Chapter 04 - Outline History of the State of New York

CHAPTER IV.

FRENCH AND INDIAN WARS - DISSENSIONS IN THE COLONIAL GOVERNMENT - EXECUTION OF LEISLER.

AT the time Champlain ascended the St. Lawrence, he found the Algonquins at war with the Iroquois, and by an alliance of his forces with the former he enabled them, by the use of fire-arms (hitherto unknown to them), to gain a victory over their enemies. In consequence of this alliance a bitter hostility was created on the part of the Iroquois toward the French. The Utter, however, were successful in gaining the confidence and friendship of the other tribes with whom they came in contact. Through the influence of their missionaries, the traders were enabled to establish their posts among them at pleasure, and navigate the lakes and rivers. Although the artful Jesuit missionaries had persistently endeavored to win back the friendship of the Iroquois, they effected but little until New York fell into the hands of the English. Since their trade and intimacy with the Dutch they had availed themselves of fire-arms, renewed their warfare upon the Algonquins with success, repelled the invasions of the French, and, in turn, attacking them, swept over their settlements with fire and tomahawk, carrying consternation in their path even to the gates of Quebec In 1666 the French and Adirondacs successfully invaded the country of the Mohawks, but the year following a peace was concluded, chiefly through the agency of the English colonial government, acting in obedience to the instructions of the Duke of York, to whom the colony had been granted, and who, in his bigoted and blind attachment to the Church of Rome, was desirous of securing a peace between the French and the Iroquois, with a view of handing the latter over as converts to the church.

Trade, after this peace, was profitably prosecuted by both the French and English; but the French, through their artful Catholic missionaries, were gaining a decided advantage. Through the instigation of these wily priests, hostilities had been committed on the frontier settlements of Maryland and Virginia by the Five Nations. To adjust this difficulty, a council of the chiefs met the governors of Virginia and New York at Albany, in 1684. At this council the difficulties with Virginia were amicably settled, and Governor Dongan succeeded in completely gaining the friendship of the Five Nations. While these conferences were in progress, a messenger arrived from De la Barre, governor of Canada, complaining of the Senecas for their hostilities against the Miamis and other western tribes, with whom the French were allied, whereby their trade was interrupted. This message was communicated to the Indian chiefs, and served to confirm their resolutions of friendship for the English, and revive their slumbering hatred of the French. Immediately on the return of the messenger, De la Barre, meditating the destruction of the Five Nations, proceeded with an army of French and Indians to Lake Ontario. The French Catholics had procured a letter from the Duke of York to Governor Dongan, instructing him to lay no obstacle in the way of the invaders; but Dongan, regardless of this command, apprised the Indians of their designs and also promised to assist them. Owing to sickness in his army, De la Barre was unable to encounter his foes, and found it necessary to conclude his campaign by offering terms of peace, which were haughtily accepted, and he was allowed to depart. He was succeeded in the following year by the Marquis de Denonville, who, with a reinforcement of troops, was sent over to repair the disgrace of De la Barre. In 1687, to prevent the interruption of trade with the Miamis, the country of the Senecas was invaded. The French, through the agency of their missionary to the Onondagas, enticed the Iroquois chiefs into their power, under pretense of making a treaty, and then seized and sent them, with others they had taken prisoners, to France, where they were consigned to the galleys. The Seneca country was overrun without serious resistance, and a fort erected at the mouth of the Niagara river. A peace was finally proposed through the interposition of Governor Dongan, who was for compelling the French to apply to him in the affairs of the Five Nations, but its conditions were rejected by the French. The Five Nations, maddened by this, refusal and by the outrages committed upon them, flew to arms, and with twelve hundred warriors descended upon the French settlements with such terrible vengeance that the terms that had been offered for peace were accepted, and the whole region south of the great lakes abandoned by the French.

The Duke of York, on his accession to the throne of England in 1685, under the title of James II., directed Governor Dongan to encourage the Catholic priests who came to reside with the Five Nations, ostensibly for advancing the Popish cause, but really to gain them over to the French interests. Governor Dongan, although a Catholic, was apprehensive of the insidious designs of the French, and effectually resisted this policy, thereby displeasing his bigoted master. James also instructed Governor Dongan to allow no printing press to be established in the colony, and discouraged representative government. Catholics were appointed to fill all the offices* and Dongan, who, in his endeavors to protect the true interest of the province by opposing the Catholic missionaries, became obnoxious to the King, was recalled, and Francis Nicholson, the deputy of Sir Edmund Andros, who had been commissioned governor of both New England and New York, assumed temporary charge of the government in August, 1688. The revolution in England, resulting in the abdication of James II., and the accession of William and Mary, caused the authority of Nicholson under the dethroned king to be questioned. On one side it was claimed that the government in England did not affect affairs in the province, and that Nicholson's authority was unimpaired till the will of the new monarch was known; on the other side, that the government, extending to the colonies, was overthrown, and as no one was invested with authority in the provinces, reverted to the people, who might appoint a person to exercise control until one had been commissioned by the ruling power. The advocates of the former of these views were mostly the wealthy and aristocratic, while the mass of the people favored the latter. The government was vested in a committee of safety, who took possession of the fort at New York, and entrusted the exercise of authority to Jacob Leisler, the popular leader, Nicholson in the meantime having returned to England. Leisler sent a statement of what had been done to King William, and dispatched Milborne, his son-in-law, to Albany with an armed force, to secure the recognition of his authority, sanction to which had been refused. A letter from the English ministry arrived, directed to Francis Nicholson, or in his absence to such person as for the time being might be in charge of the government, directing him to take chief command of the province, and to call to his aid such as he deemed proper. Leisler, considering it addressed to himself, assumed command, and appointed a council of advisers. The revolution in England which placed William and Mary upon the throne was followed by a war between England and France, and the colonies were of course involved in the conflict. Count Frontenac who had succeeded Denonville as governor of Canada, made an effort to detach the Five Nations from the English interest. He sent a secret expedition against Schenectady, which attacked that city, near midnight, on the 8th of February, 1690, and a frightful massacre of the inhabitants ensued. The peril of Albany from such deadly attacks induced its inhabitants to submit to the authority of Leisler. Expeditions were fitted out against the French and Indians, and a fleet sent out for the reduction of Quebec, but all proved unsuccessful. In March, 1691, Henry Sloughter arrived as governor, having been commissioned by the King in 1689. His coming was heralded by Richard Ingoldsby, who, without proper credentials, demanded the surrender of the fort at New York. This Leisler very properly refused, but consented to defer to Sloughter when he should arrive. Sloughter on his arrival sent Ingoldsby with verbal directions for the surrender of the fort, but Leisler still refused, and asked for an interview with the governor. The next day he complied, but this imprudent hesitation was seized upon by his enemies, who arrested him and his son-in-law on the charge of treason. They were tried by a special committee and condemned to suffer death. Governor Sloughter hesitated to execute this sentence, but their enemies, anxious for their execution, and failing in all attempts to procure his signature, availed themselves of his known intemperate habits, invited him to a banquet, persuaded him to sign the death warrant while intoxicated, and before he recovered from his debauch the prisoner was executed.

During the agitations attending this foul judicial murder, the Indians, from neglect, became dissatisfied toward the English, insomuch that they sent an embassy of peace to Count Frontenac; to counteract this a council with the Five Nations was held at Albany, and the covenant chain renewed. In order to maintain this advantage, Major Schuyler, in whom the Five Nations had great confidence, led them in an invasion of Canada, and signally defeated the French. The intemperate habits of Sloughter brought on a severe illness, from which he died on the 23d of July, 169 1, thus ending a weak and turbulent administration. Upon the death of Sloughter the chief command was committed to Richard Ingoldsby, to the exclusion of Joseph Dudley, who, but for his absence, would have had the right to preside, and upon whom, the government devolved; and as Dudley, upon his return, did not contest the authority of Ingoldsby, the latter governed until the arrival of Benjamin Fletcher, with a commission as governor, in August, 1692. He was a man of small ability and violent temper, active and avaricious, but prudently took Major Schuyler into his counsel, and was guided by his opinions in Indian affairs. His administration was so successful the first year that he received large supplies from the Assembly. The unamiable traits of his character were soon exhibited, however, and during most of his administration he was engaged in controversies with the Assembly, principally in regard to appropriations for his expenses, for which he made extravagant demands. He was bigotedly attached to the Episcopal form of church government, and encouraged English churches and schools in place of Dutch. He procured an act from the Assembly, the provisions of which, though admitting of a more liberal construction, he interpreted as a recognition of the Episcopal instead of the Dutch church, and under this act Trinity Church was organized. A printing press was established in New York city in 1693 by William Bradford, who was employed by the city to print the corporation laws.

SOURCE:  History of Wyoming County, N.Y., with Illustrations, Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Some Pioneers and Prominent Residents; F. W. Beers & Co.; 1880