His work done, and, as he thought, the French settlements of Acadia effectually blotted out, Acadia decimated, Argall set sail for Virginia.
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Argall’s ship, the captured ship of La Saussaye, and another smaller vessel, were at once equipped and dispatched on their errand of havoc. Argall commanded; and Biard, with Quentin and several others of the prisoners, were embarked with him. They shaped their course first for Mount Desert. Here they landed, leveled La Saussaye’s unfinished defenses, cut down the French cross, and planted one of their own in its place. Next they sought out the island of St. Croix, seized a quantity of salt, and razed to the ground all that remained of the dilapidated buildings of De Monts. They crossed the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal, guided, says Biard, by an Indian chief, — an improbable assertion, since the natives of these coasts hated the English as much as they loved the French, and now well knew the designs of the former. The unfortunate settlement was tenantless. Biencourt, with some of his men, was on a visit to neighboring bands of Indians, while the rest were reaping in the fields on the river, two leagues above the fort. Succor from Poutrincourt had arrived during the summer. The magazines were by no means empty, and there were cattle, horses, and hogs in adjacent fields and enclosures. Exulting at their good fortune, Argall’s men butchered or carried off the animals, ransacked the buildings, plundered them even to the locks and bolts of the doors, and then laid the whole in ashes; “and may it please the Lord,” adds the pious Biard, “that the sins therein committed may likewise have been consumed in that burning.”
Having demolished Port Royal, the marauders went in boats up the river to the fields where the reapers were at work. These fled, and took refuge behind the ridge of a hill, whence they gazed helplessly on the destruction of their harvest. Biard approached them, and, according to the declaration of Poutrincourt made and attested before the Admiralty of Guienne, tried to persuade them to desert his son, Biencourt, and take service with Argall. The reply of one of the men gave little encouragement for further parley: —
“Begone, or I will split your head with this hatchet.”
There is flat contradiction here between the narrative of the Jesuit and the accounts of Poutrincourt and contemporary English writers, who agree in affirming that Biard, “out of indigestible malice that he had conceived against Biencourt,” encouraged the attack on the settlements of St. Croix and Port Royal, and guided the English thither. The priest himself admits that both French and English regarded him as a traitor, and that his life was in danger. While Argall’s ship was at anchor, a Frenchman shouted to the English from a distance that they would do well to kill him. The master of the ship, a Puritan, in his abomination of priests, and above all of Jesuits, was at the same time urging his commander to set Biard ashore and leave him to the mercy of his countrymen. In this pass he was saved, to adopt his own account, by what he calls his simplicity; for he tells us, that, while — instigated, like the rest of his enemies, by the Devil — the robber and the robbed were joining hands to ruin him, he was on his knees before Argall, begging him to take pity on the French, and leave them a boat, together with provisions to sustain their miserable lives through the winter. This spectacle of charity, he further says, so moved the noble heart of the commander, that he closed his ears to all the promptings of foreign and domestic malice.
The English had scarcely re-embarked, when Biencourt arrived with his followers, and beheld the scene of destruction. Hopelessly outnumbered, he tried to lure Argall and some of his officers into an ambuscade, but they would not be entrapped. Biencourt now asked for an interview. The word of honor was mutually given, and the two chiefs met in a meadow not far from the demolished dwellings. An anonymous English writer says that Biencourt offered to transfer his allegiance to King James, on condition of being permitted to remain at Port Royal and carry on the fur-trade under a guaranty of English protection, but that Argall would not listen to his overtures. The interview proved a stormy one. Biard says that the Frenchmen vomited against him every species of malignant abuse. “In the mean time,” he adds, “you will considerately observe to what madness the evil spirit exciteth those who sell themselves to him.”
According to Pontrincourt, Argall admitted that the priest had urged him to attack Port Royal. Certain it is that Biencourt demanded his surrender, frankly declaring that he meant to hang him.
“Whilest they were discoursing together,” says the old English writer above mentioned, “one of the savages, rushing suddenly forth from the Woods, and licentiated to come neere, did after his manner, with such broken French as he had, earnestly mediate a peace, wondring why they that seemed to be of one Country should vse others with such hostilitie, and that with such a forme of habit and gesture as made them both to laugh.”
His work done, and, as he thought, the French settlements of Acadia effectually blotted out, Argall set sail for Virginia on the thirteenth of November. Scarcely was he at sea when a storm scattered the vessels. Of the smallest of the three nothing was ever heard. Argall, severely buffeted, reached his port in safety, having first, it is said, compelled the Dutch at Manhattan to acknowledge for a time the sovereignty of King James. The captured ship of La Saussaye, with Biard and his colleague Quentin on board, was forced to yield to the fury of the western gales and bear away for the Azores. To Biard the change of destination was not unwelcome. He stood in fear of the truculent Governor of Virginia, and his tempest-rocked slumbers were haunted with unpleasant visions of a rope’s end. It seems that some of the French at Port Royal, disappointed in their hope of hanging him, had commended him to Sir Thomas Dale as a proper subject for the gallows drawing up a paper, signed by six of them, and containing allegations of a nature well fitted to kindle the wrath of that vehement official. The vessel was commanded by Turnel, Argall’s lieutenant, apparently an officer of merit, a scholar and linguist. He had treated his prisoner with great kindness, because, says the latter, “he esteemed and loved him for his naive simplicity and ingenuous candor.” But of late, thinking his kindness misplaced, he had changed it for an extreme coldness, preferring, in the words of Biard himself, “to think that the Jesuit had lied, rather than so many who accused him.”
Water ran low, provisions began to fail, and they eked out their meager supply by butchering the horses taken at Port Royal. At length they came within sight of Fayal, when a new terror seized the minds of the two Jesuits. Might not the Englishmen fear that their prisoners would denounce them to the fervent Catholics of that island as pirates and sacrilegious kidnappers of priests? From such hazard the escape was obvious. What more simple than to drop the priests into the sea? In truth, the English had no little dread of the results of conference between the Jesuits and the Portuguese authorities of Fayal; but the conscience or humanity of Turnel revolted at the expedient which awakened such apprehension in the troubled mind of Biard.
He contented himself with requiring that the two priests should remain hidden while the ship lay off the port: Biard does not say that he enforced the demand either by threats or by the imposition of oaths. He and his companion, however, rigidly complied with it, lying close in the hold or under the boats, while suspicious officials searched the ship, a proof, he triumphantly declares, of the audacious malice which has asserted it as a tenet of Rome that no faith need be kept with heretics.
Once more at sea, Turnel shaped his course for home, having, with some difficulty, gained a supply of water and provisions at Fayal. All was now harmony between him and his prisoners. When he reached Pembroke, in Wales, the appearance of the vessel — a French craft in English hands — again drew upon him the suspicion of piracy. The Jesuits, dangerous witnesses among the Catholics of Fayal, could at the worst do little harm with the Vice-Admiral at Pembroke. To him, therefore, he led the prisoners, in the sable garb of their order, now much the worse for wear, and commended them as persons without reproach, “wherein,” adds the modest father, “he spoke the truth.” The result of their evidence was, we are told, that Turnel was henceforth treated, not as a pirate, but, according to his deserts, as an honorable gentleman. This interview led to a meeting with certain dignitaries of the Anglican Church, who, much interested in an encounter with Jesuits in their robes, were filled, says Biard, with wonder and admiration at what they were told of their conduct. He explains that these churchmen differ widely in form and doctrine from the English Calvinists, who, he says, are called Puritans; and he adds that they are superior in every respect to these, whom they detest as an execrable pest.
Biard was sent to Dover and thence to Calais, returning, perhaps, to the tranquil honors of his chair of theology at Lyons. La Saussaye, La Motte, Fleury, and other prisoners were at various times sent from Virginia to England, and ultimately to France. Madame de Guercheville, her pious designs crushed in the bud, seems to have gained no further satisfaction than the restoration of the vessel. The French ambassador complained of the outrage, but answer was postponed; and, in the troubled state of France, the matter appears to have been dropped.
Argall, whose violent and crafty character was offset by a gallant bearing and various traits of martial virtue, became Deputy-Governor of Virginia, and, under a military code, ruled the colony with a rod of iron. He enforced the observance of Sunday with an edifying rigor. Those who absented themselves from church were, for the first offence, imprisoned for the night, and reduced to slavery for a week; for the second offence, enslaved a month and for the third, a year. Nor was he less strenuous in his devotion to mammon. He enriched himself by extortion and wholesale peculation; and his audacious dexterity, aided by the countenance of the Earl of Warwick, who is said to have had a trading connection with him, thwarted all the efforts of the company to bring him to account. In 1623, he was knighted by the hand of King James.
Early in the spring following the English attack, Pontrincourt came to Port Royal. He found the place in ashes, and his unfortunate son, with the men under his command, wandering houseless in the forests. They had passed a winter of extreme misery, sustaining their wretched existence with roots, the buds of trees, and lichens peeled from the rocks.
Despairing of his enterprise, Poutrincourt returned to France. In the next year, 1615, during the civil disturbances which followed the marriage of the King, command was given him of the royal forces destined for the attack on Mery; and here, happier in his death than in his life, he fell, sword in hand.
In spite of their reverses, the French kept hold on Acadia. Biencourt, partially at least, rebuilt Port Royal; while winter after winter the smoke of fur traders’ huts curled into the still, sharp air of these frosty wilds, till at length, with happier auspices, plans of settlement were resumed.
Rude hands strangled the “Northern Paraguay” in its birth. Its beginnings had been feeble, but behind were the forces of a mighty organization, at once devoted and ambitious, enthusiastic and calculating. Seven years later the “Mayflower” landed her emigrants at Plymouth. What would have been the issues had the zeal of the pious lady of honor preoccupied New England with a Jesuit colony?
In an obscure stroke of lawless violence began the strife of France and England, Protestantism and Rome, which for a century and a half shook the struggling communities of North America, and closed at last in the memorable triumph on the Plains of Abraham.
– Pioneers of France in the New World Part II, Chapter 8 by Francis Parkman
Acadia decimated remained French.
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.