France and England in North America, a Series of Historical Narratives, Part Third by Francis Parkman

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  • 1870
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The discovery of the “Great West,” or the valleys of the Mississippi and the Lakes, is a portion of our history hitherto very obscure. Those magnificent regions were revealed to the world through a series of daring enterprises, of which the motives and even the incidents have been but partially and superficially known. The chief actor in them wrote much, but printed nothing; and the published writings of his associates stand wofully in need of interpretation from the unpublished documents which exist, but which have not heretofore been used as material for history.

This volume attempts to supply the defect. Of the large amount of wholly new material employed in it, by far the greater part is drawn from the various public archives of France, and the rest from private sources. The discovery of many of these documents is due to the indefatigable research of M. Pierre Margry, assistant custodian of the Archives of the Marine and Colonies at Paris, whose labors, as an investigator of the maritime and colonial history of France can be appreciated only by those who have seen their results. In the department of American colonial history, these results have been invaluable; for, besides several private collections made by him, he rendered important service in the collection of the French portion of the Brodhead documents, selected and arranged the two great series of colonial papers ordered by the Canadian government, and prepared, with vast labor, analytical indexes of these and of supplementary documents in the French archives, as well as a copious index of the mass of papers relating to Louisiana. It is to be hoped that the valuable publications on the maritime history of France which have appeared from his pen are an earnest of more extended contributions in future.

The late President Sparks, some time after the publication of his life of La Salle, caused a collection to be made of documents relating to that explorer, with the intention of incorporating them in a future edition. This intention was never carried into effect, and the documents were never used. With the liberality which always distinguished him, he placed them at my disposal, and this privilege has been, kindly continued by Mrs. Sparks.

Abbé Faillon, the learned author of “La Colonie Française en Canada,” has sent me copies of various documents found by him, including family papers of La Salle. Among others who in various ways have aided my inquiries, are Dr. John Paul, of Ottawa, Ill.; Count Adolphe de Circourt and M. Jules Marcou, of Paris; M. A. Gérin Lajoie, Assistant Librarian of the Canadian Parliament; M. J. M. Le Moine, of Quebec; General Dix, Minister of the United States at the Court of France; O. H. Marshall, of Buffalo; J. G. Shea, of New York; Buckingham Smith, of St. Augustine; and Colonel Thomas Aspinwall, of Boston.

The map contained in the book is a portion of the great manuscript map of Franquelin, of which an account will be found in the Appendix.

The next volume of the series will be devoted to the efforts of Monarchy and Feudalism under Louis XIV. to establish a permanent power on this continent, and to the stormy career of Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac.

BOSTON, 16 September, 1869.




The Youth of La Salle.–His Connection with the Jesuits.–He goes to Canada.–His Character.–His Schemes.–His Seigniory at La Chine.–His Expedition in Search of a Western Passage to India.


The French in Western New York.–Louis Joliet.–The Sulpitians on Lake Erie.–At Detroit.–At Saut Ste. Marie.–The Mystery of La Salle.–He discovers the Ohio.–He descends the Illinois.–Did he reach the Mississippi?


The Old Missions and the New.–A Change of Spirit.–Lake Superior and the Copper Mines.–Ste. Marie.–La Pointe.–Michillimackinac.– Jesuits on Lake Michigan.–Allouez and Dablon.–The Jesuit Fur-Trade.


Talon.–St. Lusson.–Perrot.–The Ceremony at Saut Ste. Marie.– The Speech of Allouez.–Count Frontenac.


Joliet sent to find the Mississippi.–Jacques Marquette.–Departure.– Green Bay.–The Wisconsin.–The Mississippi.–Indians.–Manitous. –The Arkansas.–The Illinois.–Joliet’s Misfortune.–Marquette at Chicago.–His Illness.–His Death.


Objects of La Salle.–His Difficulties.–Official Corruption in Canada.– The Governor of Montreal.–Projects of Frontenac.–Cataraqui.– Frontenac on Lake Ontario.–Fort Frontenac.–Success of La Salle.


The Abbé Fénelon.–He attacks the Governor.–The Enemies of La Salle.–Aims of the Jesuits.–Their Hostility to La Salle.


La Salle and his Reporter.–Jesuit Ascendancy.–The Missions and the Fur-Trade.–Female Inquisitors.–Plots against La Salle.–His Brother the Priest.–Intrigues of the Jesuits.–La Salle poisoned.– He exculpates the Jesuits.–Renewed Intrigues.


La Salle at Fort Frontenac.–La Salle at Court.–His Plans approved.– Henri de Tonty.–Preparation for Departure.


Father Louis Hennepin.–His Past Life; His Character.–Embarkation. –Niagara Falls.–Indian Jealousy.–La Motte and the Senecas.– A Disaster.–La Salle and his Followers.


The Niagara Portage.–A Vessel on the Stocks.–Suffering and Discontent.–La Salle’s Winter Journey.–The Vessel launched.–Fresh Disasters.


The Voyage of the “Griffin.”–Detroit.–A Storm.–St. Ignace of Michillimackinac.–Rivals and Enemies–Lake Michigan.–Hardships. –A Threatened Fight.–Fort Miami.–Tonty’s Misfortunes.– Forebodings.


The St. Joseph.–Adventure of La Salle.–The Prairies.–Famine.– The Great Town of the Illinois.–Indians.–Intrigues.–Difficulties. –Policy of La Salle.–Desertion.–Another Attempt to poison him.


Building of the Fort.–Loss of the “Griffin.”–A Bold Resolution.– Another Vessel.–Hennepin sent to the Mississippi.–Departure of La Salle.


The Winter Journey.–The Deserted Town.–Starved Rock.–Lake Michigan.–The Wilderness.–War Parties.–La Salle’s Men give out.–Ill Tidings.–Mutiny.–Chastisement of the Mutineers.


The Enterprise renewed.–Attempt to rescue Tonty.–Buffalo.–A Frightful Discovery.–Iroquois Fury.–The Ruined Town.–A Night of Horror.–Traces of the Invaders.–No News of Tonty.


The Deserters.–The Iroquois War.–The Great Town of the Illinois.– The Alarm.–Onset of the Iroquois.–Peril of Tonty.–A Treacherous Truce.–Intrepidity of Tonty.–Murder of Ribourde.–War upon the Dead.


Hennepin an Impostor.–His Pretended Discovery.–His Actual Discovery. –Captured by the Sioux.–The Upper Mississippi.

1680, 1681.

Signs of Danger.–Adoption.–Hennepin and his Indian Relatives.–The Hunting-Party.–The Sioux Camp.–Falls of St. Anthony.–A Vagabond Friar.–His Adventures on the Mississippi.–Greysolon Du Lhut.–Return to Civilization.


His Constancy.–His Plans.–His Savage Allies.–He becomes Snow-blind. –Negotiations.–Grand Council.–La Salle’s Oratory.–Meeting with Tonty.–Preparation.–Departure.


His Followers.–The Chicago Portage.–Descent of the Mississippi.–The Lost Hunter.–The Arkansas.–The Taensas.–The Natchez.–Hostility.–The Mouth of the Mississippi.–Louis XIV. proclaimed Sovereign of the Great West.


Louisiana.–Illness of La Salle.–His Colony on the Illinois.–Fort St. Louis.–Recall of Frontenac.–Le Fèvre de la Barre.–Critical Position of La Salle.–Hostility of the New Governor.–Triumph of the Adverse Faction.–La Salle sails for France.


La Salle at Court.–His Proposals.–Occupation of Louisiana.–Invasion of Mexico.–Royal Favor.–Preparation.–The Naval Commander.–His Jealousy of La Salle.–Dissensions.


Departure.–Quarrels with Beaujeu.–St. Domingo.–La Salle attacked with Fever.–His Desperate Condition.–The Gulf of Mexico.–A Fatal Error.–Landing.–Wreck of the “Aimable.”–Indian Attack.–Treachery of Beaujeu.–Omens of Disaster.


The Fort.–Misery and Dejection.–Energy of La Salle.–His Journey of Exploration.–Duhaut.–Indian Massacre.–Return of La Salle. –A New Calamity.–A Desperate Resolution.–Departure for Canada.–Wreck of the “Belle.”–Marriage.–Sedition.–Adventures of La Salle’s Party.–The Cenis.–The Camanches.–The Only Hope.–The Last Farewell.


His Followers.–Prairie Travelling.–A Hunter’s Quarrel.–The Murder of Moranget.–The Conspiracy.–Death of La Salle.–His Character.

1687, 1688.

Triumph of the Murderers.–Joutel among the Cenis.–White Savages. –Insolence of Duhaut and his Accomplices.–Murder of Duhaut and Liotot.–Hiens, the Buccaneer.–Joutel and his Party.–Their Escape.–They reach the Arkansas.–Bravery and Devotion of Tonty.–The Fugitives reach the Illinois.–Unworthy Conduct of Cavelier.–He and his Companions return to France.


Tonty attempts to rescue the Colonists.–His Difficulties and Hardships. –Spanish Hostility.–Expedition of Alonzo De Leon.–He reaches Fort St. Louis.–A Scene of Havoc.–Destruction of the French.–The End.


I. Early unpublished Maps of the Mississippi and the Great Lakes. II. The Eldorado of Mathieu Sâgean.


[Illustration: LA SALLE’S COLONY on the Illinois FROM THE MAP OF FRANQUELIN, 1684.]


The Spaniards discovered the Mississippi. De Soto was buried beneath its waters; and it was down its muddy current that his followers fled from the Eldorado of their dreams, transformed to a dismal wilderness of misery and death. The discovery was never used, and was well-nigh forgotten. On early Spanish maps, the Mississippi is often indistinguishable from other affluents of the Gulf. A century passed after De Soto’s journeyings in the South, before a French explorer reached a northern tributary of the great river.

This was Jean Nicollet, interpreter at Three Rivers on the St. Lawrence. He had been some twenty years in Canada, had lived among the savage Algonquins of Allumette Island, and spent eight or nine years among the Nipissings, on the lake which bears their name. Here he became an Indian in all his habits, but remained, nevertheless, a zealous Catholic, and returned to civilization at last because he could not live without the sacraments. Strange stories were current among the Nipissings of a people without hair and without beards, who came from the West to trade with a tribe beyond the Great Lakes. Who could doubt that these strangers were Chinese or Japanese? Such tales may well have excited Nicollet’s curiosity; and when, in or before the year 1639, he was sent as an ambassador to the tribe in question, he would not have been surprised if on arriving he had found a party of mandarins among them. Possibly it was with a view to such a contingency that he provided himself, as a dress of ceremony, with a robe of Chinese damask embroidered with birds and flowers. The tribe to which he was sent was that of the Winnebagoes, living near the head of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan. They had come to blows with the Hurons, allies of the French; and Nicollet was charged to negotiate a peace. When he approached the Winnebago town, he sent one of his Indian attendants to announce his coming, put on his robe of damask, and advanced to meet the expectant crowd with a pistol in each hand. The squaws and children fled, screaming that it was a manito, or spirit, armed with thunder and lightning; but the chiefs and warriors regaled him with so bountiful a hospitality that a hundred and twenty beavers were devoured at a single feast. From the Winnebagoes, he passed westward, ascended Fox River, crossed to the Wisconsin, and descended it so far that, as he reported on his return, in three days more he would have reached the sea. The truth seems to be, that he mistook the meaning of his Indian guides, and that the “great water” to which he was so near was not the sea, but the Mississippi.

It has been affirmed that one Colonel Wood, of Virginia, reached a branch of the Mississippi as early as the year 1654, and that, about 1670, a certain Captain Bolton penetrated to the river itself. Neither statement is improbable, but neither is sustained by sufficient evidence. Meanwhile, French Jesuits and fur-traders pushed deeper and deeper into the wilderness of the northern lakes. In 1641, Jogues and Raymbault preached the





Among the burghers of Rouen was the old and rich family of the Caveliers. Though citizens and not nobles, some of their connections held high diplomatic posts and honorable employments at Court. They were destined to find a better claim to distinction. In 1643 was born at Rouen Robert Cavelier, better known by the designation of La Salle. [Footnote: The following is the _acte de naissance_, discovered by Margry in the _registres de l’état civil_, Paroisse St. Herbland, Rouen. “Le vingt- deuxième jour de novembre 1643, a été baptisé Robert Cavelier, fils de honorable homme Jean Cavelier et de Catherine Geest; ses parrain et marraine honorables personnes Nicolas Geest et Marguerite Morice.”]

La Salle’s name in full was Réné-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. La Salle was the name of an estate near Rouen, belonging to the Caveliers. The wealthy French burghers often distinguished the various members of their families by designations borrowed from landed estates. Thus, François Marie Arouet, son of an ex-notary, received the name of Voltaire, which he made famous.] His father Jean and his uncle Henri were wealthy merchants, living more like nobles than like burghers; and the boy received an education answering to the marked traits of intellect and character which he soon, began to display. He showed an inclination for the exact sciences, and especially for the mathematics, in which he made great proficiency. At an early age, it is said, he became connected with the Jesuits; and though doubt has been expressed of the statement, it is probably true. [Footnote: Margry, after investigations at Rouen, is satisfied of its truth.–_Journal Général de l’Instruction Publique_, xxxi. 571. Family papers of the Caveliers, examined by the Abbé Faillon, and copies of some of which he has sent to me, lead to the same conclusion. We shall find several allusions hereafter to La Salle’s having in his youth taught in a school, which, in his position, could only have been in connection with some religious community. The doubts alluded to have proceeded from the failure of Father Felix Martin, S.J., to find the name of _La Salle_ on the list of novices. If he had looked for the name of _Robert Cavelier_, he would probably have found it. The companion of La Salle, Hennepin, is very explicit with regard to this connection with the Jesuits,–a point on which he had no motive for falsehood.]

La Salle was always an earnest Catholic; and yet, judging by the qualities which his after life evinced, he was not very liable to religious enthusiasm. It is nevertheless clear, that the Society of Jesus may have had a powerful attraction for his youthful imagination. This great organization, so complicated yet so harmonious, a mighty machine moved from the centre by a single hand, was an image of regulated power, full of fascination for a mind like his. But if it was likely that he would be drawn into it, it was no less likely that he would soon wish to escape. To find himself not at the centre of power, but at the circumference; not the mover, but the moved; the passive instrument of another’s will, taught to walk in prescribed paths, to renounce his individuality and become a component atom of a vast whole,–would have been intolerable to him. Nature had shaped him for other uses than to teach a class of boys on the benches of a Jesuit school. Nor, on his part, was he likely to please his directors; for, self-controlled and self-contained as he was, he was far too intractable a subject to serve their turn. A youth whose calm exterior hid an inexhaustible fund of pride; whose inflexible purposes, nursed in secret, the confessional and the “manifestation of conscience” could hardly drag to the light; whose strong personality would not yield to the shaping hand; and who, by a necessity of his nature, could obey no initiative but his own,–was not after the model that Loyola had commended to his followers.

La Salle left the Jesuits, parting with them, it is said, on good terms, and with a reputation of excellent acquirements and unimpeachable morals. This last is very credible. The cravings of a deep ambition, the hunger of an insatiable intellect, the intense longing for action and achievement subdued in him all other passions; and in his faults, the love of pleasure had no part. He had an elder brother in Canada, the Abbé Jean Cavelier, a priest of St. Sulpice. Apparently, it was this that shaped his destinies. His connection with the Jesuits had deprived him, under the French law, of the inheritance of his father, who had died not long before. An allowance was made to him of three or, as is elsewhere stated, four hundred livres a year, the capital of which was paid over to him, and with this pittance he sailed for Canada, to seek his fortune, in the spring of 1666. [Footnote: It does not appear what vows La Salle had taken. By a recent ordinance, 1666, persons entering religious orders could not take the final vows before the age of twenty-five. By the family papers above mentioned, it appears, however, that he had brought himself under the operation of the law, which debarred those who, having entered religious orders, afterwards withdrew, from claiming the inheritance of relatives who had died after their entrance.]

Next, we find him at Montreal. In another volume, we have seen how an association of enthusiastic devotees had made a settlement at this place. [Footnote: “The Jesuits in North America,” c. xv.] Having in some measure accomplished its work, it was now dissolved; and the corporation of priests, styled the Seminary of St. Sulpice, which had taken a prominent part in the enterprise, and, indeed, had been created with a view to it, was now the proprietor and the feudal lord of Montreal. It was destined to retain its seignorial rights until the abolition of the feudal tenures of Canada in our own day, and it still holds vast possessions in the city and island. These worthy ecclesiastics, models of a discreet and sober conservatism, were holding a post with which a band of veteran soldiers or warlike frontiersmen would have been better matched. Montreal was perhaps the most dangerous place in Canada. In time of war, which might have been called the normal condition of the colony, it was exposed by its position to incessant inroads of the Iroquois, or Five Nations, of New York; and no man could venture into the forests or the fields without bearing his life in his hand. The savage confederates had just received a sharp chastisement at the hands of Courcelles, the governor; and the result was a treaty of peace, which might at any moment be broken, but which was an inexpressible relief while it lasted.

The priests of St. Sulpice were granting out their lands, on very easy terms, to settlers. They wished to extend a thin line of settlements along the front of their island, to form a sort of outpost, from which an alarm could be given on any descent of the Iroquois. La Salle was the man for such a purpose. Had the priests understood him,–which they evidently did not, for some of them suspected him of levity, the last foible with which he could be charged,–had they understood him, they would have seen in him a young man in whom the fire of youth glowed not the less ardently for the veil of reserve that covered it; who would shrink from no danger, but would not court it in bravado; and who would cling with an invincible tenacity of gripe to any purpose which he might espouse. There is good reason to think that he had come to Canada with purposes already conceived, and that he was ready to avail himself of any stepping-stone which might help to realize them. Queylus, Superior of the Seminary, made him a generous offer; and he accepted it. This was the gratuitous grant of a large tract of land at the place now called La Chine, above the great rapids of the same name, and eight or nine miles from Montreal. On one hand, the place was greatly exposed to attack; and on the other, it was favorably situated for the fur-trade. La Salle and his successors became its feudal proprietors, on the sole condition of delivering to the Seminary, on every change of ownership, a medal of fine silver, weighing one mark. [Footnote: _Transport de la Seigneurie de St. Sulpice_, cited by Faillon. La Salle called his new domain as above. Two or three years later, it received the name of La Chine, for a reason which will appear.] He entered on the improvement of his new domain, with what means he could command, and began to grant out his land to such settlers as would join him.

Approaching the shore where the city of Montreal now stands, one would have seen a row of small compact dwellings, extending along a narrow street, parallel to the river, and then, as now, called St. Paul Street. On a hill at the right stood the windmill of the seigneurs, built of stone, and pierced with loop-holes to serve, in time of need, as a place of defence. On the left, in an angle formed by the junction of a rivulet with the St. Lawrence, was a square bastioned fort of stone. Here lived the military governor, appointed by the Seminary, and commanding a few soldiers of the regiment of Carignan. In front, on the line of the street, were the enclosure and buildings of the Seminary, and, nearly adjoining them, those of the Hôtel-Dieu, or Hospital, both provided for defence in case of an Indian attack. In the hospital enclosure was a small church, opening on the street, and, in the absence of any other, serving for the whole settlement. [Footnote: A detailed plan of Montreal at this time is preserved in the Archives de l’Empire, and has been reproduced by Faillon. There is another, a few years later, and still more minute, of which a fac-simile will be found in the Library of the Canadian Parliament.]

Landing, passing the fort, and walking southward along the shore, one would soon have left the rough clearings, and entered the primeval forest. Here, mile after mile, he would have journeyed on in solitude, when the hoarse roar of the rapids, foaming in fury on his left, would have reached his listening ear; and, at length, after a walk of some three hours, he would have found the rude beginnings of a settlement. It was where the St. Lawrence widens into the broad expanse called the Lake of St. Louis. Here, La Salle had traced out the circuit of a palisaded village, and assigned to each settler half an arpent, or about a third of an acre, within the enclosure, for which he was to render to the young seigneur a yearly acknowledgment of three capons, besides six deniers–that is, half a sou– in money. To each was assigned, moreover, sixty arpents of land beyond the limits of the village, with the perpetual rent of half a sou for each arpent. He also set apart a common, two hundred arpents in extent, for the use of the settlers, on condition of the payment by each of five sous a year. He reserved four hundred and twenty arpents for his own personal domain, and on this he began to clear the ground and erect buildings. Similar to this were the beginnings of all the Canadian seigniories formed at this troubled period. [Footnote: The above particulars have been unearthed by the indefatigable Abbé Faillon. Some of La Salle’s grants are still preserved in the ancient records of Montreal.]

That La Salle came to Canada with objects distinctly in view, is probable from the fact that he at once began to study the Indian languages, and with such success that he is said, within two or three years, to have mastered the Iroquois and seven or eight other languages and dialects. [Footnote: _Papiers de Famille_, MSS. He is said to have made several journeys into the forests, towards the North, in the years 1667 and 1668, and to have satisfied himself that little could be hoped from explorations in that direction.] From the shore of his seigniory, he could gaze westward over the broad breast of the Lake of St. Louis, bounded by the dim forests of Chateauguay and Beauharnois; but his thoughts flew far beyond, across the wild and lonely world that stretched towards the sunset. Like Champlain and all the early explorers, he dreamed of a passage to the South Sea, and a new road for commerce to the riches of China and Japan. Indians often came to his secluded settlement; and, on one occasion, he was visited by a band of the Seneca Iroquois, not long before the scourge of the colony, but now, in virtue of the treaty, wearing the semblance of friendship. The visitors spent the winter with him, and told him of a river called the Ohio, rising in their country, and flowing into the sea, but at such a distance that its mouth could only be reached after a journey of eight or nine months. Evidently, the Ohio and the Mississippi are here merged into one. [Footnote: According to Dollier de Casson, who had good opportunities of knowing, the Iroquois always called the Mississippi the Ohio, while the Algonquins gave it its present name.] In accordance with geographical views then prevalent, he conceived that this great river must needs flow into the “Vermilion Sea;” that is, the Gulf of California. If so, it would give him what he sought,–a western passage to China; while, in any case, the populous Indian tribes said to inhabit its banks, might be made a source of great commercial profit.

La Salle’s imagination took fire. His resolution was soon formed; and he descended the St. Lawrence to Quebec, to gain the countenance of the Governor to his intended exploration. Few men were more skilled than he in the art of clear and plausible statement. Both the Governor, Courcelles, and the Intendant, Talon, were readily won over to his plan; for which, however, they seem to have given him no more substantial aid than that of the Governor’s letters patent authorizing the enterprise. [Footnote: Talon, in his letter to the king, of 10 Oct. 1670, expresses himself as if the enterprise had originated with him.] The cost was to be his own; and he had no money, having spent it all on his seigniory. He therefore proposed that the Seminary, which had given it to him, should buy it back again, with such improvements as he had made. Queylus, the Superior, being favorably disposed towards him, consented, and bought of him the greater part; while La Salle sold the remainder, including the clearings, to one Jean Milot, an ironmonger, for twenty-eight hundred livres. [Footnote: Faillon, _Colonie Française en Canada_, iii. 288.] With this he bought four canoes, with the necessary supplies, and hired fourteen men.

Meanwhile, the Seminary itself was preparing a similar enterprise. The Jesuits at this time not only held, an ascendency over the other ecclesiastics in Canada, but exercised an inordinate influence on the civil government. The Seminary priests of Montreal were jealous of these powerful rivals, and eager to emulate their zeal in the saving of souls, and the conquering of new domains for the Faith. Under this impulse, they had, three years before, established a mission at Quinté, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in charge of two of their number, one of whom was the Abbé Fénelon, elder brother of the celebrated Archbishop of Cambray. Another of them, Dollier de Casson, had spent the winter in a hunting-camp of the Nipissings, where an Indian prisoner, captured in the North-west, told him of populous tribes of that quarter, living in heathenish darkness. On this, the Seminary priests resolved to essay their conversion; and an expedition, to be directed by Dollier, was fitted out to this end.

He was not ill suited to the purpose. He had been a soldier in his youth, and had fought valiantly as an officer of cavalry under Turenne. He was a man of great courage; of a tall, commanding person; and uncommon bodily strength, of which he had given striking proofs in the campaign of Courcelles against the Iroquois, three years before. [Footnote: He was the author of the very curious and valuable _Histoire de Montréal_, preserved in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, of which a copy is in my possession. The Historical Society of Montreal has recently resolved to print it.] On going to Quebec, to procure the necessary outfit, he was urged by Courcelles to modify his plans so far as to act in concert with La Salle in exploring the mystery of the great unknown river of the West. Dollier and his brother priests consented. One of them, Galinée, was joined with him as a colleague, because he was skilled in surveying, and could make a map of their route. Three canoes were procured, and seven hired men completed the party. It was determined that La Salle’s expedition, and that of the Seminary, should be combined in one; an arrangement ill suited to the character of the young explorer, who was unfit for any enterprise of which he was not the undisputed chief.

Midsummer was near, and there was no time to lose. Yet the moment was most unpropitious, for a Seneca chief had lately been murdered by three scoundrel soldiers of the fort of Montreal; and, while they were undergoing their trial, it became known that three other Frenchmen had treacherously put to death several Iroquois of the Oneida tribe,–in order to get possession of their furs. The whole colony trembled in expectation of a new outbreak of the war. Happily, the event proved otherwise. The authors of the last murder escaped: but the three soldiers were shot at Montreal, in presence of a considerable number of the Iroquois, who declared themselves satisfied with the atonement; and on this same day, the sixth of July, the adventurers began their voyage.



La Chine was the starting-point, and the combined parties, in all twenty- four men with seven canoes, embarked on the Lake of St. Louis. With them were two other canoes, bearing the party of Senecas who had wintered at La Salle’s settlement, and who were now to act as guides. They fought their way upward against the perilous rapids of the St. Lawrence, then scarcely known to the voyager, threaded the romantic channels of the Thousand Islands, and issued on Lake Ontario. Thirty days of toil and exposure had told upon them so severely that not a man of the party, except the Indians, had escaped the attacks of disease in some form.

Their guides led them directly to the great village of the Senecas, near the banks of the Genesee, flattering them with the hope that they would here find other guides, to conduct them to the Ohio; and, in truth, the Senecas had among them a prisoner of one of the western tribes, who would have answered their purpose. The chiefs met in council: but La Salle had not yet mastered the language sufficiently to serve as spokesman; and a Dutch interpreter, brought by the priests, could not explain himself in French. The Jesuit Fremin was stationed at the village, and his servant came to their aid: but, as the two priests thought, wilfully misinterpreted them; and they also conceived the suspicion, perhaps uncharitable, that the Jesuits, jealous of their enterprise, had tampered with the Senecas, to thwart it. Be this as it may, the Indians proved impracticable, evaded their request for a guide, burned before their eyes the unfortunate western prisoner, and assured them that if they went to the Ohio the people of those parts would put them to death. As there were many among the Senecas who wished to kill them in revenge for the chief murdered near Montreal, and as these and others were at times in a frenzy of drunkenness with brandy brought from Albany, the position of the French was very hazardous. They remained, however, for a month; still clinging to the hope of obtaining guides. At length, an Indian from a village called Ganastogué, a kind of Iroquois colony at the head of Lake Ontario, offered to conduct them thither, assuring them that they would find what they sought. They left the Seneca town; coasted the south shore of the lake; passed the mouth of the Niagara, where they heard the distant roar of the cataract; and, five days after, reached Ganastogué. The inhabitants proved friendly, and La Salle received the welcome present of a Shawnee prisoner, who told them that the Ohio could he reached in six weeks, and that he would guide them to it. Delighted at this good fortune, they were about to set out; when they heard, to their astonishment, of the arrival of two other Frenchmen at a neighboring village. One of the strangers proved to be a man destined to hold a conspicuous place in the history of western discovery. This was Louis Joliet, a young man of about the age of La Salle. Like him, he had studied for the priesthood; but the world and the wilderness had conquered his early inclinations, and changed him to an active and adventurous fur-trader.

Talon had sent him to discover and explore the copper-mines of Lake Superior. He had failed in the attempt, and was now returning. His Indian guide, afraid of passing the Niagara portage lest he should meet enemies, had led him from Lake Erie, by way of Grand River, towards the head of Lake Ontario; and thus it was that he met La Salle and the Sulpitians.

This meeting caused a change of plan. Joliet showed the priests a map which he had made, of such parts of the Upper Lakes as he had visited, and gave them a copy of it; telling them, at the same time, of the Pottawattamies, and other tribes of that region, in grievous need of spiritual succor. The result was a determination on their part to follow the route which he suggested, notwithstanding the remonstrances of La Salle, who in vain reminded them that the Jesuits had pre-occupied the field, and would regard them as intruders. They resolved that the Pottawattamies should no longer sit in darkness; while, as for the Mississippi, it could be reached, as they conceived, with less risk by this northern route than by that of the south.

Since reaching the head of Lake Ontario, La Salle had been attacked by a violent fever, from which he was not yet recovered. He now told his two colleagues that he was in no condition to go forward, and should be forced to part with them. The staple of La Salle’s character, as his life will attest, was an invincible determination of purpose, which set at naught all risks and all sufferings. He had cast himself with all his resources into this enterprise, and, while his faculties remained, he was not a man to recoil from it. On the other hand, the masculine fibre of which he was made did not always withhold him from the practice of the arts of address, and the use of what Dollier de Casson styles _belles paroles_. He respected the priesthood,–with the exception, it seems, of the Jesuits,– and he was under obligations to the Sulpitians of Montreal. Hence there can be no doubt that he used his illness as a pretext for escaping from their company without ungraciousness, and following his own path in his own way.

On the last day of September, the priests made an altar, supported by the paddles of the canoes laid on forked sticks. Dollier said mass; La Salle and his followers received the sacrament, as did also those of his late colleagues; and thus they parted,–the Sulpitians and their party descending the Grand River towards Lake Erie, while La Salle, as they supposed, began his return to Montreal. What course he actually took, we shall soon inquire; and meanwhile, for a few moments, we will follow the priests. When they reached Lake Erie, they saw it tossing like an angry ocean under a wild autumnal sky. They had no mind to tempt the dangerous and unknown navigation, and encamped for the winter in the forest near the peninsula called the Long Point. Here they gathered a good store of chestnuts, hickory-nuts, plums, and grapes; and built themselves a log- cabin, with a recess at the end for an altar. They passed the winter unmolested, shooting game in abundance, and saying mass three times a week. Early in spring, they planted a large cross, attached to it the arms of France, and took formal possession of the country in the name of Louis XIV. This done, they resumed their voyage, and, after many troubles, landed one evening in a state of exhaustion on or near Point Pelée, towards the western extremity of Lake Erie. A storm rose as they lay asleep, and swept off a great part of their baggage, which, in their fatigue, they had left at the edge of the water. Their altar-service was lost with the rest,–a misfortune which they ascribed to the jealousy and malice of the Devil. Debarred henceforth from saying mass, they resolved to return to Montreal and leave the Pottawattamies uninstructed. They presently entered the strait by which Lake Huron joins Lake Erie; and, landing near where Detroit now stands, found a large stone, somewhat suggestive of the human figure, which the Indians had bedaubed with paint, and which they worshipped as a manito. In view of their late misfortune, this device of the arch-enemy excited their utmost resentment. “After the loss of our altar-service,” writes Galinée, “and the hunger we had suffered, there was not a man of us who was not filled with hatred against this false deity. I devoted one of my axes to breaking him in pieces; and then, having fastened our canoes side by side, we carried the largest piece to the middle of the river, and threw it, with all the rest, into the water, that he might never be heard of again.”

This is the first recorded passage of white men through the Strait of Detroit; though Joliet had, no doubt, passed this way on his return from the Upper Lakes. [Footnote: The Jesuits and fur-traders, on their way to the Upper Lakes, had followed the route of the Ottawa, or, more recently, that of Toronto and the Georgian Bay. Iroquois hostility had long closed the Niagara portage and Lake Erie against them.] The two missionaries took this course, with the intention of proceeding to the Saut Sainte Marie, and there joining the Ottawas, and other tribes of that region, in their yearly descent to Montreal. They issued upon Lake Huron; followed its eastern shores till they reached the Georgian Bay, near the head of which the Jesuits had established their great mission of the Hurons, destroyed, twenty years before, by the Iroquois; [Footnote: “Jesuits in North America.”] and, ignoring or slighting the labors of the rival missionaries, held their way northward along the rocky archipelago that edged those lonely coasts. They passed the Manatoulins, and, ascending the strait by which Lake Superior discharges its waters, arrived on the twenty-fifth of May at Ste. Marie du Saut. Here they found the two Jesuits, Dablon and Marquette, in a square fort of cedar pickets, built by their men within the past year, and enclosing a chapel and a house. Near by, they had cleared a large tract of land, and sown it with wheat, Indian corn, peas, and other crops. The new-comers were graciously received, and invited to vespers in the chapel; but they very soon found La Salle’s prediction made good, and saw that the Jesuit fathers wanted no help from St. Sulpice. Galinée, on his part, takes occasion to remark that, though the Jesuits had baptized a few Indians at the Saut, not one of them was a good enough Christian to receive the Eucharist; and he intimates, that the case, by their own showing, was still worse at their mission of St. Esprit. The two Sulpitians did not care to prolong their stay; and, three days after their arrival, they left the Saut: not, as they expected, with the Indians, but with a French guide, furnished by the Jesuits. Ascending French River to Lake Nipissing, they crossed to the waters of the Ottawa, and descended to Montreal, which they reached on the eighteenth of June. They had made no discoveries and no converts; but Galinée, after his arrival, made the earliest map of the Upper Lakes known to exist. [Footnote: Galinée appears to have made use of the map given him by Joliet. He says, in the narrative of his journey, that he has laid down on his own map nothing but what he had himself seen; but this is disproved by the map itself. Thus, he represents with minuteness the northern coast as far west as the islands at the mouth of Green Bay; but that he never went so far is evident not only from his own journal, but from the fact that he was ignorant of the existence of the Straits of Michillimackinac and the peninsula of Michigan; Lakes Huron and Michigan being by him merged into one, under the name of “Michigané, ou Mer Douce des Hurons.” The map, of which a fac-simile is before me, measures four and a half feet by three and a half. It is covered with descriptive remarks, which, oddly enough, are all inverted, so that it must be turned with the north side down in order to read them. Faillon has engraved it, but on a small scale, with the omission of most of the inscriptions, and other changes. The well- known Jesuit map of Lake Superior appeared the year after.

Besides making the map, Galinée wrote a very long and minute journal of the expedition, which is preserved in the Bibliothèque Impériale.

Much of the substance of it is given by Faillon, _Colonie Française_, iii. chap, vii., and Margry, _Journal Général de l’Instruction Publique_, xxxi. No. 67. In the letters of Talon to Colbert are various allusions to the journey of Dollier and Galinée.]

We return now to La Salle, only to find ourselves involved in mist and obscurity. What did he do after he left the two priests? Unfortunately, a definite answer is not possible; and the next two years of his life remain in some measure an enigma. That he was busied in active exploration, and that he made important discoveries, is certain; but the extent and character of these discoveries remain wrapped in doubt. He is known to have kept journals and made maps; and these were in existence, and in possession of his niece, Madeleine Cavelier, then in advanced age, as late as the year 1756; [Footnote: See Margry, in _Journal Général de l’Instruction Publique_, xxxi. 659.] beyond which time the most diligent inquiry has failed to trace them. The Abbé Faillon affirms, that some of La Salle’s men, refusing to follow him, returned to La Chine, and that the place then received its name, in derision of the young adventurer’s dream of a westward passage to China. [Footnote: Dollier de Casson alludes to this as “cette transmigration célèbre qui se fit de la Chine dans ces quartiers.”] As for himself, the only distinct record of his movements is that contained in an unpublished paper, entitled, “Histoire de Monsieur de la Salle.” It is an account of his explorations, and of the state of parties in Canada previous to the year 1678; taken from the lips of La Salle himself, by a person whose name does not appear, but who declares that he had ten or twelve conversations with him at Paris, whither he had come with a petition to the Court. The writer himself had never been in America, and was ignorant of its geography; hence blunders on his part might reasonably be expected. His statements, however, are in some measure intelligible; and the following is the substance of them. After leaving the priests, La Salle went to Onondaga, where we are left to infer that he succeeded better in getting a guide than he had before done among the Senecas. Thence he made his way to a point six or seven leagues distant from Lake Erie, where he reached a branch of the Ohio; and, descending it, followed the river as far as the rapids at Louisville, or, as has been maintained, beyond its confluence with the Mississippi. His men now refused to go farther, and abandoned him, escaping to the English and the Dutch; whereupon he retraced his steps alone. [Footnote: As no part of the memoir referred to has been published, I extract the passage relating to this journey. After recounting La Salle’s visit with the Sulpitians to the Seneca village, and stating that the intrigues of the Jesuit missionary prevented them from obtaining a guide, it speaks of the separation of the travellers and the journey of Galinée and his party to the Saut Ste. Marie, where “les Jésuites les congédièrent.” It then proceeds as follows: “Cependant Mr. de la Salle continua son chemin par une rivière qui va de l’est à l’ouest; et passe à Onontaqué (Onondaga), puis à six ou sept lieues au-dessous du Lac Erié; et estant parvenu jusqu’au 280me ou 83me degré de longitude, et jusqu’au 4lme degré de latitude, trouva un sault qui tombe vers l’ouest dans un pays has, marescageux, tout couvert de vielles souches, don’t il y en a quelquesunes qui sont encore sur pied. Il fut done contraint de prendre terre, et suivant une hauteur qui le pouvoit mener loin, il trouva quelques sauvages qui luy dirent que fort loin de là le mesme fleuve qui se perdoit dans cette terre basse et vaste se réunnissoit en un lit. Il continua done son chemin, mais comme la fatigue estoit grande, 23 ou 24 hommes qu’il avoit menez jusques là le quittèrent tous en une nuit, regagnèrent le fleuve, et se sauvèrent, les uns à la Nouvelle Hollande et les autres à la Nouvelle Angleterre. Il se vit done seul a 400 lieues de chez luy, où il ne laisse pas de revenir, remontant la rivière et vivant de chasse, d’herbes, et de ce que luy donnèrent les sauvages qu’il rencontra en son chemin.”] This must have been in the winter of 1669-70, or in the following spring; unless there is an error of date in the statement of Nicolas Perrot, the famous _voyageur_, who says that he met him in the summer of 1670, hunting on the Ottawa with a party of Iroquois. [Footnote: Perrot, _Mèmoires_, 119, 120.]

But how was La Salle employed in the following year? The same memoir has its solution to the problem. By this it appears that the indefatigable explorer embarked on Lake Erie, ascended the Detroit to Lake Huron, coasted the unknown shores of Michigan, passed the Straits of Michillimackinac, and leaving Green Bay behind him, entered what is described as an incomparably larger bay, but which was evidently the southern portion of Lake Michigan. Thence he crossed to a river flowing westward,–evidently the Illinois,–and followed it until it was joined by another river flowing from the northwest to the southeast. By this, the Mississippi only can be meant; and he is reported to have said that he descended it to the thirty-sixth degree of latitude; where he stopped, assured that it discharged itself not into the Gulf of California, but into the Gulf of Mexico; and resolved to follow it thither at a future day, when better provided with men and supplies. [Footnote: The memoir,– after stating, as above, that he entered Lake Huron, doubled the peninsula of Michigan, and passed La Baye des Puants (Green Bay),–says, “Il reconnut une baye incomparablement plus large; au fond de laquelle vers l’ouest il trouva un trés-beau havre et au fond de ce havre un fleuve qui va de l’est à l’ouest. Il suivit ce fleuve, et estant parvenu jusqu’environ le 280me degré de longitude et le 39me de latitude, il trouva un autre fleuve qui se joignant au premier coulait du nordouest au sud-est, et il suivit ce fleuve jusqu’au 36me degré de latitude.”

The “très-beau havre” may have been the entrance of the River Chicago, whence, by an easy portage, he might have reached the Des Plaines branch of the Illinois. We shall see that he took this course in his famous exploration of 1682.

The Intendant Talon announces in his despatches of this year that he had sent La Salle southward and westward to explore.]

The first of these statements,–that relating to the Ohio,–confused, vague, and in great part incorrect as it certainly is, is nevertheless well sustained as regards one essential point. La Salle himself, in a memorial addressed to Count Frontenac in 1677, affirms that he discovered the Ohio, and descended it as far as to a fall which obstructed it. [Footnote: The following are his words (he speaks of himself in the third person): “L’année 1667, et les suivantes, il fit divers voyages avec beaucoup de dépenses, dans lesquels il découvrit le premier beaucoup de pays au sud des grands lacs, et _entre autres la grande rivière d’Ohio_; il la suivit jusqu’à un endroit ou elle tombe de fort haut dans de vastes marais, a la hauteur de 37 degrés, après avoir été grossie par une autre rivière fort large qui vient du nord; et toutes ces eaux se déchargent selon toutes les apparences dans le Golfe du Mexique.”

This “autre riviére,” which, it seems, was above the fall, may have been the Miami or the Scioto. There is but one fall on the river, that of Louisville, which is not so high as to deserve to be described as “fort haut,” being only a strong rapid. The latitude, as will be seen, is different in the two accounts, and incorrect in both.] Again, his rival, Louis Joliet, whose testimony on this point cannot be suspected, made two maps of the region of the Mississippi and the Great Lakes. The Ohio is laid down on both of them, with an inscription to the effect that it had been explored by La Salle. [Footnote: One of these maps is entitled _Carte de la découverte du Sieur Joliet_, 1674. Over the lines representing the Ohio are the words, “Route du sieur de la Salle pour aller dans le Mexique.” The other map of Joliet bears, also written over the Ohio, the words, “Rivière par où descendit le sieur de la Salle au sortir du lac Erié pour aller clans le Mexique.” I have also another manuscript map, made before the voyage of Joliet and Marquette, and apparently in the year 1673, on which the Ohio is represented as far as to a point a little below Louisville, and over it is written, “Rivière Ohio, ainsy appellée par les Iroquois à cause de sa beauté, par où le sieur de la Salle est descendu.” The Mississippi is not represented on this map; but–and this is very significant, as indicating the extent of La Salle’s exploration of the following year–a small part of the upper Illinois is laid down.] That he discovered the Ohio may then be regarded as established. That he descended it to the Mississippi, he himself does not pretend; nor is there reason to believe that he did so.

With regard to his alleged voyage down the Illinois, the case is different. Here, he is reported to have made a statement which admits but one interpretation,–that of the discovery by him of the Mississippi prior to its discovery by Joliet and Marquette. This statement is attributed to a man not prone to vaunt his own exploits, who never proclaimed them in print, and whose testimony, even in his own case, must therefore have weight. But it comes to us through the medium of a person, strongly biased in favor of La Salle and against Marquette and the Jesuits.

Seven years had passed since the alleged discovery, and La Salle had not before laid claim to it; although it was matter of notoriety that during five years it had been claimed by Joliet, and that his claim was generally admitted. The correspondence of the Governor and the Intendant is silent as to La Salle’s having penetrated to the Mississippi; though the attempt was made under the auspices of the latter, as his own letters declare; while both had the discovery of the great river earnestly at heart. The governor, Frontenac, La Salle’s ardent supporter and ally, believed in 1672, as his letters show, that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of California, and, two years later, he announces to the minister Colbert its discovery by Joliet. [Footnote: _Lettre de Frontenac au Ministre_, 14 _Nov_. 1674. He here speaks of “la grande rivière qu’il (Joliet) a trouvée, qui va du nord au sud, et qui est aussi large que celle du Saint- Laurent vis-à-vis de Québec.” Four years later, Frontenac speaks slightingly of Joliet, but neither denies his discovery of the Mississippi nor claims it for La Salle, in whose interest he writes.] After La Salle’s death, his brother, his nephew, and his niece addressed a memorial to the King, petitioning for certain grants in consideration of the discoveries of their relative, which they specify at some length; but they do not pretend that he reached the Mississippi before his expeditions of 1679 to 1682. [Footnote: _Papiers de Famille_, MSS.; _Mémoire présenté au Roi_. The following is an extract: “Il parvient … jusqu’à la rivière des Illinois. Il y construisit un fort situé à 350 lieues au-delà du fort de Frontenac, et suivant ensuite le cours de cette rivière, il trouve qu’elle se jettoit dans un grand fleuve appellé par ceux du pays Missisippi, c’est à dire _grande eau_, environ cent lieues audessous du fort qu’il venoit de construire.” This fort was Fort Crêvecoeur, built in 1680, near the site of Peoria. The memoir goes on to relate the descent of La Salle to the Gulf, which concluded this expedition of 1679-82.] This silence is the more significant, as it is this very niece who had possession of the papers in which La Salle recounts the journeys of which the issues are in question. [Footnote: The following is an extract, given by Margry, from a letter of the aged Madeleine Cavelier, dated 21 Février, 1756, and addressed to her nephew M. Le Baillif, who had applied for the papers in behalf of the minister, Silhouette: “J’ay cherché une occasion sûre pour vous anvoyé les papiers de M. de la Salle. Il y a des cartes que j’ay jointe à ces papiers, qui doivent prouver que, en 1675, M. de Lasalle avet déja fet deux voyages en ces decouverte, puisqu’il y avet une carte, que je vous envoye, par laquelle il est fait mention de l’androit auquel M. de Lasalle aborda près le fleuve de Mississipi.” This, though brought forward to support the claim of discovery prior to Joliet, seems to indicate that La Salle had not reached the Mississippi, but only approached it, previous to 1675.

Margry, in a series of papers in the _Journal Général de l’Instruction Publique_ for 1862, first took the position that La Salle reached the Mississippi in 1670 and 1671, and has brought forward in defence of it all the documents which his unwearied research enabled him to discover. Father Tailhan, S.J., has replied at length, in the copious notes to his edition of Nicolas Perrot, but without having seen the principal document cited by Margry, and of which extracts have been given in the notes to this chapter.] Had they led him to the Mississippi, it is reasonably certain that she would have made it known in her memorial. La Salle discovered the Ohio, and in all probability the Illinois also; but that he discovered the Mississippi has not been proved, nor, in the light of the evidence we have, is it likely.



What were the Jesuits doing? Since the ruin of their great mission of the Hurons, a perceptible change had taken place in them. They had put forth exertions almost superhuman, set at naught famine, disease, and death, lived with the self-abnegation of saints and died with the devotion of martyrs; and the result of all had been a disastrous failure. From no short-coming on their part, but from the force of events beyond the sphere of their influence, a very demon of havoc had crushed their incipient churches, slaughtered their converts, uprooted the populous communities on which their hopes had rested, and scattered them in bands of wretched fugitives far and wide through the wilderness. [Footnote: See “The Jesuits in North America.”] They had devoted themselves in the fulness of faith to the building up of a Christian and Jesuit empire on the conversion of the great stationary tribes of the lakes; and of these none remained but the Iroquois,–the destroyers of the rest, among whom, indeed, was a field which might stimulate their zeal by an abundant promise of sufferings and martyrdoms; but which, from its geographical position, was too much exposed to Dutch and English influence to promise great and decisive results. Their best hopes were now in the North and the West; and thither, in great part, they had turned their energies.

We find them on Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan, laboring vigorously as of old, but in a spirit not quite the same. Now, as before, two objects inspired their zeal, the “greater glory of God,” and the influence and credit of the order of Jesus. If the one motive had somewhat lost in power, the other had gained. The epoch of the saints and martyrs was passing away; and henceforth we find the Canadian Jesuit less and less an apostle, more and more an explorer, a man of science, and a politician. The yearly reports of the missions are still, for the edification of the pious reader, stuffed with intolerably tedious stories of baptisms, conversions, and the exemplary deportment of neophytes; for these have become a part of the formula; but they are relieved abundantly by more mundane topics. One finds observations on the winds, currents, and tides of the Great Lakes; speculations on a subterranean outlet of Lake Superior; accounts of its copper-mines, and how we, the Jesuit fathers, are laboring to explore them for the profit of the colony; surmises touching the North Sea, the South Sea, the Sea of China, which we hope ere long to discover; and reports of that great mysterious river of which the Indians tell us,–flowing southward, perhaps to the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps to the Vermilion Sea,–and the secrets whereof, with the help of the Virgin, we will soon reveal to the world.

The Jesuit was as often a fanatic for his order as for his faith; and oftener yet, the two fanaticisms mingled in him inextricably. Ardently as he burned for the saving of souls, he would have none saved on the Upper Lakes except by his brethren and himself. He claimed a monopoly of conversion, with its attendant monopoly of toil, hardship, and martyrdom. Often disinterested for himself, he was inordinately ambitious for the great corporate power in which he had merged his own personality; and here lies one cause, among many, of the seeming contradictions which abound in the annals of the order.

Prefixed to the _Relation_ of 1671 is that monument of Jesuit hardihood and enterprise, the map of Lake Superior; a work of which, however, the exactness has been exaggerated, as compared with other Canadian maps of the day. While making surveys, the priests were diligently looking for copper. Father Dablon reports that they had found it in greatest abundance on Isle Minong, now Isle Royale. “A day’s journey from the head of the lake, on the south side, there is,” he says, “a rock of copper weighing from six hundred to eight hundred pounds, lying on the shore where any who pass may see it;” and he farther speaks of great copper boulders in the bed of the River Ontonagan.

[Footnote: He complains that the Indians were very averse to giving information on the subject, so that the Jesuits had not as yet discovered the metal _in situ_, though they hoped soon to do so. The Indians told him that the copper had first been found by four hunters, who had landed on a certain island, near the north shore of the lake. Wishing to boil their food in a vessel of bark, they gathered stones on the shore, heated them red hot and threw them in; but presently discovered them to be pure copper. Their repast over, they hastened to re-embark, being afraid of the lynxes and the hares; which, on this island, were as large as dogs, and which would have devoured their provisions, and perhaps their canoe. They took with them some of the wonderful stones; but scarcely had they left the island, when a deep voice, like thunder, sounded in their ears, “Who are these thieves who steal the toys of my children?” It was the God of the Waters, or some other powerful manito. The four adventurers retreated in great terror, but three of them soon died, and the fourth survived only long enough to reach his village and tell the story. The island has no foundation, but floats with the movement of the wind; and no Indian dares land on its shores, dreading the wrath of the manito.–Dablon, _Relation_, 1670, 84.]

There were two principal missions on the Upper Lakes; which were, in a certain sense, the parents of the rest. One of these was Ste. Marie du Saut,–the same visited by Dollier and Galinée,–at the outlet of Lake Superior. This was a noted fishing-place; for the rapids were full of white-fish, and Indians came thither in crowds. The permanent residents were an Ojibwa band, called by the French Sauteurs, whose bark lodges were clustered at the foot of the rapids, near the fort of the Jesuits. Besides these, a host of Algonquins, of various tribes, resorted thither in the spring and summer; living in abundance on the fishery, and dispersing in winter to wander and starve in scattered hunting-parties far and wide through the forests.

The other chief mission was that of St. Esprit, at La Pointe, near the western extremity of Lake Superior. Here were the Hurons,–fugitives twenty years before from the slaughter of their countrymen; and the Ottawas, who, like them, had sought an asylum from the rage of the Iroquois. Many other tribes,–Illinois, Pottawattamies, Foxes, Menomonies, Sioux, Assinneboins, Knisteneaux, and a multitude besides,–came hither yearly to trade with the French. Here was a young Jesuit, Jacques Marquette, lately arrived from the Saut Ste. Marie. His savage flock disheartened him by its backslidings: and the best that he could report of the Hurons, after all the toils and all the blood lavished in their conversion, was, that they “still retain a little Christianity;” while the Ottawas are “far removed from the kingdom of God, and addicted beyond all other tribes to foulness, incantations, and sacrifices to evil spirits.” [Footnote: _Lettre du Père Jacques Marquette au R. P. Supérieur des Missions_; in _Relation_, 1670, 87.]

Marquette heard from the Illinois,–yearly visitors at La Pointe,–of the great river which they had crossed on their way, [Footnote: The Illinois lived at this time beyond the Mississippi, thirty days’ journey from La Pointe; whither they had been driven by the Iroquois, from their former abode near Lake Michigan. Dablon, (_Relation_, 1671; 24, 25,) says that they lived seven days’ journey beyond the Mississippi, in eight villages. A few years later, most of them returned to the east side and made their abode on the River Illinois.] and which, as he conjectured, flowed into the Gulf of California. He heard marvels of it also from the Sioux, who lived on its banks; and a strong desire possessed him, to explore the mystery of its course. A sudden calamity dashed his hopes. The Sioux,–the Iroquois of the West, as the Jesuits call them,–had hitherto kept the peace with the expatriated tribes of La Pointe; but now, from some cause not worth inquiry, they broke into open war, and so terrified the Hurons and Ottawas that they abandoned their settlements and fled. Marquette followed his panic-stricken flock; who, passing the Saut Ste. Marie, and descending to Lake Huron, stopped, at length,–the Hurons at Michillimackinac, and the Ottawas at the Great Manatoulin Island. Two missions were now necessary to minister to the divided bands. That of Michillimackinac was assigned to Marquette, and that of the Manatoulin Island to Louis André. The former took post at Point St. Ignace, on the north shore of the straits of Michillimackinac, while the latter began the mission of St. Simon at the new abode of the Ottawas. When winter came, scattering his flock to their hunting-grounds, André made a missionary tour among the Nipissings and other neighboring tribes. The shores of Lake Huron had long been an utter solitude, swept of their denizens by the terror of the all-conquering Iroquois; but now that these tigers had felt the power of the French, and learned for a time to leave their Indian allies in peace, the fugitive hordes were returning to their ancient abodes. André’s experience among them was of the roughest. The staple of his diet was acorns and _tripe de roche_,–a species of lichen, which, being boiled, resolved itself into a black glue, nauseous, but not void of nourishment. At times he was reduced to moss, the bark of trees, or moccasins and old moose-skins cut into strips and boiled. His hosts treated him very ill, and the worst of their fare was always his portion. When spring came to his relief, he returned to his post of St. Simon, with impaired digestion and unabated zeal.

Besides the Saut Ste. Marie and Michillimackinac,–both noted fishing- places,–there was another spot, no less famous for game and fish, and therefore a favorite resort of Indians. This was the head of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan. [Footnote: The Baye des Puans of the early writers; or, more correctly, La Baye des Eaux Puantes. The Winnebago Indians, living near it, were called Lies Puans, apparently for no other reason than because some portion of the bay was said to have an odor like the sea.

Lake Michigan, the Lac des Illinois of the French, was, according to a letter of Father Allouez, called Machihiganing by the Indians. Dablon writes the name, Mitchiganon.] Here and in adjacent districts several distinct tribes had made their abode. The Menomonies were on the river which bears their name; the Pottawattamies and Winnebagoes were near the borders of the bay; the Sacs on Fox River; the Mascoutins, Miamis, and Kickapoos, on the same river, above Lake Winnebago; and the Outagamies, or Foxes, on a tributary of it flowing from the north. Green Bay was manifestly suited for a mission; and, as early as the autumn of 1669, Father Claude Allouez was sent thither to found one. After nearly perishing by the way, he set out to explore the destined field of his labors, and went as far as the town of the Mascoutins. Early in the autumn of 1670, having been joined by Dablon, Superior of the missions on the Upper Lakes, he made another journey; but not until the two fathers had held a council with the congregated tribes at St. François Xavier,–for so they named their mission of Green Bay. Here, as they harangued their naked audience, their gravity was put to the proof; for a band of warriors, anxious to do them honor, walked incessantly up and down, aping the movements of the soldiers on guard before the Governor’s tent at Montreal. “We could hardly keep from laughing,” writes Dablon, “though we were discoursing on very important subjects; namely, the mysteries of our religion, and the things necessary to escaping from eternal fire.” [Footnote: _Relation_, 1671, 43.]

The fathers were delighted with the country, which Dablon. calls an earthly paradise; but he adds that the way to it is as hard as the path to heaven. He alludes especially to the rapids of Fox River, which gave the two travellers great trouble. Having safely passed them, they saw an Indian idol on the bank, similar to that which Dollier and Galinée found at Detroit; being merely a rock, bearing some resemblance to a man, and hideously painted. With the help of their attendants, they threw it into the river. Dablon expatiates on the buffalo; which he describes apparently on the report of others, as his description is not very accurate. Crossing Winnebago Lake, the two priests followed the river leading to the town of the Mascoutins and Miamis, which they reached on the fifteenth of September. [Footnote: This town was on the Neenah or Fox River, above Lake Winnebago. The Mascoutins, Fire Nation, or Nation of the Prairie, are extinct or merged in other tribes.–See “Jesuits in North America.” The Miamis soon removed to the banks of the River St. Joseph, near Lake Michigan.] These two tribes lived together within the compass of the same inclosure of palisades; to the number, it is said, of more than three thousand souls. The missionaries, who had brought a highly-colored picture of the Last Judgment, called the Indians to council and displayed it before them; while Allouez, who spoke Algonquin, harangued them on hell, demons, and eternal flames. They listened with open ears, beset him night and day with questions, and invited him and his companion to unceasing feasts. They were welcomed in every lodge, and followed everywhere with eyes of curiosity, wonder, and awe. Dablon overflows with praises of the Miami chief; who was honored by his subjects like a king, and whose demeanor to wards his guests had no savor of the savage.

Their hosts told them of the great river Mississippi, rising far in the north and flowing southward,–they knew not whither,–and of many tribes that dwelt along its banks. When at length they took their departure, they left behind them a reputation as medicine-men of transcendent power.

In the winter following, Allouez visited the Foxes, whom he found in extreme ill-humor. They were incensed against the French by the ill-usage which some of their tribe had lately met with when on a trading-visit to Montreal; and they received the faith with shouts of derision. The priest was horror-stricken at what he saw. Their lodges,–each, containing from five to ten families,–seemed in his eyes like seraglios; for some of the chiefs had eight wives. He armed himself with patience, and at length gained a hearing. Nay, he succeeded so well, that when he showed them his crucifix, they would throw tobacco on it as an offering; and, on another visit, which he made them soon after, he taught the whole village to make the sign of the cross. A war-party was going out against their enemies, and he bethought him of telling them the story of the Cross and the Emperor Constantine. This so wrought upon them that they all daubed the figure of a cross on their shields of bull-hide, set out for the war, and came back victorious, extolling the sacred symbol as a great war-medicine.

“Thus it is,” writes Dablon, who chronicles the incident, “that our holy faith is established among these people; and we have good hope that we shall soon carry it to the famous river called the Mississippi, and perhaps even to the South Sea.” [Footnote: _Relation_, 1672, 42.] Most things human have their phases of the ludicrous; and the heroism of these untiring priests is no exception to the rule.

The various missionary stations were much alike. They consisted of a chapel (commonly of logs) and one or more houses, with perhaps a storehouse and a workshop,–the whole fenced with palisades, and forming, in fact, a stockade fort, surrounded with clearings and cultivated fields. It is evident that the priests had need of other hands than their own and those of the few lay brothers attached to the mission. They required men inured to labor, accustomed to the forest life, able to guide canoes and handle tools and weapons. In the earlier epoch of the missions, when enthusiasm was at its height, they were served in great measure by volunteers, who joined them through devotion or penitence, and who were known as _donnés_, or “given men.” Of late, the number of these had much diminished; and they now relied chiefly on hired men, or _engagés_. These were employed in building, hunting, fishing, clearing and tilling the ground, guiding canoes, and if faith is to be placed in reports current throughout the colony in trading with the Indians for the profit of the missions. This charge of trading–which, if the results were applied exclusively to the support of the missions, does not of necessity involve much censure–is vehemently reiterated in many quarters, including the official despatches of the Governor of Canada; while, so far as I can discover, the Jesuits never distinctly denied it; and, on several occasions, they partially admitted its truth. [Footnote: This charge was made from the first establishment of the missions. For remarks on it, see “Jesuits in North America.”]



Jean Talon, Intendant of Canada, was a man of no common stamp. Able, vigorous, and patriotic,–he was the worthy lieutenant and disciple of the great minister Colbert, the ill-requited founder of the prosperity of Louis XIV. He cherished high hopes for the future of New France, and labored strenuously to realize them. He urged upon the king a scheme which, could it have been accomplished, would have wrought strange changes on the American continent. This was, to gain possession of New York, by treaty or conquest; [Footnote: _Lettre de Talon à Colbert_, 27 _Oct_. 1667. Twenty years after, the plan was again suggested by the Governor, Denonville.] thus giving to Canada a southern access to the ocean, open at all seasons, separating New England from Virginia, and controlling the Iroquois, the most formidable enemy of the French colony. Louis XIV. held the king of England in his pay; and, had the proposal been urged, the result could not have been foretold. The scheme failed, and Talon prepared to use his present advantages to the utmost. While laboring strenuously to develop the industrial resources of the colony, he addressed himself to discovering and occupying the interior of the continent; controlling the rivers, which were its only highways; and securing it for France against every other nation. On the east, England was to be hemmed within a narrow strip of seaboard; while, on the south, Talon aimed at securing a port on the Gulf of Mexico, to hold the Spaniards in check, and dispute with them the possession of the vast regions which they claimed as their own. But the interior of the continent was still an unknown world. It behooved him to explore it; and to that end he availed himself of Jesuits, officers, fur-traders, and enterprising schemers like La Salle. His efforts at discovery seem to have been conducted with a singular economy of the king’s purse. La Salle paid all the expenses of his first expedition made under Talon’s auspices; and apparently of the second also, though the Intendant announces it in his despatches as an expedition sent out by himself. [Footnote: At all events, La Salle was in great need of money about the time of his second journey. On the sixth of August, 1671, he had received on credit, “dans son grand besoin et nécessité,” from Branssat, fiscal attorney of the Seminary, merchandise to the amount of four hundred and fifty livres; and, on the eighteenth of December of the following year, he gave his promise to pay the same sum, in money or furs, in the August following. Faillon found the papers in the ancient records of Montreal.] When, in 1670, he ordered Daumont de St. Lusson to search for copper-mines on Lake Superior, and, at the same time, to take formal possession of the whole interior for the king; it was arranged that he should pay the costs of the journey by trading with the Indians. [Footnote: In his despatch of 2d Nov. 1671, Talon writes to the king that “St. Lusson’s expedition will cost nothing, as he has received beaver enough from the Indians to pay him.”]

St. Lusson set out with a small party of men, and Nicolas Perrot as his interpreter. Among Canadian _voyageurs_ few names are so conspicuous as that of Perrot; not because there were not others who matched him in achievement, but because he could write, and left behind him a tolerable account of what he had seen. [Footnote: _Moeurs, Coustumes, et Relligion des Sauvages de l’Amérique Septentrionale_. This work of Perrot, hitherto unpublished, appeared in 1864, under the editorship of Father Tailhan, S.J. A great part of it is incorporated in La Potherie.] He was at this time twenty-six years old, and had formerly been an _engagé_ of the Jesuits. He was a man of enterprise, courage, and address; the last being especially shown in his dealings with Indians, over whom he had great influence. He spoke Algonquin fluently, and was favorably known to many tribes of that family. St. Lusson wintered at the Manatoulin Islands; while Perrot–having first sent messages to the tribes of the north, inviting them to meet the deputy of the Governor at the Saut Ste. Marie in the following spring–proceeded to Green Bay, to urge the same invitation upon the tribes of that quarter. They knew him well, and greeted him with clamors of welcome. The Miamis, it is said, received him with a sham battle, which was designed to do him honor, but by which nerves more susceptible would have been severely shaken. [Footnote: See La Potherie, ii. 125. Perrot himself does not mention it. Charlevoix erroneously places this interview at Chicago. Perrot’s narrative shows that he did not go farther than the tribes of Green Bay; and the Miamis were then, as we have seen, on the upper part of Fox River.] They entertained him also with a grand game of _la crosse_, the Indian ball-play. Perrot gives a marvellous account of the authority and state of the Miami chief; who, he says, was attended day and night by a guard of warriors,–an assertion which would be incredible were it not sustained by the account of the same chief given by the Jesuit Dablon. Of the tribes of the Bay, the greater part promised to send delegates to the Saut; but the Pottawattamies dissuaded the Miami potentate from attempting so long a journey, lest the fatigue incident to it might injure his health; and he therefore deputed them to represent him and his tribesmen at the great meeting. Their principal chiefs, with those of the Sacs, Winnebagoes, and Menomonies, embarked, and paddled for the place of rendezvous; where they and Perrot arrived on the fifth of May. [Footnote: Perrot, _Mémoires_, 127.]

St. Lusson was here with his men, fifteen in number, among whom was Louis Joliet; [Footnote: _Procès Verbal de la Prise de Possession, etc._, 14 _Juin_, 1671. The names are attached to this instrument.] and Indians were fast thronging in from their wintering grounds; attracted, as usual, by the fishery of the rapids, or moved by the messages sent by Perrot,– Crees, Monsonis, Amikoués, Nipissings, and many more. When fourteen tribes, or their representatives, had arrived, St. Lusson prepared to execute the commission with which he was charged.

At the foot of the rapids was the village of the Sauteurs, above the village was a hill, and hard by stood the fort of the Jesuits. On the morning of the fourteenth of June, St. Lusson led his followers to the top of the hill, all fully equipped and under arms. Here, too, in the vestments of their priestly office, were four Jesuits,–Claude Dablon, Superior of the Missions of the Lakes, Gabriel Druilletes, Claude Allouez, and Louis André. [Footnote: Marquette is said to have been present; but the official act, just cited, proves the contrary. He was still at St. Esprit.] All around, the great throng of Indians stood, or crouched, or reclined at length, with eyes and ears intent. A large cross of wood had been made ready. Dablon, in solemn form, pronounced his blessing on it; and then it was reared and planted in the ground, while the Frenchmen, uncovered, sang the _Vexilla Regis_. Then a post of cedar was planted beside it, with a metal plate attached, engraven with the royal arms; while St. Lusson’s followers sang the _Exaudiat_ and one of the Jesuits uttered a prayer for the king. St. Lusson now advanced, and, holding his sword in one hand, and raising with the other a sod of earth, proclaimed in a loud voice,–

“In the name of the Most High, Mighty, and Redoubted Monarch, Louis, Fourteenth of that name, Most Christian King of France and of Navarre, I take possession of this place, Sainte Marie du Saut, as also of Lakes Huron and Superior, the Island of Manatoulin, and all countries, rivers, lakes, and streams contiguous and adjacent thereunto; both those which have been discovered and those which may be discovered hereafter, in all their length and breadth, bounded on the one side by the seas of the North and of the West, and on the other by the South Sea: declaring to the nations thereof that from this time forth they are vassals of his Majesty, bound to obey his laws and follow his customs: promising them on his part all succor and protection against the incursions and invasions of their enemies: declaring to all other potentates, princes, sovereigns, states and republics,–to them and their subjects,–that they cannot and are not to seize or settle upon any parts of the aforesaid countries, save only under the good pleasure of His Most Christian Majesty, and of him who will govern in his behalf; and this on pain of incurring his resentment and the efforts of his arms. _Vive le Roi_.” [Footnote: _Procès Verbal de la Prise de Possession_.]

The Frenchmen fired their guns and shouted “_Vive le Roi_,” and the yelps of the astonished Indians mingled with the din.

What now remains of the sovereignty thus pompously proclaimed? Now and then, the accents of France on the lips of some straggling boatman or vagabond half-breed;–this, and nothing more.

When the uproar was over, Father Allouez addressed the Indians in a solemn harangue; and these were his words: “It is a good work, my brothers, an important work, a great work, that brings us together in council to-day. Look up at the cross which rises so high above your heads. It was there that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, after making himself a man for the love of men, was nailed and died, to satisfy his Eternal Father for our sins. He is the master of our lives; the ruler of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. It is he of whom I am continually speaking to you, and whose name and word I have borne through all your country. But look at this post to which are fixed the arms of the great chief of France, whom we call King. He lives across the sea. He is the chief of the greatest chiefs, and has no equal on earth. All the chiefs whom you have ever seen are but children beside him. He is like a great tree, and they are but the little herbs that one walks over and tramples under foot. You know Onontio, [Footnote: The Indian name of the Governor of Canada.] that famous chief at Quebec; you know and you have seen that he is the terror of the Iroquois, and that his very name makes them tremble, since he has laid their country waste and burned their towns with fire. Across the sea there are ten thousand Onontios like him, who are but the warriors of our great King, of whom I have told you. When he says, ‘I am going to war,’ everybody obeys his orders; and each of these ten thousand chiefs raises a troop of a hundred warriors, some on sea and some on land. Some embark in great ships, such as you have seen at Quebec. Your canoes carry only four or five men, or at the most, ten or twelve; but our ships carry four or five hundred, and sometimes a thousand. Others go to war by land, and in such numbers that if they stood in a double file they would reach from here to Mississaquenk, which is more than twenty leagues off. When our King attacks his enemies, he is more terrible than the thunder: the earth trembles; the air and the sea are all on fire with the blaze of his cannon: he is seen in the midst of his warriors, covered over with the blood of his enemies, whom he kills in such numbers, that he does not reckon them by the scalps, but by the streams of blood which he causes to flow. He takes so many prisoners that he holds them in no account, but lets them go where they will, to show that he is not afraid of them. But now nobody dares make war on him. All the nations beyond the sea have submitted to him and begged humbly for peace. Men come from every quarter of the earth to listen to him and admire him. All that is done in the world is decided by him alone.

“But what shall I say of his riches? You think yourselves rich when you have ten or twelve sacks of corn, a few hatchets, beads, kettles, and other things of that sort. He has cities of his own, more than there are of men in all this country for five hundred leagues around. In each city there are store-houses where there are hatchets enough to cut down, all your forests, kettles enough to cook all your moose, and beads enough to fill all your lodges. His house is longer than from here to the top of the Saut,–that is to say, more than half a league,–and higher than your tallest trees; and it holds more families than the largest of your towns.” [Footnote: A close translation of Dablon’s report of the speech. See _Relation_, 1671, 27.] The Father added more in a similar strain; but the peroration of his harangue is not on record.

Whatever impression this curious effort of Jesuit rhetoric may have produced upon the hearers, it did not prevent them from stripping the royal arms from the post to which they were nailed, as soon as St. Lusson and his men had left the Saut; probably, not because they understood the import of the symbol, but because they feared it as a charm. St. Lusson proceeded to Lake Superior; where, however, he accomplished nothing, except, perhaps, a traffic with the Indians on his own account; and he soon after returned to Quebec. Talon was resolved to find the Mississippi, the most interesting object of search, and seemingly the most attainable, in the wild and vague domain which he had just claimed for the king. The Indians had described it; the Jesuits were eager to discover it; and La Salle, if he had not reached it, had explored two several avenues by which it might be approached. Talon looked about him for a fit agent of the enterprise, and made choice of Louis Joliet, who had returned from Lake Superior. [Footnote: _Lettre de Frontenac au Ministre_, 2 _Nov_. 1672, MS. In the Brodhead Collection, by a copyist’s error, the name of the Chevalier de Grandfontaine is substituted for that of Talon.] But the Intendant was not to see the fulfilment of his design. His busy and useful career in Canada was drawing to an end. A misunderstanding had arisen between him and the Governor, Courcelles. Both were able and public- spirited; but the relations between the two chiefs of the colony were of a nature necessarily so critical, that a conflict of authority was scarcely to be avoided. The Governor presided at the council, and held the military command; the Intendant directed affairs of justice, finance, and commerce. Each thought his functions encroached upon, and both asked for recall. [Footnote: Courcelles returned home on the plea of ill health. Talon remained a little longer; but soon asked leave to return to France, seeing that he should fare worse with the new governor than with the old.] Another governor succeeded; one who was to stamp his mark, broad, bold, and ineffaceable, on the most memorable page of French-American History.

In the Church of Notre Dame, at Quebec, on a day in the early autumn of 1672, the priests were singing _Te Deum_ for the safe arrival of him whom they were soon to wish beyond the sea again, or beneath it. Here you would have seen the new governor surrounded by officers, and by the chief inhabitants, anxious to pay their court; a tall man in the pompous garb of a military noble of that gorgeous reign, well advanced in middle life, but whose high keen features, full of intellect and fire, bespoke his prompt undaunted nature,–Louis de Buade, Count of Palluau and Frontenac. He belonged to the high nobility, had held important commands, and, if the song-writers of his time speak true, had anticipated the king in the favors of Madame de Montespan. [Footnote: See Brunet, in notes to _Correspondance de la Duchesse d’Orléans_; Paulin, in notes to the _Historiettes de Tallement des Reaux_; and Margry, in _Journal Général de I’Instruction Publique_.] His wife, who could not endure him–and the aversion seems to have been mutual–was a noted beauty of the court, and held great influence in its brilliant and corrupt society. [Footnote: St. Simon and Mademoiselle de Montpensier give very curious accounts of Madame de Frontenac, who is also mentioned in the _Lettres de Madame de Sevigné_. Her portrait will be found at Versailles.] Frontenac was full of faults; but it is not through these that his memory has survived him. He was domineering, arbitrary, intolerant of opposition, irascible, vehement in prejudice, often wayward, perverse, and jealous: a persecutor of those who crossed him; yet capable, by fits, of moderation, and a magnanimous lenity; and gifted with a rare charm–not always exerted–to win the attachment of men: versed in books, polished in courts and salons; without fear, incapable of repose, keen and broad of sight, clear in judgment, prompt in decision, fruitful in resources, unshaken when others despaired; a sure breeder of storms in time of peace, but in time of calamity and danger a tower of strength. His early career in America was beset with ire and enmity; but admiration and gratitude hailed him at its close: for it was he who saved the colony and led it triumphant from an abyss of ruin. [Footnote: In the Library of the Seminary of Quebec is preserved the funeral oration pronounced over the body of Frontenac by Olivier Goyer, a Récollet friar. It is a blind and wholesale panegyric, but it is interlined with notes and comments at great length, by some other ecclesiastic, a bitter enemy of the Governor. He is vindictive and acrimonious beyond measure; but, between the two, a good deal of truth is struck out. Charlevoix’s estimate of Frontenac is admirably candid, when it is remembered that he writes of an enemy of his Order. The career of Frontenac, his letters, and those of his enemies,–of which many are preserved,–are, however, his best interpretation.]



If Talon had remained in the colony, Frontenac would infallibly have quarrelled with him; but he was too clear-sighted not to approve his plans for the discovery and occupation of the interior. Before sailing for France, Talon recommended Joliet as a suitable agent for the discovery of the Mississippi, and the Governor accepted his counsel. [Footnote: _Lettre de Frontenac au Ministre_, 2 _Nov_. 1672; Ibid 14 _Nov_. 1674. MSS]

Louis Joliet was the son of a wagon-maker in the service of the Company of the Hundred Associates, [Footnote: See “Jesuits in North America.”] then, owners of Canada. He was born at Quebec in 1645, was educated by the Jesuits; and, when still very young, he resolved to be a priest. He received the tonsure and the minor orders at the age of seventeen. Four years after, he is mentioned with especial honor for the part he bore in the disputes in philosophy, at which the dignitaries of the colony were present, and in which the Intendant himself took part. [Footnote: “Le 2 Juillet (1666) les premières disputes de philosophie se font dans la congrégation avec succès. Toutes les puissances s’y trouvent; M. l’Intendant entr’autres y a argumenté très-bien. M. Jolliet et Pierre Francheville y ont très-bien répondu de toute la logique.”–_Journal des Jésuites_, MS.] Not long after, he renounced his clerical vocation, and turned fur-trader. Talon sent him, with one Péré, to explore the copper- mines of Lake Superior; and it was on his return from this expedition that he met La Salle and the Sulpitians near the head of Lake Ontario. [Footnote: Nothing was known of Joliet till Shea investigated his history. Ferland, in his _Notes sur les Registres de Notre-Dame de Québec_; Faillon, in his _Colonie Française en Canada_; and Margry, in a series of papers in the _Journal Général de I’Instruction Publique_,–have thrown much new light on his life. From journals of a voyage made by him at a later period to the coast of Labrador,–given in substance by Margry,–he seems to have been a man of close and intelligent observation. His mathematical acquirements appear to have been very considerable.]

In what we know of Joliet, there is nothing that reveals any salient or distinctive trait of character, any especial breadth of view or boldness of design. He appears to have been simply a merchant, intelligent, well educated, courageous, hardy, and enterprising. Though he had renounced the priesthood, he retained his partiality for the Jesuits; and it is more than probable that their influence had aided not a little to determine Talon’s choice. One of their number, Jacques Marquette, was chosen to accompany him.

He passed up the lakes to Michillimackinac; and found his destined companion at Point St. Ignace, on the north side of the strait; where, in his palisaded mission-house and chapel, he had labored for two years past to instruct the Huron refugees from St. Esprit, and a band of Ottawas who had joined them. Marquette was born in 1637, of an old and honorable family at Laon, in the north of France, and was now thirty-five years of age. When about seventeen, he had joined the Jesuits, evidently from motives purely religious; and in 1666 he was sent to the missions of Canada. At first he was destined to the station of Tadoussac; and, to prepare himself for it, he studied the Montagnais language under Gabriel Druilletes. But his destination was changed, and he was sent to the Upper Lakes in 1668, where he had since remained. His talents as a linguist must have been great; for, within a few years, he learned to speak with ease six Indian languages. The traits of his character are unmistakable. He was of the brotherhood of the early Canadian missionaries, and the true counterpart of Garnier or Jogues. He was a devout votary of the Virgin Mary; who, imaged to his mind in shapes of the most transcendent loveliness with which the pencil of human genius has ever informed the canvas, was to him the object of an adoration not unmingled with a sentiment of chivalrous devotion. The longings of a sensitive heart, divorced from earth, sought solace in the skies. A subtile element of romance was blended with the fervor of his worship, and hung like an illumined cloud over the harsh and hard realities of his daily lot. Kindled by the smile of his celestial mistress, his gentle and noble nature knew no fear. For her he burned to dare and to suffer, discover new lands and conquer new realms to her sway.

He begins the journal of his voyage thus: “The day of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin; whom I had continually invoked, since I came to this country of the Ottawas, to obtain from God the favor of being enabled to visit the nations on the river Mississippi–this very day was precisely that on which M. Joliet arrived with orders from Count Frontenac, our Governor, and from M. Talon, our Intendant, to go with me on this discovery. I was all the more delighted at this good news, because I saw my plans about to be accomplished, and found myself in the happy necessity of exposing my life for the salvation of all these tribes; and especially of the Illinois, who, when I was at Point St. Esprit, had begged me very earnestly to bring the word of God among them.”

The outfit of the travellers was very simple. They provided themselves with two birch canoes, and a supply of smoked meat and Indian corn; embarked with five men; and began their voyage on the seventeenth of May. They had obtained all possible information from the Indians, and had made, by means of it, a species of map of their intended route. “Above all,” writes Marquette, “I placed our voyage under the protection of the Holy Virgin Immaculate, promising that if she granted us the favor of discovering the great river, I would give it the name of the Conception.” [Footnote: The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, sanctioned in our own time by the Pope, was always a favorite tenet of the Jesuits; and Marquette was especially devoted to it.] Their course was westward; and, plying their paddles, they passed the Straits of Michillimackinac, and coasted the northern shores of Lake Michigan; landing at evening to build their camp-fire at the edge of the forest, and draw up their canoes on the strand. They soon reached the river Menomonie, and ascended it to the village of the Menomonies, or Wild-rice Indians. [Footnote: The Malhoumines, Malouminek, Oumalouminek, or Nation des Folles-Avoines, of early French writers. The _folle-avoine_, wild oats or “wild rice,”– _Zizania aquatica_,–was their ordinary food, as also of other tribes of this region.] When they told them the object of their voyage, they were filled with astonishment, and used their best ingenuity to dissuade them. The banks of the Mississippi, they said, were inhabited by ferocious tribes, who put every stranger to death, tomahawking all new-comers without cause or provocation. They added that there was a demon in a certain part of the river, whose roar could be heard at a great distance, and who would engulf them in the abyss where he dwelt; that its waters were full of frightful monsters, who would devour them and their canoe; and, finally, that the heat was so great that they would perish inevitably. Marquette set their counsel at naught, gave them a few words of instruction in the mysteries of the Faith, taught them a prayer, and bade them farewell.

The travellers soon reached the mission at the head of Green Bay; entered the Fox River; with difficulty and labor dragged their canoes up the long and tumultuous rapids; crossed Lake Winnebago; and followed the quiet windings of the river beyond, where they glided through an endless growth of wild rice, and scared the innumerable birds that fed upon it. On either hand rolled the prairie, dotted with groves and trees, browsing elk and deer. [Footnote: Dablon, on his journey with Allouez in 1670, was delighted with the aspect of the country and the abundance of game along this river. Carver, a century later, speaks to the same effect,–saying the birds rose up in clouds from the wild-rice marshes.] On the seventh of June, they reached the Mascoutins and Miamis, who, since the visit of Dablon and Allouez, had been joined by the Kickapoos. Marquette, who had an eye for natural beauty, was delighted with the situation of the town, which he describes as standing on the crown of a hill; while, all around, the prairie stretched beyond the sight, interspersed with groves and belts of tall forest. But he was still more delighted when he saw a cross planted in the midst of the place. The Indians had decorated it with a number of dressed deer-skins, red girdles, and bows and arrows, which they had hung upon it as an offering to the Great Manitou of the French,–a sight by which, as Marquette says, he was “extremely consoled.”

The travellers had no sooner reached the town than they called the chiefs and elders to a council. Joliet told them that the Governor of Canada had sent him to discover new countries, and that God had sent his companion to teach the true faith to the inhabitants; and he prayed for guides to show them the way to the waters of the Wisconsin. The council readily consented; and on the tenth of June the Frenchmen embarked again, with two Indians to conduct them. All the town came down to the shore to see their departure. Here were the Miamis, with long locks of hair dangling over each ear, after a fashion which Marquette thought very becoming; and here, too, the Mascoutins and the Kickapoos, whom he describes as mere boors in comparison with their Miami townsmen. All stared alike at the seven adventurers, marvelling that men could be found to risk an enterprise so hazardous.

The river twisted among lakes and marshes choked with wild rice; and, but for their guides, they could scarcely have followed the perplexed and narrow channel. It brought them at last to the portage; where, after carrying their canoes a mile and a half over the prairie and through the marsh, they launched them on the Wisconsin, bade farewell to the waters that flowed to the St. Lawrence, and committed themselves to the current that was to bear them they knew not whither,–perhaps to the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps to the South Sea or the Gulf of California. They glided calmly down the tranquil stream, by islands choked with trees and matted with entangling grape-vines; by forests, groves, and prairies,–the parks and pleasure-grounds of a prodigal nature; by thickets and marshes and broad bare sand-bars; under the shadowing trees, between whose tops looked down from afar the bold brow of some woody bluff. At night, the bivouac,– the canoes inverted on the bank, the flickering fire, the meal of bison- flesh or venison, the evening pipes, and slumber beneath the stars: and when in the morning they embarked again, the mist hung on the river like a bridal veil; then melted before the sun, till the glassy water and the languid woods basked breathless in the sultry glare. [Footnote: The above traits of the scenery of the Wisconsin are taken from personal observation of the river during midsummer.]

On the 17th of June, they saw on their right the broad meadows, bounded in the distance by rugged hills, where now stand the town and fort of Prairie du Chien. Before them, a wide and rapid current coursed athwart their way, by the foot of lofty heights wrapped thick in forests. They had found what they sought, and “with a joy,” writes Marquette, “which I cannot express,” they steered forth their canoes on the eddies of the Mississippi.

Turning southward, they paddled down the stream, through a solitude unrelieved by the faintest trace of man. A large fish, apparently one of the huge cat-fish of the Mississippi, blundered against Marquette’s canoe with a force which seems to have startled him; and once, as they drew in their net, they caught a “spade-fish,” whose eccentric appearance greatly astonished them. At length, the buffalo began to appear, grazing in herds on the great prairies which then bordered the river; and Marquette describes the fierce and stupid look of the old bulls, as they stared at the intruders through the tangled mane which nearly blinded them.

They advanced with extreme caution, landed at night, and made a fire to cook their evening meal; then extinguished it, embarked again, paddled some way farther, and anchored in the stream, keeping a man on the watch till morning. They had journeyed more than a fortnight without meeting a human being; when, on the 25th, they discovered footprints of men in the mud of the western bank, and a well-trodden path that led to the adjacent prairie. Joliet and Marquette resolved to follow it; and, leaving the canoes in charge of their men, they set out on their hazardous adventure. The day was fair, and they walked two leagues in silence, following the path through the forest and across the sunny prairie, till they discovered an Indian village on the banks of a river, and two others on a hill half a league distant. [Footnote: The Indian villages, under the names of Peouaria (Peoria) and Moingouena, are represented in Marquette’s map upon a river corresponding in position with the Des Moines; though the distance from the Wisconsin, as given by him, would indicate a river farther north.] Now, with beating hearts, they invoked the aid of Heaven, and, again advancing, came so near without being seen, that they could hear the voices of the Indians among the wigwams. Then they stood forth in full view, and shouted, to attract attention. There was great commotion in the village. The inmates swarmed out of their huts, and four of their chief men presently came forward to meet the strangers, advancing very deliberately, and holding up toward the sun two calumets, or peace-pipes, decorated with feathers. They stopped abruptly before the two Frenchmen, and stood gazing at them with attention, without speaking a word. Marquette was much relieved on seeing that they wore French cloth, whence he judged that they must be friends and allies. He broke the silence, and asked them who they were; whereupon they answered that they were Illinois, and offered the pipe; which having been duly smoked, they all went together to the village. Here the chief received the travellers after a singular fashion, meant to do them honor. He stood stark naked at the door of a large wigwam, holding up both hands as if to shield his eyes. “Frenchmen, how bright the sun shines when you come to visit us! All our village awaits you; and you shall enter our wigwams in peace.” So saying, he led them into his own; which was crowded to suffocation with savages, staring at their guests in silence. Having smoked with the chiefs and old men, they were invited to visit the great chief of all the Illinois, at one of the villages they had seen in the distance; and thither they proceeded, followed by a throng of warriors, squaws, and children. On arriving, they were forced to smoke again, and listen to a speech of welcome from the great chief; who delivered it, standing between two old men, naked like himself. His lodge was crowded with the dignitaries of the tribe; whom Marquette addressed in Algonquin, announcing himself as a messenger sent by the God who had made them, and whom it behooved them to recognize and obey. He added a few words touching the power and glory of Count Frontenac, and concluded by asking information concerning the Mississippi, and the tribes along its banks, whom he was on his way to visit. The chief replied with a speech of compliment,–assuring his guests that their presence added flavor to his tobacco, made the river more calm, the sky more serene, and the earth more beautiful. In conclusion, he gave them a young slave and a calumet, begging them at the same time to abandon their purpose of descending the Mississippi.

A feast of four courses now followed. First, a wooden bowl full of a porridge of Indian meal boiled with grease was set before the guests, and the master of ceremonies fed them in turn, like infants, with a large spoon. Then, appeared a platter of fish; and the same functionary, carefully removing the bones with his fingers, and blowing on the morsels to cool them, placed them in the mouths of the two Frenchmen. A large dog, killed and cooked for the occasion, was next placed before them; but, failing to tempt their fastidious appetites, was supplanted by a dish of fat buffalo-meat, which concluded the entertainment. The crowd having dispersed, buffalo-robes were spread on the ground, and Marquette and Joliet spent the night on the scene of the late festivity. In the morning, the chief, with some six hundred of his tribesmen, escorted them to their canoes, and bade them, after their stolid fashion, a friendly farewell.

Again they were on their way, slowly drifting down the great river. They passed the mouth of the Illinois, and glided beneath that line of rocks on the eastern side, cut into fantastic forms by the elements, and marked as “The Ruined Castles” on some of the early French maps. Presently they beheld a sight which reminded them that the Devil was still lord paramount of this wilderness. On the flat face of a high rock, were painted in red, black, and green a pair of monsters,–each “as large as a calf, with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger, and a frightful expression of countenance. The face is something like that of a man, the body covered with scales; and the tail so long that it passes entirely round the body, over the head and between the legs, ending like that of a fish.” Such is the account which the worthy Jesuit gives of these _manitous_, or Indian gods. [Footnote: The rock where these figures were painted is immediately above the city of Alton. The tradition of their existence remains, though they are entirely effaced by time. In 1867, when I passed the place, a part of the rock had been quarried away, and, instead of Marquette’s monsters, it bore a huge advertisement of “Plantation Bitters.” Some years ago, certain persons, with more zeal than knowledge, proposed to restore the figures, after conceptions of their own; but the idea was abandoned.

Marquette made a drawing of the two monsters, but it is lost. I have, however, a fac-simile of a map made a few years later by order of the Intendant Duchesneau; which is decorated with the portrait of one of them, answering to Marquette’s description, and probably copied from his drawing. St. Cosme, who saw them in 1699, says that they were even then almost effaced. Douay and Joutel also speak of them; the former, bitterly hostile to his Jesuit contemporaries, charging Marquette with exaggeration in his account of them. Joutel could see nothing terrifying in their appearance; but he says that his Indians made sacrifices to them as they passed.] He confesses that at first they frightened him; and his imagination and that of his credulous companions were so wrought upon by these unhallowed efforts of Indian art, that they continued for a long time to talk of them as they plied their paddles. They were thus engaged, when they were suddenly aroused by a real danger. A torrent of yellow mud rushed furiously athwart the calm blue current of the Mississippi; boiling and surging, and sweeping in its course logs, branches, and uprooted trees. They had reached the mouth of the Missouri, where that savage river, descending from its mad career through a vast unknown of barbarism, poured its turbid floods into the bosom of its gentler sister. Their light canoes whirled on the miry vortex like dry leaves on an angry brook. “I never,” writes Marquette, “saw any thing more terrific;” but they escaped with their fright, and held their way down the turbulent and swollen current of the now united rivers. [Footnote: The Missouri is called Pekitanouï by Marquette. It also bears, on early French maps, the names of Rivière des Osages, and Rivière des Emissourites, or Oumessourits. On Marquette’s map, a tribe of this name is placed near its banks, just above the Osages. Judging by the course of the Mississippi that it discharged into the Gulf of Mexico, he conceived the hope of one day reaching the South Sea by way of the Missouri.] They passed the lonely forest that covered the site of the destined city of St. Louis, and, a few days later, saw on their left the mouth of the stream to which the Iroquois had given the well-merited name of Ohio, or, the Beautiful River. [Footnote: Called on Marquette’s map, Ouabouskiaou. On some of the earliest maps, it is called Ouabache (Wabash).] Soon they began to see the marshy shores buried in a dense growth of the cane, with its tall straight stems and feathery light-green foliage. The sun glowed through the hazy air with a languid stifling heat, and, by day and night, mosquitoes in myriads left them no peace. They floated slowly down the current, crouched in the shade of the sails which they had spread as awnings, when suddenly they saw Indians on the east bank. The surprise was mutual, and each party was as much frightened as the other. Marquette hastened to display the calumet which the Illinois had given him by way of passport; and the Indians, recognizing the pacific symbol, replied with an invitation to land. Evidently, they were in communication with Europeans, for they were armed with guns, knives, and hatchets, wore garments of cloth, and carried their gunpowder in small bottles of thick glass. They feasted the Frenchmen with buffalo-meat, bear’s oil, and white plums; and gave them a variety of doubtful information, including the agreeable but delusive assurance that they would reach the mouth of the river in ten days. It was, in fact, more than a thousand miles distant.

They resumed their course, and again floated down the interminable monotony of river, marsh and forest. Day after day passed on in solitude, and they had paddled some three hundred miles since their meeting with the Indians; when, as they neared the mouth of the Arkansas, they saw a cluster of wigwams on the west bank. Their inmates were all astir, yelling the war-whoop, snatching their weapons, and running to the shore to meet the strangers, who, on their part, called for succor to the Virgin. In truth they had need of her aid; for several large wooden canoes, filled with savages, were putting out from the shore, above and below them, to cut off their retreat, while a swarm of headlong young warriors waded into the water to attack them. The current proved too strong; and, failing to reach the canoes of the Frenchmen, one of them threw his war-club, which flew over the heads of the startled travellers. Meanwhile, Marquette had not ceased to hold up his calumet, to which the excited crowd gave no heed, but strung their bows and notched their arrows for immediate action; when at length the elders of the village arrived, saw the peace-pipe, restrained the ardor of the youth, and urged the Frenchmen to come ashore. Marquette and his companions complied, trembling, and found a better reception than they had reason to expect. One of the Indians spoke a little Illinois, and served as interpreter; a friendly conference was followed by a feast of sagamite and fish; and the travellers, not without sore misgivings, spent the night in the lodges of their entertainers. [Footnote: This village, called Mitchigamea, is represented on several contemporary maps.]

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