Champlain
Chapter VII Fur Trade


THE earliest reference by Champlain to the fur trade in Canada, is contained in his relation of his voyage to Tadousac in the year 1603. During this journey he encountered a number of Indians in a canoe, near Hare Island, among whom was an Algonquin who appeared to be well versed in the geography of the country watered by the Great Lakes. As a proof of his knowledge, he gave to Champlain a description of the rapids of the St. Lawrence, of Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario. When questioned as to the natural resources of the country, he stated that he was acquainted with a people called the good Iroquois (Hurons) who were accustomed to exchange their peltry for the goods which the French had given to the Algonquins. We have in this statement proof that the French were known to the inhabitants of New France before the year 1603.

In the year 1608, trading was conducted with the Indians at Tadousac, but in 1610 it was alternately at Tadousac, and near Cape de la Victoire at the entrance of the Richelieu River. During the latter period, the fur trade was a failure, although the vessels annually carried from twelve to fifteen thousand skins to France, which were sold at one pistole each. From the year 1610, Tadousac ceased to be the rendezvous of traders, and the great centre was at Sault St. Louis, until the year 1618. From this time, for several consecutive years, Three Rivers was the principal trading-post, and finally the Indians went down to Quebec, or to Cape de la Victoire, or du Massacre, and at a still later period the Isle of Richelieu, opposite the parish of Deschambault, some fifteen leagues above Quebec, was chosen as a trading-place.

Champlain was not opposed to the fur trade; on the contrary, he favoured it, provided that it was conducted honestly, as it afforded him opportunities for making new discoveries, and also for maintaining friendly relationship with the Indians. The R^collets had no connection with the trade, although through their efforts commercial intercourse was often facilitated.

Speaking of the trading of 1618, Champlain mentions a class of men who eventually attained considerable influence in colonial affairs. These men were the factors or clerks employed and paid by the merchants. Some of them obtained notoriety on account of their treason and bad conduct, while others were distinguished by their devotedness to Champlain and the missionaries. The clerks or factors were engaged by the fur trading merchants who had their principal factory at Quebec. The staff consisted of a chief clerk, of clerks and underclerks; and their functions were to receive merchandise on its arrival, to place it in the store, and when the trading was complete, to exchange the goods for skins, which were then carefully packed for exportation. The clerks visited the places chosen by the Indians for trading, and generally conducted the exchanges themselves. Some of them employed the services of interpreters who were readily found, and were frequently sent among the natives to induce them to visit the clerks. The duties of the clerks were not always easily performed. They had many difficulties to encounter, but as successful trading might lead to future promotion, there were advantages connected with the office. Thierry-Des-dames, one of the underclerks at Quebec in 1622, was appointed captain of the Island of Miscou, in recognition of his faithful service. This is not the only instance of promotion recorded by Champlain. Beauchesne and Loquin are also mentioned in the Relations of 1618 and 1619.

When Champlain returned from France in 1620, he was accompanied by Jean Baptiste Guers, the business representative of the Duke of Montmorency, who rendered good service to Champlain and the settlers. In the same year Pont-Grav£ traded at Three Rivers, and he was assisted by two clerks called Loquin and Caumont, and an underclerk, Rouvier. Before leaving for France, Pont-Gravd placed Caumont in charge of his factory. Rouvier also left for France, under the pretext that the company refused to increase his wages. The departure of a clerk, however, was of small importance, when we consider the trouble which had arisen among the associates.

In the year 1612, Champlain, it appears, had placed too much confidence in the influence of Henri de Condd, viceroy of New France. This nobleman proved to be a source of trouble rather than a friend to the new colony. Two years after, Champlain formed an association of the merchants of St. Malo and Rouen, who invested a large capital for the development of trade in Quebec. The chief members of the company were Francis Porrde, Lucas Legendre, Louis Vermeulle, Mathieu dTnsterlo, Pierre Eon, Thomas Cochon, Pierre Trublet, Vincent Gravd, Daniel Boyer and Corneille de Bellois. By its constitution the operations of the company were to extend over a period of eleven years, and its members engaged to maintain the habitation of Quebec, and a fort, and to build new forts if necessary, and also to pay the expenses of missionaries, and to send labourers and workmen to Canada. The Prince de Condd received a salary of three thousand livres, and the payment of this large amount annually to the viceroy, caused the merchants to neglect their obligations towards Champlain.

In the meantime Condd conspired against the Queen Regent and was incarcerated, and the Mar£-chal de Thymines was temporarily appointed in his place. The office of secretary to the viceroy would appear to have been lucrative, for one applicant, probably JSoyer, offered Thymines four thousand five hundred livres, if he would appoint him to the position. Condd protested against the charge which had been made against his agreement, and asked for his salary. De Villemenon, intendant of the admiralty, opposed the application, and claimed the amount of the salary for the Quebec settlement.

While Champlain was present in France in 1617 he received a proscription from the court of parliament, ordering him to resign his office of lieutenant of the viceroy, as the Company of Rouen had decided to suppress the salary of the viceroy. Champlain did not take any notice of this injunction, but started for Quebec. On his return to France during the same year (1617) Champlain met the Mardchal de Thymines, in order to induce him, in his capacity of viceroy, to take some interest in the affairs of New France, as the situation there was becoming insupportable. The great personages were quarrelling over money matters; the people of St. Malo were renewing their demands for liberty of commerce, and the merchants were refusing to invest new capital. Champlain had a series of difficulties, which he endeavoured to remove before his return to Quebec, and he drew up his grievances in two large factums, one of which was presented to the king, and the other to the Board of Trade of Paris.

In the factum to the king Champlain explained that France would derive benefit from the colonization of Canada, provided workmen and labourers were sent to the country. He also set forth the necessity of improving the defense of the colony, as an attack might be expected at any time from the English or Dutch. Champlain pointed out to the king, at the same time, that by developing New France, he would be propagating the Catholic faith amongst infidels, and that he would add to his wealth by reason of the revenue to be derived from the vast forests of Canada. He also made known to the king some of the projects which he had in view. Amongst these were certain buildings and works which he proposed to carry out. Quebec was to be named Ludoxrica, in honour of the king. A church was to be erected and dedicated under the title of Redeemer, and a fort was to be constructed on the cape of Quebec, flanked with four bastions, which would command the river St. Lawrence. A second fort was to be built opposite Quebec, which would complete the defense of the face of the town, and a third fort would be constructed at Tadousac on a promontory naturally fortified, to be manned by a garrison which would be relieved every six months.

These arrangements would provide for the defense of the country. Champlain also intended to look after the education and the spiritual wants of the settlement, by sending fifteen friars of the Rdcollet order to New France, who -were to found a convent near the Church of the Redeemer. The king was also asked to send one hundred families to the colony, each composed of a husband and wife and two children or a servant under twenty years of age. With these provisions Champlain believed that a settlement might be established in the name of France, which would remain loyal to her interests, since it would rest upon the sure foundation of strength, justice, commerce, and agriculture.

In his explanations to the Board of Trade Champlain dwelt upon the advantages which were to to be derived from fishing, from the lumber industry, agriculture and cattle raising, and from the working of the mines and from trading. In short he endeavoured to induce the associates to continue their operations. The members, however, were under the impression that colonization would place obstacles in the way of commerce, and that the inhabitants would soon monopolize the trade. Some of the associates who were Protestants objected to colonization under Catholic influence, and understanding that Champlain was a staunch Catholic, they decided to have Pont-Gravd appointed as lieutenant of the viceroy, in his place.

Champlain was much affected on finding that he had a rival in Pont-Gravd whom he had always respected as a father, neither would he accept such a humiliating position. The king, however, intervened at this time, and wrote a letter to the associates, requesting them to aid Champlain.

"Dear and well-beloved:—On the report made to us that there has hitherto been bad management in the establishment of the families and workmen sent to the settlement of Quebec, and other places of New France, we write to you this letter, to declare to you our desire that all things should proceed better in future ; and to tell you that it will give us pleasure that you should assist, as much as you conveniently can, the Sieur Champlain in the things requisite and necessary for the execution of the commands which he has received from us, to choose experienced and trusty men to be employed in the discovery, inhabiting, cultivating, and sowing the lands ; and do all the works which he shall judge necessary for the establishment of the colonies which we desire to plant in the said country, for the good of the service and the use of our subjects ; without, however, on account of the said discoveries and settlements, your factors, clerks, and agents in the traffic of peltry, being troubled or hindered in any way whatever during the term which we have granted you. And fail not in this, for such is our pleasure. Given at Paris March 12th, 1618. (Signed) "Louis."

(And below) " Potier."

The merchants brought their affairs before the notice of the Council of Tours, who decided that Champlain should retain his position. The action of the council was a victory for Champlain, but it was soon followed by another still more agreeable. The associates promised to provide for the organization of emigration during the following year on a scale which would assure the success of the settlement. By this arrangement eighty persons, including three Rdcollet fathers would arrive in New France during the year 1619. In order to have the proceedings regularly conducted, Champlain caused papers to be prepared by notaries, which were signed on December 21st, 1618, by Pierre du Gua and Lucas Legendre in the name of the associates, and also by Vermeulle, Corneille de Bellois and Mathieu d'Insterlo. The document is as follows:

"List of persons to be sent to, and supported at, the settlement of Quebec for the year 1619.

"There shall be eighty persons, including the chief, three Recollet fathers, clerks, officers, workmen and labourers. Every two persons shall have a mattress, a paillasse, two blankets, three pairs of new sheets, two coats each, six shirts, four pairs of shoes, and one capote.

"For the arms:—Forty musquets, with their bandaliers, twenty-four pikes, four arquebuses k rouet [wheel-lock] of four to five feet, one thousand pounds of fine powder, one thousand pounds of powder for common, six thousand pounds of lead, and a match-stump.

"For the men:—A dozen scythes with their handles, hammers, and other tools ; twelve reaping-hooks, twenty-four spades, twelve picks, four thousand pounds of iron, two barrels of steel, ten tons of lime [none having been then found in this country], ten thousand curved, or twenty thousand flat tiles, ten thousand bricks to build an oven and chimneys, two mill-stones [the kind of stone fit for that purpose was not discovered till some years afterwards.]

"For the service of the table of the chief:— Thirty-six dishes, as many bowls and plates, six saltcellars, six ewers, two basins, six pots of six pints each, six pints, six chopines [about half a pint] six demy-septiers, the whole of pewter, two dozen table-cloths, twenty-four dozen napkins.

"For the kitchen :—A dozen of copper boilers, six pairs andirons, six frying-pans, six gridirons.

"Shall also be taken out:—Two bulls of one year old, heifers, and as many sheep as convenient; all kinds of seeds for sowing.

"The commander of the settlement shall have charge of the arms and ammunition which are actually there, and of those which shall afterwards be sent, so long as he shall be in command ; and the clerk or factor who shall reside there shall take charge of all merchandise; as well as of the furniture and utensils of the company, and shall send a regular account of them, signed by him, by the ships.

"Also shall be sent, a dozen mattresses complete, like those of families, which shall be kept in the magazine for the use of the sick and wounded, etc., etc.

"Signed at Paris December 21st, 1618, and compared with the original [on paper] by the undersigned."

Champlain submitted this document to the king, who approved it, but nevertheless the associates were afterwards unwilling to fulfil its conditions. The Prince-de Cond£ having been discharged from prison on October 20th, 1619, the king forwarded to him his commission of viceroy, and the Company of Rouen granted him a thousand £cus.

The prince gave five hundred dcus to the Rdcol-lets for the construction of a seminary at Quebec, and this was his only gift to the settlement of New France. The prince afterwards sold his commission as viceroy to the Duke of Montmorency, Admiral of France, for the sum of thirty thousand dcus. Dolu, grand almoner of the kingdom, was appointed intendant. The duke renewed Champlain's commission as lieutenant of the viceroy, and at the same time advised him to return to Quebec to strengthen his positions everywhere, in order that the country might be secure against invasion.

The patronage of Montmorency greatly encouraged Champlain, for the duke exercised great power. He therefore resolved to take his young wife to Quebec with him, for she had never been to Canada. Champlain concluded his private business in France, and took all his effects to the new settlement, as he had determined to take up his residence there. Before leaving France, all the difficulties in connection with his command were removed, and the king wrote him a very gracious letter, in which His Majesty expressed his esteem for his loyal and faithful subject.

The new administration of the Duke of Montmorency created dissatisfaction amongst the merchants of the society, which in fact had only changed its name of the "Company of Rouen" to the "Company of Montmorency or of de Caen." The associates forming the old company had hoped that Champlain would have been placed in the shade, especially when they learned that he intended to fortify Quebec and settle in the country. No action, however, was taken until the new company had commenced its administration. Champlain remained in ignorance of these facts until the arrival of the vessels in the spring of 1621, when he received letters from M. de Puiseux, secretaire des commandements du rot, from the intendant Dolu, from de Villemenon, intendant of the admiralty, from Guillaume de Caen, one of the members of the new association, and from the viceroy, which last is here given:—

"Monsieur Champlain: For many reasons I have thought fit to exclude the former Company of Rouen and St. Malo from the trade with New France, and to assist you and provide you with everything necessary, I have chosen the Sieurs de Caen, Uncle and nephew, and their associates: one is a good merchant, and the other a good naval captain, who can aid you well, and make the authority of the king respected in my government. I recommend you to assist him and those who shall apply to you on his part, so as to maintain them in the enjoyment of the articles which I have granted them. I have charged the Sieur Dolu, intendant of the affairs of the country, to send you a copy of the treaty by the first voyage, so that you may know to what they are bound, in order that they may execute their engagement, as, on my part, I desire to perform what I have promised.

"I have taken care to preserve your appointments, as I believe you will continue to serve the king well " Your most affectionate and perfect friend,

"Montmorency. "From Paris, February 2nd, 1621." The letter of Louis XIII was also satisfactory:

"Champlain: I have perceived by your letters of August 15th, with what affection you work at your establishment, and for all that regards the good of my service: for which, as I am thankful to you, so I shall have pleasure in recognizing it to your advantage whenever the occasion shall offer: and I have willingly granted some munitions of war, which were required to give you better means to subsist and to continue in that good duty, which I promise myself from your care and fidelity."

" Paris, February 24th, 1621. Louis."

It was in this manner that the sentence of death was given to the old company.

Several members of the old Company of Rouen and St. Malo were incorporated in the Company of Montmorency, which was composed of Guil-laume de Caen, Ezechiel de Caen, Guillaume Robin, three merchants of Rouen; Francis de Troyes, president of the treasury of France at Orleans; Jacques de Troyes, merchant; Claude Le Ragois, general receiver of finance at Limoges; Arnould de Nouveau, Pierre de Verton, councillor, and secretary of the king, and Francois Hervd, merchant of Paris. The two brothers de Caen belonged to the reformed religion.

Dolu advised Champlain to restrain the hands of the clerks of the old company, and to seize all the merchandise in the magazine. He claimed that although this measure was rigorous, it was justified by the fact that the company had not fulfilled its obligations towards the settlement of New France. De Villemenon's letter was dictated in much the same terms. Guillaume de Caen gave notice that he would soon arrive in Quebec with arms and stores for the settlement. Dolu's letter regarding the seizure of merchandise was couched in terms that might be considered imperative, nevertheless Champlain deemed it prudent to act with caution, and he therefore had conferred with Father George Le Baillif and Captain Dumay1 on the subject.

The elder clerk had some clerks under him at Quebec, who after hearing of the contents of Dolu's letter, were prepared to resist any curtailment of their rights. Champlain appeased them, and assured them that they would be allowed freedom of trading at least until the arrival of Guillaume de Caen, the extent of whose authority was not yet known.

Caumont, the chief clerk, declared that he was satisfied with this arrangement, but nevertheless the situation was difficult. If the king had given the order to confiscate the merchandise, then Dumay, whose visit to Canada was for the purpose of fur trading, would become the king of commerce in New France, and therefore he had nothing to lose in awaiting de Caen's arrival. He proceeded at once to Tadousac, but instead of meeting de Caen, he found that Pont-Gravd had arrived as the representative of the old company, and that he had with him seventy-five men and some clerks.

Champlain was much distressed on receiving these tidings, for he foresaw a conflict which would possibly entail bloodshed. The clerks also were despondent. In order to avoid a quarrel, Champlain deemed it advisable to protect his men, and he therefore installed his brother-in-law, Eustaehe Boulld, and Captain Dumay with sixteen men, in the small fort which he had erected at Cape Diamond during the preceding year. Champlain defended himself within the habitation, where he quartered all the men he could dispose of. If the clerks were inclined to fight he would defend his position, but he hoped that these precautionary measures would prove the means of preventing bloodshed.

On May 7th, 1621, three of the clerks of Guillaume de Caen left Tadousac and took up their quarters near the habitation. Father Le Baillif and Jean Baptiste Guers asked them to produce their papers. They declared that they had authority to trade from the old Company of Rouen, which still existed through articles agreed to by the Duke of Montmorency, and that a trial was at present pending between the two societies. On receiving this information from Father Le Baillif, Champlain decided to allow five clerks the necessary merchandise for trading; they were, however, told that the old company had been dissolved, and that the new company only was invested with authority to trade. The clerks were satisfied with Champlain's decision, but they objected to the presence of armed soldiers in the fort, which they claimed was not in accordance with the king's commands. The clerks finally went to Three Rivers to carry on their trade.

On June 13th, Pont-Gravd arrived at Quebec.

Here he was questioned as to his authority, although he was treated with the respect and courtesy due to his age and character. Pont-Gravd assured Champlain that t'he disputes between the two companies would be resolved in a friendly way, and that he had received news to this effect before he sailed from Honfleur. He then started for Three Rivers to join his clerks.

Some days after these events, a clerk named Rouvier, in the employ of de Caen, arrived with letters from Dolu, de Villemenon, and Guillaume de Caen, and left a copy of an order-in-council in favour of the old company. Champlain also received a letter from the king. The order-in-council granted permission to both companies to trade during the year 1621, provided that both should contribute equally towards the maintenance of the captains, soldiers, and the inhabitants of Quebec.

Foreseeing a conflict between de Caen and Pont-Grave, Champlain went to Tadousac, and advised de Caen to respect Pont-Grave's authority. De Caen replied that he could not do so, as he had received authority privately from the king. Champlain therefore assured the commandment to Pont-Gravd's vessel, in order to protect his old friend, and thus it happened that this affair which threatened to produce serious consequences, was smoothed over through Champlain's intervention. Pont-Gravd then took possession of his vessel in the presence of de Caen, who offered no opposition, and a few days after they both returned to France.

De Caen had promised to send twenty-five men to Quebec, but he sent only eighteen. A certain quantity of stores was also brought to Quebec at this time by Jacques Halard, "and a number of halberds, arquebuses, lances, and many barrels of powder, which were delivered in the presence of Jean Baptiste Varin, who had been sent by Guillaume de Caen, and Guers.

Father Georges Le Baillif also left for France during the autumn, as a delegate from the inhabitants of the settlement, who had prepared a memorandum of their grievances. This document Was signed by Champlain, Father Jamet, Father Le Caron, Louis Hubert, Guillaume Couillard, Eus-tache Boull£, Pierre Reye, Olivier Le Tardif, J. Groux, Pierre Desportes, Nicholas and J. B. Guers. On his arrival in France, Father Le Baillif had an interview with the king, and placed the memorandum in question in His Majesty's hands. The king admitted that the complaints were well founded, but at the same time he stated that it was impossible to grant all that was requested. The Huguenots were to retain their commercial liberty, and Champlain obtained some supplies, and his salary, which was formerly six hundred livres, was increased to twelve hundred.

Father Le Baillifs mission was unfruitful, for he brought word of the amalgamation of the two companies, whose chiefs were Guillaume de Caen, Ezechiel de Caen, and their nephew, Emery de Caen. The order-in-council establishing this large company granted to them the liberty of trading in New France, and all French subjects were eligible for admission to the society. By this arrangement the de Caens were obliged to pay the sum of ten thousand livres to the members of the old Rouen association, and a sum equal to the value of their goods, barques and canoes. The old company received five-twelfths of the Company of Montmorency, one-twelfth of which was reserved by de Monts, who was at that time living at his residence in Saintonge. By this latter arrangement, however, the de Caens were relieved from the payment of the ten thousand livres imposed upon them by the order-in-council. When Father Le Baillif returned to Quebec in the spring of 1622, all the old rivalry had disappeared. The Company of Rouen had adopted the name of the Company of Montmorency with the de Caens as chiefs.

The principal articles stipulated in the agreement . were:—

1. Champlain to be lieutenant of the viceroy, with precedence on land, and to command the habitation of Quebec, and to have command of all the French residents in New France. Ten men were also to be placed at his disposal, who were to be maintained at the expense of de Caen, who was also to pay to each an annual sum of twenty livres.

2. The company was also to maintain six Rdcol-let fathers, two of whom were to be engaged in missions to the savages.

3. The company was to support and maintain six families of labourers, carpenters and masons, during the period of the agreement, the families to be changed every two years.

4. The company was to pay the sum of twelve hundred francs as a salary to Champlain.

5. Champlain was to enjoy the privilege of trading for eleven years, and to this term the king added another eleven years.

The first man to bring the news of a change of authority was a clerk named Santein, but it was confirmed some days after by the arrival of Pont-Grave and Guillaume de Caen, who were accompanied by a clerk named Le Sire, an underclerk named Thierry-Desdames,1 and Raymond de la Ralde. De Caen handed to Champlain a letter from the king, who advised him to recognize the authority of the new company, and also to endeavour to maintain peace and harmony. When de Caen had completed his trading at Three Rivers he sailed again for France, leaving Pont-Grav£ as chief clerk at Quebec, and Le Baillif as underclerk at Tadousac.

In order to establish good order throughout the country, Champlain published certain ordinances, which should be regarded as the first code of Canadian laws* Although it was desirable to maintain peace, it was also necessary to prepare to resist the attacks of the Iroquois, who were becoming more and more active. A party of the Iroquois had approached Quebec, and were observed to be rambling in the vicinity of the Rdcollets' convent, on the north shore of the River St. Charles. They finally made an attack, but they were repulsed with loss by the French and the Montagnais, whose chief was Mahicanaticouche, Champlain's friend. This chief was the son of the famous Anadabijou, who had contracted the first alliance with the French at Tadousac in 1603.

In the year 1623, the vessels arrived from France later than usual, and the rendezvous took place at Cape de la Victoire on July 23rd. On this occasion the following persons were present: Champlain, P'ont-Grav^, Guillaume de Caen, Captain Duchesne, des Marets, De Vernet, ^tienne Bruld, an interpreter, Loquin, a clerk, Father Nicholas Viel, and Brother Sagard-Theodat.

On his return to Quebec, Champlain declared that certain sailors had appropriated a number of beaver skins, and he therefore confiscated them and had them placed in the store, pending the decision of the company. This infraction of the rules of commerce was trifling when compared with the contraband which was carried on freely in the lower St. Lawrence. The merchants of La Rochelle and the Basques were the most notorious in this respect. Their vessels were constantly sailing from one shore to another, trading furs, although they had no authority to do so. They were found at Tadousac, at Bic, and at Green Island. The Spanish, English and Dutch vessels also carried on an illegitimate trade in the same waters. Champlain mentions the fact that a Spanish captain, whose vessel was anchored at Green Island, had sent his sailors at night to Tadousac, in order that they might watch what was being done, and hear what was being said on board the Admiral.

At the commencement of the spring of 1624, a dark cloud hung over New France. The winter had been severe, and provisions were scarce. Champlain had only four barrels of flour in the store, so that he was anxiously awaiting assistance. On June 2nd he received good news. A vessel of sixty tons was anchored at Tadousac, laden with pease, biscuits and cider. To the starving settlement this was most welcome, and some days after Guillaume de Caen arrived with still more provisions.

After having traded at Three Rivers, de Caen visited Quebec, the Island of Orleans, and the vicinity of Cape Tourmente and the neighbouring islands. He was now the proprietor of these lands, having received them as a gift from the Duke of Montmorency.

Champlain now resolved to recross the ocean, and to take with him his young wife, who had spent four, years in Quebec. Emery de Caen was given the command of the settlement in the absence of Champlain. On August 18th two ships sailed from Tadousac, having on board Champlain, Hdl&ne Boulld, Pont-Gravd, Guillaume de Caen, Father Piat, Brother Sagard, J. B. Guers, Joubert, and Captain de la Vigne. At Gasp£, Raymond de la Ralde and a pilot named Cananee joined the party. The voyage was brief and pleasant to Champlain's party, but Canande's ship was captured by the Turks, and its commander was put to a cruel death.


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