The French and Indian War

 

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The History of Texas: The French and Indian War

(Previous Section: Texas History 1721-1744)

Affairs in Europe

As the destiny of the different colonies and settlements in America depended upon the political changes occurring in the parent-countries, it will be necessary to refer to them.

Charles II. of Spain, the last sovereign of the house of Hapsburg, died in November, 1700, and by his will appointed Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV., his successor. The object of this testamentary disposition was to prevent a division of the Spanish monarchy, which had been determined two years before in a treaty between England, France, and Holland, in order to preserve the balance of power in Europe. The testamentary appointment of Charles detached Louis XIV. from the house of Hapsburg, and thus the "War of the Succession" began. After a long struggle, Philip succeeded in retaining his throne; but, by the treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, Spain was greatly shorn of her power, losing Gibraltar and a large portion of her European possessions. She was not satisfied with this treaty; and it was the ill-concealed design of Cardinal Alberoni, her ambitious minister, to reclaim the vast territories of which she had been stripped. To counteract this intention, France, England, and Holland, formed a new alliance in 1717. This alliance was confirmed and enlarged by another treaty made the following year, in which the emperor of Germany became a party. But before the close of 1718, such were the demonstrations of Spain, that England and France both declared war against her. Finding herself alone, and all the great European powers arrayed in opposition to her, Spain in 1720 signed the alliance. But still her ambitious minister was not satisfied; he wished to restore to her these lost possessions. Alberoni was, however, degraded at the close of this year; yet the efforts of Spain to regain her territories did not cease. By confirming to the emperor of Germany his portion of the spoil, she detached him from the quadruple alliance, and engaged him to assist her in the recovery of Gibraltar.

This last-named treaty, concluded April 30, 1725, was followed by a counter-alliance between England, France, and Prussia, entered into on the 3d of September following. The impending war shortly afterward commenced.

The Pragmatic Sanction

Charles VI., emperor of Germany, had issued in 1724 a royal ordinance, by which he settled his hereditary dominions on his eldest daughter, Maria Theresa. This ordinance was known as the Pragmatic Sanction. One of the provisions of the treaty between Spain and the emperor was the guaranty of this ordinance by the former power. After much agitation and many treaties, that of Vienna, in 1731, between Great Britain, Holland, and Spain, guarantied the pragmatic sanction, and restored a seeming peace to Europe. France agreed to it in 1738; but, in 1740, Charles VI. died, and Maria Theresa succeeded to his crown, by virtue of the ordinance so well guarantied by Europe. The elector of Bavaria, however, now set up his claim to the empire, and a general war ensued—Spain, France, and Sardinia, supporting the elector; and England, Russia, and Poland, the empress Maria. The elector was declared emperor in 1742, under the title of Charles VII.; he died in 1745, and was succeeded in the imperial office by the duke of Lorraine, husband of Maria Theresa, as Francis I. This war of the Pragmatic Sanction, however, ended only by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748; but Spain was a gainer by the contest, having recovered Naples, Sicily, and Parma.

The French and Indian War

In none of the previous treaties, however, had England and France settled the boundaries of their American possessions. This, in 1755, gave rise to a war between them, which was carried on with great activity in the English and French colonies in America. It was the school in which our revolutionary fathers learned their first lesson of independence. The relations existing between France and Spain, since the elevation of Philip of Anjou to the Spanish throne, drew the latter into it. The contest continued until the peace of Paris, in February, 1763 ; it was most disastrous to France, and to some extent injurious to Spain. At the close of 1761, France was so greatly weakened and exhausted by the war, that she directed her minister to inform the court of Spain of her inability to give protection to the colony of Louisiana, and to solicit aid from Spain in furnishing it with supplies, and in preventing the English from obtaining its possession. The activity and progressive enterprise of the English colonies were well known to Spain and France; and one of the principal arguments used by the French ambassador, in this application, was, that Louisiana was the only barrier between the English and the Spanish possessions south of it. But Spain was slow in action, and the war grew daily more disastrous to France. At length, on the 3d of November, 1762, France ceded Louisiana to Spain, not from the pure impulse of his generous heart, as is recited in the royal act of Louis XV., but to prevent it from falling into the hands of the English. By the treaty of peace in the following February, France ceded to England Canada, Nova Scotia, and in fact all her continental possessions in North America.

Sioux Warriors on Horseback

Indian War Party

Henceforth the line of boundary between Spain and England, commencing at the source of the Mississippi river, was to run down the middle of that stream to the river Iberville; thence with that stream and Lakes Maurepas and Ponchartrain to the gulf of Mexico; Spain also ceding Florida, and the navigation of the Mississippi to be free to the subjects of both England and France. This last concession was of the utmost importance to the possessions of England, and subsequently to the United States.

Preservation of the Balance of Power in Europe

The reader of history is not unacquainted with the utter indifference with which the sovereigns of the Old World transferred their colonies in the New. The colonists, however much they may have loved their sovereign, their country, and her institutions, were bought, sold, or given away, without object, Louis XIV. was willing to break a solemn treaty with England and Holland. This treaty was formed to preserve the balance of power: the result was, the overthrow of that balance of power, and the building up a new power in America, which, forcing a separation from the parent-country, has far outstripped all others in noble institutions and progressive energy.

The doctrine of the "preservation of the balance of power" among the European states has resulted in more wars, produced a more fearful devastation of human life, and a greater waste of treasure, than all other causes combined !

The accession of Louisiana to the crown of Spain was hardly desirable to that government. She knew the troublesome and restless spirit of the English colonists, and seemed to anticipate evil from their proximity. However, the king, to oblige his cousin of France, accepted the gift. And, as the posts along the old frontier were no longer necessary, the troops at Adaes and Orquisaco were shortly thereafter withdrawn. But the new addition of territory to the Spanish crown required a reformation of frontier defenses. Accordingly, the marquis de Rubi was sent over from the mother-country to examine into the condition of the defenses of New Spain, and report his opinion thereon. After making the examination and report, a new series of posts was established, forming a cordon militaire from Sonora to the gulf of Mexico. In this new arrangement, however, but two posts were allowed in Texas—that is, at San Antonio and La Bahia. The missions, moreover, were not broken up, but remained dependent upon the forces at these posts for incidental protection.

The Spanish government never looked upon Louisiana as altogether her own property, nor did she treat it as a legitimate appendage of the crown; and while the king instructed D'Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana, that there should be no change in the administration of its government, he also directed that its affairs should not be controlled by the council of the Indies, but that they should pass through the hands of the minister of state.

Nevertheless, the principal obstructions to the commerce between Texas and Louisiana were now removed, and the two provinces thereby alike benefited. Texas had, it is true, but little to sell; yet, as the neighbor of Louisiana, she was, to some extent, the merchant of that colony and the internal provinces of Mexico. She had, of her own production, horses, cattle, and sheep: with these articles of trade she supplied the Louisianians, in exchange for manufactured goods. The precious metals sent from Chihuahua, Coahuila, New Leon, and even from New Mexico, passed through her territories to New Orleans, as the nearest wholesale market, in exchange for the various manufactures imported thence from the parent-state. These transfers were made on mules, traveling generally in caravans, with a guard deemed sufficient to protect them from the Indians.

Casa de Contracion

Had the Spanish government permitted a free trade between her colonies and other countries, their prosperity would have been greatly hastened: towns and marts of trade would have sprung up on the Texan coast; and Galveston, instead of remaining an uninhabited island even up to the date of the Texan revolution, would, long before, have grown to be a considerable city. But the policy of Spain was barbarous and exclusive. The trade of her colonies was regulated and controlled by a tribunal known as the Casa de Contratacion, which was established at Seville. The colonists were prohibited from the manufacture of most of the articles which could be furnished by the mother-country, and also from the cultivation of the vine and the olive! All their exports and imports were required to be conveyed in Spanish vessels. They were not permitted to trade with the colonies of other nations; nor were they allowed to trade with each other, except to a very limited extent: no person was permitted to trade with them under, severe penalties! All this had a tendency to prevent the growth of the Spanish colonies, and to keep them dependent on the mother-country for the necessaries of life. It had a further and stronger tendency to exasperate the colonists against a parent so unfeeling and despotic. The prospect before them was indeed gloomy. The enterprising colonist saw himself deprived of that hope which alone makes life tolerable. He found himself on a soil blessed with unusual fertility, which he was not allowed to use, except for a limited purpose. If to this we add the significant fact that, under the Spanish rule, none but native-born Spaniards could enjoy the important offices in the colonies, we may well conclude that the cup of their oppression was full, and that they required only a favorable occasion to throw off a yoke so galling.

The trade between Spain and her colonies in America was at first carried on by a convoy of ships called galleons, which made one voyage annually; but they were discontinued in 1748, and registered vessels introduced in their stead. After the acquisition of Louisiana, the necessity of a more frequent and direct intercourse between Spain and her colonies caused the introduction of regular monthly mail-packets, which sailed from the mother-country to Havana, whence the mails were dispatched to the different provinces. In addition to this facility of intercourse, by an ordinance of the kind-hearted Charles III., the trade of the West India islands belonging to Spain was, in 1765, thrown open to the other Spanish provinces. Yet the advantage gained by Texas in these ameliorations was small and indirect. Her seacoast was a terra incognita. A chance vessel of the buccaneers may have strayed into Copano, or Galveston bay, for the purpose of concealing a prize; but Texas had no maritime trade. New Orleans and Vera Cruz were her only ports. For the growth of Texas, and most of the provinces of New Spain, they were indebted to the contraband trade carried on with great activity by the English, French, and. Dutch. It amounted to at least one third of the exports and imports, and had this advantage, that it paid no duties. It was the natural result of the "oyster policy" of Spain; and, as a question in ethics, it rests upon the same principle with that other yet-undecided point, whether it be lawful to slay a tyrant.

The population of Texas, in 1765, can not be accurately ascertained. The chief settlements were at Adaes, San Antonio, La Bahia, and perhaps a few at Nacogdoches, Orquisaco, and Mound prairie. In the two first-named places there were hardly five hundred inhabitants, exclusive of converted Indians. The whole European population of the province did not, perhaps, exceed seven hundred and fifty, to which may be added a like number of domiciliated Indians. The trade with Louisiana, including that which passed through Texas, did not exceed sixty thousand dollars per annum. Estimating her trade with the provinces of New Spain at twice that amount, the entire annual commerce of Texas at that period, including what passed through her territory, was not over one hundred and eighty thousand dollars. It may be safely estimated that one half of this amount merely passed through her territory. This would reduce the total sum of her exports and imports to ninety thousand dollars per annum.

The American Revolution

The acquisition of the vast territory owned by the French, from the gulf of St. Lawrence to the river Iberville, had given to the Anglo-American colonies an impulse which hastened the already-rapid development of their power. It was not perhaps so much the oppression of which they complained, as the love of liberty, that moved the English colonists to independence. For this, they had become exiles from the Old World, and had endured unparalleled hardships in the New; and, to obtain this, they now took their first steps. But it is not our province to detail these memorable events, further than as they are connected with our subject.

As in the approach of a great storm, the heavens, except in the direction whence it is coming, gradually become clear and tranquil, so, during the few years preceding the American Revolution, nations adjacent and connected with England or with her colonies seemed to enjoy that quiescence. France looked on with mingled hopes and fears. She was still haunted with the idea of the "balance of power." England had grown too great, and her old enemy would gladly see her stripped of her richest possessions. Furthermore, it would be to France a sweet revenge for the misfortunes of the "Seven Years' War." On the other hand, the colonies were all republican: the disease might become infectious, and ultimately drive the king from his throne. But the French people were with the colonies, and they prevailed.

Spain was more delicately situated. Her vast possessions in America, seeing a successful revolt of the English colonies, would doubtless follow the example. On the other hand, Spain wished to recover Gibraltar, Jamaica, and Florida; and such a war would afford her a good opportunity to embark in the enterprise. Besides, she was governed by the Bourbons, and, of course, bound to the same destiny with France; she also thought that England was too powerful. Yet, under all these considerations, Spain was timid ; and while France was secretly fanning the flame of revolution, the Spanish government was in favor of mediation, of peace.

In the meantime, the people of Texas, few in number, and poor, were quietly pursuing their daily pleasures and toils. The missions were not very successful in the conversion of Indians, yet the establishments were well sustained. The aboriginal tribes were in constant wars. The powerful nation of the Collis were already driven from their ancient home on the Trinity. The Nassonites, too, were disappearing before the migrating tribes driven by the Europeans from the valley of the Mississippi. The Indians on the coast were less disturbed, because their lands were less desirable. Thus we see the general movement of the different races: the Anglo-Americans crowding westward, and driving before them the aborigines; the latter expelling other native tribes; the Indians passing through the Spaniards, but these latter also retreat before the English.

The annexation of Louisiana to the Spanish possessions, while it enabled Spain to dispense with her military posts on the eastern frontier, likewise afforded her an opportunity to build up Nacogdoches. Many persons of politeness and means were induced to emigrate from Louisiana to that point. Thus the old missionary station became a town, and, being in the neighborhood of an active commerce, the place soon acquired considerable wealth, and a trade of its own. This emigration occurred about the year 1778. Captain Gil y Barbo, the first commandant of Nacogdoches, was a man of enterprise. Besides an arsenal and barracks for the soldiers, erected on the hill west of the Banita, he laid the foundations of the old stone house, which still survives as a monument of his industry.

About the same time, the garrison was finally removed from St. Bernard's bay, and located at La Bahia, where a considerable town sprang up.

[Next Section of Texas History: Free Navigation of the Mississippi River]

 

 

 

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