James Pickett: HISTORY
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)
THE INDIA OR MISSISSIPPI COMPANY.
Mar. 9 1717: L 'Epinay, the new governor, and the fourth which had been placed over the colony of Louisiana, Hubert, the new commissary-general, three companies of infantry and fifty colonists, arrived from France, on board three vessels, which belonged to Crozat. Among the colonists were Roi Dubreuil, Guennot, Trefontaine and Massy, men of worth and intelligence, who had formed themselves into an association to settle some portion of the almost boundless country of Louisiana.
To prevent the struggle for power which had never failed to display itself between the former governor, emmissaries and officers of the colony. The King of France, by written instructions, defined the duties of each. He declared that all military regulations, and the "dignity of command," should pertain to the governor alone; but in the building of public houses and fortifications, the marching of expeditions, and the means of raising funds, he was to confer with the commissary, whose joint views were to be presented for the ratification of his majesty. The administration of the funds, provisions, merchandise and everything which related to the warehouses was confided to the commissary, who, however, could make no bargain or sale without the consent of the governor. The administration of the hospitals was also confided to the commissary, with the supervision of the governor. The administartion of justice was committed to the commissary in his function of first councillor and chief judges. The affairs of the police, and the power of conferring grants of land were given jointly to these officers. Letters patent established a Supreme Council of Louisiana, the meetings of which his majesty authorized to be held either at Fort St. Louis, of Mobile, or upon Dauphine Island. The King granted to Bienville, for his numerous services, the Island of Come, not as a fief, but in villageage, and instructed L'Epinay to present him with the cross of St. Louis. These marks of favor did not reconcile Bienville, who considered himself beyond all others, entitled to the government of Louisiana. Consequently jealosies and disputes soon created a disagreeable and unhappy state of things, arraying the friends of Bienville on one side, and those of the governor and commissary on the other. As Crozat attempted to bribe Cadillac, in order to attain his most vigorous and successful exertions in advancing his commerce, so, for the same end, he entered into a contract with L'Epinay, engaging to give him two thousand livres a year, and divers other advantages. The great monopolist had designed to establish a large contraband trade with the Spanish possessions if he could not carry on a legitimate one. But he succeeded in neither, and next, turning his attention to a commerce with the various Indian tribes upon the Mississippi, Alabama, Tombigby, and their tributaries, he found that so far from being renumerated, he had to encounter the heaviest losses. Aug 1717: At length, aware that he had assumed a burthen beyond his strength, he humbly offered to return to the King that charter, the extensive privileges of which he had once imagined would make him the richest man in the world! The preposition was accepted, and the Council of State transmitted orders to L'Epinay to transfer the colonial government to Bienville, and to return to France. The gubernatorial career of the former gentleman was of short duration, and remarkable for nothing, except a proclamation, in which he forbade the sale of brandy to the Indians --- at that period a very unpopular measure.
During the five years of the existence of the colony, under the charter of Crozat, commerce and agriculture had not prospered, yet the population had slowly increased, and now numbered about seven hundred souls. The colonists, also, possessed some four hundred horned cattle. The inhabitants had devoted themselves to a trade in provisions and Indian slaves, and to a commerce with the Spaniards, who, despite of the watchfulness of Crozat's agents, had managed to carry off, annually, about twelve thousand piastres.
The Marine Cabinet of France, composed of De Bourbon and D'Estrees, came to the conclusion that as the enterprise which Crozat had assumed had proved itself of too gigantic a character for any one man, and as it would not be proper for the King to take charge of Louisiana, and embarress himself by entering into its thousand cares and commercial details, it would better comport with the welfare of France and her colony, to turn the latter ovr to the management of an association of men. Accordingly, the Western or India Company, with a capital of one hundred thousand livres, was allowed to take the unhappy people of Louisiana under their charge, and to expose them, once this company were not required to be solely subjects of the King of France, but might be foreigners. Sept 6 1717: The charter, which was registered in the Parliament, at Paris, gave this company the exclusive privilege of carrying on all commerce in Louisiana, for the long period of twenty-five years. It also gave them the exclusive privilege, extending from the 1st of January, 1718, to the 31st of December, 1742, of purchasing beaver skins from Canada -- the King reserving the right of regulating their price, and of determining the quantuty to be sold. The company possessed the power of conferring grants, amking war or peace with the Indians, establishing forts, levying troops, appointing governors, or other officers, for the colony, upon the recommendation of the directors of the company; building vessels of war, casting pieces of artillery, and of nominating the inferior judges, and all the other officers of justice, the King reserving to himself only the right of appointing the members of the Supreme Council.
It was further provided by the charter that the military officers could enter into the service of the company without losing their rank in the army or navy, but they were not allowed to seize. either in the hands of the directors, or in those of its cashier or its agents, the effects, shares or profits of the stockholders, except in case of failure or open bankruptcy or death of said stockholders. The merchandise of the company was to be free from all charges either of entry or departure, and to those portions of the territory where they had made permanent improvements, the company was to have durable rights, which were to extend also to the mines, which they might discover and work. The only thing which savored of liberally toward the inhabitants, was their exemption from taxation during the existence of the charter. The eccelsiastical jurisdiction was still to form a part of the diocese of Quebec, while the companny was to build churches and pay the clergy. It was to transport to the colony, during the term of its charter, six thousand whites and three thousand negroes; but it was prohibited from sending negroes or whites to other French colonies, without the permission of the Governor of Louisiana. The directors were to be appointed by the King, for the first two years, and afterwartds they were to be elected every three years, by the stockholders, each of whom had a vote for every fifty shares. In short, the India Company was granted all manner of powers and privileges.
A celebrated Scotchman, named Law, who was now director of the Bank of France; D'Artaguette, receiver-general of the finances of Auch; Duche, receiver of those of Rochelle; Moreau, commercial deputy of the city of St. Malo; Piou, deputy of the city of Nantes; and Costaignes and Mauchard, merchants of Rochelle, were nominated by the King of France as the first directors for the colony of Louisiana, under the new charter. Feb 9 1718: The company then sent over three companies of infantry, and sixty-nine colonists. The three vessels which bore them arrived at Dauphine Island, and the inhabitants were revived with pleasing anticipation of better times, especially as the great and good Bienville, whom they almost idolized, was made Governor with a salary of six thousand livres. He, who had been twenty years in this wild and inhospitable country, and who, amidst the deepest gloom and the greatestt suffering of the colonists, had never once left them, but had sustained them with his fearless spirit, mighty arm and benvolent heart, was eminently deserving the high post to which he was now elevated. The first thing he did was to seek a suitable place for the location of the principal settlement of the colony. He selected the site of New Orleans, which had long been a favorite point with him, as we have seen. March 1718: He proceeded there with fifty persons, carpenters and galley slaves, whom he set to work to clear away the woods and erect houses, He next sent a detachment of fifty soldiers, under Chateaugne, to build a fort upon the bay of St. Joseph, situated between Pensacola and St. Marks, which, being completed, De Gousey was left in command. From him Captain Roka, a Spaniard, induced twenty-five soldiers to desert and flee to St. Augustine. The post of St. Joseph was soon abandoned by the French, who had no right to settle any part of Florida, and it was immediately occupied by the Spaniards.
Apr. 28 1718: In the vessels which arrived on the 9th of February came Major Boisbriant, who had paid a visit to France, and who was now commissioned a royal lieutenant, with a salary of three thousand livres. D'Hubert was retained as Commissary General, with a salary of five thousand livres. These vessels were succeeded by another, having on board sixty passengers for the grant belonging to Paris Duvernet, which embraced the old Indian village of Pascagoula, where they were presently located. Three more ships arrived at Dauphin Island, which brought out Richebourg, now to act as major of Mobile; Lieutenants Noyan and Meleque, and Daniel, major of New Orleans. At the same time there arrived forty commisioners, with Le Gac, sub-director, seventy persons for the grant of Houssays, and sixty for that of La Harpe.
It was wisely determined to encourage agriculture, as the best means of increasing the wealth and importance of Louisiana; and for that purpose extensive grants of land were made to the richest and most powerful persons of the kingdom of France. Four leagues square were ceded to the Scotch financier, Law, on the Arkansas river, where he was to settle fifteen hundred Germans, whom he was to protect by a small body of cavalry and infantry. The other persons to whom grants were made, likewise bound themselves to furnish a certain number of emigrants. But the experment did not succeed. These great proprietors did send Louisiana a few colonists, but a majority of them fell victims to the climate, and those who survived did not devote themselves to any useful occupation. Among the grants were several upon the Yazoo river, near Natchez, upon the Red river, at Baton Rouge, and at other points upon the Mississippi river. Falling in the scheme to make the colony an agricultural country, by the importation of colonists who were to have settled upon these grants, the company next turned its attention to slavery, as a means of effecting that which was so much desired. *
* Histoire de la Louisiane par Charles Gayarre, vol. 1, pp. 148-166. Journal Historique de l'Etablissement des Francais a la Louisiane, par Bernard de la Harpe, pp. 131-144. 216
The following regulation of the company fixed the price the colonists were to pay for the negroes, which they imported from Africa: "The company considers every negro of seventeen years of age, and over, without bodily defect, also every negress from fifteen to thirty years of age, as worth 'piece d'Inde. *
* Piece d'Inde was 660 livres.
Three little negroes, from eight to ten years old, are valued at two of the same coins.
Two negro children, over ten years of age, are valued at one 'piece d'Inde.'
One year's credit will be given to the old inhabitants for half the price. The other half must be paid immediately.
Those colonists who have been settled here two years are called old inhabitants.
Sept. 25 1718: The new settlers shall be entitled to one and two years credit."
In a despatch to the Minister, Bienville complained that the colonists recently sent to Louisiana, were not the kind desirable; that among them were to be found scarcely any carpenters or laborers, "notwithstanding laboring people employed in the country are paid ten or fifteen livres per day, which delays improvement and causes great expense to the company."
Two vessels arrived from the mother country, and brought the startling intelligence that Spain and France had gone to war with each other. A council, composed of Bienville, D'Hubert, Larehebault and Le Gac, determined upon the necessity of immediately possessing the important post of Pensacola. None of the miliatry officers were consulted in this movement, as they should have been, especially upon the plan of attack. Bienville assemled, at Mobile, some Canadians and four hundred Indians. His brother, Serigny, sailed from Dauphine Island, with three men-of-war, on board of which he embarked in a sloop, with twenty men, made the mouth of the Perdido. and went up the river to meet the Canadians and Indians, whom he had instructed to march across the country from Mobile, and whom he found already at the place of rendezvous. May 14: Placing himself at their head, he marched to Pensacola. In the meantime, the fleet stood before that place, and at four o'clock, in the evening, Governor Matamora surrendered to the French, when he found that he was invested both by sea and land. According to the terms of the capitulation, Bienville embarked the Spanish garrison on board two of the men-of-war, with directions to convey them safely to Havana. Arriving at that place, the governor of Cuba orderd all the French forces to be landed and imprisoned, seized the men-of-war, manned them with sailors and soldiers, and sent them back to attack Pensacola. This was a most shameful disregard of the terms of capitulation. The Spanish fleet, comprising the two French vessels and a Spanish man-of-war, with nine brigantines and eighteen hunrded men, invested Pensacola, and the next day made their attack. Bienville had returned to Mobile, and had left his brother, Chateaugne, in command. Seeing the supoerir force of the enemy, fifty soldiers deserted from the fort and joined the Spaniards, which forced Chateaugne to capitulate. He was allowed to march out of the fort, with the honors of war and to be carried to old Spain. The store ship Dauphin was accidentally destoryed by fire, and St. Louis was capture byu the Spaniards. The commmander of the Spanish squadron next turned his eyes to Dauphin Islandm and presently sent thither two well manned brigantines. To the captain of the French ship, Phillippe, which lay at anchor at Dauphin Island, he sent a messenger to Serigny, who commanded the fort; the latter declined to surrender the island. During the night two brigantines entered the bay of Mobile, landed thirty-five men to burn and plunder the inhabitants. While they were here destroying the improvements of a settler, they were suddenly attacked by a detachment of Candians and Indians, whom Bienville had hastened to send from Mobile, to support his brother, Serigny. Five Spaniards were slain, whose scalps the Indians immediately secured; six were drowned in the endeavor to reach the brigantines, while eighteen were made prisoners; among the latter were some of the French soldiers, who had deserted from Chateaugne and who were now promptly beheaded for their treason. * Two days afterwards the remainder of the Spanish squadron stood before Dauphin Island, and continued for four days to cannonade the Phillippe and the town. Serigny, with one hundred and sixty soldiers and two hundred Indians, aided by the gallant officers and men of the Phillippe, which anchored within pistol shot of the fort, succeeded in repulsing the Spaniards, who sustained considerable loss. The ships of the enemy then set sail for Pensacola.
* La Harpe states (page 155), that eighteen French deserters, who were made prisoners, were bound by the Indians and carried to Bienville, at Mobile, who caused seventeen of them to be decapitated and that the remaining one was hung on Dauphin Island.
Three ships of the French line, under command of Champmeslin, convoying two of the company's ships, arrived off Dauphin Island, direct from France. The two Spanish brigantines, which were crusing in the bay, between this island and Mobile, escaped to sea and sailed to Pensacola, as soon as the French fleet was discovered. Bienville and Serigny repaired on board of the ship Champmeslin, where was presently convened a council, composed of all the sea captains in port, who decided to capture the Spanish squadron and to take the fort of Pensacola. Time was allowed the vessels to discharge their freight and to take in wood and water, and Bienville to assemble the savages and prepare them for the expedition. When all things were ready, the Phillippe and the Union, vessels belonging to the company, were joined to the squadron, together with two hundred and fifty of the new troops, lately arrived, while Bienville, with the soldiers and volunteers, sailed in sloops to the river Perdido, where he was joined by five hundred Indians under the command of Langueville, who had marched with them from Mobile. From this point Bienville sent a detachment of French and Indians to invest the principal fort at Pensacola, to prevent all egress from it and to harrass the enemy as much as possible. In the meantime, Champmeslin entered the harbor of Pensacola, and, after a conflict of two hours' duration, captured four ships and six brigantines, which were anchored before St. Rosa, and reduced the small fort situated at the point of that Island. Bienville, having marched across the country from the Perdido, had advanced in the rear of the town with his whole force. He made a resolute attack upon the fort, which was surrendered two hours after the victory at St. Rosa's Island. The Indians fought with great couarage, often attempting to pull up the palisades of the fort. The plunder was divided among them, but they prohibited by Bienville from taking any scalps. The pillage being ended, Champmeslin returned the sword which Don Alphonzo, commander of the Spanish fleet, had presented to him as his conqueror, assuring him that he was worthy of wearing it. But Matamora, the Governor of Pensacola, who had acted with so much perfidity towards the French victors, who conveyed him to Havana, was suffered to be disarmed by a common sailor, and was severely reproacjhed for his conduct. The loss of the French in these engagements was only six men; that of the Spaniards was much greater. Champmeslin despatched the St. Louis, one of the Spanish vessels, to Havana, with three hundred and sixty of the prisoners. The commander was instructed to demand an exchange of the French prisoners, at the head of whom was Chateaugne, who had not been carried to Spain, according to the capitulation, but had been clodely confined in Moro Castle.
A Spanish brigantine from Havana, laden with corn flour and brandy for the garrison, entered the bay of Pensacola, supposing the fleet to belong to Spain, into whose hands it was now believed the whole of Louisiana had fallen, and was immediately captured by the French squadron. On the same day forty-seven French deserters were tried, twelve of whom were hung at the yard-arms of the Count de Toulouse, and the remainder condemned to serve the company as galley slaves. Thus ended the expedition against Pensacola, the command of which was given to DeLisle, a lieutenant of the navy.
1719: Since the commencement of this year, vessels from France had constantly brought over to Louisiana libreal supplies of provisions, merchandise, and not unfrequently distinguished persons and emigrants, thus adding to the number and giving character to her population, and causing her slowly to emerge from the supineness and insignificance of former times. For this seasonm, and also on account of the war with Spain, it became necessary to re-organize the colonial government in several respects. A royal ordinance decreed that a Supreme Council should be composed of those directors who were residents in the colony, the governor, the two royal lieutenants, four councillors, an attorney-general, and a secretary. Three members for civil affairs, and five for criminal cases, could constitute a quorum. Its jurisdiction was to be the highest in the colony, and its sessions were to be monthly. The former council had been the only tribunal in the colony, but it was now decided to establish inferior courts, of which the directors of the company, or their agents, were to be judges, in places where they resided. These, with two respectable citizens of the neighborhood, were to have cognizance of civil business. They were required, in criminal cases, to add four more citizens to their number. An appeal from their decisions could be had to the Supreme Council -- the members of which were not allowed to charge for their final opinion.
Bienville, the governor; D'Hubert, commissary-general and first councillor; Boisbriant and Chateaugne, royal lieutenants; L'Archambault, Villardo and Legas, other councillors; Cartier 221 de Baune, the attorney-general; and Couture, secretary, composed the first Supreme Council, which met under the auspices of the Western or India Company. Although the governor occupied the place of honor in this body, D'Hubert, the first councillor, was the real president, who took the vote, pronounced judgment, affixed the public seals, and filled the station of chief judge.
1719: Bienville was opposed in his long cherished desire of removing the directors, who dreaded the inundations of the Mississippi, and who contended that the colony was not in a situation to oppose levees to the floods at that point. D'Hubert suggested the location of Natchez; but as he owned large grants there, his motives were suspected. It was decided to adopt the views of L'Archambault, Villardo and Legas, who inclined more towards commerce than agriculture, and who reccommended that a new establishment should be formed east off the bay of Biloxi, which should be called New Biloxi. A detachment was sent there to build barracks and houses.
The cultivation of rice, indigo and tobacco had already occupied the attention of the colonists to some extent, who found the lands extremely productive for these profitable plants. But the climate was too warm and unhealthy for European labor, and hence one thousand of the Children of the Sun, from Africa, had been introduced into the colony, and from that moment Louisiana began to prosper. Nov 26 1719: But many things yet impede its advancement. Among other impediments. the company, to secure the exclusive commerce of Louisiana, issued an edict forbidding any vessel to enter the colony under penalty of confiscation. This was followed up by a proclamation, regulating the price of merchandise, which the colonists were compelled to buy at the company's warehouses, and nowhere else. Jan 1720: It also arbitrarily fixed the price which the colonists were to receive for their product, skins, and for everything which they had for sale.* Gayarre says: "At the present day, we can hardly discover how the whites, whom the company transported from Europe, differed from the blacks, who were brought from Africa, at least as to their relation to the company; for these two classes of men belonged both to one master-the all-powerful company!"
* Goods were to be obtained in the company's stores at Mobile, Dauphin Island, and Pensacola, To these prices, an advance of five per cent was to be added on goods delivered at New Orleans, ten at Natchez, thirteen at the Yazoos, twenty at Natchitoches and fifty at the Illinois and on the Missouri. The produce of the country was to be received in the company's warehouses in New Orleans, Biloxi, Ship Island and Mobile Martin's Louisiana, vol. 1, pp. 218-219.
The Royal Squadron, intended to protect the commerce of Louisiana, arrived with two huindred and thirty passengers, among them were several girls, and a considerable quantuty of provisions and merchandise. Several months elapsed, when two vessels of the Royal Navy bore the intelligence that a treaty of peace had been concluded with Spain. These were succeeded by three other vessels of war, which anchored at Dauphin Island, and which brought with them a contagious malady, contracted at St. Domingo, which killed many of the crew, and filled their bodies, as it was ascertained by post mortem examination, with horrible worms! At the same time, the ship Hercules came with one hundred and twenty negroes from Guinea, and a brigantine from Havana arrived at Mobile with Chateaugne and others, who had been made prisoners at Pensacola, and who were now released in pursuance of the treaty of peace.
So long as the French colony of Louisiana remained in a feeble and thriftless condition, the English of Carolina were content only to annoy it occasionally; but now that it gave signs of durable vitality, under the auspices of a powerful company, they began to oppose it with the fiercest hostility. Rivalry in trade, together with the national jealousy, fomented quarrels, and caused blood to flow between the Coureurs de bois and the English. The French traders also met the latter in all parts of the Indian nations, within the limits of the present States of Alabama and Mississippi. Each contended for the patronage of the savages, and each endeavored to expel the other from these situations where they had established themselves. The Carolina traders, many of whom had quartered themselves in the Chickasaw towns, arrayed that tribe in war against the French, and they committed the first act of hostility, by the murder of Serigny, a French officer, whom Bienville had posted among them to cultivate their friendship. This war greatly embarrassed Bienville, who, with difficulty, brought to his assistance the larger body of the Choctaws. At this time, the forces of the colony had been augmented to twenty companies, of fifty men each, who were required to defend the province of Louisiana, the inhabitants of which were scattered from Fort Toulouse, upon the Coosa, to La Harpe's station, upon Red river. The Alabamas could barely be kept neutral, for they complained that their peltries brought lower prices at the French ports, than at those of the English, and that the goods which they received for them, were also held at a dearer price.
1720: Vessels with emigrants and provisions, continued to cast their anchors upon the sands of Mobile Bay. A store ship brought out two hundred and sixty persons for the grant of St. Catharine, in the vicinity of Natchez. August -Sept: Another arrived at Ship Island with two hundred and forty emigrants, for the grant of Louvre, and was succeeded by still another, on board of which was de L'Orme, now director general, with a salary of five thousand livres, together with other vessels laden with provisions, laborers and merchandise.
Dec 20 1720: In the meantime, the public houses had been completed at New Biloxi, and thither the government of Louisiana was, unwisely, transferred. It had remained at old and new Mobile since January, 1702, but during this trying period, of eighteen years, the governors occasionally resided at Dauphin Island.
A vessel, belonging to the company, furled her sails in the splendid bay of Mobile, and disembarked three hundred colonists for the grant of Madame Chaumont, at Pascagoula, whom the colonial government soon placed there., but whom they forbader to enter into the branch of trade, such as that whic h would result from the culture of hemp, flax, and the vine, or which would compete with the commerce of the company. A ship arrived with twenty-five girls, taken from a house of correction, in Paris, called the Saltpetriere. They had been sent over in consequence of the great complaints made to the Minister, by various officers of the colony, on account of want of wives, and they had been confided, by the directors in France, to sister Gertrude, and, under her, to sisters Louise and Bergere, who were authorized to conduct to Louisiana, "such girls as were willing to go thither and remain under the care of Sister Gertrude, until they shall marry, which they must not do without her consent." The directors or the Minister in sending these prostitutes to Mobile, where they soon took up their abode, did not act consistently with a previous ordinance, which they had passed, that "hereafter, no more vagabonds shall be sent to Louisiana, but that any French and foreign families and laborers may go." Much contention now arose between the stockholders and the directors. The latter were repoached for their numerous outlays, and for the appointment of persons to govern the colonies, who appeared to have their exclusive interest to subserve; and Bienville was written to, and informed that the Regent complained that his services were not effectual. But to arouse all his exertions, the same letter promised the governor the rank of Brigadier, with the ribbon of St. Louis, if his future conduct should merit them. Mar 17 1721: The Africaine, a ship of war, arrived at Mobile, with one hundred and twenty negroes, out of the number of two hundred and twenty-four, who had embarked at Guinea. Mar. 23: She was succeeded by the Maire, with three hundred and thirty-eight more, who were, for the present, all quartered at Mobile, and where they remained in a state bordering upon starvation, from the famine which now universally prevailed in the colony. The Neride also came with two hundred and thirty-eight Africans, the remainder of three hundred and fifty who sailed from Angola. She had put to sea, with the frigate Charles, laden with negroes, which took fire and was consumed, more than sixty leagues from land, a large majority of her crew perishing in the flames. The whites escaped in the boats, with a few of the Africans, tossed for many days at the mercy of the waves, and suffering for subsistance, the unhappy negroes were killed, one after another, for food! The present population of France are abolitionists, and denounce the Southern States for their mild and beneficial system of domestic slavery, and yet their ancestors, in the manner we have described, put these slaves into our possession. So did England, with her men-of-war, at the same period, plant her American colonies with slaves, also captured in Africa. The Puritan fathers of New England, received them, paid for them, put them to hard laboir, sold and re-sold them for many years, and yet their descendants profess to be shocked at the sight of a Southern slaveholder, and denounce Southern slavery as a "damning sin before God!"
March 1721: With two hundred German emigrants, who were sent over to occupy the grant of Law upon the Arkansas river, came also a woman, whose adventures in Europe and America are related in the histories of that period. She was believed to be the wife of the Czarowitz Alexis Petrowitz, son of Peter the Great, Emperor of all the Russians. Her resemblance to that Princess was so striking as to deceive those who knew the latter intimately. The story ran, that to escape the brutal treatment of the Prince, her husband, she pretended to die, and was actually entombed, but when taken from the tomb in a few hours afterwards put herself beyond the reach of persecution by flying to a foreign land. The Chevalier D'Aubont, one of the officers of the Mobile garrison, who had been at St. Petersburg, had seen the Princess, and had heard of her strange escape, now believed that this woman who was then in Mobile was the beautiful and accomplished lady herself. He was sure he recognized her beneath the incognito which she had assumed, and which she appeared desirous to retain.
The Chevalier married her, and after a long residence in Louisiana, most of which was passed in Mobile, she followed him to France, and thence to the Island of Bourbon, whither he was sent with the rank of Major. In 1765 she became a widow, and went to Paris with a daughter born in Mobile. In 1771 her mysterious and romantic life was terminated in the midst of the most abject poverty.*
* Judge Martin, in his History of Louisiana, vol. I, pp. 231-232, states that this woman was an imposter. and that she imposed on the credulity of Chevalier D'Aubant and many others; that she had once been attached to the wardrobe of the Princess whom she assumed to represent, and that a few years before the declaration of American Independence a similar imposition was practiced upon the people of the Southern British Provinces by a female, driven by her misconduct from the post of maid of honor to Princess Matilda, sister of George III. She was convicted at Old Bailey and transprted to Maryland. Before the expiration of her time she effected her escape, traveled through the provinces of Virginia and the Carolinas, personating the Princess, and levying contributions upon the credulity of the inhabitants. She was at length arrested in Charleston, prosecuted and publicly whipped.
An ordinance decreed that the council should meet daily at New Biloxi; that merchandise should be sold at that place, Mobile, and New Orleans, at fifty per cent. profit on the manufacture of France, seventy per cent. among the Natchez and Yazoos, one hundred per cent. among the Arkansas, and fifty per cent. among the Alabamas and Muscogees, on account of the proximity of Fort Toulouse to the English influence, with which the French company were anxious successfully to compete. Another ordinance decared that negroes should be sold to the inhabitants at the price of the "piece de Inde," or six hundred and sixty livres, * in three annual installments. to be paid in tobacco or rice. If, after the second year, the debtor failed to pay, the company could take the negro if not paid for during the third year. If the effects of the debtor failed to discharge the whole debt, the company could then take his body. It also declared that leaf tobacco delivered at the warehouses of New Biloxi, New Orleans and Mobile should command the price of twenty livres per quintal; rice, twelve livres per quintal; wine, one hundred and twenty livres a hogshead; and a quarter of brandy, the same price. It also declared that Louisiana should, hereafter, be formed into nine divisions--New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Alabama, Yazoo, Natchitoches, Arkansas, and Illinois; that in the chief town of each there should be a commandant and a judge, from whose decisions an appeal could be had to the Supreme Council of New Biloxi.
* Equal to one hundred and seventy-six dollars.
STATE OF THE COLONY AT THE CLOSE OF 1721.
"In the vessels which the India Company has sent thither
from the 25th October, 1717, to May, 1721, there have
emigrated, on the forty-three belonging to it, and
in the squadron of M. de Saunjo................................. 7020
These, with the 400 who were already there ................................400
Of this number those who have died, deserted, or returned
to France ...................................................................................2000
To them the number of colonists is added, to which may be set down about 600 negroes."
Mar. 12 1722: From this statement it appears that the colony of Louisiana had really begun to prosper, but many impediments still retarded its more rapid advance, among which may be enumerated its expenses, which, for the year 1721, amounted to four hundred and seventy-four thousand two hundred and seventy-four livres. The company, too, issued an ordinance prohibiting the inhabitants from selling their negroes to the Spaniards, or to other foreigners, or taking them out of the colony, under a sever penalty, besides their confiscation.
Bienville, writing from Mobile, acquainted the Minister with the difficulty of discharging the cargoes of vessels upon the low shores of New Biloxi, and again brought to his consideration the superior advantages of New Orleans, for the capital of the colony. One more councillor was added to the supreme council, which now consisted of Brusle, Fazende, Perry. Guilhet and Masclary. Two hundred and fifty Germans, commanded by the Chevalier D'Arensbourg, a Swedish officer, arrived at Mobile, with whom came Marigny de Mandaville, who had obtained, in France, the Cross of St. Louis and the command of Fort Conde, in Mobile. This was by far the best fort in the colony, and was now rapidly drawing to a state of completion; it was built of brick, with four bastions, and a great many casements for soldiers.* The vessel which brought over these Germans bore the distressing news that the great royal bank, which Law, the Scotch financier, under the auspices of the Duke of Orleans, had established in France, had utterly failed; that Law had left the country in disgrace, and that the people whom he had induced to take stock, found it worthless and themselves ruined. All Paris was in a ferment, and no one could anticipate an end to this long train of commercial evils which the scheming ability of this Scotchman had engendered. The company which had charge of Louisiana, and indeed the chief inhabitants now feared that the government of France would abandon them. But some supplies continued to arrive, in spite of the panic which pervaded the mother country. Duvergier, who had been appointed director-general and commander of the marine, disembarked at Pensacola, bearing the Cross of St. Louis for Boisbrriant, St. Dennis and Chateuagne.
* Mr. E:. T. Wood, of Mobile, who wrote a history of that place, embodied in a directory, which he published, says that when Fort Conde (which was also called Fort Charlotte by the British after they took possession of it,) was pulled down by the Americans some years after the place fell into their hands, that the corner-stone was found with the date of 1717, distinctly engraved upon it.
The failure of the Royal Bank of France, and the distress which it produced in all parts of that kingdom, caused Louisiana, for a time, to be so neglected, that the inhabitants beacme destitute of provisions. The officers were obliged to dismiss the garrisons of Mobile and Biloxi, and send them to the Choctaw nation to precure subsistence among the Indians, while many of the colonists abandoned their homes and betook themselves to the sea-side to procure a scanty living upon fish and oysters. It was even worse at some of the more distant posts, particularly at Fort Toulouse, upon the Coosa, now in Alabama. There, the soldiers were tortured by famine, and corrupted by some British traders, who induced them to desert and fly to Charleston. The command consisted of a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, a corporal and twenty-six soldiers. When the latter had perfected their mutiny, the planning of which had occupied several days, they rose upon the officers, one morning, about breakfast. Capt. Marchand was instantly slain. Lieutenant Villemont and Ensign Paque made their escape through a port-hole of one of the bastions, and fled to the Hickory Ground, a town of Creek Indians, three miles above, on the east bank of the Coosa, and embracing the lower suburbs of the modern city of Wetumpka. Here Villemont made irresistable appeals to the warriors to march against the mutineers. He, at the same time, despatched Paque across the Big Mortar, whom the ensign succeeded in enlisting in the cause of the King. In the meantime, the mutineers, having killed the captain, intimidated the corporal, who now joined them in a general pillage of the fort. They appropriated to themselves the money and clothing of the officers, leaving only the sacred wardrobe of the priest, a Jesuit father, whom they did not molest. The magazine, constructed of brick, was forced open, and arms and ammunition taken from it. * The store-room was plundered of its contents, consisting of a very limited supply of flour and meat. The mutineers, after partaking of a hearty repast, marched off to the Red Warrior's Bluff, ** where they crossed the Tallapoosa and took up the line of march for Charleston. Villemont, with the Indian force which he had speedily raised, marched against them. A battle ensued at the ford of Line Creek, which now divides the modern counties of Montgomery and Macon. Sixteen of these deserters were slain. They all fought with the desperation of tigers. *** The others, except two who escaped. were taken prisoners, and Villemont, who was wounded in the action, marched with them back to Fort Toulouse. Here the fort was found to be in a very solitary condition, being inhabited only by a Jesuit father, who had resolved to remian until he could get a favorable opporrtunity of going to Mobile, not believing that the brave and indefatigable Villemont could subdue the deserters; the body of the unfortunate Captian Marchand had already been interred by him and some Indians. Villemont, the next day, obtained some canoes and placed the deserters in them, in charge of an Indian guard, at the head of which was Ensign Paque, who conveyed them to Mobile, where they were shortly afterwards executed. Villemont and the priest were solitary inmates of Fort Toulouse for several months, until another garrison was sent up the river. The lieutenant had, however, many Indian warriors lying around the fort, who were ready to aid him if he had been attacked by the English, who were anxious to occupy the fort. ****
* Some of the brick of this magazine are
yet to be seen lying about the ruins of old Fort Toulouse, now called
old Fort Jackson, and I have several of them in my house, taken from
** The Red Warrior's Bluff of that day is the present Grey's Ferry.
*** The bones of these sixteen Frenchmen lay, for many years, very near the house which Walter B. Lucas afterwards erected, and where he for a long time kept entertainment.
**** The revolt of the garrison of Fort Toulouse, upon the Coosa, is mentioned by Gayarre, in his History of Louisiana, vol. I, p. 190; by La Harpe, p. 261; by Judge Martin, vol. 2, p, 239; but I have derived the chief facts from Indian traditions handed down by General Alexander McGillivray a very great Indian Chief of mixed blood, who was the grandson of the unfortunate captain Marchand, who was killed upon this occasion.
Fortunately, a vessel arrived with provisions for the King's troops. She brought the news that the Regent had entrusted the affairs of the colony to the management of three commisioners: Ferrand, Faget and Machinet. A detailed account of a great hurricane which swept along the coast of Louisiana, of the desertion of soldiers, sailors and workmen, and a recommendation to allow free passage to all who might choose to retuen to France, as a remedy for desertions generally, formed the subjects of a communincation addressed by De l'Orme to the Minister. While the distressing situation of the colony rendered the offices of the three commisioners by no means sinecures, embarassments were further produced by a war which the Natchez had begun, and the worthlessness of the paper money hitherto used in the colony, to remedy which cards were substituted after the notes were suppressed. One Michel, of Mobile, was the person appointed to engrave these cards.
1723: The new commissioners who had succeeded to the directorship of the company, readily acceded to the long cherished wish of Bienville, to remove the seat of government to New Orleans, and it was accordingly established at that place.* The population of New Orleans, at that period numbered only two hundred souls, who occupied a hundred huts and cabins!
* Histoire de Louisiane, par Charles Gayarre, vol. 1, pp. 166 193. Journal Historique de l'Establigsement des Francais a la Louisiane, par Bernard de la Harpe, pp. 144-289. Martin's History of Louisiana, vol. 1, pp. 218-244.
The commissioners of the company, in a new code of regulations, declared that negroes should be hereafter be sold at six hundred and seventy-six livres, * payable in one, two or three years, either in rice or tobacco. The province was divided into nine districts, civil and military, as follows: Alabama, Mobile, Biloxi, New Orleans, Natchez, Yazoo, Illinois, Wabash, Arkansas and Natchitoches. There was a commandant and a judge appointed for each of these districts. Three great ecclesiastical districts were also formed. The first was entrusted to the Capuchins, and extended from the mouth of Mississippi river to Illinois. The barefooted Carmelites were stationed at Fort Toulouse, upon the Coosa river, at Mobile and at Biloxi, while the Jesuits labored upon the Wabash and Illinois. Churches and chapels were ordered to be constructed, for many of the colonists had been forced to worship in the open air, around crosses, the bottom parts of which were buried in the ground!
* Equal to one hundred and sixty-nine dollars.
1723: Bienville restored Pensacola to the Spaniards in pursuance of orders of his government; for Spain and France had concluded a peace. In a despatch to the Minister, he stated that his allies,--the Choctaws,--had destroyed three towns of the Chickasaws, and had brought to him one hundred prisoners and four hundred scalps! Bienville communicated this intelligence with much apparent gusto, accompanied with the remark that "this important result was obtained without risking the life of a single Frenchman."
Although the colonists often existed in a state of penury and want, they did not abandon their passion for gambling, which was carried to such an extnet that the government issued an ordinance against all games of chance. An ordinance was also promulgated against the trade which many of the colonists were illicitly conducting with the Natchez Indians. The month of September terminated with a dreadful tornado, which prostrated the church, the hospital;, and thirty houses in New Orleans; destroyed the crops upon the Mobile and Pearl rivers; dismantled the shipping in the differnet ports, and left the whole colony in a condition of wretchfulness and famine. Added to all this, a whole company of Swiss infantry, which had embarked at Biloxi for New Orleans, rose upon the captain of the vessel and compelled him to carry them to Charleston. Oct 1723: Yet, in the midst of all these calamities, the indefatigiable Bienville departed from New Orleans with seven hundred men to punish the Natchez, who had recently killed several Frenchmen. He returned after having terminated the second war with them, by procuring the heads of the principal offenders. Notwithstanding the important services which this great man was continuing to render the colony, his relentless enemies sought every opportunity to make him odious to the ruling powers of France. Aspersed in despatches, which were speedily borne across the ocean, he was at the same moment insulted at home by libellous placards in the streets. Feb 16 1724: At length he received orders to sail for France, to answer the charges against him, leaving the command to Broisbriant until his return.
March 1724: But before Bienville embarked upon the broad Atlantic, he issued the celebrated "BLACK CODE," in the name of the King. It declared that all Jews should leave the colony; that all slaves should be instructed in the Roman Catholic religion; that no other religion should be tolerated in the colony; that if the owners of negroes were not true Catholics, their slaves should be confiscated; and that the white inhabitants should not enter into marital relations with negroes, nor live with them in a state of concubinage.
The "Black Code" contained many other aricles in relation to the government of slaves -- some of which were precisely like those now in force in the Southwestern States of the present confederacy. The year 1724 was remarkable for arbitrary edicts; but there was one which was beneficial. The inhabitants had become so accustomed to rely upon France for all the necessities of subsisitence, that valuable cattle, sent to Louisiana for purposes of propagation, were always killed and devoured. An ordinance was issued by the King, at the request of the Superior Council, punishing with death every person who should intentionally kill or severely wound any horse or horned animal which did not belong to him.
1725: De la Chaise, nephew of the famous father of that name, who was the confessor of Louis XIV., presided over the council, which was now held monthly in the town of New Orleans.
Aug 9 1726: But to return to Bienville. That brave man appeared at Paris, after a prosperous voyage, and submitted an eloquent memoir to the King in justification of his official conduct. It also contained a history of the serveices to which he had, from the commencement of the colonial establishment, devoted a period of twenty-five years. But, in spite of his true exposition of his arduous labors spent in the insalubrious forest of America, among savages and reptiles, and in spite of the exertions made by his friends, both in France and Louisiana, to re-establish him in confidence of the King, he was removed from office, and Perrier nominated Governor of Louisiana. The government did not stop here. Chateaugne, the brother of Bienville, lost the post of Royal Lieutenant, while two nephews of Bienville, maned Noyan, one a Captain and the other an Ensign, were cashiered without any just cause. Thus the influence of Bienville was overthrown in Louisiana. In the meantime the new Governor arrived in New Orleans.
1727: Governor Perrier, in a dispatch to the Minister, employed this language in reference to the encroachments of the English of South Carolina:
"The English continue to urge their commerce into the very heart of the province. Sixty or seventy horses, laden with merchandise, have passed into the country of the Chickasaws, to which nation I have given orders to plunder the English of their goods, promising to recompense them by a present. As yet I have heard nothing from that quarter. It appears that a league was formed among all the Indian nations of their neighborhood to attack the Spanish settlements. Whereupon the Governor of Pensacola requested assistance from me. Having no news for our interest not to have the English so near us, and in consequence, informed the Tallapoosa, * who were before Pensacola, that if they did not immediately retire I should attack them with those nations who were friendly to us. I also gave notice to the Alabamas, that if they attacked the Spaniards, who were our friends, I should be compelled to assist the latter. But I should have taken care not to have interfered with the natives who were frinedly to us, in order that I might not commit myself with regard to the English. This had a good effect. The Governor thanked me, informing me that war was declared in Europe. Notwithstanding, I shall indirectly assist the Spanish until I receive other orders from your highness, at the same time taking the liberty to represent that our sole effort should be to prevent the English from approaching us.
* Meaning the Creeks, who lived upon the Tallapoosa river.
"I have caused all the nations, from the Arkansas to the mouth of the river, to make peace with each other. There remain at variance only the Choctaws and Chickasaws, who have a discussion concerning a Chief of the latter nation who was killed by the former. I shall go to Mobile to settle their affairs, and shall take measures with them to prevent the English from entering our territory during the ensuing year, and by degrees to abolish the custom which they have formed, of trading for all the deer skins obtained by the Indians, in order that the latter may nt be obliged to trade with the English to get rid of them."
A vessel belonging to the company arrived with quite a number of young girls, who, unlike many others who had been sent to Louisiana, had not been taken from the house of correction. They were each provided with a little chest, containing articles of apparel, and from this circumstance they were called girls de la cassette--girls of the chest. They were placed under the surveillance of the Ursuline nuns until they could be disposed of by marriage.*
* Histoire de la Louisiane, par Charles Gayarre, vol. 1, pp. 193-235,
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