Crusaders of New France
William Bennett Munro

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by the Online Distributed Proofreading Team, from images
provided by the Million Book Project.









To my good friend
(_Henri d'Arles_)
this tribute to the men
of his race and faith is
affectionately inscribed.






France, when she undertook the creation of a Bourbon empire beyond the
seas, was the first nation of Europe. Her population was larger than
that of Spain, and three times that of England. Her army in the days
of Louis Quatorze, numbering nearly a half-million in all ranks, was
larger than that of Rome at the height of the imperial power. No
nation since the fall of Roman supremacy had possessed such resources
for conquering and colonizing new lands. By the middle of the
seventeenth century Spain had ceased to be a dangerous rival; Germany
and Italy were at the time little more than geographical expressions,
while England was in the throes of the Puritan Revolution.

Nor was it only in the arts of war that the hegemony of the Bourbon
kingdom stood unquestioned. In art and education, in manners and
fashions, France also dominated the ideas of the old continent, the
dictator of social tastes as well as the grim warrior among the
nations. In the second half of the seventeenth century France might
justly claim to be both the heart and the head of Europe. Small wonder
it was that the leaders of such a nation should demand to see the
"clause in Adam's will" which bequeathed the New World to Spain and
Portugal. Small wonder, indeed, that the first nation of Europe should
insist upon a place in the sun to which her people might go to trade,
to make land yield its increase, and to widen the Bourbon sway. If
ever there was a land able and ready to take up the white man's
burden, it was the France of Louis XIV.

The power and prestige of France at this time may be traced, in the
main, to three sources. First there were the physical features, the
compactness of the kingdom, a fertile soil, a propitious climate, and
a frontage upon two great seas. In an age when so much of a nation's
wealth came from agriculture these were factors of great importance.
Only in commerce did the French people at this time find themselves
outstripped by their neighbors. Although both the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean bathed the shores of France, her people were being
outdistanced on the seas by the English and the Dutch, whose
commercial companies were exploiting the wealth of the new continents
both east and west. Yet in France there was food enough for all and to
spare; it was only because the means of distributing it were so poor
that some got more and others less than they required. France was
supporting at this time a population half as large as that of today.

Then there were qualities of race which helped to make the nation
great. At all periods in their history the French have shown an almost
inexhaustible stamina, an ability to bear disasters, and to rise from
them quickly, a courage and persistence that no obstacles seem able to
thwart. How often in the course of the centuries has France been torn
apart by internecine strife or thrown prostrate by her enemies only to
astonish the world by a superb display of recuperative powers! It was
France that first among the kingdoms of Europe rose from feudal chaos
to orderly nationalism; it was France that first among continental
countries after the Middle Ages established the reign of law
throughout a powerful realm. Though wars and turmoils almost without
end were a heavy drain upon Gallic vitality for many generations,
France achieved steady progress to primacy in the arts of peace.
None but a marvellous people could have made such efforts without
exhaustion, yet even now in the twentieth century the astounding vigor
of this race has not ceased to compel the admiration of mankind.

In the seventeenth century, moreover, France owed much of her national
power to a highly-centralized and closely-knit scheme of government.
Under Richelieu the strength of the monarchy had been enhanced and the
power of the nobility broken. When he began his personal rule, Louis
XIV continued his work of consolidation and in the years of his long
reign managed to centralize in the throne every vestige of political
power. The famous saying attributed to him, "The State! I am the
State!" embodied no idle boast. Nowhere was there a trace of
representative government, nowhere a constitutional check on the
royal power. There were councils of different sorts and with varied
jurisdictions, but men sat in them at the King's behest and were
removable at his will. There were _parlements_, too, but to mention
them without explanation would be only to let the term mislead, for
they were not representative bodies or parliaments in the ordinary
sense: their powers were chiefly judicial and they were no barrier in
the way of the steady march to absolutism. The political structure of
the Bourbon realm in the age of Louis XIV and afterwards was simple:
all the lines of control ran upwards and to a common center. And all
this made for unity and autocratic efficiency in finance, in war, and
in foreign affairs.

Another feature which fitted the nation for an imperial destiny was
the possession of a united and militant church. With heresy the
Gallican branch of the Catholic Church had fought a fierce struggle,
but, before the seventeenth century was far advanced, the battle had
been won. There were heretics in France even after Richelieu's time,
but they were no longer a source of serious discord. The Church,
now victorious over its foes, became militant, ready to carry its
missionary efforts to other lands--ready, in fact, for a new crusade.

These four factors, rare geographical advantages, racial qualities
of a high order, a strongly centralized scheme of government, and a
militant church, contributed largely to the prestige which France
possessed among European nations in the seventeenth, century. With all
these advantages she should have been the first and not the last to
get a firm footing in the new continents. Historians have recorded
their reasons why France did not seriously enter the field of American
colonization as early as England, but these reasons do not impress one
as being good. Foreign wars and internal religious strife are commonly
given and accepted as the true cause of French tardiness in following
up the pioneer work of Jacques Cartier and others. Yet not all the
energy of nearly twenty million people was being absorbed in these
troubles. There were men and money to spare, had the importance of the
work overseas only been adequately realized.

The main reason why France was last in the field is to be found in the
failure of her kings and ministers to realize until late in the day
how vast the possibilities of the new continent really were. In a
highly centralized and not over-populated state the authorities must
lead the way in colonial enterprises; the people will not of their
own initiative seek out and follow opportunities to colonize distant
lands. And in France the authorities were not ready to lead. Sully,
who stood supreme among the royal advisers in the closing years of
the sixteenth century, was opposed to colonial ventures under all
circumstances. "Far-off possessions," he declared, "are not suited to
the temperament or to the genius of Frenchmen, who to my great regret
have neither the perseverance nor the foresight needed for such
enterprises, but who ordinarily apply their vigor, minds, and courage
to things which are immediately at hand and constantly before their
eyes." Colonies beyond the seas, he believed, "would never be anything
but a great expense." That, indeed, was the orthodox notion in circles
surrounding the seat of royal power, and it was a difficult notion to

Never until the time of Richelieu was any intimation of the great
colonial opportunity, now quickly slipping by, allowed to reach
the throne, and then it was only an inkling, making but a slight
impression and soon virtually forgotten. Richelieu's great Company of
1627 made a brave start, but it did not hold the Cardinal's interest
very long. Mazarin, who succeeded Richelieu, took no interest in the
New World; the tortuous problems of European diplomacy appealed far
more strongly to his Italian imagination than did the vision of a New
France beyond the seas. It was not until Colbert took the reins
that official France really displayed an interest in the work of
colonization at all proportionate to the nation's power and resources.

Colbert was admirably fitted to become the herald of a greater France.
Coming from the ranks of the _bourgeoisie_, he was a man of affairs,
not a cleric or a courtier as his predecessors in office had been. He
had a clear conception of what he wanted and unwearied industry in
moving towards the desired end. His devotion to the King was beyond
question; he had native ability, patience, sound ideas, and a firm
will. Given a fair opportunity, he would have accomplished far more
for the glory of the fleur-de-lis in the region of the St. Lawrence
and the Great Lakes of America. But a thousand problems of home
administration were crowded upon him, problems of finance, of
industry, of ecclesiastical adjustment, and of social reconstruction.
In the first few years of his term as minister he could still find a
little time and thought for Canada, and during this short period he
personally conducted the correspondence with the colonial officials;
but after 1669 all this was turned over to the Minister of Marine, and
Colbert himself figured directly in the affairs of the colony no more.
The great minister of Louis XIV is remembered far more for his work at
home than for his services to New France.

As for the French monarchs of the seventeenth century, Louis XIV was
the first and only one to take an active and enduring interest in the
great crusade to the northern wilderness. He began his personal reign
about 1660 with a genuine display of zeal for the establishment of a
colony which would by its rapid growth and prosperity soon crowd the
English off the new continent. In the selection of officials to carry
out his policy, his judgment, when not subjected to sinister pressure,
was excellent, as shown in his choice of Frontenac. Nor did the King's
interest in the colony slacken in the face of discouragement. It kept
on to the end of his reign, although diminishing somewhat towards the
close. It could not well do otherwise than weaken during the European
disasters which marked his later years. By the death of Louis XIV in
1715 the colony lost its most unwavering friend. The shrewdest of
French historians, De Tocqueville, has somewhere remarked that "the
physiognomy of a government may be best judged in the colonies....
When I wish to study the spirit and faults of the administration of
Louis XIV," he writes, "I must go to Canada, for its deformity is
there seen as through a microscope." That is entirely true. The
history of New France in its picturesque alternation of sunshine and
shadow, of victory and defeat, of pageant and tragedy, is a chronicle
that is Gallic to the core. In the early annals of the northland one
can find silhouetted in sharp relief examples of all that was best and
all that was worst in the life of Old France. The political framework
of the colony, with its strict centralization, the paternal regulation
of industry and commerce, the flood of missionary zeal which poured
in upon it, the heroism and courage of its priests and voyageurs, the
venality of its administrative officials, the anachronism of a feudal
land-tenure, the bizarre externals of its social life, the versatility
of its people--all these reflected the paternity of New France.

The most striking weakness of French colonial policy in the
seventeenth century was its failure to realize how vastly different
was the environment of North America from that of Central Europe.
Institutions were transplanted bodily, and then amazement was
expressed at Versailles because they did not seem to thrive in the new
soil. Detailed instructions to officials in New France were framed by
men who had not the slightest grasp of the colony's needs or problems.
One busybody wrote to the colonial Intendant that a bake-oven should
be established in every seigneury and that the _habitants_ should
be ordered to bring their dough there to be made into bread. The
Intendant had to remind him that, in the long cold winters of the St.
Lawrence valley, the dough would be frozen stiff if the habitants,
with their dwellings so widely scattered, were required to do
anything of the kind. Another martinet gravely informed the colonial
authorities that, as a protection against Indian attacks "all the
seigneuries should be palisaded." And some of the seigneurial estates
were eight or ten miles square! The dogmatic way in which the colonial
officials were told to do this and that, to encourage one thing and
to discourage another, all by superiors who displayed an astounding
ignorance of New World conditions, must have been a severe trial to
the patience of those hard-working officials who were never without
great practical difficulties immediately before their eyes.

Not enough heed was paid, moreover, to the advice of men who were on
the spot. It is true that the recommendations sent home to France by
the Governor and by the Intendant were often contradictory, but even
where the two officials were agreed there was no certainty that their
counsel would be taken. With greater freedom and discretion the
colonial government could have accomplished much more in the way of
developing trade and industry; but for every step the acquiescence of
the home authorities had first to be secured. To obtain this consent
always entailed a great loss of time, and when the approval arrived
the opportunity too often had passed. From November until May there
was absolutely no communication between Quebec and Paris save that in
a great emergency, if France and England happened to be at peace, a
dispatch might be sent by dint of great hardship to Boston with a
precarious chance that it would get across to the French ambassador in
London. Ordinarily the officials sent their requests for instructions
by the home-going vessels from Quebec in the autumn and received their
answers by the ships which came in the following spring. If any plans
were formulated after the last ship sailed in October, it ordinarily
took eighteen months before the royal approval could be had for
putting them into effect. The routine machinery of paternalism thus
ran with exasperating slowness.

There was, however, one mitigating feature in the situation. The hand
of home authority was rigid and its beckonings were precise; but as
a practical matter it could be, and sometimes was, disregarded
altogether. Not that the colonial officials ever defied the King or
his ministers, or ever failed to profess their intent to follow the
royal instructions loyally and to the letter. They had a much safer
plan. When the provisions of a royal decree seemed impractical or
unwise, it was easy enough to let them stand unenforced. Such decrees
were duly registered in the records of the Sovereign Council at Quebec
and were then promptly pigeonholed so that no one outside the little
circle of officials at the Chateau de St. Louis ever heard of them.
In one case a new intendant on coming to the colony unearthed a royal
mandate of great importance which had been kept from public knowledge
for twenty years.

Absolutism, paternalism, and religious solidarity were characteristic
of both France and her colonies in the great century of overseas
expansion. There was no self-government, no freedom of individual
initiative, and very little heresy either at home or abroad.
The factors which made France strong in Europe, her unity, her
subordination of all other things to the military needs of the nation,
her fostering of the sense of nationalism--these appeared prominently
in Canada and helped to make the colony strong as well. Historians of
New France have been at pains to explain why the colony ultimately
succumbed to the combined attacks of New England by land and of Old
England by sea. For a full century New France had as its next-door
neighbor a group of English colonies whose combined populations
outnumbered her own at a ratio of about fifteen to one. The relative
numbers and resources of the two areas were about the same,
proportionately, as those of the United States and Canada at the
present day. The marvel is not that French dominion in America finally
came to an end but that it managed to endure so long.



The closing quarter of the fifteenth century in Europe has usually
been regarded by historians as marking the end of the Middle Ages. The
era of feudal chaos had drawn to a close and states were being
welded together under the leadership of strong dynasties. With this
consolidation came the desire for expansion, for acquiring new lands,
and for opening up new channels of influence. Spain, Portugal, and
England were first in the field of active exploration, searching for
stores of precious metals and for new routes to the coasts of Ormuz
and of India. In this quest for a short route to the half-fabulous
empires of Asia they had literally stumbled upon a new continent which
they had made haste to exploit. France, meanwhile, was dissipating her
energies on Spanish and Italian battlefields. It was not until the
peace of Cambrai in 1529 ended the struggle with Spain that France
gave any attention to the work of gaining some foothold in the New
World. By that time Spain had become firmly entrenched in the lands
which border the Caribbean Sea; her galleons were already bearing home
their rich cargoes of silver bullion. Portugal, England, and even
Holland had already turned with zeal to the exploration of new
lands in the East and the West: French fishermen, it is true, were
lengthening their voyages to the west; every year now the rugged old
Norman and Breton seaports were sending their fleets of small vessels
to gather the harvests of the sea. But official France took no active
interest in the regions toward which they went. Five years after the
peace of Cambrai the Breton port of St. Malo became the starting point
of the first French voyageur to the St. Lawrence. Francis I had been
persuaded to turn his thoughts from gaming and gallantries to the
trading prospects of his kingdom, with the result that in 1534 Jacques
Cartier was able to set out on his first voyage of discovery. Cartier
is described in the records of the time as a corsair--which means that
he had made a business of roving the seas to despoil the enemies of
France. St. Malo, his birthplace and home, on the coast of Brittany,
faces the English Channel somewhat south of Jersey, the nearest of the
Channel Islands. The town is set on high ground which projects out
into the sea, forming an almost landlocked harbor where ships may ride
at ease during the most tumultuous gales. It had long been a notable
nursery of hardy fishermen and adventurous navigators, men who had
pressed their way to all the coasts of Europe and beyond.

Cartier was one of these hardy sailors. His fathers before him had
been mariners, and he had himself learned the way of the great waters
while yet a mere youth. Before his expedition of 1534 Jacques Cartier
had probably made a voyage to Brazil and had in all probability more
than once visited the Newfoundland fishing-banks. Although, when
he sailed from St. Malo to become the pathfinder of a new Bourbon
imperialism, he was forty-three years of age and in the prime of his
days, we know very little of his youth and early manhood. It is enough
that he had attained the rank of a master-pilot and that, from his
skill in seamanship, he was considered the most dependable man in
all the kingdom to serve his august sovereign in this important

Cartier shipped his crew at St. Malo, and on the 20th of April, 1534,
headed his two small ships across the great Atlantic. His company
numbered only threescore souls in all. Favored by steady winds his
vessels made good progress, and within three weeks he sighted the
shores of Newfoundland where he put into one of the many small harbors
to rest and refit his ships. Then, turning northward, the expedition
passed through the straits of Belle Isle and into the Gulf of St.
Lawrence. Coasting along the northern shore of the Gulf for a short
distance, Cartier headed his ships due southward, keeping close to the
western shore of the great island almost its whole length; he then
struck across the lower Gulf and, moving northward once more, reached
the Baie des Chaleurs on the 6th July. Here the boats were sent ashore
and the French were able to do a little trading with the Indians.
About a week later, Cartier went northward once more and soon sought
shelter from a violent gulf storm by anchoring in Gaspe Bay. On the
headland there he planted a great wooden cross with the arms of
France, the first symbol of Bourbon dominion in the New Land, and the
same symbol that successive explorers, chanting the _Vexilla Regis_,
were in time to set aloft from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of
Mexico. It was the augury of the white man's coming.

Crossing next to the southerly shore of Anticosti the voyageurs almost
circled the island until the constant and adverse winds which
Cartier met in the gradually narrowing channel forced him to defer
indefinitely his hope of finding a western passage, and he therefore
headed his ships back to Belle Isle. It was now mid-August, and the
season of autumnal storms was drawing near. Cartier had come to
explore, to search for a westward route to the Indies, to look for
precious metals, not to establish a colony. He accordingly decided to
set sail for home and, with favoring winds, was able to reach St. Malo
in the early days of September.

In one sense the voyage of 1534 had been a failure. No stores of
mineral wealth had been discovered and no short route to Cipango or
Cathay. Yet the spirit of exploration had been awakened. Carrier's
recital of his voyage had aroused the interest of both the King and
his people, so that the navigator's request for better equipment to
make another voyage was readily granted. On May 19, 1535, Cartier once
more set forth from St. Malo, this time with three vessels and with a
royal patent, empowering him to take possession of new lands in his
sovereign's name. With Cartier on this voyage there were over one
hundred men, of whom the majority were hardened Malouins, veterans of
the sea. How he found accommodation for all of them, with supplies and
provisions, in three small vessels whose total burden was only two
hundred and twenty tons, is not least among the mysteries of this
remarkable voyage.[1]

[Footnote 1: The shipbuilders old measure for determining tonnage was
to multiply the length of a vessel minus three-quarters of the beam by
the beam, then to multiply the product by one-half the beam, then
to divide this final product by 94. The resulting quotient was the
tonnage. On this basis Cartier's three ships were 67 feet length by 23
feet beam, 57 feet length by 17 feet beam, and 48 feet length by 17
feet beam, respectively.]

The trip across the ocean was boisterous, and the clumsy caravels had
a hard time breasting the waves. The ships were soon separated by
alternate storms and fog so that all three did not meet at their
appointed rendezvous in the Straits of Belle Isle until the last week
in July. Then moving westward along the north, shore of the Gulf, they
passed Anticosti, crossed to the Gaspe shore, circled back as far as
the Mingan islands, and then resumed a westward course up the great
river. As the vessels stemmed the current but slowly, it was well into
September when they cast anchor before the Indian village of Stadacona
which occupied the present site of Lower Quebec.

Since it was now too late in the season to think of returning at once
to France, Cartier decided to spend the winter at this point. Two of
the ships were therefore drawn into the mouth of a brook which entered
the river just below the village, while the Frenchmen established
acquaintance with the savages and made preparations for a trip farther
up the river in the smallest vessel. Using as interpreters two young
Indians whom he had captured in the Gaspe region during his first
voyage in the preceding year, Cartier was able to learn from the
Indians at Stadacona that there was another settlement of importance
at Hochelaga, now Montreal. The navigator decided to use the remaining
days of autumn in a visit to this settlement, although the Stadacona
Indians strenuously objected, declaring that there were all manner
of dangers and difficulties in the way. With his smallest vessel and
about half of his men, Cartier, however, made his way up the river
during the last fortnight in September.

Near the point where the largest of the St. Lawrence rapids bars the
river gateway to the west the Frenchman found Hochelaga nestling
between the mountain and the shore, in the midst of "goodly and large
fields full of corn such as the country yieldeth." The Indian village,
which consisted of about fifty houses, was encircled by three courses
of palisades, one within the other. The natives received their
visitors with great cordiality, and after a liberal distribution
of trinkets the French learned from them some vague snatches of
information about the rivers and great lakes which lay to the westward
"where a man might travel on the face of the waters for many moons in
the same direction." But as winter was near Cartier found it necessary
to hurry back to Stadacona, where the remaining members of his
expedition had built a small fort or _habitation_ during his absence.

Everything was made ready for the long season of cold and snow, but
the winter came on with unusual severity. The neighboring Indians grew
so hostile that the French hardly dared to venture from their narrow
quarters. Supplies ran low, and to make matters worse the pestilence
of scurvy came upon the camp. In February almost the entire company
was stricken down and nearly one quarter of them had died before the
emaciated survivors learned from the Indians that the bark of a white
spruce tree boiled in water would afford a cure. The Frenchmen dosed
themselves with the Indian remedy, using a whole tree in less than
a week, but with such revivifying results that Cartier hailed the
discovery as a genuine miracle. When spring appeared, the remnant of
the company, now restored to health and vigor, gladly began their
preparations for a return to France. There was no ardor among them for
a further exploration of this inhospitable land. As there were not
enough men to handle all three of the ships, they abandoned one of
them, whose timbers were uncovered from the mudbank in 1843, more than
three centuries later. Before leaving Stadacona, however, Cartier
decided to take Donnacona, the head of the village, and several other
Indians as presents to the French King. It was natural enough that
the master-pilot should wish to bring his sovereign some impressive
souvenir from the new domains, yet this sort of treachery and
ingratitude was unpardonable. Donnacona and all these captives but one
little Indian maiden died in France, and his people did not readily
forget the lesson of European duplicity. By July the expedition was
back in the harbor of St. Malo, and Cartier was promptly at work
preparing for the King a journal of his experiences.

Cartier's account of his voyage which has come down to us contains
many interesting details concerning the topography and life of the new
land. The Malouin captain was a good navigator as seafaring went in
his day, a good judge of distance at sea, and a keen observer of
landmarks. But he was not a discriminating chronicler of those things
which we would now wish to understand--for example, the relationship
and status of the various Indian tribes with which he came into
contact. All manner of Indian customs are superficially described,
particularly those which presented to the French the aspect of
novelty, but we are left altogether uncertain as to whether the
Indians at Stadacona in Cartier's time were of Huron or Iroquois
or Algonquin stock. The navigator did not describe with sufficient
clearness, or with a due differentiation of the important from the
trivial, those things which ethnologists would now like to know.

It must have been a disappointment not to be able to lay before the
King any promise of great mineral wealth to be found in the new
territory. While at Hochelaga Cartier had gleaned from the savages
some vague allusions to sources of silver and copper in the far
northwest, but that was all. He had not found a northern Eldorado, nor
had his quest of a new route to the Indies been a whit more fruitful.
Cartier had set out with this as his main motive, but had succeeded
only in finding that there was no such route by way of the St.
Lawrence. Though the King was much interested in his recital of
courage and hardships, he was not fired with zeal for spending good
money in the immediate equipping of another expedition to these
inhospitable shores.

Not for five years after his return in 1536, therefore, did Cartier
again set out for the St. Lawrence. This time his sponsor was the
Sieur de Roberval, a nobleman of Picardy, who had acquired an ambition
to colonize a portion of the new territory and who had obtained the
royal endorsement of his scheme. The royal patronage was not difficult
to obtain when no funds were sought. Accordingly in 1540 Roberval, who
was duly appointed viceroy of the country, enlisted the assistance of
Cartier in carrying out his plans. It was arranged that Cartier with
three ships should sail from St. Malo in the spring of 1541, while
Roberval's part of the expedition should set forth at the same time
from Honfleur. But when May arrived Roberval was not ready and
Cartier's ships set sail alone, with the understanding that Roberval
would follow. Cartier in due course reached Newfoundland, where for
six weeks he awaited his viceroy. At length, his patience exhausted,
he determined to push on alone to Stadacona, where he arrived toward
the end of August. The ships were unloaded and two of the vessels were
sent back to France. The rest of the expedition prepared to winter at
Cap Rouge, a short distance above the settlement. Once more Cartier
made a short trip up the river to Hochelaga, but with no important
incidents, and here the voyageur's journal comes to an end. He
may have written more, but if so the pages have never been found.
Henceforth the evidence as to his doings is less extensive and less
reliable. On his return he and his band seem to have passed the winter
at Cap Rouge more comfortably than the first hibernation six years
before, for the French had now learned the winter hygiene of the
northern regions. The Indians, however, grew steadily more hostile
as the months went by, and Cartier, fearing that his small following
might not fare well in the event of a general assault, deemed it wise
to start for France when the river opened in the spring of 1542.

Cartier set sail from Quebec in May. Taking the southern route through
the Gulf he entered, early in June, the harbor of what is now St.
John's, Newfoundland. There, according to Hakluyt, the Breton
navigator and his belated viceroy, Roberval, anchored their ships side
by side, Roberval, who had been delayed nearly a year, was now on his
way to join Cartier at Quebec and had put into the Newfoundland harbor
to refit his ships after a stormy voyage. What passed between the two
on the occasion of this meeting will never be known with certainly. We
have only the brief statement that after a spirited interview Cartier
was ordered by his chief to turn his ships about and accompany the
expedition back to Quebec. Instead of doing so, he spread his sails
during the night and slipped homeward to St. Malo, leaving the viceroy
to his own resources. There are difficulties in the way of accepting
this story, however, although it is not absolutely inconsistent
with the official records, as some later historians seem to have

[Footnote 1: Justin Winsor, _Narrative and Critical History of
America_, vol. iv., 58.]

At any rate it was in no pleasant humor that Roberval now proceeded
to the St. Lawrence and up to Cap Rouge, where he took possession of
Carrier's post, sowed some grain and vegetables, and endeavored
to prepare for the winter. His company of followers, having been
recruited from the jails of France, proved as unruly as might have
been expected. Discipline and order could only be maintained by the
exercise of great severity. One of the malefactors was executed;
others were given the lash in generous measure. The winter, moreover,
proved to be terribly cold; supplies ran low, and the scurvy once
again got beyond control. If anything, the conditions were even worse
than those which Cartier had to endure seven years before. When spring
arrived the survivors had no thought of anything but a prompt return
to France. But Roberval bade most of them wait until with a small
party he ventured a trip to the territory near what is now Three
Rivers and the mouth of the St. Maurice. Apparently the whole party
made its way safely back to France before the autumn, but as to how or
when we have no record. There is some evidence that Cartier was sent
out with a relief expedition in 1543, but in any case, both he and
Roberval were in France during the spring of the next year, for they
then appeared there in court to settle respective accounts of expenses
incurred in the badly managed enterprise.

Of Carrier's later life little is known save that he lived at St. Malo
until he died in 1557. With the exception of his journals, which cover
only a part of his explorations, none of his writings or maps has come
down to us. That he prepared maps is highly probable, for he was an
explorer in the royal service. But diligent search on the part of
antiquarians has not brought them to light. His portrait in the town
hall at St. Malo shows us a man of firm and strong features with jaws
tight-set, a high forehead, and penetrating eyes. Unhappily it is of
relatively recent workmanship and as a likeness of the great Malouin
its trustworthiness is at least questionable. Fearless and untiring,
however, his own indisputable achievements amply prove him to have
been. The tasks set before him were difficult to perform; he was often
in tight places and he came through unscathed. As a navigator he
possessed a skill that ranked with the best of his time. His was
an intrepid sailor-soul. If his voyages resulted in no permanent
establishment, that was not altogether Cartier's fault. He was sent
out on his first two voyages as an explorer, to find new trade routes,
or stores of gold and silver or a rich land to exploit. On his third
voyage, when a scheme of colonization was in hand, the failure of
Roberval to do his part proved the undoing of the entire plan. There
is no reason to believe that faint-heartedness or lack of courage had
any place in Carrier's sturdy frame.

For sixty years following the ill-starred ventures of 1541-1542 no
serious attempts were made to gain for France any real footing in the
regions of the St. Lawrence. This is not altogether surprising, for
there were troubles in plenty at home. Huguenots and Catholics had
ranged themselves in civil strife; the wars of the Fronde were
convulsing the land, and it was not until the very end of the
sixteenth century that France settled down to peace within her own
borders. Norman and Breton fishermen continued their yearly trips to
the fishing-banks, but during the whole latter half of the sixteenth
century no vessel, so far as we know, ever made its way beyond the
Saguenay. Some schemes of colonization, without official support, were
launched during this interval; but in all such cases the expeditions
set forth to warmer lands, to Brazil and to Florida. In neither
direction, however, did any marked success attend these praiseworthy
examples of private initiative.

The great valley of the St. Lawrence during these six decades remained
a land of mystery. The navigators of Europe still clung to the vision
of a westward passage whose eastern portal must be hidden among
the bays or estuaries of this silent land, but none was bold or
persevering enough to seek it to the end. As for the great continent
itself, Europe had not the slightest inkling of what it held in store
for future generations of mankind.



In the closing years of the sixteenth century the spirit of French
expansion, which had remained so strangely inactive for nearly three
generations, once again began to manifest itself. The Sieur de La
Roche, another Breton nobleman, the merchant traders, Pontgrave of St.
Malo and Chauvin of Honfleur, came forward one after the other with
plans for colonizing the unknown land. Unhappily these plans were not
easily matured into stern realities. The ambitious project of La Roche
came to grief on the barren sands of Sable Island. The adventurous
merchants, for their part, obtained a monopoly of the trade and for a
few years exploited the rich peltry regions of the St. Lawrence, but
they made no serious attempts at actual settlement. Finally they lost
the monopoly, which passed in 1603 to the Sieur de Chastes, a royal
favorite and commandant at Dieppe.

It is at this point that Samuel Champlain first becomes associated
with the pioneer history of New France. Given the opportunity to sail
with an expedition which De Chastes sent out in 1603, Champlain gladly
accepted and from this time to the end of his days he never relaxed
his whole-souled interest in the design to establish a French dominion
in these western lands. With his accession to the ranks of the
voyageurs real progress in the field of colonization was for the first
time assured. Champlain encountered many setbacks during his initial
years as a colonizer, but he persevered to the end. When he had
finished his work, France had obtained a footing in the St. Lawrence
valley which was not shaken for nearly a hundred and fifty years.

Champlain was born in 1567 at the seaport of Brouage, on the Bay of
Biscay, so that he was only thirty-six years of age when he set out
on his first voyage to America. His forbears belonged to the lesser
gentry of Saintonge, and from them he inherited a roving strain. Long
before reaching middle manhood he had learned to face dangers, both
as a soldier in the wars of the League and as a sailor to the Spanish
Main. With a love of adventure he combined rare powers of description,
so much so that the narrative of his early voyages to this region had
attracted the King's attention and had won for him the title of royal
geographer. His ideas were bold and clear; he had an inflexible will
and great patience in battling with discouragements. Possessing these
qualities, Champlain was in every way fitted to become the founder of
New France.

The expedition of 1603 proceeded to the St. Lawrence, where some
of the party landed at the mouth of the Saguenay to trade with the
Indians. The remainder, including Champlain, made their way up the
river to the Indian village at Hochelaga, which they now found in
ruins, savage warfare having turned the place into a solitude.
Champlain busied himself with some study of the country's resources
and the customs of the aborigines; but on the whole the prospects of
the St. Lawrence valley did not move the explorers to enthusiasm.
Descending the great river again, they rejoined their comrades at the
Saguenay, and, taking their cargoes of furs aboard, the whole party
sailed back to France in the autumn. There they found that De Chastes,
the sponsor for their enterprise, had died during their absence.

The death of De Chastes upset matters badly, for with it the trade
monopoly had lapsed. But things were promptly set right again by a
royal act which granted the monopoly anew. This time it went to the
Sieur de Monts, a prominent Huguenot nobleman, then governor of Pons,
with whom Champlain was on friendly terms. To quiet the clamors of
rival traders, however, it was stipulated that Monts should organize a
company and should be bound to take into his enterprise any who might
wish to associate themselves with him. The company, in return for its
trading monopoly, was to transport to the new domains at least one
hundred settlers each year.

Little difficulty was encountered in organizing the company, since
various merchants of St. Malo, Honfleur, Rouen, and Rochelle were
eager to take shares. Preparations for sending out an expedition on a
much larger scale than on any previous occasion were soon under way,
and in 1604 two well-equipped vessels set forth. One of them went to
the old trading-post at the Saguenay; the other went southward to
the regions of Acadia. On board the latter were De Monts himself,
Champlain as chief geographer, and a young adventurer from the ranks
of the _noblesse_, Biencourt de Poutrincourt. The personnel of this
expedition was excellent: it contained no convicts; most of its
members were artisans and sturdy yeomen. Rounding the tip of the Nova
Scotian peninsula, these vessels came to anchor in the haven of Port
Royal, now Annapolis. Not satisfied with the prospects there, however,
they coasted around the Bay of Fundy, and finally reached the island
in Passamaquoddy Bay which they named St. Croix. Here on June 25,
1604, the party decided to found their settlement. Work on the
buildings was at once commenced, and soon the little colony was safely
housed. In the autumn Poutrincourt was dispatched with one vessel and
a crew back to France, while Champlain and the rest prepared to spend
the winter in their new island home.

The choice of St. Croix as a location proved singularly unfortunate;
the winter was long and severe, and the preparations that had been
made were soon found to be inadequate. Once more there were sufferings
such as Cartier and his men had undergone during the terrible winter
of 1534-1535 at Quebec. There were no brooks or springs close at hand,
and no fresh water except such as could be had by melting snow. The
storehouse had no cellar, and in consequence the vegetables froze, so
that the company was reduced to salted meat as the chief staple of
diet. Scurvy ravaged the camp, and before the snows melted nearly
two-fifths of the party had died. Not until June, moreover, did a
vessel arrive from France with, fresh stores and more colonists.

The experience of this first winter must have indeed "produced
discontent," as Champlain rather mildly expressed it, but it did not
impel De Monts to abandon his plans. St. Croix, however, was given up
and, after a futile search for a better location on the New England
coast, the colony moved across the bay to Port Royal, where the
buildings were reconstructed. In the autumn De Monts went back to
France, leaving Champlain, Pontgrave, and forty-three others to spend
the winter of 1605-1606 in Acadia. During this hibernation the fates
were far more kind. The season proved milder, the bitter lessons of
the previous season had not gone unlearned, and scurvy did not make
serious headway. But when June came and De Monts had not returned from
France with fresh supplies, there was general discouragement; so much
so that plans for the entire abandonment of the place were on the eve
of being carried out when a large vessel rounded the point on its way
into the Basin. Aboard were Poutrincourt and Marc Lescarbot, together
with more settlers and supplies. Lescarbot was a Parisian lawyer in
search of adventure, a man who combined wit with wisdom, one of the
pleasantest figures in the annals of American colonization. He was
destined to gain a place in literary history as the interesting
chronicler of this little colony's all-too-brief existence. These
arrivals put new heart into the men, and they set to work sowing grain
and vegetables, which grew in such abundance that the storehouses were
filled to their capacity. The ensuing winter found the company with an
ample store of everything. The season of ice and snow passed quickly,
thanks largely to Champlain's successful endeavor to keep the
colonists in good health and spirits by exercise, by variety in diet,
and by divers gaieties under the auspices of his _Ordre de Bon Temps_,
a spontaneous social organization created for the purpose of banishing
cares and worries from the little settlement. It seemed as though the
colony had been established to stay.

But with the spring of 1607 came news which quickly put an end to all
this optimism. Rival merchants had been clamoring against the monopoly
of the De Monts company. Despite the fact that De Monts was a Huguenot
and thus a shining target for the shafts of bigotry, these protests
had for three years failed to move the King; but now they had gained
their point, and the monopoly had come to an end. This meant that
there would be no more ships with settlers or supplies. As the colony
could not yet hope to exist on its own resources, there was no
alternative but to abandon the site and return to France, and this the
whole party reluctantly proceeded to do.

On arrival in France the affairs of the company were wound up, and De
Monts found himself a heavy loser. He was not yet ready to quit the
game, however, and Champlain with the aid of Pontgrave was able to
convince him that a new venture in the St. Lawrence region might
yield profits even without the protection of a monopoly. Thus out of
misfortune and failure arose the plans which led to the founding of a
permanent outpost of empire at Quebec.

In the spring of 1608 Champlain and Pontgrave once again set sail for
the St. Lawrence. The latter delayed at the Saguenay to trade, while
Champlain pushed on to the site of the old Stadacona, where at the
foot of the cliff he laid the foundations of the new Quebec, the first
permanent settlement of Europeans in the territory of New France.
On the shore below the rocky steep several houses were built, and
measures were taken to defend them in case of an Indian attack. Here
Champlain's party spent the winter of 1608-1609.

With the experience gained at St. Croix and Port Royal it should have
been possible to provide for all eventualities, yet difficulties in
profusion were encountered during these winter months. First there was
the unearthing of a conspiracy against Champlain. Those concerned in
it were speedily punished, but the execution of the chief culprit gave
to the new settlement a rather ominous beginning. Then came a season
of zero weather, and the scurvy came with it. Champlain had heard of
the remedy used by Cartier, but the tribes which had been at Stadacona
in Cartier's time had now disappeared, and there was no one to point
out the old-time remedy to the suffering garrison. So the scourge
went on unchecked. The ravages of disease were so severe that, when
a relief ship arrived in the early summer of 1609, all but eight of
Champlain's party had succumbed.

Yet there was no thought of abandoning the settlement. The beginnings
of Canada made astounding demands upon the fortitude and stamina of
these dauntless voyageurs, but their store of courage was far from the
point of exhaustion. They were ready not only to stay but to explore
the territory inland, to traverse its rivers and lakes, to trudge
through its forests afoot that they might find out for the King's
information what resources the vast land held in its silent expanses.
After due deliberation, therefore, it was decided that Champlain and
four others should accompany a party of Huron and Algonquin Indians
upon one of their forays into the country of the Iroquois, this being
the only way in which the Frenchmen could be sure of their redskin
guides. So the new allies set forth to the southeastward, passing up
the Richelieu River and, traversing the lake which now bears his name,
Champlain and his Indian friends came upon a war party of Iroquois
near Ticonderoga and a forest fight ensued. The muskets of the French
terrified the enemy tribesmen and they fled in disorder. In itself
the incident was not of much account nor were its consequences so
far-reaching as some historians would have us believe. It is true that
Champlain's action put the French, for the moment in the bad graces
of the Iroquois; but the conclusion that this foray was chiefly
responsible for the hostility of the great tribes during the whole
ensuing century is altogether without proper historical foundation.

Revenge has always been a prominent trait of redskin character, but
it could never of itself have determined the alignment of the
Five Nations against the French during a period of nearly eight
generations. From the situation of their territories, the Iroquois
were the natural allies of the English and Dutch on the one hand, and
the natural foes of the French on the other. Trade soon became the
Alpha and the Omega of all tribal diplomacy, and the Iroquois were
discerning enough to realize that their natural role was to serve as
middlemen between the western Indians and the English. Their very
livelihood, indeed, depended on their success in diverting the flow of
the fur trade through the Iroquois territories, for by the middle
of the seventeenth century there were no beavers left in their own
country. Such a situation meant that they must promote trade between
the western Indians and the English, at Albany; but to promote trade
with the English meant friendship with the English, and friendship
with the English meant enmity with the French. Here is the true key to
the long series of quarrels in which the Five Nations and New France
engaged. Champlain's little escapade at Ticonderoga was a mere
incident and the Iroquois would have soon forgotten it if their
economic interests had required them to do so. "Trade and peace," said
an Iroquois chief to the French on one occasion, "we take to be
one thing." He was right; they have been one thing in all ages. As
companions, trade and the flag have been inseparable in all lands. The
expedition of 1609 had, however, some results besides the discomfiture
of an Iroquois raiding party. It disclosed to the French a water-route
which led almost to the upper reaches of the Hudson. The spot where
Champlain put the Iroquois to flight is within thirty leagues of
Albany. It was by this route that the French and English came so often
into warring contact during the next one hundred and fifty years.

Explorations, the care of his little settlement at Quebec, trading
operations, and two visits to France occupied Champlain's attention
during the next few years. Down to this time no white man's foot had
ever trodden the vast wilderness beyond the rapids above Hochelaga.
Stories had filtered through concerning great waters far to the West
and North, of hidden minerals there, and of fertile lands. Champlain
was determined to see these things for himself and it was to that end
that he made his two great trips to the interior, in 1613 and 1616,

The expedition of 1613 was not a journey of indefinite exploration; it
had a very definite end in view. A few years previously Champlain had
sent into the villages of the Algonquins on the upper Ottawa River a
young Frenchman named Vignau, in order that by living for a time among
these people he might learn their language and become useful as
an interpreter. In 1612 Vignau came back with a marvelous story
concerning a trip which he had made with his Algonquin friends to the
Great North Sea where he had seen the wreck of an English vessel. This
striking news inflamed Champlain's desire to find out whether this was
not the route for which both Cartier and he himself had so eagerly
searched--the western passage to Cathay and the Indies. There is
evidence that the explorer from the first doubted the truth of
Vignau's story, but in 1613 he decided to make sure and started up the
Ottawa River, taking the young man with him to point the way.

After a fatiguing journey the party at length reached the Algonquin
encampment on Allumette Island in the upper Ottawa, where his doubts
were fully confirmed. Vignau, the Algonquins assured Champlain, was an
impostor; he had never been out of their sight, had never seen a Great
North Sea; the English shipwreck was a figment of his imagination.
"Overcome with wrath." writes Champlain, "I had him removed from my
presence, being unable to bear the sight of him." The party went no
further, but returned to Quebec. As for the impostor, the generosity
of his leader in the end allowed him to go unpunished. Though the
expedition had been in one sense a fool's errand and Champlain felt
himself badly duped, yet it was not without its usefulness, for it
gave him an opportunity to learn much concerning the methods of
wilderness travel, the customs of the Indians and the extent to which
they might be relied upon. The Algonquins and the Hurons had proved
their friendship, but what they most desired, it now appeared, was
that the French should give them substantial aid in another expedition
against the Iroquois.

This was the basis upon which, arrangements were made for Champlain's
next journey to the interior, the longest and most daring enterprise
in his whole career of exploration. In 1615 the Brouage navigator
with a small party once again ascended the Ottawa, crossed to Lake
Nipissing and thence made his way down the French. River to the
Georgian Bay, or Lake of the Hurons as it was then called. Near
the shores of the bay he found the villages of the Hurons with the
Recollet Father Le Caron already at work among the tribesmen. Adding a
large band of Indians to his party, the explorer-now struck southeast
and, by following the chain of small lakes and rivers which lie
between Matchedash Bay and the Bay of Quinte, he eventually reached
Lake Ontario. The territory pleased Champlain greatly, and he recorded
his enthusiastic opinion of its fertility. Crossing the head of Lake
Ontario in their canoes the party then headed for the country of the
Iroquois south of Oneida Lake, where lay a palisaded village of the
Onondagas. This they attacked, but after three hours' fighting were
repulsed, Champlain being wounded in the knee by an Iroquois arrow.

The eleven Frenchmen with their horde of Indians then retreated
cautiously; but the Onondagas made no serious attempt at pursuit, and
in due course Champlain with his party recrossed Lake Ontario safely.
The Frenchmen were now eager to get back to Quebec by descending
the St. Lawrence, but their Indian allies would not hear of this
desertion. The whole expedition therefore plodded on to the shores of
the Georgian Bay, following a route somewhat north of the one by which
it had come. There the Frenchmen spent a tedious winter. Champlain was
anxious to make use of the time by exploring the upper lakes, but the
task of settling some wretched feuds among his Huron and Algonquin
friends took most of his time and energy. The winter gave him
opportunity, however, to learn a great deal more about the daily life
of the savages, their abodes, their customs, their agriculture, their
amusements, and their folklore. All this information went into his
journals and would have been of priceless value had not the Jesuits
who came later proved to be such untiring chroniclers of every detail.

When spring came, Champlain left the Huron country and by way of Lake
Nipissing and the Ottawa once more reached his own people at Quebec.
It took him forty days to make the journey from the Georgian Bay to
the present site of Montreal.

Arriving at Quebec, where he was hailed as one risen from the dead,
Champlain found that things in France had taken a new turn. They had,
in fact, taken many twists and turns during the nine years since De
Monts had financed the first voyage to the St. Lawrence. In the first
place, De Monts had lost the last vestige of his influence at court;
as a Huguenot he could not expect to have retained it under the stern
regency which followed the assassination of Henry IV in 1610. Then a
half-dozen makeshift arrangements came in the ensuing years. It was
always the same story faithfully repeated in its broad outlines. Some
friendly nobleman would obtain from the King appointment as viceroy
of New France and at the same time a trading monopoly for a term of
years, always promising to send out some settlers in return. The
monopoly would then be sublet, and Champlain would be recognized as
a sort of viceroy's deputy. And all for a colony in which the white
population did not yet number fifty souls!

Despite the small population, however, Champlain's task at Quebec was
difficult and exacting. His sponsors in France had no interest in the
permanent upbuilding of the colony; they sent out very few settlers,
and gave him little in the way of funds. The traders who came to
the St. Lawrence each summer were an unruly and boisterous crew who
quarreled with the Indians and among themselves. At times, indeed,
Champlain was sorely tempted to throw up the undertaking in disgust.
But his patience held out until 1627, when the rise of Richelieu in
France put the affairs of the colony upon a new and more active
basis. For a quarter of a century, France had been letting golden
opportunities slip by while the colonies and trade of her rivals were
forging ahead. Spain and Portugal were secure in the South. England
had gained firm footholds both in Virginia and on Massachusetts Bay.
Even Holland had a strong commercial company in the field. This was a
situation which no far-sighted Frenchman could endure. Hence Cardinal
Richelieu, when he became chief minister of Louis XIII, undertook to
see that France should have her share of New World spoils. "No realm
is so well situated as France," he declared, "to be mistress of the
seas or so rich in all things needful." The cardinal-minister combined
fertility in ideas with such a genius for organization that his plans
were quickly under way. Unhappily his talent for details, for the
efficient handling of little things, was not nearly so great, and some
of his arrangements went sadly awry in consequence.

At any rate Richelieu in 1627 prevailed upon the King to abolish the
office of viceroy, to cancel all trading privileges, and to permit the
organization of a great colonizing company, one that might hope to
rival the English and Dutch commercial organizations. This was formed
under the name of the Company of New France, or the Company of One
Hundred Associates, as it was more commonly called from the fact that
its membership was restricted to one hundred shareholders, each of
whom contributed three thousand _livres_. The cardinal himself, the
ministers of state, noblemen, and courtesans of Paris, as well as
merchants of the port towns, all figured in the list of stockholders.
The subscription lists contained an imposing array of names.

The powers of the new Company, moreover, were as imposing as its
personnel. To it was granted a perpetual monopoly of the fur trade
and of all other commerce with rights of suzerainty over all the
territories of New France and Acadia. It was to govern these lands,
levy taxes, establish courts, appoint officials, and even bestow
titles of nobility. In return the Company undertook to convey to the
colony not less than two hundred settlers per year, and to provide
them with subsistence until they could become self-supporting. It was
stipulated, however, that no Huguenots or other heretics should be
among the immigrants.

The Hundred Associates entered upon this portentous task with
promptness and enthusiasm. Early in 1628 a fleet of eighteen vessels
freighted with equipment, settlers, and supplies set sail from Dieppe
for the St. Lawrence to begin operations. But the time of its arrival
was highly inopportune, for France was now at war with England, and it
happened that a fleet of English privateers was already seeking prey
in the Lower St. Lawrence. These privateers, commanded by Kirke,
intercepted the Company's heavily-laden caravels, overpowered them,
and carried their prizes off to England. Thus the Company of the
One Hundred Associates lost a large part of its capital, and its
shareholders received a generous dividend of disappointment in the
very first year of its operations.

A more serious blow, however, was yet to come. Flushed with his
success in 1628, Kirke came back to the St. Lawrence during the next
summer and proceeded to Quebec, where he summoned Champlain and his
little settlement to surrender. As the place was on the verge of
famine owing to the capture of the supply ships in the previous year,
there was no alternative but to comply, and the colony passed for
the first time into English hands. Champlain was allowed to sail for
England, where he sought the services of the French ambassador and
earnestly advised that the King be urged to insist on the restoration
of Canada whenever the time for peace should come. Negotiations for
peace soon began, but they dragged on tediously until 1632, when the
Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye gave back New France to its former

With this turn in affairs the Company was able to resume its
operations. Champlain, as its representative, once more reached
Quebec, where he received a genuine welcome from the few Frenchmen who
had remained through the years of Babylonian captivity, and from the
bands of neighboring Indians. With his hands again set to the arduous
tasks, Champlain was able to make substantial progress during the next
two years. For a time the Company gave him funds and equipment besides
sending him some excellent colonists. Lands were cleared in the
neighborhood of the settlement; buildings were improved and enlarged;
trade with the Indians was put upon a better basis. A post was
established at Three Rivers, and plans were made for a further
extension of French influence to the westward. It was in the midst of
these achievements and hopes that Champlain was stricken by paralysis
and died on Christmas Day, 1635.

Champlain's portrait, attributed to Moncornet, shows us a sturdy,
broad-shouldered frame, with features in keeping. Unhappily we have no
assurance that it is a faithful likeness. No one, however, can deny
that the mariner of Brouage, with his extraordinary perseverance and
energy, was admirably fitted to be the pathfinder to a new realm. Not
often does one encounter in the annals of any nation a man of greater
tenacity and patience. Chagrin and disappointment he had to meet on
many occasions, but he was never baffled nor moved to concede defeat.
His perseverance, however, was not greater than his modesty, for never
in his writings did he magnify his difficulties nor exalt his own
powers of overcoming them, as was too much the fashion of his day.
As a writer, his style was plain and direct, with, no attempt at
embellishment and no indication that strong emotions ever had much
influence upon his pen. He was essentially a man of action, and his
narrative is in the main a simple record of such a man's achievements.
His character was above reproach; no one ever impugned his honesty or
his sincere devotion to the best interests of his superiors. To his
Church he was loyal in the last degree; and it was under his auspices
that the first of the Jesuit missionaries came to begin the enduring
work which the Order was destined to accomplish in New France.

On the death of Champlain the Company appointed the Sieur de Montmagny
to be governor of the colony. He was an ardent sympathizer with the
aims of the Jesuits, and life at Quebec soon became almost monastic in
its austerity. The Jesuits sent home each year their _Relations_,
and, as these were widely read, they created great interest in the
spiritual affairs of the colony. The call for zealots to carry the
cross westward into the wilderness met ready response, and it was amid
a glow of religious fervor that the settlement at Montreal was brought
into being. A company was formed in France, funds were obtained, and
a band of forty-four colonists was recruited for the crusade into the
wilderness. The Sieur de Maisonneuve, a gallant soldier and a loyal
devotee of the Church, was the active leader of the enterprise, with
Jeanne Mance, an ardent young religionist of high motives and fine
character, as his principal coadjutor. Fortune dealt kindly with the
project, and Montreal began its history in 1642.

A few years later Montmagny gave up his post and returned to France.
With the limited resources at his disposal, he had served the colony
well, and had left it stronger and more prosperous than when he came.
His successor was M. D'Ailleboust, who had been for some time in the
country, and who was consequently no stranger to its needs. On his
appointment a council was created, to consist of the governor of the
colony, the bishop or the superior of the Jesuits, and the governor of
Montreal. Henceforth this body was to be responsible for the making
of all general regulations. It is commonly called the Old Council to
distinguish it from the Sovereign Council by which it was supplanted
in 1663.

The opening years of the new administration were marked by one of the
greatest of forest tragedies, the destruction of the Hurons. In 1648
a party of Iroquois warriors made their way across Lake Ontario and
overland to the Huron country, where they destroyed one large village.
Emboldened by this success, a much larger body of the tribesmen
returned in the year following and completed their bloody work. A
dozen or more Huron settlements were attacked and laid waste with
wanton slaughter. Two Jesuit priests, Lalemant and Brebeuf, who were
laboring among the Hurons, were taken and burned at the stake
after suffering atrocious tortures. The remnants of the tribe were
scattered: a few found shelter on the islands of the Georgian Bay,
while others took refuge with the French and were given a tract of
land at Sillery, near Quebec. To the French colony the extirpation of
the Hurons came as a severe blow. It weakened their prestige in the
west, it cut off a lucrative source of fur supply, and it involved the
loss of faithful allies.

More ominous still, the Iroquois by the success of their forays into
the Huron country endangered the French settlement at Montreal.
Glorying in their prowess, these warriors now boasted that they would
leave the Frenchmen no peace but in their graves. And they proceeded
to make good their threatenings. Bands of confederates spread
themselves about the region near Montreal, pouncing lynx-like from the
forest upon any who ventured outside the immediate boundaries of the
settlement. For a time the people were in despair, but the colony soon
gained a breathing space, not by its own efforts, but from a diversion
of Iroquois enmity to other quarters.

About 1652 the confederated tribes undertook their famous expedition
against the Eries, whose country lay along the south shore of the lake
which bears their name, and this enterprise for the time absorbed
the bulk of the Iroquois energy. The next governor of New France, De
Lauzon, regarded the moment as opportune for peace negotiations, on
the hypothesis that the idea of waging only one war at a time might
appeal to the Five Nations as sound policy. A mission was accordingly
sent to the Iroquois, headed by the Jesuit missionary Le Moyne, and
for a time it seemed as if arrangements for a lasting peace might be
made. But there was no sincerity in the Iroquois professions. Their
real interest lay in peaceful relations with the Dutch and the
English; the French were their logical enemies; and when the Iroquois
had finished with the Eries their insolence quickly showed itself once

The next few years therefore found the colony again in desperate
straits. In its entire population there were not more than five
hundred men capable of taking the field, nor were there firearms for
all of these. The Iroquois confederacy could muster at least three
times that number; they were now obtaining firearms in plenty from the
Dutch at Albany; and they could concentrate their whole assault upon
the French settlement at Montreal. Had the Iroquois known the barest
elements of siege operations, the colony must have come to a speedy
and disastrous end. As the outcome proved, however, they were unwise
enough to divide their strength and to dissipate their energies in
isolated raids, so that Montreal came safely through the gloomy years
of 1658 and 1659.

In the latter of these years there arrived from France a man who was
destined to play a large part in its affairs during the next few
decades, Francois-Xavier de Laval, who now came to take charge of
ecclesiastical affairs in New France with the powers of a vicar
apostolic. Laval's arrival did not mark the beginning of friction
between the Church and the civil officials in the colony; there were
such dissensions already. But the doughty churchman's claims and the
governor's policy of resisting them soon brought things to an open
breach, particularly upon the question of permitting the sale of
liquor to the Indians. In 1662 the quarrel became bitter. Laval
hastened home to France where he placed before the authorities the
list of ecclesiastical grievances. The governor, a bluff old soldier,
was thereupon summoned to Paris to present his side of the whole
affair. In the end a decision was reached to reorganize the whole
system of civil and commercial administration in the colony. Thus, as
we shall soon see, the power passed away altogether from the Company
of One Hundred Associates.



Louis XIV, the greatest of the Bourbon monarchs, had now taken into
his own hands the reins of power. Nominally he had been king of France
since 1642, when he was only five years old, but it was not until 1658
that the control of affairs by the regency came to an end. Moreover,
Colbert was now chief minister of state, so that colonial matters were
assured of a searching and enlightened inquiry. Richelieu's interest
in the progress of New France had not endured for many years after the
founding of his great Company. It is true that during the next fifteen
years he remained chief minister, but the great effort to crush the
remaining strongholds of feudalism and to centralize all political
power in the monarchy left him no time for the care of a distant
colony. Colbert, on the other hand, had well-defined and far-reaching
plans for the development of French industrial interests at home and
of French commercial interests abroad.

As for the colony, it made meager progress under Company control: few
settlers were sent out; and they were not provided with proper means
of defense against Indian depredations. Under the circumstances it did
not take Colbert long to see how remiss the Company of One Hundred
Associates had been, nor to reach a decision that the colony should
be at once withdrawn from its control. He accordingly persuaded the
monarch to demand the surrender of the Company's charter and to
reprimand the Associates for the shameless way in which they had
neglected the trust committed to their care. "Instead of finding,"
declared the King in the edict of revocation, "that this country is
populated as it ought to be after so long an occupation thereof by our
subjects, we have learned with regret not only that the number of its
inhabitants is very limited, but that even these are daily exposed to
the danger of being wiped out by the Iroquois."

In truth, the company had little to show for its thirty years of
exploitation. The entire population of New France in 1663 numbered
less than twenty-five hundred people, a considerable proportion of
whom were traders, officials, and priests. The area of cleared land
was astonishingly small, and agriculture had made no progress worthy
of the name. There were no industries of any kind, and almost nothing
but furs went home in the ships to France. The colony depended upon
its mother country even for its annual food supply, and when the
ships from France failed to come the colonists were reduced to severe
privations. A dispirited and nearly defenseless land, without solid
foundations of agriculture or industry, with an accumulation of Indian
enmity and an empty treasury--this was the legacy which the Company
now turned over to the Crown in return for the viceroyal privileges
given to it in good faith more than three decades before.

When the King revoked the Company's charter, he decided upon Colbert's
advice to make New France a royal domain and to provide it with a
scheme of administration modeled broadly upon that of a province at
home. To this end a royal edict, perhaps the most important of all the
many decrees affecting French colonial interests in the seventeenth
century, was issued in April, 1663. While the provisions of this edict
bear the stamp of Colbert's handiwork, it is not unlikely that the
suggestions of Bishop Laval, as given to the minister during his visit
of the preceding year, were accorded some recognition. At any rate,
after reciting the circumstances under which the King had been
prompted to take New France into his own hands, the edict of 1663
proceeded to authorize the creation of a Sovereign Council as the
chief governing body of the colony. This, with a larger membership and
with greatly increased powers, was to replace the old council
which the Company had established to administer affairs some years

During the next hundred years this Sovereign Council became and
remained the paramount civil authority in French America. At the
outset it consisted of seven members, the governor and the bishop _ex
officio_, with five residents of the colony selected jointly by these
two. Beginning with the arrival of Talon as first intendant of the
colony in 1665, the occupant of this post was also given a seat in the
Council. Before long, however, it became apparent that the provision
relating to the appointment of non-official members was unworkable.
The governor and the bishop could not agree in their selections; each
wanted his own partisans appointed. The result was a deadlock in which
seats at the council-board remained vacant. In the end Louis Quatorze
solved this problem, as he solved many others, by taking the power
directly into his own hands. After 1674 all appointments to the
Council were made by the King himself. In that same year the number of
non-official members was raised to seven, and in 1703 it was further
increased to twelve.[1] At the height of its power, then, the
Sovereign Council of New France consisted of the governor, the
intendant, the bishop, and twelve lay councilors, together with an
attorney-general and a clerk. These two last-named officials sat with
the Council but were not regular members of it.

[Footnote 1: Its official title was in 1678 changed to Superior

In the matter of powers the Council was given by the edict of 1663
jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters under the laws and
ordinances of the kingdom, its procedure in dealing with such matters
to be modeled on that of the Parliament of Paris. It was to receive
and to register the royal decrees, thus giving them validity in New
France, and it was also to be the supreme tribunal of the colony with
authority to establish local courts subordinate to itself. There was
no division of powers in the new frame of government. Legislative,
executive, and judicial powers were thrown together in true Bourbon
fashion. Apparently it was Colbert's plan to make of the governor
a distinguished figurehead, with large military powers but without
paramount influence in civil affairs. The bishop was to have no civil
jurisdiction, and the intendant was to be the director of details. The
Council, according to the edict of 1663, was to be the real pivot of
power in New France.

Through the long years of storm and stress which make up the greater
part of the history of the colony, the Sovereign Council rendered
diligent and faithful service. There were times when passions waxed
warm, when bitter words were exchanged, and when the urgent interests
of the colony were sacrificed to the settlement of personal
jealousies. Many dramatic scenes were enacted around the long table at
which the councilors sat at their weekly sessions, for every Monday
through the greater portion of the year the Council convened at seven
o'clock in the morning and usually sat until noon or later. But
these were only meteoric flashes. Historians have given them undue
prominence because such episodes make racy reading. By far the greater
portion of the council's meetings were devoted to the serious and
patient consideration of routine business. Matters of infinite variety
came to it for determination, including the regulation of industry and
trade, the currency, the fixing of prices, the interpretation of
the rules relating to land tenure, fire prevention, poor
relief, regulation of the liquor traffic, the encouragement of
agriculture--and these are only a few of the topics taken at random
from its calendar. In addition there were thousands of disputes
brought to it for settlement either directly or on appeal from the
lower courts. The minutes of its deliberations during the ninety-seven
years from September 18, 1663, to April 8, 1760, fill no fewer than
fifty-six ponderous manuscript volumes.

Though, in the edict establishing the Sovereign Council, no mention
was made of an intendant, the decision to send such an official to New
France came very shortly thereafter. In 1665 Jean Talon arrived
at Quebec bearing a royal commission which gave him wide powers,
infringing to some extent on the authority vested in the Sovereign
Council two years previously. The phraseology was similar to that used
in the commissions of the provincial intendants in France, and so
broad was the wording, indeed, that one might well ask what other
powers could be left for exercise by any one else. No wonder that the
eighteenth-century apostle of frenzied finance, John Law, should have
laconically described France as a land "ruled by a king and his thirty
intendants, upon whose will alone its welfare and its wants depend."
Along with his commission Talon brought to the colony a letter of
instructions from the minister which, gave more detailed directions as
to what things he was to have in view and what he was to avoid.

In France the office of intendant had long been in existence. Its
creation in the first instance has commonly been attributed to
Richelieu, but it really antedated the coming of the great cardinal.
The intendancy was not a spontaneous creation, but a very old and,
in its origin, a humble post which grew in importance with the
centralization of power in the King's hands, and which kept step in
its development with the gradual extinction of local self-government
in the royal domains. The provincial intendant in pre-revolutionary
France was master of administration, finance, and justice within his
own jurisdiction; he was bound by no rigid statutes; he owed obedience
to no local authorities; he was appointed by the King and was
responsible to his sovereign alone.

From first to last there were a dozen intendants of New France. Talon,
whose ambition and energy did much to set the colony in the saddle,
was the first. Francois Bigot, the arch-plunderer of his monarch's
funds, who did so much to bring the land to its downfall, was the
last. Between them came a line of sensible, earnest, hard-working
officials who served their King far better than they served
themselves, who gave the best years of their lives to the task of
making New France a bright jewel in the Bourbon crown. The colonial
intendant was the royal man-of-all-work. The King spoke and the
intendant forthwith transformed his words into action. As the King's
great interest in New France, coupled with his scant knowledge of
its conditions, moved him to speak often, and usually in broad
generalities, the intendant's activity was prodigious and his
discretion wide. Ordinances and decrees flew from his pen like sparks
from a blacksmith's forge. The duty devolved upon him as the overseas
apostle of Gallic paternalism to "order everything as seemed just and
proper," even when this brought his hand into the very homes of the
people, into their daily work or worship or amusements. Nothing that
needed setting aright was too inconsequential to have an ordinance
devoted to it. As general regulator of work and play, of manners and
morals, of things present and things to come, the intendant was the
busiest man in the colony.

In addition to the governor, the council, and the intendant, there
were many other officials on the civil list. Both the governor and the
intendant had their deputies at Montreal and at Three Rivers. There
were judges and bailiffs and seneschals and local officers by the
score, not to speak of those who held sinecures or received royal
pensions. There were garrisons to be maintained at all the frontier
posts and church officials to be supported by large sums. No marvel it
was that New France could never pay its own way. Every year there was
a deficit which, the King had to liquidate by payments from the royal

The administration of the colony, moreover, fell far short of even
reasonable efficiency. There were far too many officials for the
relatively small amount of work to be done, and their respective
fields of authority were inadequately defined. Too often the work of
these officials lacked even the semblance of harmony, nor did the
royal authorities always view this deficiency with regret. A fair
amount of working at cross-purposes, provided it did not bring affairs
to a complete standstill, was regarded as a necessary system of checks
and balances in a colony which lay three thousand miles away. It
prevented any chance of a general conspiracy against the home
authorities or any wholesale wrong-doing through collusion. It served
to make every official a ready tale-bearer in all matters concerning
the motives and acts of his colleagues, so that the King might with,
reasonable certainty count upon hearing all the sides to every story.
That, in fact, was wholly in consonance with Latin traditions of
government, and it was characteristically the French way of doing
things in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Louis XIV took a great personal interest in New France even to the
neglect at times of things which his courtiers deemed to be far
more important. The governor and the intendant plied him with their
requests, with their grievances, and too often with their prosy tales
of petty squabbling. With every ship they sent to Versailles their
_memoires_, often of intolerable length; and the patient monarch read
them all. Marginal notes, made with his own hand, are still upon many
of them, and the student who plods his way through the musty bundles
of official correspondence in the _Archives Nationales_ will find in
these marginal comments enough to convince him that, whatever the
failings of Louis XIV may have been, indolence was not of them. Then
with the next ships the King sent back his budget of orders, counsel,
reprimand, and praise. If the colony failed to thrive, it was not
because the royal interest in it proved insincere or deficient.

The progress of New France, as reported in these dispatches from
Quebec, with their figures of slow growth in population, of poor
crops, and of failing trade, of Indian troubles and dangers from the
English, of privations at times and of deficits always, must often
have dampened the royal hopes. The requests for subsidies from
the royal purse were especially relentless. Every second dispatch
contained pleas for money or for things which were bound to cost money
if the King provided them: money to enable some one to clear his
lands, or to start an industry, or to take a trip of exploration to
the wilds; money to provide more priests, to build churches, or to
repair fortifications; money to pension officials--the call for money
was incessant year after year. In the face of these multifarious
demands upon his exchequer, Louis XIV was amazingly generous, but the
more he gave, the more the colony asked from him. Until the end of his
days, he never failed in response if the object seemed worthy of
his support. It was not until the Grand Monarch was gathered to his
fathers that the officials of New France began to ply their requests
in vain.

So much for the frame of government in the colony during the age of
Louis XIV. Now as to the happenings during the decade following 1663.
The new administration made a promising start under the headship of De
Mezy, a fellow townsman and friend of Bishop Laval, who arrived in the
autumn of 1663 to take up his duties as governor. In a few days he and
the bishop had amicably chosen the five residents of the colony who
were to serve as councilors, and the council began its sessions. But
troubles soon loomed into view, brought on in part by Laval's desire
to settle up some old scores now that he had the power as a member
of the Sovereign Council and was the dominating influence in its
deliberations. Under the bishop's inspiration the Council ordered the
seizure of some papers belonging to Peronne Dumesnil, a former agent
of the now defunct Company of One Hundred Associates. Dumesnil
retorted by filing a _dossier_ of charges against some of the
councilors; and the colonists at once ranged themselves into two
opposing factions--those who believed the charges and those who did
not. The bishop had become the stormy petrel of colonial politics, and
nature had in truth well fitted him for just such a role.

Soon, moreover, the relations between Mezy and Laval themselves became
less cordial. For a year the governor had proved ready to give way
graciously on every point; but there was a limit to his amenability,
and now his proud spirit began to chafe under the dictation of his
ecclesiastical colleague. At length he ventured to show a mind of his
own; and then the breach between him and Laval widened quickly.
Three of the councillors having joined the bishop against him, Mezy
undertook a _coup d'etat_, dismissed these councilors from their
posts, and called a mass-meeting of the people to choose their
successors. On the governor's part this was a serious tactical error.
He could hardly expect that a monarch who was doing his best to crush
out the last vestige of representative government in France would
welcome its establishment and encouragement by one of his own
officials in the New World. But Mezy did not live to obey the recall
which speedily came from the King as the outcome of this indiscretion.
In the spring of 1665 he was taken ill and died at Quebec. "He went
to rest among the paupers," says Parkman, "and the priests, serenely
triumphant, sang requiems over his grave."

But discord within its borders was not the colony's only trouble
during these years. The scourge of the Iroquois was again upon the
land. During the years 1663 and 1664 bands of Mohawks and Oneidas
raided the regions of the Richelieu and penetrated to the settlement
at Three Rivers. These _petites guerres_ were making things
intolerable for the colonists, and the King was urged to send out a
force of troops large enough to crush the bothersome savages once for
all. This plea met with a ready response, and in June, 1665, Prouville
de Tracy with two hundred officers and men of the Regiment de
Carignan-Salieres disembarked at Quebec. The remaining companies of
the regiment, making a force almost a thousand strong, arrived a
little later. The people were now sure that deliverance was at hand,
and the whole colony was in a frenzy of joy.

Following the arrival of the troops came Courcelle, the new governor,
and Jean Talon, who was to take the post of intendant. These were gala
days in New France; the whole colony had caught the spirit of the new
imperialism. The banners and the trumpets, the scarlet cloaks and
the perukes, the glittering profusion of gold lace and feathers, the
clanking of swords and muskets, transformed Quebec in a season from a
wilderness village to a Versailles in miniature. But there was little
time for dress parades and affairs of ceremony. Tracy had come to give
the Iroquois their _coup de grace_, and the work must be done quickly.
The King could not afford to have a thousand soldiers of the grand
army eating their heads off through the long months of a Canadian

The work of getting the expedition ready, therefore, was pushed
rapidly ahead. Snowshoes were provided for the regiment, provisions
and supplies were gathered, and in January, 1666, the expedition
started up the frozen Richelieu, traversed Lake Champlain, and moved
across to the headwaters of the Hudson. It was a spectacle new to
the northern wilderness of America, this glittering and picturesque
cavalcade of regulars flanked by troops of militiamen and bands of
fur-clothed Indians moving on its errand of destruction along the
frozen rivers. But the French regular troops were not habituated
to long marches on snowshoes in the dead of winter; and they made
progress so slowly that the Dutch settlers of the region had time to
warn the Mohawks of the approach of the expedition. This upset all
French plans, since the leaders had hoped to fall upon the Mohawk
villages and to destroy them before the tribesmen could either make
preparations for defense or withdraw southward. Foiled in this plan,
and afraid that an early thaw might make their route of return
impossible, the French gave up their project and started home again.
They had not managed to reach, much less to destroy, the villages of
their enemies.

But the undertaking was not an absolute failure. The Mohawks were
astute enough to see that only the inexperience of the French had
stood between them and destruction. Here was an enemy which had proved
able to come through the dead of winter right into the regions which
had hitherto been regarded as inaccessible from the north. The French
might be depended to come again and, by reason of greater experience,
to make a better job of their coming. The Iroquois reasoning was quite
correct, as the sequel soon disclosed. In September of the same year
the French had once again equipped their expedition, more effectively
this time. Traveling overland along nearly the same route, it reached
the country of the Mohawks without a mishap. The Indians saved
themselves by a rapid flight to the forests, but their palisaded
strongholds were demolished, their houses set afire, their _caches_ of
corn dug out and destroyed. The Mohawks were left to face the oncoming
winter with nothing but the woods to shelter them. Having finished
their task of punishment, Tracy and his regiment made their way
leisurely back to Quebec.

The Mohawks were now quite ready to make terms, and in 1667 they
sent a delegation to Quebec to proffer peace. Two raids into their
territories in successive years had taught them that they could not
safely leave their homes to make war against the tribes of the west so
long as the French were their enemies. And the desire to dominate the
region of the lakes was a first principle of Iroquois policy at this
time. An armistice was accordingly concluded, which lasted without
serious interruption for more than a decade. One of the provisions
of the peace was that Jesuit missions should be established in the
Iroquois territory, this being the usual way in which the French
assured themselves of diplomatic intercourse with the tribes.

With its trade routes once more securely open, New France now began a
period of marked prosperity. Tracy and his staff went back to France,
but most of his soldiers remained and became settlers. Wives for these
soldiers were sent out under royal auspices, and liberal grants of
money were provided to get the new households established. Since
1664, the trade of the colony had been once more in the hands of
a commercial organization, the Company of the West Indies, whose
financial success was, for the time being, assured by the revival of
the fur traffic. Industries were beginning to spring into being, the
population was increasing rapidly, and the King was showing a lively
interest in all the colony's affairs. It was therefore a prosperous
and promising colony to which Governor Frontenac came in 1672.



The ten years following 1663 form a decade of extraordinary progress
in the history of New France. The population of the colony had
trebled, and now numbered approximately seven thousand; the red peril,
thanks to Tracy's energetic work, had been lessened; while the fur
trade had grown to large and lucrative proportions. With this increase
in population and prosperity, there came a renaissance of enthusiasm
for voyages of exploration and for the widening of the colony's
frontiers. Glowing reports went home to the King concerning the latent
possibilities of the New World. What the colony now needed was a
strong and vigorous governor who would not only keep a firm hold upon
what had been already achieved, but one who would also push on to
greater and more glorious things.

It was in keeping with, this spirit of faith and hope that the King
sent to Quebec, in 1672, Louis de Buade, Count Frontenac, naming him
governor of all the French domains in North America. Fifty-two years
of age when he came to Canada, Frontenac had been a soldier from his
youth; he had fought through hard campaigns in Italy, in the Low
Countries, and with the Venetians in their defense of Candia against
the Turks. In fact, he had but shortly returned from this last service
when he was chosen to succeed Courcelle as the royal representative in
New France.

To Frontenac's friends the appointment seemed more like a banishment
than a promotion. But there were several reasons why the governor
should have accepted gladly. He had inherited only a modest fortune,
and most of this had been spent, for thrift was not one of Frontenac's
virtues. His domestic life had not been happy, and there were no
strong personal ties binding him to life in France.[1] Moreover, the
post of governor in the colony was not to be judged by what it had
been in the days of D'Avaugour or De Mezy. The reports sent home by
Talon had stirred the national ambitions. "I am no courtier," this
intendant had written, "and it is not to please the King or without
reason that I say this portion of the French monarchy is going to
become something great. What I now see enables me to make such a
prediction." And indeed the figures of growth in population, of
acreage cleared, and of industries rising into existence seemed to
justify the intendant's optimism. Both the King and his ministers were
building high hopes on Canada, as their choice of Frontenac proves,
and in their selection of a man to carry out their plans they showed,
on the whole, good judgment. Frontenac proved to be the ablest and
most commanding of all the officials who served the Bourbon monarchy
in the New World. In the long line of governors he approached most
nearly to what a Viceroy ought to be.

[Footnote 1: Saint-Simon, in his _Memoires_, prints the current
Parisian gossip that Frontenac was sent to New France to shield him
from the imperious temper of his wife and to afford him a means of

It is true that in New France there were conditions which no amount
of experience in the Old World could train a man to handle. Nor was
Frontenac particularly fitted by training or temperament for all
of the duties which his new post involved. In some things he was
well-endowed; he had great physical endurance, a strong will, with no
end of courage, and industry to spare. These were qualities of the
highest value in a land encircled by enemies and forced to depend for
existence upon the strength of its own people. But more serviceable
still was his ability in adapting himself to a new environment. Men
past fifty do not often show this quality in marked degree, but
Frontenac fitted himself to the novelty of colonial life exceedingly
well. In his relations with, the Indians he showed amazing skill. No
other colonial governor, English, French, or Dutch, ever commanded so
readily the respect and admiration of the red man. But in his dealings
with the intendant and the bishop, with the clergy, and with all those
among the French of New France who showed any disposition to disagree
with him, Frontenac displayed an uncontrollable temper, an arrogance
of spirit, and a degree of personal vanity which would not have made
for cordial relations in any field of human effort. He had formed his
own opinions and was quite ready to ride rough-shod over those of
other men. It was this impetuosity that served to make the official
circles of the colony, during many months of his term, a "little hell
of discord."

But when the new viceroy arrived at Quebec he was in high fettle;
he was pleased with the situation of the town and flattered by the
enthusiastic greeting which he received from its people. His first
step was to familiarize himself with the existing machinery of
colonial government, which he found to be far from his liking. He
proceeded, accordingly, in his own imperious way, to make
some startling changes. For one thing, he decided to summon a
representative assembly made up of the clergy, the seigneurs, and
the common folk of New France. This body he brought together for his
inauguration in October, 1672. No such assembly had ever been convened
before, and nothing like it was ever allowed to assemble again.
Before another year had passed, the minister sent Frontenac a polite
reprimand with the intimation that the King could not permit in the
colony an institution he was doing his best, and with entire success,
to crush out at home. The same fate awaited the governor's other
project, the establishment of a municipal government in the town of
Quebec. Within a few months of his arrival, Frontenac had allowed
the people of the town to elect a syndic and two aldermen, but the
minister vetoed this action with the admonition that "you should very
rarely, or, to speak more correctly, never, give a corporate voice
to the inhabitants, for ... it is well that each should speak for
himself, and no one for all." In the reorganization of colonial
administration, therefore, the governor found himself promptly called
to a halt. He therefore turned to another field where he was much more
successful in having his own way.

From the day of his arrival at Quebec the governor saw the pressing
need of extending French, influence and control into the regions
bordering upon the Great Lakes. To dissipate the colony's efforts in
westward expansion, however, was exactly what he had been instructed
not to do. The King and his ministers were sure that it would be far
wiser to devote all available energies and funds to developing the
settled portions of the land. They desired the governor to carry on
the policy of encouraging agriculture which Talon had begun, thus
solidifying the colony and making its borders less difficult to
defend. Frontenac's instructions on this point could hardly have been
more explicit. "His Majesty considers it more consistent with the good
of his service," wrote Colbert, "that you apply yourself to clearing
and settling the most fertile places that are nearest the seacoast and
the communication with France than to think afar of explorations
in the interior of the country, so distant that they can never be
inhabited by Frenchmen." This was discouraging counsel, showing
neither breadth of vision nor familiarity with the urgent needs of the
colony. Frontenac courageously set these instructions aside, and in
doing so he was wise. Had he held to the letter of his instructions,
New France would never have been more than a strip of territory
fringing the Lower St. Lawrence. More than any other Frenchman he
helped to plan the great empire of the West.

Notwithstanding the narrow views of his superiors at Versailles,
Frontenac was convinced that the colony could best secure its own
defense by controlling the chief line of water communications between
the Iroquois country and Montreal. To this end he prepared to build a
fort at Cataraqui where the St. Lawrence debouches from Lake Ontario.
He was not, however, the first to recognize the strategic value of
this point. Talon had marked it as a place of importance some years
before, and the English, authorities at Albany had been urged by the
Iroquois chiefs to forestall any attempt that the French might make by
being first on the ground. But the English procrastinated, and in the
summer of 1673 the governor, with an imposing array of troops and
militia, made his way to Cataraqui, having first summoned the Iroquois
to meet him there in solemn council. In rather high dudgeon they came,
ready to make trouble if the chance arose; but Frontenac's display
of armed strength, his free-handed bestowal of presents, his tactful
handling of the chiefs, and his effective oratory at the conclave soon
assured him the upper hand. The fort was built, and the Iroquois,
while they continued to regard it as an invasion of their territories,
were forced to accept the new situation with reluctant grace.

This stroke at Cataraqui inflamed the governor's interest in western
affairs. During his conferences with the Indians he had heard much
about the great waters to the West and the rich beaver lands which lay
beyond. He was ready, therefore, to encourage in every way the plans
of those who wished to undertake journeys of exploration and trade
into these regions, even although he was well aware that such
enterprises would win little commendation from his superiors at the
royal court. Voyageurs ready to undertake these tasks there were in
plenty, and all of them found in the Iron Governor a stalwart friend.
Foremost among these pioneers of the Far Country was Robert Cavelier
de La Salle, whom Frontenac had placed for a time in command of the
fort at Cataraqui and who, in 1678, was commissioned by the governor
to forge another link in the chain by the erection of a fort at
Niagara. There he also built a small vessel, the first to ply the
waters of the upper lakes, and in this La Salle and his lieutenants
made their way to Michilimackinac. How he later journeyed to the
Mississippi and down that stream to its mouth is a story to be told
later on in these pages. It was and will remain a classic in the
annals of exploration. And without Frontenac's vigorous support it
could never have been accomplished. La Salle, when he performed his
great feat of daring and endurance, was still a young man under forty,
but his courage, firmness, and determination were not surpassed by any
of his race. He had qualities that justified the confidence which the
governor reposed in him.

But while La Salle was the most conspicuous among the pathfinders
of this era, he was not the only one. Tonty, Du Lhut, La Foret, La
Mothe-Cadillac, and others were all in Frontenac's favor, and all had
his vigorous support in their work. Intrepid woodsmen, they covered
every portion of the western wilderness, building forts and posts of
trade, winning the friendship of the Indians, planting the arms of
France in new soil and carrying the _Vexilla Regis_ into parts unknown
before. If Frontenac could have had his way, if the King had provided
him with the funds, he would have run an iron chain of fortified
posts all along the great water routes from Cataraqui to the
Mississippi--and he had lieutenants who were able to carry out such
an undertaking. But there were great obstacles in the way,--the
lukewarmmess of the home government, the bitter opposition of the
Jesuits, and the intrigues of his colleagues. Yet the governor was
able to make a brave start, and before he had finished he had firmly
laid the foundations of French trading supremacy in these western

During the first three years after his coming to Canada, the governor
had ruled alone. There was no intendant or bishop to hamper him, for
both Talon and Laval had gone to France in 1672. But in 1675 Laval
returned to the colony, and in the same year a new intendant, Jacques
Duchesneau, was appointed. With this change in the situation at Quebec
the friction began in earnest, for Frontenac's imperious temper did
not make him a cheerful sharer of authority with any one else. If
the intendant and the bishop had been men of conflicting ideas and
dispositions, Frontenac might easily have held the balance of power;
but they were men of kindred aims, and they readily combined against
the governor. United in their opposition to him, they were together a
fair match for Frontenac in ability and astuteness. It was not long,
accordingly, before the whole colony was once more aligned in two
factions. With the governor were the merchants, many of the seigneurs,
and all the _coureurs-de-bois_. Supporting the intendant and the
bishop were many of the subordinate officials, all of the priests, and
those of the tradesmen and habitants with whom the clerical influence
was paramount.

The story of the quarrels which went on between these two factions
during the years 1675-1680 is neither brief nor edifying. The root of
it all lay in the governor's western policy, his encouragement of the
forest traders or _coureurs-de-bois_, and his connivance at the use
of brandy in the Indian trade. There were unseemly squabbles about
precedence at council meetings and at religious festivals, about
trivialities of every sort; but the question of the brandy trade was
at the bottom of them all. The bishop flayed the governor for letting
this trade go on; the missionaries declared that it was proving the
ruin of their efforts; and the intendant declared that Frontenac
allowed it to continue because he was making a personal profit from
the traffic. Charges and countercharges went home to France with every
ship. The intendant wrote dispatches of wearisome length, rehearsing
the governor's usurpations, insults, and incompetence. "Disorder," he
told the minister, "rules everywhere. Universal confusion prevails;
justice is openly perverted, and violence supported by authority
determines everything." In language quite as unrestrained Frontenac
recounted in detail the difficulties with which he had to contend
owing to the intendant's obstinacy, intrigue, and dishonesty. The
minister, appalled by the bewildering contradictions, could only
lay the whole matter before the King, who determined to try first a
courteous reprimand and to that end sent an autograph letter to each
official. Both letters were alike in admonishing the governor and the
intendant to work in harmony for the good of the colony, but each
concluded with the significant warning: "Unless you harmonize better
in the future than In the past, my only alternative will be to recall
you both."

This intimation, coming straight from their royal master, was to each
a rebuke which could not be misunderstood. But it did not accomplish,
much, for the bitterness and jealousy existing between the two
colonial officers was too strong to be overcome. The very next vessels
took to France a new budget of complaints and recriminations from
both. The King, as good as his word, issued prompt orders for their
recall and the two officials left for home, but not on the same
vessel, in the summer of 1682.

The question as to which of the two was the more at fault is hardly
worth determining. The share of blame to be cast on each by the
verdict of history should probably be about equal. Frontenac was by
far the abler man, but he had the defects of his qualities. He could
not brook the opposition of men less competent than he was, and when
he was provoked his arrogance became intolerable. In broader domains
of political action he would soon have out-generaled his adversary,
but in these petty fields of neighborhood bickering Duchesneau,
particularly with the occasional nudgings which he received from
Laval, proved no unequal match. The fact remains that neither was able
or willing to sacrifice personal animosities nor to display any spirit
of cordial cooperation even at the royal command. The departure of
both was regarded as a blessing by the majority of the colonists to
whom the continued squabbles had become wearisome. Yet there was not
lacking, in the minds of many among them, the conviction that if ever
again New France should find itself in urgent straits, if ever there
were critical need of an iron hand to rule within and to guard
without, there would still be one man whom, so long as he lived, they
could confidently ask to be sent out to them again. For the time
being, however, Frontenac's official career seemed to be at an end. At
sixty-two he could hardly hope to regain the royal favor by further
service. He must have left the shores of New France with a heavy

Frontenac's successor was La Barre, an old naval officer who had
proved himself as capable at sea as he was now to show himself
incompetent on land. He was the antithesis of his headstrong
predecessor, weak in decision, without personal energy, without
imagination, but likewise without any of Frontenac's skill in the
art of making enemies. With La Barre came Meulles, an abler and more
energetic colleague, who was to succeed Duchesneau as intendant. Both,
reached Quebec in the autumn of 1682, and problems in plenty they
found awaiting them. Shortly before their arrival a fire had swept
through the settlement at Quebec, leaving scarcely a building on the
lands below the cliff. To make matters worse, the Iroquois had again
thrown themselves across the western trade route and had interrupted
the coining of the colony's fur supply. As every one now recognized
that the protection of this route was essential, La Barre decided
that the Iroquois must be taught a lesson. Preparations in rather
ostentatious fashion were therefore made for a punitive expedition,
and in the summer of 1684 the governor with his troops was at
Cataraqui. At this point, however, he began to question whether a
parley might not be a better means of securing peace than the laying
waste of Indian lands. Accordingly, it was arranged that a council
with the Iroquois should be held across the lake from Cataraqui at a
place which later took the name of La Famine from the fact that during
the council the French supplies ran low and the troops had to be put
on short rations. After negotiations which the cynical chronicler La
Hontan has described with picturesque realism, an inglorious truce was
patched up. The new governor was sadly deficient in his knowledge of
the Indian temperament. He had given the Iroquois an impression that
the French were too proud to fight. For their part the Iroquois
offered him war or peace as he might choose, and La Barre assured them
that he chose to live at peace. When the expedition returned to Quebec
there was great disgust throughout the colony, the echoes of which
were not without their effect at Versailles, and La Barre was
forthwith recalled.

In his place the King sent out the Marquis de Denonville in 1685 with
power to make war on the tribesmen or to respect the peace as he might
find expedient upon his arrival. The new governor was an honest,
well-intentioned soul, neither mentally incapable nor lacking in
personal courage. He might have served his King most acceptably in
many posts of routine officialdom, but he was not the man to handle
the destinies of half a continent in critical years. His mission, to
be sure, was no sinecure, for the Iroquois had grown bolder with the
assurance of support from the English. Now that they were securing
arms and ammunition from Albany it was probable that they would carry
their raids right to the heart of New France. Denonville was therefore
forced to the conclusion that he had better strike quickly. In making
this decision he was right, for in dealing with savage races a thrust
is almost always the best defense.

Armed preparations were consequently once more placed under way,
and in the summer of 1687 a flotilla of canoes and batteaux bearing
soldiers and supplies was again at Cataraqui. This time the expedition
was stronger in numbers and better equipped than ever before. Down the
lakes from Michilimackinac came a force of _coureurs-de-bois_, among
them seasoned veterans of the wilderness like Du Lhut, Tonty, La
Foret, Morel de la Durantaye, and Nicholas Perrot, each worth a whole
squad of soldiers when it came to fighting the Iroquois in their own
forests. At the rendezvous across the lake from Cataraqui the French
and their allies mustered nearly three thousand men. Denonville had
none of his predecessor's bravado coupled with cowardice; his plans
were carried forward with a precision worthy of Frontenac. Unlike
Frontenac, however he had a scant appreciation of the skill with which
the red man could get out of the way in the face of danger. By moving
too slowly after he had set out overland towards the Seneca villages,
he gave the enemy time to place themselves out of his reach. So he
burned their villages and destroyed large areas of growing corn. After
more than a week had been spent in laying waste the land, Denonville
and his expedition retired slowly to Cataraqui. Leaving part of his
force there, the governor went westward to Niagara, where he rebuilt
in more substantial fashion La Salle's old fort at that point and
placed it in charge of a garrison. The _coureurs-de-bois_ then
continued on their way to Michilimackinac while Denonville returned to

The expedition of 1687 had not been a fiasco like that of 1685,
but neither was it in any real way a success. It angered the whole
Iroquois confederacy without, having sufficiently impressed the
Indians with the punitive power of the French. Denonville had stirred
up the nest without destroying the hornets. It was all too soon the
Indians' turn to show what they could do as ravagers of unprotected
villages; within a year after the French expedition had returned, the
Iroquois bands were raiding the territory of the French to the very
outskirts of Montreal itself. The route to the west was barred; the
fort at Niagara had to be abandoned; Cataraqui was cut off from succor
and ultimately had to be destroyed by its garrison; not a single
canoe-load of furs came down from the lakes during the entire summer.
The merchants were facing ruin, and the whole colony was beginning to
tremble for its very existence. The seven years since Frontenac left
the land had indeed been a lurid interval.

It was at this juncture that tidings of the colony's dire distress
were hurried to the King, and the Grand Monarch moved with rare good
sense. He promptly sent for that grim old veteran whom he had recalled
in anger seven years before. In all the realm Frontenac was the one
man who could be depended upon to restore the prestige of France along
the great trade routes.

The Great Onontio, as Frontenac was known to the Indians, reached the
St. Lawrence in the late autumn of 1689, just as the colony was about
to pass through its darkest hours. Quebec greeted him as a _Redemptor
Patriae_; its people, in the words of La Hontan, were as Jews
welcoming the Messiah. Nor was their enthusiasm without good cause,
for in a few years Frontenac demonstrated his ability to put the
colony on its feet once more. He settled its internal broils, opened
the channels of trade, restored the forts, repulsed the English, and
brought the Iroquois to terms.

Now that his mission had been achieved and he was no longer as robust
as of old, the Iron Governor asked the minister to keep him in mind
for some suitable sinecure in France if the opportunity came. This the
minister readily promised, but the promise was still unfulfilled when
Frontenac was stricken with his last illness. On November 28, 1698,
the greatest of the Onontios, or governors, passed away. "Devoted to
the service of his king," says his eulogist, "more busied with duty
than with gain; inviolable in his fidelity to his friends, he was as
vigorous a supporter as he was an untiring foe." Had his official
career closed with his recall in 1682, Frontenac would have ranked as
one of the singular misfits of the old French colonial system. But the
brilliant successes of his second term made men forget the earlier
days of petulance and petty bickerings. In the sharp contrasts of his
nature Frontenac was an unusual man, combining many good and great
qualities with personal shortcomings that were equally pronounced. In
the civil history of New France he challenges attention as the most
remarkable figure.



The greatest and most enduring achievement of Frontenac's first term
was the exploration of the territory southwestward of the Great Lakes
and the planting of French influence there. This work was due, in
large part, to the courage and energy of the intrepid La Salle.
Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, like so many others who


Back to Full Books