Edmund Burke.

An account of the European settlements in America : in six parts ... each part contains an accurate description of the settlements in it, their extent, climate, productions, trade, genius and disposition of their inhabitants: the interests of the several powers of Europe with respect to those settle online

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Online LibraryEdmund BurkeAn account of the European settlements in America : in six parts ... each part contains an accurate description of the settlements in it, their extent, climate, productions, trade, genius and disposition of their inhabitants: the interests of the several powers of Europe with respect to those settle → online text (page 3 of 18)
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country, whoever then (hall be the pofieffors
of it, will be enabled of itfelf to carry on a
vaft trade upon thefe great feas of frefh water
which it environs. Here are five lakes, the
fmalled of which is a piece of fweet water
greater than any in the other parts of the
world ; this is the lake Ontario, which is not
lefs than two hundred leagues in circum-
ference; Erie, longer but not fo broad, is
about the fame extent. That of the Hurons
fpreads greatly in width, and is in circumfer-
ence not lefs than three hundred; as is that
of Michigan, though, like lake Erie, it is
rather long and comparatively narrow. But
the lake Superior, which contains feveral large
iflands, is five hundred leagues in the circuit.
AH of thefe are navigable by any vefTels, and
they all communicate with one another, ex-

Settlements /^America* 35

cept that the paffage between Erie and Ontario
is interrupted by the ftupendous cataract of
Niagara, where the water tumbles down a pre-
cipice of twenty-fix fathom high, and makes
in this fall a thundring noife, which is heard
all round the country at the diftance of feveral
miles. The river St. Laurence is the outlet
of thefe lakes; by this they difcharge them-
felves into the ocean. The French have built
forts at the feveral ftraits, by which thefe lakes
communicate with each other, as well as where
the laft of them communicates with the river
St. Laurence. By thefe they effectually fecure
to themfelves the trade of the lakes, and an
influence upon all the nations of Americans
which confine upon them.

They have but one fettlement more in the
Northern part of their territories in America,,
which deferves confideration ; but that fettle-
ment, though a fmall one, is perhaps of more
confequence than all the reft. It is tl>e ifland
of Cape Breton. This ifland properly be-
longs to the diviflon of Acadia or Nova-
Scotia, and it is the only part of it which has
not been ceded by treaty to Great Britain. It
is about one hundred and forty miles in length,
full of mountains and lakes, and interfered by
a vaft number of creeks and bays, almoft meet-
ing each other on every fide; which feems in
general, both for the coaft and inland, very
much to refemble the coaft and inland parts of

Vol. II. D moil

34 JLn Accoun.t of the European

moil: Northern countries. Scotland is fo; fb
is Iceland; and Denmark and Sweden have
fuch mores, fuch mountains, and fuch lakes.

• However, the foil is in many places fufficient-
ly fruitful ; and in every part abounds with
timber fit for all ufes. In the earth are coal-
pits -, and on the mores one of the moft valu-
able fifneries in the world. The only town
in this ifland is Louifbourg. It ftands upon
one of the fined harbours in all America.
This harbour is four leagues in circumference,
landlocked every way but at the mouth, which
is narrow ; and within there is fine anchorage
every where in feven fathom water. The
town itfelf is of a tolerable fize, and well
built and fortified. The harbour is defended
by batteries of cannon and forts, which fecure

' x it at this day, perhaps too effectually. This
harbour is open the whole year. The French
(hips that carry goods to Quebec can very
felclom get their full loading there ; therefore
on their return they put into Louifbourg, and
there take in a quantity of fiih, coal, and
fome lumber, and then fail away to the
French iilands in the Weft-Indies, where they
vend thefe, and foon compleat their cargo
faith fugars. It is needlefs to obferve that
this ifland was taken by us in the late war,
butreflored by the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, in
which we certainly were not in fuch a condi-
tion as to entitle us to prefcribe the terms.


Settlements in America*


Louifiana* The MiJjijippL "The Ohio, The
fountain of youth. 'The colony of Louifiana*

"^HE French have called the Sooth part
of the vaft tract which they claim in
America, Louifiana. It was heretofore a part
of Florida. It is bounded by the golph of
Mexico upon the South. But what bounds it
is to have to the Eaft and to the Weft, it is to
be wifhed the next treaty of peace may fciilo
definitely. This is in all refpecls a much
finer country than Canada ; in a delicious cli-
mate, capable of bearing almoft any thing
from the temper of the iky, and the goodnefs
of the foil, and from the multitude of long,
deep, and beautiful rivers, with which it
is every, where enriched and adorned; thefe
are moft of them navigable for hundreds of
miles into the country. They are princi-
pally the Miffifippi, whofe head is unknown,
but it almoft goes quite through North Ame-
rica, and at certain feafons overflows its banks
for a vaft way on both fides. The Ohio, a
river almoft equal to the Danube, which falls
into the Miffiiippi; the Ouabache, fcarce in-
ferior to the Ohio ; the great rivers., Alibama,
Mobile, and feveral others. The face of the

D a country

36 An Account of the European

country is almoft wholly plain, covered with
{lately woods, or fpread into very fine mea-
dows. In fhort, Louiiiana, particularly the
Northern part (for the mouth of the Miffi-
fippi is barren), without any of thole height-
ening which it received, when it was made
the inftrurnent to captivate fo many to their
ruin, is in all refpects a mod: defirable place ;
though there are no fufficient reafons to believe
that it contains any rich metals, w T hich gave it
the greateft influence in that remarkable de-
lufion in 17 17.

I know not how it has happened, but it has
been the fate of this country to create roman-
tic ideas at all times. Very furpriiing (lories
were told of it when fifft the Spaniards dif-
covered the Weft-India iflands. Amongft
others, a notion was generally current, that
there was a fountain here w T hich perpetually
renewed the youth of thofe who drank it.
This was fo uniformly and confidently affirm-
ed, that Juan Pontio de Leon, a confiderable
man among the Spanish adventurers, gave
credit to it, and made ,a particular expedition
for the difcovery of that fairy land, and that
fountain of youth. He was the firft of the
Europeans v/ho landed in Florida. But what
fuccefs foever he met with in fearch for that
celebrated fpring, it is certain he died not
long after, having fearched every part of the
country, and drank of alrnoft every water it
5 ■ contained.

Settlements in America. 37

contained. Nor do I find that fo invaluable
a fpring is yet difcovered there; if it were, it
would undoubtedly be the befl commodity
the country could yield, both for domeftic
confumption and for the foreign markets,
and would be a far better bails for flocks and
funds than the richeft mines of gold or filver.
Yet, without this, an idea, altogether as ro-
mantic, of a trade hither, operated fo ftrongly
upon a very wife nation, as to ferve for the
inftrument of one of thofe dangerous mafter-
ftrokes in politics, by which nations are
fometimes faved, individuals undone, and an
entire change and reverfement brought about,
not only in the common ways of thinking of
mankind, but of all that feemed molt fixed
and permanent in a ftate. The famous Mifli-
fippi fcheme in France was of that nature, and
built upon fuch a romantic foundation. It is
well known to all the world, both on its own
account, and upon account of a fimilar mad-
nefs that prevailed here, without perhaps
being attended with fuch advantageous confe-

The French fettled in Louifiana raife fome
indigo, a good deal of cotton, fome corn and
rice, with lumber for their ifiands; but the
colony is not very vigorous, on account of the
fhoals and fands with which the mouth of
the river Miffifippi is in a manner choaked
up, and which deny accefs to veifels of any

D 3 confiderable

38 An Account of the European

confiderable burden. This keens the inha-
bita.ots low ; but, the caufe which keeps them
from growing rich contributes too to their fe-
curity ; for it is not eafy to act with any great
force upon that. fide. But the French have
not relied upon this advantage ; but, according
to their ufual cautions and wife cuftom, have
erected feveral forts in the moft material
places, and fortified, as it is faid, New Orleans
jheir capital, and indeed the only city in
Louifiana, in a regular manner. This city
is not remarkably fair, large, or rich ; but
it is laid out regularly, in a fine fituation on
the banks of the 1 Sppi* in profpec! of an
higher fortune. The whole colony is faid
not to contain above ten thoufand fouls, whites
and negroes., Yet, with all its difadvantages,
this colony is not declining; and if ever they
ihould make the mouth of the Miflifippi
more tractable (and what is impoflible to am-
bition and induftry ?) if they mould come
fully to poifefs and fettle the Ohio, which at
one feafon overflows, and makes fuch flood as
to level all the falls almoft from its very
fource to the mouth of the Miiiifippi, and
gives a pafiage all that way to very confider-
able vefiels (though they have not quite the
fame eafy return); and if by this and other
means they mould contrive a communica-
tion between Canada znd the fettlement at
Louiliana, whilft they entirely confine us be-

Settlements in America. 39

tween our mountains and the fea ; ^ouifiana
in a few years will wear quite another face. '
It will fupply their Weft-Indies with boards,
ftaves, horfes, mules, and provifions. It will
fend tobacco into France; and, increasing the
conveniencies of its mother country and lifter
colonies, it will increafe its own traffic, its
inhabitants, and its power. But the French,
not trufting to this remote profped;, have
eftablifhed themfelves at the mouth of the
Mobile; a river which falls into the gulph of
Mexico. And many are of opinion, that this
is a more advantageous fituation, not only for
the maritime but for the inland commerce,
and the communication of their colonies, than
the Miffifippi. It certainly approaches much
nearer to our fettlements, and, whilft it ferves
the French better, is much better calculated
to annoy our Southern colonies. We have
{een how the French Weft-Indies, in lefs than
forty years, from a condition which could
excite no other fentiments than thofe of
companion, are rifen to fuch a pitch as to be
an object of great and juft terror to her
neighbours; and we now feel too, that the
French fettlements in North America, even
fuch as thev are, are not an undermatch for
the whole force of ours, in tiie manner at
leaf!: in which that force is exerted.


40 An Account of the European


The French policy with regard to their colo?iies.

THAT we may not fit down in a fenfe-
lefs admiration of this progrefs of the
French colonies, as if it were the work of for-
tune, it will not be amifs to open fomething of
the wife plan of conduct which France has
purfued with regard to this interefting ob-
itdh That nation is fenfible, as the mother
country is to receive ultimately all the benefits
of their labours and acquifitions, fo that all the
profperity of their plantations muft be derived
from the attention with which they are re-
garded 'at home. For which reafon the plan-
tations are particularly under the care and in-
fpedtion of the council of commerce; a board
very judicioufly conftituted to anfwer the
purpofes for which it is defigned. To give
it a proper refpedt and authority, it is com-
pofed of twelve of the more confiderable offi-
cers of the crown ; and then, to enable it to
judge perfectly of the matters which come
before it, thefe twelve are affifted by the
deputies of all the confiderable" trading towns
and cities in France, who are chofen out of
the rkheft and moft intelligent of their traders,
and paid an handfome falary for their attend-

Settlements in America. 41

ance at Paris, from the funds of their refpe&ive
cities. This council fits once a week. The
deputies propofe plans for redreffing every
grievance in trade ; for raifmg the branches
that are fallen; for extending new ones; for
fupporting the old; and, in fine, for every
thing that may improve the working, or pro-
mote the vent of their manufactures, accord-
ing to their own lights, or to the inftruclions.
of their conftituents. They have a watchful
eye upon every article of commerce; and they
not only propofe helps and improvements to it
themfelves, but they hear the propofals of
others, which are not difdainfully rejected,
nor rafhly received. They do not render the
accefs to them difficult, by fwelling them-
felves into a ftifF and unwieldy ftate. They
do not difcourage thofe who apply, by ad-
mitting the vexatious practice of fees, perqui-
fites, and exactions, in their inferior officers.
They do not fufTer form and methods to load
and encumber that bufmefs, they were folely
intended to advance. They fummon and ex-
amine thofe who are fuppofed the moft com-
petent judges of the matter before them, and
of every part of it, even the loweft artizans :
but though they examine thofe men, they are
inftructed by their experience, not determined
by their opinion. When they are fatisfied of
the ufefulnefs of any regulation, they propofe
it to the royal council, where their report is


42 An Account of the European

always received with particular attention. An
edict to enforce it iffues accordingly ; and it
is executed with a punctuality which diftin-
guifhes their government, and which alone
can make the wifeft regulations any thing
better than ferious mockeries. To the care
of this excellent body the plantations are par-
ticularly entrufted.

The government of the feveral divifions of
their colonies is in a governor, an intendant,
and a royal council. The governor is in-
vefted with a great deal of power; which
however, on the fide of the crown, is checked
by the intendant, who has the care of the
king's rights, and whatever relates to the re-
venue i and on the fide of the people, it is
checked by the royal council, whofe office it
is, to fee that the people are not opprefTed by
the one, nor defrauded by the other ; and they
are all checked by the conftant and jealous
eye which the government at home keeps
over them. For "the officers at all the ports
of France are charged, under the fevereft pe-
nalties, to interrogate all captains of mips
coming from the colonies concerning the re-
ception they met at the ports they were bound
to 3 how juftice was adminiftered to them?
what charges they were made liable to, and
of whet kinds? The paffengers, and even the
failors, are examined upon thefe heads, and a
verbal procefs of the whole is formed and


Settlements in America. 43

iranfmitted -with all fpeed to the admiralty.
Complaints are encouraged ; but a difference
is made between hearing an accufation and
condemning upon it.

That the colonies may have as little load
as poflible,. and that the governor may have
lefs temptation to ftir up troublefome in-
trigues, or favour factions in his government,
his ialary is paid by the crown. His per-
quifites are none; and he is ftrictly forbidden
to carry on any trade, or to have any planta-
tions in the iflands, or on the continent, or
any intereft whatever in goods or lands with-
in his government, except the houfe he lives
in, and a garden for his convenience and re-
creation. All the other officers are paid by
the crown, and out of the revenues of Old
France; the fortifications are built and re-
paired, and the foldiers are paid, out of the
fame funds.

In general the colonies pay no taxes ; but
when, upon an extraordinary emergency, taxes
have been raifed, they were very moderate.
And, that even the taxes might operate for the
advancement of the colony, they who began
new plantations were exempted from them.
The duties upon the export of their produce
at the iflands, or at its import into France, is
next to nothing; in both places hardly mak-
ing two per cent. What commodities go to
them, pay no duties at all.


44 -An Account of the European

Befides thefe advantages, a confiderable
benefit accrues to fuch of the colonies as are
poor, as Canada, by the money which comes
from France to fupport the eftablifhrnent.
This brings into Canada about 120,000
crowns a year, which finds them circulating
cam; prefer ves them from the dangerous ex-
pedient of a paper currency ; enables them to
keep up their intercourfe with fome credit,
with their mother country ; and at the fame
time is in fad: no lofs at all to it, lince the
money returns home almoft as foon as it can
poffibiy be tranfported back again.

In all their iflands, judges of the admiralty
are appointed to decide in a fummary manner
all difputes between merchants, and whatfo-
ever dfc has any relation to trade. Thefe
judges are ftridly examined before they are
appointed, particularly as to their fkill in the
marine laws, which have been improved and
digefted in France with fo much care and
good fenfe, that all law-fuits are quickly over;
though in other refpeds the practice of law
admits of as much chicanery, and has as
many, if not more delays, than with us.

After having taken fuch precautions to fe-
cure the good government of the colony with-
in itfelf, and to make its communication with
the mother country eafy and beneficial to
both fides, ail would be to very little purpofe,
if they had not provided with equal care to


Settlements in America. 45

have the country replenished with people.
To anfwer this end, they oblige every fhip
which departs from France for Amerir a, to
carry a certain number of indentured fervants.
All veffels of fixty tuns or, under are to carry
three; from fixty to a hundred, four; and
from a hundred upwards, fix fervants ; found
ftrong bodies, between the ages of eighteen
and forty. Before their departure, the fervants
are examined by the officers of the admiralty,
to fee whether they are the perfons required
by law - y an examination to the fame purpofe
is made by the commifTary on their landing
in America. They are to ferve three years.
The avarice of the planters make them always
prefer negroe Haves, becaufe they are more
obedient than the Europeans ; may be more
worked, are fubiifted with lefs difficulty, and
are befides the entire property of their mailer.
This difpofition, in time, would render the
fafety of the colony extremely precarious,
whilll it made the colony itfelf of lefs value
to the mother country. Therefore the planters
are by law obliged to keep a certain number of
white fervants in proportion to their blacks ;
and the execution of this law is inforced by
the commifTary, who adjulls the price, and
forces the planters to take the number of fer-
vants required by the ordinance, who would
otherwife be a burden upon the hands of the
mailers of (hips who brought them over. .


46 A7i Account of the European

They confider the planter, as a Frenchman
venturing his life, enduring a fpecies of ba-
nifhment, and undergoing great hardfnips, for
the benefit of his country. For which reafons,
he has great indulgence (hewn him. When-
ever, by hurricanes, earthquakes, or bad fea-
fons, the planters fufTer, a ftop is put to the
rigour of exacting creditors ; the few taxes
which are levied, are remitted; and even mo-
ney is advanced to repair their lofles and fet
them forward. To thofe who are poor, but
fhew a difpolition to induftry, necerTaries and
fmall fums are lent to make a beginning ^
and this money is taken in gradually, and by
very fmall payments, On the other hand,
as it .can be of no advantage to the planter
to run fraudulently into debt, but is of the
greater! prejudice to the French merchant, all
debts, though contracted by the planters in
France, are levied with great eafe. The pro-
cefs, properly authenticated, is tranfmitted to
America, and admitted as proved there, and
levied on the planter's eftate, of whatfoever
kind it may be. However, care is taken, that,
whilft compulfory methods are ufed to make
the planter do juftice, the ftate (hall not lofe
the induftry of an ufeful member of the com-
munity ; the debt is always levied according
to the fubftance of the debtor, and by inftall-
ment ; fo that (what ought indeed to be the
cafe in every well-regulated government) one


Settlements in America. 47

of the parties is not facrificed to the other.
Both fubfift ; the creditor is fatisfied ; the
debtor is not ruined -, and the credit of the
colonies is kept in health and vigour at home,
by the fure methods which are in ufe for reco-
vering all demands in the plantations.

As to the negroes, they are not left as
they are with us, wholly, body and foul, to the
difcretion of the planter. Their mailers are
obliged to have them inftrudied in the princi-
ples of religion. There are methods taken at
once to protect the Haves from the cruelty of
•their owners, and to preferve the colony from
the ill effects that might arife from treating
them with a lenity not confident v/ith their
condition. In fhort, the Code Noir, and other
ordinances relative to thefe poor creatures,
fhew a very juft and fenfible mixture of huma-
nity and fteadinefs. There is however one er-
ror, their planters commit in common with
ours; which is, that they over- work thefe
unhappy men in a manner not fuitable to
the nature of the climate, or to their con-

I have dwelt the longer upon the French
policy as it regards their colonies, becaufe it is
juft to give due honour to all thofe who ad-
vance the intercourfe of mankind, the peo-
pling of the earth, and the advantage of their
country, by wife and effectual regulations. But
I principally injift upon it, that it may, if pof^


48 An Account of the European

fible, ferve for an example to ourfelves ; that
it may excite an emulation in us ; that it may
help to roufe us oat of that languor into which
we feem to be fallen. The war we now car-
ry on principally regards our colonies, and is
a fufficient proof that we are come at laft to
know their value. But, if we are not to hope
for better fuccefs than has hitherto attended a
very juft caufe, the next peace will probably
contract the field we hoped to lay open to
our induftry in America. We ought there-
fore to cultivate what ftill remains of it, with
tenfold induftry 5 we ought to guard with
the rnoft unremitting vigilance that enclofed
fpring, that fealed fountain, the waters of
which we referve to ourfelves, and direct into
fuch channels, and make to purfue fuch wind-
ings and turnings, as beft ferve our purpofes.
We have, I believe, pretty well difcovered
moft of our errors, and the advantage our
enemy and rival has taken, not only of our fu-
pinenefs, but of a contrary genius in his own
councils. We ought to roufe ourfelves from,
the former, and prepare to imitate the latter.
Our bufmefs is to fight againft Alexander,,
not to rail at him. And truly, I do not know
any thing, that for this long time pail has
contributed more to degrade our character
for humanity in the eyes of foreigners, or to
inftil into ourfelves a low and illiberal way of


Settlements in America. 49

thinking, than that vein of licentious fcurrility
and abufe, by which, in all forts of writings,
we are apt to vilify and traduce the French na-
tion. There is nothing, which hinders peo-
ple from adting properly, more than indulging
themfelves in a vain and effeminate licence
of tongue, A man who loves his country,
and can at once oppofe and efleem an ene-
my, would view our prefent circurnftances in
a light, I conceive, fomewhat like the fol-
lowing. We have been engaged for above a
century with France in a noble contention for
the fuperiority in arms, in politics, in learn-
ing, and in commerce; and there never was
a time, perhaps, when this ftruggle was more
critical. If we fucceed in the war, even our
fuccefs, unlefs managed with prudence, will
be, like feme former fucceffes, of little be-
nefit to us; if we fhould fail, which God
forbid* even then, prudence may make our
misfortunes of more ufe to us, than an
ill-managed fuccefs : if they teach us to
avoid our former errors; if they make us
lefs carelefs ; if they make us cultivate the
advantages we have with care and judgment:
this, and not our opinion of the enemy*
muft decide the long conteft between us.

Vol. II. E CHAP*

50 An Account of the European


The Dutch fcttlements. Cnrajfou. The city,
its trade. The Spanifh contraband. Eu-
fiatia. The Danlfh company. ' The Danz/h
if and of Santa Cruz. The characters of

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Online LibraryEdmund BurkeAn account of the European settlements in America : in six parts ... each part contains an accurate description of the settlements in it, their extent, climate, productions, trade, genius and disposition of their inhabitants: the interests of the several powers of Europe with respect to those settle → online text (page 3 of 18)