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Champlain
Chapter IV Ghamplian's Voyages of 1610, 1611, 1613


CHAMPLAIN embarked at Honfleur with eleven artisans for Quebec, on March 7th, 1610. The rough weather experienced during the first days of the voyage rendered it necessary for the vessel to run into Portland, on the English coast, and later to seek refuge in the harbour of the Isle of Wight. At this time Champlain was taken suddenly ill, and was obliged to return by boat to Havre de Gr&ce to undergo medical treatment. A month after he rejoined his former vessel, which in the meantime had returned to Honfleur to take in ballast. Champlain had now somewhat recovered, although he was still weak and ill.

The vessel left Honfleur on April 8th, and reached Tadousac on the 26th of the same month, which was one of the shortest passages ever made up to that time: "There were vessels," says Champlain, "which had arrived on the 18th of the month, a thing which had not been seen for more than sixty years, as the old mariners said who sail regularly to this country." This remark proves that for more than half a century French fishermen and navigators had been accustomed to proceed as far as Tadousac. A Basque, named Lavalette, who had been accustomed to fish on the Acadian coast from about the year 1565, also confirms the statement.

On his arrival at Tadousac, Champlain ascertained from a young nobleman, named du Pare, who had wintered with Chauvin at Quebec, that all the settlers were in good health, and that only a few of them had been slightly ill. They had been able to procure fresh meat during the whole season, and consequently scurvy had not made its appearance. "By avoiding salt food and using fresh meat, the health is as good here as in France."

The Indians had been waiting from day to day for the return of Champlain, for they wished him to accompany them to war. He therefore went ashore to assure them that he would fulfil his promise under the conditions made, namely, that upon his return they would point out to him the three rivers, and the lake which they had described as resembling a sea, the end of which could not be seen, and by means of which he could return by way of the Saguenay to Tadousac. The Indians had readily promised to do all this, but only in the following year. Champlain had also promised the Hurons and Algonquins that he would assist them in their wars, if they would show him their country, the great lake and the copper mines. "I had accordingly," he said, "two strings to my bow, so that, in case one should break, the other might hold."

On April 25th, 1610, Champlain set out from Tadousac? for Quebec, where he found Captain Chauvin and his companions in good healths They had with them a stranger named Captain Batiscan, who was so pleased at Champlain's return that he and his comrades showed their appreciation by singing and dancing all night. Champlain entertained them at a banquet, with which they were delighted.

Some days after a party of the Montagnais, numbering about sixty men, made their appearance at Quebec, en route for the war. They presented themselves before Champlain, and said: "Here are numerous Basques and Mistigoches (so they named the Normans and Malouins) who say they will go to the war with us. What do you think of it ? Do they speak the truth?" Champlain answered: "No, I know very well what they really mean; they say this only to get possession of your commodities." The Indians replied: "You have spoken the truth. They are women and want to make war only upon our beavers." Confiding in Champlain's word, the Montagnais went to Three Rivers under the agreement that a general rendezvous should be held there with the French. The Hurons were to await them at the entrance of the Iroquois River.

Champlain started on his journey on June 14th. When he was eight leagues from Quebec he met a canoe bearing an Algonquin and a Montagnais, who entreated him to hasten towards Three Rivers, as the Algonquins and Hurons would be at the meeting-place within two days. The Algonquins presented Champlain with a piece of copper a foot long and quite pure, and stated that there were large quantities to be found on the bank of a river, near a great lake. The Indians also stated that they collected the copper in lumps, and after they had melted it, spread it in sheets and smoothed it with stones. Champlain was well pleased to receive this present, although it was of small value.

The Montagnais assembled at Three Rivers, and on June 18th they all set out together. On the following day they arrived at an island situated at the mouth of the river Richelieu, which the Montagnais used to frequent when they wished to avoid the Iroquois.

An alarm was soon given that the Algonquins had fallen in with a band of Iroquois, numbering one hundred, who were strongly barricaded. Each man then took his arms and set out in a canoe towards the enemy. The firing immediately began, and Champlain was wounded by an arrow which pierced his ear and entered his neck. He seized the arrow and withdrew it from the wound. The Iroquois were much astonished at the noise caused by the discharge of the French muskets, and some of them, seeing their companions wounded or dead, threw themselves upon the ground whenever they heard a musket fired. Champlain resolved after a while to force the barricade, sword in hand, which he accomplished without much resistance, and entered the fort. Fifteen prisoners were taken, and the rest were killed either by musket shots, arrows, or the sword. The savages, according to- their custom, scalped the dead. The Montagnais and Algonquins had three killed and fifty wounded. On the following day Pont-Grave and Chauvin did some trading in peltry.

Amongst Champlain's party there was a young lad named Nicholas Marsolet, who desired to accompany the Algonquins in order to learn their language, and he was pleased to learn that after much deliberation the Algonquins had decided to take him, on the condition that Champlain accepted a young Huron as hostage. The Indian boy was named Savignon by the French. Lescarbot writes that he met this youth many times in Paris, and that "he was a big and stout boy."

The French and the allied Indians separated with many promises of friendship. The Indians departed for the fall of the great river of Canada, and the French, with Champlain at their head, proceeded to Quebec. On the return journey they met at Lake St. Peter, Pont-Gravd, who was on his way to Tadousac, to arrange some business connected with headquarters.

Pont-Gravd contemplated passing the winter at Quebec, but in the meantime des Marets arrived from France, much to the delight of every one, as his vessel was long overdue. The news which he brought, however, was so serious that both Champlain and Pont-Gravd decided to return to France. The intelligence received was to the effect that M. de St. Luc had expelled the Catholics from Brouage, that the king had been killed, and that the Duke of Sully and two other noblemen had shared the same fate.

Champlain was much distressed over the condition of affairs in France, and on his departure he left du Pare in command of Quebec, and placed under him sixteen men, "all of whom were enjoined to live soberly, and in the fear of God, and in strict observance of the obedience due to the authority of du Pare." The settlement was left with a plentiful supply of kitchen vegetables, together with a sufficient quantity of Indian corn, wheat, rye and barley. Everything was in good order when Champlain set out from Quebec on August 8th, five days after Pont-Gravd's vessel sailed from Tadousac for France. On September 27th they arrived at Honfleur, the voyage having lasted one month and a half.

This second voyage of Champlain did not restore de Monts' fortunes. The withdrawal of the exclusive privilege of trading was the signal for a large number of trading vessels to appear in the St. Lawrence. In fact the operations were so great as to render the profits of the company null. The disaster was so complete that Champlain says: "Many will remember for a long time the loss made this year." For all the labour which Champlain had bestowed upon the settlement the result was small, and it was evident that if any French merchant were allowed without restrictions to trade with the Indians, commerce would be ruined, and the development of the settlement would be impossible. During the first years a beaver skin could be exchanged in return for two knives, and now fifteen or twenty were required for the same exchange. Champlain therefore desired to establish some form of rule by which commerce could be restricted, or in other words, whereby he or de Monts, or any one else who would undertake the direction of the affairs of New France, might be protected.

It was during this winter of 1610-11, that Champlain, who was now more than forty years of age, entertained thoughts of marriage. His constant voyages during the past twelve years had probably prevented him from entering into this estate before. It is, perhaps, somewhat surprising that he so suddenly put aside this consideration against the marriage. Did he contemplate residing permanently at Quebec, or did he foresee that circumstances would render his remaining in New France improbable? There is nothing in his narrative which throws any light on this question. Champlain does not mention the name of his wife in any of his writings, but we find later that she accompanied him to Quebec, where she dwelt for four years. The name of Champlain's wife was H£l&ne Boulle, the daughter of Nicholas Boulld, secretary of the king's chamber, and of Marguerite Alix of St. Germain TAuxerrois, Paris. H£l&ne Boull£ was born in 1598, and at the time of her marriage she was only twelve years of age. Her parents were Calvinists, and she was brought up in the same faith, but through the lessons and influence of her husband she became a Catholic.

The marriage settlements were executed at Paris on December 27th, 1610, and signed by Choquillot and Arragon, notaries, in the presence of the parents and friends of both parties. Among those who attended on that occasion were Pierre du Gua, friend; Lucas Legendre, of Rouen, friend; Hercule Rouer, merchant of Paris; Marcel Chenu, merchant of Paris; Jehan Roernan, secretary of de Monts, Champlain's friend; Francis Lesaige, druggist of the king's stables, friend and relative; Jehan Ra-venel, Sieur de la Merrois; Pierre Noel, Sieur de Cosign£, friend; Anthoine de Murad, king's councillor and almoner; Anthoine Marye; Barbier, surgeon, relative and friend; Genevieve Lesaige, wife of Simon Alix, uncle of H£16ne Boull£, on the mother's side.

According to the terms of the contract, Nicholas Boull£ and his wife pledged themselves, by anticipated payment of the inheritance, to pay six thousand livres cash, the day preceding the marriage. Champlain also agreed to give his future wife the benefit of his wealth at his death. Two days after, Nicholas Boulld sent to his son-in-law the sum of four thousand five hundred livres, the balance was to be sent later on.

The betrothal took place in the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, on Wednesday, December 29th, 1610, and on the following day the marriage was celebrated in the same church. As the young bride was not of marriageable age, she returned to her family to live with them for two years, as agreed by the contract.

Champlain then resumed his colonization work, and had an interview with de Monts, in order to induce him to take some action in his favour. Although the profits to be realized from the enterprise were not certain, it seemed probable that fur-trading, and developing the resources of the country, might become advantageous. The expenses of the undertaking were also small: a few barrels of biscuits, of pease and cider would be found sufficient to sustain the fifteen or twenty men who formed the nucleus of the colony. From year to year Champlain hoped to be able to monopolize the fur trade, not for himself, but for the company of de Monts.

The vessels which were equipped- for the expedition were ready to sail on March 1st, 1611. The passage was very rough, and when about eight leagues distant from the Great Banks of Newfoundland, the vessels were in great danger through the number of icebergs which were encountered. The cold was so intense that it was found difficult to navigate the vessel. While in the vicinity of Newfoundland, they communicated with a French ship, on board of which was Biencourt, son of Poutrincourt, who was bound for Port Royal to meet his father. He had left France three months previously, and had been unable to find his way to the Acadian coast.

After having sighted Gasp£, Champlain arrived at Tadousac on May 13th, where he found all the country covered with snow. The savages were informed of Champlain's arrival by cannon shot^and they soon made their appearance. They stated that three or four trading vessels had arrived within the last eight days, but that their business had been a failure on account of the scarcity of furs.

Champlain proceeded at once to Quebec, where he found everything in good order, and neither du Pare nor his companions had suffered from any sickness. Game had been abundant during the whole winter. Champlain intended to visit Three Rivers, but Batiscan said that he would not be prepared to conduct him there until next year. As he was unable to carry out his designs, Champlain took with him Savignon and one Frenchman, and visited the great fall. He made a careful examination of the country, and says:—

"But in all that I saw I found no place more favourable than a little spot to which barques and shallops can easily ascend with the help of a strong wind, or by taking a w inding course, in consequence of the strong current. But above this place, which we named La Place Royale, at the distance of a league* from Mont Royal, there are a great many little rocks and shoals which are very dangerous. . . . Formerly savages tilled these lands. . . . There is a large number of other fine pastures, where any number of cattle can graze. . . . After a careful examination, we found this place one of the finest on this river. I accordingly gave orders to cut down and clear up the woods in the Place Royale, so as to level it and prepare it for building."

This was the beginning of Montreal, the wealthiest city of Canada.

Champlain constructed a wall four feet thick, three or four feet high, and thirty feet long. This fort was placed on an elevation twelve feet higher than the level of the soil, so that it was safe from inundation. Champlain named the island Ste. H£l&ne, in honour of his wife, and he found that a strong town could be built there. To-day this island is a favourite resort for the inhabitants of Montreal, and it is an ornament to the harbour of the large city.

On June 13th two hundred Hurons arrived at Sault St. Louis, so called from a young Frenchman named Louis, who was drowned in the rapids a few days before. The Hurons were under the command of Ochateguin, Iroquet and Tregouaroti. The latter Was a brother of Savignon, the young Huron whom Champlain had taken with him to France. The interview, which lasted some time, was most cordial. The Indians said that they felt somewhat uneasy on seeing so many Frenchmen who were not specially united, and that they had desired to see Champlain alone, towards whom they were as kindly disposed as towards their own children.

Champlain questioned them on the sources of the great river, and on their own country. Four of them declared that they had seen a large sea at a great distance from their village. After exchanging their peltry with Champlain's consent, some of the Hurons left to follow the war-path, while others returned to their own country. This interview occurred on July 18th, 1611. On the same day Champlain set out for Quebec, where he arrived on the nineteenth. Here he found that certain necessary repairs had to be made. He also planted some rose bushes, and caused some oak wood to be placed on board a vessel for shipment to France, as a specimen of the wood of the new colony, which he considered suitable, not only for marine wainscoting, but also for windows and doors.

Champlain sailed from Quebec on July 20th, and arrived at La Rochelle on September 16th. De Monts was at Pons, in Saintonge, at this time, and it was here that he received a visit from Champlain. After listening to Champlain's narrative of his proceedings, de Monts decided to proceed to court to arrange matters. He hold a conference with the merchants at Fontainebleau, but he found that they were unwilling to continue to support the enterprise. He concluded a bargain with them for what remained in the Quebec settlement by the payment of a certain sum of money, and from that date de Monts' company ceased to exist. There was only one man who had faith in the future of the colony, and who remained staunch to its interests under all difficulties; this man was Champlain.

De Monts had shown great energy in opposing the impediments to the undertaking which were offered by the merchants of Rouen, St. Malo and La Rochelle, and as he hoped to regain the money which he had already expended, he considered that it was time to receive assistance from the king. Louis XIII listened attentively to de Monts' requests, but he did not accede to them. De Monts, therefore, informed Champlain that he was compelled to abandon the enterprise. This was the last interview between these two men.

Champlain was now left to his own resources for continuing his work. His personal means were small, and far too slender to enable him to support a colony in its infancy. The thought of abandoning the settlement was repugnant to him, not only on account of the years of labour he had bestowed upon it, but also because he felt that there was every chance of success with the aid of rich and powerful men.

At the commencement of his description of his first voyage to Canada, Champlain enumerates the reasons which induced him to continue his work of discovery: "The desire which I have always had of making new discoveries in New France, for the good, profit and glory of the French name, and at the same time to lead the poor natives to the knowledge of God, has led me to seek more and more for the greater facility of this undertaking, which can only be secured by means of good regulations."

Then he drew up a statement,1 which he handed to President Jeannin, whom he knew to be well disposed.

The president encouraged Champlain, but in order that he might not be deceived, he thought it better that Champlain should act under the authority of some man whose influence would be sufficient to protect him against the jealousy of the merchants. Champlain, therefore, addressed himself through M. de Beaulieu, councillor and almoner in ordinary to the king, to Charles de Bourbon, Comte de Soissons, then governor of Dauphin^ and Normandy. He urged upon the count the importance of the undertaking, and explained the best means of regulating it, claiming that the disorders which had hitherto existed threatened to ruin the enterprise, and to bring dishonour to the name of the French.

After having examined the map of the country, and studied the details of the scheme, Soissons promised, under the sanction of the king, to assume the protectorate of the undertaking. Louis XIII listened favourably to the petition of his loyal subject, and granted the direction and control of the settlement to the count, who in due course honoured Champlain with the lieutenancy. Soon after this event, however, the count died, and His Majesty committed the direction of affairs to Monseigneur Le Prince de Cond£, who retained Champlain as his lieutenant.

After having caused his commission to be posted in all the ports of Normandy, Champlain sailed from France on March 6th, in the vessel of Pont-Gravd, and arrived at Pointe aux Vaches, near Tadousac, on April 24th, 1613.

The savages came on board the vessel and inquired for Champlain. Some one replied that he had remained in France. On hearing this, an old man approached Champlain, who was walking in a corner of the vessel, and examined the scar on his ear, which was caused by an arrow wound while fighting for the Indians. On seeing this, the old man recognized Champlain, and expressed his feelings by shouts of delight, in which he was joined by his companions, who said, "Your people are awaiting you in the harbour of Tadousac."

On arriving at Tadousac, Champlain found that these Indians were almost dying of hunger, and after having affixed the arms and commission of His Majesty to a post in the port, he proceeded to Quebec, which he reached on May 7th. The people of the settlement were all in good health, and the winter having been less severe than usual, the river had not frozen once. The leaves were beginning to appear on the trees, and the fields were already decked with flowers.

On the 13th of the month Champlain left for the Falls of St. Louis, which he reached eight days afterwards." Here he met a number of the Algonquins, who informed him that the bad treatment which they had experienced during the previous year had discouraged them from coming to trade, and that his long absence from the country had left the whole tribe under the impression that he did not intend to return. On hearing this, Champlain recognized that it would be advisable to visit the Algonquins at once, in order to continue his discoveries, and to preserve friendly relations with them.

During his residence in France, Champlain had met a young Frenchman named Nicholas du Vignau, who claimed to have seen the Northern Sea, and said that the Algonquin River flowed from a lake which emptied into it. He also stated that the journey from Sault St. Louis to this sea and return cotild be accomplished in seventeen days, and that he had seen there the wreck and debris of an English ship, on board of which were eighty men. This intelligence seemed the more probable as the English were supposed to have visited the Labrador coast in 1612, where they had discovered a strait.

Champlain requested a merchant of La Rochelle, named Georges, to give du Vignau a passage on his ship, which he did willingly, and he also made an affidavit before a notary concerning du Vignau's Relation. Du Vignau came to Canada, and accompanied Champlain on his visit to the Algonquins. The party, consisting of four Frenchmen and one savage, set out from Ste. Helen's Island on May 27th, 1613.

After having passed the falls they entered Lake St. Louis. On the last day of May they passed Lake des Deux Montagnes, which Champlain called Lake de Soissons. Some days after they came in sight of the river Gatineau, the river Rideau and its fall, and the Chaudi&re Falls, where they were forced to land. They also passed the rapid des Chats, Lake des Chats, Madawaska River, Muskrat Lake, and Allumette Island, where an Algonquin chief named Tessoiiat resided. On the following day the Indians gave a tabagie in honour of Champlain, who after smoking the pipe of peace with the party, explained to them that the object of his visit was to assure them of his friendship, and to assist them in their wars, as he had done before.1

He told them also that he was making an excursion into their country to observe the fertility of the soil, and study their lakes and rivers, and to discover the sea which he was told was in their vicinity. Champlain therefore requested them to furnish four canoes, and eight Indians as guides, to conduct the party to the Nipissirini, in order to induce their enemies to fight.

The chief Tessoiiat, speaking in behalf of the whole tribe, said that he regarded Champlain as the most friendly of all the French, for the others were unwilling to help them in their wars, but that they had resolved not to go to the falls again, and that, owing to the long absence of Champlain from the country, they had been compelled to go to the wars alone. They therefore begged him to postpone his expedition until the following year.

They granted Champlain's request of four canoes with great reluctance, and stated that the Nipissirini were sorcerers, and not their friends. Champlain insisted on having the guides, and stated that he had brought with him a young man who would find no difficulty in visiting the country of the Nipissirini.

Tessouat thereupon addressed the young man by name, and said: "Nicholas, is it true that you "were among the Nebicerini ?" " Yes," said he in Algonquin language, " I was there." " You are a downright liar," replied Tessouat, "you know well that you slept at my side every night, with my children, where you arose every morning; if you were among the people mentioned, it was while sleeping. How could you have been as bold as to lead your chief to believe lies, and so wicked as to be willing to expose his life to so many dangers? You are a worthless fellow and ought to be put to death, more cruelly than we do our enemies."

Shortly after, Champlain advised the Indians that the young lad had confessed that he had lied concerning his visits to the Nipissirini country. By telling them the facts Champlain hoped to ensure the life of Nicholas du Vignau, as the savages had said, " Give him to us, and we promise that he shall not lie any more."

On June 10th Champlain took leave of Tessouat, after making him presents and promising to return during the next year to assist in the war. Continuing his course, Champlain again approached the Chaudi&re Falls, where the savages went through a ceremony peculiar to them, which is thus described:

"After carrying their canoes to the foot of the falls, they assembled in one spot, where one of them took up a collection in a wooden plate, into which each one placed a piece of tobacco. The collection having been made, the plate was placed in the middle of the troupe, as they all danced around it, singing after their style. Then one of them made a harangue, setting forth that for a long time they had been accustomed to make this offering, by means of which they were insured protection against their enemies, and that otherwise misfortune would befall them, as they were convinced by the evil spirit; and that they lived on in this superstition, as in many others. This done, the maker of the harangue took the plate, and threw the tobacco into the midst of the caldron, whereupon they all raised a loud cry."

Such was the superstition of these savages that they considered a favourable journey impossible without this uncouth ceremony. It was at this portage that their enemies had been wont to surprise them.

On June 17th they arrived at Sault St. Louis on their return journey. Captain L'Ange, who was the confidant of Champlain, brought news that Maison-neuve of St. Malo had arrived with a passport from the Prince de Cond£ for three vessels. Champlain • therefore allowed him to trade with the savages.

As the trade with the savages was now completed, Champlain resolved to return to France by the first vessel which was ready to-start. He accepted a passage in Maisonneuve's vessel, which arrived at St. Malo on August 26th. Champlain had an interview with the merchants, to whom he represented that a good association could be formed in the future. The merchants resolved to follow the example of those of Rouen and La Rochelle.

In concluding this chapter we may repeat the words of Champlain: "May God by. His grace cause this undertaking to prosper to His honour and glory the conversion of these poor benighted ones, and to the honour and welfare of France."


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