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Bishop Lavel
Chapter X Frontenac is appointed Governor


DURING the early days of the absence of its first pastor, the Church of Canada had enjoyed only days of prosperity; skilfully directed by MM. de Berni&res and de Dudouyt, who scrupulously followed the line of conduct laid down for them by Mgr. de Laval before his departure, it was pursuing its destiny peacefully: But this calm, forerunner of the storm, could not last; it was the destiny of the Church, as it had been the lot of nations, to be tossed incessantly by the violent winds of trial and persecution. The difficulties which arose soon reached the acute stage, and all the firmness and tact of the Bishop of Quebec were needed to meet them. The departure of Laval for France in the autumn of 1671 had been closely followed by that of Governor de Courcelles and that of Commissioner Talon. The latter was not replaced until three years later, so that the new governor, Count de Frontenac, who arrived in the autumn of 1672, had no one at his side in the Sovereign Council to oppose his views. This was allowing too free play to the natural despotism of his character. Louis de Buade, Count de Palluau and de Frontenac, lieutenant-general of the king's armies, had previously served in Holland under the illustrious Maurice, Prince of Orange, then in France, Italy and Germany, and his merit had gained for him the reputation of a great captain. The illustrious Turenne entrusted to him the command of the reinforcements sent to Candia when that island was besieged by the Turks. He had a keen mind, trained by serious study; haughty towards the powerful of this world, he was affable to ordinary people, and thus made for himself numerous enemies, while remaining very popular. Father Charlevoix has drawn an excellent portrait of him : "His heart was greater than his birth, his wit lively, penetrating, sound, fertile and highly cultivated : but he was biased by the most unjust prejudices, and capable of carrying them very far. He wished to rule alone, and there was nothing he would not do to remove those whom he was afraid of finding in his way. His worth and ability were equal; no one knew better how to assume over the people whom he governed and with whom he had to deal, that ascendency so necessary to keep them in the paths of duty and respect. He won when he wished it the friendship of the French and their allies, and never has general treated his enemies with more dignity and nobility. His views for the aggrandizement of the colony were large and true, but his prejudices sometimes prevented the execution of plans which depended on him. . . . He justified, in one of the most critical circumstances of his life, the opinion that his ambition and the desire of preserving his authority had more power over him than his zeal for the public good. The fact is that there is no virtue which does not belie itself when one has allowed a dominant passion to gain the upper hand. The Count de Frontenac might have been a great prince if Heaven had placed him on the throne, but he had dangerous faults for a subject who is not well persuaded that his glory consists in sacrificing everything to the service of his sovereign and the public utility."

It was under the administration of Frontenac that the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales, which had accepted in 1663 a portion of the obligations and privileges of the Company of the Cent.-Associes, renounced its rights over New France. Immediately after his arrival he began the construction of Fort Cataraqui; if we are to believe some historians, motives of piersonal interest guided him in the execution of this enterprise; he thought only, it seems, of founding considerable posts for the fur trade, favouring those traders who would consent to give him a share in their profits. The work was urged on with energy. La Salle obtained from the king, thanks to the support of Frontenac, letters patent of nobility, together with the ownership and jurisdiction of the new fort.

With the approval of the governor, Commissioner Talon's plan of having the course of the Mississippi explored was executed by two bold men: Louis Joliet, citizen of Quebec, already known for previous voyages and for his deep knowledge of the Indian tongues, and the devoted missionary, Father Marquette. Without other provisions than Indian corn and dried meat they set out in two bark canoes from Michilimackinac on May 17th, 1673; only five Frenchmen accompanied them. They reached the Mississippi, after having passed the Baie des Puants and the rivers Outagami and Wisconsin, and ascended the stream for more than sixty leagues. They were cordially received by the tribe of the Illinois, which was encamped not far from the river, and Father Marquette promised to return and visit them. The two travellers reached the Arkansas River and learned that the sea was not far distant, but fearing they might fall into the hands of hostile Spaniards, they decided to retrace their steps, and reached the Baie des Puants about the end of September.

The following year Father Marquette wished to keep his promise given to the Illinois. His health is weakened by the trials of a long mission, but what matters this to him ? There are souls to save. He preaches the truths of religion to the poor savages gathered in attentive silence; but his strength diminishes, and he regretfully resumes the road to Michilimackinac. He did not have time to reach it, but died near the mouth of a river which long bore his name. His two comrades dug a grave for the remains of the missionary and raised a cross near the tomb. Two years later these sacred bones were transferred with the greatest respect to St. Ignace de Michilimackinac by the savage tribe of the Kiskakons, whom Father Marquette had christianized.

With such an adventurous character as he possessed, Cavelier de la Salle could not learn of the exploration of the course of the Upper Mississippi without burning with the desire to complete the discovery and to descend the river to its mouth. Robert Rene Cavelier de la Salle was born at Rouen about the year 1644. He belonged to an excellent family, and was well educated. From his earliest years he was passionately fond of stories of travel, and the older he grew the more cramped he felt in the civilization of Europe; like the mettled mustang of the vast prairies of America, he longed for the immensity of unknown plains, for the imposing majesty of forests which the foot of man had not yet trod. Maturity and reason gave a more definite aim to these aspirations; at the age of twenty-four he came to New France to try his fortune. He entered into relations with different Indian tribes, and the extent of his commerce led him to establish a trading-post opposite the Sault St. Louis. This site, as we shall see, received soon after the name of Lachine. Though settled at this spot, La Salle did not cease to meditate on the plan fixed in his brain of discovering a passage to China and the Indies, and upon learning the news that MM. Dollier de Casson and Gallin^e were going to christianize the wild tribes of south-western Canada, he hastened to rejoin the two devoted missionaries. They set out in the summer of 1669, with twenty-t\yo Frenchmen. Arriving at Niagara, La Salle suddenly changed his mind, and abandoned his travelling companions, under the pretext of illness. No more was needed for the Frenchman, Tie malin,1 to fix upon the seigniory of the future discoverer of the mouth of the Mississippi the name of Lachine; M. Dollier de Casson is suspected of being the author of this gentle irony.

Eight years later the explorations of Joliet and Father Marquette revived his instincts as a discoverer ; he betook himself to France in 1677 and easily obtained authority to pursue, at his own expense, the discovery already begun. Back in Canada the following year, La Salle thoroughly prepared for this expedition, accumulating provisions at Fort Niagara, and visiting the Indian tribes. In 1679, accompanied by the Chevalier de Tonti, he set out at the head of a small troop, and passed through Michilimackinac, then through the Baie des Puants. From there he reached the Miami River, where he erected a small fort, ascended the Illinois, and, reaching a camp of the Illinois Indians, made an alliance with this tribe, obtaining from them permission to erect upon their soil a fort which he called Cr&vecceur. He left M. de Tonti there with a few men and two Rdcollet missionaries, Fathers de la Ribourde and Membrd, and set out again with all haste for Fort Frontenac, for he was very anxious regarding the condition of his own affairs. He had reason to be. " His creditors," says the Abb£ Ferland, " had had his goods seized t after his departure from Fort Frontenac; his brig-antine Le Griffon had been lost, with furs valued at thirty thousand francs; his employees had appropriated his goods; a ship which was bringing him from France a cargo valued at twenty-two thousand francs had been wrecked on the Islands of St. Pierre; some canoes laden with merchandise had been dashed to pieces on the journey between Montreal and Frontenac ; the men whom he had brought from France had fled to New York, taking a portion of his goods, and already a conspiracy was on foot to disaffect the Canadians in his service. In one word, according to him, the whole of Canada had conspired against his enterprise, and the Count de Frontenac was the only one who consented to support him in the midst of his misfortunes." His remarkable energy and activity remedied this host of evils, and he set out again for Fort Crevecceur. To cap the climax of his misfortunes, he found it abandoned; being attacked by the Iroquois, whom the English had aroused against them, Tonti and his comrades had been forced to hasty flight. De la Salle found them again at Michilimackinac, but he had the sorrow of learning of the loss of Father de la Ribourde, whom the Illinois had massacred. Tonti and his companions, in their flight, had been obliged to abandon an unsafe canoe, which had carried them half-way, and to continue their journey on foot. Such a series of misfortunes would have discouraged any other than La Salle; on the contrary, he made Tonti and Father Membrd retrace their steps. Arriving with them at the Miami fort, he reinforced his little troop by twenty-three Frenchmen and eighteen Indians, and reached Fort Creve-cceur. On February 6th, 1682, he reached the mouth of the Illinois, and then descended the Mississippi. Towards the end of this same month the bold explorers stopped at the juncture of the Ohio with the Father of Rivers, and erected there Fort Prudhomme. On what is Fame dependent? A poor and unknown man, a modest collaborator with La Salle, had the honour of giving his name to this little fort because he had been lost in the neighbourhood and had reached camp nine days later.

Providence was finally about to reward so much bravery and perseverance. The sailor who from the yards of Christopher Columbus's caravel, uttered the triumphant cry of "Land! land" did not cause more joy to the illustrious Genoese navigator than La Salle received from the sight of the sea so ardently sought. On April 9th La Salle and his comrades could at length admire the immense blue sheet of the Gulf of Mexico. Like Christopher Columbus, who made it his first duty on touching the soil of the New World to fall upon his knees to return thanks to Heaven, La Salle's first business was to raise a cross upon the shore. Father Membre intoned the Te Deum. They then raised the arms of the King of France, in whose name La Salle took possession of the Mississippi, and of all the territories watered by the tributaries of the great river.

Their trials were not over: the risks to be run in traversing so many regions inhabited by barbarians were as great and as numerous after success as before. La Salle was, moreover, delayed for forty days by a serious illness, but God in His goodness did not wish to deprive the valiant discoverers of the fruits of their efforts, and all arrived safe and sound at the place whence they had started. After having passed a year in establishing trading-posts among the Illinois, La Salle appointed M. de Tonti his representative for the time being, and betook himself to France with the intention of giving an account of his journey to the most Christian monarch. His enemies had already forestalled him at the court; we have to seek the real cause of this hatred in the jealousy of traders who feared to find in the future colonists of the western and southern country competitors in their traffic. But far from listening to them, the son of Colbert, Seignelay, then minister of commerce, highly praised the valiant explorer, and sent, in 1084, four ships with two hundred and eighty colonists to people Louisiana, this hew gem in the crown of France. But La Salle has not yet finally drained the cup of disappointment, for few men have been so overwhelmed as he by the persistence of ill-fortune. It was not enough that the leader of the expedition should be incapable, the colonists must needs be of a continual evil character, the soldiers undisciplined, the workmen unskilful, the pilot ignorant. They pass the mouth of the Mississippi, near which they should have disembarked, and arrive in Texas; the commander refuses to send the ship about, and La Salle makes up his mind to land where they are. Through the neglect of the pilot, the vessel which was carrying the provisions is cast ashore, then a gale arises which swallows up the tools, the merchandise and the ammunition. The Indians, like birds of prey, hasten up to pillage, and massacre two volunteers. The colonists in exasperation revolt, and stupidly blame La Salle. He saves them, nevertheless, by his energy, and makes them raise a fort with the wreck of the ships. They pass two years there in a famine of everything; twice La Salle tries to find, at the cost of a thousand sufferings, a way of rescue, and twice he fails. Finally, when there remain no more than thirty men, he chooses the ten most resolute, and tries to reach Canada on foot. He did not reach it: on May 20th, 1687, he was murdered by one of his comrades.

"Such was the end of this daring adventurer," says Bancroft.1 "For force of will, and vast conceptions; for various knowledge and quick adaptation of his genius to untried circumstances; for a sublime magnanimity that resigned itself to the will of Heaven and yet triumphed over affliction by energy of purpose and unfaltering hope, he had no superior among his countrymen. . . . He will be remembered in the great central valley of the West."

It was with deep feelings of joy that Mgr. de Laval, still in France at this period, had read the detailed report of the voyage of discovery made by Joliet and Father Marquette. But the news which he received from Canada was not always so comforting ; he felt especially deeply the loss of two great benefactresses of Canada, Madame de la Pel-trie and Mother Incarnation. The former had used her entire fortune in founding the Convent of the Ursulines at Quebec. Heaven had lavished its gifts upon her; endowed with brilliant qualities, and adding riches to beauty, she was happy in possessing these advantages only because they allowed her to offer them to the Most High, who had given them to her. She devoted herself to the Christian education of young girls, and passed in Canada the last thirty-two years of her life. The Abbd Cas-grain draws the following portrait of her: "Her whole person presented a type of attractiveness and gentleness. Her face, a beautiful oval, was remarkable for the harmony of its lines and the perfection of its contour. A slightly aquiline nose, a clear cut and always smiling mouth, a limpid look veiled by long lashes which the habit of meditation kept half lowered, stamped her features with an exquisite sweetness. Though her frail and delicate figure did not exceed medium height, and though everything about her breathed modesty and humility, her gait was nevertheless full of dignity and nobility; one recognized, in seeing her, the descendant of those great and powerful lords, of those perfect knights whose valiant swords had sustained throne and altar. Through the most charming simplicity there were ever manifest the grand manner of the seventeenth century and that perfect distinction which is traditional among the families of France. But this majestic ensemble was tempered by an air of introspection and unetion which gave her conversation an infinite charm, and it gained her the esteem and affection of all those who had had the good fortune to know her." She died on November 18th, 1671, only a few days after the departure for France of the apostolic vicar.

Her pious friend, Mother Mary of the Incarnation, first Mother Superior of the Ursulines of Quebec, soon followed her to the tomb. She expired on April 30th, 1672. In her numerous writings on the beginnings of the colony, the modesty of Mother Mary of the Incarnation has kept us in the dark concerning several important services rendered by her to New France, and many touching details of her life would not have reached us if her companion, Madame de la Peltrie, had not made them known to us. In Mother Incarnation, who merited the glorious title of the Theresa of New France, were found all the Christian virtues, but more particularly piety, patience and confidence in Providence. God was ever present and visible in her heart, acting everywhere and in everything. We see, among many other instances that might be quoted, a fine example of her enthusiasm for Heaven when, cast out of her convent in the heart of the winter by a conflagration which consumed everything, she knelt upon the snow with her Sisters, and thanked God for not having taken from them, together with their properties, their lives, which might be useful to others.

If Madame de la Peltrie and Mother Mary of the Incarnation occupy a large place in the history of Canada, it is because the institution of the Ursu-lines, which they founded and directed at Quebec, exercised the happiest influence on the formation of the Christian families in our country. " It was," says the Abbe Ferland, "an inestimable advantage for the country to receive from the schools maintained by the nuns, mothers of families reared in piety, familiar with their religious duties, and capable of training the hearts and minds of the new generation." It was thanks to the efforts of Madame de la Peltrie, and to the lessons of Mother Incarnation and her first co-workers, that those patriarchal families whose type still persists in our time, were formed in the early days of the colony. The same services were rendered by Sister Bourgeoys to the government of Montreal.


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