A generation before the War of Independence, American colonists and British Army regulars fought side-by-side against the French and their aboriginal allies in Canada from 1754 to 1763 for dominance in the New World. Known as the French and Indian War, it was considered a minor theater of the wider Seven Years War in Europe.
When the war ended, France lost New France and with it the profitable fur trade and the tons of cod fish the French ate as a cheap source of protein.
The loss of New France was not the death blow to the ancient regime. But, it was such a lingering sore that when the opportunity to return a favor arose during the American Revolution, King Louis XVI broke the bank to send men and materiel to ensure Great Britain lost New England and nine other colonies, too.
Whatever France’s hopes were for regaining territory in the New World, they were dashed when the new American government negotiated the peace treaty in 1783 without regard for French ambitions. That was the death blow for the ancient regime. The French royal government was by then spending half its tax revenues to service its debt, and that was that.
Sorting through his late parents’ basement, a man who interned with Human Events in 1985, found in a box the neatly typed pages of his father’s completed novel, “The Border Covenant: A Tale of the French and Indian War.”
“I guess he wrote the book over years and years,” said Richard Griffith, who scanned the pages into the computer, edited the
text and added reference material in the back of the book. “I never knew that he had finished it. He did not share much about it with me.”
Griffith said his father, Hugh C. Griffith, grew up in Ilion, N.Y., the home of Remington Arms, where he grandfather worked for many years. Eventually, his father a veteran of the Second World War came home and became a college professor and settled the family in Michigan.
“I think the book draws a strong contrast between the two cultures and the inevitable clash,” he said. It takes place in the years shortly after the fall of Fort William Henry, the subject of the “Last of the Mohicans.”
The fall of Quebec continues to reverberate after battle fought on the Plains of Abraham that decided the war and it is the climax of the book, he said. “In 2007, they were going to do a large re-enactment of the battle for the 250th anniversary, but they had to cancel it because the French-Canadians threatened violence and it got to be such a big deal they had to call off the whole event.”
Although, they dominate the province of Quebec, the French Canadians are still bitter about the war that cost them their independence, he said.
“The French were culturally superior, but being superior they were also decadent, “he said. “There is also the notion of absolute power from the top. As opposed the more republican view of the colonials.”
Rogers Rangers, a band of elite American fighters led by Maj. Robert Rogers, are central to the story because the main character, an orphaned Tom Evans is taken by his Ranger Uncle John to search for a woman kidnapped by a French fur trader who played both sides of the border, he said.
In the final battle at the Plains of Abraham, it is a detachment of Rangers who scaled the side of the cliffs to surprise and overpower the French garrison guarding the road, he said. This action in the first war fought by Rangers, offers a nice parallel with the Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Point-du-Hoc on D-Day.
“Of course, at Normandy the Rangers did not use stealth and were successful at a much greater cost,” he said.
In the back of the book, Griffith included the 28 “Rogers’ Rules of Ranging, “which are still taught to Army infantrymen today.
Sitting down to read his father’s novel, Griffith said he realized the depth of research his father had gone to ensure historical accuracy.
“As a kid, we had a camper and I remember we took a trip to the St. Lawrence Seaway, to Nova Scotia to see the Fort Louisbourg, and then to see Quebec,” he said. That trip was a site visit to the locations and battlefields included in the book.
“After reading the book, I said: ‘Wow.’ How much of this is fiction and how much of it is fact? It turns out pretty much everything that happens in the whole book is based on actual events,” he said.
“Some of it is not all that well known, such as the assassination of Abbe Portneuf, the Cure of St. Joachim,” he said. Father Portneuf led a band of raiders from Quebec into upstate New York and was finally captured dressed as an Indian. In the book, the priest is given away by the cross he wore under his shirt. While the British regulars line up Portneuf for an on the spot firing squad, the American Rangers protest to deaf ears. “I did some research and it turns out that the priest is considered a hero in Canada.”
Griffith said because of the reaction he received from the book, he has written screenplay with an important additional twist. “Women who read the book tell me they are more interested in the story than the history. They tell me there is not enough romance.”