Page images
PDF
EPUB

efforts, has grown to be the second commercial centre of the New World. Its exports in any given year are now greater than those from the whole East Indian empire. It is the entrepôt from the sea for a realm well-nigh as wide as the whole vast expanse of Hindostan. But while Britain derived from the slave trade the means to build up her empire in the East, and thus again acquired boundless wealth and commercial prosperity for herself, France gained nothing from her effort to establish feudalism in the wilderness, but loss, disaster and defeat. The city of New Orleans, founded by Bienville, seems to have perpetuated in its history the characteristic traits of the man from whom it was named. There, dissoluteness walks brazen-fronted and unchecked; and by its side the divine figure of generosity. Nowhere in this country is vice so rampant, and sin so unblushingly exposed. Nowhere are men so openly eager in the pursuit of interdicted aims, and so reckless as to the methods of attaining them. Yet when the fearful figure of the plague casts his dark shadow over the swamp-engirdled town, when the pestilence walketh in darkness, and the destruction wasteth at noon-day, when it may be said almost without exaggeration that a thousand fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, the bravo, the gambler, and the debauchce, forget their trades of crime; the merchant, banker, and artisan quit their occupations; the gay,

DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNAL RESOURCES.

231

[ocr errors]

frivolous and worldly leave their mirth and wine, and all are found rivalling and sometimes surpassing the self-devotion of the priest and the physician; ministering angels in the houses of woe, carrying bread, wine, and medicine to the hovels of the poor, bending over their inmates with inexpressible solicitude, and nursing them through lonely vigils with a mother's care and tenderness. Nowhere are money and life 60 wildly squandered; yet nowhere is wealth so bountifully bestowed in charity; or love and life so freely given at the call of suffering.

The best portion of the inhabitants of Louisiana were as yet derived from Canada. These hardy emigrants, trained by solitude, rigor, and hardship, to frugality, enterprise and virtue, became the most thrifty and reliable members of the new State. Their only property, their coarse garments, a knapsack and staff, they yet possess indomitable courage and resolution, and willingness to labor. Plantations are opened on the banks of the Mississippi, above and below the new city, in the environs of Fort Rosalie, in the Red, Yazoo, and Arkansas Rivers. Rice, tobacco, and indigo, are successfully cultivated. The fig is transplanted from Provence, and the orange from Hispaniola. Neat cottages and pretty gardens cause the wilderness to bloom in many a spot, and all wears the golden hue of promise and success. Moreover, a thriving trade is opened with the countries of the Illinois and Wabash. Lumber, tallow, beeswax, bacon, hides, peltries, are received from these middle regions and shipped again to France. Coureurs du bois and voyageurs ascend the Mississippi and its tributaries to their sources, discover hundreds of mines of gold and silver, which always prove to be copper and lead; smoke the calumet, ne

; gotiate treaties of peace and amity with the distant aborigines, and return with such stores as they have gathered in traffic, their memories overrunning with stirring and marvellous stories, the product of their fancies and adventures, more pleasing to their gossips and neighbors than their substantial gains.

Nor are the spiritual interests of the people overlooked. An Ursuline convent has been established in New Orleans; churches are built in every village, missions established in every settlement; and Jesuits go where

; ever the hardy trader ventures, doing their utmost to convert the red savages from their heathenism. The indefatigable Bienville, dreading the approach of the English and their traffic with the Indians on the north east, builds Fort Toulouse, near the spot where the limpid waters of the Coosa and Tallapoosa form the Alabama. Farther to the West, on the river which bears the name, he erects Fort Tombigbee. No sooner does he receive the news that war has been declared between France and Spain, than he crosses from Mobile, captures Pensacola, blows up the forts, and leaves

COLLISIONS BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND SPANISH. 233

the town in ashes. As the Spaniards by their advance from Mexico, are threatening his western boundaries, having built San Antonio de Bexar, and fortified. Goliad, and even now having their out-posts upon Trinity River, he sends the doughty De La Harpe to protect his frontier, and stay the progress of the invaders, by building the town of Natchitoches, and establishing posts on the upper waters of the Red River.

Between the intrepid Gaul and the polite Castilian in command of his Spanish Majesty's troops upon these borders, there ensued a short and spirited correspondence, the substance of which I here lay before you. The Spanish commandant addressed De La Harpe as follows:

[ocr errors]

“ MONSIEUR: I am very sensible of the politeness that Monsieur De Bienville and yourself have had the goodness to show me. The order I have received from the king my master is, to maintain a good understanding with the French of Louisiana. My own inclinations lead me equally to afford them all the services that depend upon me, but I am compelled to say that your arrival at the Nassonite vil. lage surprises me very much. Your government could not have been ignorant that the post you occupy belongs to my government; and that all the lands west of the Nassonites depend upon New Mexico. I recommend you to give advice of this to Monsieur De Bienville, or you will force me to oblige you to abandon lands that the French have no right to occupy. I have the honor to be, sir,

" DE LA CORNE.”

To these compliments and threats De La Harpe answered, denying the correctness of the representations made by the Spaniard, asserting the right of the French to maintain themselves where he was then in position, and ending with the following pithy phrases :

“It was the French who first made alliances with the savage tribes in these regions; and it is natural to conclude that a river which flows into the Mississippi and the lands it waters, belong to the king my master. If you will do me the pleasure to come into this quarter, I will convince you that I hold a post which I know how to defend. I have the honor to be, sir,

“ DE LA HARPE."

The Spanish commander discreetly refrained from any attempt to make good his threats; both French and Spaniards maintained their advanced posts, the nearest being only nine miles apart; and their conflicting claims were only merged in the cession to Spain, 1762.

The indefatigable Bienville, not satisfied with guiding the interior concerns of his favorite colony, with infinite negotiations and intrigues, supported where necessary with unscrupulous violence, among the various Indian tribes of the Muscogee confederacy, the Natchez and those west of the Mississippi River, had in view the accomplishment of a vast scheme for the establishment of the French authority in Louisiana upon an impregnable basis. In the year 1723, after many efforts, he succeeded in causing the transfer of the seat of government from the hopeless sand-beach at Biloxi to his settlement of New

« PreviousContinue »