Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Chapter XIV The Growth of Quebec

A QUARTER of a century had elapsed since the founding of Quebec, and still it could scarcely be regarded as other than a village, while in some parts of New France colonization was absolutely null. Agriculture had received some attention in the vicinity of Quebec, but it was on such a small scale that it should be termed gardening rather than farming.

Charlevoix writes: "The fort of Quebec, surrounded by a few wretched houses and some sheds, two or three cabins on the island of Montreal, as many, perhaps, at Tadousac, and at some other points on the river St. Lawrence, to accommodate fishers and traders, a settlement begun at Three Rivers and the ruins of Port Royal, this was all that constituted New France—the sole fruit of the discoveries of Verrazzani, Jacques Cartier, de Rob-erval, Champlain, of the great expenses of the Marquis de la Roche and de Monts, and of the industry of many Frenchmen, who might have built up a great colony had they been well directed."

The various companies, as we have seen, took no interest whatever in settling the country, their chief design being to carry on fur trade with the Indians.

Patriotism had no meaning for them, the all-absorbing question was money. This was not the case, however, with the company established by Cardinal Richelieu, whose desire was to christianize the savages, to found a powerful colony, and to secure for his king the possession of New France. The principal associates of this company were pious, patriotic and zealous men, who laboured to extend the power and influence of France throughout the vast continent of America for the honour and glory of God. There were among the associates a certain number of gentlemen and ecclesiastics, who, realizing their incapacity to transact the business of such an important undertaking, preferred to hand over the administration to merchants of Dieppe, Rouen and Paris, together with the advantages to be derived therefrom. A special association was consequently formed, composed of merchants who undertook the financial affairs of the settlement, such as paying the new governor, providing ammunition and provisions, and maintaining the forts; and if there were profits they were to be divided amongst the Hundred Associates. This association was formed before the departure of Champlain for Quebec in 1633. Its agents were a merchant of Rouen named Rosde, and Cheffault, a lawyer of Paris, who had a representative at Quebec.

As it was necessary for the Hundred Associates to appoint a governor of New France, they offered the position to Champlain, as he was universally respected and known to be experienced and disinterested. Moreover he was well acquainted with the country, and on friendly terms with the savages. It is dqubtful whether any one could have taken his place with better prospects of success. Champlain, moreover, desired to finish his work, and although there was much to accomplish, the future appeared more favourable than at any other time. The company had a large capital at its disposal, and this alone seemed to insure the success of the colony. Three ships were equipped for Quebec in the spring of 1633, the St. Pierre, one hundred and fifty tons burden, carrying twelve cannon ; the St. Jean, one hundred and sixty tons, with ten cannon, and the Don de Dieu, eighty tons, with six cannon. The ships carried about two hundred persons, including two Jesuits, a number of sailors and settlers, and one woman and two girls. Provisions and ammunition were in abundance. When the fleet arrived in the St. Lawrence, Champlain saw a number of English trading vessels which were there contrary to the treatyof St. Germain-en-Laye. From this moment Champlain resolved to establish a fixed post for trading, both for the Indians as well as strangers. The island selected for this purpose by Champlain was situated in the river St. Lawrence, about ten leagues above Quebec, and was named Richelieu Island.

Champlain caused the island to be fortified as soon as possible, and surrounded it with a platform, upon which cannon were placed pointing in every direction. Sentinels were placed on guard, and it would have been impossible for vessels to pass unobserved. The Indians were informed of this new plan, and in the autumn of the same year, the Nipissings and the Algonquins of the Iroquet came to. this island for trading. The Hurons, however, came to Quebec, as they had heard from the Algonquins of Allumette Island that the French would take revenge for the murder of Etienne Bruld. Champlain did not desire to punish them for the death of this traitor, and he therefore did his best to retain the friendship of the Indians, and entertained them at public feasts. He knew well that their fur trade was of great importance, and, moreover, he wanted them as allies in the event of an attack by the Iroquois, which might be expected at any time, as they were unreliable and always anxious for war. A league with the Hurons, Algonquins and Montagnais, with one hundred French, would, in the opinion of Champlain, be sufficient to protect the colony, and he wrote to that effect to the cardinal. This was probably his last letter to the great minister:—

" Monseigneur :—The honour of the commands that I have received from your Eminence has inspired me with greater courage to render you every possible service with all the fidelity and affection that can be desired from a faithful servant. I shall spare neither my blood nor my life whenever the occasion shall demand them.

"There are subjects enough in these regions, if your Eminence, considering the character of the country, shall desire to extend your authority over them. This territory is more than fifteen hundred leagues in length, lying between the same parallels of latitude as our own France. It is watered- by one of the finest rivers in the world, into which empty many tributaries more than four hundred leagues in length, beautifying a country inhabited by a vast number of tribes. Some of them are sedentary in their mode of life, possessing, like the Muscovites, towns and villages built of wood; others are nomadic hunters and fishermen, all longing to welcome the French and religious fathers, that they may be instructed in our faith.

"The excellence of this country cannot be too highly estimated or praised, both as to the richness of the soil, the diversity of the timber such as we have in France, the abundance of *wild animals, game and fish, which are of extraordinary magnitude. All this invites you, monseigneur, and makes it seem as if God had created you above all your predecessors to do a work here more pleasing to Him than any that has yet been accomplished.

"For thirty years I have frequented this country, and have acquired a thorough knowledge of it, obtained from my own observation and the information given me by the native inhabitants. Monseigneur, I pray you to pardon my zeal, if I say that, after your renown has spread throughout the East, you should end by compelling its recognition in the West.

"Expelling the English from Quebec has been a very important beginning, but, nevertheless, since the treaty of peace between the two crowns, they have returned to carry on trade and annoy us in this river, declaring that it was enjoined upon them to withdraw, but not to remain away, and that they have their king's permission to come for the period of thirty years. But, if your Eminence wills, you can make them feel the power of your authority. This can furthermore be extended at your pleasure to him who has come here to bring about a general peace among these people, who are at war with a nation holding more than four hundred leagues in subjection, and who prevent the free use of the rivers and highways. If this peace were made, we should be in complete and easy enjoyment of our possessions. Once established in the country, we could expel our enemies, both English and Flemings, forcing them to withdraw to the coast, and, by depriving them of trade with the Iroquois, oblige them to abandon the country entirely. It requires but one hundred and twenty men, light armed for avoiding arrows, by whose aid, together with two or three thousand savage warriors, our allies, we should be, within a year, absolute masters of all these people; and by establishing order among them, promote religious worship and secure an incredible amount of traffic.

"The country is rich in mines of copper, iron, steel, brass, silver, and other minerals which may be found here.

"The cost, monseigneur, of one hundred and twenty men is a trifling one to His Majesty, the enterprise the most noble that can be imagined.

"All for the glory of God, whom I pray with my whole heart to grant you ever increasing prosperity, and to make me all my life, monseigneur, your most humble, most faithful and most obedient servant, "CHAMPLAIN. "At Quebec, in New France, August 15th, 1635."

In order to consolidate his general scheme for the colonization of the country, Champlain desired that the missionaries should settle permanently among the Huron tribes. The Jesuits wished to go there, as they believed they would find a field for their labours. They had previously set before the people the light of the Catholic faith, but these efforts had not been as successful as they had wished. Father de Brdbeuf, the apostle to the Hurons, having decided to return to his former sphere of labours, left for the Huron country in 1634, prepared to remain there as long as there was work to be done. He was destined to live among the Hurons until they were finally dispersed by the Iroquois.

When Champlain arrived at Quebec, he summoned Emery de Caen to deliver to Duplessis-Bochart the keys of the fort and habitation. Champlain's arrival caused much rejoicing among the inhabitants, for he inspired both their love and respect, and he was, perhaps, the only man who could impress them with a belief in their future, and thus retain them in the country. The arrival of a certain number of settlers during the years 1633-4, was also an encouragement for all. The restoration of Canada to France caused some excitement in the maritime provinces of France, especially in Normandy, as most of the settlers of New France up to this date were from there. The exceptions were, Louis Hubert, a native of Paris, and Guillaume Couillard, of St. Malo. Emigration soon extended to other parts of the provinces, as the result of the discrimination of the Relations of the Jesuits, which had been distributed in Paris and elsewhere during the years 1632 and 1633. Several pious and charitable persons began to take an interest in the missions of New France, and forwarded both money and goods to help them.

Some nuns offered to go to Canada to look after the sick and to instruct the young girls, and in the year 1633 a few families arrived in Quebec with Champlain, who had defrayed their expenses.

In the year 1634 an association was formed in France for the purpose of promoting colonization, and a group of about forty persons, recruited in different parts of the province of Perche, were sent to Canada, with Robert Giffard at their head. Gif-fard, it will be remembered, had visited Quebec in the year 1627 as surgeon of the vessels sent out by the company, but he had no intention of settling in the country. After having built a log hut on the Beauport shore, he devoted his leisure to hunting and fishing, game and fish being plentiful at that time, and returned to France during the same year. He was appointed surgeon to Roquemont's fleet during the following year, and as the vessels were captured by the English, he, with the others on board, was compelled to return to his mother country. This misfortune did not discourage the former solitary inhabitant of Beauport, and he resolved to revisit the country, but this time with a view of settling and of farming.

Giffard had suffered many losses, and as a compensation for his services and misfortune, he obtained a tract of land from the Company of New France, one league in length and a league and a half in breadth, situated between the rivers Montmorency and Beauport, bounded in front by the river St. Lawrence, and in the rear by the Lauren-tian Mountains. He was also granted as a special favour, a tract of land of two acres in extent, situated near the fort, for the purpose of building a residence, surrounded with grounds. These concessions, which seem large at first sight, were, however, not new to the colony. Louis Hubert had been granted the fief of the Sault au Matelot, and the fief Lepinay, while the Jesuits had received the fief of Notre Dame des Anges almost free of conditions.

Under these favourable conditions Giffard induced two citizens of Mortagne, Zacharie Cloutier and Jean Guyon, to accompany him to Canada. Cloutier was a joiner, and Guyon a mason. They promised their seignior that they would build him a residence, thirty feet long and sixteen feet wide.

The other emigrants came to Canada at their own risk. The party numbered forty-three persons, including women and children, and were within a space of from five to eight leagues of Mortagne, the chief town of the old province of Perche. There were two exceptions, however, Jean Juchereau came from La Fertd Vidame in Thimerais, and Noel Langlois was from St. Leonard, in Normandy.

The vessels bearing the contingent of settlers arrived in Quebec in June. They were four in number, under the command of Captains de Nesle, de Lormel, Bontemps, and Duplessis-Bochart. Robert Giffard had preceded the party by a few days, and he lost no time in selecting the spot where his residence was to be built, upon which he planted a cross on July 25th. He also commenced clearing the land, and two years after he gathered in a harvest of wheat sufficient to maintain twenty persons. The soil in this part was very productive, and it is, even to-day, the richest in the province of Quebec.

Among the emigrants of the year 1634 were two remarkable men, Jean Bourdon, and a priest named Jean LeSueur de St. Sauveur. The Abbd LeSueur de St. Sauveur had abandoned his parish of St.

Sauveur de Thury, which is to-day known as Thury-Harcourt, in Normandy, to come to Quebec. One of the suburbs of Quebec to-day takes its name from this,active and devoted priest.

Jean Bourdon, an inseparable friend of the abbd, established himself on the borders of Coteau Ste. Genevieve, which is to-day known as St. John's suburb. He built a house and a mill, and also a chapel, which he named Chapel St. Jean. Other pioneers soon settled near Bourdon's place, which finally gave to Quebec a suburb.

Bourdon was a man of great capacity, and he in turn filled the role of surveyor, engineer, cartographer, delineator, farmer, diplomat and lawyer. He saw the colony increasing, and knew eight governors of the colony, including Champlain. He was also acquainted with Bishop Laval, the Venerable Mother Marie Guyart de l'lncarnation, and was on good terms with the Jesuits and the nuns of the Hotel Dieu and Ursuline Convent. Bourdon played an important part in the affairs of the colony. He was present at the foundation of the Jesuits' college, of the Quebec seminary, and of the Conseil Sou-verain, of which he was procureur fiscal. Of his personal qualities, the Venerable Mother de l'lncarnation has written that he was "the father of the poor, the comfort of orphans and widows, a good example for everybody."

One of the articles of the act incorporating the Company of New France, provided that the colony was to be settled with French and Catholic subjects only. This provision may appear at first sight to be arbitrary, but "when we consider that one of the chief objects of the colonization of New France was to convert the savages, and that the Huguenots with their new form of religion were, generally speaking, hostile to the king and to the Catholics, it seems to have been a judicious provision. In such a small community the existence of two creeds so opposed to each other could hardly have produced harmony, and as the Catholics were undertaking the enterprise and it originated with them, they surely had the right to do what they considered would most effectively secure their ends.

For political reasons this action could also be defended, for the loyalty of the Huguenots was, perhaps, doubtful, and their past actions did not offer any guarantee for the future. They did not hesitate to preach revolt against the authorities of France, and, therefore, intimate connection with the Indians might have produced results prejudicial to the colony. If France had the welfare of the colony at heart, it behooved her to exclude every disturbing element. Viewed impartially, this precaution was undoubtedly just, and those who blame the company for their action, do not rightly understand the difficulties which existed at that period.

Richelieu, who had a clear insight into, the affairs of the time, did not prohibit trade between the Huguenots and the Indians, but he refused them permission to settle in Canada, or to remain thete for any length of time without special leave. Champlain had observed the attitude of the Huguenots, their unwillingness to erect a fort at Quebec, their persecution of the Catholics, and their treatment of the Jesuits, and although he was not fanatical, he was pleased with this rule. The foundation of the new settlement was based upon religion, and religion was essential to its progress. Peace and harmony must be maintained, and everything that would promote trouble or quarrel must be excluded.

During the seventeenth century, England preserved a warlike attitude towards Catholics. A Catholic was not eligible for a public office, and the learned professions were closed to them, neither could a Catholic act as a tutor or as an executor to a will. Prejudice was carried still further, and even the books treating of their faith were suppressed, while relics or religious pictures were forbidden. These were only a few of the persecutions to which they were subject.

As far back as 1621 Champlain had requested the king to forbid Protestant emigration to Canada, but his petition was not granted, because the company was composed of mixed creeds. The company formed by Richelieu, however, was solely Catholic, and there were no difficulties on this score. The result of this policy was soon manifest. There were no more dissensions on board the vessels as to places of worship, and the Catholics were, as a consequence, enabled to observe their religious duties without fear of annoyance. The beneficent influence of this policy extended to the settlement, where the people lived in peace, and were not subject to the petty quarrels which arose through a difference in creed.

In the Relation of 1637 we find evidence of this: "Now it seems to me that I can say with truth that the soil of New France is watered by so many heavenly blessings, that souls nourished in virtue find here their true element, and are, consequently, healthier than elsewhere. As for those whose vices have rendered them diseased, they not only do not grow worse, but very often, coming to breathe a salubrious air, and far removed from opportunities for sin, changing climate they change their lives, and a thousand times bless the sweet providence of God, which has made them find the door to felicity «where others fear only misery.

"In a word, God has been worshipped in His houses, preaching has been well received, both at Kdbec and at the Three Rivers, where Father Bu-teux usually instructed our French people; each of our brethren has been occupied in hearing many confessions, both ordinary and general; very few holidays and Sundays during the winter have passed in which we have not seen and received persons at the table of our Lord. And certain ones, who for three, four and five years had not confessed in old France, now, in the new, approach this so salutary sacrament oftener than once a month; prayers are offered kneeling and in public, not only at the fort, but also in families and little companies scattered here and there. As we have taken for patroness of the Church of Kdbec the Holy Virgin under the title of her Conception, which we believe to be immaculate, so we have celebrated this festival with solemnity and rejoicing.

"The festival of the glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, father, patron and protector of New France, is one of the great solemnities of this country. . . . It is, in my opinion, through his favour and through his merits, that the inhabitants of New France who live upon the banks of the great river Saint Lawrence, have resolved to receive all the good customs of the old and to refuse admission to the bad ones.

"And to tell the truth, so long as we have a governor who is a friend of virtue, and so long as we have free speech in the Church of God, the monster of ambition will have no altar there.

"All the principal personages of our colony honour religion; I say with joy and God's blessing, that those whom His goodness has given to command over us, and those also who are coming to establish themselves in these countries, enjoy, cherish, and wish to follow the most sincere maxims of Christianity. . . . Justice reigns here, insolence is banished, and shamelessness would not dare to raise its head. ... It is very important to introduce good laws and pious customs in these early beginnings, for those who shall come after us will walk in our footsteps, and will readily conform to the example given them by us, whether tending to virtue or vice."

We could multiply evidence on this point. The Jesuits always recall this good feature of the settlers, their respect for their religion, its worship and its ministers.

The author of the "Secret Life of Louis XV," says that New France owed its vigour to its first settlers; their families had multiplied and formed a people, healthy, strong, honourable, and attached to good principles. Father Le Clercq, a Rdcollet, the Venerable Mother de l'lncarnation, and many others, seem to take pleasure in praising the virtues of our first ancestors.

Champlain had begun his administration by establishing order everywhere, and chiefly among the soldiers, who easily Understood military discipline, but the religious code with more difficulty. Fort St. Louis was like a school of religion and of every virtue. They lived there as in a monastery. There was a lecture during meals ; in the morning they read history, and at supper the lives of saints. After that they said their prayers, and Champlain' had introduced the old French custom of ringing the church bells three times a day, during the recitation of the Angelus. At night, every one was invited to go to Champlain's room for the night's prayer, said by Champlain himself.

These good examples, given by Champlain, governor of the country, were followed, and produced good fruits of salvation among the whole population. The blessing of God on the young colony was evident, and when Champlain died, he had the consolation of leaving after him a moral, honest and virtuous people.

Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.