Imágenes de página

thirteen years, contained at the end of that period only four hundred whites, twenty negro slaves, and three hundred head of cattle. The colony was then assigned over to M. Crozart, a wealthy private gentleman, who prosecuted the experiment five years, and then willingly relinquished his undertaking and his patent to the Mississippi Company, projected by the celebrated John Law.' Placed under a patronage so splendid, the colony became an object of extending interest and sanguine expectation. Several thousands of new settlers were sent out in a few

years. And so provident an economy was adopted for their support, that many hundreds of them perished with hunger and sickness. In 1721,

' every countenance was covered with a melancholy gloom; the sick were without medicine, as well as the other comforts adapted to their situation; and children perished from want in the arms of their mothers. Such indeed, in that year, was the want of provisions, that the troops, stationed on the Perdido, Isle Dauphin, and Mobile, were divided among, and were obliged to seek support from, the Indian villages about the country.'

A war with the Spaniards, in which the colony suffered serious injury at first, resulted' however, ultimately, in an extension of its territorial possessions, and of its means of enterprize, whether in the way of discovery, trade, or conquest. The rapid accession to its numbers, by emigration from Europe, compelled the formation of new establishments, some of them considerably inland. No extraordinary care was used to maintain amity with the aborigines. So far as contrast, indeed, could be of service towards this object, the Spaniards were generously willing to give their enemies the benefit of it,,by acting with a barbarity which no ordinary improvements in depravity could rival. But the Frenchmen could not endure to be surpassed even in impolitic wickedness. The Natchez, a considerable tribe of Indians, had received favourably the French adventurers; had supplied them with provisions; assisted them in their tillage, and in building their houses ; had saved them from famine and death; continued to possess the strongest disposition to oblige; and would still have been eminently useful to them if they had not been treated with indignity and injustice by the commandant of a French fort. They began to take, as might be expected, a severe revenge, but were induced to stop short of its complete execution; and a treaty of peace restored confidence, apparently, on both sides, and really on the side of the Natchez. But the civilized party, the Christians, were meditating a plan to extermination, A very strong military hody concealed its movements so well as to be enabled to fall suddenly on the habitations of the Indians, of whom a large proportion perished in a slaughter prolonged through several days, and not terminated till the sur

[ocr errors]

render, at the requisition of the French, of the head of a peculiarly obnoxious Chief. The remainder of the nation, still considerable, continued to be treated with the most galling injustice, and about six years afterwards were suddenly ordered to clear away their huts from the site of their ancient residence, in order to make way for the establishing of a French settlement, and to seek some other dwelling place. Stimulated to madness by this outrage, but refraining from premature violence, they devised a plan, which, at the appointed time, they accomplished in the sudden destruction of a great number of the French, and the ravage and demolition of the most promising and advancing settlements in the colony. This execution was revenged by measures which compelled the Indians to retire precipitately into a distant part of the wilderness. Thither, however, they were followed by a force which attacked them in such a locality that their most desperate efforts could not avert their fate. A few escaped and incorporated themselves with other tribes ; while the remainder of those that survived the carnage were taken, enslaved, and at last transported to St. Domingo. « Thus the Natchez, once useful to the French, and whose villages contained above twelve hundred souls on the first arrival of those strangers among them, became almost extinct.'

The author bestows ample praises on the Natchez, as a comparatively polished and civilized tribe. "They had an established religion among them, in many particulars rational and consistent, as likewise regular orders of priesthood. They had a temple to the great Spirit, in which they preserved the eternal fire :' and the Major has common places to extenuate the malignity, or at least the guilt, of the worship that now and then (for he seems to intimate it was not a frequent service) offered a human victim in this temple*. He describes also the nature of their government; and the description seems to affirm such doctrines, and to convey such an implication as to the polity of his own country, as the readers in the United States will surely be very much surprized to receive from the pen of an official fellow-republican.

• The civil polity of the Natchez partook of the refinements of a people apparently in some degree learned and scientific; it exhibited penetration and wisdom, and was calculated to render them happy. They had Kings, or Chiefs, invested with absolute power, as likewise a kind of subordinate nobility; and the usual distinctions created by rank were well understood and preserved among them.'-It is added, “They were just, generous, and humane,


way, he should have given his authorities for the whole of the representation of their character and institutions.

By the

and never failed to extend relief to the objections of distress and misery. They were well acquainted with the properties of medicinal plants; and the cures they performed, particularly among the French, appear almost incredible What is much more to their praise, they never deemed it glorious to destroy the human species, and for this reason seldom waged any other than defensive war.'

The grand delusion of the Mississippi scheme rendered the greatest services to these colonies, by the very operation which ruined its dupes ; and “from this period,' says our author, may be dated their gradual progress to a more eligible condition, though it was occasionally interrupted by the Indians, and Spaniards.' In recounting the quarrels and hostilities with the Indians, he is disposed to make the civilized party accoun

table for almost all the iniquity. The savages he admits, were i jealous of encroachments on their ancient territories; but so faith

ful, he affirms to treaties, that the aggressions which provoked so much sanguinary violence, are almost uniformly chargeable on the whites.

The ambition of France, pervading these remote dependencies, did not fail to operate with its characteristic energy, in competition with the growing power and continual extension of the English colonies. Its object was no less than the command, than virtually, for all available purposes, the occupation of the whole country of the lakes and the Mississippi, from the Alleghany mountains to an undefined distance westward, and from Quebec to New Orleans. All possible exertion was made for an approximation of forts in advance from the northern and southern settlements, and for a pre-occupation of the commerce and alliance of the Indian tribes. It was intended to confine the English possessions and enterprizes as rigidly as possible to the Atlantic coast; and it seems that -- the French were abetted by their European government in a series of interferences so hostile and so pertinacious, as to compel their rivals, at last, about the year 1755, into the war which terminated fatally to the French power in America, in the battle on the heights of Abraham, in which both Wolfe and the French commander, Montcalme, lost their lives. This and the other disasters experienced by France, in a period of her most signal humiliation, reduced her to treaties which ceded Canada and all her possessions on the East side of the Mississippi to England, and all her territories on the west side of that river, including the island and city of New Orleans, to Spain. Prior to this period the whole territory on both sides of the Mississippi, situated between the lakes and the gulf of Mexico, and between the Mexican and Alleghany mountains, went

[ocr errors]

under the general name of Louisiana. That part of it ceded to the English lost the name; but the new acquisitions of Spain retained it.'

The treaty of cession was dated 1762, but not carried fully into effect till 1769, owing to a considerable repugnance in the people to submit to what they regarded as a sumewhat ignominious transfer. After being quiet in the new possession a decent number of years, the Spanish government happened to fall on the idea that West Florida, an estate of

our brother of England,' would make a very pretty extension of their pleasure grounds along the shore of the Gulf. The coveting of so good and peaceful a neighbour's property was greatly quickened, while the sin of it, if such a thought ever occurred, would appear to be at least neutralized, by the probability that he could not at any rate, retain that property long. For by this time there were imminent and portentous signs of a grand commotion in the English Atlantic colonies and it was foreseen that if they should become independent, Florida would not be likely to remain for any long period in the possession of England. It was judged expedient therefere to lay hands on it before it should be in danger of becoming part of a great and, by the Spaniards, exceedingly dreaded confederation. Accordingly, a sudden, and successful attack was made on the principal forts, the surrender of which involved that of the whole territory. West Florida, thus acquired, was guaranteed, and in addition East Florida was ceded to Spain at the peace of 1783.

The terms of the treaty opened a wide field of dispute between the Spanish government and the American republic concerning boundaries, and the rights of navigation on the Mississippi; and the contest was maintained with eager interest and peremptory claims the greatest part of the ensuing twenty years: It must inevitably have soon come to the ultima ratio, but for the events which ended in the sudden transfer of Louisiana, in 1801, to the French republic, which about two years afterwards, ceded it, for a pecuniary consideration, to the final possession of the American states. The long series of jealous, evasive, and offensive measures of the Spanish authorities, and of the remonstrant, impatient, and sometimes almost violent, movements of the American population, on the west of the Alleghany mountains, are related in detail ; but are of no great interest further than as leading to the magnificent view of the acquisition, at a stroke, and beyond the possibility of any further question or competition, of the vast central region of the continent, by a people occupying so large a portion of it before, and destined to extend their ever-growing multitudes in no very long time inte the actual possession of perhaps four fifths of its habitable space. There is no other section of our race that would not be elated, perhaps almost as much as those ostentatiously self-asserting republicans, at being able to draw, in lines of fact and prediction, lialf such a map of their allotted quantum of earth, and confound their imagination in the iminensity of such lakes, such rivers, such forests, and such plains.

This historical portion of the work is followed by a short chapter on the Floridas, the proximity of which to the United States, and our claim to no inconsiderable portion of them, says our author, drily, render some account of them of the greatest importance at this time. Our best use of the chapter will be to extract its most reinarkable paragraph.

• One remarkable fact relative to the population of the Floridas must not escape notice. While these were in the possession of the the English, å plan was concerted to entice a colony of Greeks into the country. Sir William Duncan and Doctor Turnbull were at the bottom of this transaction. The country was represented to the Greeks in the most favourable light; they were promised fertile fields and lands in abundance, and also tranportation and subsistence. Hence fifteen hundred souls were deluded from the islands in Greece and Italy, and landed in East Florida. They were planted at a place called New Smyrna, situated about seventy miles to the southward of St. Augustine. But what was their surprize when, instead of cultivated fields, they were ushered into a desolate wilderness, without the means of support! What mortified them still more was, that some of them were tantalized with the use of rented lands for ten years, at the expiration of which they reverted again to their original proprietors, when the poor settlers were once more reduced to poverty and misery. Some of them indeed could not obtain land on any terms. Hence they were obliged to labour for the planters in the character of slaves, and to experience hunger and nakedness. Overseers were placed over them, and whenever the usual task was not completed, they were goaded with the lash. Families were not allowed to live seperate from each other; but a number of them were crowded together in one mass, and condemned to promiscuous repose.

The poor wretches were not even allowed to procure fish for themselves, although the sea at their feet was full of them. People were fordidden to furnish them with victuals; severe punishments were decreed against those who gave and those who received the charitable boon. At length, in 1769, seized with despair and sensible of no other alternative than escape or death, they rose on their cruel tyrants, and made themselves masters of some small vessels. But their designs were frustrated by the prompt exertions of the military; and this revolt closed with the death of five of the unhappy ringleaders.-This transaction is so contrary to the reputed humanity of the English 'nation, that it requires some credulity to believe the solemn report of a British officer, who was an eye witness to what we have related.'



« AnteriorContinuar »