Sunday, March 26, 2023

Gathering the Bones, XXV: Albany Regency

 This one's getting a "Zombie Day" tag and rightfully so after my first week as a departmental assistant manager. On the bright side, I'm on vacation this week, so look for more and better, coming soon. 

Blaise Pascal died young, only 39 years old when he went God called his wager on 19 August, 1662, a year into the personal reign of Louis XIV, eleven months after the arrest of Nicholas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Ile and Viceroy of the Americas. Not entirely uncommonly for an old-fashioned mathematical prodigy, he was largely past active scientific work when, on 23 January, 1656, the first of the, anonymously authored Lettres proviniciales dropped. Presenting themselves as letters from a sophisticated, Paris-based Jesuit to a provincial colleague, it "humorously" attacked the purported Jesuit methods as casuistry. The sneer quotes shouldn't be taken as an attack on Pascal's comedic stylings, but rather on the impact of the First Letter on the Society of Jesus. More positively, the letter presents  Jansenist soteriology, which, for those who care about such things, sounds suspiciously, or, alternatively, auspiciously Protestant. (I'm not going to get any clearer about these matters because I find Seventeenth Century theological debates and their subsequent recapitulations to be so soaked in bad faith, superficial readings that I'd just as rather not.) 

There might be a lesson here to the aspiring transportation disruptor about the mixed consequences of indulging in theological and political controversy, because at the time of his death, Pascal was turning his literary profits into investment capital as the operator of one of the earliest omnibus services, a business that was regulated out of existence within twelve years of his death. He is far from the last "disruptor" we're going to hear about this week. 

The lesson, if I have to spell it out, is that offending people is a bad idea when you're in business. One guy who would have been offended by the First Letter, had he lived to see it, was Isaac Jogues. The Jesuit father with the suspiciously Protestant-sounding name did not, because he had been martyred on 18 October 1646, supposedly at the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, at the current location of Auriesville, New York. It is likely that this was not the precise site of the martyrdom, and "Ossernenon" is problematic, too, but it is not in doubt that Jogues was tortured to death only 40 miles from Albany. 

In any case, the holy saint and martyr could look down from Heaven to see the omnibus fleet pulled from the road for reasons of class anxiety.

By Pline - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Lycee Louis le Grand, as Clermont is now

Pascal's oeuvre was the latest in more than a century of controversy between Jansenist and Jesuit. Having already taken an oath of silence on the theology I haven't much material with which to expand on the endlessly wearying details of the controversy that so heavily depends on opposing formulations of "That's not actually what I said!" In trying to find my way through the controversy without talking about the controversy, I will lean heavily on Dale Van Kley's account. Van Kley makes the whole thing a mutual suicide pact in which the formal declaration of a Jansenist heresy in 1713  (that is, by Clement XI's Unigenitus) was paid for by the 1764 expulsion of the Jesuits, and the bad feelings inspired by the exchange leading in turn to the abolition of the Revolution and the end of the Gallican church. I find Van Kley's account of a dispute between Jesuits and Jansenists metamorphing into the French Revolution in part because I am tantalised by the parallels between the British Crown's attempt to enforce Anglicanism in the New World and the outbreak of the American Revolution. But he's also a good source to go to if you have ever wondered whether Protestant apologists for Pascal have overegged the cake.

That said, I am here today to call for the holding of horses and the bothing of sides. Thee "Provincial Letters" might be tendentious, but they were not exactly unprovoked, and Saint Isaac Jogues has something to answer for. Jogues was martyred on his second visit to the Mohawk country, having been held captive there in the winter of 1642/3. Having escaped his captivity (or failed adoption, to the extent that there's a difference) with the assistance of Arent van Curler, the first of the great Indian agents and founder of Shenectady, and another fascinating divine, Dominie Johannes Megapolensis, Jogues understandably returned to France, to Paris, and to his alma mater, the College de Clermont, to enjoy celebrity as an almost-martyr, it being recorded that Anne of Austria kissing his mutilated hand at a court reception and that he was given a special dispensation to conduct the mass without the doctrinally-specified number of fingers. But then he returned to Canada, and to the Mohawk country, and found the martyrdom he sought.  

The year before Jogues' triumphant progress through Parisian society, Antoine Arnauld's attack on frequent communion had opened a new phase in the ongoing theological debate. by this time, the Arnaud's Paris base, the not-quite-translated Abbey of Port Royal on the Faubourg Saint-Jacques was eighteen years old and had been associated with Jansenism for almost half that time. I won't go further into the blow-by-blow, just point out how powerful Jesuit access to an ample supply of Canadian martyrs was in this rivalry for influence between two great religious-entertainment-educational complexes in a time of relentless political turmoil. Anne of Austria had become regent on the death of Louis XIII in 1643, and, with the assistance of Cardinal Mazarin, was able to hold on to that power in the face of the rebellion of the Fronde. The Eight Jesuit fathers martyred by the Mohawk nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy between 1642 and 1649 were powerful assets for the Society of Jesus, but also the Queen Regent, whose religious tastes were much more in line with Jesuit than Jansenist.

Just as the expulsion of the Jesuits and the proclamation of Unigenitus not coincidentally followed the end of great European wars, so the Jesuit martyrdoms tailed off with the peaces that ended the Thirty Years War, Eight Years War and the English phase of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.  A Spanish war continued through the civil wars of the Fronde until a 1659 peace defined a border between France and the now-Spanish Netherlands, but that peace was not Louis' policy. 

Historians have been saying that the fall of Nicolas Fouquet was a shocking and intriguing episode for centuries, and cinematographers have been failing to deliver for just  as long, counting time as some poor victim of yet another attempted documentary on the subject will measure it. It might help for the benefit of this post to report his titles, which, although he himself was a mere jumped-up bourgeois, included that of Marquis de Belle-Ile, an honour that may resonate with the historian of North America, for the very good reason that it is not an empty title, but an actual place, a substantial and well fortified  island off Brest held by Fouquet by virtue of his father's fortune as a wool merchant, and his own as a shipowner and an investor in, among other colonial adventures, the chartered company that was about to lose Canada to the French Crown. Among the many charges brought against Fouquet after his 5 September 1661 arrest was that he was building up a private army and fleet on the island, which he was, but with the actual intention of achieving a final settlement of the Mohawk question in order to establish the profitability of Canada, endangered by Mohawk raiding up the Hudson-Richelieu gap. 

The gorge of Canajoharie is a water park now
With Fouquet out of the way, Mazarin dead, and Anne of Austria in hospice care, Louis and his minister, embraced the most ambitious scheme to restore the "ancient and natural" borders of France yet: the seizure of the entire Austrian Netherlands as the inheritance of the old County of Flanders. We can dress this up in the mercantilist language favoured by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and nationalist Nineteenth Century writers, although I think that underemphasizes the agricultural side of the territory's wealth and perhaps renders the Dutch Republic's interest in the territory a  bit opaque (personal crackpot theory; it was in large part about downstream flood control in Dutch Flanders and Zeeland). What is not at issue is that Louis launched a War of Devolution in the territory in July of 1665 by entering the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The English having seized the New Netherlands with an expeditionary force of four frigates in 1664, the Mohawk could be framed as having no allies. Having also no land frontier on which to wage war against the Dutch, the French crown sent something in line of a battalion of troops, the famous Carignan-Salieres regiment to Canada in 1665, and it campaigned in Saratoga County, New York, in 1665 and 1666, destroying first an under-documented mixed settlement in the first campaign at heavy human loss, and then three Mohawk "villages" in 1666.

It's all a bit vague and mysterious, although it helps a lot to know that the English and French were uneasy allies against the Dutch when the Marquis de Tracy was devastating Mohawk villages just forty miles from Albany with, it seems, the active assistance of Arent van Curler. The Dutch would retake New Netherlands for a year in 1672, and the Duke of York, who was made proprietor of the conquered colony (hence "New York;" the less said of New Jersey, never mind Vermont and Delaware, the better), would become king in due time, and, more importantly, be expelled in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, at which time the Jesuit mission to the Mohawks would decamp to Montreal with the entire village of Kahnawake, creating a fissure between Catholic and (not-Catholic) Mohawks that endure[d]for as long as religion was actually important to people.

Why are Indians living in an alms house? Why are they targets of an outbreak of anti-proprietary violence? Who exactly are the Paxtang Boys? It's so confusing!
So, okay, we know that from the Haudenosaunee side, they were more sinned against than sinning in their many wars with the French. This is not something usually said of them in connection with the "Beaver Wars" of which these conflicts seem to form a part, in which the Iroquois in rapid succession conquered the Erie, Wenro, Petun and Neutral nations and forced the Hurons to flee from their original homes around Toronto to the Montreal area.  All these conflicts involved territories that would come to be identified as beaver hunting grounds, and so far so good; but the Mahicans and Susquehannock are usually added to the list of victims, and if the Susquehannock were "cut off" by the Haudenosaunee, then the Six Nations are the leading suspects in the disappearance of the Scahentoarrhonon and presumably other, even less well documented groups of Iroquoian-speaking peoples, all of whom seem like more likely targets for assimilation than the Mahicans, who in any cases were not dispossessed of beaver lands, but rather territory that was soon alienated to form the first of the many patroonships or patents into which Colonial New York was broken up into. The issue here is that we have an alternative account of the fate of the Susquehannock, who were pressing their own gains at the expense of Algic allies of Maryland and Virginia until in 1676 Edmund Andros offered them homes amongst the Mohawk as part of a series of negotiations that led the abrupt disappearance of those Susquehannock not settled at Conestoga and the finalisation of the Great Covenant Chain between New York and the Haudenosaunee. The Susquehannock may well have been in terminal decline after the loss of their New Swedish allies, but their fate still seems at odds with that of the Tuscarora forty years later. 

In any case, what seems important here is that there's all these people coming into the territory of the Haudenosaunee, of whom the Susquehannock and any smaller peoples swept up with them along the valley of the Susquehanna are to be housed by the Mohawk. The Mohawks have abandoned their "older castles" north of the Mohawk and founded the Upper and Lower Castles at Canajoharie and Tionanderoga at Fort Hunter, just outside Albany, effectively at either end of the "carrying place." (This old-fashioned account has the advantage of being more comprehensive and lucid than Wikipedia. I am pretty sure that the idea that the Mohawk only occupied their present territory after being driven out of Montreal in the 1590s is no longer accepted seriously by anyone, and is also a legacy of internal divisions within the larger Mohawk and also Montreal-area First Nation communities.)

Culturally, we see the same tradition of "village" names being translated across the landscape, and presumably being associated with certain lineages within the Mohawk ethnos. The triple division of names (Canajohorie, Tionanderoga and Kahnawake) mirrors the tripartite division of the ethnos into three clans --more have been reported in some sources, so this was presumably a point of disagreement within Mohawk cosmology. Another war, and another French Canadian raid, in 1693, led to the Mohawk moving back to the south shore of the river and founding the Upper and Lower Castle distinction. The two communities have their roots in the division of ethnos into clans, but the Anglican mission at Fort Hunter/Tionanderoga, and the locatin of the two towns at either end of the Carrying Place portage competed with these old cosmological distinctions. The  translation of  Kahnawake, to the Montreal area and its Catholicisation intruded further new elements into the mix. As for the people, we have the foundation of several European communities on the south shore, at Shenectady and then German Flats. Shenectady in particular was founded long enough ago and by a sufficiently alien people that its mixed origins as a Dutch/Iroquoian community can be freely admitted, but things start to get a bit strange with German Flats, which is linked to the supposed migration of large numbers of German Palatine refugees and the transplantation of the ill-documented German religious community that became the roots of  the American Baptist Church.

I had to go to Getty Images because the English Internet is still so embarrassed about this
(The agreed position of all European state churches is that baptism is the ritual that cleanses an infant of the burden of original sin and initiates them into the church. As a ceremony, and so as not to fuss the baby, it is carried out by sprinkling. In Baptist tradition, it is a repeating lustration involving full immersion, with bonus arguments about whether it should be forward or backwards immersion and whether it is a repeatable sacrament. My own opinion remains that Americans are super-embarrassed at just how American American Christianity is. It's almost as though it were syncretic with Eastern Woodlands practice.)

So, anyway. The Duke of York. (Picture, his wife cradling the "warming pan baby," also known as the Old Pretender.) Given how tentative the first stages of North American colonisation were, it is a bit surprising that so heavy a hitter as James, Duke of York, heir presumptive to the crowns of Britain, should have wanted to stick his neck out and become the proprietor of the newly-conquered New Netherlands. To be sure, there was money in it, but to this point, it had been mostly arrivistes making plays for North American real estate, give or take the long list of relatives of the Clinton Earls of Lincoln who involved themselves in the founding Boston and probably form a link with the family's later interest in New York. The Duke was a forward-looking sort, to be sure, but the list of early governors, extending well beyond the Duke of York's time, includes some real weirdos, reflecting perhaps some difficulty in finding qualified applicants. But out of all of this the name that sticks out, and which inspires this post, is William Dockwra.  

Dockwra was a merchant and real estate developer associated with the earliest stages of the Mayfair play that would "make the Grosvenor family the richest family in England by the 19th Century," per Wikipedia. He is most famous for founding London's first penny post, but under the Carterets became a proprietor of East Jersey, a colony with James firmly believed should not exist, although it was not finally surrendered until 1702. Philip Carteret, North American agent for Sir George Carteret, took the lead in fighting James' American agent, and then Governor of New York, Sir Edmund Andros. Meanwhile, Dockwra was having his own fight with the Duke of York, who leveraged Dockwra out of his lucrative pay post scheme using his powers as Postmaster General. Dockwra recovered his office after the Glorious Revolution. 

So, yeah, that's the point of all of this: Metropolitan European entrepeneurs exploring new ways of making Europe's biggest cities pay as they scaled new heights of urban development, strangely connected via contentious political links to the rapid expansion of farmlands at the nexus of the beaver routes into the North American interior from the Hudson valley. It's weird? All a bunch of big coincidences? I dunno. A lot of these guys might have much deeper connections with North America via the fisheries than we realise. That's particularly true of the Clintons --I'm pretty sure that there's an ur-mover behind all this, that one of the privateer/pirates of the middle 1600s is going to turn out to have imperial dreams and deeper connections in the Eastern Algic world on the one hand, and with the English navy on the other hand. 

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