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A Half Century of Conflict - Volume I by Parkman

When Crozat took possession of the colony


The

colonists felt no confidence in the future of Louisiana. The King was its sole support, and if, as was likely enough, he should tire of it, their case would be deplorable. When Bienville ruled over them, they had used him as their scapegoat; but that which made the colony languish was not he, but the vicious system it was his business to enforce. The royal edicts and arbitrary commands that took the place of law proceeded from masters thousands of miles away, who knew nothing of the country, could not understand its needs, and scarcely tried to do so.

In 1711, though the mischievous phantom of gold and silver mines still haunted the colony, we find it reported that the people were beginning to work, and were planting tobacco. The King, however, was losing patience with a dependency that cost him endless expense and trouble, and brought little or nothing in return,--and this at a time when he had a costly and disastrous war on his hands, and was in no mood to bear supernumerary burdens. The plan of giving over a colony to a merchant, or a company of merchants, was not new. It had been tried in other French colonies with disastrous effect. Yet it was now tried again. Louisiana was farmed out for fifteen years to Antoine Crozat, a wealthy man of business. The countries made over to him extended from the British colonies on the east to New Mexico on the west, and the Rio del Norte on the south, including the entire region watered by the Mississippi,

the Missouri, the Ohio, and their tributaries, as far north as the Illinois. In comparison with this immense domain, which was all included under the name of Louisiana, the present State so called is but a small patch on the American map.

To Crozat was granted a monopoly of the trade, wholesale and retail, domestic and foreign, of all these countries, besides the product of all mines, after deducting one-fourth reserved for the King. He was empowered to send one vessel a year to Guinea for a cargo of slaves. The King was to pay the governor and other Crown officers, and during the first nine years the troops also; though after that time Crozat was to maintain them till the end of his term.

In consideration of these and other privileges, the grantee was bound to send to Louisiana a specified number of settlers every year. His charter provided that the royal edicts and the _Coutume de Paris_ should be the law of the colony, to be administered by a council appointed by the King.

When Louisiana was thus handed over to a speculator for a term of years, it needed no prophet to foretell that he would get all he could out of it, and put as little into it as possible. When Crozat took possession of the colony, the French court had been thirteen years at work in building it up. The result of its labors was a total population, including troops, government officials, and clergy, of 380 souls, of whom 170 were in the King's pay. Only a few of the colonists were within the limits of the present Louisiana. The rest lived in or around the feeble stockade forts at Mobile, Biloxi, Ship Island, and Dauphin Island. This last station had been partially abandoned; but some of the colonists proposed to return to it, in order to live by fishing, and only waited, we are told, for help from the King. This incessant dependence on government relaxed the fibres of the colony and sapped its life-blood.


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