Chronicles of Border Warfare
It is highly probable that the continent of America was known to the Ancient Carthaginians, and that it was the great island Atlantis, of which mention is made by Plato, who represents it as larger than Asia and Africa. The Carthaginians were a maritime people, and it is known that they extended their discoveries beyond the narrow sphere which had hitherto limited the enterprise of the mariner. And although Plato represents Atlantis as having been swallowed by an earthquake, and all knowledge of the new continent if any suit ever existed, was entirely lost, still it is by no means improbable, that it had been visited by some of the inhabitants of the old world, prior to its discovery by Columbus in 1492. The manner of this discovery is well known, as is also the fact that Americo Vespucci, a Florentine, under the authority of Emanuel, king of Portugal, in sailing as far as Brazil discovered the main land and gave name to America.
These discoveries gave additional excitement to the adventurous spirit which distinguished those times, and the flattering reports made of the country which they had visited, inspired the different nations of Europe, with the desire of reaping the rich harvest, which the enlightened and enterprising mind of Columbus, had unfolded to their view. Accordingly, as early as March 1496, (less than ten years after the discovery by Columbus) a commission was granted by Henry VII king of England, to John Cabot and his three sons, empowering them to sail under the English banner in quest of new discoveries, and in the event of their success to take possession, in the name of the king of England, of the countries thus discovered and not inhabited by Christian people.
The expedition contemplated in this commission was never carried into effect. But in May 1798 Cabot with his son Sebastian embarked on a voyage to attain the desired object, and succeeded in his design so far as to effect a discovery of North America, and although he sailed along the coast from Labrador to Virginia, yet it does not now appear that he made any attempt either at settlement or conquest.
This is said to have been the first discovery ever made of that portion of our continent which extends from the Gulph of Mexico to the North pole; and to this discovery the English trace their title to that part of it, subsequently reduced into possession by them.
As many of the evils endured by the inhabitants of the western part of Virginia, resulted from a contest between England and France, as to the validity of their respective claims to portions of the newly discovered country, it may not be amiss to take a general view of the discoveries and settlements effected by each of those powers.
After the expedition of Cabot, no attempt on the part of England, to acquire territory in America, seems to have been made until the year 1558. In this year letters patent were issued by Queen Elizabeth, empowering Sir Humphrey Gilbert to "discover and take possession of such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, as were not actually possessed by any Christian prince or people." Two expeditions, conducted by this gentleman terminated unfavorably. Nothing was done by him towards the accomplishment of the objects in view, more than the taking possession of the island of New Foundland in the name of the English Queen.
In 1584 a similar patent was granted to Sir Walter Raleigh, under whose auspices was discovered the country south of Virginia. In April of that year he dispatched two vessels under the command of Amidas and Barlow, for the purpose of visiting, and obtaining such a knowledge of the country which he proposed to colonize, as would facilitate the attainment of his object. IN their voyage they approached the North American continent towards the Gulph of Florida, and sailing northwardly touched at an island situate on the inlet into Pamlico sound, in the state of North Carolina. To this island they gave the name of Wokocoa, and proceeding from thence reached Roanoke near the mouth of Albemarle sound. After having remained there some weeks, and obtained from the natives the best information which they could impart concerning the country, Amidas and Barlow returned to England.
In the succeeding year Sir Walter had fitted out a squadron of seven ships, the command of which he gave to Sir Richard Grenville. On board of this squadron were passengers, arms, ammunition and provisions for a settlement. He touched at the islands of Wokocon and Roanoke, which had been visited by Amidas and Barlow, and leaving a colony of one hundred and eight persons in the island of Roanoke, he returned to England. These colonists, after having remained about twelve months and explored the adjacent country, became so discouraged and exhausted by fatigue and famine, that they abandoned the country. Sir Richard Grenville, returning shortly afterwards to America, and not being able to find them, and at a loss to conjecture their fate, left in the island another small party of settlers and again set sail for England.
The flattering description which was given of the country, by those who had visited it, so pleased Queen Elizabeth, that she gave to it the name of Virginia, as a memorial that it had been discovered by the reign of a Virgin Queen.
Other inefficient attempts were afterwards made to colonize North America during the reign of Elizabeth, but it was not until the year 1607m that a colony was permanently planted there. In December of the preceding year a small vessel and two barks, under the command of captain Newport and having on board one hundred and five men destined to remain left England. In April they were driven by a storm into Chesapeak bay, and after a fruitless attempt to land at Cape Henry, sailed up the Powahatan (since called James) River, and on the 13th if Nat 1607, debarked on the north side of the river at a place to which they gave the name of Jamestown. From this period the country continued in the occupancy of the whites, and remained subject to the crown of Great Britain until the war of the revolution.
A new charter which was issued in 1609 grants to "the treasurer and company of the adventurers, of the city of London for the first colony of Virginia, in absolute property the lands extending from Point Comfort along the sea coast two hundred miles to the northward, and from the same point, along the sea coast two hundred miles to the southward, and up into the land throughout from sea to sea, west and northwest; and also all islands lying within one hundred miles of the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid." Conflicting charters, granted to other corporations, afterwards narrowed her limits; that she has been since reduced to her present comparatively small extent of territory, is attributable exclusively to the almost suicidal liberality of Virginia herself.
On the part of France, voyages for the discovery and colonization of North America were nearly contemporaneous with those made by England for like objects. As early as the 1540, a commission was issued by Francis 1st for the establishment of Canada. In 1608, a French fleet, under the command of Admiral Champlaine, arrived in the St. Lawrence and founded the city of Quebec. So successful were her attempts to colonize that province, that, notwithstanding its proximity to the English colonies, and the fact that a Spanish sailor had previously entered the St. Lawrence and established a port at the mount of Grand river – neither of those powers seriously contested the right of France to its possession. – Yet it was frequently the theater of war; and as early as 1629 was subdued by England. By the treaty of St. Germains in 1632 it was restored to France, as was also the then province of Acadie, now known as Nova Scotia. There is no doubt but that this latter province was, by priority of settlement, the property of France, but its principal town having been repeatedly reduced to possession by the English, it was ceded to them by the treaty of Utrecht in 1718.
To the country bordering the Mississippi river, and its tributary streams, a claim was made by England, France and Spain. The claims of England (based on the discovery by the Cabots of the eastern shore of the United States,) included all the country between the parallels of latitude within which the Atlantic shore was explored, extending westwardly to the Pacific ocean – a zone athwart the continent between the thirtieth and forty-eighth degrees of North latitude.
From the facility with which the French gained the good will and friendly alliance of the Natives in Canada, by inter-marrying with, and assimilating themselves to the habits and inclinations of these children of the forest, an intimacy arose which induced the Indians to impart freely to the French their knowledge of the interior country. Among other things information was communicated to them, of the fact that farther on there was a river of great size and immense length, which pursued a course opposite to that of the St. Lawrence, and emptied itself into an unknown sea. It was conjectured that it must necessarily flow either into the Gulph of Mexico, or the South Sea; and in 1673 Marquette and Joliet, French missionaries, together with five other men, commenced a journey from Quebec to ascertain the fact and examine the country bordering its shores.
From Lake Michigan they proceeded up the Fox river nearly to its source; thence to Onisconsin; down it to the Mississippi in which river they sailed as far as to about the thirty-third degree of north latitude. From this point they returned through Illinois country to Canada.
At the period of this discovery M. de La Salle, a Frenchman of enterprise, courage and talents but without fortune, was commandant of fort Frontignac. Pleased with the description given by Marquette and Joliet, of the country which they had visited, he formed the determination of examining it himself, and for this purpose left Canada in the close of the summer of 1679, in company with father Louis Hennepin and some others. On the Illinois he erected fort Crevecoeur, where he remained during the winter, and instructing father Hennepin, in his absence to ascend the Mississippi to its sources, returned to Canada. M. de La Salle subsequently visited this country, and establishing the villages of Cahokia and Kaskaskia, left them under the command of M. de Tonti, and going back to Canada, proceeded from thence to France to procure the co-operation of the Ministry in effecting a settlement of the valley of the Mississippi. He succeeded in impressing on the minds of the French Ministry, the great benefits which would result from its colonization, and was the first to suggest the propriety of connecting the settlements on the Mississippi with those in Canada by a cordon of forts; a measure which was subsequently attempted to be carried into effect.
With the aid afforded him by the government of France, he was enabled to prepare an expedition to accomplish his object, and sailing in 1684 for the mouth of the Mississippi, steered too far westward and landed in the province of Texas, and on the banks of the river Guadaloupe. Every exertion which a brave and prudent man could make to effect the security of his little colony, and conduct them to the settlement in Illinois, was fruitlessly made by him. In reward for all his toil and care he was basely assassinated; the remnant of the party whom he was conducting through the wilderness, finally reached the Arkansas, where was a settlement of French emigrants from Canada. The colonists left by him at the bay of St. Bernard were mostly murdered by the natives, the remainder were carried away by the Spaniards in 1689.
Other attempts made by the French to colonize the --Mississippi near the Gulph of Mexico were for some time unavailing(-,. In an expedition for that purpose, Conducted by M. Iberville, a suit of armor on which was inscribed Ferdinand de Soto, was found in the possession of some Indians. In the.vear1717 the spot, on which New Orleans now stands, was selected as the centre of the settlements,, then first made in Louisiana, and the country continued in the possession of France until 1763. By the treaty of Paris in that year, she ceded to Great Britain, together with Canada her possessions east of' the Mississippi, excepting , only the island of New Orleans—this and her territory on the west bank of that river were transferred to Spain.
The title of Spain to the valley of the Mississippi, if made to depend on priority of discovery would perhaps, to say the least, be as good as that of either of the other powers. Ferdinand de Soto, governor of Cuba, was most probably the first white man who saw that majestic stream.
The Spaniards had early visited and given name to Florida. In 1528 Pamphilo de Narvaez obtained a grant of it, and fitting out an armament, proceeded with four or five hundred men to explore and settle the country. He marched to the Indian village of Appalachas, when he was attacked and defeated by the natives. The most of those who escaped death from the hands of the savages, perished in a storm by which they were overtaken on their voyage home. Narvaez himself perished in the wreck, and was succeeded in his attempt at colonization by de Soto.
Ferdinand de Soto, then governor of Cuba, was a man of chivalrous and enterprising spirit, and of cool, deliberate courage. In his expedition to Florida, although attacked by the Indians, immediately on his landing, yet, rather seeking than shunning danger, he penetrated the interior, and crossing the Mississippi, sickened and died on Red river. So frequent and signal had been the victories which he had obtained over the Indians, that his name alone had become an object of terror to them; and his followers, at once to preserve his remains from violation, and prevent the natives from acquiring a knowledge of his death, enclosed his body in a hollow tree, sunk it in the red river and returned to Florida.
Thus, it is said, were different parts of this continent discovered; and by virtue of the settlements thus effected, by those three great powers of Europe, the greater portion of it was claimed as belonging to them respectively, in utter disregard of the rights of the Aborigines. And while the historian records the colonization of America as an event tending to meliorate the condition of Europe, and as having extended the blessings of civil and religious liberty, humanity must drop the tear of regret, that it has likewise forced the natives of the new, and the inhabitants of a portion of the old world, to drink so deeply from the cup of bitterness.
The cruelties which have been exercised on the Aborigines of America, the wrong and outrage heaped on them from the days of Montezuma and Gustimozin, to the present period, while they excite sympathy for their sufferings, should extenuate, if not justify the bloody deeds, which revenge prompted the untutored savages to commit. Driven as they were from the lands of which they were the rightful proprietors—Yielding to encroachment after encroachment ‘till forced to apprehend their utter annihilation—Witnessing the destruction of their villages, the prostration of their towns and the sacking of cities adorned with splendid magnificence, who can feel surprised at any attempt which they might make to rid the country of its invaders. Who, but must applaud the spirit which prompted them, when they beheld their prince a captive, the blood of their nobles staining the earth with its crimson dye, and the Gods of their adoration scoffed and derided, to aim at the destruction of their oppressors.—When Mexico, "with her tiara of proud towers," became the theater in which foreigners were to revel in rapine and in murder, who can be astonished that the valley of Otumba resounded with the cry of "Victory of Death?" And yet, resistance on their part, served but as a pretext for a war of extermination; wagd too, with a ferocity, from the recollection of which the human mind involuntarily revolts, and with a success which has forever blotted from the book of national existence, once powerful and happy tribes.
But they did not suffer alone. As if to fill the cup of oppression to the brim, another portion of the human family were reduced to abject bondage and made the unwilling cultivators of those lands of which the Indians had been dispossessed. Soon after the settlement of North America was commended, the Negroes of Africa became an article of commerce, and from subsequent importation and natural increase have become to numerous as to excite the liveliest apprehensions in the bosom of every friend to this country. Heretofore they have had considerable influence on the affairs of our government - and recently the diversity of interest occasioned in Virginia, by the possession of large numbers of them in the country cast of the blue ridge of mountains, seemed for a while to threaten the integrity of the state. Happily this is now passing away, but how far they may effect the future destinies of America, the most. prophetic ken cannot foresee. Yet although the philanthropist must weep) over their unfortunate Situation, and the patriot shudder in anticipation of a calamity which it may defy human wisdom to avert; still it would be unfair to charge the existence of slavery among us to the policy of the United States, or to brand t)their present owners as the instruments of an evil I which they cannot remove. And while others boast that they. are free from this dark spot, let them remember, that but for them our national escutcheon might have been as pure and unsullied as their own.*
We are indebted to the Dutch for their introduction into Virginia, and to the ships of other than slave holding communities, for their subsequent unhallowed transportation to our shores. Yet those who were mainly instrumental in forging the chains of bondage, have since rendered the condition of the-negro slave more intolerable by fomenting discontent among them, and by ,scattering fire brands and torches ," which are often not to be extinguished but in blood.
Notwithstanding those two great evils which have resulted from this discovery and colonization of America, yet to these the world is indebted to the enjoyment of many and Great blessings.. They encouraged the theater of agricultural enterprise and thus added to the facilities of procuring the necessities of life. They encouraged the industry of Europeans, by a dependence on them for almost every species of manufacture, and thus added considerably to their population, wealth and happiness; while the extensive tracts of fertile land, covering the face of this country and inviting to its bosom the enterprising foreigner, has removed a far off any apprehension of the ill effects arising from the too dense population.
In a moral and political point of view much good has likewise resulted from the settlement of America. Religion, free from the fetters which enthralled her in Europe, has shed her benign influence on every portion of our country. Divorced from an adulterous alliance with state, she has here stalked forth in the simplicity of her founder; and with "healing on her wings, spread the glad tidings of salvation to all men." It is true that religious intolerance and blind bigotry, for some time clouded our horizon, but they were soon dissipated; and when the sun arose which ushered in the dawn of our national existence scarce a speck could be seen to dim its lustre. Here too was reared the standard of civil liberty, and an example set, which may teach to the nations of the old world, that as people are really the source of power, government should be confided to them. Already have the beneficial effects of this example been manifested, and the present condition of Europe clearly shows, that the lamp of liberty, which was lighted here, has burned with a brilliancy so steady as to have reflected its light across the Atlantic. Whether it will be there permitted to shine, is somewhat problematical. But should a "holy alliance of legitimates" extinguish it, it will be but for a season. Kings, Emperors and Priests cannot succeed much longer in staying the march of freedom. The people are sensibly alive to the oppression of their rulers—they have groaned beneath the burden ‘till it has become too intolerable to be borne; and they are now speaking in a voice which will make tyrants tremble on their thrones.
*It is said that Georgia, at an early period of her colonial existence, endeavored by legislative enactment to prevent the importation of slaves into her territory, but that the King of England invariably negatived those lows, and ultimately Oglethorpe was dismissed from office, for persevering in the endeavor to accomplish so desirable an objective. It is an historical fact that slaves were not permitted to be taken into Georgia, for some time after a colony was established there.