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Champlain
Chapter XV Conclusion


The autumn of the year 1635, Champlain suffered from a stroke of paralysis, which was considered very severe from the commencement. However, hopes were entertained for his recovery. The months of October and November passed away, and still no sign of improvement appeared. Champlain, therefore, made his will, which he was able to sign plainly, in the presence of some witnesses. Father Charles Lalemant, the friend and confessor of Champlain, administered to him the last rites of the church, and on the night of December 25th, 1635, he passed away at Fort St. Louis.

All the inhabitants, without exception, were deeply affected on hearing the news of his demise, and a great number attended his funeral. The funeral sermon was preached by Father Le Jeune. Champlain was buried in a grave which had been specially prepared, and later on, a small chapel was erected to protect his precious remains. This chapel was unfortunately burnt, as we have already mentioned, during the conflagration of June 14th, 1640.

The Jesuits' Relations of 1636 give a full account of the last days of Champlain, which we here quote: " On December 25th, the day of the birth of our Saviour upon earth, Monsieur de Champlain, our governor, was reborn in Heaven; at least we can say that his death was full of blessings. I am sure that God has shown him this favour in consideration of the benefits he has procured for New France, where we hope some day God will be loved and served by our French, and known and adored by our savages. Truly he had led a life of great justice, equity and perfect loyalty to his king and towards the gentlemen of the company. But at his death he crowned his virtues with sentiments of piety so lofty that he astonished us all. What tears he shed. How ardent became his zeal for the service of God! How great was his love for the families here—saying that they must be vigorously assisted for the good of the country, and made comfortable in every possible way in these early stages, and that he would do it if God gave him health. He was not taken unawares in the account which he had to render unto God, for he had long ago .prepared a general confession of his whole life, which he made with great contrition to Father Lalemant, whom he honoured with his friendship. The father comforted him throughout his sickness, which'lasted two months and a half, and did not leave him until his death. He had a very honourable burial, the funeral procession being formed of the people, the soldiers, the captains and the churchmen. Father Lalemant officiated at this burial, and I was charged with the funeral oration, for which I did not lack material Those whom he left behind have reason to be well satisfied with him; for although he died out of France, his name will not therefore be any less glorious to posterity."

Champlain left no posterity. His wife spent only four years in Canada, after which she resided continually in Paris. During her residence in New France, she studied the Algonquin language, and instructed the young Indians in catechism, and in this manner she won the friendship of the native tribes. It was the fashion of the time for a lady of quality to wear at her girdle a small mirror, and the youthful H£l£ne observed the custom. The savages, who were delighted to be in her company, were oft time astonished to see their own image reflected on the crystalline surface of this mirror, and said, with their native simplicity: "A lady so handsome, who cures our diseases, and loves us to so great an extent as to bear our image near her breast, must be superior to a human being." They, therefore, had a kind of veneration for her, and they would have offered their homage to her instead of to the Deity of whom they had only an imperfect knowledge.

The Indians were Madame Champlain's special care, but she was respected by the French as well. We do not know very much about her social intercourse with the different families of Quebec, but it is not probable that she ignored Madame Hubert or her family, as Faillon seems to believe. Her own distinction and the position of her husband would, no doubt, render her particular in the choice of friends, but we can scarcely believe that she would completely ignore Madame Couillard, who was of her own age. How was it that she consented to live alone in Quebec during the long absence of her husband?

After her return to Paris in 1624, Madame Champlain lived alone, and became more and more detached from the world, till she asked her husband to allow her to enter an Ursuline convent. Champlain, fearing that this desire might arise rather from caprice than a vocation for the life of the cloister, thought it advisable to refuse her request, and he bade her a last adieu in 1633. After Champlain's death, Father Le Jeune informed her that she was now free to follow the dictates of her heart.

According to the marriage settlement, Champlain was obliged to leave to his wife, if she were still living, all his possessions. By his last will, however, he left all his property to the church. Champlain had no desire to injure his wife by this act; on the contrary, he knew that her piety was great, and that she would probably applaud the course fie had taken, which was owing to his extraordinary devotion to Notre Dame de la Recouvrance, the church which he had built and loved. Madame Champlain, in fact, made no opposition, and the will was confirmed on July 11th, 1637. The will, however, was contested by Marie Camaret, a first cousin of Champlain, and wife of Jacques Hersault, comptroller of customs at La Rochelle, and a famous trial was the result. The will was contested on two grounds: (1.) That the will was contrary to the marriage settlement, and therefore ought to be annulled ; (2.) That the will was made by foreign hands, as it was difficult to suppose that Champlain had chosen the Virgin Mary as his heir.

These were the contentions of Master Boileau. The attorney-general Bignon easily refuted the second allegation by proving that Madame Champlain had recognized the signature of her husband, and had stated that the expression and style were his. The terms of this bequest to the Virgin were quite natural to a man of Champlain's character, "When we know," said the attorney, " that he frequently made use of Christian expressions in his general conversation."

Although the authenticity of the will was proved, the attorney-general argued that it ought to be set aside in face of the deed of settlement. The court upheld this view, and the property of Champlain, with the exception of the sum of nine hundred livres, derived from the sale of his chattels, returned to his natural heirs.

This trial and other affairs prevented Madame Champlain fr6m carrying out her resolution, and it was not until November 7th, 1645, that she entered the monastery of St. Ursula at Paris. She first entered the institution as a benefactress, and soon after became a novice under the name of Hdlene de St. Augustin. There seems to have been some difficulties with regard to her profession as a nun, and she therefore resolved to found an Ursuline monastery at Meaux. Bishop Siguier granted the necessary permission to found the monastery, and also for her to take with her three nuns and a lay sister. Hdl&ne de St. Augustin left Paris for Meaux on March 17th, 1648, and made her profession five months after. As a preparation for this solemn act, she made a public confession in the presence of the community. She also recited her faults, kneeling, and wearing a cord about her neck, and bearing a lighted taper in her hands. M&re Hdl&ne de St. Augustin lived only six years in her convent at Meaux, and died on December 20th, 1654, at the age of fifty years, leaving- the memory of a saintly life.

Eustache Boullts, the brother of H<516ue de St. Augustin, became a convert to Catholicism through the intervention of his sister, and entered the Minim order. He was sent to Italy, where he lived for six years. During his sojourn there his sister sent to him one thousand livres a year, and at her death she bequeathed to him the sum of six thousand livres, and all her chattels, together with a pension of four hundred livres for life.

All those who have carefully studied the life of Champlain, have been impressed by the many brilliant qualities which he possessed. Some have praised his energy, his courage, his loyalty, his disinterestedness, and his probity. Others have admired the charity which he exhibited towards his neighbours, his zeal, his practical faith, his exalted views and his perseverance. The fact is, that in Champlain all these qualities were united to a prominent degree.

The contemporaries of Champlain did not perhaps appreciate his merits, or his heroic efforts as a founder. This is not altogether singular, for even in the physical world one cannot rightly estimate the altitude of a mountain by remaining close to its base, but at a distance a just appreciation of its proportions may be obtained.

If the contemporaries of Champlain failed to render him justice, posterity has made amends, and Time, the sole arbitrator of fame, has placed the founder of Quebec upon a pedestal of glory which will become more brilliant as the centuries roll on.

Nearly three centuries had elapsed since the heroic Saintongeais first set foot on the soil of Canada, when, at the close of the nineteenth century, a spectacle was witnessed in the city of his foundation which proved that the name of Champlain was graven on the hearts of all Canadians. The ceremonies attending the inauguration of the splendid monument which now adorns Quebec, have become a matter of history, and seldom could such a scene be repeated again. France and England, the two great nations from which Canadians have descended, each paid homage to the illustrious founder; nor can we forget the noble tribute which was paid by the latest English governor, representing Her Majesty Queen Victoria, to the first French governor, representing His Majesty the King of France and of Navarre.

It is seldom that the deeds of the great men of past ages have been more fittingly remembered. Champlain, as we have previously remarked, possessed in an eminent degree all the qualities necessary for a founder, and his character is therefore exceptional, for over and above all the heroism he displayed, all his perseverance, his devotion to his country, we behold the working of a Christian mind, and the desire to propagate the faith of his fathers.

What would have been the result of the missions without his aid ? It was Champlain who caused the standard of our faith to be planted on the shores of Canada. It was he who brought the missionaries to the new settlement, and maintained them at Quebec, at Tadousac, and in the Huron country. It was Champlain, too, who founded the parochial church of Quebec, and afterwards endowed it.

Champlain's work rested solely upon a religious foundation, hence his work has endured. It is true that the founder of Quebec had certain worldly ambitions: he desired to promote commerce between the French and the Indians, but surely this is not a matter for which he should be reproached. Without trade the inhabitants of the settlement could not exist, and without the development of the settlement, his work of civilization would necessarily end. He worked for the material prosperity of the settlement, but not to increase his own fortune. The development of trade was also essential to Champlain in his capacity of explorer, and it was only through this means that he could extend the bounds of his mother country. This was surely the wisdom of a true patriot. What nobler ambition on earth could any one have than this, to extend the kingdom of his God and of his king?

Champlain has been justly called The Father of New France, and this is certainly a glorious title. The name of Champlain is indissolubly associated with this country, and will live long after his contemporaries are forgotten, for many of them now only live through him.

America contains a number of tows which have carefully preserved the names of their founders, whose memories Are consecrated by monuments which will recall to future generations their noble work. But where is the town or state that can point to a founder whose work equalled that of Champlain ? He had to spend thirty of the best years of his life in his endeavours to found a settlement on the shores of the St. Lawrence. Twenty times he crossed the Atlantic in the interests of the colony, and in the meantime he had constantly to combat the influence of the merchants who vigorously opposed the settlement of the French in Canada.

If we study the history of the mercantile companies from the years 1608 to 1627, we find on the one- hand, a body of men absorbed by one idea, that of growing rich, and on the other hand, a man, anxious, it is true, to look after the material interests of the merchants and of the people, but hand in hand with this the desire to extend the dominion of his sovereign. Here was a vast country, capable of producing great wealth, and struggling for its possession was a body of avaricious men, while valiantly guarding its infancy, we find a single champion, the heroic Champlain. Champlain watched over the new settlement with the tender solicitude of a parent carefully protecting his offspring from danger, and ready to sacrifice his life to save it from disaster. In small vessels of sixty or eighty tons, Champlain had repeatedly exposed his life to danger in crossing the ocean. His health had also been exposed during the days and nights spent in the open forests, or when passing on the dangerous rivers in his efforts to explore new territory. He was also constantly at the mercy of the Indians, whose treachery was proverbial. Under all these dangers and through all these conditions, Champlain's conduct was exemplary. He was charitable as a missionary towards these poor children of the woods. When threatened with hunger or malady, he relieved their wants and took care of the young children, some of whom he adopted. Others again he placed in French families, hoping that sooner or later they would be baptized into the fold of Christ's flock. In his intercourse with the chiefs, Champlain took occasion to explain to them the rudiments of the Christian faith, hoping thereby to pave the way for the work of the missionaries. Whenever he found any children that seemed more intelligent than usual, he sent them to France, where they could be instructed, and either enter a convent or take service in some good family. And who can tell whether some of these children did not afterwards become missionaries to their own country?

Champlain's prudence in his dealings with the savages was not less remarkable than his charity. This conduct gave him an influence over the Indians that no other Frenchman was able to obtain. The Indian tribes regarded Champlain as a father, but their love was mingled with a reverential fear, and every word and action was of deep significance to them. They had faith in Champlain, which after all was not unusual, for lie had never deceived them. Though they were barbarous and uncouth, and generally untruthful, they could distinguish the false from the true from the lips of a Frenchman. Being given to dissimulation themselves, they could appreciate sincerity in others.

Some writers have questioned Champlain's prudence touching the alliance which he made with some Indians for the purpose of fighting the aggressive Iroquois. We have already shown that if Champlain desired to maintain his settlement at Quebec, such an alliance was not only prudent, but essential. The Hurons and allied tribes, it is true, were barbarous, though not to so great an extent as the Iroquois, but they had the same vices and were as perfidious. The least discontent or whim would have been sufficient for the whole band to have swept the fort away. By making an alliance with them, and promising to assist them against their inveterate foes, it became to their advantage to support Champlain, and thus to render his people secure against attack. Moreover the numerical strength of the settlers in the early days was not sufficient for Champlain to have imposed terms by force of arms, and as it was necessary for his people to trade with the Indians, he could not have done better, under the circumstances, than to form this alliance, which insured business relations and protection for his countrymen.

This alliance was undoubtedly made at a sacrifice to Champlain, and he had to suffer many humiliations and privations thereby. We cannot imagine that he found any pleasure in going to war with a lot of savages, or in fighting against a ferocious band, with whom neither he nor his people had any quarrel. It is certain that Champlain did not encourage them in their wars, and he was careful not to put any weapons into their hands. The same amount of prudence was not exercised by those who came after the French and endeavoured to colonize New England and New Netherland.

Champlain's policy was one of conciliation. He desired peace, harmony and charity above all things. As a respectful and obedient child of his mother, the Catholic Church, he was very anxious that her teachings and advice should be observed by those who were placed under his authority. Although in his early fife he had followed the career of a soldier, still he regarded the profession of arms as useful only to put into question the ancient axiom, Si vis pacem, para bellum. Wars and quarrels had no attraction for Champlain, and he always preferred a friendly arrangement of any difficulty. He was a lover of peace, rather than of bloodshed, and the kindly nature of his disposition prevented him adopting vigorous measures.

Nevertheless, in the fulfilment of his duty as a judge, he was just, and would punish the guilty in order to restrain abuses or crimes. At this period there was no court of justice in New France, but Champlain's commission empowered him to name officers to settle quarrels and disputes. There was a king's attorney, a lieutenant of the Prdvotd, and a clerk of the Quebec jurisdiction, which had been established by the king. Champlain, however, was often called upon to decide a point of law, and we learn from his history that he was unable on account of death to settle a point which had arisen between two of Robert Giffard's farmers.

Champlain's authority was very extended, and whatever good may have resulted from his administration is due to the fact that he exercised his power with wisdom and prudence. Champlain's influence has expanded throughout the country wherever the French language is spoken, from the Huron peninsula, along the Algonquins' river, from Sault St. Louis, Tadousac and Quebec, and every one has recognized that Champlain alone, among the men of his day, had sufficient patriotism and confidence in the future of the colony to maintain and hold aloft under great difficulties, the lily banner of France on our Canadian shores.

After having founded Quebec, Champlain, with characteristic wisdom, chose the places where now stand the cities of Montreal and Three Rivers. He was particularly fortunate in his selections, and any buildings that he caused to be erected, were built from his own plans and under his own directions.

On the whole, Champlain's writings are very interesting, notwithstanding the fact that he is somewhat diffuse in his style. Writing in the style of the commencement of the seventeenth century, we see-traces, especially in his figures and descriptions, of the beauties of a language which was then in a transitory state. However, whether his style may be commended or condemned, it is of little consequence, since he has given to the world such ample details of his life and achievements as a discoverer, an explorer and a founder. His writings are the more remarkable from the fact that they were composed during the scanty leisure of his daily life, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for having sacrificed this leisure to give us such precious treasures.1 Such was the life of this peerless man, whose incessant labours were dedicated to the service of God and the glory of France.

The city of Quebec is justly proud of her noble founder, and it is a source of gratification to the inhabitants to point to the stately monument which stands upon the spot consecrated by the life and death of Champlain. The inscription commemorates the great work of the founder, and of his' explorations; but in the hearts of the people of Canada, Champlain has a still more precious monument, and the flourishing condition of our Dominion to-day is but the unconscious outcome of the trial and labours of his heroic life.

All historians who have written of Champlain attribute to him the qualities which we have endeavoured to depict in these pages. Charlevoix, a Jesuit, and the author of the first great history of Canada, written about one hundred years after the death of the founder of New France, thus writes:

"Champlain died at Quebec, generally and justly regretted. M. de Champlain was, beyond contradiction, a man of merit, and may be well called, The Father of New France. He had good sense, much penetration, very upright views, and no man was ever more skilled in adopting a course in the most complicated affairs.. What all admired most in him was his constancy in following up his enterprises, his firmness in the greatest dangers, a courage proof against the most unforeseen reverses and disappointments, ardent and disinterested patriotism, a heart tender and compassionate for the unhappy, ' and more attentive to the interests of his friends than his own, a high sense of honour and great probity. His memoirs show that he was not ignorant of anything that one of his profession should know, and we find in him a faithful and sincere historian, an attentively observant traveller, a judicious writer, a good mathematician and an able mariner.

"But what crowns all these good qualities is the fact that in his life, as well as in his writings, he shows himself always a truly Christian man, zealous for the service of God, full of candour and religion. He was accustomed to say what we .read in his memoirs, ' That the salvation of a single soul was worth more than the conquest of an empire, and that kings should seek to extend their domain in heathen countries only to subject them to Christ.' He thus spoke especially to silence those who, unduly prejudiced against Canada, asked what France would gain by settling it. Our kings, it is known, always spoke like Champlain on this point; and the conversion of the Indians was the chief motive which, more than once, prevented their abandoning a colony, the progress of which was so long retarded by our impatience, our inconstancy, and the blind cupidity of a few individuals. To give it a more solid foundation, it only required more respect for the suggestions of M. de Champlain, and more seasonable belief on the part of those who placed him in his position. The plan which he proposed was but too well justified by the failure of opposite maxims and conduct."

In 1880, the Reverend E. F. Slafter,1 a Protestant minister, gave to the American nation an appreciative description of the virtues of Champlain, from which we quote the following passage: "In completing this memoir the reader can hardly fail to be impressed, not to say disappointed, by the fact that results apparently insignificant should thus far have followed a life of able, honest, unselfish, heroic labour. The colony was still small in numbers, the acres subdued and brought into cultivation were few, and the aggregate yearly products were meagre. But it is to be observed that the productiveness of capital and labour and talent, two hundred and seventy years ago, cannot well be compared with the standards of to-day. Moreover, the results of Champlain's career are insignificant rather in appearance than in reality. The work which he did was in laying foundations, while the superstructure was to be reared in other years and by other hands. The palace or temple, by its lofty and majestic proportions, attracts the eye and gratifies the taste; but its unseen foundations, with their nicely adjusted arches, without which the superstructure would crumble to atoms, are not less the result of the profound knowledge and practical wisdom of the architect. The explorations made by Champlain early and late, the organization and planting of his colonies, the resistance of avaricious corporations, the holding of numerous savage tribes in friendly alliance, the daily administration of the affairs of the colony, of the savages, and of the corporation in France, to the eminent satisfaction of all generous and noble-minded patrons, and this for.a period of more than thirty years, are proof of an extraordinary continuation of mental and moraF qualities. Without impulsiveness, his warm and tender sympathies imparted to him an unusual power and influence over other men. He was wise, modest and judicious in council, prompt, vigorous and practical in administration, simple and frugal in his mode of life, persistent and unyielding in the execution of his plans, brave and valiant in danger, unselfish, honest and conscientious in the discharge of duty. These qualities, rare in combination, were always conspicuous in Champlain, and justly entitle him to the respect and admiration of mankind."

These two quotations are sufficient to supplement the observations that we have made, and there can be no doubt that posterity will forever confirm this opinion of the life and labours of the founder of New France, and that the name of Champlain will never be obliterated from the memory of Canadians.

CHRONOLOGICAL APPENDIX

1567 or 1570—Birth of Samuel Champlain.

1598—Champlain makes a voyage to Spain.

1599—Joins an expedition against the English to the West Indies.

1601—Returns from America.

1603—Goes to Canada as lieutenant of Aymar de Chastes, viceroy of New France, explores the river St. Lawrence to Sault St. Louis, and returns the same year.

1604—Follows de Monts' fortune in Acadia as geographer and historian of the expedition; lives on Ste. Croix Island and at Port Royal till the year 1607.

1608—As lieutenant of de Monts, viceroy of New France, Champlain crosses the Atlantic and founds Quebec.

1609—Champlain's expedition against the Iroquois. Leaves for France on September 5th.

1610—Champlain returns to Quebec and goes back to France the same year. His marriage with H£l&ne Boulld on December 80th, 1610.

1611—Champlain comes again to Quebec; founds Montreal; sails for France on July 20th. De Monts' company ceases to exist.

1612—Champlain sails for Canada and explores the country as far as Allumette Island. Goes to France. Comte de Soissons appointed viceroy of New France; dies soon after. The Prince de Condd takes his place, and retains Champlain as his lieutenant.

1613—Champlain leaves France for Canada, where he stays till 1614.

1615—Returns to Quebec with the Rdcollet Fathers; he goes as far as the Huron country; particulars of these tribes, their customs, manners, etc.; Champlain assists them in a war against the Iroquois; follows them and comes back to the Huron country, where he spends the winter.

1616—Leaves for Quebec on May 20th; work of the missionaries in the meantime ; meeting of the habitants and result of their deliberations; memorandum addressed to the king; Champlain goes to France.

1617—Champlain sails from Honfleur on April 11th for Quebec; Louis Hubert's family accompanies him.

1618—Champlain returns to France. Mardchal de Thymines appointed viceroy per interim after Condd's dismissal. Difficulties met by Champlain in 1617; his projects'laid before the king. Champlain gains his point and preserves his former position.

1619—Cond£ sells his commission of viceroy to the Duke of Montmorency; Champlain's new commission of lieutenant of the viceroy. Company of Montmorency formed by the Duke of Montmorency.

1620—Champlain comes back to Quebec with his wife, and stays there till the year 1624.

1621—Champlain receives his instructions from Montmorency and from the king; entitled to help the new company of merchants; conflict at Qucbec between the agents of the old and of the new company; Champlain's firm attitude settles the matter.

1622—The Company of Montmorency rules the country.

1624—Champlain recrosses the ocean, bringing his wife.

1625—Arrival of the Jesuits. Champlain at Tadousac and at Quebec; his intercourse with the Montagnais; the due de Ventadour named viceroy of New France; Champlain reappointed lieutenant.

1627—Ventadour resigns his office; Cardinal Richelieu organizes the Company of the Hundred Associates; privileges granted to them; Champlain still living at Quebec.

1628—Roquemont sent to Quebec with provisions ; his vessels taken by Kirke; Quebec in danger; correspondence between David Kirke and Champlain; the enemy retires ; distress at Quebec for the want of food.

1629—Kirke before Quebec ; the capitulation ; fate of the inhabitants ; the missionaries return to France together with Champlain; the last events at Tadousac.

1629-32—Champlain goes to London ; negotiations between France and England through the French ambassador; Champlain's visits to the king, and to Cardinal Richelieu; Charles I ready to restore Canada, with certain conditions.

1632—The Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye terminates the dispute between the two countries, and Quebec is restored to France.

1632—Arrival at Quebec of the Jesuits; history of their convent since 1626.

1633—Champlain's arrival in Quebec; history of the seminary of Notre Dame des Anges since its foundation ; the Jesuits' missions at Miscou Island, in the Maritime Provinces, Acadia, Baie des Chaleurs and Cape Breton. Champlain erects ' a church at Quebec.

1634—Immigration of French colonists from Per-che; Robert Giffard.

1635—Champlain's sickness and death ; his wife founds an Ursuline convent at Meaux.


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