| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
THE MISSISSIPPI BUBBLE
 BEING thus encroached upon by the British the French became more
determined to shut them out from the south. Already twelve years
after La Salle's death another attempt had been made to found
a town at the mouth of the Mississippi, and this time the attempt
This time the expedition was led by Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville.
With two ships he sailed out from France and, after some
trouble, found the mouth of the Mississippi. He did not, however,
build his fort here, but on the coast of what is now the State of
Mississippi. Then, leaving one of his officers and his brother in
command, he sailed home again to France.
While d'Iberville was away, his brother Bienville started on an
expedition to explore the Mississippi. And he soon discovered that
the French had taken possession none too soon, for not far from
where New Orleans now stands, he fell in with a British ship. On
board were a lot of French Huguenot families who had come to found
a settlement on the Mississippi. Bienville talked to the captain,
who told him that this was one of three ships sent out from England
by a company formed of Huguenots and Englishmen who intended to
found a colony on the Mississippi. They were not sure, however,
whether they were on the Mississippi or not.
Bienville at once assured them that they were not, but were instead
on a river which belonged to Louis of France,
 where already the
French had several settlements. The British captain believed what
he was told and, much to the Frenchmen's delight, turned back.
Just at the spot where this took place the river makes a bed, and
because of this it was given the name of English Bend, by which
name it is known to this day.
D'Iberville only stayed long enough in France to gather more
colonists and returned at once to Louisiana, where he founded two
more towns along the coast. But the colonists sent out by Louis
were of the lowest. Many of them were little more than rogues and
vagabonds. The mere off-scourings of the towns, they were idle and
extravagant, and the colony did not prosper.
Instead of putting gold into Louis' pockets, as he had hoped, he
had constantly to pour it out to maintain the colony. Of that Louis
soon grew tired. Besides this he wanted all the money he could
gather to carry on the war (Queen Anne's War), which was still
raging. So, in 1712, he handed Louisiana over to a wealthy merchant
named Crozat to make what he could out of it.
Such great power was given to this merchant that he was little less
than a king. He had every monopoly. Nobody in the colony could buy
or sell the smallest thing without his permission, and every one
had to work for him and not for themselves. But the people were
by no means willing workers. They were, said one of their priests,
"nearly all drunkards, gamblers, blasphemers and foes of everything
that was good," and when they found that they were expected to work
merely to put money into the proprietor's pocket they would not
work at all.
So very soon Crozat found he could make nothing out of the colony.
And after some vain efforts to make it pay he gave up his charter,
and Louisiana once more became a royal possession.
Meanwhile France itself was in sore straits for money.
 Louis XIV,
that magnificent and extravagant monarch, had died and left his
country beggared and in want. The Duke of Orleans now ruled as
Regent for little Louis XV. He was at his wit's end to know where
to find money, when a clever Scots adventurer named John Law came
to him with a new and splendid idea. This was to use paper money
instead of gold and silver. The Regent was greatly taken with the
idea, and he gave Law leave to issue the paper money. It was quite
a good idea had it been kept within bounds. But it was not kept
within bounds. All France went mad with eagerness to get some of
the paper money which was, they thought, going to make them rich
Besides issuing paper money, Law started what was known as the
Mississippi Scheme or Company of the Indies. Louisiana,
which had been received back from Crozat, was handed over to John
Law, who undertook to settle the country, and work the gold and
silver mines which were supposed to be there.
Law began at once to fill all France with stories of Louisiana and
its delights. Gold and silver mines, he said, had been discovered
there which were so rich that they could never be used up. Lumps of
gold lay about everywhere, and one might have them for the picking
up. As for silver, it was so common that it had little value except
to be used for paving the streets. In proof of these stories lumps
of gold said to have come from Louisiana were shown in the shops
As to the climate, it was the most perfect on earth. It was never
too hot, and never too cold, but always warm and sunny. The soil
was so fertile that one had but to scratch it to produce the finest
crops. Delicious fruits grew everywhere, and might be gathered all
the year round. The meadows were made beautiful, and the air scented,
with the loveliest of flowers. In fact Louisiana
 was painted as an
earthly paradise, where nothing the heart could desire was lacking.
People believed these stories. And, believing them, it was not
wonderful that they desired to possess for themselves some of these
delights. So, rich and poor, high and low, rushed to buy shares in
the Company. The street in Paris where the offices of the Company
were was choked from end to end with a struggling crowd. The rich
brought their hundreds, the poor their scanty savings. Great lords
and ladies sold their lands and houses in order to have money to
buy more shares. The poor went ragged and hungry in order to scrape
together a few pence. Peers and merchants, soldiers, priests, fine
ladies, servants, statesmen, labourers, all jostled together, and
fought to buy the magic paper which would make them rich and happy
beyond belief. Fortunes were made and lost in a day. Some who had
been rich found themselves penniless; others who had always lived
in poverty found themselves suddenly rolling in wealth which they
did not know how to use.
And John Law was the wizard whose magic
wand had created all these riches. He was flattered and courted
by every one. The greatest princes in the land came to beg favours
of him. They came to him to beg, and he treated them haughtily as
beggars, and bade them wait.
Day by day, and month by month, the madness increased, and the
gigantic bubble grew larger and larger. Bienville, meanwhile, who
had been deprived of his governorship, was once more made Governor
of Louisiana. With a company of settlers, he returned again to the
colony, and he at once set about building a capital, which,
in honour of the Regent, he called New Orleans. The place he chose
for his capital was covered with forest. So before any building could
be done fifty men were set to fell the trees and clear a space.
 And then the first foundations of the new great city of New Orleans
But still the colony did not prosper. For the colonists were for
the most part rogues and vagabonds, sent there by force, and kept
there equally by force. They looked upon Louisiana as a prison,
and tried constantly to escape from it.
Meanwhile no ships laden with gold and gems reached France, for no
gold mines had ever been discovered. Then people began to grow tired
of waiting. Some of them began to suspect that all the stories of
the splendours of Louisiana were not true, and they tried to sell
their paper money and paper shares, and get back the gold which
they had given for them. Soon every one wanted to sell, and no one
wanted to buy. The value of the paper money fell and fell, until
it was worth less than nothing. People who had thought themselves
millionaires found themselves beggars. Law, who had been flattered
and courted, was now hated and cursed. And in terror of his life
he fled from France in 1790 to die miserably in Italy a few years
As to Louisiana, a new set of stories were told of it. Now it was
no longer described as a sort of earthly paradise, but as a place
of horror and misery. It was a land of noisome marsh and gloomy
forest, where prowled every imaginable evil beast. At certain times
of the year the river flooded the whole land, so that the people
were obliged to take refuge in the trees. There they lived more
like monkeys than men, springing from tree to tree in search of
food. The sun was so hot that it could strike a man dead as if with
a pistol. This was called sunstroke. Luscious fruits indeed grew
around, but they were all poisonous and those who ate of them died
in agonies. In fact Louisiana was now pictured as a place to be
shunned, as a place of punishment. "Be good or I will send you to
Mis-  sissippi" was a threat terrible enough to make the naughtiest
The Mississippi bubble burst,—but still France clung to Louisiana.
Once again it became a royal province, and at length after long
years of struggle it began to prosper. The French had thus two
great centres of power in America, one at Quebec amid the pine
trees and snows of the North, and one at New Orleans amid the palm
trees and sunshine of the South. And between the two fort after
fort was built, until gradually north and south were united. Thus
La Salle's dream came true.
It was during the time of peace after the end of Queen Anne's War
that the French had thus strengthened their hold on America and
joined Canada and Louisiana. They had also built a strong fortress
on the Island of Cape Breton which commanded the mouth of the St.
Lawrence. This fortress was called Louisburg in honour of King
Louis, and it was the strongest and best fortified in the whole of
New France. The walls were solid and high, and bristled with more
than a hundred cannon. The moat was both wide and deep. Indeed the
French believe that this fort was so strong that no power on earth
could take it.
But the days of peace sped fast. Soon once more Europe was ablaze
with war, France and Britain again taking opposite sides. In Europe
this war is called the War of the Austrian Succession, because it
was brought on by a quarrel among the nations of Europe as to who
should succeed to the throne of Austria. In America it is called
King George's War, as King George II was King of Britain at the
Like the other wars before it, it was fought in America as well as
in Europe. The chief event in America was the capture of Louisburg.
That redoubtable fortress which it was thought would hold
off any attack, yielded after six weeks to an army chiefly composed
of New England
farm-  ers and fishermen, and led by a Maine merchant
who had no knowledge of war.
When the news that Louisburg was taken reached New England the
people rejoiced. Bells were rung, cannons were fired and bonfires
blazed in all the chief towns. In England itself the news was received
with surprise and delight, and Pepperell, the merchant-soldier,
was made a baronet and could henceforth call himself Sir William
But when the French heard that they had lost their splendid American
fortress they were filled with dismay. One after another, three
expeditions were sent to recapture it, but one after another they
miscarried. And when at length, peace was agreed upon
Louisburg was still in the hands of the New Englanders. The peace
which was now signed is called the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. By it,
it was agreed that each side should give back all its conquests,
so that after all the terrible loss and bloodshed neither side was
one whit the better.
The New Englanders had been greatly delighted at their conquest
of Louisburg. The French, on the other hand, were greatly grieved,
and when terms of peace were discussed Louis XV insisted that
Louisburg should be restored. "That cannot be," said King George.
"It is not mine to give, for it was taken by the people of Boston."
The French, however, were firm. So King George gave way, and Louisburg
was restored to France, and Madras in India, which the French had
taken, was in exchange restored to Britain. When the New Englanders
heard of it, they were very angry. Madras was nothing to them; it
was but a "petty factory" on the other side of the globe; while
Louisburg was at their very doors, and of vast importance to their
security. They had to obey and give it back. But they did so with
bitterness in their hearts against a King who cared so little for
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