VERSAILLES, March 10, 1685
Instructions which the king wishes placed in the hands of the Sieur Marquis de Denonville, selected by his majesty as his governor and lieutenant-general in New France.
He is likewise informed that the savages nearest to the French settlements are the Algonkin and the Iroquois, and that the latter have, on several occasions, disturbed the peace and tranquillity of the settlements of New France until his majesty having had to carry on a vigorous war against them about twenty years ago, they were finally forced to submit and live in peace without making their usual incursions into lands inhabited by the French. But these people, restive and warlike, have not, since that time, desisted from occasional outrages against his subjects, which has induced his majesty to send troops and munitions of war to the said country in order to restrain them through the fear of his arms.
The said Sieur de Denonville knows the use which the said Sieur de la Barre has made of this assistance, and that instead of profiting from it and from the zeal with which the inhabitants of the said country and their Indian neighbors were seeking to destroy the Iroquois, he has concluded an ignominious peace with them at a time when everything seemed favorable for ridding the country of a nation which has always disturbed its repose.
His abandonment of the Illinois in this manner has deeply displeased his majesty, and be expects that the said Sieur de Denonville, by his diligence in carefully examining the whole state of affairs on his arrival, will find the means of retrieving the situation, of bringing the Iroquois back to their duty, and of reestablishing the influence of the nation in the minds of the Indian allies that the bad conduct of the Sieur de la Barre cannot fail to have altered.
His majesty has explained to him his ideas concerning the conduct which he ought to adopt on arriving in the said country, and he knows that the principal object which he ought to have in view is the reestablishment of the tranquillity of the colony by means of a firm and lasting peace; but in order that this peace may be lasting, he must humble the pride of the Iroquois, give assistance to the Illinois and the other Indian allies whom the Sieur de la Barre has abandoned, and begin by a firm and vigorous conduct to teach the said Iroquois that they will have everything to fear for themselves if they do not submit to the conditions which he may wish to impose upon them.
He ought therefore to declare to them at the very outset that he wishes to protect with all of his forces the allies of the French, to make this known to the Illinois, Ottawa, Miami, and others, and, if he thinks it opportune, to support this declaration by ineans of the troops and by an expedition against the Seneca. His majesty defers to him to follow in this regard the plans which he believes to be the most suitable, being fully persuaded that he will pursue the most expedient ones and that his military experience will place him in a position to terminate it quickly if he is compelled to undertake it.
He ought to be informed that the commandant of New York has presumed to give aid to the Iroquois and to extend English control up to the banks of the St. Lawrence River and throughout the whole extent of territory inhabited by these Indians; and, although his majesty does not doubt that the king of England, to whom he has caused representations to be made by his ambassador, will give orders to check these unjust pretensions on the part of his commandant, he feels it necessary, nevertheless, to explain that. everything should be done to maintain the good understanding between the French and the English; but if in spite of all appearances the latter should stir up the Indians and give them aid, he must act toward them as against the enemy whenever he finds them in the territories of the Indians, without, however, attempting anything on the lands of those owing allegiance to the king of England.
He must not only apply himself to preventing the outrages of the Iroquois on the French; he ought also to take particular care to maintain peace arnong the Indians themselves and to prevent the Iroquois by all means from making war on the Illinois and the other neighboring peoples; he is very certain that if these nations from whom the peltries are obtained, which constitute the principal commerce of Canada, see themselves shielded from the violence of the Iroquois by the protection which they will receive from the French, they will be so much more persuaded to bring their goods and will by this means increase the trade.
But in order to attain ends so advantageous, he must give a great deal of attention to inuring the inhabitants to war by dividing them into companies in each settlement, drilling them in the handling of arms, reviewing them frequently, seeing that they all have the arms necessary for their use in case of need, and, finally, drilling them constantly in order to render them capable of defending themselves well in the event that they should be attacked. In this he will be able to use profitably the officers of the troops who were sent there some years ago under the command of the Sieur de Tracy and those whom he will send over with him.
His majesty wishes that shortly after his arrival he undertake the preparation of an exact roll of all of the inhabitants by settlements, in which he will designate those who are able to bear arms, old men, and children. He will mention the number of women and girls of all ages, and he will take pains to make his majesty completely and truly acquainted with the state of the colony. Above all, his majesty again enjoins him to place it in a position to defend itself by the inhabitants themselves, it being neither the duty nor the intention of his majesty to send regular troops to the region. However' in order to give him the means of carrying out his intentions with more assured success, he is pleased to send out 300 men besides the 500 who are stationed there.
He should arrange to make a journey to Michillimackinac in order to inspect the places where it will be necessary to make new settlements, construct forts, and establish garrisons; and, as his majesty is informed that Fort Frontenac is an important post for giving protection to the trade of his subjects, for coping with the Iroquois, and for being in a position to attack them as soon as he believes it opportune, he wishes that he investigate in what point in the neighborhood a good fort should be built, in which one or two companies could be left as a garrison.
If the justice which he ought to cause to reign among all the settlements of Canada is a principal means of bringing about the enjoyment of contentment and tranquillity necessary for the protection and growth of the colony, the state and increase of trade is another means no less useful and to which he must vigorously apply himself.
One of the things which is most opposed to the increase of trade has been the liberty that numerous colonists are assuming, notwithstanding the express prohibitions contained in his majesty's ordinances, of going into the backwoods to carry brandy to the Indians in their homes, and to gather from them the peltries which they had been accustomed to secure. This disorder has been so widespread that the greater part of the colonists, abandoning the cultivation of their lands, moved by bad example and by the profit that the coureurs de bois were making, have taken the same course, so that the settlements have been abandoned, and the land, not being cultivated, has returned to the same condition in which it was before it had been cleared. It is that which has induced his majesty, in order to recall them to their duty, to grant them an amnesty with permission to the governor and intendant together to give passports to twenty-five canoes each year for going into the homes of the Indians to carry the same trade which the coureurs de bois formerly carried on.
His majesty desires, therefore, that he employ all his authority in the execution of that which is in his intentions, and that he act in concert with the intendant in order to prevent the disorders of the said coureurs de bois that he use the guards and archers of the provost in order to arrest those who shall go into the back-woods without permission; and he will observe that what has been done in granting passports is rather a toleration than something which his majesty has deemed useful to the welfare of the colony. He ought, also, to investigate with the intendant whether it is necessary to grant these passports, and to reduce the number as much as he can; to bear in mind in giving them out in the first years, to prefer those who have not carried on the trade of coureurs de bois in the past; and, on the whole, to observe such justice in the distribution of these passports that each one may go in his turn and that he does not allow himself to be carried away by favor nor for any other reason to give preferences, on account of which the other colonists might have cause for complaint.
His majesty is fully persuaded that he will be occupied solely with what he regards as the good of his service and with the good example which he ought to set for his subjects in Canada so that he will not permit his servants to carry on any forbidden trade, nor use his name or the canoes which he may dispatch in order to carry his orders concerning the war, to take, instead, the peltries of the Indians; this has been done only too frequently in the past. His majesty recommends to him with regard to trade, only to permit full liberty to those who carry it on, since only that liberty can help it flourish to the welfare and advantage of the colony and the imposts of his majesty.
Numerous individual colonists of Canada, moved by the hope of profit to be found in the peltry trade with the Indians, have undertaken, at different times, explorations in the land of the Sioux, and in other regions of North America; but as his majesty does not believe these explorations will be advantageous, and as it is better that they apply themselves to the cultivation of the soil in the cleared regions, he does not wish that he continue to give these permissions; only let him permit the completion of those begun by the Sieur de la Salle to the mouth of the Mississippi River, concerning which his majesty wishes to let him know that La Salle, in order to facilitate the settlement which he is to make in the Gulf of Mexico, departed from Rochefort last summer on one of his majesty's ships of war with a bark, 200 soldiers, and the necessary equipment for such an enterprise; and he wishes that he [Denonville] give to the people of the said De la Salle all the assistance which they will require for the preservation of the interest which he may have in Forts Frontenac and St. Louis and the property which he has left there.