This Country of Ours - H. E. Marshall
At this time in Europe France and Britain were at war. When King William came to take possession of Britain, James II ran away to France. The King of France received him kindly, and soon declared war upon William. The war was fought not only in Europe but in America also, and it is known in America as King William's War, because William was King of Great Britain at the time. It was the beginning of a fierce struggle between British and French for possession of the vast continent of America—a struggle which was to last for seventy years; a struggle in which not only the white people but the Indians also took part, some fighting for the British, some for the French.
At this time Frontenac was Governor of Canada. He was one of the greatest nobles of France and lived surrounded with state and splendour. Proud and haughty and of a fiery temper, with white men he quarrelled often, but he knew better than any other how to manage the Indians, and they feared him as they feared no white ruler who came before or after him. He would not allow the chiefs to call him brother as other governors had done. They were his children; to them he was the Great Father. Yet if need be he would paint his face, dress himself in Indian clothes, and, tomahawk in his hand, lead the war dance, yelling and leaping with the best of them.
King Louis now gave Frontenac orders to seize New York so that the French might have access to the Hudson River, and a port open all the year round and not frozen up for months at a time like Quebec.
So Frontenac made ready his forces. He gathered three armies and sent them by different ways to attack the British. But few of these forces were regular soldiers. Many of them were Indians, still more were coureurs de bois, wild bush-rangers who dressed and lived more like Indians than white men, and were as fearless, and lawless, and learned in the secrets of the forest as the Indians.
These armies set out in the depth of winter. French and Indian alike were smeared with war-paint and decked with feathers. Shod with snow shoes they sped over the snow, dragging light sledges behind them laden with food. For twenty-two days they journeyed over plains, through forest, across rivers, but at length one of the armies reached the village of Schenectady, the very farthest outpost of New York.
The people had been warned of their danger, but they paid no heed. They did not believe that the danger was real. So secure indeed did they feel that the gates were left wide open, and on either side for sentinels stood two snow men.
In all the village there was no sound, no light. Every one was sleeping peacefully. Then suddenly through the stillness there rang the awful Indian war whoop.
In terror the villagers leaped from their beds, but before they could seize their weapons they were struck down. Neither man, woman nor child was spared, and before the sun was high Schenectady was a smoking, blood-stained ruin.
The other parties which Frontenac had sent out also caused terrible havoc. They surprised and burned many villages and farms, slaughtering and carrying prisoner the inhabitants. Thus all New England was filled with bloodshed and terror.
But these horrors instead of making the British give in made them determined to attack Canada. New York and the Colonies of New England joined together and decided to make an attack by land and by sea.
But what, with mismanagement, sickness, and bickerings among the various colonies, the land attack came to nothing. It was left for the fleet to conquer Canada.
The little New England fleet was commanded by Sir William Phips, a bluff, short-tempered sailor. He sailed up the St. Lawrence and anchored a little below Quebec.
Then the watching Frenchmen saw a small boat put off, flying a white flag. As it neared the shore some canoes went out to meet it and found that it was bringing a young British officer with a letter for Count Frontenac.
The officer was allowed to land, but first his eyes were blindfolded. Then as he stepped on shore a sailor seized each arm, and thus he was led through the streets.
Quebec is built on a height, and the streets are steep and narrow, sometimes being nothing more than flights of steps. And now, instead of being taken directly to the Governor, the young officer was dragged up and down these steep and stony streets. Now here, now there, he was led, stumbling blindly over stones and steps, and followed by a laughing, jeering crowd, who told him it was a game of blind man's buff.
At last, thoroughly bewildered and exhausted, he was led into the castle, and the bandage was suddenly taken from his eyes. Confused and dazzled by the bright light he stood for a moment gazing stupidly about him.
Before him, haughty and defiant, stood Frontenac surrounded by his officers. Their splendid uniforms glittered with gold and silver lace, their wigs were curled and powdered, their hats were decked with feathers, as if for a ball rather than for war.
For a moment the young Englishman stood abashed before them. Then, recovering himself, he handed his commander's letters to Frontenac.
The letter was written in English, but an interpreter read it aloud, translating it into French. In haughty language it demanded the surrender of Quebec, in the name of William and Mary, within an hour.
When the reading was finished the officer pulled his watch out of his pocket, and held it towards Frontenac.
"I cannot see the time," said he.
"It is ten o'clock," replied the Englishman. "By eleven I must have your answer."
Frontenac's brow grew dark with anger. Hitherto he had held himself in check, but now his wrath burst forth.
"By heaven," he cried, "I will not keep you waiting so long. Tell your General that I do not acknowledge King William. The Prince of Orange who calls himself so is a usurper. I know of no King of England save King James."
The Englishman was quite taken aback by Frontenac's vehemence. He felt he could not go back to his leader with such an answer.
"Will you give me your answer in writing?" he said.
"No," thundered Frontenac, "I will answer your general with the mouths of my cannon only. Let him do his best, and I will do mine."
And with this answer the Englishman was forced to be content. Once more his eyes were blindfolded, and again he was jostled and hustled through the streets until he reached his boat.
When Phips received Frontenac's proud answer he prepared to attack. But he was no match for the fierce old lion of a Frenchman. The New Englanders were brave enough, but they had little discipline, and, worse still, they had no leader worthy of the name. They spent shot and shell uselessly battering the solid rock upon which Quebec is built. Their aim was bad, and their guns so small that even when the balls hit the mark they did little damage.
At length, having wasted most of their ammunition in a useless cannonade, the British sailed away. The men were dejected and gloomy at their failure. Many of their ships had been sorely disabled by the French guns, and on the way home several were wrecked. As the others struggled homeward with their tale of disaster, New England was filled with sadness and dismay.
The attack on Canada had been an utter failure. Yet, had Phips but known it, Quebec was almost in his grasp. For although there were men enough within the fortress there was little food. And even before he sailed away the pangs of hunger had made themselves felt.
For seven years more the war lingered on, but now it chiefly consisted of border raids and skirmishes, and the New Englanders formed no more designs of conquering Canada. And at length in 1697, with the Treaty of Ryswick, King William's War came to an end.
In 1701 James, the exiled King of Britain, died; and Louis of France recognised his son James as the rightful King of Britain. This made King William angry. Louis also placed his grandson, the Duke of Anjou, on the throne of Spain. This made King William and the British people still more angry. For with a French King on the throne of Spain they thought it very likely that France and Spain might one day be joined together and become too powerful. So King William again declared war on France, but before the war began he died.
Queen Mary's sister Anne now became Queen; she carried on the war already declared. This war brought fighting in America as well as in Europe. In America it is called Queen Anne's War, and in Europe the War of the Spanish Succession.
This war was carried on in much the same manner as the last. There were Indian massacres, sudden sallies, attacks by land and sea. But this time the British were more determined. And although another attack on Quebec failed, just as the attack made by Phips had failed, one on Nova Scotia succeeded.
In the South, too, the Spaniards were defeated at Charleston. Taken altogether the British had the best of the fighting. And when at length peace was made by the Treaty of Utrect in 1713 Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay Territory were given up to the British. Thus both in west and north the British enclosed the French possessions.