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The Life of General The Hon. James Murray
Chapter V. New France


In these dull days all the maps are coloured, and those white blanks marked "unexplored" have vanished ! Palace steamers carry the traveller from place to place with the regularity of the clock, and the issue of daily newspapers giving details of the happenings at home and abroad is possible in mid-ocean. How can we imagine or picture to ourselves the daily routine on the adventurous Caravel, with its crowd of brave men and braver women, on their voyages of unknown duration; six weeks if they had luck, two months often, even four months, to cross the Atlantic? Think of these little vessels, no bigger than our coasting schooners, ill-equipped according to our ideas, with few of the scientific methods of navigation known to us, and with accommodation that would make our most hardened shellback shudder ; but think, too, of the glorious excitement of landing on new continents, of raising the national standard and proclaiming in the Sovereign's name, New France, New Spain, New Netherlands, New England, New Scotland ! New in every sense, unknown, and full of possibilities, which the sanguine founders painted in glowing colours, too often finding their hopes unrealised, but seldom deterred thereby from fresh enterprise, or left without hardy imitators, who sought to improve on the efforts of those who preceded them.

It does not come within the scope of this work to refer to the fascinating story of the creation of New France, to Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, Frontenac. and a host of others; martyrs in the cause of religion, victims of climate or of war, successful adventurers, many of them. Their endurance succeeded in founding that great Dominion, which, now the ornament of another crown, retains with pride the ineffaceable stamp of the great nation from which it sprang. To those who have not hitherto read the stirring story of New France, let me recommend the works of Parkman, Kingsford, Doughty, Wrong, wherein the student or the general reader will find a wealth of intimate knowledge woven into stories of absorbing interest.

For me it must suffice to give a brief sketch of Canada, leading up to the period when James Murray, whose destiny it. was to take a remarkable part in her history, made his first acquaintance with the country which he loved, and for which he expended his utmost efforts—efforts which I venture to believe bore fruit in much that has remained to this day, giving evidence of the broad statesmanlike view which he brought to the difficult task allotted to him. Unfortunately my task necessitates that I should dwell on the period of decadence that preceded the campaign of 17,59, and on the men whose want of every quality that connotes patriotism were the causes of the fall. It had been a pleasanter task to deal with the heroes who were the leaders of New France in the golden age of Louis Quatorze.

The decade which saw the final transference of Canada to the English Crown was the fifteenth since the first arrival of Champlain at Tadussac, to recommence, and finally to succeed, in the effort of founding a French colony in New France. During that 150 years the standard of France had proclaimed successively the sovereignty of Louis XIII., XIV.. and XV. If it is not too much to say that the first of these monarchs failed to realise the value and importance of the great heritage which the valour of his subjects had best owed on him, on the other hand the "Grand Monarque " sought to make amends for the negligence of his predecessor, and dreamt of an empire beyond the seas. Reversing the policy which treated Canada as a purely trading base, in which colonisation was rather discouraged than assisted ; sending out troops for the protection of the colonists and royal officials to look after their interests, exhibiting a close concern in their well-being, which even extended to estimating the probable birth rate from the batches of demoiselles Men choisis (and otherwise), which were sent out as wives for the settlers ! It was in 1663, exactly 100 years preceding the final cession of Canada, that the chartered company of New France ceased to exist, and the country became a royal province. Up to this period the French had made little impression, being masters of scarcely more than a few trading posts on the St. Lawrence; but from now onwards pioneers and explorers proceeded to build up constant territorial additions, encouraged and aided by Richelieu and Colbert, both men of imperial ideas, extending gradually inland up to the great lakes, and thence trending southwards by the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, to form that nebulous state then known as Louisiana, enclosing the provinces of New England by a chain of posts, and claiming right to bar their extension westwards, a claim constantly disputed and frequently leading to frays between the disputants.

To strengthen the seaward position and form a base for the protection of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence the fortress of Louisburg was built on Cape Breton Island after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The mot d'ordre was expansion, and a gradual strengthening of the position, which, if continued on the lines planned by Louis XIV., might have resulted in the creation of an enduring empire. Fate, however, willed it otherwise, and the accession of Louis XV., "Bien aime," produced a change in the situation.

The Peace of Utrecht, in 1713, concluding a long series of wars, had undoubtedly left the French naval power in a weakened state and the finances of the country in chaos. The maintenance of great land armies over a lengthened period had drained the treasury, and the navy had suffered in consequence. England, on the contrary, had profited enormously by the very causes which militated against France. With little responsibility on the continent, her statesmen had seen that the way to empire lay upon the ocean. At the end of the war she became the mistress of the seas, her power disputable only by the combined fleets of France and Spain. Had France utilised the period of peace which followed to rehabilitate her navy, the world's history might have been changed; but neither while under the guidance of Fleuri, still less under the corrupt and licentious influence which governed him during his later years, did Louis XV. make any serious attempt to regain the lost power. Moreover, the corruption which gradually spread from the Court to the administration in France was reflected, as was inevitable, in the colonies, and New France, which under the Grand Monarque had been governed by honest and conscientious officials, became a source of illegitimate profit to a host of fortune-seekers, high and low.

"The small salaries given by the French government to civil officers led to extortion and peculation, and there are many instances of clerks and men in petty places on six or eight hundred livres making fortunes of three or four hundred thousand in three or four years."

The French colonial policy, too, differed essentially from that which had been inculcated in New England. The latter aimed at, or at least achieved, the settlement of an independent people, taught from the beginning to look to themselves and to be independent of support as well as to extend their commerce, to occupy the new lands in the fullest sense and populate it with a hardy, enduring race of agriculturists and seafarers. In New France, on the contrary, the government was centralised and paternal, dictated from the mother country and, as I have said, in later times, corrupt to so great an extent that the colonists took little interest in agriculture or commerce, the profits of which would be filched from them.

Even the troops were dependent, to a considerable extent, on food supplies from France. The people were, moreover, trained in arms, which formed further grounds for neglecting their duty as settlers and rendered the inducements to immigrants less attractive. In 1750 the population of New England outnumbered them by fifteen to one.

Thus it came about when in 1756 the war, which had been in active operation in America and on the sea for at least two years, was officially declared in London and Versailles, the French possessions were in grave peril both from within and without. In the debateable hinterland they had, it is true, successes, due rather to the incapacity of the English commanders than to inherent strength on their part.

General Braddock had been disastrously defeated at Fort Duquesne, and in 1756 Montcalm, newly arrived from France, had taken Oswego. In 1757 Loudon's expedition against Louisburg had ended in nothing, while during his absence Montcalm had taken Fort William Henry. But these successes, even when added to the disastrous defeat of the brave but incompetent Abercrombie, when with a force much superior to the enemy he advanced against Ticonderoga in July, 1758, were but flashes of the expiring fire. Pitt had assumed the direction of affairs, and to him it was clear that the strength of the English strategical position rendered the final result inevitable. To recall the feeble commanders, to establish a firm base for the fleet, and then to crush the French resistance between the upper millstone of a slow but certain movement on the west, and the nether stone of an unassailable fleet shutting off all hope of succour by the sea, was the plan which he undertook, and of which the final success could hardly be in question.

On November 1, 1758, Abercrombie's letters of recall reached him, and Amherst succeeded him as Commander in-Chief in North America. His reputation was that of a man silent, purposeful, and cautious ; one who, having decided on a certain course, would not turn back until it was accomplished. This was the man Pitt wanted. The command of the most powerful asset in the minister's hand, gave him time to pursue a plan of campaign which did not involve forced marches or premature assaults, and Amherst was better suited to such a mode than to one requiring rapidity and the taking of risks.

Murray's letter of farewell, when Amherst relinquished command after six years of strenuous action, shows the esteem and respect in which he held his commander. "Every thinking man," he writes, "who wishes well to the service and welfare of this country, must lament the loss of you at any time, but especially at this juncture. I cannot, I dare not, say all I think." It is, unfortunately, too true that Amherst's successor was a man far less fitted to take charge in a crisis, and the forebodings which were clearly in Murray's mind were realised in the event.

The military position, involving as it did the assembly of important enemy forces, was not the danger which most nearly threatened the French rule in North America. Against military attack a resolute government in old France, governing a vigorous colony through loyal and clean-handed officers, could have opposed a strength which, at the least, would have caused a prolonged struggle, and certainly added seriously to the difficulties to be faced. Unfortunately for France resolution in the government was conspicuously absent; loyalty and probity amongst the officials did not exist, or if here and there we can discern an attempt on the part of an individual to arrest the decay which had eaten far into the body, it was uneffectual against the great mass of corruption.

The Court of Versailles was governed by the Pompadour, and she had little knowledge and less interest in the well-being or fate of the colonies. Whether in the east, in India, or the west, in America, the same masterly inactivity was exhibited by this government, swayed by a courtesan who thought more of secret negotiations with the Courts of Maria Theresa or of the King of Prussia, both of whom held her in contempt, than any responsible attempt to strengthen the outlying parts of the kingdom against attack that was inevitable.

The French Court and the French administration was honeycombed with intrigue; none could prosper who were not the proteges of the king's mistress, and it is needless to describe the qualifications which found favour in the eyes of a vain and frivolous woman.

In such circumstances the danger from within cannot be considered less important than that from without. One by one the men who might have saved France were removed to give place to the puppets of the Pompadour— Machault from the navy, Argenson from the ministry of war, d'Estrees from command of the armies.

"We have no administration . . . the men in office are unfit for their work, and the public has no confidence in them. Madame de Pompadour controls the government with the caprices of an infant, while the king looks blandly on undisturbed by our inquietudes and indifferent to public embarrassments.''

Thus wrote the Abbe Bernis, who, as minister of foreign affairs, had reason to know.

It is not to be wondered at that the administration of the French colonies in North America was no less corrupt than that of the mother country, and that the Court of the Governor-General should be modelled on that of the king, his master. Licence, and roguery flourished under the rule of the Marquis de Vaudrcuil. To what extent he was himself a knave is perhaps indeterminate, but that he was led blindly to sanction malversations is certain, and the most charitable assumption is that he was too incompetent to be aware of what was going on. But whatever judgment may be passed on his actual complicity with the frauds which undoubtedly were the prime cause of the loss to France of its North American colonies, there can be no question of his weak duplicity. It is only necessary to read his correspondence to be quite certain that in character he was quite capable of being an accomplice in any form of villainy that might be in question.

Take, for instance, his letters concerning the mission 011 which de Bougainville was sent to France in September, 1758, to obtain by verbal representations much-needed supplies. To the minister (presumably Bernis, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was succeeded by the Due de Choiseul in December, 1758) the first letter is dated September 4, 175 :

B . . . J'ai choisi d'accordance M. le Marquis de Montcalm, M. de Bougainville ... II est ti tous egards plus en etat que personne de remplir cet objet. Trois campaignes en Canada, de I'application, du discernment Font mis au fait de ce pays. Je lui ai donne mes instructions, et vous pouvez, monsieur, ajouter touts creances a ce qu'il vous dira."

The second letter, dated September 3, was in a different vein:

"... J'ai accorde a M. Bougainville des lettres de creances mais je dois avoir I'honneur de vous observer, monsieur, que ces messieurs ne connaissent point assez parfaitement la colonic et ses vrais interets pour pouvoir VJionneur de vous en parler positivement."

A month after the death of Montcalm, he wrote:

" Depuis le moment de Varrivee de M. de Montcalm, cn cette colonic, puisque celui, de sa mort, il n'a cesse de tout sacrijier a son ambition demensuree il semait la zizanie datis les troupes, tolerait les propos les plus indecens contre le gouvernement, s'attacriait les plus mauvais sujets, faisait cn sorte de cor romp-re les plus vertueucc, en devenait Vennemi, cruel lorsqu'il n'y pouvait reussir . . . diffamait les honnetes gens, soutenait Vinsubordination, fermait les ycux au pillage du soldat, le tolerait mime au point de leur voir vendre les denrees et bestiaux qu'ils avaient voles, a VhabitantM*

Nothing can justify an attack such as this on the honour of one who could no longer defend himself, and that Vandreuil was capable of making such statements, and many others which could be quoted, is sufficient proof that if he himself was not actually participator in the frauds he was quite capable of being such. He appears to have been obsessed with a jealousy of Montcalm which almost amounted to insanity. He was constantly at pains to explain that Montcalm's successes were due to his advice and the help of the Canadians, or that the successes might have been more decisive if his advice had been fully followed. The troops of Old France were to Vaudreuil the object of hatred, and when in 1759 he received orders to conform to the military opinions of Montcalm, his cup of bitterness fairly ran over. He loved Canada, and I cannot bring myself to believe that he had any hand in selling it: but to ruin Montcalm he would go to almost any length, and probably the astute Bigot, and the still more astute Cadet, made use of his blind desire for revenge.

There is a French proverb, "qui s'excuse s'accuse," and Vaudreuil should have remembered it when he wrote to the minister on November 9, 1759, complaining that Montcalm had handed to one Robaud, a Jesuit missionary, two packets for transmission to Mme. la Marquise de Pompadour. These packets were said to contain various notes made by Montcalm on the business methods of the officers in charge of the French trading posts.

"Entre autres un qui disait que j'envoyais tous les ans 200 equipements a la mission de St. Francois pour les sauvages et qu'en lieu de leur distribuer ces presents, le S. Gamclin qui en etait charge les leur vendait a son profit, avec mon approbation, pour les pelleteries.

Much the same opinion is expressed m many places in Montcalm's Journal, and he at all events was under no illusion as to the honesty of his compatriots.

"Depuis dix ans, le pays a change de face. Avant cc temps on y etait heureux parceque avec pen on avail toutes les choses necessaires a la vie en abondance. . . . Verris * arrive ; en construisant Vedifice d'une fortune immense, il associe a ses rapines quclques gens necessaires a ses vices ou a ses plaisirs. . . ."

The honour of Montcalm was above suspicion. He had done everything possible to apprise the Ministry of the state of affairs, but it is not unlikely that those who should have taken cognisance were themselves interested, and disinclined to take urgent action; nevertheless, it was almost certainly due to Montcalm that investigations were ultimately ordered. For the rest, it is sufficient to say Montcalm died in debt, though surrounded by men whose fortunes knew no limits. His entry in his Journal, dated December 10, 1758, may be quoted as indicative of his state of mind.

"O Roi digne d'etre mieux servi ; cherc patrie ecrasee d'impdts pour enricher des fripons et des avides et que tout y concourt! Garderai-je mon innocence comme j'ai fait jusqu'a present au milieu de la corruption ? J'aurai defendu la colonie, je devrai dix mille ecus, et je verrai s'itre enrichi un Ralig, un Coban, un Ce'cile, un las d'hommes sans foi, des va-nu-pieds interesses dans I'entreprise des vivres, gagnant dans un an des quatre ou cinq cent mille livres, qui font des depenses insultantes. . . ."

The two culprits, regarding whose guilt one need not hesitate to pronounce an opinion, were Francis Bigot, mtendant of New France, and Joseph Cadet, munitionairc-general, and these had a host of minor satellites, who pillaged the government and the people and m so barefaced a fashion that it is only astonishing that their success endured so long; nor, indeed, is it possible to suppose that their success could have continued had not the administration at home winked at, if it did not connive at, the frauds in Canada.

In the hands of the intendant was almost unlimited power. He was chief in all civil affairs, and superintended justice, police, and finance. He issued ordinances lixing a price upon all kinds of provisions at his will and pleasure. His record was bad, and in no other government than the one which now misgoverned France could he have retained his position for long. He was apparently of respectable birth, and had some powerful connections, and due to these he was appointed a Commissaire de la Marine, a department which included among its activities the control of the colonies. Than the marine there was no department of the French government more entirely suited to a man of Bigot's proclivities, it was. A chaos of abuse; there was no system of accounting ; there was no order; the principles of administration were erroneous, and honesty was almost unknown." Bigot had been intendant or civil administrator at Louisburg for some years when that town first fell into English hands in 1745. He was shrewdly suspected of having had a good deal to do with the surrender. At the second capture of Louisburg one Provost occupied the post formerly held by Bigot, and worthily sustained the traditions of his predecessor. The modus operandi is described by Montcalm in his Journal:

"Les magasins du Roi snntderriereun des poin ts d'attaque; on en transporte done presque tous les effets dane les magasins des particidiers ; on rend la place plus tot ofin d'obtenir par la capitulation, que les habitants conservent leurs effets et puissent, ou les faire passer en France, ou les vendre aux assiegeants. . . . Ainsi fit M. B(igot) en 1715. . . . M. Prevost eleve de M. Bigot marche & grands pas sur les traces de son maitre,"

In other words, the king's stores, which alone fell to the victors by the terms of surrender, were emptied before capitulation, and the contents removed to pr'vate charge, from whence the king's officials sold them for their private benefit.

It is said that on his return to France, in 1745, Bigot was received with favour by the Pompadour, then in the early days of her concubinage, and that at her instance proceedings against him on account of Louisburg were quashed. The story is quite probable. In 1748 he was sent as intendant to Quebec, and the ten years referred to by Montcalm in the quotation made at p. 83 commenced. During this period every species of villainy was perpetrated, and Bigot, surrounded by a crowd of imitators, of whom the principal was Joseph Cadet, created at his instance munitionaire-general, carried on a policy of fraud which has probably never been paralleled.

He created the so-called Grande Societe, locally and openly known as La Friponne, which, being a combination of merchants in Bordeaux and functionaries in Quebec, were able to operate at both ends of the line of supply. The cargoes were taken into the intendant's stores and sold at his will at immense profit. The troops were defrauded of their dues, and the inhabitants driven to despair. The means of defence did not exist, and the money provided for the purpose was fraudulently withheld. Montcalm wrote :

"La concussion live la masque; elle ne connait plus de homes; les enlreprises augmentent, se multiplient; une Societe seule absorbe tout le commerce interieur, exterieur, toute la substance d'un pays qu'elle de'vore. . . . L'agri-culture languit, la population diminue, la guerre survient, etc'est la Grande Societe qui . . . four nit auxvues ambitieuses des Anglois le prelexte d'en allumer le flambeau."

Bigot aped the king his master, and like the king he took to himself a mistress, Madame de Pean, wife of a civil functionary. Madame played the Pompadour with grace and effect. Her relatives and her favourites monopolised all posts wherein perquisites could be obtained or extortion practised. Her balls and receptions kept society moving, and even if the good bishop was scandalised when the masquers appeared as bishops and nuns, still the misery outside must be forgotten as well as the enemy at the gates. Thackeray's description of another society would have applied very well to this one: " There were no Pharisees, they professed no hypocrisy of virtue, they flung no stones at discovered sinners; they smiled, shrugged their shoulders and passed on." Thus they fiddled whilst Rome burned. Quebec and Montreal were never more gay than in the last winter.

The visit of Bougainville to France in the autumn of 1758 may have been the lever which operated to open the king's mind to the true state of affairs. In his capacity of first aide-de-camp to Montcalm he undoubtedly knew his chief's mind, and he was, moreover, known to and favourably regarded by Madame de Pompadour.* At all events, the year 1759 brought about a change in the aspect of affairs which was ominous to Bigot and his associates, and indicated to them pretty clearly that they had exceeded the limits of robbery permissible even in the lax government of Louis XV.

One of the first signs of the storm was a letter from the Minister of Marine, de Berryer, to Bigot, concerning the sale of the cargo of an English vessel, the Mary, which had been captured.

"Peut-on imaginer," he writes, "une operation plus eonlraire au bien de la eolonie et plus ruineuse pour le Boy.f He refers to the confusion, " Sans homes qui regne dans cette eolonie," and adds, " C'est a vous a prendre les moytns les plus promptes pour I'arreter. Etje vous prie dcfaire en sorte que pendant mon Ministere j cm a rendre eompte au Roy de meilleurs comptes du detail de voire administration qui ne pourrait que dcvenir suspectes par la fortune de ceux qui ont cte employees sous vos ordres." *

Another step was taken which must also have been a sign of trouble to come. A certain M. Querdisien de Tremain, premier eerivain du departement de la Marine, was sent to Canada. His mission was euphemistically described as "pour aider M. Bigot dans sa eomptabitite et qui connaissait mieux que personne le desarroi qui y re'gnait." It was probably on the report of this official that the drastic step was taken to cease acceptance of the bills of exchange. These bills were drawn by the intendant, and represented the moneys due to the merchants for goods purchased or services performed, and they had increased to such an enormous extent that the exhausted French treasury was literally unable to meet them.

"Je prevoyais alors la fdcheuse situation ou nous nous trouverions pour faire face a. tant de de'penses, et la cruclle necessite d'en cesser tout a coup les payements. Ce n'est qu'apres avoir epuise toutes les ressourccs que le Roi s'est determine a suspendre Vacquitement des lettres de change.''''

A definite order was issued that, under no pretext whatever should bills be drawn exceeding 2,400,000 livres. This serious blow struck at once both the credit of Bigot as representing the civil administration, and the profits of the swarm of holders of the bills.

On his return to Canada in May, 1759, de Bougainville had apparently made no secret of the king's displeasure at the administration of the colony. Bigot, unwisely, considered himself aggrieved, and made complaint to the Ministry. Matters had, however, gone too far, and he no longer received support. He received in reply the following crushing rejoinder, dated February 22, 1700:

pour nous plaindre de Vindiscretion qu'a eu le S. dc Bougainville de repandrc dans la Colonic les reproehcs que je vous ai faites par mcs lettres sur les depenses cnormes du Canada, et sur les fortunes qui sont y faites ... les plaintes eiaicnt trop generales et trop fondees sur I'immensite des lettres de change que vous avez tirees pour nc pas faire connaitre les intentions du Roi sur un pareil derangement.

"A I'egard des raisons que vous donnes pour justifier Vaugmentation de votre fortune, par le commerce heureux ct suivi que vous aves fait, et qui vous a donne plus de 600 mille livres de profit dans le seule annee 1759, elles me paraissent aussi singulieres que I'assurance avec laquelle vous regardes ces profits legitimes, surtout de la part du'un intendant, et je ne puis que remettre a une autrefois de vous repondre sur cet article qui exige de ma part la plus grande attention et Vexamen le plus serieux pour en rendre eompte particulicr a sa Majeste." *

It is said that Montcalm wrote to Belleisle, the Minister of War, in April, 1759: "It seems as if they were all hastening to make their fortunes before the loss of the colony ; which many of them desire as a veil to their conduct.''' Montcalm was certainly convinced that Bigot had not stopped short of selling his country at Louisburg. He suspected Bigot's successor of the same thing at a later period. He knew that Duchambon de Vergor, who was a creature of Bigot's, had done the same thing at Bcause-jour. Surely he was fully justified in suspecting treachery at Quebec.

Enough has been said to depict the state of affairs when in 1759 the English forces approached Quebec. The colony was bankrupt, the administration in utter confusion, the troops discontented and ill-equipped, the inhabitants, who should ordinarily have been the main defence, were ruined and in despair. It is to their credit that they remained as loyal as they did, and only the fear assiduously spread by Vaudreuil that their lot under English rule would be still worse, kept them for a time ready to take up arms. The mother country saw in the colony only a source of expense, and was indifferent to its fate; moreover, the extravagance of the Court and administration, and the prosecution of the war against Russia, had exhausted the treasury. Well might Berryer reply to Bougainville's appeal for help, "Quand le feu est a la maison on ne s'occupe pas des ecuries."

If the combination which Pitt formed for the conquest of Canada was strong, it can hardly be gainsaid that the defence was weakened, almost destroyed, by the disease of corruption that prevented unity and mutual confidence among the defenders.

In a subsequent chapter I have referred to the grave reasons there are for suspecting that the surrender of Quebec was not free from treachery. I think what is written above indicates that there is at least prima facie evidence that the condition of affairs and the actors in the drama justify the suspicion.

* Madame de Pompadour is said to have received in the nineteen years she remained in favour 37 millions of livres.


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