Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Count Frontenac
Chapter II Canada before Frontenac, 1632 to 1672


CANADA had fallen into the hands of the English before the new company organized by Cardinal Richelieu was able to enter on the rights and privileges secured to it by the edict of incorporation, or even so much as to set foot in the country. Whatever there might be at Quebec in the way of buildings, fortifications, etc., was the property of the preceding company, of which one William de Caen was the head. It seemed advisable, therefore, to Cardinal Richelieu to send William de Caen, or some one deputed by him, out to Quebec to accept transfer of the country on behalf of the French king from Louis Kirke, who had remained in command there. De Caen named his brother Emery for this duty, and the latter, provided with all necessary papers and instructions, set sail from France towards the end of April 1632, and arrived at Quebec on the 5th of July. An order from King Charles of England, of which he was bearer, required Kirke to evacuate the place within eight days. The order was complied with, and the French resumed possession of Quebec three years, all but a month, after yielding it up to the English. Mention has

been made of the one genuine settler or habitant at Quebec, Louis Hebert. He had died some time before the capitulation; but his widow and her son-in-law, who had between them some seven acres of land under good cultivation, had remained in the country during the whole period of the English occupation. The Jesuit Relations tell of the joy of the widow at welcoming her own countrymen again, and particularly of the delight she manifested when her house was used as a chapel for the first celebration of mass after the French re-occupation. In the spring of the following year Champlain, who had been recommended by the new company as governor, and had received his appointment as such at the hands of the cardinal, set sail for Canada with three vessels, carrying in all about two hundred persons, more than half being intending colonists. The ships brought besides a liberal supply of stores, the company, in the new-broom stage of its existence, being desirous of improving on the methods and practices of its predecessors. Arriving at Quebec on the 23rd of May, Champlain took over the keys of the place from de Caen. His first care was to put the fort and other buildings, which were found to be in a ruinous condition, in proper repair. He next erected a chapel to replace the one formerly in use which had been destroyed; and, at the earnest request of the Huron Indians, he established a fort at Three Rivers to assist in protecting them against the incursions of the implacable Iroquois.

De Caen had brought out one or two Jesuit fathers with him, and others came with Champlain. Why the Rdcollets did not seize the first opportunity of returning to Canada is not very clear. In the year 1635 they had made arrangements for returning, but were requested by the intendant of the company in France to delay their departure. The next year they were plainly informed that the cardinal did not wish them to go to Canada. They were thus shut out from a mission-field which they had been the first to occupy, and it is not surprising that they felt considerably aggrieved, nor that they were disposed to attribute their exclusion to the machinations of the Jesuit order. The responsibility in the matter seems to have rested with the cardinal. It was he who sent out the Jesuit fathers; and not im-. probably he thought that there would be less friction and more progress if the field of New France were entrusted to a single order of ecclesiastics than if it were divided between two.

The laborious, useful, and heroic life of Champlain was now drawing to a-close. One of the last subjects that engaged his attention was the sale of liquor by traders and colonists to the Indians, a practice against which he issued the most stringent prohibitions, but which, as we shall have further occasion to see, proved a very difficult one to control. In the summer of 1635 he took advantage of the presence at Quebec of a large number of Hurons from the upper country to summon them and the French residents to a general assembly, in order that he might have an opportunity of urging upon them the duty and advantage of espousing the religion professed by the French. If their friendship with the French, he said, was to be maintained and strengthened, they must embrace the faith of the latter; and in that case God, who was all-powerful, would bless and protect them, and give them the victory over their enemies. They would also learn the arts of civilization, and in every way enjoy great happiness and prosperity. What impression this discourse made is not stated. In point of fact the Jesuits, who devoted themselves specially to mission work amongst the Hurons, had eventually a considerable measure of success in converting them to Christianity; but the unhappy tribe, instead of triumphing in war, became a more and more helpless prey to their heathen enemies, and, in about fifteen years from this date, were almost obliterated from the face of the earth.

Not long after the convoking of this assembly Champlain was smitten with paralysis; and on Christmas Day, 1635, he died in the sixty-ninth year of his age. His funeral sermon was preached by the Superior of the Jesuits, Father Le Jeune, and he was buried with all due honour in—as the Jesuit narrative tells us—a "sepulcre particulier"; but a careless posterity soon forgot even the place of his interment, and to-day the question as to where he was laid is a matter of antiquarian debate. The contingency of his death had been provided for by the company, who had placed in the hands of Father Le Jeune, a sealed letter, giving authority to a M. de Chateaufort to act as interim governor. The following summer M. de Montmagny came out from France as second governor of Canada. He appears to have been a man of firm and upright character, but the position to which he succeeded was an extremely difficult and critical one. The Jesuits were as yet having very limited success in the conversion of the native tribes, and were even incurring a dangerous amount of suspicion and hostility. They were accused of witchcraft; and it began to be commonly said amongst the savages that baptism was a sure precursor of death. There was truth in the allegation just to this extent, that the fathers, for the most part, were only allowed to baptize those who were already in a dying condition, particularly children. The confusion between post hoc and propter hoc is so common among the civilized and instructed, that we cannot be surprised if Hurons and Algonquins were not proof against it. The Iroquois at the same time were becoming more and more daring in their attacks, while the resources of the colony for repelling them were sadly inadequate. The Company of the Hundred Associates had made a fair beginning in the matter of sending out colonists and supplies—forty-five new settlers came out with Montmagny—but in a few years their capital began to run short, and it became a question whether the magnificent powers and privileges they possessed represented a very profitable business arrangement. The consequence was that, just as before under successive trading companies, the interests both of colonization and of defence were neglected.

But, if the company was lapsing into inertness, other agencies, not of a commercial character, were at work laying the foundations of institutions destined to exert a most important and lasting influence on the future life of the colony. The year in which Champlain died witnessed the establishment at Quebec by the Jesuit, M. dc Rohault, son of the Marquis de Gamache, of a college for boys. Four years later, in 1639, a vessel arrived from France bearing two ladies, of note, Madame de la Peltrie and Madame Guyard, M&re de l'lncarnation, whose mission was to establish a school for girls, white and Indian, and whose names are illustrious as the founders of the Ursuline Convent. On the same vessel were a number of nuns sent out by the Duchess d'Aiguil-lon to perform hospital duties : this was the origin of the Hotel Dieu. In the year 1641 M. de Maisonneuve, a pious- layman, conducted to Canada a small band of trusty followers whose destination was the Island of Montreal, where it was proposed to form a strictly Christian colony. With M. de Maisonneuve was a pious lady, Mdlle. Mance, who three years later became the founder of the Hotel Dieu at Montreal, funds for the purpose having been supplied by a rich benefactress in France, Madame de Bullion. Looking forward nine years, that is to say to 1653, we find the admirable Sister Margaret Bourgeoys establishing at Montreal the Congregation de Notre Dame for the education of girls. As Garneau well says, " the love of learning and charity gave birth in Canada to all the great establishments destined' for public instruction and the alleviation of human suffering."

The question may naturally be asked how it happened that Canada, at this very early stage of its history, attracted so much attention as a field for missionary and educational effort. An explanation is to be found in the fact that the Jesuits, from the time when they first entered on their work in this country, made a practice, under instructions from the head of their order, of writing year by year a narrative of their doings, which they despatched to France, and which was there published and circulated amongst those who were interested in religious work. These narratives constituted the celebrated Relations des Jesuitesy which form the chief source of information regarding the history of Canada for a period of over forty years. Of these interesting annals, forty volumes of which in all were published, Parkman has said : " The closest examination has left me no doubt that these missionaries wrote in perfect good faith, and that the Relations hold a high place as authentic and trustworthy historical documents." On the other hand the latest historian of the Jesuits in New France, the Rev. Father Rochemonteix, while also asserting the substantial accuracy of the Relations, acknowledges that " they do not reflect the complete physiognomy of New France; they only show one side of it, the most attractive, the most consoling, namely, the progress of Christianity, its toils and heroic struggles, and the valiant achievements of the colonists. The rest is intentionally left in the shade, passed over in silence. The other side of the physiognomy is omitted, or nearly so. What we have is history, but incomplete history."1 It was from these narratives, so carefully and skilfully edited for purposes of edification, that the impulse proceeded which moved pious souls to contribute, in some cases their labours, in others their wealth, to the advancement of the cause of religion in the wilds of Canada. The fathers told of their difficulties and discouragements ; but they told also of the many signs vouchsafed that Heaven was interested in their self-sacrificing efforts. Sometimes they made direct appeals for assistance. A Jesuit school for boys had been established, as already mentioned, as early as 1635. A few years later Father Le Jeune writes in the Relations: "Is there no charitable and virtuous lady who will come to this country to gather up the blood of Christ by teaching His word to the little Indian girls?" The call was answered in the establishment of the Ursuline Convent. It is not easy, in these days of swift, safe, and luxurious travel, to imagine what it was in the earlier part of the seventeenth century for women of delicate nurture to leave friends and home and civilized surroundings, and, braving the Atlantic storms in small, ill-equipped and comfortless vessels, to set their faces towards a continent lost in the distant west, amid whose forests a handful of pioneers were doubtfully holding their ground against the scowling hordes of savagery. The historian, Parkman, devotes two chapters of his Jesuits in North America to an account of these enterprises, and of the holy women whose names are inseparably connected with them. In Madame Guyard, M&re de l'lncarnation, who became Superior of the convent, he recognizes a very true woman, full of tender feeling, yet endowed with practical abilities of the first order. Of Margaret Bourgeoys, founder of the Congregation de Notre Dame at Montreal, he speaks with equal enthusiasm. "Her portrait," he says, "has come down to us; and her face is a mirror of frankness, loyalty, and womanly tenderness. Her qualities were those of good sense, conscientiousness, and a warm heart. Her religion was of the affections, and was manifested in an absorbing devotion to duty." He recognizes "in the martial figure of Maisonneuve, and the fair form of this gentle nun, the true heroes of Montreal."

Maisonneuve was the true type of the Christian warrior. An association of religious persons at Paris, of whom M. Jean Olier, founder of the Seminary of St. Sulpice, and M. Royer de la Dauversi&re were chief, had obtained from the Company of New France a grant of the greater portion of the Island of Montreal, and a considerable block of land to the east thereof on the north shore of the river St. Lawrence. To effect this it had been necessary to pay a considerable sum of money to extinguish a prior claim of one M. de Lauson, an officer of the company, to the same territory. Marvellous stories are told of the supernatural communications received by MM. Olier and Dauversi&re, by which the duty was laid upon them of sending a colony for purposes of evangelization to the Island of Montreal, of the existence of which, it is averred, they had no previous knowledge. However this may have been—natural means of knowledge, it may be observed, were available in the Relations of the Jesuits—an association was formed under the title of the Associates of Montreal; money was liberally subscribed; the island was purchased; and the members of the projected colony were brought together. A "Greatheart" was needed to conduct the little band; and Maisonneuve, who was home from the wars of the Low Countries, hearing of the holy enterprise, placed his sword and his life at the service of the association. In the month of May 1641 two small vessels sailed from La Rochelle, one bearing M. de Maisonneuve and twenty-five men, the other Mdlle. Mance, a Jesuit priest, and twelve other men. Both arrived safely at Quebec in the month of August. Governor Montmagny wished to keep what he regarded as a valuable reinforcement at Quebec; but Maisonneuve insisted on carrying out his mission. He went up to Montreal accordingly before the navigation closed, in company with the governor, to take formal possession of the island, but returned to winter in Quebec. In the spring he took his whole party up the river, arriving at Montreal on the 18th of May. Madame de la Peltrie leaving her own work at Quebec accompanied him, only to return, however, after a short stay. An altar was erected on the riverside, and mass was celebrated by the Jesuit father, Vincent, who afterwards delivered an address, in which he said he doubted not that the grain of mustard seed they were then sowing was designed by Providence to become a mighty tree.

The prophecy has been amply fulfilled, but many anxious years had to pass before the destiny of the tree was at all assured. The position of Montreal was far more precarious than that of Quebec, as it was so much more accessible to the sworn enemies of the colony, the Iroquois. For twenty-four years Maisonneuve held the post of military governor, edifying all by his piety, and inspiring confidence in all by his bravery and vigilance. The story of his trials and of his prowess, is it not told, with a rich blending of supernatural elements, in the naive record of Dollier de Casson, and the more comprehensive and systematic, but equally naive, history of the learned and unfailingly interesting Abbe Faillon? And yet—such is the irony of human events—when a very pious governor, the Marquis de Tracy, came out in 1665 as the king's lieutenant-general for all his North American possessions, one of his first acts, inspired, it is said, by the council at Quebec, was to dismiss this veteran warrior as being unfit for his position. Making no demur, attempting no self-justification, but bowing to the stroke, which he regarded as an intimation of the will of Providence, the brave Maisonneuve retired quietly to France, where he spent the remainder of his days.

After a service of twelve years as governor M. de Montmagny was relieved in 1648, and replaced by M. d'Ailleboust, who had previously exercised judicial functions at Montreal in close association with M. de Maisonneuve, whom he resembled in the exalted and ascetic character of his piety. The name of Montmagny had been translated by the Indians into "Onontio," signifying "Great Mountain"; and henceforth all French governors were, in Indian parlance, "Great Mountains." M. d'Ailleboust retained office only three years. During his administration, as during that of his predecessor, the Iroquois were incessant in their depredations, which they would sometimes carry on under the very palisades of Montreal. They succeeded during this period in all but exterminating the Hurons, their traditional foes and now allies of the French. One or two treaties were made with the aggressive savages, and once or twice they were repelled with loss; but the treaties were not to be depended on, nor were the defeats such as to give them serious check. One event which marked the latter part of M. de Montmagny's administration must not be overlooked. The Company of New France, or of the Hundred Associates, had, as we have seen, begun operations upon the retrocession of the colony by England in 1632. According to their charter their work was to be one of colonization as well as of trading; but ten years later the total French population of Canada, Montreal included, did not exceed two hundred souls. The country, instead of being developed, was being strangled, the company having absolute control, not only of the fur trade, but of its commerce generally, which it hampered in every possible way. Meantime the company itself was losing money. Negotiations were therefore entered into between the inhabitants, represented by M. de Repentigny, who went to France for the purpose, and the officers of the company. The result being that, in the month of January 1645, a treaty, as it was called, was made between the company on the one hand, and the inhabitants, through their delegate, on the other, by which the former, while retaining all their sovereign proprietary and feudal rights, with power of nominating the governor and the judges, threw open to the latter, not individually but as a community, the fur trade of Canada on condition that they should assume all expenses of civil administration and military defence, pay the salaries of the clergy, bring into the country every year twenty new colonists, and finally hand over to the company annually one thousand pounds weight of assorted beaver skins. The inhabitants were, by this arrangement, which received the royal sanction on the 6th March 1645, formed into a corporation, afterwards called the "New Company," to distinguish it from the Company of New France or the "Old Company." It was understood that the New Company would elect its own managers; while the Old Company reserved the right to keep certain officials of its own in the country to watch over its interests, throwing the cost of their maintenance, however, on the inhabitants in their corporate capacity.

This arrangement was received at the time with some satisfaction by the colonists, but in reality it was a most illiberal one, under which it was impossible for the country to thrive. Its immediate effect was to send nearly all the men'of the settlement into the woods, and to turn the wilder and more daring spirits into coureurs de hois, a class of men who will figure largely in our subsequent narrative. Two years later we find the inhabitants complaining to the king that the new scheme was working very badly, and giving rise to serious " abuses and malversations." The king did not know very well what to do about it; but by the advice of certain of his ministers he decided to place the government of the colony on a slightly wider basis, with just the least particle in it of a representative element. To this end he created a council which was to consist of the governor, the ex-governor, if he were in the country, the superior of the Jesuits, pending the appointment of a bishop, and two inhabitants to be selected by the council, or three if the ex-governor were not residing in the country. In addition, the three settlements of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers could each elect a "syndic," to hold office for three years, and to have a deliberative voice in the council, but no vote.

The effect of this measure, which seems to have been adopted without consulting the Company of New France, was to give the council full control of the fur trade of the country. That trade had to bear all the expenses of government, as well as provide for the toll to be paid to the Old Company; and it rested with the council to fix the proportion which the inhabitants should contribute out of the gross proceeds of the furs they either bought from the Indians or procured by the chase. If they bought from the Indians they would have to pay for them with goods purchased at the general stores, which again were controlled by the council or its nominees; and it was a constant matter of complaint that the prices of these goods were so high that it was impossible to trade with the Indians on any favourable terms; the latter, as a rule, having sense enough to put up their prices accordingly. A more burdensome system, or one more liable to abuse, could not easily be imagined.

In 1651, M. de Lauson was sent to replace M. d'Ailleboust. The question at this time was seriously debated whether the colony would not have to be abandoned. The settlement at Montreal was in imminent danger of extinction. Maisonneuve saw clearly that, with the scanty force he had, it was only a matter of time when the place would be at the mercy of the foe. He therefore sailed in this year for France, determined, if he could not obtain reinforcements, to return to Canada and bring all his people back to France. The position of matters at Quebec was little better. M£re de l'lncarnation writes: "The Iroquois have made such ravages in this part of the country that for a time we thought we should all have to return to France." Maisonneuve succeeded in his mission; but he was two years absent from the country, and meantime anxiety both at Quebec and at Montreal was at the highest pitch. He arrived in the month of September 1653, bringing with him over one hundred soldiers carefully chosen and well equipped, furnished, not by the government or the Hundred Associates, who were tolerably indifferent to the fate of Montreal, but by the company which had sent him out in the first place. The governor was anxious to keep the whole force at Quebec; and Maisonneuve had to exercise considerable firmness in order to be permitted to take them all with him to Montreal. It was in the vessel which brought out this detachment that Margaret Bourgeoys, whose name has already been mentioned, came to Canada. She was struck on her arrival by the desperately poverty-stricken look of the country. "There were at the time in the Upper Town" (of Quebec), she says, "only five or six houses, and in the Lower Town only the storehouse of the Jesuits and that of the Montreal people. The hospital nuns were dressed in grey. The poverty on all sides was something pitiable." The Quebec Ursulines were desirous that Sister Bourgeoys should join their community, and afterwards perhaps assist them in establishing a branch of their convent in Montreal; but the future foundress of the Congregation de Notre Dame knew her own mind. Her purpose in coming to Canada was to establish a school for girls at Montreal, and to Montreal she would go.

The weakness of the colony was painfully exhibited about this time in its dealings with the Iroquois. The principal remnant of the Huron nation, whose original settlements occupied the country between the Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, had taken refuge from their cruel enemies in the Island of Orleans just below Quebec. Even here, they were not left in peace. In the month of February 1654 a number of Iroquois came down to Quebec ostensibly to negotiate for peace, but secretly nourishing deadly designs against the unfortunate Hurons. What they proposed was that those who were settled on the Island of Orleans should leave their habitations there, go to the Iroquois country, and incorporate themselves, as a portion of their nation had already done, with the Iroquois confederacy. They also asked that a French colony, including a certain number of priests—black robes," as they called them—should be planted in their territory. Although these propositions were believed to mask the most murderous intentions, it was considered imprudent to reject them, as the colony was in no condition to withstand the general attack which it was feared would in that case ensue. After some delay, therefore, a colony consisting of over fifty French left Quebec in the early summer of 1656, the understanding being that the Hurons would follow later.

The Iroquois nation or confederacy comprised, as is generally known, five separate tribes, occupying the central and north-western portion of what is now the state of New York, and known —to mention them in geographical order from east to west—as Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. There was a keen competition between the Mohawks and the Onondagas, both for the French colony and for the possession of the remnant of the Hurons. The colony was sent to the Onondagas; and the Mohawks in a spirit of revenge made a descent on the Island of Orleans, killed a number of Hurons, and carried over eighty into captivity. In their retreat they, also committed various depredations under the very walls of Quebec—in so deplorable a condition of helplessness was even the citadel of French power in Canada. Two years later the French colony established among the Onondagas made its escape from impending massacre in a manner little short of miraculous; but meantime, in defiance and contempt of French authority, numbers of unfortunate Hurons had been slaughtered or carried into captivity.

M. de Lauson, the governor, does not seem to have been a man of any great force of character. Moreover he was now over seventy years of age, and, considering the helpless condition in which he was left—practically abandoned by the Old Company and very feebly supported by the New—it is scarcely surprising that he should have anticipated the conclusion of his term of office, and returned to France in the summer of 1656. His son, M. de Charny-Lauson, replaced him for a year, when he too sailed for France without awaiting the arrival of his successor, M. d Argenson. At his request M. d'Ailleboust consented to act as interim governor.

To the credit of the ecclesiastics it must be said that, whoever despaired of the situation in Canada, they never vdid. At the very time when the fortunes of the colony were at the lowest ebb, and the secular chiefs were debating whether it would not be necessary to retire, bag and baggage, the subject which chiefly occupied the minds of the clergy was the organization and government of the church. M. de Maisonneuve had brought out with him four Sulpician priests to minister to the needs of the inhabitants of Montreal, and one of them, M. de Queylus, was the bearer of letters from the Archbishop of Rouen, to whose diocese New France was attached, creating him vicar-general for the whole colony. Availing himself of the powers so conferred, M. de Queylus assumed the direction of the church in Canada; and when some signs of reluctance to recognize his authority manifested themselves in Quebec, he went to that city, took personal charge of the parish, and enforced at least an outward show of submission. The Sulpicians had hoped that M. de Queylus would be made bishop ; but the Jesuits, who for many years had been in exclusive charge of the religious interests of the colony, were considered to have the best right to make the nomination. They chose, with characteristic wisdom, a man who was destined to fill a most important place in the history of Canada, Francis Xavier de Laval-Montmorency, Abbe de Montigny. The negotiations for the appointment of the new prelate were of a very perplexed and protracted character, and it was not till the summer of 1659 that he arrived in Quebec, and then not as bishop of Quebec, but as vicar-apostolic, with the title of Bishop of Petraea in partibus. Laval was a man of great piety, and inflexible determination; and for a time there was friction between him and M. de Queylus, who, in his capacity as vicar-general of the Archbishop of Rouen, was disposed to claim an independent position for himself. Laval cut the controversy short by persuading the governor to ship M. de Queylus off to France; and, when he returned the following year, to ship him tack again. This time the Sulpician had to remain at home for several years; and the descendant of the Montmorencys achieved the first of a long series of victories over opposing forces.

In mentioning these incidents, however, we have run ahead by two or three years of the strict sequence of events. Argenson, the new governor, arrived on the 11th July 1658. He had hardly been twenty-four hours at his post before the Iroquois gave him a hint what to expect by making a raid in the immediate neighbourhood of Quebec. In the following year the whole country, but particularly Quebec, was thrown into trepidation over the news that an army composed of twelve hundred warriors, gathered from the five Iroquois nations, was advancing with fixed determination to wipe out all the French settlements. It would be needless to repeat here, even if the limits of a very cursory narrative permitted it, the glorious feat of arms by which this great danger was turned aside from the colony. The story of our Canadian Thermopylae is familiar to every school-boy and school-girl in Canada. Suffice it to say that the constancy of Dollard and the handful of companions who perished with him in defending a position they had hastily fortified on the river Ottawa, directly in the path of the invaders, so disheartened the latter that they relinquished their enterprise. When so few could hold so many at bay, what might not be expected when attack should be made on the fortified posts of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec? The abandonment, however, of their larger design did not involve any discontinuance of their accustomed mode of warfare. We hear of horrible butcheries committed on settlers in the neighbourhood of Montreal and even of Quebec; it seemed as if the colony could never get rest from its tormentors. The new governor was a man of courage and ability, but he lacked the means of effectually guarding against these treacherous attacks, while the destitute condition in which he found the colony filled him with discouragement. Whether general starvation or massacre was the more imminent danger was sometimes a grave question. Other difficulties arose. Argenson and Laval, the civil and religious heads of the state, found themselves at variance on points of ceremony and precedence; and the bishop, whose self-confidence was unbounded, undertook to give the governor certain doubtless well-meant admonitions, which the latter did not take in good part. The governor's health may, or may not, have been good, but he alleged that he was suffering from physical infirmities, and asked for his recall. He left for France in September 1661, his successor, Baron Dubois d'Avaugour, having arrived a few weeks previously. A remark which he made respecting the head of the Canadian church, in a letter written a year before his departure, may perhaps be put on record: " I can say with truth that his zeal on many occasions bears close resemblance to an extraordinary attachment to his own opinions, and a strong desire to encroach on the rights and duties of others."

The Baron d'Avaugour only remained two years in the country. When he arrived an earnest effort was being made by the clergy, headed by the bishop, to have the law against selling liquor to the Indians strictly enforced. The law was not popular in the country, and Avaugour thought it altogether too severe; still he allowed it to take effect in the case of two men who had been sentenced to death, and of one who had been condemned to be publicly whipped. Shortly afterwards a woman was imprisoned for a similar offence, and the Jesuit father, Lalemant, having pleaded for a relaxation of the law in her case, Avaugour, glad of a pretext to do away with it altogether, said that if the woman was not to be punished, no one should be. The result was that liquor began to be sold to the "natives almost without restraint, and with effects which one of the ecclesiastics said he had no ink black enough to describe Doubtless they were bad enough. The bishop fulminated from his episcopal throne against the practice, and launched excommunications right and left, but with little effect. He then decided on going to France and laying the whole matter before the government. He left in the summer of 1662; and it was while he was absent, that is to say in February of the following year, that an earthquake occurred of which the most extraordinary descriptions have come down to us. The only moderate account is that given by Avaugour himself, who says in a despatch: "On the 5th of February we had an earthquake, which continued during half a quarter of an hour, and was sufficiently strong to extort from us a good act of contrition. It was repeated from time to time during nine days, and was perceptible until the last of the month, but steadily diminishing." This was all an unimaginative mind like that of the baron could make of it, but not so with minds of another order. One pious soul saw four demons tugging at the four corners of the sky, and threatening universal ruin, which they would have effected had not a higher spirit appeared on the scene. We read that the air was filled with howlings as of lost spirits, and flashings of strange, unearthly lights, not to speak of a little detail of blazing serpents flying abroad on wings of fire. But the marvels that took place in the aerial regions were surpassed, if possible, by those that were witnessed on the solid earth. To take only one example out of many: some sailors coming from Gaspe, as P&re Charlevoix relates, saw a mountain "skipping like a ram," after which it spun round several times, and finally sank out of sight. Houses swayed to and fro till their walls nearly touched the street, and yet righted themselves in the end. Quebec and Montreal, which, even at this early period, did not pull well together, were somewhat at variance concerning the significance of the phenomenon. At Montreal the favourite theory was that the devil was enraged •to find God so well served in the colony; at Quebec the humbler view prevailed that the earthquake was a solemn warning to the people to abandon their evil ways, and be obedient to the teachings of the clergy. Considering that, despite the prohibitions of the clergy, the liquor traffic was just then at its height, the admonition could not have come more opportunely.

Laval, whose reputation for piety gave him great influence, the Abbd Faillon tells us, at the not altogether puritanical court of Louis XIV, was completely successful in his mission. Not only was the uncomplying Avaugour recalled, but the bishop himself was requested to nominate a successor. If the bishop had consulted the men by whom he had himself been chosen, he would likely have got good advice; but he followed his own judgment entirely and made a terrible blunder, as he did in a still more important matter some years later. His choice fell on a M. de Mdzy, recommended to him by the possession of an exalted and almost hysterical type of piety; and the two embarking on the same vessel arrived at Quebec on the 15th September 1663.

It would be taking a very one-sided and radically unjust view of Laval's character to consider him simply as a man of ability with a strong propensity to autocratic rule. A man of ability he was, and his temper was unbending; but that, from first to last, he took the deepest and most unselfish interest in the welfare of the Canadian people, and also of the Indian tribes, is not open to a moment's question; nor can it be denied that his views on the whole were broad and statesmanlike. It was when he was in France, in 1662, that he arranged for the establishment of that historic institution, the Quebec Seminary, the higher development of which is seen in the Laval University of to-day. A few years after his return he established the Lesser Seminary (Petit Sdminaire), as a school where boys could get a sound education under religious auspices, and whence the more promising among them might be drafted into the Grand Seminaire with a view to their preparation for the priesthood. Memorable also were the services rendered by him in the organization of a parochial system for Canada, which before his advent had been treated almost wholly as a mission field.

In February of the year 1663, the Company of New France, whose affairs had been going from bad to worse, made a voluntary surrender of all their rights and privileges to the king, leaving it to his discretion to make them such compensation as might be just for the capital they had sunk in their not very well-directed efforts. The king accepted the surrender, and, as a means of providing for the better administration of justice in the colony, and also the due control of its finances, he created by royal edict a Sovereign Council, which was to consist of the governor, the bishop, or other senior ecclesiastic, and five councillors chosen by them jointly. A year later he proceeded to charter a completely new company—as if the regime of companies had not been sufficiently tried—under the name of the West India Company. To it the entire trade of all the French possessions in America and on the west coast of Africa was transferred. The new company was virtually the creation of the great administrator, Colbert; and it may be assumed that he trusted to his own vigorous oversight and control to make it a success. He hoped, in fact, to succeed where a Richelieu had failed; experience had yet to teach him that no administrative ability, however eminent, can obtain prosperity from a system of close monopoly.

It was not long before Laval and his pocket governor (as he had hoped Mdzy would be) found themselves at daggers drawn. The quarrel was of so trifling a character that its details need not detain us; suffice it to say, that Laval represented the case to the court and procured his nominee's dismissal. The unfortunate man, however, whose weak mind was assailed with the most distressing spiritual fears, when he found himself under the ban of the church, accomplished a hasty reconciliation with the offended powers, and died, desperately penitent, before his successor reached Canada.

The West India Company was empowered by its charter to nominate the governor of Canada, but had voluntarily ceded that power to the king. The latter, under the inspiration probably of Colbert, was now taking a great interest in Canada. He was not going to leave it any longer at the mercy of the Iroquois, if a thousand or more good French soldiers could avail for its protection. As lieutenant-general over all his possessions in America, he appointed a brave old soldier of much distinction, the Marquis de Tracy; as governor of Canada in particular, M. de Courcelles; and as intendant—a new office—M. Jean Baptiste Talon. The Carignan-Sali&res Regiment, about twelve hundred strong, had been detailed for service in Canada, and was sent out in detachments, which arrived at intervals during the summer; Tracy himself with four companies reaching Quebec in June. Many of the men were landed sick of fever; twenty had died on shipboard in the St. Lawrence. Mere lTn-carnation, in one of her letters, attributes the malady to their having opened the portholes when they got into the river, and let in the fresh air too suddenly. In these days one is apt to conjecture that it was the confined air, not the fresh air, that did the mischief, and that the portholes might with advantage have been opened earlier.

Tracy was eager to move against the enemy, but, as he was obliged to await the arrival of the rest of his troops, he improved the interval by erecting forts on the line of his intended march, one at the mouth of the river Richelieu, known at that time as the Iroquois River, a second at Chambly, some forty miles up the stream, and two others at points still higher up. While this work was in progress Courcelles, the governor, Talon, the intendant, and the remainder of the troops reached 'Quebec (September 1665). Courcelles was even more eager for war than his superior officer; and as it was too late when the forts were finished, and the health of the troops had been sufficiently restored, to attempt a summer campaign, he obtained the consent of the marquis to organize a mid-winter one. Old inhabitants, who knew something of the rigour of the climate and the difficulties to be encountered on the march, tried to dissuade him from his purpose, but in vain. With a fatuity, of which military history furnishes, too many examples, Courcelles despised all such counsels of prudence. He started with five hundred men on the 10th of January, marching on the frozen St. Lawrence. The cold was fearful, and the expedition had proceeded but a short distance when the sufferings of the men became^ almost unendurable. At Three Rivers a number had to be left behind who had been disabled by frost-bites. Some reinforcements having been obtained at that point, the little army again set forth. Two hundred men out of the whole force were Canadians, and these naturally proved the fittest for the undertaking; nor did their superior quality fail to impress Courcelles. At last the expedition reached the Mohawk country, but the enemy were not there; they had gone off on some warlike adventure of their own. There was some burning of deserted cabins; but the position of the invading force began to be a precarious one, for the winter was now merging into spring, and there was danger that if the ice melted in the streams, their retreat would be cut off. The Mohawks were already hovering in their rear. By the time they reached the nearest of their forts they had lost sixty men by cold and hunger. The only thing that can be said in favour of the expedition is that it greatly impressed the minds of the Iroquois, as proving that the French had now the means of turning the tables on them and carrying the war into their own country.

The Iroquois showed some disposition to negotiate for peace ; but nothing came of it, and in September a larger expedition set out, commanded by Tracy himself, with Courcelles as second in command. This time they not only reached the Iroquois country, but, the savages having fled in panic, they were able at their ease to destroy a number of fortified villages and large quantities of food that had been laid up for the winter. The Iroquois were deeply impressed by these vigorous proceedings. They saw that a great change had come over the situation and resources of the French colony, when, instead of submitting helplessly to attack, they could equip two expeditions in one year to seek them out in their own habitations. They hastened, therefore, to renew their propositions of peace, and, as this time they were clearly in earnest, Tracy concluded a peace with them which held good for several years. The colony now had a rest, and the beneficial effects of it were soon evident. Two years later the Jesuit annalist writes : " It is beautiful now to see nearly all the banks of our river St. Lawrence occupied by new settlements, stretching along more than eighty leagues, making navigation not only more agreeable by the sight of houses dotting the riverside, but also more convenient through an increase in the number of resting-places." A charming picture is here given in very simple words.

We have already had occasion to mention incidentally the dismissal by Tracy of Maisonneuve. Whatever the motive of this harsh act may have been,its consequences were most unhappy. Maisonneuve was a man of incorruptible integrity. His successor, Francois Marie Perrot, was a man of good family and fine appearance, who enjoyed considerable protection at court and needed it all, for he had simply the instincts of a dishonest trader, and used his office for the sole purpose of personal gain. Tracy's connection with Canada was brief, for he was recalled in the year following that in which he made his campaign against the Iroquois, and the government of the country was left in the hands of Courcelles and Talon ; the former, as governor, representing the king in a military, political, and high administrative capacity; while the latter, as intendant, was entrusted with all that concerned the finances of the colony and its industrial and commercial development. The two heads of the state seem to have worked together at first, and for a considerable time, with commendable harmony. The governor was a judicious and capable administrator; the intendant, a man of wide views, of singular discretion, and of indefatigable industry. The Abbe Gosselin, in his Life of Laval, says that Talon "troubled himself little about the moral condition of the colony so long as he saw its commerce and industry flourishing "; and again that "he was never well disposed to the clergy, whose influence he feared, dreading that they might become too rich." It is probably the case that he was not very sympathetic with the ecclesiastical powers of the day, but he certainly did apply himself to promote the material prosperity of the colony. Amongst other things he caused three vessels to be built which were despatched to the West Indies with cargoes of dried fish, staves, and lumber; and also established a brewery at Quebec, in the hope of abating the consumption of imported spirits. If-he did not achieve a larger measure of success, it was because little was possible under a system of combined monopoly and paternalism. His reports to the home government speak of the country as prosperous. In 1670 he writes that the money granted by the king for the encouragement of families, and the different industries established, have had such a good effect, that now no one dares to beg, unless perhaps some unprotected child too young to work, or some man too old to work or incapacitated by accident or disease.

A census of the country taken by the intendant in the year 1666 showed a total population of 3418. The estimated number of men capable of bearing arms being 1344. The old Company of the Hundred Associates was, by the terms of its contract to have brought 4000 settlers to .the colony in fifteen years, dating from 1633; but Talon's figures proved that, in more than twice fifteen years, the whole population still fell considerably short of that number. The population of Quebec at this time was 555, of Montreal 584, and of Three Rivers 461. The seigniory of Beauprd below Quebec had 678 inhabitants and the Island of Orleans 471. The French government had for some years been showing much zeal in sending out settlers to Canada, and it was chiefly owing to its efforts that the population had increased to the extent indicated by the census. The total number of state-directed immigrants from 1664 to the close of the year 1671 is estimated at over 2500—a most substantial addition to the strength of the colony. The Sulpicians must also be credited with some useful activity in the cause of colonization. Their settlers were of course directed to Montreal, and, as the figures above quoted show, the population of that place already exceeded that of Quebec.

The patent granted to the Company of New France, or of the Hundred Associates, had made them lords of the whole territory of Canada, with power to concede seigniories therein of varying degrees of extent, importance and dignity. A few seigniories were established by that company; but, as we have seen, the country under its management was practically at a stand-still. All the rights which it had in the disposition of the land were transferred to the West India Company; and under Talon's regime the creation of seigniories proceeded much more rapidly, owing mainly to the fact that there were suitable applicants for them in the officers of the regiments which the king had sent out. The last few weeks he spent in the country were mainly occupied in this way. In one month he issued sixty patents.1 This was entirely in accordance with the intentions of the French government, which had promised lands to any of the officers or soldiers of the Carignan Regiment who might elect to settle in the country. A large number accepted the proposition ; and to provide wives for the excess of men existing in the colony the government was assiduous in sending out marriageable girls, on the whole very carefully selected, who as a rule were snapped up immediately on arrival by wistful bachelors or disconsolate widowers. If any were slow in finding partners owing to lack of visible attractions, they were bonused in money and household goods, which usually had the effect desired. Bounties were moreover paid throughout the colony for early and fruitful marriages; and the administrators were instructed to see that special respect was paid to the fathers of large families, and particularly to those who, having large families, had succeeded in marrying off their boys and girls at an early age. Contrariwise, fathers whose children showed backwardness in entering on matrimony were to be the objects of official displeasure. Parkman expresses the truth with his usual picturesque force when he says that," throughout the length and breadth of Canada, Hymen, if not Cupid, was whipped into a frenzy of activity." A gratifying success attended these practical measures. By the year 1671 the total population had increased to six thousand. There were in that year seven hundred baptisms; and the bishop, from doubtless reliable sources of information, was able to promise the governor eleven hundred for the next year. Unfortunately infant mortality was in those days extremely high ; or the population would indeed have been increasing by leaps and bounds.

It is a matter of regret that the early historians of Canada feel themselves obliged to record a decline in the morals of the country, dating from the arrival of the king's troops in 1665. Up to that time, we are told, the inhabitants—those in the Montreal district at least—had lived in a condition of pristine simplicity and innocence, recalling that of the early Christians. No one locked his house by day or night, the crime of theft being unknown. The ordinances of the church were strictly observed by the whole population ; but, if on occasion any one failed in his duty, punishment promptly followed. For example, a man on the Island of Orleans, having eaten meat on a Friday, was fined twenty-five francs, half of which went to the parish church, and threatened with corporal punishment if he repeated the offence. "Here," observes the Abbe Faillon with quiet enthusiasm, "we see the true destination of the secular power."

But—ages of gold have a tendency to vanish away, and the Astraea of the French colony took her sad flight shortly after the Carignan-Sali&res Regiment arrived. These men had the pleasure-loving ways of soldiers, and war had not trained them to a very strict regard for personal rights or clerical admonitions. A ball was given at Quebec —the first ever held in the country—on the 4th February 1667. The clergy held their breath, not knowing what might follow. Many abuses, it would seem, followed : morals began to be relaxed; thefts became sufficiently common to bring bolts and locks into requisition; a Seneca chief was cruelly murdered by three soldiers; and shortly afterwards six Indians were massacred in their sleep by some settlers near Montreal. The object of the latter crime was to obtain possession of a large quantity of furs which the Indians had brought down to sell. That peace with the natives was gravely imperilled by these atrocious deeds may readily be imagined. It took all the firmness and tact of the governor to avoid an outbreak. The three soldiers were shot by his orders in the presence of a number of Indians. The other criminals seem to have escaped punishment by flight.

The last important act of Courcelles was to undertake a journey up the St. Lawrence as far as the outlet of Lake Ontario. The object of this adventure was to impress upon the more distant Iroquois tribes, who had boasted that they were out of reach of the French arms, that such was not the case. The idea which these savages had was that the only route by which the French could penetrate into their country was by way of the river Richelieu and Lake Champlain, in which case they would have first to pass through the "buffer" territory of the eastern Iroquois tribes. The rapids of the St. Lawrence, they thought, would effectually bar approach by way of Lake Ontario. To demonstrate their error, Courcelles gave orders for the construction of a flat-boat of two or three tons burden, which could be rowed in smooth water, and dragged up difficult places on the rapids. When this craft was ready, he manned it with a crew of eight men ; and, taking also thirteen bark canoes, he ascended the river successfully with a party of over fifty men, including the governor of Montreal and other leading officials. The Iroquois (Cayugas and Senecas) took due note of the feat and revised their opinions accordingly.

In the following year both Courcelles and Talon were recalled at their own request. There had been friction between them for some time, and they seem to have thought that it would be best for the king's service that they should both retire. Whatever the causes of difference may have been, they did not squabble in public like some of their successors. The services of both were highly appreciated by the French government, and the departure of both from Canada was very generally and sincerely regretted.


Return to 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.

comments powered by Disqus