The Acquisition Of Louisiana
To all those to whom these presents shall come, greeting: —Know, that, having been requested by the said Sieur de la Salle to deliver to him an act, signed by us and by the witnesses therein named, of possession by him taken of the country of Louisiana, near the three mouths of the River Colbert, in the Gulf of Mexico, on the 9th of April, 1682.
In the name of the most high, mighty, invincible, and victorious Prince, Louis the Great, by the Grace of God, King of France and of Navarre, Fourteenth of that name, and of his heirs, and the successor of his crown, we, the aforesaid Notary, have delivered the said act to the said Sieur de la Salle, the tenor whereof follows:
On the 27th of December, 1681, M. de la Salle departed on foot to join M. de Tonty, who had preceded him with his followers and all his equipage forty leagues into the Miami's country, where the ice on the River Chekagou, in the country of the Mascoutens, had arrested his progress, and where, when the ice became stronger, they used sledges to drag the baggage, the canoes, and a wounded Frenchman, through the whole length of this river, and on the Illinois, a distance of seventy leagues.
At length, all the French being together, on the 25th of January, 1682, we came to Pimiteoui. From that place, the river being frozen only in some parts, we continued our route to the River Colbert, sixty leagues, or thereabouts, from Pimiteoui, and ninety leagues, or thereabouts, from the village of the Illinois. We reached the banks of the River Colbert on the 6th of January, and remained there until the 13th, waiting for the savages, whose progress had been impeded by the ice. On the 13th, all having assembled, we renewed our voyage, being twenty-two French, carrying arms, accompanied by the Reverend Father Zenobe Membré, one of the Recollect Missionaries, and followed by eighteen New England savages, and several women, Ilgonquines, Otchipoises and Huronnes. On the 14th, we arrived at the village of Maroa, consisting of a hundred cabins, without inhabitants. Proceeding about a hundred leagues down the River Colbert, we went ashore to hunt on the 26th of February. A Frenchman was lost in the woods, and it was reported to M. de la Salle, that a large number of savages had been seen in the vicinity. Thinking that they might have seized the Frenchman, and in order to observe these savages, he marched through the woods during two days, but without finding them, because they had all been frightened by the guns which they had heard, and had fled.
Returning to camp, he sent in every direction French and savages on the search, with orders, if they fell in with savages, to take them alive without injury, that he might gain from them intelligence of this Frenchman. Gabriel Barbié, with two savages, having met five of the Chikacha nation, captured two of them. They were received with all possible kindness, and, after he had explained to them that he was anxious about a Frenchman who had been lost, and that he only detained them that he might rescue him from their hands, if he was really among them, and afterwards make with them an advantageous peace (the French doing good to everybody), they assured him that they had not seen the man whom we sought, but that peace would be received with the greatest satisfaction. Presents were then given to them, and as they had signified that one of their villages was not more than half a day's journey distant, M. de la Salle set out the next day to go thither; but, after travelling till night, and having remarked that they often contradicted themselves in their discourse, he declined going farther without more provisions. Having pressed them to tell the truth, they confessed that it was yet four days' journey to their villages; and perceiving that M. de la Salle was angry at having been deceived, they proposed that one of them should remain with him, while the other carried the news to the village, whence the elders would come and join them four days' journey below that place. The said Sieur de la Salle returned to the camp with one of these Chikachas; and the Frenchman, whom we sought, having been found, he continued his voyage, and passed the river of the Chepontias, and the village of the Metsigameas. The fog, which was very thick, prevented his finding the passage which led to the rendez-vous proposed by the Chikachas.
On the 12th of March, we arrived at the Kapaha village of Akansa. Having established a peace there, and taken possession, we passed, on the 15th, another of their villages, situate on the border of their river, and also two others, farther off in the depth of the forest, and arrived at that of Imaha, the largest village in this nation, where peace was confirmed, and where the chief acknowledged that the village belonged to his Majesty. Two Akansas embarked with M. de la Salle to conduct him to the Talusas, their allies, about fifty leagues distant, who inhabit eight villages upon the borders of a little lake. On the 19th we passed the villages of Tourika, Jason, and Kouera; but as they did not border on the river, and were hostile to the Akanas and Taensas, we did not stop there.
On the 20th, we arrived at the Taensas, by whom we were exceedingly well received, and supplied with a large quantity of provisions. M. de Tonty passed a night at one of their villages, where there were about seven hundred men carrying arms assembled in the place. Here again a peace was concluded. A peace was also made with the Koroas, whose chief came there from the principal village of the Koroas, two leagues distant from that of the Natches. The two chiefs accompanied M. de la Salle to the banks of the river. Here the Koroa chief embarked with him, to conduct him to his village, where peace was again concluded with this nation, which, besides the five other villages of which it is composed, is allied to nearly forty others. On the 31st, we passed the village of the Oumas without knowing it, on account of the fog, and its distance from the river.
On the 3d of April, at about ten o'clock in the morning, we saw among the canes thirteen or fourteen canoes. M. de la Salle landed, with several of his people. Footprints were seen, and also savages, a little lower down, who were fishing, and who fled precipitately as soon as they discovered us. Others of our party then went ashore on the borders of a marsh formed by the inundation of the river. M. de la Salle sent two Frenchmen, and then two savages to reconnoitre, who reported that there was a village not far off, but that the whole of this marsh, covered with canes, must be crossed to reach it; that they had been assailed with a shower of arrows by the inhabitants of the town, who had not dared to engage with them in the marsh, but who had then withdrawn, although neither the French nor the savages with them had fired, on account of the orders they had received not to act unless in pressing danger. Presently we heard a drum beat in the village, and cries and howlings with which these barbarians are accustomed to make attacks. We waited three or four hours, and, as we could not encamp in this marsh, and seeing no one, and no longer hearing anything, we embarked.
An hour afterwards we came to the village of Maheonala, lately destroyed, and containing dead bodies and marks of blood. Two leagues below this place we encamped. We continued our voyage till the 6th, when we discovered three channels by which the River Colbert discharges itself into the sea. We landed on the bank of the western channel, about three leagues from its mouth. On the 7th, M. de la Salle went to reconnoitre the shores of the neighbouring sea, and M. de Tonty likewise examined the great middle channel. They found these two outlets beautiful, large, and deep. On the 8th we reascended the river, a little above its confluence with the sea, to find a dry place, beyond the reach of inundations. The elevation of the North Pole was here about twenty-seven degrees. Here we prepared a column and a cross, and to the said column we affixed the arms of France, with this inscription :
LOUIS LE GRAND, RIO DE FRANCE ET DE NAVARRE, REGNE; LE NEUVIEME, AVRIL, 1682.
The whole party, under arms, chanted the Te Deum, the Exaudiat, the Domine salvum fac Reg-em; and then, after a salute of firearms and cries of Vive le Roi, the column was erected by M. de la Salle, who, standing near it, said with a loud voice in French : " In the name of the most high, mighty, invincible, and victorious Prince, Louis the Great, by the Grace of God, King of France and of Navarre, Fourteenth of that name, this ninth day of April, one thousand six hundred and eighty-two, I, in virtue of the commission of his Majesty, which I hold in my hand and which may be seen by all whom it may concern, have taken, and do now take, in the name of his Majesty and of his successors to the crown, possession of this country of Louisiana, the seas, harbours, ports, bays, adjacent straits; and all the nations, people, provinces, cities, towns, villages, mines, minerals, fisheries, streams, and rivers, comprised in the extent of the said Louisiana, from the mouth of the great river St. Louis, on the eastern side, otherwise called Ohio, Alighin, Sipore, or Chukagona, and this with the consent of the Chaouanons, Chikachas, and other people dwelling therein, with whom we have made alliance; as also along the River Colbert, or Misissippi, and rivers which discharge themselves therein, from its source beyond the country of the Kious or Nadouessious, and this with their consent, and with the consent of the Motantees, Ilinois, Mesigameas, Natches, Kouoas, which are the most considerable nations dwelling therein, with whom also we have made alliance either by ourselves, or by others in our behalf; as far as its mouth at the sea, or Gulf of Mexico, about the twenty-seventh degree of the elevation of the North Pole, and also to the mouth of the River of Palms; upon the assurance, which we have received from all these nations, that we are the first Europeans who have descended or ascended the said River Colbert; hereby protesting against all those, who may in future undertake to invade any or all of these countries, people, or lands, above described, to the prejudice of the right of his Majesty, acquired by the consent of the nations herein named. Of which, and of all that can be needed, I hereby take to witness those who hear me, and demand an act of the Notary, as required by law."
To which the whole assembly responded with shouts of Vive le Roi, and with salutes of firearms. Moreover, the said Sieur de la Salle caused to be buried at the foot of the tree, to which the cross was attached, a leaden plate, on one side of which were engraved the arms of France, and the following Latin inscription:
LVDOVICVS MAGNVS REGNAT. NONO APRILIS CIO IOC LXXXII.
ROBERTVS CAVELIER, CVM DOMINO DE TONTY, LEGATO, R. P. ZENOBI MEMBRE, RECOLLECTO, ET VIGINTI GALLIS, PRIMVS HOC FLVMEN, INDE AB ILINEORVM PAGO, ENAVIGAVIT, EJVSQVE OSTIVM FECIT PERVIVM, NONO APRILIS ANNI CIO IOC LXXXII.
After which, the Sieur de la Salle said, that his Majesty, as eldest son of the Church, would annex no country to his crown, without making it his chief care to establish the Christian religion therein, and that its symbol must now be planted ; which was accordingly done at once by erecting a cross, before which the Vexilla and the Domine salvum fac Regem were sung. Whereupon the ceremony was concluded with cries of Vive le Roi.
Of all and every of the above, the said Sieur de la Salle having required of us an instrument, we have delivered to him the same, signed by us, and by the undersigned witnesses, this ninth day of April, one thousand six hundred and eighty-two.
LA METAIRIE, Notary.
De la Salle; P. Zenobe, Recollect Missionary; Henry de Tonty; Francois de Boisrondet; Jean Bourdon; Sieur d'Autray; Jacques Cauchois; Pierre You; Gilles Meucret; Jean Michel, Surgeon; Jean Mas; Jean Dulignon; Nicolas de in Salle.
( Originally Published 1907 )