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By Donald J. Blakeslee

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Extra info for Along ancient trails: the Mallet expedition of 1739

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Scanty documentation also has discouraged historical interest in the expedition. The Mallets kept a journal, but it has been lost. Only a brief abstract of the journal that Bienville provided to the French court has survived, and it provides minimal evidence regarding the route taken. The journey from Illinois up the Missouri River to South Dakota and thence overland through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico is recorded in a scant five handwritten pages, and the return route is covered in three.

Rapid development came to Canada only when Louis XIV made it a royal province in 1663. The crown subsidized the colony, and for a period new settlers arrived every year. The population reached about 10,000 by 1680 and was 43,382 in 1739, the year of the Mallet journey (Eccles 1972: 120). The colony was nearly self-sufficient in food and generated variable profits from the fur trade. In Canada, relationships between secular and religious authorities were not as fractious as in New Mexico. Canadian clerics published the Jesuit Relations as a public relations scheme that benefited both the colony and the Society of Jesus.

To their east lay the High Plainstreeless, arid, and in some areas totally lacking in landmarks by which inexperienced travelers might steer their course. East of the Plains were the French colonies of Canada and Louisiana. In these lands of great rivers, people normally traveled by canoe or boat. Rainfall was sufficient to support enormous forests even on level ground, and the French and their subject tribes were able to cultivate their fields without irrigation. Page 2 West from French territory, the landscape changed gradually from almost continuous forest to apparently endless grass.

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