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

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



FOR SUPREMACY (1609-1763)

The peace of Ryswick (October, 1697) again manifested King Louis's close interest in the question of the Spanish Succession. The death of King Charles II of Spain seemed imminent, and both France and Austria claimed the Spanish throne. The accession of either was a possibility that alarmed the sea powers, England and Holland. They saw the equilibrium of Europe destroyed if either Louis or Leopold reigned in Madrid. Hence, the question of the Spanish succession was heatedly discussed in court and ministerial circles. Discussion went on for five years, but the end was war. King Charles died in 1700, and Philip, a Bourbon prince of the French house of Anjou, ascended the throne. This was countered by an alliance of other powers, the Grand Alliance of the Hague being formed in September, 1700, by England, Holland, Austria and Germany. Portugal joined later. War was not declared against France until May, 1702. By that time the exiled James II of England was dead. So also was William of Orange. Anne, sister of Mary, now reigned in England, Louis of France showing his disapproval by recognizing the son of James II as "King of England Scotland and Ireland." Until 1713, fighting was almost incessant in Europe, the Duke of Marlborough, in particular, distinguishing himself on the field of battle. "British victories at Blenheim, Oudenarde, Ramilies and Malplaquet rang through Europe like along-sustained peal of thunder from a stormy sky, and the echo in North America indicated, at least, the line of ultimate success for a continent."

The actual fighting in America was not as important in military maneuvers as in political successes. Throughout what is known in America as Queen Anne's War, and in Europe as the War of the Spanish Succession, the parliamentary struggle, in both England and America was continuous and vital. In America it dwarfed the military activities. New York in fact did not strike a blow in the field during the whole period of the war. It is true that she passed a bill (in 1700) threatening an invasion of Canada. This was to have been a formidable expedition, but owing to an unexpected rallying of the French after Malplaquet, the force of British regulars and the powerful fleet which were to have cooperated with colonial forces on the St. Lawrence did not cross the Atlantic, having to be sent to Portugal. The New York militia did build three fort along the Great Warpath, but no actual clash with French forces occurred. England gained Gibraltar in 1704, and New England set her eyes upon Port royal in 1710, but she had to storm that place without aid from New York. New York was too busy fighting her own Governor at that time--fighting for the supremacy of the Legislature over the Governor, just as England at the same time was fighting for the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown.

The people of England were essentially Tory. They loved the glamour of royalty, just as Provincials, of wealthy station, in New York and other colonies loved the social environment of the viceroys; yet the English Tories found themselves adopting Whig policies, because the alternative would be a reversion to the Stuart line, e. g., the absolutism. Queen Anne strove to bring back Toryism to its old place. Her Tory ministers and the people in general would have liked to surround their monarch with as much regal pomp as possible, yet they dared not. Much as the average Englishman hated to belittle the Crown and restrict the Monarchy, their way was inexorably Whigward. "Tory though the average Englishman was, he was in no humor to sacrifice English freedom and English religion to his Toryism." The way of Whig and Tory alike was inexorably Whigward, just as the way of Colonials was inexorably toward independence. Even the aristocratic new Yorkers found themselves rallying with the most rabid provincials when they detected sign of despotism in the Viceroy. During Anne's reign, the struggle in England to curb violations of Magna Charta, had their counterpart in New York in the fight of the people's representatives, the Assemblymen, against arbitrary rule by the Governors; and on both sides of the Atlantic the clash ended in victory for the people. When George, the Elector of Hanover, succeeded Anne tot he English throne in 1714 he had to content himself with the role of "Constitutional King." "No sovereign since Anne's death has appeared at a Cabinet Council or ha ventured to refuse his assent to an Act of Parliament," says Green; and New York achieved the same subordination of Crown to legislature when Governor Hunter bowed to the will of the legislature, in the matter of the use of the Public Purse, soon after the accession of George I.

It was well that Crown and People, Motherland and colonies, were thus brought into harmonious relation. The crown needed the people. England could not carry out the task that lay before her in America without the whole-hearted cooperation of the colonists; and the latter would have found it difficult to resist the encroaching French without the aid of England. Unity of purpose was the condition necessary in both, if they would succeed in their common task of dominating America

The war of the Spanish Succession brought advantage to Britain. She emerged the greatest gainer by the war. France, however, also gained strength by it, if only in the realization that came to both France and Spain that they were natural allies, and that, in the two reigning branches of the Bourbon family, they might forget the past two centuries of intermittent enmity and now realize that their interests were common. Ultimately, this thought was to find expression in the Bourbon Family Compact, an alliance which was destined to lead only to further protracted and bloody war, much to the detriment of both.

For three decades after the singing of the Treaty of Utrecht there were no open hostilities between the two European peoples in North America--or rather, none that can be grouped in any declared war. Yet, as Severane points out, "there was never a day , from the first invasion of Lake Erie by the English in 1685, when the spirit of warfare was not active. It was at first warfare for the control of the fur trade. Later, it became a warfare for the occupancy of lands and territorial possession of the region of the Great lakes and the Valley of the Ohio. To attain these ends, the allegiance of the Iroquois tribes was essential. The Treaty of Utrecht, unfortunately, did not settle that point. The consequence was that the control of the Iroquois. . . . . . .remained in dispute until the French were finally driven from New France."

Both the French and the English colonists knew that the peace was merely a truce. Both were keen to seen an advantage, and were well aware that ultimately the competition would bring the two people into armed conflict. So both made every effort to prepare. France seems to have been more pointedly belligerent in its preparation, though the weight of numbers and stability of colonization eventually gave the English the advantage.

Long before the Treaty of Utrecht was signed New Yorkers had been reaching out from Albany, and as they reached out into western and northern New York, the French endeavored to reach down into the same region. among the Iroquois nations, the French Jesuits were ever busy. In no more effective way could the native confederacy be drawn from its allegiance to, or alliance with, the English. Some mission work was done among the Iroquois by Dutch and English clergymen, but their work was not as effective as that of the Jesuit. Indeed one Dutch minister was more engrossed in the land patents and in extinguishing Indian land titles in the Mohawk Valley than in spreading Protestant principles. At all events, he, Dominie Godfrey Dellius, was suspended from the ministry, and many land patents were vacated.

Nevertheless, there was some legitimate settlement of white people in the Mohawk Valley in the second decade of he eighteenth century. They were the flotsam and jetsam, the broken reeds of the storms that Mars has sent sweeping over Europe. The Palatines who came into New York between the years 1709 and 1722 were refugees, though not from religious persecution, It was because of their unbearable economic distress brought about by the bufferings of war, made absolutely hopeless by one terrible winter, that made the Palatines regretfully look away from their Fatherland toward the distant America, to which so many families from the Rhineland had, in past distress, gone to fin e peace and plenty in Penn's land chiefly. The thirty Years' War, which ended in 1648, had inflicted suffering enough upon a poor peasantry to make it remembered for hundreds of years, one would have thought The Palatinate was reduced from 500,000 citizens to 50,000 during that generation of ruthlessness. It is said that "the elector Palatine beheld from his castle at Mannheim six cities and twenty-five towns inflames, where lust and rapine walked hand in hand with fire and sword." Yet, the surviving peasants clung to their homeland. America was not yet known to them. Later, William Penn, who knew their distressed circumstances, tried to prevail upon them to seek a safer living in this province, and to an extent he succeeded. It is estimated that between 1683 and 1709 between three thousand and four thousand Germans emigrated to Pennsylvania. They came in small groups, mainly Mennonites, who came "partly for conscience' sake and partly for temporal interests." There was no general exodus from the Palatinate until the eighteenth century. During the last war of Louis XIV the Rhineland was marked out for destruction. "Ravage the Palatinate," said Louis to one of his marshals/ "In obedience to orders twelve hundred towns and villages went up in smoke and fell in ashes." With occasional intermissions such scenes of horror and crime continued throughout the War of the Spanish Succession. In a petition addressed to the English people in 1710, the Palatines who came to New York said: "We, the Poor Distressed Palatines, whose utter ruin was occasioned by the merciless cruelty of a Bloody Enemy, the French, whose prevailing power, some years past, like a torrent, rushed into our country and overwhelmed us at once; and being not content with money and food necessary for this occasions, not only dispossessed us of all support, but inhumanly burnt our houses to the ground, whereby being deprived of shelter, we were turned into open fields, there with our families to seek what shelter we could find, were obliged to make the earth our repository for rest and the clouds our canopy or covering." As though to add to man-made misery, the natural elements added a final sting to the torture. The winter of 1708-09 was so cold throughout Europe that hundreds of these poor people died of exposure and starvation. "Birds froze in mid-air, beasts in their lairs and men feel dead on the way." Destitution was common. An eye-witness wrote: "Nobody was paid. The people of the county, in consequence of exactions, had to become insolvent. Commerce dried up and brought no returns. Good faith and confidence were abolished." Here, then, was good ground over which to go in search for immigrants for the sparsely populated English colony of New York. Here, it was thought, would be found good raw labor. So thought the governor of New York, also some of the landowners. The palatines were crowding London. so, between 3,000 and 4,000 were transported, at public expense, to New York Province. It was an important migration, for, at a bound almost, the population of New York province was thereby increased one-tenth. Some of the Palatines remained in New York City, but nine-tenths of the immigrants wee settled upon lands on both banks of the Hudson, "about a hundred miles up," part on land belonging to Robert Livingston, and part on royal domains on the other side of the river. In all, there were five villages. But the settlers were hardly free men. To pay for their sea-passage and sustenance, they had bound themselves to produce tar and turpentine for the government. It was an unfortunate experiment for all, for the immigrants were discontented, and the government unpaid. The palatines were maintained by the province until l712, when, in view of an empty treasury, governor Hunter was compelled to notify the immigrants that "everyone must shift for himself, but not out of the province." Some went beyond the borders of New York, but the majority remained within it. Some accepted land offered to them on easy terms by the Iroquois, and settled in Schoharie. Others bought land in the Mohawk Valley. In all, there were three migrations of palatines into the Mohawk Valley, as many as a hundred families settling in 1722.

In this way the strong colonial hand of England was steadily spreading out its fingers from Albany--a hand made horny and hard by gripping the plough rather then sensitive and dexterous by long use of fencing foils. The English were looking for tillable lands, while the French search for beaver banks. Inevitably they would collide. The province had built a military road from Albany to Lake Champlain in 1709. In 1712, fort Hunter was built at the mouth of Schoharie Creek, to protect settlers as well as to facilitate trading relations with the Iroquois. Another fort was erected at Onondaga in 1713. The Palatines who were settled in the vicinity of Fort Plain "opened and held the route by the Mohawk for adventure and traffic."

The French were by no means idle. French traders actually came into Albany for outfitting, and afterwards went among the Iroquois, taking the peltries that came by their trading to Montreal instead of to Albany. So in 1720, Governor Burnet prohibited trade in Indian goods between Albany and Canada. I 1721, Chabert de Joncaire went to Niagara and erected at the foot of Lewiston heights a bark cabin which was to serve as a trading post. This was the answer, perhaps, to the Albany trade restriction. France, it seems, now wished to skirt the British zone, and intercept trade coming over the Great Lakes. They aimed at linking New France and Louisiana by interior waterways, and where necessary to reinforce the route by forts. New York responded to the Niagara development by building a fort at Niagara, in 1726, and also in the same year by placing two large vessels on Lake Ontario. In 1727, New York build a fort at Oswego. Thus in a period of official peace there was constant war between the rival nations. Throughout the remainder of the French period, intense rivalry was manifested between Niagara and Oswego. Both posts became important centres of trading intercourse with Indians, and also of much political significance. Oswego was virtually a lake port of Albany, and the erection of the fort caused such indignation in Quebec that the Governor-General called a "council of war." At this council it was resolved to send a force of 2,000 men against Oswego. This, however, could hardly be done, inasmuch as England and France were not then at war. the indignation drifted into more diplomatic channels. The French did demand that the English fort at Oswego be demolished, and that the trading establishment be withdrawn; but it had no effect. More disastrous to Albany was the repeal, in 1729, by the home authorities of the prohibition of trading between Albany and Canada. This gave Montreal an advantage.

The French were coming ever nearer. As early as 1726, they attempted to establish themselves in the Champlain Valley. They endeavored to place a trading post on the east shore, opposite Crown Point. Massachusetts block this attempt, but in New York it seemed impossible to hold the French back. they took possession of Crown Point in 1731, building a fort which they called St. Frederic. They were bent upon settlement ; at all events, the Governor-General began to issue patents to men of the garrison, the first land grant including Isle La Motte. The English protested, and the French persisted, though the grantees never fulfilled the settlement conditions. In this delinquency the patents reverted to the Canadian government. Still, they profited nothing by it, for they could show no title to the land. It was obviously an English zone in Iroquois country. However, the French continued to garrison Fort St, Frederic, and for two decades it "was a menacing stronghold and the base of many irritating forays." During this period some settlements were made in its vicinity, and "as early as 1749 a large sailboat made regular trips between Crown Point and St. Johns, in Canada."

The relations of the New York Governor with the legislature were not very smooth at the time of the French incursion, otherwise more resolute action might have been taken. The New York Assembly, in 1731, did declare "that this encroachment, if now prevented, would prove of a most pernicious consequence to this and other colonies," but the protest went no farther. The English ministers were not at that time desirous of irritating France.

European politics had again begun to enter tortuous channels. Walpole was a strong advocate for peace. He held England firmly neutral during the period 1733-36, while France and Austria were at war as to the Polish succession. Nevertheless, the two branches of the House of Bourbon, the French and the Spanish, in 1733, entered into a secret Family Compact to ruin the maritime supremacy of Britain. Spain undertook to "deprive England gradually of its commercial privileges in her American dominions," transferring them to France. In return for this favor France promised to support Spain at sea and aid her in recovering Gibraltar. This secret compact did not become known to England until after the Polish War had ended. Then Spain "tightened her restrictions on British commerce with her American colonies," and France showed ominous signs of naval activity. The Spanish King sought to restrict English trading with Spanish colonies to one ship and one class of import--Negroes. In 738 British merchants clamored for war when a merchant captain named Jenkins "told at the Bar of the House of Commons the tale of his torture by the Spaniards, and produced an ear which, he said, has been cut off with taunts at the English King." Nevertheless, Walpole held firmly against war until he was utterly alone. Then, in 1739, he bowed to the popular will and consented to a war against Spain. Immediately there was rejoicing, at which Walpole bitterly remarked, "They may ring their bells now, but they will soon be wringing their hands."

Admiral Vernon opened hostilities brilliantly, in 1739 by capturing Porto Bello in the Caribbean Sea, soon after he appeared with his fleet of the coast of South America. Very soon afterwards, the significance of Walpole's words were seen. France showed her hand, and Vernon had to guard against attack by another and stronger enemy than Spain. France formally declared that she would not consent to any English settlements on the mainland of South America; and she immediately aligned herself with Spain, dispatching two squadrons to the West Indies. Vernon's little squadron of six ships had done remarkably well at Porto Bello and Chagre, but could not hope to cope with the gathering forces of both France and Spain.

France, however, was doing too well in Europe at that time to think of exerting herself strenuously in Spain's American campaign. The War of the Austrian succession seem so hopeless, and the supremacy of France and her allies so bright in Europe, that France had little inclination to be diverted by American dangers to Spain. Walpole, the English minister, also had t give his time mostly to diplomatic efforts to avert the grave danger that lay in Europe.

However, the American campaign had not been overlooked. A strong expeditionary force was gathered in England by Vernon during 1740. Recruiting agents became active in America also. Bells were rung, and cannon boomed, and "a great love" was shown for England in most colonial capitals when news reached then, in April, 1740, of the declaration of war against Spain. Vernon's exploits of the previous year helped to fan the enthusiasm, and recruiting agents of King George II began to ply their trade. It seems that they were not as successful in New York as in some other provinces, where enthusiasm was great "to enlist in the important expedition on foot for taking and plundering the most valuable ports of the Spanish West Indies."

It may be imagined that enthusiasm did not glow in New York. This province had passed through a decade of very bitter controversy between Crown and People, as represented by Governor and Assembly respectively. Governor Clarke, in one of his dispatches, in 1738, complained that many of the principal people of New York City refused to follow his example in putting on mourning for the death of Queen Caroline, "pretending that they had made themselves the joke of the town for doing it on the late King (George I) death." Governor Clarke had greater cause fro complaint a little later. In 1741 he urged upon assemblymen "a dutiful obedience to the wishes of the English court," which in this case was that they grant him "a liberal support." He had dissolved the Assembly in 1738 as "disloyal," because he could not get from it the full revenue appropriation he had asked for. Now he solemnly warned the contentious Assembly that the ministers of the Crown were closely watching what seemed to be the trend of political thought in the provinces, fearful "that the provincials were anxious to throw off their allegiance to the Crown." He inferred that the disloyal New Yorkers might be punished. Nevertheless, the Assembly in 1740 and 1741 flatly refused to bear any part of England's war expenditure. . Many New Yorkers took part in the West Indian expedition, though perhaps not as many proportionately, as went from the other provinces.

One of the groups that went from New York were Scottish Highlanders of the Campbell clan, who had settled in the Lake George region. their experience in New York had been much like that of the Palatines. Captain Laughlin Campbell had sold his Scottish estate and brought over to new York eighty-three highland families, hoping t maintain a settlement which could defend Lake George from French influence. He had been promised a tract of 30,000 acres in that vicinity, and undoubtedly impoverished himself in carrying through the plan of colonization. But many of the Scotchmen rebelled at the thought of continuing in America "the vassalage they were under to lords in Scotland." Those who had come at their own expense refused to "become vassals to Campbell in America." Others who were in debt to him for this passage, nevertheless disliked being bound. Motion was made in the Assembly to give each family a grant of £7; but the hardships of making a living in a absolutely new county, as well as homesickness, disheartened many of them. Thus it happened that some of the Highlanders were receptive to the appeals of King George's recruiting agents and left for the rendezvous in the West Indies for the expedition against Cartegena.

In January, 1741, Admiral Vernon arrived in Jamaica at the head of twenty-none ships of the line and eighty smaller vessels. The combined British forces then in Jamaica numbered 15,00 sailors and 20.000 soldiers. This force was augmented by units from all of the colonies north of Carolina. Cartagena was attacked, and the harbor fortifications were taken after desperate fighting. Siege was then laid to the city, but the ravages of pestilence soon made attack imperative. Each day of delay made the besieging force weaker. So the attack was made prematurely and failed miserably--through lack of coordination between land and sea forces, it is said. The casualties in the fighting were heavy, effective land force from 6,600 to 3,2000. Fever saved the day for Spain. Vernon had no alternative but to raise the siege and return to Jamaica after demolishing the fortifications. Another part of the British plan came to naught in July, 1741, when Vernon failed before Santiago in Cuba. Divided command and fever were the causes of defeat here also. It was reported that "nine out of ten of the colonial recruits fell victims to the climate." November of that year found Vernon again in Jamaica, with an appallingly enfeebled command. Twenty thousand lives has been the British loss in his two campaign of that year.

The great Walpole went down to defeat with the collapse of Vernon's campaign. Vernon was acclaimed, receiving even the freedom of the city of London; but Walpole, the Peace Minister of England, was condemned. He was charged with "thwarting and staving the war." Finally, early in 1742, he was forced to resign.

In the last days of Walpole's ministry, the Peace Minister was disconcerted more by the attacks of the young "patriot," William Pitt, than, perhaps, by those of any other political opponent. Pitt did not attack only Walpole. He opposed the Crown, and this may have been why he was denied a seat in the next Parliament. Pitt's time was not far distant, however, fortunately for England, also for America. It was Pitt, it seems, who opened the West for English-speaking Americans. It was through his masterly guidance of England's destinies at her most critical period that English, and not French, or possibly Spanish, became the paramount tongue of North America.

The European warfare fluctuated perplexingly in 1742 and 1743. King George, of England, almost met disaster in the Netherlands in 1742, but in the next year the French evacuated Germany, and the English and Austrian armies appeared on the Rhine. Frederick of Prussia allied himself with Louis of France in the next spring, ominously changing the aspect for England and her allies. France was also preparing a formidable armament for a descent upon Scotland bet Charles, the Pretender, "Bonnie Prince Charlie," So American matters of war were of only secondary importance to English ministers at that time.

Nevertheless, some important maneuvers in America were projected, warfare which the colonists were obliged to carry through almost unaided. France is not actually declare war against England until 1744, after defeat in the brilliant naval battle of Toulon. This explains why there were no actual hostilities along the Canadian border until that year. Then, Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, began to prepare for the operation against Louisbourg, the supposedly impregnable French "Gibralter" on Cape Breton.

Then, also, New Yorkers began to realize more fully how dangerous to them was the French stronghold at Crown Point, and how defenseless the province had become. From Crown Point "nearly thirty marauding expeditions were fitted out to ravage the territory of Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. New York was wholly unprepared for hostilities. . . . . All the frontier forts were in a dilapidated condition. Saratoga was burned and the inhabitants massacred. The whole county, to the very gates of Albany was abandoned or unguarded." To well-informed provincials it did not seem to demand a very great effort by Canada to "crowd New York into the sea." #4

France, of course, would have liked to do the same to all the English colonies. It did not seem to call for herculean effort either, for England seemed to be only hanging on to the very fringe of the vast continent, while the French had the whole sweep of the interior waterways, from the St. Lawrence to the delta of the Mississippi. At a council meeting of Iroquois chieftains with the English, a Mohican chief, Hendrick, who had been adopted by the Iroquois after the latter had conquered the Mohicans, said to the Albany authorities" "You burnt your own fort at Saraghtogee and ran away from it, which was a shame and a scandal to you. Look about your country and see! You have no fortifications about you, no, not even to this city. 'Tis but one step from Canada hither and the French may easily come down and turn you out of doors."

The New York legislators now saw into what grave danger they had brought the province by their bickerings with the governor on matters of government expenditures. But they are now thoroughly alert, and attentive of appropriations for war purposes. In fact, during the next three years they were to spend £70,000 in this way. Immediately after the raid on Saratoga, the Assembly declared that not only would they meet reasonable liabilities for the defense of the province, but would assist neighbor colonies also. Forthwith, the Assembly provided for a militia force and for a reward for scalps, "in case the enemy shall commence the cruel and inhumane practice of scalping." Six blockhouses were ordered to be built between Saratoga and Fort William, afterward Fort Stanwix, and the defenses in New York Harbor were strengthened. Some scalp-money was paid.

The Iroquois situation was somewhat uncertain for some time. They were wavering in their allegiance. Indeed two of the nations positively favored France in 1746; but as the Mohawks, Onondagas, and Senecas sided with the English, the confederacy went that way. Two years earlier, however, they had gone a long way to show that they had placed their destiny in British hands. About 500 Indian delegates of the Six nations had met English commissioners in Pennsylvania in 1744. One of the clauses of the resultant treaty was the cession of all Indian lands extending west and northwest of Virginia, and recognition of the title of the King of England to that territory. England thus secured title to the valley of the Ohio, into which the French had been encroaching--indeed, in which the French were soon to look upon the English as intruders.


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

HTML by Debbie Axtman

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]