FEBRUARY MEETING, 1932
A Stated Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. James M. Hunnewell, at No. 14 Chestnut Street, Boston, on Thursday, February 25, 1932, at three o’clock, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, in the chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary announced the death of Percival Hall Lombard, a Resident Member, on January 22, 1932.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. Frederick Ives Carpenter, Mr. Robert Ephraim Peabody, Mr. Augustus Peabody Loring, Jr., Dr. Harold Bowditch, and Mr. William Emerson, accepting Resident Membership; from Mr. Leonard Woods Labaree, accepting Corresponding Membership; and from Dr. Timothy Leary, accepting Associate Membership.
Mr. Clifford Kenyon Shipton, of Cambridge, was elected a Resident Member of the Society, and Mr. Walter Goodwin Davis, of Portland, Maine, and Mr. Max Farrand, of Santa Monica, California, were elected Corresponding Members.
Mr. Francis Parkman read the following paper:
FRENCH POLICY IN THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY, 1697–1712
In studying the story of Anglo-French rivalry in America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and watching the development of French activity along the great interior waterways, one is tempted to draw the conclusion that the French government was following a well-conceived policy of encirclement, designed to restrict the English colonies to the Atlantic seaboard. To be effective, such a policy must clearly rest on control of the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi Valley. One sees the French reaching farther and farther back from their Canadian settlements, establishing posts on the Great Lakes and in the Illinois country; then, not long after La Salle’s journey made the course of the Mississippi River clear, comes his expedition by sea to settle the mouth of the river. That effort having failed, there is a lull in French activity in this region as the war clouds gather over Europe and eventually break in the War of the League of Augsburg; but almost immediately after the conclusion of peace, a new expedition sets out from France, and a settlement is made near the Mississippi’s mouth. Surely, one thinks, Louis XIV and his colonial ministers were alive to the opportunity of securing the interior of the continent before the English should expand westward across the mountains.
The conclusion is too obvious, and the temptation to draw it must be resisted. This paper will try to show, by following in some detail the attitude of the French government toward the lower Mississippi Valley from the time of La Salle’s discovery, and more particularly from 1697 to 1712, that French policy during that period was both faltering and hazy, and lacked any clear perception of the possibilities inherent in the situation.
It is necessary first to say a few words about certain aspects of French policy in America in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Louis XIV’s attitude toward the American West was the result of a perpetual conflict. On the one hand he desired Canada to grow into a compact and prosperous agricultural settlement; on the other, he desired it to win in the competition with the English for the control of the western fur-trade; and either prospect seemed to exclude the other. If the French were to draw to themselves the furs of the West, it would be necessary for their traders to go west themselves with their goods. Otherwise, either the Indians would trade with the nearer English, or the Iroquois, acting as middlemen, would divert the precious beaver skins to the traders of the Hudson Valley.486 Yet the profits in the fur-trade were so large that, if it were unrestricted, a large portion of the male population of Canada would be drawn into the life of the woods. In 1680, for example, probably one third of all the grown men of Canada were coureurs de bois487 and were thus not only failing to contribute to Canada’s orderly development, but, by their lawless behavior, were hindering the work of the missionaries in converting the Indians to Christianity.
Louis’s passion for religion and order conquered in this conflict; and, after a series of futile attempts to regulate a class of men who refused to be regulated, he issued in 1696 an edict putting a complete ban on all western journeys for furs.488 Such restrictions and prohibitions made it difficult for forward-looking officials like Talon and Frontenac to carry out their plans for extending French prestige in the West. Explorers were at a discount and found it hard to get royal permission for their journeys. Louis let La Salle go, but very possibly it was because he hoped a way would be found to attack Spanish power through Mexico.489 After the news of the successful voyage down the Mississippi reached the king’s ears, he actually wrote to Governor La Barre of Canada that the discovery was “altogether useless,” and ordered such enterprises prevented in the future.490
Why, then, did he later let La Salle go back again to start a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi? A study of dates reveals the answer. France declared war on Spain in October, 1683. La Salle’s reports emphasized the advantages of a post on the Gulf of Mexico as a base for an attack on New Biscay and the undefended mines of New Spain.491 The explorer appeared in France to plead his cause in person, and early in 1684 plans for such an attack were developed and received the government’s approval.492 La Salle was so unfortunate as to set sail two weeks before peace was declared in August, 1684; and if further evidence were needed that Louis was interested in his efforts only because of the chance to attack New Spain, it could be found in the heartless manner in which he left the expedition to its fate after the peace came.
During the last part of the decade of the 1680’s and the first part of the 1690’s, occasional reports reached the French court to the effect that the English were working westward into the Mississippi Valley, and there were warnings of the danger to the French if their rivals should master it, as seemed to be their intention.493 Yet not a flicker of interest was aroused at Versailles, either by these warnings or by plans which were offered for carrying La Salle’s scheme through to completion. Those who were opposed to all westward movement from Canada had the king’s ear, and in 1696, when he issued the ban on the fur-trade, he also ordered all Frenchmen out of the interior.494 It was only by strenuous effort that Frontenac succeeded in getting the order modified to permit the maintenance of three small posts on the Great Lakes.495
Up to 1697, then, far from making active efforts to develop French power in the Mississippi Valley, Louis XIV was quite definitely opposed to it, except when he had in mind the possibility of striking at Spanish power. Yet in May, 1697, he instructed his plenipotentiaries at the conference which was to end the War of the League of Augsburg on no account to give up any of the lands lying to the south of French possessions in North America. At the same time he told them in confidence that ships would soon be sent to occupy the mouth of the Mississippi River.496
Coming so soon after the order of 1696, this decision could hardly have been based on a determination to master the interior waterways for the purpose of holding them against the English. The clue to French motives lies, I believe, in another direction. In April, 1697, a few weeks before the instructions to the plenipotentiaries, Pontchartrain, the Minister of Marine, wrote Frontenac that Pierre Le Sueur was to have permission to go west from Canada to make an establishment among the Sioux on the upper waters of the Mississippi in order to develop certain mines which he alleged to have discovered.497 Le Sueur was one of the ablest of the coureurs de bois, had spent much time among the Sioux, and had been used by Frontenac to promote French influence among the Indians of the interior.498 Shortly after the order of 1696, which cut off his means of livelihood, Le Sueur appeared in France and presented a memoir asking for a trade monopoly among the Sioux and for permission to establish a post of forty men there.499 He proposed to develop the products of the region, including copper and lead, furs and lumber. There was little that was new in this list of products; but Le Sueur apparently backed up his memoir with more interesting suggestions, for Pontchartrain told Frontenac that Le Sueur’s post would be at a spot where there were “very rich copper and lead mines, with the hope of finding gold and silver.”500 Obviously the product of mines could best be got out by way of the Mississippi River, and it seems logical to conclude that Louis’s decision to occupy the Mississippi mouth was based on the desire to secure the outlet for this prospective wealth. It would take time to get Le Sueur’s report, however, and action was delayed.
Further evidence that the French government was not immediately concerned about the English can be found in the answer made when a French capitalist proposed the formation of a company for the vigorous colonization of the Mississippi Valley and the development of its resources.501 The reply set forth a sternly mercantilist attitude toward the departure of French citizens from France and the establishment of new colonies; and stated that only the necessity of forestalling the English could excite the king to plant a colony in the Mississippi Valley. Further investigation was needed, so the memoir went on, before a decision could be taken, and the application was accordingly denied.502
Soon, however, it became clear that, whether or not English expansion from the seacoast was taken seriously, the Mississippi mouth would soon pass to English hands if the French did not move. Stirred on by Hennepin’s writings, Daniel Coxe, holder of the old Heath patent for all the lands in America between the thirty-first and thirty-sixth parallels, was preparing an expedition to take English colonists and French Protestant refugees to the Mississippi Valley.503 Evidence of the imminent departure of the English ships finally roused the French to action. On May 21, 1698, Le Sueur’s permit for the West, giving him the right to take fifty men with him, was renewed504—amusingly enough, on the same day that Frontenac was scolded for letting five men get away from Montreal for the West!505 In the same month Iberville, one of the noted Le Moyne family of Canada, who had just won fame by his Hudson Bay exploits, was put in command of an expedition to locate and settle the mouth of the Mississippi.506
This was not part of any well-rounded strategical plan, but simply a hurried decision forced by news of English activity, and based partly on the hope that precious metals would be found on the upper reaches of the river. The tentative nature of the expedition is confirmed by Iberville’s instructions, which called for him simply to reconnoitre, locate the mouth, leave a garrison, and return with a report.507
We need not dwell on Iberville’s voyage, his discovery of the Spanish in possession at Pensacola, the only good harbor on the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico, his exploration of the coast and final discovery of the Mississippi mouth, his long and arduous journey up the river to the first Indian settlements, and, since poor conditions and lack of time made a site on the Mississippi impossible, his final choice of Biloxi as the location for the new garrison.508 The commander’s report, on his return late in the spring of 1699, had a very Spanish tinge, since he dwelt at length on the possibilities of a raid on the mines of Mexico. He did speak, however, of the fine prospects and of the necessity of peopling the valley in order to restrain the English of the seacoast, who otherwise would within a century drive every other nation from America. But he did not yet have enough evidence to support his warning.509
Though Iberville was practical enough about the lack of quick profits to be obtained from the valley, the government decided to proceed cautiously further. Strict care was enjoined on him not to offend the Spanish in any way; he was told that the possibilities of all products should be investigated, but that the most important matter was the discovery of mines.510 Preparations went on without any provision for colonists.511
It was not until his return from his second voyage that the new venture emerged from its tentative character and won a place for itself as a definite part of French policy in America. Three factors contributed to this result. In the first place, although it was unfortunately clear that the Indians of the region were few in number and poor in resources, Iberville had found in his journeys, wherever he went, definite evidence of the penetration and influence of the English of South Carolina.512 The need of immediate activity to check their advance was finally placed beyond all question. In the second place, a new prospect of gold was opened up, just before Iberville’s return, by a Canadian named Mathieu Sagean, who successfully supported, against questioning by Iberville, his story of a fabulously rich Indian tribe west of the Mississippi.513 Finally, just after Iberville’s return, the King of Spain died, and his great possessions, left to Louis’s grandson, were accepted by Louis, thus apparently removing the danger of offending the Spanish by planting a French colony on the Gulf of Mexico.
All doubts disappeared, and, for better or worse, the French government embarked definitely on a new colonial venture. But once embarked, it seemed anxious to cut to the bare minimum the effort involved, instead of going forward in a large way with colonization. In a disastrous moment the government adopted the idea of supplying the new colony with settlers by enticing the coureurs de bois to come and settle down.514 Since those who knew them warned that instead of settling down they would take their furs to the English, it seemed necessary to block up the Ohio River route to Carolina. But instead of placing a strong post at the mouth of the Ohio, the government thought to accomplish its purpose more cheaply by accepting the offer of a relative of Iberville to plant a small commercial tannery there.515 The question of colonization, however, was probably the most important. Iberville, in his reports, urged that emigration to Louisiana be encouraged by the grant of free passage, food for a year, grain for planting, tools for tilling the soil, a gun, and ammunition.516 Very similar aid had been given to emigrants to Canada, but all that Louis would promise was passage for the wives, daughters, and other relatives of the men already in the colony.517
Thus the best type of colonist, the French peasant family, received no encouragement to go to Louisiana; and sole reliance was placed on the coureurs de bois, who certainly gave little indication of a desire to settle down as peaceful, hard-working farmers. The difficulty was increased by the choice of the site for the colony. When an effort to secure Pensacola from Spain failed, a location on the Mobile River north of Mobile Bay was selected.518 This site had some advantages for dealing with the Indians but none at all for agriculture. From these two fundamental errors, in the policy as to colonization and in the location of the settlement, the colony was long to suffer. Though they might have been sooner corrected in normal times, the War of the Spanish Succession came shortly to absorb all French thought and energy.
Iberville, on his return from establishing Mobile, admitted frankly that the new colony would be of little profit as it stood,519 but he set to work, as the result of a very plain hint from the Minister of Marine, to satisfy him that profits were possible. The central feature of his plan was an elaborate scheme to rearrange the Indian tribes of the valley, settle twenty-four thousand Indian families at strategic and accessible points on the rivers, and engage them as collectors and tanners of hides, with the production of furs, metals, cotton, and silk as side-lines. This was probably a desperate attempt to arouse the king’s interest, for he accompanied it by less visionary suggestions about the urgent need of sending farmers and their families from France.520
But the times in Europe were not propitious for large schemes. The War of the Spanish Succession overshadowed Louisiana and caused all non-military expenses to be cut to the bone. From 1703 to 1706, the only help sent to the new colony was in 1704, when one small ship went out with a few new soldiers and a few girls.521 The coureurs de bois were still relied on to stay out of the woods and settle down. Many of them were being carried on the payroll of the garrison, and the plan was to discharge them so that they would marry and start their own establishments.522 The plea was at once made, however, that, if they were discharged, they would have no way to support their new wives, and accordingly they were continued in the king’s pay, which certainly did not tend to turn them into ideal colonists.523 The little colony was filled with disputes between Iberville’s brother Bienville, its commander, and the churchmen, and between Bienville and the commissary La Salle. Under such conditions growth was impossible; worse still, the lack of traders and of merchandise soon brought a distinct decline in French influence among the Indians.524
The war had the equally unfortunate effect of diverting the attention of the new colony’s commander-in-chief. Seeing that Louisiana would provide a poor field for his advancement or enrichment as long as the government felt so parsimonious, Iberville turned his mind in the direction of warlike exploits, and offered his services for attacks on the English colonies of South Carolina and Virginia.525 This sort of thing had more appeal to the government, especially since the cost could be shifted to the purses of private adventurers. Such an expedition might have helped Louisiana by lessening English trading activities in the Mississippi Valley, but there was so much confusion in France that, though more than once ships were being prepared, there was no action until 1706. When Iberville finally sailed with a fleet in that year, the need for making the expedition pay profits changed it into a slave-raid on English islands of the West Indies; and on this rather uninspiring note Iberville’s career ended with his death in Havana on July 9.526
Iberville’s death at last forced the government to give some thought to the new colony. A new governor was appointed,527 and the orders given him showed a little more conception of the need to promote agriculture and real colonization. Unfortunately, such promises as were made were not followed up, and the attitude of the government shone clearly through the orders: the colony must somehow be made to pay its own way. Strategic considerations were ignored. The new governor was told that if the colony could produce no advantages, i.e., no profits, the king would abandon it.528 Pontchartrain was in 1707 trying to find private citizens who would take over the cost of maintaining the garrison in return for trading privileges.529 By this time, too, the Illinois and Ohio River posts had been abandoned, and there was talk of giving up Detroit and Mobile. Thus since the exploratory stages some years earlier little progress had been made in realizing the potential advantages of the valley with relation to the English.
The next few years were troublous ones for the colony. The aid which came to it from France amounted to next to nothing. English traders, well fortified with supplies, made it increasingly difficult and sometimes impossible for Bienville, who had only small amounts of the munitions of Indian trade, to keep the Indians of the lower Mississippi Valley from active hostility toward the French.530 The interminable petty disputes within the garrison dragged on.531 The coureurs de bois, except for a few who had married, were discharged from the king’s pay and promptly left the colony for the woods.532 Those who remained, shrewdly judging by the small amount of support from home that the existence of the colony was precarious, refused to spend their labor on the unprofitable soil of the settlement.533
In spite of the efforts of a new commissary to promote agriculture, misery, famine, and fear were the lot of the colony; and when a few enterprising men discovered a chance for profit through acting as intermediaries in a small illegal trade with Spanish America, an English raid on the island at the mouth of the bay where the goods were stored wiped out the venture.534 Furthermore, ships from home were too rare and the labor supply of the colony too small to make possible any profitable export of the country’s products to France.
A vicious circle was thus developing. The colony could not grow and prosper without help from home in the form of colonists and supplies; and the French government would not spend any money in sending colonists and supplies without being sure of a return. The finances of France were in a terrible state in the last years of the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1708, Pontchartrain was sounding merchants of La Rochelle and St. Malo, offering exclusive commerce in Louisiana for a term of years if they would agree to pay all expenses for the same period.535 Failing in that, he turned his attention in 1709 to getting someone to pay the expenses of one voyage to Louisiana, on condition that the king’s supplies be carried.536 He finally secured a victim for this plan, but more time was wasted in persuading contractors to sell food for the voyage in return for the paper which was the government’s only means of payment;537 and the ship, the only one to carry out supplies between 1707 and 1712, did not leave till the end of 1710. There was, indeed, so much fumbling, hesitation, and confusion in the handling of the details of the colony’s business that those in Louisiana had every reason to be discouraged at the prospect.
The fact was that Pontchartrain, balked in his first attempts to find a capitalist to take over the expense of Louisiana, was now marking time, intending to push the matter through when peace came.538 Before 1712 was half over, peace was pretty clearly in sight. Officials returning from the colony brought sound advice, emphasizing the need for steady colonization on a large scale, the advisability of strong posts on the Ohio River and at Mobile to stop the English advance, and the need for a gradual building-up process.539
The advice fell on deaf ears. The end of the war might well have given the signal for new energy in the treatment of Louisiana. The pressure of military expense was now removed, and plans for extensive colonization could have gone ahead. To the government, however, peace, so far as the lower Mississippi Valley was concerned, only meant a better chance to unload the region on someone else. Pontchartrain was soon deep in negotiations with Antoine Crozat, a man of experience in other overseas commercial ventures, and was using La Mothe Cadillac, who had been selected as the next governor, to lure on the “sucker” with tales of precious metals to be found in the Sioux, Wabash, and Illinois regions.540 Crozat was soon preparing to risk 700,000 or 800,000 litres in the venture. That the talk of rich metals had had its effect is proved by the fact that Crozat very nearly withdrew when he found that the limits of his concession might not include the mines so glibly advertised by the government.541 Finally the deal was closed, and Crozat received a monopoly of Louisiana’s commerce for fifteen years, including the right to develop its mines and agriculture, to carry on its trade in furs and skins, and to supply it with one shipload of slaves a year. In return he agreed to pay the king a proportion of all the metals extracted, pay the officers and garrison for the last six of the fifteen years, send two ships a year, and transport ten boys or girls each year as colonists.542 Latest reports from the colony had shown twenty-seven families in the country, of which only four were engaged in agriculture.543
This contract may have looked to Pontchartrain like a fine piece of business, but Louisiana needed more than the monopolistic ministrations of a single capitalist, more than a handful of colonists a year. At the end of the year, the orders for Cadillac contained no mention of the English.544 Earlier in 1712, Pontchartrain had suggested to the French plenipotentiaries at Utrecht the possibility of a deal by which the French should cede the whole of Louisiana for the Spanish part of the island of Santo Domingo. Nothing else, he wrote, was so important as the procuring of this bit of land.545
The deal with Crozat, the orders to Cadillac, the suggestion to the plenipotentiaries, all illustrate the poverty of imagination as to the future of Louisiana to which the French government had been reduced. In spite of greatly increased geographical knowledge, closer contact with English activity in the lower Mississippi Valley, and plenty of good advice from able men, the French were no nearer a policy of encirclement in 1712 than in 1682, when Louis XIV had written that La Salle’s discoveries were altogether useless.
Mr. Julius Herbert Tuttle presented a communication entitled:
GOVERNOR BURNET IN THE DIARY OF BENJAMIN WALKER, JR.
Benjamin Walker, Jr., a shopkeeper in Boston, kept a Journal, mainly of the weather, but with marginal notes which were sometimes extended across the page, crowded in between the paragraphs of the weather reports. His first record was on November 2, 1726, and he continued to make his entries until 1749, completing three bound volumes which were given to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Joshua Green on July 29, 1794, as the “Journal of a Gentleman in Boston.”
What he wrote about Governor William Burnet, whose commission as Governor of Massachusetts Bay was signed by George II on March 7, 1728, furnishes a description by a personal observer of the ceremonial respect paid to the representative of the Crown by the General Court and the people, and gives a few new facts about Burnet’s life. With this in view, several extracts are given below to add to the material on Burnet communicated by Mr. Matthews at the March meetings of the Society, 1913 and 1914.546
Fryday 19 [July, 1728] Will: Burnet Esqr our Govr abott 2 Clo In afternoon Went Into our Town house at ye West door between Ltt Gour Dummer and Ltt Gour Ino Wentworth of Newhampshire Councilar’ & many Gentlemen after him, ye Town regiment In arms four Troops horse, he din’d at Homes’547 and ye Council (a Very great Concourse of people, Went to meet him horse & foot, and In ye Town Streets & houses full people, after dinner ye Company of Cadets548 Went befor him from Homses to Doctor Elisha Cooks549 house Ware he lodgd untill his house is fitted, Cadets fir’d 3 Volleys handsomely
Saturd. 20 I heard ytt This morn messrs Henry Harris wth 32 more went to wait on Colol Burnet I hear wth an address. & I hear Ratt’d Themselues ye Principal men of ye Kings Chappel in Boston550
Monday 22 D D Cutlair551 and Church Wardens & most Vestry waited on Colol Burnet at Doctr Cooks house In School Street, Doctr made a speech to him In behalf of ym
Tuesday 23 Colo Burnet din’d wth Coll Wentworth Doctr Cook ye Govrs family at Castle Wm
Wednesd 24 Assembly setts Govr Burnet came to Town house at 11 Clo: ye Company of Cadets before him ye Concil & Gentlemen after him
Thursd 25 Coll Burnet went to Lecture Dumr Colo Wentworth wth him & Councilrs wth him
Thursday 1 [August] Govr at Saml Dummer552 at diner
Saturda 31 I heard Governr Burnet Got Into ye Province house Governr Wm Burnet has kep our assembly Setting frō the 24 July last upon his 23: Instruction, about fixing a salary to this day yet553
Fryday 11 [October] King George ye 2d Coronation day ye line Guard and Cade[t]s mustered I heard ye Cade[t]s Invited ye Gouernr & Council to dinner at Mother Holmes. In ye Cade[t]s Insign Gour Burnet Coat of arms handsomely painted (I heard done by young Gibbs ye painter554)
Wednesd 30 Gouernr Wm Burnet In his Chaise mr Willard Seceretary wth mr Jere: Allin our Trearsure Sheriff Edward Winslow, before ye Chaise. his steward & black foot man behind Went by our door either Just at 10: Clock in morn or Just after bound to Salem to meet our assembly thare555
Thursda 31 ye Lanthorn Town house Illuminated last night Councilors Justices mercht Selectmen and I and others Thare King George Queen Caroline ye Royal family and Govr Burnets healths drank556
Saturda 23 [November] I heard Colo Burnet and Secrety Willard In Burnets Shay at Cambridge ye tide ouer ye Causway to ye great Bridge mist ye little bridge ouerset wet ym both
Saturday 30 ye Gouernour Keeps ye Court Sitting at Salem I think an arbitrary way and breaking into our laws which he seems not to Value at all nor any thing or person In ye province but his own Interest a self Will’d Man,
March 1 [1728/9] Saturday Our Queen Carolinas Birthday Gour Burnet and Gentlemen In ye afternoon In ye Town house drinking King & Queens & Royall familys health & ye Lanthorn Illuminated in ye Euening
Saturday 17 [May, 1729] Burnet came to Town in night from Piscat.
Mond 26 The Cade[t]s muster’d B. Pollor[d] Captn J. Green ensign Phillips Liuett its sd Gouer Wm Burnet. Ltt Govr Dummer Councillars N. Byfield. Cushing Dauvenport T: Hutchinson Dows. Secretary Willard, Came out of ye Town house ym Cade[t]s 24 of ym Came up Kings Street before ye Gentlemen to Guard ym To Captn Pollords House to an Entertai[n]ment, and ytt Pollord Green & Phillips recd from. Colo1 Burnet gaue ym in Kings Street Their Staues & Ensign
Wednesd 28 Our Assembly meets at Salem Call’d Thare by Governr Wm Burnet To Elect our Councilars garthered 70 or 80£ The compa[n]y had a dinner at Vardys557 upon The Top of Bacon Hill In Boston ware hoisted four Flags (ye Standard of Great Brittain 2 English ensigns blew silk ye union & a phenix motto Ilia Ego Quam Quaeeris [sic]558) Two pendant all flyer at onece a great number people Thare, I saw Them Thare from ye Top of my house a little aftr 12 Clock att noon & I hear great guns or six field peaces thare, & ware fir’d Thare or lett off I belieue more Than one hundred guns all pointted Northward, a little after sun set ye Company Came down ye adrum before, Two & Two Thro: ye Common down School Strett Thro Cornhil & to ye Exchang Tavern to spend ye Euening
Monda 2 June Artillery Election Company Mustered Colo Saml Thaxter Captn Nttn Balston Ltt ye Company went & Guarded Govr Wm Burnet to ye Town house. ye Gouerr went up to ye Council staid some Time Came down some of our Councillars wth him went to ye brick meetin house To hear mr Wm Wellsteed preach a sermon
Wednesd 11 Cade[t]s mustard King George 2d accession Colo1 Burnet Ltt Govr Dumer sundry Gentlemen at ye Town house drinkin King & Queen Prince & Royal familys healths
Saturday 6 [September] Gouernr Burnet Very Ill I hear of an Intermittin feavor
Lords day 7 Gouernr Very Ill In the day about 10: Clock In ye Euening at The Provinces house In Boston In N.E. Colo Wm Burnet Esqr our Gouernour Dyed off a Coma.559 I hear delireious at times some days lay sick. 7. or 8 days In 42 year of age, a Very lusty good lookt man & a learn’d wise one. by what I haue heard from Judiscious men Doctr Douglas was his Phisithian and told me he Imbowl’d him This day bound & well his inwards
Tuesday 9 Ltt Gouernr Wm Dummer Came to Town In ye Euening sent for by an Express Messenger
Thursda 11 In ye Evening I heard The Corps of Wm Burnet yt was our Governor are brot In ye Town house and in ye Council Chamber
Fryday. 7er 12560 abtt 4 Clocke in ye afternoon ye Crops [sic] brott down Carried out of ye East door Carried down King Street thare laid on stools ye bearers Ltt Govr Dumer Colo Taylor Col Winslow. T. Hutchinson Col Brown Col T: Fitch Then ye mournners. his Eldest son Gilbert, yn 2 Children son & daughtr yn his last wifes Sisters Vanhorns, led by J. Wendal & P Mascarein yn Sterward Burnet561 & wife & servants of his family Then ye Councillars of This Province & yn the assembly, yn ye Justices ministers Gentlemens merchants of ye Town (ye Gouer Coach & led horse (led by Richd Hubart) before ye Corps) Then ye Town Regiment (abtt 600 or 700 men under arms, drums Colours & lead in Staues halberts in mourning ym all In King street. yn ye Regiment, marcht Wheel’d Came up King street on ye North side Town house went Thro. Cornhil & School Street, ye Crops Carried Into ye Church Reuerend mr Roger Price Preacht funeral sermon out Eccle. ye Guns at Castle Wm man Warr and other Vessel let in off till ye Corps was interr’d & yn ye Town Regiment let off 3 Volleys (thare was a Very great Concourse of people to se[e] it, ye Charge of ye funeral at ye Expence of ye Province ye whole solemnity decently perform’d In my opinion, ye body inter’d In ye Kings Chapel (Reverend, mr Roger Price Rector preacht a funeral sermon fro. Ecle: Vanity of Vanitys.
GOVERNOR BURNET AS A GOLFER
Golf as a sport and athletic diversion in America is a comparatively recent development, and it may be a surprise to learn that the first association of golfers into a club was as recent as 1885. In that year a club was formed near New York, and at about the same time a similar organization was formed in Florida. When and where the first American golfer laid out a links and started to play the game, substantially as it is now played, is not known, but the formation of the first association less than fifty years ago suggests that the game had not been played to any extent before that period.
Golf at first was regarded as a gentleman’s diversion, and its popularity among all classes was not attained without some ridicule and suppressed class feeling. But the game finally was accepted by residents of urban districts as a welcome relief from the tedium and stress of business affairs. In England golf has been known for a long time, and yet there its popular adoption came not much earlier than in this country. The game was played in Scotland almost five centuries ago, and at an earlier period seems to have been played in Holland upon ice. Always, whether played on ice or on turf, the test was the knocking of a ball into a hole. Essentially, therefore, golf has not much changed in five hundred years.
In view of this sport’s recent climb to popularity, it is interesting to note that it was not wholly unknown in Massachusetts Bay a little over two centuries ago, and that a provincial governor of that period had the equipment for playing it. William Burnet, who was Governor of New York and New Jersey from 1720 to 1728, and who came to Massachusetts in July of the latter year to become governor of this province and New Hampshire, was something of a sportsman. He had been sent to America after he had lost practically all his fortune in the South Sea Bubble. At the time of his death in 1729 he was only forty-one, just the right age to be a devotee of golf.
Unfortunately there is no direct evidence that he ever played, either while here or in New York. But included in the inventory of his estate, along with his expensive wines and liquors, his card table, “Backgammun Table with Men,” five cases of foils for fencing, chessboard and men, and fishing rod, are these two items:562
Nine Gouff563 Clubs & 1 Iron Do 4/
Seven Doz Balls 1/
Thus he had the necessary outfit, and it can hardly be doubted that he knew how to play the game. He was young and active, and since he was a gentleman and since golf was a gentleman’s game, the conjecture that he indulged in the sport seems justified. The fact that the governor was born at The Hague, in the land where golf is said to have originated, may give added weight to the assumption that he was a golfer, and had his life been spared, he might have introduced golf into the list of sports in this province.
There is not much information in these entries as to the quality of the equipment. There was only one iron club, the others doubtless being of wood, of various lengths and weights and thus adapted to golfing conditions. It will be noted that the value of the clubs was less than that of the balls. The presence of seven dozen balls suggests either that there was an excess supply or that the lasting quality of the balls was so doubtful that it was necessary to provide a large number. It was, of course, before the era of rubber or gutta percha, and it is no surprise to learn that the balls were made of feathers with a covering of light leather. The weight, therefore, was small, and it was difficult to direct such a ball with any certainty. When the player hit his feather ball, he must have hoped for the best and not have been greatly shocked to find it bunkered in a gooseberry bush. The uncertainty then, as now, lent interest to the game.
While it is necessary to employ conjectures about Burnet’s equipment for the sport, it is possible to get a picture of golf as played in Scotland at a not much later time. In 1771 was published Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. Speaking of his experiences in Scotland, the writer of one of the letters says:564
I never saw such a concourse of genteel company at any races in England, as appeared on the course of Leith. Hard by, in the fields called the Links, the citizens of Edinburgh divert themselves at a game called golf, in which they use a curious kind of bats tipped with horn, and small elastic balls of leather, stuffed with feathers, rather less than tennis-balls, but of much harder consistence. This they strike with such force and dexterity from one hole to another, that they will fly to an incredible distance. Of this diversion the Scots are so fond, that when the weather will permit, you may see a multitude of all ranks, from the senator of justice to the lowest tradesman, mingled together, in their shirts, and following the balls with the utmost eagerness. Among others, I was shown one particular set of golfers, the youngest of whom was turned of fourscore. They were all gentlemen of independent fortunes, who had amused themselves with this pastime for the best part of a century, without having ever felt the least alarm from sickness or disgust; and they never went to bed without having each the best part of a gallon of claret in his belly.
Thus it will be seen that golf playing and golf players in some respects have not changed much during the century and a half that has intervened.