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along the exposed northern frontier of English settlements
in New England and New York, when massacre and burn-
ing by bands of savages, under French instigation and
leadership, made the names of Haverhill and Deerfield and
Schenectady memorable in American history, and when,

1 Bancroft's " United States," vol. iii., p. 131.

2 Ibid., p. 175.


in desperate campaigns against the Canadian strongholds,
the colonists vainly sought to protect themselves from the
savages by attacking the centers from which the murder-
ous forays v^ere directed. But each successive treaty of
peace between England and France confirmed and recon-
firmed the French claims to the main part of her American
domain. The advances of French missions and settlements
continued southward and westward, in spite of jealousy in
European cabinets as the imposing magnitude of the plans
of French empire became more distinctly disclosed, and in
spite of the struggles of the English colonies both North
and South. When, on the 4th of July, 1754, Colonel
George Washington surrendered Fort Necessity, near the
fork of the Ohio, to the French, " in the whole valley of
the Mississippi, to its headsprings in the AUeghanies, no
standard floated but that of France." ^

There seemed little reason to doubt that the French
empire in America, which for a century and a half had
gone on expanding and strengthening, would continue to
expand and strengthen for centuries to come. Sudden as
Hghtning, in August, 1756, the Seven Years' War broke
out on the other side of the globe. The treaty with which
it ended, in February, 1 763, transferred to Great Britain,
together with the Spanish territory of Florida, all the
French possessions in America, from the Arctic Ocean to
the Gulf of Mexico. " As a dream when one awaketh,"
the magnificent vision of empire, spiritual and secular,
which for so many generations had occupied the imagina-
tion of French statesmen and churchmen, was rudely and
forever dispelled. Of the princely wealth, the brilliant
talents, the unsurpassed audacity of adventure, the un-
equaled heroism of toil and martyrdom expended on the
great project, how strangely meager and evanescent the

1 Bancroft, vol. iii., p. 121.


results ! In the districts of Lower Canada there remain,
indeed, the institutions of a French Catholic population;
and the aspect of those districts, in which the pledge of
full liberty to the dominant church has been scrupulously-
fulfilled by the British government, may reasonably be
regarded as an indication of what France would have done
for the continent in general. But within the present do-
main of the United States the entire results of a century
and a half of French Catholic colonization and evangeliza-
tion may be summed up as follows : In Maine, a thousand
Catholic Indians still remain, to remind one of the time
when, as it is boldly claimed, the whole Indian population
of that province were either converted or under Jesuit
training.^ In like manner, a scanty score of thousands of
Catholic Indians on various reservations in the remote
West represent the time when, at the end of the French
domination, " all the North American Indians were more
or less extensively converted" to Catholic Christianity,
"all had the gospel preached to them."^ The splendid
fruits of the missions among the Iroquois, from soil watered
by the blood of martyrs, were wasted to nothing in savage
intertribal wars. Among the Choctaws and Chickasaws
of the South and Southwest, among whom the gospel was
by and by to win some of its fairest trophies, the French
missionaries achieved no great success.^ The French col-
onies from Canada, planted so prosperously along the
Western rivers, dispersed, leaving behind them some strag-
gling families. The abundant later growth of the Catholic
Church in that region was to be from other seed and stock.
The region of Louisiana alone, destined a generation later
to be included within the boundaries of the great republic,

1 Bishop O'Gorman, " The Roman Catholic Church in the United States,"
p. 136.

2 Ibid., pp. 191-193.

3 Ibid., p. 211.


retained organized communities of French descent and
language; but, living as they were in utter unbehef and
contempt of religion and morality, it would be an unjust
reproach on Catholicism to call them Catholic. The work
of the gospel had got to be begun from the foundation.
Nevertheless it is not to be doubted that remote memories
or lingering traditions of a better age survived to aid the
work of those who by and by should enter in to rebuild
the waste places.^

There are not a few of us, wise after the event, who
recognize a final cause of this surprising and almost dra-
matic failure, in the manifest intent of divine Providence
that the field of the next great empire in the world's history
should not become the exclusive domain of an old-world
monarchy and hierarchy ; but the immediate efficient causes
of it are not so obvious. This, however, may justly be said :
some of the seeming elements of strength in the French
colonization proved to be fatal elements of weakness.

I. The French colonies had the advantage of royal
patronage, endowment,- and protection, and of unity of
counsel and direction. They were all parts of one system,
under one control. And their centers of vitality, head and
heart, were on the other side of the sea. Subsisting upon
the strength of the great monarchy, they must needs share
its fortunes, evil as well as good. When, after the reverses
of France in the Seven Years' War, it became necessary
to accept hard terms of peace, the superb framework of
empire in the West fell to the disposal of the victors.
" America," said Pitt, " was conquered in Germany."

1 See O'Gorman, chaps, ix.-xiv., xx.

2 Mr. Bancroft, describing the "sad condition" of La Salle's colony at
Matagorda after the wreck of his richly laden store-ship, adds that " even now
this colony possessed, from the bounty of Louis XIV., more than was con-
tributed by all the English monarchs together for the twelve English colonies
on the Atlantic. Its number still exceeded that of the colony of Smith in
Virginia, or of those who embarked in the ' IMayflower ' " (vol. iii., p. 171).


2. The business basis of the French colonies, being that
of trade with the Indians rather than a self-supporting
agriculture, favored the swift expansion of these colonies
and their wide influence among the Indians. Scattered
companies of fur-traders would be found here and there,
wherever were favorable points for traffic, penetrating
deeply into the wilderness and establishing friendly busi-
ness relations with the savages. It has been observed that
the Romanic races show an alacrity for intermarriage with
barbarous tribes that is not to be found in the Teutonic.
The result of such relations is ordinarily less the elevating
of the lower race than the dragging down of the higher ;
but it tends for the time to give great advantage in main-
taining a powerful political influence over the barbarians.
Thus it was that the French, few in number, covered al-
most the breadth of the continent with their formidable
alliances ; and these alliances were the off"ensive and de-
fensive armor in which they trusted, but they were also
their peril. Close alliance with one savage clan involved
war with its enemies. It was an early misfortune of the
French settlers that their close friendly relations with their
Huron neighbors embattled against them the fiercest,
bravest, and ablest of the Indian tribes, the confederacy
of the Six Nations, which held, with full appreciation of
its strategic importance, the command of the exits south-
ward from the valley of the St. Lawrence. The fierce
jealousy of the Iroquois toward the allies of their hereditary
antagonists, rather than any good will toward white settlers
of other races, made them an effectual check upon French
encroachments upon the slender line of English, Dutch,
and Swedish settlements that stretched southward from
Maine along the Atlantic coast.

3. In one aspect it was doubtless an advantage to the
French missions in America that the sharp sectarian com-


petitions between the different clerical orders resulted
finally in the missions coming almost exclusively under the
control of the Jesuit society. This result insured to the
missions the highest ability in administration and direction,
ample resources of various sorts, and a force of missionaries
whose personal virtues have won for them unstinted eulogy
even from unfriendly sources — men the ardor of whose
zeal was rigorously controlled by a more than martial
severity of religious discipline. But it would be uncandid
in us to refuse attention to those grave charges against
the society brought by Catholic authorities and Catho-
lic orders, and so enforced as, after long and acrimonious
controversy, to result in the expulsion of the society from
almost every nation of Catholic Europe, in its being stig-
matized by Pope Benedict XIV., in 1741, as made up of
" disobedient, contumacious, captious, and reprobate per-
sons," and at last in its being suppressed and abolished by
Pope Clement XIV., in 1773, as a nuisance to Christendom.
We need, indeed, to make allowance for the intense ani-
mosity of sectarian strife among the various Catholic orders
in which the charges against the society were engendered
and unrelentingly prosecuted; but after all deductions it
is not credible that the almost universal odium in which it
was held was provoked solely by its virtues. Among the
accusations against the society which seem most clearly
substantiated these two are likely to be concerned in that
" brand of ultimate failure which has invariably been
stamped on all its most promising schemes and efforts " :^
first, a disposition to compromise the essential principles
of Christianity by politic concessions to heathenism, so
that the successes of the Jesuit missions are magnified by
reports of alleged conversions that are conversions only in

1 Dr. R. F. Littledale, in " Encyclopedia Britannica," vol. xiii., pp. 649-


name and outward form; second, a constantly besetting
propensity to political intrigue.^ It is hardly to be doubted
that both had their part in the prodigious failure of the
French Catholic missions and settlements within the pres-
ent boundaries of the United States. ^

4. The conditions which favored the swift and magnifi-
cent expansion of the French occupation were unfavorable
to the healthy natural growth of permanent settlements.
A post of soldiers, a group of cabins of trappers and fur-
traders, and a mission of nuns and celibate priests, all to-
gether give small promise of rapid increase of population.
It is rather to the fact that the French settlements, except
at the seaboard, were constituted so largely of these ele-
ments, than to any alleged sterility of the French stock,
that the fatal weakness of the French occupation is to be
ascribed. The lack of French America was men. The
population of Canada in 1759, according to census, was
about eighty-two thousand;^ that of New England in 1754
is estimated at four hundred and twenty-five thousand.
" The white population of five, or perhaps even of six, of
the American provinces was greater singly than that of all
Canada, and the aggregate in America exceeded that in
Canada fourteenfold."^ The same sign of weakness is
recognized at the other extremity of the cordon of French
settlements. The vast region of Louisiana is estimated, at
fifty years from its colonization, at one tenth of the strength
of the coeval province of Pennsylvania.*

1 Both these charges are solemnly affirmed by the pope in the bull of sup-
pression of the society (Dr. R. F. Littledale, in " Encyclopaedia Britannica,"
vol. xiii., p. 655).

2 Bancroft, vol. iii., p. 320.
^ Ibid., pp. 128, 129.

* The contrast is vigorously emphasized by Mr. Bancroft: "Such wzs
Louisiana more than a half-century after the first attempt at colonization by
La Salle. Its population may have been five thousand whites and half that
number of blacks. Louis XIV. had fostered it with pride and liberal expend-
itures ; an opulent merchant, famed for his successful enterprise, assumed


Under these hopeless conditions the ?«"* ^"'-^^^
had not even the alternative of the peace. The
state of war was forced by the .nother countries. There
wa no Recourse for Canada except to her savage alhes,
won for her through the influence of the

It s us ly clahned that in the mind of such early leaders
as Champ ain the dominant motive of the French colon.^
as L^nduipi _ . . unf ;n the cruel position into which

\"'°",::r:^'forcedH was atoo^t inevitable that the

Christ and France together m their affections^ _ me

Wood It is one of the most unhappy of the results ot
Siat savage warfare that in the minds of the communities
tha suffered from it the Jesuit missionary came to be
ooLd upon as accessory to these abhorrent crimes
Deeply l^it to be lamented that men with such eminen
daims on our admiration and reverence ^^^^f .^not be
t^phantly clear of all suspicion of such comphcity We
gladTy conce'de the claim ^" that the proof of the comphcity

Us direction; the Company of ^f^^^^^I^^^^^^
sient credit, had made it t^^^ foundation of the r hopes ^^ g^.^^^^ ^.^^^^^^^
Louis XV. had sought to advance its ^^^^^^^^'J^l-^^^^ the favor of the sav-
through nations from Biloxi to ^Jf.^.^^ ,"^f ' gSv a ^vilderness. All its
ages ; but still the valley of the Mis^'^^'PP' ^^^ 'd ministers of state-had
pftrons-though among them it ^"^"^^^ ^^^^f^fjfe prosperity which within
Sot accomplished for it in half a centu y J ^'the ^m^ P 1^ ^^ujam Penn to
the same period sprang naturally from t^e bene^o
the peaceful settlers on the Delaware (.^.^l- "'••?• ^ ^^

1 '' Encyclopedia Britannica," vol. xni., p. 654-

2 Bishop O'Gorman, pp. 137-^2-


is not complete ; we could welcome some clear evidence in
disproof of it — some sign of a bold and indignant protest
against these crimes; we could wish that the Jesuit his-
torian had not boasted of these atrocities as proceeding
from the fine work of his brethren/ and that the anteced-
ents of the Jesuits as a body, and their declared principles
of " moral theology," were such as raise no presumption
against them even in unfriendly minds. But we must be
content with thankfully acknowledging that divine change
which has made it impossible longer to boast of or even
justify such deeds, and which leaves no ground among
neighbor Christians of the present day for harboring mu-
tual suspicions which, to the Christian ministers of French
and English America of two hundred years ago and less,
it was impossible to repress.

I have spoken of the complete extinction within the
present domain of the United States of the magnificent
beginnings of the projected French Catholic Church and
empire. It is only in the most recent years, since the
Civil War, that the results of the work inaugurated in
America by Champlain begin to reappear in the field of
the ecclesiastical history of the United States. The im-
migration of Canadian French Catholics into the northern
tier of States has already grown to considerable volume,
and is still growing in numbers and in stability and
strength, and adds a new and interesting element to the
many factors that go to make up the American church.

1 Bancroft, vol. iii., pp. 187, 188.



We have briefly reviewed the history of two magnificent
schemes of secular and spiritual empire, which, conceived
in the minds of great statesmen and churchmen, sustained
by the resources of the mightiest kingdoms of that age,
inaugurated by soldiers of admirable prowess, explorers
of unsurpassed boldness and persistence, and missionaries
whose heroic faith has canonized them in the veneration
of Christendom, have nevertheless come to naught.

We turn now to observe the beginnings, coinciding in
time with those of the French enterprise, of a series of
disconnected plantations along the Atlantic seaboard,
established as if at haphazard, without plan or mutual
preconcert, of different languages and widely diverse
Christian creeds, depending on scanty private resources,
unsustained by governmental arms or treasuries, but des-
tined, in a course of events which no human foresight could
have calculated, to come under the plastic influence of a
single European power, to be molded according to the
general type of English polity, and to become heir to
English traditions, literature, and language. These mu-
tually alien and even antagonistic communities were to be


constrained, by forces superior to human control, first into
confederation and then into union, and to occupy the
breadth of the new continent as a sohd and independent
nation. The history reads Hke a fulfihment of the apoca-
lyptic imagery of a rock hewn from the mountain without
hands, moving on to fill the earth.

Looking back after the event, we find it easy to trace
the providential preparations for this great result. There
were few important events in the course of the sixteenth
and early seventeenth centuries that did not have to do
with it ; but the most obvious of these antecedents are to
be found in controversies and persecutions.

The protest of northern Europe against the abuses and
corruptions prevailing in the Roman Church was articulated
in the Augsburg Confession. Over against it were framed
the decrees of the Council of Trent. Thus the lines were
distinctly drawn and the warfare between contending
principles was joined. Those who fondly dreamed of a
permanently united and solid Protestantism to withstand
its powerful antagonist were destined to speedy and in-
evitable disappointment. There have been many to de-
plore that so soon after the protest of Augsburg was set
forth as embodying the common behef of Protestants new
parties should have arisen protesting against the protest.
The ordinance of the Lord's Supper, instituted as a sacra-
ment of universal Christian fellowship, became (as so often
before and since) the center of contention and the badge
of mutual alienation. It was on this point that Zwingli
and the Swiss parted from Luther and the Lutherans ; on
the same point, in the next generation of Reformers, John
Calvin, attempting to mediate between the two contending
parties, became the founder of still a third party, strong
not only in the lucid and logical doctrinal statements in
which it delighted, but also in the possession of a definite


scheme of republican church government which became as
distinctive of the Calvinistic or " Reformed" churches as
their doctrine of the Supper. It was at a later epoch still
that those insoluble questions which press most inexorably
for consideration when theological thought and study are
most serious and earnest — the questions that concern the
divine sovereignty in its relation to human freedom and
responsibility — arose in the Catholic Church to divide
Jesuit from Dominican and Franciscan, and in the Reformed
churches to divide the Arminians from the disciples of
Gomar and Turretin. All these divisions among the
European Christians of the seventeenth century were to
have their important bearing on the planting of the Chris-
tian church in America.

In view of the destined predominance of English influ-
ence in the seaboard colonies of America, the history of
the divisions of the Christian people of England is of pre-
eminent importance to the beginnings of the American
church. The curiously diverse elements that entered into
the English Reformation, and the violent vicissitudes that
marked the course of it, were all represented in the parties
existing among English Christians at the period of the
planting of the colonies.

The political and dynastic character of the movements
that detached the English hierarchy from the Roman see
had for one inevitable result to leaven the English church
as a lump with the leaven of Herod. That considerable
part of the clergy and people that moved to and fro, with-
out so much as the resistance of any very formidable vis
inertice, with the change of the monarch or of the mon-
arch's caprice, might leave the student of the history of
those times in doubt as to whether they belonged to the
kingdom of heaven or to the kingdom of this world. But,
however severe the judgment that any may pass upon the


character and motives of Henry VIII. and of the councilors
of Edward, there will hardly be any seriously to question
that the movements directed by these men soon came to
be infused with more serious and spiritual influences. The
Lollardy of Wycliffe and his fellows in the fourteenth cen-
tury had been severely repressed and driven into " occult
conventicles," but had not been extinguished; the Bible
in English, many times retouched after WycHffe's days,
and perfected by the refugees at Geneva from the Marian
persecutions, had become a common household book ; and
those exiles themselves, returning from the various centers
of fervid religious thought and feeling in Holland and
Germany and Switzerland, had brought with them an aug-
mented spiritual faith, as well as intensified and sharply
defined convictions on the questions of theology and church
order that were debated by the scholars of the Continent.
It was impossible that the diverse and antagonist elements
thus assembled should not work on one another with vio-
lent reactions. By the beginning of the seventeenth century
not less than four categories would suffice to classify the
people of England according to their religious differences.
First, there were those who still continued to adhere to
the Roman see. Secondly, those who, either from con-
viction or from expediency or from indifference, were con-
tent with the state church of England in the shape in
which Elizabeth and her parliaments had left it ; this class
naturally included the general multitude of Englishmen,
religious, irreligious, and non-religious. Thirdly, there
were those who, not refusing their adhesion to the national
church as by law established, nevertheless earnestly desired
to see it more completely purified from doctrinal errors
and practical corruptions, and who qualified their conform-
ity to it accordingly. Fourthly, there were the few who
distinctly repudiated the national church as a false church,


coming out from her as from Babylon, determined upon
" reformation without tarrying for any." Finally, follow-
ing upon these, more radical, not to say more logical, than
the rest, came a fifth party, the followers of George Fox.
Not one of these five parties but has valid claims, both in
its principles and in its membership, on the respect of his-
tory ; not one but can point to its saints and martyrs ; not
one but was destined to play a quite separate and distinct
and highly important part in the planting of the church of
Christ in America. They are designated, for convenience'
sake, as the Catholics, the Conformists, the Puritans or Re-
formists, the Separatists (of whom were the Pilgrims), and
the Quakers.

Such a Christendom was it, so disorganized, divided,
and subdivided into parties and sects, which was to furnish
the materials for the peopling of the new continent with
a Christian population. It would seem that the same
"somewhat not ourselves," which had defeated in succes-
sion the plans of two mighty nations to subject the New
World to a single hierarchy, had also provided that no one
form or organization of Christianity should be exclusive
or even dominant in the occupation of the American soil.
From one point of view the American colonies will present
a sorry aspect. Schism, mutual alienation, antagonism,
competition, are uncongenial to the spirit of the gospel,
which seeks " that they all may be one." And yet the
history of the church has demonstrated by many a sad
example that this offense " must needs come." No widely
extended organization of church discipline in exclusive
occupation of any country has ever long avoided the in-

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 3 of 34)