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History of Louisisana by Le Page Du Pratz

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the winter evenings the negroes and their children can peel it; in a
word, if they saw that there is good profit to be had by the sale of
it; they then would all make hemp. They think and act in the same
manner as to all the other articles of culture in this country.

{181} Cotton is also a good commodity for commerce; and the culture of
it is attended with no difficulty. The only impediment to the culture
of it in a greater quantity, is the difficulty of separating it from
the seed. However, if they had mills, which would do this work with
greater dispatch, the profit would considerably increase.

The Indigo of Louisiana, according to intelligent merchants, is as
good as that of the islands; and has even more of the copper colour.
As it thrives extremely well, and yields more herb than in the
islands, as much Indigo may be made as there, though they have four
cuttings, and only three in Louisiana. The climate is warmer in the
islands, and therefore they make four gatherings; but the soil is
drier, and produces not so much as Louisiana: so that the three
cuttings of this last are as good as the four cuttings in the islands.

The Tobacco of this colony is so excellent, that if the commerce
thereof was free, it would sell for one hundred sols and six livres
the pound, so fine and delicate is its juice and flavour. Rice may
also form a fine branch of trade. We go to the East-Indies for the
rice we consume in France; and why should we draw from foreign
countries, what we may have of our own countrymen? We should have it
at less trouble, and with more security. Besides, as sometimes,
perhaps too often, years of scarcity happen, we might always depend
upon finding rice in Louisiana, because it is not subject to fail, an
advantage which few provinces enjoy.

We may add to this commerce some drugs, used in medicine and dying. As
to the first, Louisiana produces Sassafras, Sarsaparilla, Esquine, but
above all the excellent balm of Copalm (Sweet-gum) the virtues of
which, if well known, would save the life of many a person. This
colony also furnishes us with bears oil, which is excellent in all
rheumatic pains. For dying, I find only the wood Ayac, or Stinking
Wood, for yellow; and the Achetchi for red; of the beauty of which
colours we shall give an account in the third book.

Such are the commodities which may form a commerce of this colony with
France, which last may carry in exchange all {182} sorts of European
goods and merchandize; the vent whereof is certain, as every thing
answers there, where luxury reigns equally as in France. Flour, wines,
and strong liquors sell well; and though I have spoken of the manner
of growing wheat in this country, the inhabitants, towards the lower
part of the river especially, will never grow it, any more than they
will cultivate the vine, because in these sorts of work a negro will
not earn his master half as much as in cultivating Tobacco; which,
however, is less profitable than Indigo.

_The Commerce of_ Louisiana _with the Islands._

From Louisiana to the Islands they carry cypress wood squared for
building, of different scantlings: sometimes they transport houses,
all framed and marked out, ready to set up, on landing at their place
of destination.

Bricks, which cost fourteen or fifteen livres the thousand, delivered
on board the ship.

Tiles for covering houses and sheds, of the same price.

Apalachean beans, (Garavanzas) worth ten livres the barrel, of two
hundred weight.

Maiz, or Indian corn.

Cypress plank of ten or twelve feet.

Red peas, which cost in the country twelve or thirteen livres the

Cleaned rice, which costs twenty livres the barrel, of two hundred

There is a great profit to be made in the islands, by carrying thither
the goods I have just mentioned: this profit is generally _cent. per
cent._ in returns. The shipping which go from the colony bring back
sugar, coffee, rum, which the negroes consume in drink; besides other
goods for the use of the country.

The ships which come from France to Louisiana put all in at Cape
Francois. Sometimes there are ships, which not having a lading for
France, because they may have been paid in money or bills of exchange,
are obliged to return by Cape Francois, in order to take in their
cargo for France.



_Of the Commerce with the_ Spaniards. _The Commodities they bring to the
Colony, if there is a Demand for them. Of such as may be given in
return, and may suit them. Reflections on the Commerce of this
Province, and the great Advantage which the State and particular
Persons may derive therefrom._

_The Commerce with the_ Spaniards.

The commodities which suit the Spaniards are sufficiently known by
traders, and therefore it is not necessary to give an account of them:
I have likewise forebore to give the particulars of the commodities
which they carry to this colony, though I know them all: that is not
our present business. I shall only apprise such as shall settle in
Louisiana, in order to traffick with the Spaniards, that it is not
sufficient to be furnished with the principal commodities which suit
their commerce, but they should, besides, know how to make the proper
assortments; which are most advantageous to us, as well as to them,
when they carry them to Mexico.

_The Commodities which the_ Spaniards _bring to_ Louisiana, _if there is
a demand for them_.

Campeachy wood, which is generally worth from ten to fifteen livres
the hundred weight.

Brasil wood, which has a quality superior to that of Campeachy.

Very good Cacoa, which is to be met with in all the ports of Spain,
worth between eighteen and twenty livres the quintal, or hundred

Cochineal, which comes from Vera Cruz: there is no difficulty to have
as much of it as one can desire, because so near; it is worth fifteen
livres the pound: there is an inferior sort, called Sylvester.

Tortoise-shell, which is common in the Spanish islands, is worth seven
or eight livres the pound.

Tanned leather, of which they have great quantities; that marked or
stamped is worth four livres ten sols the levee.

{184} Marroquin, or Spanish leather, of which they have great
quantities, and cheap.

Turned calf, which is also cheap.

Indigo, which is manufactured at Guatimala, is worth three or four
livres the pound: there is of it of a perfect good quality, and
therefore sells at twelve livres the pound.

Sarsaparilla, which they have in very great quantities, and sell at
thirteen or fifteen sols.

Havanna snuff, which is of different prices and qualities: I have seen
it at three shillings the pound, which in our money make thirty-seven
sols six deniers.

Vanilla, which is of different prices. They have many other things
very cheap, on which great profits might be made, and for which an
easy vent may be found in Europe; especially for their drugs: but a
particular detail would carry me too far, and make me lose sight of
the object I had in view.

What I have just said of the commerce of Louisiana, may easily shew
that it will necessarily encrease in proportion as the country is
peopled; and industry also will be brought to perfection. For this
purpose nothing more is requisite than some inventive and industrious
geniuses, who coming from Europe, may discover such objects of
commerce as may turn to account. I imagine a good tanner might in this
colony tan the leather of the country, and cheaper than in France; I
even imagine that the leather might there be brought to its perfection
in less time; and what makes me think so, is, that I have heard it
averred, that the Spanish leather is extremely good, and is never
above three or four months in the tan-pit.

The same will hold of many other things, which would prevent money
going out of the kingdom to foreign countries. Would it not be more
suitable and more useful, to devise means of drawing the same
commodities from our own colonies? As these means are so easy, at
least money would not go out of our hands; France and her colonies
would be as two families who traffick together, and render each other
mutual service. Besides, there would not be occasion for so much money
to carry on a commerce to Louisiana, seeing the inhabitants have need
of European goods. It would therefore be a commerce {185} very
different from that which, without exporting the merchandise of the
kingdom, exports the money; a commerce still very different from that
which carries to France commodities highly prejudicial to our own

I may add to all that I have said on Louisiana, as one of the great
advantages of this country, that women are very fruitful in it, which
they attribute to the waters of the Missisippi. Had the intentions of
the Company been pursued, and their orders executed, there is no doubt
but this colony had at this day been very strong, and blessed with a
numerous young progeny, whom no other climate would allure to go and
settle in; but being retained by the beauty of their own, they would
improve its riches, and multiplied anew in a short time, could offer
their mother-country succours in men and ships, and in many other
things that are not to be contemned.

I cannot too much shew the importance of the succours in corn, which
this colony might furnish in a time of scarcity. In a bad year we are
obliged to carry our money to foreigners for corn, which has been
oftentimes purchased in France, because they have had the secret of
preserving their corn; but if the colony of Louisiana was once well
settled, what supplies of corn might not be received from that
fruitful country? I shall give two reasons which will confirm my

The first is, That the inhabitants always grow more corn than is
necessary for the subsistence of themselves, their workmen, and
slaves. I own, that in the lower part of the colony only rice could be
had, but this is always a great supply. Now, were the colony gradually
settled to the Arkansas, they would grow wheat and rye in as great
quantities as one could well desire, which would be of great service
to France, when her crops happen to fail.

The second reason is, That in this colony a scarcity is never to be
apprehended. On my arrival in it, I informed myself of what had happened
therein from 1700, and I myself remained in it till 1734; and since my
return to France I have had accounts from it down to this present year
1757; and from these accounts I can aver, that no intemperature of
season has caused {186} any scarcity since the beginning of this
century. I was witness to one of the severest winters that had been
known in that country in the memory of the oldest people living; but
provisions were then not dearer than in other years. The soil of this
province being excellent, and the seasons always suitable, the
provisions and other commodities cultivated in it never fail to thrive

One will, perhaps, be surprized to hear me promise such fine things of
a country which has been reckoned to be so much inferior to the
Spanish or Portuguese colonies in America; but such as will take the
trouble to reflect on that which constitutes the genuine strength of
states, and the real goodness of a country, will soon alter their
opinion, and agree with me, that a country fertile in men, in
productions of the earth, and in necessary metals, is infinitely
preferable to countries from which men draw gold, silver, and
diamonds: the first effect of which is to pamper luxury and render the
people indolent; and the second to stir up the avarice of neighbouring
nations. I therefore boldly aver, that Louisiana, well governed, would
not long fail to fulfil all I have advanced about it; for though there
are still some nations of Indians who might prove enemies to the
French, the settlers, by their martial character, and their zeal for
their king and country, aided by a few troops, commanded, above all,
by good officers, who at the same time know how to command the
colonists: the settlers, I say, will be always match enough for them,
and prevent any foreigners whatever from invading the country. What
would therefore be the consequence if, as I have projected, the first
nation that should become our enemy were attacked in the manner I have
laid down in my reflections on an Indian war? They would be directly
brought to such a pass as to make all other nations tremble at the
very name of the French, and to be ever cautious of making war upon
them. Not to mention the advantage there is in carrying on wars in
this manner; for as they cost little, as little do they hazard the
loss of lives.

In 1734, M. Perier, Governor of Louisiana, was relieved by M. de
Biainville, and the King's plantation put on a new footing, by an
arrangement suitable to the notions of the person {187} who advised
it. A sycophant, who wanted to make his court to Cardinal Fleury,
would persuade that minister, that the plantation cost his Majesty ten
thousand livres a year, and that this sum might be well saved; but
took care not to tell his Eminence, that for these ten thousand it
saved at least fifty thousand livres.

Upon this, my place of Director of the public plantations was
abolished, and I at length resolved to quit the colony and return to
France, nothwithstanding all the fair promises and warm solicitations
of my superiors to prevail upon me to stay. A King's ship, La Gironde,
being ready to sail, I went down the river in her to Balise, and from
thence we set sail, on the 10th of May, 1734. We had tolerable fine
weather to the mouth of the Bahama Streights; afterwards we had the
wind contrary, which retarded our voyage for a week about the banks of
Newfoundland, to which we were obliged to stretch for a wind to carry
us to France: from thence we made the passage without any cross
accident, and happily arrived in the road of Chaidbois before
Rochelle, on the 25th of June following, which made it a passage of
forty-five days from Louisiana to France.

* * * * *

_Some Abstracts from the Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, by_ M. Du


_Of_ Tobacco, _with the way of cultivating and curing it._

The lands of Louisiana are as proper as could be desired, for the
culture of tobacco; and, without despising what is made in other
countries, we may affirm that the tobacco which grows in the country
of the Natchez, is even preferable to that of Virginia or St. Domingo;
I say, in the country of the Natchez, because the soil at that post
appears to be more suitable to this plant than any other: although it
must be owned, that there is but very little difference betwixt the
tobacco which grows there and in some other parts of the colony, as at
the Cut-point, at the Nachitoches, and even at New Orleans; but
whether it is owing to the exposure, or to the goodness of {188} the
soil, it is allowed that the tobacco of the Natchez and Yasous is
preferable to the rest.

The way of planting and curing tobacco in this country, is as follows:
they sow it on beds well worked with the hoe or spade in the months of
December, January, or February; and because the seed is very small,
they mix it with ashes, that it may be thinner sowed: then they rake
the beds, and trample them with their feet, or clap them with a plank,
that the seed may take sooner in the ground. The tobacco does not come
up till a month afterwards, or even for a longer time; and then they
ought to take great care to cover the beds with straw or cypress-bark,
to preserve the plants from the white frosts, that are very common in
that season. There are two sorts of tobacco; the one with a long and
sharp-pointed leaf, the other has a round and hairy leaf; which last
they reckon the best sort.

At the end of April, and about St. George's day, the plants have about
four leaves, and then they pull the best and strongest of them: these
they plant out on their tobacco-ground by a line stretched across it,
and at three feet distance one from another: this they do either with
a planting-stick, or with their finger, leaving a hole on one side of
the plant, to receive the water, with which they ought to water it.
The tobacco being thus planted, it should be looked over evening and
morning, in order to destroy a black worm, which eats the bud of the
plant, and afterwards buries itself in the ground. If any of the
plants are eat by this worm, you must set another one by it. You must
choose a rainy season to plant your tobacco, and you should water it
three times to make it take root. But they never work their ground in
this country to plant their tobacco; they reckon it sufficient to stir
it a little about four inches square round the plant.

When the tobacco is about four or five inches high, they weed it, and
clean the ground all about it, and hill up every plant. They do the
same again, when it is about a foot and a half high. And when the
plant has, about eight or nine leaves, and is ready to put forth a
stalk, they nip off the top, which they call topping the tobacco: this
amputation makes the {189} leaves grow longer and thicker. After this,
you must look over every plant, and every leaf, in order to sucker it,
or to pull off the buds, which grow at the joints of the leaves; and
at the same time you must destroy the large green worms that are found
on the tobacco, which are often as large as a man's finger, and would
eat up the whole plant in a night's time.

After this, you must take care to have ready a hanger (or
tobacco-house,) which in Louisiana they make in the following manner:
they set several posts in the ground, at equal distances from one
another, and lay a beam or plate on the top of them, making thus the
form of a house of an oblong square. In the middle of this square they
set up two forks, about one third higher than the posts, and lay a pole
cross them, for the ridge-pole of the building; upon which they nail the
rafters, and cover them with cypress-bark, or palmetto-leaves. The first
settlers likewise build their dwelling-houses in this manner, which
answer the purpose very well, and as well as the houses which their
carpenters build for them, especially for the curing of tobacco; which
they hang in these houses upon sticks or canes, laid across the
building, and about four feet and a half asunder, one above another.

The tobacco-house being ready, you wait till your tobacco is ripe, and
fit to be cut; which you may know by the leaves being brittle, and
easily broke between the fingers, especially in the morning before
sun-rising; but those versed in it know when the tobacco is fit to cut
by the looks of it, and at first sight. You cut your tobacco with a
knife as nigh the ground as you can, after which you lay it upon the
ground for some time, that the leaves may fall, or grow tender, and
not break in carrying. When you carry your tobacco to the house, you
hang it first at the top by pairs, or two plants together, thus
continuing from story to story, taking care that the plants thus hung
are about two inches asunder, and that they do not touch one another,
lest they should rot. In this manner they fill their whole house with
tobacco, and leave it to sweat and dry.

After the tobacco is cut, they weed and clean the ground on which it
grew: each root then puts out several suckers, which are all pulled
off, and only one of the best is left to {190} grow, of which the same
care is taken as of the first crop. By this means a second crop is
made on the same ground, and sometimes a third. These seconds, indeed,
as they are called, do not usually grow so high as the first plant,
but notwithstanding they make very good tobacco. [Footnote: This is an
advantage that they have in Louisiana over our tobacco planters, who
are prohibited by law to cultivate these seconds; the summers are so
short, that they do not come to due maturity in our tobacco colonies;
whereas in Louisiana the summers are two or three months longer, by
which they make two or three crops of tobacco a year upon the same
ground, as early as we make one. Add to this, their fresh lands will
produce three times as much of that commodity, as our old plantations;
which are now worn out with culture, by supplying the whole world
almost with tobacco for a hundred and fifty years. Now if their
tobacco is worth five and six shillings a pound, as we are told above,
or even the tenth part of it, when ours is worth but two pence or
three pence, and they give a bounty upon ships going to the
Missisippi, when our tobacco is loaded with a duty equal to seven
times its prime cost; they may, with all these advantages, soon get
this trade from us, the, only one this nation has left entire to
itself. These advantages enable the planters to give a much better
price for servants and slaves, and thereby to engross the trade. It
was by these means, that the French got the sugar trade from us, after
the treaty of Utrecht, by being allowed to transport their people from
St. Christopher's to the rich and fresh lands of St. Domingo; and by
removing from Canada to Louisiana, they may in the like manner get not
only this, but every other branch of the trade of North America.]

If you have a mind to make your tobacco into rolls, there is no
occasion to wait till the leaves are perfectly dry; but as soon as
they have acquired a yellowish brown colour, although the stem is
green, you unhang your tobacco, and strip the leaves from the stalks,
lay them up in heaps, and cover them with woolen cloths, in order to
sweat them. After that you stem the tobacco, or pull out the middle
rib of the leaf, which you throw away with the stalks, as good for
nothing; laying by the longest and largest of the leaves, that are of
a good blackish brown colour, and keep them for a covering for your
rolls. After this you take a piece of coarse linen, at least eight
inches broad and a foot long, which you spread on the ground, and on
it lay the large leaves you have picked out, and the others over them
in handfuls, taking care always to have more in the middle than at the
ends: then you roll the {191} tobacco up in the cloth, tying it in the
middle and at each end. When you have made a sufficient number of
these bundles, the negroes roll them up as hard as they can with a
cord about as big as the little finger, which is commonly about
fifteen or sixteen fathom long: you tighten them three times, so as to
make them as hard as possible; and to keep them so, you might tie them
up with a string.

But since the time of the West India company, we have seldom cured our
tobacco in this manner, if it is not for our own use; we now cure it
in hands, or bundles of the leaves, which they pack in hogsheads, and
deliver it thus in France to the farmers general. In order to cure the
tobacco in this manner, they wait till the leaves of the stem are
perfectly dry, and in moist, giving weather, they strip the leaves
from the stalk, till they have a handful of them, called a hand, or
bundle of tobacco, which they tie up with another leaf. These bundles
they lay in heaps, in order to sweat them, for which purpose they
cover those heaps with blankets, and lay boards or planks over them.
But you should take care that the tobacco is not over-heated, and does
not take fire, which may easily happen; for which purpose you uncover
your heaps from time to time, and give the tobacco air, by spreading
it abroad. This you continue to do till you find no more heat in the
tobacco; then you pack it in hogsheads, and may transport it any
where, without danger either of its heating or rotting.


_Of the way of making_ Indigo.

The blue stone, known by the name of Indigo, is the extract of a plant
which they who have a sufficient number of slaves to manage it, make
some quantities throughout all this colony. For this purpose they
first weed the ground, and make small holes in it with a hoe, about
five inches asunder, and on a straight line. In each of these holes
they put five or six seeds of the indigo, which are small, long, and
hard. When they come up, they put forth leaves somewhat like those of
box, but a little longer and broader, and not so thick and indented.
When the plant is five or six inches high, they take {192} care to
loosen the earth about the root, and at the same time to weed it. They
reckon it has acquired a proper maturity, when it is about three feet
and a half high: this you may likewise know, if the leaf cracks as you
squeeze the plant in your hand.

Before you cut it, you get ready a place that is covered in the same
manner with the one made for tobacco, about twenty-five feet high; in
which you put three vats, one above another, as it were in different
stories, so that the highest is the largest; that in the middle is
square, and the deepest; the third, at bottom, is the least.

After these operations, you cut the indigo, and when you have several
arms-full, or bundles of the plant, to the quantity judged necessary
for one working, you fill the vat at least three quarters full; after
which you pour water thereon up to the brim, and the plant is left to
steep, in order to rot it; which is the reason why this vat is called
the rotting-tub. For the three or four hours which the plant takes to
rot, the water is impregnated with its virtue; and, though the plant
is green, communicates thereto a blue colour.

At the bottom of the great vat, and where it bears on the one in the
middle (which, as was said, is square) is a pretty large hole, stopped
with a bung; which is opened when the plant is thought to be
sufficiently rotten, and all the water of this vat, mixed with the
mud, formed by the rotting of the plant, falls by this hole into the
second vat; on the edges of which are placed, at proper distances,
forks of iron or wood, on which large long poles are laid, which reach
from the two sides to the middle of the water in the vat; the end
plunged in the water is furnished with a bucket without a bottom. A
number of slaves lay hold on these poles, by the end which is out of
the water; and alternately pulling them down, and then letting the
buckets fall into the vat, they thus continue to beat the water; which
being thus agitated and churned, comes to be covered with a white and
thick scum; and in such quantity as that it would rise up and flow
over the brim of the vat, if the operator did not take care to throw
in, from time to time, some fish-oil, which he sprinkles with a
feather upon this scum. For these reasons this vat is called the

{193} They continue to beat the water for an hour and a half, or two
hours; after which they give over, and the water is left to settle.
However, they from time to time open three holes, which are placed at
proper distances from top to bottom in one of the sides of this second
vat in order to let the water run off clear. This is repeated for
three several times; but when at the third time the muddy water is
ready to come out at the lowermost hole, they stop it, and open
another pierced in the lower part of that side, which rests on the
third vat. Then all the muddy water falls through that hole of the
second vat, into the third, which is the least, and is called the
_deviling (diablotin.)_

They have sacks, a foot long, made of a pretty close cloth, which they
fill with this liquid thick matter, and hang them on nails round the
indigo-house. The water drains out gradually; and the matter which is
left behind, resembles a real mud, which they take out of these sacks,
and put in moulds, made like little drawers, two feet long by half a
foot broad, and with a border, or ledge, an inch and a half high. Then
they lay them out in the sun, which draws off all the moisture: and as
this mud comes to dry, care is taken to work it with a mason's trowel:
at length it forms a body, which holds together, and is cut in pieces,
while fresh, with wire. It is in this manner that they draw from a
green herb this fine blue colour, of which there are two sorts, one of
which is of a purple dove colour.


_Of Tar; the way of making it; and of making it into Pitch_.

I have said, that they made a great deal of tar in this colony, from
pines and firs; which is done in the following manner. It is a common
mistake, that tar is nothing but the sap or gum of the pine, drawn
from the tree by incision; the largest trees would not yield two
pounds by this method; and if it were, to be made in that manner, you
must choose the most thriving and flourishing trees for the purpose;
whereas it is only made from the trees that are old, and are beginning
to decay, because the older they are, the greater quantities they
contain of that fat bituminous substance, which yields tar; it {194}
is even proper that the tree should be felled a long time, before they
use them for this purpose. It is usually towards the mouth of the
river, and along the sea-coasts, that they make tar; because it is in
those places that the pines chiefly grow.

When they have a sufficient number of these trees, that are fit for
the purpose, they saw them in cuts with a cross-cut saw, about two
feet in length; and while the slaves are employed in sawing them,
others split these cuts lengthwise into small pieces, the smaller the
better. They sometimes spend three or four months in cutting and
preparing the trees in this manner. In the mean time they make a
square hollow in the ground, four or five feet broad, and five or six
inches deep: from one side of which goes off a canal or gutter, which
discharges itself into a large and pretty deep pit, at the distance of
a few paces. From this pit proceeds another canal, which communicates
with a second pit; and even from the first square you make three or
four such trenches, which discharge themselves into as many pits,
according to the quantity of wood you have, or the quantity of tar you
imagine you may draw from it. Then you lay over the square hole four
or five pretty strong bars of iron, and upon these bars you arrange
crosswise the split pieces of pine, of which you should have a
quantity ready; laying them so, that there may be a little air between
them. In this manner you raise a large and high pyramid of the wood,
and when it is finished, you set fire to it at the top. As the wood
burns, the fire melts the resin in the pine, and this liquid tar
distills into the square hole, and from thence runs into the pits made
to receive it.

If you would make pitch of this tar, take two or three red-hot cannon
bullets, and throw them into the pits, full of the tar, which you
intend for this purpose: immediately upon which, the tar takes fire
with a terrible noise and a horrible thick smoke, by which the
moisture that may remain in the tar is consumed and dissipated, and
the mass diminishes in proportion; and when they think it is
sufficiently burnt, they extinguish the fire, not with water, but with
a hurdle covered with turf and earth. As it grows cold, it becomes
hard and shining, so that you cannot take it out of the pits, but by
cutting it with an axe.



_Of the Mines of_ Louisiana.

Before we quit this subject, I shall conclude this account by
answering a question, which has often been proposed to me. Are there
any Mines, say they, in this province? There are, without all dispute;
and that is so certain, and so well known, that they who have any
knowledge of this country never once called it in question. And it is
allowed by all, that there are to be found in this country quarries of
plaster of Paris, slate, and very fine veined marble; and I have
learned from one of my friends, who as well as myself had been a great
way on discoveries, that in travelling this province he had found a
place full of fine stones of rock-crystal. As for my share, I can
affirm, without endeavoring to impose on any one, that in one of my
excursions I found, upon the river of the Arkansas, a rivulet that
rolled down with its waters gold-dust; from which there is reason to
believe that there are mines of this metal in that country. And as for
silver-mines, there is no doubt but they might be found there, as well
as in New Mexico, on which this province borders. A Canadian
traveller, named Bon Homme, as he was hunting at some distance from
the Post of the Nachitoches, melted some parcels of a mine, that is
found in rocks at a very little distance from that Post, which
appeared to be very good silver, without any farther purification.
[Footnote: See a farther account and assay of this mine above.]

It will be objected to me, perhaps, that if there is any truth in what
I advance, I should have come from that country laden with silver and
gold; and that if these precious metals are to be found there, as I
have said, it is surprizing that the French have never thought of
discovering and digging them in thirty years, in which they have been
settled in Louisiana. To this I answer, that this objection is only
founded on the ignorance of those who make it; and that a traveller,
or an officer, ordered by his superiors to go to reconnoitre the
country, to draw plans, and give an account of what he has seen, in
nothing but immense woods and deserts, where they cannot so {196} much
as find a path, but what is made by the wild beasts; I say, that such
people have enough to do to take care of themselves and of their
present business, instead of gathering riches; and think it
sufficient, that they return in a whole skin.

With regard to the negligence that the French seem hitherto to have
shewn in searching for these mines, and in digging them, we ought to
take due notice, that in order to open a silver-mine, for example, you
must advance at least a hundred thousand crowns, before you can expect
to get a penny of profit from it, and that the people of the country
are not in a condition to be at any such charge. Add to this, that the
inhabitants are too ignorant of these mines; the Spaniards, their
neighbours, are too discreet to teach them; and the French in Europe
are too backward and timorous to engage in such an undertaking. But
notwithstanding, it is certain that the thing has been already done,
and that just reasons, without doubt, but different from an
impossibility, have caused it to be laid aside.

This author gives a like account of the culture of Rice in Louisiana,
and of all the other staple commodities of our colonies in North

{197} _Extract from a late_ French _Writer, concerning the Importance
of_ Louisiana _to France_.

"One cannot help lamenting the lethargic state of that colony,
(Louisiana) which carries in its bosom the bed of the greatest riches;
and in order to produce them, asks only arms proper for tilling the
earth, which is wholly disposed to yield an hundred fold. Thanks to
the fertility of our islands, our Sugar plantations are infinitely
superior to those of the English, and we likewise excel them in our
productions of Indigo, Coffee, and Cotton.

"Tobacco is the only production of the earth which gives the English
an advantage over us. Providence, which reserved for us the discovery
of Louisiana, has given us the possession of it, that we may be their
rivals in this particular, or at least that we may be able to do
without their Tobacco. Ought we to continue tributaries to them in
this respect, when we can so easily do without them?

"I cannot help remarking here, that among several projects presented
of late years for giving new force to this colony, a company of
creditable merchants proposed to furnish negroes to the inhabitants,
and to be paid for them in Tobacco alone at a fixed valuation.

"The following advantages, they demonstrated, would attend their
scheme. I. It would increase a branch of commerce in France, which
affords subsistence to two of the English colonies in America, namely
Virginia and Maryland, the inhabitants of which consume annually a
very considerable quantity of English stuffs, and employ a great
number of ships in the transportation of their Tobacco. The
inhabitants of those two provinces are so greatly multiplied, in
consequence of the riches they have acquired by their commerce with
us, that they begin to spread themselves upon territories that belong
to us. II. The second advantage arising from the scheme would be, to
carry the cultivation of Tobacco to its greatest extent and
perfection. III. To diminish in proportion the cultivation of the
English plantations, as well as lessen their navigation in that part.
IV. To put an end entirely to the {198} importation of any Tobacco
from Great-Britain into France, in the space of twelve years. V. To
diminish annually, and in the same space of time finally put an end
to, the exportation of specie from France to Great-Britain, which
amounts annually to five millions of our money for the purchase of
Tobacco, and the freightage of English ships, which bring it into our
ports. VI. By diminishing the cause of the outgoing specie, to augment
the balance of commerce in favour of the nation. These are the
principal advantages which France would have reason to have expected
from the establishment of this company, if it had been effected."
_Essai sur les Interets du Commerce Maritime, par_ M. du Haye. 1754.

The probability of succeeding in such a scheme will appear from the
foregoing accounts of Tobacco in Louisiana, pag. 172, 173, 181, 188,
&c. They only want hands to make any quantities of Tobacco in
Louisiana. The consequences of that will appear from the following

{199} _An Account of the Quantity of Tobacco imported into_ Britain,
_and exported from it, in the four Years of Peace, after the late
Tobacco-Law took place, according to the Custom-House Accounts._

Imported Exported
Hhds. Hhds.
1752 - - - 55,997 - - 48,922
England, 1753 - - - 70,925 - - 57,353
1754 - - - 59,744 - - 50,476
1755 - - - 71,881 - - 54,384
--------- ---------
258,547 - - 211,135
--------- ---------
1752 - - - 22,322 - - 21,642
Scotland, 1753 - - - 26,210 - - 24,728
1754 - - - 22,334 - - 21,764
1755 - - - 20,698 - - 19,711
--------- ---------
91,564 - - 87,845
--------- ---------
Total - - - 350,111 - - 298,980
Average - - 87,528 - - 74,745
Imported yearly - - - hhds 87,528
Exported - - - - - - - - - 74,745
Home consumption - - - - - 12,783
To 87,528 hogsheads, at 10L per hogshead, L875,280
To duty on 12,783 hogsheads at 20L - - - 255,660
Annual income from Tobacco - - - - - 1,130,940

The number of seamen employed in the Tobacco trade is computed at
4500;--in the Sugar trade 3600;--and in the Fishery of Newfoundland
4000, from Britain.




_The Natural History of_ Louisiana.


_Of Corn and Pulse_.

Having, in the former part of this work, given an account of the
nature of the soil of Louisiana, and observed that some places were
proper for one kind of plants, and some for another; and that almost
the whole country was capable of producing, and bringing to the utmost
maturity, all kinds of grain, I shall now present the industrious
planter with an account of the trees and plants which may be
cultivated to advantage in those lands with which he is now made

During my abode in that country, where I myself have a grant of lands,
and where I lived sixteen years, I have had leisure to study this
subject, and have made such progress in it, that I have sent to the
West-India Company in France no less than three hundred medicinal
plants, found in their possessions, and worthy of the attention of the
public. The reader may depend upon my being faithful and exact; he
must not however here expect a description of every thing that
Louisiana produces of the vegetable kind. Its prodigious fertility
makes it impracticable for me to undertake so extensive a work. I
shall chiefly describe those plants and fruits that are most useful to
the inhabitants, either in regard to their own subsistence or
preservation, or in regard to their foreign commerce; {202} and I
shall add the manner of cultivating and managing the plants that are
of greatest advantage to the colony.

Louisiana produces several kinds of Maiz, namely Flour-maiz, which is
white, with a flat and shrivelled surface, and is the softest of all
the kinds; Homony corn, which is round, hard, and shining; of this
there are four sorts, the white, the yellow, the red, and the blue;
the Maiz of these two last colours is more common in the high lands
than in the Lower Louisiana. We have besides small corn, or small
Maiz, so called because it is smaller than the other kinds. New
settlers sow this corn upon their first arrival, in order to have
whereon to subsist as soon as possible; for it rises very fast, and
ripens in so short a time, that from the same field they may have two
crops of it in one year. Besides this, it has the advantage of being
more agreeable to the taste than the large kind.

Maiz, which in France is called Turkey Corn, (and in England Indian
Corn) is the natural product of this country; for upon our arrival we
found it cultivated by the natives. It grows upon a stalk six, seven,
and eight feet high; the ear is large, and about two inches diameter,
containing sometimes seven hundred grains and upwards; and each stalk
bears sometimes six or seven ears, according to the goodness of the
ground. The black and light soil is that which agrees best with it;
but strong ground is not so favourable to it.

This corn, it is well known, is very wholesome both for man and other
animals, especially for poultry. The natives, that they may have
change of dishes, dress it in various ways. The best is to make it
into what is called Parched Meal, (Farine Froide.) As there is nobody
who does not eat of this with pleasure, even though not very hungry, I
will give the manner of preparing it, that our provinces of France,
which reap this grain, may draw the same advantage from it.

The corn is first parboiled in water; then drained and well dried.
When it is perfectly dry, it is then roasted in a plate made for that
purpose, ashes being mixed with it to hinder it from burning; and they
keep continually stirring it, that it may take only the red colour
which they want. When it has taken that colour, they remove the ashes,
rub it well, and then {203} put it in a mortar with the ashes of dried
stalks of kidney beans, and a little water; they then beat it gently,
which quickly breaks the husk, and turns the whole into meal. This
meal, after being pounded, is dried in the sun, and after this last
operation it may be carried any where, and will keep six months, if
care be taken from time to time to expose it to the sun. When they
want to eat of it, they mix in a vessel two thirds water with one
third meal, and in a few minutes the mixture swells greatly in bulk,
and is fit to eat. It is a very nourishing food, and is an excellent
provision for travellers, and those who go to any distance to trade.

This parched meal, mixed with milk and a little sugar, may be served
up at the best tables. When mixed with milk-chocolate it makes a very
lasting nourishment. From Maiz they make a strong and agreeable beer;
and they likewise distil brandy from it.

Wheat, rye, barley, and oats grow extremely well in Louisiana; but I
must add one precaution in regard to wheat; when it is sown by itself,
as in France, it grows at first wonderfully; but when it is in flower,
a great number of drops of red water may be observed at the bottom of
the stalk within six inches of the ground, which are collected there
during the night, and disappear at sun-rising. This water is of such
an acrid nature, that in a short time it consumes the stalk, and the
ear falls before the grain is formed. To prevent this misfortune,
which is owing to the too great richness of the soil, the method I
have taken, and which has succeeded extremely well, is to mix with the
wheat you intend to sow, some rye and dry mould, in such a proportion
that the mould shall be equal to the rye and wheat together. This
method I remember to have seen practised in France; and when I asked
the reason of it, the farmer told me that as the land was new, and had
lately been a wood, it contained an acid that was prejudicial to the
wheat; and that as the rye absorbed that acid without being hurt, it
thereby preserved the other grain. I have seen barley and oats in that
country three feet high.

The rice which is cultivated in that country was brought from
Carolina. It succeeds surprizingly well, and experience {204} has
there proved, contrary to the common notion, that it does not want to
have its foot always in the water. It has been sown in the flat
country without being flooded, and the grain that was reaped was full
grown, and of a very delicate taste. The fine relish need not surprise
us; for it is so with all plants and fruits that grow without being
watered, and at a distance from watery places. Two crops may be reaped
from the same plant; but the second is poor if it be not flooded. I
know not whether they have attempted, since I left Louisiana, to sow
it upon the sides of hills.

The first settlers found in the country French-beans of various
colours, particularly red and black, and they have been called beans
of forty days, because they require no longer time to grow and to be
fit to eat green. The Apalachean beans are so called because we
received them from a nation of the natives of that name. They probably
had them from the English of Carolina, whither they had been brought
from Guinea. Their stalks spread upon the ground to the length of four
or five feet. They are like the other beans, but much smaller, and of
a brown colour, having a black ring round the eye, by which they are
joined to the shell. These beans boil tender, and have a tolerable
relish, but they are sweetish, and somewhat insipid.

The potatoes are roots more commonly long than thick; their form is
various, and their fine skin is like that of the Topinambous (Irish
potatoes.) In their substance and taste they very much resemble sweet
chesnuts. They are cultivated in the following manner; the earth is
raised in little hills or high furrows about a foot and a half broad,
that by draining the moisture, the roots may have a better relish. The
small potatoes being cut in little pieces with an eye in each, four or
five of those pieces are planted on the head of the hills. In a short
time they push out shoots, and these shoots being cut off about the
middle of August within seven or eight inches of the ground, are
planted double, cross-ways, in the crown of other hills. The roots of
these last are the most esteemed, not only on account of their fine
relish, but because they are easier kept during the winter. In order to
preserve them during {205} that season, they dry them in the sun as
soon as they are dug up, and then lay them up in a close and dry place,
covering them first with ashes, over which they lay dry mould. They
boil them, or bake them, or roast them on hot coals like chesnuts; but
they have the finest relish when baked or roasted. They are eat dry, or
cut into small slices in milk without sugar, for they are sweet of
themselves. Good sweetmeats are also {206} made of them, and some
Frenchmen have drawn brandy from them.

[Illustration: Top: _Appalachean Beans,_--Bottom: _Sweet Potatoes_
(on p. 205)]

The Cushaws are a kind of pompion. There are two sorts of them, the
one round, and the other in the shape of a hunting horn. These last
are the best, being of a more firm substance, which makes them keep
much better than the others; their sweetness is not so insipid, and
they have fewer seeds. They make sweetmeats of these last, and use
both kinds in soup; they make fritters of them, fry them, bake them,
and roast them on the coals, and in all ways of cooking they are good
and palatable.

All kinds of melons grow admirably well in Louisiana. Those of Spain,
of France, of England, which last are called white melons, are there
infinitely finer than in the countries from whence they have their
name; but the best of all are the water melons. As they are hardly
known in France, except in Provence, where a few of the small kind
grow, I fancy a description of them will not be disagreeable to the

The stalk of this melon spreads like ours upon the ground, and extends
to the length of ten feet. It is so tender, that when it is any way
bruised by treading upon it, the fruit dies; and if it is rubbed in
the least, it grows warm. The leaves are very much indented, as broad
as the hand when they are spread out, and are somewhat of a sea-green
colour. The fruit is either round like a pompion, or long. There are
some good melons of this last kind, but the first sort are most
esteemed, and deservedly so. The weight of the largest rarely exceeds
thirty pounds, but that of the smallest is always above ten pounds.
Their rind is of a pale green colour, interspersed with large white
spots. The substance that adheres to the rind is white, crude, and of
a disagreeable tartness, and is therefore never eaten. The space
within that is filled with a light and sparkling substance, that may
be called for its properties a rose-coloured snow. It melts in the
mouth as if it were actually snow, and leaves a relish like that of
the water prepared for sick people from gooseberry jelly. This fruit
cannot fail therefore of being very refreshing, and is so wholesome,
that persons in all kinds of distempers may satisfy their {207}
appetite with it, without any apprehension of being the worse for it.
The water-melons of Africa are not near so relishing as those of

[Illustration: Watermelon]

The seeds of water-melons are placed like those of the French melons.
Their shape is oval and flat, being as thick at the ends as towards
the middle; their length is about six lines, and their breadth four.
Some are black and others red; but the black are the best, and it is
those you ought to choose {208} for sowing, if you would wish to have
good fruit; which you cannot fail of, if they are not planted in
strong ground, where they would degenerate and become red.

All kinds of greens and roots which have been brought from Europe into
that colony succeed better there than in France, provided they be
planted in a soil suited to them; for it is certainly absurd to think
that onions and other bulbous plants should thrive there in a soft and
watery soil, when every where else they require a light and dry earth.


_Of the Fruit Trees of_ Louisiana.

I shall now proceed to give an account of the fruit trees of this
colony, and shall begin with the Vine, which is so common in
Louisiana, that whatever way you walk from the sea coast for five
hundred leagues northwards, you cannot proceed an hundred steps
without meeting with one; but unless the vine-shoots should happen to
grow in an exposed place, it cannot be expected that their fruit
should ever come to perfect maturity. The trees to which they twine
are so high, and so thick of leaves, and the intervals of underwood
are so filled with reeds, that the sun cannot warm the earth, or ripen
the fruit of this shrub. I will not undertake to describe all the
kinds of grapes which this country produces; it is even impossible to
know them all; I shall only speak of three or four.

The first sort that I shall mention does not perhaps deserve the name
of a grape, although its wood and its leaf greatly resemble the vine.
This shrub bears no bunches, and you hardly ever see upon it above two
grapes together. The grape in substance and colour is very like a
violet damask plum, and its stone, which is always single, greatly
resembles a nut. Though not very relishing, it has not however that
disagreeable sharpness of the grape that grows in the neighbourhood of
New Orleans.

On the edge of the savannahs or meadows we meet with a grape, the
shoots of which resemble those of the Burgundy {209} grape. They make
from this a tolerable good wine, if they take care to expose it to the
sun in summer, and to the cold in winter. I have made this experiment
myself, and must say that I never could turn it into vinegar.

There is another kind of grape which I make no difficulty of classing
with the grapes of Corinth, commonly called currants. It resembles
them in the wood, the leaf, the tree, the size, and the sweetness. Its
tartness is owing to its being prevented from ripening by the thick
shade of the large trees to which it twines. If it were planted and
cultivated in an open field, I make not the least doubt but it would
equal the grape of Corinth, with which I class it.

Muscadine grapes, of an amber colour, of a very good kind, and very
sweet, have been found upon declivities of a good exposure, even so
far north as the latitude of 31 degrees. There is the greatest
probability that they might make excellent wine of these, as it cannot
be doubted but the grapes might be brought to great perfection in this
country, since in the moist soil of New Orleans, the cuttings of the
grape which some of the inhabitants of that city brought from France,
have succeeded extremely well, and afforded good wine.

As a proof of the fertility of Louisiana, I cannot forbear mentioning
the following fact; an inhabitant of New Orleans having planted in his
garden a few twigs of this Muscadine vine, with a view of making an
arbour of them, one of his sons, with another negro boy, entered the
garden in the month of June, when the grapes are ripe, and broke off
all the bunches they could find. The father, after severely chiding
the two boys, pruned the twigs that had been broken and bruised; and
as several months of summer still remained, the vine pushed out new
shoots, and new bunches, which ripened and were as good as the former.

The Persimmon, which the French of the colony call Placminier, very
much resembles our medlar-tree in its leaf and wood: its flower, which
is about an inch and a half broad, is white, and is composed of five
petals; its fruit is about the size of a large hen's egg; it is shaped
like our medlar, but its substance is sweeter and more delicate. This
fruit is astringent; {210} when it is quite ripe the natives make
bread of it, which they keep from year to year; and the bread has this
remarkable property that it will stop the most violent looseness or
dysentery; therefore it ought to be used with caution, and only after
physic. The natives, in order to make this bread, squeeze the fruit
over fine sieves to separate the pulp from the skin and the kernels.
Of this pulp, which is like paste or thick pap, they make cakes about
a foot and a half long, a foot broad, and a finger's breadth in
thickness: these they dry in an oven, upon gridirons, or else in the
sun; which last method of drying gives a greater relish to the bread.
This is one of their articles of traffick with the French.

Their plum-trees are of two sorts: the best is that which bears
violet-coloured plums, quite like ours, which are not disagreeable,
and which certainly would be good if they did not grow in the middle
of woods. The other kind bears plums of the colour of an unripe
cherry, and these are so tart that no body can eat them; but I am of
opinion they might be preserved like gooseberries; especially if pains
were taken to cultivate them in open grounds. The small cherries,
called the Indian cherry, are frequent in this country. Their wood is
very beautiful, and their leaves differ in nothing from those of the
cherry tree.

The Papaws are only to be found far up in Higher Louisiana. These
trees, it would seem, do not love heat; they do not grow so tall as
the plum-trees; their wood is very hard and flexible; for the lower
branches are sometimes so loaded with fruit that they hang
perpendicularly downwards; and if you unload them of their fruit in
the evening, you will find them next morning in their natural erect
position. The fruit resembles a middle-sized cucumber; the pulp is
very agreeable and very wholesome; but the rind, which is easily
stripped off, leaves on the fingers so sharp an acid, that if you
touch your eye with them before you wash them, it will be immediately
inflamed, and itch most insupportably for twenty-four hours after.

The natives had doubtless got the peach-trees and fig-trees from the
English colony of Carolina, before the French {211} established
themselves in Louisiana. The peaches are of the kind which we call
Alberges; are of the size of the fist, adhere to the stone, and
contain so much water that they make a kind of wine of it. The figs
are either blue or white; are large and well enough tasted. Our
colonists plant the peach stones about the end of February, and suffer
the trees to grow exposed to all weathers. In the third year they will
gather from one tree at least two hundred peaches, and double that
number for six {212} or seven years more, when the tree dies
irrecoverably. As new trees are so easily produced, the loss of the
old ones is not in the least regretted.

[Illustration: Top: _Pawpaw_--Bottom: _Blue Whortle-berry_ (on p. 211)]

The orange-trees and citron-trees that were brought from Cape Francois
have succeeded extremely well; however I have seen so severe a winter
that those kinds of trees were entirely frozen to the very trunk. In
that case they cut the trees down to the ground, and the following
summer they produced shoots that were better than the former. If these
trees have succeeded in the flat and moist soil of New Orleans, what
may we not expect when they are planted in better soil, and upon
declivities of a good exposure? The oranges and citrons are as good as
those of other countries; but the rind of the orange in particular is
very thick, which makes it the better for a sweet-meat.

There is plenty of wild apples in Louisiana, like those in Europe; and
the inhabitants have got many kind of fruit trees from France, such as
apples, pears, plums, cherries, &c. which in the low grounds run more
into wood than fruit; the few I had at the Natches proved that high
ground is much more suited to them than the low.

The blue Whortle-berry is a shrub somewhat taller than our largest
gooseberry bushes, which are left to grow as they please. Its berries
are of the shape of a gooseberry, grow single, and are of a blue
colour: they taste like a sweetish gooseberry, and when infused in
brandy it makes a good dram. They attribute several virtues to it,
which, as I never experienced, I cannot answer for. It loves a poor
gravelly soil.

Louisiana produces no black mulberries: but from the sea to the
Arkansas, which is an extent of navigation upon the river of two
hundred leagues, we meet very frequently with three kinds of
mulberries; one a bright red, another perfectly white, and a third
white and sweetish. The first of these kinds is very common, but the
two last are more rare. Of the red mulberries they make excellent
vinegar, which keeps a long time, provided they take care in the
making of it to keep it in the shade in a vessel well stopped,
contrary to the practice in France. They make vinegar also of bramble
berries, but this {213} is not so good as the former. I do not doubt
but the colonists at present apply themselves seriously to the
cultivation of mulberries, to feed silk-worms, especially as the
countries adjoining to France, and which supplied us with silk, have
now made the exportation of it difficult.

The olive-trees in this colony are surprisingly beautiful. The trunk
is sometimes a foot and a half diameter, and thirty feet high before
it spreads out into branches. The Provencals settled in the colony
affirm, that its olives would afford as good an oil as those of their
country. Some of the olives that were prepared to be eat green, were
as good as those of Provence. I have reason to think, that if they
were planted on the coasts, the olives would have a finer relish.

They have great numbers and a variety of kinds of walnut-trees in
this country. There is a very large kind, the wood of which is almost
as black as ebony, but very porous. The fruit, with the outer shell,
is of the size of a large hen's egg: the shell has no cleft, is very
rough and so hard as to require a hammer to break it. Though the fruit
be very relishing, yet it is covered with such a thick film, that few
can bestow the pains of separating the one from the other. The natives
make bread of it, by throwing the fruit into water, and rubbing it
till the film and oil be separated from it. If those trees were
engrafted with the French walnut, their fruit would probably be

Other walnut-trees have a very white and flexible wood. Of this wood
the natives make their crooked spades for hoeing their fields. The nut
is smaller than ours, and the shell more tender; but the fruit is so
bitter that none but perroquets can put up with it.

The Hicori bears a very small kind of nut, which at first sight one
would take for filberts, as they have the same shape and colour, and
their shell is as tender, but within they are formed like walnuts.
They have such an excellent relish, that the French make fried cakes
of them as good as those of almonds.

Louisiana produces but a few filberts, as the filbert requires a poor
gravelly soil which is not to be met with in this {214} province,
except in the neighbourhood of the sea, especially near the river

[Illustration: Sweet Gum or Liquid-Amber]

The large chesnuts are not to be met with but at the distance of one
hundred leagues from the sea, and far from rivers in the heart of the
woods, between the country of the Chactaws and that of the Chicasaws.
The common chesnuts succeed best upon high declivities, and their
fruit is like the chesnuts that grow in our woods. There is another
kind of chesnuts, which are called the Acorn chesnuts, as they are
shaped like an acorn, {215} and grow in such a cup. But they have the
colour and taste of a chesnut; and I have often thought that those
were the acorns which the first of men were said to have lived upon.

The Sweet-Gum, or Liquid-Ambar (Copalm) is not only extremely common,
but it affords a balm, the virtues of which are infinite. Its bark is
black and hard, and its wood so tender and supple, that when the tree
is felled you may draw from the middle of it rods of five or six feet
in length. It cannot be employed in building or furniture, as it warps
continually; nor is it fit for burning on account of its strong smell;
but a little of it in a fire yields an agreeable perfume. Its leaf is
indented with five points like a star.

I shall not undertake to particularize all the virtues of this
Sweet-Gum or Liquid-Ambar, not having learned all of them from the
natives of the country, who would be no less surprised to find that we
used it only as a varnish, than they were to see our surgeons bleed
their patients. This balm, according to them, is an excellent
febrifuge; they take ten or a dozen drops of it in gruel fasting, and
before their meals; and if they should take a little more, they have
no reason to apprehend any danger. The physicians among the natives
purge their patients before they give it them. It cures wounds in two
days without any bad consequences: it is equally sovereign for all
kinds of ulcers, after having applied to them for some days a plaster
of bruised ground-ivy. It cures consumptions, opens obstructions; it
affords relief in the colic and all internal diseases; it comforts the
heart; in short, it contains so many virtues, that they are every day
discovering some new property that it has.


Of Forest Trees.

Having described the most remarkable of their fruit trees, I shall now
proceed to give an account of their forest trees. White and red cedars
are very common upon the coast. The incorruptibility of the wood, and
many other excellent properties which are well known, induced the
first French settlers to build their houses of it; which were but very

{216} [Illustration: Cypress]

Next to the cedar the cypress-tree is the most valuable wood. Some
reckon it incorruptible; and if it be not, it is at least a great many
years in rotting. The tree that was found twenty feet deep in the
earth near New Orleans was a cypress, and was uncorrupted. Now if the
lands of Lower Louisiana are augmented two leagues every century, this
tree must have been buried at least twelve centuries. The cypress
grows very straight and tall, with a proportionable thickness. They
commonly {217} make their pettyaugres of a single trunk of this tree,
which will carry three or four thousand weight, and sometimes more. Of
one of those trees a carpenter offered to make two pettyaugres, one of
which carried sixteen ton, and the other fourteen. There is a cypress
at Baton Rouge, a French settlement twenty-six leagues above New
Orleans, which measures twelve yards round, and is of a prodigious
height. The cypress has few branches, and its leaf is long and narrow.
The trunk close by the ground sometimes sends off two or three stems,
which enter the earth obliquely, and serve for buttresses to the tree.
Its wood is of a beautiful colour, somewhat reddish; it is soft,
light, and smooth; its grain is straight, and its pores very close. It
is easily split by wedges, and though used green it never warps. It
renews itself in a very extraordinary manner: a short time after it is
cut down, a shoot is observed to grow from one of its roots exactly in
the form of a sugar-loaf, and this sometimes rises ten feet high
before any leaf appears: the branches at length arise from the head of
this conical shoot. [Footnote: This is a mistake, according to

The cypresses were formerly very common in Louisiana; but they have
wasted them so imprudently, that they are now somewhat rare. They
felled them for the sake of their bark, with which they covered their
houses, and they sawed the wood into planks which they exported at
different places. The price of the wood now is three times as much as
it was formerly.

The Pine-tree, which loves a barren soil, is to be found in great
abundance on the sea coasts, where it grows very high and very
beautiful. The islands upon the coast, which are formed wholly of
shining sand, bear no other trees, and I am persuaded that as fine
masts might be made of them as of the firs of Sweden.

All the south parts of Louisiana abound with the Wild Laurel, which
grows in the woods without any cultivation: the same may be said of
the stone laurel, but if a person is not upon his guard he may take
for the laurel a tree natural to the country, which would communicate
its bad smell to every thing it is applied to. Among the laurels the
preference ought to be {218} given to the tulip laurel (magnolia)
which is not known in Europe. This tree is of the height and bulk of
one of our common walnut-trees. Its head is naturally very round, and
so thick of leaves that neither the sun nor rain can penetrate it. Its
leaves are full four inches long, near three inches broad, and very
thick, of a beautiful sea-green on the upperside, and resembling white
velvet on the under-side: its bark is smooth and of a grey colour; its
wood is white, soft and flexible, and {219} the grain interwoven. It
owes its name to the form of its great white flowers, which are at
least two inches broad. These appearing in the spring amidst the
glossy verdure of the leaves, have a most beautiful effect. As the top
is naturally round, and the leaves are ever-green, avenues of this
tree would doubtless be worthy of a royal garden. After it has shed
its leaves, its fruit appears in the form of a pine apple, and upon
the first approach of the cold its grain turns into a lively red. Its
{220} kernel is very bitter, and it is said to be a specific against

[Illustration: _Magnolia_ (on p. 218)]

[Illustration: _Sassafras_ (on p. 219)]

The sassafras, the name of which is familiar to botanists on account
of its medicinal qualities, is a large and tall tree. Its bark is
thick, and cracked here and there; its wood is some what of the colour
of cinnamon, and has an agreeable smell. It will not burn in the fire
without the mixture of other wood, and even in the fire, if it should
be separated from the flaming wood, it is immediately extinguished as
if it were dipped in water.

The maple grows upon declivities in cold climates, and is much more
plentiful in the northern than the southern parts of the colony. By
boring it they draw from it a sweet syrup which I have drunk of, and
which they alledge is an excellent stomachic.

The myrtle wax-tree is one of the greatest blessings with which nature
has enriched Louisiana, as in this country the bees lodge their honey
in the earth to save it from the ravages of the bears, who are very
fond of it, and do not value their stings. One would be apt to take it
at first sight, both from its bark and its height, for that kind of
laurel used in the kitchens. It rises in several stems from the root;
its leaf is like that of the laurel, but not so thick nor of such a
lively green. It bears its fruit in bunches like a nosegay, rising
from the same place in various stalks about two inches long: at the
end of each of those stalks is a little pea, containing a kernel in a
nut, which last is wholly covered with wax. The fruit, which is very
plentiful, is easily gathered, as the shrub is very flexible. The tree
thrives as well in the shade of other trees as in the open air; in
watry places and cold countries, as well as in dry grounds and hot
climates; for I have been told that some of them have been found in
Canada, a country as cold as Denmark.

This tree yields two kinds of wax, one a whitish yellow, and the
other green. It was a long time before they learned to separate them,
and they prepared the wax at first in the, following manner. They
threw the grains and the stalks into a large kettle of boiling water,
and when the wax was detached {221} from them, they scummed off the
grains. When the water cooled the wax floated in a cake at the top,
and being cut small, bleached in a shorter time than bees wax. They
now prepare it in this manner; they throw boiling water upon the
stalks and grains till they are entirely floated, and when they have
stood thus a few minutes, they pour off the water, which carries the
finest wax with it. This wax when cold is of a {222} pale yellow
colour, and may be bleached in six or seven days. Having separated the
best wax, they pour the water again upon the stalks and grains, and
boil all together till they think they have separated all the wax.
Both kinds are exported to our sugar islands, where the first is sold
for a hundred sols the pound, and the second for forty.

[Illustration: TOP: _Myrtle Wax Tree_--BOTTOM: _Vinegar tree (Acacia or
Locust)_ (on p. 221)]

This wax is so brittle and dry that if it falls it breaks into several
pieces; on this account however it lasts longer than that of France, and
is preferred to it in our sugar islands, where the latter is softened by
the great heats, and, consumes like tallow. I would advise those who
prepare this wax to separate the grain from the short stalk before they
boil it, as the stalk is greener than the grain, and seems to part easily
with its colour. The water which serves to melt and separate the wax is
far from being useless. The fruit communicates to it such an astringent
virtue, as to harden the tallow that is melted in it to such a degree,
that the candles made of that tallow are as firm as the wax candles of
France. This astringent quality likewise renders it an admirable specific
against a dysentery or looseness. From what I have said of the myrtle
wax-tree, it may well be believed that the French of Louisiana cultivate
it carefully, and make plantations of it.

The cotton-tree (a poplar) is a large tree which no wise deserves the
name it bears, unless for some beards that it throws out. Its fruit
which contains the grain is about the size of a walnut, and of no use;
its wood is yellow, smooth, somewhat hard, of a fine grain, and very
proper for cabinet work. The bark of its root is a sovereign remedy
for cuts, and so red that it may even serve to dye that colour.

The acacia (locust) is the same in Louisiana as in France, much more
common, and less streight. The natives call it by a name that
signifies hard wood, and they make their bows of it because it is very
stiff. They look upon it as an incorruptible wood, which induced the
French settlers to build their houses of it. The posts fixed in the
earth must be entirely {223} stripped of their bark, for
notwithstanding their hardness, if the least bark be left upon them
they will take root.

[Illustration: _Poplar ("Cotton Tree")_]

The holm-oak grows to a surprising bulk and height in this country; I
have seen of them a foot and a half diameter, and about 30 feet from
the ground to the lowest branches.

The mangrove is very common all over America. it grows in Louisiana
near the sea, even to the bounds of low water mark. It is more
prejudicial than useful, inasmuch as {224} it occupies a great deal of
good land, prevents sailors from landing, and affords shelter to the
fish from the fishermen.

[Illustration: _Black Oak_]

Oak-trees abound in Louisiana; there are some red, some white, and
some ever-green. A ship-builder of St. Maloes assured me that the red
is as good as the ever-green upon which we set so high a value in
France. The ever-green oak is most common toward the sea-coasts, and
near the banks of rivers, consequently may be transported with great
ease, and {225} become a great resource for the navy of France.
[Footnote: Eleven leagues above the mouth of the Mississippi, on the
west side, there is great plenty of ever-green oaks, the wood of which
is very proper for the timbers of ships, as it does not rot in water.
_Dumont_, I. & 50.

Accordingly the best ships built in America are well known to be those
that have their timbers of ever-green oak, and their plank of cedar,
of both which there are great plenty on all the coasts of Louisiana.]
I forgot to mention a fourth kind of oak, namely the black oak, so
called from the colour of its bark. Its wood is very hard, and of a
{226} deep red. It grows upon the declivities of hills and in the
savannahs. Happening after a shower of rain to examine one of these
which I cut down, I observed some water to come from it as red as
blood, which made me think that it might be used for dying.

[Illustration: _Linden or Bass Tree_ (on p. 225)]

The ash is very common in this country; but more and better upon the
sea-coasts than in the inland parts. As it is easy to be had, and is
harder than the elm, the wheel-wrights make use of it for wheels,
which it is needless to, ring with iron in a country where there are
neither stones nor gravel.

The elm, beech, lime, and hornbeam, are exactly the same in Louisiana
as in France; the last of these trees is very common here. The bark of
the lime-tree of this country is equally proper for the making of
ropes, as the bark of the common lime; but its leaf is twice as large,
and shaped like an oblong trefoil leaf with the point cut off.

The white woods are the aspen, willow, alder and liart. This last
grows very large, its wood is white and light, and its fibres are
interwoven; it is very flexible and is easily cut, on which account
they make their large pettyaugres of it.


Of Shrubs and Excrescences.

The ayac, or stinking-wood, is usually a small tree, seldom exceeding
the thickness of a man's leg; its leaf is of a yellowish green,
glossy, and of an oval form, being about three inches in length. The
wood is yellow, and yields a water of the same colour, when it is cut
in the sap: but both the wood and the water that comes from it have a
disagreeable, smell. The natives use the wood for dying; they cut it
into small bits, pound them, and then boil them in water. Having
strained this water, they dip the feathers and hair into it, which it
is their custom to dye first yellow, and then red. When they intend to
use it for the yellow dye, they take care to cut the wood in the
winter, but if they want only a slight colour they never mind the
season of cutting it.

{227} [Illustration: _Box Elder or Stink-wood Tree_]

The machonchi, or vinegar-tree, is a shrub with leaves, somewhat
resembling those of the ash; but the foot-stalk from which the leaves
hang is much longer. When the leaves are dry the natives mix them with
their tobacco to weaken it a little, for they do not love strong
tobacco for smoaking. The wood is of an astringent nature, and if put
into vinegar makes it stronger.

{228} [Illustration: TOP: _Cassine or Yapon_--BOTTOM: _Tooth-ache Tree or
Prickly Ash_]

The cassine, or yapon, is a shrub which never grows higher than 15
feet; its bark is very smooth, and the wood flexible. Its leaf is very
much indented, and when used as tea is reckoned good for the stomach.
The natives make an intoxicating liquor from it, by boiling it in
water till great part of the liquor evaporate.

The tooth-ache tree does not grow higher than 10 to 12 feet. The
trunk, which is not very large, is wholly covered over with {229}
short thick prickles, which are easily rubbed off. The pith of this
shrub is almost as large as that of the elder, and the form of the
leaf is almost the same in both. It has two barks, the outer almost
black, and the inner white, with somewhat of a pale reddish hue. This
inner bark has the property of curing the tooth-ach. The patient rolls
it up to the size of a bean, puts it upon the aching tooth, and chews
it till the pain ceases. Sailors and other such people powder it, and
use it as pepper.

[Illustration: TOP: _Passion Thorn or Honey Locust_--BOTTOM: _Bearded

{230} [Illustration: _Palmetto_]

The passion-thorn does not rise above the height of a shrub; but its
trunk is rather thick for its height. This shrub is in great esteem
among the Natches; but I never could learn for what reason. Its leaf
resembles that of the black thorn; and its wood while it is green is
not very hard. Its prickles are at least two inches long, and are very
hard and piercing; within half an inch of their root two other small
prickles grow out from them so as to form a cross. The whole trunk is
covered {231} with these prickles, so that you must be very wary how
you approach it, or cut it.

The elder-tree is exactly like that of France, only that its leaf is a
little more indented. The juice of its leaves mixed with hog's lard is
a specific against the haemorrhoids.

The palmetto has its leaves in the form of an open fan, scolloped at
the end of each of its folds. Its bark is more rough and knotty than
that of the palm-tree. Although it is less than that of the East
Indies, it may however serve to the same purposes. Its wood is not
harder than that of a cabbage, and its trunk is so soft that the least
wind overturns it, so that I never saw any but what were lying on the
ground. It is very common in Lower Louisiana, where there are no wild
oxen; for those animals who love it dearly, and are greatly fattened
by it, devour it wherever they can find it. The Spanish women make
hats of its leaves that do not weigh an ounce, riding-hoods, and other
curious works.

The birch-tree is the same with that of France. In the north they make
canoes of its bark large enough to hold eight persons. When the sap
rises they strip off the bark from the tree in one piece with wedges,
after which they sew up the two ends of it to serve for stem and
stern, and anoint the whole with gum.

I make not the least doubt but that there are great numbers of other
trees in the forests of Louisiana that deserve to be particularly
described; but I know of none, nor have I heard of any, but what I
have already spoken of. For our travellers, from whom alone we can get
any intelligence of those things, are more intent upon discovering
game which they stand in need of for their subsistence, than in
observing the productions of nature in the vegetable kingdom. To what
I have said of trees, I shall only add, from my own knowledge, an
account of two singular excrescences.

The first is a kind of agaric or mushroom, which grows from the root
of the walnut-tree, especially when it is felled. The natives, who are
very careful in the choice of their food, gather it with great
attention, boil it in water, and eat it with {232} their gruel. I had
the curiosity to taste of it, and found it very delicate, but rather
insipid, which might easily be corrected with a little seasoning.

The other excrescence is commonly found upon trees near the banks of
rivers and lakes. It is called Spanish beard, which name was given it
by the natives, who, when the Spaniards first appeared in their
country about 240 years ago, were greatly surprised at their
mustachios and beards. This excrescence appears like a bunch of hair
hanging from the large branches of trees, and might at first be easily
mistaken for an old perruque, especially when it is dancing with the
wind. As the first settlers of Louisiana used only mud walls for their
houses, they commonly mixed it with the mud for strengthening the
building. When gathered it is of a grey colour, but when it is dry its
bark falls off, and discovers black filaments as long and as strong as
the hairs of a horse's tail. I dressed some of it for stuffing a
mattress, by first laying it up in a heap to make it part with the
bark, and afterwards beating it to take off some small branches that
resemble so many little hooks. It is affirmed by some to be
incorruptible: I myself have seen of it under old rotten trees that
was perfectly fresh and strong.


_Of Creeping Plants._

The great fertility of Louisiana renders the creeping plants extremely
common, which, exclusive of the ivy, are all different from those
which we have in France. I shall only mention the most remarkable.

The bearded-creeper is so called from having its whole stalk covered
with a beard about an inch long, hooked at the end, and somewhat thicker
than a horse's hair. There is no tree which it loves to cling to so much
as to the sweet gum; and so great is its sympathy, if I may be allowed
the expression, for that tree, that if it grow between it and any other
tree, it turns solely towards the sweet gum, although it should be at
the greatest distance from it. This is likewise the tree upon which
{233} it thrives best. It has the same virtue with its balm of being a
febrifuge, and this I affirm after a great number of proofs. The
physicians among the natives use this simple in the following manner.
They take a piece of it, above the length of the finger, which they
split into as many threads as possible; these they boil in a quart of
water, till one third of the decoction evaporate, and the remainder is
strained clear. They then purge the patient, and the next day, upon the
approach of the fit, they give a third of the decoction to drink. If the
patient be not cured with the first dose, he is again purged and drinks
another third, which seldom fails of having the wished-for effect. This
medicine is indeed very bitter, but it strengthens the stomach; a
singular advantage it has over the Jesuits bark, which is accused of
having a contrary effect.

There is another creeper very like salsaparilla, only that it bears
its leaves by threes. It bears a fruit smooth on one side like a
filbert, and on the other as rough as the little shells which serve
for money on the Guinea coast. I shall not speak of its properties;
they are but too well known by the women of Louisiana, especially the
girls, who very often have recourse to it.

Another creeper is called by the native physicians the remedy against
poisoned arrows. It is large and very beautiful; its leaves are pretty
long, and the pods it bears are narrow, about an inch broad, and eight
inches long.

The salsaparilla grows naturally in Louisiana, and it is not inferior
in its qualities to that of Mexico. It is so well known that it is
needless to enlarge upon it.

The esquine partly resembles a creeper and partly a bramble. It is
furnished with hard spikes like prickles, and its oblong leaves are
like those of the common creeper (liane;) its stalk is straight, long,
shining, and hard, and it runs up along the reeds: its root is spungy,
and sometimes as large as one's head, but more long than round.
Besides the sudorific virtue which the esquine possesses in common
with the salsaparilla, it has the property of making the hair grow,
and the women among the natives use it successfully with this view.
{234} They cut the root into small bits, boil them in water, and wash
their heads with the decoction. I have seen several of them whose hair
came down below their knees, and one particularly whose hair came
lower than the ankle bones.

[Illustration: TOP: _Bramble_--BOTTOM: _Sarsaparilla_]

Hops grow naturally in the gullies in the high lands.

Maiden-hair grows in Louisiana more beautiful, at least as good as
that of Canada, which is in so great repute. It {235} grows in gullies
upon the sides of hills, in places that are absolutely impenetrable to
the most ardent rays of the sun. It seldom rises above a foot, and it
bears a thick shaggy head. The native physicians know more of its
virtues than we do in France.

The canes or reeds which I have mentioned so often may be divided into
two kinds. One kind grows in moist places to the height of eighteen
feet, and the thickness of the wrist. The natives makes matts, sieves,
small boxes, and other works of it. Those that grow in dry places are
neither so high nor so thick, but are so hard, that before the arrival
of the French, the natives used splits of those canes to cut their
victuals with. After a certain number of years, the large canes bear a
great abundance of grain, which is somewhat like oats, but about three
times as large. The natives carefully gather these grains and make
bread or gruel of them. This flour swells as much as that of wheat.
When the reeds have yielded the grain they die, and none appear for a
long time after in the same place, especially if fire has been set to
the old ones.

The flat-root receives its name from the form of its root, which is
thin, flat, pretty often indented, and sometimes even pierced through:
it is a line or sometimes two lines in thickness, and its breadth is
commonly a foot and a half. From this large root hang several other
small straight roots, which draw the nourishment from the earth. This
plant, which grows in meadows that are not very rich, sends up from
the same root several straight stalks about eighteen inches high,
which are as hard as wood, and on the top of the stalks it bears small
purplish, flowers, in their figure greatly resembling those of heath;
its seed is contained in a deep cup closed at the head, and in a
manner crowned. Its leaves are about an inch broad, and about two
long, without any indenting, of a dark green, inclining to a brown. It
is so strong a sudorific, that the natives never use any other for
promoting sweating, although they are perfectly acquainted with
sassafras, salsaparilla, the esquine and others.

The rattle-snake-herb has a bulbous root, like that of the tuberose,
but twice as large. The leaves of both have the same {236} shape and
the same colour, and on the under side have some flame-coloured spots;
but those of the rattle-snake plant are twice as large as the others,
end in a very firm point, and are armed with very hard prickles on
both sides. Its stalk grows to the height of about three feet, and
from the head rise five or six sprigs in different directions, each of
which bears a purple flower an inch broad, with five leaves in the
form of a {237} cup. After these leaves are shed there remains a head
about the size of a small nut, but shaped like the head of a poppy.
This head is separated into four divisions, each of which contains
four black seeds, equally thick throughout, and about the size of a
large lentil. When the head is ripe, it will, when shaken, give the
same sound as the tail of a rattle-snake, which seems to indicate the
property of the plant; for it is the specific remedy against the bite
of that dangerous reptile. The person who has been bit ought
immediately to take a root, bite off part of it, chew it for some
time, and apply it to the wound. In five or six hours it will extract
the whole poison, and no bad consequences need be apprehended.

[Illustration: _Rattlesnake herb_ (on p. 236)]

Ground-ivy is said by the natives to possess many more virtues than
are known to our botanists. It is said to ease women in labour when
drank in a decoction; to cure ulcers, if bruised and laid upon the
ulcered part; to be a sovereign remedy for the head-ach; a
considerable quantity of its leaves bruised, and laid as a cataplasm.
upon the head, quickly removes the pain. As this is an inconvenient
application to a person that wears his hair, I thought of taking the
salts of the plant, and I gave some of them in vulnerary water to a
friend of mine who was often attacked with the head-ach, advising him
likewise to draw up some drops by the nose: he seldom practised this
but he was relieved a few moments after.

The Achechy is only to be found in the shade of a wood, and never
grows higher than six or seven inches. It has a small stalk, and its
leaves are not above three lines long. Its root consists of a great
many sprigs a line in diameter, full of red juice like chickens blood.
Having transplanted this plant from an overshadowed place into my
garden, I expected to see it greatly improved; but it was not above an
inch taller, and its head was only a little bushier than usual. It is
with the juice of this plant that the natives dye their red colour.
Having first dyed their feathers or hair yellow or a beautiful citron
colour with the ayac wood, they boil the roots of the achechy in
water, then squeeze them with all their force, and the expressed
liquor serves for the red dye. That which was naturally white before
it was dyed yellow, takes a beautiful scarlet; {238} that which was
brown, such as buffalo's hair, which is of a chesnut colour, becomes a
reddish brown.

[Illustration: TOP: _Red Dye Plant_--BOTTOM: _Flat Root_]

I shall not enlarge upon the strawberries, which are of an excellent
flavour, and so plentiful, that from the beginning of April the
savannahs or meadows appear quite red with them. I shall also only
just mention the tobacco, which I reserve for the article of
agriculture; but I ought not to omit to take notice, that hemp grows
naturally on the lands adjoining to the lakes {239} on the west of the
Missisippi. The stalks are as thick as one's finger, and about six
feet long. They are quite like ours both in the wood, the leaf, and
the rind. The flax which was sown in this country rose three feet

I cannot affirm from my own knowledge that the soil in this province
produces either white mushrooms or truffles. But morelles in their
season are to be found in the greatest abundance, and round mushrooms
in the autumn.

When I consider the mild temperature of this climate, I am persuaded
that all our flowers would succeed extremely well in it. The country
has flowers peculiar to itself, and, in such abundance, that from the
month of May till the end of summer, you can hardly see the grass in
the meadows; and of such various hues that one is at a loss which to
admire most and declare to be the most beautiful. The number and
diversity of those flowers quite enchant the sight. I will not however
attempt to give a particular account of them, as I am not qualified on
this head to satisfy the desires of the curious, from my having
neglected to consider the various flowers themselves. I have seen
single and small roses without any smell; and another kind of rose
with four white petals, which in its smell, chives, and pointal,
differed in nothing from our damask roses. But of all the flowers of
this country, that which struck me most, as it is both very common and
lasts a long time, is the flower called Lion's Mouth. The flowers
which decorate its stalk, its shady colours, its blowing for more than
three months, justly entitle it to the preference before all other
flowers. It forms of itself an agreeable nosegay; and in my opinion,
it deserves to be ranked with the finest flowers, and to be cultivated
with attention in the gardens of our kings.

As to cotton and indigo, I defer speaking of them till I come to the
chapter of agriculture.



_Of the Quadrupedes._

Before I speak of the animals which the first settlers found in
Louisiana, it is proper to observe, that all those which were brought
hither from France, or from New Spain and Carolina, such as horses,
oxen, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, and others, have multiplied and
thriven perfectly well. However it ought to be remarked, that in Lower
Louisiana, where the ground is moist and much covered with wood, they
can neither be so good nor so beautiful as in Higher Louisiana, where
the soil is dry, where there are most extensive meadows, and where the
sun warms the earth to a much greater degree.

The buffalo is about the size of one of our largest oxen, but he
appears rather bigger, on account of his long curled wool, which makes
him appear to the eye much larger than he really is. This wool is very
fine and very thick, and is of a dark chesnut colour, as are likewise
his bristly hairs, which are also curled, and so long, that the bush
between his horns often falls over his eyes, and hinders him from
seeing before him; but his sense of hearing and smelling is so
exquisite as in some measure to supply the want of the other. A pretty
large bunch rises on his shoulders in the place where they join to the
neck. His horns are thick, short, and black; and his hoof is also
black. The cows of this species have small udders like those of a

This buffalo is the chief food of the natives, and of the French also
for a long time past; the best piece is the bunch on the shoulders,
the taste of which is extremely delicate. They hunt this animal in the
winter; for which purpose they leave Lower Louisiana, and the river
Missisippi, as he cannot penetrate thither on account of the thickness
of the woods; and besides loves to feed on long grass, which is only
to be found in the meadows of the high lands. In order to get near
enough to fire upon him, they go against the wind, and they take aim
at the hollow of the shoulder, that they may bring him to the ground
at once, for if he is only slightly wounded, he runs against his
enemy. The natives when hunting seldom {241} choose to kill any but
the cows, having experienced that the flesh of the male smells rank;
but this they might easily prevent, if they did but cut off the
testicles from the beast as soon as he is dead, as they do from stags
and wild boars. By killing the males there is less hazard of
diminishing the species than by killing the females; and besides, the
males have much more tallow, and their skins are the largest and best.

[Illustration: Top: _Panther or Catamount_--BOTTOM: _Bison or Buffalo_]

{242} These skins are an object of no small consideration. The natives
dress them with their wool on, to such great perfection, as to render
them more pliable than our buff. They dye them different colours, and
cloath themselves therewith. To the French they supply the place of
the best blankets, being at the same time very warm and very light.

The stag is entirely the same with that of France, only he is a little
larger. They are only to be found in Upper Louisiana, where the woods
are much thinner than in Lower Louisiana, and the chesnuts which the
stag greatly loves are very common.

The deer is very frequent in this province, notwithstanding the great
numbers of them that are killed by the natives. According to the
hunters, he partly resembles the stag, the rein-deer, and the
roe-buck. As to myself, I can only say what I have seen; that he is
about four feet high, has large horns bending forwards, and decorated
with several antlers, the ends of which are formed somewhat like a
rose; that his flesh is dry like that of ours, and when he is fat
tastes like mutton. They feed in herds, and are not in the least of a
fierce nature. They are excessively capricious, hardly remain a moment
in one place, but are coming and going continually. The natives dress
the skin extremely well, like buff, and afterwards paint it. Those
skins that are brought to France are often called does skins.

The natives hunt the deer sometimes in companies, and sometimes alone.
The hunter who goes out alone, furnishes himself with the dried head of
a deer, with part of the skin of the neck fastened to it, and this skin
is stretched out with several hoops made of split cane, which are kept
in their places by other splits placed along the inside of the skin, so
that the hands and arms may be easily put within the neck. Being thus
provided, he goes in quest of the deer, and takes all necessary
precautions not to be discovered by that animal: when he sees one, he
approaches it as gently as possible, hiding himself behind a bush which
he carries in his hand, till he be within shot of it. But if, before he
can come near enough, the buck shakes its head, which is a sign that he
is going to make some {243} capers and run away, the hunter immediately
counterfeits the cries of those animals when they call each other, in
which case the buck frequently comes up towards him. He then shews the
head which he holds in his hand, and by lowering and lifting his arm by
turns, it makes the appearance of a buck feeding, and lifting his head
from time to time to graze. The hunter still keeps himself behind the
bush, till the buck comes near enough to him, and the moment he turns
his side, he fires at the hollow of his shoulder, and lays him dead.

[Illustration: _Indian Deer Hunt_]

{244} When the natives want to make the dance of the deer; or if they
want to exercise themselves merrily; or if it should happen that the
Great Sun inclines to such sport, they go about an hundred of them in
a company to the hunting of this animals, which they must bring home
alive. As it is a diverting exercise, many young men are generally of
the party, who disperse themselves in the meadows among the thickets
in order to discover the deer. They no sooner perceive one than they
advance towards him in a wide crescent, one point of which may be a
quarter of a league from the other. Part of the crescent draws near to
him, which frightens him away to another point; that part likewise
advancing, he immediately flies back to the other sidee. He is kept
thus running from one side to another a considerable time, on purpose
to exercise the young men, and afford diversion to the Great Sun, or
to another Little Sun, who is nominated to supply his place. The deer
sometimes attempts to get out and escape by the openings of the
crescent, in which case those who are at the points run forwards, and
oblige him to go back. The crescent then gradually forms a circle; and
when they perceive the deer beginning to be tired, part of them stoop
almost to the ground, and remain in that posture till he approaches
them, when they rise and shout: he instantly flies off to the other
side, where they do the same; by which means he is at length so
exhausted, that he is no longer able to stand on his legs, and suffers
himself to be taken like a lamb. Sometimes, however, he defends
himself on the ground with his antlers and forefeet; they therefore
use the precaution to seize upon him behind, and even in that case
they are sometimes wounded.

The hunters having seized the deer present it to the Great Sun, or in
his absence, to the person whom he sent to represent him. If he says,
_well_, the roe-buck is immediately opened, and its four quarters
carried to the hut of the Great Sun, who gives portions of them to the
chief men among the hunters.

The wolf is not above fifteen inches high, and of a proportionable
length. He is not so brown as our wolves, nor so fierce and dangerous;
he is therefore more like a dog than a wolf, especially the dog of the
natives, who differs from him {245} in nothing, but that he barks. The
wolf is very common in the hunting countries; and when the hunter
makes a hut for himself in the evening upon the bank of a river, if he
sees the wolf, he may be confident that the buffaloes are not at a
very great distance. It is said, that this animal, not daring to
attack the buffalo when in a herd, will come and give notice to the
hunter that he may kill him, in hopes of coming in for the offals. The
wolves are actually so familiar, that they come and go on all sides
when looking for something to eat, without minding in the least
whether they be near or at a distance from the habitations of men.

In my time two very large black wolves were seen in Louisiana. The
oldest inhabitants, and those who travel to the remotest parts of the
colony, declared that they had never before seen any such; from whence
it was concluded, that they were foreign wolves which had lost their
way. Fortunately they killed them both; for one of them was a she-wolf
big with young.

The bear appears in Louisiana in winter, as the snows, which then
cover the northern climates, hinder him from procuring a subsistence
there, and force him southwards. If some few are seen in the summer
time, they are only the slow young bears, that have not been strong
enough to follow the herd northwards. The bear lives upon roots and
fruits, particularly acorns; but this most delicate food is honey and
milk. When he meets with either of these last, he will suffer himself
to be killed than quit his prize. Our colonists have sometimes
diverted themselves by burying a small pail with some milk in it
almost up to the edge in the ground, and setting two young bears to
it. The contest then was which of the two should hinder the other from
tasting the milk, and both of them so tore the earth with their paws,
and pulled at the pail, that they generally overturned the milk,
before either of them had tasted of it.

In opposition to the general opinion, which supposes the bear a
carnivorous animal, I affirm, with all the inhabitants of this colony,
and the neighbouring countries, that he never feeds upon flesh. It is
indeed to be lamented that the first {246} travellers had the
impudence to publish to the world a thousand false stories, which were
easily believed because they were new. People, so far from wishing to
be undeceived, have even been offended with those who attempted to
detect the general errors; but it is my duty to speak the truth, for
the sake of those who are willing to hear it. What I maintain here is
not a mere conjectural supposition, but a known fact over all North
America, which may be attested by the evidence of a great number of
people who have lived there, and by the traders who are going and
coming continually. There is not one instance can be given of their
having devoured men, notwithstanding their great multitudes, and the
extreme hunger which they must sometimes have suffered; for even in
that case they never so much as touch the butchers meat which they
meet with.

The bears seldom quit the banks of the Missisippi, as it is there that
they can best procure a subsistence; but when I lived at the Natchez
there happened so severe a winter, that those animals came from the
north in such numbers that they starved each other, and were very
lean. Their great hunger obliged them to quit the woods which line the
banks of the river: they were seen at night running among the
settlements; and they sometimes even entered those court-yards that
were not well shut; they there found butchers meat exposed to the open
air, but they never touched it, and eat only the corn or roots they
could meet with. Certainly on such occasion as this, and in such a
pressing want, they would have proved carnivorous, if it had been in
the least degree their natural disposition.

But perhaps one will say, "It is true they never touch dead flesh; it
is only living flesh that they devour." That is being very delicate
indeed, and what I can by no means allow them: for if they were
flesh-eaters, I greatly suspect that, in the severe famine which I
have spoken of, they would have made a hearty meal of the butchers
meat which they found in the court-yards; or at least would have
devoured several persons, who fell in their way, which they never did.
The following fact however will be a more compleat answer to this

{247} Two Canadians, who were on a journey, landed on a sand-bank,
when they perceived a bear crossing the river. As he appeared fat, and
consequently would yield a great deal of oil, one of the travellers
ran forwards and fired at him. Unhappily however he only slightly
wounded him; and as the bears in that case always turn upon their
enemy, the hunter was immediately seized by the wounded bear, who in a
few moments squeezed him to death, without wounding him in the least
with his teeth, although his muzzle was against his face, and he must
certainly have been exasperated. The other Canadian, who was not above
three hundred paces distance, ran to save his comrade with the utmost
speed, but he was dead before he came up to him; and the bear escaped
into the wood. Upon examining the corpse he found the place, where the
bear had squeezed it, pressed in two inches more than the rest of the

Some perhaps may still add, that the mildness of the climate of
Louisiana may have an effect upon the disposition of the bears, and
prevent them from being so voracious as those of our continent; but I
affirm that carnivorous animals retain the same disposition in all
countries. The wolves of Louisiana are carnivorous as well as those of
Europe, although they differ in other particulars. The tigers of
Africa, and those of America, are equally mischievous animals. The
wild-cats of America, though very different from those of Europe,
have however the same appetite for mice when they are tamed. It is the
same with other species, naturally inclined to live upon other
animals; and the bears of America, if flesh-eaters, would not quit the
countries covered with snow, where they would find men and other
animals in abundance, to come so far in search of fruits and roots;
which kind of nourishment carnivorous animals refuse to taste.
[Footnote: Since I wrote the above account of the bears, I have been
certainly informed, that in the mountains of Savoy there are two sorts
of bears. The one black, like that of Louisiana, and not carnivorous;
the other red, and no less carnivorous than the wolves. Both turn upon
their enemy when wounded.]

Bears are seen very frequently in Louisiana in the winter time, and
they are so little dreaded, that the people sometimes {248} make it a
diversion to hunt them. When they are fat, that is about the end of
December, they cannot run so fast as a man; therefore the hunters are
in no danger if they should turn upon them. The she-bears are
tolerably fat when they are big with young; but after they have
littered they quickly become lean.

The bears usually arrive in Louisiana towards the end of autumn; and
then they are very lean, as they do not leave the north till the earth
be wholly covered with snow, and find often but a very scanty
subsistence in their way southwards. I said above, that those animals
seldom go to any great distance from the river; and on both banks
travellers meet with such a beaten path in winter, that to those who
are not acquainted with it, it appears like the track of men. I
myself, the first time I observed it, was deceived by it. I was then
near two hundred miles from any human dwelling, yet the path at first
appeared to me as if it had been made by thousands of men, who had
walked that way bare-footed. Upon a narrower inspection however, I
observed, that the prints of the feet were shorter than that of a man,
and that there was the impression of a claw at the end of each toe. It
is proper to observe that in those paths the bear does not pique
himself upon politeness, and will yield the way to nobody; therefore
it is prudent in a traveller not to fall out with him for such a
trifling affair.

The bears, after they have been a short time in the country, and found
abundance of fruits, turn fat and lazy, and it is then the natives go
out to hunt them. The bear, when he is fat, huts himself, that is,
retires into the hollow trunk of some rotten tree that has died on
end. The natives, when they meet with any of those trees, which they
suspect contains a bear in it, give two or three strong blows against
the trunk, and immediately run behind the next tree opposite to the
lowest breach. If there be a bear within, he appears in a few minutes
at the breach, to look out and spy the occasion of the disturbance;
but upon observing nothing likely to annoy him, he goes down again to
the bottom of his castle.

The natives having once seen their prey, gather a heap of dried canes,
which they bruise with their feet, that they may {249} burn the
easier, and one of them mounting upon a tree adjoining to that in
which the bear is, sets fire to the reeds, and darts them one after
another into the breach; the other hunters having planted themselves
in ambuscade upon other trees. The bear is quickly burned out of his
habitation, and he no sooner appears on the outside, than they let fly
their arrows at him, and often kill him before he gets to the bottom
of the tree.

He is no sooner dead than some of the hunters are dispatched to look
for a deer, and they seldom fail of bringing in one or two. When a

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