Champlain as a Herald of Washington

JULY, 1909



“I SAW them come out of their barricades, nearly two hundred men, tall and powerful, and move slowly toward us. . . . Our men advanced with the same order. They told me that the warriors with the three feathers were the leaders, . . . and that I should shoot to kill them. . . . Our men began to call me loudly; and to give me passage they opened into two ranks, and put me at the head, about twenty paces in advance. When I was about thirty paces from the enemy, the latter suddenly perceived me and halted and stared.... I put my arquebus to my cheek and aimed straight at one of the three chiefs. At the shot two fell dead, and one of their companions was so wounded that he died shortly after. I had put four balls into my gun. When our men saw this shot they yelled so jubilantly that you could not have heard thunder. The Iroquois were dumfounded that two of their number should have been killed so promptly, as they wore a sort of armor, and carried arrow-proof shields. As I was reloading, one of my companions fired a shot from the woods. . . . Abandoning the field and their fort, the Iroquois dashed into the forest, and, pursuing them, I killed several others. Our savages also killed some, and took ten or twelve prisoners. The rest escaped with their wounded.”

This was Samuel of Champlain’s account of the battle near the southern end of the Lake of the Iroquois,— the lake which we call Champlain,— in which he and two other white men, on a foray from Quebec with a war party of Hurons and Algonquins, defeated these tribes’ old enemies, the Mohawks, in their own territory. In number of participants, the encounter was smaller than many which had taken place earlier between rival bands of red men. It was notable, however, as being the first fight on the Atlantic coast of North America in which white men appeared as allies of any of the Indians; and it was the first, on the northern half of the coast, in which firearms figured.

The encounter was far more notable for its results. Although Creasy has not put it on his list of the decisive battles of the world, yet very few on that roll, from Marathon to Waterloo, had larger consequences. That battle near Ticonderoga on the morning of July 30, 1609, started the blood feud between the powerful Iroquois confederation (the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, to name them in the order in which they extended westward), which occupied all the region between Lake Champlain and Lake Erie, and the French owners of Canada, which lasted till Champlain’s countrymen, more than a century and a half later, were driven off the continent. This vendetta placed the Five Nations on the side of the Dutch and English, the successive owners of New York of the later day; saved the feeble settlements on the Mohawk and the Hudson from capture by the French from the north side of the St. Lawrence; prevented the French from cutting off the connection between Britain’s colonies in New England and her settlements in Maryland, Virginia, and the southern end of the Atlantic coast; enabled those colonies eventually to gain the strength which permitted them, in conjunction with the mother country, to drive France out of North America; preserved that region for the English-speaking race; and helped to precipitate the issues through which the younger and more progressive branch of the race separated from the older part of the family, and appropriated to themselves the best section of the continent.

Manifestly, however, this chain of events was as far beyond Champlain’s vision as it was beyond that of his great patron Henry IV, “Henry of Navarre,” under whose commission Champlain, who had been a soldier and a sailor on Henry’s side during the civil wars, was starting out to build an empire for France in the New World.

Half a century before Champlain was born, or in 1513, Spain’s Balboa, whom Keats, in this connection, mistakenly calls “ stout Cortez,” traversing the isthmus across which the United States is building a canal for the use of the world’s commerce,

Stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Balboa was the first white man who, from the American continent, looked out upon the South Sea. In 1519 Magellan, the Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, sailed down the Atlantic coast of South America, crept cautiously through the straits which bear his name, crossed the Pacific, discovered the Philippines, was killed there by one of the natives, and the remnant of his fleet, going by way of the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope, reached San Lucar, Spain, after a three years’ voyage, the crew being the first men in the world’s history to make a circuit of the globe.

Long before Champlain’s time, too, Spain’s Cortez had made the conquest of Mexico; her Pizarro had conquered Peru; others of her conquistadores had established colonies in other parts of Central and South America; while there were settlements in Cuba and Hayti since Columbus’s days. Portugal, also, had started colonies in Brazil. Those were the days when Spain blazed paths for the nations across the world’s seas. Yet at the time of Champlain’s battle at Ticonderoga in 1609 there were probably less than five thousand whites between the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande and Cape Horn.

At that moment the only white inhabitants along the Atlantic coast of North America—less than five hundred in all — were in Champlain’s colony of Quebec, founded in 1608, and in the other and earlier French settlements along the St. Lawrence or near its mouth; in England’s little settlement, planted in 1607 on the James River by Newport, Gosnold, and Captain John Smith; and in Spain’s Florida colony of St. Augustine, erected by Menendez forty-four years before Champlain’s encounter with the Mohawks.

Nor were there any whites in any other part of the present United States at that time, except a few score Spaniards, at Santa Fé and in isolated camps in the valley of the upper Rio Grande, in the present New Mexico, who were there on the sufferance of the Apaches. Twothirds of a century before Champlain’s advent at Quebec, Spain’s De Soto made an incursion which carried him from Florida into the present state of Missouri; and her Coronado made a raid inward from the Gulf of California up to within a few miles of the Missouri River, in our present Kansas, each chasing the mirage of El Dorado. Each, however, left almost as little trace of his foray as did the eagles which flew over those regions. By Champlain’s time those adventurers were

Gone like a wind that blew
A thousand years ago.

For two reasons Portugal fell heir to Brazil, while at the outset Spain laid claim to all the rest of the New World. By a treaty made just after Columbus’s second voyage across the Atlantic, Spain and Portugal established a demarcation line drawn along the meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, and they agreed that, regardless of the nationality of their discoverers, all heathen lands east of that line should be allotted to Portugal, and all west of it should go to Spain. Thus Brazil would fall to Portugal’s share. Portugal also chanced to be the first explorer of that part of the South American coast. Spain, which, through Columbus, went west in 1492 to find India, and Portugal, which sent Vasco Da Gama around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 on the same quest, were the great maritime countries of that age.

But no Frenchman of Henry IV’s day was deterred by this compact, even though it had the Pope’s sanction. The Renaissance, with its smashing of ecclesiastical, literary, scientific, and political shackles, created a ferment which, as one of its manifestations, incited a desire for adventure, and for the widening of national boundaries abroad. This influence found expression in the voyages and discoveries of Columbus, Da Gama, the Cabots, Gabriel, Verazzano, and other navigators and adventurers of many countries. Moreover, the journeys were westward and southward because the Turks, by the capture of Constantinople in 1453, were closing Europe’s old route to India by way of the Mediterranean and the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris.

Two-thirds of a century earlier than the accession of Henry IV, Francis I, in the earliest of his wars with Charles V, asked Charles to point out the clause in Adam’s will which divided up the New World between Spain and Portugal, to the exclusion of France; and not receiving a satisfactory answer, he sent Cartier and others over to America, who, however, failed to establish permanent colonies. Henry, too, was skeptical of Adam’s intention to shut France out of the New World, and was particularly skeptical of Spain’s ability to enforce any such interdict, because, a year before his accession, the armada which Philip II had sent to invade England had been destroyed by Elizabeth’s sea-fighters, Howard, Drake, Hawkins, and the others. Spain had lost her ascendancy on the seas, and had ceased to be a terror to Europe. Thus at last France’s colonization in the New World had a chance to start in an effective way. Between 1604 and 1607, through the work of Pontgrave, Chauvin, De Monts, and others, Acadia (the present Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) was founded, and a settlement was made at Tadousac, where the Saguenay enters the St. Lawrence.

But France’s real association with the history of the Western Hemisphere began when Champlain erected his log huts on the rock of Quebec in the summer of 1608. There the fleur-de-lis and the cross were established in the New World, with the prosecution of the fur trade with the Indians as the principal object, with the discovery of water connection through the continent with the great Western Sea and a short cut to India as a subsidiary purpose, and with the saving of the souls of the red men as an incident in the work.

Thus it was that the founder of the house of Bourbon historically connected himself with the founding and the founder of New France. To carry out his plans of trade and exploration, Champlain was compelled to establish friendship with his Indian neighbors, and this led to the alliance with the Hurons and Algonquins north of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes, which, on the invitation of those neighbors, sent him on that expedition down into the enemy’s country in 1609.


What was the world doing on that July day of 1609, fateful for America and for France, when, down on the Lake of the Iroquois, Champlain and his red allies struck the Mohawks ? Weakened by his contest with Maurice of Nassau, Philip III of Spain was entering into that twelve years’ truce with him which was the starting point of Holland’s independence from Spain, soon to become actual; the truce, in the mean time, leaving Holland free to push her colonization schemes, which, long before Champlain’s death, brought the Dutch into contact with the French on the St. Lawrence. Philip was also expelling the 900,000 industrious and intelligent Christian descendants of the earlier Moorish residents, thus creating a vacuum among Spain’s industrial forces which has not been entirely filled to this day. These blows, and the destruction of its navy by the sea-warriors of Elizabeth of England, checked Spain’s colonizing activities and left all of North America, except Mexico and Florida, open to the other maritime nations. Portugal had passed under the sway of Spain, remained there until long after the death of Champlain, and when, under John the Deliverer, it emerged, it had ceased to be a great power.

James I of England, the “wisest fool in Christendom,” was, to the embarrassment and humiliation of his own country, soon to come temporarily under the influence of Spain, which, had his friend Henry lived, would probably have been prevented; for in 1610 Henry was about to start on his military demonstration against Spain and Austria when he was stopped by Ravaillac’s dagger, which thus changed the history of new and old France and of modern Europe.

Two other things were taking place in 1609 which were to impress themselves on the annals of North America, and aid in shaping the course of events which created the United States of the after time. In search of religious freedom, the Pilgrims were leaving England for Holland. Eleven years later, these Pilgrims were to form the Mayflower colony, which, landing at Plymouth, laid the foundation of those New England settlements and helped to win North America for the English-speaking race. Henry Hudson, the English navigator in the service of Holland, was skirting the coast of Maine in his 80-ton Half Moon, seeking a short water route to Asia, and on that quest entered the River of the Mountains, which to-day bears his name, and sailed up that stream to a point near the present Albany, at the border of the empire over which Champlain’s red enemies, the Kinsmen of the Long House, stood guard.

When, in 1614, on the North (Hudson) River, Hendrick Christiansen built Fort Nassau, near the site of the present Albany, which was removed a little later to Albany, and called Fort Orange; when, in the same year, Adrian Block established his trading-post on Manhattan Island; when, in the next few years, settlements by Christiansen’s and Block’s countrymen were made on the South (Delaware) River, the Connecticut and other streams; and when, in 1626, Peter Minuit bought from the Lenni Lenape tribe of Indians the island of Manhattan for ribbons, gay-colored cloth, and glass beads, worth about twenty-four dollars, Holland established the colonies in America which Hudson’s discoveries incited, and began that trading with the red men for furs which, at the outset, was the leading commercial activity with every colonizing nation in North America. This was the beginning of the province of New Netherland, and of its great trading-post New Amsterdam, at the mouth of the big river, both of which were destined to play an active rôle in the stirring drama of the after days. All this territory was claimed by England, but political exigencies — the wars which the two great Protestant nations, England and Holland, were waging intermittently with Spain and sometimes with France; the troubles which Charles I had with his Parliament; and the internal convulsions during the eleven years of Cromwell’s Commonwealth—prevented England from asserting this claim in a positive way until 1664, in the peaceful times of Charles II.

On that day in 1618 when the war chiefs of the Cayugas, Oneidas, Senecas, Onondagas, and Mohawks entered Fort Nassau and made their treaty with Jacob Eelkens, its commander, the Dutch agreeing to exchange guns and ammunition for the beaver and otter-skins of the red men, the league was started between the Five Nations and the successive white occupants of the territory along the Hudson and the Mohawk, which was to have an important influence on events for the next century and a half.

Two years later, when John Carver, William Bradford, William Brewster, Miles Standish, and their Mayflower colony set up their log-houses at Plymouth, they followed the Dutch example in making peace with their Indian neighbors. Their treaty of friendship with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, was observed faithfully on both sides until, after Massasoit’s death, one of his sons, Pometicon, whose English name was Philip, got into that conflict with the whites which figures in the annals of the time as King Philip’s War. This long period of peace, extending over fifty years, enabled the colonies in the present Massachusetts to establish themselves securely, and, standing alone, they outnumbered all the French in Canada.

But Henry IV’s death, which made his widow, the weak and faithless Marie de Medici, regent during the minority of the feeble Louis XIII, began to alter the course of events in New France, and ultimately in all of North America, even before Christiansen and Block unfurled Holland’s flag in the New World. Marie, who was under the sway of her bigoted Italian favorites the Concinis, gave little support to Champlain. Nevertheless, in the intervals of his frequent journeys to France, the heroic and enterprising governor helped to fight the battles of his Algonquin and Huron allies against the powerful Iroquois, though not always successfully; for those lords of the forest, armed with Dutch guns, equaled the French in weapons, courage, and military skill, and were far more than a match for their red enemies. Champlain pushed his search for the water-route to the Pacific, and extended his country’s trade with the Indians. His explorations were usually westward and northward, for the Iroquois blocked the path to the southward which he would have preferred to follow. Thus Erie was the last of the lakes which the French traversed. In 1615 Champlain discovered Lakes Nipissing, Huron, and Ontario, sailing his canoe, at the same time, over many streams never previously seen by a white man.

In some of his explorations Champlain was assisted by Recollet and Jesuit missionaries. In answer to his appeals, four Recollets — Fathers Joseph Le Caron, Denis Jamay, and Jean Dolbeau, and Brother Pacifique du Plessis — came from France to Canada in 1615. This was the advance guard of the little unarmed army of religious teachers who, under French auspices, set up their tiny mission-posts from Quebec to Sault Ste. Marie, and from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico, showing a loftier courage than was ever displayed by hunter, explorer, or soldier, meeting death at the hands of the Iroquois, the Huron, the Wyandot, the Sioux, and the Chickasaw, by tomahawk, arrow, bullet, or at the stake, with sublime serenity. In addition to those already named, the best known of the Recollets who came to Canada at one time and another were Fathers Hennepin, Ribourde andMembre; while the Jesuits, who were far more numerous, and who were also far more adroit in the rude politics of the wilderness, comprised Fathers Le Jeune, Brebeuf, Masse, Davost, Daniel, Lalemant, Garnier, Chabenel, Jogues, Menard, Guerin, Allouez, Bablon, Marquette, Aubert, and many others whose deeds fill a heroic chapter in the annals of New France.

These missionaries not only learned the languages of the various tribes, in order to save the souls of their members, but lived their lives, wrote their history and legends, discovered lakes, rivers, and mountains, drew up maps of the regions which they traversed, and gave names to water-courses, and to posts which later on became towns, which many of them bear to this day. In the prosecution of their various tasks, three-fourths of those whose names are mentioned here were killed by the Indians.

Le Caron reached Lake Huron a few days before Champlain and Etienne Brulé, the young interpreter, found it in 1615. Marquette was with Joliet when he discovered the upper Mississippi in 1763. In 1678 Hennepin was the first of white men to see Niagara Falls; and two years later, captured by the Sioux and carried up into their country, he was the first white man to sail on the Mississippi near its source, and gave the name St. Anthony to the falls at the head of navigation. Membré, long a companion of Tonti, La Salle’s faithful and chivalrous friend, was with La Salle when that intrepid explorer went down the Mississippi to its mouth in 1682. Aubert, while on the advance line with the Verandrye party in 1737, was killed by the Sioux.

Even the soberest narrative of those days stirs the imagination. Eaton caught the spirit of that heroic age admirably in his song, “The Order of Good Times,” which was the name of a social club composed of Champlain and his associates in the early period of their work, in which Gallic gayety shone out brightly amid the dark background of their environment : —

Two hundred years ago and more,
In history’s romance,
The white flag of the Bourbons flew
From all the gates of France.
And even on these wild western shores,
Rock-clad and forest-mailed.
The Bourbon name, King Henry’s fame,
With “ Vive le Roi ” was bailed.
O “ Vive le Roi,”and “ Vive le Roi,”
Those wild, adventurous days,
When brave Champlain and Putrincourt
Explored the Acadian bays.
When from Port Royal’s rude-built walls
Gleamed o’er the hills afar,
The golden lilies of the shield
Of Henry of Navarre.

With Champlain’s death at Quebec on Christmas day of 1635, one of the most fascinating personalities among the pathbreakers of the Western Hemisphere disappeared. Soldier, sailor, diplomat, explorer, scientist, and empire-builder, he had the dash, initiative, religious tolerance, and personal popularity of his patron, Henry of the White Plume, with none of Henry’s frivolity or immorality. Champlain gave that epic note to the story of New France which remained with it until, in 1759, New France went down with Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham.


When Champlain, in 1629, handed over Quebec to Captain Kirke, the commander of the powerful English naval expedition, the first of the many wars of the colonial days between England and France was under way. This, as well as some of the others of the series, was incited by European issues. Some of the later ones had American causes. All of them projected themselves into the history of the New World. Most of them helped to shape the events which led to the creation of the United States. Charles I of England was aiding the Huguenots at this time against Richelieu and Louis XIII, but the treaty of St. Germain-enLaye of 1629 restored Acadia and Canada to France. Champlain returned to Quebec in 1633, received a tumultuous welcome from the white and red inhabitants along the St. Lawrence, and died at that capital two years later.

Meanwhile a rival claimant to the possessions of Spain, England, France, and Holland was coming to the Atlantic coast. A colony carrying a charter from Christina of Sweden sailed up the Delaware in 1638, and planted a settlement on the site of the present Wilmington, in territory claimed by Holland, and also by England. Sweden and Holland were allies at this time in the religious conflicts ; but when the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 brought the Thirty Years’ War to an end, and at the same time compelled Spain to concede Holland’s complete independence, the latter country became more self-assertive in America.

The abdication of Holland’s old ally, Christina, the accession of Charles X, who immediately started out on the series of wars which kept him occupied till his death, and the aggressiveness of the intruders, sent Holland’s governor, Peter Stuyvesant, into Delaware Bay and up the river with a big fleet in 1655. Thus New Sweden disappeared from the map of America, its settlements became part of New Netherland, and Holland’s flag waved over all the territory from the Connecticut to the Delaware.

Unlike the younger Scipio Africanus, who, while regretfully carrying out the orders of the Senate and destroying Carthage, foresaw the fall of Rome in the after day, the victorious Dutch general on the Delaware was unaware that New Sweden’s fate awaited New Netherland. In 1664 Charles II asserted England’s old claim to the Dutch territory on the Atlantic coast, and granted it to his brother the Duke of York, who a few years later became James II. While England and Holland were still at peace, four British vessels suddenly passed in through the Narrows, and two of them sailed up to a point near Governor’s Island. From one of them a boat containing Governor Winthrop of Connecticut and half a dozen others went ashore, where they were greeted by Stuyvesant. Requested to hand over the forts and the province to England, “ Old Wooden Leg,” as the Mohawks called Stuyvesant, stamped and stormed, and prepared to fight. But he had neither vessels nor soldiers to cope with this armament. In response to entreaties from delegations of prominent citizens that he should avoid provoking an attack, he ordered a white flag to be run up on Fort Amsterdam. The name of the town of New Amsterdam was changed to New York, the same name was attached to the province of New Netherland, and Holland’s flag vanished from North America. The Beekmans, Stuyvesants, Roosevelts, and the rest of the immigrants from Holland, became subjects of England. Their descendants helped to found the United States, and some of them have been among the most distinguished citizens.

While New Netherland and New Sweden were playing their little rôles in the drama of American colonization, the French were pushing their wonderful series of explorations westward. Their advance brought them within sight of the Rocky Mountains before the British or Dutch had crossed the Alleghanies, if we except Governor Spotswood of Virginia and his associate “ Knights of the Golden Horseshoe,” who made a picnicking trip over the Blue Ridge in 1716. In this work and in the fur trade was developed that strange race of French and half-breed wood-rangers, or coureurs de bois, which was a distinctive product of New France. Continuing the work of Champlain and his contemporaries, Jean Nicollet, with his canoe, went over that familiar western route from Quebec, by going up the Ottawa to Lake Nipissing and thence to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. He then pushed through Huron to Sault Ste. Marie, into Lake Michigan, across to Green Bay, in the present Wisconsin, and up the Fox River. In 1641 Father Jogues preached to the Pottawatomies a few miles east of Lake Superior’s eastern end. Father Allouez in 1670 was holding meetings, composed of Indians and coureurs de bois, at the head of the Wisconsin River, in the northern end of that state. In the same year, St. Lusson, sent out for that purpose by Talon, the intendant at Quebec, went up to Sault Ste. Marie, and, in the presence of hundreds of Indians, representing the Winnebago, Ojibway, Pottawatomie, and other tribes, with a few members of the Sioux nation from Minnesota and the Dakotas, went through the form of “ taking possession ” of the country, in which all the territory between the lakes and the Gulf of Mexico was claimed for Louis XIV.

All of these and other explorers heard from the Indians about the “ great river ” which was always said to be a few days’ journey to the westward, and which the authorities at Quebec, still searching for that short cut to China, thought might flow into the South Sea or the Vermilion Sea (the Gulf of California). In 1673 Joliet the fur trader and Marquette the missionary paddled their canoes up the Fox River, carried them over the portage to the Wisconsin, sailed down that stream, glided into the Mississippi, and thus were the first white men to see that stream in its upper waters. After being carried by its swift current down to the mouth of the Arkansas, they discovered that it went south instead of west or southwest, and that it probably flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, a truth which La Salle learned in 1682, when he sailed into it by way of the Illinois, and went down to the big Mexican sea. There he repeated the demonstration of St. Lusson on the lakes a dozen years earlier, and appropriating all the territory drained by the Mississippi for his country, named it Louisiana, in honor of Louis the Great.

During the days of La Salle’s activities along the eastern lakes, and on the Illinois, the Ohio, and the Mississippi,Du Lhut, or Duluth, a penniless but proud French nobleman, leading the life of a chief of the coureurs de bois, roved the rivers, the lakes, and the forests around Lake Superior, explored that sea throughout its entire circumference, arranged truces between fighting tribes of Indians, made war upon Indians and was warred upon by them, framed treaties which received the sanction of the authorities at Quebec, established trading-posts at strategic points on the upper lakes and streams, among them being one on the site of the present Duluth, in Minnesota, rescued Father Hennepin from the Sioux in 1680, and seven years later was associated with Governor Denonville of New France and with Tonty, La Salle’s old ally, in an unsuccessful war against the Iroquois in New York.

It was La Salle’s hope, which had the enthusiastic sanction of Count Frontenac, New France’s governor, to establish lines of fortified posts at convenient supporting distances on the lakes, and the Illinois, the Ohio, and the Mississippi, to plant a big settlement at the mouth of each of those streams, to fix the capital of Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi, to secure safe communication between that point and Quebec, 3500 miles away, and to make Louisiana more populous and powerful than New France. His aim was to make the agricultural attractions of the Mississippi valley known to France, and to induce farmers to settle along the big river and its tributaries.

It was a magnificent dream, and in part at least it might have been realized, had not a series of tragedies cut off its author. Sailing from France in 1684 with four vessels, and with a company of colonists whom he intended to locate at the mouth of the Mississippi, he missed that stream and landed near the entrance to Matagorda Bay, in. the present Texas, and was murdered by some of his men in 1687 on the Neches River, in Texas, when they were trying to reach the Mississippi overland. A few years later Iberville attempted to carry out La Salle’s plans, which will be mentioned after the consequences of England’s conquest of New Netherland are told.


September 4, 1664, when Holland’s flag went down on the forts at New Amsterdam, saw the whole of the Atlantic front, from France’s possessions in Acadia and New France to Spain’s territory in Florida, pass into Britain’s hands, giving her the most important harbor and strategic point in North America. That was the most memorable day in the history of England’s American colonies between the planting of the Jamestown settlement in 1607 and the expulsion of France from the continent in 1763.

With the annexation of the Dutch colonies, the real struggle between England and France for mastery on the continent began, with the advantage on the side of England. To the 50,000 people in New England in 1664, to the 35,000 in Virginia, and the 15,000 in Maryland, there were now added 10,000 in the province of New Netherland, 1600 of whom were in New Amsterdam, making 110,000 in all the American colonies under England’s sway, as compared with less than 15,000 whites in the whole of New France. And the stupid hostility to the Huguenots which was shown by the immediate successors of Henry IV, — the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth Louis, — which drove them out of old France and prevented them from settling in New France, closed that region to the one element of the French people who would have been glad to go there.

The centralized authority and the military or semi-military training and habits in the French settlements gave their people a readiness, a confidence, and a discipline which, in war, would ordinarily make one Frenchman count for two or three English or Dutch settlers; but this was offset by the greater compactness among the British colonies, and by their vast preponderance in numbers. Six years later, in 1670, Britain’s advantage was strengthened when Charles II granted to Prince Rupert the charter which planted the Hudson’s Bay Company in territory which was claimed by France, and thus raised up an enemy which many of the British of that day believed could be utilized to attack New France at an unguarded point. Moreover, England strengthened herself still further by immediately following the Dutch example in New Netherland and entering into an alliance with the Five Nations, which were to be the Six Nations from 1715 onward, when they were joined by their kindred people, the Tuscaroras, from North Carolina.

These distinctive qualities of the rival colonists — the military skill and dash of the French, and the English superiority in mass and in facilities for defense — were shown in the various wars in which they engaged between the annexation of Holland’s colonies and the expulsion of France a century later. They were especially marked in King William’s War, which began when Louis XIV took up the cause of the exiled Stuart, James II, in 1689, and which ended with the peace of Ryswick in 1697.

The exploits of Iberville in that war, on land and sea, in which he took nearly all the stations of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and several English posts on the Newfoundland coast, captured two or three British war vessels, and sunk others; and his foray southward from Quebec in which, at midnight in midwinter, he destroyed Schenectady, killed many of its inhabitants, and carried others back to Canada, were remarkable for their audacity and success. This expedition was sent out by Count Frontenac, the governor of New France. Others equipped by him ravaged the frontiers of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, one of them, in 1697, capturing Haverhill, within 33 miles of Boston, and massacring most of its people. Frontenac himself, at 76 years of age, led a little army of Canadians, coureurs de bois, and Algonquins, against the Iroquois, and leveled some of their palisaded towns to the earth. This was the only severe blow ever dealt to the Confederation by the French.

Beyond the destruction of life and property, King William’s War altered nothing in the colonies, and the War of the Spanish Succession of 1700-13, which Americans called Queen Anne’s War, made but little change, except that the treaty of Utrecht, which ended the war, confirmed England’s title to Hudson’s Bay, and handed over Acadia, which ever since has been called Nova Scotia, to England.

France, however, now began that, colonization of the Mississippi valley which La Salle projected. Iberville in 1699 started a colony at Biloxi Bay, which was reinforced by a settlement at Mobile in 1711, by the founding of New Orleans in 1718 by Bienville, Iberville’s younger brother, and by posts on the Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, Illinois, and other streams later on. The work was but slightly interrupted by Maria Theresa’s War of the Austrian Succession (King George’s War, as British colonists styled it), which, starting in 1741, was ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.

The ink was hardly dry on that compact when Céléron de Bienville, under orders from the Count of Galisonnière, Louis XV’s and Mme. de Pompadour’s governor of New France, left Montreal with a party of soldiers, coureurs de bois and Indians, all in canoes, to explore the Ohio Valley, to learn the temper of the Indians, to bury at strategic points lead plates asserting that the whole region belonged to France, and to drive the British traders out. On his circuit Bienville pushed southward through western Pennsylvania, then westward and northward through Ohio. In 1753, by direction of the Marquis Duquesne, the new governor at Quebec, the French began to fortify Bienville’s route, the object being to confine the British between the Alleghanies and the Atlantic. They built a fort at Presque Isle, now Erie, Pennsylvania, cut a road through the woods to French Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny, where, at the site of the present village of Waterford, Pennsylvania, they erected Fort Le Bœuf, and then proceeded to the junction of that stream with the Allegheny, where they put up Fort Venango, on the spot where Franklin now stands; the purpose being to push ahead and fortify the “ Forks of the Ohio,” the key to the West, where Pittsburg was afterward built.

By discovery, supplemented by occupation, France claimed all the Mississippi watershed, from the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains. But as England had been calling the Ohio Valley her own; as, in their ”sea-to-sea ” charters, which theoretically covered everything to the Pacific, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and several other colonies claimed a proprietorship in it; as some British traders were already there; as many prospectors and settlers were planning to enter it; and as Virginia was determined to take possession of it, even at the risk of a war against New France, events undreamed of at the moment by the courts of London and Versailles were shaping themselves to precipitate the irrepressible conflict.

France had the great highways of the continent — the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, the lakes, and the Mississippi and its affluents. But along that fatally thin line of 3500 miles from Quebec to Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie, and between these points and New Orleans, there were only 80,000 whites at the time the conflict began in 1754, while in the English settlements extending 1200 miles along the Atlantic coast there were 1,500,000 whites and a few thousand negroes.


Sunset on December 11, 1753, saw two white men, attended by several whites and Indians, ride on horseback up to the palisaded Fort Le Bœuf. The gate of the post was thrown open to them, and they were greeted pleasantly by its officers. The older of the two men who rode ahead was Christopher Gist, a backwoodsman and guide whose name figures prominently in the annals of the Ohio Valley. The other man, then twenty-one years of age, and the commander of the party, whom history now meets for the first time, was adjutant-general of the Virginia militia. His name was George Washington.

Washington handed to St. Pierre, the commander of the post, a note from Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, asking by whose authority he invaded the territory of the King of Great Britain, and warning him to depart immediately. Washington carried back St. Pierre’s answer, which was that he would refer Dinwiddie’s letter to the Marquis Duquesne, and that in the mean time he would hold his post. This response, politely but firmly given, meant war, as St. Pierre intended, as Washington knew, and as Dinwiddie realized when Washington, after traversing the 600 miles of wilderness, beset by hostile Indians, blizzards, and streams of floating ice, reached him at Williamsburg on January 16, 1754.

The first blow was struck three months later, when a party of Virginians under Colonel Trent, sent out by Dinwiddie to fortify the Forks of the Ohio, were captured there by a large force of French under Contrecœur on April 17. Contrecœur built a larger fort at that spot, which he named Fort Duquesne. Washington, with a regiment of Virginia militia, hastening to reinforce Trent, reached Great Meadow’s, on the Youghiogheny, on May 26, where he built Fort Necessity. Setting out toward Fort Duquesne, he came upon a party of French two days later, killed or captured all of them except one, — their leader, Jumonville, being among the slain, — and kept on his course; but learning that Contrecœur, with a much bigger force, was advancing to attack him, he fell back to Fort Necessity. There, assailed by French and Indians, after a gallant resistance, he surrendered on July 4, 1754, and was allowed to march out with war’s customary honors.

“ What a mixture of political interests are here with us that a cannon-shot fired in America should give the signal that sets Europe in a blaze! ” exclaimed Voltaire. Washington’s shot on the Youghiogheny on May 28,1754,was heard round the world. There the first blood was shed in the conflict, called in America the French and Indian War, which compelled France and England to send troops over to aid their respective colonists, and precipitated the Seven Years’ War, starting in 1756, which involved every great nation in Europe, which raged from the Ohio and the St. Lawrence to the Rhine, and from the Rhine to the Ganges, and which, from the Alleghanies to the Carpathians, and from the Carpathians to the Himalayas, altered the world’s map.

“ The Pompadour has set up a dynasty of the petticoat in France, and now she wants to make the petticoat rule Europe,” said Frederick the Great derisively, referring to her vanity, which was then being flattered by letters from Maria Theresa of Austria and Elizabeth of Russia. Stung by this taunt, the Pompadour forced Louis XV into the fatal alliance with Austria against Frederick, which sent French soldiers to fight battles beyond the Rhine in which France had no concern, and prevented them from going to America, where France, as a colonial power, was battling for her life. This drain told decisively against French arms in New France and Louisiana. Among the few soldiers whom Louis sent over, however, was the Marquis of Montcalm, one of the most daring and skillful commanders of his age; but when the crisis came which ended New France’s career, he was fatally impeded by the jealousy of the Marquis of Vaudreuil, the governor of New France.

On Washington’s retreat from Great Meadows, no flag waved over a foot of ground between the Alleghanies and the Rocky Mountains except the flag of France. In the war here which began with Washington’s battle there were many men on the British side who figured prominently in the war of American independence: Gage, who commanded the British at Bunker Hill; Gates, who captured Burgoyne at Saratoga, and thus brought about Louis XVI’s alliance with the colonists; Putnam, Stark, Rogers the Ranger, Daniel Morgan, and many others. In his campaign of 1754 which culminated at Fort Necessity, in Braddock’s disastrous demonstration against Fort Duquesne in 1755, and in Forbes’s capture of that post in 1758, Washington was gaining the military experience which he was to turn to decisive account in the war of which that conflict was to be the prelude.

Under the direction of the Duke of Newcastle and his ministry of incapables, disaster for several years marked the fortunes of England and her colonists in the French and Indian War. Then came Pitt to the head of the ministry, and with him Louisburg, Fort Duquesne, Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Quebec, Montreal, and victory. The Plains of Abraham, at Quebec, in 1759, where Wolfe the victor and Montcalm the vanquished died together, decided Canada’s fate.

Soon afterward, exhaustion seized all the combatants in Europe. On February 10, 1763, England and France signed a treaty of peace in Paris by which France surrendered to England all her territory in Canada and east of the Mississippi except the New Orleans district. By a secret treaty with her ally, Spain, at Fontainebleau, on November 3, 1762, France, as compensation for Spain’s losses in the war, ceded to Spain all the French territory west of the Mississippi, and the New Orleans district. France’s flag vanished from North America except on two little islands in Canadian waters and a few in the Caribbean.

“ So we arc driven out of America! Well, it will be England’s turn next.” These were the words of the Duke of Choiseul, Louis XV’s prime minister, as he placed his signature to the evacuation treaty.

“ England will repent of having removed the only check which could keep her colonies in awe. They stand no longer in need of her protection. She will call on them to contribute toward supporting the burdens which they helped to bring on her, and they will answer by striking off all dependence.” This was the prediction of the Count of Vergennes, then Louis XV’s minister at Constantinople, when the news of the evacuation treaty reached him.

In 1778, just after Gates’s capture of Burgoyne at Saratoga, Vergennes, then Louis XVI’s foreign minister, induced Louis, despite the opposition of Marie Antoinette and Maurepas, his chief minister of state, to come to the aid of the Americans, and he drew Charles III of Spain also into the alliance. Thus by prevailing on Louis XVI to avenge on England the disasters which England had visited on Louis XV, Vergennes helped to transmute his prophecy of 1763 into the history which registered itself in the treaty of 1783, by which George III acknowledged the independence of the thirteen colonies.

After many obscure windings the rivulet of history which had its rise at the Lake of the Iroquois on that long ago July day broadened into a mighty stream at York River, in Virginia, a century and threequarters later. The shot heard at the first Ticonderoga had its echo at Yorktown. In the story of America the Frenchmen who assisted in defeating the Mohawks in 1609 associate themselves with Rochambeau, Lafayette, and De Grasse, who aided in capturing Cornwallis in 1781. Champlain links his name with Washington’s.