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INTRODUCTION.

BY SUSAN FENIMORE COOPER.

THE fertile country south of Lake Ontario, lay overshadowed by a beautiful leafy canopy, during untold ages.

When the wondering pale-faces first landed on the shores of that inland sea, they beheld boundless forests stretching before them, forests made up of oak, ash, chestnut, pine, and maple, of the most noble growth. More than two centuries passed away after the discovery of the St. Lawrence, and still that region preserved the same character of a grand, shadowy wilderness. Slowly and reluctantly as it were, those great old trees dropped their limbs, bowed their heads, and stretched their giant trunks on the earth, That fluttering, leafy canopy, vast in its proportions, beautiful and delicate in texture, ever-varying in its aspects under the successive changes of storm and sunshine, of spring and autumn that living canopy was not to be folded, and laid aside in one century. The brawny arms of hundreds of thousands of woodmen were needed to do the work, half a dozen generations or more toiled out a life-time, one after the other, and lay down in their graves ere the task was done. It was not until the first years of the present century that the soil of that region was thoroughly opened to the light of the sun.

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Meanwhile stirring scenes were enacted within the shady limits of those forests. There were grand hunts in which whole tribes were engaged. There were wars in which extensive confederacies were in arms, wars in which entire clans were exterminated. Council fires were lighted, at

which envoys from tribes a thousand miles distant appeared to negotiate peace or war. And, very soon after the planting of the first colonies on the St. Lawrence and the Hudson, the pale-faces came along those foot-paths, stretching out one hand for the peltries, and offering the fire-water with the other. Stealthily, and treacherously, the astute diplomacy of Versailles came creeping along those foresttrails. In shrewd foresight the statesmen of France far surpassed those of Holland and England. Far-seeing, farreaching, were the plans skillfully woven in the gilded cabinets of Versailles or St. Germain, for the ultimate mastery of the Continent of North America, at least so far south as Mexico. And thoroughly were those plans carried out by subordinate legions selfish traders, daring adventurers, gallant soldiers, and devout missionaries, whether consciously or unconsciously, tens of thousands of these were working for the extension of French power in North America.

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And what has it all availed? One touch of the finger of Providence and the proud fabric so cunningly raised has vanished like the bubble blown by a child. The flag of France is an alien flag to-day, throughout North America. The possession of the southern shore of Lake Ontario was early deemed of great importance by the Canadian government. But here they met a foe who not only faced them bravely, but who at one period even threatened utterly to uproot the French Colonies on the St. Lawrence. The Konoshioni, the United People, or the Iroquois tribes as they were called by their French neighbors, held the whole country to the southward of the lake. They were brave and fierce in war. They were astute in policy. During nearly a century, the French made little impression on them. At length the Jesuit Missionaries penetrated into the heart of the Iroquois country, about the middle of the seventeenth century. And they came by the river, which now bears the name of the Oswego. These good men were early employed by the Canadian authorities in a semi-diplomatic character, and it was the intention to obtain a

permanent foot-hold in the country, through their influence, and to establish colonies on the shores of Lake Onondaga. This effort failed. But still for many years the Canadian government kept their eyes fixed upon that southern shore, eagerly watching for an opportunity to seize some one favorable point as a nucleus for future operations. The mouth of the Oswego River was the site they most coveted as the key to the whole Iroquois country. Choueguen, as they named the spot, held a prominent place in their plans and is constantly mentioned in their older records. Scarce a meeting between the sachems of the upper tribes, and the agents of the French, whether at Onondaga or at Montreal, in which Choueguen is not named. But the rude diplomatists at the Council fire of Onondaga, were very unwilling to yield this ground to the French. A wild Indian village, insignificant in size, and chiefly occupied by fishing parties, was found there by the first French missionary explorers, and continued for nearly a century, the only human habitations at the mouth of the river. Fort Frontenac was built on the northern shore of the lake in 1672, but still the Konoshioni warned off the pale-faces from the coveted ground at Choueguen. In 1687 the French built a small fort at Niagara, but it was demolished a year later to satisfy the jealousy of the Indians. Thirty-three years afterwards, in 1720, the French again took possession of the same ground. "We come to you howling," said the Indian sachems to the Governor of New York," and this is the reason we howl, because the Governor of Canada encroaches on our land!" The rebuilding of the fort at Niagara caused the "howling." Governor Burnet remonstrated with the French authorities, but without effect. He resolved to weaken the importance of this French fort by building a stronger one at the mouth of the Oswego River. It appears that it had been the intention of King William to build a fort at Oswego, some thirty years earlier, and the plate and furniture for a chapel in connection with the fort were sent over from England. But the death of the King prevented the

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plan from being carried out. The work was now to be done, however. The Canadian government were thrown into great agitation on learning Governor Burnet's intention. Agents and spies passed to and fro, and penetrated into the Iroquois country; one hundred English with sixty canoes were found in the Oswego River in October, 1725 at which the French agent was highly indignant. The only result of the French negotiation with the Iroquois was the permission obtained from the sachems to build at Niagara a large stone house and two small vessels — barques. In the summer of 1726 there were three hundred English at Oswego. In the spring of 1727, a strong stone fortified house was built at the mouth of the river. Permission was asked, and obtained from the Iroquois, for the erection of this fort. Sixty soldiers with a captain and two lieutenants were sent to protect the workmen. Two hundred traders, already on the ground, were also embodied as militia. A permanent garrison of twenty men, under an officer, was stationed there when the work was completed.

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In the course of the summer M. de Beauharnais, Governor of Canada, sent a formal remonstrance in true diplomatic style to Governor Burnet upon his having built a "Redout" at Choueguen, which he chose to consider a violation of the treaty of Utrecht. He knew from spies of his own, the nature of the works. This redoubt was in fact a very substantial stone building of rough masonry and clay, sixty feet by twenty-four, with walls four feet thick, and with galleries and loop-holes. There were at that time twenty batteaux and eight bark canoes lying in the little harbor. There were tents for the troops, and seventy cabins for Dutch and English traders. All this excited the diplomatic ire of M. de Beauharnais to the highest degree. He had sent a formal summons to surrender, to the commander of the fort at Oswego, a week before writing to Governor Burnet, which to us at the present day appears rather a singular mode of proceeding. The English officer was ordered to withdraw his garrison and demolish his

redoubt" within a fortnight," failing in which the severest measures would be taken to punish his "unjust usurpation."

To the remonstrance of M. de Beauharnais, Governor Burnet sent a very good answer quoting the treaty of Utrecht, which declared the Five Nations to be subject to the dominion of Great Britain. The question was referred to London and Versailles, and like other matters of dispute between the two Crowns was held in abeyance to be disposed of at some future day by the sword. Meanwhile fort and garrison were unmolested.

In 1743 the French had three sailing vessels of fifty or sixty tons on Lake Ontario. The first English vessel on the lake was a small schooner, forty feet keel, with fourteen sweeps and twelve swivels. She was launched on the 28th of June, 1755. The following year the English had three flat-bottomed gun-brigs afloat, and were preparing to build others.

The fortifications at Oswego were gradually much strengthened and enlarged. A new fort of logs, twenty or thirty inches thick, was built on the height above the eastern bank of the river; the wall was fourteen feet high, and protected by a ditch fourteen feet wide. A third fort was also built to the westward of the older one, with a rampart of earth and stones, twenty feet thick, and twelve feet high, with a ditch in front fourteen feet wide, and ten feet deep. Cannons and mortars defended these forts. It was now resolved in the councils of Canada that Choueguen should be attacked. But the defeat of General Dieskau at Lake George in 1755 delayed the expedition. It was only delayed, however. "From the hour of its foundation, Choueguen is the rallying ground of the Indian tribes," wrote the Governor of Canada, M. de Vaudreuil. "From Choueguen come all the belts and messages that the English scatter among the far nations. It is always at Choueguen that the English hold councils with the Indians. In fine Choueguen is the direct cause of all the troubles that have befallen the colony. Choueguen must fall.

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