autumn of the year 1635,
Champlain suffered from a stroke of paralysis, which was considered very
severe from the commencement. However, hopes were entertained for his
recovery. The months of October and November passed away, and still no
sign of improvement appeared. Champlain, therefore, made his will, which
he was able to sign plainly, in the presence of some witnesses. Father
Charles Lalemant, the friend and confessor of Champlain, administered to
him the last rites of the church, and on the night of December
25th, 1635, he passed
away at Fort St.
the inhabitants, without exception, were deeply affected on hearing the
news of his demise, and a great number attended his funeral. The funeral
sermon was preached by Father Le Jeune. Champlain was buried in a grave
which had been specially prepared, and later on, a small chapel was
erected to protect his precious remains. This chapel was unfortunately
burnt, as we have already mentioned, during the conflagration of June
Jesuits' Relations of 1636 give a full account of the last days of
Champlain, which we here quote: " On December 25th, the day of the birth
of our Saviour upon earth, Monsieur de Champlain, our governor, was
reborn in Heaven; at least we can say that his death was full of
blessings. I am sure that God has shown him this favour in consideration
of the benefits he has procured for New France, where we hope some day
God will be loved and served by our French, and known and adored by our
savages. Truly he had led a life of great justice, equity and perfect
loyalty to his king and towards the gentlemen of the company. But at his
death he crowned his virtues with sentiments of piety so lofty that he
astonished us all. What
tears he shed. How
ardent became his zeal for the service of
God! How great was his love for the families
here—saying that they must be vigorously assisted for the good of the
country, and made comfortable in every possible way in these early
stages, and that he would do it if God
gave him health. He
was not taken unawares in the account which
he had to render unto God, for he had long ago .prepared a general
confession of his whole life, which he made with great contrition to
Father Lalemant, whom he honoured with his friendship. The father
comforted him throughout his sickness, which'lasted two months and a
half, and did not leave him until his death. He had a very honourable
burial, the funeral procession being formed of the people, the soldiers,
the captains and the churchmen. Father Lalemant officiated at this
burial, and I was charged with the funeral oration, for which I did not
lack material Those whom he left behind have reason to be well satisfied
with him; for although he died out of France, his name will not
therefore be any less glorious to posterity."
Champlain left no posterity. His wife spent only four years in Canada,
after which she resided continually in Paris. During her residence in
New France, she studied the Algonquin language, and instructed the young
Indians in catechism, and in this manner she won the friendship of the
native tribes. It was the fashion of the time for a lady of quality to
wear at her girdle a small mirror, and the youthful H£l£ne observed the
custom. The savages, who were delighted to be in her company, were oft
time astonished to see their own image reflected on the crystalline
surface of this mirror, and said, with their native simplicity: "A lady
so handsome, who cures our diseases, and loves us to so great an extent
as to bear our image near her breast, must be superior to a human
being." They, therefore, had a kind of veneration for her, and they
would have offered their homage to her instead of to the Deity of whom
they had only an imperfect knowledge.
Indians were Madame Champlain's special care, but she was respected by
the French as well. We do not know very much about her social
intercourse with the different families of Quebec, but it is not
probable that she ignored Madame Hubert or her family, as Faillon seems
to believe. Her own distinction and the position of her husband would,
no doubt, render her particular in the choice of friends, but we can
scarcely believe that she would completely ignore Madame Couillard, who
was of her own age. How was it that she consented to live alone in
Quebec during the long absence of her husband?
After her return to Paris in 1624,
Madame Champlain lived alone, and became more and more detached from the
world, till she asked her husband to allow her to enter an Ursuline
convent. Champlain, fearing that this desire might arise rather from
caprice than a vocation for the life of the cloister, thought it
advisable to refuse her request, and he bade her a last adieu in
1633. After Champlain's death, Father Le
Jeune informed her that she was now free to follow the dictates of her
According to the marriage settlement, Champlain
was obliged to leave to his wife, if she were still
living, all his possessions. By his last will, however, he left all his
property to the church. Champlain had no desire to injure his wife by
this act; on the contrary, he knew that her piety was great, and that
she would probably applaud the course fie had taken, which was owing to
his extraordinary devotion to Notre Dame de la Recouvrance, the church
which he had built and loved. Madame Champlain, in fact, made no
opposition, and the will was confirmed on July 11th, 1637. The will,
however, was contested by Marie Camaret, a first cousin of Champlain,
and wife of Jacques Hersault, comptroller of customs at La Rochelle, and
a famous trial was the result. The will was contested on two grounds:
(1.) That the will was contrary to the marriage settlement, and
therefore ought to be annulled ; (2.) That the will was made by foreign
hands, as it was difficult to suppose that Champlain had chosen the
Virgin Mary as his heir.
These were the contentions of Master Boileau. The attorney-general
Bignon easily refuted the second allegation by proving that Madame
Champlain had recognized the signature of her husband, and had stated
that the expression and style were his. The terms of this bequest to the
Virgin were quite natural to a man of Champlain's character, "When we
know," said the attorney, " that he frequently made use of Christian
expressions in his general conversation."
Although the authenticity of the will was proved, the attorney-general
argued that it ought to be set aside in face of the deed of settlement.
The court upheld this view, and the property of Champlain, with the
exception of the sum of nine hundred livres, derived from the sale of
his chattels, returned to his natural heirs.
This trial and other affairs prevented Madame Champlain fr6m carrying
out her resolution, and it was not until November 7th, 1645, that she
entered the monastery of St. Ursula at Paris. She first entered the
institution as a benefactress, and soon after became a novice under the
name of Hdlene de St. Augustin. There seems to have been some
difficulties with regard to her profession as a nun, and she therefore
resolved to found an Ursuline monastery at Meaux. Bishop Siguier granted
the necessary permission to found the monastery, and also for her to
take with her three nuns and a lay sister. Hdl&ne de St. Augustin left
Paris for Meaux on March 17th, 1648, and made her profession five months
after. As a preparation for this solemn act, she made a public
confession in the presence of the community. She also recited her
faults, kneeling, and wearing a cord about her neck, and bearing a
lighted taper in her hands. M&re Hdl&ne
de St. Augustin
lived only six years in her convent at Meaux, and died on December 20th,
1654, at the age of fifty years, leaving- the memory of a saintly life.
Eustache Boullts, the brother of H<516ue de St. Augustin, became a
convert to Catholicism through the intervention of his sister, and
entered the Minim order. He was sent to Italy, where he lived for six
years. During his sojourn there his sister sent to him one thousand
livres a year, and at her death she bequeathed to him the sum of six
thousand livres, and all her chattels, together with a pension of four
hundred livres for life.
those who have carefully studied the life of Champlain, have been
impressed by the many brilliant qualities which he possessed. Some have
praised his energy, his courage, his loyalty, his disinterestedness, and
his probity. Others have admired the charity which he exhibited towards
his neighbours, his zeal, his practical faith, his exalted views and his
perseverance. The fact is, that in Champlain all these qualities were
united to a prominent degree.
contemporaries of Champlain did not perhaps appreciate his merits, or
his heroic efforts as a founder. This is not altogether singular, for
even in the physical world one cannot rightly estimate the altitude of a
mountain by remaining close to its base, but at a distance a just
appreciation of its proportions may be obtained.
the contemporaries of Champlain failed to render him justice, posterity
has made amends, and Time, the sole arbitrator of fame, has placed the
founder of Quebec upon a pedestal of glory which will become more
brilliant as the centuries roll on.
Nearly three centuries had elapsed since the heroic Saintongeais first
set foot on the soil of Canada, when, at the close of the nineteenth
century, a spectacle was witnessed in the city of his foundation which
proved that the name of Champlain was graven on the hearts of all
Canadians. The ceremonies attending the inauguration of the splendid
monument which now adorns Quebec, have become a matter of history, and
seldom could such a scene be repeated again. France and England, the two
great nations from which Canadians have descended, each paid homage to
the illustrious founder; nor can we forget the noble tribute which was
paid by the latest English governor, representing Her Majesty Queen
Victoria, to the first French governor, representing His Majesty the
King of France and of Navarre.
is seldom that the deeds of the great men of past ages have been more
fittingly remembered. Champlain, as we have previously remarked,
possessed in an eminent degree all the qualities necessary for a
founder, and his character is therefore exceptional, for over and above
all the heroism he displayed, all his perseverance, his devotion to his
country, we behold the working of a Christian mind, and the desire to
propagate the faith of his fathers.
What would have been the result of the missions without his aid ? It was
Champlain who caused the standard of our faith to be planted on the
shores of Canada. It was he who brought the missionaries to the new
settlement, and maintained them at Quebec, at Tadousac, and in the Huron
country. It was Champlain, too, who founded the parochial church of
Quebec, and afterwards endowed it.
Champlain's work rested solely upon a religious foundation, hence his
work has endured. It is true that the founder of Quebec had certain
worldly ambitions: he desired to promote commerce between the French and
the Indians, but surely this is not a matter for which he should be
reproached. Without trade the inhabitants of the settlement could not
exist, and without the development of the settlement, his work of
civilization would necessarily end. He worked for the material
prosperity of the settlement, but not to increase his own fortune. The
development of trade was also essential to Champlain in his capacity of
explorer, and it was only through this means that he could extend the
bounds of his mother country. This was surely the wisdom of a true
patriot. What nobler ambition on earth could any one have than this, to
extend the kingdom of his God and of his king?
Champlain has been justly called
The Father of New France, and this is
certainly a glorious title. The name of Champlain is indissolubly
associated with this country, and will live long after his
contemporaries are forgotten, for many of them now only live through
America contains a number of tows which have carefully preserved the
names of their founders, whose memories Are
consecrated by monuments which will recall to future generations their
noble work. But where is the town or state that can point to a founder
whose work equalled that of Champlain ? He had to spend thirty of the
best years of his life in his endeavours to found a settlement on the
shores of the St. Lawrence. Twenty times he crossed the Atlantic in the
interests of the colony, and in the meantime he had constantly to combat
the influence of the merchants who vigorously opposed the settlement of
the French in Canada.
we study the history of the mercantile companies from the years 1608 to
1627, we find on the one- hand, a body of men absorbed by one idea, that
of growing rich, and on the other hand, a man, anxious, it is true, to
look after the material interests of the merchants and of the people,
but hand in hand with this the desire to extend the dominion of his
sovereign. Here was a vast country, capable of producing great wealth,
and struggling for its possession was a body of avaricious men, while
valiantly guarding its infancy, we find a single champion, the heroic
Champlain. Champlain watched over the new settlement with the tender
solicitude of a parent carefully protecting his offspring from danger,
and ready to sacrifice his life to save it from disaster. In small
vessels of sixty or eighty tons, Champlain had repeatedly exposed his
life to danger in crossing the ocean. His health had also been exposed
during the days and nights spent in the open forests, or when
passing on the dangerous rivers in his efforts to
explore new territory. He was also constantly at the mercy of the
Indians, whose treachery was proverbial. Under all these dangers and
through all these conditions, Champlain's conduct was exemplary. He was
charitable as a missionary towards these poor children of the woods.
When threatened with hunger or malady, he relieved their wants and took
care of the young children, some of whom he adopted. Others again he
placed in French families, hoping that sooner or later they would be
baptized into the fold of Christ's flock. In his intercourse with the
chiefs, Champlain took occasion to explain to them the rudiments of the
Christian faith, hoping thereby to pave the way for the work of the
missionaries. Whenever he found any children that seemed more
intelligent than usual, he sent them to France, where they could be
instructed, and either enter a convent or take service in some good
family. And who can tell whether some of these children did not
afterwards become missionaries to their own country?
Champlain's prudence in his dealings with the savages was not less
remarkable than his charity. This conduct gave him an influence over the
Indians that no other Frenchman was able to obtain. The Indian tribes
regarded Champlain as a father, but their love was mingled with a
reverential fear, and every word and action was of deep significance to
them. They had faith in Champlain, which after all was not unusual, for
lie had never deceived them. Though they were barbarous and uncouth, and
generally untruthful, they could distinguish the false from the true
from the lips of a Frenchman. Being given to dissimulation themselves,
they could appreciate sincerity in others.
Some writers have questioned Champlain's prudence touching the alliance
which he made with some Indians for the purpose of fighting the
aggressive Iroquois. We have already shown that if Champlain desired to
maintain his settlement at Quebec, such an alliance was not only
prudent, but essential. The Hurons and allied tribes, it is true, were
barbarous, though not to so great an extent as the Iroquois, but they
had the same vices and were as perfidious. The least discontent or whim
would have been sufficient for the whole band to have swept the fort
away. By making an alliance with them, and promising to assist them
against their inveterate foes, it became to their advantage to support
Champlain, and thus to render his people secure against attack. Moreover
the numerical strength of the settlers in the early days was not
sufficient for Champlain to have imposed terms by force of arms, and as
it was necessary for his people to trade with the Indians, he could not
have done better, under the circumstances, than to form this alliance,
which insured business relations and protection for his countrymen.
This alliance was undoubtedly made at a sacrifice to Champlain, and he
had to suffer many humiliations and privations thereby. We cannot
imagine that he found any pleasure in going to war with a lot of
savages, or in fighting against a ferocious band, with whom neither he
nor his people had any quarrel. It is certain that Champlain did not
encourage them in their wars, and he was careful not to put any weapons
into their hands. The same amount of prudence was not exercised by those
who came after the French and endeavoured to colonize New England and
Champlain's policy was one of conciliation. He desired peace, harmony
and charity above all things. As a respectful and obedient child of his
mother, the Catholic Church, he was very anxious that her teachings and
advice should be observed by those who were placed under his authority.
Although in his early fife he had followed the career of a soldier,
still he regarded the profession of arms as useful only to put into
question the ancient axiom,
Si vis pacem, para bellum. Wars and quarrels
had no attraction for Champlain, and he always preferred a friendly
arrangement of any difficulty. He was a lover of peace, rather than of
bloodshed, and the kindly nature of his disposition prevented him
adopting vigorous measures.
Nevertheless, in the fulfilment of his duty as a judge, he was just, and
would punish the guilty in order to restrain abuses or crimes. At this
period there was no court of justice in New France, but Champlain's
commission empowered him to name officers to settle quarrels and
disputes. There was a king's attorney, a lieutenant of the Prdvotd, and
a clerk of the Quebec jurisdiction, which had been established by the
king. Champlain, however, was often called upon to decide a point of
law, and we learn from his history that he was unable on account of
death to settle a point which had arisen between two of Robert Giffard's
Champlain's authority was very extended, and whatever good may have
resulted from his administration is due to the fact that he exercised
his power with wisdom and prudence. Champlain's influence has expanded
throughout the country wherever the French language is spoken, from the
Huron peninsula, along the Algonquins' river, from Sault St. Louis,
Tadousac and Quebec, and every one has recognized that Champlain alone,
among the men of his day, had sufficient patriotism and confidence in
the future of the colony to maintain and hold aloft under great
difficulties, the lily banner of France on our Canadian shores.
After having founded Quebec, Champlain, with characteristic wisdom,
chose the places where now stand the cities of Montreal and Three
Rivers. He was particularly fortunate in his selections, and any
buildings that he caused to be erected, were built from his own plans
and under his own directions.
the whole, Champlain's writings are very interesting, notwithstanding
the fact that he is somewhat diffuse in his style. Writing in the style
of the commencement of the seventeenth century, we see-traces,
especially in his figures and descriptions, of the beauties of a
language which was then in a transitory state. However, whether his
style may be commended or condemned, it is of little consequence, since
he has given to the world such ample details of his life and
achievements as a discoverer, an explorer and a founder. His writings
are the more remarkable from the fact that they were composed during the
scanty leisure of his daily life, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for
having sacrificed this leisure to give us such precious treasures.1
Such was the life of this peerless man, whose incessant labours
were dedicated to the service of God and the glory of France.
city of Quebec is justly proud of her noble founder, and it is a source
of gratification to the inhabitants to point to the stately monument
which stands upon the spot consecrated by the life and death of
Champlain. The inscription commemorates the great work of the founder,
and of his' explorations; but in the hearts of the people of Canada,
Champlain has a still more precious monument, and the flourishing
condition of our Dominion to-day is but the unconscious outcome of the
trial and labours of his heroic life.
historians who have written of Champlain attribute to him the qualities
which we have endeavoured to depict in these pages. Charlevoix, a
Jesuit, and the author of the first great history of Canada, written
about one hundred years after the death of the founder of New France,
"Champlain died at Quebec, generally and justly regretted. M. de
Champlain was, beyond contradiction, a man of merit, and may be well
Father of New France. He had good sense, much
penetration, very upright views, and no man was ever more skilled in
adopting a course in the most complicated affairs.. What all admired
most in him was his constancy in following up his enterprises, his
firmness in the greatest dangers, a courage proof against the most
unforeseen reverses and disappointments, ardent and disinterested
patriotism, a heart tender and compassionate for the unhappy, ' and more
attentive to the interests of his friends than his own, a high sense of
honour and great probity. His memoirs show that he was not ignorant of
anything that one of his profession should know, and we find in him a
faithful and sincere historian, an attentively observant traveller, a
judicious writer, a good mathematician and an able mariner.
what crowns all these good qualities is the fact that in his life, as
well as in his writings, he shows himself always a truly Christian man,
zealous for the service of God, full of
candour and religion. He was accustomed to say what we .read in his
memoirs, ' That the salvation of a single soul was worth more than the
conquest of an empire, and that kings should seek to extend their domain
in heathen countries only to subject them to Christ.' He thus spoke
especially to silence those who, unduly prejudiced against Canada, asked
what France would gain by settling it. Our kings, it is known, always
spoke like Champlain on this point; and the conversion of the Indians
was the chief motive which, more than once, prevented their abandoning a
colony, the progress of which was so long retarded by our impatience,
our inconstancy, and the blind cupidity of a few individuals. To give it
a more solid foundation, it only required more respect for the
suggestions of M. de Champlain, and more seasonable belief on the part
of those who placed him in his position. The plan which he proposed was
but too well justified by the failure of opposite maxims and conduct."
1880, the Reverend E. F. Slafter,1 a Protestant
minister, gave to the American nation an
appreciative description of the virtues of Champlain, from which we
quote the following passage: "In completing this memoir the reader can
hardly fail to be impressed, not to say disappointed, by the fact that
results apparently insignificant should thus far have followed a life of
able, honest, unselfish, heroic labour. The colony was still small in
numbers, the acres subdued and brought into cultivation were few, and
the aggregate yearly products were meagre. But it is to be observed that
the productiveness of capital and labour and talent, two hundred and
seventy years ago, cannot well be compared with the standards of to-day.
Moreover, the results of Champlain's career are insignificant rather in
appearance than in reality. The work which he did was in laying
foundations, while the superstructure was to be reared in other years
and by other hands. The palace or temple, by its lofty and majestic
proportions, attracts the eye and gratifies the taste; but its unseen
foundations, with their nicely adjusted arches, without which the
superstructure would crumble to atoms, are not less the result of the
profound knowledge and practical wisdom of the architect. The
explorations made by Champlain early and late, the organization and
planting of his colonies, the resistance of avaricious corporations, the
holding of numerous savage tribes in friendly alliance, the daily
administration of the affairs of the colony, of the savages, and of the
corporation in France, to the eminent satisfaction of all generous and
noble-minded patrons, and this for.a period of more than thirty years,
are proof of an extraordinary continuation of mental and moraF
qualities. Without impulsiveness, his warm and tender sympathies
imparted to him an unusual power and influence over other men. He was
wise, modest and judicious in council, prompt, vigorous and practical in
administration, simple and frugal in his mode of life, persistent and
unyielding in the execution of his plans, brave and valiant in danger,
unselfish, honest and conscientious in the discharge of duty. These
qualities, rare in combination, were always conspicuous in Champlain,
and justly entitle him to the respect and admiration of mankind."
These two quotations are sufficient to supplement the observations that
we have made, and there can be no doubt that posterity will forever
confirm this opinion of the life and labours of the founder of New
France, and that the name of Champlain will never be obliterated from
the memory of Canadians.
1567 or 1570—Birth
of Samuel Champlain.
makes a voyage to Spain.
expedition against the English to the West Indies.
1603—Goes to Canada
as lieutenant of Aymar de Chastes, viceroy of New France, explores the
river St. Lawrence to Sault St. Louis, and returns the same year.
Monts' fortune in Acadia as geographer and historian of the expedition;
lives on Ste. Croix Island and at Port Royal till the year 1607.
of de Monts, viceroy of New France, Champlain crosses the Atlantic and
expedition against the Iroquois. Leaves for France on September 5th.
returns to Quebec and goes back to France the same year. His marriage
with H£l&ne Boulld on December 80th,
comes again to Quebec; founds Montreal; sails for France on July 20th.
De Monts' company ceases to exist.
sails for Canada and explores the country as far as Allumette Island.
Goes to France. Comte de Soissons appointed viceroy of New France; dies
soon after. The Prince de Condd takes his place, and retains Champlain
as his lieutenant.
leaves France for Canada, where he stays till 1614.
Quebec with the Rdcollet Fathers; he goes as far as the Huron country;
particulars of these tribes, their customs, manners, etc.; Champlain
assists them in a war against the Iroquois; follows them and comes back
to the Huron country, where he spends the winter.
Quebec on May 20th; work of the missionaries in the meantime ; meeting
of the habitants
and result of their deliberations; memorandum addressed to the king;
Champlain goes to France.
sails from Honfleur on April 11th for Quebec; Louis Hubert's family
returns to France. Mardchal de Thymines appointed viceroy
per interim after Condd's dismissal.
Difficulties met by Champlain in 1617; his projects'laid before the
king. Champlain gains his point and preserves his former position.
his commission of viceroy to the Duke of Montmorency; Champlain's new
commission of lieutenant of the viceroy. Company of Montmorency formed
by the Duke of Montmorency.
comes back to Quebec with his wife, and stays there till the year 1624.
receives his instructions from Montmorency and from the king; entitled
to help the new company of merchants; conflict at Qucbec between the
agents of the old and of the new company; Champlain's firm attitude
settles the matter.
1622—The Company of
Montmorency rules the country.
recrosses the ocean, bringing his wife.
1625—Arrival of the
Jesuits. Champlain at Tadousac and at Quebec; his intercourse with the
Montagnais; the due de Ventadour named viceroy of New France; Champlain
resigns his office; Cardinal Richelieu organizes the Company of the
Hundred Associates; privileges granted to them; Champlain still living
to Quebec with provisions ; his vessels taken by Kirke; Quebec in
danger; correspondence between David Kirke and Champlain; the enemy
retires ; distress at Quebec for the want of food.
Quebec ; the capitulation ; fate of the inhabitants ; the missionaries
return to France together with Champlain; the last events at Tadousac.
goes to London ; negotiations between France and England through the
French ambassador; Champlain's visits to the king, and to Cardinal
Richelieu; Charles I ready to restore Canada, with certain conditions.
1632—The Treaty of
St. Germain-en-Laye terminates the dispute between the two countries,
and Quebec is restored to France.
Quebec of the Jesuits; history of their convent since 1626.
arrival in Quebec; history of the seminary of Notre Dame des Anges since
its foundation ; the Jesuits' missions at Miscou Island, in the Maritime
Provinces, Acadia, Baie des Chaleurs and Cape Breton. Champlain erects '
a church at Quebec.
French colonists from Per-che; Robert Giffard.
sickness and death ; his wife founds an Ursuline convent at Meaux.