Page images
PDF
EPUB

ILL SUCCESS OF THE ADVENTURE.

305

ble errors or folly of their agents, were they forced to give up the tracts which they had begun to improve, and to select others. They were thus driven back from their first eligible location on the river front, into waterless and inaccessible lots within the forest. Their city of Demopolis was found to be without the linnits of their claim, and was bought from the United States over their heads by a crew of speculators, at fifty-two dollars an acre. The sharking land-thieves of the border coolly “squatted” within their grants, and insultingly informed them that they should maintain themselves there at all risks. Although some suits were decided against these swindlers, yet the French, vexed and wearied with legal expenses and delays, often allowed the interlopers to remain for some small consideration. Without vehicles, cattle, slaves or servants, the German redemptioners whom Desnouettes imported, proving idle, faithless and useless, they wasted enormous amounts of labor and money to raise inadequate crops. Desnouettes himself, a rich man, the wealthiest of them all, expended twenty-five thousand dollars in opening and cultivating his own farm. Their ignorance of agriculture, and still more the unfitness of the land and of the climate, caused the total failure of their persevering attempts to cultivate the vine and the olive, according to the terms of their grant. The grapes, which after many unsuccessful attempts, they succeeded in

[ocr errors]

ripening, matured under the vivid heat of the Alabama sun, in the midst of the summer, and the must boured into vinegar before it had time to ferment into wine. The frosts of the winter, on the other hand, yearly cut down the olive shoots to the ground, and though they sprouted again in the spring, it was to meet the same fate.

Although all their schemes for establishing a settled community were abortive, from the first, and in despite of multiplied mortifications and griefs, of solitude, savages, land-thieves, vain labor, imminent poverty, venomous insects, sickly atmosphere, and exhausting fevers, the indomitable French gaiety and determined lightness of heart procured for them many happy hours. They met at each other's houses, to falk of the past, to enjoy literary conversation and female society, music, and dancing, and the occasional festive gifts of friends; and in whatever distress, seem never once to have abated any “jot of heart hope.” At one of these evening re-unions General Desnouettes, who had commanded the cavalry before Saragossa, unexpectedly met one who had been a leader within the desperately defended town. This was General Rico, a Spaniard; a man of noble presence, of great energy and decision, an opponent to the last, of Napoleon's invasion of Spain, now exiled from his country as a constitutionalist by Ferdinand the Seventh. Settling in the colony, he

or

DISPERSION OF THE SETTLERS.

307

became almost the only successful farmer within its limits.

At last the prospects of the little community grew definitely hopeless; and its extinction was unavoidable. Many of the settlers had sold out to American proprietors, who speedily brought the rich soil into high condition, and made valuable crops; while the foreign proprietors, thus rooted out, were scattered away in many directions. Madame Desnouettes, after an unsuccessful attempt to join her husband in Alabama, at last succeeded in obtaining for him permission from the French government to return to France; but the veteran, embarking on the ill-fated packet Albion, was lost with many more, in that vessel, on old Kinsale Head, upon the Irish coast, and before the eyes of a great crowd of people, unable to afford any assistance. Raoul established himself as a ferryman, at French Creek, three miles from Demopolis; where his striking figure, foreign features and soldier-like air, excited the wonder of many travellers. He afterwards went to Mexico, his faithful wife accompanying him; where he fought bravely in the revolution of that year; and at last returning to France he was before long again an officer in the French army. Count Clausel did not settle at Demopolis, but remaining near Mobile, he raised vegetables and sold them himself in the market. He returned to France in 1825; and became, under Louis Philippe, a marshal of France, and governor of Algeria. The Spanish General Rico, returning to Spain, was for a time a member of the Cortes under the constitution, was again exiled, fled to England, and was once more called to assist in governing his country.

Some few of the settlers passed the remainder of their lives in Alabama, where their descendants yet live in good repute; but the colony, with these scattering exceptions, has left no trace, except the name Demopolis, Arcola, the name of another town, and Marengo, the name given in compliment to a county in which part of their grant was situated.

The whole history of the French power in the Southwestern United States, and indeed, the fate of their whole vast, but abortive scheme of empire, on the North American continent, from the icebound shores of Hudson's Bay and Labrador, Cape Breton, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to the swamps of the Mississippi Delta, and the far distant sands of Galveston, twice unsuccessfully settled by the French, furnishes a clear and decided testimony of the superior inherent vitality and vivid diffusive power which, whether they reside in the physical conformation, the mental and moral character, or the political and religious constitutions of the race, have ever enabled the Anglo Saxons to seize, to hold, to consolidate and to maintain nation after nation, upon territory after territory, in every quarter of the world, with a suc

ANGLO-SAXON SUPREMACY.

809

ence.

cess compared with which the enterprises of the Gallic and other races have been either desultory or transient, or at the very best, have only attained to a sickly, convulsive, unprofitable, and unhappy 'exist

The feudal system contains nothing expansive or progressive. Whatever may have been its adaptation to the Europe of the Dark Ages, it had none to the settlers of a wild, free, forest country. Its doom was already foreshadowed at home; and it was, of course, that a transplanted shoot from the decaying stock should fail to grow into a strong and living tree. French chivalry yielded, after a struggle hopeless from the beginning, to the resistless spread of English constitutionalism ; and the empire which Louis the Fourteenth, the greatest monarch of his time, Crozat, Law, and the company—the best of the merchants of the time-strove in vain tofound, has grown up by spontaneous increase, under the benign influences of free, civilized Christian republicanism.

THE END.

G

« PreviousContinue »