Page images
PDF
EPUB

proceeded, in advance of the others, with two canoes, as far as Fort Prudhomme, where he was overtaken by the whole party on the 2d of June. Here he was seized with a dangerous illness, which arrested his progress; but he despatched the Chevalier de Tonty to Mackinac, with orders to inform the Count de Frontenac, by the first conveyance, of the particulars of the voyage, and then to return to the Illinois. The good Father Zenobe remained with his commander, whose malady was so severe, that he was detained forty days, and then by slow movements he reached the Miamis River towards the end of September.

Tonty had been faithful and active in executing his orders. He had returned from Mackinac, and while on his way thither, he placed Dautray in command at the Miamis River, and Cauchois at Fort St. Louis, near which many Indians assembled and built two hundred new cabins. According to Father Zenobe's account, it was at this time the intention of the Sieur de la Salle to go down the Mississippi in the spring following, with a large number of people and families, to found a colony.

Wishing to communicate full and accurate information of his discoveries to the court of France, he prevailed on Father Zenobe to be the bearer of his despatches. The resolution was suddenly taken, and Zenobe left the Miamis River on the 8th of October for Quebec, whence he sailed in the same vessel with the Count de Frontenac, and arrived in France before the end of the year.

Little is known of the plans or the operations of the Sieur de la Salle during the next ten or twelve months. The letters of Father Zenobe, who had been his devoted attendant for the last four years, fail us here, and no other records have come to light to supply their place. It can only be ascertained, that he passed the time in the Illinois country, and in the region of the upper lakes, probably prosecuting his traffic, the exclusive privilege of which was soon to terminate, and cementing his alliance with the Indian tribes.

Fort St. Louis was completed, and the best understanding was kept up with the Illinois Indians, in the midst of whose territory it was situate. His scheme of conducting a colony down the Mississippi was abandoned, and he formed the more extensive one of soliciting the government to aid him in this enterprise on a larger scale. Leaving the Chevalier de Tonty in the command at Fort St. Louis, and in the general charge of his interests, he departed for Quebec in the autumn of 1683, sailed for France, and landed at Rochelle on the 13th of December.

CHAPTER IX.

La Salle obtains a Commission to settle a Colony

in Louisiana. - Sails with four Vessels to St. Domingo, and thence to the Gulf of Mexico. -Discord between him and the Commander of the Squadron.

The grand project, which now absorbed his thoughts, was an expedition by sea to the mouth of the Mississippi, with such an equipage of ships, colonists, and supplies, as would enable him to explore his newly-discovered country, and to establish permanent settlements. His hopes rested on the success he should have in persuading the ministers to adopt his plans, and furnish the aids necessary for carrying them into effect.

It was soon apparent, however, that much was to be done before the way could be prepared for a reception of this proposal. His enemies in Canada had spared no pains to excite a prejudice in the court against him, and to represent his conduct and designs in the most unfavorable light. La Fevre de la Barre, successor to the Count de Frontenac in the government of Canada, took the lead in making these representations. Jealous of the friends of his predecessor, and willing to thwart the measures he had set on foot, La Barre listened complacently to all the tales that were told, either to his disadvantage or to that of his supporters. While the Sieur de la Salle was yet in the Illinois country, after his return from the Mississippi, the governor wrote to the minister, that the imprudence of La Salle had kindled a war between the French and the Iroquois, that his pretended discovery was of little account, that his designs were suspicious, and that the reports of Father Zenobe should be received with distrust. This insidious letter was despatched by the fleet in which Zenobe sailed for France, and of course before the new governor could have had any opportunity to gain a correct knowledge of the designs, transactions, or discoveries, of La Salle.

Five months afterwards, in April, 1683, he wrote again, affirming his conviction of the falsehood of what had been said of the new discoveries, of which La Salle had sent an account to the minister by the Recollect Father, and adding that this voyager was then at Green Bay, with some twenty vagabond Frenchmen and

savages, that he assumed the air of a sovereign, pillaged his countrymen, exposed the people to the incursions of the Iroquois, and covered all these violences under the pretext of a permission from the king to hold an exclusive commerce with the countries he should discover. The governor seemed to console himself, however, with the remark, that his privilege would cease in a month, when he would be obliged to come to Quebec, where his creditors, to whom he owed more than thirty thousand crowns, impatiently waited his return.

« Such is the lot of those men,” says Charlevoix, “whom a mixture of great faults and great virtues lifts above the common sphere. Their passions betray them into errors, and, if they do what others cannot do, their enterprises are not approved by all men ; their success excites the jealousy of those, who remain in obscurity ; their acts prove beneficial to some, and injurious to others; the latter take revenge by decrying them without moderation ; the former exaggerate their merit. Hence the different portraits which are drawn, and of which none is an exact resemblance; and as hatred and the habit of evil speaking are more prevalent than gratitude and friendship, and as calumny finds an easier access to the public ear than commendation and praise, the portrait of the Sieur de la Salle was

« PreviousContinue »