The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter I
Part III

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


In a few weeks he set out at the head of twelve hundred whites and a hundred Indian allies. Passing down Lake Champlain, they came into the Mohawk country in October. They destroyed every town, and set up the arms of France in the chief fort. Then De Tracy returned to Quebec and commanded the Mohawks to follows him, to know his terms of peace. The Mohawk chieftains went to Governor Nicolls for advice. He counselled peace, but strongly recommended that they make it clear to the French that they recognized the right only of the English to be in the Mohawk country. However, the sword is a stronger persuader, and when the chieftains, in the following spring, went to Quebec it was to promise allegiance to the King of France, and to permit Catholic priests to come among them. Tracy had returned to France by this time, but Courcelles, who was now Governor-General of Canada, accepted the obviously sincere submission of the Mohawks.

The Canadian situation was now better than it had ever been. The most disturbing hindrance to the progress of the French was removed and the greater empire-building plans might now be given more direct attention. Indeed, the English had reason to remember this treaty, which exposed the whole northern frontier to French attack. In July, 1667, six Jesuits were assigned to the Iroquois Nations: Father Jacques Bruyas set up a mission, that of St. Francis Xavier, among the Oneidas, and Father Fremin, on September 14,1667, established another among the Mohawks--the Mission of St. Mary of the Mohawks, on the site of the Mission of the Martyrs. The priests gained such recognition among the Mohawks that when the latter went out to fight the Mohicans "a priest accompanied the war party to invoke the divine blessing on each step of the bloody enterprise."

Peace came in Europe to give England a respite, and save the colonists from bloodier war than they had yet experienced. The Treaty of Breda (July, 1667,) confirmed England in the possession of New Netherland, though the one signed with France at the same time restored Nova Scotia to the French. This had been nominally an English possession since the seizure of it by a Cromwellian expedition in 1654. Puritan New England viewed with grave apprehension the return of Nova Scotia (Acadie) to France, for it brought the catholic power so much nearer: but the restoration did not trouble New Yorkers much, they looked upon the future hopefully when, in January, 1668, Governor Nicolls made known the terms of the Treaty of Breda.

Colonel Nicolls was permitted to transfer the Governorship to another in that year. He returned to England well spoken of . His administration had been good. He had handled a difficult situation with tact and toleration, and had thrown off the French threat with sound diplomatic logic. Maverick, his fellow-commissioner, wrote that Nicolls had done "His Majesty and His royal Highness very considerable service in these parts," having "by his prudent management of affairs kept persons of different judgments and of diverse nations in peace and quietness during the time when a great part of the world was in wars." Furthermore, the late governor had brought the "several nations of Indians. . .into such a peaceful posture and faire correspondence" as had never been known before.

Unfortunately, for England, the "peaceful posture" leaned more toward the French than the English. Those pioneers of empire, the Jesuits, paved the way for the civil servants of France by Christianizing the Indians. At least, they strove to do so, though Frontenac a few years later found that they hindered rather then helped him in his plans of empire. He denounced their missions as "mockery," and declared that the Jesuit fathers thought more of "beaver skins than of souls." They may not have succeeded notably in their evangelizing effort, but certainly they spread good will toward France among the tribes in a more effective way than the Quebec Government could by the sword.

For instance, Chief Garakontie, in 1669, was baptized. He took the name of Daniel, and, in eulogy, the Jesuits made it clear to him that he was "the protector of the French crown in this country."

France was becoming so active in Northern and Western, and indeed, in Central, New York that the English became positively uneasy as to the future of the province. In 1669 René Robert Cavalier la Salle, "a Jesuit of rare capacity for affairs," had communication with the Senecas, with great empire-building projects in mind. He formally took "possession for King Louis of the country to the south as well as the north and west of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie." In 1671 governor General Courcelles showed more positive signs of asserting French sovereignty, regardless of English occupation. At great cost, he began to prepare an expeditionary force on the St. Lawrence, and to show ominous activity on the frontier. So much so that Lovelace, the New York Governor had to reassure the people of Albany. He argued that "it was very improbable that when there was not war in Europe Courcelles would begin one in America."

However, they had not long to wait, although when war did come, in 1672, France, by one of the tortuous under-currents of international politics which are only chartable along the ever-shifting river-bed of self-interest, was found to be at the side of England, her adversary of 1666-67. It was, as we have seen, the self-interest of English kings rather then of peoples. Possibly this explains the apathy of the English settlers in New York in refusing to rally to the defense of the colony when attacked by a Dutch fleet, which suddenly appeared in New York Harbor in 1673.

The second and very brief Dutch period of government in New York is referred to elsewhere, and need not enter into this chapter further than to point out that by the separate treaty signed in 1674, by England and the United Netherlands, Dutch sovereignty in any part of North America passed away forever. Colve, the Dutch naval officer, who had been left in New York, in 1673, to administer the retaken new Netherland had looked in vain for a supporting Dutch fleet. The English settlers had looked just as longingly for the appearance of an English squadron. Neither provincial group knew that the terrible naval battle of 1672 had been followed in 1673, by another, at the mouth of the Texel, an engagement so sanguinary and indecisive that "each of the crippled armaments" the Dutch and the English fleets, had been forced to withdraw, "dragging their bloody length across the sea." Again, the Dutch of New Netherland did not know that the defender of their nation and faith, William of Orange, had had to give the homeland literally back to the sea, when he had ordered the dykes to be opened. Certainly, they could not conceive it possible that William, even in this predicament, would have fastened his destiny and that of the Dutch people to an easterly, not a westerly New Netherland beyond the seas; but he did so.

Hence, the Dutch, as a governing power, passed out of the American picture, and France began to show in brighter colors than ever. The struggle for supremacy in North America now lay, importantly, between England and France, with Louis now undoubtedly the arbiter of Europe and France the mistress of the Seas. The only reassurance that the English in America could find in the situation was that France and England had recently been allies.

As a matter of fact, the relation of the French and English colonial governments were not positively hostile during the next decade, although never harmonious. New York, under Andros, Dongan, and Nicholson began to define more positively its territorial boundaries, and to protest against French encroachments. On the other hand, the French governor, Frontenac and La Barre, seemed more engrossed in the problem of protecting their western trade from Iroquois interference than in plans for attacking English colonies. Count Frontenac, a French soldier of repute, became Governor of Canada in 1672. He was then fifty-two years old, a strong personality. He ably supported La Salle in the western aims of the latter; and for a time he impressed the Iroquois favorably. Frontenac addressed the Iroquois as "children," rather then as "brothers," which ad been the attitude of former French governors. By inference, Frontenac placed the Iroquois under the protection of France, and being children he expected them to obey his commands. Where Kingston, Ontario, now stands, he built Fort Frontenac, intending that this should be his base of operations against, or with, the Iroquois. La Salle became commandant, and from that vantage point spread his influence over the Iroquois lands, and soon went very far beyond. However, Frontenac could not tolerate the interference of Jesuits in governmental affairs. He seemingly did not realize how powerfully entrenched in colonial land home influence the church really was. At all events, in this clash with the church Frontenac was destined to fall. He was recalled in 1682, and Governor De la Barre took up his authority.

The decade of administration under Frontenac had been one of nominal peace between the Iroquois and Canada; yet the former had been most troublesome. They had carried war to other Indian nations with which the French were developing important trading relations. It began to seem as if the English were inciting them to these forays, which were so disturbing tithe plans of the French. As a matter of fact, however, the Iroquois Confederacy--the five nations of the so-called "Long House"--was developing its own "golden age" the century of tribal domination which began with there extermination of the Eries in 1635. The tribal neighbors of the Iroquois Confederacy naturally envied the Iroquois their power, and lost no opportunity of weakening them. For their own protection, the Iroquois, centering from New York, were compelled to reach out north and west and south, and to some extent to the Eastward, striving to cripple their enemies, who would otherwise have crippled them. In fighting against Huron and Illinois tribes the French supposed that the Iroquois were incited by the English; and the latter saw in Iroquois activity in Maryland and Virginia the sinister influence of the black-robed priests of New France. The truth was, however, that the Iroquois were fighting for their own national gain, regardless of either French or English. When La Barre led a disastrous expedition against the Iroquois in 1684, and asked them "to give indemnity for past wrongs and pledges for good behavior,' one of the chieftains, Garangula, frankly replied: "We are born free; we depend neither upon Onontio (France) nor Corlear (England)."

Another Governor was sent out to Canada. He, the Marquis Denonville, was firmly convinced that the English were the chief fomenters of all the trouble they had had with the Iroquois. He looked askance at the activity of the Dutch and English fur traders along trade routes which he deemed to belong irrevocably to France. As he viewed the situation, La Salle had, in 1669, established France's claim to all lands north and south of Lakes Ontario and Erie. In any case, no other nation had sovereign right to western New York after march, 1670, when the Sulpician priest, Francois Dollier de Casson and the mathematician René de Galinée erected a cross on the shore of Lake Erie and took formal possession of the :lands of the lake named Erie," in the name of Louis the Fourteenth and under the spiritual jurisdiction of Pope Clement X. Nevertheless, daring Dutch and English fur traders from Albany had been pushing into this forbidden land, following the warpaths of the Iroquois. A party of Dutch and English traders who went westward in 1684, and another similar intruding party in 1685, were captured by the French and taken to Niagara. Heated correspondence between the two Governors, Dongan, of New York, and Denonville, of New France, followed. Both claimed the region, Dongan demanding the return of the prisoners, both white and red. Dongan disputed the right of the French to control the trade of the West, and, on June 20, 1687, Governor Dongan "urged the first claim of entire mastery of the country south of Lake Ontario." In a communication to Denonville, under this date, is a paragraph which reads: "I hope your Excellency will be so kind as not to desire or seek any correspondence with out Indians on this side of the Great lake; if they amiss to any of your government, and you make it known to me, you shall have all justice done."

The Iroquois were no longer making any pretense of being under the nominal protection of France. Indeed, they had positively switched to the English. They began to call Dongan, "Father Corlear," instead of "Brother Corlear" as formerly, though while thus seeming to put themselves under British protection they apparently had no such intention. They merely wished to show themselves more favorably disposed to their southern invaders than their northern. Soon, however, action by France was to send the Iroquois into the English camp.

Denonville was determined to assert sovereign rule of France over all territory that was needed to protect her trade routes. He had a strong force of soldiery, and made active preparation to use it. He believed that unless he dealt sternly with the Iroquois nations, France might as well give up her western aspirations. So, with an army of 2,000, the majority of whom were regular from France, he began an invasion of the Iroquois region. Some Iroquois bands had settled on the north side of Lake Ontario, near Fort Frontenac. These he enticed to the fort "on [pretense of a feast." Wit them went some ambassadors from other tribes wishful to stay the advance of the French by peaceful means if possible. Denonville seized all who came. Some were sent to France, to go as slaves to the galleys; others were tied to posts and tortured. Denonville thought that the Indians would recognize no other force than savagery. Yet, the Iroquois were soon to demonstrate that they could be just as humane as the most Christian white people. When the Onondagas heard of the cruelties suffered by their unfortunate tribesmen captured at Fort Frontenac, their first thought was revenge. Yet, they would not inflict it upon defenseless innocents. Father Lamberville, who was with them was sent out of their country under adequate escort to ensure his safety. This done, they severed all connection with France and the Church, and applied themselves to matters of war.

Denonville crossed to the south of Lake Ontario, landing in Irondequoit Bay. There he was joined by a thousand French and Indians from the West. They were led by De Tonty and La Durantaye. With them came, in captivity, some Dutch and English traders who had been captured on the upper lakes. Denonville led his great army into the Seneca country, but suffered a check near the present site of Victor, New York. Some Frenchmen were killed in an ambush, but more Indians lost their lives. The Senecas followed the usual forest tactics of Indian warfare and Denonville apparently thought that the destruction of the Indian village and provisions was sufficient punishment to bring the Seneca into good correspondence again. So he returned to the bay and from there went on to Niagara, at which point he erected a fort. Dort Denonville became his advance base of operations, and at the same time guarded the gateway to the West. Scurvy put an end to his Niagara stronghold during the next winter, while the vigorous Iroquois nation were organizing their strength. Denonville withdrew the remnant of his force, and prepared to meet the onslaught. Meanwhile, the New York Governor strongly protested to his home authorities against the intrusion of the French. At the same time Denonville was appealing to Louis for forces adequate for the task of conquering New York, the acquisition of which would, it was said, "render His majesty master of all North America." Words undoubtedly would soon end in blows. One of the two white nations must give way; there was no room for both in America.

However, Denonville was to find that he had more than he could cope with in the New York Indians. Nothing could allay the fever of hatred that burned within the breasts of the revengeful Iroquois. The Confederacy never for a moment forgot those unfortunate brothers who had been tortured and burned at the stake. They did not forget those who had been sent to the galleys. The Iroquois characteristic was not of the type that "turns of the other cheek," while the one still smarts. They went forward with their war plans. In 1689 they were "on the warpath"; and their fury carried them far. Gliding like shadows along the Great Warpath, they came with knife and tomahawk and torch upon defenseless Canadian settlements, blotting them out, and passing on to Montreal. "So swift and sure was the vengeance of the Indians, so unable was he to meet it adequately, that Denonville felt impelled to sue for peace." This failed, and in august, 1689, hordes of savages closed in on Montreal. An awful massacre occurred during the night of Adjust 4. Apparently the soldiers in Montreal were powerless to prevent it. It is said that in the presence of the "screeches of the Indians and the screams of their victims,' ion the horrors, the tortures, the slaughter of that night, "the hearts of the French soldiers in Montreal were turned to water in their breasts." With Fort Frontenac destroyed, and the savage enemy under the walls of Montreal, Denonville had to accept a truce "on the "terms proposed by Corlear." In other words, he had to bow to the supremacy of the English in the countries of the Iroquois Nations.

Denonville did not advance the fortunes of France in the New World, so he had to give way to a stronger Governor, for there was particular reason why Louis should be desirous of having his will unchallenged on this continent, as well as at home. Those of the British colonies who were conversant with European affairs--there were probably few outside of government circles who were--were somewhat uneasy of mind as to their own personal safety. They were being oppressed by their own Governors, but a graver danger hovered over them. Not so ominously over then as over the poor unfortunate refugees who had recently south a haven among them. Fortunately, the exhaustion that inevitably follows in the wake of war made it impossible for Louis to reach out as vindictively and powerfully as he otherwise might have. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, was marked by the execution of thousands of good Frenchmen upon the scaffolds of France.

Louis had resolved upon a untied Catholic nation. He forbade Huguenots to leave the country "under pain of the galleys for life"; nevertheless 200,000 Protestants crossed the frontiers in a short time. Some going into Germany, some into Holland, and a great number across the English Channel into Britain. Many of the greatest and most useful men of France were expatriated. The king, in person, urged Duquesne to abjure the Protestant faith. That old sailor, then eighty-four years old, one of the great seamen who had made France Mistress of the Seas, calmly but finally refused. He replied" "I have rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caeser's for sixty years. Permit me, therefore, to render unto God the thins that are God's." He was permitted to live out his few remaining days in peace, but he was an exception.

As never before the Protestant nations of Europe were aroused. Calvinist refugees made whole regiments, eager to fight. Action in England was most marked. Indeed, The Revolution of 1688-89, which exiled James II., who had succeeded his brother, Charles II, in 1685, was the answer of the Protestant powers to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. England, strengthened in moral courage by the great Dutch leader, William, who was to become their King, assumed the role of the defender of Protestantism. A bloody and protracted struggle was to ensue between her and France. Indeed, the nations were now to reverse themselves. England was now to take up the banner that France had once carried valiantly. As Drury writes: "In the sixteenth century France had undertaken the defense of Protestantism and of the common liberties of Europe; in the seventeenth she threatened the conscience of peoples and the independence of States. The role which French abandoned was seized by England, which became the centre of all coalition against the Bourbons as France has been the centre of the resistance to the Hapsburgs." It soon became obvious that France was to find it very uncomfortable to have a roving naval England in her rear while she was facing so many land enemies.

The colonies were not so far removed from the centre of the conflict as to be quite freed from excitement. When the Duke of York became King, he had dealt more arbitrarily with his former proprietary colony. He had sent Catholic Governors, and, while he could not hope to stamp out Protestantism in America, he had endeavored to do so. There had been very many in New York, in the 'eighties, who viewed with much suspicion the acts of their Catholic Governors, Dongan and Andros. Jesuits were coming in, and restrictions wee being placed upon the religious freedom of the colonists. Had the Revolution not come in England in 1688, there is every reason to believe that the American colonists would have freed themselves of catholic interference. They may even have become independent politically, for, by one account, there were at that time about 200,000 white people in these Protestant colonies. Out of this population a militia force of no mean size could be raised--and readily armed also, for in those days in America most homes were arsenals. Still, the New Yorkers were, it seems more concerned as to their own internal state under Dongan, and especially under Andros than they were as to the danger that threatened from Canada. When the English colonists heard that James had been ousted from the English throne, they ousted Andros from the provincial Governorship, and placed their affairs in the are of leaders of their own class and faith, pending t the arrival of the nominees of William. Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson, the deputy of Andros in New York, was unseated by Jacob Leisler, who became the dominant head of the temporary New York government. He was one of the keenest to being about unity of the English colonies, so that a strong front might be shown against the aggressive ambitious Canada. He well knew that the suppression of the Iroquois by France would be followed by an attempt to absorb the whole of New York. This, of course, was the aim of Louis.

Frontenac, the strongest of the early French Governors of Canada, was chosen to succeed Denonville. His task was to be sternest than that of chastising troublesome Indians. His orders clearly called upon him to make war upon both Indians and English. In the very week (June, 1689), in which Leisler and the other militia captains of New York City took the provincial government into their own hands--the King of France gave Frontenac orders to invade and conquer New York. Part of Frontenac's instructions from his sovereign lord read "If among the inhabitants of New York there are any Catholics whose fidelity can be assured they maybe left in their homes after they have sworn fidelity to King Louis. from the other inhabitants, artisans and people necessary for agriculture maybe kept at work as prisoners. All officers and all principal inhabitants, will be kept in prisons until they are redeemed by ransom. With regard to all others who are not French, they will be transported to New England, France or other places. But all Frenchmen, especially those of the pretended reformed religion, will be sent to France."

Frontenac's plan of campaign which, however, he could not carry through, called for invasion along the Great Warpath by an expeditionary force of 2,000 regulars and 600 militia passing through Lakes Champlain and George and crossing to the Hudson River, thence down to Albany, all river craft were to be seized for a descent to New York. Two ships of war were to cooperate, cruising in the New York vicinity until signalled to attack.

How serious the predicament of New York was at that time maybe realized when it is stated that the city could muster only about 400 soldiers--the militia of Acting governor Leisler; also that detachments in other places could be relied upon. New York at that time was torn by two local factions; those who followed Leisler, and were staunchly Protestant; those who were of the late governor's party, and were suspected of Catholic leaning. The Leisler faction controlled New York City; the leaders of the other party had escaped to Albany when Leisler seized control. Naturally, Leisler feared that they would influence the Albany authorities. In any case, sharp, the commandant at Albany, was known to be a Catholic. Still, as Albany would be the first place attacked, Leisler, who was not Acting governor, and thought of the province as a whole, felt that duty demanded that he send troops to Albany to assist in its defense. The proffered help was rejected. Sharp had confidence in the ability of his own force to meet the attack from Canada. And he showed that he desired to keep the Albany government independent of that of New York. Leisler called upon the Albany authorities to send delegates to New York, to sit in convention upon matters of government, and probably of defense. The communities of the Albany region, however, refused to recognize Leisler; in fact, they held a convention of their own, and to all intents established a quasi-independent government. After news reached Albany in the fall that Indians of Maine, at the instigation of the French, had attacked Pemaquid and Chocheco (Dover), massacring the garrison in each place, all the New England colonies saw that action was necessary. In September, delegates from New England met at Albany, and as a first measure, came to an understanding with the Iroquois Confederacy. #1 The Albany government also appealed to Leisler for help. They, in turn, were spurned, though Leisler did decide to send up a military force--to defend what he looked upon as a part of his own government, but aid under such conditions Albany would not accept. They appealed to Massachusetts and Connecticut, and, to remove a possible cause for refusal of aid, they appointed Peter Schuyler to the chief command, in place of the Catholic,. Sharp. New England, however, promised support and when Leisler's company reached Albany, Schuyler positively refused to admit it to the fort. Soon afterwards a force arrived from Connecticut and reinforced the garrison at Albany and also at Schenectady. #2 Leisler's soldiers returned to New York. Leisler was at least satisfied that the frontier was guarded; so he applied himself more to the guarding of the sea front, vigilantly, watching for the French fleet which did not come.

As a matter of fact, the French Navy found other more absorbing work before it in home waters. Louis, in 1689, had to confront a whole host of enemies, the League of Augsburg, embracing England, Holland, German, Spain, Austria, Savoy, Piedmont, and many other States. Nevertheless, he realized that the centre of the opposition, the main pillar of Protestantism, was William of Orange. To defeat him, therefore, became his all-absorbing purpose. He thought that he could accomplish that in no better way than to regain for James II the lost crown. In Catholic Ireland, Louis thought the means lay ready at his hand. Tyrconnel had under his command in Ireland an enthusiastic Catholic army of 50,000 Irishmen. Long before, James had purged the Irish army of all Protestants for just this emergency. Louis eagerly grasped the opportunity and added to the Irish force a French army. The French navy escorted this force, also the deposed King, to Ireland. An Anglo-Dutch fleet sought to intercept James, but met defeat by Chateau-Renaud at Bantry Bay. A stronger French fleet, under Tourville, dispersed the main Anglo-Dutch fleet off Beachy Head in the next year (July 10, 1690). Janes, however, had not been doing well. the stubborn defenders of Londonderry had held his mighty Irish-French army at bay until William of Orange had had time to organize resistance and cross from England. The Battle of the Boyne had followed and in this, the first clash between James and William, the Green had gone down and the Orange had triumphed. The defeat was so decisive that James hurried to France in July, 1690. Louis next resolved to directly invade England, and for that purpose he gathered a great army, but, in the Battle of La Hogue between the Anglo-Dutch and the French fleet, (1692) these plans came to disastrous end. The French no longer controlled the seas, and could not respond to calls of Frontenac for the men, means, and ships with which to carry through Louis' American plans. So Frontenac had to make the best use he could of his colonial resources.

He had been making wonderfully effective use of the slender resources of New France. In all, the population of New France at that time numbered only 11,000 white people. Yet, he carried the gage of war to a people of 200,000, and also carried the sword to the paramount native group. The only difference lay in the fact that New France as to all intents under arms as a whole, whereas the English colonies as a whole were peaceably inclined, or rather were content that the fighting should be done by a small selected force. In this way, it cannot be inferred that a people of 11,000 were pitted against a combination of 200,000.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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