The distresses of the British in Quebec during this winter were surpassed by those of the French in Montreal. In this little town, which was almost the extreme outpost in New France of European civilization, the defenders had gathered for the final rally against the invaders. Usually the town contained from eight to nine thousand inhabitants; now, however, its population was greatly increased by refugees from all parts of Canada. Many of these refugees had come because they feared not only the British but also their own Indians, likely at any time to go over to the enemy and to commit brutal outrages against their former friends. The savages were, it was said, particularly incensed against Vaudreuil, as the cause of the misfortunes in which they found themselves included, and threatened to kill him. Leading citizens from Quebec were now in Montreal, and the Bishop of Quebec ruled his church from that place. In Montreal was also what remained in Canada of a Court, which once had imitated Versailles. An appearance of old-world luxury marked this town on the edge of the wilderness. 'From the number of silk robes, laced coats, and powdered heads of both sexes, and almost of all ages, that are perambulating the streets from morning till night,' says Captain Knox, who saw the place in the autumn of 1760, 'a stranger would be induced to believe that Montreal is intirely inhabited by people of independent and plentiful fortunes.' Some years earlier, the Swedish traveller Kalm had described the inhabitants of Montreal as 'well-bred and corteous, kwith an innoccnt and becomming freedom'; to Knox, who saw them under the shadow of defeat, they appeared cheerful and sprightly. Their town stretched in a thin line for two and a half miles along the river front, 'For delightfulness of situation,' says Knox, 'I think I never saw any town to equal it.' Its few streets were regular, though narrow, and its houses were well constructed. Knox could find it in his heart to describe the public buildings as beautiful and commodious, and one of them at least as 'extremely magnificent'. He thought Montreal 'infinitely preferable to Quebec'. Quebec, however, was now associated in his mind with pestilence and famine. The Chevalier Johnstone, who served on the defeated side, thought Montreal a dismal place.
The picture that we get of the social life of the colony at this time is not edifying. In New England Puritanism was still a living force, manners were grave, life was simple, and the tone of society was pure and restrained. In New France, on the other hand, reckless extravagance, corruption in business methods and immoral licence in social life had long been characteristics of the upper class of society. The men who held office in Canada were nominees of the French Court, and some of them reflected in the distant colony the abandoned tone of the worst circles at Versailles. In Canada, as in France, there were not wanting voices of protest. The Roman Catholic Church in Canada had always stood for an austere view of life, and, with hardly an exception, her priests had supported it by their example and by their discipline over their flocks. At Montreal the priests of the Sulpitian Seminary were a powerful corporation, lords of the whole island under feudal tenure, and they showed a desire to keep up a censorship of morals. A hostile critic says that they asserted a right to supervise what was done in private houses, and that even the French generals trembled under their authority for fear of reports which might be sent to France. The Bishop of Quebec, Monsignor Pontbriand, now living at Montreal, was a high-minded and holy man. In this crisis he exhorted Canadian society to consider its misfortunes as a call to prayer and to repentance for its sins. There is, however, no evidence that the call to greater seriousness was heeded. In time of disaster men are as likely to fall into reckless licence as to reform themselves. Montreal during this winter of 1759-60 had the same surface gaiety, the display, and, beneath all, the ugly self-seeking and corruption which were gnawing at the heart of the older society and leading to revolution.
The real business man in the administration of Canada was the Intendant, Francois Bigot. Under the system which had developed in France, each French province had two high officials, the Governor and the Intendant, the Governor representing the dignity and the military power of the Crown, the Intendant discharging the sober details of civil business. A similar system prevailed in Canada. The dozen or so Intendants who had held the office had been on the whole competent and honest men ; Bigot, the last of them, was surpassed by none in competence but he was wholly wanting in conscience, and his career in Canada was marked by unscrupulous pillage of the King, his master, and by lavish expenditure, on a scale that seems hardly credible when we consider the poverty of the colony.
Bigot had attractive qualities. He was able and assiduous in the discharge of his official duties, and during this winter, when, in some degree, he was forced to make bricks without straw, he performed wonders in securing provisions for the army. 'No one shows more foresight and ingenuity than you to find resources' Levis once wrote to him. But while a keen man of business he had also the tastes and ambitions of a man of fashion, and he made both Quebec and Montreal scenes of social dissipation, more suited to the life of a European capital than to that of a town in a poverty-stricken colony. He belonged to a family of Guienne, not, it is true, ranking among the nobility of France, but conspicuous in what had almost become another nobility, the men of the robe, the class from which the judges, the lawyers, and officials like the Intendants were drawn. He had at court powerful relations who held high official position—the Marquis de Puysieux, the Marechal d'Estrees, and apparently, too, the Comte de Maurepas, a former Minister of Marine. He loved pomp and it had been his ambition to retire to France to live in luxury and ease for the remainder of his life. Already he had bought land; he had grand ideas of the style in which he should live, and had purchased furnishings for his house and table on a lavish scale. When misfortune overtook him and his effects in France were seized by the King, great nobles like the Marechal de Richelieu were eager to become possessors of the plate and other articles in which he had invested some of his ill-gotten gains.
In physique nature had not fitted Bigot for the role of social leader which he aspired to fill. He was small and fat, with reddish hair and a pimply skin. On the other hand he had charming manners and he showed a marked capacity for making himself agreeable. This social tact was one of his chief gifts. He took little part in the personal quarrels that had raged in the colony between Vaudreuil and Montcalm; with some success, indeed, he had played the part of a mediator who invariably showed shrewd common sense in trying to smooth over differences and in advising friendly co-operation. The villain in the tragedy of the declining years of New France Bigot undoubtedly is; but villains would hardly be dangerous did they not possess some semblance of virtue. Bigot was loyal and devoted to those who shared in his pursuits. 'He had great wit and penetration,' writes a contemporary; 'he was generous and benevolent and capable of filling a more eminent position than he occupied; when he had once given his confidence and his protection it was not easily that he drew back. . . . His manner of life was unaffected and full of consideration for those who attended upon or paid court to him. His table was richly furnished and he relieved the unfortunate with a generosity that approached munificence. His love of pleasure did not keep him from attention to his duty. He was extremely jealous of his authority and supported too keenly those who had his confidence and who unhappily were neither honest nor deserving. To them only would he listen; their counsels alone would he follow, and they made him commit stupendous faults.'
Some of the associates of Bigot were, one should suppose, conspicuously unfit to shine in that social world which it was his ambition to adorn. Hardly an ornament for high social circles was Cadet, the son of a butcher, and himself, in early years, first a cowherd at Charlesbourg and then a butcher at Quebec. His early advance was due to his striking, if unscrupulous, business capacity. In the early stages of the war there had been difficulties in the commissariat department and the French Court had then decided that, to provide adequate control, a single official should be given the contract and be made responsible for furnishing supplies to the army. Cadet's abilities qualified him to fill this office, and on January 1, 1757, he entered upon its duties with the title of Munitioner-General. From that time he had full control. Canadian society was astonished that the butcher-knife should have given place so quickly to the sword which it appears his new office entitled him to wear. No one, however, could sneer at his capacity.
In spite of his coarse manners he was generous and kindly and so prodigal in expenditure that he made many friends. In the end the complaisant Vaudreuil recommended him for a patent of nobility, and members of his family married into some of the most ancient families in France.
Corruption was an old story in Canada. The French Court paid meagre salaries to civil and military officers and it was a common practice, hardly censured in high quarters, for these men to engage in trading operations in order to eke out a livelihood. Since the system of government in Canada was completely despotic, officials could easily be placed in a privileged position in regard to some branches of commerce. Licences to trade in the interior, for instance, were issued by the Government at its discretion. The Government also exercised the right to name the price of wheat and other staple commodities. Under a man like Bigot a system with possibilities of fraud was sure to receive its fullest development. His secretary, Deschenaux, was the son of a shoemaker at Quebec. In some way he made himself indispensable to the Intendant. Bigot gave him his confidence and clung with great tenacity to this vain, ambitious, and arrogant parvenu. So greedy was he for gain that he declared he would rob even the altar itself. As secretary to the Intendant, and to such an Intendant, Deschenaux could easily secure official sanction for his many plans to defraud the Government and the people. He and Cadet worked together, and their rascalities were almost incredible.
A third person was joined with Cadet and Deschenaux in the leadership of a ring which planned boldly to master for its profit the whole resources of the colony. This third person was Major Pean, a Canadian by birth, the son of a military officer and himself an officer. In his case no personal quality secured the favour of the Intendant. His merit consisted in the charms of his wife. Bigot had shown openly his admiration for some of the handsome ladies whom he entertained so prodigally, but he found his admiration discouraged either by them or by their husbands. Madame Pean was not beautiful but she was young, lively, and witty. When she received the Intendant's advances, he vowed to make her the envy of the other women in Canada. In the end the pleasure-loving Intendant became her slave. ' He went regularly to spend his evenings with her,' we are told,2' and she formed a little court of persons of her own stamp who gained her protection by their deference and, since the Intendant could refuse her nothing, made fortunes. This went so far that those who had need of promotion or employment could get what they desired only through her. Domestics, lackeys, and other persons of no account became storekeepers at the posts. Ignorance and depravity proved no obstacle. Employments were, in brief, given to those she named, without discrimination, and her recommendation was worth as much as the greatest merit.' It would not be easy to find, though the scale is smaller, a more exact parallel of Madame de Pompadour at the Court of Louis XV than this of Madame Pean at the Court of Bigot on the confines of the Canadian wilderness. There is the difference, however, that the great lady in the Old World had little part in vulgar corruption and showed sometimes a sense of responsibility in the use of power which her copy in the New World lacked. Pean profited by his own complaisance. Cadet and Deschenaux found it wise to make him the third member of the triumvirate, which existed for the sake of plunder. Among other things Pean was given a commission to buy grain for the King's service. Bigot lent him the money for this enterprise. Pean bought the grain at a low price for ready money. A little later, Bigot, using his authority, issued a regulation which named a high price for Brain, and when Pean sold his supplies he made a great profit.
In the early days it was Bigot who led in the frauds. At that time he and one Breard, the Controller of Marine at Quebec, had worked together in systematic plunder. They imported goods from France and then sold them to the Government at a very extravagant price. Bigot thus used his official position to rob the King whom he served. At first Cadet was Bigot's pupil, but he proved to be a pupil so apt that he soon became the master. It may be that Bigot drew back from this distorted image of himself. At any rate the two men quarrelled. Bigot poured contempt on Cadet as base-born and at last denounced him as a criminal. Certainly Cadet plundered on a colossal scale and Bigot's achievements in fraud pale before his. When both men were found guilty, Cadet was ordered to pay back from his spoils four times as much as was required of Bigot.
If Vaudreuil was not in collusion with the thieves he was certainly very blind. There was, at times, a reckless candour in Bigot. Himself corrupt, he invited corruption in others. Vergor, an army captain, bad in manners as well as in character, dull and uneducated, became the friend of Bigot, probably by sharing some of his vices. Bigot had secured for him the command at Fort Beausejour, and this is the style in which the man next to the Governor in authority wrote, on leaving for France in 1754, to an officer in a position of trust: 'Profit, my dear Vergor,' wrote Bigot, 'by your place; trim, lop off; all power is in your hands; do it so that you may be able soon to come and join me in France and buy an estate near mine.' Villany is not often as refreshingly frank and reckless as this; we almost admire Bigot for his occasional candour. To Vaudreuil, however, he professed to be a model of virtue. It seems certain that Vaudreuil himself was more a fool than a knave. His secretary, St. Sauveur, was, however, a rascal. When secretary to an earlier Governor, St. Sauveur had begun to amass a fortune by securing a monopoly of the brandy trade with the Indians. Murray spoke of him as a swindler and traitor, who abused his master's confidence, and wondered that Vaudreuil could be so blind. Vaudreuil was, indeed, precisely the kind of man whom a schemer like St. Sauveur could manage. Whatever the limits to Vaudreuil's blame, he was, no more than Bigot, a check to corruption in Canada. He must at least have seen his own relations profiting by fraud. It is specifically charged that he made a large fortune, but his acquittal, when tried in France after the fall of Canada, leaves the door open to the belief that he was innocent of anything but incompetence.
It is not now possible to fix the share in the frauds of each of the persons concerned. Towards the end, as we have seen, Bigot was less active in plunder than Cadet, but he must have known what Cadet was doing. There were other great thieves and lesser thieves. Some members of the ring formed a society that carried on extensive trade. They had a great warehouse at Quebec; there was a similar warehouse at Montreal; and in both places the people came, in the end, to understand what these warehouses stood for and named each of them 'La Friponne', the swindle. One of the Intendant's special friends was Varin, a vicious libertine, tiny in stature, insignificant in appearance, but perversely ingenious to secure dishonest gain. He was an official in the Government service at Moptreal and the chief leader in fraud at that place. The ring had friends and accomplices in France. Some of these could meet and perhaps silence complaints made to the Court, others could assist in trading operations and in sending out supplies. They did some swindling on their own account. Bigot himself complains of the inferior quality of goods which they sent out from France.
One chief source of Cadet's profits sprang from the supply of rations for the troops. As the war went on the number of regular soldiers in the service tended to decline. No considerable reinforcements arrived from France, and owing to death, illness, and, above all, desertion, the troops decreased in number by nearly one-half. Yet Cadet continued to take payment for rations for the original number. When there were only eight thousand men in actual service he was paid for rations for thirteen thousand. Moreover, rations charged as containing two pounds of food contained only a pound and a half. As long ago as the time when the Romans conquered and plundered Britain a favourite device of extortion had been to secure control of the food supply of the people, then to enhance the price, and finally to sell the needed grain at a great profit. The triumvirs bought up as much grain as they could and placed it in great storehouses on Pean's seigniory of St. Michel on the river a few leagues below Quebec. To make sure of scarcity they shipped some of their stores to other countries. When grain was already becoming scarce, Cadet secured from Bigot an order to make a levy on the farmers of grain for the King's posts. Bigot fixed the amount to be levied, but the ring went beyond this and took all the grain they could find. An army of Cadet's employes would descend upon the parishes in turn. They made each habitant surrender what they chose to take of his grain or cattle with no regard whatever to his own needs. For the grain he would receive the low price named by the Intendant. For the cattle he received nothing at the time. The clerks merely made a note of what they took and the Munitioner fixed the price later, usually at not more than one-third of what it would cost to replace the animals. Sometimes the clerks failed to make a note of all they had taken and the habitant found redress practically impossible. If he went to Quebec to make a direct appeal to the Intendant—upon whose kind heart his distress would probably have had some effect— he would find it impossible to see Bigot or to reach him in any way with the story of his wrongs. A too persistent complainant might find himself helpless in prison. When, by such methods, all the available supplies had been secured and the cry of scarcity had begun, the Intendant would come forward as the champion of the needy. He would issue an ordinance, apparently "preventing extortion by naming a price for wheat, but fixing a price much higher than that paid by those who now held the grain. At this price the Government would buy what it required; the wretched inhabitants would be obliged to do the same ; and the conspirators would make a great profit.
Another type of fraud worked equally well. Under official pressure the import trade of the colony was easily concentrated in the hands of members of the ring. By Bigot's influence they imported their goods free of duty, on the ground that they were for the King's service. It was Bigot's custom each year to send to France requisitions for the supplies of the army and of the civil government in Canada. The Intendant took good care to order less than was needed, and when the inevitable deficiency in supplies appeared the Government was obliged to buy heavily from the swindlers, and it bought, of course, at a great advance in price. But this was not all. The King not merely paid high prices; he paid for what he did not get. Corrupt officials certified accounts for goods which were never delivered, and these accounts were paid in the regular way. The King paid, too, for goods which were delivered but which could not possibly be required for his service. Expensive silks and velvets, mirrors mounted upon morocco, and similar articles were included in the commodities said to be necessary at the posts in the far interior. They were sold to the King by the corrupt ring, and if furnished at all were no doubt used by the plunderers or their mistresses at no cost to themselves.
The fur trade was the back bone of the commercial life of Canada and its profits were very large. Step by step, the French traders had penetrated farther and farther into the interior until, about twenty-five years before the fall of Canada, the Canadian brothers La Verendrye had actually reached the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. The fur-traders needed military protection, and to provide this France had built forts and trading posts on the chief rivers and on the Great Lakes as centres of trade with the Indians. The forts were in command of military officers and were of course a part of the military equipment of Canada, supported by the Government. To them supplies were carried at the King's expense; to them also presents were sent for the Indians, in order to keep them friendly. Obviously such a situation furnished the opportunity to plunder. The route to the interior was at best difficult and exposed to accident. The transport was by canoes, and those who set out from Montreal even early in the spring would be unlikely to make the long journey and to return to Montreal before the autumn. The rivers and lakes were often stormy. Heavy sacks had to be carried across portages on men's backs. On such journeys, even with an honest accounting, the King's stores were likely to suffer. But there was not an honest accounting. What was easier than that kegs of brandy should become more than half water on the long journey? What was more simple than to sell a keg of the King's brandy or a package of the King's goods to some trader met by the way and then to report that it had been thrown overboard to save the canoe while crossing a stormy lake? In the hands of Cadet and his friends it was sure to be the King's goods that suffered by such mishaps.
The pillage in connexion with the forts and posts in the interior was so rich that positions of influence at these places came to be much coveted. An unscrupulous man could make requisitions and certify bills for many times the amount of the goods he received, and he and the officials at Montreal and Quebec would share in the profits of the robbery. The so-called presents for the Indians were in reality sometimes sold to them. Goods sent as supplies for the King's troops were also sold. Furs bought with the King's money and worth great sums were appropriated by dishonest officials and sold for their own benefit. It is clear that some of the military officers at the forts took part in this plunder. But the officers who fell were, for the most part, in the colonial service and long resident in the colony; few officers of the regular army who served in the regiments of Montcalm and Levis were involved. Courage and honour were not passports for securing or holding a position at a fort or trading post. Those who would not lend themselves to the plans of the leaders were likely to be turned out of their places. It happened that men too persistently honest were imprisoned on some trumped-up charge. A year or two in the interior gave time for amassing a considerable fortune.
Another opportunity for fraud was found in the contracts for transporting supplies to the forts in the far interior or from Quebec and Montreal to adjacent points. We have details of what happened in connexion with transport from Montreal to St. Johns and Chambly, forts not many miles away, on the Richelieu River. In the name of persons who, in reality, had only a slight interest in the contract, Pean and others undertook this work. The King furnished the boats ; they were taken to the mouth of the Richelieu River at Sorel by the King's soldiers, and from there up the river to their destination by habitants impressed in the King's name, under what was known as a corvee. For such service the contractors paid out almost nothing, but they charged the King a high price. In addition to this their accounts against the King were sometimes paid more than once.
The plunderers made profit even out of the misfortunes of the Acadians, people of their own blood. These had been driven from their homes in what is now Nova Scotia, partly by the policy of the French, who did not wish them to remain and accept British rule, but more completely by the British, who expelled them from their farms because they would not take the oath of allegiance. Those who, helpless and poor, found refuge within the frontier of Canada, were in an especial degree the wards of the King of France. The Court was ready to help them and at great cost sent food and supplies for this purpose. Here was an unexpected opening for fraud. These supplies were forwarded to the Acadians from Quebec, and from Louisbourg, before it fell. The King paid for good food for them ; but they were fed with bad food or not fed at all. Some goods disappeared entirely on the way. With what seems to us grim humour these starving Acadians were supposed to need for their comfort damasks, satins, and other articles of luxury. These were accordingly bought for the King at heavy cost, and were then sent at great cost to points far remote, there to be sold at a low price to the Acadians in order to help them. Not the Acadians, however, but representatives of the corrupt ring bought them, for almost nothing, and sent them back to Quebec to be sold at their real value. It was, we are told, 'a pretty woman' (une jolie femme), to whom Bigot could refuse nothing, who managed this fraud. Many of the unhappy Acadians were brought to Quebec in the year after their expulsion. It was a time of scarcity. They were denied bread and were fed on horse-flesh. Many of them died. These homeless people were not allowed to go to the places in Canada which offered the best chance of success. Those who were willing to settle near Quebec on Madame Pean's seigniory and also on Vaudreuil's seigniory were given the adequate help denied to others. Misfortune was no protection against the cruelty of the plunderers.
When the Acadians presented paper money at Quebec, Bigot's secretary, by delay in redeeming it, forced them in the end to accept one-half or one-third of its face value. Later he himself received from the Government the full amount.
It must not be supposed that no voices of protest were raised against this system. Montcalm had seen what was going on. Some of the officers in the French service were, he said, 'stealing like mandarins', and the pettiest ensign was growing rich. The mode of living in Canada in Bigot's circle attracted attention, for it became extravagant beyond measure. In a country chiefly remarkable for the poverty and want of its people, men were building large houses, driving expensive equipages, and gambling for excessive sums. Cases of the rapid accumulation of a fortune were much talked of. A certain Pillet at Lachine made 600,000 livres in a single year by transporting the King's goods. Another inhabitant of Lachine made a fortune out of charges for storing the King's goods in his house; needless to say, the King's goods placed in his custody were plundered. The Church, to her credit, spoke out against the scandals. The author of the most scathing account of these evils 3tells us that he was himself present in a parish church when a priest described and attacked the frauds. He called those who received the stolen goods thieves, blamed the Intendant and the Governor for what was going on, and demanded restitution to those who had suffered. A whole battalion of troops was present to hear this sermon, as were also many of the inhabitants. The fact that those who shared in the frauds were either natives of the colony or had been resident in it for some time is best explained when we remember that its life had long been corrupted by this system and that permanent residents in the country were in better position than were new-comers to share in the plunder.
Very little gold or silver was in circulation in Canada and business was carried on with the medium of paper money. A part of this was in the form of cards issued by the authority of the French Court. But, since the total amount of the card money was only one million francs, this was not enough to carry on the business of the country, and the Intendant had supplemented it by a system of his own. As occasion arose he issued what were called ordinances. These were the equivalent of the modern banknotes and ranged in amount from one franc to a hundred francs. They were accepted everywhere for purchases by the Government and they formed the chief currency of the colony. If a holder wished to have his ordinances redeemed, all he had to do was to present them in October at the government offices. In return he received drafts on the royal Treasury in France which were duly honoured. As long as the credit of France was good and it was certain that the drafts would be met, all went well. Until the autumn of 1759 the ordinances seem to have been accepted everywhere without much question.
But now the system was breaking down. In October 1759 France herself suspended payment for a time on no less than eleven descriptions of stock, and Horace Walpole says that on the list of bankrupts drawn up in all seriousness in England was the French King, under the name of 'Louis le Petit, of the city of Paris, peace broker, dealer, and chapman.' The drafts from Canada, due in this year, were not paid, and the Government announced that none would be paid until the peace. This of itself would have discredited the ordinances. But there were other causes of unrest. For some years the French Court had protested against the excessive amount of the drafts of Bigot. Repeated charges of corruption had already been made against him, and an official, M. Querdisien-Tremais, was now in Canada to inquire into Canadian finance. Matters had gone beyond the Intendant's control. M. Querdisien-Tremais wrote to the Minister on September 22, 1759, only a few days after the fall of Quebec. He says that he has found it difficult to get information. The greatest disorder exists. Every kind of officer from the highest to the lowest engages in trade, and the greed for gain is insatiable. Discipline in the army is relaxed and the common soldiers are given the greatest licence.
Bigot was in the power of those who had aided him in rearing the stupendous fabric of fraud, and they now showed increased eagerness to lay hands on all they could get before the final collapse. From the fall of Quebec to that of Montreal the only thought was of brigandage. There was a torrent of corruption. When Bigot could no longer gratify his partners in dishonesty they began to abuse him. His generosity had made for him not friends but ingrates. To keep them quiet, the Intendant was obliged to let them do what they liked, and he found their demands insatiable. In this autumn of 1759 new plunderers were sent to the interior posts to make what they could while yet there was time. Soon staggering demands came in from the posts— accounts with the proper amount multiplied by five or six. Levis, new to the supreme command, received invoices amounting to great sums for supplies for the King's service. He was in no position to verify them and he let them pass. He moved freely, too freely some of his friends thought, in the society that profited by fraud. His relations indeed with the wife of one of the chief swindlers were such as to cause scandal. The demands upon the Treasury became ever more excessive, the volume of outstanding ordinances was greatly increased, and it was more than doubtful whether the Court could or would honour the drafts now to be made upon it to redeem the ordinances.
Bigot, who, after the fall of Quebec, made his headquarters at Montreal, was in a desperate position. It was October, the month when he must redeem the ordinances and issue the drafts on France for sums that would startle the Court. With the British fleet in command of the river it was very doubtful whether any communication with France was possible. Early in October, using what was, in the circumstances, not an invalid excuse for haste, the Intendant sent a crier through the streets of Montreal to announce that only three days would be allowed for presenting the ordinances at the Government offices and securing drafts on France. Of course those who did not present them within that time must keep them for at least another year, and, with Quebec in the hands of the English, another year would probably see the entire ruin of the colony. The Intendant's plan caused commotion. Many of the ordinances were held outside of Montreal and it was impossible to present them during the limited time that had been named. After some days Bigot's house was assailed by those who had brought their paper money, only to find that the days allowed by him had expired. Vehement were the curses upon the Intendant. His course meant ruin for nearly every one and especially for those who held these ordinances as their only pay for supplies sold to the Government. It was double robbery to have their goods taken at a low price and to be paid in money now rendered worthless. But Bigot persisted; a precipice was before him, a wolf behind ; if he failed to take up the ordinances in Canada the Canadians would be against him; but if he took them up by heavy drafts on France the Court would be more alarmed than ever and might repudiate him entirely. His action in demanding the sudden presentation of the ordinances made worthless those that remained, and speculators will soon able to buy them at about one-fifth of their face value. A cynic might say, indeed, that this collapse hardly mattered, for the complete ruin of the colony was imminent in any case. The Government's credit was gone. Since no one would take the paper money, Levis, when he needed resources, was obliged to borrow what gold and silver his officers and men possessed. This left them in a pitiable plight. Some of the officers sold even their clothes to supply their wants.
In such a situation it is obvious that at Montreal in the winter of 1759-60 the Gallic gaiety was subjected to some strain. Vaudreuil was already there when Levis arrived in person to make it the centre of his plans against Quebec. Reports reached the British that Montreal was facing its tasks cheerfully. Dim echoes of the gossip of the time reach us. Vaudreuil's personal conduct appears to have been immaculate ; in regard to him and his devout wife scandal is silent. Levis, on the other hand, was no better, and probably no worse, than the average courtier of his age. His favourite saying that ' one must be on good terms with every one ', shows that he could adjust himself to his surroundings. With his conspicuous graces of person he made himself agreeable to the ladies of Montreal. In spite of the shadows hanging over this society, it managed to amuse itself. The Intendant, the officers, and the ladies all alike gambled with a passion and on a scale startling even to those familiar with gambling scenes in France. They danced : Montreal was as gay as Versailles. We hear sometimes of bitterly cold weather, but, since no opposing army was near to cut off access to the forests, Montreal was not in the same distressing straits for firewood as Quebec. Prices were, however, high. A cord of wood, which usually cost as little as six livres, was now sold for from eighty to a hundred livres. Provisions were so scarce that even persons who had money found it difficult to buy what tv needed. WhenBent drew near there was unconscious humour in the Bishop's permission to omit the usual Lenten abstinence. He commanded instead prayers for a happy issue from adversity and for a speedy and enduring peace between the two crowns.
Perhaps to inspire his followers Levis professed no misgivings about the future; he talked as if he had only to present himself before Quebec to ensure its falling into his hands. In words the French could hardly have been more certain had Quebec already fallen. Any one expressing misgivings was denounced as ' English '. An amusing comment upon this gasconade was furnished when Montreal fell into a panic in March at reported traces in the adjacent forest of an English camp. The alarm was needless. What had been discovered was an old camp abandoned by the French. Sometimes Levis spoke of a wild scheme, which Montcalm had also cherished, of leaving Canada to its fate and of leading his forces farther into the interior, past Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and down the Ohio and the Mississippi to Louisiana. This was, however, in his darker moments. What he really hoped for was to keep up the fight until, at an early date, as he expected, peace should be concluded. Meanwhile he faced his tasks cheerfully enough.
There were disagreements with the British over the effects which the French officers had left in Quebec. The British had agreed that these should be returned to their owners. Vaudreuil sent some schooners down to Quebec bearing his own maitre d'hotel, Bigot's valet, and other servants to recover and bring back the numerous trunks and packages. On the plea that these servants might be officers in disguise, who would take military notes, the British refused to allow them to go about freely in the town. The garrison sent to France had been allowed only one day to claim their belongings, and the British at first insisted that only this time could now be allowed for the later claimants. The effects must, they said, be collected in the morning and examined and sealed and shipped the same afternoon. M. Bernier, the commissioner, was in despair. There were not fifteen carters in the whole town. ' One might as well try to seize the moon with one's teeth,' he said, as to do what was required. He had lost his horse and had worn himself out going on foot from the General Hospital to the town. In the end the British relaxed the conditions somewhat. A crier went through the town to order those who had effects to embark to get them ready. A good many people had requested M. Bernier to claim their property for them. In some cases these belongings had been moved to other places. It happened, too, that owners had given inadequate directions. ' I should have needed a thousand legs if I had done all that was asked of me,' Bernier says. Two British officers accompanied him from eight o'clock in the morning until five in the evening. ' I did nothing but run from the Upper to the Lower Town with the two examiners, going from house to house.' He put his seal on not less than three hundred trunks and felt, he declares, like an excise officer. He admits that some of the trunks thus sealed contained merchandise on which their owners expected to make a profit of 300 or 400 per cent, when it was sold at Montreal and other points.
Vaudreuil was fussily busy during these last days of his rule. He must have kept occupied a small army of secretaries, for he wrote interminable letters and memoirs full of petty comments upon events from day to day, of boastful promises as to what he should still do to save the colony, and of efforts to prove to his correspondents his own competence. He was ignoble enough to attack in a scurrilous way the memory of the dead Montcalm. So jealous was he of his rival that he did not shrink from planning to examine his private papers—a proposal which Levis, in whose custody they had been left, checked by a stern letter. Even after this Vaudreuil did not hold his hand. On October 30, 1759, he wrote a long letter to the Minister piling up grave charges.
'From the moment of M. de Montcalm's coming to the colony until his death he did not cease to sacrifice everything to his boundless ambition. ... He tolerated among the soldiers every kind of outrageous talk against the Government and allied himself with the most disreputable persons. . . . Upon the people he or his regular troops laid a terrible yoke. He abused those who were honest, supported insubordination, and shut his eyes to the pillage which the soldiers carried on; he even allowed them to sell before his face the provisions and cattle which they had stolen from the habitants. I am in despair, Monseigneur, to be obliged to paint such a portrait of the dead Marquis de Montcalm, but it contains only the exact truth. I should have said nothing had I remembered only his personal hate to myself, but I am too deeply grieved by the fall of Quebec to conceal from you the cause which is generally recognized by the public.'
At Montreal Levis had taken up his residence in the house formerly occupied by Montcalm. The officers who surrounded him were not a happy family. Adversity had not brought them to sink minor differences. Vaudreuil reports to the Minister on November 9 a case in which officers came to blows. There were keen jealousies. Vaudreuil's brother, M. Rigaud, who held the post of Governor of Montreal, was bitterly incensed because Levis had been placed over him in authority. He declared that it had been done by Vaudreuil because Levis, unlike himself, would shut his eyes to Cadet's frauds. This was a pretty family quarrel and, in the end, Rigaud refused any longer to remain under the same roof with Vaudreuil and sought quarters elsewhere. We hear echoes of spiteful talk about the liaisons of Levis ; he boasted that his family was related to the Virgin Mary, and he relied more upon that, it was said, than upon attention to his religious duties. It was an old story that Bougainville's rapid advancement was attributed to the favour of Madame de Pompadour; and Vaudreuil's pompous ways and interminable flow of words come in for some guarded satire. Many of the officers were, like Vaudreuil, inveterate letter-writers, and their correspondence shows how keen were their discords. Few of them had any interest in or cared about Canada. To them the ' wretched colony ' as they often called it, meant nothing. On the whole, however, these officers were brave men willing to do a soldier's duty wherever they were placed. Their letters are dignified and we have from them no real complaints. But promotion in France is what they were always aiming at. To secure it they prepared interminable petitions. One of the chief anxieties of Levis himself was to secure not merely decorations as distinguished as those of Montcalm but something beyond this—the cordon bleu—and his keenest hopes at this time are, he says, not for a money reward but for this honour. Talk as he might, he had little real hope that the colony could be saved by anything but peace. He could only strive that he and the other officers should win glory even from disaster.
Upon the Intendant fell the responsibility of provisioning the army in Canada, and he gave orders to Cadet for supplies which that clever person, now at war with Bigot, declared he could not possibly fill. It was at best 'a difficult task to feed the army and it would have been more difficult had all the troops been kept at Montreal. They were accordingly distributed to different points and a good many of them were quartered on the inhabitants. These were to be paid fifteen livres a month for each soldier whom they received. Cadet, while paying this price, drew from the Government much larger sums than he paid and was thus able to reap a corrupt profit for his comfort in a time of adversity. Sometimes with pay, but also sometimes without it, When appropriate inhabitants were obliged to furnish whatever they had that the army desired. Levis, who admits that he took nearly all their cattle, at the same time urged his men to treat them with gentleness. M. Querdisien-Tremais declares, however, that the French soldiers treated the Canadians with great brutality, devastating in the most deplorable way the fields in which their crops were ripening, robbing them of vegetables, poultry, and cattle, with a waste that was pitiable in view of the impending famine. The Chevalier Johnstone says that the Canadians were 'devoured by rapacious vultures', who fattened while their victims starved. 'The gentlemen and officers are very devils at taking the cattle of the inhabitants,' Bigot wrote. Plundering was not the less unwelcome to the habitants because it was done by nominal friends. When their cattle were carried off in the name of the King, the owners received so poor a price that the seizure amounted to confiscation. On the other hand, when the people who received so little wished to buy, they found prices excessive; a pound of butter cost from twelve to fifteen livres (the livre being substantially the equivalent of the modern franc), a pound of mutton three livres, a hen twelve livres, a pair of woollen socks sixty livres, a pair of shoes thirty livres, and so on.
In time the Canadians must have learned, in some districts, at least, to conceal their cattle from the plunderers, for the British found an adequate supply in the country in the autumn of 1760. Murray says, indeed, that horse-flesh was served to the troops in Canada when cattle were not scarce, because the supposed famine would justify the charging to the King of great sums for provisions. At Quebec, compared with Montreal, provisions seemed abundant and cheap. Murray was quite willing that Levis and his officers should be supplied with wines, coffee, sugar, and other luxuries from Quebec. Matters went, however, far beyond this. Johnstone says that French officers at Montreal, ' whom one would have taken for merchants rather than for military managed, during the winter, to carry on an extensive trade with the British at Quebec. These officers brought provisions to Montreal and sold them there at such prices as to make fortunes. Murray remarked that their conduct gave him a poor opinion of their characters. The French officer, Malartic, even declared that, in spite of famine at Montreal, provisions were sent down the river from that place in exchange for large quantities of wine and brandy. So heavy was this traffic that, while food remained dear, wine and spirits fell in Montreal to one-fourth of their former price. Careful soldiers saw danger to French interests in the visits of traders to Quebec. They would divulge the French plans, wrote Colonel Dumas, since the terror which General Murray inspired would make the best-intentioned tell everything.
It is not easy to determine what were the wishes and hopes of the inhabitants of the country as a whole. Already there was a deep cleavage between the colony and the motherland, and probably the majority of the Canadians would have seen gladly the end of the war, even at the cost of conquest by the British. As soon as Quebec fell the unwillingness of the Canadians to serve longer became very marked. Nor need we wonder at their attitude. About four thousand of their houses had already been burned by the British enemy. Now a more savage enemy threatened them, for, as long as the war endured, every village had a haunting dread of the Indians. The French leaders had never checked with sufficient rigour these uneasy allies and now in the days of France's adversity they were likely to commit bloody excesses. A few outrages did occur. The losses which they caused were, however, trifling compared with the exactions and privations which the Canadians had to bear at the hands of their own defenders. The Chevalier Johnstone wondered indeed at the brave endurance of the people who 'suffered their oppressors without a murmur'. Vaudreuil could still speak of their goodwill and zeal. Yet many served sullenly enough. Most of the Canadians had returned to their homes for the winter, and now when summoned for any special service they employed every device to escape the unwelcome duty. The frequent excuse was that they were ill. If these answers represent the truth we must conclude that during the winter whole villages were stricken simultaneously with some malady. 'All the world is ill,' wrote Bigot of the Canadians. Famine was indeed a universal cause of illness. The Chevalier Johnstone describes the wan and starving appearance of villagers, whose supplies of food were carried off without payment to the owners. At the military centres it was noticeable that the Canadian soldiers were more subject to illness than the French, owing, no doubt, to inadequate nourishment and want of proper clothing to meet the severe weather. The civilian population suffered fearfully. Those who dwelt in Montreal were hardly better off than the farmers in the outlying villages. Commerce was ruined, and the daily auction sales of personal effects showed either the pressing need of money or the desire to get rid of encumbrances and to quit the distressful land as soon as possible.
In spite, however, of discouragements we still find in this demoralized community the supreme desire to retake Quebec. Every one had a plan, including, as the Chevalier Johnstone says contemptuously, 'women, priests, and ignoramuses.' Long memoirs on the all-important subject were prepared and submitted to the leaders. Even the Bishop of Quebec joined in showing how Quebec could be taken. One memoir suggests that, since exact information of what is being done in Quebec is needed, the Jesuits should be asked to furnish spies. 'They are able to inspire the necessary zeal to risk even life in a task to which the motive of religion may properly be related.' All the plans agreed on the main points that a large force—not less than 8,000 men—would be required and that the army must take with it a supply of ladders to aid in scaling the walls of Quebec. The writers discuss such small details as that the ladders must be sharp at the bottom in order to hold in the frozen ground, and that they must have hooks at the top so as to rest firmly on the walls ; their exact length is also to be prescribed. Some hoped that with the aid of spies Quebec could be surprised ; others, with more reason, despaired of this and thought that the only way would be to attack it openly, to tire out the garrison by repeated alarms until they surrendered, or until, with the aid possibly of a snow-storm, the town could be carried by assault. Should this happen, the garrison must be put to the sword since there were not provisions to feed them; the French could then live on the supplies of the British and await in security the arrival of succour from France.
The engineer Pontleroy criticized adversely these plans for attack. He thought them certain to fail. After this failure would come famine more acute, the discouragement, perhaps the revolt, of the Canadians, and desertion among the regular troops. The British, on the other hand, with their confidence revived, would be more aggressive than ever. Moreover, if peace came, as he expected, during the winter, the generals would have vain regrets over the futile sacrifice of brave men. But even Pontleroy saw that the British must be kept in fear of imminent attack. Vaudreuil, full of bombastic courage, was reported to have said that if Levis would not undertake the attack, he would himself execute it ' at the head of his brave Canadians'. Reckless self-confidence led some to offer a practical demonstration of the way to take Quebec. In one district, where a supply of ladders had been secured, practice in escalade was made on a neighbouring church. People flocked from the parishes to see the gallant performance. But the would-be assailants of Quebec were too impetuous. They rushed headlong to the mock attack; some ladders slipped, others gave way, and broken heads, broken arms, and broken legs were numerous. 'These accidents' writes Captain Knox, '... so effectually chilled the enterprising natives, who were the first promoters of this Quixotic undertaking, that they positively refused, upon the ladders being replaced, to make further trial, concluding it would be impracticable to recover the town by insult or escalade.'
The French outposts near Quebec had some trying experiences. At Jacques Cartier the officer whom Levis had placed in command, Colonel Dumas, a competent man, but timid about taking responsibility, spent the winter in deadly fear that Murray would advance and overwhelm him. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood circulated wild rumours which changed from day to day. When he called upon the people for service he found that every one was ill. So uncertain was he of his own men that he lived in daily dread lest the British should bribe some of them to burn the fort. In March 1760, a fire did break out in the bakery, by accident it should seem, and it was little short of a miracle that the flames did not reach and explode the magazine. When Dumas tried to muster the inhabitants for an attack on Quebec, only four came from a village which had been expected to furnish fifteen. To his comfort, however, the four brought with them provisions to last ten days. When he brought in the few cattle that his district furnished the poor creatures were so lean that it was hardly worth while to kill them for food. A remnant of the Indians of St. Francis, who, owing to absence with the French, had escaped the massacre by Rogers, deserted the south side of the river and, crossing to the north, reached Dumas at Jacques Cartier. When he rebuked them for having abandoned M. Hertel, who was trying to organize the French forces in their own district, they went off in a rage, killing some of the wretched inhabitants as they went. The incident is characteristic of the slight control which the French had maintained over their savage allies throughout the war.
We have seen Bourlamaque's efforts at Isle aux Noix to check any English advance from the south. Far up on the St. Lawrence, near the head of the rapids, the French still held the mission station known as La Presentation. No longer did they rely, however, upon its weak defences. During the autumn and winter they built a new fort on an island a few miles below the place which Gage had feared to attack in the autumn of 1759. This fort was named Fort Levis, in honour of that general. The officer in command at Fort Levis found it almost impossible to get work done on the defences. By the end of October, 140 men of his small force had deserted, and after this others continued to go off with impunity. Demoralization was general. The workmen, ready to do everything but their proper tasks, spent the time in providing for their own comfort and amusement rather than in building the fort. Chimneys built with great labour, but without proper mortar or other material, came clattering down when a fire was built, and there was the imminent prospect that the barracks would be without heat during the severe winter. Desandrouins, the engineer in charge, was so inconsolable at this disaster that, for a time, he would take no food and seemed likely to fall ill. A great need of the builders was sawn planks. A Jesuit at a neighbouring Indian settlement, St. Regis, said that if men and supplies of food were given him he would furnish the needed planks. When seven men were sent the Jesuit used their labour for his own purposes and sent them back empty-handed. Later he had the temerity to plead that twenty men were really necessary, but were not supplied. 'We have always been the dupes of the Church,' writes a French officer in disgus; 'now we must be on our guard against her seductions.' In the end, owing to scarcity of provisions, Levis was forced in January to withdraw two-thirds of the men whom he had sent to build the new fort.
In the end the French centred their hopes in two designs: they would attack Quebec while the frost was still in the ground and Murray could not throw up defences on the Plains of Abraham; and, once in Quebec, they would await the succour from France without which every plan must fail. Upon this aid from France all hopes centred. After the fall of Quebec Vaudreuil had sent Le Mercier, the chief of the Colonial Artillery, as an envoy to France. He succeeded in getting away in one of the French ships which were able to leave Canada after the departure of the British fleet. Twenty years earlier this man had gone to Canada as a private soldier. He was suspected of sharing Bigot's frauds ; certainly he had secured both riches and promotion in Canada, and he was not likely to encourage adverse inquiries into a system by which he had greatly profited. He must have carried with him a heavy packet of dispatches, for those that remain to us are voluminous. He took, of course, the apologia of Vaudreuil for what he had done. Both the Governor and Levis wrote that the prime need was food and that the sheer force of famine, more dangerous than the enemy, must compel them to surrender by May if help were not forthcoming. In any case the King would lose some of his subjects by starvation during the winter. The fleet for Canada should set out not later than In February, so that it might be waiting at the mouth of the St. Lawrence to ascend the river at the first moment possible after the breaking up of the ice. Ten thousand men, provisioned for two years, and a full equipment for aggressive war would be necessary to save the colony; but, with such aid, Levfop said he could retake Quebec. He now based his plans on the expectation that Le Mercier would succeed and that, at the proper time, the required help from France would be forthcoming.
France, however, showed no resolve to aid her perishing colony. The nation was engaged in a titanic struggle in Europe not only against the genius of Frederick the Great, but also against the wise recklessness of Pitt. There was bitter irony in the remark of 'Junius', that England owed more to Pitt than she could ever repay, ' for to him we owe the greatest part of our national debt, and that I am sure we can never repay.' In order to humble France Pitt spent money with appalling profusion; in 1760 alone he demanded votes for £16,000,000. Lord Anson, the first Lord of the Admiralty, is one of the ablest organizers in the whole history of the British Navy. To Pitt's impatience, however, he often seemed slow and, on one occasion, Pitt had threatened to impeach him if his action was not more rapid. With Pitt driving Anson something was certain to be done. The display of naval force in America was to be overwhelming. Commodore Lord Colville remained at Halifax during the winter with five ships of the line and four frigates. In the early spring these were to join in the St. Lawrence a squadron of equal strength under Commodore Swanton sailing from England, while/ at the same time, Captain Byron was to take five warships to Louisbourg. Such vast outlay and energy France could not rival.
French policy was, moreover, becoming adverse to adventures over the sea. The disastrous defeats of 1759 in both Europe and America, together with impending defeat in India, may well have led France to conclude that she was fighting her foes on too extended a front. Powerful voices like that of Voltaire were raised for the abandonment of Canada. The colony, it was claimed, cost France large sums and took from her, to plant amid harsh conditions and in a severe climate, people whom she needed at home. Canada would be ever at the mercy of the enemy. England, with a large population in her colonies in America, could always seize Canada and exact from France sacrifices in Europe in order that she might get back her possessions in America. It was said, moreover, that in the vast spaces of Canada republics, not monarchies, would ultimately be formed and these would prove a menace to the monarchy in France. On the other side, the devout urged that if France let Canada go the Protestant heresy would prevail everywhere in North America and many souls would be lost. Moreover, the English would take not only Canada; they would become undisputed masters of the sea ; they would expel France from the chief nursery of her navy, the cod fisheries ; they would drive her from the West Indies. And it was not merely France that they would check; they would seize the possessions of Spain and Portugal. In a word, if France lost her footing in Canada the whole world would be handed over to the Anglo-Saxon, and America in particular to Republicanism and to heresy.
Such arguments, fervid and ingenious as they were, proved of little weight to secure effective help. At the ministry of war was the Due de Belle-Isle, Marshal of France. Born in 1684, he was a veteran who had frequented the court and had served in the wars of Louis XIV. Though a man of ability and decision, he was now seventy-six years of age, weary of the tasks from which death was soon to call him, and ineffective compared with an adversary possessing the fiery energy of Pitt. A year earlier, in February 1759, Belle-Isle had written to Montcalm to show that France was on the horns of a dilemma which made help impossible. If she sent aid the British would either capture it en route or they would be incited by France's efforts to greater efforts of their own. So Montcalm was told to shift for himself. Levis now fared a little better. On February 9, 1760, Belle-Isle wrote to say that the King had been much touched by the death of Montcalm but that the cause of France was in good hands with Levis in command. Rescue, in the shape of food, munitions of war, and men, would be sent so that Levis should be in a position to dispute Canada foot by foot with the English.
The event proved, however, that France could do little or nothing which involved the power to cross the sea. From the first her policy in this war had been fatal to her best interests. Her reasons for taking so fatuous a course will probably always remain something of a mystery. At a time when, on the continent of Europe, she was menaced by no dangers, but when, across the sea, she was in vital danger of losing all her possessions, she had chosen so to embroil herself in a land war in Europe that she could not build up her navy. Sometimes the weak and inefficient Louis XV, out of a mere love of secrecy, would himself carry on important negotiations without the knowledge of his ministers. Perhaps it is chiefly to this that we owe the inept policy of France. Austrian policy was at this time directed by an able Minister, Kaunitz, and in some way he had lured France from her real interests. For generations France and Austria had been enemies. Suddenly, with nothing to gain by her course, France had abandoned her old alliances and had joined Austria in an attack on Prussia ruled by the greatest soldier of the age, Frederick the Great.
Austria had demanded ever new sacrifices from her ally, and France, facing eastward to help Austria, failed to meet the attacks of her one dangerous enemy, Britain. During this war Britain kept France in a state of alarm similar to that of an earlier age when the hardy Norsemen had perpetually threatened the same coasts. Over and over again the British landed in France and wrought havoc. At last the French were goaded to make one supreme effort. They would land a force in Essex, march on London, and dictate terms of peace before the British capital. It was this plan which had kept the Londoner uneasy during the summer of 1759. But his peace of mind was to return to him. At Quiberon Bay, in November, Hawke shattered the power of the French fleet at the very moment when Saunders was arriving in England from the triumph of Quebec. It is true that even after Quiberon, in February 1760, the French privateer Thurot landed near Belfast in Ireland and made that city pay an indemnity. This was, however, merely a flash in the pan. After Quiberon France could do almost nothing on the sea.
It is thus clear that the hopes of Levis for rescue by a fleet in the spring of 1760 were hardly, in any case, justified. They were rendered less likely of fulfilment by the character of Berryer, the Secretary of the Navy in France. French naval policy had long been indecisive in character. There were five secretaries between 1749 and 1759, each with a policy of his own. Under Machault (1754-7) the navy was directed with vigour and success. La Galissonniere defeated Byng in the Mediterranean in 1756 and, as a result, the French took Minorca. But Machault was so incautious as to say unflattering things about Madame de Pompadour and he was dismissed in 1757. In 1759 that lady was able to put one of her friends in charge of the navy. Berryer had been a Lieutenant of Police and knew nothing about naval matters. The Chevalier de Mirabeau, vigorous in expression after the manner of his famous family, once declared in a rage that Berryer was the enemy of all that was honest and as black in soul as he was in skin. The words call up a physical as well as a moral image and are probably not too just. Certainly, however, Berryer was coarse, brutal, and incapable. Belle-Isle, competent even in his extreme old age to plan for the army, hoped to find Berryer an effective colleague in the navy. He supported his appointment but soon learned his mistake. Berryer would take no advice and was too strong in favour at Court to be dismissed. His one idea of naval policy was to reduce expenditure. Since Britain, with her life dependent on sea power, would use her whole resources to maintain her fleet, France, said Berryer, could not rival her and need not try to keep up a navy. He sold to private shipping interests some of the naval stores in the arsenals. His taste for detail was such that we find him inquiring why twelve sous are charged a day for feeding cats to kill rats in the arsenal at Toulon. Since money would be saved he saw no reason, he said, why officials who had served even as long as thirty years should not be summarily dismissed without a pension. Though we are tempted to admire any one who practised economy in these extravagant days at the French Court, the economy of Berryer was misplaced. He reduced expenditure on the navy with such effect that the navy almost ceased to exist.
When, therefore, early in 1760, Berryer wrote to Levis words of pious exhortation we know that Levis had not much to expect that would be effective. The King, said Berryer, counted on the courage, zeal, and experience of Levis, and was sure he would do his best. This was less encouraging than the positive promises now made by Belle-Isle. The words of Berryer were written six months before Levis received them, but they show that he was justified in expecting adequate and prompt help. Yet, in reality, while Pitt was moving Heaven and earth to make sure that his next blow should be final, France did very little, and this little came too late. Berryer was so indifferent to the real nature of the crisis that the scale of his preparations was ludicrously inadequate. We see to what depths France's naval power had fallen when we learn that she had no frigate of her own to send to Canada and that she was obliged to purchase one from a private owner. The frigate was the Machault (it had, at least, a good name), the private owner was Cadet, the high priest of corruption in Canada; and we may be reasonably certain that not the King but Cadet profited by the deal. Some legal obstacles were put in the way of securing the services of a crew for the frigate, and there was interminable delay. As late as on April 4, 1760, long after Pitt had the fleet for Canada at sea, the President of the Navy Board is pained to hear that the Machault with the unarmed ships that were to accompany her has not yet sailed. On April 25 he learns that the convoy had left Bordeaux some days earlier. Two English frigates encountered the Machault. In the end she escaped from them. But before she could arrive at her destination three powerful British squadrons were already in Canadian waters and were joyfully looking for the arrival of the French squadron as their prey.