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SCARCELY had Winthrop been chosen governor for the fourth time When (June, 1643) there came to Boston to entreat help against his rival, Charnissay D'Aulnay, Charles La Tour, one of the lords of New France and perhaps the most picturesque figure in the early history of this continent. The manner of this powerful Frenchman's arrival in Boston was most disconcerting to the Puritans. For he came in a French armed ship and sailed straight up the harbour, past a fort in which there was not a single person to answer his military salute! Had he been an enemy he might easily have sacked the town.
As it was, he made his debut in Boston in a charmingly simple fashion. For coming toward his ship as it sailed up the bay was discerned a boat containing Mrs. Gibbons, the wife of Captain Edward Gibbons, going with her children to their farm. One of the gentlemen on La Tour's vessel recognized her and told La Tour who she was. Whereupon the lord of New France had a boat of his own fitted out and proceeded to follow the lady to her landing-place. Mrs. Gibbons, not knowing the strangers, hastened from them as fast as she could and put in at Governor's Island, so called because it was the summer home of the Winthrops. But it happened that the governor and some of his family were on the island at the time, so La Tour was able, by having pursued her, the more speedily to get in touch with the very person whom he had come to see! While he was telling his story over the hospitable supper-table, Mrs. Gibbons returned to town in the governor's boat and spread the news of the stranger's informal arrival, so that when La Tour, later, took the governor up to Boston in his own boat, they were met by three shallops of armed men, come out to escort them ceremoniously into the town.
Before proceeding to
describe the negotiations which went on between Winthrop and
representative of a foreign state, let us, however, digress a bit and
this La Tour was and why he had come to Boston, To make the matter
must go back to the very beginnings of the settlement of New France and
the story of Champlain's second expedition to the St.
Lawrence, when in 1604
he sailed under De Monts (to whom the King of France had granted the
company with Baron de Poutrincourt, Pontgrave and divers merchants,
Huguenot ministers. This variously assorted company on exploration and
colonization bent settled on St. Croix Island, in the mouth of St.
now the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick. There they passed
winter in America. But the next year they crossed the Bay of Fundy and
Port Royal on the wooded shore of Annapolis Basin, in the very heart of
. . . the murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of old, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
It was a wonderfully peaceful land which they found; and so it continued to be-even when the colonists suffered most from want and privation — until the passions of ambitious men and the schemings and counterschemings of rival branches of the priesthood availed to transform it into a scene of feudalistic strife.
Champlain's men had been content to work hard and deny themselves, to live cleanly and to beguile their days with gardening, verse-making and a nonchalant Christianization of the Indians. Not so their sons. Poutrincourt's son cared chiefly for war, and soon built among the rocks and fogs of Cape Sable a small fort to which he gave the name Fort Lomeron. This fort descended at his death to Charles La Tour, one of his adventurous retainers, and was by him called Fort St. Louis. La Tour, by improving to the utmost every chance that came his way and by winning the alliance of both English and French, soon made himself a terrifying power in the Acadian land. To his first fort he ere long added another variously called to-day Fort La Tour and Fort St. Jean — the latter from its situation at the mouth of the river, in the centre of the present city Of St. John, N. B.
Strong as Charles La Tour had succeeded in becoming, an even stronger man was soon to arrive from France. Under Claude de Razilly (a knight. of Malta, charged by Louis XIII to seize the Acadian possessions), had sailed D'Aulnay Charnissay, a gentleman of birth, and to him in 1635 there came by Razilly's death royal power in Acadia. D'Aulnay made his headquarters at Port Royal, and nobody thought of disputing his authority, so clearly could it be traced to the king — nobody, except La Tour. That adventurer, having papers from both the English and the French, and having besides an indomitable spirit and inexhaustible craft, made D'Aulnay's situation from the very beginning well-nigh unbearable.
In position and qualities the two rivals were poles apart. D'Aulnay came of an old and distinguished Touraine family, and he prided himself above all things upon his character of gentilhomme francais. He was a consistent Catholic, too, while La Tour's religion-like his family-was obscure. The rivalry, which had always been keen, appears to have grown into positive bitterness, when, five years after his first coming to Acadia, D'Aulnay returned from a visit to France, bringing with him a charming wife. The plucky bride was a daughter of the Seigneur de Courcelles, and was well fitted by birth and breeding to transmute, by her gentlewoman's touch, the rough settlement into an orderly colony. What with old settlers and new, about forty families were now gathered at Port Royal and on the river Annapolis. And over these D'Aulnay ruled, "a kind of feudal Robinson Crusoe."
A scene for an artist, as Parkman points out, was the Port Royal of those days, with its fort, its soldiers, its manor-house of logs, its seminary of like construction, and its twelve Capuchin friars, with cowled heads, sandaled feet and the cord of St. Francis! The friars were supported by Richelieu; their main business — and they were pretty successful in it — was to convert the Micmac and Abenaki Indians into loyal vassals of France and earnest subjects of the Church.
But Charles La Tour was not so easily dealt with. He who had before felt himself the chief man in Acadia was now fairly aflame with jealousy of this French seigneur who dwelt just across the intervening Bay of Fundy, surrounded by loyal retainers and solaced by a loving wife. Wives, however, were certainly to be had even if settlers were not; and since D'Aulnay had given evidence, by bringing over a woman, that he had no intention of abandoning his claim, La Tour resolved that he, too, would set up a home in Acadia.. His agent was thereupon instructed to pick out in France a girl worthy to share his heart and fort. Accordingly, Marie Jacquelin, daughter of a barber of Mans, was selected to join La Tour at Fort St. Jean. She proved to be an Amazon. With passionate vehemence she took Lip her husband's quarrel, and where D'Aulnay's lady heartened her lord by gentle words and soft caresses, Lady La Tour threw herself into the thick of the fight and became a force greatly to be feared in the Acadian land.
From this time on events march. Goaded by his wife, La Tour grew more and more contumacious, until that day when the King of France, losing all patience, ordered D'Aulnay to seize his rival's forts Lind take their commander prisoner. In accordance with these instructions, we find D'Aulnay (in 1642) anchored at the mouth of the St. John and endeavouring to arrest the outlaw. Then it was that La Tour, rendered desperate, defied the king as well as his representative, and — Catholic though he claimed to be — turned for help to the heretics of Boston.
Boston was in no position, as we have seen, to help and La Tour's coming provided highly disturbing matter for debate. Though he was hospitably received by Governor Winthrop and the Reverend John Cotton, many there were who wished him well out of the way. Even his unimpeachable gravity of demeanour when he attended church with Winthrop on Sunday could not make him acceptable to these clear-sighted souls. Still, his men were not only allowed to come ashore, but permission was granted them to drill on Boston common, along with the town militia, — to the accompaniment of the ambitious band and the industrious frog chorus.
One very amusing incident is connected with the "land leave" granted the La Tour men. Winthrop, writing the next year, tells the story, not without some sense of its humour: "There arrived here a Portugal ship with salt, having in it two Englishmen only. One of these happened to be drunk and was carried to his lodging; and the constable (a godly man and a zealous against such disorders) hearing of it found him out, being upon his bed asleep; so he awaked him and led him to the stocks, there being no magistrate at home. He, being in the stocks, one of La Tour's gentlemen lifted up the stocks and let him out. The constable hearing of it, went to the Frenchman (being then gone and quiet), and would needs carry him to the stocks; the Frenchman offered to yield himself to go to prison, but the constable, not understanding his language, pressed him to go to the stocks; the Frenchman resisted and drew his sword; with that company came in and disarmed him and carried him by force to the stocks; but soon after the constable took him out and carried him to prison, and presently after, took him forth again and delivered him to La Tour. Much tumult there was about this."
The magistrates looked into the case and decided that the gentleman must return to prison until the Court met. Some Frenchmen offered to go bail for him, but since they were strangers their offer was declined. "Upon this," continues Winthrop, "two Englishmen, members of the church of Boston, standing by, offered to be his sureties, whereupon he was bailed till he should be called for, because La Tour was not like to stay till the Court. This was thought too much favour for such an offence by many of the common people, but by our law bail could not be denied him; and beside the constable was the occasion of all this in transgressing the bounds of his office, and that in six things: 1. In fetching a man out of his lodging that was asleep on his bed and that without any warrant from the authority. 2. In not putting a hook upon the stock — nor setting some to guard them. 3. In laying hands upon the Frenchman that had opened the stocks when he was gone and quiet, and no disturbance then appearing. 4. In carrying him to prison without warrant. 5. In delivering him out of prison without warrant. 6. In putting such a reproach upon a stranger and a. gentleman when there was no need, for he knew he would be forthcoming and the magistrate would be at home that evening; but such are the fruits of ignorant and misguided zeal."
The clever La Tours lost no time in pushing the business upon which they had come. Showing papers which would seem to prove the doughty Charles a lawful representative of the King of France, the governor was asked for such aid as would enable him to bring to his fort the ship, containing supplies, which D'Aulnay would not permit to proceed up the bay. Very adroitly La Tour then suggested that he at least be permitted to hire four vessels, each fully armed and equipped, with which to defend his rights in Acadia.
Winthrop finally gave bewildered consent to this arrangement, and his action was approved by a majority of those in authority. But in the ensuing discussion over this arresting departure, the "inevitable clergy" joined hotly, and texts being the chief weapons of the debate, various Old Testament worthies were brought forward to prove that Massachusetts would have done much better to keep out of the fight. John Endicott stoutly maintained that La Tour was not to be trusted, and that he and D'Aulnay would much. better have been left to fight it out by themselves. In this opinion several chief men of the colony concurred, saying in the famous "Ipswich letter" that they feared international law had been ill observed, and declaring in substance, that the merits of the case were not clear, that the colony was not called upon in charity to help La Tour (see 2 Chronicles xix, 2, and Proverbs xxvi, 17); that this quarrel was for England and France; that endless trouble would come if D'Aulnay were not completely put down, and that "he that loses his life in an unnecessary quarrel dies the devil's martyr."
This letter, trenching as it did upon Winthrop's pride of office, stung the governor into vehement retort. But he soon had the candour to admit that he had been in fault in three things: first in answering La Tour too hastily, next in not sufficiently consulting the elders, and lastly in not having opened the discussion with prayer.
But La Tour had meanwhile received his ships, and was able with them to rout D'Aulnay's three vessels. His lady alertly followed up this advantage, visiting France to help strengthen his cause, and coming back by way of Boston. This visit on the part of the redoubtable madam seems not to have been of her planning, however. She had engaged Captain Bayley to transport her from London to Acadia whither she was anxious to bring, as soon as might be, stores and munitions which should aid her husband. But Bayley chose to put in at Boston.
Promptly Madam La Tour sued him for damages, alleging that the six months consumed by the voyage had been an unreasonable length of time and that he had not taken her to Acadia as bargained for. The jury awarded her £2,000, for which Captain Bayley's ship was attached. This proved to be worth only £1,100, however, and it cost the Lady about £700 to hire vessels to convey her and her effects to Acadia. The colony, too, had ultimately to pay the damages it had awarded her. For the owners of the ship and cargo which Lady La Tour had attached promptly seized a Boston ship in London to indemnify themselves and, when it became doubtful whether they would be able to hold her, attached the bodies of Stephen Winthrop, the governor's son, who happened to be then in London, and of Captain Joseph Weld, who had been on the jury when the La Tour damages were awarded. Sir Harry Vane nobly came to the rescue of the Bostonians, thus winning from Winthrop the acknowledgment that "both now and at other times Mr. Vane showed himself a true friend of New England and a man of a noble and generous mind."
Meanwhile Lady La Tour had arrived back at her stamping-ground and had offered her husband a very shrewd piece of advice. "Go to Boston, declare yourself to be a Protestant," she counselled, "ask for a minister to preach to the men at the fort, and promise that if the Bostonians help us to master D'Aulnay and conquer Acadia, we will share our conquests with them." This Machiavellian suggestion La Tour seized with avidity, and sailed gaily forth.
Scarcely had he gone when his lady, falling one day into a transport of fury at some un-pleasant turn of events, so berated and reviled the Recollet friars at Fort St. Jean, that they refused to stay under her roof, and set out for Port Royal in the depth of winter, taking with them eight strong soldiers, who were too good Catholics to remain longer in such a hotbed of heresy. At Port Royal this little party was most warmly received. D'Aulnay paid the eight soldiers their long overdue wages and lodged the friars with his own priests. Then he plied them all with questions and, learning that La Tour had gone to Boston, leaving only forty-five men to defend his wife and his fortress, he saw Heaven's smile at last, and leaped to seize the golden opportunity opened to him.
Every man about Port Royal
was hastily mustered into action. Then D'Aulnay crossed the Bay of
all his force, erected a fort on the west side of the river, and, after
delaying for a time in an attempt to win over more of La Tour's men
incidentally a small vessel which had been sent from Boston loaded with
provisions and bearing a letter to tell Lady La Tour that her husband
join her in a month), he brought his cannons into position, and made as
would batter down the fortress. The garrison was summoned to surrender,
when for answer they hung out a red flag and "shouted a thousand
and blasphemies," accompanying the same with a volley of cannon shots
directed by the intrepid Amazon, D'Aulnay could do nothing but fight
to a finish. In spite of the gallant defence of Madame La Tour,
superior numbers prevailed. All resistance was overcome; the fort was
and all the survivors of the garrison, including Madame La Tour, were
prisoners. At first the lady was left at liberty, but after she had
in an attempt to communicate with her husband by means of an Indian,
put into confinement. Then, and then only, did she fall ill. Three
she was dead.
D'Aulnay had now robbed his rival of his wife and captured Fort St. Jean, the best trading station in Acadia. The King complimented him highly, and when he demanded reparation for the part Boston had taken. against him. his right to satisfaction was in-directly admitted. Winthrop had learned his lesson. D'Aulnay's stay as described in Vie governor's Journal makes interesting reading:
"It being the Lord's day [of September, 1646] and the people ready to go to the assembly after dinner, Monsieur Marie and Monsieur Louis, with Monsieur D'Aulnay [and] his secretary arrived at Boston in a small pinnace and Major Gibbons sent two of his chief officers to meet them at the waterside who conducted them to their lodgings without noise or bustle. The public worship being ended the Governor repaired home, and sent Major Gibbons with other gentlemen and a guard of musketeers to attend them to the Governor's house, who meeting them without his door carried them into his house, where they were entertained with wine and sweetmeats, and after a while he accompanied them to their lodgings being the house of Major Gibbons, where they were entertained that night.
"The next morning they repaired to the Governor, and delivered him their commission, which was in form of a letter directed to the Governor and magistrates.... Their diet was provided at the ordinary, where the Magistrates used to diet in Court times; and the Governor accompanied them always at meals. Their manner was to repair to the Governor's house every morning about eight of the clock, who accompanied them to the place of meeting; and at night either himself or some of the Commissioners, accompanied them to their lodgings."
A great deal of ceremony surely for a little place like Boston! But then, D'Aulnay had asked £8,000 indemnity and the government had to look as if it could pay in case it had to. The Commissioners, though, sturdily denied "any guilt" on their part maintaining that they had only Permitted La Tour to hire the vessels. And they brought counter-charges against D'Aulnay. Finally, it was agreed that the matter he settled amicably and that Boston "send a small present to D'Aulnay in satisfaction." A treaty was accordingly signed. In due time the proposed "small present" was sent. It consisted of a sedan chair which the marauding Captain Cromwell had taken as a prize and presented to Winthrop a few months before. Winthrop gave it to D'Aulnay, as he frankly says, because it was of no value to him!
But the suite of the victorious French lord was sent off with all possible honours just the same "the Governor and our Commissioners accompanying them to their boat, attended with a guard of musketeers, and gave them five guns from Boston, three from Charlestown, and five from Castle Island; and we sent them aboard a quarter cask of sack and some mutton...." D'Aulnay was evidently satisfied with the results of his visit. For he had not in the least expected the large sum of money for which he had asked. All that he wished to make, clear to the Puritans was that they should fit out no more expeditions for La Tour. And now, when he had made this point, forced Fortune to crown his life-work and saw ahead of him promise of a thriving trade and a, constantly growing colony,
"Death stepped tacitly and took him."
On the 24th of May, 16 50, as he and his valet were canoeing in the basin of Port Royal, not far from the mouth of the Annapolis, their frail craft overturned, and though they clung to it and got astride of it, one at either end, in an endeavour to save themselves, they could not. At the end of an hour and a half D'Aulnay was dead, not from drowning but from cold, for the water still retained the chill of winter. So Father Ignace, the Superior of the Capuchins, found him. With fitting ceremonies he was buried in the chapel of the fort at Port Royal in the presence of his soldiers, his tenants and his sorrowing wife.
That poor, poor wife! For she still had Charles La Tour to deal with, and with him her own life was destined to be linked. That La Tour had friends in France she soon came to know only too well. Through false papers, intrigues and dastardly treachery Port Royal was promptly wrested from her, and she was even persuaded to return to La Tour Fort St. Jean, which her husband had taken fairly in a well-fought fight. Beset with insidious enemies and tortured beyond endurance by fears for her eight young children, the brave spirit of this lovely woman broke with her heart, and three years after the death of her noble husband she married (February 24, 1653) the man who had so long been her tormentor. With him she took up her abode at Fort St. Jean. Of the children for whose sake she had sold herself the four boys were killed in the wars of Louis XIV, and the girls all became nuns. So no single trace of D'Aulnay's blood may to-day be found in the land for which he gave his life and wealth out of the great love he bore France and the Church.
The significant lesson of this whole episode so far as Boston history is concerned lies, however, in the fact that what was, properly speaking, an international matter took place wholly within the borders of the town; and that Massachusetts assumed, throughout, the attitude of a completely independent government, dealing with D'Aulnay and La Tour just as independently and in the same manner as Charles and Buckingham dealt with the Huguenots and the French monarchy. We shall do well to recall this incident later on in Boston's history and contrast it with the claims made by England in regard to her attitude of "protection."Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.