Home Table of Contents Next Chapter
The Tribes and the States
W. J. Sidis
73. The French Penetrate the Interior. During all this time, the French settlements to the north, in Canada, had been growing rapidly. Along the St. Lawrence River, there was established a regular feudal system of land ownership and operation, directly transplanted from France, where the "seigneur" was in every case absolute ruler of a group of serfs on his domain. This, however, did not extend beyond the more thickly settled sections. A number of trappers and traders, and another class of people known "voyageurs" and "coureurs des bois," people whose occupation corresponded somewhat to that of the tribal couriers, and who were regarded as a sort of tolerated outlaw class in Montreal and Quebec, maintained relations with the red nations, especially the Huron and Algonquin tribes, the Iroquois Federation being distinctly hostile even when not directly at war with Canada. The European system of surveillance over all subjects was obviously impossible once the narrow feudal strip was left, and the territory of Intercommunication of "coureurs" and Reds was entered; this fact, of itself, tended to lighten the serfdom prevailing on the St. Lawrence, mainly by making escape easy. Just as the English, to the southward, had antagonized the coast Algonquins by a land-grabbing policy, but made alliance with the Iroquois Federation, the French in Canada, through their "coureurs," gained the friendship of the Algonquins, but, by pushing into the interior, claimed as Iroquois territory, they antagonized the much more powerful Iroquois Federation. Eventually, therefore, the French and the English, lining up their various red allies and friends on two opposite sides, would come to an open battle carrying the red nations of all eastern North America with them; and, when such a war came, it would merely be a matter of time before the Iroquois Federation, as the most powerful organization in North America, would win a victory, and place its allies, the English, in supreme control.
The English spread by settling solidly, asserting authority over all of the land in sight; the French coureurs simply established trading communications, a method much better calculated to gain the friendship of the red nations; although, with the Iroquois, who claimed supreme power within their domain, even trade penetration was highly unwelcome, while the English, whose method of expansion worked them more slowly in from the coast, had done nothing against Iroquois prestige. The French advance into the interior was more rapid, and did not antagonize the tribes, so that soon a considerable territory was under French influence, while the English were still confined to a strip of the coast.
French ascendancy expanded in this way in three directions from the St. Lawrence valley―north, south, and west. To the north, the French traders came into conflict with the Hudson's Bay Company, an English concern operating in the Hudson Bay basin, exchanging various goods for furs brought in by trappers and red people. To the south, in Maine, the association’s chief rivals were the "Bastonnais," as the French called the New Englanders. To the west, the Iroquois Federation constituted an obstacle, but it was possible to navigate the length of Lake Ontario and avoid actual Iroquois territory, trading mainly with the tribes northward of the lake, so that Lake Ontario became a recognized boundary between English and French influence. The Niagara River was the water opening in these parts leading to the westward, and beyond the Iroquois land which formed such a barrier to French expansion; but the great waterfall and rapids in that river prevented its use in navigation. However, a portage was established on the west side of the falls (since the east side of Niagara Falls was in Iroquois possession), and the upper Great Lakes were open for French trading and mission work, the Niagara portage being the only weak spot in communication.
It was not long before French traders, trappers, and "coureurs" were wandering over Lake Erie and the upper lakes, cementing friendly relations with the tribes there, who were incidentally glad enough to welcome any enemies of those Iroquois who were so thoroughly feared as far west as the Mississippi. The pioneers in establishing French influence in the upper lake country, however, were the Jesuit missionaries, who, either alone or in company with traders, founded their Catholic missions throughout the Great Lakes region, and who explored the entire lake district. The Missions were unsuccessful as religious propagandists, for the Catholic religion was poorly adapted to appeal to the Algonquin tribes, among whom, even in the lake country, the priesthood was very weak. However, the Jesuits proved very good diplomats, and, in spite of the wide gulf separating French from red institutions, friendly terms were made.
On Lake Erie was established early the mission post of Sandouska―now the city of Sandusky. Explorations for new mission sites were made constantly, penetrating the Straits (le Détroit) which form the inlet of Lake Erie, and through the Détroit Lakes into Lakes Huron and Michigan. The missionaries Hennepin and Nicollet even portaged past the rapids which the French named Sault Sainte Marie (St. Mary's Leap) into the lake of Gitchi-Gumee, which was given the French name of Lac Superieur, or upper lake (mistranslated Lake Superior).
On Lake Michigan a mission was also founded. The missionary,
Père Marquette, had
already established contacts with the various settlements of the tribes on the
Michigan peninsula between Lakes Huron and Michigan, and had heard that the
farther end of Lake Michigan was a portage point leading to a great river
beyond. This was the place decided on for a mission and a trading post―a
strategic spot. In company with a trader named Joliet, Marquette went into the
land of the Illinois to look for this portage, and established his mission at
the nearer end of the portage, near the south end of Lake Michigan, at an
Illinois town called the Garlic Patch, Checagou. At the other end of the
portage, about twenty miles to the southeast, was established the Joliet trading
post, placing the French line of communication in contact with the tribal
communications down the Mississippi, though there was no further attempt for a
while at French exploration toward the Mississippi.
These mission and trading outposts did not attempt to organize extensive settlements in the interior, as the English tried to do wherever they established contact; nor were the tribes converted or subjected, but amicable trade and diplomatic relations were established, as a result of which little opposition was made to French exploration in the interior. French administration and institutions were little to the liking of any of the tribes of the North; but there was no attempt at imposing this way of life upon them, so that friendly relations were possible with the French although not with any other white nation.
With the establishment of these posts in the upper lake region, maintenance of communications with Montreal became increasingly important, and the constant threat of the Niagara portage from the Iroquois became more serious. While the Iroquois' chief allies, the northern English colonies, were struggling with the oppression of the military regime of Andros, the French decided to take advantage of the situation to protect the Niagara portage by fortifying the mouth of the Niagara River, and Fort Frontenac was built at that point, west of the river to be outside Iroquois territory and at the same time to command a range of the Iroquois outposts east of the River. For the first time since the Iroquois Federation was formed there was an abandonment of the unarmed-border policy the Iroquois had initiated; and it was only to be expected that such a change in policy would help to provoke an open conflict.
74. Father Rasles. With the Jesuit missionaries acting as French diplomatic envoys in the interior, a similar attempt was made to aid southern expansion of French influence. It was erroneously reasoned that John Eliot's failure to establish Protestantism among the Penacook tribes made it a good opportunity to promote Catholicism there. A missionary named Father Rasles was sent down from Canada, but was not allowed to found missions in Penacook territory, the experience with Eliot's missions having created a hostile attitude toward all such attempts. The Wabanake Federation, which was closely related to the Penacook, permitted the establishment of a chain of missions, there having been already a nominal allegiance to Catholicism. Rasles's main mission was located at Norridgewock, on the Kennobec River, and many of the Penacook tribes came there and listened to what Father Rasles had to say.
Like the Jesuits in the western country, Father Rasles had little success in the matter of actual conversion, but proved a good diplomat. The main complaint of the Wabanakes, and still more of the Penacook tribes, was the way they had been cheated by the English, who interpreted the settlement licenses given by the Red tribes as deeds vesting exclusive title to the land, and who used that excuse to oust the tribes from their own country.
Consequently Rasles seized upon this point, explaining to the red people that the land belonged to the tribes, and that the sachems had no authority to alienate it, so that the English were trespassers in the red men's country. This was, of course, because Canada laid claim to all of the land of Penacook under royal grant to Champlain; but, put in this way, it was precisely the sort of talk the tribes had been waiting years to hear. The friendship with the Wabanakes was further cemented, while the Penacook tribes, although very suspicious of the Catholic church and the French feudal manors, nevertheless began to feel more friendly towards the French than toward the English, fought shy of alliances. It had been due to a split over the question of a French alliance that there were two federations instead of one, and the Penacook tribes clung to their principles as ever. Nevertheless it became fairly certain that the Penacook Federation would take advantage of the first opportunity to recoup their losses in Metacom's war.
75. The Hudson Valley is Attacked. As we have seen, the Andros regime was overthrown in 1689, and nine rebel governments organized temporarily for the various colonies that had thrown off the yoke of Andros. At this time, Canada, besides its friction with the English in the course of expansion, and its "charter" claims to everything as far south as Philadelphia, was also looking for a port that would keep it in communication the year round, since the St. Lawrence River freezes in winter. The only available outlet to the southward was from Montreal up Lake Champlain, thence by portage to the Hudson, and down to New York; but the way was blocked squarely by the Iroquois Federation which was again backed by the Andros regime with its military forces. This backing was removed by the rebellion in 1689, and the French, with their Huron allies, set to attacking the Iroquois. Besides, the overthrow in England was still pending, with the forces of James II still holding out in Ireland, King James himself having escaped to France and secured French aid toward his restoration to the English throne; while Canada, through this attack on the Iroquois, was trying to take away his American estate of New York. Thus war between France and England broke out both in America and Europe, and it was a matter of course that all the line-up of allies, aids, and sympathizing tribes, should be drawn into the fight in America, as a similar line-up of nationalities was drawn into the war in Europe. Hostilities, which had been preparing on both sides of the ocean for years, burst out into a world war.
The Leisler government in New York, which was organized on a temporary basis, planning to surrender power any moment, was not ready to meet such a challenge and for a time it appeared as though Governor Frontenac's expedition would succeed in conquering for France a continuous strip of territory from Montreal down to New York.
The fear of an attack on New York by water at this period induced the building of stronger fortifications at the southern part of Manhattan Island. Originally there was merely a battery of guns set up at the tip of the island facing the bay, later replaced by a large fort, the Battery, by which name that end of the island is still known.
76. The Rebel Governments. The rebel governments, in the meantime, were attempting to straighten out their internal affairs, mainly with the object (except in New York) of restoring the "status quo ante," of bringing matters back to where they left off when the Andros regime interrupted everything. At the same time, these provincial governments felt themselves to be temporary, expecting to surrender power any moment, and were consequently cautious about altering procedures too much. As a result, much of the land-stealing that Andros had perpetrated from Maine to New Jersey remained permanent, and much of the farming population remained in the condition of serfdom to which Andros had reduced them, although with a strong memory of better days; during the short period while the rebel governments remained in power, it was not found possible to clear everything up in this regard, even though much was done to restore the old liberties of the people, as a result of which Andros's attempt to create a peasantry out of the Yankee farmers was never quite successful.
In New York, the only "status quo ante" was the Dutch rule, so that restoration of previous conditions was not the object. The Leisler governments, however, proceeded to build up some sort of democracy in imitation of New England, whence had come the initiative in overthrowing Andros. However, all such formal changes were granted, not so much by popular demand as by personal grace of Jacob Leisler, who was thus really as much an absolute sovereign as Andros had been, although a liberal ruler. No attempt was made to alter the feudal system in the upper Hudson Valley, that being apparently regarded as fundamental in New York as slavery was in the South.
In New Jersey there was little trouble in bringing back previous conditions. Restoring the proprietorship of Carteret in East Jersey, and of the Penn partnership in West Jersey, practically finished that work there, as further adjustments internally could then be made by the proprietors.
Thus, it was only in New England that the change, both economic and political, had been so great as to make the restoration difficult. This was particularly the case in Massachusetts, which had been the center of Andros's despotism. The Puritan governments were restored, but much was left to be undone. The severe system of capital punishments current in England of that time had been imposed in New England, as it had been in use in the South for the better part of the century; under this administration almost all offenses, down to the pettiest, were punishable by hanging; and though the Puritans restored their own milder penal order of prison sentences for serious crimes, and various forms of public exposure for lesser offenses, the effects of the severities of the Andros regime still remained. Witchcraft prosecutions ceased, though there was no actual disbelief in the superstition anywhere at that time, and consequently nothing was done for the prisoners already sentenced. The trial marriage system recognized in Puritan communities under the name of "bundling" was beginning to break down after the prosecutions of the Andros regime, which, following the rules current in England, treated "bundling" as a capital offense. In short, the institutions so laboriously set up by the Puritans and the rest of New England were disintegrating, without anything substantial to take their places excepting the strife, ever-present in New England, between a population determined to attain its rights and an equally determined power of authorities.
However, these nine rebel governments, both those in New England and their neighbors to the southwest, quickly had their attention absorbed with matter of more pressing importance. It was realized that Frontenac’s attack on the Hudson valley was a danger to all the northern English colonies, and that threat must first of all be guarded against. The New England colonies were, in fact, in almost as immediate peril as New York, there having been even in peace time a conflict between French and English over Maine.
The Iroquois Federation was able to hold off Frontenac’s attempt at invasion of New York, but, in the meantime, persuaded the nine rebel governments that they ought to federate as had the Iroquois. William Penn, who had been an early convert to the idea of a federation, naturally came to the front as an exponent of this plan, even though this federation was proposed for purposes of defense; and Penn, as a Quaker and opposed to war, did not agree with that as an object of organization. New Englanders took to the idea readily, as a result of their previous experiences with federation; while New York and East Jersey, being directly threatened by French attack, were willing to accede to any proposition that might render them aid in emergency.
Thus, in the fall of 1689, the rebel provinces and Pennsylvania sent delegates to a federal council at New York, organized much along the same lines at the New England confederation had done earlier. This organization was, in this case, intended as a council of defense, but, to indicate that it was more than a mere advisory body, no longer used the name of council, but entitled itself Congress. It was from this title that the present federal legislative body directly derives its name. The Congress of 1689 might have had more lasting results, had it not been composed of governments which had not the slightest intention of remaining in existence any longer than was necessary to replace them by more permanent regimes.
77. Scalping Bounties. Under the new Congress, the attack on New York was repulsed by the united assistance of all the rebel provinces. Even Pennsylvania, which had originally been planned as a country without military force, permitted the assembling of an expedition to help New York, although such a plan was disapproved by Penn and the Quaker population, who were opposed to war of any sort.
The northern English colonies felt that French possession of the Hudson would be a threat to all the rebel provinces; Massachusetts was particularly interested in that it had its claims to Maine, which were disputed not only by the population there, but by Canada, which claimed Maine as one of its own provinces. It is questionable as to whether the defense of New York was really in the interest of the other provinces, however; with New York’s absolutist and feudal organization, only somewhat lightened under Leisler, it would probably have progressed better under French rule than as a partner of the New England colonies and Pennsylvania; New York, furthermore, differed from the other English colonies in language, and in still feeling itself a conquered province in spite of its recent rebellion.
As a means of warring against the French, the Congress recalled Connecticut’s experience of 1637, and, under federal direction, the various provinces offered bounties to both whites and Iroquois for enemy scalps, while the French in Canada retaliated with a similar offer to their own people, and to their various red allies, as well as to neutral nations such as the Penacooks. The result was the forcing of most of the neutral tribes on the French side, the English being determined to consider them as enemies. In New England, it meant a revival of Metacom’s war, and English colonists and Penacooks were soon busily making scalping raids on one another, mainly for the bounties offered. White people were easily susceptible to offers of monetary rewards; by this time the red tribes on the Atlantic coast had begun to learn the value of money in dealing with the whites, and such an offer of reward was able to have an effect in 1690 as it could not have had in 1637. This prevalence of scalping raids was found along other sections of the front, beginning with the Huron raid on Schenectady in the winter of 1690. In 1691 there were many scalping raids by the New Englanders on the Penacook tribes, and by the tribes on the more northerly New England towns, such as Haverhill. When such a raid was made by red tribes, however, it was noticeable that they were as yet more anxious to make prisoners than to procure scalps, while the white raids on red towns were wholesale massacres of men, women, and children, with no quarter given, since every scalp meant money.
In spite of the growing frequency of these scalping raids, however, the guerrilla fighting in the Hudson Valley War became rather perfunctory, with the red tribes, on whom this activity mainly depended, being totally unable to carry on the long and vindictive wars to which the whites were accustomed. The attempt by Canada to capture New York had been abandoned, and the French and English confined themselves largely to sniping in Maine. The tribes would have probably made peace, as was always their custom shortly after an outbreak of hostilities, and induced Canada and the Rebel Provinces to follow suit, had not the latter peoples felt their respective loyalties to France and England, which persisted in carrying on the War of the Palatinate. The Reds would have made an early peace, but the whites in Europe prevented them.
78. Down the Mississippi. Before the Hudson Valley War had started, the French, in the course of their expansion into the interior, had finally, with the aid of their stations at the Checagou portage, penetrated to the Mississippi, and traveled down that river to its outlet. With most of the tribes down the river, a friendly relation was established, but some difficulties were encountered with the Natchez, a peculiar nationality differing both in language and customs from the rest of the North American tribes. Like the Iroquois, they were in more solid possession of their small territory than were the surrounding tribes, and the difficulty in establishing relations with them was similar to that encountered with the Iroquois.
The source of this strange nation, and how they happened to come there, isolated among a whole continent of peoples of totally different language and customs, will probably never be solved. The indications are that they were the last remnants of a people who had once occupied more extensive territory, but who were pushed back by enemies to their last stand, a stretch of about thirty miles on the east bank of the Mississippi. It is possible―although there can be no proof―that they were remnants of the ancient Mound Builders who once covered the entire Mississippi Valley. They were sun-worshippers, and were organized in sharply-defined castes, the highest being the Suns, the family of sovereigns supposed to be descendants of the Sun; next came the nobility, then the common people, or Stinkards, as they were called, and, below these were slaves. Despotism was absolute, the domination of the Suns being unquestioned, and numbers of people were sacrificed on the death of any member of the ruling family of Suns. It may be noted, in this connection, that tradition of northern central tribes has it that it was precisely such customs that led to the downfall of the Mound Builders.
These people lived in more solidly built towns than their neighbors the Maskoki, and, while they showed no aversion to trading with the French, their attitude became more hostile as soon as the French began to show signs of trying to establish mission and trading posts there. When the Hudson Valley War began, the French tried to take possession of enough territory for a military post, resulting in involving the Natchez in the war against France.
However, France did not desire to urgently press its claims to the Mississippi. King Louis XIV was apparently of the opinion that Canada was sufficient land for French dominion. The king had so far discouraged attempts at exploring into the interior, and his opposition was only partly broken down when the explorer La Salle complimented his sovereign by naming the Mississippi River country Louisiana.
However, France ultimately proved itself able to outdo the other nations in claiming title by "discovery." It was convenient, in the case of the Mississippi, for France to claim that "discovery" of a river―the same process of finding what had never been lost, and was known and occupied all the time―gave title, not merely to the land alleged to be so discovered, but also to all territory drained by the river's tributaries. This basis of territorial claims gave France, in its own estimation, right to a vague region covering at least half of the continent, and whose boundaries could be variously interpreted to cover most of the other half. It was to be anticipated that any nation inheriting those claims would naturally come into conflict with most of its neighbors, especially since most of this vast area had never been even approached by the whites.
79. End of the Rebel Governments. The new king, William of Orange, had been brought into England as a result of a parliamentary revolution whose object was the curtailment of royal powers and the establishment of a certain degree of civil rights, especially as enunciated in the Bill of Rights of 1689. The ruler himself, however, was totally out of sympathy with this procedure, but had to submit, as far as England was concerned. In regard to his American policy, however, he was not so hampered, although the war had kept him too busy to formulate or carry out any American policy for the first few years.
However, the situation at home soon became quieter, when the "Orange" army had driven James II's from his last stand in Ireland in 1690, and after another few years had passed, and the war against France had quieted down enough to enable King William to turn his attention to administrative affairs across the sea. The absolutism he showed in Ireland, the severe punishment that island received for harboring the former sovereign, should have been a sign that America had little to hope for from him; yet the nine rebel governments which had control of the English settlements eastward from the Delaware were looking forward hopefully to the time when the new king would give them permanent governments, some of those colonies feeling that the case of Ireland might even prove that they would be rewarded for taking the initiative in overthrowing James's rule. These rebel governments all considered themselves temporary, and without authority to exist, because their authority, being derived merely from the people, was not as yet felt to be sufficient, they were therefore ready to surrender to whatever government the ruler should appoint for them.
King William's policy was to place colonial armies as closely under his own supervision and direct control as possible. Both the democratic organization of New England and the proprietary organization of the middle colonies were too far removed from his immediate power to suit his purpose, and he resolved to be appointed by the Crown. Even Maryland lost its proprietorship, which had been unquestioned under the Stuarts. Penn's authority in Pennsylvania was constantly threatened, but he was able to save it from being dominated by royal control. However, it became plain that the rebel provinces east of the Delaware were to expect total subjugation, and they all received it except Connecticut and Rhode Island, whose independent form of government had been recognized by the Stuarts, and which received renewals of their former charters. New York, having been claimed from the start as conquered territory, and having been the private estate of the former sovereign, naturally came under the most autocratic rule of all; New Jersey was organized as a royal colony (the end of the proprietorship abolishing the distinction between the two Jerseys), under fairly absolute control of the governor. New Hampshire was similarly organized under a royal governor, and a Massachusetts charter was granted, giving the Puritan "general court" wide legislative powers subject to the veto of a governor who was to be the king's appointee. Massachusetts was extended to include the revived Plymouth colony and Maine. This readjusted lineup of the colonies persisted with slight alteration until long after England's authority was overthrown. In all cases, a legislative assembly was organized, but in most cases with little authority; in New England, however, a repetition of the Andros overthrow was feared, and it was considered best to give the popular rule more power, although the king intended gradually to weaken popular rights in America until royal rule should be as absolute there as the monarch, from his Dutch experience, would like to have had it in England.
In New Hampshire, this procedure resulted in establishing the popular government, which had always been in conflict with the proprietary rule, but which now lost its great rival authority and gained considerably in power.
In the South, royal rule had always been quite direct, and little was changed.
The new colonial governments were organized in 1692, and the rebel provinces surrendered without trouble. Possibly the immediate threat of invasion from Canada made them more submissive than they might have been in times of peace. The royal governor, Sloughter, arrived to take possession of New York, and Jacob Leisler, who had been governing the province since 1689, immediately turned over to Sloughter his entire authority. Sloughter replied by arresting Leisler as a traitor, and although Leisler could have appealed to the king, he refused to do this in order to show that he had really turned over the governorship to the royal governor. Leisler was hanged, no protest coming from New York, although howls of indignation were heard from New England and even from the South. Thus ended the only rebel leader New York ever had, with a magnificent gesture of martyrdom, trying to demonstrate his submissiveness.
In the same year, 1692, came the royal governor appointed for Massachusetts, Sir William Phipps, with a staff of judges enough to handle all the county and higher courts (for, under the colony's new charter, these judges were no longer chosen by the people, as before, but were appointed by the king). The former royal governor, Sir Edmond Andros, was still in prison in Boston. He had escaped twice, but was recaptured each time. Phipps released him, and sent him back to England in all haste―probably to avoid another King Street uprising; from England Andros was sent back to America as Governor of Virginia.
In Massachusetts immediately began a conflict between the legislature ("general court") and the town meetings on the one hand; and the executive and judiciary, the royal appointees, on the other. This opposition could only end in the ousting of one group or the other, and, the people being directly involved on one side through the town meetings, it was obvious that, in the long run, it was not that side which would be ousted. This discord could be protracted, dragged out, but it could only terminate in the overthrow of English authority in Massachusetts.
The witchcraft prosecutions, which had begun under the tyranny of Andros, and had been suspended during the revival of Puritan rule, were now revived with renewed fury, and every encouragement was given to any fanatic who could accuse anybody of witchcraft. The royal authorities did not as yet dare to attempt abolition of jury trial, but the royal judges indulged in browbeating to induce the juries to find prisoners guilty of witchcraft, in many cases sending them back to the jury-room after a verdict of not guilty, and giving them new instructions which practically amounted to instructing a verdict of guilty. This situation lasted only a few months, during which time the judges just sent over from England, with the help of a few local fanatics, succeeded in hanging thirty-four people, mainly in Salem, and imprisoning a hundred more on this absurd charge. Finally the Puritans could stand the reign of terror no longer, and, by general agreement, reached principally through the town meeting, juries absolutely refused to convict; from which time on, thanks to the decisiveness of Puritan action, witchcraft persecutions were never again attempted in New England, although they continued for years longer in Pennsylvania and in the South. This was the first open conflict between the people and the new royal authority in Massachusetts, ending in a decisive victory for the people.
Home Contents Next