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and Captain John G. Bourke, Third Cavalry, U.S.A., kindly placed in my hands a valuable collection of Government maps and surveys of the country between the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains visited by the brothers La Vérendrye; and I have received from Captain Bourke, and also from Mr. E. A. Snow, formerly of the Third Cavalry, much information concerning the same region repeatedly traversed by them in peace and war.
THE CHAIN OF POSTS.
OPPOSING CLAIMS. - ATTITUDE OF THE Rival NATIONS. – AMER
ICA A FRENCH CONTINENT. — ENGLAND A USURPER. - FRENCH DEMANDS. — MAGNANIMOUS PROPOSALS. – WARLIKE PREPARATION. – NIAGARA. – OsWEGO. — CROWN Point. — THE PASSES OF THE WEST SECURED.
We have seen that the contest between France and England in America divided itself, after the Peace of Utrecht, into three parts, — the Acadian contest; the contest for northern New England; and last, though greatest, the contest for the West. Nothing is more striking than the difference, or rather contrast, in the conduct and methods of the rival claimants to this wild but magnificent domain. Each was strong in its own qualities, and utterly wanting in the qualities that marked its opponent.
On maps of British America in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, one sees the eastern shore, from Maine to Georgia, garnished with ten or twelve colored patches, very different in shape and size, and defined, more or less distinctly, by dividing-lines which, in some cases, are prolonged westward till
they touch the Mississippi, or even cross it and stretch indefinitely towards the Pacific. These patches are the British provinces, and the westward prolongation of their boundary lines represents their several claims to vast interior tracts, founded on ancient grants, but not made good by occupation, or vindicated by any exertion of power. These English communities took little thought of the region beyond the Alleghanies. Each lived a life of its own, shut within its own limits, not dreaming of a future collective greatness to which the possession of the West would be a necessary condition. No conscious community of aims and interests held them together, nor was there any authority capable of uniting their forces and turning them to a common object. Some of the servants of the Crown had urged the necessity of joining them all under a strong central government, as the only means of making them loyal subjects and arresting the encroachments of France; but the scheme was plainly impracticable. Each province remained in jealous isolation, busied with its own work, growing in strength, in the capacity of self-rule and the spirit of independence, and stubbornly resisting all exercise of authority from without. If the English-speaking populations flowed westward, it was in obedience to natural laws, for the King did not aid the movement, the royal governors had no authority to do so, and the colonial assemblies were too much engrossed with immediate local interests. The power of these colonies was that of a rising flood slowly invading and conquering, by the unconscious force of its own growing volume, unless means be found to hold it back by dams and embankments within appointed limits.
In the French colonies all was different. Here the representatives of the Crown were men bred in an atmosphere of broad ambition and masterful and far-reaching enterprise. Achievement was demanded of them. They recognized the greatness of the prize, studied the strong and weak points of their rivals, and with a cautious forecast and a daring energy set themselves to the task of defeating them.
If the English colonies were comparatively strong in numbers, their numbers could not be brought into action; while if the French forces were small, they were vigorously commanded, and always ready at a word. It was union confronting division, energy confronting apathy, military centralization opposed to industrial democracy; and, for a time, the advantage was all on one side.
The demands of the French were sufficiently comprehensive. They repented of their enforced concessions at the Treaty of Utrecht, and in spite of that compact, maintained that, with a few local and trivial exceptions, the whole North American continent, except Mexico, was theirs of right; while their opponents seemed neither to understand the situation, nor see the greatness of the stakes at issue.
In 1720 Father Bobé, priest of the Congregation of Missions, drew up a paper in which he sets forth the claims of France with much distinctness, beginning with the declaration that “England has usurped from France nearly everything that she possesses in America,” and adding that the plenipotentiaries at Utrecht did not know what they were about when they made such concessions to the enemy; that, among other blunders, they gave Port Royal to England when it belonged to France, who should “insist vigorously” on its being given back to her.
He maintains that the voyages of Verrazzano and Ribaut made France owner of the whole continent, from Florida northward; that England was an interloper in planting colonies along the Atlantic coast, and will admit as much if she is honest, since all that country is certainly a part of New France. In this modest assumption of the point at issue, he ignores John Cabot and his son Sebastian, who discovered North America more than twenty-five years before the voyage of Verrazzano, and more than sixty years before that of Ribaut.
When the English, proceeds Father Bobé, have restored Port Royal to us, which they are bound to do, though we ceded it by the treaty, a French governor should be at once set over it, with a commission to command as far as Cape Cod, which would include Boston. We should also fortify ourselves, “in a way to stop the English, who have long tried to seize on French America, of which they know the importance, and of which,” he observes with much candor, " they