Read CHAPTER XII of The Conquest of Canada (Vol. 1 of 2) , free online book, by George Warburton, on

Having noticed the principal features of the origin and progress of the English colonies the powerful and dangerous neighbors of the French settlements in the New World it is now time to return to the course of Canadian history subsequent to the death of the illustrious founder of Quebec.

Monsieur de Montmagny succeeded Champlain as governor, and entered with zeal into his plans, but difficulties accumulated on all sides. Men and money were wanting, trade languished, and the Associated Company in France were daily becoming more indifferent to the success of the colony. Some few merchants and inhabitants of the outposts, indeed, were enriched by the profitable dealings of the fur-trade, but their suddenly-acquired wealth excited the jealousy rather than increased the general prosperity of the settlers. The work of religious institutions was alone pursued with vigor and success in those times of failure and discouragement. At Sillery, one league from Quebec, an establishment was founded for the instruction of the savages and the diffusion of Christian light. (1637.) The Hotel Dieu owed its existence to the Duchesse d’Aiguillon two years afterward, and the Convent of the Ursulines was founded by the pious and high-born Madame de la Peltrie.

The partial success and subsequent failure of Champlain and his Indian allies in their encounters with the Iroquois had emboldened these brave and politic savages. They now captured several canoes belonging to the Hurons, laden with furs, which that friendly people were conveying to Quebec. Montmagny’s military force was too small to allow of his avenging this insult; he, however, zealously promoted an enterprise to build a fort and effect a settlement on the island of Montreal, which he fondly hoped would curb the audacity of his savage foes. The Associated Company would render no aid whatever to this important plan, but the religious zeal of the Abbe Olivier overcame all difficulties. He obtained a grant of Montreal from the king, and dispatched the Sieur de Maisonneuve and others to take possession. On the 17th of May, 1641, the place destined for the settlement was consecrated by the superior of the Jesuits.

At the same time the governor erected a fort at the entrance of the River Richelieu, then called the Iroquois. The workmen employed at this labor were constantly exposed to the harassing warfare of the Indians, but at length completely repulsed them. A garrison, such as could be spared from the scanty militia of the colony, was placed in the little stronghold for its defense. Although the minds of the fierce Iroquois were fixed upon the utter destruction of the French, and in their confident boastings they declared that they could drive the white men into the sea, they indicated from time to time a desire for peace. Montmagny was compelled by weakness and the difficulties of his situation, to accept overtures which he could not but dread as insidious and treacherous, and he assumed an air of confidence which he by no means felt. His native allies were also eagerly anxious for the blessings of peace, and, through their means, an opportunity for opening negotiations soon offered. The governor and the friendly native chiefs met the deputies of the Iroquois nation at Three Rivers to arrange the terms of the proposed treaty. (1645.) After various orations, songs, dances, and exchanges of presents, peace was concluded to the satisfaction of both parties; and for the time at least, with apparent good faith, for the following winter the French and their new allies joined together in the chase, and mixed fearlessly in friendly intercourse.

M. de Montmagny was superseded as governor of Canada by M. d’Ailleboust in the year 1647. He had proved himself a man of judgment, courage, and virtue, and had gained the love of the settlers and Indians, as well as the approval of the court. But, in consequence of the governor of the American islands having recently refused to surrender office to a person appointed by the king, it was decreed that no one should hold the government of a colony for more than three years. M. d’Ailleboust was a man of ability and worth, and, having held the command at Three Rivers for some time, was also experienced in colonial affairs, but he received no more support from home than his predecessor; and, despite his best efforts, New France continued to languish under his rule.

The colony, however, was now free from the scourge of savage hostility. The Indians turned their subtle craft and terrible energy to the chase instead of war. From the far-distant hunting-grounds of the St. Maurice and of the gloomy Saguenay, they crowded to Three Rivers and Tadoussac with the spoils of the forest animals. At those settlements the trade went briskly on, and many of the natives became domesticated among their white neighbors. The worthy priests were not slow to take advantage of this favorable opportunity; many of the hunters from the north, who were attracted to the French villages by the fur trade, were told the great tidings of redemption; and usually, when they returned the following year, they were accompanied by others, who desired, with them, to receive the rites of baptism.

The most numerous and pious of the prosélytes were of the Huron tribe, an indolent and unwarlike race, against whom the bold and powerful Iroquois held deadly feud, which the existing peace only kept in abeyance till opportunity might arise for effective action. The little settlement of St. Joseph was the place where first an Indian congregation assembled for Christian worship; the Father Antoine Daniel was the pastor; the flock were of the Huron tribe. Faith in treaties and long-continued tranquillity had lulled this unhappy people into a fatal security, and all cautions were forgotten, when, on the morning of the 4th of July, 1648, while the missionary was performing service, there suddenly arose a cry of terror that the Iroquois were at hand. None but old men, women, and children were in the village at the time; of this the crafty enemy were aware; they had crept silently through the woods, and lain in ambush till morning gave them light for the foul massacre. Not one of the inhabitants escaped, and last of all, the good priest was likewise slain.

During this year the first communication passed between the French and British North American colonies. An envoy arrived at Quebec from New England, bearing proposals for a lasting peace with Canada, not to be interrupted even by the wars of the mother countries. M. d’Ailleboust gladly entertained the wise proposition, and sent a deputy to Boston with full powers to treat, providing only that the English would consent to aid him against the Iroquois. But the cautious Puritans would not compromise themselves by this stipulation. They were sufficiently remote from the fierce and formidable savages of the Five Nations to be free from present apprehension, and to their steady and industrious habits the plow was more suitable than the sword. The negotiation, therefore, totally failed, which was probably of little consequence, for it is difficult to perceive how these remote and feeble colonies could have preserved a neutrality in the contentions of England and France, which was impossible even to powerful states.

After a treacherous calm of some six months’ duration, the unhappy Hurons again relapsed into a fatal security; the terrible lessons of the past were forgotten in the apparent tranquillity of the present. Watch and ward were relaxed, and again they lay at the mercy of their ruthless enemies. When least expected, 1000 Iroquois warriors started up from the thick coverts of a neighboring forest, and fell fiercely upon the defenseless Hurons, burned two of their villages, exterminated the inhabitants, and put two French missionaries to death with horrible tortures. Then the remnant of the defeated tribe despaired; the alliance of the French had only embittered the hostility of their enemies without affording protection; therefore they arose and deserted their villages and hunting grounds, wandering away, some into the northern forests, others as suppliants among neighboring nations.

The greater body of the Hurons, however, attached themselves to the fortunes of the missionaries, and under them formed a settlement on the island of St. Joseph, but they neglected to cultivate the land. As the autumn advanced, the resources of the chase became exhausted, and the horrors of famine commenced. They were shortly reduced to the most dreadful extremities of suffering; every direst expedient that starvation could prompt and despair execute was resorted to for a few days’ prolonging of life. Then came the scourge of contagious fever, sweeping numbers away with desolating fury. While these terrible calamities raged among the Hurons, the Iroquois seized the opportunity of again invading them. The village of St. John, containing nearly 3000 souls, was the first point of attack. The feeble inhabitants offered no resistance, and, with their missionary, were totally destroyed. Most of the remnant of this unhappy tribe then took the resolution of presenting themselves to their conquerors, and were received into the Iroquois nation. The few who still remained wandering in the forests were hunted down like wolves, and soon exterminated.

The terror of the Iroquois name now spread rapidly along the shores of the great lakes and rivers of the north. The fertile banks of the Ottawa, once the dwelling-place of numerous and powerful tribes, became suddenly deserted, and no one could tell whither the inhabitants had fled.

About this time was introduced among the Montagnez, and the other tribes of the Saguenay country, an evil more destructive than even the tomahawk of the Iroquois the “accursed fire-water;” despite the most earnest efforts of the governor, the fur traders at Tadoussac supplied the Indians with this fatal luxury. In a short time, intoxication and its dreadful consequences became so frequent, that the native chiefs prayed the governor to imprison all drunkards. At Three Rivers, however, the wise precautions of the authorities preserved the infant settlement from this monstrous calamity.

In the year 1650 M. d’Ailleboust was worthily succeeded by M. de Lauson, one of the principals of the Associated Company. The new governor found affairs in a very discouraging condition, the colony rapidly declining, and the Iroquois, flushed by their sanguinary triumphs, more audacious than ever. These fierce savages intruded fearlessly among the French settlements, despising forts and intrenchments, and insulting the inhabitants with impunity. The island of Montreal suffered so much from their incursions, that M. de Maisonneuve, the governor, was obliged to repair to France to seek succors, for which he had vainly applied by letter. He returned in the year 1653 with a timely re-enforcement of 100 men.

Although the Iroquois had now overcome or destroyed all their native enemies, and proved their strength even against the Europeans, some of their tribes were more than ever disposed to a union with the white men. The Onnontagues dispatched an embassy to Quebec to request that the governor would send a colony of Frenchmen among them. He readily acceded to the proposition, and fifty men were chosen for the establishment, with the Sieur Dupuys for their commander. Four missionaries were appointed to found the first Iroquois church; and to supply temporal wants, provisions for a year, and sufficient seed to sow the lands about to be appropriated, were sent with the expedition. This design excited the jealousy of the other Iroquois tribes; the Agniers even tried to intercept the colonists with a force of 400 warriors; they, however, only succeeded in pillaging a few of the canoes that had fallen behind. The same war party soon after made an onslaught upon ninety Hurons, working on the Isle of Orleans under French protection, slew six, and carried off the rest into captivity. As they passed before Quebec they made their unhappy prisoners sing aloud, insultingly attracting the attention of the garrison. The marauders were not pursued; they dragged the prisoners to their villages, burned the chiefs, and condemned the rest to a cruel bondage. M. de Lauson can hardly be excused for thus suffering his allies to be torn from under his protection without an effort to save them from their merciless enemies. These unfortunates had been converted to Christianity, which increased the rage and ferocity of the captors against them. One brave chief, whose tortures had been prolonged for three days as a worshiper of the God of the white men, bore himself faithfully to the last, and died with the Saviour’s blessed name upon his quivering lip.

In the mean time the expedition to the country of the Onnontagues suffered great privations, and only escaped starvation by the generosity of the natives. Their spiritual mission was, however, at first eminently successful, the whole nation seeming disposed to adopt the Christian faith. But the allied tribes having carried their insolence to an intolerable degree, and massacred three Frenchmen near Montreal, the commandant at Quebec seized all the Iroquois within his reach, and demanded redress. The answer of the haughty savages was, to prepare for war. Dupuys and his little colony were now in a most perilous position: there was no hope of aid from Quebec, and but little chance of being able to escape from among their dangerous neighbors. They labored diligently and secretly to construct a sufficient number of canoes to carry them away in case some happy opportunity might arise, and found means to warn the people of Quebec of the coming danger. By great industry and skill the canoes were completed, and stored with the necessary provisions; through an ingenious stratagem, the French escaped in safety, while the savages slept soundly after one of their solemn feasts. In fifteen days the fugitives arrived at Montreal, where they found alarm on every countenance. The Iroquois swarmed over the island, and committed great disorders, although still professing a treacherous peace. The savages soon, however, threw off the mask, and broke into open war.

On the 11th of July, 1658, the Viscompte d’Argenson landed at Quebec as governor. The next morning the cry “to arms” echoed through the town. The Iroquois had made a sudden onslaught upon some Algonquins under the very guns of the fortress, and massacred them without mercy. Two hundred men were instantly dispatched to avenge this insult, but they could not overtake the wily marauders. In the same year, however, a party of the Agniers met with a severe check in a treacherous attempt to surprise Three Rivers. The lesson was not lost, and the colony for some time enjoyed a much-needed repose. The missionaries seized this interval of tranquillity to recommence their sacred labors: they penetrated into many remote districts where Europeans had never before reached, and discovered several routes to the dreary shores of Hudson’s Bay. In the year 1659, the exemplary Francois de Laval, abbe de Montigny, arrived at Quebec to preside over the Canadian Church as the first American bishop.

The temporal affairs of the colony were falling into a lamentable condition; no supplies arrived from France, and the local production was far from sufficient. Terror of the Indians kept the settlers almost blockaded in the forts, and cultivation was necessarily neglected. It was proposed by many that all the settlements should be abandoned, and that they should again seek the peaceful shores of their native country. Many individuals were massacred by the savages, and two armed parties, one of thirty and the other of twenty-six men, were totally destroyed. But some of the Indians, too, began to weary of this murderous war, and to long again for Christian instruction and peaceful commerce. The new governor was at first little inclined to negotiate with his fierce and capricious enemies; but, influenced by the miserable state of the colony, which even a brief truce might improve, he at length agreed to an exchange of prisoners and a peace.

In 1662 the King of France was at last induced to hearken to the prayers of his Canadian subjects. M. de Monts was sent out to inquire into the condition of the country, and 400 troops added to the strength of the garrison. But these encouraging circumstances were more than neutralized on account of the permission then granted by the new governor, Baron d’Avaugour, for the sale of ardent spirits. The disorder soon rose to a lamentable height, and the clergy in vain opposed their utmost influence to its pernicious progress. At length the worthy bishop hastened to France, and represented to the king the dreadful evil that afflicted the colony. His remonstrances were effectual; he succeeded in obtaining such powers as he deemed necessary to stop the ruinous commerce.

The year 1663 was rendered memorable by a tremendous earthquake, spoken of in a preceding chapter. In the same year the Associated Company remitted to the crown all their rights over New France, which the king again transferred to the West India Company. Courts of law were for the first time established, and many families of valuable settlers found their way to the colony. Up to this period extreme simplicity and honesty seems to have prevailed in the little community, and it was not till then that a Council of State was appointed by the crown to co-operate with the governor in the conduct of affairs. The king sent out the Sieur Gaudais to inquire into the state of his newly-acquired dependency, and to investigate certain complaints preferred against the Baron d’Avaugour, who had himself prayed to be recalled. The sieur performed his invidious task to the satisfaction of all parties: he made valuable reports as to the general character of the colonial clergy, of the advantages and disadvantages of the local administration of government, and imputed no fault to the Baron d’Avaugour, but a somewhat too rigid and stern adherence to the letter of the law, and the severity of justice. The baron then joyfully returned to France, but soon afterward fell in the defense of the fort of Serin against the Turks, while, with the permission of the French king, serving the emperor.

M. de Mesy succeeded as governor, upon the recommendation of the Bishop of Canada, whose complaints on the subject of the sale of spirituous liquors had been the principal cause of the Baron d’Avaugour’s recall. The new appointment proved far from satisfactory to those by whose influence it was made. M. de Mesy at once raised up a host of enemies by his haughty and despotic bearing. He thwarted the Jesuits to the utmost extent of his power; the council supported them, alleging that their influence over the native race was essential to the well-being of the colony. Various representations of these matters were made to the court of France, and the final result was, that the governor was recalled.

Alexandre de Prouville, marquis de Tracy, was next appointed viceroy in America by the king, with ample powers to establish, destroy, or alter the institutions of the Canadian colony. Daniel de Rémi, seigneur de Courcelles, the new governor, and M. Talon, the intendant, were conjoined with the viceroy in a commission to examine into the charges against M. de Mesy. (1665.) M. de Tracy was the first to arrive at Quebec; he bore with him the welcome re-enforcement of some companies of the veteran regiment of Carignan-Salières. He sent a portion of this force at once against the Iroquois, accompanied by the allied savages. The country was speedily cleared of every enemy, and the harvest gathered in security. The remaining part of the regiment arrived soon after, with the viceroy’s colleagues; a large number of families, artisans, and laborers; the first horses that had ever been sent to New France; cattle, sheep; and, in short, a far more complete colony than that which they came to aid.

Being now established in security, and confident in strength, the viceroy led a sufficient force to the mouth of Richelieu River, where he erected three forts to overawe the turbulent Iroquois. These works were rapidly and skillfully executed, and for a time answered their purpose; but the wily savages soon perceived that there were other routes by which they could enter the settlements. In the mean time M. Talon remained at Quebec, collecting much valuable information concerning the country and its native inhabitants. He was spared, however, the task of inquiring into the conduct of M. de Mesy, for that gentleman died before the news of his recall reached Canada.

Toward the end of December, 1665, three tribes of the Iroquois nation dispatched envoys to the viceroy at Quebec with proposals for peace and for an exchange of prisoners. The terms were readily complied with. M. de Tracy received the Indians with politic kindness and attention, and sent them back with valuable presents. But the formidable tribes of the Agniers and Onneyouths still kept sullenly apart from the French alliance; it was, therefore, determined to give them a severe lesson for their former insolence and treachery, and make them feel the supremacy of France. M. de Courcelles and M. de Sorel were sent with two corps to humble the haughty savages. The hostile Indians, alarmed at the preparations for their destruction, now sent deputies to Quebec to avert the threatening storm, although some of their war parties still infested the settlements, and had lately put to death three French officers, among them M. de Chasy, the viceroy’s nephew. One of the Indian deputies boasted at M. de Tracy’s table that he had slain the French officers with his own hands. He was immediately seized and strangled, and the negotiations broken off.

The two French expeditions found the hostile country altogether deserted, and returned without effecting any thing, having suffered great fatigue and hardship. M. de Tracy then took the field in person, at the head of 1200 French and 600 friendly Indians, with two pieces of cannon. As he was setting out on the march, chiefs again came from the Agniers and Onneyouths to pray for peace; but he would hear of no accommodation, and even imprisoned the deputies. The French army marched on the 14th of September, 1666; provisions soon failed in the solitary desert through which they had to pass; in their greatest necessity, however, they entered a wood abounding in chestnut-trees, whose fruit supplied them with sustenance till they gained the first village of the enemy. The warriors had abandoned the old men, women, and children, and ample stores of food, and retired through the forest. The French found the Indian cabans larger and better than any they had seen elsewhere, and in ingeniously contrived magazines, sunk under the ground, sufficient grain was discovered to supply the whole colony for two years. The invaders burned and utterly destroyed all the villages, and carried away, as captives, all the inhabitants that remained, but they could not succeed in overtaking the warriors to force them to action. They then retraced their steps, strengthening the settlements on the River St. Lawrence as they passed. When M. de Tracy reached Quebec, he caused some of the prisoners to be put to death as a warning, and dismissed the remainder. Having established the authority of the West India Company instead of that of “The Hundred Associates,” he returned to France the following spring.

The humiliation of the Iroquois restored profound peace to New France. Then the wisdom and energy of M. Talon were directed to the development of the resources of the country. Scientific men were sent to examine the mineral resources of several districts where promising indications had been observed. The clearing of land proceeded rapidly, and invariably discovered a rich and productive soil. The population increased in numbers, and enjoyed abundant plenty: all were in a condition to live in comfort. According to the perhaps partial authority of the Jesuit missionaries, the progress in morality and attention to religious observances kept pace with the temporal prosperity of this happy colony.

Although M. de Courcelles showed little activity in conducting the internal government of the colony, which was principally directed by M. Talon, he was highly energetic and vigorous in his relations with the Indians. Having learned that the Iroquois were intriguing with the Ottawas to direct their fur trade to the English colonies, thus probably to ruin the commerce of New France, he resolved to visit the Iroquois, and impress them with an idea of his power. For this purpose he took the route of the deep and rapid St. Lawrence, making his way in bateaux for 130 miles above Montreal. His health, however, suffered so much in this difficult expedition that he was obliged to demand his recall.

On his return to Quebec he found that several atrocious murders and robberies had been committed upon Iroquois and Mahingan Indians by Frenchmen, which filled the savages with indignation, and roused them to a fury of revenge. They attacked and burned a house in open day, and a woman perished in the flames. Numbers of the two injured nations and their savage allies hovered round Montreal, awaiting an opportunity for vengeance. M. de Courcelles, with his wonted vigor in emergencies, hastened to the threatened settlement, and called upon the Indian chiefs to hold parley. They assembled, and hearkened with attention while he enumerated the advantages that both parties derived from the existing peace. He then caused those among the murderers who had been convicted of the crime to be led out and executed on the spot. The Indians were at once appeased by this prompt administration of justice, and even lamented over the malefactors’ wretched fate; they were also fully indemnified for the stolen property. The assembly then broke up with mutual satisfaction.

But soon again, the repose of the country was threatened by the Iroquois and Ottawas, who had begun to make incursions upon each other. M. de Courcelles promptly interfered to quell this growing animosity, declaring that he would punish with the greatest severity either party that would not submit to reasonable conditions. He required them to send deputies to state their wrongs, and the grounds of dispute, and took upon himself to do justice to both parties. He was obeyed: the chiefs of the contending tribes repaired to Quebec, and by the firmness and judgment of the governor, the breach was healed, and peace secured.

At this time a scourge more terrible than even savage war visited the red race of Canada. The small-pox first appeared among the northern tribe of the Attikamegues, and swept them totally away: many of their neighbors shared the same fate. Tadoussac, where 1200 Indians usually assembled to barter their rich furs at the end of the hunting season, was deserted. Three Rivers, once crowded with the friendly Algonquins, was now never visited by a red man, and a few years after the frightful plague first appeared, the settlement of Sillery, near Quebec, was attacked; 1500 savages took the fatal contagion, and not one survived. The Hurons, who had been always most intimately associated with the French, suffered least among the native nations from the malady. In 1670 Father Chaumonat assembled the remnant of this once powerful tribe in the neighborhood of Quebec, and established them in the village of Lorette, where a mixed race of their descendants remains to this day.

Even the presence of the dreadful infliction of the small-pox and the fear of French power could not long restrain the savage impulse for war. The most distant tribe of the Iroquois became engaged in a sanguinary quarrel with a neighboring nation, and took a number of prisoners. The governor immediately sent to warn these turbulent savages that if they did not desist from war, and return their prisoners, he would destroy their villages as he had those of the Agniers. This peremptory message raised the indignation of the Iroquois, they at first proudly disclaimed the right of the French to dictate to the free people of the forest, and vowed that they would perish rather than bow down to the strangers’ will; but, finally, the wisdom of the old men prevailed in the council: they knew that they were not prepared to meet the power of the Europeans; it was therefore decided that they should send a portion of their prisoners to the governor. He either believed, or pretended to believe, that they had fully complied with his demands, deeming it prudent not to drive the Indians to extremities.