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A Half Century of Conflict - Volume I by Parkman

Must be prevented from settling on Abenaki lands


The

French authorities were in a difficult position. They thought it necessary to stop the progress of English settlement along the Kennebec; and yet, as there was peace between the two Crowns, they could not use open force. There was nothing for it but to set on the Abenakis to fight for them. "I am well pleased," wrote Vaudreuil to Rale, "that you and Pere de la Chasse have prompted the Indians to treat the English as they have done. My orders are to let them want for nothing, and I send them plenty of ammunition." Rale says that the King allowed him a pension of six thousand livres a year, and that he spent it all "in good works." As his statements are not remarkable for precision, this may mean that he was charged with distributing the six thousand livres which the King gave every year in equal shares to the three Abenaki missions of Medoctec, Norridgewock, and Panawamske, or Penobscot, and which generally took the form of presents of arms, gunpowder, bullets, and other munitions of war, or of food and clothing to support the squaws and children while the warriors were making raids on the English.[251]

Vaudreuil had long felt the delicacy of his position, and even before the crisis seemed near he tried to provide against it, and wrote to the minister that he had never called the Abenakis subjects of France, but only allies, in order to avoid responsibility for anything they might do.[252] "The English," he says elsewhere, "must be prevented from

settling on Abenaki lands; and to this end we must let the Indians act for us (_laisser agir les sauvages_)."[253]

Yet while urging the need of precaution, he was too zealous to be always prudent; and once, at least, he went so far as to suggest that French soldiers should be sent to help the Abenakis,--which, he thought, would frighten the English into retreating from their settlements; whereas if such help were refused, the Indians would go over to the enemy.[254] The court was too anxious to avoid a rupture to permit the use of open force, and would only promise plenty of ammunition to Indians who would fight the English, directing at the same time that neither favors nor attentions should be given to those who would not.[255]

The half-breed officer, Saint-Castin, son of Baron Vincent de Saint-Castin by his wife, a Penobscot squaw, bore the double character of a French lieutenant and an Abenaki chief, and had joined with the Indians in their hostile demonstration at Arrowsick Island. Therefore, as chief of a tribe styled subjects of King George, the English seized him, charged him with rebellion, and brought him to Boston, where he was examined by a legislative committee. He showed both tact and temper, parried the charges against him, and was at last set at liberty. His arrest, however, exasperated his tribesmen, who soon began to burn houses, kill settlers, and commit various acts of violence, for all of which Rale was believed to be mainly answerable. There was great indignation against him. He himself says that a reward of a thousand pounds sterling was offered for his head, but that the English should not get it for all their sterling money. It does not appear that such a reward was offered, though it is true that the Massachusetts House of Representatives once voted five hundred pounds in their currency--then equal to about a hundred and eighty pounds sterling--for the same purpose; but as the governor and Council refused their concurrence, the Act was of no effect.

All the branches of the government, however, presently joined in sending three hundred men to Norridgewock, with a demand that the Indians should give up Rale "and the other heads and fomenters of their rebellion." In case of refusal they were to seize the Jesuit and the principal chiefs and bring them prisoners to Boston. Colonel Westbrook was put in command of the party. Rale, being warned of their approach by some of his Indians, swallowed the consecrated wafers, hid the sacred vessels, and made for the woods, where, as he thinks, he was saved from discovery by a special intervention of Providence. His papers fell into the hands of Westbrook, including letters that proved beyond all doubt that he had acted as agent of the Canadian authorities in exciting his flock against the English.[256]


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