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The Founder of New France: A Chronicle of Champlain by Charles W. Colby

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of spring. They lived on eels and roots till June should
bring the ships and food from home.



Champlain's journeyings with the Indians were the holiday
of his life, for at no other time was he so free to follow
the bent of his genius. First among the incentives which
drew him to the wilderness was his ambition to discover
the pathway to China. In 1608 the St Lawrence had not
been explored beyond the Lachine Rapids, nor the Richelieu
beyond Chambly--while the Ottawa was known only by report.
Beyond Lake St Louis stretched a mysterious world, through
the midst of which flowed the Great River. For an explorer
and a patriot the opportunity was priceless. The acquisition
of vast territory for the French crown, the enlargement
of the trade zone, the discovery of a route to Cathay,
the prospect of Arcadian joys and exciting
adventures--beside such promptings hardship and danger
became negligible. And when exploring the wilderness
Champlain was in full command. Off the coast of Norumbega
his wishes, as geographer, had been subject to the special
projects of De Monts and Poutrincourt. At Fontainebleau
he waited for weeks and months in the antechambers of
prelates or nobles. But when conducting an expedition
through the forest he was lord and master, a chieftain
from whose arquebus flew winged death.

The story of Champlain's expeditions along these great
secluded waterways, and across the portages of the forest,
makes the most agreeable page of his life both for writer
and reader, since it is here that he himself is most
clearly in the foreground. At no point can his narrative
be thought dull, compact as it is and always in touch
with energetic action. But the details of fur trading at
Tadoussac and the Sault St Louis, or even of voyaging
along the Acadian seaboard, are far less absorbing than
the tale of the canoe and the war party. Amid the depths
of the interior Champlain reaped his richest experiences
as an explorer. With the Indians for his allies and
enemies he reached his fullest stature as a leader.

It is not important to dwell upon the minor excursions
which Champlain made from his headquarters at Quebec into
the country of the Montagnais. [Footnote: An Algonquin
tribe dwelling to the north of the St Lawrence, for the
most part between the Saguenay and the St Maurice.] He
saw little of the rocky northland which, with its myriad
lakes and splendid streams, sweeps from the St Lawrence
to Hudson Bay. Southward and westward lay his course to
the cantons of the Iroquois south of Lake Ontario and
the villages of the Hurons north of Lake Simcoe. Above
all, the expeditions of 1609, 1613, and 1615 are the
central episodes of his work as an explorer, each marked
by a distinct motive and abounding with adventures. In
1609 he discovered Lake Champlain and fought his first
battle with the Iroquois. In 1613 he was decoyed by a
lying guide into a fruitless search for the North-West
Passage by the route of the Ottawa. In 1615 he discovered
Lake Huron, traversed what is now Central Ontario, and
attacked the Iroquois in the heart of their own country.
These three journeys make the sum of Champlain's
achievements as a pioneer of the interior. For all three,
likewise, we have his own story, upon which all other
versions are based and from which they draw their most
striking details.

The discovery of Lake Champlain had its root in Champlain's
promise to the Algonquins that he would aid them in their
strife with the Iroquois. In turn this promise was based
upon the policy of conciliating those savage tribes from
whom the French derived their supply of furs, and with
whom throughout the St Lawrence basin they most constantly
came in contact.

It was the year which followed the founding of Quebec.
Of the twenty-eight who entered upon the first winter
eight only had survived, and half of these were ailing.
On June 5 relief came in the person of Des Marais, who
announced that his father-in-law, Pontgrave, was already
at Tadoussac. Champlain at once set out to meet him, and
it was arranged that Pontgrave should take charge of the
settlement for the coming year, while Champlain fulfilled
his promise to aid the Algonquins in their war with the
Iroquois. The full plan required that Pontgrave should
spend the winter in Canada, while Champlain, after his
summer campaign, was to return to France with a report
of his explorations.

The Indians had stated that the route to the land of the
Iroquois was easy, and Champlain's original design was
to proceed in a shallop capable of carrying twenty
Frenchmen. Early in July he reached the mouth of the
Richelieu, but on arriving at Chambly he found it quite
impossible to pass the falls with his shallop. Either
the expedition must be abandoned or the plan be radically
changed, with the consequence of incurring much greater
risks. To advance meant sending back the shallop with
its crew and stores, embarking in a canoe, and trusting
wholly to the good faith of the savages. The decision
was not easy. 'I was much troubled,' says Champlain. 'And
it gave me especial dissatisfaction to go back without
seeing a very large lake, filled with handsome islands
and with large tracts of fine land bordering on the lake,
where their enemies lived, according to their
representations. After duly thinking over the matter I
determined to go and fulfil my promise and carry out my
desire. Accordingly I embarked with the savages in their
canoes, taking with me two men, who went cheerfully.
After making known my plan to Des Marais and others in
the shallop, I requested the former to return to our
settlement with the rest of our company, giving them the
assurance that in a short time, by God's grace, I would
return to them.'

Having convinced himself, Champlain was next forced to
convince the Indians, whose first impulse was to abandon
the campaign when they found that they would be accompanied
by only three of the Frenchmen. Champlain's firmness,
however, communicated itself to them, and on July 12 they
set out from Chambly Basin to commence the portage. At
the top of the rapid a review of forces was held, and it
proved that the Indians numbered sixty men, equipped with
twenty-four canoes. Advancing through a beautifully wooded
country, the little war-party encamped at a point not
far below the outlet of Lake Champlain, taking the
precaution to protect themselves by a rough fortification
of tree trunks.

At this point Champlain introduces a graphic statement
regarding the methods which the Indians employ to guard
against surprise. On three sides they protect the camp
by fallen trees, leaving the river-bank without a barricade
in order that they may take quickly to their canoes.
Then, as soon as the camp has been fortified, they send
out nine picked men in three canoes to reconnoitre for
a distance of two or three leagues. But before nightfall
these scouts return, and then all lie down to sleep,
without leaving any pickets or sentries on duty. When
Champlain remonstrated with them for such gross
carelessness, they replied that they worked hard enough
during the daytime. The normal formation of an Indian
war-party embraced three divisions--the scouts, the main
body, and the hunters, the last always remaining in the
rear and chasing their game in a direction from which
they did not anticipate the appearance of the enemy.
Having arrived at a distance of two or three days' march
from their enemies, they united in a single party (save
for the scouts) and advanced stealthily by night. At this
juncture their food became baked Indian meal soaked in
water. They hid by day and made no fire, save that required
to smoke their tobacco.

Thus does Champlain describe the savage as he is about
to fall upon his foe. He gives special prominence to the
soothsayer, who on the eve of battle enters into elaborate
intercourse with the devil. Inside a wooden hut the
necromancer lies prostrate on the ground, motionless.
Then he springs to his feet and begins to torment himself,
counterfeiting strange tones to represent the speech of
the devil, and carrying on violent antics which leave
him in a stream of perspiration. Outside the hut the
Indians sit round on their haunches like apes and fancy
that they can see fire proceeding from the roof, although
the devil appears to the soothsayer in the form of a
stone. Finally, the chiefs, when they have by these means
learned that they will meet their enemy and kill a
sufficient number, arrange the order of battle. Sticks
a foot long are taken, one for each warrior, and these
are laid out on a level place five or six feet square.
The leader then explains the order of battle, after which
the warriors substitute themselves for the sticks and go
through the manoeuvres till they can do them without

From this description of tactics we pass speedily to a
story of real war. Reaching Lake Champlain, the party
skirted the western shore, with fine views of the Green
Mountains, on the summit of which Champlain mistook white
limestone for snow. On July 29, at Crown Point, the
Iroquois were encountered at about ten o'clock in the
evening. Thus the first real battle of French and Indians
took place near that remarkable spot where Lake Champlain
and Lake George draw close together--the Ticonderoga of
Howe, the Carillon of Montcalm.

The Algonquins were in good courage, for, besides the
muskets of the three Frenchmen, they were inspired by a
dream of Champlain that he had seen the Iroquois drowning
in a lake. As soon as the enemies saw each other, both
began to utter loud cries and make ready their weapons.
The Algonquins kept out on the water; the Iroquois went
ashore and built a barricade. When the Algonquins had
made ready for battle

they dispatched two canoes to the enemy to inquire if
they wished to fight, to which the latter replied that
they wished nothing else; but they said that at present
there was not much light, and that it would be necessary
to wait for day so as to be able to recognize each
other; and that as soon as the sun rose they would
offer us battle. This was agreed to by our side.
Meanwhile the entire night was spent in dancing and
singing, on both sides, with endless insults and other
talk; as how little courage we had, how feeble a
resistance we should make against their arms, and that
when day came we should realize it to our ruin. Ours
also were not slow in retorting, telling them that
they would see such execution of arms as never before,
together with an abundance of such talk as is not
unusual in the siege of a town.

Care had been taken by the Algonquins that the presence
of Champlain and his two companions should come to the
Iroquois as a complete surprise. Each of the Frenchmen
was in a separate canoe, convoyed by the Montagnais. At
daylight each put on light armour and, armed with an
arquebus, went ashore. Champlain was near enough the
barricade to see nearly two hundred Iroquois, 'stout and
rugged in appearance. They came at a slow pace towards
us, with a dignity and assurance which greatly impressed
me, having three chiefs at their head.' Champlain, when
urged by his allies to make sure of killing the three
chiefs, replied that he would do his best, and that in
any case he would show them his courage and goodwill.

Then began the fight, which must be described in Champlain's
own words, for in all his writings there is no more famous

As soon as we had landed, they began to run for some
two hundred paces towards their enemies, who stood
firmly, not having as yet noticed my companions, who
went into the woods with some savages. Our men began
to call me with loud cries; and in order to give me
a passage way they opened in two parts and put me at
their head, where I marched some twenty paces in
advance of the rest, until I was within about twenty
paces of the enemy, who at once noticed me and, halting,
gazed at me, as I did also at them. When I saw them
make a move to fire at us, I rested my musket against
my cheek and aimed directly at one of the three chiefs.
With the same shot two fell to the ground; and one of
their men was so wounded that he died some time after.
I had loaded my musket with four balls. When our side
saw this shot so favourable for them, they began to
raise such loud cries that one could not have heard
it thunder. Meanwhile the arrows flew on both sides.
The Iroquois were greatly astonished that two men had
been so quickly killed, although they were equipped
with armour woven from cotton thread and with wood
which was proof against their arrows. This caused
great alarm among them. As I was loading again, one
of my companions fired a shot from the woods, which
astonished them anew to such a degree that, seeing
their chiefs dead, they lost courage and took to
flight, abandoning their camp and fort and fleeing
into the woods, whither I pursued them, killing still
more of them. Our savages also killed several of them
and took ten or twelve prisoners. The remainder escaped
with the wounded. Fifteen or sixteen were wounded on
our side with arrow shots, but they were soon healed.

The spoils of victory included a large quantity of Indian
corn, together with a certain amount of meal, and also
some of the native armour which the Iroquois had thrown
away in order to effect their escape. Then followed a
feast and the torture of one of the prisoners, whose
sufferings were mercifully concluded by a ball from
Champlain's musket, delivered in such wise that the
unfortunate did not see the shot. Like Montcalm and other
French commanders of a later date, Champlain found it
impossible to curb wholly the passions of his savage
allies. In this case his remonstrances had the effect of
gaining for the victim a coup de grace--which may be
taken as a measure of Champlain's prestige. The atrocious
savagery practised before and after death is described
in full detail. Champlain concludes the lurid picture as
follows: 'This is the manner in which these people behave
towards those whom they capture in war, for whom it would
be better to die fighting or to kill themselves on the
spur of the moment, as many do rather than fall into the
hands of their enemies.'

Beyond the point at which this battle was fought Champlain
did not go. At Ticonderoga he was within eighty miles of
the site of Albany. Had he continued, he would have
reached the Hudson from the north in the same summer the
Half Moon [Footnote: Henry Hudson, an English mariner
with a Dutch crew, entered the mouth of the Hudson in a
boat called the Half Moon on September 4, 1609. As named
by him, the river was called the 'Great North River of
New Netherland.'] entered it from the mouth. But the
Algonquins were content with their victory, though they
candidly stated that there was an easy route from the
south end of Lake George to 'a river flowing into the
sea on the Norumbega coast near that of Florida.' The
return to Quebec and Tadoussac was attended by no incident
of moment. The Montagnais, on parting with Champlain at
Tadoussac, generously gave him the head of an Iroquois
and a pair of arms, with the request that they be carried
to the king of France. The Algonquins had already taken
their departure at Chambly, where, says Champlain, 'we
separated with loud protestations of mutual friendship.
They asked me whether I would not like to go into their
country to assist them with continued fraternal relations;
and I promised that I would do so.'

As a contribution to geographical knowledge the
expedition of 1609 disclosed the existence of a noble
lake, to which Champlain fitly gave his own name. Its
dimensions he considerably over-estimated, but in all
essential respects its situation was correctly described,
while his comments on the flora and fauna are very
interesting. The garpike as he saw it, with
amplifications from the Indians as they had seen it, gave
him the subject for a good fish story. He was deeply
impressed, too, by the richness of the vegetation. His
attack on the Iroquois was not soon forgotten by that
relentless foe, and prepared a store of trouble for the
colony he founded. But the future was closed to his view,
and for the moment his was the glorious experience of
being the first to gaze with European eyes upon a lake
fairer and grander than his own France could show.

Four years elapsed before Champlain was enabled to plunge
once more into the depths of the forest--this time only
to meet with the severest disappointment of his life.
Much has been said already regarding his ambition to
discover a short route to Cathay. This was the great
prize for which he would have sacrificed everything save
loyalty to the king and duty to the church. For a moment
he seemed on the point of gaining it. Then the truth was
brutally disclosed, and he found that he had been wilfully
deceived by an impostor.

It was a feature of Champlain's policy that from time to
time French youths should spend the winter with the
Indians--hunting with them, living in their settlements,
exploring their country, and learning their language. Of
Frenchmen thus trained to woodcraft during Champlain's
lifetime the most notable were Etienne Brule, Nicolas
Vignau, Nicolas Marsolet, and Jean Nicolet. Unfortunately
the three first did not leave an unclouded record. Brule,
after becoming a most accomplished guide, turned traitor
and aided the English in 1629. Champlain accuses Marsolet
of a like disloyalty. [Footnote: Marsolet's defence was
that he acted under constraint.] Vignau, with more
imagination, stands on the roll of fame as a frank

Champlain, as we have seen, spent the whole of 1612 in
France, and it was at this time that Vignau appeared in
Paris with a tale which could not but kindle excitement
in the heart of an explorer. The basis of fact was that
Vignau had undoubtedly passed the preceding winter with
the Algonquins on the Ottawa. The fable which was built
upon this fact can best be told in Champlain's own words.

He reported to me, on his return to Paris in 1612,
that he had seen the North Sea; that the river of the
Algonquins [the Ottawa] came from a lake which emptied
into it; and that in seventeen days one could go from
the Falls of St Louis to this sea and back again; that
he had seen the wreck and debris of an English ship
that had been wrecked, on board of which were eighty
men who had escaped to the shore, and whom the savages
killed because the English endeavoured to take from
them by force their Indian corn and other necessaries
of life; and that he had seen the scalps which these
savages had flayed off, according to their custom,
which they would show me, and that they would likewise
give me an English boy whom they had kept for me. This
intelligence greatly pleased me, for I thought that
I had almost found that for which I had for a long
time been searching.

Champlain makes it clear that he did not credit Vignau's
tale with the simple credulity of a man who has never
been to sea. He caused Vignau to swear to its truth at
La Rochelle before two notaries. He stipulated that Vignau
should go with him over the whole route. Finally, as they
were on the point of sailing together for Canada in the
spring of 1613, he once more adjured Vignau in the presence
of distinguished witnesses, saying 'that if what he had
previously said was not true, he must not give me the
trouble to undertake the journey, which involved many
dangers. Again he affirmed all that he had said, on peril
of his life.'

After taking these multiplied precautions against deceit,
Champlain left the Sault St Louis on May 29, 1613, attended
by four Frenchmen and one Indian, with Vignau for guide.
Ascending the Ottawa, they encountered their first
difficulties at the Long Sault, where Dollard forty-seven
years later was to lose his life so gloriously. Here the
passage of the rapids was both fatiguing and dangerous.
Prevented by the density of the wood from making a portage,
they were forced to drag their canoes through the water.
In one of the eddies Champlain nearly lost his life, and
his hand was severely hurt by a sudden jerk of the rope.
Having mounted the rapids, he met with no very trying
obstacle until he had gone some distance past the Chaudiere
Falls. His reference to the course of the Gatineau makes
no sense, and Laverdiere has had recourse to the not
improbable conjecture that the printer dropped out a
whole line at this point. Champlain also over-estimates
considerably the height of the Rideau Falls and is not
very exact in his calculation of latitude.

The hardships of this journey were greatly and unnecessarily
increased by Vignau, whose only hope was to discourage
his leader. In. the end it proved that 'our liar' (as
Champlain repeatedly calls him) had hoped to secure a
reward for his alleged discovery, believing that no one
would follow him long, even if an attempt were made to
confirm the accuracy of his report. But Champlain,
undeterred by portages and mosquitoes, kept on. Some
savages who joined him said that Vignau was a liar, and
on their advice Champlain left the Ottawa a short distance
above the mouth of the Madawaska. Holding westward at
some distance from the south shore, he advanced past
Muskrat Lake, and after a hard march came out again on
the Ottawa at Lake Allumette.

This was the end of Champlain's route in 1613. From the
Algonquins on Allumette Island he learned that Vignau
had wintered with them at the time he swore he was
discovering salt seas. Finally, the impostor confessed
his fraud and, falling on his knees, asked for mercy.
The Indians would gladly have killed him outright, but
Champlain spared his life, though how deeply he was moved
can be seen from these words: 'Overcome with wrath I had
him removed, being unable to endure him any longer in my
presence.' After his confession there was nothing for it
but to return by the same route. An astrolabe found some
years ago near Muskrat Lake may have been dropped from
Champlain's luggage on the journey westward, though he
does not mention the loss.

Apart from disclosing the course of the Ottawa, the Voyage
of 1613 is chiefly notable for its account of Indian
customs--for example, the mode of sepulture, the tabagie
or feast, and the superstition which leads the Algonquins
to throw pieces of tobacco into the cauldron of the
Chaudiere Falls as a means of ensuring protection against
their enemies. Of the feast given him by Tessouat, an
Algonquin chief, Champlain says:

The next day all the guests came, each with his
porringer and wooden spoon. They seated themselves
without order or ceremony on the ground in the cabin
of Tessouat, who distributed to them a kind of broth
made of maize crushed between two stones, together
with meat and fish which was cut into little pieces,
the whole being boiled together without salt. They
also had meat roasted on the coals and fish boiled
apart, which he also distributed. In respect to myself,
as I did not wish any of their chowder, which they
prepare in a very dirty manner, I asked them for some
fish and meat, that I might prepare it my own way,
which they gave me. For drink we had fine, clear water.
Tessouat, who gave the tabagie, entertained us without
eating himself, according to their custom.

The tabagie being over, the young men, who are not
present at the harangues and councils, and who during
the tabagie remain at the door of the cabins, withdrew,
when all who remained began to fill their pipes, one
and another offering me one. We then spent a full
half-hour in this occupation, not a word being spoken,
as is their custom.

But for the dexterous arrangement by which Champlain
managed to cook his own food, the tabagie would have been
more dangerous to health than the portage. In any case,
it was an ordeal that could not be avoided, for feasting
meant friendly intercourse, and only through friendly
intercourse could Champlain gain knowledge of that vast
wilderness which he must pierce before reaching his
long-sought goal, the sea beyond which lay China.

As for Vignau, his punishment was to make full confession
before all the French who had assembled at the Sault St
Louis to traffic with the Indians. When Champlain reached
this rendezvous on June 17, he informed the traders of
all that had happened, including

the malice of my liar, at which they were greatly
amazed. I then begged them to assemble in order that
in their presence, and that of the savages and his
companions, he might make declaration of his
maliciousness; which they gladly did. Being thus
assembled, they summoned him and asked him why he had
not shown me the sea of the north, as he had promised
me at his departure. He replied that he had promised
something impossible for him, since he had never seen
the sea, and that the desire of making the journey
had led him to say what he did, also that he did not
suppose that I would undertake it; and he begged them
to be pleased to pardon him, as he also begged me
again, confessing that he had greatly offended, and
if I would leave him in the country he would by his
efforts repair the offence and see this sea, and bring
back trustworthy intelligence concerning it the
following year; and in view of certain considerations
I pardoned him on this condition.

Vignau's public confession was followed by the annual
barter with the Indians, after which Champlain returned
to France.

We come now to the Voyage of 1615, which describes
Champlain's longest and most daring journey through the
forest--an expedition that occupied the whole period from
July 9, 1615, to the last days of June 1616. Thus for
the first time he passed a winter with the Indians,
enlarging greatly thereby his knowledge of their customs
and character. The central incident of the expedition
was an attack made by the Hurons and their allies upon
the stronghold of the Onondagas in the heart of the
Iroquois country. But while this war-party furnishes the
chief adventure, there is no page of Champlain's narrative
which lacks its tale of the marvellous. As a story of
life in the woods, the Voyage of 1615 stands first among
all Champlain's writings.

As in 1609, there was a mutuality of interest between
Champlain and the Indians who traded at the Sault. His
desire was to explore and theirs was to fight. By compromise
they disclosed to him the recesses of their country and
he aided them against the Iroquois. In 1615 the Hurons
not only reminded him of his repeated promises to aid
them, but stated flatly that without such aid they could
no longer attend the annual market, as their enemies were
making the route too unsafe. On their side they promised
a war-party of more than two thousand men. A further
proof of friendship was afforded by their willingness to
receive a missionary in their midst--the Recollet, Father
Joseph Le Caron.

Champlain's line of exploration in 1615-16 took the
following course. He first ascended the Ottawa to the
mouth of the Mattawa. Thence journeying overland by ponds
and portages he entered Lake Nipissing, which he skirted
to the outlet. French River next took him to Georgian
Bay, or, as he calls it for geographical definition, the
Lake of the Attigouautan [Hurons]. His own name for this
vast inland sea is the Mer Douce. That he did not explore
it with any degree of thoroughness is evident from the
terms of his narrative as well as from his statement that
its length, east and west, is four hundred leagues. What
he saw of Lake Huron was really the east shore of Georgian
Bay, from the mouth of French River to the bottom of
Matchedash Bay. Here he entered the country of the Hurons,
which pleased him greatly in comparison with the tract
before traversed. 'It was very fine, the largest part
being cleared, and many hills and several rivers rendering
the region agreeable. I went to see their Indian corn,
which was at that time [early in August] far advanced
for the season.'

Champlain's route through the district between Carmaron
and Cahaigue can best be followed in Father Jones's map
of Huronia. [Footnote: This map will be found in 'The
Jesuit Missions 'in this Series, and also in vol. xxxiv
of 'The Jesuit Relations,' ed. Thwaites.] The points
which Champlain names are there indicated, in each case
with as careful identification of the locality as we are
ever likely to get. For those who are not specialists in
the topography of Huronia it may suffice that Champlain
left Matchedash Bay not far from Penetanguishene, and
thence went to Carmaron at the very north of the peninsula.
Returning, he passed through some of the largest of the
Huron villages, and after sixteen days came out at
Cahaigue, which was situated close to Lake Simcoe and
almost on the site of the modern Hawkestone. It was here
that most of the Huron warriors assembled for the great
expedition against the Onondagas. Setting out on their
march, they first went a little to the northward, where
they were joined on the shores of Lake Couchiching by
another contingent. The party thus finally made up,
Champlain's line of advance first took him to Sturgeon
Lake. Afterwards it pursued that important waterway which
is represented by the Otonabee river, Rice Lake, and the
river Trent. Hence the warriors entered Lake Ontario by
the Bay of Quinte.

This country between Lake Simcoe and the Bay of Quinte
seems to have pleased Champlain greatly. He saw it in
September, when the temperature was agreeable and when
the vegetation of the forest could be enjoyed without
the torment inflicted by mosquitoes. 'It is certain,' he
says, 'that all this region is very fine and pleasant.
Along the banks it seems as if the trees had been set
out for ornament in most places, and that all these tracts
were in former times inhabited by savages who were
subsequently compelled to abandon them from fear of their
enemies. Vines and nut trees are here very numerous.
Grapes mature, yet there is always a very pungent tartness,
which is felt remaining in the throat when one eats them
in large quantities, arising from defect of cultivation.
These localities are very pleasant when cleared up.'

From the Bay of Quinte the war-party skirted the east
shore of Lake Ontario, crossing the head of the St
Lawrence, and thence following the southern shore about
fourteen leagues. At this point the Indians concealed
all their canoes and struck into the woods towards Lake
Oneida. Though made up chiefly of Hurons, the little army
embraced various allies, including a band of Algonquins.
Whether from over-confidence at having Champlain among
them or from their natural lack of discipline, the allies
managed their attack very badly. On a pond a few miles
south of Oneida Lake lay the objective point of the
expedition--a palisaded stronghold of the Onondagas. At
a short distance from this fort eleven of the enemy were
surprised and taken prisoners. What followed was much
less fortunate. Champlain does not state the number of
Frenchmen present, but as his drawing shows eleven
musketeers, we may infer that his own followers were
distinctly more numerous than at the battle on Lake

The height of the palisade was thirty feet, and a system
of gutters supplied abundant water for use in extinguishing
fire. Champlain's plan of attack was to employ a cavalier,
or protected scaffolding, which should overtop the palisade
and could be brought close against it. From the top of
this framework four or five musketeers were to deliver
a fusillade against the Iroquois within the fort, while
the Hurons kindled a fire at the foot of the palisade.
Champlain's drawing shows the rest of the musketeers
engaged in creating a diversion at other points.

But everything miscarried. Though the cavalier was
constructed, the allies threw aside the wooden shields
which Champlain had caused to be made as a defence against
the arrows of the Iroquois while the fire was being
kindled. Only a small supply of wood had been collected,
and even this was so placed that the flames blew away
from the palisade instead of towards it. On the failure
of this attempt to fire the fort all semblance of discipline
was thrown to the winds. 'There also rose such disorder
among them,' says Champlain, 'that one could not understand
another, which greatly troubled me. In vain did I shout
in their ears and remonstrate to my utmost with them as
to the danger to which they exposed themselves by their
bad behaviour, but on account of the great noise they
made they heard nothing. Seeing that shouting would only
burst my head and that my remonstrances were useless for
putting a stop to the disorder, I did nothing more, but
determined, together with my men, to do what we could
and fire upon such as we could see.'

The fight itself lasted only three hours, and the casualties
of the attacking party were inconsiderable, since but
two of their chiefs and fifteen warriors were wounded.
In addition to their repulse, the Hurons suffered a severe
disappointment through the failure to join them of five
hundred allies who had given their solemn promise. Although
Champlain had received two severe wounds, one in the leg
and another in the knee, he urged a second and more
concerted attack. But in vain. The most the Hurons would
promise was to wait four or five days for the expected
reinforcements. At the end of this time there was no sign
of the five hundred, and the return began. 'The only good
point,' says Champlain, 'that I have seen in their mode
of warfare is that they make their retreat very securely,
placing all the wounded and aged in their centre, being
well armed on the wings and in the rear, and continuing
this order without interruption until they reach a place
of security.'

Champlain himself suffered tortures during the retreat,
partly from his wounds, but even more from the mode of
transportation. The Indian method of removing the wounded
was first to bind and pinion them 'in such a manner that
it is as impossible for them to move as for an infant in
its swaddling-clothes.' They were then carried in a kind
of basket, 'crowded up in a heap.' Doubtless as a mark
of distinction, Champlain was carried separately on the
back of a savage. His wound was so severe that when the
retreat began he could not stand. But the transportation
proved worse than the wound. 'I never found myself in
such a gehenna as during this time, for the pain which
I suffered in consequence of the wound in my knee was
nothing in comparison with that which I endured while I
was carried bound and pinioned on the back of one of our
savages. So that I lost my patience, and as soon as I
could sustain myself got out of this prison, or rather

The enemy made no pursuit, but forced marches were kept
up for twenty-five or thirty leagues. The weather now
grew cold, as it was past the middle of autumn. The fight
at the fort of the Onondagas had taken place on October
10, and eight days later there was a snowstorm, with hail
and a strong wind. But, apart from extreme discomfort,
the retreat was successfully accomplished, and on the
shore of Lake Ontario they found the canoes intact.

It had been Champlain's purpose to spend the winter at
Quebec, and when the Hurons were about to leave the east
end of Lake Ontario for their own country he asked them
for a canoe and an escort. Four Indians volunteered for
this service, but no canoe could be had, and in consequence
Champlain was forced reluctantly to accompany the Hurons.
With his usual patience he accepted the inevitable, which
in this case was only unpleasant because he was ill
prepared for spending a winter among the Indians. After
a few days he perceived that their plan was to keep him
and his companions, partly as security for themselves
and partly that he might assist at their councils in
planning better safeguards against their enemies.

This enforced residence of Champlain among the Hurons
during the winter of 1615-16 has given us an excellent
description of Indian customs. It was also the means of
composing a dangerous quarrel between the Hurons and the
Algonquins. Once committed to spending the winter among
the Indians, Champlain planned to make Huronia a point
of departure for still further explorations to the
westward. Early in 1616 there seemed to be a favourable
opportunity to push forward in the direction of Lake
Superior. Then came this wretched brawl of Hurons and
Algonquins, which threatened to beget bitter hatred and
war among tribes which hitherto had both been friendly
to the French. Accepting his duty, Champlain gave up his
journey to the far west and threw himself into the task
of restoring peace. But the measure of his disappointment
is found in these words:

If ever there was one greatly disheartened, it was
myself, since I had been waiting to see this year what
during many preceding ones I had been seeking for with
great toil and effort, through so many fatigues and
risks of my life. But realizing that I could not help
the matter, and that everything depended on the will
of God, I comforted myself, resolving to see it in a
short time. I had such sure information that I could
not doubt the report of these people, who go to traffic
with others dwelling in those northern regions, a
great part of whom live in a place very abundant in
the chase and where there are great numbers of large
animals, the skins of several of which I saw, and
which I concluded were buffaloes from their
representation of their form. Fishing is also very
abundant there. This journey requires forty days as
well in returning as in going.

Thus Champlain almost had a chance to see the bison and
the great plains of the West. As it was, he did his
immediate duty and restored the peace of Huron and
Algonquin. In partial compensation for the alluring
journey he relinquished, he had a better opportunity to
study the Hurons in their settlements and to investigate
their relations with their neighbours--the Tobacco Nation,
the Neutral Nation, les Cheveux Releves, and the Race of
Fire. Hence the Voyage of 1615 not only describes the
physical aspects of Huronia, but contains intimate details
regarding the life of its people--their wigwams, their
food, their manner of cooking, their dress, their
decorations, their marriage customs, their medicine-men,
their burials, their assemblies, their agriculture, their
amusements, and their mode of fishing. It is Champlain's
most ambitious piece of description, far less detailed
than the subsequent narratives of the Jesuits, but in
comparison with them gaining impact from being less

It was on May 20, 1616, that Champlain left the Huron
country, never again to journey thither or to explore
the recesses of the forest. Forty days later he reached
the Sault St Louis, and saw once more his old friend
Pontgrave. Thenceforward his life belongs not to the
wilderness, but to Quebec.



When Champlain reached the Sault St Louis on July 1,
1616, his career as an explorer had ended. The nineteen
years of life that still remained he gave to Quebec and
the duties of his lieutenancy.

By this time he had won the central position in his own
domain. Question might arise as to the terms upon which
a monopoly of trade should be granted, or as to the
persons who should be its recipients. But whatever company
might control the trade, Champlain was the king's
representative in New France. When Boyer affronted him,
the council had required that a public apology should be
offered. When Montmorency instituted the investigation
of 1620, it was Champlain's report which determined the
issue. Five years later, when the Duc de Ventadour became
viceroy in place of Montmorency, Champlain still remained
lieutenant-general of New France. Such were his character,
services, and knowledge that his tenure could not be

Notwithstanding this source of satisfaction, the post
was difficult in the extreme. The government continued
to leave colonizing in the hands of the traders, and the
traders continued to shirk their obligations. The Company
of the De Caens did a large business, but suffered more
severely than any of its predecessors from the strife of
Catholic and Huguenot. Those of the reformed religion
even held their services in the presence of the Indians,
thus anticipating the scandals of Kikuyu. Though the Duc
de Ventadour gave orders that there should be no
psalm-singing after the outbound ships passed Newfoundland,
this provision seems not to have been effective. It was
a difficult problem for one like Champlain, who, while
a loyal Catholic, had been working all his life with
Huguenot associates.

The period of the De Caens was marked by the presence at
Quebec of Madame Champlain. The romance of Champlain's
life does not, however, revolve about his marriage. In
1610, at the age of forty-three, he espoused Helene
Boulle, whose father was secretary of the King's Chamber
to Henry IV. As the bride was only twelve years old,
the marriage contract provided that she should remain
two years longer with her parents. She brought a dowry
of six thousand livres, and simultaneously Champlain made
his will in her favour. Probably De Monts had some part
in arranging the marriage, for Nicholas Boulle was a
Huguenot and De Monts appears as a witness to the notarial
documents. Subsequently, Madame Champlain became an
enthusiastic Catholic and ended her days as a nun. She
had no children, and was only once in Canada, residing
continuously at Quebec from 1620 to 1624. No mention
whatever is made of her in Champlain's writings, but he
named St Helen's Island after her, and appears to have
been unwilling that she should enter a convent during
his lifetime.

One need feel little surprise that Madame Champlain should
not care to visit Canada a second time, for the buildings
at Quebec had fallen into disrepair, and more than once
the supply of food ran very low. During 1625 Champlain
remained in France with his wife, and therefore did not
witness the coming o the Jesuits to the colony. This
event, which is a landmark in the history of Quebec and
New France, followed upon the inability of the Recollets
to cover the mission field with any degree of completeness.
Conscious that their resources were unequal to the task,
they invoked the aid of the Jesuits, and in this appeal
were strongly supported by Champlain. Once more the
horizon seemed to brighten, for the Jesuits had greater
resources and influence than any other order in the Roman
Catholic Church, and their establishment at Quebec meant
much besides a mere increase in the population. The year
1626 saw Champlain again at his post, working hard to
complete a new factory which he had left unfinished,
while the buildings of the Jesuit establishment made good
progress under the hand of workmen specially brought from
France. What still remained imperfect was the fortification.
The English had destroyed the French settlements at Mount
Desert and Port Royal. What was to hinder them from
bombarding Quebec?

This danger soon clouded the mood of optimism that had
been inspired by the coming of the Jesuits. The De Caens
objected to any outlay on a fort, and would not give
Champlain the men he needed. In reply Champlain sent the
viceroy a report which was unfavourable to the company
and its methods. But even without this representation,
the monopoly of the De Caens was doomed by reason of
events which were taking place in France.

At the court of Louis XIII Richelieu had now gained an
eminence and power such as never before had been possessed
by a minister of the French crown. Gifted with imagination
and covetous of national greatness, he saw the most
desirable portions of other continents in the hands of
the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the English, and the Dutch.
The prospect was not pleasing, and he cast about for a

For Hanotaux, [Footnote: Gabriel Hanotaux, member of the
French Academy, is the author of the most authoritative
work on the life and times of Richelieu.] Richelieu is
'the true founder of our colonial empire,' and La Ronciere
adds: 'Madagascar, Senegal, Guiana' the Antilles, Acadia,
and Canada--this, to be exact, was the colonial empire
for which we were indebted to Richelieu.' Regarding his
breadth of outlook there can be no doubt, and in his
Memoirs he left the oft-quoted phrase: 'No realm is so
well situated as France to be mistress of the seas or so
rich in all things needful.' Desiring to strengthen
maritime commerce and to hold distant possessions, he
became convinced that the English and the Dutch had
adopted the right policy. Strong trading companies--not
weak ones--were what France needed.

Henry IV could have given the French a fair start, or
even a lead, in the race for colonies. He missed this
great opportunity; partly because he was preoccupied with
the reorganization of France, and partly because Sully,
his minister, had no enthusiasm for colonial ventures.
Twenty years later the situation had changed. Richelieu,
who was a man of wide outlook, was also compelled by the
activity of England and Holland to give attention to the
problem of a New France. The spirit of colonization was
in the air, and Richelieu, with his genius for ideas,
could not fail to see its importance or what would befall
the laggards. His misfortune was that he lacked certain
definite qualifications which a greater founder of colonies
needed to possess. Marvellous in his grasp of diplomatic
situations and in his handling of men, he had no talent
whatever for the details of commerce. His fiscal regime,
particularly after France engaged in her duel with the
House of Hapsburg, was disorganized and intolerable. Nor
did he recognize that, for the French, the desire to
emigrate required even greater encouragement than the
commercial instinct. He compelled his company to transport
settlers, but the number was not large, and he kindled
no popular enthusiasm for the cause of colonization.
France had once led the crusade eastward. Under proper
guidance she might easily have contributed more than she
did to the exodus westward.

At any rate Richelieu, 'a man in the grand style, if ever
man was,' had decided that New France should no longer
languish, and the Company of One Hundred Associates was
the result. In 1627 he abolished the office of viceroy,
deprived the De Caens of their charter, and prepared to
make Canada a real colony. The basis of the plan was an
association of one hundred members, each subscribing
three thousand livres. Richelieu's own name heads the
list of members, followed by those of the minister of
finance and the minister of marine. Most of the members
resided in Paris, though the seaboard and the eastern
provinces were also represented. Nobles, wealthy merchants,
small traders, all figure in the list, and twelve titles
of nobility were distributed among the shareholders to
help in the enlistment of capital. The company received
a monopoly of trade for fifteen years, and promised to
take out three hundred colonists annually during the
whole period covered by the grant. It also received the
St Lawrence valley in full ownership. One notable provision
of the charter was that only Roman Catholics should be
sent to New France, and the company was placed under
special obligation to maintain three priests in each
settlement until the colony could support its own clergy.

Champlain was now sixty years of age, and he had suffered
much. Suddenly there burst forth this spontaneous enthusiasm
of Richelieu the all-powerful. Was Champlain's dream of
the great city of Ludovica to come true after all?

Alas, like previous visions, it faded before the glare
of harsh, uncompromising facts. The year in which Richelieu
founded his Company of New France was also the year of
a fierce Huguenot revolt. Calling on England for aid, La
Rochelle defied Paris, the king, and the cardinal.
Richelieu laid siege to the place. Guiton, the mayor,
sat at his council-board with a bare dagger before him
to warn the faint-hearted. The old Duchesse de Rohan
starved with the populace. Salbert, the most eloquent
of Huguenot pastors, preached that martyrdom was better
than surrender. Meanwhile, Richelieu built his mole across
the harbour, and Buckingham wasted the English troops to
which the citizens looked for their salvation. Then the
town yielded.

The fall of La Rochelle was a great personal triumph for
Richelieu, but the war with England brought disaster to
the Company of New France. At Dieppe there had lived for
many years an Englishman named Jarvis, or Gervase, Kirke,
who with his five sons--David, Lewis, Thomas, John, and
Jamesknew much at first hand about the French merchant
marine. Early in the spring of 1628 Kirke (who had shortly
before moved to London) secured letters of marque and
sent forth his sons to do what damage they could to the
French in the St Lawrence. Champlain had spent the winter
at Quebec and was, of course, expecting his usual supplies
with the opening of navigation. Instead came Lewis Kirke,
sent from Tadoussac by his brother David, to demand

Champlain made a reply which, though courteous, was
sufficiently bold to convince the Kirkes that Quebec
could be best captured by starvation. They therefore
sailed down the St Lawrence to intercept the fleet from
France, confident that their better craft would overcome
these 'sardines of the sea.' The plan proved successful
even beyond expectation, for after a long cannonade they
captured without material loss the whole fleet which had
been sent out by the Company of New France. Ships,
colonists, annual supplies, building materials--all fell
into the hands of the enterprising Kirkes, who then sailed
for England with their booty. Alike to Champlain and to
the Hundred Associates it was a crippling blow.

Thus, but for the war with England, Quebec would have
seen its population trebled in 1628. As it was, the
situation became worse than ever. Lewis Kirke had been
careful to seize the cattle pastured at Cap Tourmente
and to destroy the crops. When winter came, there were
eighty mouths to feed on a scant diet of peas and maize,
imperfectly ground, with a reserve supply of twelve
hundred eels. Towards spring anything was welcome, and
the roots of Solomon's seal were esteemed a feast.
Champlain even gave serious thought to a raid upon the
Mohawks, three hundred miles away, in the hope that food
could be brought back from their granaries. Finally, on
the 19th of July 1629, Lewis Kirke returned with a second
summons to surrender. This time only one answer was
possible, for to the survivors at Quebec the English came
less in the guise of foes than as human beings who could
save them from starvation. Champlain and his people
received honourable treatment, and were promised a passage
to France. The family Hebert, however, decided to remain.

We need not dwell upon the emotions with which Champlain
saw the French flag pulled down at Quebec. Doubtless it
seemed the disastrous end of his life-work, but he was
a good soldier and enjoyed also the comforts of religion.
A further consolation was soon found in the discovery
that Quebec might yet be reclaimed. Ten weeks before
Champlain surrendered, the two countries were again at
peace, and the Treaty of Suza embodied a provision that
captures made after the treaty was signed should be
mutually restored. This intelligence reached Champlain
when he landed in England on the homeward voyage. It is
characteristic of the man, that before going on to France
he posted from Dover to London, and urged the French
ambassador that he should insistently claim Quebec.

As a result of the war Canada and Acadia were both in
the possession of England. On the other hand, the dowry
of Henrietta Maria was still, for the most part, in the
treasury of France. When one remembers that 1628 saw
Charles I driven by his necessities to concede the Petition
of Right, it will be readily seen that he desired the
payment of his wife's dowry. Hence Richelieu, whose
talents in diplomacy were above praise, had substantial
reason to expect that Canada and Acadia would be restored.
The negotiations dragged on for more than two years, and
were complicated by disputes growing out of the captures
made under letter of marque. When all was settled by the
Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye (March 1632) Quebec and Port
Royal became once more French--to the profound discontent
of the Kirkes and Sir William Alexander, [Footnote:
Alexander had received grants from the British crown in
1621 and 1625 which covered the whole coast from St Croix
Island to the St Lawrence.] but with such joy on the part
of Champlain as only patriots can know who have given a
lifelong service to their country.

Having regained Canada, Richelieu was forced to decide
what he would do with it. In certain important respects
the situation had changed since 1627, when he founded
the Company of New France. Then Gustavus Adolphus and
the Swedes were not a factor in the dire strife which
was convulsing Europe. [Footnote: At this period the
largest interest in European politics was the rivalry
between France and the House of Hapsburg, which held the
thrones of Spain and Austria. This rivalry led France to
take an active part in the Thirty Years' War, even though
her allies in that struggle were Protestants. Between
1627, when the Company of New France was founded, and
1632, when Canada was restored to France, the Swedes
under Gustavus Adolphus had won a series of brilliant
victories over the Catholic and Hapsburg forces in Germany,
After the death of Gustavus Adolphus in 1632, Richelieu
attacked the Emperor Ferdinand II in great force, thereby
conquering Alsace.] In 1632 the political problems of
Western and Central Europe had assumed an aspect quite
different from that which they had worn five years earlier.
More and more France was drawn into the actual conflict
of the Thirty Years' War, impelled by a sense of new and
unparalleled opportunity to weaken the House of Hapsburg.
This, in turn, meant the preoccupation of Richelieu with
European affairs, and a heavy drain upon the resources
of France in order to meet the cost of her more ambitious
foreign policy. Thus the duel with Austria, as it progressed
during the last decade of the cardinal's life, meant a
fresh check to those colonial prospects which seemed so
bright in 1627.

Richelieu's first step in resuming possession of Canada
was to compose matters between the De Caens and the
Company of New France. Emery de Caen and his associates
were given the trading rights for 1632 and 79,000 livres
as compensation for their losses through the revocation
of the monopoly. Dating from the spring of 1633, the
Company of New France was to be placed in full possession
of Canada, subject to specific obligations regarding
missions and colonists. Conformably with this programme,
Emery de Caen appeared at Quebec on July 5, 1632, with
credentials empowering him to receive possession from
Lewis and Thomas Kirke, the representatives of England.
With De Caen came Paul Le Jeune and two other Jesuits,
a vanguard of the missionary band which was to convert
the savages. 'We cast anchor,' says Le Jeune, 'in front
of the fort which the English held; we saw at the foot
of this fort the poor settlement of Quebec all in ashes.
The English, who came to this country to plunder and not
to build up, not only burned a greater part of the detached
buildings which Father Charles Lalemant had erected, but
also all of that poor settlement of which nothing is now
to be seen but the ruins of its stone walls.'

The season of 1632 thus belonged to De Caen, whose function
was merely to tie up loose ends and prepare for the
establishment of the new regime. The central incident of
the recession was the return of Champlain himself--an
old man who had said a last farewell to France and now
came, as the king's lieutenant, to end his days in the
land of his labours and his hopes. If ever the oft-quoted
last lines of Tennyson's Ulysses could fitly be claimed
by a writer on behalf of his hero, they apply to Champlain
as he sailed from the harbour of Dieppe on March 23,

Come, my friends,

'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

It was Champlain's reward that he saw Quebec once more
under the fleur-de-lis, and was welcomed by the Indians
with genuine emotion. The rhetorical gifts of the red
man were among his chief endowments, and all that eloquence
could lavish was poured forth in honour of Champlain at
the council of the Hurons, who had come to Quebec for
barter at the moment of his return. The description of
this council is one of the most graphic passages in Le
Jeune's Relations. A captain of the Hurons first arose
and explained the purpose of the gathering. 'When this
speech was finished all the Savages, as a sign of their
approval, drew from the depths of their stomachs this
aspiration, HO, HO, HO, raising the last syllable very
high.' Thereupon the captain began another speech of
friendship, alliance, and welcome to Champlain, followed
by gifts. Then the same captain made a third speech,
which was followed by Champlain's reply--a harangue well
adapted to the occasion. But the climax was reached in
the concluding orations of two more Huron chiefs. 'They
vied with each other in trying to honour Sieur de Champlain
and the French, and in testifying their affection for
us. One of them said that when the French were absent
the earth was no longer the earth, the river was no longer
the river, the sky was no longer the sky; but upon the
return of Sieur de Champlain everything was as before:
the earth was again the earth, the river was again the
river, and the sky was again the sky.'

Thus welcomed by the savages, Champlain resumed his
arduous task. He was establishing Quebec anew and under
conditions quite unlike those which had existed in 1608.
The most notable difference was that the Jesuits were
now at hand to aid in the upbuilding of Canada. The Quebec
of De Monts and De Caen had been a trading-post, despite
the efforts of the Recollets and Jesuits to render it
the headquarters of a mission. Undoubtedly there existed
from the outset a desire to convert the Indians, but as
a source of strength to the colony this disposition
effected little until the return of the Jesuits in 1632.

With the re-establishment of the Jesuit mission the last
days of Champlain are inseparably allied. A severe
experience had proved that the colonizing zeal of the
crown was fitful and uncertain. Private initiative was
needed to supplement the official programme, and of such
initiative the supply seemed scanty. The fur traders
notoriously shirked their obligations to enlarge the
colony, and after 1632 the Huguenots, who had a distinct
motive for emigrating, were forbidden by Richelieu to
settle in Canada. There remained the enthusiasm of the
Jesuits and the piety of those in France who supplied
the funds for their work among the Montagnais, the Hurons,
and the Iroquois. As the strongest order in the Roman
Catholic Church, the Jesuits possessed resources which
enabled them to maintain an active establishment in
Canada. Through them Quebec became religious, and their
influence permeated the whole colony as its population
increased and the zone of occupation grew wider. Le Jeune,
Lalemant, Brebeuf, and Jogues are among the outstanding
names of the restored New France.

During the last two years of his life Champlain lived
patriarchally at Quebec, administering the public affairs
of the colony and lending its religious impulses the
strength of his support and example. Always a man of
serious mind, his piety was confirmed by the reflections
of advancing age and his daily contact with the
missionaries. In his household there was a service of
prayer three times daily, together with reading at supper
from the lives of the saints. In pursuance of a vow, he
built a chapel named Notre Dame de la Recouvrance, which
records the gratitude he felt for the restoration of
Quebec to France. He was, in short, the ideal layman--
serving his king loyally in all business of state, and
demeaning himself as a pilgrim who is about to set forth
for the City of God.

It is not to be inferred from the prominence of Champlain's
religious interests that he neglected his public duties,
which continued to be many and exacting. One of his
problems was to prevent the English from trading in the
St Lawrence contrary to treaty; another was to discourage
the Hurons from selling their furs to the Dutch on the
Hudson. The success of the mission, which he had deeply
at heart, implied the maintenance of peace among the
Indians who were friendly to the French. He sought also
to police the region of the Great Lakes by a band of
French soldiers, and his last letter to Richelieu (dated
August 15, 1635) contains an earnest appeal for a hundred
and twenty men, to whom should be assigned the duty of
marshalling the Indian allies against the English and
Dutch, as well as of preserving order throughout the
forest. The erection of a fort at Three Rivers in 1634
was due to his desire that the annual barter should take
place at a point above Quebec. A commission which he
issued in the same year to Jean Nicolet to explore the
country of the Wisconsins, shows that his consuming zeal
for exploration remained with him to the end.

It was permitted Champlain to die in harness. He remained
to the last lieutenant of the king in Canada. At the
beginning of October 1635 he was stricken with paralysis,
and passed away on Christmas Day of the same year. We do
not possess the oration which Father Paul Le Jeune
delivered at his funeral, but there remains from Le
Jeune's pen an appreciation of his character in terms
which to Champlain himself would have seemed the highest

On the twenty-fifth of December, the day of the birth
of our Saviour upon earth, Monsieur de Champlain, our
Governor, was reborn in Heaven; at least we can say
that his death was full of blessings. I am sure that
God has shown him this favour in consideration of the
benefits he has procured for New France, where we hope
some day God will be loved and served by our French,
and known and adored by our Savages. Truly he had led
a life of great justice, equity, and perfect loyalty
to his King and towards the Gentlemen of the Company.
But at his death he crowned his virtues with sentiments
of piety so lofty that he astonished us all. What
tears he shed! how ardent became his zeal for the
service of God! how great was his love for the families
here!--saying that they must be vigorously assisted
for the good of the Country, and made comfortable in
every possible way in these early stages, and that he
would do it if God gave him health. He was not taken
unawares in the account which he had to render unto
God, for he had long ago prepared a general Confession
of his whole life, which he made with great contrition
to Father Lalemant, whom he honoured with his friendship.
The Father comforted him throughout his sickness,
which lasted two months and a half, and did not leave
him until his death. He had a very honourable burial,
the funeral procession being farmed of the people,
the soldiers, the captains, and the churchmen. Father
Lalemant officiated at this burial, and I was charged
with the funeral oration, for which I did not lack
material. Those whom he left behind have reason to be
well satisfied with him; for, though he died out of
France, his name will not therefor be any less glorious
to posterity.



There are some things that speak for themselves. In
attempting to understand Champlain's character, we are
first met by the fact that he pursued unflinchingly his
appointed task. For thirty-two years he persevered, amid
every kind of hardship, danger, and discouragement, in
the effort to build up New France. He had personal
ambitions as an explorer, which were kept in strict
subordination to his duty to the king. He possessed
concentration of aim without fanaticism. His signal
unselfishness was adorned by a patience which equalled
that of Marlborough. Inspired by large ideals, he did
not scorn imperfect means.

Thus there are certain large aspects of Champlain's
character that stand forth in the high light of deed,
and do not depend for their effect either upon his own
words or those of others. But when once we have paid
tribute to the fine, positive qualities which are implied
by his accomplishment, we must hasten to recognize the
extraordinary value of his writings as an index to his
mind and soul. His narrative is not an epic of disaster.
It is a plain and even statement of great dangers calmly
met and treated as a matter of course. Largely it is a
record of achievement. At points where it is a record of
failure Champlain accepts the inevitable gracefully and
conforms his emotions to the will of God. The Voyages
reveal a strong man 'well four-squared to the blows of
fortune.' They also illustrate the virtue of muscular

At a time which, like ours, is becoming sated with
cleverness, it is a delight to read the unvarnished story
of Champlain. In saying that the adjective is ever the
enemy of the noun, Voltaire could not have levelled the
shaft at him, for few writers have been more sparing in
their use of adjectives or other glowing words. His love
of the sea and of the forest was profound, but he is
never emotional in his expressions. Yet with all his
soberness and steadiness he possessed imagination. In
its strength and depth his enthusiasm for colonization
proves this, even if we omit his picture of the fancied
Ludovica. But as a man of action rather than of letters
he instinctively omits verbiage. In some respects we
suffer from Champlain's directness of mind for on much
that he saw he could have lingered with profit. But very
special inducements are needed to draw him from his plain
tale into a digression. Such inducements occur at times
when he is writing of the Indians, for he recognized that
Europe was eager to hear in full detail of their traits
and customs. Thus set passages of description, inserted
with a sparing hand, seemed to him a proper element of
the text, but anything like conscious embellishment of
the narrative he avoids--probably more through mere
naturalness than conscious self-repression.

From Marco Polo to Scott's Journal the literature of
geographical discovery abounds with classics, and standards
of comparison suggest themselves in abundance to the
critic of Champlain's Voyages. Most naturally, of course,
one turns to the records of American exploration in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--to Ramusio, Oviedo,
Peter Martyr, Hakluyt, and Purchas. No age can show a
more wonderful galaxy of pioneers than that which extends
from Columbus to La Salle, and among the great explorers
of this era Champlain takes his place by virtue alike of
his deeds and writings. In fact, he belongs to the small
and distinguished class of those who have recorded their
own discoveries in a suitable and authentic narrative,
for in few cases have geographical results of equal moment
been described by the discoverer himself.

Among the many writings which are available for comparison
and contrast one turns, singularly yet inevitably, to
Lescarbot. The singularity of a comparison between
Champlain and Lescarbot is that Lescarbot was not a
geographer. At the same time, he is the only writer of
importance whose trail crosses that of Champlain, and
some light is thrown on Champlain's personality by a
juxtaposition of texts. That is to say, both were in
Acadia at the same time, sat together at Poutrincourt's
table, gazed on the same forests and clearings, met the
same Indians, and had a like opportunity of considering
the colonial problems which were thrust upon the French
in the reign of Henry IV.

It would be hard to find narratives more dissimilar,--and
the contrast is not wholly to the advantage of Champlain.
Or rather, there are times when his Doric simplicity of
style seems jejune beside the flowing periods and
picturesque details of Lescarbot. No better illustration
of this difference in style, arising from fundamental
difference in temperament, can be found than the description
which each gives of the Ordre de Bon Temps. To Champlain
belongs the credit of inventing this pleasant means of
promoting health and banishing ennui, but all he tells
of it is this: 'By the rules of the Order a chain was
put, with some little ceremony, on the neck of one of
our company, commissioning him for the day to go a-hunting.
The next day it was conferred upon another, and thus in
succession. All exerted themselves to the utmost to see
who would do the best and bring home the finest game. We
found this a very good arrangement, as did also the
savages who were with us.'

Such is the limit of the information which we receive
from Champlain regarding the Ordre de Bon Temps, his own
invention and the life of the company. It is reserved
for Lescarbot to give us the picture which no one can
forget--the Atoctegic, or ruler of the feast, leading
the procession to dinner 'napkin on shoulder, wand of
office in hand, and around his neck the collar of the
Order, which was worth more than four crowns; after him
all the members of the Order, carrying each a dish.'
Around stand the savages, twenty or thirty of them, 'men,
women, girls, and children,' all waiting for scraps of
food. At the table with the French themselves sits the
Sagamos Membertou and the other Indian chiefs, gladdening
the company by their presence. And the food!--'ducks,
bustards, grey and white geese, partridges, larks, and
other birds; moreover moose, caribou, beaver, otter,
bear, rabbits, wild-cats, racoons, and other animals,'
the whole culminating in the tenderness of moose meat
and the delicacy of beaver's tail. Such are the items
which Champlain omits and Lescarbot includes. So it is
throughout their respective narratives--Champlain ever
gaining force through compactness, and Lescarbot constantly
illuminating with his gaiety or shrewdness matters which
but for him would never have reached us.

This difference of temperament and outlook, which is so
plainly reflected on the printed page, also had its effect
upon the personal relations of the two men. It was not
that Lescarbot scandalized Champlain by his religious
views, for though liberal-minded, Lescarbot was not a
heretic, and Champlain knew how to live harmoniously even
with Huguenots. The cause of the coolness which came to
exist between them must be sought rather in fundamental
contrasts of character. To Champlain, Lescarbot doubtless
seemed a mere hanger-on or protege of Poutrincourt, with
undue levity of disposition and a needless flow of
conversation. To Lescarbot, Champlain may well have seemed
deficient in literary attainments, and so preoccupied
with the concerns of geography as to be an uncongenial
companion. To whatever cause conjecture may trace it,
they did not become friends, although such lack of sympathy
as existed shows itself only in an occasional pin-prick,
traceable particularly in the later editions of their
writings. For us it is the more needful to lay stress
upon the merits of Lescarbot, because he tends to be
eclipsed by the greater reputation of Champlain, and also
because his style is sometimes so diffuse as to create
prejudice. But at his best he is admirable, and without
him we should know much less than we do about that Acadian
experience which holds such a striking place in the career
of Champlain.

The popular estimate of French character dwells overmuch
upon the levity or gaiety which undoubtedly marks the
Gallic race. France could not have accomplished her
great work for the world without stability of purpose
and seriousness of mood. Nowhere in French biography are
these qualities more plainly illustrated than by the acts
of Champlain. The doggedness with which he clung to his
patriotic and unselfish task is the most conspicuous fact
in his life. Coupled therewith is his fortitude, both
physical and moral. In times of crisis the conscript sets
his teeth and dies without a murmur. But Champlain enlisted
as a volunteer for a campaign which was to go on unceasingly
till his last day. How incessant were its dangers can be
made out in full detail from the text of the Voyages. We
may omit the perils of the North Atlantic, though what
they were can be seen from Champlain's description of
his outward voyage in the spring of 1611. The remaining
dangers will suffice. Scurvy, which often claimed a
death-roll of from forty to eighty per cent in a single
winter; famine such as that which followed the failure
of ships from home to arrive at the opening of navigation;
the storms which drove the frail shallop on the rocks
and shoals of Norumbega; the risk of mutiny; the chances
of war, whether against the Indians or the English; the
rapids of the wilderness as they threatened the overloaded
canoe on its swift descent; the possible treachery of
Indian guides--such is a partial catalogue of the
death-snares which surrounded the pathway of an explorer
like Champlain. Every one of these dangers is brought
before us by his own narrative in a manner which does
credit to his modesty no less than to his fortitude.
Without embellishment or self-glorification, he recites
in a few lines hairbreadth escapes which a writer of less
steadfast soul would have amplified into a thrilling tale
of heroism. None the less, to the discriminating reader
Champlain's Voyages are an Odyssey.

Bound up with habitual fortitude is the motive from which
it springs. In Champlain's case patriotism and piety were
the groundwork of a conspicuous and long-tested courage.
The patriotism which exacted such sacrifices was not one
which sought to define itself even in the form of a
justifiable digression from the recital of events. But
we may be sure that Champlain at the time he left Port
Royal had made up his mind that the Spaniards, the English,
and the Dutch were not to parcel out the seaboard of
North America to the exclusion of the French. As for the
religious basis of his fortitude, we do not need Le
Jeune's story of his death-bed or the record of his
friendship with men of religion. His narrative abounds
throughout with simple and natural expressions of piety,
not the less impressive because they are free from trace
of the theological intolerance which envenomed French
life in his age. And not only did Champlain's trust in
the Lord fortify his soul against fear, but religion
imposed upon him a degree of self-restraint which was
not common among explorers of the seventeenth century.
It is far from fanciful to see in this one of the chief
causes of his hold upon the Indians. To them he was more
than a useful ally in war time. They respected his sense
of honour, and long after his death remembered the
temperance which marked his conduct when he lived in
their villages.

As a writer, Champlain enjoyed the advantage of possessing
a fresh, unhackneyed subject. The only exception to this
statement is furnished by his early book on the West
Indies and Mexico, where he was going over ground already
trodden by the Spaniards. His other writings relate to
a sphere of exploration and settlement which he made his
own, and of which he well merited to be the chronicler.

Running through the Voyages is the double interest of
discovery and colonization, constantly blending and
reacting upon each other, but still remaining matters of
separate concern. It is obvious that in the mind of the
narrator discovery is always the more engaging theme.
Champlain is indeed the historian of St Croix, Port Royal,
and Quebec, but only incidentally or from chance. By
temper he was the explorer, that is, the man of action,
willing to record the broad results, but without the
instinct which led Lescarbot to set down the minutiae of
life in a small, rough settlement. There is one side of
Champlain's activity as a colonizer which we must lament
that he has not described--namely, his efforts to interest
the nobles and prelates of the French court in the
upbuilding of Canada. A diary of his life at Paris and
Fontainebleau would be among the choicest documents of
the early colonial era. But Champlain was too blunt and
loyal to set down the story of his relations with the
great, and for this portion of his life we must rely upon
letters, reports, and memoranda, which are so formal as
to lack the atmosphere of that painful but valiant

Excluding the brief notices of life at St Croix, Port
Royal, and Quebec, Champlain's Voyages present a story
of discovery by sea and discovery by land. In other words,
the four years of Acadian adventure relate to discoveries
made along the seaboard, while the remaining narratives,
including the Des Sauvages of 1604, relate to the basin
of the St Lawrence. Mariner though he was by early
training, Champlain achieved his chief success as an
explorer by land, in the region of the Great Lakes. Bad
fortune prevented him from pursuing his course past
Martha's Vineyard to the mouth of the Hudson and Chesapeake
Bay. It was no small achievement to accomplish what he
did on the coast of Norumbega, but his most distinctive
discoveries were those which he made in the wilderness,
leading up to his fine experience of 1615-16 among the

To single out Champlain's chief literary triumph, it was
he who introduced the Algonquin, the Huron, and the
Iroquois to the delighted attention of France. Ever since
the days of Cartier the French had known that savages
inhabited the banks of the St Lawrence, but Champlain is
the pioneer in that great body of literature on the North
American Indian, which thenceforth continued without
interruption in France to the Rene and Atala of
Chateaubriand. Above all other subjects, the Indians are
Champlain's chief theme.

To some extent the account of Indian life which is given
in the Voyages suffers by comparison with the Relations
of the Jesuits. The Fathers, by reason of their long
residence among the Indians, undoubtedly came to possess
a more intimate knowledge of their character and customs
than it was possible for Champlain to acquire during the
time he spent among them. On the other hand, the Jesuits
were so preoccupied with the progress of the mission that
they tended to view the life of the savages too exclusively
from one angle. Furthermore, the volume of their description
is so great as to overwhelm all readers who are not
specially interested in the mission or the details of
Indian custom. Champlain wrote with sufficient knowledge
to bring out salient traits in high relief, while his
descriptive passages are sufficiently terse to come within
the range of those who are not specialists. When we
remember the perpetual interest which, for more than
three hundred years, Europe has felt in the North American
Indian, the Voyages of Champlain are seen in their true
perspective. For he, with fresh eyes, saw the red man in
his wigwam, at his council, and on the war-path; watched
his stoic courage under torture and his inhuman cruelty
in the hour of vengeance. Tales of the wilderness, the
canoe, the portage, and the ambush have never ceased to
fascinate the imagination of Europe. Champlain's narrative
may be plain and unadorned, but, with such a groundwork,
the imagination of every reader could supply details at

In all essential respects Champlain seems to have been
a good observer and an accurate chronicler. It is true
that his writings are not free from error involving facts
of distance, altitude, and chronology. But such slips as
have crept into his text do not constitute a serious
blemish or tend to impugn the good faith of his statements
on matters where there is no other source of information.
Everything considered, his substantial accuracy is much
more striking than his partial inaccuracy. In fact, no
one of his high character and disinterested zeal could
write with any other purpose than to describe truly what
he had seen and done. The seal of probity is set upon
Champlain's writings no less than upon the record of his
dealings with his employers and the king. Unselfish as
to money or fame, he sought to create New France.

In national progress much depends on the auspices under
which the nation was founded and the tradition which it
represents. Thus England, and all the English world, has
an imperishable tradition in the deeds and character of
Alfred the Great; thus Canada has had from the outset of
the present stage in her development a great possession
in the equal self-sacrifice of Montcalm and Wolfe. On
the other hand, the nation is doomed to suffer which
bases its traditions of greatness upon such acts as the
seizure of Silesia by Frederick or Bismarck's manipulation
of the Ems telegram.

For Canada Champlain is not alone a heroic explorer of
the seventeenth century, but the founder of Quebec; and
it is a rich part of our heritage that he founded New
France in the spirit of unselfishness, of loyalty, and
of faith.


Original Text

The best edition of Champlain's own works, in the
original text, is that of Laverdiere--'OEuvres de
Champlain, pabliees sous le Patronage de l'Universite
Laval. Par l'Abbe C.-H. Laverdiere, M.A. Seconde
Edition. 6 tomes, 4to. Quebec: Imprime au Seminaire par
Geo. E. Desbarats, 1870.'

The list of Champlain's writings includes:

1. The 'Bref Discours,' describing his trip to the West

2. The 'Des Sauvages,' describing his first voyage to
the St Lawrence.

3. The 'Voyages' of 1613, covering the years 1604-13

4. The 'Voyages' of 1619, covering the years 1615-18

5. The 'Voyages' of 1632, which represent a re-editing
of the early voyages from 1603 forward, and continue
the narrative from 1618 to 1629.

6. A general treatise on the duties of the mariner.

English Translations

1. The 'Bref Discours,' in a translation by Alice Wilmere,
was published by the Hakluyt Society in 1859.

2. The Des Sauvages (1604) was translated in 'Purchas
His Pilgrimes' (1625).

3. The 'Voyages' of 1604-18 inclusive were translated by
C. P. Otis for the Prince Society of Boston, in three
volumes, 1878-82, with the Rev. E. F. Slafter as
editor. This is a fine work, but not easily accessible
in its original form. Fortunately, Professor Otis's
translation has been reprinted, with an introduction
and notes by Professor W. L. Grant, in the 'Original
Narratives of Early American History' (Scribners,
1907). The passages quoted in the present volume are
taken from Otis's translation, with occasional changes.

4. The 'Voyages' of 1604-16 inclusive have also been well
translated by Annie Nettleton Bourne, with an
introduction and notes by Professor E. G. Bourne
(A. S. Barnes and Co., 1906). This translation follows
the edition of 1632, and also gives the translation
of 'Des Souvages' which appears in Purchas.

General Literature

The career of Champlain is treated in many historical
works, of which the following are a few: Parkman, 'Pioneers
of France in the New World'; Dionne, 'Samuel de Champlain'
(in the Makers of Canada' series); Biggar, 'Early Trading
Companies of New France'; Slafter, 'Champlain' (in Winsor's
'Narrative and Critical History of America,' vol. iv,
part i, chap. iii); Salone, 'La Colonisation de la Nouvelle
France'; Sulte, 'Histoire des Canadiens-Francais'; Ferland,
'Cours d'Histoire du Canada'; Garneau, 'Histoire du
Canada,' fifth edition edited by the author's grandson,
Hector Garneau.


Unfortunately, there is no authentic portrait of Champlain.
That ascribed to Moncornet is undoubtedly spurious, as
has been proved by V. H. Paltsits in 'Acadiensis,' vol. iv,
pp. 306-11.

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