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D'aulnay And La Tour Battle For Control Of Acadia

When Charles Menou de Charnisay, Sieur d'Aulnay, succeeded Isaac de Razilly as leader of the Acadian colony, one of his first actions was to begin to undermine Razilly's friends Charles de La Tour and Nicholas Denys.

According to Charles Mahaffie, "He began his campaign by getting rid of Denys - an easy task. Unlike La Tour, who had forts and armed men, Denys had only (a) fishery and his mill. D'Aulnay merely cut off his ocean transport, forcing him out of business and out of Acadia."

La Tour would be more difficult. For one thing, d'Aulnay envisioned an agricultural settlement, which was a good thing for the Acadians on the land, but not so good for the Company of New France. France had all of the farm goods it needed. Official France still wanted furs and began once again to lose interest in Acadian affairs. Quebec was the center of the Canadian fur trade at the time, and thus became the center of attention for the French crown - when the government's attention wasn't diverted again by wars in Europe or its own internal problems.

In 1636, d'Aulnay moved his headquarters to Port Royal, where he could more readily deal with La Tour. He built a fort and settled his farmers around it.

"Half a day's sail away," Mahaffie writes, "in Saint John Harbor on a piece of land now called Portland Point... stood (La Tour's fort). La Tour still had his commission (granting him fur trading rights over much of the area), and his own soldiers, and to match the Capuchins at Port Royal there were Recollect friars (with La Tour). As the contest for Acadia began, La Tour seemed to hold most of the cards.

"D'Aulnay gained equal status in 1638," Mahaffie continues, "when he was sent a commission of his own, but his backers in Paris could not win him the absolute power he sought. He was told to cooperate with La Tour, and La Tour was alloted the same share of the fur trade he had enjoyed under Razilly. The king's ministers also tried to reconcile La Tour's and d'Aulnay's overlapping jurisdictions, but knowing little about Acadia's geography, they got it backward...(and) put each warlord in the other's back yard. The fighting started two years later."

In 1640, La Tour sailed to Port Royal with his new wife, Francoise Marie Jacqueline, but they were not allowed ashore. D'Aulnay had taken two ships to Penobscot Bay, but left instructions that La Tour was not to land at Port Royal while he was gone. Shortly after they had been told they could not come ashore, d'Aulnay sailed into Annapolis Bay. La Tour, upset at the insult of not being allowed ashore, opened fire on d'Aulnay's ships. He was outnumbered and outgunned, and it didn't take long for d'Aulnay to make the La Tours, husband and wife, his prisoners.

They were released when the priests at Port Royal suggested that the two men put their differences aside for the moment and let official France try again to solve the dispute.

This time, partially because La Tour had been the first to open fire, the king's ministers sided with d'Aulnay. In February 1641, they canceled La Tour's fur trading commission and told him to report to the king to explain his conduct. D'Aulnay was ordered to arrest La Tour if he refused to go to France.

La Tour barricaded himself in his fort at Jemseg and sent some of his men to Massachusetts to try to find English allies to supply money and manpower to fight d'Aulnay. The Boston merchants turned him down at first, but left room for more talks later.

On March 6, 1644, the French government declared La Tour an outlaw but he still refused to give in. He sent his wife to France to plead his case to the officials there and to bring back badly needed supplies. She was an effective missionary.

As Mahaffie reports, "The era of Richelieu was over. He had died in December, and was succeeded as the king's chief minister by another political cardinal, Jules Mazarin. (Another office held by Richelieu, head of commerce and navigation) had become a sinecure held by (Mazarin's) nephew, the duc de Fronsac...(who) issued an order restoring La Tour's old title. At the same time (Fronsac) directed the Company of New France to send a warship to help (La Tour). Francoise Marie...sailed home aboard the 120 ton Saint-Clement with soldiers and sailors and official papers...proclaiming her husband's ascendancy."

When she returned to Acadia, she found that d'Aulnay's ships were blockading La Tour's fort. She got her news ashore, but could not land. Instead her husband and one of his chief lieutenants, Jacques de Murat, made their way to the ship. Once aboard, they set sail for Boston where a chance meeting with Governor John Winthrop turned very profitable indeed.

After a meeting with other leaders in the Massachusetts colony, Winthrop decided to side with La Tour. He said that Massachusetts would not give any direct military assistance in his battle with d'Aulnay, but that La Tour could hire men and ships from Massachusetts to take his side in the war.

According to Mahaffie's analysis, there were two reasons for Massachusetts' involvement in this civil dispute in Acadia.

"The first was religious and political. The men La Tour brought with him included Protestants, and La Tour and Francoise Marie Jacqueline probably implied and may have promised that they themselves were ready to see the light. Moreover, they might be able to bring to the Protestant fold and to the bosom of the Bay Colony the rest of the Catholics of the Bay of Fundy. The Puritans were intrigued by the idea of converting papists - particularly such interesting ones as La Tour and his glamorous wife - and they must have found even more appealing the prospect of others abandoning not only their faith but with it their loyalty, and adding their territory to Massachusetts. It was not the last time that New England ambitions would run to annexation of Acadia.

"Two," Mahaffie continues, "there was an economic motive. Britain's Civil War had just begun, and the old country's Puritans expected to win it. They no longer needed to seek freedom of conscience in America; they would have it at home. The Great Migration had ended, and the merchants of Boston were suffering from a recession. Opportunities for trade to the south were blocked by the Dutch and the New Netherlands they had built on the Hudson. If a friendly and indebted La Tour could be established as lord of the northeast, it seemed that gratifying profits might follow."

La Tour hired 70 soldiers and five ships, and sailed to Port Royal at the end of July. Mahaffie says the battle that was fought was "not in the end a decisive or even a particularly destructive" one. A more contemporary account makes it sound pretty bad.

According to an account sent to the French court on October 20, 1643, and attested to by several priests in Acadia "After harassing d'Aulnay for seven years, the English of Grande Baie (Plymouth), accompanying La Tour, mounted an assault on Port Royal with four ships and two armed frigates on August 6, 1643, wounded seven men, killed three others, and took one captive. They killed a quantity of livestock and took a ship loaded with furs, powder, and food."

The priests told the authorities in France that "of the 18,000 livres worth of furs stolen in Port Royal, the Bostonians kept two thirds and La Tour one third." The priests wanted France to help d'Aulnay "so that he may carry out his generous plan against the enemies of the true religion and in particular against the Sieur de la Tour, a very evil Frenchman who attends Protestant services when he is in Grande Baie."