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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter IV.—Champlain Administration—To 1635


Early Colonization. Frobisher explores the Arctic Seas—1576. Magellan —Drake—Sir Humphrey Gilbert—Raleigh's unsuccessful Colony at Roanoke—1585. Chauvin plants a trading post at Tadousac—1600. Champlain's first voyage to Canada—1603. Poutrincourt founds Port Royal-1605. Champlain founds Quebec -1608. Discovers Lakes Huron, Simcoe, and Ontario—1613. The Company of the Hundred Associates organized—1627. Kirk's Conquest of Quebec—1629. Quebec Restored by the Treaty of St. Ger-main-en-Laye—1632. Death of Champlain—1635.

For fifty years after the failure of Roberval there was no further attempt to colonize Canada. France, engaged in her prolonged struggle with Spain and Austria, and convulsed by the civil wars of religion, had neither men nor means to spare for foreign settlement.

The hope of finding a north-west passage to the Indies continued to be a strong incentive to North American exploration. In 1576, Martin Frobisher, an English mariner, in a vessel of only five and twenty tons, reached the straits still known by his name, and took possession of the adjacent country in the name of Queen Elizabeth.

A Portuguese sailor was the first to circumnavigate the 1591 and has left his name stamped forever upon the geography of the earth, and emblazoned in the constellations of the skies. The gallant Drake, an Englishman, explored the western coast of America as far north as Oregon, and followed in Magellan's wake around the world.

In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, step-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, reasserted England's claim, by right of discovery, to Newfoundland, by taking possession of the island, with feudal ceremony, in the name of the virgin Queen. On its return, the little fleet was shattered by a tempest. The pious admiral, in the tiny pinnace Squirrel, of only ten tons burden, foundered in mid-ocean. As he sat in the stern of the doomed vessel, with his Bible in his hand, he called aloud to the crew of his consort, "Fear not, shipmates; heaven is as near by sea as by land."

Undeterred by the fate of his gallant kinsman, Sir Walter Raleigh sent out an expedition which planted the first English colony in America, on Roanoke Island, off* the coast of North Carolina; but disaster, imprudence, and conflicts with the natives, soon led to its abandonment.

We now return to the narrative of early French colonization. In the year 1599, Chauvin, a naval officer, obtained a monopoly of the fur trade, on condition of settling five hundred colonists in Canada. With the aid of Pontgrave, a merchant of St. Malo, he built a trading post at the mouth of the Saguenay, and established a lucrative traffic ifi furs. In 1603, Champlain, a naval officer in the service of the company, and the future founder of Quebec, ascended the St. Lawrence as far as Hochelaga, but saw no trace of the Indian town existing there sixty years before. Chauvin dying this year, Des Monts, a Huguenot noble, obtained the much-coveted trading monopoly. Acadia was selected for colonization, on account of the supposed mildness of its climate, ease of access, and abundance of furs. A settlement was made, in 1605, at Port Royal, a grant of which was given to Poutrincourt, who was appointed Governor.2 After three years of busy industry, the colony was abandoned on account of the seizure of its store of peltries by the Dutch, and the revocation of its charter. In 1610 it was replanted; but was, in 1613, utterly destroyed by an armed expedition from Virginia, under Captain Argall.

Des Monts meanwhile abandoned Acadia for Canada. In 1608, Champlain, as his lieutenant, sailed with two vessels for the St. Lawrence. On the 3rd of July he reached Quebec, and, beneath the tall cliff of Cape Diamond, laid the foundations of one of the most famous cities of the New World. J The colonists were soon comfortably housed, but before winter was over many of them had died of scurvy. The severe discipline observed by the Governor provoked a conspiracy for his murder. It was discovered; the ringleader was hanged, and his fellow-conspirators were shipped in chains to France.' Champlain, in the spring, yielded to the solicitations of the friendly Algonquins to join in an attack upon their hereditary foes, the Iroquois. With his savage allies, Champlain advanced up the river Richelieu and the beautiful lake which now bears his name. The strange appearance of the armed Europeans, only three in number, and the novel terror of the death-dealing firearms, soon put the enemy to flight. This was an unfortunate expedition, as the Iroquois became, for one hundred and fifty years, the implacable foes of the French, and terribly avenged, by many a murder and ambuscade, the death of every Indian slain in this battle.

After the death, in this year, of Henry IV., the patron "of Des Monts, the latter was obliged to admit private adveuturers to share the profits of the fur .trade, on condition of their promoting his schemes of colonization. The powerful Prince of Conde, Admiral Montmorency, and the Duke of Ventadour, became successively Viceroys of Canada; but the valour, and fidelity, and zeal of Champlain commanded the confidence of them all. With the prescience of a founder of empire, he selected the Island of Montreal as the site of a fort protecting the fur trade and commanding the two great water-ways of the country, the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa.

In order to verify the story of the existence of a great northern sea, which would probably give access to China and India, Champlain, with a few companions, ascended the rapid Ottawa, as far as the Isle of Allumettes. When even the Indians refused to escort him further on his perilous way, he returned, disappointed but undaunted, to Quebec, and thence to France, to urge the fortunes of the colony.

With a desire for gain, and for extending the dominions of France in the New World, was blended also a zeal for the conversion of the savages to the Catholic faith. On Champlain's return to Canada, in 1615, he brought with the new company of colonists four Recollet friars, the first of a brave band of missionaries who toiled amid the wilderness to win the wandering pagans to the doctrines of the cross.

Joining a party of Algonquin and Huron Indians about to wage war against the Iroquois, he proceeded up the Ottawa and over almost countless portages, and reached, by way of Lake Nipissing and French River, Lake Huron, to which he gave the name Mer Douce—the Fresh Water Sea. Coasting down its rugged eastern shore, and threading a forest trail, Champlain and his companions reached at length a place of rendezvous, on the narrows of Lake Couchiching, near where the village of Orillia now stands.

Here a war party of two thousand plumed and painted Indian braves was assembled. Sailing, with several hundred canoes, through Lake Simcoe, and traversing the picturesque Balsam, Sturgeon, Pigeon, and Rice Lakes, with their intervening portages, they glided down the devious windings of the Otonabee and Trent Rivers, and reached the beautiful Bay of Quinte, now adorned with smiling villages and cheerful farms. The Huron fleet then entered. Lake Ontario, to which Champlain gave the name—which it long retained—of Lac St. Louis. Boldly crossing the lake, they reached the country of the Iroquois, and pressed onward some thirty leagues to the Seneca towns near Lake Canandaigua. The tumultuous onset of the Hurons was ineffective. They were soon thrown into disorder, in spite of the efforts of Champlain, who was himself seriously wounded by the arrows of the savages, and were compelled to retreat.

Champlain had been promised an escort down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, but, daunted by their defeat, the Hurons refused to keep their engagement. He was therefore, although severely wounded, compelled to return with his savage allies. After long delays, he traversed on snow-shoes the wintry forest, beneath a crushing load, through what are now the counties of Hastings, Peterborough, and Victoria, and on Christmas eve reached Lake Couchiching. He remained four months with his savage hosts, sharing in their councils, their feasts, and their hunts, and hearing strange tales of the vast lakes and rivers of the far west. His arrival at Quebec, after a year's absence, was greeted almost as a resurrection from the dead.

In the fall he returned to France, only to find his patron; Conde, disgraced and imprisoned. Admiral de Montmorency, in 1620, purchased the vice-royalty, and the same year Champlain brought out his youthful wife, who was received by the Indians with reverential homage, as if a being of superior race. The impolicy of Champlain's Indian wars was soon manifested by the first of those Iroquois attacks which so often afterwards harassed the colony. Quebec was as yet surrounded only by wooden walls. To strengthen its defences, the energetic Governor built a stone fort in the lower town, and on the magnificent heights overlooking the broad St. Lawrence, one of the noblest sites in the world, he began the erection of the Castle of St. Louis, the residence of successive Governors of Canada down to 1834, when it was destroyed by fire.

In consequence of disputes in the Trading Company of 1621 Prance> its charter was suspended and its privileges transferred to the Sieurs De Caen, uncle and nephew, zealous Huguenots. Many resident traders left the country in disgust, so that the population was reduced to forty-eight persons.

1625 Montmorency soon surrendered his vice-royalty to the Duke de Ventadour, a nobleman who, wearied of the follies of the court, had entered a monastic order, and was full of zeal for the extension of the Roman Catholic faith in the New World. Amid the religious and commercial rivalries by which it was distracted, the infant colony languished. The Iroquois became more bold in their attacks, and even cruelly tortured a French prisoner. The De Caens furnished inadequate supplies of food, clothing, and ammunition, so that at times the colony was reduced to great extremities. Everything withered under their monopoly.

Cardinal Richelieu, one of the greatest statesmen who ever swayed the destinies of France, was now in power. He straightway annulled the charter of the De Caens, and organized the Company of the Hundred Associates, with the absolute sovereignty of the whole of New France, and with the complete monopoly of trade. It was required to settle four thousand Catholic colonists within fifteen years, and to maintain and permanently endow the Roman Catholic Church in New France; and all Huguenots were banished from the country.

But a new misfortune befel the colony. Charles I., King of England, had made an ineffectual attempt to relieve the Huguenots, besieged in Rochelle, and had declared war against France. The conquest of Canada was decreed, and the task was assigned to Sir David Kirk, a Huguenot refugee. In the summer of 1628 he reached the St. Lawrence, and sent a summons to Champlain to surrender. The Governor ostentatiously feasted the messengers, although the town of Quebec was on an allowance of only seven ounces of bread per day, and returned a gallant defiance to Kirk. The latter cruised in the Gulf, and captured the transports laden with the winter's provisions for the colony. The sufferings of the French were intense. With the early 1699 spring the famishing population burrowed in the forests for edible roots. But the heroic spirit of Champlain sustained their courage. Still the expected provision ships from France came not. At length, toward the end of July, hungry eyes discovered from the Castle St. Louis three vessels rounding the headland of Point Levi. But they were English ships of war, and the little garrison of sixteen famine-wasted men were compelled to surrender.

As peace had been declared before the surrender of Quebec, the French demanded its restoration. By the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, the whole of Canada, Cape Breton and Acadia, was restored to the French, and the red cross banner of England, after waving for three years from the Castle of St. Louis, gave place to the lilied flag of France.

Champlain returned to the colony as Governor, with two hundred emigrants and soldiers. He established forts at Three Rivers, and at the mouth of the Richelieu,3 to protect the fur trade and check the inroads of the Iroquois, and greatly promoted the prosperity of the colony. But the labours of his busy life were drawing to a close. In October, 1635, he was smitten with his mortal illness. On Christmas day the brave soul passed away, and the body of the honoured founder of Quebec was buried beneath the lofty cliff which overlooks the scene of his patriotic toil. For thirty years he laboured without stint and against almost insuperable difficulties for the struggling colony. A score of times he'^crossed the Atlantic in the tardy, incommodious, and often scurvy-smitten vessels of the period, in order to advance its interests. His name is embalmed in the history of his adopted country, and still lives in the memory of a grateful people, and in the designation of the beautiful lake on which he, first of white men, sailed. His account of his voyage and his history of New France bear witness to his literary skill and powers of observation ; and his summary of Christian doctrine, written for the native tribes, is a touching monument of his piety.


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