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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter VIII. Champlain's Difficulties


CHAMPLAIN found the future metropolis of New France i» an unsatisfactory condition. The merchants of his own company obstructed the practical working of the schemes of colonization for the forwarding of which their charter had been granted. Whatever colonists came to Quebec were hampered and discouraged in every way, were not allowed to trade with the Indians, and compelled to sell their produce to the company's agents, receiving pay, not i« money, but in barter, on the company's own terms. The merchants, not Champlain, were the real rulers. But few buildings had been added. Champlain erected a fort on the verge of the rock over-hanging what is now the Lower Town, and where still may be seen the ruined buttresses of the dismantled Castle of St. Louis. A few years afterwards the Recollet friars built a stone convent on the site of the present General Hospital. The number of inhabitants at this time did not exceed fifty or sixty persons. These consisted of three classes, the merchants, the Recollet friars, and one or two unhappy pauper householders who had neither opportunity nor wish for work. Small as was the community, it was full of jealousies, and split up into a number of cliques. To other evils was added the pest of religious controversy. Most of the merchants were good Catholics, to whom any discussion or doubt of the Faith w as a sin. But some were Huguenots, belonging to the most ignoble form of Protestantism, because the narrowest and most exasperatingly disputatious. The Huguenots would not leave the Catholics alone; they persecuted them with dragonnades of controversy. Forbidden to hold religious services on land or water in New France, they roared out their heretical psalms, doggerel that, like the English "Tate and Brady," degraded and vulgarized the finest and oldest religious poetry in the world. Added to this, the Huguenot traders of Rochelle carried on a secret traffic with the Indians, to the great loss of Champlain's company of monopolists.

Champlain was not discouraged. Again and again he visited France in order to revive the interest, always flagging, of the merchants of St. Malo and Rouen in the colony. Repeatedly the post, which the opportunity of receiving bribes made a lucrative one, changed hands by purchase or intrigue among noblemen, the worthless bearers of great historic names. At last, with some hope that the merchants of the company would fulfil the promises they had made to him in 1620, Champlain returned to Quebec, bringing with him his beautiful young wife. As the boat that bore Madame de Champlain neared the shore, the cannon from the fort welcomed her to the colony founded by her husband. The story of their marriage is a curious one, illustrative as it is of religion a la mode of the Catholic France of 1620. The lady was daughter of Nicholas Boule', a Huguenot, who held the post of Secretary of the Royal Household, at Paris, under Henry the Fourth. The marriage contract was signed in 1610, but the bride being then but twelve years old, it did not take effect till her fourteenth year, although 4,500 livres out of a 6,000 i-vres dowry were, it seems, paid over to Champlain. He, in return, bequeathed all his fortune to his wife, "in case he should die while employed on sea or land in the service of the King." The young Madame de Champlain was a Huguenot, but Champlain exerted himself to such good effect for her conversion that she became a most devout Catholic, and only consented to live with her husband on the understanding that they Jived together as if unmarried, in a sort of celibate matrimony, familiar m the legends of mouasticism. But at Quebec the monopoly continued to palsy all improvement. The few colonists outside the circle of merchants belonging to the company fell into the lazy, loafing ways of people to whom honest labour was forbidden, and even the Montagnais Indians began to plot against the settlement. They and other tribes of cognate origin actually met, to the number, it is said, of eight hundred men, with the design of overpowering and destroying the colony for the sake of what plunder they could gain. But Champlain found out the treason they were plotting, and the wretched cowards and ingrates soon afterwards, being threatened with starvation, were fain to crawl to him for a morsel of food. When we consider the benefits which Champlain and the French colony under him had so freely bestowed on these contemptible savages—their battles fought against a nobler race of savages, their women and children fed, clothed and taught by ladies like Madame de Champlain— one is tempted to thank with some brief thanksgiving the beneficent law of the Unsurvival of the Unfittest. Their tribe and its kindred tribes have long vanished from our Canadian Province of Quebec, but the taint of their blood, no doubt, still lurks in the veins of some of the habitants.

But m the summer of 1622 a more dangerous foe descended on the colony of New France. A formidable band of the Iroquois came to attack Quebec, but the dread of the White Man's thunder, and former experience of the arquebuse lire, kept them from venturing too near the walls of the fort. The Recollet convent was close by, but it was built after the fashion of the block houses of a later period, and the upper windows commanded all the approaches. The good Franciscans were equal to the occasion, and while some addressed their prayers to the saints in the chapel below, the others, lighted match and arquebuse in hand, stood on the walls, ready to pick off the approaching foe. So the Iroquois withdrew, merely burning the Huron captives in sight of Quebec, as a hint of their intentions towards the garrison.

So real were the dissensions with regard to the fur trade monopoly, and so bitter the wrangling between the merchants of St. Malo and Rouen on the one side, and that of Rochelle on the other, that the great noble who held the post of Governor of Canada suppressed the company formed by Champlain, and gave the fur monopoly into the hands of the Huguenot merchants, William and Emery de Caen. It must be remembered that the Huguenots of Rochelle had not yet broken out into open rebellion, and that their irrepressible self-assertion was backed by this influence of powerful robbers. The brothers De Caen undertook all sorts of pledges to support the Catholic missions, and to promote the interests of colonization, which pledges they respected as little as the company they superseded had respected theirs. Such confusion and ill-feeling resulted from their rule at Quebec that Champlain addressed a petition to the king. But a new influence had come into operation at Paris, which was destined not only to set aside the ascendency of fanatical interlopers like the De Caens, but to influence powerfully the whole future of New France. The worthless historic-named noble who held the post of Viceroy of Canada, becoming weary of the correspondence and worry t caused him, sold it, such being the political morality of France in those days, to another noble, his nephew. The noblesse of those days, not yet ripe for the guillotine, were either profligates or fanatics. The new Governor of Canada was an amateur in the conversion of souls. He had left his place at Versailles, and had entered into holy orders. His mind, such as it was, a Jesuit confessor directed. It was suggested to him that the strength of that mighty order which had been in part put forth at the ill-fated Acadian settlement might be exerted with. happier results in converting the heathen in Canada. But the Jesuit enterprise in New-France and in the Huron country deserves a chapter to itself. In the meantime the influence of the elder De Caen was being attended with the worst scandals m Quebec. He not only insisted on holding his interminable Huguenot services, but forced Catholics to join them, fie was continually devising new insults against the Jesuit Fathers who had now undertaken the mission of Canada. And more than any preceding monopolists, he forced all trade with the Indians into his own hands, in one year exporting, i» place of the ordinary number of beaver skins, which did not exceed twelve thousand, as many as twenty-two thousand. In spite of the greed and the sinister bigotry of De Caen, the colony showed signs of improvement. The inhabitants of Quebec now numbered 105. Several families were self-.supporting, subsisting on the grain and vegetables yielded by their farms. Although De Caen, in direct violation of his solemn prom\se, long delayed furnishing the men and funds needed to rebuild the fort which was by this time untenable against an enemy, Champlain's complaints at length had their effect, and a new fort was begun.

Happily for New France, there came into power at this time a ruler whose masterly intellect could appreciate the value to France and to Catholicity of the policy which Champlain had so long been labouring to carry out against every hostile influence. Cardinal Richelieu, the Bismarck of the seventeenth century, ruled France in the name of the despicable imbecile who was nominally King, Louis the Thirteenth. He soon perceived the advantages of French supremacy in at least a portion of the New World. To the abuses connected with the De Caen regime, he applied the efficacious remedy of annulling all their privileges by a decree from that King who was a mere tool in his powerful hands. He then formed an altogether new company, that of the Hundred Associates, of which he constituted himself president. The investment at once became a fashionable one. Several of the great nobles took shares; merchants and. rich citizens followed in their wake. They were granted ample privileges, no less than sovereign power over all the territory claimed by France in the New World, a claim which, nominally, covered the entire continent from the North Pole to Florida. They were granted, for ever, a monopoly of the coveted fur trade, and of all other commerce whatever for a term of fifteen years. All duties on imports were remitted. A free gift from the King conferred on the company two ships of war, fully equipped for active service.

This was in 1627. In 1628 the company were pledged to transport to Quebec several hundred artisans, and before 1643 to import at least four thousand immigrants, men and women ; to provide for their maintenance for three years after their arrival in the colony, and to give them farms already cleared. None but Catholics w ere to be admitted as settlers. Historians like Parkman, to whom the commonplaces of nineteenth century toleration seem applicable to all times and conditions of human society, have exclaimed against this exclusion of the Huguenots, and have speculated on the benefit to Canada of a large immigration of French colonists during the persecution, which forced them from the country against which they had so persistently plotted and rebelled during the seventeenth century. But New France's experience of Huguenot rule under De Caen does not support the conclusion that what is called Richelieu's bigotry was anything else than political common sense. Unity was above all else needful in a community which, among the multitudinous savage nations around it, had countless foes and not a single friend. The Huguenots had ever shown themselves intolerant, tyrannical and impracticable. A considerable number of them settled in Ireland about the close of the seventeenth century. The Protestant oligarchy opened its ranks to persecuted Protestants, many of whom bore the noblest French names. As a consequence the new importation strengthened the hands of the oppressors of the Celtic and Catholic proletariat, and intensified religious bitterness. The Huguenot immigration to Ireland is perhaps no slight factor in, the anarchic deadlock of the Ireland of to-day.

Quebec was now in the utmost need of supplies of food, a famine being threatened. The new company showed its vigour by taking prompt measures to avert this calamity. A number of transports laden with immigrants and abundant stores of provisions, seeds, and agricultural tools, left Quebec m April, 1628. They were destined never to arrive, though watched for week after week by the starving garrison. For, in the meantime, war had broken out between England and France, or rather between France and the worthless favourite who controlled the weak mind and weaker principles of the first Charles Stuart. The Duke of Buckingham had received a slight from the French Government. He forced on his country an abortive war in aid of the Huguenots of Rochelle, now in open rebellion against France. When war was declared, a favourable opportunity presented itself for taking possession of the French colony in Canada. The "cruel eyes that bore to look on torture, but dared not look on war ' were turned greedily toward New France. And a Huguenot renegade was not wanting to be his tool in ruining Quebec. David Kirk, though on the father 's side of Scotch extraction, wae to all intents and purposes a French citizen of Dieppe. He was a zealous Huguenot, and with his brothers, Louis and Thomas, Kirk had been among the loudest singers of psalms, and wranglers in controversy, who had so troubled the peace of Quebec. For this he had been expelled by Champlain as soon as Richelieu's new company was established. He now saw his way to revenge. With true Huguenot hatred against the country of his birth and the colony out of whose monopolised trade he had made a fortune, De Caen, through a creature of his, one Michel, whom Charlevoix describes as "a fierce Calvinist," "Calviniste furieux," suggested a descent by a sufficient naval force on Quebec. The suggestion was at once carried out. David Kirk, who, as a manner, had considerable experience, and knew especially well the navigation of the St. Lawrence, was appointed Admiral, many Huguenot refugees being under his command. But at Quebec the colonists were confidently awaiting the arrival of the promised fleet laden with provisions from France. On July yth, 1628, two men from the outpost at Cape Tourmente made their way to Quebec, and announced that they had seen six large ships anchored at Tadousac. Father Le Caron and another Recollet friar volunteered to go in a canoe to ascertain the truth. They had not passed the Isle of Orleans when they met a canoe whose Indian crew warned them to return to Qebec, and shewed them a wounded man at the bottom of the canoe. It was the French commandant at Cape Tourmente. The six ships were English men-of-war, and their destination was to capture Quebec. Champlain had but scant means of resistance. The fort was little better than a ruin, two of the main towers had fallen, the magazine contained but fifty pounds of powder. For this, Quebec had to thank the malicious neglect of duty of the Huguenot De Caen. Yet, Champlain resolved on resistance to the last.; even with starving garrison and ruined fort he assigned to every man his post, and when some Basque fishermen brought a summons to surrender from the Huguenot renegade Kirk, he refused. Meantime, the disastrous news had arrived that a battle had taken place between the four French ships of war and the squadron of six ships under Kirk. The French had been worsted, and all the fleet of transports, laden with the supplies so long expected, had been captured by the English and their Huguenot captains. Within the walls of Quebec the handful of defenders were now brought to the last extremity. Yet so boldly defiant was Champlain's bearing, and such his -character for determined courage, that the Huguenot feared to attack him, and cruised about the St. Lawrence gulf, doing what mischief he could by destroying fishing boats. In Quebec the population subsisted on roots, acorns, and a daily diminishing pittance of pounded peas. Champlain had even conceived a plan to leave the women and children whatever food remained, and himself, with the garrison, invade the Iroquois country to the south, seize on one of their villages, entrench himself therein, and subsist on the stores of buried maize invariably to be found in Iroquois towns. Meanwhile Ivirks squadron returned to England, and Quebec, left without supplies, was almost perishing. But in July, 1628, the English fleet came once more in sight, and though Champlain ordered his garrison, now reduced to sixteen, to man the ramparts, when a boat with a white flag arrived with a proposal to surrender, he accepted it, the conditions being that the French were to be conveyed to their own country, each soldier being allowed to take with him furs to the value of twenty crowns. The fort and the town were given up to the English, who made no harsh or unfair use of their conquest. The few farmers were encouraged to remain. The Recollet and Jesuit Missions were not interfered with. And so, for a short space the Red Cross flag waved over the rock of Quebec, whence, a century later, it was to float permanently, or until succeeded by the ensign of a new Canadian nationality.

Kirk's enterprise was piracy, pure and simple. He held no commission from the English Crown, but so lax were the laws of maritime war at the time that a privateer who succeeded, at his own risk, in inflicting a blow on the enemy, was sure of countenance, if not of reward. Kirk's piratical proceedings were more flagrant, inasmuch as he well knew that before he began his descent on Quebec, peace had been ratified between the two Governments. When his squadron had reached the English port of Plymouth, Champlain at once repaired to London, where he reduced the French ambassador to insist on the restoration to France of her colony, in accordance with the terms of the treaty. Neither the French nor the English Government set much store on the feeble trading post beneath the rock of Quebec. Kirk was commanded by the English King to surrender Quebec to Emery De Caen, who was commissioned by the French Government to occupy the fort and hold a monopoly of trade for one year, as compensation for great losses sustained by him during the war. Why the renegade was thus favoured it is hard to say. Doubtless the great Cardinal's subtle policy had good reason.


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