The Founding Of Louisiana
Applicants for La Salle's grant.—During the War of the Palatinate Louis XIV showed little desire to develop La Salle's plan for a colony on the Gulf. In the interim, however, a number of individuals proposed taking up La Salle's work. In 1690 his brother, the Abbé Cavelier, strongly urged that it be continued. In 1694 Tonty asked permission to carry out the project. In 1697 De Louvigny, Captain of Marines in Canada, proposed making an expedition against the Spanish mines by way of the Rio Bravo. In the same year Sieur de Argaud, at Paris, sought a grant of the territory between Florida and New Mexico, the Gulf and the Illinois River. The control of the Gulf and the checking of the Spanish advance were prominent among the arguments for all these projects.
Iberville.—But not until the treaty of Ryswick was signed did the king again take up the plan. The founding of the proposed colony was then entrusted to Iberville, a son of Charles Le Moyne, one of the great seigniors of Canada. Iberville and his brother Bienville had already distinguished themselves in their attacks upon the English on Hudson Bay. Activities were hastened by reports that the English were preparing to take possession of the mouth of the Mississippi. To forestall them, Pontchartram, the Minister of Marine, in 1698 sent an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico.
Pensacola founded by Spain.—News of Iberville's preparations reached Madrid early in 1698, and again Spain proved that in an emergency she could act. Assuming that Pensacola was the French objective, the viceroy sent Andres de Arriola to intercept them, and in November he fortified the place.
Biloxi founded by France.—The movement was timely. Two months behind Arriola Iberville's fleet appeared before the harbor and demanded admission (January, 1699). The request being politely refused, Iberville established himself at Biloxi, after which he returned to France, leaving Bienville in command. During Iberville's absence, the coast and the lower courses of the Mississippi and Red Rivers were thoroughly explored and friendly relations with the Indian tribes promoted. Shortly afterward Iberville returned to the colony, and in 1702 the settlement was moved to Mobile Bay where the Spaniards at Pensacola could be more effectually checked, the new settlement being called St. Louis.
Alliance with the tribes.—An Indian policy was also developed. Tonty, who had found it to his advantage to divert his fur trade to Louisiana, was sent on a peace mission to the Chickasaws. This resulted in a conference of Chickasaws and Choctaws at Mobile Bay, at which the friendship and trade of those powerful tribes were assured. By alliances with the interior tribes, Iberville hoped to be able eventually to check and, if possible, annihilate the English settlements of Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina. After the conference at Mobile Bay, Iberville left the colony, and Bienville became the central figure in Louisiana.
Bienville's first administration.—The government of the colony was of a military type. At the head was the governor, who was assisted by a commissaire who had charge of the stores. A council with judicial powers was also established. Like Frontenac, Bienville was beset by many difficulties, quarrels with officials and clergy being frequent. The colony was threatened by an alliance of Cherokees, Choctaws, and other tribes who were instigated to hostility by the English. In 1710 a new site for St. Louis was selected, the settlement being located on the present site of Mobile, and by that name it became known.
The French in Louisiana and the Far Northwest.
Crozat.—The colony had not prospered, and the government desired to rid itself of the expense of the establishment. In 1712 the king therefore granted to Antoine Crozat, a wealthy merchant, a fifteen-year monopoly of trade in the vast territory from Illinois to the Gulf and from the Carolinas to New Mexico. He was also permitted to send a ship annually to the Guinea coast for negro slaves. On the other hand, Crozat agreed to send out two shiploads of settlers yearly. The executive powers were vested in a council appointed by the king from nominations made by Crozat; it consisted of a governor, intendant, and two agents of the proprietor. The first governor was Lamothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. At first a considerable number of colonists were sent over, but the French commercial laws, the monopoly of Crozat, and the low prices offered for peltries crippled the colony.
Natchitoches.—Cadillac attempted to open a trade with the Spanish colonies. With this in view in 1713 St. Denis, the younger, was sent to take possession of the Natchitoches country on the Red River and to open an overland trade route across Texas into Mexico. A trading post was established at Natchitoches, but the commercial results of the expedition to Mexico were slight. St. Denis was arrested and the Spaniards, alarmed at the French encroachments, began the permanent occupation of Texas.
Fort Toulouse.—In 1714 Bienville built Fort Toulouse, on the Alabama River, near the junction of the Coosa and Talapoosa Rivers, in the country of the upper Creeks, Mandeville being made first commander. Fort Toulouse was a depot where furs were bought from the Indians and floated down the river to Mobile. Round about it the Jesuit missionaries worked among the Creeks. The fort became the base for the control of these tribes, and an outpost against the English of the Carolinas. When the latter settled Georgia, feeling the menace of the French outposts, they built Fort Okfuskee, on the Talapoosa River, fort miles away, and induced the Creeks to destroy the Jesuit missions.
Natchez.—Difficulties arose with the Natchez Indians; in 1716 Bienville was sent to subdue them, and Fort Rosalie was erected on the site of Natchez. Cadillac was shortly afterward recalled. Crozat had found his colony merely a bill of expense and in 1717 he surrendered his patent. At that time there were about seven hundred Frenchmen in Louisiana.
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