Agnes Christina Laut.

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English sailors to remain on shore with his French
followers. What yams were spun over the mess
room table of The Prince Rupert that day! Radis-
son enquired for all his own friends of London, and
Bridgar in turn heard what Radisson had been doing
in the French navy all these eight years. Who
knew Port Nelson better than Radisson? They
asked him about the current of the river. He ad-
vised them to penetrate no farther for fear of a clash
with the French forces and to forbid their men
marauding inland in order to avoid trouble with
the Indians.

Could any one guess that the astute Frenchman,
boasting of ships and so recklessly quaffing toasts at
the table of his enemies — ^was defenseless and power-
less in their hands? His fort was not on this river
but on the Hayes across the swamp to the south — 3.
miserable collection of log shacks with turf roofs,
garrisoned by a mere handful of mutinous sailors.
His fear was not that the English would clash with

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the French forces, but that they would learn how
weak he was. And another discovery added the
desperation of recklessness to the game. Radisson
and Groseillers had come to the bay but a month
before on two miserable ships with twenty-seven
men. Musketry firing had warned Radisson of
some one else at Port Nelson. Twenty-six miles up
Nelson River on Gillam Island, he had discovered
to his amazement, poachers who were old acquaint-
ances — Ben Gillam, son of the Company's captain,
with John Outlaw, come in The Bachellors* Delight
from Boston, on June 21, to poach on the Com-
pany's fur preserve. It was while canoeing down
stream from the discovery of the poachers that
Radisson ran fuU-tilt into the Company's ship. Here,
then, was a pretty dilemma — two English ships on
the same river not twenty miles apart, the French
south across the swamp not a week's journey away.
Radisson was trapped, if they had but known. His
only chance was to keep The Prince Rupert and
The BacheUors* Delight apart, and to master them
singly.

If Bridgar had realized Radisson's plight, the
Frenchman would have been clapped under hatches
in a twinkle, but he was allowed to leave The Prince
Rupert. Bridgar beached his ships on the flats and
prepared to build winter quarters. Ten days later,

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Radisson dropped in again, "to drink health," as he
suavely explained, introducing common sailors as
officers and firing oflE muskets to each cup quaflEed,
to learn whether the Company kept soldiers "on
guard in case of a surprise." Governor Bridgar
was too far gone in liquor to notice the trick, but
Captain Gillam rushed up the decks of The Prince
Rupert with orders for the French to begone. Gillam
and Radisson had been enemies from the first.
Gillam was suspicious. Therefore, it behooved
Radisson to play deeper. The next time he came
to the ship he was accompanied by the Captain's
son, Ben, the poacher, dressed as a bushranger.
There was reason enough now for the old captain
to keep his crew from going farther up the river.
If Ben Gillam were discovered in illicit trade, it
meant ruin to both father and son. When some of
his crew remarked the resemblance of the supposed
bushranger to the absent son, Captain Gillam went
cold with fright.

Falsity, intrigue, danger, were in the very air. It
lacked but the spark to cause the explosion; and
chance supplied the spark.

Two of the Company men ranging for game came
on young Gillam's ship. They dashed back breath-
less to Governor Bridgar with word that there wste a
strange fort only a few miles away. Bridgar thought

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this must be the French fort, and Captain Gillam
had not courage to undeceive him. Scouts were sent
scurrying. Those scouts never returned. They had
been benighted in a howling blizzard and as chance
would have it, were rescued by Radisson's spies.
Whfle he waited for their return, worse disaster befell
Bridgar. Storm and ice set the tide driving in Nel-
son River like a whirlpool. The Prince Rupert was
jammed, ripped, crushed like an eggshell and simk
with loss of all provisions and fourteen men, includ-
ing old Captain Gillam. Mike Grimmington, the
mate, escaped. Governor Bridgar was left destitute
and naked to the enemy without either food or am-
mum'tion for the remainder of his crew to face the
winter. The wretched man seems to have saved
nothing from the wreck but the liquor, and in this he
at once proceeded to drown despair. It was Rad-
isson who came to his rescue. Nothing more was to
be feared from Bridgar. Therefore, the Frenchman
sent food to the servants of his former friends. With-
out his aid, the entire Hudson's Bay crew would have
perished.

Cooped up in the deplorable rabbit hutches that
(fid duty as barracks, and constantly besotted with
liquor. Governor Bridgar was eking out a miserable
winter when he was electrified by another piece of
chance news. A thunderous rapping awakened the

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cabin one winter night. When the door was opened,
there stumbled in a disheveled, panting Scotchman
with an incoherent plea for help. The French were
attacking Ben Gillam's fort. For the first time,
Bridgar learned that the fort up stream was not
French but English — ^the fort oi Ben Gillam, the
poacher; and all his pot valor resolved on one last,
desperate cast of the dice. To be sure, the other
ship was a poacher; but she was English. If Bridgar
united with her, he might beat Radisson. He would
at least have a ship to escape to the Company's forts at
the lower end of Hudson Bay, or to England. Also,
he owed his own and his crew's life to Radisson ; but he
owed his services to the Company, and the Company
could best be served by treachery to Radisson and
alliance with that scalawag sailor adventurer — Ben
Gillam, whose ship sailed under as many names as
a pirate and showed flags as various as the seasons.
Better men than Bridgar forced to choose between
the scalawag with the dollar and honor with juin,
have chosen the scalawag with the doUar.

Men sent out as scouts came back with unsatis-
factory tales of having failed to capture Ben Gillam's
ship, but they were loaded with food for Bridgar
from Radisson. Bridgar only waited till spies re-
ported that Radisson had left Gillam's fort to cross
the marsh to French headquarters. Then he armed

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his men — cutlass, bludgeon, such muskets as Rad-
isson's ammunition rendered available — and set out.
It was a forced tramp in midwinter through bitter
cold. The men were an ill-clad rabble. They were
unused to this cold with frost that glittered sharp as
diamond-points, and had not yet learned snowshoe
travel over the rolling drifts. Frost-bitten, plunging
to then: armpits in snow, they followed the iced river
bed by moonlight and sometime before dawn pre-
sented themselves at the main gate of Ben Gillam's
palisaded fort. Never doubting but Gillam's sentry
stood inside, Bridgar knocked. The gate swung
open before a sleepy guard. In rushed Bridgar's
men. Bang went the gates shut. In the confusion
of half-light and frost smoke, armed men surrounded
the English. Bridgar was trapped in his own trap.
Not Gillam's men manned the poacher's . fort, but
Radisson's French sailors. Ben Gillam and his crew
had long since been captured and marched across
the swamp to French headquarters. Bridgar and his
crew were the prisoners of the French in the poacher's
fort.

The rest of the winter of 1682-83 belongs to the
personal history of Radisson and is told in his life.
Between despair and drink, Bridgar was a madman.
Radisson carried him to the French fort on Hayes
River, whence in a few weeks he was released on

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parole to go back to his own rabbit hutch of a bar-
racks. When spring came, between poachers and
Company men, the French had more English prisoners
than they knew what to do with. To make matters
worse, one of the French boats had been wrecked
in the ice jam. It was decided to send some of the
English prisoners on the remaining boat to Moose
and Rupert River at the south end of the bay, and
to carry the rest on the poacher BacheUors^ Delight to
Quebec. Outlaw and some of the other poachers
would take no chance of going back to New England
to be arrested as pirates. They went in The Ste.
Anne to the foot of James Bay and joined the
Hudson's Bay Company. Bridgar, too, was to have
gone to his company's forts on James Bay, but at the
last moment he pretended to fear the ice floes on such
a slender craft and asked to go with Radisson on
The BacheUors* Delight to Quebec. Giving the
twelve refugees on The Ste. Anne each four pounds
of beef, two bushels of oatmeal and flour, Radisson
dispatched them for the forts of James Bay on
August 14th. He had already set fire to Bridgar's
cabins on Nelson River and destroyed the poachers'
fort on Gillam Island, Bridgar, himself, askmg per-
mission to set the flame to Ben Gillam's houses.
Leaving Groseillers' son, Chouart, with seven French-
men to hold possession of Port Nelson, Radisson set

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safl with his prisoners on The BacheUors* Delight.
A few miles out, a friendly Englishman warned him
of conspiracy. Bridgar and Ben Gillam were plot-
ting a mutiny to cut the throats of all the Frenchmen
and return to put the garrison at Port Nelson to the
sword; so when Bridgar asked for the gig-boat to
attempt going six hundred miles to the forts at the
south end of the bay, Radisson's answer was to order
him under lock the rest of the voyage.

At Quebec, profound disappointment awaited
Radisson. Frontenac had given place to De la
Barre as governor of New France, and De la Barre
knew that a secret treaty existed between France
and England. He would lend no countenance
to Radisson's raid. The Bachellors* Delight was
restored to young Gillam and Radisson ordered to
France to report all he had done. Young Gillam
was promptly arrested in Boston for poaching on
Hudson Bay. Within a few years, he had turned
pirate in earnest, or been driven to piracy by the
monopolistic laws that gave every region for trade
to some special favorite of the English crown. About
the time Captain Kidd of pirate fame was arrested
at Boston, one Gillam of The Prudent Sarah was
arrested, too. By wrenching off his handcuffs and
filing out the bars of his prison window with the iron
of the handcuff, Gillam almost escaped. He was

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leaping out of the prison window on old Court Street
when the bayonet of a guard prodded him back. With
Captain Kidd, he was taken to England and tried
for crimes on the high seas. There, he drops from
history.

As for Bridgar, he no sooner whiffed Governor
De la Barre's fear of consequences for what Radisson
had done, than he set two worlds ringing with vaunt-
ings of the vengeance England would take. Put-
ting through drafts on the Hudson's Bay Company for
money, he hired interpreters, secretaries, outriders,
and assumed pomp that would have done credit to
a king's ambassador. Sailing to New England with
Ben Gillam, he cut a similar swath from Boston to
New York, riding like a Jehu along the old post road
in a noisy endeavor to rehabilitate his own dignity.
Then he sailed for England where condign humilia-
tion lay in wait. The Company was furious. They
refused to honor his drafts and would not pay him
one penny's salary from the day he had surrendered
to Radisson. The wages of the captured servants,
the Company honored in full, even the wages of the
dead in the wreck of The Prince Rupert. Bridgar
was retained in the service, but severely reprimanded.

Notes on Chapter IX. — Practically the entire contents of
this chapter are taken from the documents in Hudson's Bay
House, London. Details of the Company's affairs are from the
Minute Books, of the fracas with Radisson, from the affidavits

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of John Outlaw, who first went to the bay as a poacher with
young GiUam, and from the affidavits of Bridgar's crew.

It has always been a matter of doubt whether Gillam Sr.
survived the wreck of The Prince Rupert, The question is
settled by the fact that his wages are '* payable to an attorney
for his heirs." If he had lived, it was ordered that he was to
be arrested for complicity in piracy with his son.

The ultimate fate of Ben Gillam I found in the Shaftesbury
collection of papers bearing on Captain Kidd. His name is
variously given as '* William" and James," but I think there
can be little doubt of his identity from several coincidences.
In the first place, the Gillam whom Mr. Randolph arrested for
piracy (and was given a present by the Company for so doing)
was the Gillaum later arrested in connection with Captain Kidd.
Also Gillam's boat was known under a variety of names —
BacheUors* Delighi, Prudent Sarah, and the master of The Pru-
dent Sarah was arrested in connection with Captain Kidd. The
minutes of the Hudson's Bay Company show that the Boston
owners of Gillam's boat sued for the loss of this trip against the
Hudson's Bay Company, and lost their suit. This was the first
test of the legality of the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly, and
the courts upheld it.

Radisson's life as given in Pathfinders of the West and Her-
aids of Empire affords fuller details of the fray from the French-
man's point of view. It is remarkable how slightly his record
differs from the account as contained in the official affidavits.

As to the distance of Charlton Island from the main coast —
it puzzled me how the sailing directions for the ships that were
to rendezvous there ^ave the distance of the island from the
main coast as anything from twenty to eighty miles. The
explanation is the point on the south coast tnat is considered.



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CHAPTER X

1683-1685

THE ADVENTURERS FURIOUS AT RADISSON, FIND IT
CHEAPER TO HAVE HTM AS FRIEND THAN ENEMY
AND INVITE HIM BACK — THE REAL REASON
WHY RADISSON RETURNED — ^THE TREACHERY
OF STATECRAFT — ^YOUNG CHOUART OUTRAGED,
NURSES HIS WRATH AND THERE GAILY COMES ON
THE SCENE MONSIEUR PERE — SCOUT AND SPY

THE Hudson's Bay Adventurers were dazed
by the sudden eruption of Radisson at
Port Nelson. Their traders had gone
there often enough to have learned that the finest
furs came from the farthest North. Here was a
region six hundred miles distant from the French
bush-lopers, who came overland from the St. Law-
rence. Here were the best furs and the most niuner-
ous tribes of Indian hunters. Radisson had found
Port Nelson for them. Now he had snatched the
rich prize from their hands.

Bad news travels fast. Those refugees, who had
been shipped by the French to the Company's posts
at the south of the bay, reached the ships' rendezvous

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at Charlton Mand in time to return to England by
the home-bound vessels of 1683. Before Radisson
had arrived in France, Outlaw and the other refugees
had come to London. The embassies of France and
England rang with what was called "the Radisson
outrage." John Outlaw, quondam captain for Ben
Gillam, the poacher, took oath in London, on No-
vember 23, of all that Radisson had done to injure
the English, and he swore that Groseillers had
showed a commission from the Government of
France for the raid. Calvert, Braddon, Phineas and
tdose seamen, who had gone up Nelson River with
Bridgar — gave similar evidence, and when Bridgar,
himself, came by way of New England, the clamor
rose to such heights it threatened to upset the
friendly treaty between England and France. Lord
Preston, England's envoy to Paris, was besieged
with memorials against Radisson for the French
Government.

"I am confirmed in our worst fears by the news
I have lately received," wrote Sir James Hayes of
the Company, "Monsieur Radisson, who was at the
head of the action at Port Nelson is arrived in France
the 8th of this month (December, 1683) in a man-
of-war from Canada and is in all posthaste for
Paris to induce the ministry to undermine us on
Hudson's Bay. Nothing can mend at this time but

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to get His Majesty's order through my Lord Preston
instantly to cause ye French King to have exemplary
justice done upon ye said Radisson."

At the same time, Hayes was urging i^reston to
bribe Radisson; in fact, to do anything to bring
him back to the service of the Hudson's Bay Com-
pany.

Radisson and Groseillers had meanwhile reached
Paris only to find that the great statesman, Colbert —
on whose protection they had relied — ^was dead. Fur
traders of Quebec had the ear of the court — those
monopolists, who had time and again robbed them
of their furs under pretense of collections for the
revenue. Both Radisson and Groseillers separately
petitioned the court for justice. If De la Barre had
been right in restoring the pirate vessel to Ben Gillam,
what right had he to seize their furs? One fourth
for revenue did not mean wholesale confiscation.
The French Court retorted that Radisson and Gros-
eillers had gone North without any official commis-
sion. "True," answered Groseillers in his petition,
"no more official than a secret verbal commission
such as Albanel the Jesuit had, when he came to us
years ago, and that is no good reason why we should
be condemned for extending French dominion and
changing Nelson's name to Bourbon." Radisson's

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petition openly stated that while they carried no
"ofl&cial commission," they had gone North by the
express order of the King, and that the voyage,
itself, was suflScient proof of their zeal for France.

King Louis was in a quandary. He dare not offend
the Hudson's Bay Company, for its chief share-
holders were of the English court, and with the
English Court, Louis XIV had a secret treaty. To
De la Barre he sent a furious reprimand for having
released Gillam's pirate vessel. "It is impossible to
imagine what your conduct meant," ran the reproof,
"or what you were about when you gave up the
vessel captured by Radisson and Groseillers, which
will afford the English proof of possession at Port
Nelson. I am unwilling to afford the King of England
cause of complaint," he explained, "but I think it
important to prevent the English establishing them-
selves on Nelson River." In brief, according to the
shifty trickery of a royal code, Radisson was to be
reprimanded publicly but encouraged privately.
Groseillers dropped out of the contest disgusted.
The French court sent for Radisson. He was ordered
to prepare to sail again to the bay on April 24,
1684, but this time, Radisson would have no under-
liand commission which fickle statesmen might
repudiate. He demanded restoration of his con-
fiscated furs and a written agreement that he should

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have equal share in tradmg profits. The Depart-
ment of the Marine haggled. Preparations went
on apace, but the Hudson's Bay Company was not
idle. Sir James Hayes and Sir William Young and
my Lord Preston — English envoy to Paris — ^urged
Radisson to come back to England on one hand, atid
on the other threatened rupture of the treaty with
France if "condign punishment" were not visited on
the same men.

It is here what historians have called "Radisson's
crowning treachery" takes place. "Prince of liars,
traitors, adventurers and bushrangers" — sa5rs one
writer. "He received the marked displeasure of M.
Colbert," explains another, though Colbert was
dead. "He was blamable for deserting the flag of
France: the first time we might pardon him, for he
was the victim of grave injustice, but no excuse could
justify his second desertion. He had none to offer.
It was an ineffaceable stain," asserts yet another
critic.

In a word, Radisson suddenly left France secretly
and appeared in England, the servant of the Hud-
son's Bay.Company. Why did he do it? Especially,
why did he do it without any business agreement
with the Company as to what his rewards were to
be? Traitors sell themselves for a quid pro quOj but
there was no prospect of gain in Radisson's case.

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His own journals give no explanation. I confess I
had always thought it was but another example of
the hair-brained enthusiast mad to be back in his
native element — ^the wilds — and shutting his eyes to
all precautions for the future. It was not till I had
examined the state papers that passed between the
Hudson's Bay Company and France that I found
the true explanation of Radisson's erratic conduct.
He was sent for by the Department of the Marine,
and told that the French had quit all open preten-
tions to the bay. He was commanded to cross to
England at once and restore Port Nelson to the
Hudson's Bay Company.

"Openly?" he might have asked.

Ah, that was different 1 Not openly, for an open
surrender of Port Nelson would forever dispose of
French claims to the bay. All Louis XIV now
wanted was to pacify the English court and main-
tain that secret treaty. No, not openly; but he was
conunanded to go to England and restore Port Nel-
son as if it were of his own free will. He had cap-
tured it without a commission. Let him restore it
in the same way. But Radisson had had enough of
being a scapegoat for state statecraft and double
dealing. He demanded written authority for what
he was to do, and the Department of Marine placed
this commission in his hands:

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"In order to put an end to the Differences wh. exist
between the two Nations of the French & EngUsh touch-
ing the Factory or Settlement made by Messrs. Groseillers
and Radisson on Hudson Bay, and to avoid the efusion
of blood that may happen between the sd. two nations,
for the Preservation of that place, the expedient wch.
appeared most reasonable and advantageous for the
English company will, that the sd. Messrs. De Groseillers
and Radisson return to the sd. Factory or habitation fur-
nished with the passport of the EngUsh Company, import-
ing that they shall withdraw the French wh. are in
garrison there with all the effects belonging to them in
the space of eighteen months to be accounted from the
day of their departure by reason they cannot goe and
come from the place in one year. . . . The said
gentlemen shall restore to the English Company the
Factory or Habitation by them settled in the sd. country
to be thenceforward enjoyed by the English company
without molestation. As to the indemnity pretended by
the English for effects seized and brought to Quebec
. . . that may be accomodated in bringing back the
said inventory & restoring the same effects or their value
to the English Proprietors."

This, then, was the reason for Radisson a second
time deserting the French flag. He was compelled
by "the statecraft" of Louis XTV, and this reason,
as a man of honor, he could not reveal in his
journals.

On the loth of May, 1684, Radisson landed in
London. He was welcomed by Sir James Hayes
and forthwith carried m honor to Windsor, where

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The Adventurers Furious at Radisson

he took the oath of fidelity as a British subject — a.
fealty from which he never swerved to the end of his
life. In a week, he was ready to leave. Three
ships sailed this year, The Happy Return^ under
Captain Bond; The Success j under Outlaw, who had
been with Ben Gillam, and a little sloop called The
Adventure for inland waters, under Captain Geyer.
Radisson went on board The Happy Return. Gros-
eillers had long since left France for Quebec, where
he settled at Three Rivers with his family. Favor-
able winds carried the ships forward without storm or
stop, to the straits, which luckily presented open
water. Inside the bay, ice and heavy seas separated
the vessels. Sixty miles from Port Nelson The
Happy Return was caught and held. Fearing that
the French at Nelson, under young Chouart Gros-
eillers, might attack the English if the other ships



Online LibraryAgnes Christina LautThe conquest of the great Northwest: being the story of the ..., Volumes 1-2 → online text (page 11 of 50)