« ПретходнаНастави »
flag of France. This spot was fifty-four miles from the sea, and while the building was going on, who should appear on the desolate site but the brave Tonti, the heroic friend of La Salle, who, sixteen years before, had come to this very same place to meet by appointment his chief, his commander, La Salle, but found him not, nor knew he of his awful fatedead on the plains of Texas!
In this bleak fort, with a few soldiers and several pieces of cannon, Iberville left his young brother, and later sailed away to revisit his native land and secure more help for the colony.
When Governor Sauvolle died, Bienville left his dreary post to the frogs, mosquitoes and alligators, and went to Biloxi, 1701, thus assuming the Governorship of Louisiana in that year. For over forty-four years the name of Bienville is irrevocably intertwined with that of Louisiana.
It is sometimes confusing to read of Old Biloxi and New Biloxi. The first post was once also named Fort Maurepas, and is known to-day as Ocean Springs. New Biloxi, first called Fort St. Louis, is now the present beautiful and progressive Biloxi, pride of the Gulf Coast.
Around these two places, with Mobile, Ship Island and Dauphine Island, all the life and love and government of Louisiana centered for nearly twenty years. Governor Cadillac knew no such place as New Orleans. Its existence on the broad river was only in Bienville's mind, and he knew it only as a dream, as a possibility, a “hope for future years."
Iberville had visited the high bluff, now Natchez. It rose 200 feet above the rushing river, and his judgment selected it as the right place for Louisiana's seat of government.
He had the site surveyed, laid out in lots and named it St. Rosalie, in honor of the Countess de Pontchartrain. He had already named our largest lake Pontchartrain, and he felt a proud conviction that his choice of a future city would meet with entire commendation.
Bienville did not coincide with this view, but troubles arising between the French and Natchez Indians, he was obliged to visit Fort Rosalie, and, furthermore, he was ordered to build a fort there. A garrison of French troops took possession of the fort, and Sieur Pailloux was made commander of the entire district.
Up to 1718 New Orleans, Bienville's abiding hope and dream, had not materialized in any way whatever. He saw only as in a dream a city on the river, not too far from the sea and controlling trade from the west as well as from the north and east regions of the province.
One of Bienville's titles was that of "commander general of all the establishments on the Mississippi and the rivers flowing into it.”
How he longed then to build his dream city on that mighty river and receive in it the trade-French and Indian—that would follow the inflowing streams.
Now there were but a few establishments for him to supervise, only the lonely fort at the mouth of the riverthe fort among the Natchez Indians—and a settlement of the heroic Germans, pioneers whose date of arrival has not been recorded. When other settlements were made in 1724 these were referred to as "Le premier ancien village Allemand.”
As the banks became alive with population, it seemed to Bienville time to build his “castle,” which as yet was only “in the air.”
But the prospects for a city on the Mississippi pointed most persistently to Fort Rosalie. And had Iberville lived it is more than probable that Bienville, to whom his brother's wishes were as law, would have yielded in favor of Natchez. The death of Iberville and the change later of Louisiana's ownership from Crozat to the Western Company, 1717, turned affairs once more in favor of Bienville's desires.
Appointed Governor again by the new company, Bienville hastened from Mobile to the Mississippi river and sc
lected a site accessible from the river's mouth and also accessible by lake and bayou to Biloxi, Mobile and the islands of the gulf, leaving there fifty men to clear the ground and erect some buildings, 1718.
But choosing a site is not building a town, and Bienville's seat of government was “non est” for several years to come. Besides he had no authority but his own for selecting the place at all.
And now came the unexpected commission from the Western Company to forthwith explore, settle and take possession of Bay St. Bernard, on the coast of Texas. It was there La Salle had landed when Beaujen refused to give further aid in search for the entrance to the “fatal” river, 1685.
France claimed this part of the territory as belonging to La Salle's explorations, and determined to occupy it before Spain should claim it as belonging to her Mexican possessions. A city must be founded there.
This extension of the Louisiana Province was a favorite move of the company, not realizing seemingly that such spreading over distant localities weakened the forces of the colony and entailed vast and unnecessary expense. Bienville was very unwilling to have any hand in a foundation so remote from the center of his colony and from the Mississippi river. But a soldier's first duty is to obey the orders of his superior.
Hubert, senior councillor, violently opposed any settlement on the Mississippi. His land concessions were in the Natchez district, hence his preference for the bluff site was considered more self-interested than patriotic. The favorite object with the company in France was the establishment at Bay St. Bernard. A ship, the Latour, was sent by them, with the positive orders to Bienville to begin immediately a settlement on the Texas Bay. The ship had on board fifty workmen and 250 settlers with which force work could be commenced without delay. Moreover, for fear this order might not be of sufficient force to move Bienville to com
pliance, the company had procured from the King himself a special command to Bienville to found a city well fortified upon the shores of the Bay St. Bernard.
Then in the midst of all this confusion of selection and difference of opinions Bienville's city on the banks of the world's greatest river was still left, and so to speak, in silent “desuetude.”
Hubert went straight to France to plead for Natchez and show its superior claim as the seat of government over every othér designated site. Poor Hubert reached his destination only to die a few days afterwards, and one opponent of New Orleans' foundation was thus silenced forever.
The three sites, Natchez, Bay St. Bernard and New Orleans, had each its special pleaders, and the want of unanimity was so embarrassing and so detrimental to all colonial interests that a council of war was called, composed largely of engineers, officers lately from France, and the decision rendered was to establish the seat of government, not at Natchez, or New Orleans, nor Bay St. Bernard, but at New Biloxi! Opposition arose on every side. Biloxi had nothing to offer but “heaps of sand interspersed with lagoons and a growth or scattered shrubs.”
Bienville argued that if a removal was necessary from Mobile—their capital intermittingly for twenty years—it were best to build up New Orleans, located so as to be of most service to all interests concerned.
The directors in France still insisted upon the Texas settlement, sending Bernard De La Harpe with full powers to settle Bay St. Bernard, and Bienville, relinquishing his own desires and ambition, gave his unwilling consent to La Harpe's commission.
The small number of men and an almost inadequate supply sent with Le Harpe on his far-away expedition showed that the design of settling the Bay St. Bernard lacked not only the essentials of success but the co-operation of Bienville.
La Harpe was instructed to set up a fort, display the arms of France, secure the friendship of the Indians, and by
virtue of La Salle's former occupancy in 1685 he was to remove any Spaniard by force who insisted on staying in the place.
La Harpe tried valiantly to do as he was ordered, but failed in every particular, and St. Bernard Bay lost its chance of becoming the principal city of Louisiana's province.
The plan concerning Natchez had by the death of Iberville, and later of Hubert, fallen into oblivion. That of Bay St. Bernard had been found impractical because of the determined resistence of both Spaniards and Indians. Hence the orders to remove all paraphernalia of government to Biloxi must be carried out, and Bienville commenced his measures accordingly, but reluctantly.
But what about Manchac?
Well, Manchac was a post on the Mississippi river, fourteen miles below Baton Rouge, and on the same side of the river; Bayou Manchac, on which the post was located, branched out from the Mississippi and joined the Amite river, Lake Maurepas and Pontchartrain, thus forming a splendid waterway from the Mississippi river to the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
Its possibilities as a future commercial city were very large, and nearly all the colonists spoke of it with enthusiasm and declared it preferable to Natchez, St. Bernard Bay or Biloxi.
Prof. Deiler tells us that we should not imagine that “the Manchac of the eighteenth century was the same locality which most of us know as the little railroad station “Manchac" on the Illinois Central Railway, thirty-eight miles north of New Orleans.
It certainly had a strong claim upon the attention of Louisiana's best thinkers. Bienville, himself saw the advantages, and the site of our present metropolis, was finally decided upon, because it, like Manchac, had a through waterway connection with the lakes, with Mobile and with