him an inconvenient neighbor.
With the permission of the governor and the approval of most of the magistrates, La Tour now made a bargain with his host, Captain Gibbons, and a merchant named Thomas Hawkins. They agreed to furnish him with four vessels ; to arm each of these with from four to fourteen small cannon, and man them with a certain number of sailors, La Tour himself completing the crews with Englishmen hired at his own charge. Hawkins was to command the whole. The four vessels were to escort La Tour and his ship, the St. Clement, to the mouth of the St. John, in spite of D’Aunay and all other opponents. The agreement ran for two months, and La Tour was to pay £250 sterling a month for the use of the four ships, and mortgage to Gibbons and Hawkins his fort and all his Acadian property as security. Winthrop would give no commissions to Hawkins or any others engaged in the expedition, and they were all forbidden to fight except in self-defense ; but the agreement contained the significant clause that all plunder was to he equally divided, according to rule in such enterprises. Hence it seems clear that the contractors had an eye to booty ; yet no means were used to hold them to their good behavior.
Now rose a brisk dispute, and the conduct of Winthrop was sharply criticised. Letters poured in upon him concerning “great dangers,” “sin upon the conscience,” and the like. He himself was clearly in doubt as to the course lie was taking, and he soon called another meeting of magistrates, in which the inevitable clergy were invited to join ; and they all fell to discussing the matter anew. As every man of them had studied the Bible daily from childhood up, texts were the chief weapons of the debate. Doubts were advanced as to whether Christians could lawfully help idolaters, and Jehoshaphat, Ahab, and Josias were brought forward as cases in point. Then Solomon was cited to the effect that “ he that meddleth with the strife that belongs not to him takes a dog by the ear ; ” to which it was answered that the quarrel did belong to us, seeing that Providence now offered us the means to weaken our enemy, D’Aunay, without much expense or trouble to ourselves. Besides, we ought to help a neighbor in distress, seeing that Joshua helped the Gibeonites, and Jehoshaphat helped Jehoram against Moab with the approval of Elisha. The opposing party argued that “ by aiding papists we advance and strengthen popery; ” to which it was replied that the opposite effect might follow, since the grateful papist, touched by our charity, might be won to the true faith and turned from his idols.
Then the debate continued on the more worldly grounds of expediency and statecraft, and at last Winthrop’s action was approved by the majority. Still, there were many doubters, and the governor was severely blamed. John Endicott wrote to him that La Tour was not to be trusted, and that he and D’Aunay had better be left to fight it out between them, since if we help the former to put down his enemy he will he a bad neighbor to us.
Presently came a joint letter from several chief men of the colony, Saltonstall, Bradstreet, Nathaniel Ward, John Norton, and others, saying in substance : We fear international law has been ill observed ; the merits of the ease are not clear ; we are not called upon in charity to help La Tour (see 2 Chronicles xix. 2, and Proverbs xxvi. 17) ; this quarrel is for England and France, and not for ns; if D’ An nay is not completely put down we shall have endless trouble ; and “ he that loses his life in an unnecessary quarrel dies the devil’s martyr.”
This letter, known as the Ipswich letter,” touched Winthrop to the quick. He thought that it trenched on his official dignity, and the asperity of his answer betrays his sensitiveness. He calls the remonstrance “ an act of an exorbitant nature,” and says that it “ blows a trumpet to division and dissension.” “ If my neighbor is in trouble,” he goes on to say, “ I must help him ; ” he maintains that “ there is great difference between giving permission to hire to guard or transport and giving commission to fight,” and he adds the usual Bible text, “the fear of man bringeth a snare, but he that trusteth in the Lord shall be safe.” 3
In spite of Winthrop’s reply, the Ipswich letter had great effect, and he and the Boston magistrates were much blamed, especially in the country towns. The governor was too candid not to admit that he had been in fault, though he limits his self-accusation to three points: first, that he had given La Tour an answer too hastily; next, that he had not sufficiently consulted the elders, or ministers : and lastly, that he had not opened the discussion with prayer.
The upshot was that La Tour and bis allies sailed on the 14th of July. D’Aunay’s three vessels fled before them to Port Royal. La lour tried to persuade his Puritan friends to join him in an attack ; but Hawkins, the English commander, would give no order to that effect, on which about thirty of the Boston men volunteered for the adventure.
D’Aunay’s followers had ensconced themselves in a fortified mill, whence they were driven with some loss. After burning the mill and robbing a pinnace loaded with furs, the Puritans returned home, having broken their orders and compromised their colony.
In the next summer, La Tour, expecting a serious attack from D’Aunay, who had lately been to France, and was said to be on his way back with large reinforcements, turned again to Massachusetts for help. The governor this time was John Endicott, of Salem. To Salem the suppliant repaired, and as Endicott spoke French the conference was easy. The rugged bigot had before expressed his disapproval of “ having anything to do with these idolatrous French; ” but, according to Hubbard, be was so moved with compassion at the woeful tale of his visitor that he called a meeting of magistrates and ministers to consider if anything could be done for him. The magistrates had by this time learned caution, and the meeting would do nothing but write a letter to D’Aunay, demanding satisfaction for his seizure of Penobscot and other aggressions, and declaring that the men who escorted La Tour to his fort in the last summer had no commission from Massachusetts, yet that if they had wronged him be should have justice, though if he seized any of their trading-vessels they would hold him answerable. In short, La Tour’s petition was not granted.
D’Aunay, when in France, had pursued his litigation against his rival, and the royal council had ordered that the contumacious La Tour should be seized, his goods confiscated, and he himself brought home a prisoner ; which decree D’Aunay was empowered to execute, if be could. He had returned to Acadia the accredited agent of the royal will. It was reported at Boston that a Biscayan pirate had sunk his ship on the way; but the wish was father to the thought, and the report proved false. D’Aunay arrived safely, and was justly incensed at the support given by the Puritans in the last year to his enemy. But he too had strong reasons for wishing to be on good terms with his heretic neighbors. King Louis, moreover, had charged him not to offend them, since, when they helped La Tour, they had done so in the belief that he was commissioned as lieutenant-general for the king, and therefore they should be held blameless.
Hence D’Aunay made overtures of peace and friendship to the Boston Puritans. Early in October, 1644, they were visited by one Monsieur Marie, “ supposed,” says the chronicle, “ to be a friar, but habited like a gentleman.” He was probably one of the Capuchins who formed an important part of D’Aunay’s establishment at Port Royal. The governor and magistrates received him with due consideration ; and along with credentials from D’Aunay he showed them papers under the great seal of France, wherein the decree of the royal council was set forth in full, La Tour condemned as a rebel and traitor, and orders given to arrest both him and his wife. Henceforth there was no room to doubt which of the rival chiefs had the king and the law on his side. The envoy, while complaining of the aid given to La Tour, offered terms of peace to the governor and magistrates, who replied to his complaints with their usual subterfuge that they had given no commission to those who had aided La Tour, declaring at the same time that they could make no treaty without the concurrence of the commissioners of the United Colonies. They then desired Marie to set down his proposals in writing, on which he went to the house of one Mr. Fowle, where he lodged, and drew up in French his plan for a treaty, adding the proposal that the Bostonians should join D’Aunay against La Tour. Then he came back to the place of meeting and discussed the subject for half a day, sometimes in Latin with the magistrates, and sometimes in French with the governor, that old soldier being probably ill versed in the classic tongues. In vain they all urged that D’Aunay should come to terms with La Tour. Marie replied that if La Tour would give himself up his life would be spared, but that if he were caught he would lose his head as a traitor; adding that his wife was worse than he, being the mainspring of his rebellion. Endicott and the magistrates refused active alliance; but the talk ended in a provisional treaty of peace, duly drawn up in Latin, Marie keeping one copy and the governor the other. The agreement needed ratification by the commissioners of the United Colonies on one part, and by D’Aunay on the other. What is most curious in the affair is the attitude of Massachusetts, which from first to last figures as an independent state, with no reference to the king under whose charter it was building up its theocratic republic, and consulting none but the infant confederacy of the New England colonies, of which it was itself the head. As the commissioners of the confederacy were not then in session, Endicott and the magistrates took the matter provisionally into their own hands.
Marie had made good dispatch, for he reached Boston on a Friday and left it on the next Tuesday, having finished his business within three days, or rather two, as one of the three was “ the Sabbath.” He expressed surprise and gratification at the attention and courtesy with which he had been treated. His hosts supplied him with horses, and some of them accompanied him to Salem, where he had left his vessel, and whence he sailed for Port Royal, well pleased.
Just before he came to Boston, that town had received a visit from Madame de la Tour, who, soon after her husband’s successful negotiation with Winthrop in the past year, had sailed for France in the ship St. Clement. She had labored strenuously in La Tour’s cause; but the influence of D’Aunay’s partisans was far too strong, and, being charged with complicity in her husband s misconduct, she was forbidden to leave France on pain of death. She set the royal command at naught, escaped to England, took passage in a ship bound for America, and after long delay landed at Boston. The English shipmaster had bargained to carry her to her husband at Fort St. Jean; but he broke his bond, and was sentenced by the Massachusetts courts to pay her £2000 as damages. She was permitted to hire three armed vessels then lying in the harbor, to convey her to Fort St. Jean, where she arrived safely and rejoined La Tour.
Meanwhile, D’Aunay was hovering off the coast, armed with the final and conclusive decree of the royal council, which placed both husband and wife under the ban, and enjoined him to execute its sentence. But a resort to force was costly and of doubtful result, and D’Aunay resolved again to try the effect of persuasion. Approaching the mouth of the St. John, he sent to the fort two boats, commanded by his lieutenant, who carried letters from his chief promising to La Tour’s men pardon for their past conduct and payment of all wages due them, if they would return to their duty. An adherent of D’Aunay declares that they received these advances with insults and curses. It was a little before this time that Madame de la Tour arrived from Boston. The same writer says that she fell into a transport of fury, " behaved like one possessed with a devil,” and heaped contempt on the Catholic faith in the presence of her husband, who approved everything she did. And he further affirms that she so berated and reviled the Récollet friars in the fort that they refused to stay, and set out for Port Royal in the depth of winter, taking with them eight soldiers of the fort who were too good Catholics to remain in such a nest of heresy and rebellion. They were permitted to go, and provided with an old pinnace and two barrels of Indian corn, with which, unfortunately for La Tour, they safely reached their destination.
On her arrival from Boston, Madame de la Tour had given her husband a piece of politic advice. Her enemies say that she had some time before renounced her faith to gain the favor of the Puritans ; but there is reason to believe that she had been a Huguenot from the first. She now advised La Tour to go to Boston, declare himself a Protestant, ask for a minister to preach to his men, and promise that if the Bostonians would help him to master D’Aunay and conquer Acadia he would share the conquest with them. La Tour admired the sagacious counsels of his wife, and sailed for Boston to put them in practice, just before the friars and the eight deserters sailed for Port Royal, thus leaving their departure unopposed.
At Port Royal both friars and deserters found a warm welcome. D’Aunay paid the eight soldiers their long arrears of wages, and lodged the friars in the seminary with his Capuchins. Then he questioned them, and was well rewarded. They told him that La Tour had gone to Boston, leaving his wife with only forty-five men to defend the fort. Here was a golden opportunity. D’Aunay called his officers to council. All were of one mind. He mustered every man about Port Royal and embarked them in the armed ship of three hundred tons that had brought him from France ; he then crossed the Bay of Fundy with all his force, anchored in a small harbor a league from Fort St. Jean, and sent the Récollet Père André to try to seduce more of La Tour’s men, an attempt which proved a failure. D’Aunay lay two months at his anchorage, during which time another ship and a pinnace joined him from Port Royal. Then he resolved to make an attack. Meanwhile, La Tour had persuaded a Boston merchant to send one Grafton to Fort St. Jean in a small vessel loaded with provisions, and bringing also a letter to Madame de la Tour containing a promise from her husband that he would join her in a month. When the Boston vessel appeared at the mouth of the St. John, D Aunay seized it, placed Grafton and the few men with him on an island, and finally supplied them with a leaky sailboat to make their way home as they best could.
D’Aunay now landed two cannon to batter Fort St. Jean on the land side, and on the 17th of April, having brought his largest ship within pistol-shot of the water rampart, he summoned the garrison to surrender.1 They answered with a volley of cannon-shot, then hung out a red flag, and according to D’Aunay’s reporter, shouted, ” A thousand insults and blasphemies ! ” Towards evening a breach was made in the wall, and D’Aunay ordered a general assault. Animated by their intrepid mistress, the defenders fought with desperation, and killed or wounded many of the assailants, not without severe loss on their own side. Numbers prevailed at last; all resistance was overcome; the survivors of the garrison were made prisoners, and the fort was pillaged. Madame de la Tour, her maid, and another woman, who were all of their sex in the place, were among the captives; also Madame de la Tour’s son, a mere child. D’Aunay pardoned some of his prisoners, but hanged the greater part, “ to serve as an example to posterity,"says his reporter. Nicolas Denys declares that he compelled Madame de la Tour to witness the execution with a halter about her neck, but the more trustworthy accounts say nothing of this alleged outrage. On the next day, the 18th of April, the bodies of the dead were decently buried, an inventory was made of the contents of the fort, and D’Aunay set Ids men to repair it for bis own use. These labors occupied three weeks or more, during a part of which Madame de la Tour was left at liberty, till, being detected in an attempt to correspond with her husband by means of an Indian, she was put into confinement; on which, according to D’Aunay’s reporter, “she fell ill with spite and rage,” and died within three weeks, after, as he tells us, renouncing her heresy in the chapel of the fort.
Having triumphed over his rival, D’Aunay was left free to settle his accounts with the Massachusetts Puritans, who had offended him anew by sending provisions to Fort St. Jean, having always insisted that they were free to trade with either party. They on their side were no less indignant with him for his seizure of Grafton’s vessel and harsh treatment of him and his men.
After some preliminary negotiation and some rather sharp correspondence, D’ Aunay, in September, 1646, sent a pinnace to Boston hearing his former envoy, Marie, accompanied by his own secretary and by one Monsieur Louis.
It was Sunday, the Puritan Sabbath, when the three envoys arrived, and the pious inhabitants were preparing for the afternoon sermon. Marie and his two colleagues were tnet at the wharf by two militia officers, and conducted through the silent and dreary streets to the house of Captain, now Major Gibbons, who appears to have taken upon himself in an especial manner the office of entertaining strangers of consequence.
All was done with much civility, but no ceremony, for the Lord’s Day must be kept inviolate. Winthrop, who had again been chosen governor, now sent an officer with a guard of musketeers to invite the envoys to his own house. Here he regaled them with wine and sweetmeats, and then informed them of “ our manner that all men either come to our publick meetings or keep themselves quiet in their houses.” He then laid before them such books in Latin and French as he had, and told them that they were free to walk in his garden. Though the diversion offered was no doubt of the dullest, since the literary resources of the colony then included little besides arid theology, and the walk in the garden promised but moderate delights among the bitter pot-herbs provided against days of fasting, the victims resigned themselves with good grace, and, as the governor tells us, “ gave no offence.” Sunset came at last and set the captives free.
On Monday both sides fell to business. The envoys showed their credentials, but as the commissioners of the United Colonies were not yet in session nothing conclusive could be done till Tuesday. Then, all being assembled, each party made its complaints of the conduct of the other, and a long discussion followed. Meals were provided for the three visitors at the “ ordinary,” or inn, where the magistrates dined during the sessions of the General Court. The governor, as their host, always sat with them at the board, and strained his Latin to do honor to his guests. They, on their part, that courtesies should be evenly divided, went every morning at eight o’clock to the governor’s house, whence he accompanied them to the place of meeting; and at night, he, or some of the commissioners in his stead, attended them to their lodging at the house of Major Gibbons.
Serious questions were raised on both sides, but, as both wanted peace, explanations were mutually made and accepted. The chief difficulty lay in the undeniable fact that, in escorting La Tour to his fort in 1643, the Massachusetts volunteers had chased D’Aunay to Port Royal, killed some of his men, burned his mill, and robbed his pinnace, for which wrongs the envoys demanded heavy damages. It was true that the governor and magistrates had forbidden acts of aggression on the part of the volunteers, but, on the other hand, they had had reason to believe that their prohibition would be disregarded, and had taken no measures to enforce it. The envoys clearly had good ground of complaint, and here, says Winthrop, “ they did stick two days.” At last they yielded so far as to declare that what D’Aunay wanted was not so much compensation in money as satisfaction to his honor by an acknowledgment of their fault on the part of the Massachusetts authorities; and they further declared that he would accept a moderate present in token of such acknowledgment. The difficulty now was to find such a present. The representatives of Massachusetts presently bethought themselves of a “very fair new sedan” which the viceroy of Mexico had sent to his sister, and which had been captured in the West Indies by one Captain Cromwell, a corsair, who gave it to “ our governour.” Winthrop, to whom it was entirely useless, gladly parted with it in such a cause, and, the sedan being graciously accepted, the discussion ended. The treaty was signed in duplicate by the commissioners of the United Colonies and the envoys of D’Aunay, and peace was at last concluded.
The conference had been conducted with much courtesy on both sides. One small cloud appeared, but soon passed away. The French envoys displayed the fleur-de-lys at the masthead of their pinnace, as she lay in the harbor. The townsmen were incensed, and Monsieur Marie was told that to fly foreign colors in Boston harbor was not according to custom. He insisted for a time, but at length ordered the offending flag to be lowered.
On the 28th of September the envoys bade farewell to Winthrop, who had accompanied them to their pinnace with a guard of honor. Five cannon saluted them from Boston, five from “the castle,” and three from Charlestown. A supply of mutton and a keg of sherry were sent on board their vessel, and then, after firing an answering salute from their swivels, they stood down the bay till their sails disappeared among the islands.
La Tour had now no more to hope from his late supporters. He had lost his fort, and, what was worse, he had lost his indomitable wife. Throughout the winter that followed his disaster he had been entertained by Samuel Maverick at his house on Noddle’s Island. In the spring he begged hard for further help, and as he begged in vain he sailed for Newfoundland to make the same petition to Sir David Kirke, who then governed that island. Kirke refused, but lent him a pinnace and sent him back to Boston. Here some merchants had the good nature or folly to entrust him with goods for the Indian trade to the amount of £400. Thus equipped, he sailed for Acadia in Kirke’s pinnace, manned with his own followers and five New England men. On reaching Cape Sable, he conspired with the master of the pinnace and his own men to seize the vessel and set the New England sailors ashore, which was done; La Tour, it is said, shooting one of them in the face with a pistol. It was winter, and the outcasts roamed along the shore for a fortnight, half frozen and half starved, till they were met by Micmac Indians, who gave them food and a boat, in which, by rare good fortune, they reached Boston, where their story convinced the most Infatuated that they had harbored a knave. “Whereby,” solemnly observes the pious but much-mortified Winthrop, who had been La Tour’s best friend, “ it appeared (as the Scripture saith) that there is no confidence in an unfaithful or carnal man.”
When the capture of Fort St. Jean was known at court, the young king was well pleased, and promised to send D’Aunay the gift of a ship; but he forgot to keep las word, and requited his faithful subject with the less costly reward of praises and honors. After a preamble reciting his merits, and especially his “ care, courage, and valor ” in “ taking by our express order, and reducing again under our authority, the fort on the St. John which La Tour had rebelliously occupied with the aid of foreign sectaries,” the king confirmed D’Aunay’s authority in Acadia, and extended it on paper from the St. Lawrence to Virginia, empowering him to keep for himself such parts of this broad domain as he might want, and grant out the rest to others, who were to hold of him as his vassals. He could build forts and cities at his own expense ; command by land and sea; make war or peace within the limits of his grant; appoint officers of government, justice, and police ; and, in short, exercise sovereign power, with the simple reservation of homage to the king, and a tenth part of all gold, silver, and copper to the royal treasury. A full monopoly of the fur trade through all his dominion was conferred on him, and any infringement of it was to be punished by confiscation of ships and goods and 30,000 livres of damages. On his part, D’Aunay was enjoined to “establish the name, power, and authority of the king, subject the nations to his rule, and teach them the knowledge of the true God and the light of the Christian faith.”Acadia, in brief, was made a hereditary fief, and D’Aunay and his heirs became lords of a domain as large as a European kingdom.
D’Aunay had spent his substance in the task of civilizing a wilderness. The king had not helped him ; and though he belonged to a caste which held commerce in contempt, he must be a fur trader or a bankrupt. La Tour’s Fort St. Jean was a better trading-station than Port Royal, and it had woefully abridged D’Aunay’s profits. Hence an ignoble competition in beaver skins had embittered their quarrel. All this was over. Fort St. Jean, the best trading-stand in Acadia, was now in its conqueror’s hands, and his monopoly was no longer a mere name, but a reality.
Everything promised a thriving trade and a growing colony, when the scene was suddenly changed. On the 24th of May, 1650, a dark and stormy day, D’Aunay and his valet were in a birch canoe in the basin of Port Royal, not far from the mouth of the Annapolis. Perhaps neither master nor man was skilled in the management of the treacherous craft that bore them. The canoe overset; D’Aunay and the valet clung to it and got astride of it, one at each end. There they sat, sunk to the shoulders, the canoe, though under water, having buoyancy enough to keep them from sinking farther. So they remained an hour and a half. At the end of that time D’Aunay was dead, not from drowning, but from cold, for the water still retained the chill of winter ; the valet was alive. And in this condition they were found by Indians and brought to the north shore of the Annapolis, whither Father Ignace, the superior of the Capuchins, went to find the body of his patron, brought it to the fort, and buried it in the chapel, in presence of his wife and all the soldiers and inhabitants.
The father superior highly praises the dead chief, and is astonished that the earth does not gape and devour the slanderers who say that he died in desperation, as one abandoned of God. He admits that in former times cavilers might have found wherewith to accuse him, but declares that before his death he had amended all his faults. This is the testimony of a Capuchin, whose fraternity he had always favored. The Récollets, on the other hand, whose patron was La Tour, complained that D’Aunay had ill used them, and demanded redress.
The dead chief seems to have been a favorable example of his class; be was loyal to his faith and his king, tempering pride with courtesy, and generally true to his cherished ideal of the gentilhomme français. In his qualities as in his birth he was far above his rival, and his death was the ruin of the only French colony in Acadia that deserved the name.
At the news of his enemy’s fate a new hope possessed La Tour. He still had agents in France interested to serve him, while the father of D’Aunay, who acted as his attorney, was feeble with age, and his children were too young to defend their interests.
There is an extraordinary document, bearing date February, 1651, less than a year after D’Aunay’s death. It is a complete reversal of the above-named decree in his favor. La Tour suddenly appears as the favorite of royalty, and all the graces before lavished on his enemy are now heaped upon him. The lately proscribed “rebel and traitor” is confirmed as governor and lieutenantgeneral in New France. His services to God and the king are rehearsed “ as of our certain knowledge,” and he is praised with the same emphasis and almost in the same words as those used towards D’Aunay in the decree of 1647. The paper goes on to say that he, La Tour, would have converted the Indians and conquered Acadia for the king if D’ Aunay had not prevented him.4
Unless this document is a fabrication in the interest of La Tour, as there is some reason to believe, it suggests strange reflections on colonial administration during the minority of Louis XIV. Genuine or not, La Tour profited by it, and after a visit to France, which proved a successful and fruitful one, he returned to Acadia with revived hopes. The widow of D’Aunay had eight children, all minors, and their grandfather, the octogenarian René de Menou, had been appointed their guardian. He sent an incompetent and faithless person to Port Royal to fulfill the wardship of which he was no longer capable.
The unfortunate widow and her children needed better help. D’Aunay had employed as his agent one Le Borgne, a merchant of Rochelle, who now succeeded in getting the old man under his influence and inducing him to sign an acknowledgment, said to be false, that D’Aunay’s heirs owed him 260,000 livres. Le Borgne next came to Port Royal to push his schemes, and here he inveigled or frightened the widow into signing a paper to the effect that she and her children owed him 205,286 livres. It was fortunate for his unscrupulous plans that he had to do with the soft and tractable Madame D’Aunay, and not with the high-spirited and intelligent Amazon, Madame La Tour. Le Borgne now seized on Port Royal as security for the alleged debts, while La Tour, on his return from his visit to France, induced the perplexed and helpless widow to restore to him Fort St. Jean, conquered by her late husband. Madame D’Aunay, beset with insidious enemies, saw herself and her children in danger of total ruin. She applied to the Due de Vendome, grand master, chief, and superintendent of navigation, and offered to share all her Acadian claims with him, if he would help her in her distress ; but from the first Vendome looked more to his own interests than to hers. La Tour was not satisfied with her concessions to him, and perplexing questions rose between them touching land claims and the fur trade. To end these troubles she took a desperate step, and on the 24th of February, 1653. married her tormentor, the foe of her late husband, who had now been dead not quite three years.5 Her chief thought seems to have been for her children, whose rights were guarded, though to little purpose, in the marriage contract. She and La Tour took up their abode at Fort St. Jean. Of the children of her first marriage, four were boys and four were girls. They were ruined at last by the harpies leagued to plunder them, and sought refuge in France, where the boys were all killed in the wars of Louis XIV., and at least three of the girls became nuns.
Now follow complicated disputes without dignity or interest, and turning chiefly on the fur trade. Le Borgne and his son, in virtue of their claims upon the estate of D’Aunay, which were sustained by the French courts, got a lion’s share of Acadia; a part fell also to La Tour and his children by his new wife ; while Nicolas Denys kept a feeble hold on the shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence as far north as Cape Rosiers.
War again broke out between France and England, and in 1654 Major Robert Sedgwick, of Charlestown, Massachusetts, who had served in the civil war as a major-general of Cromwell, led a small New England force to Acadia under a commission from the Protector, captured Fort St. Jean, Port Royal, and all the other French stations, and conquered the colony for England. It was restored to France by the Treaty of Breda, and captured again in 1690 by Sir William Phips. The Treaty of Ryswick again restored it to France, till in 1710 it was finally seized for England by General Nicholson.
When, after Sedgwick’s expedition, the English were in possession of Acadia, La Tour, not for the first time, tried to fortify his claims by a British title, and, jointly with Thomas Temple and William Crown, obtained a grant of the colony from Cromwell, though he soon after sold his share to his copartner, Temple. He seems to have died in 1666. Descendants of his were living in Acadia in 1830, and some of his race may probably still be found there. As for D’Aunay, no trace of his blood is left in the land where he gave wealth and life for France and the Church.
Francis Park man.
- Blue Hill in Milton. “ Up into the country is a high hill which is called rattlesnake hill, where there is great store of these poysonous creatures.” (Wood, New England’s Prospect.) “ They [the wolves] be the greatest in-conveniency the country hath.” (Ibid.) ↩
- Count Jules de Menou, in his remarkable manuscript book now before me, expresses his belief that the commission of the vice-admiral was genuine, but that the letter of the agent of the Company was a fabrication.↩
- Winthrop’s Answer to the Ipswich Letter about La Tour (no date), in Hutchinson Papers, 122. Bradstreet writes to him on the 21st of June,”Our ayding of Latour was very grievous to many hereabouts, the design being feared to be unwarrantable by dyvers.”↩
- The site of Fort St. Jean, or Fort La Tour, has been matter of question. At Carleton, opposite the present city of St. John, are the remains of an earthen fort, by some supposed to be that of La Tour, but which is no doubt of later date, as the place was occupied by a succession of forts down to 1763. On the other hand, it has been assumed that Fort La Tour was at Jemsec, which is about seventy miles up the river. Now, in the second mortgage deed of Fort La Tour to Major Gibbons. May 10, 1645, the fort is described as " situé près de l’embouckur de la riviere de St. Jean.” Moreover. there is a cataract just above the mouth of the river, which, though submerged at high tide, cannot be passed by heavy ships at any time ; and as D’Aunay brought his largest ship of war to within pistol-shot of the fort, it must have been below the cataract.↩
- Confirmation de Gouverneur et Lieutenant Général pour le Roy de la Nouvelle, à France, k la Costs de l’Acadie, au Sr. Charles de Saint-Etienne, Chevalier de la Tour, 27 Février, 1651. A copy of this strange paper is before me. Count de Menou, and after him his follower, Moreau, doubt the genuineness of the document, which, however, is alluded to, without suspicion, in the legal paper entitled Mémoire, in re Charles de Saint-Étienne, Seigneur de la Tour (fils), et ses Frères et Sœurs, 1700. This Mémoire is in the interest of the heirs of La Tour, and is to be judged accordingly.↩
- Rameau, i. 120. Menou and Moreau think that this marriage took place two or three years later.↩