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- The French in the Heart of America - 1/57 -


Produced by Anne Soulard, Tiffany Vergon and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

THE FRENCH IN THE HEART OF AMERICA

BY JOHN FINLEY

PREFACE

Most of what is here written was spoken many months ago in the Amphithéâtre Richelieu of the Sorbonne, in Paris, and some of it in Lille, Nancy, Dijon, Lyons, Grenoble, Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Poitiers, Rennes, and Caen; and all of it was in the American publisher's hands before the great war came, effacing, with its nearer adventures, perils, sufferings, and anxieties, the dim memories of the days when the French pioneers were out in the Mississippi Valley, "The Heart of America."

As it was spoken, the purpose was to freshen and brighten for the French the memory of what some of them had seemingly wished to forget and to visualize to them the vigorous, hopeful, achieving life that is passing before that background of Gallic venturing and praying. It was planned also to publish the book simultaneously in France; and, less than a week before the then undreamed-of war, the manuscript was carried for that purpose to Paris and left for translation in the hands of Madame Boutroux, the wife of the beloved and eminent Émile Boutroux, head of the Fondation Thiers, and sister of the illustrious Henri Poincaré. But wounded soldiers soon came to fill the chambers of the scholars there, and the wife and mother has had to give all her thought to those who have hazarded their all for the France that is.

But it was my hope that what was spoken in Paris might some day be read in America, and particularly in that valley which the French evoked from the unknown, that those who now live there might know before what a valorous background they are passing, though I can tell them less of it than they will learn from the Homeric Parkman, if they will but read his immortal story.

My first debt is to him; but I must include with him many who made their contributions to these pages as I wrote them in Paris. The quotation- marks, diligent and faithful as they have tried to be, have, I fear, not reached all who have assisted, but my gratitude extends to every source of fact and to every guide of opinion along the way, from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, even if I have not in every instance known or remembered his name.

As without Parkman's long labors I could not have prepared these chapters, so without the occasion furnished by the Hyde Foundation and the nomination made by the President of Harvard University to the exchange lectureship, I should not have undertaken this delightful filial task. The readers' enjoyment and profit of the result will not be the full measure of my gratitude to Mr. James H. Hyde, the author of the Foundation, to President Lowell, and to him whose confidence in me persuaded me to it. But I hope these enjoyments and profits will add something to what I cannot adequately express.

That what was written could, in the midst of official duties, be prepared for the press is due largely to the patient, verifying, proof-reading labors of Mr. Frank L. Tolman, my young associate in the State Library.

The title of this book (appearing first as the general title for some of these chapters in _Scribner's Magazine_ in 1912) has a purely geographical connotation. But I advise the reader, in these days of bitterness, to go no further if he carry any hatred in his heart.

JOHN FINLEY. STATE EDUCATION BUILDING, ALBANY, N. Y. Washington's Birthday, 1915.

CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. FROM LABRADOR TO THE LAKES

III. THE PATHS OF THE GRAY FRIARS AND BLACK GOWNS

IV. FROM THE GREAT LAKES TO THE GULF

V. THE RIVER COLBERT: A COURSE AND SCENE OF EMPIRE

VI. THE PASSING OF NEW FRANCE AND THE DREAM OF ITS REVIVAL

VII. THE PEOPLING OF THE WILDERNESS

VIII. THE PARCELLING OF THE DOMAIN

IX. IN THE TRAILS OF THE COUREURS DE BOIS

X. IN THE WAKE OF THE "GRIFFIN"

XI WESTERN CITIES THAT HAVE SPRUNG FROM FRENCH FORTS

XII. WESTERN TOWNS AND CITIES THAT HAVE SPRUNG FROM FRENCH PORTAGE PATHS

XIII. FROM LA SALLE TO LINCOLN

XIV. THE VALLEY OF THE NEW DEMOCRACY

XV. WASHINGTON: THE UNION OF THE EASTERN AND THE WESTERN WATERS

XVI. THE PRODUCERS

XVII. THE THOUGHT OF TO-MORROW

XVIII. "THE MEN OF ALWAYS"

XIX. THE HEART OF AMERICA

EPILOGUE

THE FRENCH IN THE HEART OF AMERICA

From "a series of letters to a friend in England," in 1793, "tending to shew the probable rise and grandeur of the American Empire":

"_It struck me as a natural object of enquiry to what a future increase and elevation of magnitude and grandeur the spreading empire of America might attain, when a country had thus suddenly risen from an uninhabited wild, to the quantum of population necessary to govern and regulate its own administration._"

G. IMLAY ("A captain in the American Army during the late war, and a commissioner for laying out land in the back settlements").

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

I address the reader as living in the land from which the pioneers of France went out to America; first, because I wrote these chapters in that land, a few steps from the Seine; second, because I should otherwise have to assume the familiarity of the reader with much that I have gathered into these chapters, though the reader may have forgotten or never known it; and, third, because I wish the reader to look at these new-world regions from without, and, standing apart and aloof, to see the present restless life of these valleys, especially of the Mississippi Valley, against the background of Gallic adventure and pious endeavor which is seen in richest color, highest charm, and truest value at a distance.

But, while I must ask my readers in America to expatriate themselves in their imaginations and to look over into this valley as aliens, I wish them to know that I write, though myself in temporary exile, as a son of the Mississippi Valley, as a geographical descendant of France; that my commission is given me of my love for the boundless stretch of prairie and plain whose virgin sod I have broken with my plough; of the lure of the waterways and roads where I have followed the boats and the trails of French voyageurs and coureurs de bois; and of the possessing interest of the epic story of the development of that most virile democracy known to the world. The "Divine River," discovered by the French, ran near the place of my birth. My county was that of "La Salle," a division of the land of the Illinois, "the land of men." The Fort, or the Rock, St. Louis, built by La Salle and Tonty, was only a few miles distant. A little farther, a town, Marquette, stands near the place where the French priest and explorer, Père Marquette, ministered to the Indians. Up-stream, a busy city keeps the name of Joliet on the lips of thousands, though the brave explorer would doubtless not recognize it as his own; and below, the new- made Hennepin Canal makes a shorter course to the Mississippi River than that which leads by the ruins of La Salle's Fort Crèvecoeur. It is of such environment that these chapters were suggested, and it has been by my love for it, rather than by any profound scholarship, that they have been dictated. I write not as a scholar--since most of my life has been spent in action, not in study--but as an academic coureur de bois and of what I have known and seen in the Valley of Democracy, the fairest and most fruitful of the regions where France was pioneer in America.

There should be written in further preface to all the chapters which follow a paragraph from the beloved historian to whom I am most indebted and of whom I shall speak later at length. I first read its entrancing sentences when a youth in college, a quarter of a century ago, and I have never been free of its spell. I would have it written not only in France but somewhere at the northern portals of the American continent, on the cliffs of the Saguenay, or on that Rock of Quebec which saw the first vessel of the French come up the river and supported the last struggle for formal dominion of a land which the French can never lose, _except by forgetting_: "Again their ghostly camp-fires seem to burn, and the fitful


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