« FöregåendeFortsätt »
me at last that M. de Saint-Pierre wanted nothing to do with me or my brothers.” “I am a ruined man,” he continues. “I am more than two thousand livres in debt, and am still only a second ensign. My elder brother's grade is no better than mine. My younger brother is only a cadet. This is the fruit of all that my father, my brothers, and I have done. My other brother, whom the Sioux murdered some years ago, was not the most unfortunate among us. We must lose all that has cost us so much, unless M. de SaintPierre should take juster views, and prevail on the Marquis de la Jonquière to share them. To be thus shut out from the West is to be most cruelly robbed of a sort of inheritance which we had all the pains of acquiring, and of which others will get all the
His elder brother writes in a similar strain: “We spent our youth and our property in building up establishments so advantageous to Canada; and, after all, we were doomed to see a stranger gather the fruit we had taken such pains to plant.” And he complains that their goods left in the trading-posts were wasted, their provisions consumed, and the men in their pay used to do the work of others.?
They got no redress. Saint-Pierre, backed by the governor and the intendant, remained master of the position. The brothers sold a small piece of land,
1 Le Chevalier de la Vérendrye au Ministre, 30 Septembre, 1750.
3 Mémoire des Services de Pierre Gautier de la Vérendrye l'aisné, présente à Mgr. Rouillé, ministre et secrétaire d'Etat.
their last remaining property, to appease their most pressing creditors.
Saint-Pierre set out for Manitoba on the fifth of June, 1750. Though he had lived more or less in the woods for thirty-six years, and though La Jonquière had told the minister that he knew the countries to which he was bound better than anybody else, it is clear from his own journal that he was now visiting them for the first time. They did not please him. “I was told,” he says, “that the way would grow harder and more dangerous as we advanced, and I found, in fact, that one must risk life and property every moment.” Finding himself and his men likely to starve, he sent some of them, under an ensign named Niverville, to the Saskatchewan. They could not reach it, and nearly perished on the way. “I myself was no more fortunate,” says SaintPierre. “Food was so scarce that I sent some of my people into the woods among the Indians, — which did not save me from a fast so rigorous that it deranged my health and put it out of my power to do anything towards accomplishing my mission. Even if I had had strength enough, the war that broke out among the Indians would have made it impossible to proceed.”
Niverville, after a winter of misery, tried to fulfil
1 Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, in spite of his treatment of the La Vérendrye brothers, had merit as an officer. It was he who received Washington at Fort Le Bæuf in 1754. He was killed in 1755, at the battle of Lake George. See “Montcalm and Wolfe,” i. 315.
an order which he had received from his commander. When the Indians guided the two brothers La Vérendrye to the Rocky Mountains, the course they took tended so far southward that the Chevalier greatly feared it might lead to Spanish settlements; and he gave it as his opinion that the next attempt to find the Pacific should be made farther towards the north. Saint-Pierre had agreed with him, and had directed Niverville to build a fort on the Saskatchewan, three hundred leagues above its mouth. Therefore, at the end of May, 1751, Niverville sent ten men in two canoes on this errand, and they ascended tha Saskatchewan to what Saint-Pierre calls the “Rock Mountain." Here they built a small stockade fort and called it Fort La Jonquière. Niverville was to have followed them; but he fell ill, and lay helpless at the mouth of the river in such a condition that he could not even write to his commander.
Saint-Pierre set out in person from Fort La Reine for Fort La Jonquière, over ice and snow, for it was late in November. Two Frenchmen from Niverville met him on the way, and reported that the Assiniboins had slaughtered an entire band of friendly Indians on whom Saint-Pierre had relied to guide him. On hearing this he gave up the enterprise, and returned to Fort La Reine. Here the Indians told him idle stories about white men and a fort in some remote place towards the west; but, he observes, “nobody could reach it without encountering an infinity of tribes more savage than it is possible to imagine.”
He spent most of the winter at Fort La Reine. Here, towards the end of February, 1752, he had with him only five men, having sent out the rest in search of food. Suddenly, as he sat in his chamber, he saw the fort full of armed Assiniboins, extremely noisy and insolent. He tried in vain to quiet them, and they presently broke into the guard-house and seized the arms. A massacre would have followed, had not Saint-Pierre, who was far from wanting courage, resorted to an expedient which has more than once proved effective on such occasions. He knocked out the heads of two barrels of gunpowder, snatched a firebrand, and told the yelping crowd that he would blow up them and himself together. At this they all rushed in fright out of the gate, while Saint-Pierre ran after them, and bolted it fast. There was great anxiety for the hunters, but they all came back in the evening, without having met the enemy. The men, however, were so terrified by the adventure that Saint-Pierre was compelled to abandon the fort, after recommending it to the care of another band of Assiniboins, who had professed great friendship. Four days after he was gone they burned it to the ground.
He soon came to the conclusion that farther dis. covery was impossible, because the English of Hudson Bay had stirred up the western tribes to oppose it. Therefore he set out for the settlements, and, reaching Quebec in the autumn of 1753, placed the journal
of his futile enterprise in the hands of Duquesne, the new governor."
Canada was approaching her last agony. In the death-struggle of the Seven Years' War there was no time for schemes of western discovery. The brothers La Vérendrye sank into poverty and neglect. A little before the war broke out, we find the eldest at the obscure Acadian post of Beauséjour, where he wrote to the colonial minister a statement of his services, which appears to have received no attention. After the fall of Canada, the Chevalier de la Vérendrye, he whose eyes first beheld the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, perished in the wreck of the ship “Auguste," on the coast of Cape Breton, in November, 1761.3
1 Journal sommaire du Voyage de Jacques Legardeur de SaintPierre, charge de la Découverte de la Mer de l'Ouest (British Museum).
The above narrative rests mainly on contemporary documents, official in character, of which the originals are preserved in the archives of the French Government. These papers have recently been printed by M. Pierre Margry, late custodian of the Archives of the Marine and Colonies at Paris, in the sixth volume of his Découvertes et Etablissements des Français dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, - a documentary collection of great value, published at the expense of the American Government. It was M. Margry who first drew attention to the achievements of the family of La Vérendrye, by an article in the Moniteur in 1852. I owe to his kindness the opportunity of using the above-mentioned documents in advance of publication. I obtained copies from duplicate originals of some of the principal among them from the Dépôt des Cartes de la Marine, in 1872. These answer closely, with rare and trivial variations, to the same documents as printed from other sources by M. Margry. Some additional papers preserved in the Archives of the Marine and Colonies have also been used.
My friends, Hon. William C. Endicott, then Secretary of War,