The Fighting Governor
Charles W. Colby

Part 2 out of 2

Louis XIV. It is much more probable that the king withheld
his bounty from Canada because his attention was
concentrated on the costly war against Holland. Campaigns
at home meant economy in Canada, and the colony was far
from having reached the stage where it could flourish
without constant financial support from the motherland.

In general, Frontenac's policy was as vigorous as he
could make it. Over commerce, taxes, and religion he had
no control. By training and temper he was a war governor,
who during his first administration fell upon a time of
peace. So long as peace prevailed he lacked the powers
and the opportunity to enable him to reveal his true
strength; and his energy, without sufficient vent, broke
forth in quarrels at the council board.

With wider authority, Frontenac might have proved a
successful governor even in time of peace, for he was
very intelligent and had at heart the welfare of the
colony. As it was, his restrictions chafed and goaded
him until wrathfulness took the place of reason. But we
shall err if we conclude that when he left Canada in
discomfiture he had not earned her thanks. Through pride
and faults of temper he had impaired his usefulness and
marred his record. Even so there was that which rescued
his work from the stigma of failure. He had guarded his
people from the tomahawk and the scalping-knife. With
prescient eye he had foreseen the imperial greatness of
the West. Whatever his shortcomings, they had not been
those of meanness or timidity.



We have seen that during Frontenac's first term of office
no urgent danger menaced the colony on the frontier. The
missionary and the explorer were steadily pressing forward
to the head of the Great Lakes and into the valley of
the Mississippi, enlarging the sphere of French influence
and rendering the interior tributary to the commerce of
Quebec. But this peaceful and silent expansion had not
passed unnoticed by those in whose minds it aroused both
rivalry and dread. Untroubled from without as New France
had been under Frontenac, there were always two lurking
perils--the Iroquois and the English.

The Five Nations owed their leadership among the Indian
tribes not only to superior discipline and method but
also to their geographical situation. The valley of the
St Lawrence lay within easy reach, either through Lake
Champlain or Lake Ontario. On the east at their very door
lay the valley of the Mohawk and the Hudson. From the
western fringe of their territory they could advance
quickly to Lake Erie, or descend the Ohio into the valley
of the Mississippi. It was doubtless due to their prowess
rather than to accident that they originally came into
possession of this central and favoured position; however,
they could now make their force felt throughout the whole
north-eastern portion of the continent.

Over seventy years had now passed since Champlain's attack
upon the Iroquois in 1609; but lapse of time had not
altered the nature of the savage, nor were the causes of
mutual hostility less real than at first. A ferocious
lust for war remained the deepest passion of the Iroquois,
to be satisfied at convenient intervals. It was unfortunate,
in their view, that they could not always be at war; but
they recognized that there must be breathing times and
that it was important to choose the right moment for
massacre and pillage. Daring but sagacious, they followed
an opportunist policy. At times their warriors delighted
to lurk in the outskirts of Montreal with tomahawk and
scalping-knife and to organize great war-parties, such
as that which was arrested by Dollard and his heroic
companions at the Long Sault in 1660. At other times they
held fair speech with the governor and permitted the
Jesuits to live in their villages, for the French had
weapons and means of fighting which inspired respect.

The appearance of the Dutch on the Hudson in 1614 was an
event of great importance to the Five Nations. The Dutch
were quite as ready as the French to trade in furs, and
it was thus that the Iroquois first procured the firearms
which they used in their raids on the French settlements.
That the Iroquois rejoiced at having a European colony
on the Hudson may be doubted, but as they were unable to
prevent it, they drew what profit they could by putting
the French and Dutch in competition, both for their
alliance and their neutrality.

But, though the Dutch were heretics and rivals, it was
a bad day for New France when the English seized New
Amsterdam (1669) and began to establish themselves from
Manhattan to Albany. The inevitable conflict was first
foreshadowed in the activities of Sir Edmund Andros,
which followed his appointment as governor of New York
in 1674. He visited the Mohawks in their own villages,
organized a board of Indian commissioners at Albany, and
sought to cement an alliance with the whole confederacy
of the Five Nations. In opposition to this France made
the formal claim (1677) that by actual residence in the
Iroquois country the Jesuits had brought the Iroquois
under French sovereignty.

Iroquois, French, and English thus formed the points of
a political triangle. Home politics, however--the friendship
of Stuart and Bourbon--tended to postpone the day of
reckoning between the English and French in America.
England and France were not only at peace but in alliance.
The Treaty of Dover had been signed in 1670, and two
years later, just as Frontenac had set out for Quebec,
Charles II had sent a force of six thousand English to
aid Louis XIV against the Dutch. It was in this war that
John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, won his
spurs--fighting on the French side!

None the less, there were premonitions of trouble in
America, especially after Thomas Dongan became governor
of New York in 1683. Andros had shown good judgment in
his dealings with the Iroquois, and his successor,
inheriting a sound policy, went even further on the same
course. Dongan, an Irishman of high birth and a Catholic,
strenuously opposed the pretensions of the French to
sovereignty over the Iroquois. When it was urged that
religion required the presence of the Jesuits among them,
he denied the allegation, stating that he would provide
English priests to take their place. A New England
Calvinist could not have shown more firmness in upholding
the English position. Indeed, no governor of Puritan New
England had ever equalled Dongan in hostility to Catholic
New France.

Frontenac's successor, Lefebvre de la Barre, who had
served with distinction in the West Indies, arrived at
Quebec in September 1682. By the same ship came the new
intendant, Meulles. They found the Lower Town of Quebec
in ruins, for a devastating fire had just swept through
it. Hardly anything remained standing save the buildings
on the cliff.

La Barre and Meulles were soon at loggerheads. It appears
that, instead of striving to repair the effects of the
fire, the new governor busied himself to accumulate
fortune. He had indeed promised the king that, unlike
his predecessors, he would seek no profit from private
trading, and had on this ground requested an increase of
salary. Meulles presently reported that, far from keeping
this promise, La Barre and his agents had shared ten or
twelve thousand crowns of profit, and that unless checked
the governor's revenues would soon exceed those of the
king. Meulles also accuses La Barre of sending home
deceitful reports regarding the success of his Indian
policy. We need not dwell longer on these reports. They
disclose with great clearness the opinion of the intendant
as to the governor's fitness for his office.

La Barre stands condemned not by the innuendoes of Meulles,
but by his own failure to cope with the Iroquois.

The presence of the Dutch and English had stimulated the
Five Nations to enlarge their operations in the fur trade
and multiply their profits. The French, from being earliest
in the field, had established friendly relations with
all the tribes to the north of the Great Lakes, including
those who dwelt in the valley of the Ottawa; and La Salle
and Tonty had recently penetrated to the Mississippi and
extended French trade to the country of the Illinois
Indians. The furs from this region were being carried up
the Mississippi and forwarded to Quebec by the Lakes and
the St Lawrence. This brought the Illinois within the
circle of tribes commercially dependent on Quebec. At
the same time the Iroquois, through the English on the
Hudson, now possessed facilities greater than ever for
disposing of all the furs they could acquire; and they
wanted this trade for themselves.

The wholesome respect which the Iroquois entertained for
Frontenac kept them from attacking the tribes under the
protection of the French on the Great Lakes; but the
remote Illinois were thought to be a safe prey. During
the autumn of 1680 a war-party of more than six hundred
Iroquois invaded the country of the Illinois. La Salle
was then in Montreal, but Tonty met the invaders and did
all he could to save the Illinois from their clutches.
His efforts were in vain. The Illinois suffered all that
had befallen the Hurons in 1649. [Footnote: See The
Jesuit Missions in this Series, chap. vi.] The Iroquois,
however, were careful not to harm the French, and to
demand from Tonty a letter to show Frontenac as proof
that he and his companions had been respected.

Obviously this raid was a symptom of danger, and in 1681
Frontenac asked the king to send him five or six hundred
troops. A further disturbing incident occurred at the
Jesuit mission of Sault Ste Marie, where an Illinois
Indian murdered a Seneca chieftain. That Frontenac intended
to act with firmness towards the Iroquois, while giving
them satisfaction for the murder of their chief, is clear
from his acts in 1681 no less than from his general
record. But his forces were small and he had received
particular instructions to reduce expenditure. And, with
Duchesneau at hand to place a sinister interpretation
upon his every act, the conditions were not favourable
for immediate action. Then in 1682 he was recalled.

Such, in general, were the conditions which confronted
La Barre, and in fairness it must be admitted that they
were the most serious thus far in the history of Canada.
From the first the Iroquois had been a pest and a menace,
but now, with the English to flatter and encourage them,
they became a grave peril. The total population of the
colony was now about ten thousand, of whom many were
women and children. The regular troops were very few;
and, though the disbanded Carignan soldiers furnished
the groundwork of a valiant militia, the habitants and
their seigneurs alone could not be expected to defend
such a territory against such a foe.

Above all else the situation demanded strong leadership;
and this was precisely what La Barre failed to supply.
He was preoccupied with the profits of the fur trade,
ignorant of Indian character, and past his physical prime;
and his policy towards the Iroquois was a continuous
series of blunders. Through the great personal influence
of Charles Le Moyne the Five Nations were induced, in
1683, to send representatives to Montreal, where La Barre
met them and gave them lavish presents. The Iroquois,
always good judges of character, did not take long to
discover in the new governor a very different Onontio
from the imposing personage who had held conference with
them at Fort Frontenac ten years earlier.

The feebleness of La Barre's effort to maintain French
sovereignty over the Iroquois is reflected in his request
that they should ask his permission before attacking
tribes friendly to the French. When he asked them why
they had attacked the Illinois, they gave this ominous
answer: 'Because they deserved to die.' La Barre could
effect nothing by a display of authority, and even with
the help of gifts he could only postpone war against the
tribes of the Great Lakes. The Iroquois intimated that
for the present they would be content to finish the
destruction of the Illinois--a work which would involve
the destruction of the French posts in the valley of the
Mississippi. La Barre's chief purpose was to protect his
own interests as a trader, and, so far from wishing to
strengthen La Salle's position on the Mississippi, he
looked upon that illustrious explorer as a competitor
whom it was legitimate to destroy by craft. By an act of
poetic justice the Iroquois a few months later plundered
a convoy of canoes which La Barre himself had sent out
to the Mississippi for trading purposes.

The season of 1684 proved even less prosperous for the
French. Not only Dongan was doing his best to make the
Iroquois allies of the English; Lord Howard of Effingham,
the governor of Virginia, was busy to the same end. For
some time past certain tribes of the Five Nations, though
not the confederacy as a whole, had been making forays
upon the English settlers in Maryland and even in Virginia.
To adjust this matter Lord Howard came to Albany in
person, held a council which was attended by representatives
of all the tribes, and succeeded in effecting a peace.
Amid the customary ceremonies the Five Nations buried
the hatchet with the English, and stood ready to concentrate
their war-parties upon the French.

It must not be inferred that by an act of reconciliation
these subtle savages threw themselves into the arms of
the English, exchanging a new suzerainty for an old. They
always did the best they could for their own hand, seeking
to play one white man against the other for their own
advantage. It was a situation where, on the part of French
and English, individual skill and knowledge of Indian
character counted for much. On the one hand, Dongan showed
great intelligence and activity in making the most of
the fact that Albany was nearer to the land of the Five
Nations than Quebec, or even Montreal. On the other, the
French had envoys who stood high in the esteem of the
Iroquois--notably Charles Le Moyne, of Longueuil, and
Lamberville, the Jesuit missionary.

But for the moment the French were heavily burdened by
the venality of La Barre, who subordinated public policy
to his own gains. We have now to record his most egregious
blunder--an attempt to overawe the Iroquois with an
insufficient force--an attempt which Meulles declared
was a mere piece of acting--not designed for real war on
behalf of the colony, but to assist the governor's private
interests as a trader. From whatever side the incident
is viewed it illustrates a complete incapacity.

On July 10, 1684, La Barre left Quebec with a body of
two hundred troops. In ascending the river they were
reinforced by recruits from the Canadian militia and
several hundred Indian allies. After much hardship in
the rapids the little army reached Fort Frontenac. Here
the sanitary conditions proved bad and many died from
malarial fever. All thought of attack soon vanished, and
La Barre altered his plans and decided to invite the
Iroquois to a council. The degree of his weakness may be
seen from the fact that he began with a concession
regarding the place of meeting. An embassy from the
Onondagas finally condescended to meet him, but not at
Fort Frontenac. La Barre, with a force such as he could
muster, crossed to the south side of Lake Ontario and
met the delegates from the Iroquois at La Famine, at the
mouth of the Salmon River, not far from the point where
Champlain and the Hurons had left their canoes when they
had invaded the Onondaga country in 1615.

The council which ensued was a ghastly joke. La Barre
began his speech by enumerating the wrongs which the
French and their dependent tribes had recently suffered
from the Iroquois. Among these he included the raid upon
the Illinois, the machinations with the English, and the
spoliation of French traders. For offences so heinous
satisfaction must be given. Otherwise Onontio would
declare a war in which the English would join him. These
were brave words, but unfortunately the Iroquois had
excellent reason to believe that the statement regarding
the English was untrue, and could see for themselves the
weakness of La Barre's forces.

This conference has been picturesquely described by Baron
La Hontan, who was present and records the speeches. The
chief orator of the Onondagas was a remarkable person,
who either for his eloquence or aspect is called by La
Hontan, Grangula, or Big Mouth. Having listened to La
Barre's bellicose words and their interpretation, 'he
rose, took five or six turns in the ring that the French
and the savages formed, and returned to his place. Then
standing upright he spoke after the following manner to
the General La Barre, who sat in his chair of state:

'Onontio, I honour you, and all the warriors that accompany
me do the same. Your interpreter has made an end of his
discourse, and now I come to begin mine. My voice glides
to your ear. Pray listen to my words.

'Onontio, in setting out from Quebec, you must have fancied
that the scorching beams of the sun had burnt down the
forests which render our country inaccessible to the
French; or else that the inundations of the lake had
surrounded our cottages and confined us as prisoners.
This certainly was your thought; and it could be nothing
else but the curiosity of seeing a burnt or drowned
country that moved you to undertake a journey hither.
But now you have an opportunity of being undeceived, for
I and my warriors come to assure you that the Senecas,
Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks are not yet
destroyed. I return you thanks in their name for bringing
into their country the calumet of peace, which your
predecessor received from their hands. At the same time
I congratulate you on having left under ground the tomahawk
which has so often been dyed with the blood of the French.
I must tell you, Onontio, that I am not asleep. My eyes
are open, and the sun which vouchsafes the light gives
me a clear view of a great captain at the head of a troop
of soldiers, who speaks as if he were asleep. He pretends
that he does not approach this lake with any other view
than to smoke the calumet with the Onondagas. But Grangula
knows better. He sees plainly that Onontio meant to knock
them on the head if the French arms had not been so much

'You must know, Onontio, that we have robbed no Frenchman,
save those who supplied the Illinois and the Miamis (our
enemies) with muskets, powder, and ball... We have
conducted the English to our lakes in order to trade with
the Ottawas and the Hurons; just as the Algonquins.
conducted the French to our five cantons, in order to
carry on a commerce that the English lay claim to as
their right. We are born freemen and have no dependence
either upon the Onontio or the Corlaer [the English
governor]. We have power to go where we please, to conduct
whom we will to the places we resort to, and to buy and
sell where we think fit... We fell upon the Illinois and
the Miamis because they cut down the trees of peace that
served for boundaries and came to hunt beavers upon our
lands. ...We have done less than the English and French,
who without any right have usurped the lands they are
now possessed of.

'I give you to know, Onontio, that my voice is the voice
of the five Iroquois cantons. This is their answer. Pray
incline your ear and listen to what they represent.

'The Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks
declare that they buried the tomahawk in the presence of
your predecessor, in the very centre of the fort, and
planted the Tree of Peace in the same place. It was then
stipulated that the fort should be used as a place of
retreat for merchants and not a refuge for soldiers. Be
it known to you, Onontio, that so great a number of
soldiers, being shut up in so small a fort, do not stifle
and choke the Tree of Peace. Since it took root so easily
it would be evil to stop its growth and hinder it from
shading both your country and ours with its leaves. I
assure you, in the name of the five nations, that our
warriors will dance the calumet dance under its branches
and will never dig up the axe to cut it down--till such
time as the Onontio and the Corlaer do separately or
together invade the country which the Great Spirit gave
to our ancestors.'

[Footnote: Grangula's speech is an example in part of
Indian eloquence, and in part of the eloquence of Baron
La Hontan, who contributes many striking passages to our
knowledge of Frontenac's period.]

When Le Moyne and the Jesuits had interpreted this speech
La Barre 'retired to his tent and stormed and blustered.'
But Grangula favoured the spectators with an Iroquois
dance, after which he entertained several of the Frenchmen
at a banquet. 'Two days later,' writes La Hontan, 'he
and his warriors returned to their own country, and our
army set out for Montreal. As soon as the General was on
board, together with the few healthy men that remained,
the canoes were dispersed, for the militia straggled here
and there, and every one made the best of his way home.'

With this ignominious adventure the career of La Barre
ends. The reports which Meulles sent to France produced
a speedy effect in securing his dismissal from office.
'I have been informed,' politely writes the king, 'that
your years do not permit you to support the fatigues
inseparable from your office of governor and lieutenant-
general in Canada.'

La Barre's successor, the Marquis de Denonville, arrived
at Quebec in August 1685. Like La Barre, he was a soldier;
like Frontenac, he was an aristocrat as well. From both
these predecessors, however, he differed in being free
from the reproach of using his office to secure personal
profits through the fur trade. No governor in all the
annals of New France was on better terms with the bishop
and the Jesuits. He possessed great bravery. There is
much to show that he was energetic. None the less he
failed, and his failure was more glaring than that of La
Barre. He could not hold his ground against the Iroquois
and the English.

It has been pointed out already that when La Barre assumed
office the problems arising from these two sources were
more difficult than at any previous date; but the situation
which was serious in 1682 and had become critical by 1685
grew desperate in the four years of Denonville's sway.
The one overshadowing question of this period was the
Iroquois peril, rendered more and more acute by the policy
of the English.

The greatest mistake which Denonville made in his dealings
with the Iroquois was to act deceitfully. The savages
could be perfidious themselves, but they were not without
a conception of honour and felt genuine respect for a
white man whose word they could trust. Denonville, who
in his private life displayed many virtues, seemed to
consider that he was justified in acting towards the
savages as the exigency of the moment prompted. Apart
from all considerations of morality this was bad judgment.

In his dealings with the English Denonville had little
more success than in his dealings with the Indians. Dongan
was a thorn in his side from the first, although their
correspondence opened, on both sides, with the language
of compliment. A few months later its tone changed,
particularly after Dongan heard that Denonville intended
to build a fort at Niagara. Against a project so unfriendly
Dongan protested with emphasis. In reply Denonville
disclaimed the intention, at the same time alleging that
Dongan was giving shelter at Albany to French deserters.
A little later they reach the point of sarcasm. Denonville
taxes Dongan with selling rum to the Indians. Dongan
retorts that at least English rum is less unwholesome
than French brandy. Beneath these epistolary compliments
there lies the broad fact that Dongan stood firm by his
principle that the extension of French rule to the south
of Lake Ontario should not be tolerated: He ridicules
the basis of French pretensions, saying that Denonville
might as well claim China because there are Jesuits at
the Chinese court. The French, he adds, have no more
right to the country because its streams flow into Lake
Ontario than they have to the lands of those who drink
claret or brandy. It is clear that Dongan fretted under
the restrictions which were imposed upon him by the
friendship between England and France. He would have
welcomed an order to support his arguments by force.
Denonville, on his side, with like feelings, could not
give up the claim to suzerainty over the land of the

The domain of the Five Nations was not the only part of
America where French and English clashed. The presence
of the English in Hudson Bay excited deep resentment at
Quebec and Montreal. Here Denonville ventured to break
the peace as Dongan had not dared to do. With Denonville's
consent and approval, a band of Canadians left Montreal
in the spring of 1686, fell upon three of the English
posts--Fort Hayes, Fort Rupert, Fort Albany--and with
some bloodshed dispossessed their garrisons. Well satisfied
with this exploit, Denonville in 1687 turned his attention
to the chastisement of the Iroquois.

The forces which he brought together for this task were
greatly superior to any that had been mustered in Canada
before. Not only were they adequate in numbers, but they
comprised an important band of coureurs de bois, headed
by La Durantaye, Tonty, Du Lhut, and Nicolas Perrot--men
who equalled the Indians in woodcraft and surpassed them
in character. The epitaph of Denonville as a governor is
written in the failure of this great expedition to
accomplish its purpose.

The first blunder occurred at Fort Frontenac before
mobilization had been completed. There were on the north
shore of Lake Ontario two Iroquois villages, whose
inhabitants had been in part baptized by the Sulpicians
and were on excellent terms with the garrison of the
fort. In a moment of insane stupidity Denonville decided
that the men of these settlements should be captured and
sent to France as galley slaves. Through the ruse of a
banquet they were brought together and easily seized. By
dint of a little further effort two hundred Iroquois of
all ages and both sexes were collected at Fort Frontenac
as prisoners--and some at least perished by torture. But,
when executing this dastardly plot, Denonville did not
succeed in catching all the friendly Iroquois who lived
in the neighbourhood of his fort. Enough escaped to carry
the authentic tale to the Five Nations, and after that
there could be no peace till there had been revenge.
Worst of all, the French stood convicted of treachery
and falseness.

Having thus blighted his cause at the outset, Denonville
proceeded with his more serious task of smiting the
Iroquois in their own country. Considering the extent
and expense of his preparations, he should have planned
a complete destruction of their power. Instead of this
he attempted no more than an attack upon the Senecas,
whose operations against the Illinois and in other quarters
had made them especially objectionable. The composite
army of French and Indians assembled at Irondequoit Bay
on July 12--a force brought together at infinite pains
and under circumstances which might never occur again.
Marching southwards they fought a trivial battle with
the Senecas, in which half a dozen on the French side
were killed, while the Senecas are said to have lost
about a hundred in killed and wounded. The rest of the
tribe took to the woods. As a result of this easy victory
the triumphant allies destroyed an Iroquois village and
all the corn which it contained, but the political results
of the expedition were worse than nothing. Denonville
made no attempt to destroy the other nations of the
confederacy. Returning to Lake Ontario he built a fort
at Niagara, which he had promised Dongan he would not
do, and then returned to Montreal. The net results of
this portentous effort were a broken promise to the
English, an act of perfidy towards the Iroquois, and an
insignificant success in battle.

In 1688 Denonville's decision to abandon Fort Niagara
slightly changed the situation. The garrison had suffered
severe losses through illness and the post proved too
remote for successful defence. So this matter settled
itself. The same season saw the recall of Dongan through
the consolidation of New England, New York, and New Jersey
under Sir Edmund Andros. But in essentials there was no
change. Andros continued Dongan's policy, of which, in
fact, he himself had been the author. And, even though
no longer threatened by the French from Niagara, the
savages had reason enough to hate and distrust Denonville.

Yet despite these untoward circumstances all hope of
peace between the French and the Five Nations had not
been destroyed. The Iroquois loved their revenge and were
willing to wait for it, but caution warned them that it
would not be advantageous to destroy the French for the
benefit of the English. Moreover, in the long course o
their relations with the French they had, as already
mentioned, formed a high opinion of men like Le Moyne
and Lamberville, while they viewed with respect the
exploits of Tonty, La Durantaye, and Du Lhut.

Moved by these considerations and a love of presents,
Grangula, of the Onondagas, was in the midst of negotiations
for peace with the French, which might have ended happily
but for the stratagem of the Huron chief Kondiaronk,
called 'The Rat.' The remnant of Hurons and the other
tribes centring at Michilimackinac did not desire a peace
of the French and Iroquois which would not include
themselves, for this would mean their own certain
destruction. The Iroquois, freed of the French, would
surely fall on the Hurons. All the Indians distrusted
Denonville, and Kondiaronk suspected, with good reason,
that the Hurons were about to be sacrificed. Denonville,
however, had assured Kondiaronk that there was to be war
to the death against the Iroquois, and on this understanding
he went with a band of warriors to Fort Frontenac. There
he learned that peace would be concluded between Onontio
and the Onondagas--in other words, that the Iroquois
would soon be free to attack the Hurons and their allies.
To avert this threatened destruction of his own people,
he set out with his warriors and lay in ambush for a
party of Onondaga chiefs who were on their way to Montreal.
Having killed one and captured almost all the rest, he
announced to his Iroquois prisoners that he had received
orders from Denonville to destroy them. When they explained
that they were ambassadors, he feigned surprise and said
he could no longer be an accomplice to the wickedness of
the French. Then he released them all save one, in order
that they might carry home this tale of Denonville's
second treachery. The one Iroquois Kondiaronk retained
on the plea that he wished to adopt him. Arrived at
Michilimackinac, he handed over the captive to the French
there, who, having heard nothing of the peace, promptly
shot him. An Iroquois prisoner, whom Kondiaronk secretly
released for the purpose, conveyed to the Five Nations
word of this further atrocity.

The Iroquois prepared to deliver a hard blow. On August
5, 1689, they fell in overwhelming force upon the French
settlement at Lachine. Those who died by the tomahawk
were the most fortunate. Charlevoix gives the number of
victims at two hundred killed and one hundred and twenty
taken prisoner. Girouard's examination of parish registers
results in a lower estimate--namely, twenty-four killed
at Lachine and forty-two at La Chesnaye, a short time
afterwards. Whatever the number, it was the most dreadful
catastrophe which the colony had yet suffered.

Such were the events which, in seven years, had brought
New France to the brink of ruin. But she was not to perish
from the Iroquois. In October 1689 Frontenac returned to
take Denonville's place.



During the period which separates his two terms of office
Frontenac's life is almost a blank. His relations with
his wife seem to have been amicable, but they did not
live together. His great friend was the Marechal de
Bellefonds, from whom he received many favours of
hospitality. In 1685 the king gave him a pension of
thirty-five hundred livres, though without assigning him
any post of dignity. Already a veteran, his record could
hardly be called successful. His merits were known to
the people of Canada; they believed him to be a tower of
strength against the Iroquois. At Versailles the fact
stood out most plainly that through infirmities of temper
he had lost his post. His pension might save him from
penury. It was far too small to give him real independence.

Had either La Barre or Denonville proved equal to the
government of Canada, it is almost certain that Frontenac
would have ended his days ingloriously at Versailles,
ascending the stairs of others with all the grief which
is the portion of disappointed old age. Their failure
was his opportunity, and from the dreary antechambers of
a court he mounts to sudden glory as the saviour of New

There is some doubt, as we have seen, concerning the
causes which gave Frontenac his appointment in 1672. At
that time court favour may have operated on his behalf,
or it may have seemed desirable that he should reside
for a season out of France. But in 1689 graver
considerations came into play. At the moment when the
Iroquois were preparing to ravage Canada, the expulsion
of James II from his throne had broken the peace between
France and England. The government of New France was now
no post for a court favourite. Louis XIV had expended
much money and effort on the colony. Through the
mismanagement of La Barre and Denonville everything
appeared to be on the verge of ruin. It is inconceivable
that Frontenac, then in his seventieth year, should have
been renominated for any other cause than merit. Times
and conditions had changed. The task now was not to work
peaceably with bishop and intendant, but to destroy the
foe. Father Goyer, the Recollet who delivered Frontenac's
funeral oration, states that the king said when renewing
his commission: 'I send you back to Canada, where I expect
you will serve me as well as you did before; I ask for
nothing more.' This is a bit of too gorgeous rhetoric,
which none the less conveys the truth. The king was not
reappointing Frontenac because he was, on the whole,
satisfied with what he had done before; he was reappointing
him because during his former term of office and throughout
his career he had displayed the qualities which were
called for at the present crisis.

Thus Frontenac returned to Quebec in the autumn of 1689,
just after the Iroquois massacred the people of Lachine
and just before they descended upon those of La Chesnaye.
The universal mood was one of terror and despair. If ever
Canada needed a Moses this was the hour.

It will be seen from the dates that Denonville's recall
was not due to the Lachine massacre and the other raids
of the Iroquois in 1689, for these only occurred after
Frontenac had been appointed. Denonville's dismissal was
justified by the general results of his administration
down to the close of 1688. Before Frontenac left France
a plan of campaign had been agreed upon which it was now
his duty to execute. The outlines of this plan were
suggested by Callieres, the governor of Montreal,
[Footnote: Louis Hector de Callieres-Bonnevue was a
captain of the French army who became governor of Montreal
in 1684, and succeeded Frontenac as governor of Canada
in 1698. He received the Cross of St Louis for distinguished
service against the Iroquois. Frontenac could not have
had a better lieutenant.] who had been sent home by
Denonville to expound the needs of the colony in person
and to ask for fresh aid. The idea was to wage vigorous
offensive warfare against the English from Albany to New
York. Success would depend upon swiftness and audacity,
both of which Frontenac possessed in full measure, despite
his years. Two French warships were to be sent direct to
New York in the autumn of 1689, while a raiding party
from Canada should set out for the Hudson as soon as
Frontenac could organize it.

In its original form this plan of campaign was never
carried out, for on account of head winds Frontenac
reached Quebec too late in the autumn. However, the
central idea remained in full view and suggested the
three war-parties which were sent out during the winter
of 1690 to attack the English colonies.

Louis XIV had given Denonville important reinforcements,
and with war clouds gathering in Europe he was unwilling
or unable to detach more troops for the defence of Canada.
Hence, in warring against the Iroquois and the English
Frontenac had no greater resources than those at the
disposal of Denonville when he attacked the Senecas. In
fact, since 1687 there had been some wastage in the number
of the regulars from disease. The result was that Frontenac
could not hope for any solid success unless he received
support from the Canadian militia.

In this crisis the habitants and their seigneurs accepted
with courage the duties laid upon them. In the narrower
sense they were fighting for their homes, but the spirit
which they displayed under Frontenac's leadership is not
merely that which one associates with a war of defence.
The French soldier, in all ages, loved to strike the
quick, sharp blow, and it was now necessary for the
salvation of Canada that it should be struck. The Iroquois
had come to believe that Onontio was losing his power.
The English colonies were far more populous than New
France. In short, the only hope lay in a swift, spectacular
campaign which would disorganize the English and regain
the respect of the Iroquois.

The issue depended on the courage and capacity of the
Canadians. It is to their honour and to the credit of
Frontenac that they rose to the demand of the hour. The
Canadians were a robust, prolific race, trained from
infancy to woodcraft and all the hardships of the
wilderness. Many families contained from eight to fourteen
sons who had used the musket and paddle from early boyhood,
and could endure the long tramps of winter like the
Indians themselves. The frontiersman is, and must be, a
fighter, but nowhere in the past can one find a braver
breed of warriors than mustered to the call of Frontenac.
Francois Hertel and Hertel de Rouville, Le Moyne d'Iberville
with his brothers Bienville and Sainte-Helene, D'Aillebout
de Mantet and Repentigny de Montesson, are but a few
representatives of the militiamen who sped forth at the
call of Frontenac to destroy the settlements of the

What followed was war in its worst form, including the
massacre of women and children. The three bands organized
by Frontenac at the beginning of 1690 set out on snowshoes
from Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. The largest
party contained a hundred and fourteen French and ninety-
six Indians. It marched from Montreal against Schenectady,
commanded by D'Aillebout de Mantet and Le Moyne de
Sainte-Helene. The second party, proceeding from Three
Rivers and numbering twenty-six French and twenty-nine
Indians under the command of Francois Hertel, aimed at
Dover, Pemaquid, and other settlements of Maine and New
Hampshire. The Quebec party, under Portneuf, comprised
fifty French and sixty Indians. Its objective was the
English colony on Casco Bay, where the city of Portland
now stands. All three were successful in accomplishing
what they aimed at, namely the destruction of English
settlements amid fire and carnage. All three employed
Indians, who were suffered, either willingly or unwillingly,
to commit barbarities.

It is much more the business of history to explain than
to condemn or to extenuate. How could a man like Francois
Hertel lead one of these raids without sinking to the
moral level of his Indian followers? Some such question
may, not unnaturally, rise to the lips of a modern reader
who for the first time comes upon the story of Dover and
Salmon Falls. But fuller knowledge breeds respect for
Francois Hertel. When eighteen years old he was captured
by the Mohawks and put to the torture. One of his fingers
they burned off in the bowl of a pipe. The thumb of the
other hand they cut off. In the letter which he wrote on
birch-bark to his mother after this dreadful experience
there is not a word of his sufferings. He simply sends
her his love and asks for her prayers, signing himself
by his childish nickname, 'Your poor Fanchon.' As he grew
up he won from an admiring community the name of 'The
Hero.' He was not only brave but religious. In his view
it was all legitimate warfare. If he slew others, he ran
a thousand risks and endured terrible privations for his
king and the home he was defending. His stand at the
bridge over the Wooster river, sword in hand, when pressed
on his retreat by an overwhelming force of English,
holding the pass till all his men are over, is worthy of
an epic. He was forty-seven years old at the time. The
three eldest of his nine sons were with him in that little
band of twenty-six Frenchmen, and two of his nephews.
'To the New England of old,' says Parkman 'Francois Hertel
was the abhorred chief of Popish malignants and murdering
savages. The New England of to-day will be more just to
the brave defender of his country and his faith.'

The atrocities committed by the French and Indians are
enough to make one shudder even at this distance of time.
As Frontenac adopted the plan and sent forth the
war-parties, the moral responsibility in large part rests
with him. There are, however, some facts to consider
before judgment is passed as to the degree of his
culpability. The modern distinction between combatants
and non-combatants had little meaning in the wilds of
America at this period. When France and England were at
open war, every settler was a soldier, and as such each
man's duty was to keep on his guard. If caught napping
he must take the consequences. Thus, to fall upon an
unsuspecting hamlet and slay its men-folk with the
tomahawk, while brutal, was hardly more brutal than under
such circumstances we could fairly expect war to be.

The massacre of women and children is another matter,
not to be excused on any grounds, even though Schenectady
and Salmon Falls are paralleled by recent acts of the
Germans in Belgium. Still, we should not forget that
European warfare in the age of Frontenac abounded with
just such atrocities as were committed at Schenectady,
Dover, Pemaquid, Salmon Falls, and Casco Bay. The sack
of Magdeburg, the wasting of the Palatinate, and, perhaps,
the storming of Drogheda will match whatever was done by
the Indian allies of Frontenac. These were unspeakable,
but the savage was little worse than his European
contemporary. Those killed were in almost all cases killed
outright, and the slaughter was not indiscriminate. At
Schenectady John Sander Glen, with his whole family and
all his relations, were spared because he and his wife
had shown kindness to French prisoners taken by the
Mohawks. Altogether sixty people were killed at Schenectady
(February 9, 1690), thirty-eight men, ten women, and
twelve children. Nearly ninety were carried captive to
Canada. Sixty old men, women, and children were left
unharmed. It is not worth while to take up the details
of the other raids. They were of much the same sort--no
better and no worse. Where a garrison surrendered under
promise that it would be spared, the promise was observed
so far as the Indians could be controlled; but English
and French alike when they used Indian allies knew well
that their excesses could not be prevented, though they
might be moderated. The captives as a rule were treated
with kindness and clemency when once the northward march
was at an end.

Meanwhile, Frontenac had little time to reflect upon the
probable attitude of posterity towards his political
morals. The three war-parties had accomplished their
purpose and in the spring of 1690 the colony was aglow
with fresh hope. But the English were not slow to retaliate.
That summer New York and Massachusetts decided on an
invasion of Canada. It was planned that a fleet from
Boston under Sir William Phips should attack Quebec,
while a force of militia from New York in command of John
Schuyler should advance through Lake Champlain against
Montreal. Thus by sea and land Canada soon found herself
on the defensive.

Of Schuyler's raid nothing need be said except that he
reached Laprairie, opposite Montreal, where he killed a
few men and destroyed the crops (August 23, 1690). It
was a small achievement and produced no result save the
disappointment of New York that an undertaking upon which
much money and effort had been expended should terminate
so ingloriously. But the siege of Quebec by Phips, though
it likewise ended in failure, is a much more famous event,
and deserves to be described in some detail.

The colony of Massachusetts mustered its forces for a
great and unusual exploit. Earlier in the same year a
raid upon the coasts of Acadia had yielded gratifying
results. The surrender of Port Royal without resistance
(May 11, 1690) kindled the Puritan hope that a single
summer might see the pestiferous Romanists of New France
driven from all their strongholds. Thus encouraged, Boston
put forth its best energies and did not shrink from
incurring a debt of 50,000 pounds, which in the
circumstances of Massachusetts was an enormous sum. Help
was expected from England, but none came, and the fleet
sailed without it, in full confidence that Quebec would
fall before the assault of the colonists alone.

The fleet, which sailed in August, numbered thirty-four
ships, carrying twenty-three hundred men and a considerable
equipment. Sir William Phips, the leader of the expedition,
was not an Englishman by birth, but a New Englander of
very humble origin who owed his advancement to a robust
physique and unlimited assurance. He was unfitted for
his command, both because he lacked experience in fighting
such foes as he was about to encounter, and because he
was completely ignorant of the technical difficulties
involved in conducting a large, miscellaneous fleet
through the tortuous channels of the lower St Lawrence.
This ignorance resulted in such loss of time that he
arrived before Quebec amid the tokens of approaching
winter. It was the 16th of October when he rounded the
island of Orleans and brought his ships to anchor under
the citadel. Victory could only be secured by sudden
success. The state of the season forbade siege operations
which contemplated starvation of the garrison.

Hopeful that the mere sight of his armada would compel
surrender, Phips first sent an envoy to Frontenac under
protection of the white flag. This messenger after being
blindfolded was led to the Chateau and brought before
the governor, who had staged for his reception one of
the impressive spectacles he loved to prepare. Surrounding
Frontenac, as Louis XIV might have been surrounded by
the grandees of France, were grouped the aristocracy of
New France--the officers of the French regulars and the
Canadian militia. Nothing had been omitted which could
create an impression of dignity and strength. Costume,
demeanour, and display were all employed to overwhelm
the envoy with the insulted majesty of the king of France.
Led into this high presence the messenger delivered his
letter, which, when duly interpreted, was found to convey
a summary ultimatum. Phips began by stating that the war
between France and England would have amply warranted
this expedition even 'without the destruction made by
the French and Indians, under your command and
encouragement, upon the persons and estates of their
Majesties' subjects of New England, without provocation
on their part.' Indeed, 'the cruelties and barbarities
used against them by the French and Indians might, upon
the present opportunity, prompt unto a severe revenge.'
But seeking to avoid all inhumane and unchristian-like
actions, Phips announces that he will be content with 'a
present surrender of your forts and castles, undemolished,
and the King's and other stores, unimbezzled, with a
seasonable delivery of all captives; together with a
surrender of all your persons and estates to my dispose;
upon the doing whereof, you may expect mercy from me, as
a Christian, according to what shall be found for their
Majesties' service and the subjects' security. Which, if
you refuse forthwith to do, I am come provided and am
resolved, by the help of God in whom I trust, by force
of arms to revenge all wrongs and injuries offered, and
bring you under subjection to the Crown of England, and,
when too late, make you wish you had accepted of the
favour tendered. Your answer positive in an hour, returned
by your own trumpet, with the return of mine, is required
upon the peril that will ensue.'

To this challenge Frontenac at once returned the answer
which comported with his character. When Phips's envoy
took out his watch to register the hour permitted by the
ultimatum, Frontenac rejoined that he required no time
for deliberation, but would return his answer by the
mouth of the cannon. The ground which he assigned for
the invasion of New England was that its people had
rebelled against their lawful prince, the ally of France.
Other more personal observations were directed towards
the manner in which Phips had behaved at Port Royal. No
word in writing would Frontenac send. The envoy (who was
only a subaltern) received his conge, was blindfolded
and led back to his boat.

Compliments having been thus exchanged, it remained for
Phips to make good his challenge. If we compare the four
English and American sieges of Quebec, the attack by
Phips will be seen to have little in common with those
of Kirke and Montgomery, but to resemble rather strikingly
the attack by Wolfe. Without fighting, Kirke swooped down
upon a garrison which was exhausted by starvation. Arnold
and Montgomery operated without a fleet. But while Phips's
attempt is unlike Wolfe's in that it ended in failure,
the presence of the fleet and the attempt to effect a
landing below the mouth of the St Charles present features
of real similarity. It is clear that Phips received
intelligence from prisoners of a possible landing above
the town, at the spot where Wolfe carried out his daring
and desperate coup de main. But, anticipating Wolfe in
another quarter, he chose to make his first attack on
the flats rather than on the heights.

The troops ordinarily stationed at Quebec were increased
just after Phips's arrival by a force of seven hundred
regulars and militiamen under Callieres, who had come
down from Montreal with all possible haste. So agile were
the French and so proficient in irregular warfare that
Phips found it difficult to land any considerable detachment
in good order. Thirteen hundred of the English did succeed
in forming on the Beauport Flats, after wading through
a long stretch of mud. There followed a preliminary
skirmish in which three hundred French were driven back
with no great loss, after inflicting considerable damage
on the invaders. But though the English reached the east
bank of the St Charles they could do no more. Phips wasted
his ammunition on a fruitless and ill-timed bombardment,
which was answered with much spirit from the cliffs.
Meanwhile the musketeers on the bank of the St Charles
were unable to advance alone and received no proper supply
of stores from the ships. Harassed by the Canadians, wet,
cold, and starving, they took to the boats, leaving behind
them five cannon. After this nothing happened, save
deliberations on the part of Phips and his officers as
to whether there remained anything that could be done
other than to sail for home, beaten and humiliated, with
a heavy burden of debt to hang round the neck of a too
ambitious Massachusetts. Thus ended the second siege of
Quebec (October 23, 1690).

Frontenac had lost two of his best soldiers--Sainte-Helene,
of the fighting Le Moynes, and the Chevalier de Clermont;
but, this notwithstanding, the victory was felt to be
complete. The most precious trophy was the flag of
Phips's ship, which a shot from the ramparts had knocked
into the river, whence it was rescued and brought ashore
in triumph. Best of all, the siege had been too short to
bring famine in its train. The loss of life was
inconsiderable, and in prestige the soldiery of New France
now stood on a pinnacle which they had never before
attained. When we consider the paucity of the forces
engaged, this repulse of the English from Quebec may not
seem an imposing military achievement. But Canada had
put forth her whole strength and had succeeded where
failure would have been fatal. In the shouts of rejoicing
which followed Phips's withdrawal we hear the cry of a
people reborn.

The siege of Quebec and Schuyler's raid on Laprairie open
up a subject of large and vital moment--the historical
antagonism of New France and New England. Whoever wishes
to understand the deeper problems of Canada in the age
of Frontenac should read John Fiske's volumes on the
English colonies. In the rise of Virginia, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts
one sees the certain doom which was impending over New
France. It may be too much to say that Richelieu by
conquering Alsace threw away America. Even had the
population of Canada been increased to the extent called
for by the obligations of Richelieu's company in 1627,
the English might have nevertheless prevailed. But the
preoccupation of France with the war against Austria
prevented her from giving due attention to the colonial
question at the critical moment when colonists should
have been sent out in large numbers. And it is certain
that by nothing short of a great emigration could France
have saved Canada. As it was, the English were bound to
prevail by weight of population. When the conflict reached
its climax in the days of Montcalm and Wolfe, two and a
half million English Americans confronted sixty-five
thousand French Canadians. On such terms the result of
the contest could not be doubtful. Even in Frontenac's
time the French were protected chiefly by the intervening
wilderness and the need of the English colonists to
develop their own immediate resources. The English were
not yet ready for a serious offensive war. In fact they,
too, had their own Indian question.

It is a matter of some interest to observe how the conquest
of Canada was postponed by the lack of cohesion among
the English colonies. Selfishness and mutual jealousy
prevented them from combining against the common foe.
Save for this disunion and fancied conflict of interest,
New France must have succumbed long before the time of
Montcalm. But the vital significance of the conflict
between New England and New France lies in the contrast
of their spirit and institutions. The English race has
extended itself through the world because it possessed
the genius of emigration. The French colonist did his
work magnificently in the new home. But the conditions
in the old home were unfavourable to emigration. The
Huguenots, the one class of the population with a strong
motive for emigrating, were excluded from Canada in the
interest of orthodoxy. The dangers of the Atlantic and
the hardships of life in a wintry wilderness might well
deter the ordinary French peasant; moreover, it by no
means rested with him to say whether he would go or stay.
But, whatever their nature, the French race lost a
wonderful opportunity through the causes which prevented
a healthy, steady exodus to America.

England profited by having classes of people sufficiently
well educated to form independent opinions and strong
enough to carry out the programme dictated by these
opinions. While each of the English colonies sprang from
a different motive, all had in common the purpose to form
an effective settlement. The fur trade did France more
harm than good. It deflected her attention from the middle
to the northern latitudes and lured her colonists from
the land in search of quick profits. It was the enemy to
the home. On the other hand, the English came to America
primarily in search of a home. Profits they sought, like
other people, but they sought them chiefly from the soil.

Thus English ideas took root in America, gained new
vitality, and assumed an importance they had not possessed
in England for many centuries. And, while for the moment
the organization of the English colonies was not well
suited to offensive war, as we may judge from the abortive
efforts of Phips and Schuyler, this defect could be
corrected. Arising, as it did arise, from a lack of unity
among the colonies, it was even indicative of latent
strength. From one angle, localism seems selfishness and
weakness; from another, it shows the vigorous life of
separate communities, each self-centred and jealous of
its authority because the local instinct is so vitally
active. It only needed time to broaden the outlook and
give the English colonies a sense of their common interest.
Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts, by striking their
roots each year more deeply into the soil of America,
became more and more self-supporting states in everything
save name and political allegiance; while New France,
which with its austere climate would have developed more
slowly in any case, remained dependent on the king's

Thus Frontenac's task was quite hopeless, if we define
it as the effort to overthrow English power in America.
But neither he nor any one of that age defined his duties
so widely. In 1689 Canada was in extremes, with the
Iroquois at Lachine and Dongan threatening an attack from
New York. Frontenac's policy was defensive. If he struck
first, it was because he considered audacity to be his
best safeguard. No one knew better than Frontenac that
a successful raid does not mean conquest.



Though the English might withdraw from Quebec, New France
always had the Iroquois with her. We must now pursue the
thread of Frontenac's dealings with the savages from the
moment when he replaced Denonville.

It requires no flight of the imagination to appreciate
the rage Frontenac must have felt when, on returning to
Canada, he saw before his eyes the effects of La Barre's
rapacity and Denonville's perfidy, of which the massacres
of Lachine and La Chesnaye furnished the most ghastly
proofs. But in these two cases the element of tragedy
was so strong as to efface the mood of exasperation.
There remained a third incident which must have provoked
pure rage. This was the destruction of Fort Frontenac,
blown up, at Denonville's order, by the French themselves
(October 1689). The erection and maintenance of this post
had been a cardinal point in Frontenac's Indian policy;
and, more particularly to aggravate the offence, there
was the humiliating fact that Denonville had ordered it
demolished to comply with a demand from the Iroquois.
This shameful concession had been made shortly before
Frontenac reached Canada. It was Denonville's last
important act in the colony. On the chance that something
might have occurred to delay execution of the order,
Frontenac at once countermanded it and sent forward an
expedition of three hundred men. But they were too late.
His beloved fortress was gone. The only comfort which
Frontenac could derive from the incident was that the
work of destruction had been carried out imperfectly.
There remained a portion of the works which could still
be used.

Thus with regard to the Iroquois the situation was far
worse in 1689 than it had been when Frontenac came to
Canada in 1672. Everything which he had done to conciliate
the Five Nations had been undone; and Dongan's intelligent
activities, coinciding with this long series of French
mistakes, had helped to make matters worse. Nor was it
now merely a question of the Iroquois. The whole Indian
world had been convulsed by the renewal of strife between
Onontio and the Five Nations. Tribes long friendly to
the French and in constant trade with them were being
alienated. The Indian problem as Frontenac saw it in 1690
resolved itself to this: either peace with the Iroquois
on terms which would prove impressive to the Hurons, the
Ottawas, and even to the savages of the Mississippi; or
else uncompromising war. For under no circumstances could
the French afford to lose their hold upon the tribes from
whom they derived their furs.

Obviously an honourable peace would be preferable to the
horrors of a forest war, and Frontenac did his best to
secure it. To undo, as far as possible, Denonville's
treachery at Fort Frontenac and elsewhere, he had brought
back with him to Quebec the Iroquois who had been sent
to France--or such of them as were still alive. First
among these was a Cayuga chief of great influence named
Ourehaoue, whose friendship Frontenac assiduously cultivated
and completely won. Towards the close of January 1690 an
embassy of three released Iroquois carried to Onondaga
a message from Ourehaoue that the real Onontio had returned
and peace must be made with him if the Five Nations wished
to live. A great council was then held at which the
English, by invitation, were represented, while the French
interest found its spokesman in a Christian Iroquois
named Cut Nose. Any chance of success was destroyed by
the implacable enmity of the Senecas, who remembered the
attempt of the French to check their raids upon the
Illinois and the invasion of their own country by
Denonville. Cannehoot, a Seneca chieftain, rose and stated
that the tribes of Michilimackinac were ready to join
the English and the Iroquois for the destruction of New
France; and the assembly decided to enter this triple
alliance. Frontenac's envoys returned to Quebec alive,
but with nothing to show for their pains. A later effort
by Frontenac was even less successful. The Iroquois, it
was clear, could not be brought back to friendship by
fair words.

War to the knife being inevitable, Frontenac promptly
took steps to confirm his position with the hitherto
friendly savages of the Ottawa and the Great Lakes. When
Cannehoot had said that the tribes of Michilimackinac
were ready to turn against the French, he was not drawing
wholly upon his imagination. This statement was confirmed
by the report of Nicolas Perrot, who knew the Indians of
the West as no one else knew them--save perhaps Du Lhut
and Carheil. [Footnote: Etienne de Carheil was the most
active of the Jesuit missionaries in Canada during the
period of Frontenac. After fifteen years among the Iroquois
at Cayuga (1668-83) he returned for three years to Quebec.
He was then sent to Michilimackinac, Where he remained
another fifteen years. Shortly after the founding of
Detroit (1701) he gave up life in the forest. Despite
the great hardships which he endured, he lived to be
ninety-three. None of the missionaries was more strongly
opposed to the brandy trade.]

The French were now playing a desperate game in the vast
region beyond Lake Erie, which they had been the first
of Europeans to explore. The Ottawas and the Hurons,
while alike the hereditary foes of the Iroquois, were
filled with mutual jealousy which must be composed. The
successes of the Iroquois in their raids on the French
settlements must be explained and minimized. 'The Rat'
Kondiaronk, the cleverest of the western chieftains, must
be conciliated. And to compass all these ends, Perrot
found his reliance in the word that Frontenac had returned
and would lead his children against the common foe.
Meanwhile, the Iroquois had their own advocates among
the more timid and suspicious members of these western
tribes. During the winter of 1689-90 the French and the
Iroquois had about an even chance of winning the Indians
who centred at Michilimackinac. But the odds were against
the French to this extent--they were working against a
time limit. Unless Frontenac could quickly show evidence
of strength, the tribes of the West would range with the

In the spring of 1690 Frontenac dispatched a force of a
hundred and fifty men to reinforce the garrison at
Michilimackinac. On their way westward these troops
encountered a band of Iroquois and fortunately killed a
number of them. The scalps were an ocular proof of success;
and Perrot, who was of the party, knew how to turn the
victory to its best use by encouraging the Ottawas to
torture an Iroquois prisoner. The breach thus made between
the Ottawas and the Five Nations distinctly widened as
soon as word came that the French had destroyed Schenectady.
Thus this dreadful raid against the English did not fail
of its psychological effect, as may be gathered from one
of the immediate consequences. Early in August there
appeared on Lake St Louis a vast flotilla of canoes,
which at first caused the afflicted habitants to fear
that the Iroquois were upon them again. Instead of this
it was a great band of friendly savages from the West,
drawn from all the trading tribes and bringing a cargo
of furs of far more than the usual value. Frontenac
himself chanced to be in Montreal at this fortunate
moment. The market was held and concluded to mutual
satisfaction, but the crowning event of the meeting was
a council, at which, after an exchange of harangues,
Frontenac entered into the festivities of the savages as
though he were one of themselves (August 1690). The
governor's example was followed by his leading officers.
Amid the chanting of the war-song and the swinging of
the tomahawk the French renewed their alliance with the
Indians of the West. All were to fight until the Iroquois
were destroyed. Even the Ottawas, who had been coquetting
with the Senecas, now came out squarely and said that
they would stand by Onontio.

Here, at last, was a real answer to the Lachine massacre.
The challenge had been fairly given, and now it was not
a Denonville who made the reply. There followed three
years of incessant warfare between the Iroquois and the
French, which furnished a fair test of the strength that
each side could muster when fighting at its best. The
Five Nations had made up their minds. The cares of
diplomacy they threw to the winds. They were on the
war-path, united and determined. The French, on their
side, had Frontenac for leader and many outrages to
avenge. It was war of the wilderness in its most unrelenting
form, with no mercy expected or asked. The general result
can be quickly stated. The Iroquois got their fill of
war, and Frontenac destroyed their power as a central,
dominating, terrorizing confederacy.

The measure of this achievement is to be sought in the
difficulties which were overcome. Despite the eighty
years of its existence the colony was still so poor that
regularity in the arrival of supplies from France was a
matter of vital importance. From the moment war began
English cruisers hovered about the mouth of the St
Lawrence, ready to pounce upon the supply-ships as they
came up the river. Sometimes the French boats escaped;
sometimes they were captured; but from this interruption
of peaceful oversea traffic Canada suffered grievously.
Another source of weakness was the interruption of
agriculture which followed in the train of war. As a rule
the Iroquois spent the winter in hunting deer, but just
as the ground was ready for its crop they began to show
themselves in the parishes near Montreal, picking off
the habitants in their farms on the edge of the forest,
or driving them to the shelter of the stockade. These
forays made it difficult and dangerous to till the soil,
with a corresponding shrinkage in the volume of the crop.
Almost every winter famine was imminent in some part of
the colony, and though spring was welcome for its own
sake, it invariably brought the Iroquois. A third calamity
was the interruption of the fur trade. Ordinarily the
great cargoes descended the Ottawa in fleets of from one
hundred to two hundred canoes. But the savages of the
West well knew that when they embarked with their precious
bales upon a route which was infested by the Iroquois,
they gave hostages to fortune. In case of a battle the
cargo was a handicap, since they must protect it as well
as themselves. In case they were forced to flee for their
lives, they lost the goods which it had cost so much
effort to collect. In these circumstances the tribes of
Michilimackinac would not bring down their furs unless
they felt certain that the whole course of the Ottawa
was free from danger. In seasons when they failed to
come, the colony had nothing to export and penury became
extreme. At best the returns from the fur trade were
precarious. In 1690 and 1693 there were good markets; in
1691 and 1692 there were none at all.

From time to time Frontenac received from France both
money and troops, but neither in sufficient quantity to
place him where he could deal the Iroquois one final
blow. Thus one year after another saw a war of skirmishes
and minor raids, sufficiently harassing and weakening to
both sides, but with results which were disappointing
because inconclusive. The hero of this border warfare is
the Canadian habitant, whose farm becomes a fort and
whose gun is never out of reach. Nor did the men of the
colony display more courage than their wives and daughters.
The heroine of New France is the woman who rears from
twelve to twenty children, works in the fields and cooks
by day, and makes garments and teaches the catechism in
the evening. It was a community which approved of early
marriage--a community where boys and girls assumed their
responsibilities very young. Youths of sixteen shouldered
the musket. Madeleine de Vercheres was only fourteen when
she defended her father's fort against the Iroquois with
a garrison of five, which included two boys and a man of
eighty (October 1692).

A detailed chronicle of these raids and counter-raids
would be both long and complicated, but in addition to
the incidents which have been mentioned there remain
three which deserve separate comment--Peter Schuyler's
invasion of Canada in 1691, the activities of the Abnakis
against New England, and Frontenac's invasion of the
Onondaga country in 1696.

We have already seen that in 1690 an attempt was made by
John Schuyler to avenge the massacre at Schenectady. The
results of this effort were insignificant, but its purpose
was not forgotten; and in 1691 the Anglo-Dutch of the
Hudson attempted once more to make their strength felt
on the banks of the St Lawrence. This time the leader
was Peter Schuyler, whose force included a hundred and
twenty English and Dutch, as against the forty who had
attacked Canada in the previous summer. The number of
Indian allies was also larger than on the former occasion,
including both Mohawks and Mohegans. Apart from its
superior numbers and much harder fighting, the second
expedition of the English was similar to the first. Both
followed Lake Champlain and the Richelieu; both reached
Laprairie, opposite Montreal; both were forced to retreat
without doing any great damage to their enemies. There
is this notable difference, however, that the French were
in a much better state of preparation than they had been
during the previous summer. The garrison at Laprairie
now numbered above seven hundred, while a flying squadron
of more than three hundred stood ready to attack the
English on their retreat to the Richelieu. On the whole,
Schuyler was fortunate to escape as lightly as he did.
Forty of his party were killed in a hot battle, but he
made his retreat in good order after inflicting some
losses on the French (August 1, 1691). Although Schuyler's
retreat was skilfully conducted, his original object had
been far more ambitious than to save his men from
extermination. The French missed a chance to injure their
foe more seriously than they had done at Schenectady. At
the same time, this second English invasion was so far
from successful that the New France of Frontenac suffered
no further attack from the side of Albany.

While Callieres and Valrennes were repulsing Peter Schuyler
from Laprairie, the French in another part of Frontenac's
jurisdiction were preparing for the offensive. The centre
of this activity was the western part of Acadia--that
is, the large and rugged region which is watered by the
Penobscot and the Kennebec. Here dwelt the Abnakis, a
tribe of Algonquin origin, among whom the Jesuits had
established a mission and made many converts. Throughout
Acadia the French had established friendly relations with
the Indians, and as the English settlements began to
creep from New Hampshire to the mouth of the Kennebec,
the interval between the rival zones of occupation became
so narrow as to admit of raiding. Phips's capture of Port
Royal had alarmed some of the Abnakis, but most of them
held fast to the French connection and were amenable to
presents. It soon proved that all they needed was
leadership, which was amply furnished by the Baron de
Saint-Castin and Father Thury.

Saint-Castin was a very energetic French trader, of noble
birth, who had established himself at Pentegoet on
Penobscot Bay--a point which, after him, is now called
Castine. Father Thury was the chief of the mission priests
in the western part of Acadia, but though an ecclesiastic
he seems to have exalted patriotism above religion. That
he did his best to incite his converts against the English
is beyond question. Urged on by him and Saint-Castin,
the savages of the Penobscot and the Kennebec proceeded
with enthusiasm to destroy the English settlements which
lay within their reach. In the course of successive raids
which extended from 1692 to 1694 they descended upon
York, Wells, and Oyster Bay, always with the stealth and
swiftness which marked joint operations of the French
and Indians. The settlements of the English were sacked,
the inhabitants were either massacred or carried into
captivity, and all those scenes were re-enacted which
had marked the success of Frontenac's three war-parties
in 1690. Thus New England was exposed to attack from the
side of Acadia no less than from that of Canada.
Incidentally Canada and Acadia were drawn into closer
connection by the vigour which Frontenac communicated to
the war throughout all parts of his government.

But the most vivid event of Frontenac's life after the
defence of Quebec against Phips was the great expedition
which he led in person against the Onondagas. It was an
exploit which resembles Denonville's attack upon the
Senecas, with the added interest that Frontenac was in
his seventy-seventh year when he thus carried the war
into the heart of the enemy's country. As a physical tour
de force this campaign was splendid, and it enables us,
better than any other event, to appreciate the magnificent
energy which Frontenac threw into the fulfilment of his
task. With over two thousand men, and an equipment that
included cannon and mortars, he advanced from the south
shore of Lake Ontario against the chief stronghold of
the Iroquois. At the portage the Indians would not permit
their aged, indomitable Onontio to walk, but insisted
that he should remain seated in his canoe, while they
carried it from the pool below the fall to the dead water
above. All the French saw of the stronghold they had come
to attack was the flame which consumed it. Following the
example of the Senecas, the Onondagas, when they saw that
the invader was at hand, set fire to their palisade and
wigwams, gathered up what property was portable, and took
to the woods. Pursuit was impossible. All that could be
done was to destroy the corn and proceed against the
settlement of the Oneidas. After this, with its maize,
had been consumed, Frontenac considered whether he should
attack the Cayugas, but he decided against this extension
of the campaign. Unlike Denonville, he was at war with
the English as well as with the Iroquois, and may have
thought it imprudent to risk surprise at a point so far
from his base. While it was disappointing that the
Onondagas did not wait to be destroyed by the cannon
which with so much effort had been brought against them,
this expedition was a useful proof of strength and produced
a good moral effect throughout the colony as well as
among the western tribes.

The events of 'William and Mary's War,' as it was known
in New England, show how wide the French zone in North
America had come to be. Frontenac's province extended
from Newfoundland to the Mississippi, from Onondaga to
Hudson Bay. The rarest quality of a ruler is the power
to select good subordinates and fill them with his own
high spirit. Judged by this standard Frontenac deserves
great praise, for he never lacked capable and loyal
lieutenants. With Callieres at Montreal, Tonty on the
Mississippi, Perrot and Du Lhut at Michilimackinac,
Villebon and Saint-Castin in Acadia, Sainte-Helene at
the siege of Quebec, and Iberville at Hudson Bay, he was
well supported by his staff. At this critical moment the
shortcomings of the French in America were certainly not
due to lack of purpose or driving power. The system under
which they worked was faulty, and in their extremity they
resorted to harsh expedients. But there were heroes in
New France, if courage and self-sacrifice are the essence
of heroism.

The Peace of Ryswick, which was signed in the year after
Frontenac's campaign against the Onondagas, came as a
happy release to Canada (1697). For nine years the colony
had been hard pressed, and a breathing space was needed.
The Iroquois still remained a peril, but proportionately
their losses since 1689 had been far heavier than those
of the French and English. Left to carry on the war by
themselves, they soon saw the hopelessness of their
project to drive the French from the St Lawrence. The
English were ready to give them defensive assistance,
even after word came from Europe that peace had been
signed. In 1698 the Earl of Bellomont, then governor of
New York, wrote Frontenac that he would arm every man in
his province to aid the Iroquois if the French made good
their threat to invade once more the land of the Five
Nations. Frontenac, then almost on his death-bed, sent
back the characteristic reply that this kind of language
would only encourage him to attack the Iroquois with the
more vigour. The sequel shows that the English at Albany
overplayed their part. The reward of their protection
was to be suzerainty, and at this price protection proved
unacceptable to the Iroquois, whose safety lay in the
equipoise of power between the rival whites. Three years
later the Five Nations renewed peace with Onontio; and,
though Frontenac did not live to see the day, he it was
who had brought it to pass. His daring and energy had
broken the spirit of the red man. In 1701 Callieres, then
governor of New France, held a great council at Montreal,
which was attended by representatives from all the Indian
tribes of the West as well as from the Iroquois. There,
amid all the ceremonies of the wilderness, the calumet
was smoked and the hatchet was interred.

But the old warrior was then no more. On returning to
Quebec from his war against the Onondagas he had thrown
himself into an active quarrel with Champigny, the
intendant, as to the establishment and maintenance of
French posts throughout the West. To the last Frontenac
remained an advocate of the policy which sought to place
France in control of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.
Champigny complained of the expense and the Jesuits
lamented the immorality which life in the forest encouraged
among young men. It was an old quarrel renewed under
conditions which Made the issue more important than ever,
for with open war between French and English it became
of vital moment to control points which were, or might
be, strategic.

This dispute with Champigny was the last incident in
Frontenac's stormy life. It remains to the credit of both
governor and intendant that their differences on matters
of policy did not make them irreconcilable enemies. On
the 28th of November 1698 Frontenac died at the Chateau
St Louis after an illness of less than a month. He had
long been a hero of the people, and his friendship with
the Recollets shows that he had some true allies among
the clergy. No one in Canada could deny the value of his
services at the time of crisis--which was not a matter
of months but of years. Father Goyer, of the Recollets,
delivered a eulogy which in fervour recalls Bossuet's
funeral orations over members of the royal family. But
the most touching valedictory was that from Champigny,
who after many differences had become Frontenac's friend.
In communicating to the Colonial Office tidings of the
governor's death, Champigny says: 'On the 28th of last
month Monsieur le Comte de Frontenac died, with the
sentiments of a true Christian. After all our disputes,
you will hardly believe, Monseigneur, how truly and deeply
I am touched by his death. He treated me during his
illness in a manner so obliging that I should be utterly
devoid of gratitude if I did not feel thankful to him.'

There is a well-known portrait of Madame de Frontenac,
which may still be seen at Versailles. Of Frontenac
himself no portrait whatever exists. Failing his likeness
from brush or pencil, we must image to ourselves as best
we may the choleric old warrior who rescued New France
in her hour of need. In seeking to portray his character
the historian has abundant materials for the period of
his life in Canada, though we must regret the dearth of
information for the years which separate his two terms
of office. There is also a bad gap in our sources for
the period which precedes his first appointment as
governor. What we have from Madame de Montpensier and
Saint-Simon is useful, but their statements are far from
complete and provoke many questions which must remain
unanswered. His letters and reports as governor of Canada
exist in considerable numbers, but it must remain a source
of lasting regret that his private correspondence has

Some one has said that talent should be judged at its
best and character at its worst; but this is a phrase
which does not help us to form a true estimate of Frontenac.
He touched no heights of genius and he sank to no depths
of crime. In essential respects his qualities lie upon
the surface, depicted by his acts and illustrated by his
own words or those of men who knew him well. Were we
seeking to set his good traits against his bad, we should
style him, in one column, brave, steadfast, daring,
ambitious of greatness, far-sighted in policy; and in
the other, prodigal, boastful, haughty, unfair in argument,
ruthless in war. This method of portraiture, however, is
not very helpful. We can form a much better idea of
Frontenac's nature by discussing his acts than by throwing
adjectives at him.

As an administrator he appears to least advantage during
his first term of office, when, in the absence of war,
his energies were directed against adversaries within
the colony. Had he not been sent to Canada a second
time, his feud with Laval, Duchesneau, and the Jesuits
would fill a much larger space in the canvas than it
occupies at present. For in the absence of great deeds
to his credit obstinacy and truculence might have been
thought the essentials rather than the accidents of his
character. M. Lorin, who writes in great detail, finds
much to say on behalf of Frontenac's motives, if not of
his conduct, in these controversies. But viewing his
career broadly it must be held that, at best, he lost a
chance for useful co-operation by hugging prejudices and
prepossessions which sprang in part from his own love of
power and in part from antipathy towards the Jesuits in
France. He might not like the Jesuits, but they were a
great force in Canada and had done things which should
have provoked his admiration. In any case, it was his
duty to work with them on some basis and not dislocate
the whole administration by brawling. As to Duchesneau,
Frontenac was the broader man of the two, and may be
excused some of the petulance which the intendant's
pin-pricks called forth.

Frontenac's enemies were fond of saying that he used his
position to make illicit profits from the fur trade.
Beyond question he traded to some extent, but it would
be harsh to accuse him of venality or peculation on the
strength of such evidence as exists. There is a strong
probability that the king appointed him in the expectation
that he would augment his income from sources which lay
outside his salary. Public opinion varies from age to
age regarding the latitude which may be allowed a public
servant in such matters. Under a democratic regime the
standard is very different from that which has existed,
for the most part, under autocracies in past ages.
Frontenac was a man of distinction who accepted an
important post at a small salary. We may infer that the
king was willing to allow him something from perquisites.
If so, his profits from the fur trade become a matter of
degree. So long as he kept within the bounds of reason
and decency, the government raised no objection. Frontenac
certainly was not a governor who pillaged the colony to
feather his own nest. If he took profits, they were not
thought excessive by any one except Duchesneau. The king
recalled him not because he was venal, but because he
was quarrelsome.

Assuming the standards of his own age, a reasonable plea
can also be made on Frontenac's behalf respecting the
conduct of his wars. 'Man's inhumanity to man makes
countless thousands mourn' in our own day no less than
in the seventeenth century; while certain facts of recent
memory are quite lurid enough to be placed in comparison
with the border raids which, under Frontenac, were made
by the French and their Indian allies. It is dreadful to
know that captured Iroquois were burned alive by the
French, but after the Lachine massacre and the tortures
which French captives endured, this was an almost inevitable
retaliation. The concluding scenes of King Philip's War
prove, at any rate, that the men of New England exercised
little more clemency towards their Indian foes than was
displayed by the French. The Puritans justified their
acts of carnage by citations from the Old Testament
regarding the Canaanites and the Philistines. The most
bitter chronicler of King Philip's War is William Hubbard,
a Calvinist pastor of Ipswich. On December 19, 1675, the
English of Massachusetts and Connecticut stormed the
great stronghold of the Narragansetts. To quote John
Fiske: 'In the slaughter which filled the rest of that
Sunday afternoon till the sun went down behind a dull
gray cloud, the grim and wrathful Puritan, as he swung
his heavy cutlass, thought of Saul and Agag, and spared
not. The Lord had delivered up to him the heathen as
stubble to his sword. As usual the number of the slain
is variously estimated. Of the Indians probably not less
than a thousand perished.'

For the slaughter of English women and children by French
raiders there was no precedent or just provocation. Here
Frontenac must be deemed more culpable than the Puritans.
The only extenuating circumstance is that those who
survived the first moments of attack were in almost all
cases spared, taken to Canada, and there treated with

Writers of the lighter drama have long found a subject
in the old man whose irascibility is but a cloak for
goodness of heart. It would be an exaggeration to describe
Frontenac as a character of this type, for his wrath
could be vehement, and benevolence was not the essential
strain in his disposition. At the same time, he had many
warm impulses to his credit. His loyalty to friends stands
above reproach, and there are little incidents which show
his sense of humour. For instance, he once fined a woman
for lampooning him, but caused the money to be given to
her children. Though often unfair in argument, he was by
nature neither mean nor petty. In ordinary circumstances
he remembered noblesse oblige, and though boastfulness
may have been among his failings, he had a love of
greatness which preserved him from sordid misdemeanours.
Even if we agree with Parkman that greatness must be
denied him, it yet remains to be pointed out that absolute
greatness is a high standard attained by few. Frontenac
was a greater man than most by virtue of robustness,
fire, and a sincere aspiration to discharge his duty as
a lieutenant of the king.

He doubtless thought himself ill-used in that he lacked
the wealth which was needed to accomplish his ambitions
at court. But if fortune frowned upon him at Versailles,
she made full compensation by granting him the opportunity
to govern Canada a second time. As he advanced in years
his higher qualities became more conspicuous. His vision
cleared. His vanities fell away. There remained traces
of the old petulance; but with graver duties his stature
increased and the strong fibre of his nature was disclosed.
For his foibles he had suffered much throughout his whole
life. But beneath the foibles lay courage and resolve.
It was his reward that in the hour of trial, when upon
his shoulders rested the fate of France in America, he
was not found wanting.


Of the literature on Frontenac and his period the greater
part is in French. The books in English to which attention
may be specially called are:

Parkman, Francis: 'Count Frontenac and New France
under Louis XIV.'

Le Sueur, William Dawson: 'Count Frontenac' in the
'Makers of Canada' series.

Winsor, Justin: 'Cartier to Frontenac.'

Stewart, George: 'Frontenac and his Times' in the
'Narrative and Critical History of America,' edited
by Justin Winsor, vol. iv.

In French the most important works are:

Lorin, Henri: 'Le Comte de Frontenac.'

Myrand, Ernest: 'Frontenac et ses Amis; Phips devant

Rochemonteix, Le Pere Camille de: 'Les Jesuites et la
Nouvelle France,' vol. iii.

Gosselin, L'Abbe: 'La Vie de Mgr Laval.'

Sulte, B.: 'Histoire des Canadiens-Francais.'

Ferland, L'Abbe: 'Cours d'Histoire du Canada.'

Faillon, L'Abbe: 'Histoire de la Colonie Francaise en
Canada,' vol. iii.

Gagnon, Ernest: 'Le Fort et le Chateau Saint-Louis.'

Garneau, F.-X.: 'Histoire du Canada,' edited by Hector

Among the original sources for this period the following
are likely to be found in any large library:

'Jugements et Deliberations du Conseil Souverain.'

'Edits et Ordonnances.'

'Relations des Jesuites.' Ed. Thwaites.

'Memoires et Documents pour servir a l'histoire des
origines francaises des pays d'outre-mer,'
ed. P. Margry.

'Les Lettres de La Hontan.'

'Histoire de l'Hotel-Dieu de Quebec, par la mere
Juchereau de Saint-Denis.'


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