administrative limbo which had been its lot for the past decade. The American colonies had expected to extend their claim all the way to the Mississippi and were very bitter that the Crown would favor French Catholics and savages over them.
In the spring of 1776, Captain Lord left Illinois and with him went all the troops. Troubles in the Fast were increasing and the commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America had made the decision to regroup the isolated garrisons of the west. Then one of those extraordinary characters which appear in History from time to time, entered upon the scene. Phillippe Francois de Rastel, Chevalier de Rocheblave, a professional soldier born in France who after distinguishing himself against the British became by a strange turn of fortune their sole representative in Illinois. His capture in Kaskaskia by George Rogers Clark and his American raiders on July 4, 1778, terminated British rule there.
Eventually, the strong French presence in Illinois would whither away dur- ing the first decades of American regime and almost completely disappear by the end of the Nineteenth century. Britain was partially instrumental in starting this process of economic and political disintegration. If one looks at what is today Québec - a province on course to nationhood - it is clear that there were other factors to bring about the demise of French Illinois. Within the specific context, however, of the impact of the British military on the five French villages along the Mississippi, several observations can be made.
The British officers, regardless of their own feelings towards the French, all attempted to create or maintain the instruments of government that their own government had neglected to plan for. Three of these officers were more suc- cessful than the others, and they were junior rank: Captain Stirling, Captain Forbes and Captain Lord. It was perhaps coincidence that on the other hand the worst records of administration were left by the two colonels who acted as commandants of Illinois. It is possible that the junior officers showed a better ability in establishing relations with the civilian population because they were more accustomed to a closer contact with their own men.
Reading the reports sent from Illinois to the commanders-in-chief deline- ates the difficulty of the role of the British troops. It would have been much eas- ier if Illinois had the status of enemy territory under temporary occupation. Then the British commandants could have dealt with a degree of harshness demanded by the situation. Instead, the commandants were actually to help these new sub- jects of the king become old subjects, a transition complicated by the traditional enmity between France and Britain. (The Spanish authorities during the same period had little difficulty in taking over Louisiana.)
The British officers, as a rule, were careful to avoid violent confrontation; in several instances they met with protest, even open rebellion in the cases of the