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CANADIAN NOTABILITIES, VOLUME I
BY JOHN CHARLES DENT
Few tasks are more difficult of accomplishment than the overturning of the ideas and prejudices which have been conceived in our youth, which have grown up with us to mature age, and which have finally become the settled convictions of our manhood. The overturning process is none the less difficult when, as is not seldom the case, those ideas and convictions are widely at variance with facts. Most of us have grown up with very erroneous notions respecting the Indian character–notions which have been chiefly derived from the romances of Cooper and his imitators. We have been accustomed to regard the aboriginal red man as an incarnation of treachery and remorseless ferocity, whose favourite recreation is to butcher defenceless women and children in cold blood. A few of us, led away by the stock anecdotes in worthless missionary and Sunday School books, have gone far into the opposite extreme, and have been wont to regard the Indian as the Noble Savage who never forgets a kindness, who is ever ready to return good for evil, and who is so absurdly credulous as to look upon the pale-faces as the natural friends and benefactors of his species. Until within the last few years, no pen has ventured to write impartially of the Indian character, and no one has attempted to separate the wheat from the chaff in the generally received accounts which have come down to us from our forefathers. The fact is that the Indian is very much what his white brother has made him. The red man was the original possessor of this continent, the settlement, of which by Europeans sounded the death-knell of his sovereignty. The aboriginal could hardly be expected to receive the intruder with open arms, even if the latter had acted up to his professions of peace and good-will. It would have argued a spirit of contemptible abjectness and faintness of heart if the Indian had submitted without a murmur to the gradual encroachments of the foreigner, even if the latter had adopted a uniform policy of mildness and conciliation. But the invader adopted no such policy. Not satisfied with taking forcible possession of the soil, he took the first steps in that long, sickening course of treachery and cruelty which has caused the chronicles of the white conquest in America to be written in characters of blood. The first and most hideous butcheries were committed by the whites. And if the Indians did not tamely submit to the yoke sought to be imposed upon their necks, they only acted as human beings, civilized and uncivilized, have always acted upon like provocation. Those who have characterized the Indian as inhuman and fiendish because he put his prisoners to the torture, seem to have forgotten that the wildest accounts of Indian ferocity pale beside the undoubtedly true accounts of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. Christian Spain–nay, even Christian England–tortured prisoners with a diabolical ingenuity which never entered into the heart of a pagan Indian to conceive. And on this continent, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, men of English stock performed prodigies of cruelty to which parallels can be found in the history of the Inquisition alone. For the terrible records of battle, murder, torture and death, of which the history of the early settlement of this continent is so largely made up, the white man and the Christian must be held chiefly responsible. It must, moreover, be remembered that those records have been written by historians, who have had every motive for distorting the truth. All the accounts that have come down to us have been penned by the aggressors themselves, and their immediate descendants. The Indians have had no chronicler to tell their version of the story. We all know how much weight should be attached to a history written by a violent partisan; for instance, a history of the French Revolution, written by one of the House of Bourbon. The wonder is, not that the poor Indian should have been blackened and maligned, but that any attribute of nobleness or humanity should have been accorded to him.
Of all the characters who figure in the dark history of Indian warfare, few have attained greater notoriety, and none has been more persistently villified than the subject of this sketch. Joseph Brant was known to us in the days of our childhood as a firm and staunch ally of the British, it is true; but as a man embodying in his own person all the demerits and barbarities of his race, and with no more mercy in his breast than is to be found in a famished tiger of the jungle. And for this unjust view of his character American historians are not wholly to blame. Most historians of that period wrote too near the time when the events they were describing occurred, for a dispassionate investigation of the truth; and other writers who have succeeded have been content to follow the beaten track, without incurring the labour of diligent and calm enquiry. And, as it is too often the case with writers, historical and other, many of them cared less for truth than for effect. Even the author of “Gertrude of Wyoming” falsified history for the sake of a telling stanza in his beautiful poem; and when, years afterwards, grant’s son convinced the poet by documentary evidence that a grave injustice had been done to his father’s memory, the poet contented himself by merely appending a note which in many editions is altogether omitted, and in those editions in which it is retained is much less likely to be read than the text of the poem itself. It was not till the year 1838 that anything like a comprehensive and impartial account of the life of Brant appeared. It was written by Colonel William L. Stone, from whose work the foregoing quotation is taken. Since then, several other lives have appeared, all of which have done something like justice to the subject; but they have not been widely read, and to the general public the name of Brant still calls up visions of smoking villages, raw scalps, disembowelled women and children, and ruthless brutalities more horrible still. Not content with attributing to him ferocities of which he never was guilty, the chronicles have altogether ignored the fairer side of his character.
“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”
We have carefully gone through all the materials within our reach, and have compiled a sketch of the life of the Great Chief of the Six Nations, which we would fain hope may be the means of enabling readers who have not ready access to large libraries to form something like a fair and dispassionate estimate of his character.
Joseph Brant–or to give him his Indian name, Thayendanegea–was born in the year 1742. Authorities are not unanimous as to his paternity, it being claimed by some that he was a natural son of Sir William Johnson; consequently that he was not a full-blood Indian, but a half-breed. The better opinion, however, seems to be that none but Mohawk blood flowed through his veins, and that his father was a Mohawk of the Wolf Tribe, by name Tehowaghwengaraghkin. It is not easy to reconcile the conflicting accounts of this latter personage (whose name we emphatically decline to repeat), but the weight of authority seems to point to him as a son of one of the five sachems who attracted so much attention during their visit to London in Queen Anne’s reign, and who were made the subject of a paper in the _Spectator_ by Addison, and of another in the _Tatler_ by Steele. Brant’s mother was an undoubted Mohawk, and the preponderance of evidence is in favour of his being a chief by right of inheritance. His parents lived at Canajoharie Castle, in the far-famed valley of the Mohawk, but at the time of their son’s birth they were far away from home on a hunting expedition along the banks of the Ohio. His father died not long after returning from this expedition. We next learn that the widow contracted an alliance with an Indian whose Christian name was Barnet, which name, in process of time, came to be corrupted into Brant. The little boy, who had been called Joseph, thus became known as “Brant’s Joseph,” from which the inversion to Joseph Brant is sufficiently obvious. No account of his childhood have come down to us, and, little or nothing is known of him until his thirteenth year, when he was taken under the patronage of that Sir William Johnson, who has by some writers been credited with being his father. Sir William was the English Colonial Agent for Indian Affairs, and cuts a conspicuous figure in the colonial annals of the time. His connection with the Brant family was long and intimate. One of Joseph’s sisters, named Molly, lived with the baronet as his mistress for many years, and was married to him a short time before his death, in 1774. Sir William was very partial to young Brant, and took special pains to impart to him a knowledge of military affairs. It was doubtless this interest which gave rise to the story that Sir William was his father; a story for which there seems to be no substantial foundation whatever.
In the year 1755, the memorable battle of Lake George took place between the French and English colonial forces and their Indian allies. Sir William Johnson commanded on the side of the English, and young Joseph Brant, then thirteen years of age, fought under his wing. This was a tender age, even for the son of an Indian chief, to go out upon the war-path, and he himself admitted in after years that he was seized with such a tremor when the firing began at that battle that he was obliged to steady himself by seizing hold of a sapling. This, however, was probably the first and last time that he ever knew fear, either in battle or out of it. The history of his subsequent career has little in it suggestive of timidity. After the battle of Lake George, where the French were signally defeated, he accompanied his patron through various campaigns until the close of the French war, after which he was placed by Sir William at the Moor Charity School, Lebanon, Connecticut, for the purpose of receiving a liberal English education. How long he remained at that establishment does not appear, but he was there long enough to acquire something more than the mere rudiments of the English language and literature. In after years he always spoke with pleasure of his residence at this school, and never wearied of talking of it. He used to relate with much pleasantry an anecdote of a young half-breed who was a student in the establishment. The half-breed, whose name was William, was one day ordered by his tutor’s son to saddle a horse. He declined to obey the order, upon the ground that he was a gentleman’s son, and that to saddle a horse was not compatible with his dignity. Being asked to say what constitutes a gentleman, he replied–“A gentleman is a person who keeps racehorses and drinks Madeira wine, and that is what neither you nor your father do. Therefore, saddle the horse yourself.”
In 1763, Thayendanegea, then twenty-one years of age, married the daughter of an Oneida chief, and two years afterwards we find him settled at Canajoharie Castle, in Mohawk Valley, where he for some years lived a life of quiet and peaceful repose, devoting himself to the improvement of the moral and social condition of his people, and seconding the efforts of the missionaries for the conversion of the Indians to Christianity. Both missionaries and others who visited and were intimate with him during this time were very favourably impressed by him, and have left on record warm encomiums of his intelligence, good-breeding, and hospitality. Early in 1772 his wife died of consumption, and during the following winter he applied to an Episcopal minister to solemnize matrimony between himself and his deceased wife’s sister. His application was refused, upon the ground that such a marriage was contrary to law; but he soon afterwards prevailed upon a German ecclesiastic to perform the ceremony. Not long afterwards he became seriously impressed upon the subject of religion, and experienced certain mental phenomena which in some communities is called “a change of heart.” He enrolled himself as a member of the Episcopal Church, of which he became a regular communicant. The spiritual element, however, was not the strongest side of his nature, and his religious impressions were not deep enough to survive the life of active warfare in which he was soon afterwards destined to engage. Though he always professed–and probably believed in–the fundamental truths of Christianity, he became comparatively indifferent to theological matters, except in so far as they might be made to conduce to the civilization of his people.
Sir William Johnson died in 1774. He was succeeded in his office of Colonial Agent for Indian Affairs by his son-in-law, Colonel Guy Johnson. Brant was as great a favourite with the Colonel as he had been with that gentleman’s predecessor. The new agent required a private secretary, and appointed Brant to that office. The clouds that had been gathering for some time over the relations between the mother country and her American colonies culminated in the great war of the revolution. The Americans, seeing the importance of conciliating the Six Nations, made overtures to them to cast in their lot with the revolutionists. These overtures were made in vain. Brant then and ever afterwards expressed his firm determination to “sink or swim with the English;” a determination from which he never for a moment swerved down to the last hour of his life. Apart altogether from the consideration that all his sympathies impelled him to adopt this course, he felt himself bound in honour to do so, in consequence of his having long before pledged his word to Sir William Johnson to espouse the British side in the event of trouble breaking out in the colonies. Similar pledges had been given by his fore-fathers. Honour and inclination both pointed in the same direction, he exerted all his influence with the native tribes, who did not require much persuasion to take the royal side. Accordingly when Colonel Guy Johnson fled westward to avoid being captured by the Americans, Brant and the principal warriors of the Six Nations accompanied him. The latter formed themselves into a confederacy, accepted royal commissions, and took a decided stand on the side of King George. To Brant was assigned the position of Principal War Chief of the Confederacy, with the military degree of a Captain. The Crown could not have secured a more efficient ally. He is described at this time as “distinguished alike for his address, his activity and his courage; possessing in point of stature and symmetry of person the advantage of most men even among his own well-formed race; tall, erect and majestic, with the air and mien of one born to command; having been a man of war from his boyhood; his name was a power of strength among the warriors of the wilderness. Still more extensive was his influence rendered by the circumstance that he had been much employed in the civil service of the Indian Department under Sir William Johnson, by whom he was often deputed upon embassies among the tribes of the confederacy; and to those yet more distant, upon the great lakes and rivers of the north-west, by reason of which his knowledge of the whole country and people was accurate and extensive.”
In the autumn of 1775 he sailed for England, to hold personal conference with the officers of the Imperial Government. Upon his arrival in London he was received with open arms by the best society. His usual dress was that of an ordinary English gentleman, but his Court dress was a gorgeous and costly adaptation of the fashions of his own people. In this latter dress, at the instigation of that busiest of busybodies James Boswell, he sat to have his portrait painted. The name of the artist has not been preserved, nor is the preservation of much importance, as this is the least interesting of the various pictures of Brant, the expression of the face being dull and commonplace. A much better portrait of him was painted during this visit for the Earl of Warwick, the artist being George Romney, the celebrated painter of historical pictures and portraits. It has been reproduced by our engraver for these pages.
The effect of this visit was to fully confirm him in his loyalty to the British Crown. Early in the following spring he set sail on his return voyage. He was secretly landed on the American coast, not far from New York, from whence he made his way through a hostile country to Canada at great peril of his life. Ill would it have fared with him if he had fallen into the hands of the American soldiery at that time. No such contingency occurred, however, and he reached his destination in safety. Upon his arrival in Canada he at once placed himself at the head of the native tribes, and took part in the battle of “the Cedars,” about forty miles above Montreal. This engagement ended disastrously for the Americans; and after it was over, Brant did good service to the cause of humanity by preventing his savage followers from massacring the prisoners. From that time to the close of the war in 1782, Joseph Brant never ceased his exertions in the royal cause. From east to west, wherever bullets were thickest, his glittering tomahawk might be seen in the van, while his terrific war-whoop resounded above the din of strife. In those stirring times it is not easy to follow his individual career very closely; but one episode in it has been so often and so grossly misrepresented that we owe it to his memory to give some details respecting it. That episode was the massacre at Wyoming.
This affair of Wyoming can after all scarcely be called an episode in Brant’s career, inasmuch as he was not present at the massacre at all, and was many miles distant at the time of its occurrence. Still, historians and poets have so persistently associated it with his name, and have been so determined to saddle upon him whatever obloquy attaches to the transaction that a short account of it may properly be given here.
The generally-received versions are tissues of exaggerations and absurdities from first to last. Wyoming has been uniformly represented as a terrestrial paradise; as a sort of Occidental Arcadia where the simple-hearted pious people lived and served God after the manner of patriarchal times. Stripped of the halo of romance which has been thrown around it, Wyoming is merely a pleasant, fertile valley on the Susquehanna, in the north-eastern part of the State of Pennsylvania. In the year 1765 it was purchased from the Delaware Indians by a company in Connecticut, consisting of about forty families, who settled in the valley shortly after completing their purchase. Upon their arrival they found the valley in possession of a number of Pennsylvanian families, who disputed their rights to the property, and between whom and themselves bickerings and contests were long the order of the day. Their mode of life was as little Arcadian as can well be imagined. Neither party was powerful enough to permanently oust the other; and although their warlike operations were conducted upon a small scale, they were carried on with a petty meanness, vindictiveness and treachery that would have disgraced the Hurons themselves. From time to time one party would gain the upper hand, and would drive the other from the Valley in apparently hopeless destitution; but the defeated ones, to whichsoever side they might belong, invariably contrived to re-muster their forces, and return to harass and drive out their opponents in their turn. The only purpose for which they could be induced to temporarily lay aside their disputes and band themselves together in a common cause, was to repel the incursions of marauding Indians, to which the valley was occasionally subject. When the war broke out between Great Britain and the colonies, the denizens of the valley espoused the colonial side, and were compelled to unite vigorously for purposes of self-defence. They organized a militia, and drilled their troops to something like military efficiency; but not long afterwards these troops were compelled to abandon the valley, and to join the colonial army of regulars under General Washington. On the 3rd of July, 1778, a force made up of four hundred British troops and about seven hundred Seneca Indians, under the command of Col. John Butler, entered the valley from the north-west. Such of the militia as the exigencies of the American Government had left to the people of Wyoming arrayed themselves for defence, together with a small company of American regular troops that had recently arrived in the valley, under the command of Colonel Zebulon Butler. The settlers were defeated and driven out of the valley. In spite of all efforts on the part of the British to restrain them, the Indian troops massacred a good many of the fugitives, and the valley was left a smoking ruin. But the massacre was not nearly so great as took place on several other occasions during the revolutionary war, and the burning was an ordinary incident of primitive warfare. Such, in brief, is the true history of the massacre in the Wyoming valley, over which the genius of Thomas Campbell has cast a spell that will never pass away while the English language endures. For that massacre Brant was no more responsible, nor had he any further participation in it, than George Washington. He was not within fifty (and probably not within a hundred) miles of the valley. Had he been present his great influence would have been put forward, as it always was on similar occasions, to check the ferocity of the Indians. But it is doubtful whether even he could have prevented the massacre.
Another place with which the name of Brant is inseparably associated is Cherry Valley. He has been held responsible for all the atrocities committed there, and even the atrocities themselves have been grossly exaggerated. There is some _show_ of justice in this, inasmuch as Brant was undoubtedly present when the descent was made upon the valley. But it is not true that he either prompted the massacre or took any part in it. On the other hand, he did everything in his power to restrain it, and wherever it was possible for him to interfere successfully to prevent bloodshed he did so. Candour compels us to admit that his conduct on that terrible November day stands out in bright contrast to that of Butler, the white officer in command. Brant did his utmost to prevent the shedding of innocent blood; but, even had he been in command of the expedition, which he was not, Indians are totally unmanageable on the field of battle. There is at least evidence that he did his best to save life. Entering one of the houses, while the massacre was raging, he found there a woman quietly engaged in sewing. “Why do you not fly, or hide yourself?” he asked; “do you not know that the Indians are murdering all your neighbours, and will soon be here?” “I am not afraid,” was the reply: “I am a loyal subject of King George, and there is one Joseph Brant with the Indians who will save me.” “I am Joseph Brant,” responded the Chief, “but I am not in command, and I am not sure that I _can_ save you, but I will do my best.” At this moment the Indians were seen approaching. “Get into bed, quick,” said Brant. The woman obeyed, and when the Indians reached the threshold he told them to let the woman alone, as she was ill. They departed, and he then painted his mark upon the woman and her children, which was the best assurance of safety he could give them. This was merely one of several similar acts of Brant upon that fatal day; acts which do not rest upon mere tradition, but upon evidence as strong as human testimony can make it.
It would not be edifying to follow the great Chief through the various campaigns–including those of Minisink and Mohawk Valley–in which he was engaged until the Treaty of 1782 put an end to the sanguinary war. In that Treaty, which restored peace between Great Britain and the United States, the former neglected to make any stipulation on behalf of her Indian allies. Not only was this the case; not only was Thayendanegea not so much as named in the Treaty; but the ancient country of the Six Nations, “the residence of their ancestors from the time far beyond their earliest traditions,” was actually included in the territory ceded to the United States. This was a direct violation of Sir Guy Carleton’s pledge, given when the Mohawks first abandoned their native valley to do battle on behalf of Great Britain, and subsequently ratified by General Haldimand, to the effect that as soon as the war should be at an end the Mohawks should be restored, at the expense of the Government, to the condition in which they were at the beginning of the war. No sooner were the terms of the Treaty made known than Brant repaired to Quebec, to claim from General Haldimand the fulfilment of his pledge. General Haldimand received his distinguished guest cordially, and professed himself ready to redeem his promise. It was of course impossible to fulfil it literally, as the Mohawk valley had passed beyond British control; but the Chief expressed his willingness to accept in lieu of his former domain a tract of land on the Bay of Quinté. The General agreed that this tract should at once be conveyed to the Mohawks. The arrangement, however, was not satisfactory to the Senecas, who had settled in the Genesee Valley, in the State of New York. The Senecas were apprehensive of further trouble with the United States, and were anxious that the Mohawks should settle in their own neighbourhood, to assist them in the event of another war. They offered the Mohawks a large tract of their own territory, but the Mohawks were determined to live only under British rule. Accordingly, it was finally arranged that the latter should have assigned to them a tract of land on the Grand River (then called the Ouse) comprehending six miles on each side of the stream, from the mouth to the source. This tract, which contains some of the most fertile land in the Province, was formally conveyed to them by an instrument under Governor Haldimand’s hand and seal, in which it was stipulated that they should “possess and enjoy” it forever. The Indians, unversed in technicalities, supposed that they now had an absolute and indefeasible estate in the lands. Of course they were mistaken. Governor Haldimand’s conveyance did not pass the fee, which could only be effected by a crown patent under the Great Seal.
These several negotiations occupied some time. Towards the close of the year 1785, Brant, feeling aggrieved at the non-payment of certain pecuniary losses sustained by the Mohawks during the war, again set sail for England, where in due course he arrived. As on the occasion of his former visit, he was received with the utmost consideration and respect, not by the nobility and gentry alone, but by royalty itself. He seems to have lived upon terms of equality with the best society of the British capital, and to have so borne himself as to do no discredit to his entertainers. The Baroness Riedesel, who had formerly met him at Quebec, had an opportunity of renewing acquaintance with him, and has left on record the impression which he produced upon her. She writes: “His manners are polished. He expresses himself with great fluency, and was much esteemed by General Haldimand. His countenance is manly and intelligent, and his disposition very mild.”
During this visit a dramatic episode occurred which occupies a conspicuous place in all books devoted to Brant’s life. The present writer has told the story elsewhere as follows:–One gusty night in the month of January, 1786, the interior of a certain fashionable mansion in the West End of London presented a spectacle of amazing gorgeousness and splendour. The occasion was a masquerade given by one of the greatest of the city magnates; and as the entertainment was participated in by several of the nobility, and by others in whose veins ran some of the best blood in England, no expense had been spared to make the surroundings worthy of the exalted rank of the guests. Many of the dresses were of a richness not often seen, even in the abodes of wealth and fashion. The apartments were brilliantly lighted, and the lamps shone upon as quaint and picturesque an assemblage as ever congregated in Mayfair. There were gathered together representatives of every age and clime, each dressed in the garb suited to the character meant to be personified. Here, a magnificently-attired Egyptian princess of the time of the Pharaohs languished upon the arm of an English cavalier of the Restoration. There, high-ruffed ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s court conversed with mail-clad Norman warriors of the time of the Conqueror. A dark-eyed Jewess who might have figured at the court of King Solomon jested and laughed with a beau of Queen Anne’s day. If the maiden blushed at some of the broad jokes of her companion, her blushes were hidden by the silken mask which, in common with the rest of the guests, she wore upon the upper part of her face, and which concealed all but the brilliancy of her eyes. Cheek by jowl with a haughty Spanish hidalgo stood a plaided Highlander, with his dirk and claymore. Athenian orators, Roman tribunes, Knights of the Round Table, Scandinavian Vikings and Peruvian Incas jostled one another against the rich velvet and tapestry which hung from ceiling to floor. Truly, a motley assemblage, and one well calculated to impress the beholder with the transitoriness of mortal fame. In this miscellaneous concourse the occupants of the picture frames of all the public and private galleries of Europe seemed to have been restored to life, and personally brought into contact for the first time. And though, artistically speaking, they did not harmonize very well with each other, the general effect was in the highest degree marvellous and striking. But of all the assembled guests, one in particular is the cynosure of all eyes–the observed of all observers. This is the cleverest masquer of them all, for there is not a single detail, either in his dress, his aspect or his demeanour, which is not strictly in conformity with the character he represents. He is clad in the garb of an American Indian. He is evidently playing the part of one of high dignity among his fellows, for his apparel is rich and costly, and his bearing is that of one who has been accustomed to rule. The dress is certainly a splendid make-up, and the wearer is evidently a consummate actor. How proudly he stalks from room to room, stately, silent, leonine, majestic. Lara himself–who, by the way, had not then been invented–had not a more chilling mystery of mien. He is above the average height–not much under six feet–and the nodding plumes of his crest make him look several inches taller than he is in reality. His tomahawk, which hangs loosely exposed at his girdle, glitters like highly-polished silver; and the hand which ever and anon toys with the haft is long and bony. The dark, piercing eyes seem almost to transfix every one upon whom they rest. One half of the face seems to be covered by a mask, made to imitate the freshly-painted visage of a Mohawk Indian when starting out upon the war path. He is evidently bent upon preserving a strict incognito, for the hours pass by and still no one has heard the sound of his voice. The curiosity of the other guests is aroused, and, pass from room to room as often as he may, a numerous train follows in his wake. One of the masquers composing this train is arrayed in the loose vestments of a Turk, and indeed is suspected to be a genuine native of the Ottoman Empire who has been sent to England on a diplomatic mission. Being emboldened by the wine he has drunk, the Oriental determines to penetrate the mystery of the dusky stranger. He approaches the seeming Indian, and after various ineffectual attempts to arrest his attention, lays violent hold of the latter’s nose. Scarcely has he touched that organ when a blood-curdling yell, such as has never before been heard within the three kingdoms, resounds through the mansion.
“Ah, then and there was hurling to and fro!”
The peal of the distant drum did not spread greater consternation among the dancers at Brussels on the night before Waterloo. What wonder that female lips blanched, and that even masculine cheeks grew pale? That yell was the terrible war-whoop of the Mohawks, and came hot from the throat of the mysterious unknown. The truth flashed upon all beholders. The stranger was no disguised masquerader, but a veritable brave of the American forest. Of this there could be no doubt. No white man that ever lived could learn to give utterance to such an ejaculation. The yell had no sooner sounded than the barbarian’s tomahawk leapt from its girdle. He sprang upon the luckless Turk, and twined his fingers in the poor wretch’s hair. For a single second the tomahawk flashed before the astonished eyes of the spectators; and then, before the latter had time–even if they could have mustered the courage–to interfere, its owner gently replaced it in his girdle, and indulged in a low chuckle of laughter. The amazed and terrified guests breathed again, and in another moment the mysterious stranger stood revealed to the company as Joseph Brant, the renowned warrior of the Six Nations, the steady ally of the British arms, and the terror of all enemies of his race. Of course the alarm soon quieted down, and order was restored. It was readily understood that he had never intended to injure the terrified Oriental, but merely to punish the latter’s impertinence by frightening him within an inch of his life. Probably, too, that feeling of self-consciousness from which few minds are altogether free, impelled him to take advantage of the interest and curiosity which his presence evidently inspired, to create an incident which would long be talked about in London drawing-rooms, and which might eventually be handed down to posterity.
The anecdotes preserved of his stay in London at this time are almost innumerable. He was a great favourite with the King and his family, notwithstanding the fact that when he was first introduced at Court he declined to kiss His Majesty’s hand; adding, however, with delightful _naivete_, that he would gladly kiss the hand of the Queen. The Prince of Wales also took great delight in his company, and occasionally took him to places of questionable repute–or rather, to places as to the disrepute of which there was no question whatever, and which were pronounced by the Chief “to be very queer places for a prince to go to.” His envoy was successful, and his stay in London, which was prolonged for some months, must have been very agreeable, as “he was caressed by the noble and great, and was alike welcome at Court and at the banquets of the heir-apparent.” After his return to America his first act of historical importance was to attend the great Council of the Indian Confederacy in the far west. He used his best endeavours to preserve peace between the Western Indians and the United States, and steadily opposed the confederation which led to the expedition of Generals St. Clair and Wayne. We next find him engaged in settling his people upon the tract which had been granted to them on the banks of the Grand River. The principal settlement of the Mohawks was near the bend of the river, just below the present site of the city of Brantford. They called the settlement “Mohawk Village.” The name still survives, but all traces of the village itself have disappeared. Brant built the little church which still stands there, an illustration of which is given above, and in which service has been held almost continuously every Sunday since its bell first awoke the echoes of the Canadian forest. Brant himself took up his abode in the neighbourhood for several years, and did his best to bring his dusky subjects under the influence of civilization. In order to facilitate his passage across the Grand River he threw a sort of temporary boom across, at a spot a few yards below where the iron-bridge now spans the stream at Brantford. From this circumstance the place came to be known as “Brant’s ford;” and when, years afterwards, a village sprung up close by, the name of “Brantford” was given to it.
The Indians had not been long settled at Mohawk Village before difficulties began to arise between them and the Provincial Government as to the nature of the title to their lands. The Indians, supposing their title to be an absolute one, began to make leases and sales to the white settlers in the neighbourhood. To this proceeding the Government objected, upon the ground that the Crown had a pre-emptive right, and that the land belonged to the Indians only so long as they might choose to occupy it. Many conferences were held, but no adjustment satisfactory to the Indians was arrived at. There has been a good deal of subsequent legislation and diplomacy over this vexed question, but so far as any unfettered power of alienation of the lands is concerned Governor Haldimand’s grant was practically a nullity, and so remains to this day. These disputes embittered the Chief’s declining years, which was further rendered unhappy by petty dissensions among the various tribes composing the Six Nations; dissensions which he vainly endeavoured to permanently allay. Another affliction befel him in the shape of a dissipated and worthless son, whom he accidently killed in self-defence. The last few years of his life were passed in a house built by him at Wellington Square; now called Burlington, a few miles from Hamilton. He had received a grant of a large tract of land in this neighbourhood, and he built a homestead there in or about the year 1800.
Here he kept up a large establishment, including seven or eight negro servants who had formerly been slaves. He exercised a profuse and right royal hospitality alike towards the whites and the Indian warriors who gathered round him. On the first of May in each year he used to drive up, in his coach-and-four, Mohawk Village, to attend the annual Indian festival which was to held there. On these occasions he was generally attended by a numerous retinue of servants in livery, and their procession used to strike awe into the minds of the denizens of the settlements through which they passed.
He died at his house at Wellington Square, after a long and painful illness, on the 24th November, 1807, in the sixty-fifth year of his age. His last thoughts were for his people, on whose behalf he had fought so bravely, and whose social and moral improvement he was so desirous to promote. His nephew, leaning over his bed, caught the last words that fell from his lips: “Have pity on the poor Indians; if you can get any influence from the great, endeavour to do them all the good you can.”
His remains were removed to Mohawk Village, near Brantford, and interred in the yard of the little church which he had built many years before, and which was the first Christian church erected in Upper Canada. And there, by the banks of the Grand River,
“After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.”
Sufficient has been said in the course of the preceding sketch to enable the reader to form a tolerably correct idea of the character of this greatest representative of the heroic Six Nations. No expression of opinion was evermore unjust than that which has persistently held him up to the execration of mankind as a monster of cruelty. That the exigences of his position compelled him to wink at many atrocities committed by his troops is beyond question. That, however, was a necessary incident of Indian warfare; nay, of _all_ warfare; and after a careful consultation and comparison of authorities we can come to no other conclusion than that, for an Indian, reared among the customs and traditions of the Six Nations, Joseph Brant was a humane and kind-hearted man. No act of perfidy was ever brought home to him. He was a constant and faithful friend, and, though stern, by no means an implacable enemy. His dauntless courage and devotion to his people have never been seriously questioned. The charges of self-seeking and peculation which Red Jacket, “the greatest coward of the Five Nations,” attempted to fasten upon him, only served to render his integrity more apparent than it would otherwise have been. He was not distinguished for brilliant flights of eloquence, as were Tecumseh and Cornstalk; but both his speeches and his writings abound with a clear, sound common-sense, which was quite as much to the purpose in his dealings with mankind. His early advantages of education were not great, but he made best use of his time, and some of his correspondence written during the latter years of his life would not discredit an English statesman. He translated a part of the prayers and services of the Church of England, and also a portion of the Gospels, into the Mohawk language, and in the latter years of his life made some preparation for a voluminous history of the Six Nations. This latter work he did not live to carry out. In his social, domestic and business relations he was true and honest, and nothing pleased him better than to diffuse a liberal and genial hospitality in his own home. Taking him all in all, making due allowance for the frailties and imperfections incidental to humanity, we must pronounce Joseph Brant to have possessed in an eminent degree many of the qualities which go to make a good and a great man.
Brant was thrice married. By his first wife, Margaret, he had two children, Isaac and Christina, whose descendents are still living. By his second wife he had no issue. His third wife, Catharine, whom he married in 1780, survived him and was forty-eight years of age at the time of his death. She was the eldest daughter of the head-chief of the Turtle tribe, the tribe first in dignity among the Mohawks. By the usages of that nation, upon her devolved the right of naming her husband’s successor in the chieftaincy. The canons governing the descent of the chieftaincy of the Six Nations recognize, in a somewhat modified form, the doctrine of primogeniture; but the inheritance descends through the female line, and the surviving female has a right, if she so pleases, to appoint any of her own male offspring to the vacant sovereignty. Catharine Brant exercised her right by appointing to that dignity John Brant, her third and youngest son. This youth, whose Indian name was Ahyouwaighs, was at the time of his father’s death only thirteen years of age. He was born at Mohawk village, on the 27th September, 1794, and received a liberal English education. Upon the breaking out of the war of 1812, the young chief took the field with his warriors, on behalf of Great Britain, and was engaged in most of the actions on the Niagara frontier, including the battles of Queenstown Heights, Lundy’s Lane, and Beaver Dams. When the war closed in 1815, he settled at “Brant House,” the former residence of his father, at Wellington Square. Here he and his sister Elizabeth dispensed a cheerful hospitality for many years. In 1821 he visited England for the purpose of trying to do what his father had failed in doing, viz, to bring about a satisfactory adjustment of the disputes between the Government and the Indians respecting the title of the latter to their lands. His mission, however, was unsuccessful. While in England he called upon the poet Campbell, and endeavoured to induce that gentleman to expunge certain stanzas from the poem of “Gertrude of Wyoming,” with what success has already been mentioned.
In the year 1827, Ahyouwaighs was appointed by the Earl of Dalhousie to the rank of Captain, and also in the superintendency of the Six Nations. In 1832 he was elected as a member of the Provincial Parliament for the County of Haldimand, but his election was contested and eventually set aside, upon the ground that many of the persons by whose votes he had been elected were merely lessees of Indian lands; and not entitled, under the law, as it then stood to exercise the franchise. Within a few months afterwards, and in the same year, he was carried off by cholera, and was buried in the same vault as his father. He was never married, and left no issue. His sister Elizabeth was married to William Johnson Kerr, a grandson of that same Sir William Johnson who had formerly been a patron of the great Thayendanegea. She died at Wellington Square in April, 1834, leaving several children, all of whom are since dead. By his third wife Brant had several other children, whose descendants are still living in various parts of Ontario. His widow died at the advanced age of seventy-eight years on the 24th of November, 1837, being the thirtieth anniversary of her husband’s death.
The old house in which Joseph Brant died at Wellington Square, is still in existence, though it has been so covered in by modern improvements that no part of the original structure is outwardly visible. Mr. J. Simcoe Kerr, a son of Brant’s daughter Elizabeth, continued to reside at the old homestead down to the time of his death in 1875. It has since been leased and refitted for a summer hotel, and is now known as “Brant House.” The room in which the old chief was so unhappy as to slay his son is pointed out to visitors, with stains–said to be the original blood stains–on the floor. Among the historical objects in the immediate neighbourhood is a gnarled old oak nearly six feet in diameter at the base, known as “The Old Council Tree,” from the fact that the chief and other dignataries of the Six Nations were wont to hold conferences beneath its spreading branches. Close by is a mound where lie the bodies of many of Brant’s Indian contemporaries buried, native fashion in a circle, with the feet converging to a centre.
Thirty years ago, the wooden vault in which Brant’s remains and those of his son John were interred had become dilapidated. The Six Nations resolved upon constructing a new one of stone, and re-interring the remains. Brant was a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity in his day, and the various Masonic lodges throughout the neighbourhood lent their aid to the Indians in their undertaking. The project was finally carried out on the twenty-seventh of November, 1850. There was an immense gathering at Mohawk village on the occasion, which is generally referred to as “Brant’s second funeral.” The Indians and whites vied with each other in doing honour to the memory of the departed chief. The remains were interred in a more spacious vault, over which a plain granite tomb was raised. The slab which covers the aperture contains the following inscription:
Is erected to the memory of
CAPT. JOSEPH BRANT,
Principal Chief and
The Six Nations Indians,
By his Fellow Subjects,
Admirers of his Fidelity and
Attachment to the
Born on the Banks of the
Ohio River, 1742, died at
Wellington Square, U.C., 1807.
It also contains the remains
Of his son Ahyouwaighs, or
CAPT. JOHN BRANT,
who succeeded his father as
And distinguished himself
In the war of 1812-15
Born at the Mohawk Village, U.C., 1794; Died at the same place, 1832.
This sketch would be incomplete without some allusion to the project which was set in motion about six years ago, having for its object the erection of a suitable monument to the great Chief’s memory. On the 25th of August, 1874, His Excellency, Lord Dufferin, in response to an invitation from the Six Nations, paid them a visit at their Council House, in the township of Tuscarora, a few miles below Brantford. He was entertained by the chiefs and warriors, who submitted to him, for transmission to England, an address to His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, who was enrolled an Honorary Chief of the Confederacy on the occasion of his visit to Canada in 1869. The address, after referring to Brant’s many and important services to the British Crown, expressed the anxious desire of his people to see a fitting monument erected to his memory. Lord Dufferin transmitted the address, and received Prince Arthur’s assurances of his approval of, and good will towards, the undertaking. A committee, consisting of many of the leading officials and residents of the Dominion, was at once formed, and a subscription list was opened at the Bank of British North America, at Brantford. A good many contributions have since come in, but the fund is still insufficient to enable the committee to carry out their project in a fitting manner. We have referred to the fact that no village is now in existence at Mohawk. The Indians have deserted the neighbourhood and taken up their quarters elsewhere. Brant’s tomb by the old church, being in an out-of-the-way spot, remote from the haunts of men, has fallen a prey to the sacrilegious hands of tourists and others, who have shamefully mutilated it by repeated chippings of fragments which have been carried away as relics. It is proposed to place the new monument in the centre of Victoria Park, opposite the Court House, in Brentford, where it will be under the surveillance of the local authorities, and where there will be no danger of mutilation. That Brant’s memory deserves such a tribute is a matter as to which there can be no difference of opinion, and the undertaking is one that deserves the hearty support of the Canadian people. We owe a heavy debt to the Indians; heavier than we are likely to pay. It does not reflect credit upon our national sense of gratitude that no fitting monument marks our appreciation of the services of those two great Indians, Brant and Tecumseh.
SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN.
Standing on the summit of one of the rocky eminences at the mouth of the Sagueuay, and looking back through the haze of two hundred and seventy-four years, we may descry two small sailing craft slowly making their way up the majestic stream which Jacques Cartier, sixty-eight years before, christened in honour of the grilled St. Lawrence. The vessels are of French build, and have evidently just arrived from France. They are of very diminutive size for an ocean voyage, but are manned by hardy Breton mariners for whom the tempestuous Atlantic has no terrors. They are commanded by an enterprising merchant-sailor of St. Malo, who is desirous of pushing his fortunes by means of the fur trade, and who, with that end in view, has already more than once navigated the St. Lawrence as far westward as the mouth of the Saguenay. His name is Pontgravé. Like other French adventurers of his time he is a brave and energetic man, ready to do, to dare, and, if need be, to suffer; but his primary object in life is to amass wealth, and to effect this object he is not over-scrupulous as to the means employed. On this occasion he has come over with instructions from Henry IV., King of France, to explore the St. Lawrence, to ascertain how far from its mouth navigation is practicable, and to make a survey of the country on its banks. He is accompanied on the expedition by a man of widely different mould; a man who is worth a thousand of such sordid, huckstering spirits; a man who unites with the courage and energy of a soldier a high sense of personal honour and a singleness of heart worthy of the Chevalier Bayard himself. To these qualities are added an absorbing passion for colonization, and a piety and zeal which would not misbecome a Jesuit missionary. He is poor, but what the poet calls “the jingling of the guinea” has no charms for him. Let others consume their souls in heaping up riches, in chaffering with the Indians for the skins of wild beasts, and in selling the same to the affluent traders of France. It is his ambition to rear the _fleur-de-lis_ in the remote wildernesses of the New World, and to evangelize the savage hordes by whom that world is peopled. The latter object is the most dear to his heart of all, and he has already recorded his belief that the salvation of one soul is of more importance than the founding of an empire. After such an exordium it is scarcely necessary to inform the student of history that the name of Pontgravé’s ally is Samuel De Champlain. He has already figured somewhat conspicuously in his country’s annals, but his future achievements are destined to outshine the events of his previous career, and to gain for him the merited title of “Father of New France.”
He was born some time in the year 1567, at Brouage, a small seaport town in the Province of Saintonge, on the west coast of France. Part of his youth was spent in the naval service, and during the wars of the League he fought on the side of the King, who awarded him a small pension and attached him to his own person. But Champlain was of too adventurous a turn of mind to feel at home in the confined atmosphere of a royal court, and soon languished for change of scene. Ere long he obtained command of a vessel bound for the West Indies, where he remained more than two years. During this time he distinguished himself as a brave and efficient officer. He became known as one whose nature partook largely of the romantic element, but who, nevertheless, had ever an eye to the practical. Several important engineering projects seem to have engaged his attention during his sojourn in the West Indies. Prominent among these was the project of constructing a ship-canal across the Isthmus of Panama, but the scheme was not encouraged, and ultimately fell to the ground. Upon his return to France he again dangled about the court for a few months, by which time he had once more become heartily weary of a life of inaction. With the accession of Henry IV. to the French throne the long religious wars which had so long distracted the country came to an end, and the attention of the Government began to be directed to the colonisation of New France–a scheme which had never been wholly abandoned, but which had remained in abeyance since the failure of the expedition undertaken by the brothers Roberval, more than half a century before. Several new attempts were made at this time, none of which was very successful. The fur trade, however, held out great inducements to private enterprise, and stimulated the cupidity of the merchants of Dieppe, Rouen and St Malo. In the heart of one of them something nobler than cupidity was aroused. In 1603, M. De Chastes, Governor of Dieppe, obtained a patent from the King conferring upon him and several of his associates a monopoly of the fur trade of New France. To M. De Chastes the acquisition of wealth–of which he already had enough, and to spare–was a matter of secondary importance, but he hoped to make his patent the means of extending the French empire into the unknown regions of the far West. The patent was granted soon after Champlain’s return from the West Indies, and just as the pleasures of the court were beginning to pall upon him. He had served under De Chastes during the latter years of the war of the League, and the Governor was no stranger to the young man’s skill, energy, and incorruptible integrity. De Chastes urged him to join the expedition, which was precisely of a kind to find favour in the eyes of an ardent adventurer like Champlain. The King’s consent having been obtained, he joined the expedition under Pontgravé, and sailed for the mouth of the St. Lawrence on the 15th of March, 1603. The expedition, as we have seen, was merely preliminary to more specific and extended operations. The ocean voyage, which was a tempestuous one, occupied more than two months, and they did not reach the St. Lawrence until the latter end of May. They sailed up as far as Tadousac, at the mouth of the Saguenay, where a little trading-post had been established four years before by Pontgravé, and Chauvin. Here they cast anchor, and a fleet of canoes filled with wondering natives gathered round their little barques to sell peltries, and (unconsciously) to sit to Champlain for their portraits. After a short stay at Tadousac the leaders of the expedition, accompanied by several of the crew, embarked in a batteau and preceded up the river past deserted Stadacona to the site of the Indian village of Hochelaga, discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1535. The village so graphically described by that navigator had ceased to exist, and the tribe which had inhabited it at the time of his visit had given place to a few Algonquin Indians. Our adventurers essayed to ascend the river still farther, but found it impossible to make headway against the rapids of St. Louis, which had formerly presented an insuperable barrier to Cartier’s westward progress. Then they retraced their course down the river to Tadousac, re-embarked on board their vessels, and made all sail for France. When they arrived there they found that their patron, De Chastes, had died during their absence, and that his Company had been dissolved. Very soon afterwards, however, the scheme of colonization was taken up by the Sieur de Monts, who entered into engagements with Champlain for another voyage to the New World. De Monts and Champlain set sail on the 7th of March, 1604, with a large expedition, and in due course reached the shores of Nova Scotia, then called Acadie. After an absence of three years, during which Champlain explored the coast as far southward as Cape Cod, the expedition returned to France. A good deal had been learned as to the topographical features of the country lying near the coast, but little had been done in the way of actual colonization. The next expedition was productive of greater results. De Monts, at Champlain’s instigation, resolved to found a settlement on the shores of the St Lawrence. Two vessels were fitted up at his expense and placed under Champlain’s command, with Pontgravé as lieutenant of the expedition, which put to sea in the month of April, 1608, and reached the mouth of the Saguenay early in June. Pontgravé began a series of trading operations with the Indians at Tadousac, while Champlain proceeded up the river to fix upon an advantageous site for the projected settlement. This site he found at the confluence of the St. Charles with the St. Lawrence, near the place where Jacques Cartier had spent the winter of 1535-6. Tradition tells us that when Cartier’s sailors beheld the adjacent promontory of Cape Diamond they exclaimed, “_Quel bec_”–(“What a beak!”)–which exclamation led to the place being called _Quebec_. The most probable derivation of the name, however, is the Indian word _kebec_, signifying a strait, which might well have been applied by the natives to the narrowing of the river at this place. Whatever may be the origin of the name, here it was that Champlain, on the 3rd of July, 1608, founded his settlement, and Quebec was the name which he bestowed upon it. This was the first permanent settlement of Europeans on the American continent, with the exception of those at St. Augustine, in Florida, and Jamestown, in Virginia.
Champlain’s first attempts at settlement, as might be expected, were of a very primitive character. He erected rude barracks, and cleared a few small patches of ground adjacent thereto, which he sowed with wheat and rye. Perceiving that the fur trade might be turned to good account in promoting the settlement of the country, he bent his energies to its development. He had scarcely settled his little colony in its new home ere he began to experience the perils of his quasi-regal position. Notwithstanding the patent of monopoly held by his patron, on the faith of which his colonization scheme had been projected, the rights conferred by it began to be infringed by certain traders who came over from France and instituted a system of traffic with the natives. Finding the traffic exceedingly profitable, these traders ere long held out inducements to some of Champlain’s followers. A conspiracy was formed against him and he narrowly escaped assassination. Fortunately, one of the traitors was seized by remorse, and revealed the plot before it had been fully carried out. The chief conspirator was hanged, and his accomplices were sent over to France, where they expiated their crime at the galleys. Having thus promptly suppressed the first insurrection within his dominions, Champlain prepared himself for the rigours of a Canadian winter. An embankment was formed above the reach of the tide, and a stock of provisions was laid in sufficient for the support of the settlement until spring. The colony, inclusive of Champlain himself, consisted of twenty-nine persons. Notwithstanding all precautions, the scurvy broke out among them during the winter. Champlain, who was endowed with a vigorous constitution, escaped the pest, but before the advent of spring the little colony was reduced to only nine persons. The sovereign remedy which Cartier had found so efficacious in a similar emergency was not to be found. That remedy was a decoction prepared by the Indians from a tree which they called _Auneda_–believed to have been a species of spruce–but the natives of Champlain’s day knew nothing of the remedy, from which he concluded that the tribe which had employed it on behalf of Cartier and his men had been exterminated by their enemies.
With spring, succours and fresh immigrants arrived from France, and new vitality was imported into the little colony. Soon after this time, Champlain committed the most impolitic act of his life. The Hurons, Algonquins and other tribes of the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa, resolved upon taking the war-path against their enemies, the Iroquois, or Five Nations–the boldest, fiercest, and most powerful confederacy known to Indian history. Champlain, ever since his arrival in the country, had done his utmost to win the favour of the natives with whom he was brought more immediately into contact, and he deemed that by joining them in opposing the Iroquois, who were a standing menace to his colony, he would knit the Hurons and Algonquins to the side of the King of France by permanent and indissoluble ties. To some extent he was right, but he underestimated the strength of the foe, an alliance with whom would have been of more importance than an alliance with all the other Indian tribes of New France. Champlain cast in his lot with the Hurons and Algonquins, and accompanied them on their expedition against their enemies. By so doing he invoked the deadly animosity of the latter against the French for all time to come. He did not forsee that by this one stroke of policy he was paving the way for a subsequent alliance between the Iroquois and the English.
On May 28th, 1609, in company with his Indian allies, he started on the expedition, the immediate results of which were so insignificant–the remote results of which were so momentous. The war-party embarked in canoes, ascended the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Richelieu–then called the River of the Iroquois–and thence up the latter stream to the lake which Champlain beheld for the first time, and which until that day no European eye had ever looked upon. This picturesque sheet of water was thenceforward called after him, and in its name his own is still perpetuated. The party held on their course to the head waters of the lake, near to which several Iroquois villages were situated. The enemy’s scouts received intelligence of the approach of the invaders, and advanced to repel them. The opposing forces met in the forest on the south-western shore, not far from Crown point, on the morning of the 30th of July. The Iroquois, two hundred in number, advanced to the onset. “Among them,” says Mr. Parkman, “could be seen several chiefs, conspicuous by their tall plumes. Some bore shields of wood and hide, and some were covered with a kind of armour made of tough twigs, interlaced with a vegetable fibre, supposed by Champlain to be cotton. The allies, growing anxious, called with loud cries for their champion, and opened their ranks that he might pass to the front. He did so, and advancing before his red companions-in-arms stood revealed to the astonished gaze of the Iroquois, who, beholding the warlike apparition in their path, stared in mute amazement. But his arquebuse was levelled; the report startled the woods, a chief fell dead, and another by his side rolled among the bushes. Then there arose from the allies a yell which, says Champlain, would have drowned a thunderclap, and the forest was full of whizzing arrows. For a moment the Iroquois stood firm, and sent back their arrows lustily; but when another and another gunshot came from the thickets on their flank they broke and fled in uncontrollable terror. Swifter than hounds, the allies tore through the bushes, in pursuit. Some of the Iroquois were killed, more were taken. Camp, canoes, provisions, all were abandoned, and many weapons flung down in the panic flight. The arquebuse had done its work. The victory was complete.” The victorious allies, much to the disgust of Champlain, tortured their prisoners in the most barbarous fashion, and returned to Quebec, taking with them fifty Iroquois scalps. Thus was the first Indian blood shed by the white man in Canada. The man who shed it was a European and a Christian, who had not even the excuse of provocation. This is a matter worth bearing in mind when we read of the frightful atrocities committed by the Iroquois upon the whites in after years. Champlain’s conduct on this occasion seems incapable of defence, and it was certainly a very grave error, considered simply as an act of policy. The error was bitterly and fiercely avenged, and for every Indian who fell on the morning of that 30th of July, in this, the first battle fought on Canadian soil between natives and Europeans, a tenfold penalty was exacted. “Thus did New France rush into collision with the redoubted warriors of the Five Nations. Here was the beginning, in some measure doubtless the cause, of a long succession of murderous conflicts, bearing havoc and flame to generations yet unborn. Champlain had invaded the tiger’s den; and now, in smothered fury the patient savage would lie biding his day of blood.”
Six weeks after the performance of this exploit, Champlain, accompanied by Pontgravé, returned to France. Upon his arrival at court he found De Monts there, trying to secure a renewal of his patent of monopoly, which had been revoked in consequence of loud complaints on the part of other French merchants who were desirous of participating in the profits arising from the fur trade. His efforts to obtain a renewal proving unsuccessful, De Monts determined to carry on his scheme of colonization unaided by royal patronage. Allying himself with some affluent merchants of Rochelle, he fitted out another expedition and once more despatched Champlain to the New World. Champlain, upon his arrival at Tadousac, found his former Indian allies preparing for another descent upon the Iroquois, in which undertaking he again joined them; the inducement this time being a promise on the part of the Indians to pilot him up the great streams leading from the interior, whereby he hoped to discover a passage to the North Sea, and thence to China and the Indies. In this second expedition he was less successful than in the former one. The opposing forces met near the confluence of the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Rivers, and though Champlain’s allies were ultimately victorious, they sustained a heavy loss, and he himself was wounded in the neck by an arrow. After the battle, the torture-fires were lighted, as was usual on such occasions, and Champlain for the first time was an eye-witness to the horrors of cannibalism.
He soon afterwards began his preparations for an expedition up the Ottawa, but just as he was about to start on the journey, a ship arrived from France with intelligence that King Henry had fallen a victim to the dagger of Ravaillac. The accession of a new sovereign to the French Throne might materially affect De Monts’s ability to continue his scheme, and Champlain once more set sail for France to confer with his patron. The late king, while deeming it impolitic to continue the monopoly in De Monts’s favour, had always countenanced the latter’s colonisation schemes in New France; but upon Champlain’s arrival he found that with the death of Henry IV De Monts’s court influence had ceased, and that his western scheme must stand or fall on its own merits. Champlain, in order to retrieve his patron’s fortunes as far as might be, again returned to Canada in the following spring, resolved to build a trading post far up the St. Lawrence, where it would be easily accessible to the Indian hunters on the Ottawa.–The spot selected was near the site of the former village of Hochelaga, near the confluence of the two great rivers of Canada. The post was built on the site now occupied by the hospital of the Grey Nuns of Montreal, and even before its erection was completed a horde of rival French traders appeared on the scene. This drove Champlain once more back to France, but he soon found that the ardour of De Monts for colonization had cooled, and that he was not disposed to concern himself further in the enterprize. Champlain, being thus left to his own resources, determined to seek another patron, and succeeded in enlisting the sympathy of the Count de Soissons, who obtained the appointment of Lieutenant-General of New France, and invested Champlain with the functions of that office as his deputy. The Count did not long survive, but Henry de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, succeeded to his privileges, and continued Champlain in his high office. In the spring of 1613 Champlain again betook himself to Canada, and arrived at Quebec early in May. Before the end of the month he started on his long-deferred tour of western exploration. Taking with him two canoes, containing an Indian and four Frenchmen, he ascended the Ottawa in the hope of reaching China and Japan by way of Hudson’s Bay, which had been discovered by Hendrick Hudson only three years before. In undertaking this journey Champlain had been misled by a French imposter called Nicholas Vignan, who professed to have explored the route far inland beyond the head waters of the Ottawa, which river, he averred, had its source in a lake connected with the North Sea. The enthusiastic explorer, relying upon the good faith of Vignan, proceeded westward to beyond Lake Coulange, and after a tedious and perilous voyage, stopped to confer with Tessouat, an Indian chief, whose tribe inhabited that remote region. This potentate, upon being apprised of the object of their journey, undeceived Champlain as to Vignan’s character for veracity, and satisfied him that the Frenchman had never passed farther west than Tessouat’s own dominions. Vignan, after a good deal of prevarication, confessed that his story was false, and that what the Indian chief had stated was a simple fact. Champlain, weary and disgusted, abandoned his exploration and returned to Quebec, leaving Vignan with the Indians in the wildernesses of the Upper Ottawa.
His next visit to France, which took place during the summer of the same year was fraught with important results to the colony. A new company was formed under the auspices of the Prince of Condé, and a scheme was laid for the propagation of the Gospel among the Indians by means of Recollet missionaries sent out from France for the purpose. These, who were the first priests who settled in Canada, came out with Champlain in May, 1615. A province was assigned to each of them, and they at once entered upon the duties of their respective missions. One of them settled among the Montagnais, near the mouth of the Saguenay; two of them remained at Quebec; and the fourth, whose name was Le Caron, betook himself to the far western wilds. Champlain then entered upon a more extended tour of westward exploration than any he had hitherto undertaken. Accompanied by an interpreter and a number of Algonquins as guides, he again ascended the Ottawa, passed the Isle of Allumettes, and thence to Lake Nipissing. After a short stay here he continued his journey, descended the stream since known as French River, into the inlet of Lake Huron, now called Georgian Bay. Paddling southward past the innumerable islands on the eastern coast of the bay, he landed near the present site of Penetanguishene, and thence followed an Indian trail leading through the ancient country of the Hurons, now forming the northern part of the county of Simcoe, and the north-eastern part of the county of Grey. This country contained seventeen or eighteen villages, and a population, including women and children, of about twenty thousand. One of the villages visited by Champlain, called Cahiague, occupied a site near the present town of Orillia. At another village, called Carhagouha, some distance farther west, the explorer found the Recollet friar Le Caron, who had accompanied him from France only a few months before as above mentioned. And here, on the 12th of August, 1615, Le Caron celebrated, in Champlain’s presence, the first mass ever heard in the wilderness of western Canada.
After spending some time in the Huron country, Champlain accompanied the natives on an expedition against their hereditary foes, the Iroquois, whose domain occupied what is now the central and western part of the State of New York. Crossing Lake Couchiching and coasting down the north-eastern shore of Lake Simcoe, they made their way across country to the Bay of Quinté, thence into Lake Ontario, and thence into the enemy’s country. Having landed, they concealed their canoes in the woods and marched inland. On the 10th of October they came to a Seneca [Footnote: The Senecas were one of the Five Nations composing the redoubtable Iroquois Confederacy. The Tuscaroras joined the League in 1715, and it is subsequently known in history as the “Six Nations.”] village on or near a lake which was probably Lake Canandaigua. The Hurons attacked the village, but were repulsed by the fierce Iroquois, Champlain himself being several times wounded in the assault. The invading war-party then retreated and abandoned the campaign, returning to where they had hidden their canoes, in which they embarked and made the best of their way back across Lake Ontario, where the party broke up. The Hurons had promised Champlain that if he would accompany them on their expedition against the Iroquois they would afterwards furnish him with an escort back to Quebec. This promise they now declined to make good. Champlain’s prestige as an invincible champion was gone, and wounded and dispirited, he was compelled to accompany them back to their country near Lake Simcoe, where he spent the winter in the lodge of Durantal, one of their chiefs. Upon his return to Quebec in the following year he was welcomed as one risen from the dead. Hitherto Champlain’s love of adventure had led him to devote more attention to exploration than to the consolidation of his power in New France. He determined to change his policy in this respect; and crossed over to France to induce a larger emigration. In July, 1620, he returned with Madame de Champlain, who was received with great demonstrations of respect and affection by the Indians upon her arrival at Quebec. Champlain found that the colony had rather retrograded than advanced during his absence, and for some time after his return, various causes contributed to retard its prosperity. At the end of the year 1621, [Footnote: In this year, Eustáche, son of Abraham and Margaret Martin, the first child of European parentage born in Canada, was born at Quebec.] the European population of New France numbered only forty-eight persons. Rival trading companies continued to fight for the supremacy in the colony, and any man less patient and persevering than the Father of New France would have abandoned his schemes in despair. This untoward state of things continued until 1627, when an association, known to history by the name of “The Company of the One Hundred Associates,” was formed under the patronage of the great Cardinal Richelieu. The association was invested with the Vice-royalty of New France and Florida, together with very extensive auxiliary privileges, including a monopoly of the fur trade, the right to confer titles and appoint judges, and generally to carry on the Government of the colony. In return for these truly vice-regal privileges the company undertook to send out a large number of colonists, and to provide them with the necessaries of life for a term of three years, after which land enough for their support and grain wherewith to plant it was to be given them. Champlain himself was appointed Governor. This great company was scarcely organized before war broke out between France and England. The English resolved upon the conquest of Canada, and sent out a fleet to the St. Lawrence under the command of Sir David Kertk. The fleet having arrived before Quebec, its commander demanded from Champlain a surrender of the place, and as the Governor’s supply of food and ammunition was too small to enable him to sustain a siege, he signed a capitulation and surrendered. He then hastened to France, where he influenced the cabinet to stipulate for the restoration of Canada to the French Crown in the articles of peace which were shortly afterwards negotiated between the two powers. In 1632 this restoration was effected, and next year Champlain again returned in the capacity of Governor. From this time forward he strove to promote the prosperity of the colony by every means in his power. Among the means whereby he zealously strove to effect this object was the establishment of Jesuit missions for the conversion of the Indians. Among other missions so established was that in the far western Huron country, around which the _Relations des Jesuites_ have cast such a halo of romance.
The Father of New France did not live to gather much fruit from the crop which he had sown. His life of incessant fatigue at last proved too much even for his vigorous frame. After an illness which lasted for ten weeks, he died on Christmas Day, 1635, at the age of sixty-eight. His beautiful young wife, who had shared his exile for four years, returned to France where she became an Ursuline nun, and founded a convent at Meaux, in which she immured herself until her death a few years later.
Champlain’s body was interred in the vaults of a little Recollet church in the Lower Town. This church was subsequently burned to the ground, and its very site was not certainly known until recent times. In the year 1867 some workmen were employed in laying water-pipes beneath the flight of stairs called “Breakneck Steps,” leading from Mountain Hill to Little Champlain street. Under a grating at the foot of the steps they discovered the vaults of the old Recollet church, with the remains of the Father of New France enclosed. Independently of his energy, perseverance, and fortitude as an explorer, Samuel de Champlain was a man of considerable mark, and earned for himself an imperishable name in Canadian history. He wrote several important works which, in spite of many defects, bear the stamp of no ordinary mind. His engaging in war with the Iroquois was a fatal error, but it arose from the peculiar position in which he found himself placed at the outset of his western career, and it is difficult to see how anything short of actual experience could have made his error manifest. The purity of his life was proverbial, and was the theme of comment among his survivors for years after his death. He foresaw that his adopted country was destined for a glorious future. “The flourishing cities and towns of this Dominion,” says one of has eulogists, “are enduring monuments to his foresight; and the waters of the beautiful lake that bears his name chant the most fitting requiem to his memory as they break in perpetual murmurings on their shores.”
This sketch would be incomplete without some reference to the mysterious astrolabe which is alleged to have been found in the month of August, 1867, and which is supposed by some to have been lost by Champlain on the occasion of his first voyage up the Ottawa in 1613, as recounted in the preceding pages. The facts of the case may be compressed into few words, although they have given rise to many learned disquisitions which, up to the present time, have been barren of any useful result.
In the month of August, 1867, some men were engaged in cultivating a piece of ground on the rear half of lot number twelve, in the second range of the township of Ross, in the county of Renfrew, Ontario, while turning up the soil, as it is said, they came upon a queer looking instrument, which upon examination proved to be an astrolabe an instrument used in former times to mark the position of the stars, and to assist in computing latitudes, but long since gone out of use. Upon its face was engraved the date 1603. Now, Champlain’s first journey up the Ottawa was made in the summer of 1613, and he must have passed at or near the identical spot where the astrolabe was found. It is claimed that this instrument belonged to Champlain, and that it was lost by him in this place. In support of this claim it is represented that Champlain’s latitudes were always computed with reasonable exactness up to the time of his passing through the portage of which the plot of ground whereon the instrument was found forms a part. After that time his computations are generally erroneous–so erroneous, indeed, as to have led some readers of his journal very seriously astray in following out his course. This, in reality, is all the evidence to be found as to the ownership of the lost astrolabe. Taken by itself, it is reasonably strong circumstantial evidence. On the other hand it may be contended that astrolabes had pretty well gone out of use before the year 1613, and Champlain was a man not likely to be behind his times in the matter of scientific appliances. But the strongest argument is to be found in the fact that Champlain’s journal, which contains minute details of everything that happened from day to day, makes no allusion whatever to his having lost his astraolabe–a circumstance, it would seem, not very likely to be omitted. The question is of course an open one, and has given rise, as has already been said, to much discussion among Canadian archaeologists. It is, however, of little historical importance, and needs no further allusion in these pages.
THE HON. WILLIAM OSGOODE.
In view of the fact that this gentleman’s name has a very fair chance of immortality in this Province, it is to be regretted that so little is accurately known about him, and that only the merest outline of his career has come down to the present times. Many Canadians would gladly know something more of the life of the first man who filled the important position of Chief-Justice of Upper Canada, and the desire for such knowledge is by no means confined to members of the legal profession. He was the faithful friend and adviser of our first Lieutenant-Governor, and it is doubtless to his legal acumen that we owe those eight wise statues which were passed during the first session of our first Provincial Parliament, which assembled at Newark on the 17th of September, 1792.
Nothing is definitely known concerning Chief-Justice Osgoode’s ancestry. A French-Canadian writer asserts that he was an illegitimate son of King George the Third. No authority whatever is assigned in support of this assertion, which probably rests upon no other basis than vague rumour. Similar rumours have been current with respect to the paternity of other persons who have been more or less conspicuous in Canada, and but little importance should be attached to them. He was born in the month of March, 1754, and entered as a commoner at Christchurch College, Oxford, in 1770, when he had nearly completed his sixteenth year. After a somewhat prolonged attendance at this venerable seat of learning, he graduated and received the degree of Master of Arts’ in the month of July, 1777. Previous to this time he had entered himself as a student at the Inner Temple, having already been enrolled as a student on the books of Lincoln’s Inn. He seems at this time to have been possessed of some small means but not sufficient for his support, and he pursued his professional studies with such avidity as temporarily to undermine his health. He paid a short visit to the Continent, and returned to his native land with restored physical and mental vigour. In due course he was called to the Bar, and soon afterwards published a technical work on the law of descent, which attracted some notice from the profession. He soon became known as an erudite and painstaking lawyer, whose opinions were entitled to respect, and who was very expert as a special pleader. At the Bar he was less successful, owing to an almost painful fastidiousness in his choice of words, which frequently produced an embarrassing hesitation of speech. He seems to have been a personal friend of Colonel Simcoe, even before that gentleman’s appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, and their intimacy may possibly have had something to do with Mr. Osgoode’s appointment as Chief-Justice of the new Province in the spring of 1792. He came over in the same vessel with the Governor, who sailed on the 1st of May. Upon reaching Upper Canada the Governor and staff, after a short stay at Kingston, passed on to Newark (now Niagara). The Chief-Justice accompanied the party, and took up his abode with them at Navy Hall, where he continued to reside during the greater part of his stay in the Province which was of less than three years’ duration. The solitude of his position, and his almost complete isolation from society, and from the surroundings of civilized life seem to have been unbearable to his sensitive and social nature. In 1795 he was appointed Chief-Justice of the Lower Province, where he continued to occupy the Judicial Bench until 1801, when he resigned his position, and returned to England. His services as Chief-Justice entitled him to a pension of £800 per annum, which he continued to enjoy for rather more than twenty-two years. For historical purposes, his career may be said to have ceased with his resignation, as he never again emerged from the seclusion of private life. He was several times requested to enter Parliament, but declined to do so. During the four years immediately succeeding his return to England he resided in the Temple. In 1804, upon the conversion of Melbourue House–a mansion in the West End of London–into the fashionable set of chambers known as “The Albany,” he took up his quarters there for the remainder of his life. Among other distinguished men who resided there contemporaneously with him were Lord Brougham and Lord Byron. The latter occupied the set of chambers immediately adjoining those of the retired Chief-Justice, and the two became personally acquainted with each other; though, considering the diversity of their habits, it is not likely that any very close intimacy was established between them. In conjunction with Sir William Grant, Mr. Osgoode was appointed on several legal commissions. One of these consisted of the codification of certain Imperial Statutes relating to the colonies. Another commission in which he took part was an enquiry into the amount of fees receivable by certain officials in the Court of King’s Bench, which enquiry was still pending at the time of his death. He lived very much to himself, though he was sometimes seen in society. He died of acute pneumonia on the 17th of January, 1824, in the seventieth year of his age. One of his intimate friends has left the following estimate of his character:–“His opinions were independent, but zealously loyal; nor were they ever concealed, or the defence of them abandoned, when occasions called them forth. His conviction of the excellence of the English Constitution sometimes made him severe in the reproof of measures which he thought injurious to it; but his politeness and good temper prevented any disagreement even with those whose sentiments were most opposed to his own. To estimate his character rightly, it was, however, necessary to know him well; his first approaches being cold, amounting almost to dryness. But no person admitted to his intimacy ever failed to conceive for him that esteem which his conduct and conversation always tended to augment. He died in affluent circumstances, the result of laudable prudence, without the smallest taint of avarice or illiberal parsimony. On the contrary, he lived generously, and though he never wasted his property, yet he never spared, either to himself or friends, any reasonable indulgence; nor was he backward in acts of charity or benevolence.”
He was never married. There is a story about an attachment formed by him to a young lady of Quebec, during his residence there. It is said that the lady preferred a wealthier suitor, and that he never again became heart-whole. This, like the other story above mentioned, rests upon mere rumour, and is entitled to the credence attached to other rumours of a similar nature. His name is perpetuated in this Province by that of the stately Palace of Justice on Queen Street West, Toronto; also, by the name of a township in the county of Carleton.
Towards the close of last century there was in the City of London, England, a prominent mercantile house which carried on business under the style of “J. Thomson, T. Bonar & Co.” The branch of commerce to which this house chiefly devoted its attention was the Russian trade. It had existed, under various styles, for more than a hundred years, and had built up so extensive a trade as to have a branch establishment at the Russian capital. The senior partner of the firm was John Thomson of Waverley Abbey, and Roehampton, in the county of Surrey. In the year 1820 this gentleman assumed the name of Poulett–in remembrance of his mother, who was heiress of a branch of the family of that name–and he was afterwards known as John Poulett Thomson. In 1781 he married Miss Charlotte Jacob, daughter of a physician at Salisbury. By this lady he had a numerous family, consisting of nine children. The youngest of these, Charles Edward Poulett Thomson, destined to be the first governor of United Canada, and to be raised to the peerage under the title of Baron Sydenham, was born on the 13th of September, 1799, at the family seat in Surrey–Waverley Abbey, above-mentioned. His mother had long been in delicate health, and at the time of his birth was so feeble as to give rise to much solicitude as to her chances of recovery. She finally rallied, but for some months she led the life of an invalid. Her feebleness reflected itself in the constitution of her son, who never attained to much physical strength. The feebleness of his body was doubtless increased by the nervous activity of his intellect, which constantly impelled him to mental feats incompatible with his delicate frame. It may be said that he passed through the forty-two years which made up the measure of his life in a chronic state of bodily infirmity. The fret and worry incidental to an ambitious parliamentary and official career doubtless also contributed their share to the shortening of his life.
His childhood was marked by a sprightly grace and beauty which made him a general favourite. In his fourth year he was for a time the especial pet of his Majesty King George III. He made the King’s acquaintance at Weymouth, where, with other members of his family, he spent part of the summer of 1803. While walking on the Parade, in charge of his nurse, his beauty and sprightliness attracted the notice of His Majesty, who was also spending the season there, in the hope of regaining that physical and mental vigour which never returned to him. The King was much taken with the vivacity and pert replies of the handsome little fellow, and insisted on a daily visit from him. The child’s conquest over the royal heart was complete, and His Majesty seemed to be never so well pleased as when he had little Master Thomson in his arms, carrying him about, and showing him whatever amusing sights the place afforded. On one occasion the King was standing on the shore near the pier-head, in conversation with Mr. Pitt, who had come down from London to confer with His Majesty about affairs of State. His Majesty was about to embark in the royal yacht for a short cruise, and, as was usual at that time of the day, he had Master Thomson in his arms. When just on the point of embarking, he suddenly placed the child in the arms of Mr. Pitt, saying hurriedly, “Is not this a fine boy, Pitt? Take him in your arms, Pitt–take him in your arms. Charming boy, isn’t he?” Pitt complied with the royal request with the best grace he could, and carried the child in his arms to the door of his lodgings.
At the age of seven, Master Thomson was sent to a private school at Hanwell, whence, three years afterwards, he was transferred to the charge of the Rev. Mr. Wooley, at Middleton. After spending a short time there, he became a pupil of the Rev. Mr. Church, at Hampton, where he remained until he had nearly completed his sixteenth year. He then left school–his education, of course, being far from complete–and entered the service of his father’s firm. It was determined that he should begin his mercantile career in the St. Petersburg branch, and in the summer of 1815 he was despatched to Russia. His fine manners and address, combined with the wealth and influence of the firm to which he was allied, obtained him access to the best society of St. Petersburg, where he spent more than two years. In the autumn of 1817, upon his recovery from a rather serious illness, it was thought desirable that he should spend the coming winter in a milder climate than that of St. Petersburg, and he returned to his native land. The next two or three years were spent in travelling on the Continent with other members of his family. He then entered the counting-house in London, where he spent about eighteen months. This brings us down to the year 1821. In the spring of that year he was admitted as a partner in the firm, and once more went out to St. Petersburg, where he again remained nearly two years. He then entered upon a somewhat prolonged tour through central and southern Russia, and across country to Vienna, where he spent the winter of 1823-4, and part of the following spring. Towards the end of April he set out for Paris, where his mother was confined by illness, and where she breathed her last almost immediately after her son’s arrival. Mr. Thomson soon afterwards returned to London, where he settled down as one of the managing partners of the commercial establishment. In this capacity he displayed the same energy which subsequently distinguished his political and diplomatic career. He took a lively interest in the political questions of the day; more especially in those relating to commercial matters. He was a pronounced Liberal, and a strenuous advocate of free-trade. In the summer of 1825 advances were made to him to become the Liberal candidate for Dover at the next election. After due consideration he responded favourably to these advances, and was in due course returned by a considerable majority. One of his earliest votes in the House of Commons was in favour of free-trade. He soon became known as a ready and effective speaker, whose judgment on commercial questions was entitled to respect. His zeal for the principles of his party was also conspicuous, and when Earl Grey formed his Administration in November, 1830, the office of Vice-President of the Board of Trade, together with the Treasurership of the Navy, was offered to and accepted by Mr. Thomson. He was at the same time sworn in as a member of the Privy Council. The acceptance of the former office rendered it necessary for him to sever his connection with the commercial firm of which he had up to this time been a member, and he never again engaged in mercantile business of any kind. By this time, indeed, he had established for himself a reputation of no common order. The part he had taken in the debates of the House, and in the proceedings of its Committees, on questions connected with commerce and finance, had proved him to possess not only a clear practical acquaintance with the details of these subjects, but also principles of an enlarged and liberal character, and powers of generalization and a comprehensiveness of view rarely found combined in so young a man. The next three or four years were busy ones with him. It will be remembered that this was the era of the Reform Bill. Mr. Thomson did not take a prominent part in the discussions on that measure, his time being fully occupied with the financial and fiscal policy, but he put forth the weight of his influence in favour of the Bill. His principal efforts, during his tenure of office, were directed to the simplification and amendment of the Customs Act, and to an ineffectual attempt to negotiate a commercial treaty with France. After the dissolution in 1831 he was re-elected for Dover. He was, however, also elected–without any canvass or solicitation on his part–for Manchester, the most important manufacturing constituency in the kingdom; and he chose to sit for the latter. In 1834 he succeeded to the Presidency of the Board of Trade, as successor to Lord Auckland. Then followed Earl Grey’s resignation and Lord Melbourne’s accession. On the dismissal of the Ministry in November, Mr. Thomson was, of course, left without office, but on Lord Melbourne’s re-accession in the following spring he was reinstated in the Presidency of the Board of Trade–an office which he continued to hold until his appointment as Governor-General of Canada.
Early in 1836 his health had become so seriously affected by his official labours that he began to recognize the necessity of resigning his office, and of accepting some post which would not so severely tax his energies. He continued to discharge his official duties, however, until the reconstruction of Lord Melbourne’s Administration in 1839, when he signified his wish to be relieved. He was offered a choice between the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer and that of Governor-General of Canada. He chose the latter, and having received his appointment and been sworn in before the Privy Council, he set sail from Portsmouth for Quebec on the 13th of September, which was the fortieth anniversary of his birth. He reached his destination after a tedious, stormy voyage, and assumed the reins of government on the 19th of October. He was well received in this country. The mercantile community of Canada were especially disposed to favour the appointment of a man who had himself been bred to commercial pursuits, and who would be likely to feel a more than ordinary interest in promoting commercial interests.
Canada was at this time in a state of transition. Owing to the strenuous exertions of the Reform party in this country, seconded by Lord Durham’s famous “Report,” the concession of Responsible Government and the union of the provinces had been determined upon by the Home Ministry. It was Mr. Thomson’s mission to see these two most desirable objects carried out. He had a most difficult part to play. As a pronounced Liberal, he naturally had the confidence of the Reform party, but there were a few prominent members of that party who did not approve of the Union project, and he felt that he could not count upon their cordial support. True, the opponents of the measure constituted a very small minority of the Reform party generally; but there was another party from whom the strongest opposition was to be expected–the Family Compact. This faction was not yet extinct, though its days were numbered. It still controlled the Legislative Council, which body had already recorded a vote hostile to the Union. The situation was one calling for the exercise of great tact, and the new Governor-General proved himself equal to the occasion. He made no changes in the composition either of the Special Council of the Lower Province–a body formed under Imperial sanction by Sir John Colborne–or in that of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada. After a short stay at Quebec he proceeded to Montreal, and convoked the Special Council on the 11th of November. He laid before this body the views of the Imperial Ministry relating to the union of the Provinces, and the concession of Responsible Government. By the time the Council had been in session two days the majority of the members were fully in accord with the Governor’s views, and a series of resolutions were passed as a basis of Union. This disposed of the question, so far as the Lower Province was concerned, and after discharging the Council from further attendance, Mr. Thomson proceeded to Toronto to gain the assent of the Upper Canadian Legislature. With the Assembly no difficulty was anticipated, but to gain the assent of the Tory majority in the Legislative Council would evidently be no easy matter, for the success of the Governor’s policy involved the triumph of Reform principles, and the inevitable downfall of the Family Compact. The Governor’s tact, however, placed them in an anomalous position. For several years past the Tory party had been boasting of their success in putting down the Rebellion, and had raised a loud and senseless howl of loyalty. They were never weary of proclaiming their devotion to the Imperial will, irrespective of selfish considerations. This cry, which had been perpetually resounding throughout the Province during the last three years, supplied the Governor with the means of bending to his pleasure those who had raised it. He delivered a message to the Legislature in which he defined the Imperial policy, and appealed in the strongest terms to those professions of loyalty which the Tory majority in the Council were for ever proclaiming. He also published a circular despatch from Lord John Russell, the tone of which was an echo of that of his own message. The Tory majority were thus placed on the horns of a dilemma. They must either display their much-vaunted loyalty, by acceding to the Imperial will, or they must admit that their blatant professions had been mere party cries to deceive the electors. Their opposition, moreover, would render necessary the resignation of their offices. With the best grace they could, they announced their intention to support the Imperial policy. The Assembly passed resolutions in accordance with the spirit of Governor’s message. Nothing further was necessary to render the Union an accomplished fact; except the sanction of the Imperial Parliament. A Union Bill, framed under the supervision of Sir James Stuart, Chief Justice of Lower Canada, was forwarded to England, where, in a slightly modified form, it was passed by both Houses, and received the royal assent. Owing to a suspending clause in the Bill, it did not come into operation until the 10th of February, 1841, when, by virtue of the Governor-General’s proclamation, the measure took effect, and the union of the Canadas was complete.
Soon after the close of the session of the Upper Canadian Legislature, Mr. Thomson was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Sydenham, of Sydenham, in Kent, and Toronto in Canada. The greater part of the following autumn was spent by him in travelling about through the Upper Province. He seems to have been greatly pleased both with the country and the people. The following extract from a private letter, written from the shores of the Bay of Quinté on the 18th of September, is worth quoting, as showing the impressions of an intelligent observer at that time:–“Amherstburg, Sandwich, River St. Clair, Lake Huron, Goderich, Chatham, London, Woodstock, Brantford, Simcoe, the Talbot Road and Settlement, Hamilton, Dundas, and so back to Toronto–you can follow me on a map. From Toronto across Lake Simcoe to Penetangnishene on Lake Huron again, and back to Toronto, which I left again last night for the Bay of Quinté, all parties uniting in addresses at every place, full of confidence in my government, and of a determination to forget their former disputes. Escorts of two and three hundred farmers on horseback at every place from township to township, with all the etceteras of guns, music, and flags. What is of more importance, my candidates everywhere taken for the ensuing elections. In short, such unanimity and confidence I never saw, and it augurs well for the future…. The fact is that the truth of my original notion of the people of this country is now confirmed. The _mass_ only wanted the vigorous interference of a well-intentioned government, strong enough to control both the extreme parties, and to proclaim wholesome truths and act for the benefit of the country at large, in defiance of ultras on either side. But, apart from all this political effort, I am delighted to have seen this part of the country–I mean the great district, nearly as large as Ireland, placed between the three lakes, Erie, Ontario, and Huron. You can conceive nothing finer. The most magnificent soil in the world; four feet of vegetable mould; a climate, certainly the best in North America. The greater part of it admirably watered. In a word, there is land enough and capabilities enough for some millions of people, and for one of the finest Provinces in the world. The most perfect contrast to that miserable strip of land along the St. Lawrence called Lower Canada, which has given so much trouble. I shall fix the capital of the United Provinces in this one, of course. Kingston will most probably be the place. But there is everything to be done there yet, to provide accommodation for the meeting of the Assembly in the spring.”
As suggested in the foregoing extract, Kingston was fixed upon as the seat of Government of the United Provinces, and the Legislature assembled there on the 13th of June, 1841. The Governor-General’s speech at the opening of the session was marked by tact, moderation, and good sense. A strong Opposition, however, soon began to manifest itself, and Mr. Neilson, of Quebec, moved an amendment to the Address directly condemnatory of the Union. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 50 to 25. Throughout the session nearly all the Government measures received the support of the House, an important exception being the French Election Bill. Meanwhile the state of Lord Sydenham’s health was such as to render his duties very difficult for him, and as the great object of his mission to Canada had been successfully accomplished, he resolved to return home at the close of the session. He forwarded his resignation to the Home Secretary, having already received leave of absence which would obviate the necessity of his remaining at his post until the acceptance of his resignation. Of this leave, however, he was not destined to avail himself. On the 4th of September he felt himself well enough to ride out on horseback. While returning homeward he put his horse to a canter, just as he began to ascend a little hill not far from Alwington House, his residence, near the lake shore. When about half way up the hill, the horse stumbled and fell, crashing his rider’s right leg beneath his weight. The animal rose to its feet and dragged Lord Sydenham–whose right foot was fast in the stirrup–for a short distance. One of his aides, who just then rode up, rescued the Governor from his perilous position and conveyed him home, when it was found that the principal bone of his right leg, above the knee, had sustained an oblique fracture, and that the limb had also received a severe wound from being bruised against a sharp stone, which had cut deeply and lacerated the flesh and sinews. Notwithstanding these serious injuries, and the shock which his nervous system had sustained, his medical attendants did not at first anticipate danger to his life. He continued free from fever, and his wounds seemed to be going on satisfactorily; but he was debilitated by perpetual sleeplessness and inability to rest long in one position. On the ninth day after his injury dangerous symptoms began to manifest themselves, and it soon became apparent that he would not recover. After a fortnight of great suffering, he breathed his last on Sunday, the 19th, having completed his forty-second year six days previously.
“His fame,” says his biographer, “must rest not so much on what he did or said in Parliament as on what he did and proposed to do out of it–on his consistent and to a great degree successful efforts to expose the fallacy of the miscalled Protective system, and gradually, but effectively, to root it out of the statute-book, and thereby to free the universal industry of Britain from the mischievous shackles imposed by an ignorant and mistaken selfishness.”
His Canadian administration may be looked upon as a brief and brilliant episode in his public career. In private life he was much loved and highly esteemed. His amiable disposition and pleasing manner excited the warmest attachment among those who were admitted to his intimacy, and in every circumstance that affected their happiness he always appeared to take a lively personal interest. In the midst of his occupations he always had time for works of kindness and charity. In a letter to an idle friend who had been remiss in correspondence, he once said, “Of course you have no time. No one ever has who has nothing to do.” His assistance was always promptly and eagerly afforded whenever he could serve his friends, or confer a favour on a deserving object. His integrity and sense of honour were high, and his disinterestedness was almost carried to excess. The remuneration for his official services was lower than that of any other official of equal standing, and far below his deserts. Never having married, however, owing to an early disappointment, his needs were moderate, and his private fortune considerable. His person and manner were very prepossessing, and his aptitude and acquired knowledge great. He was very popular in the social circle, and his death left a void among his friends which was never filled.
“Go to; the boy is a born generalissimo, and is destined to be a Marshal of France,” said M. Ricot, holding up his hands in amazement. The boy referred to was a little fellow seven or eight years of age, by name Louis Joseph de Saint Veran. M. Ricot was his tutor, and was led to express himself after this fashion in consequence of some precocious criticisms of his pupil on the tactics employed by Caius Julius Cæsar at a battle fought in Transalpine Gaul fifty odd years before the advent of the Christian era. It was evident to the critic’s youthful mind that the battle ought to have resulted differently, and that if the foes of “the mighty Julius” had had the wit to take advantage of his indiscretion, certain pages of the “Commentaries” might have been conceived in a less boastful spirit. Little Louis Joseph had sketched a rough plan, showing the respective positions of the opposing forces, and had then demanded of his tutor why _this_ had not been done, why _that_ had been neglected, and why _the other_ had never been even so much as thought of. M. Ricot, after carefully following out the reasoning of his pupil, could find no weak point therein, and was fain to admit that the Great Roman had been guilty of a huge blunder in the arrangement of his forces. Fortunately for the General’s military reputation, the Gauls had been beaten in spite of his defective strategy, and he himself had survived to transmit to posterity a rather egotistical account of the affair. M. Ricot had been reading those “Commentaries” all his life–reading them, as he supposed, critically–but he had never lighted upon the discovery which his present pupil had made upon a first perusal. Well might he exclaim, “Go to; the boy is a born generalissimo, and is destined to be a marshal of France.”
Such is the anecdote–preserved in an old volume of French memoirs–of the childhood of him who subsequently became famous on two continents, and who for more than a hundred years past has been accounted one of the most redoubtable commanders of his age. If the story is true, certainly the Marquis de Montcalm did not carry out the splendid promise of his boyhood. He lived to fight the battles of his country with unflinching courage, with a tolerable amount of military skill, and with a tenacity of purpose that often achieved success against tremendous odds. But, unlike the great general to whom, during the last few weeks of his life, it was his fortune to be opposed, he never gave any evidence of possessing an original military genius–such a genius as would seem to have been possessed by the youth who figures in the foregoing anecdote. His chivalrous bravery, his high-bred courtesy, and, more than all, his untimely death, have done much to make his name famous in history, and to obscure certain features of character which we are not usually accustomed to associate with greatness. “History,” says Cooper, “is like love, and is apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness. It is probable that Louis de Saint Veran will be viewed by posterity only as the gallant defender of his country, while his cruel apathy on the shores of the Oswego and the Horican will be forgotten.”
He was descended from a noble French family, and was born at the Chateau of Candiac, near Nismes, in southern France, on the 28th of February, 1712. Concerning his early years but few particulars have come down to us. He seems to have entered the army before he had completed his fourteenth year, and to have distinguished himself in various campaigns in Germany, Bohemia and Italy during the war for the Austrian succession. At the disastrous battle of Piacenza, in Italy, fought in the year 1746, he gained the rank of colonel; and in 1749 he became a brigadier-general. Seven years subsequent to the latter date he began to figure conspicuously in Canadian history, and from that time forward we are able to trace his career pretty closely. Early in 1756, having been elevated to the rank of a Field-Marshal–thus verifying the prediction of his old tutor–he was appointed successor to the Baron Dieskau in the chief command of the French forces in this country. He sailed from France early in April, and arrived at Quebec about a month afterwards. He was accompanied across the Atlantic by a large reinforcement, consisting of nearly 14,000 regular troops, and an ample supply of munitions of war. He at once began to set on foot those active operations against the British in America which were followed up with such unremitting vigilance throughout the greater part of the following three years.
The state of affairs in Canada at this period may be briefly summarized as follows:–The Government was administered by the Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, a man ill-fitted for so onerous a position in such troublous times. The colony extended from the seaboard to the far west, through the valley of the Ohio, and had a white population of about 80,000. Previous to Montcalm’s arrival there were 3,000 veteran French troops in the country, in addition to a well-trained militia. The country, indeed, was an essentially military settlement, and the people felt that they might at any time be called upon to defend their frontiers. The countless tribes and offshoots of the Huron-Algonquin Indians had cast in their lot with the French, and were to contribute not a little to the success of many of their warlike operations. The French, by means of their forts at Niagara, Toronto and Frontenac (Kingston), held almost undisputed sovereignty over Lake Ontario; and their forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga enabled them to control Lake Champlain.
Still, the French colonists laboured under some serious disadvantages, which contributed eventually to decide the contest adversely to them. They had given comparatively little attention to the cultivation of the soil, and suffered from a chronic scarcity of food. They were subjected to feudal exactions ill-suited to the condition of the country, and were further impoverished by huge commercial monopolies. Every branch of the public service was corrupt, and the peculations of the officials, if not shared by the Governor himself, were at least winked at or sanctioned by him. Montcalm, whatever may have been his shortcomings in some respects, was no self-seeker, and was very properly disgusted with the mal-administration which everywhere prevailed. His dissatisfaction with, and contempt for, the Governor, had the effect of producing much internal dissention among the Canadians, and of hastening the downfall of French dominion in the colony.
The population of the British colonies at this time was not much less than three millions; but this population, unlike that of Canada, knew little of military affairs. The British colonists had spent their time in commercial and agricultural pursuits, and had not cast loose from the spirit of puritanism which had animated the breasts of their forefathers. As compared with the mother-country they were poor enough in all conscience, but they were as a rule, frugal, industrious and intelligent; and, as compared with their Canadian neighbours, they might almost be said to be in affluent circumstances. They possessed in an eminent degree those qualities–energy, endurance, and courage–which mark the Anglo-Saxon race in every quarter of the globe. Such a foe, if once disciplined and roused to united action, was not to be despised, even by the veteran battalions of France, and the most Christian King showed his appreciation of this fact by sending against them a general who was regarded as the most consummate soldier in Europe.
Having arrived at Quebec about the middle of May, Montcalm lost no time in opening the campaign. One of his earliest proceedings was to lay siege to Fort Oswego, which after a faint resistance, was compelled to surrender. Articles of capitulation were signed, the British laid down their arms, and the fort was delivered over to the conquerors. One hundred and thirty-four cannon and a large quantity of specie and military stores became the spoil of the victors, and more than 1,600 British subjects, including 120 women and children, became prisoners of war.
Up to this epoch in his career the conduct of the Marquis de Montcalm had been such as to deserve the unqualified admiration alike of his contemporaries and of posterity. Though not past his prime, he had achieved the highest military distinction which his sovereign could bestow. His chivalrous courage had been signally displayed on many a hard-fought field, and his urbanity, amiability, and generosity had made him the idol of his soldiers. He had a manner at once grand and ingratiating, and in his intercourse with others he manifested a _bonhomme_ that caused him to be beloved alike by the simple soldier and the haughty _noblesse_ of his native land. Considering his opportunities he had been a diligent student, and had improved his mind by familiarity with the productions of many of the greatest writers of ancient and modern times. By far the greater part of his life had been spent in the service of his country, and when compelled to endure the privations incidental to an active military life in the midst of war, he had ever been ready to share his crust with the humblest soldier in the ranks. Up to this time every action of his life had seemed to indicate that he was a man of high principle and stainless honour. If it had been his good fortune to die before the fall of Oswego his name would have been handed down to future times as a perfect mirror of chivalry–a knight without fear and without reproach. It is sad to think that a career hitherto without a blot should have been marred with repeated acts of cruelty and breaches of faith. On both counts of this indictment the Marquis of Montcalm must be pronounced guilty; and in view of his conduct at Oswego, and afterwards at Fort William Henry, the only conclusion at which the impartial historian can arrive is that he was lamentably deficient in the highest attributes of character.
Fort Oswego was surrendered on the 14th of August. By the terms of capitulation the sick and wounded were specially entrusted to Montcalm, whose word was solemnly pledged for their protection and safe conduct. How was the pledge redeemed? No sooner were the British deprived of their arms than the Indian allies of the French were permitted to swoop down upon the defenceless prisoners and execute upon them their savage will. The sick and wounded were scalped, slain, and barbarously mutilated before the eyes of the Marshal of France, who had guaranteed that not a hair of their heads should fall. Nay, more; a score of the prisoners were deliberately handed over to the savages to be ruthlessly butchered, as an offering to the manes of an equal number of Indians who had been slain during the siege.
Such are the unimpeachable facts of the massacre at Oswego. It is not probable that these proceedings on the part of the Indians were agreeable to the feelings of Montcalm, or that he consented to them with a very good grace. The noble representative of the highest civilization in Europe could scarcely have taken pleasure in witnessing the hideous massacre of defenceless women and children. But he was anxious to retain the co-operation of his red allies at any cost, and had not the moral greatness to exercise his authority to restrain their savage lust for blood. It has been contended by some defenders of his fame that he had no choice in the matter–that the ferocity of the savages was aroused, and could not be controlled. It is sufficient to say in reply that those who argue thus must wilfully shut their eyes to the facts. Was it because he could not restrain his allies that he, without remonstrance, delivered up to them twenty British soldiers to be tortured, cut to pieces, and burned? Was he unable to restrain them when he finally became sickened with their butchery and personally interposed to prevent its further continuance? From the moment when his will was unmistakably made known to the Indians the massacre ceased; and if he had been true to himself and his solemnly-plighted word from the beginning, that massacre would never have begun. By no specious argument can he be held guiltless of the blood of those luckless victims whose dismembered limbs were left to fester before the entrenchments at Oswego.
With the surrender of Oswego Great Britain lost her last vestige of control over Lake Ontario. The fort was demolished, and the French returned to the eastern part of the Province. The result of the campaign of 1756 was decidedly in favour of the French, and Montcalm’s reputation as a military commander rose rapidly, though his conduct at Oswego led to his being looked upon with a sort of distrust that had never before attached to his name. His courage and generalship, however, were unimpeachable, and his vigilance never slept. During the following winter his spies scoured the frontiers of the British settlements, and gained early intelligence of every important movement of the forces. Among other information, he learned that the British had a vast store of provisions and munitions of war at Fort William Henry, at the southwestern extremity of Lake George. Early in the spring, Montcalm resolved to capture this fort, and to possess himself of the stores. On the 16th of March, 1757, he landed on the opposite side of the lake, at a place called Long Point. Next day, having rounded the head of the lake, he attacked the fort; but the garrison made a vigorous defence, and he was compelled to retire to Fort Ticonderoga, at the foot of the lake! For several months afterwards his attention was distracted from Fort William Henry by operations in different parts of the Province; but early in the month of August he renewed the attempt with a force consisting of 7,000 French and Canadian troops, 2,000 Indians, and a powerful train of artillery. The garrison consisted of 2,300 men, besides women and children. To tell the story of the second siege and final surrender of Fort William Henry would require pages. Suffice it to say that the dire tragedy of Oswego was re-enacted on a much more extended scale. For six days the garrison was valiantly defended by Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, a veteran of the 35th Regiment of the line. Day after day did the gallant old soldier defend his trust, waiting in vain for succours that never arrived. Finally, when he learned that no succours were to be expected, and that to prolong the strife would simply be to throw away the lives of his men, he had an interview with the French commander and agreed to an honourable capitulation.
Again did Montcalm pledge his sacred word for the safety of the garrison, which was to be escorted to Fort Edward by a detatchment of French troops. The sick and wounded were to be taken under his own protection until their recovery, when they were to be permitted to return to their own camp.
Such were the terms of capitulation; terms which were honourable, to the victor, and which the vanquished could accept without ignominy. How were these terms carried out? No sooner were the garrison well clear of the fort than the shrill war-whoop of the Indians was heard, and there ensued a slaughter so terrible, so indiscriminate, and so inconceivably hideous in all its details that even the history of pioneer warfare hardly furnishes any parallel to it. Nearly a thousand victims were slain on the spot, and hundreds more were carried away into hopeless captivity. No more graphic or historically accurate description of that scene has ever been written than is to be found in “The Last of the Mohicans,” where we read that no sooner had the war-whoop sounded than upwards of two thousand raging savages burst from the forest and threw themselves across the plain with instinctive alacrity. “Death was everywhere, in its most terrific and disgusting aspects. Resistance only served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their furious blows long after their victims were beyond the reach of their resentment. The flow of blood might be likened to the outbreaking of a gushing torrent; and as the natives became heated and maddened by the sight, many among them kneeled on the earth and drank; freely, exultingly, hellishly, of the crimson tide. The trained bodies of the British troops threw themselves quickly into solid masses, endeavouring to awe their assailants by the imposing appearance of a military front. The experiment in some measure succeeded, though many suffered their unloaded muskets to be torn from their hands in the vain hope of appeasing the savages.”
It has been alleged on Montcalm’s behalf that when the slaughter began he used his utmost endeavours to arrest it. His utmost endeavours! Why, even if his command was insufficient to restrain his allies, he had seven thousand regular troops with arms in their hands, at his back. Instead of theatrically baring his breast, and calling upon the savages to slay him in place of the English, for whom his honour was plighted, he would have done well to have kept that honour unsullied by observing the plain terms of capitulation, and providing a suitable escort. Instead of calling upon the British–hampered as they were by the presence of their sick, and of their women and children–to defend themselves, he should have called upon his own troops to protect his honour and that of France. Had his promised escort been provided no attempt would have been made by the Indians, and the tragedy at Oswego might in process of time have come to be regarded as a mere mischance. But no such excuse can now be of any avail. According to some accounts of this second massacre, no escort whatever was furnished. According to others, the escort was a mere mockery, consisting of a totally inadequate number of French troops, who were very willing to see their enemies butchered, and who did not even make any attempt to restrain their allies. All that can be known for certain is, that if there was any escort at all it was wholly ineffective; and, leaving humanity altogether out of the question, this was in itself an express violation of the terms upon which the garrison had been surrendered. The massacre at Fort William Henry followed one short year after that at Oswego, and the two combined have left a stain upon the memory of the man who permitted them which no time can ever wash away.
Time and space alike fail us to describe at length the subsequent campaigns of that and the following year. Montcalm’s defence of Fort Ticonderoga on the 8th of June, 1758, was a masterly piece of strategy, and was unmarred by any incident to detract from the honour of his victory, which was achieved against stupendous odds. Ticonderoga continued to be Montcalm’s headquarters until Quebec was threatened by the British under Wolfe; when he at once abandoned the shores of Lake Champlain, and mustered all his forces for the defence of the capital of the French colony.
The siege of Quebec has been described at length in a former sketch, and it is unnecessary to add much to that description here. It will be remembered how Wolfe landed at _L’Anse du Foulon_ in the darkness of the night of September 12th, 1759, and how the British troops scaled the precipitous heights leading to the Plains of Abraham. Intelligence of this momentous event reached Montcalm, at his headquarters at Beauport, about daybreak on the morning of the 13th. “Aha,” said the General, “then they have at last got to the weak side of this miserable garrison.” He at once issued orders to break up the camp, and led his army across the St. Charles River, past the northern ramparts of the city, and thence on to the plains of Abraham, where Wolfe and his forces were impatiently awaiting his arrival. The battle was of short duration. The first deadly volley fired by the British decided the fortunes of the day, and the French fled across the plains in the direction of the citadel. Montcalm, who had himself received a dangerous wound, rode hither and thither, and used his utmost endeavour to rally his flying troops. While so engaged he received a mortal wound, and sank to the ground. From that moment there was no attempt to oppose the victorious British, whose general had likewise fallen in the conflict.
Montcalm’s wound, though mortal, was not immediately so, and he survived until the following day. When the surgeons proceeded to examine his wound the general asked if it was mortal. They replied in the affirmative. “How long before the end?” he calmly enquired. He was informed that the end was not far off, and would certainly, arrive before many hours. “So much the better,” was the comment of the dying soldier–“I shall not live to see the surrender of Quebec.” The commander of the garrison asked for instructions as to the further defence of the city, but Montcalm declined to occupy himself any longer with worldly affairs. Still, even at this solemn moment, the courteous urbanity by which he had always been distinguished did not desert him. “To your keeping,” he said, to De Ramesey, “I commend the honour of France. I wish you all comfort, and that you may be happily extricated from your present perplexities. As for me, my time is short, and I have matters of more importance to attend to than the defence of Quebec I shall pass the night with God, and prepare myself for death.” Not long afterwards he again spoke: “Since it was my misfortune to be discomfitted and mortally wounded, it is a great consolation to me to be vanquished by so great and generous an enemy. If I could survive this wound, I would engage to beat three times the number of such forces as I commanded this morning with a third of their number of British troops.” His chaplain arrived about this time, accompanied by the bishop of the colony, from whom the dying man received the last sacred offices of the Roman Catholic religion. He lingered for some hours afterwards, and finally passed away, to all outward seeming, with calmness and resignation.
It seems like an ungrateful task to recur to the frailties of a brave and chivalrous man, more especially when he dies in the odour of sanctity. But as we ponder upon that final scene in the life of the gay, charming, brilliant Marquis of Montcalm, we cannot avoid wondering whether the “sheeted ghosts” of the wounded men, helpless women, and innocent babes who