Indian-like, postponed the sentence. Yet it seemed impossible that they should much longer escape. Brébeuf, therefore, wrote a letter of farewell to his Superior, Le Jeune, at Quebec, and confided it to some converts whom he could trust, to be carried by them to its destination.
“We are perhaps,” he says, “about to give our blood and our lives in the cause of our Master, Jesus Christ. It seems that His goodness will accept this sacrifice, as regards me, in expiation of my great and numberless sins, and that He will thus crown the past services and ardent desires of all our Fathers here. . . . Blessed be His name forever, that He has chosen us, among so many better than we, to aid him to bear His cross in this land! In all things, His holy will be done!” He then acquaints Le Jeune that he has directed the sacred vessels, and all else belonging to the service of the altar, to be placed, in case of his death, in the hands of Pierre, the convert whose baptism has been described, and that especial care will be taken to preserve the dictionary and other writings on the Huron language. The letter closes with a request for masses and prayers.
[ The following is the conclusion of the letter (Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, 43.)
“En tout, sa sainte volonté soit faite; s’il veut que dés ceste heure nous mourions, ô la bonne heure pour nous! s’il veut nous reseruer à d’autres trauaux, qu’il soit beny; si vous entendez que Dieu ait couronné nos petits trauaux, ou plustost nos desirs, benissez-le: car c’est pour luy que nous desirons viure et mourir, et c’est luy qui nous en donne la grace. Au reste si quelques-vns suruiuent, i’ay donné ordre de tout ce qu’ils doiuent faire. I’ay esté d’aduis que nos Peres et nos domestiques se retirent chez ceux qu’ils croyront estre leurs mei’leurs amis; i’ay donné charge qu’on porte chez Pierre nostre premier Chrestien tout ce qui est de la Sacristie, sur tout qu’on ait vn soin particulier de mettre en lieu d’asseurance le Dictionnaire et tout ce que nous auons de la langue. Pour moy, si Dieu me fait la grace d’aller au Ciel, ie prieray Dieu pour eux, pour les pauures Hurons, et n’oublieray pas Vostre Reuerence.
“Apres tout, nous supplions V. R. et tous nos Peres de ne nous oublier en leurs saincts Sacrifices et prieres, afin qu’en la vie et apres la mort, il nous fasse misericorde; nous sommes tous en la vie et à l’Eternité,
“De vostre Reuerence tres-humbles et tres-affectionnez seruiteurs en Nostre Seigneur,
“IEAN DE BREBEVF. FRANÇOIS IOSEPH LE MERCIER. PIERRE CHASTELLAIN. CHARLES GARNIER.
“En la Residence de la Conception, à Ossossané, ce 28 Octobre.
“I’ay laissé en la Residence de sainct Ioseph les Peres Pierre Pijart et Isaac Iogves, dans les mesmes sentimens.” ]
The imperilled Jesuits now took a singular, but certainly a very wise step. They gave one of those farewell feasts–festins d’adieu–which Huron custom enjoined on those about to die, whether in the course of Nature or by public execution. Being interpreted, it was a declaration that the priests knew their danger, and did not shrink from it. It might have the effect of changing overawed friends into open advocates, and even of awakening a certain sympathy in the breasts of an assembly on whom a bold bearing could rarely fail of influence. The house was packed with feasters, and Brébeuf addressed them as usual on his unfailing themes of God, Paradise, and Hell. The throng listened in gloomy silence; and each, when he had emptied his bowl, rose and departed, leaving his entertainers in utter doubt as to his feelings and intentions. From this time forth, however, the clouds that overhung the Fathers became less dark and threatening. Voices were heard in their defence, and looks were less constantly averted. They ascribed the change to the intercession of St. Joseph, to whom they had vowed a nine days’ devotion. By whatever cause produced, the lapse of a week wrought a hopeful improvement in their prospects; and when they went out of doors in the morning, it was no longer with the expectation of having a hatchet struck into their brains as they crossed the threshold.
[ “Tant y a que depuis le 6. de Nouembre que nous acheuasmes nos Messes votiues son honneur, nous auons iouy d’vn repos incroyable, nons nous en emerueillons nous-mesmes de iour en iour, quand nous considerons en quel estat estoient nos affaires il n’y a que huict iours.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, 44. ]
The persecution of the Jesuits as sorcerers continued, in an intermittent form, for years; and several of them escaped very narrowly. In a house at Ossossané, a young Indian rushed suddenly upon François Du Peron, and lifted his tomahawk to brain him, when a squaw caught his hand. Paul Ragueneau wore a crucifix, from which hung the image of a skull. An Indian, thinking it a charm, snatched it from him. The priest tried to recover it, when the savage, his eyes glittering with murder, brandished his hatchet to strike. Ragueneau stood motionless, waiting the blow. His assailant forbore, and withdrew, muttering. Pierre Chaumonot was emerging from a house at the Huron town called by the Jesuits St. Michel, where he had just baptized a dying girl, when her brother, standing hidden in the doorway, struck him on the head with a stone. Chaumonot, severely wounded, staggered without falling, when the Indian sprang upon him with his tomahawk. The bystanders arrested the blow. François Le Mercier, in the midst of a crowd of Indians in a house at the town called St. Louis, was assailed by a noted chief, who rushed in, raving like a madman, and, in a torrent of words, charged upon him all the miseries of the nation. Then, snatching a brand from the fire, he shook it in the Jesuit’s face, and told him that he should be burned alive. Le Mercier met him with looks as determined as his own, till, abashed at his undaunted front and bold denunciations, the Indian stood confounded.
[ The above incidents are from Le Mercier, Lalemant, Bressani, the autobiography of Chaumonot, the unpublished writings of Garnier, and the ancient manuscript volume of memoirs of the early Canadian missionaries, at St. Mary’s College, Montreal. ]
The belief that their persecutions were owing to the fury of the Devil, driven to desperation by the home-thrusts he had received at their hands, was an unfailing consolation to the priests. “Truly,” writes Le Mercier, “it is an unspeakable happiness for us, in the midst of this barbarism, to hear the roaring of the demons, and to see Earth and Hell raging against a handful of men who will not even defend themselves.” [ 1 ] In all the copious records of this dark period, not a line gives occasion to suspect that one of this loyal band flinched or hesitated. The iron Brébeuf, the gentle Garnier, the all-enduring Jogues, the enthusiastic Chaumonot, Lalemant, Le Mercier, Chatelain, Daniel, Pijart, Ragueneau, Du Peron, Poncet, Le Moyne,–one and all bore themselves with a tranquil boldness, which amazed the Indians and enforced their respect.
[ 1 “C’est veritablement un bonheur indicible pour nous, au milieu de cette barbarie, d’entendre les rugissemens des demons, & de voir tout l’Enfer & quasi tous les hommes animez & remplis de fureur contre une petite poignée de gens qui ne voudroient pas se defendre.”–Relation des Hurons, 1640, 31 (Cramoisy). ]
Father Jerome Lalemant, in his journal of 1639, is disposed to draw an evil augury for the mission from the fact that as yet no priest had been put to death, inasmuch as it is a received maxim that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. [ 1 ] He consoles himself with the hope that the daily life of the missionaries may be accepted as a living martyrdom; since abuse and threats without end, the smoke, fleas, filth, and dogs of the Indian lodges,–which are, he says, little images of Hell,–cold, hunger, and ceaseless anxiety, and all these continued for years, are a portion to which many might prefer the stroke of a tomahawk. Reasonable as the Father’s hope may be, its expression proved needless in the sequel; for the Huron church was not destined to suffer from a lack of martyrdom in any form.
[ 1 “Nous auons quelque fois douté, sçauoir si on pouuoit esperer la conuersion de ce païs sans qu’il y eust effusion de sang: le principe reçeu ce semble dans l’Eglise de Dieu, que le sang des Martyrs est la semence des Chrestiens, me faisoit conclure pour lors, que cela n’estoit pas à esperer, voire mesme qu’il n’étoit pas à souhaiter, consideré la gloire qui reuient à Dieu de la constance des Martyrs, du sang desquels tout le reste de la terre ayant tantost esté abreuué, ce seroit vne espece de malediction, que ce quartier du monde ne participast point au bonheur d’auoir contribué à l’esclat de ceste gloire.”–Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 56, 57. ]
PRIEST AND PAGAN.
DU PERON’S JOURNEY.–DAILY LIFE OF THE JESUITS.– THEIR MISSIONARY EXCURSIONS.–CONVERTS AT OSSOSSANÉ.– MACHINERY OF CONVERSION.–CONDITIONS OF BAPTISM.–BACKSLIDERS.– THE CONVERTS AND THEIR COUNTRYMEN.–THE CANNIBALS AT ST. JOSEPH.
We have already touched on the domestic life of the Jesuits. That we may the better know them, we will follow one of their number on his journey towards the scene of his labors, and observe what awaited him on his arrival.
Father François Pu Peron came up the Ottawa in a Huron canoe in September, 1638, and was well treated by the Indian owner of the vessel. Lalemant and Le Moyne, who had set out from Three Rivers before him, did not fare so well. The former was assailed by an Algonquin of Allumette Island, who tried to strangle him in revenge for the death of a child, which a Frenchman in the employ of the Jesuits had lately bled, but had failed to restore to health by the operation. Le Moyne was abandoned by his Huron conductors, and remained for a fortnight by the bank of the river, with a French attendant who supported him by hunting. Another Huron, belonging to the flotilla that carried Du Peron, then took him into his canoe; but, becoming tired of him, was about to leave him on a rock in the river, when his brother priest bribed the savage with a blanket to carry him to his journey’s end.
It was midnight, on the twenty-ninth of September, when Du Peron landed on the shore of Thunder Bay, after paddling without rest since one o’clock of the preceding morning. The night was rainy, and Ossossané was about fifteen miles distant. His Indian companions were impatient to reach their towns; the rain prevented the kindling of a fire; while the priest, who for a long time had not heard mass, was eager to renew his communion as soon as possible. Hence, tired and hungry as he was, he shouldered his sack, and took the path for Ossossané without breaking his fast. He toiled on, half-spent, amid the ceaseless pattering, trickling, and whispering of innumerable drops among innumerable leaves, till, as day dawned, he reached a clearing, and descried through the mists a cluster of Huron houses. Faint and bedrenched, he entered the principal one, and was greeted with the monosyllable “Shay!”–“Welcome!” A squaw spread a mat for him by the fire, roasted four ears of Indian corn before the coals, baked two squashes in the embers, ladled from her kettle a dish of sagamite, and offered them to her famished guest. Missionaries seem to have been a novelty at this place; for, while the Father breakfasted, a crowd, chiefly of children, gathered about him, and stared at him in silence. One examined the texture of his cassock; another put on his hat; a third took the shoes from his feet, and tried them on her own. Du Peron requited his entertainers with a few trinkets, and begged, by signs, a guide to Ossossané. An Indian accordingly set out with him, and conducted him to the mission-house, which he reached at six o’clock in the evening.
Here he found a warm welcome, and little other refreshment. In respect to the commodities of life, the Jesuits were but a step in advance of the Indians. Their house, though well ventilated by numberless crevices in its bark walls, always smelt of smoke, and, when the wind was in certain quarters, was filled with it to suffocation. At their meals, the Fathers sat on logs around the fire, over which their kettle was slung in the Indian fashion. Each had his wooden platter, which, from the difficulty of transportation, was valued, in the Huron country, at the price of a robe of beaver-skin, or a hundred francs. [ “Nos plats, quoyque de bois, nous coûtent plus cher que Les vôtres; ils sont de la valeur d’une robe de castor, c’est à dire cent francs.”–Lettre du P. Du Peron à son Frère, 27 Avril, 1639.–The Father’s appraisement seems a little questionable. ] Their food consisted of sagamite, or “mush,” made of pounded Indian-corn, boiled with scraps of smoked fish. Chaumonot compares it to the paste used for papering the walls of houses. The repast was occasionally varied by a pumpkin or squash baked in the ashes, or, in the season, by Indian corn roasted in the ear. They used no salt whatever. They could bring their cumbrous pictures, ornaments and vestments through the savage journey of the Ottawa; but they could not bring the common necessaries of life. By day, they read and studied by the light that streamed in through the large smoke-holes in the roof,–at night, by the blaze of the fire. Their only candles were a few of wax, for the altar. They cultivated a patch of ground, but raised nothing on it except wheat for making the sacramental bread. Their food was supplied by the Indians, to whom they gave, in return, cloth, knives, awls, needles, and various trinkets. Their supply of wine for the Eucharist was so scanty, that they limited themselves to four or five drops for each mass.
[ The above particulars are drawn from a long letter of François Du Peron to his brother, Joseph-Imbert Du Peron, dated at La Conception (Ossossané), April 27, 1639, and from a letter, equally long, of Chaumonot to Father Philippe Nappi, dated Du Pays des Hurons, May 26, 1640. Both are in Carayon. These private letters of the Jesuits, of which many are extant, in some cases written on birch-bark, are invaluable as illustrations of the subject.
The Jesuits soon learned to make wine from wild grapes. Those in Maine and Acadia, at a later period, made good candles from the waxy fruit of the shrub known locally as the “bayberry.” ]
Their life was regulated with a conventual strictness. At four in the morning, a bell roused them from the sheets of bark on which they slept. Masses, private devotions, reading religious books, and breakfasting, filled the time until eight, when they opened their door and admitted the Indians. As many of these proved intolerable nuisances, they took what Lalemant calls the _honnête_ liberty of turning out the most intrusive and impracticable,–an act performed with all tact and courtesy, and rarely taken in dudgeon. Having thus winnowed their company, they catechized those that remained, as opportunity offered. In the intervals, the guests squatted by the fire and smoked their pipes.
As among the Spartan virtues of the Hurons that of thieving was especially conspicuous, it was necessary that one or more of the Fathers should remain on guard at the house all day. The rest went forth on their missionary labors, baptizing and instructing, as we have seen. To each priest who could speak Huron [ 1 ] was assigned a certain number of houses,–in some instances, as many as forty; and as these often had five or six fires, with two families to each, his spiritual flock was as numerous as it was intractable. It was his care to see that none of the number died without baptism, and by every means in his power to commend the doctrines of his faith to the acceptance of those in health.
[ 1 At the end of the year 1638, there were seven priests who spoke Huron, and three who had begun to learn it. ]
At dinner, which was at two o’clock, grace was said in Huron,–for the benefit of the Indians present,–and a chapter of the Bible was read aloud during the meal. At four or five, according to the season, the Indians were dismissed, the door closed, and the evening spent in writing, reading, studying the language, devotion, and conversation on the affairs of the mission.
The local missions here referred to embraced Ossossané and the villages of the neighborhood; but the priests by no means confined themselves within these limits. They made distant excursions, two in company, until every house in every Huron town had heard the annunciation of the new doctrine. On these journeys, they carried blankets or large mantles at their backs, for sleeping in at night, besides a supply of needles, awls, beads, and other small articles, to pay for their lodging and entertainment: for the Hurons, hospitable without stint to each other, expected full compensation from the Jesuits.
At Ossossané, the house of the Jesuits no longer served the double purpose of dwelling and chapel. In 1638, they had in their pay twelve artisans and laborers, sent up from Quebec, [ Du Peron in Carayon, 173. ] who had built, before the close of the year, a chapel of wood. [ “La chapelle est faite d’une charpente bien jolie, semblable presque en façon et grandeur, à notre chapelle de St. Julien.”–Ibid., 183. ] Hither they removed their pictures and ornaments; and here, in winter, several fires were kept burning, for the comfort of the half-naked converts. [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 62. ] Of these they now had at Ossossané about sixty,–a large, though evidently not a very solid nucleus for the Huron church,–and they labored hard and anxiously to confirm and multiply them. Of a Sunday morning in winter, one could have seen them coming to mass, often from a considerable distance, “as naked,” says Lalemant, “as your hand, except a skin over their backs like a mantle, and, in the coldest weather, a few skins around their feet and legs.” They knelt, mingled with the French mechanics, before the altar,–very awkwardly at first, for the posture was new to them,–and all received the sacrament together: a spectacle which, as the missionary chronicler declares, repaid a hundred times all the labor of their conversion. [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 62. ]
Some of the principal methods of conversion are curiously illustrated in a letter written by Garnier to a friend in France. “Send me,” he says, “a picture of Christ without a beard.” Several Virgins are also requested, together with a variety of souls in perdition–âmes damnées– most of them to be mounted in a portable form. Particular directions are given with respect to the demons, dragons, flames, and other essentials of these works of art. Of souls in bliss–âmes bienheureuses–he thinks that one will be enough. All the pictures must be in full face, not in profile; and they must look directly at the beholder, with open eyes. The colors should be bright; and there must be no flowers or animals, as these distract the attention of the Indians.
[ Garnier, Lettre 17me, MS. These directions show an excellent knowledge of Indian peculiarities. The Indian dislike of a beard is well known. Catlin, the painter, once caused a fatal quarrel among a party of Sioux, by representing one of them in profile, whereupon he was jibed by a rival as being but half a man. ]
The first point with the priests was of course to bring the objects of their zeal to an acceptance of the fundamental doctrines of the Roman Church; but, as the mind of the savage was by no means that beautiful blank which some have represented it, there was much to be erased as well as to be written. They must renounce a host of superstitions, to which they were attached with a strange tenacity, or which may rather be said to have been ingrained in their very natures. Certain points of Christian morality were also strongly urged by the missionaries, who insisted that the convert should take but one wife, and not cast her off without grave cause, and that he should renounce the gross license almost universal among the Hurons. Murder, cannibalism, and several other offences, were also forbidden. Yet, while laboring at the work of conversion with an energy never surpassed, and battling against the powers of darkness with the mettle of paladins, the Jesuits never had the folly to assume towards the Indians a dictatorial or overbearing tone. Gentleness, kindness, and patience were the rule of their intercourse. [ 1 ] They studied the nature of the savage, and conformed themselves to it with an admirable tact. Far from treating the Indian as an alien and barbarian, they would fain have adopted him as a countryman; and they proposed to the Hurons that a number of young Frenchmen should settle among them, and marry their daughters in solemn form. The listeners were gratified at an overture so flattering. “But what is the use,” they demanded, “of so much ceremony? If the Frenchmen want our women, they are welcome to come and take them whenever they please, as they always used to do.” [ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 160. ]
[ 1 The following passage from the “Divers Sentimens,” before cited, will illustrate this point. “Pour conuertir les Sauuages, il n’y faut pas tant de science que de bonté et vertu bien solide. Les quatre Elemens d’vn homme Apostolique en la Nouuelle France sont l’Affabilité, l’Humilité, la Patience et vne Charité genereuse. Le zele trop ardent brusle plus qu’il n’eschauffe, et gaste tout; il faut vne grande magnanimité et condescendance, pour attirer peu à peu ces Sauuages. Ils n’entendent pas bien nostre Theologie, mais ils entendent parfaictement bien nostre humilité et nostre affabilité, et se laissent gaigner.”
So too Brébeuf, in a letter to Vitelleschi, General of the Jesuits (see Carayon, 163): “Ce qu’il faut demander, avant tout, des ouvriers destinés à cette mission, c’est une douceur inaltérable et une patience à toute épreuve.” ]
The Fathers are well agreed that their difficulties did not arise from any natural defect of understanding on the part of the Indians, who, according to Chaumonot, were more intelligent than the French peasantry, and who, in some instances, showed in their way a marked capacity. It was the inert mass of pride, sensuality, indolence, and superstition that opposed the march of the Faith, and in which the Devil lay intrenched as behind impregnable breastworks.
[ In this connection, the following specimen of Indian reasoning is worth noting. At the height of the pestilence, a Huron said to one of the priests, “I see plainly that your God is angry with us because we will not believe and obey him. Ihonatiria, where you first taught his word, is entirely ruined. Then you came here to Ossossané, and we would not listen; so Ossossané is ruined too. This year you have been all through our country, and found scarcely any who would do what God commands; therefore the pestilence is everywhere.” After premises so hopeful, the Fathers looked for a satisfactory conclusion; but the Indian proceeded–“My opinion is, that we ought to shut you out from all the houses, and stop our ears when you speak of God, so that we cannot hear. Then we shall not be so guilty of rejecting the truth, and he will not punish us so cruelly.”–Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1640, 80. ]
It soon became evident that it was easier to make a convert than to keep him. Many of the Indians clung to the idea that baptism was a safeguard against pestilence and misfortune; and when the fallacy of this notion was made apparent, their zeal cooled. Their only amusements consisted of feasts, dances, and games, many of which were, to a greater or less degree, of a superstitious character; and as the Fathers could rarely prove to their own satisfaction the absence of the diabolic element in any one of them, they proscribed the whole indiscriminately, to the extreme disgust of the neophyte. His countrymen, too, beset him with dismal prognostics: as, “You will kill no more game,”–“All your hair will come out before spring,” and so forth. Various doubts also assailed him with regard to the substantial advantages of his new profession; and several converts were filled with anxiety in view of the probable want of tobacco in Heaven, saying that they could not do without it. [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 80. ] Nor was it pleasant to these incipient Christians, as they sat in class listening to the instructions of their teacher, to find themselves and him suddenly made the targets of a shower of sticks, snowballs, corn-cobs, and other rubbish, flung at them by a screeching rabble of vagabond boys. [ Ibid., 78. ]
Yet, while most of the neophytes demanded an anxious and diligent cultivation, there were a few of excellent promise; and of one or two especially, the Fathers, in the fulness of their satisfaction, assure us again and again “that they were savage only in name.”
[ From June, 1639, to June, 1640, about a thousand persons were baptized. Of these, two hundred and sixty were infants, and many more were children. Very many died soon after baptism. Of the whole number, less than twenty were baptized in health,–a number much below that of the preceding year.
The following is a curious case of precocious piety. It is that of a child at St. Joseph. “Elle n’a que deux ans, et fait joliment le signe de la croix, et prend elle-même de l’eau bénite; et une fois se mit à crier, sortant de la Chapelle, à cause que sa mère qui la portoit ne lui avoit donné le loisir d’en prendre. Il l’a fallu reporter en prendre.”– Lettres de Garnier, MSS. ]
As the town of Ihonatiria, where the Jesuits had made their first abode, was ruined by the pestilence, the mission established there, and known by the name of St. Joseph, was removed, in the summer of 1638, to Teanaustayé, a large town at the foot of a range of hills near the southern borders of the Huron territory. The Hurons, this year, had had unwonted successes in their war with the Iroquois, and had taken, at various times, nearly a hundred prisoners. Many of these were brought to the seat of the new mission of St. Joseph, and put to death with frightful tortures, though not before several had been converted and baptized. The torture was followed, in spite of the remonstrances of the priests, by those cannibal feasts customary with the Hurons on such occasions. Once, when the Fathers had been strenuous in their denunciations, a hand of the victim, duly prepared, was flung in at their door, as an invitation to join in the festivity. As the owner of the severed member had been baptized, they dug a hole in their chapel, and buried it with solemn rites of sepulture. [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 70. ]
THE TOBACCO NATION.–THE NEUTRALS.
A CHANGE OF PLAN.–SAINTE MARIE.–MISSION OF THE TOBACCO NATION.– WINTER JOURNEYING.–RECEPTION OF THE MISSIONARIES.– SUPERSTITIOUS TERRORS.–PERIL OF GARNIER AND JOGUES.– MISSION OF THE NEUTRALS.–HURON INTRIGUES.–MIRACLES.– FURY OF THE INDIANS.–INTERVENTION OF SAINT MICHAEL.– RETURN TO SAINTE MARIE.–INTREPIDITY OF THE PRIESTS.– THEIR MENTAL EXALTATION.
It had been the first purpose of the Jesuits to form permanent missions in each of the principal Huron towns; but, before the close of the year 1639, the difficulties and risks of this scheme had become fully apparent. They resolved, therefore, to establish one central station, to be a base of operations, and, as it were, a focus, whence the light of the Faith should radiate through all the wilderness around. It was to serve at once as residence, fort, magazine, hospital, and convent. Hence the priests would set forth on missionary expeditions far and near; and hither they might retire, as to an asylum, in times of sickness or extreme peril. Here the neophytes could be gathered together, safe from perverting influences; and here in time a Christian settlement, Hurons mingled with Frenchmen, might spring up and thrive under the shadow of the cross.
The site of the new station was admirably chosen. The little river Wye flows from the southward into the Matchedash Bay of Lake Huron, and, at about a mile from its mouth, passes through a small lake. The Jesuits made choice of the right bank of the Wye, where it issues from this lake,–gained permission to build from the Indians, though not without difficulty,–and began their labors with an abundant energy, and a very deficient supply of workmen and tools. The new establishment was called Sainte Marie. The house at Teanaustayé, and the house and chapel at Ossossané, were abandoned, and all was concentrated at this spot. On one hand, it had a short water communication with Lake Huron; and on the other, its central position gave the readiest access to every part of the Huron territory.
During the summer before, the priests had made a survey of their field of action, visited all the Huron towns, and christened each of them with the name of a saint. This heavy draft on the calendar was followed by another, for the designation of the nine towns of the neighboring and kindred people of the Tobacco Nation. [ See Introduction. ] The Huron towns were portioned into four districts, while those of the Tobacco Nation formed a fifth, and each district was assigned to the charge of two or more priests. In November and December, they began their missionary excursions,–for the Indians were now gathered in their settlements,–and journeyed on foot through the denuded forests, in mud and snow, bearing on their backs the vessels and utensils necessary for the service of the altar.
The new and perilous mission of the Tobacco Nation fell to Garnier and Jogues. They were well chosen; and yet neither of them was robust by nature, in body or mind, though Jogues was noted for personal activity. The Tobacco Nation lay at the distance of a two days’ journey from the Huron towns, among the mountains at the head of Nottawassaga Bay. The two missionaries tried to find a guide at Ossossané; but none would go with them, and they set forth on their wild and unknown pilgrimage alone.
The forests were full of snow; and the soft, moist flakes were still falling thickly, obscuring the air, beplastering the gray trunks, weighing to the earth the boughs of spruce and pine, and hiding every footprint of the narrow path. The Fathers missed their way, and toiled on till night, shaking down at every step from the burdened branches a shower of fleecy white on their black cassocks. Night overtook them in a spruce swamp. Here they made a fire with great difficulty, cut the evergreen boughs, piled them for a bed, and lay down. The storm presently ceased; and, “praised be God,” writes one of the travellers, “we passed a very good night.” [ Jogues and Garnier in Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1640, 95. ]
In the morning they breakfasted on a morsel of corn bread, and, resuming their journey, fell in with a small party of Indians, whom they followed all day without food. At eight in the evening they reached the first Tobacco town, a miserable cluster of bark cabins, hidden among forests and half buried in snow-drifts, where the savage children, seeing the two black apparitions, screamed that Famine and the Pest were coming. Their evil fame had gone before them. They were unwelcome guests; nevertheless, shivering and famished as they were, in the cold and darkness, they boldly pushed their way into one of these dens of barbarism. It was precisely like a Huron house. Five or six fires blazed on the earthen floor, and around them were huddled twice that number of families, sitting, crouching, standing, or flat on the ground; old and young, women and men, children and dogs, mingled pell-mell. The scene would have been a strange one by daylight: it was doubly strange by the flicker and glare of the lodge-fires. Scowling brows, sidelong looks of distrust and fear, the screams of scared children, the scolding of squaws, the growling of wolfish dogs,–this was the greeting of the strangers. The chief man of the household treated them at first with the decencies of Indian hospitality; but when he saw them kneeling in the litter and ashes at their devotions, his suppressed fears found vent, and he began a loud harangue, addressed half to them and half to the Indians. “Now, what are these _okies_ doing? They are making charms to kill us, and destroy all that the pest has spared in this house. I heard that they were sorcerers; and now, when it is too late, I believe it.” [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1640, 96. ] It is wonderful that the priests escaped the tomahawk. Nowhere is the power of courage, faith, and an unflinching purpose more strikingly displayed than in the record of these missions.
In other Tobacco towns their reception was much the same; but at the largest, called by them St. Peter and St. Paul, they fared worse. They reached it on a winter afternoon. Every door of its capacious bark houses was closed against them; and they heard the squaws within calling on the young men to go out and split their heads, while children screamed abuse at the black-robed sorcerers. As night approached, they left the town, when a band of young men followed them, hatchet in hand, to put them to death. Darkness, the forest, and the mountain favored them; and, eluding their pursuers, they escaped. Thus began the mission of the Tobacco Nation.
In the following November, a yet more distant and perilous mission was begun. Brébeuf and Chaumonot set out for the Neutral Nation. This fierce people, as we have already seen, occupied that part of Canada which lies immediately north of Lake Erie, while a wing of their territory extended across the Niagara into Western New York. [ 1 ] In their athletic proportions, the ferocity of their manners, and the extravagance of their superstitions, no American tribe has ever exceeded them. They carried to a preposterous excess the Indian notion, that insanity is endowed with a mysterious and superhuman power. Their country was full of pretended maniacs, who, to propitiate their guardian spirits, or _okies_, and acquire the mystic virtue which pertained to madness, raved stark naked through the villages, scattering the brands of the lodge-fires, and upsetting everything in their way.
[ 1 Introduction.–The river Niagara was at this time, 1640, well known to the Jesuits, though none of them had visited it. Lalemant speaks of it as the “famous river of this nation” (the Neutrals). The following translation, from his Relation of 1641, shows that both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie had already taken their present names.
“This river” (the Niagara) “is the same by which our great lake of the Hurons, or Fresh Sea, discharges itself, in the first place, into Lake Erie (le lac d’Erié), or the Lake of the Cat Nation. Then it enters the territories of the Neutral Nation, and takes the name of Onguiaahra (Niagara), until it discharges itself into Ontario, or the Lake of St. Louis; whence at last issues the river which passes before Quebec, and is called the St. Lawrence.” He makes no allusion to the cataract, which is first mentioned as follows by Ragueneau, in the Relation of 1648.
“Nearly south of this same Neutral Nation there is a great lake, about two hundred leagues in circuit, named Erie (Erié), which is formed by the discharge of the Fresh Sea, and which precipitates itself by a cataract of frightful height into a third lake, named Ontario, which we call Lake St. Louis.”–Relation des Hurons, 1648, 46. ]
The two priests left Sainte Marie on the second of November, found a Huron guide at St. Joseph, and, after a dreary march of five days through the forest, reached the first Neutral town. Advancing thence, they visited in turn eighteen others; and their progress was a storm of maledictions. Brébeuf especially was accounted the most pestilent of sorcerers. The Hurons, restrained by a superstitious awe, and unwilling to kill the priests, lest they should embroil themselves with the French at Quebec, conceived that their object might be safely gained by stirring up the Neutrals to become their executioners. To that end, they sent two emissaries to the Neutral towns, who, calling the chiefs and young warriors to a council, denounced the Jesuits as destroyers of the human race, and made their auditors a gift of nine French hatchets on condition that they would put them to death. It was now that Brébeuf, fully conscious of the danger, half starved and half frozen, driven with revilings from every door, struck and spit upon by pretended maniacs, beheld in a vision that great cross, which as we have seen, moved onward through the air, above the wintry forests that stretched towards the land of the Iroquois. [ See ante, chapter 9 second last paragraph (page 109). ]
Chaumonot records yet another miracle. “One evening, when all the chief men of the town were deliberating in council whether to put us to death, Father Brébeuf, while making his examination of conscience, as we were together at prayers, saw the vision of a spectre, full of fury, menacing us both with three javelins which he held in his hands. Then he hurled one of them at us; but a more powerful hand caught it as it flew: and this took place a second and a third time, as he hurled his two remaining javelins. . . . Late at night our host came back from the council, where the two Huron emissaries had made their gift of hatchets to have us killed. He wakened us to say that three times we had been at the point of death; for the young men had offered three times to strike the blow, and three times the old men had dissuaded them. This explained the meaning of Father Brébeuf’s vision.” [ Chaumonot, Vie, 55. ]
They had escaped for the time; but the Indians agreed among themselves, that thenceforth no one should give them shelter. At night, pierced with cold and faint with hunger, they found every door closed against them. They stood and watched, saw an Indian issue from a house, and, by a quick movement, pushed through the half-open door into this abode of smoke and filth. The inmates, aghast at their boldness, stared in silence. Then a messenger ran out to carry the tidings, and an angry crowd collected.
“Go out, and leave our country,” said an old chief, “or we will put you into the kettle, and make a feast of you.”
“I have had enough of the dark-colored flesh of our enemies,” said a young brave; “I wish to know the taste of white meat, and I will eat yours.”
A warrior rushed in like a madman, drew his bow, and aimed the arrow at Chaumonot. “I looked at him fixedly,” writes the Jesuit, “and commended myself in full confidence to St. Michael. Without doubt, this great archangel saved us; for almost immediately the fury of the warrior was appeased, and the rest of our enemies soon began to listen to the explanation we gave them of our visit to their country.” [ Ibid., 57. ]
The mission was barren of any other fruit than hardship and danger, and after a stay of four months the two priests resolved to return. On the way, they met a genuine act of kindness. A heavy snow-storm arresting their progress, a Neutral woman took them into her lodge, entertained them for two weeks with her best fare, persuaded her father and relatives to befriend them, and aided them to make a vocabulary of the dialect. Bidding their generous hostess farewell, they journeyed northward, through the melting snows of spring, and reached Sainte Marie in safety.
[ Lalemant, in his Relation of 1641, gives the narrative of this mission at length. His account coincides perfectly with the briefer notice of Chaumonot in his Autobiography. Chaumonot describes the difficulties of the journey very graphically in a letter to his friend, Father Nappi, dated Aug. 3, 1640, preserved in Carayon. See also the next letter, Brébeuf au T. R. P. Mutio Vitelleschi, 20 Août, 1641.
The Récollet La Roche Dallion had visited the Neutrals fourteen years before, (see Introduction, note,) and, like his two successors, had been seriously endangered by Huron intrigues. ]
The Jesuits had borne all that the human frame seems capable of bearing. They had escaped as by miracle from torture and death. Did their zeal flag or their courage fail? A fervor intense and unquenchable urged them on to more distant and more deadly ventures. The beings, so near to mortal sympathies, so human, yet so divine, in whom their faith impersonated and dramatized the great principles of Christian truth,– virgins, saints, and angels,–hovered over them, and held before their raptured sight crowns of glory and garlands of immortal bliss. They burned to do, to suffer, and to die; and now, from out a living martyrdom, they turned their heroic gaze towards an horizon dark with perils yet more appalling, and saw in hope the day when they should bear the cross into the blood-stained dens of the Iroquois. [ This zeal was in no degree due to success; for in 1641, after seven years of toil, the mission counted only about fifty living converts,–a falling off from former years. ]
But, in this exaltation and tension of the powers, was there no moment when the recoil of Nature claimed a temporary sway? When, an exile from his kind, alone, beneath the desolate rock and the gloomy pine-trees, the priest gazed forth on the pitiless wilderness and the hovels of its dark and ruthless tenants, his thoughts, it may be, flew longingly beyond those wastes of forest and sea that lay between him and the home of his boyhood. Or rather, led by a deeper attraction, they revisited the ancient centre of his faith, and he seemed to stand once more in that gorgeous temple, where, shrined in lazuli and gold, rest the hallowed bones of Loyola. Column and arch and dome rise upon his vision, radiant in painted light, and trembling with celestial music. Again he kneels before the altar, from whose tablature beams upon him that loveliest of shapes in which the imagination of man has embodied the spirit of Christianity. The illusion overpowers him. A thrill shakes his frame, and he bows in reverential rapture. No longer a memory, no longer a dream, but a visioned presence, distinct and luminous in the forest shades, the Virgin stands before him. Prostrate on the rocky earth, he adores the benign angel of his ecstatic faith, then turns with rekindled fervors to his stern apostleship.
Now, by the shores of Thunder Bay, the Huron traders freight their birch vessels for their yearly voyage; and, embarked with them, let us, too, revisit the rock of Quebec.
QUEBEC AND ITS TENANTS.
THE NEW GOVERNOR.–EDIFYING EXAMPLES.–LE JEUNE’S CORRESPONDENTS.– RANK AND DEVOTION.–NUNS.–PRIESTLY AUTHORITY.–CONDITION OF QUEBEC.– THE HUNDRED ASSOCIATES.–CHURCH DISCIPLINE.–PLAYS.–FIREWORKS.– PROCESSIONS.–CATECHIZING.–TERRORISM.–PICTURES.–THE CONVERTS.– THE SOCIETY OF JESUS.–THE FORESTERS.
I have traced, in another volume, the life and death of the noble founder of New France, Samuel de Champlain. It was on Christmas Day, 1635, that his heroic spirit bade farewell to the frame it had animated, and to the rugged cliff where he had toiled so long to lay the corner- stone of a Christian empire.
Quebec was without a governor. Who should succeed Champlain and would his successor be found equally zealous for the Faith, and friendly to the mission? These doubts, as he himself tells us, agitated the mind of the Father Superior, Le Jeune; but they were happily set at rest, when, on a morning in June, he saw a ship anchoring in the basin below, and, hastening with his brethren to the landing-place, was there met by Charles Huault de Montmagny, a Knight of Malta, followed by a train of officers and gentlemen. As they all climbed the rock together, Montmagny saw a crucifix planted by the path. He instantly fell on his knees before it; and nobles, soldiers, sailors, and priests imitated his example. The Jesuits sang Te Deum at the church, and the cannon roared from the adjacent fort. Here the new governor was scarcely installed, when a Jesuit came in to ask if he would be godfather to an Indian about to be baptized. “Most gladly,” replied the pious Montmagny. He repaired on the instant to the convert’s hut, with a company of gayly apparelled gentlemen; and while the inmates stared in amazement at the scarlet and embroidery, he bestowed on the dying savage the name of Joseph, in honor of the spouse of the Virgin and the patron of New France. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 5 (Cramoisy). “Monsieur le Gouverneur se transporte aux Cabanes de ces pauures barbares, suivy d’une leste Noblesse. Je vous laisse à penser quel estonnement à ces Peuples de voir tant d’écarlate, tant de personnes bien faites sous leurs toits d’écorce!” ] Three days after, he was told that a dead proselyte was to be buried; on which, leaving the lines of the new fortification he was tracing, he took in hand a torch, De Lisle, his lieutenant, took another, Repentigny and St. Jean, gentlemen of his suite, with a band of soldiers followed, two priests bore the corpse, and thus all moved together in procession to the place of burial. The Jesuits were comforted. Champlain himself had not displayed a zeal so edifying. [ Ibid., 83 (Cramoisy). ]
A considerable reinforcement came out with Montmagny, and among the rest several men of birth and substance, with their families and dependants. “It was a sight to thank God for,” exclaims Father Le Jeune, “to behold these delicate young ladies and these tender infants issuing from their wooden prison, like day from the shades of night.” The Father, it will be remembered, had for some years past seen nothing but squaws, with papooses swathed like mummies and strapped to a board.
He was even more pleased with the contents of a huge packet of letters that was placed in his hands, bearing the signatures of nuns, priests, soldiers, courtiers, and princesses. A great interest in the mission had been kindled in France. Le Jeune’s printed Relations had been read with avidity; and his Jesuit brethren, who, as teachers, preachers, and confessors, had spread themselves through the nation, had successfully fanned the rising flame. The Father Superior finds no words for his joy. “Heaven,” he exclaims, “is the conductor of this enterprise. Nature’s arms are not long enough to touch so many hearts.” [ “C’est Dieu qui conduit cette entreprise. La Nature n’a pas les bras assez longs,” etc.–Relation, 1636, 3. ] He reads how in a single convent, thirteen nuns have devoted themselves by a vow to the work of converting the Indian women and children; how, in the church of Montmartre, a nun lies prostrate day and night before the altar, praying for the mission; [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 76. ] how “the Carmelites are all on fire, the Ursulines full of zeal, the sisters of the Visitation have no words to speak their ardor”; [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 6. Compare “Divers Sentimens,” appended to the Relation of 1635. ] how some person unknown, but blessed of Heaven, means to found a school for Huron children; how the Duchesse d’Aiguillon has sent out six workmen to build a hospital for the Indians; how, in every house of the Jesuits, young priests turn eager eyes towards Canada; and how, on the voyage thither, the devils raised a tempest, endeavoring, in vain fury, to drown the invaders of their American domain.
[ “L’Enfer enrageant de nous veoir aller en la Nouuelle France pour conuertir les infidelles et diminuer sa puissance, par dépit il sousleuoit tous les Elemens contre nous, et vouloit abysmer la flotte.”– Divers Sentimens. ]
Great was Le Jeune’s delight at the exalted rank of some of those who gave their patronage to the mission; and again and again his satisfaction flows from his pen in mysterious allusions to these eminent persons. [ Among his correspondents was the young Duc d’Enghien, afterwards the Great Condé, at this time fifteen years old. “Dieu soit loüé! tout le ciel de nostre chere Patrie nous promet de fauorables influences, iusques à ce nouuel astre, qui commence à paroistre parmy ceux de la premiere grandeur.”–Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 3, 4. ] In his eyes, the vicious imbecile who sat on the throne of France was the anointed champion of the Faith, and the cruel and ambitious priest who ruled king and nation alike was the chosen instrument of Heaven. Church and State, linked in alliance close and potential, played faithfully into each other’s hands; and that enthusiasm, in which the Jesuit saw the direct inspiration of God, was fostered by all the prestige of royalty and all the patronage of power. And, as often happens where the interests of a hierarchy are identified with the interests of a ruling class, religion was become a fashion, as graceful and as comforting as the courtier’s embroidered mantle or the court lady’s robe of fur.
Such, we may well believe, was the complexion of the enthusiasm which animated some of Le Jeune’s noble and princely correspondents. But there were deeper fervors, glowing in the still depths of convent cells, and kindling the breasts of their inmates with quenchless longings. Yet we hear of no zeal for the mission among religious communities of men. The Jesuits regarded the field as their own, and desired no rivals. They looked forward to the day when Canada should be another Paraguay. [ “Que si celuy qui a escrit cette lettre a leu la Relation de ce qui se passe au Paraguais, qu’il a veu ce qui se fera un jour en la Nouuelle France.”–Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 304 (Cramoisy). ] It was to the combustible hearts of female recluses that the torch was most busily applied; and here, accordingly, blazed forth a prodigious and amazing flame. “If all had their pious will,” writes Le Jeune, “Quebec would soon be flooded with nuns.” [ Chaulmer. Le Nouveau Monde Chrestien, 41, is eloquent on this theme. ]
Both Montmagny and De Lisle were half churchmen, for both were Knights of Malta. More and more the powers spiritual engrossed the colony. As nearly as might be, the sword itself was in priestly hands. The Jesuits were all in all. Authority, absolute and without appeal, was vested in a council composed of the governor, Le Jeune, and the syndic, an official supposed to represent the interests of the inhabitants. [ Le Clerc, Établissement de la Foy, Chap. XV. ] There was no tribunal of justice, and the governor pronounced summarily on all complaints. The church adjoined the fort; and before it was planted a stake bearing a placard with a prohibition against blasphemy, drunkenness, or neglect of mass and other religious rites. To the stake was also attached a chain and iron collar; and hard by was a wooden horse, whereon a culprit was now and then mounted by way of example and warning. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 153, 154 (Cramoisy). ] In a community so absolutely priest-governed, overt offences were, however, rare; and, except on the annual arrival of the ships from France, when the rock swarmed with godless sailors, Quebec was a model of decorum, and wore, as its chroniclers tell us, an aspect unspeakably edifying.
In the year 1640, various new establishments of religion and charity might have been seen at Quebec. There was the beginning of a college and a seminary for Huron children, an embryo Ursuline convent, an incipient hospital, and a new Algonquin mission at a place called Sillery, four miles distant. Champlain’s fort had been enlarged and partly rebuilt in stone by Montmagny, who had also laid out streets on the site of the future city, though as yet the streets had no houses. Behind the fort, and very near it, stood the church and a house for the Jesuits. Both were of pine wood: and this year, 1640, both were burned to the ground, to be afterwards rebuilt in stone. The Jesuits, however, continued to occupy their rude mission-house of Notre-Dame des Anges, on the St. Charles, where we first found them.
The country around Quebec was still an unbroken wilderness, with the exception of a small clearing made by the Sieur Giffard on his seigniory of Beauport, another made by M. de Puiseaux between Quebec and Sillery, and possibly one or two feeble attempts in other quarters. [ 1 ] The total population did not much exceed two hundred, including women and children. Of this number, by far the greater part were agents of the fur company known as the Hundred Associates, and men in their employ. Some of these had brought over their families. The remaining inhabitants were priests, nuns, and a very few colonists.
[ 1 For Giffard, Puiseaux, and other colonists, compare Langevin, Notes sur les Archives de Notre-Dame de Beauport, 5, 6, 7; Ferland, Notes sur les Archives de N. D. de Québec, 22, 24 (1863); Ibid., Cours d’Histoire du Canada, I. 266; Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 45; Faillon, Histoire de la Colonie Française, I. c. iv., v. ]
The Company of the Hundred Associates was bound by its charter to send to Canada four thousand colonists before the year 1643. [ See “Pioneers of France,” 399. ] It had neither the means nor the will to fulfil this engagement. Some of its members were willing to make personal sacrifices for promoting the missions, and building up a colony purely Catholic. Others thought only of the profits of trade; and the practical affairs of the company had passed entirely into the hands of this portion of its members. They sought to evade obligations the fulfilment of which would have ruined them. Instead of sending out colonists, they granted lands with the condition that the grantees should furnish a certain number of settlers to clear and till them, and these were to be credited to the Company. [ 1 ] The grantees took the land, but rarely fulfilled the condition. Some of these grants were corrupt and iniquitous. Thus, a son of Lauson, president of the Company, received, in the name of a third person, a tract of land on the south side of the St. Lawrence of sixty leagues front. To this were added all the islands in that river, excepting those of Montreal and Orleans, together with the exclusive right of fishing in it through its whole extent. [ 2 ] Lauson sent out not a single colonist to these vast concessions.
[ 1 This appears in many early grants of the Company. Thus, in a grant to Simon Le Maitre, Jan. 15, 1636, “que les hommes que le dit . . . fera passer en la N. F. tourneront à la décharge de la dite Compagnie,” etc., etc.–See Pièces sur la Tenure Seigneuriale, published by the Canadian government, passim. ]
[ 2 Archives du Séminaire de Villemarie, cited by Faillon, I. 350. Lauson’s father owned Montreal. The son’s grant extended from the River St. Francis to a point far above Montreal.–La Fontaine, Mémoire sur la Famille de Lauson. ]
There was no real motive for emigration. No persecution expelled the colonist from his home; for none but good Catholics were tolerated in New France. The settler could not trade with the Indians, except on condition of selling again to the Company at a fixed price. He might hunt, but he could not fish; and he was forced to beg or buy food for years before he could obtain it from that rude soil in sufficient quantity for the wants of his family. The Company imported provisions every year for those in its employ; and of these supplies a portion was needed for the relief of starving settlers. Giffard and his seven men on his seigniory of Beauport were for some time the only settlers–excepting, perhaps, the Hébert family–who could support themselves throughout the year. The rigor of the climate repelled the emigrant; nor were the attractions which Father Le Jeune held forth–“piety, freedom, and independence”–of a nature to entice him across the sea, when it is remembered that this freedom consisted in subjection to the arbitrary will of a priest and a soldier, and in the liability, should he forget to go to mass, of being made fast to a post with a collar and chain, like a dog.
Aside from the fur trade of the Company, the whole life of the colony was in missions, convents, religious schools, and hospitals. Here on the rock of Quebec were the appendages, useful and otherwise, of an old-established civilization. While as yet there were no inhabitants, and no immediate hope of any, there were institutions for the care of children, the sick, and the decrepit. All these were supported by a charity in most cases precarious. The Jesuits relied chiefly on the Company, who, by the terms of their patent, were obliged to maintain religious worship. [ 1 ] Of the origin of the convent, hospital, and seminary I shall soon have occasion to speak.
[ 1 It is a principle of the Jesuits, that each of its establishments shall find a support of its own, and not be a burden on the general funds of the Society. The Relations are full of appeals to the charity of devout persons in behalf of the missions.
“Of what use to the country at this period could have been two communities of cloistered nuns?” asks the modern historian of the Ursulines of Quebec. And he answers by citing the words of Pope Gregory the Great, who, when Rome was ravaged by famine, pestilence, and the barbarians, declared that his only hope was in the prayers of the three thousand nuns then assembled in the holy city.–Les Ursulines de Québec. Introd., XI. ]
Quebec wore an aspect half military, half monastic. At sunrise and sunset, a squad of soldiers in the pay of the Company paraded in the fort; and, as in Champlain’s time, the bells of the church rang morning, noon, and night. Confessions, masses, and penances were punctiliously observed; and, from the governor to the meanest laborer, the Jesuit watched and guided all. The social atmosphere of New England itself was not more suffocating. By day and by night, at home, at church, or at his daily work, the colonist lived under the eyes of busy and over-zealous priests. At times, the denizens of Quebec grew restless. In 1639, deputies were covertly sent to beg relief in France, and “to represent the hell in which the consciences of the colony were kept by the union of the temporal and spiritual authority in the same hands.” [ “Pour leur representer la gehenne où estoient les consciences de la Colonie, de se voir gouverné par les mesmes personnes pour le spirituel et pour le temporel.”–Le Clerc, I. 478. ] In 1642, partial and ineffective measures were taken, with the countenance of Richelieu, for introducing into New France an Order less greedy of seigniories and endowments than the Jesuits, and less prone to political encroachment. [ 1 ] No favorable result followed; and the colony remained as before, in a pitiful state of cramping and dwarfing vassalage.
[ 1 Declaration de Pierre Breant, par devant les Notaires du Roy, MS. The Order was that of the Capuchins, who, like the Récollets, are a branch of the Franciscans. Their introduction into Canada was prevented; but they established themselves in Maine. ]
This is the view of a heretic. It was the aim of the founders of New France to build on a foundation purely and supremely Catholic. What this involved is plain; for no degree of personal virtue is a guaranty against the evils which attach to the temporal rule of ecclesiastics. Burning with love and devotion to Christ and his immaculate Mother, the fervent and conscientious priest regards with mixed pity and indignation those who fail in this supreme allegiance. Piety and charity alike demand that he should bring back the rash wanderer to the fold of his divine Master, and snatch him from the perdition into which his guilt must otherwise plunge him. And while he, the priest, himself yields reverence and obedience to the Superior, in whom he sees the representative of Deity, it behooves him, in his degree, to require obedience from those whom he imagines that God has confided to his guidance. His conscience, then, acts in perfect accord with the love of power innate in the human heart. These allied forces mingle with a perplexing subtlety; pride, disguised even from itself, walks in the likeness of love and duty; and a thousand times on the pages of history we find Hell beguiling the virtues of Heaven to do its work. The instinct of domination is a weed that grows rank in the shadow of the temple, climbs over it, possesses it, covers its ruin, and feeds on its decay. The unchecked sway of priests has always been the most mischievous of tyrannies; and even were they all well-meaning and sincere, it would be so still.
To the Jesuits, the atmosphere of Quebec was well-nigh celestial. “In the climate of New France,” they write, “one learns perfectly to seek only God, to have no desire but God, no purpose but for God.” And again: “To live in New France is in truth to live in the bosom of God.” “If,” adds Le Jeune, “any one of those who die in this country goes to perdition, I think he will be doubly guilty.”
[ “La Nouuelle France est vn vray climat où on apprend parfaictement bien à ne chercher que Dieu, ne desirer que Dieu seul, auoir l’intention purement à Dieu, etc. . . . Viure en la Nouuelle France, c’est à vray dire viure dans le sein de Dieu, et ne respirer que l’air de sa Diuine conduite.”–Divers Sentimens. “Si quelqu’un de ceux qui meurent en ces contrées se damne, je croy qu’il sera doublement coupable.”–Relation, 1640, 5 (Cramoisy). ]
The very amusements of this pious community were acts of religion. Thus, on the fête-day of St. Joseph, the patron of New France, there was a show of fireworks to do him honor. In the forty volumes of the Jesuit Relations there is but one pictorial illustration; and this represents the pyrotechnic contrivance in question, together with a figure of the Governor in the act of touching it off. [ Relation, 1637, 8. The Relations, as originally published, comprised about forty volumes. ] But, what is more curious, a Catholic writer of the present day, the Abbé Faillon, in an elaborate and learned work, dilates at length on the details of the display; and this, too, with a gravity which evinces his conviction that squibs, rockets, blue-lights, and serpents are important instruments for the saving of souls. [ Histoire de la Colonie Française, I. 291, 292. ] On May-Day of the same year, 1637, Montmagny planted before the church a May-pole surmounted by a triple crown, beneath which were three symbolical circles decorated with wreaths, and bearing severally the names, Iesus, Maria, Ioseph; the soldiers drew up before it, and saluted it with a volley of musketry. [ Relation, 1637, 82. ]
On the anniversary of the Dauphin’s birth there was a dramatic performance, in which an unbeliever, speaking Algonquin for the profit of the Indians present, was hunted into Hell by fiends. [ Vimont, Relation, 1640, 6. ] Religious processions were frequent. In one of them, the Governor in a court dress and a baptized Indian in beaver-skins were joint supporters of the canopy which covered the Host. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1638, 6. ] In another, six Indians led the van, arrayed each in a velvet coat of scarlet and gold sent them by the King. Then came other Indian converts, two and two; then the foundress of the Ursuline convent, with Indian children in French gowns; then all the Indian girls and women, dressed after their own way; then the priests; then the Governor; and finally the whole French population, male and female, except the artillery-men at the fort, who saluted with their cannon the cross and banner borne at the head of the procession. When all was over, the Governor and the Jesuits rewarded the Indians with a feast. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1639, 3. ]
Now let the stranger enter the church of Notre-Dame de La Recouvrance, after vespers. It is full, to the very porch: officers in slouched hats and plumes, musketeers, pikemen, mechanics, and laborers. Here is Montmagny himself; Repentigny and Poterie, gentlemen of good birth; damsels of nurture ill fitted to the Canadian woods; and, mingled with these, the motionless Indians, wrapped to the throat in embroidered moose-hides. Le Jeune, not in priestly vestments, but in the common black dress of his Order, is before the altar; and on either side is a row of small red-skinned children listening with exemplary decorum, while, with a cheerful, smiling face, he teaches them to kneel, clasp their hands, and sign the cross. All the principal members of this zealous community are present, at once amused and edified at the grave deportment, and the prompt, shrill replies of the infant catechumens; while their parents in the crowd grin delight at the gifts of beads and trinkets with which Le Jeune rewards his most proficient pupils. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 122 (Cramoisy). ]
We have seen the methods of conversion practised among the Hurons. They were much the same at Quebec. The principal appeal was to fear. [ Ibid., 1636, 119, and 1637, 32 (Cramoisy). “La crainte est l’auan couriere de la foy dans ces esprits barbares.” ] “You do good to your friends,” said Le Jeune to an Algonquin chief, “and you burn your enemies. God does the same.” And he painted Hell to the startled neophyte as a place where, when he was hungry, he would get nothing to eat but frogs and snakes, and, when thirsty, nothing to drink but flames. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 80-82 (Cramoisy). “Avoir faim et ne manger que des serpens et des crapaux, avoir soif et ne boire que des flammes.” ] Pictures were found invaluable. “These holy representations,” pursues the Father Superior, “are half the instruction that can be given to the Indians. I wanted some pictures of Hell and souls in perdition, and a few were sent us on paper; but they are too confused. The devils and the men are so mixed up, that one can make out nothing without particular attention. If three, four, or five devils were painted tormenting a soul with different punishments,–one applying fire, another serpents, another tearing him with pincers, and another holding him fast with a chain,– this would have a good effect, especially if everything were made distinct, and misery, rage, and desperation appeared plainly in his face.”
[ “Les heretiques sont grandement blasmables, de condamner et de briser les images qui ont de si bons effets. Ces sainctes figures sont la moitié de l’instruction qu’on peut donner aux Sauuages. I’auois desiré quelques portraits de l’enfer et de l’âme damnée; on nous en a enuoyé quelques vns en papier, mais cela est trop confus. Les diables sont tellement meslez auec les hommes, qu’on n’y peut rien recognoistre, qu’auec vne particuliere attention. Qui depeindroit trois ou quatre ou cinq demons, tourmentans vne âme de diuers supplices, l’vn luy appliquant des feux, l’autre des serpens, l’autre la tenaillant, l’autre la tenant liée auec des chaisnes, cela auroit vn bon effet, notamment si tout estoit bien distingué, et que la rage et la tristesse parussent bien en la face de cette âme desesperée”–Relation, 1637, 32 (Cramoisy). ]
The preparation of the convert for baptism was often very slight. A dying Algonquin, who, though meagre as a skeleton, had thrown himself, with a last effort of expiring ferocity, on an Iroquois prisoner, and torn off his ear with his teeth, was baptized almost immediately. [ 1 ] In the case of converts in health there was far more preparation; yet these often apostatized. The various objects of instruction may all be included in one comprehensive word, submission,–an abdication of will and judgment in favor of the spiritual director, who was the interpreter and vicegerent of God. The director’s function consisted in the enforcement of dogmas by which he had himself been subdued, in which he believed profoundly, and to which he often clung with an absorbing enthusiasm. The Jesuits, an Order thoroughly and vehemently reactive, had revived in Europe the mediæval type of Christianity, with all its attendant superstitions. Of these the Canadian missions bear abundant marks. Yet, on the whole, the labors of the missionaries tended greatly to the benefit of the Indians. Reclaimed, as the Jesuits tried to reclaim them, from their wandering life, settled in habits of peaceful industry, and reduced to a passive and childlike obedience, they would have gained more than enough to compensate them for the loss of their ferocious and miserable independence. At least, they would have escaped annihilation. The Society of Jesus aspired to the mastery of all New France; but the methods of its ambition were consistent with a Christian benevolence. Had this been otherwise, it would have employed other instruments. It would not have chosen a Jogues or a Garnier. The Society had men for every work, and it used them wisely. It utilized the apostolic virtues of its Canadian missionaries, fanned their enthusiasm, and decorated itself with their martyr crowns. With joy and gratulation, it saw them rival in another hemisphere the noble memory of its saint and hero, Francis Xavier. [ Enemies of the Jesuits, while denouncing them in unmeasured terms, speak in strong eulogy of many of the Canadian missionaries. See, for example, Steinmetz, History of the Jesuits, II. 415. ]
[ 1 “Ce seroit vne estrange cruauté de voir descendre vne âme toute viuante dans les enfers, par le refus d’vn bien que Iesus Christ luy a acquis au prix de son sang.”–Relation, 1637, 66 (Cramoisy).
“Considerez d’autre coté la grande appréhension que nous avions sujet de redouter la guérison; pour autant que bien souvent étant guéris il ne leur reste du St. Baptême que le caractère.”–Lettres de Garnier, MSS.
It was not very easy to make an Indian comprehend the nature of baptism. An Iroquois at Montreal, hearing a missionary speaking of the water which cleansed the soul from sin, said that he was well acquainted with it, as the Dutch had once given him so much that they were forced to tie him, hand and foot, to prevent him from doing mischief.–Faillon II. 43. ]
I have spoken of the colonists as living in a state of temporal and spiritual vassalage. To this there was one exception,–a small class of men whose home was the forest, and their companions savages. They followed the Indians in their roamings, lived with them, grew familiar with their language, allied themselves with their women, and often became oracles in the camp and leaders on the war-path. Champlain’s bold interpreter, Étienne Brulé, whose adventures I have recounted elsewhere, [ “Pioneers of France,” 377. ] may be taken as a type of this class. Of the rest, the most conspicuous were Jean Nicollet, Jacques Hertel, François Marguerie, and Nicolas Marsolet. [ 1 ] Doubtless, when they returned from their rovings, they often had pressing need of penance and absolution; yet, for the most part, they were good Catholics, and some of them were zealous for the missions. Nicollet and others were at times settled as interpreters at Three Rivers and Quebec. Several of them were men of great intelligence and an invincible courage. From hatred of restraint, and love of a wild and adventurous independence, they encountered privations and dangers scarcely less than those to which the Jesuit exposed himself from motives widely different,–he from religious zeal, charity, and the hope of Paradise; they simply because they liked it. Some of the best families of Canada claim descent from this vigorous and hardy stock.
[ 1 See Ferland, Notes sur les Registres de N. D. de Québec, 30.
Nicollet, especially, was a remarkable man. As early as 1639, he ascended the Green Bay of Lake Michigan, and crossed to the waters of the Mississippi. This was first shown by the researches of Mr. Shea. See his Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley, XX. ]
DEVOTEES AND NUNS.
THE HURON SEMINARY.–MADAME DE LA PELTRIE.–HER PIOUS SCHEMES.– HER SHAM MARRIAGE.–SHE VISITS THE URSULINES OF TOURS.– MARIE DE SAINT BERNARD.–MARIE DE L’INCARNATION.–HER ENTHUSIASM.– HER MYSTICAL MARRIAGE.–HER DEJECTION.–HER MENTAL CONFLICTS.– HER VISION.–MADE SUPERIOR OF THE URSULINES.–THE HÔTEL-DIEU.– THE VOYAGE TO CANADA.–SILLERY.–LABORS AND SUFFERINGS OF THE NUNS.– CHARACTER OF MARIE DE L’INCARNATION.–OF MADAME DE LA PELTRIE.
Quebec, as we have seen, had a seminary, a hospital, and a convent, before it had a population. It will be well to observe the origin of these institutions.
The Jesuits from the first had cherished the plan of a seminary for Huron boys at Quebec. The Governor and the Company favored the design; since not only would it be an efficient means of spreading the Faith and attaching the tribe to the French interest, but the children would be pledges for the good behavior of the parents, and hostages for the safety of missionaries and traders in the Indian towns. [ “M. de Montmagny cognoit bien l’importance de ce Seminaire pour la gloire de Nostre Seigneur, et pour le commerce de ces Messieurs”–Relation, 1637, 209 (Cramoisy). ] In the summer of 1636, Father Daniel, descending from the Huron country, worn, emaciated, his cassock patched and tattered, and his shirt in rags, brought with him a boy, to whom two others were soon added; and through the influence of the interpreter, Nicollet, the number was afterwards increased by several more. One of them ran away, two ate themselves to death, a fourth was carried home by his father, while three of those remaining stole a canoe, loaded it with all they could lay their hands upon, and escaped in triumph with their plunder. [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 55-59. Ibid., Relation, 1638, 23. ]
The beginning was not hopeful; but the Jesuits persevered, and at length established their seminary on a firm basis. The Marquis de Gamache had given the Society six thousand crowns for founding a college at Quebec. In 1637, a year before the building of Harvard College, the Jesuits began a wooden structure in the rear of the fort; and here, within one inclosure, was the Huron seminary and the college for French boys.
Meanwhile the female children of both races were without instructors; but a remedy was at hand. At Alençon, in 1603, was born Marie Madeleine de Chauvigny, a scion of the _haute noblesse_ of Normandy. Seventeen years later she was a young lady, abundantly wilful and superabundantly enthusiastic,–one who, in other circumstances, might perhaps have made a romantic elopement and a _mésalliance_. [ 1 ] But her impressible and ardent nature was absorbed in other objects. Religion and its ministers possessed her wholly, and all her enthusiasm was spent on works of charity and devotion. Her father, passionately fond of her, resisted her inclination for the cloister, and sought to wean her back to the world; but she escaped from the chateau to a neighboring convent, where she resolved to remain. Her father followed, carried her home, and engaged her in a round of fêtes and hunting parties, in the midst of which she found herself surprised into a betrothal to M. de la Peltrie, a young gentleman of rank and character. The marriage proved a happy one, and Madame de la Peltrie, with an excellent grace, bore her part in the world she had wished to renounce. After a union of five years, her husband died, and she was left a widow and childless at the age of twenty-two. She returned to the religious ardors of her girlhood, again gave all her thoughts to devotion and charity, and again resolved to be a nun. She had heard of Canada; and when Le Jeune’s first Relations appeared, she read them with avidity. “Alas!” wrote the Father, “is there no charitable and virtuous lady who will come to this country to gather up the blood of Christ, by teaching His word to the little Indian girls?” His appeal found a prompt and vehement response from the breast of Madame de la Peltrie. Thenceforth she thought of nothing but Canada. In the midst of her zeal, a fever seized her. The physicians despaired; but, at the height of the disease, the patient made a vow to St. Joseph, that, should God restore her to health, she would build a house in honor of Him in Canada, and give her life and her wealth to the instruction of Indian girls. On the following morning, say her biographers, the fever had left her.
[ 1 There is a portrait of her, taken at a later period, of which a photograph is before me. She has a semi-religious dress, hands clasped in prayer, large dark eyes, a smiling and mischievous mouth, and a face somewhat pretty and very coquettish. An engraving from the portrait is prefixed to the “Notice Biographique de Madame de la Peltrie” in Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 348. ]
Meanwhile her relatives, or those of her husband, had confirmed her pious purposes by attempting to thwart them. They pronounced her a romantic visionary, incompetent to the charge of her property. Her father, too, whose fondness for her increased with his advancing age, entreated her to remain with him while he lived, and to defer the execution of her plans till he should be laid in his grave. From entreaties he passed to commands, and at length threatened to disinherit her, if she persisted. The virtue of obedience, for which she is extolled by her clerical biographers, however abundantly exhibited in respect to those who held charge of her conscience, was singularly wanting towards the parent who, in the way of Nature, had the best claim to its exercise; and Madame de la Peltrie was more than ever resolved to go to Canada. Her father, on his part, was urgent that she should marry again. On this she took counsel of a Jesuit, [ 1 ] who, “having seriously reflected before God,” suggested a device, which to the heretical mind is a little startling, but which commended itself to Madame de la Peltrie as fitted at once to soothe the troubled spirit of her father, and to save her from the sin involved in the abandonment of her pious designs.
[ 1 “Partagée ainsi entre l’amour filial et la religion, en proie aux plus poignantes angoisses, elle s’adressa à un religieux de la Compagnie de Jésus, dont elle connaissait la prudence consommée, et le supplia de l’éclairer de ses lumières. Ce religieux, après y avoir sérieusement réfléchi devant Dieu, lui répondit qu’il croyait avoir trouvé un moyen de tout concilier.”–Casgrain, Vie de Marie de l’Incarnation, 243. ]
Among her acquaintance was M. de Bernières, a gentleman of high rank, great wealth, and zealous devotion. She wrote to him, explained the situation, and requested him to feign a marriage with her. His sense of honor recoiled: moreover, in the fulness of his zeal, he had made a vow of chastity, and an apparent breach of it would cause scandal. He consulted his spiritual director and a few intimate friends. All agreed that the glory of God was concerned, and that it behooved him to accept the somewhat singular overtures of the young widow, [ 1 ] and request her hand from her father. M. de Chauvigny, who greatly esteemed Bernières, was delighted; and his delight was raised to transport at the dutiful and modest acquiescence of his daughter. [ 2 ] A betrothal took place; all was harmony, and for a time no more was said of disinheriting Madame de la Peltrie, or putting her in wardship.
[ 1 “Enfin après avoir longtemps imploré les lumières du ciel, il remit toute l’affaire entre les mains de son directeur et de quelques amis intimes. Tous, d’un commun accord, lui déclarèrent que la gloire de Dieu y était interessée, et qu’il devait accepter.”–Ibid., 244. ]
[ 2 “The prudent young widow answered him with much respect and modesty, that, as she knew M. de Bernières to be a favorite with him, she also preferred him to all others.”
The above is from a letter of Marie de l’Incarnation, translated by Mother St. Thomas, of the Ursuline convent of Quebec, in her Life of Madame de la Peltrie, 41. Compare Les Ursulines de Québec, 10, and the “Notice Biographique” in the same volume. ]
Bernières’s scruples returned. Divided between honor and conscience, he postponed the marriage, until at length M. de Chauvigny conceived misgivings, and again began to speak of disinheriting his daughter, unless the engagement was fulfilled. [ 1 ] Bernières yielded, and went with Madame de la Peltrie to consult “the most eminent divines.” [ 2 ] A sham marriage took place, and she and her accomplice appeared in public as man and wife. Her relatives, however, had already renewed their attempts to deprive her of the control of her property. A suit, of what nature does not appear, had been decided against her at Caen, and she had appealed to the Parliament of Normandy. Her lawyers were in despair; but, as her biographer justly observes, “the saints have resources which others have not.” A vow to St. Joseph secured his intercession and gained her case. Another thought now filled her with agitation. Her plans were laid, and the time of action drew near. How could she endure the distress of her father, when he learned that she had deluded him with a false marriage, and that she and all that was hers were bound for the wilderness of Canada? Happily for him, he fell ill, and died in ignorance of the deceit that had been practised upon him. [ 3 ]
[ 1 “Our virtuous widow did not lose courage. As she had given her confidence to M. de Bernières, she informed him of all that passed, while she flattered her father each day, telling him that this nobleman was too honorable to fail in keeping his word.”–St. Thomas, Life of Madame de la Peltrie, 42. ]
[ 2 “He” (Bernières) “went to stay at the house of a mutual friend, where they had frequent opportunities of seeing each other, and consulting the most eminent divines on the means of effecting this pretended marriage.”–Ibid., 43. ]
[ 3 It will be of interest to observe the view taken of this pretended marriage by Madame de la Peltrie’s Catholic biographers. Charlevoix tells the story without comment, but with apparent approval. Sainte-Foi, in his Premières Ursulines de France, says, that, as God had taken her under His guidance, we should not venture to criticize her. Casgrain, in his Vie de Marie de l’Incarnation, remarks:–
“Une telle conduite peut encore aujourd’hui paraître étrange à bien des personnes; mais outre que l’avenir fit bien voir que c’était une inspiration du ciel, nous pouvons répondre, avec un savant et pieux auteur, que nous ne devons point juger ceux que Dieu se charge lui-même de conduire.”–p. 247.
Mother St. Thomas highly approves the proceeding, and says:–
“Thus ended the pretended engagement of this virtuous lady and gentleman, which caused, at the time, so much inquiry and excitement among the nobility in France, and which, after a lapse of two hundred years, cannot fail exciting feelings of admiration in the heart of every virtuous woman!”
Surprising as it may appear, the book from which the above is taken was written a few years since, in so-called English, for the instruction of the pupils in the Ursuline Convent at Quebec. ]
Whatever may be thought of the quality of Madame de la Peltrie’s devotion, there can be no reasonable doubt of its sincerity or its ardor; and yet one can hardly fail to see in her the signs of that restless longing for _éclat_, which, with some women, is a ruling passion. When, in company with Bernières, she passed from Alençon to Tours, and from Tours to Paris, an object of attention to nuns, priests, and prelates,–when the Queen herself summoned her to an interview,–it may be that the profound contentment of soul ascribed to her had its origin in sources not exclusively of the spirit. At Tours, she repaired to the Ursuline convent. The Superior and all the nuns met her at the entrance of the cloister, and, separating into two rows as she appeared, sang the _Veni Creator_, while the bell of the monastery sounded its loudest peal. Then they led her in triumph to their church, sang _Te Deum_, and, while the honored guest knelt before the altar, all the sisterhood knelt around her in a semicircle. Their hearts beat high within them. That day they were to know who of their number were chosen for the new convent of Quebec, of which Madame de la Peltrie was to be the foundress; and when their devotions were over, they flung themselves at her feet, each begging with tears that the lot might fall on her. Aloof from this throng of enthusiastic suppliants stood a young nun, Marie de St. Bernard, too timid and too modest to ask the boon for which her fervent heart was longing. It was granted without asking. This delicate girl was chosen, and chosen wisely. [ Casgrain, Vie de Marie de l’Incarnation, 271-273. There is a long account of Marie de St. Bernard, by Ragueneau, in the Relation of 1652. Here it is said that she showed an unaccountable indifference as to whether she went to Canada or not, which, however, was followed by an ardent desire to go. ]
There was another nun who stood apart, silent and motionless,–a stately figure, with features strongly marked and perhaps somewhat masculine; [ 1 ] but, if so, they belied her, for Marie de l’Incarnation was a woman to the core. For her there was no need of entreaties; for she knew that the Jesuits had made her their choice, as Superior of the new convent. She was born, forty years before, at Tours, of a good _bourgeois_ family. As she grew up towards maturity, her qualities soon declared themselves. She had uncommon talents and strong religious susceptibilities, joined to a vivid imagination,–an alliance not always desirable under a form of faith where both are excited by stimulants so many and so powerful. Like Madame de la Peltrie, she married, at the desire of her parents, in her eighteenth year. The marriage was not happy. Her biographers say that there was no fault on either side. Apparently, it was a severe case of “incompatibility.” She sought her consolation in the churches; and, kneeling in dim chapels, held communings with Christ and the angels. At the end of two years her husband died, leaving her with an infant son. She gave him to the charge of her sister, abandoned herself to solitude and meditation, and became a mystic of the intense and passional school. Yet a strong maternal instinct battled painfully in her breast with a sense of religious vocation. Dreams, visions, interior voices, ecstasies, revulsions, periods of rapture and periods of deep dejection, made up the agitated tissue of her life. She fasted, wore hair-cloth, scourged herself, washed dishes among the servants, and did their most menial work. She heard, in a trance, a miraculous voice. It was that of Christ, promising to become her spouse. Months and years passed, full of troubled hopes and fears, when again the voice sounded in her ear, with assurance that the promise was fulfilled, and that she was indeed his bride. Now ensued phenomena which are not infrequent among Roman Catholic female devotees, when unmarried, or married unhappily, and which have their source in the necessities of a woman’s nature. To her excited thought, her divine spouse became a living presence; and her language to him, as recorded by herself, is that of the most intense passion. She went to prayer, agitated and tremulous, as if to a meeting with an earthly lover. “O my Love!” she exclaimed, “when shall I embrace you? Have you no pity on me in the torments that I suffer? Alas! alas! my Love, my Beauty, my Life! instead of healing my pain, you take pleasure in it. Come, let me embrace you, and die in your sacred arms!” And again she writes: “Then, as I was spent with fatigue, I was forced to say, ‘My divine Love, since you wish me to live, I pray you let me rest a little, that I may the better serve you’; and I promised him that afterward I would suffer myself to consume in his chaste and divine embraces.” [ 2 ]
[ 1 There is an engraved portrait of her, taken some years later, of which a photograph is before me. When she was “in the world,” her stately proportions are said to have attracted general attention. Her family name was Marie Guyard. She was born on the eighteenth of October, 1599. ]
[ 2 “Allant à l’oraison, je tressaillois en moi-même, et disois: Allons dans la solitude, mon cher amour, afin que je vous embrasse à mon aise, et que, respirant mon âme en vous, elle ne soit plus que vous-même par union d’amour. . . . Puis, mon corps étant brisé de fatigues, j’étois contrainte de dire: Mon divin amour, je vous prie de me laisser prendre un peu de repos, afin que je puisse mieux vous servir, puisque vous voulez que je vive. . . . Je le priois de me laisser agir; lui promettant de me laisser après cela consumer dans ses chastes et divins embrassemens. . . O amour! quand vous embrasserai-je? N’avez-vous point pitié de moi dans le tourment que je souffre? helas! helas! mon amour, ma beauté, ma vie! au lieu de me guérir, vous vous plaisez à mes maux. Venez donc que je vous embrasse, et que je meure entre vos bras sacréz!”
The above passages, from various pages of her journal, will suffice though they give but an inadequate idea of these strange extravagances. What is most astonishing is, that a man of sense like Charlevoix; in his Life of Marie de l’Incarnation, should extract them in full, as matter of edification and evidence of saintship. Her recent biographer, the Abbé Casgrain, refrains from quoting them, though he mentions them approvingly as evincing fervor. The Abbé Racine, in his Discours à l’Occasion du 192ème Anniversaire de l’heureuse Mort de la Vén. Mère de l’Incarnation, delivered at Quebec in 1864, speaks of them as transcendent proofs of the supreme favor of Heaven.–Some of the pupils of Marie de l’Incarnation also had mystical marriages with Christ; and the impassioned rhapsodies of one of them being overheard, she nearly lost her character, as it was thought that she was apostrophsizing an earthly lover. ]
Clearly, here is a case for the physiologist as well as the theologian; and the “holy widow,” as her biographers call her, becomes an example, and a lamentable one, of the tendency of the erotic principle to ally itself with high religious excitement.
But the wings of imagination will tire and droop, the brightest dream-land of contemplative fancy grow dim, and an abnormal tension of the faculties find its inevitable reaction at last. From a condition of highest exaltation, a mystical heaven of light and glory, the unhappy dreamer fell back to a dreary earth, or rather to an abyss of darkness and misery. Her biographers tell us that she became a prey to dejection, and thoughts of infidelity, despair, estrangement from God, aversion to mankind, pride, vanity, impurity, and a supreme disgust at the rites of religion. Exhaustion produced common-sense, and the dreams which had been her life now seemed a tissue of illusions. Her confessor became a weariness to her, and his words fell dead on her ear. Indeed, she conceived a repugnance to the holy man. Her old and favorite confessor, her oracle, guide, and comforter, had lately been taken from her by promotion in the Church,–which may serve to explain her dejection; and the new one, jealous of his predecessor, told her that all his counsels had been visionary and dangerous to her soul. Having overwhelmed her with this announcement, he left her, apparently out of patience with her refractory and gloomy mood; and she remained for several months deprived of spiritual guidance. [ Casgrain, 195-197. ] Two years elapsed before her mind recovered its tone, when she soared once more in the seventh heaven of imaginative devotion.
Marie de l’Incarnation, we have seen, was unrelenting in every practice of humiliation; dressed in mean attire, did the servants’ work, nursed sick beggars, and, in her meditations, taxed her brain with metaphysical processes of self-annihilation. And yet, when one reads her “Spiritual Letters,” the conviction of an enormous spiritual pride in the writer can hardly be repressed. She aspired to that inner circle of the faithful, that aristocracy of devotion, which, while the common herd of Christians are busied with the duties of life, eschews the visible and the present, and claims to live only for God. In her strong maternal affection she saw a lure to divert her from the path of perfect saintship. Love for her child long withheld her from becoming a nun; but at last, fortified by her confessor, she left him to his fate, took the vows, and immured herself with the Ursulines of Tours. The boy, frenzied by his desertion, and urged on by indignant relatives, watched his opportunity, and made his way into the refectory of the convent, screaming to the horrified nuns to give him back his mother. As he grew older, her anxiety increased; and at length she heard in her seclusion that he had fallen into bad company, had left the relative who had sheltered him, and run off, no one knew whither. The wretched mother, torn with anguish, hastened for consolation to her confessor, who met her with stern upbraidings. Yet, even in this her intensest ordeal, her enthusiasm and her native fortitude enabled her to maintain a semblance of calmness, till she learned that the boy had been found and brought back.
Strange as it may seem, this woman, whose habitual state was one of mystical abstraction, was gifted to a rare degree with the faculties most useful in the practical affairs of life. She had spent several years in the house of her brother-in-law. Here, on the one hand, her vigils, visions, and penances set utterly at nought the order of a well-governed family; while, on the other, she made amends to her impatient relative by able and efficient aid in the conduct of his public and private affairs. Her biographers say, and doubtless with truth, that her heart was far away from these mundane interests; yet her talent for business was not the less displayed. Her spiritual guides were aware of it, and saw clearly that gifts so useful to the world might be made equally useful to the Church. Hence it was that she was chosen Superior of the convent which Madame de la Peltrie was about to endow at Quebec. [ The combination of religious enthusiasm, however extravagant and visionary, with a talent for business, is not very rare. Nearly all the founders of monastic Orders are examples of it. ]
Yet it was from heaven itself that Marie de l’Incarnation received her first “vocation” to Canada. The miracle was in this wise.
In a dream she beheld a lady unknown to her. She took her hand; and the two journeyed together westward, towards the sea. They soon met one of the Apostles, clothed all in white, who, with a wave of his hand, directed them on their way. They now entered on a scene of surpassing magnificence. Beneath their feet was a pavement of squares of white marble, spotted with vermilion, and intersected with lines of vivid scarlet; and all around stood monasteries of matchless architecture. But the two travellers, without stopping to admire, moved swiftly on till they beheld the Virgin seated with her Infant Son on a small temple of white marble, which served her as a throne. She seemed about fifteen years of age, and was of a “ravishing beauty.” Her head was turned aside; she was gazing fixedly on a wild waste of mountains and valleys, half concealed in mist. Marie de l’Incarnation approached with outstretched arms, adoring. The vision bent towards her, and, smiling, kissed her three times; whereupon, in a rapture, the dreamer awoke. [ Marie de l’Incarnation recounts this dream at great length in her letters; and Casgrain copies the whole, verbatim, as a revelation from God. ]
She told the vision to Father Dinet, a Jesuit of Tours. He was at no loss for an interpretation. The land of mists and mountains was Canada, and thither the Virgin called her. Yet one mystery remained unsolved. Who was the unknown companion of her dream? Several years had passed, and signs from heaven and inward voices had raised to an intense fervor her zeal for her new vocation, when, for the first time, she saw Madame de la Peltrie on her visit to the convent at Tours, and recognized, on the instant, the lady of her nocturnal vision. No one can be surprised at this who has considered with the slightest attention the phenomena of religious enthusiasm.
On the fourth of May, 1639, Madame de la Peltrie, Marie de l’Incarnation, Marie de St. Bernard, and another Ursuline, embarked at Dieppe for Canada. In the ship were also three young hospital nuns, sent out to found at Quebec a Hôtel Dieu, endowed by the famous niece of Richelieu, the Duchesse d’Aiguillon. [ Juchereau, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu ae Québec, 4. ] Here, too, were the Jesuits Chaumonot and Poncet, on the way to their mission, together with Father Vimont, who was to succeed Le Jeune in his post of Superior. To the nuns, pale from their cloistered seclusion, there was a strange and startling novelty in this new world of life and action,–the ship, the sailors, the shouts of command, the flapping of sails, the salt wind, and the boisterous sea. The voyage was long and tedious. Sometimes they lay in their berths, sea-sick and woe-begone; sometimes they sang in choir on deck, or heard mass in the cabin. Once, on a misty morning, a wild cry of alarm startled crew and passengers alike. A huge iceberg was drifting close upon them. The peril was extreme. Madame de la Peltrie clung to Marie de l’Incarnation, who stood perfectly calm, and gathered her gown about her feet that she might drown with decency. It is scarcely necessary to say that they were saved by a vow to the Virgin and St. Joseph. Vimont offered it in behalf of all the company, and the ship glided into the open sea unharmed.
They arrived at Tadoussac on the fifteenth of July; and the nuns ascended to Quebec in a small craft deeply laden with salted codfish, on which, uncooked, they subsisted until the first of August, when they reached their destination. Cannon roared welcome from the fort and batteries; all labor ceased; the storehouses were closed; and the zealous Montmagny, with a train of priests and soldiers, met the new-comers at the landing. All the nuns fell prostrate, and kissed the sacred soil of Canada. [ 1 ] They heard mass at the church, dined at the fort, and presently set forth to visit the new settlement of Sillery, four miles above Quebec.
[ 1 Juchereau, 14; Le Clerc, II. 33; Ragueneau, Vie de Catherine de St. Augustin, “Epistre dédicatoire;” Le Jeune, Relation, 1639, Chap. II.; Charlevoix, Vie de Marie de l’Incarnation, 264; “Acte de Reception,” in Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 21. ]
Noel Brulart de Sillery, a Knight of Malta, who had once filled the highest offices under the Queen Marie de Médicis, had now severed his connection with his Order, renounced the world, and become a priest. He devoted his vast revenues–for a dispensation of the Pope had freed him from his vow of poverty–to the founding of religious establishments. [ 1 ] Among other endowments, he had placed an ample fund in the hands of the Jesuits for the formation of a settlement of Christian Indians at the spot which still bears his name. On the strand of Sillery, between the river and the woody heights behind, were clustered the small log-cabins of a number of Algonquin converts, together with a church, a mission-house, and an infirmary,–the whole surrounded by a palisade. It was to this place that the six nuns were now conducted by the Jesuits. The scene delighted and edified them; and, in the transports of their zeal, they seized and kissed every female Indian child on whom they could lay hands, “without minding,” says Father Le Jeune, “whether they were dirty or not.” “Love and charity,” he adds, “triumphed over every human consideration.” [ 2 ]
[ 1 See Vie de l’Illustre Serviteur de Dieu Noel Brulart de Sillery; also Études et Recherches Bioqraphiques sur le Chevalier Noel Brulart de Sillery, and several documents in Martin’s translation of Bressani, Appendix IV. ]
[ 2 “. . . sans prendre garde si ces petits enfans sauvages estoient sales ou non; . . . la loy d’amour et de charité l’emportoit par dessus toutes les considerations humaines.”–Relation, 1639, 26 (Cramoisy). ]
The nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu soon after took up their abode at Sillery, whence they removed to a house built for them at Quebec by their foundress, the Duchesse d’Aiguillon. The Ursulines, in the absence of better quarters, were lodged at first in a small wooden tenement under the rock of Quebec, at the brink of the river. Here they were soon beset with such a host of children, that the floor of their wretched tenement was covered with beds, and their toil had no respite. Then came the small-pox, carrying death and terror among the neighboring Indians. These thronged to Quebec in misery and desperation, begging succor from the French. The labors both of the Ursulines and of the hospital nuns were prodigious. In the infected air of their miserable hovels, where sick and dying savages covered the floor, and were packed one above another in berths,–amid all that is most distressing and most revolting, with little food and less sleep, these women passed the rough beginning of their new life. Several of them fell ill. But the excess of the evil at length brought relief; for so many of the Indians died in these pest-houses that the survivors shunned them in horror.
But how did these women bear themselves amid toils so arduous? A pleasant record has come down to us of one of them,–that fair and delicate girl, Marie de St. Bernard, called, in the convent, Sister St. Joseph, who had been chosen at Tours as the companion of Marie de l’Incarnation. Another Ursuline, writing at a period when the severity of their labors was somewhat relaxed, says, “Her disposition is charming. In our times of recreation, she often makes us cry with laughing: it would be hard to be melancholy when she is near.” [ Lettre de la Mère Ste Claire à une de ses Surs Ursulines de Paris, Québec, 2 Sept., 1640.–See Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 38. ]
It was three years later before the Ursulines and their pupils took possession of a massive convent of stone, built for them on the site which they still occupy. Money had failed before the work was done, and the interior was as unfinished as a barn. [ The interior was finished after a year or two, with cells as usual. There were four chimneys, with fireplaces burning a hundred and seventy-five cords of wood in a winter; and though the nuns were boxed up in beds which closed like chests, Marie de l’Incarnation complains bitterly of the cold. See her letter of Aug. 26, 1644. ] Beside the cloister stood a large ash-tree; and it stands there still. Beneath its shade, says the convent tradition, Marie de l’Incarnation and her nuns instructed the Indian children in the truths of salvation; but it might seem rash to affirm that their teachings were always either wise or useful, since Father Vimont tells us approvingly, that they reared their pupils in so chaste a horror of the other sex, that a little girl, whom a man had playfully taken by the hand, ran crying to a bowl of water to wash off the unhallowed influence. [ Vimont, Relation, 1642, 112 (Cramoisy). ]
Now and henceforward one figure stands nobly conspicuous in this devoted sisterhood. Marie de l’Incarnation, no longer lost in the vagaries of an insane mysticism, but engaged in the duties of Christian charity and the responsibilities of an arduous post, displays an ability, a fortitude, and an earnestness which command respect and admiration. Her mental intoxication had ceased, or recurred only at intervals; and false excitements no longer sustained her. She was racked with constant anxieties about her son, and was often in a condition described by her biographers as a “deprivation of all spiritual consolations.” Her position was a very difficult one. She herself speaks of her life as a succession of crosses and humiliations. Some of these were due to Madame de la Peltrie, who, in a freak of enthusiasm, abandoned her Ursulines for a time, as we shall presently see, leaving them in the utmost destitution. There were dissensions to be healed among them; and money, everything, in short, to be provided. Marie de l’Incarnation, in her saddest moments, neither failed in judgment nor slackened in effort. She carried on a vast correspondence, embracing every one in France who could aid her infant community with money or influence; she harmonized and regulated it with excellent skill; and, in the midst of relentless austerities, she was loved as a mother by her pupils and dependants. Catholic writers extol her as a saint. [ 1 ] Protestants may see in her a Christian heroine, admirable, with all her follies and her faults.
[ 1 There is a letter extant from Sister Anne de Ste Claire, an Ursuline who came to Quebec in 1640, written soon after her arrival, and containing curious evidence that a reputation of saintship already attached to Marie de l’Incarnation. “When I spoke to her,” writes Sister Anne, speaking of her first interview, “I perceived in the air a certain odor of sanctity, which gave me the sensation of an agreeable perfume.” See the letter in a recent Catholic work, Les Ursulines de Québec, I. 38, where the passage is printed in Italics, as worthy the especial attention of the pious reader. ]
The traditions of the Ursulines are full of the virtues of Madame de la Peltrie,–her humility, her charity, her penances, and her acts of mortification. No doubt, with some little allowance, these traditions are true; but there is more of reason than of uncharitableness in the belief, that her zeal would have been less ardent and sustained, if it had had fewer spectators. She was now fairly committed to the conventual life, her enthusiasm was kept within prescribed bounds, and she was no longer mistress of her own movements. On the one hand, she was anxious to accumulate merits against the Day of Judgment; and, on the other, she had a keen appreciation of the applause which the sacrifice of her fortune and her acts of piety had gained for her. Mortal vanity takes many shapes. Sometimes it arrays itself in silk and jewels; sometimes it walks in sackcloth, and speaks the language of self-abasement. In the convent, as in the world, the fair devotee thirsted for admiration. The halo of saintship glittered in her eyes like a diamond crown, and she aspired to outshine her sisters in humility. She was as sincere as Simeon Stylites on his column; and, like him, found encouragement and comfort in the gazing and wondering eyes below. [ Madame de la Peltrie died in her convent in 1671. Marie de l’Incarnation died the following year. She had the consolation of knowing that her son had fulfilled her ardent wishes, and become a priest. ]
VILLEMARIE DE MONTREAL.
DAUVERSIÈRE AND THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN.–ABBÉ OLIER.–THEIR SCHEMES.– THE SOCIETY OF NOTRE-DAME DE MONTREAL.–MAISONNEUVE.–DEVOUT LADIES.– MADEMOISELLE MANCE.–MARGUERITE BOURGEOIS.–THE MONTREALISTS AT QUEBEC.– JEALOUSY.–QUARRELS.–ROMANCE AND DEVOTION.–EMBARKATION.– FOUNDATION OF MONTREAL.
We come now to an enterprise as singular in its character as it proved important in its results.
At La Flèche, in Anjou, dwelt one Jérôme le Royer de la Dauversière, receiver of taxes. His portrait shows us a round, _bourgeois_ face, somewhat heavy perhaps, decorated with a slight moustache, and redeemed by bright and earnest eyes. On his head he wears a black skull-cap; and over his ample shoulders spreads a stiff white collar, of wide expanse and studious plainness. Though he belonged to the _noblesse_, his look is that of a grave burgher, of good renown and sage deportment. Dauversière was, however, an enthusiastic devotee, of mystical tendencies, who whipped himself with a scourge of small chains till his shoulders were one wound, wore a belt with more than twelve hundred sharp points, and invented for himself other torments, which filled his confessor with admiration. [ Fancamp in Faillon, Vie de Mlle Mance, Introduction. ] One day, while at his devotions, he heard an inward voice commanding him to become the founder of a new Order of hospital nuns; and he was further ordered to establish, on the island called Montreal, in Canada, a hospital, or Hôtel-Dieu, to be conducted by these nuns. But Montreal was a wilderness, and the hospital would have no patients. Therefore, in order to supply them, the island must first be colonized. Dauversière was greatly perplexed. On the one hand, the voice of Heaven must be obeyed; on the other, he had a wife, six children, and a very moderate fortune. [ Faillon, Vie de Mlle Mance, Introduction; Dollier de Casson, Hist. de Montreal, MS.; Les Véritables Motifs des Messieurs et Dames de Montreal, 25; Juchereau, 33. ]
Again: there was at Paris a young priest, about twenty-eight years of age,–Jean Jacques Olier, afterwards widely known as founder of the Seminary of St. Sulpice. Judged by his engraved portrait, his countenance, though marked both with energy and intellect, was anything but prepossessing. Every lineament proclaims the priest. Yet the Abbé Olier has high titles to esteem. He signalized his piety, it is true, by the most disgusting exploits of self-mortification; but, at the same time, he was strenuous in his efforts to reform the people and the clergy. So zealous was he for good morals, that he drew upon himself the imputation of a leaning to the heresy of the Jansenists,–a suspicion strengthened by his opposition to certain priests, who, to secure the faithful in their allegiance, justified them in lives of licentiousness. [ Faillon, Vie de M. Olier, II. 188. ] Yet Olier’s catholicity was past attaintment, and in his horror of Jansenists he yielded to the Jesuits alone.
He was praying in the ancient church of St. Germain des Prés, when, like Dauversière, he thought he heard a voice from Heaven, saying that he was destined to be a light to the Gentiles. It is recorded as a mystic coincidence attending this miracle, that the choir was at that very time chanting the words, _Lumen ad revelationem Gentium_; [ 1 ] and it seems to have occurred neither to Olier nor to his biographer, that, falling on the ear of the rapt worshipper, they might have unconsciously suggested the supposed revelation. But there was a further miracle. An inward voice told Olier that he was to form a society of priests, and establish them on the island called Montreal, in Canada, for the propagation of the True Faith; and writers old and recent assert, that, while both he and Dauversière were totally ignorant of Canadian geography, they suddenly found themselves in possession, they knew not how, of the most exact details concerning Montreal, its size, shape, situation, soil, climate, and productions.
[ 1 Mémoires Autographes de M. Olier, cited by Faillon, in Histoire de la Colonie Française, I. 384. ]
The annual volumes of the Jesuit Relations, issuing from the renowned press of Cramoisy, were at this time spread broadcast throughout France; and, in the circles of _haute devotion_, Canada and its missions were everywhere the themes of enthusiastic discussion; while Champlain, in his published works, had long before pointed out Montreal as the proper site for a settlement. But we are entering a region of miracle, and it is superfluous to look far for explanations. The illusion, in these cases, is a part of the history.
Dauversière pondered the revelation he had received; and the more he pondered, the more was he convinced that it came from God. He therefore set out for Paris, to find some means of accomplishing the task assigned him. Here, as he prayed before an image of the Virgin in the church of Notre-Dame, he fell into an ecstasy, and beheld a vision. “I should he false to the integrity of history,” writes his biographer, “if I did not relate it here.” And he adds, that the reality of this celestial favor is past doubting, inasmuch as Dauversière himself told it to his daughters. Christ, the Virgin, and St. Joseph appeared before him. He saw them distinctly. Then he heard Christ ask three times of his Virgin Mother, Where can I find a faithful servant? On which, the Virgin, taking him (Dauversière) by the hand, replied, See, Lord, here is that faithful servant!–and Christ, with a benignant smile, received him into his service, promising to bestow on him wisdom and strength to do his work. [ Faillon, Vie de Mlle Mance, Introduction, xxviii. The Abbé Ferland, in his Histoire du Canada, passes over the miracles in silence. ] From Paris he went to the neighboring chateau of Meudon, which overlooks the valley of the Seine, not far from St. Cloud. Entering the gallery of the old castle, he saw a priest approaching him. It was Olier. Now we are told that neither of these men had ever seen or heard of the other; and yet, says the pious historian, “impelled by a kind of inspiration, they knew each other at once, even to the depths of their hearts; saluted each other by name, as we read of St. Paul, the Hermit, and St. Anthony, and of St. Dominic and St. Francis; and ran to embrace each other, like two friends who had met after a long separation.” [ Ibid., La Colonie Française, I. 390. ]
“Monsieur,” exclaimed Olier, “I know your design, and I go to commend it to God at the holy altar.”
And he went at once to say mass in the chapel. Dauversière received the communion at his hands; and then they walked for three hours in the park, discussing their plans. They were of one mind, in respect both to objects and means; and when they parted, Olier gave Dauversière a hundred louis, saying, “This is to begin the work of God.”
They proposed to found at Montreal three religious communities,–three being the mystic number,–one of secular priests to direct the colonists and convert the Indians, one of nuns to nurse the sick, and one of nuns to teach the Faith to the children, white and red. To borrow their own phrases, they would plant the banner of Christ in an abode of desolation and a haunt of demons; and to this end a band of priests and women were to invade the wilderness, and take post between the fangs of the Iroquois. But first they must make a colony, and to do so must raise money. Olier had pious and wealthy penitents; Dauversière had a friend, the Baron de Fancamp, devout as himself and far richer. Anxious for his soul, and satisfied that the enterprise was an inspiration of God, he was eager to bear part in it. Olier soon found three others; and the six together formed the germ of the Society of Notre-Dame de Montreal. Among them they raised the sum of seventy-five thousand livres, equivalent to about as many dollars at the present day.
[ Dollier de Casson, Histoire de Montreal, MS.; also Belmont, Histoire du Canada, 2. Juchereau doubles the sum. Faillon agrees with Dollier.
On all that relates to the early annals of Montreal a flood of new light has been thrown by the Abbé Faillon. As a priest of St. Sulpice, he had ready access to the archives of the Seminaries of Montreal and Paris, and to numerous other ecclesiastical depositories, which would have been closed hopelessly against a layman and a heretic. It is impossible to commend too highly the zeal, diligence, exactness, and extent of his conscientious researches. His credulity is enormous, and he is completely in sympathy with the supernaturalists of whom he writes: in other words, he identifies himself with his theme, and is indeed a fragment of the seventeenth century, still extant in the nineteenth. He is minute to prolixity, and abounds in extracts and citations from the ancient manuscripts which his labors have unearthed. In short, the Abbé is a prodigy of patience and industry; and if he taxes the patience of his readers, he also rewards it abundantly. Such of his original authorities as have proved accessible are before me, including a considerable number of manuscripts. Among these, that of Dollier de Casson, Histoire de Montreal, as cited above, is the most important. The copy in my possession was made from the original in the Mazarin Library. ]
Now to look for a moment at their plan. Their eulogists say, and with perfect truth, that, from a worldly point of view, it was mere folly. The partners mutually bound themselves to seek no return for the money expended. Their profit was to be reaped in the skies: and, indeed, there was none to be reaped on earth. The feeble settlement at Quebec was at this time in danger of utter ruin; for the Iroquois, enraged at the attacks made on them by Champlain, had begun a fearful course of retaliation, and the very existence of the colony trembled in the balance. But if Quebec was exposed to their ferocious inroads, Montreal was incomparably more so. A settlement here would be a perilous outpost,–a hand thrust into the jaws of the tiger. It would provoke attack, and lie almost in the path of the war-parties. The associates could gain nothing by the fur-trade; for they would not be allowed to share in it. On the other hand, danger apart, the place was an excellent one for a mission; for here met two great rivers: the St. Lawrence, with its countless tributaries, flowed in from the west, while the Ottawa descended from the north; and Montreal, embraced by their uniting waters, was the key to a vast inland navigation. Thither the Indians would naturally resort; and thence the missionaries could make their way into the heart of a boundless heathendom. None of the ordinary motives of colonization had part in this design. It owed its conception and its birth to religious zeal alone.
The island of Montreal belonged to Lauson, former president of the great company of the Hundred Associates; and, as we have seen, his son had a monopoly of fishing in the St. Lawrence. Dauversière and Fancamp, after much diplomacy, succeeded in persuading the elder Lauson to transfer his title to them; and, as there was a defect in it, they also obtained a grant of the island from the Hundred Associates, its original owners, who, however, reserved to themselves its western extremity as a site for a fort and storehouses. [ 1 ] At the same time, the younger Lauson granted them a right of fishery within two leagues of the shores of the island, for which they were to make a yearly acknowledgment of ten pounds of fish. A confirmation of these grants was obtained from the King. Dauversière and his companions were now _seigneurs_ of Montreal. They were empowered to appoint a governor, and to establish courts, from which there was to be an appeal to the Supreme Court of Quebec, supposing such to exist. They were excluded from the fur-trade, and forbidden to build castles or forts other than such as were necessary for defence against the Indians.
[ Donation et Transport de la Concession de l’Isle de Montreal par M. Jean de Lauzon aux Sieurs Chevrier de Fouancant (Fancamp) et le Royer de la Doversière, MS.
Concession d’une Partie de l’Isle de Montreal accordée par la Compagnie de la Nouvelle France aux Sieurs Chevrier et le Royer, MS.
Lettres de Ratification, MS.
Acte qui prouve que les Sieurs Chevrier de Fancamps et Royer de la Dauversière n’ont stipulé qu’au nom de la Compagnie de Montreal, MS.
From copies of other documents before me, it appears that in 1659 the reserved portion of the island was also ceded to the Company of Montreal.
See also Edits, Ordonnances Royaux, etc., I. 20-26 (Quebec, 1854). ]
Their title assured, they matured their plan. First they would send out forty men to take possession of Montreal, intrench themselves, and raise crops. Then they would build a house for the priests, and two convents for the nuns. Meanwhile, Olier was toiling at Vaugirard, on the outskirts of Paris, to inaugurate the seminary of priests, and Dauversière at La Flèche, to form the community of hospital nuns. How the school nuns were provided for we shall see hereafter. The colony, it will be observed, was for the convents, not the convents for the colony.
The Associates needed a soldier-governor to take charge of their forty men; and, directed as they supposed by Providence, they found one wholly