NIAGARA FALLS and THE BEAVER WARSDONGAN, THOMAS, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK. 1634-1715.
Manuscript Letter in Latin in a secretarial hand , a retained copy docketed no 8, 2 pp recto and verso, folio (integral blank), Albany, May 22, 1686, [to the Marquis de Denonville, Governor General of New France], small repair to hinge, some pale spotting, generally fine.
A very rare and important letter from the Governor of New York to his counterpart in New France, concerning French aggression near the Great Lakes and in particular an attempt to place a Fort at Niagara Falls. This letter is in effect the first skirmish between the two new governors, both intent on pushing their influence into the territory of the other, and in the process using the native American tribes of the St Lawrence region in their mutual provocation.
In part, in translation: "I have sent for the Five Nations of Indians that belongs to this government to meet me at this place, to direct them that they should not go to your side of the Great Lakes and not disturb your Indians and Traders. But since my coming here I am informed that our Indians fear war because of your stockpiling of arms in a place called "Cataract" [Cataraqui] and ordering some forces to meet there. I know that you are a man of judgment and that you will not attack the King of England's subjects. Being informed that those Indians with whom our Indians are engaged in war, are to the west and southwest of the Great Lakes (if so) in reason you can have no pretence to them ... Whether these territories belong to our or the French King is not to be decided here, but by our Masters at home ... I am likewise informed that you intend to build a fort at a place called Ohniagoro [Niagara], on this side of the Lake within the English territory without question (I cannot believe it) that a person of your reputation of wisdom and prudence would wish to follow the steps of Monsieur Labarre and the perverse counsel of interested parties for the sake of gaining some small trade in animal skins...."
Denonville, of course, did make war for the sake of a few animal skins and his own glory. He was a principal instigator of the so-called Beaver Wars. A little over a year from the date of this letter he captured the English fur trading posts on Hudson Bay and proceeded to Fort Frontenac where under a flag of truce he betrayed 50 Iroquois chiefs, sending some to Marseilles as galley slaves. The original letter does not appear to have survived, although their is an English translation published in "The Documentary History of the State of New York," Albany, 1849, pp 205-206; together with a copy of the London Gazette for October 27, 1687 discussing latest developments in the Canadas.