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Memoir for the Marquis de Seignelay regarding the Dangers that Threaten Canada and the Means to Remedy Them
Digital History ID 4114


Annotation: French fears of English threats to Canada.

Document: Canada is encompassed by many powerful Colonies of English who labor incessantly to ruin it by exciting all our Indians, and drawing them away with their peltries for which said English give them a great deal more merchandise than the French, because the former pay no duty to the King of England. That profit attracts towards them, also, all our Coureurs de bois and French libertines who carry their peltries to them, deserting our Colony and establishing themselves among the English who take great pains to encourage them.

They employ these French deserters to advantage in bringing the Far Indians to them who formerly brought their peltries into our Colony, whereby our trade is wholly destroyed.

The English have begun by the most powerful and best disciplined Indians of all America, whom they have excited entirely against us by their avowed protection and manifest usurpation of the sovereignty they claim over the country of those Indians which appertains beyond contradiction to the King for nearly a century without the English having, up to this present time, had any pretence thereto.

They also employ the Iroquois to excite all our other Indians against us. They sent those last year to attack the Hurons and the Outawas, our most ancient subjects; from whom they swept by surprise more than 75 prisoners, including some of their principal Chiefs; killed several others, and finally offered peace and the restitution of their prisoners, if they would quit the French and acknowledge the English.

They sent those Iroquois to attack the Illinois and the Miamis, our allies, who are in the neighborhood of Fort Saint Louis, built by M. de La Salle on the Illinois River which empties into the River Colbert or Mississipi; those Iroquois massacred and burnt a great number of them, and carried off many prisoners with threats of entire extermination if they would not unite with them against the French.

Colonel Dongan, Governor of New-York, has pushed this usurpation to the point of sending Englishmen to take possession, in the King of England's name, of the post of Mislimakinac which is a Strait communicating between Lake Huron and the Lake of the Illinois [Lake Michigan], and has even declared that all those lakes, including the River Saint Lawrence which serves as an outlet to them, and on which our Colony is settled, belong to the English.

The Reverend Father Lamberville, a French Jesuit who, with one of his brothers, also a Jesuit, has been 18 years a Missionary among the Iroquois, wrote on the first of November to Chevalier de Callieres, Governor of Montreal, who informed the Governor-General thereof, that Colonel Dongan has assembled the Five Iroquois Nations at Manatte where he resides, and declared to them as follows:

1st, That he forbids them to go to Cataracouy or Fort Frontenac and to have any more intercourse with French. 2d, That he orders them to restore the prisoners they, took from the Hurons and Outawacs, in order to attract these to him. 3d, That he is sending thirty Englishmen to take possession of Missilimakinak and the lakes, rivers and adjoining lands and orders the Iroquois to escort them thither and to afford them physical assistance. 4th, That he has sent to recall the Iroquois Christians belonging to the Mohawks who reside since a long time at the Saut Saint Louis, in the vicinity of the Island of Montreal, where they have been established by us, and converted by the care of our Reverend Jesuit Fathers, and that he would give them other land and an English Jesuit, to govern them. 5th, That he wishes that there should not be any Missionaries except his throughout the whole of the Five Nations of Iroquois, and that the latter send away our French Jesuits who have been so long established there. 6th, That if they are attacked by Monsieur de Denonville the latter will have to do with him. 7th, That he orders them to plunder all the French who will visit them; to bind them and bring them to him, and what they'll take from them shall be good prize. The Iroquois-He accompanied his orders with presents to the Five Iroquois Nations, and dispatched his thirty Englishmen, escorted by Iroquois, to make an establishment at Missilirnakinak.

The Iroquois plunder our Frenchmen every where they meet them, and threaten to fire their settlements which are much exposed and without any fortifications.

These measures, and the discredit we are in among all the Indians for having abandoned our allies in M. de la Barre's time, for having suffered them to be exterminated by the Iroquois and borne the insults of the latter, render war again absolutely necessary to avert from us a general Indian Rebellion which would bring down ruin on our trade and cause eventually even the extirpation of our Colony.

War is likewise necessary for the establishment of the Religion, which will never spread itself there except by the destruction of the Iroquois: so that on the success of hostilities, which the Governor-General of Canada proposes to commence against the Iroquois on the 15th of May next, depends either the ruin of the Country and of the Religion if he be not assisted, or the Establishment of the Religion, of Commerce and the King's Power over all North America, if granted the required aid.

If men consider the Merit in the eyes of God, and the Glory and utility which the King will derive from that succor, it is easy to conclude that expense was never better employed since, independent of the salvation of the quantity of souls in that vast County to which His Majesty will contribute by establishing the faith there, he will secure to himself an Empire of more than a thousand leagues in extent, from the Mouth of the River Saint Lawrence to that of the River Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico; a country discovered by the French alone, to which other Nations have no right, and from which great Commercial advantages, and a considerable augmentation of His Majesty's Revenues will eventually be derived.

The Marquis de Denonville, whose zeal, industry and capacity admit of no addition, requires a reinforcement of 1,500 men to succeed in his enterprise. If less be granted him, success is doubtful and a war is made to drag along, the continuation of which for many years will be a greater expense to His Majesty than that immediately necessary to guarantee its success and prompt termination.

The Iroquois must be attacked in two directions. The first and principal attack must be on the Seneca Nation on the borders of Lake Ontario, the second, by the River Richelieu and Lake Champlain in the direction of she Mohawks.

Three thousand French will be required for that purpose. Of these there are sixteen companies which make 800 men and 800 drafted from the militia, 100 of the best of whom the Governor-General destines to conduct 50 canoes which will come and go incessantly to convey provisions. Of the 3,000 French he has only one-half, though he boasts of more for reputation's sake, for the rest of the militia are necessary to protect and cultivate the farms of the Colony, and a part of the force must be employed in guarding the posts of Fort - Frontenac, Niagara, Tarento Missilimakinak so as to secure the aid he expects from the Illinois and from the other Indians, on whom, however, he cannot-rely unless he will be able alone to defeat the Five Iroquois Nations.

The Iroquois force consists of two thousand picked Warriors (d'elite) brave, active, more skilful in the use of the gun than our Europeans and all well armed; besides twelve hundred Mohegans (Loups), another tribe in alliance with them as brave as they, not including the English who will supply them with officers to lead them, and to intrench them in their villages.

If they be not attacked all at once at the two points indicated, it is impossible to destroy them or to drive them from their retreat, but if encompassed on both sides, all their plantations of Indian corn will be destroyed, their villages burnt, their women, children and old men captured and their warriors driven into the woods where they will be pursued and annihilated by the other Indians.

After having defeated and dispersed them, the winter must be spent in fortifying the post of Niagara, the most important in America, by means of which all the other Nations will be excluded from the lakes whence all the peltries are obtained; it will be necessary to winter troops at that and some other posts, to prevent the Iroquois returning and reestablishing themselves there, and to people those beautiful countries with other Indians who will have served under us during this war.

As operations commence on the 15th of May, it is necessary to hasten the reinforcement and to send it off in the month of March next in order that it may arrive in season to be employed, and that it be accompanied by munitions of war and provisions, arms and other articles required in the estimates of the Governor-General and intendant of Canada.

The vast extent of this country and the inconveniences respecting the command which may occur during the war suggest the great necessity of appointing a Lieutenant- Governor over it, as well to command the troops there in the absence, and under the orders, of the Governor-General as to enforce these throughout all parts of the Colony beyond the Island of Montreal towards the great lakes which are at a considerable distance from Quebec.

The Marquis de Denonville who sees the necessity of establishing that office is of opinion that Chevalier de Callieres, Governor of the Island of Montreal, is eminently qualified for it by his application and industry in the King's service, and his experience in war, said Chevalier de Callieres having served twenty years with reputation in his Majesty's armies throughout the whole of his glorious campaigns.

Source: From Revolution to Reconstruction

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