Title: The Fighting Governor : A Chronicle of Frontenac
Author: Charles W. Colby
Editor: H. H. Langton
George McKinnon Wrong
Release date: February 1, 2004 [eBook #5146]
Most recently updated: December 28, 2020
Original publication: Toronto: [s.n.], , 1915
This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan.
CHRONICLES OF CANADA
Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
In thirty-two volumes
THE FIGHTING GOVERNOR
A Chronicle of Frontenac
By CHARLES W. COLBY
The Canada to which Frontenac came in 1672 was no longer the infant colony it had been when Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates. Through the efforts of Louis XIV and Colbert it had assumed the form of an organized province. [Footnote: See The Great Intendant in this Series.] Though its inhabitants numbered less than seven thousand, the institutions under which they lived could not have been more elaborate or precise. In short, the divine right of the king to rule over his people was proclaimed as loudly in the colony as in the motherland.
It was inevitable that this should be so, for the whole course of French history since the thirteenth century had led up to the absolutism of Louis XIV. During the early ages of feudalism France had been distracted by the wars of her kings against rebellious nobles. The virtues and firmness of Louis IX (1226-70) had turned the scale in favour of the crown. There were still to be many rebellions—the strife of Burgundians and Armagnacs in the fifteenth century, the Wars of the League in the sixteenth century, the cabal of the Fronde in the seventeenth century—but the great issue had been settled in the days of the good St Louis. When Raymond VII of Toulouse accepted the Peace of Lorris (1243) the government of Canada by Louis XIV already existed in the germ. That is to say, behind the policy of France in the New World may be seen an ancient process which had ended in untrammelled autocracy at Paris.
This process as it affected Canada was not confined to the spirit of government. It is equally visible in the forms of colonial administration. During the Middle Ages the dukes and counts of France had been great territorial lords—levying their own armies, coining their own money, holding power of life and death over their vassals. In that period Normandy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Toulouse, and many other districts, were subject to the king in name only. But, with the growth of royal power, the dukes and counts steadily lost their territorial independence and fell at last to the condition of courtiers. Simultaneously the duchies or counties were changed into provinces, each with a noble for its governor—but a noble who was a courtier, holding his commission from the king and dependent upon the favour of the king. Side by side with the governor stood the intendant, even more a king's man than the governor himself. So jealously did the Bourbons guard their despotism that the crown would not place wide authority in the hands of any one representative. The governor, as a noble and a soldier, knew little or nothing of civil business. To watch over the finances and the prosperity of the province, an intendant was appointed. This official was always chosen from the middle class and owed his position, his advancement, his whole future, to the king. The governor might possess wealth, or family connections. The intendant had little save what came to him from his sovereign's favour. Gratitude and interest alike tended to make him a faithful servant.
But, though the crown had destroyed the political power of the nobles, it left intact their social pre-eminence. The king was as supreme as a Christian ruler could be. Yet by its very nature the monarchy could not exist without the nobles, from whose ranks the sovereign drew his attendants, friends, and lieutenants. Versailles without its courtiers would have been a desert. Even the Church was a stronghold of the aristocracy, for few became bishops or abbots who were not of gentle birth.
The great aim of government, whether at home or in the colonies, was to maintain the supremacy of the crown. Hence all public action flowed from a royal command. The Bourbon theory required that kings should speak and that subjects should obey. One direct consequence of a system so uncompromisingly despotic was the loss of all local initiative. Nothing in the faintest degree resembling the New England town-meeting ever existed in New France. Louis XIV objected to public gatherings of his people, even for the most innocent purposes. The sole limitation to the power of the king was the line of cleavage between Church and State. Religion required that the king should refrain from invading the sphere of the clergy, though controversy often waxed fierce as to where the secular ended and the spiritual began.
When it became necessary to provide institutions for Canada, the organization of the province in France at once suggested itself as a fit pattern. Canada, like Normandy, had the governor and the intendant for her chief officials, the seigneury for the groundwork of her society, and mediaeval coutumes for her laws.
The governor represented the king's dignity and the force of his arms. He was a noble, titled or untitled. It was the business of the governor to wage war and of the intendant to levy taxes. But as an expedition could not be equipped without money, the governor looked to the intendant for funds, and the intendant might object that the plans of the governor were unduly extravagant. Worse still, the commissions under which both held office were often contradictory. More than three thousand miles separated Quebec from Versailles, and for many months governor and intendant quarrelled over issues which could only be settled by an appeal to the king. Meanwhile each was a spy as well as a check upon the other. In Canada this arrangement worked even more harmfully than in France, where the king could make himself felt without great loss of time.
Yet an able intendant could do much good. There are few finer episodes in the history of local government than the work of Turgot as intendant of the Limousin. [Footnote: Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-81), a statesman, thinker, and philanthropist of the first order. It was as intendant of Limoges that Turgot disclosed his great powers. He held his post for thirteen years (1761- 74), and effected improvements which led Louis XVI to appoint him comptroller-general of the Kingdom.] Canada also had her Talon, whose efforts had transformed the colony during the seven years which preceded Frontenac's arrival. The fatal weakness was scanty population. This Talon saw with perfect clearness, and he clamoured for immigrants till Colbert declared that he would not depopulate France to people Canada. Talon and Frontenac came into personal contact only during a few weeks, but the colony over which Frontenac ruled as governor had been created largely by the intelligence and toil of Talon as intendant. [Footnote: See The Great Intendant.]
While the provincial system of France gave Canada two chief personages, a third came from the Church. In the annals of New France there is no more prominent figure than the bishop. Francois de Laval de Montmorency had been in the colony since 1659. His place in history is due in large part to his strong, intense personality, but this must not be permitted to obscure the importance of his office. His duties were to create educational institutions, to shape ecclesiastical policy, and to represent the Church in all its dealings with the government.
Many of the problems which confronted Laval had their origin in special and rather singular circumstances. Few, if any, priests had as yet been established in fixed parishes—each with its church and presbytere. Under ordinary conditions parishes would have been established at once, but in Canada the conditions were far from ordinary. The Canadian Church sprang from a mission. Its first ministers were members of religious orders who had taken the conversion of the heathen for their chosen task. They had headquarters at Quebec or Montreal, but their true field of action was the wilderness. Having the red man rather than the settler as their charge, they became immersed, and perhaps preoccupied, in their heroic work. Thus the erection of parishes was delayed. More than one historian has upbraided Laval for thinking so much of the mission that he neglected the spiritual needs of the colonists. However this may be, the colony owed much to the missionaries—particularly to the Jesuits. It is no exaggeration to say that the Society of Jesus had been among the strongest forces which stood between New France and destruction. Other supports failed. The fur trade had been the corner-stone upon which Champlain built up Quebec, but the profits proved disappointing. At the best it was a very uncertain business. Sometimes the prices in Paris dwindled to nothing because the market was glutted. At other times the Indians brought no furs at all to the trading-posts. With its export trade dependent upon the caprice of the savages, the colony often seemed not worth the keeping. In these years of worst discouragement the existence of the mission was a great prop.
On his arrival in 1672 Frontenac found the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and the Recollets all actively engaged in converting the heathen. He desired that more attention should be paid to the creation of parishes for the benefit of the colonists. Over this issue there arose, as we shall see by and by, acute differences between the bishop and the governor.
Owing to the large part which religion had in the life of New France the bishop took his place beside the governor and the intendant. This was the triumvirate of dignitaries. Primarily each represented a different interest—war, business, religion. But they were brought into official contact through membership in the Conseil Souverain, which controlled all details of governmental action.
The Sovereign Council underwent changes of name and composition, but its functions were at all times plainly defined. In 1672 the members numbered seven. Of these the governor, the bishop, and the intendant formed the nucleus, the other four being appointed by them. In 1675 the king raised the number of councillors to ten, thus diluting the authority which each possessed, and thenceforth made the appointments himself. Thus during the greater part of Frontenac's regime the governor, the bishop, and the intendant had seven associates at the council-board. Still, as time went on, the king felt that his control over this body was not quite perfect. So in 1703 he changed the name from Sovereign Council to Superior Council, and increased its members to a total of fifteen.
The Council met at the Chateau St Louis on Monday morning of each week, at a round table where the governor had the bishop on his right hand and the intendant on his left. Nevertheless the intendant presided, for the matters under discussion fell chiefly in his domain. Of the other councillors the attorney-general was the most conspicuous. To him fell the task of sifting the petitions and determining which should be presented. Although there were local judges at Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal, the Council had jurisdiction over all important cases, whether criminal or civil. In the sphere of commerce its powers were equally complete and minute. It told merchants what profits they could take on their goods, and how their goods should be classified with respect to the percentage of profit allowed. Nothing was too petty for its attention. Its records depict with photographic accuracy the nature of French government in Canada. From this source we can see how the principle of paternalism was carried out to the last detail.
But Canada was a long way from France and the St Lawrence was larger than the Seine. It is hard to fight against nature, and in Canada there were natural obstacles which withstood to some extent the forces of despotism. It is easy to see how distance from the court gave both governor and intendant a range of action which would have been impossible in France. With the coming of winter Quebec was isolated for more than six months. During this long interval the two officials could do a great many things of which the king might not have approved, but which he was powerless to prevent. His theoretical supremacy was thus limited by the unyielding facts of geography. And a better illustration is found in the operation of the seigneurial system upon which Canadian society was based. In France a belated feudalism still held the common man in its grip, and in Canada the forms of feudalism were at least partially established. Yet the Canadian habitant lived in a very different atmosphere from that breathed by the Norman peasant. The Canadian seigneur had an abundance of acreage and little cash. His grant was in the form of uncleared land, which he could only make valuable through the labours of his tenants or censitaires. The difficulty of finding good colonists made it important to give them favourable terms. The habitant had a hard life, but his obligations towards his seigneur were not onerous. The man who lived in a log-hut among the stumps and could hunt at will through the forest was not a serf. Though the conditions of life kept him close to his home, Canada meant for him a new freedom.
Freest of all were the coureurs de bois, those dare-devils of the wilderness who fill such a large place in the history of the fur trade and of exploration. The Frenchman in all ages has proved abundantly his love of danger and adventure. Along the St Lawrence from Tadoussac to the Sault St Louis seigneuries fringed the great river, as they fringed the banks of its tributary, the Richelieu. This was the zone of cultivation, in which log-houses yielded, after a time, to white-washed cottages. But above the Sault St Louis all was wilderness, whether one ascended the St Lawrence or turned at Ile Perrot into the Lake of Two Mountains and the Ottawa. For young and daring souls the forest meant the excitement of discovery, the licence of life among the Indians, and the hope of making more than could be gained by the habitant from his farm. Large profits meant large risks, and the coureur de bois took his life in his hand. Even if he escaped the rapid and the tomahawk, there was an even chance that he would become a reprobate.
But if his character were of tough fibre, there was also a chance that he might render service to his king. At times of danger the government was glad to call on him for aid. When Tracy or Denonville or Frontenac led an expedition against the Iroquois, it was fortunate that Canada could muster a cohort of men who knew woodcraft as well as the Indians. In days of peace the coureur de bois was looked on with less favour. The king liked to know where his subjects were at every hour of the day and night. A Frenchman at Michilimackinac, [Footnote: The most important of the French posts in the western portion of the Great Lakes, situated on the strait which unites Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. It was here that Saint-Lusson and Perrot took possession of the West in the name of France (June 1671). See The Great Intendant, pp. 115-16.] unless he were a missionary or a government agent, incurred severe displeasure, and many were the edicts which sought to prevent the colonists from taking to the woods. But, whatever the laws might say, the coureur de bois could not be put down. From time to time he was placed under restraint, but only for a moment. The intendant might threaten and the priest might plead. It recked not to the coureur de bois when once his knees felt the bottom of the canoe.
But of the seven thousand French who peopled Canada in 1672 it is probable that not more than four hundred were scattered through the forest. The greater part of the inhabitants occupied the seigneuries along the St Lawrence and the Richelieu. Tadoussac was hardly more than a trading-post. Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal were but villages. In the main the life of the people was the life of the seigneuries—an existence well calculated to bring out in relief the ancestral heroism of the French race. The grant of seigneurial rights did not imply that the recipient had been a noble in France. The earliest seigneur, Louis Hebert, was a Parisian apothecary, and many of the Canadian gentry were sprung from the middle class. There was nothing to induce the dukes, the counts, or even the barons of France to settle on the soil of Canada. The governor was a noble, but he lived at the Chateau St Louis. The seigneur who desired to achieve success must reside on the land he had received and see that his tenants cleared it of the virgin forest. He could afford little luxury, for in almost all cases his private means were small. But a seigneur who fulfilled the conditions of his grant could look forward to occupying a relatively greater position in Canada than he could have occupied in France, and to making better provision for his children.
Both the seigneur and his tenant, the habitant, had a stake in Canada and helped to maintain the colony in the face of grievous hardships. The courage and tenacity of the French Canadian are attested by what he endured throughout the years when he was fighting for his foothold. And if he suffered, his wife suffered still more. The mother who brought up a large family in the midst of stumps, bears, and Iroquois knew what it was to be resourceful.
Obviously the Canada of 1672 lacked many things—among them the stern resolve which animated the Puritans of New England that their sons should have the rudiments of an education. [Footnote: For example, Harvard College was founded in 1636, and there was a printing-press at Cambridge, Mass., in 1638.] At this point the contrast between New France and New England discloses conflicting ideals of faith and duty. In later years the problem of knowledge assumed larger proportions, but during the period of Frontenac the chief need of Canada was heroism. Possessing this virtue abundantly, Canadians lost no time in lamentations over the lack of books or the lack of wealth. The duty of the hour was such as to exclude all remoter vistas. When called on to defend his hearth and to battle for his race, the Canadian was ready.
Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau, was born in 1620. He was the son of Henri de Buade, a noble at the court of Louis XIII. His mother, Anne de Phelippeaux, came from a stock which in the early Bourbon period furnished France with many officials of high rank, notably Louis de Phelippeaux, Comte de Pontchartrain. His father belonged to a family of southern France whose estates lay originally in Guienne. It was a fortunate incident in the annals of this family that when Antoine de Bourbon became governor of Guienne (1555) Geoffroy de Buade entered his service. Thenceforth the Buades were attached by close ties to the kings of Navarre. Frontenac's grandfather, Antoine de Buade, figures frequently in the Memoirs of Agrippa d'Aubigne as aide-de-camp to Henry IV; Henri de Buade, Frontenac's father, was a playmate and close friend of Louis XIII; [Footnote: As an illustration of their intimacy, there is a story that one day when Henry IV was indisposed he had these two boys on his bed, and amused himself by making them fight with each other.] and Frontenac himself was a godson and a namesake of the king.
While fortune thus smiled upon the cradle of Louis de Buade, some important favours were denied. Though nobly born, Frontenac did not spring from a line which had been of national importance for centuries, like that of Montmorency or Chatillon. Nor did he inherit large estates. The chief advantage which the Buades possessed came from their personal relations with the royal family. Their property in Guienne was not great, and neither Geoffroy, Antoine, nor Henri had possessed commanding abilities. Nor was Frontenac the boyhood friend of his king as his father had been, for Louis XIV was not born till 1638. Frontenac's rank was good enough to give him a chance at the French court. For the rest, his worldly prosperity would depend on his own efforts.
Inevitably he became a soldier. He entered the army at fifteen. It was one of the greatest moments in French history. Richelieu was prime minister, and the long strife between France and the House of Hapsburg had just begun to turn definitely in favour of France. Against the Hapsburgs, with their two thrones of Spain and Austria, [Footnote: Charles V held all his Spanish, Burgundian, and Austrian inheritance in his own hand from 1519 to 1521. In 1521 he granted the Austrian possessions to his brother Ferdinand. Thenceforth Spain and Austria were never reunited, but their association in politics continued to be intimate until the close of the seventeenth century.] stood the Great Cardinal, ready to use the crisis of the Thirty Years' War for the benefit of his nation—even though this meant a league with heretics. At the moment when Frontenac first drew the sword France (in nominal support of her German allies) was striving to conquer Alsace. The victory which brought the French to the Rhine was won through the capture of Breisach, at the close of 1638. Then in swift succession followed those astounding victories of Conde and Turenne which destroyed the military pre-eminence of Spain, took the French to the gates of Munich, and wrung from the emperor the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
During the thirteen years which followed Frontenac's first glimpse of war it was a glorious thing to be a French soldier. The events of such an era could not fail to leave their mark upon a high-spirited and valorous youth. Frontenac was predestined by family tradition to a career of arms; but it was his own impetuosity that drove him into war before the normal age. He first served under Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, who was then at the height of his reputation. After several campaigns in the Low Countries his regiment was transferred to the confines of Spain and France. There, in the year of Richelieu's death (1642), he fought at the siege of Perpignan. That he distinguished himself may be seen from his promotion, at twenty-three, to the rank of colonel. In the same year (1643) Louis XIV came to the throne; and Conde, by smiting the Spaniards at Rocroi, won for France the fame of having the best troops in Europe.
It was not the good fortune of Frontenac to serve under either Conde or Turenne during those campaigns, so triumphant for France, which marked the close of the Thirty Years' War. From Perpignan he was ordered to northern Italy, where in the course of three years he performed the exploits which made him a brigadier-general at twenty-six. Though repeatedly wounded, he survived twelve years of constant fighting with no more serious casualty than a broken arm which he carried away from the siege of Orbitello. By the time peace was signed at Munster he had become a soldier well proved in the most desperate war which had been fought since Europe accepted Christianity.
To the great action of the Thirty Years' War there soon succeeded the domestic commotion of the Fronde. Richelieu, despite his high qualities as a statesman, had been a poor financier; and Cardinal Mazarin, his successor, was forced to cope with a discontent which sprang in part from the misery of the masses and in part from the ambition of the nobles. As Louis XIV was still an infant when his father died, the burden of government fell in name upon the queen-mother, Anne of Austria, but in reality upon Mazarin. Not even the most disaffected dared to rebel against the young king in the sense of disputing his right to reign. But in 1648 the extreme youth of Louis XIV made it easy for discontented nobles, supported by the Parlement of Paris, to rebel against an unpopular minister.
The year 1648, which witnessed the Peace of Westphalia and the outbreak of the Fronde, was rendered memorable to Frontenac by his marriage. It was a runaway match, which began an extraordinary alliance between two very extraordinary people. The bride, Anne de la Grange-Trianon, was a daughter of the Sieur de Neuville, a gentleman whose house in Paris was not far from that of Frontenac's parents. At the time of the elopement she was only sixteen, while Frontenac had reached the ripe age of twenty-eight. Both were high-spirited and impetuous. We know also that Frontenac was hot-tempered. For a short time they lived together and there was a son. But before the wars of the Fronde had closed they drifted apart, from motives which were personal rather than political.
Madame de Frontenac then became a maid of honour to the Duchesse de Montpensier, daughter of Gaston d'Orleans [Footnote: Gaston d'Orleans was the younger brother of Louis XIII, and heir-presumptive until the birth of Louis XIV in 1638. His vanity and his complicity in plots to overthrow Richelieu are equally famous.] and first cousin to Louis XIV. This princess, known as La Grande Mademoiselle, plunged into the politics of the Fronde with a vigour which involved her whole household—Madame de Frontenac included—and wrote Memoirs in which her adventures are recorded at full length, to the pungent criticism of her foes and the enthusiastic glorification of herself. Madame de Frontenac was in attendance upon La Grande Mademoiselle during the period of her most spectacular exploits and shared all the excitement which culminated with the famous entry of Orleans in 1652.
Madame de Frontenac was beautiful, and to beauty she added the charm of wit. With these endowments she made her way despite her slender means—and to be well-born but poor was a severe hardship in the reign of Louis XIV. Her portrait at Versailles reflects the striking personality and the intelligence which won for her the title La Divine. Throughout an active life she never lacked powerful friends, and Saint-Simon bears witness to the place she held in the highest and most exclusive circle of court society.
Frontenac and his wife lived together only during the short period 1648-52. But intercourse was not wholly severed by the fact of domestic separation. It is clear from the Memoirs of the Duchesse de Montpensier that Frontenac visited his wife at Saint-Fargeau, the country seat to which the duchess had been exiled for her part in the wars of the Fronde. Such evidence as there is seems to show that Madame de Frontenac considered herself deeply wronged by her husband and was unwilling to accept his overtures. From Mademoiselle de Montpensier we hear little after 1657, the year of her quarrel with Madame de Frontenac. The maid of honour was accused of disloyalty, tears flowed, the duchess remained obdurate, and, in short, Madame de Frontenac was dismissed.
The most sprightly stories of the Frontenacs occur in these Memoirs of La Grande Mademoiselle. Unfortunately the Duchesse de Montpensier was so self-centred that her witness is not dispassionate. She disliked Frontenac, without concealment. As seen by her, he was vain and boastful, even in matters which concerned his kitchen and his plate. His delight in new clothes was childish. He compelled guests to speak admiringly of his horses, in contradiction of their manifest appearance. Worst of all, he tried to stir up trouble between the duchess and her own people.
Though Frontenac and his wife were unable to live together, they did not become completely estranged. It may be that the death of their son—who seems to have been killed in battle—drew them together once more, at least in spirit. It may be that with the Atlantic between them they appreciated each other's virtues more justly. It may have been loyalty to the family tradition. Whatever the cause, they maintained an active correspondence during Frontenac's years in Canada, and at court Madame de Frontenac was her husband's chief defence against numerous enemies. When he died it was found that he had left her his property. But she never set foot in Canada.
Frontenac was forty-one when Louis XIV dismissed Fouquet and took Colbert for his chief adviser. At Versailles everything depended on royal favour, and forty-one is an important age. What would the young king do for Frontenac? What were his gifts and qualifications?
It is plain that Frontenac's career, so vigorously begun during the Thirty Years' War, had not developed in a like degree during the period (1648-61) from the outbreak of the Fronde to the death of Mazarin. There was no doubt as to his capacity. Saint-Simon calls him 'a man of excellent parts, living much in society.' And again, when speaking of Madame de Frontenac, he says: 'Like her husband she had little property and abundant wit.' The bane of Frontenac's life at this time was his extravagance. He lived like a millionaire till his money was gone. Not far from Blois he had the estate of Isle Savary—a, property quite suited to his station had he been prudent. But his plans for developing it, with gardens, fountains, and ponds, were wholly beyond his resources. At Versailles, also, he sought to keep pace with men whose ancestral wealth enabled them to do the things which he longed to do, but which fortune had placed beyond his reach. Hence, notwithstanding his buoyancy and talent, Frontenac had gained a reputation for wastefulness which did not recommend him, in 1661, to the prudent Colbert. Nor was he fitted by character or training for administrative duty. His qualifications were such as are of use at a post of danger.
His time came in 1669. At the beginning of that year he was singled out by Turenne for a feat of daring which placed him before the eyes of all Europe. A contest was about to close which for twenty-five years had been waged with a stubbornness rarely equalled. This was the struggle of the Venetians with the Turks for the possession of Crete. [Footnote: This was not the first time that Frontenac had fought against the Turks. Under La Feuillade and Coligny he had taken part in Montecuculli's campaign in 1664 against the Turks in Hungary, and was present at the great victory of St Gothard on the Raab. The regiment of Carignan-Salieres was also engaged on this occasion. In the next year it came to Canada, and Lorin thinks that the association of Frontenac with the Carignan regiment in this campaign may have been among the causes of his nomination to the post of governor.] To Venice defeat meant the end of her glory as an imperial power. The Republic had lavished treasure upon this war as never before—a sum equivalent in modern money to fifteen hundred million dollars. Even when compelled to borrow at seven per cent, Venice kept up the fight and opened the ranks of her nobility to all who would pay sixty thousand ducats. Nor was the valour of the Venetians who defended Crete less noble than the determination of their government. Every man who loved the city of St Mark felt that her fate was at stake before the walls of Candia.
Year by year the resources of the Venetians had grown less and their plight more desperate. In 1668 they had received some assistance from French volunteers under the Duc de la Feuillade. This was followed by an application to Turenne for a general who would command their own troops in conjunction with Morosini. It was a forlorn hope if ever there was one; and Turenne selected Frontenac. Co-operating with him were six thousand French troops under the Duc de Navailles, who nominally served the Pope, for Louis XIV wished to avoid direct war against the Sultan. All that can be said of Frontenac's part in the adventure is that he valiantly attempted the impossible. Crete was doomed long before he saw its shores. The best that the Venetians and the French could do was to fight for favourable terms of surrender. These they gained. In September 1669 the Venetians evacuated the city of Candia, taking with them their cannon, all their munitions of war, and all their movable property.
The Cretan expedition not only confirmed but enhanced the standing which Frontenac had won in his youth. And within three years from the date of his return he received the king's command to succeed the governor Courcelles at Quebec.
Gossip busied itself a good deal over the immediate causes of Frontenac's appointment to the government of Canada. The post was hardly a proconsular prize. At first sight one would not think that a small colony destitute of social gaiety could have possessed attractions to a man of Frontenac's rank and training. The salary amounted to but eight thousand livres a year. The climate was rigorous, and little glory could come from fighting the Iroquois. The question arose, did Frontenac desire the appointment or was he sent into polite exile?
There was a story that he had once been a lover of Madame de Montespan, who in 1672 found his presence near the court an inconvenience. Others said that Madame de Frontenac had eagerly sought for him the appointment on the other side of the world. A third theory was that, owing to his financial straits, the government gave him something to keep body and soul together in a land where there were no great temptations to spend money.
Motives are often mixed; and behind the nomination there may have been various reasons. But whatever weight we allow to gossip, it is not necessary to fall back on any of these hypotheses to account for Frontenac's appointment or for his willingness to accept. While there was no immediate likelihood of a war involving France and England, [Footnote: By the Treaty of Dover (May 20, 1670) Charles II received a pension from France and promised to aid Louis XIV in war with Holland.] and consequent trouble from the English colonies in America, New France required protection from the Iroquois. And, as a soldier, Frontenac had acquitted himself with honour. Nor was the post thought to be insignificant. Madame de Sevigne's son-in-law, the Comte de Grignan, was an unsuccessful candidate for it in competition with Frontenac. For some years both the king and Colbert had been giving real attention to the affairs of Canada. The Far West was opening up; and since 1665 the population of the colony had more than doubled. To Frontenac the governorship of Canada meant promotion. It was an office of trust and responsibility, with the opportunity to extend the king's power throughout the region beyond the Great Lakes. And if the salary was small, the governor could enlarge it by private trading. Whatever his motives, or the motives of those who sent him, it was a good day for Frontenac when he was sent to Canada. In France the future held out the prospect of little but a humiliating scramble for sinecures. In Canada he could do constructive work for his king and country.
Those who cross the sea change their skies but not their character. Frontenac bore with him to Quebec the sentiments and the habits which befitted a French noble of the sword. [Footnote: Frontenac's enemies never wearied of dwelling upon his uncontrollable rage. A most interesting discussion of this subject will be found in Frontenac et Ses Amis by M. Ernest Myrand (p. 172). For the bellicose qualities of the French aristocracy see also La Noblesse Francaise sous Richelieu by the Vicomte G. d'Avenel.] The more we know about the life of his class in France, the better we shall understand his actions as governor of Canada. His irascibility, for example, seems almost mild when compared with the outbreaks of many who shared with him the traditions and breeding of a privileged order. Frontenac had grown to manhood in the age of Richelieu, a period when fierceness was a special badge of the aristocracy. Thus duelling became so great a menace to the public welfare that it was made punishable with death; despite which it flourished to such an extent that one nobleman, the Chevalier d'Andrieux, enjoyed the reputation of having slain seventy-two antagonists.
Where duelling is a habitual and honourable exercise, men do not take the trouble to restrain primitive passions. Even in dealings with ladies of their own rank, French nobles often stepped over the line where rudeness ends and insult begins. When Malherbe boxed the ears of a viscountess he did nothing which he was unwilling to talk about. Ladies not less than lords treated their servants like dirt, and justified such conduct by the statement that the base-born deserve no consideration. There was, indeed, no class—not even the clergy—which was exempt from assault by wrathful nobles. In the course of an altercation the Duc d'Epernon, after striking the Archbishop of Bordeaux in the stomach several times with his fists and his baton, exclaimed: 'If it were not for the respect I bear your office, I would stretch you out on the pavement!'
In such an atmosphere was Frontenac reared. He had the manners and the instincts of a belligerent. But he also possessed a soul which could rise above pettiness. And the foes he loved best to smite were the enemies of the king.
Frontenac received his commission on April 6, 1672, and reached Quebec at the beginning of September. The king, sympathetic towards his needs, had authorized two special grants of money: six thousand livres for equipment, and nine thousand to provide a bodyguard of twenty horsemen. Gratified by these marks of royal favour and conscious that he had been assigned to an important post, Frontenac was in hopeful mood when he first saw the banks of the St Lawrence. His letters show that he found the country much less barbarous than he had expected; and he threw himself into his new duties with the courage which is born of optimism. A natural fortress like Quebec could not fail to awaken the enthusiasm of a soldier. The settlement itself was small, but Frontenac reported that its situation could not be more favourable, even if this spot were to become the capital of a great empire. It was, indeed, a scene to kindle the imagination. Sloping down to the river-bank, the farms of Beauport and Beaupre filled the foreground. Behind them swept the forest, then in its full autumnal glory.
Awaiting Frontenac at Quebec were Courcelles, the late governor, and Talon the intendant. Both were to return to France by the last ships of that year; but in the meantime Frontenac was enabled to confer with them on the state of the colony and to acquaint himself with their views on many important subjects. Courcelles had proved a stalwart warrior against the Iroquois, while Talon possessed an unrivalled knowledge of Canada's wants and possibilities. Laval, the bishop, was in France, not to return to the colony till 1675.
The new governor's first acts went to show that with the king's dignity he associated his own. The governor and lieutenant-general of a vast oversea dominion could not degrade his office by living like a shopkeeper. The Chateau St Louis was far below his idea of what a viceregal residence ought to be. One of his early resolves was to enlarge and improve it. Meanwhile, his entertainments surpassed in splendour anything Canada had yet seen. Pomp on a large scale was impossible; but the governor made the best use of his means to display the grace and majesty of his office.
On the 17th of September Frontenac presided for the first time at a meeting of the Sovereign Council; [Footnote: In the minutes of this first meeting of the Sovereign Council at which Frontenac presided the high-sounding words 'haut et puissant' stand prefixed to his name and titles.] and the formal inauguration of his regime was staged for the 23rd of October. It was to be an impressive ceremony, a pageant at which all eyes should be turned upon him, the great noble who embodied the authority of a puissant monarch. For this ceremony the governor summoned an assembly that was designed to represent the Three Estates of Canada.
The Three Estates of clergy, nobles, and commons had existed in France from time immemorial. But in taking this step and in expecting the king to approve it Frontenac displayed his ignorance of French history; for the ancient meetings of the Three Estates in France had left a memory not dear to the crown. [Footnote: The power of the States-General reached its height after the disastrous battle of Poitiers (1356). For a short period, under the leadership of Etienne Marcel, it virtually supplanted the power of the crown.] They had, in truth, given the kings moments of grave concern; and their representatives had not been summoned since 1614. Moreover, Louis XIV was not a ruler to tolerate such rival pretensions as the States-General had once put forth.
Parkman thinks that, 'like many of his station, Frontenac was not in full sympathy with the centralizing movement of his time, which tended to level ancient rights, privileges and prescriptions under the ponderous roller of the monarchical administration.' This, it may be submitted, is only a conjecture. The family history of the Buades shows that they were 'king's men,' who would be the last to imperil royal power. The gathering of the Three Estates at Quebec was meant to be the fitting background of a ceremony. If Frontenac had any thought beyond this, it was a desire to unite all classes in an expression of loyalty to their sovereign.
At Quebec it was not difficult to secure representatives of clergy and commons. But, as nobles seldom emigrated to Canada, some talent was needed to discover gentlemen of sufficient standing to represent the aristocracy. The situation was met by drawing upon the officers and the seigneurs. The Estates thus duly convened, Frontenac addressed them on the glory of the king and the duty of all classes to serve him with zeal. To the clergy he hinted that their task was not finished when they had baptized the Indians. After that came the duty of converting them into good citizens.
Frontenac's next step was to reorganize the municipal government of Quebec by permitting the inhabitants to choose two aldermen and a mayor. Since these officials could not serve until they had been approved by the governor, the change does not appear to have been wildly radical. But change of any kind was distasteful to the Bourbon monarchy, especially if it seemed to point toward freedom. So when in due course Frontenac's report of these activities arrived at Versailles, it was decided that such innovations must be stopped at once. The king wished to discourage all memory of the Three Estates, and Frontenac was told that no part of the Canadian people should be given a corporate or collective status. The reprimand, however, did not reach Canada till the summer of 1673, so that for some months Frontenac was permitted to view his work with satisfaction.
His next move likewise involved a new departure. Hitherto the king had discouraged the establishment of forts or trading-posts at points remote from the zone of settlement. This policy was based on the belief that the colonists ought to live close together for mutual defence against the Iroquois. But Frontenac resolved to build a fort at the outlet of Lake Ontario. His enemies stated that this arose out of his desire to make personal profit from the fur trade; but on public grounds also there were valid reasons for the fort. A thrust is often the best parry; and it could well be argued that the French had much to gain from a stronghold lying within striking distance of the Iroquois villages.
At any rate, Frontenac decided to act first and make explanations afterwards. On June 3, 1673, he left Quebec for Montreal and beyond. He accommodated himself with cheerfulness to the bark canoe—which he described in one of his early letters as a rather undignified conveyance for the king's lieutenant—and, indeed, to all the hardships which the discharge of his duties entailed. His plan for the summer comprised a thorough inspection of the waterway from Quebec to Lake Ontario and official visits to the settlements lying along the route. Three Rivers did not detain him long, for he was already familiar with the place, having visited it in the previous autumn. On the 15th of the month his canoe came to shore beneath Mount Royal.
Montreal was the colony's farthest outpost towards the Iroquois. Though it had been founded as a mission and nothing else, its situation was such that its inhabitants could not avoid being drawn into the fur trade. To a large extent it still retained its religious character, but beneath the surface could be detected a cleavage of interest between the missionary zeal of the Sulpicians and the commercial activity of the local governor, Francois Perrot. And since this Perrot is soon to find place in the present narrative as a bitter enemy of Frontenac, a word concerning him may fitly be written here. He was an officer of the king's army who had come to Canada with Talon. The fact that his wife was Talon's niece had put him in the pathway of promotion. The order of St Sulpice, holding in fief the whole island of Montreal, had power to name the local governor. In June 1669 the Sulpicians had nominated Perrot, and two years later his appointment had been confirmed by the king. Later, as we shall see, arose the thorny question of how far the governor of Canada enjoyed superiority over the governor of Montreal.
The governor of Montreal, attended by his troops and the leading citizens, stood at the landing-place to offer full military honours to the governor of Canada. Frontenac's arrival was then signalized by a civic reception and a Te Deum. The round of civilities ended, the governor lost no time in unfolding the real purpose of his visit, which was less to confer with the priests of St Sulpice than to recruit forces for his expedition, in order that he might make a profound impression on the Iroquois. The proposal to hold a conference with the Iroquois at Cataraqui (where Kingston now stands) met with some opposition; but Frontenac's energy and determination were not to be denied, and by the close of June four hundred French and Indians were mustered at Lachine in readiness to launch their canoes and barges upon Lake St Louis.
If Montreal was the outpost of the colony, Lachine was the outpost of Montreal. Between these two points lay the great rapid, the Sault St Louis, which from the days of Jacques Cartier had blocked the ascent of the St Lawrence to seafaring boats. At Lachine La Salle had formed his seigneury in 1667, the year after his arrival in Canada; and it had been the starting-point for the expedition which resulted in the discovery of the Ohio in 1671. La Salle, however, was not with Frontenac's party, for the governor had sent him to the Iroquois early in May, to tell them that Onontio would meet his children and to make arrangements for the great assembly at Cataraqui.
The Five Nations, remembering the chastisement they had received from Tracy in 1666, [Footnote: See The Great Intendant, chap. iii.] accepted the invitation, but in dread and distrust. Their envoys accordingly proceeded to the mouth of the Cataraqui; and on the 12th of July the vessels of the French were seen approaching on the smooth surface of Lake Ontario. Frontenac had omitted from his equipage nothing which could awe or interest the savage. He had furnished his troops with the best possible equipment and had with him all who could be spared safely from the colony. He had even managed to drag up the rapids and launch on Lake Ontario two large barges armed with small cannon and brilliantly painted. The whole flotilla, including a multitude of canoes arranged by squadron, was now put in battle array. First came four squadrons of canoes; then the two barges; next Frontenac himself, surrounded by his personal attendants and the regulars; after that the Canadian militia, with a squadron from Three Rivers on the left flank, and on the right a great gathering of Hurons and Algonquins. The rearguard was composed of two more squadrons. Never before had such a display been seen on the Great Lakes.
Having disclosed his strength to the Iroquois chiefs, Frontenac proceeded to hold solemn and stately conference with them. But he did not do this on the day of the great naval procession. He wished to let this spectacle take effect before he approached the business which had brought him there. It was not until next day that the meeting opened. At seven o'clock the French troops, accoutred at their best, were all on parade, drawn up in files before the governor's tent, where the conference was to take place. Outside the tent itself large canopies of canvas had been erected to shelter the Iroquois from the sun, while Frontenac, in his most brilliant military costume, assumed all the state he could. In treating with Indians haste was impossible, nor did Frontenac desire that the speech-making should begin at once. His fort was hardly more than begun, and he wished the Iroquois to see how swiftly and how well the French could build defences.
When the proceedings opened there were the usual long harangues, followed by daily negotiations between the governor and the chiefs. It was a leading feature of Frontenac's diplomacy to reward the friendly, and to win over malcontents by presents or personal attention. Each day some of the chiefs dined with the governor, who gave them the food they liked, adapted his style of speech to their ornate and metaphorical language, played with their children, and regretted, through the interpreter Le Moyne, that he was as yet unable to speak their tongue. Never had such pleasant flattery been applied to the vanity of an Indian. At the same time Frontenac did not fail to insist upon his power; indeed, upon his supremacy. As a matter of fact it had involved a great effort to make all this display at Cataraqui. In his discourses, however, he laid stress upon the ease with which he had mounted the rapids and launched barges upon Lake Ontario. The sum and substance of all his harangues was this: 'I am your good, kind father, loving peace and shrinking from war. But you can see my power and I give you fair warning. If you choose war, you are guilty of self-destruction; your fate is in your own hands.'
Apart from his immediate success in building under the eyes of the Iroquois a fort at the outlet of Lake Ontario, Frontenac profited greatly by entering the heart of the Indian world in person. He was able, for a time at least, to check those tribal wars which had hampered trade and threatened to involve the colony. He gained much information at first hand about the pays d'en haut. And throughout he proved himself to have just the qualities which were needed in dealing with a North American Indian—firmness, good-humour, and dramatic talent.
On returning from Lake Ontario to Quebec Frontenac had good reason to be pleased with his summer's work. It still remained to convince Colbert that the construction of the fort at Cataraqui was not an undue expense and waste of energy. But as the initial outlay had already been made, he had ground for hope that he would not receive a positive order to undo what had been accomplished. At Quebec he received Colbert's disparaging comments upon the assembly of the Three Estates and the substitution of aldermen for the syndic who had formerly represented the inhabitants. These comments, however, were not so couched as to make the governor feel that he had lost the minister's confidence. On the whole, the first year of office had gone very well.
A stormier season was now to follow. The battle-royal between Frontenac and Perrot, the governor of Montreal, began in the autumn of 1673 and was waged actively throughout the greater part of 1674.
Enough has been said of Frontenac's tastes to show that he was a spendthrift; and there can be no doubt that as governor of Canada he hoped to supplement his salary by private trading. Soon after his arrival at Quebec in the preceding year he had formed an alliance with La Salle. The decision to erect a fort at Cataraqui was made for the double reason that while safeguarding the colony Frontenac and La Salle could both draw profit from the trade at this point in the interior.
La Salle was not alone in knowing that those who first met the Indians in the spring secured the best furs at the best bargains. This information was shared by many, including Francois Perrot. Just above the island of Montreal is another island, which lies between Lake St Louis and the Lake of Two Mountains. Perrot, appreciating the advantage of a strategic position, had fixed there his own trading-post, and to this day the island bears his name. Now, with Frontenac as a sleeping partner of La Salle there were all the elements of trouble, for Perrot and Frontenac were rival traders. Both were wrathful men and each had a selfish interest to fight for, quite apart from any dispute as to the jurisdiction of Quebec over Montreal.
Under such circumstances the one thing lacking was a ground of action. This Frontenac found in the existing edict against the coureurs de bois-those wild spirits who roamed the woods in the hope of making great profits through the fur trade, from which by law they were excluded, and provoked the special disfavour of the missionary by the scandals of their lives, which gave the Indians a low idea of French morality. Thus in the eyes of both Church and State the coureur de bois was a mauvais sujet, and the offence of taking to the forest without a licence became punishable by death or the galleys.
Though Frontenac was not the author of this severe measure, duty required him to enforce it. Perrot was a friend and defender of the coureurs de bois, whom he used as employees in the collection of peltries. Under his regime Montreal formed their headquarters. The edict gave them no concern, since they knew that between them and trouble stood their patron and confederate.
Thus Frontenac found an excellent occasion to put Perrot in the wrong and to hit him through his henchmen. The only difficulty was that Frontenac did not possess adequate means to enforce the law. Obviously it was undesirable that he should invade Perrot's bailiwick in person. He therefore instructed the judge at Montreal to arrest all the coureurs de bois who were there. A loyal attempt was made to execute this command, with the result that Perrot at once intervened and threatened to imprison the judge if he repeated his effort.
Frontenac's counterblast was the dispatch of a lieutenant and three soldiers to arrest a retainer of Perrot named Carion, who had shown contempt of court by assisting the accused woodsmen to escape. Perrot then proclaimed that this constituted an unlawful attack on his rights as governor of Montreal, to defend which he promptly imprisoned Bizard, the lieutenant sent by Frontenac, together with Jacques Le Ber, the leading merchant of the settlement. Though Perrot released them shortly afterwards, his tone toward Frontenac remained impudent and the issue was squarely joined.
But a hundred and eighty miles of wilderness separated the governor of Canada from the governor of Montreal. In short, before Perrot could be disciplined he must be seized, and this was a task which if attempted by frontal attack might provoke bloodshed in the colony, with heavy censure from the king. Frontenac therefore entered upon a correspondence, not only with Perrot, but with one of the leading Sulpicians in Montreal, the Abbe Fenelon. This procedure yielded quicker results than could have been expected. Frontenac's letter which summoned Perrot to Quebec for an explanation was free from threats and moderate in tone. It found Perrot somewhat alarmed at what he had done and ready to settle the matter without further trouble. At the same time Fenelon, acting on Frontenac's suggestion, urged Perrot to make peace. The consequence was that in January 1674 Perrot acceded and set out for Quebec with Fenelon as his companion.
Whatever Perrot's hopes or expectations of leniency, they were quickly dispelled. The very first conference between him and Frontenac became a violent altercation (January 29, 1674). Perrot was forthwith committed to prison, where he remained ten months. Not content with this success, Frontenac proceeded vigorously against the coureurs de bois, one of whom as an example was hanged in front of Perrot's prison.
The trouble did not stop here, nor with the imprisonment of Brucy, who was Perrot's chief agent and the custodian of the store-house at Ile Perrot. Fenelon, whose temper was ardent and emotional, felt that he had been made the innocent victim of a detestable plot to lure Perrot from Montreal. Having upbraided Frontenac to his face, he returned to Montreal and preached a sermon against him, using language which the Sulpicians hastened to repudiate. But Fenelon, undaunted, continued to espouse Perrot's cause without concealment and brought down upon himself a charge of sedition.
In its final stage this cause celebre runs into still further intricacies, involving the rights of the clergy when accused by the civil power. The contest begun by Perrot and taken up by Fenelon ran an active course throughout the greater part of a year (1674), and finally the king himself was called in as judge. This involved the sending of Perrot and Fenelon to France, along with a voluminous written statement from Frontenac and a great number of documents. At court Talon took the side of Perrot, as did the Abbe d'Urfe, whose cousin, the Marquise d'Allegre, was about to marry Colbert's son. Nevertheless the king declined to uphold Frontenac's enemies. Perrot was given three weeks in the Bastille, not so much for personal chastisement as to show that the governor's authority must be respected. On the whole, Frontenac issued from the affair without suffering loss of prestige in the eyes of the colony. The king declined to reprimand him, though in a personal letter from his sovereign Frontenac was told that henceforth he must avoid invading a local government without giving the governor preliminary notice. The hint was also conveyed that he should not harry the clergy. Frontenac's position, of course, was that he only interfered with the clergy when they were encroaching upon the rights of the crown.
Upon this basis, then, the quarrel with Perrot was settled. But at that very moment a larger and more serious contest was about to begin.
At the beginning of September 1675 Frontenac was confronted with an event which could have given him little pleasure. This was the arrival, by the same ship, of the bishop Laval, who had been absent from Canada four years, and Jacques Duchesneau, who after a long interval had been appointed to succeed Talon as intendant. Laval returned in triumph. He was now bishop of Quebec, directly dependent upon the Holy See [Footnote: Laval had wished strongly that the see of Quebec should be directly dependent on the Papacy, and his insistence on this point delayed the formal creation of the diocese.] and not upon the king of France. Duchesneau came to Canada with the reputation of having proved a capable official at Tours.
By temper and training Frontenac was ill-disposed to share authority with any one. In the absence of bishop and intendant he had filled the centre of the stage. Now he must become reconciled to the presence at Quebec of others who held high rank and had claims to be considered in the conduct of public affairs. Even at the moment of formal welcome he must have felt that trouble was in store. For sixteen years Laval had been a great person in Canada, and Duchesneau had come to occupy the post which Talon had made almost more important than that of governor.
Partly through a clash of dignities and partly through a clash of ideas, there soon arose at Quebec a conflict which rendered personal friendship among the leaders impossible, and caused itself to be felt in every part of the administration. Since this antagonism lasted for seven years and had large consequences, it becomes important to examine its deeper causes as well as the forms which under varying circumstances it came to assume.
In the triangular relations of Frontenac, Laval, and Duchesneau the bishop and the intendant were ranged against the governor. The simplest form of stating the case is to say that Frontenac clashed with Laval over one set of interests and with Duchesneau over another; over ecclesiastical issues with the bishop and over civil interests with the intendant. In the Sovereign Council these three dignitaries sat together, and so close was the connection of Church with State that not a month could pass without bringing to light some fresh matter which concerned them all. Broadly speaking, the differences between Frontenac and Laval were of more lasting moment than those between Frontenac and Duchesneau. In the end governor and intendant quarrelled over everything simply because they had come to be irreconcilable enemies. At the outset, however, their theoretical grounds of opposition were much less grave than the matters in debate between Frontenac and Laval. To appreciate these duly we must consider certain things which were none the less important because they lay in the background.
When Frontenac came to Canada he found that the ecclesiastical field was largely occupied by the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and the Recollets. Laval had, indeed, begun his task of organizing a diocese at Quebec and preparing to educate a local priesthood. Four years after his arrival in Canada he had founded the Quebec Seminary (1663) and had added (1668) a preparatory school, called the Little Seminary. But the three missionary orders were still the mainstay of the Canadian Church. It is evident that Colbert not only considered the Jesuits the most powerful, but also thought them powerful enough to need a check. Hence, when Frontenac received his commission, he received also written instructions to balance the Jesuit power by supporting the Sulpicians and the Recollets.
Through his dispute with Perrot, Frontenac had strained the good relations which Colbert wished him to maintain with the Sulpicians. But the friction thus caused was in no way due to Frontenac's dislike of the Sulpicians as an order. Towards the Jesuits, on the other hand, he cherished a distinct antagonism which led him to carry out with vigour the command that he should keep their power within bounds. This can be seen from the earliest dispatches which he sent to France. Before he had been in Quebec three months he reported to Colbert that it was the practice of the Jesuits to stir up strife in families, to resort to espionage, to abuse the confessional, to make the Seminary priests their puppets, and to deny the king's right to license the brandy trade. What seemed to the Jesuits an unforgivable affront was Frontenac's charge that they cared more for beaver skins than for the conversion of the savages. This they interpreted as an insult to the memory of their martyrs, and their resentment must have been the greater because the accusation was not made publicly in Canada, but formed part of a letter to Colbert in France. The information that such an attack had been made reached them through Laval, who was then in France and found means to acquaint himself with the nature of Frontenac's correspondence.
Having displeased the Sulpicians and attacked the Jesuits, Frontenac made amends to the Church by cultivating the most friendly relations with the Recollets. No one ever accused him of being a bad Catholic. He was exact in the performance of his religious duties, and such trouble as he had with the ecclesiastical authorities proceeded from political aims rather than from heresy or irreligion.
Like so much else in the life of Canada, the strife between Frontenac and Laval may be traced back to France. During the early years of Louis XIV the French Church was distracted by the disputes of Gallican and Ultramontane. The Gallicans were faithful Catholics who nevertheless held that the king and the national clergy had rights which the Pope must respect. The Ultramontanes defined papal power more widely and sought to minimize, disregard, or deny the privileges of the national Church.
Between these parties no point of doctrine was involved, [Footnote: The well-known relation of the Jansenist movement to Gallican liberties was not such that the Gallican party accepted Jansenist theology. The Jesuits upheld papal infallibility and, in general, the Ultramontane position. The Jansenists were opposed to the Jesuits, but Gallicanism was one thing and Jansenist theology another.] but in the sphere of government there exists a frontier between Church and State along which many wars of argument can be waged—at times with some display of force. The Mass, Purgatory, the Saints, Confession, and the celibacy of the priest, all meant as much to the Gallican as to the Ultramontane. Nor did the Pope's headship prove a stumbling-block in so far as it was limited to things spiritual. The Gallican did, indeed, assert the subjection of the Pope to a General Council, quoting in his support the decrees of Constance and Basel. But in the seventeenth century this was a theoretical contention. What Louis XIV and Bossuet strove for was the limitation of papal power in matters affecting property and political rights. The real questions upon which Gallican and Ultramontane differed were the appointment of bishops and abbots, the contribution of the Church to the needs of the State, and the priest's standing as a subject of the king.
Frontenac was no theorist, and probably would have written a poor treatise on the relations of Church and State. At the same time, he knew that the king claimed certain rights over the Church, and he was the king's lieutenant. Herein lies the deeper cause of his troubles with the Jesuits and Laval. The Jesuits had been in the colony for fifty years and felt that they knew the spiritual requirements of both French and Indians. Their missions had been illuminated by the supreme heroism of Brebeuf, Jogues, Lalemant, and many more. Their house at Quebec stood half-way between Versailles and the wilderness. They were in close alliance with Laval and supported the ideal and divine rights of the Church. They had found strong friends in Champlain and Montmagny. Frontenac, however, was a layman of another type. However orthodox his religious ideas may have been, his heart was not lowly and his temper was not devout. Intensely autocratic by disposition, he found it easy to identify his own will to power with a defence of royal prerogative against the encroachments of the Church. It was an attitude that could not fail to beget trouble, for the Ultramontanes had weapons of defence which they well knew how to use.
Having in view these ulterior motives, the acrimony of Frontenac's quarrel with Laval is not surprising. Rightly or wrongly, the governor held that the bishop was subservient to the Jesuits, while Colbert's plain instructions required the governor to keep the Jesuits in check. From such a starting point the further developments were almost automatic. Laval found on his return that Frontenac had exacted from the clergy unusual and excessive honours during church services. This furnished a subject of heated debate and an appeal by both parties to the king. After full consideration Frontenac received orders to rest content with the same honours which were by custom accorded the governor of Picardy in the cathedral of Amiens.
More important by far than this argument over precedence was the dispute concerning the organization of parishes. Here the issue hinged on questions of fact rather than of theory. Beyond question the habitants were entitled to have priests living permanently in their midst, as soon as conditions should warrant it. But had the time come when a parish system could be created? Laval's opinion may be inferred from the fact that in 1675, sixteen years after his arrival in Canada, only one priest lived throughout the year among his own people. This was the Abbe de Bernieres, cure of Notre Dame at Quebec. In 1678 two more parishes received permanent incumbents—Port Royal and La Durantaye. Even so, it was a small number for the whole colony.
Frontenac maintained that Laval was unwilling to create a normal system of parishes because thereby his personal power would be reduced. As long as the cures were not permanently stationed they remained in complete dependence on the bishop. All the funds provided for the secular clergy passed through his hands. If he wished to keep for the Seminary money which ought to go to the parishes, the habitants were helpless. It was ridiculous to pamper the Seminary at the expense of the colonists. It was worse than ridiculous that the French themselves should go without religious care because the Jesuits chose to give prior attention to the souls of the savage.
Laval's argument in reply was that the time had not yet come for the creation of parishes on a large scale. Doubtless it would prove possible in the future to have churches and a parochial system of the normal type. Meanwhile, in view of the general poverty it was desirable that all the resources of the Church should be conserved. To this end the habitants were being cared for by itinerant priests at much less expense than would be entailed by fixing on each parish the support of its cure.
Here, as in all these contests, a mixture of motives is evident. There is no reason to doubt Frontenac's sincerity in stating that the missions and the Seminary absorbed funds of the Church which would be better employed in ministration to the settlers. At the same time, it was for him a not unpleasant exercise to support a policy which would have the incidental effect of narrowing the bishop's power. After some three years of controversy the king, as usual, stepped in to settle the matter. By an edict of May 1679 he ordained that the priests should live in their parishes and have the free disposition of the tithes which had been established under an order of 1667. Thus on the subject of the cures Frontenac's views were officially accepted; but his victory was rendered more nominal than real by the unwillingness or inability of the habitants to supply sufficient funds for the support of a resident priesthood.
In Frontenac's dispute with the clergy over the brandy question no new arguments were brought forward, since all the main points had been covered already. It was an old quarrel, and there was nothing further to do than to set forth again the opposing aspects of a very difficult subject. Religion clashed with business, but that was not all. Upon the prosecution of business hung the hope of building up for France a vast empire. The Jesuits urged that the Indians were killing themselves with brandy, which destroyed their souls and reduced them to the level of beasts. The traders retorted that the savages would not go without drink. If they were denied it by the French they would take their furs to Albany, and there imbibe not only bad rum but soul destroying heresy. Why be visionary and suffer one's rivals to secure an advantage which would open up to them the heart of the continent?
Laval, on the other hand, had chosen his side in this controversy long before Frontenac came to Canada, and he was not one to change his convictions lightly. As he saw it, the sale of brandy to the Indians was a sin, punishable by excommunication; and so determined was he that the penalty should be enforced that he would allow the right of absolution to no one but himself. In the end the king decided it otherwise. He declared the regulation of the brandy trade to fall within the domain of the civil power. He warned Frontenac to avoid an open denial of the bishop's authority in this matter, but directed him to prevent the Church from interfering in a case belonging to the sphere of public order. This decision was not reached without deep thought. In favour of prohibition stood Laval, the Jesuits, the Sorbonne, the Archbishop of Paris, and the king's confessor, Pere La Chaise. Against it were Frontenac, the chief laymen of Canada, [Footnote: On October 26, 1678, a meeting of the leading inhabitants of Canada was held by royal order at Quebec to consider the rights and wrongs of the brandy question. A large majority of those present were opposed to prohibition.] the University of Toulouse, and Colbert. In extricating himself from this labyrinth of conflicting opinion Louis XIV was guided by reasons of general policy. He had never seen the Mohawks raving drunk, and, like Frontenac, he felt that without brandy the work of France in the wilderness could not go on.
Such were the issues over which Frontenac and Laval faced each other in mutual antagonism.
Between Frontenac and his other opponent, the intendant Duchesneau, the strife revolved about a different set of questions without losing any of its bitterness. Frontenac and Laval disputed over ecclesiastical affairs. Frontenac and Duchesneau disputed over civil affairs. But as Laval and Duchesneau were both at war with Frontenac they naturally drew together. The alliance was rendered more easy by Duchesneau's devoutness. Even had he wished to hold aloof from the quarrel of governor and bishop, it would have been difficult to do so. But as an active friend of Laval and the Jesuits he had no desire to be a neutral spectator of the feud which ran parallel with his own. The two feuds soon became intermingled, and Frontenac, instead of confronting separate adversaries, found himself engaged with allied forces which were ready to attack or defend at every point. It could not have been otherwise. Quebec was a small place, and the three belligerents were brought into the closest official contact by their duties as members of the Sovereign Council.
It is worthy of remark that each of the contestants, Frontenac, Laval, and Duchesneau, has his partisans among the historians of the present day. All modern writers agree that Canada suffered grievously from these disputes, but a difference of opinion at once arises when an attempt is made to distribute the blame. The fact is that characters separately strong and useful often make an unfortunate combination. Compared with Laval and Frontenac, Duchesneau was not a strong character, but he possessed qualifications which might have enabled him in less stormy times to fill the office of intendant with tolerable credit. It was his misfortune that circumstances forced him into the thankless position of being a henchman to the bishop and a drag upon the governor.
Everything which Duchesneau did gave Frontenac annoyance— the more so as the intendant came armed with very considerable powers. During the first three years of Frontenac's administration the governor, in the absence of an intendant, had lorded it over the colony with a larger freedom from restraint than was normal under the French colonial system. Apparently Colbert was not satisfied with the result. It may be that he feared the vigour which Frontenac displayed in taking the initiative; or the quarrel with Perrot may have created a bad impression at Versailles; or it may have been considered that the less Frontenac had to do with the routine of business, the more the colony would thrive. Possibly Colbert only sought to define anew the relations which ought to exist between governor and intendant. Whatever the motive, Duchesneau's instructions gave him a degree of authority which proved galling to the governor.
Within three weeks from the date of Duchesneau's arrival the fight had begun (September 23, 1675). In its earliest phase it concerned the right to preside at meetings of the Sovereign Council. For three years Frontenac, 'high and puissant seigneur,' had conducted proceedings as a matter of course. Duchesneau now asked him to retire from this position, producing as warrant his commission which stated that he should preside over the Council, 'in the absence of the said Sieur de Frontenac.' Why this last clause should have been inserted one finds it hard to understand, for Colbert's subsequent letters place his intention beyond doubt. He meant that Duchesneau should preside, though without detracting from Frontenac's superior dignity. The order of precedence at the Council is fixed with perfect clearness. First comes the governor, then the bishop, and then the intendant. Yet the intendant is given the chair. Colbert may have thought that Duchesneau as a man of business possessed a better training for this special work. Clearly the step was not taken with a view to placing an affront upon Frontenac. When he complained, Colbert replied that there was no other man in France who, being already a governor and lieutenant-general, would consider it an increase of honour to preside over the Council. In Colbert's eyes this was a clerk's work, not a soldier's.
Frontenac saw the matter differently and was unwilling to be deposed. Royal letters, which he produced, had styled him 'President of the Council,' and on the face of it Duchesneau's commission only indicated that he should preside in Frontenac's absence. With these arguments the governor stood his ground. Then followed the representations of both parties to the king, each taxing the other with misdemeanours both political and personal. During the long period which must elapse before a reply could be received, the Sovereign Council was turned into an academy of invective. Besides governor, bishop, and intendant, there were seven members who were called upon to take sides in the contest. No one could remain neutral even if he had the desire. In voting power Laval and Duchesneau had rather the best of it, but Frontenac when pressed could fall back on physical force; as he once did by banishing three of the councillors—Villeray, Tilly, and Auteuil—from Quebec (July 4, 1679).
Incredible as it may seem, this issue regarding the right to preside was not settled until the work of the Council had been disturbed by it for five years. What is still more incredible, it was settled by compromise. The king's final ruling was that the minutes of each meeting should register the presence of governor and intendant without saying which had presided. Throughout the controversy Colbert remonstrated with both Frontenac and Duchesneau for their turbulence and unwillingness to work together. Duchesneau is told that he must not presume to think himself the equal of the governor. Frontenac is told that the intendant has very important functions and must not be prevented from discharging them. The whole episode shows how completely the French colonial system broke down in its attempt to act through two officials, each of whom was designed to be a check upon the other.
Wholly alienated by this dispute, Frontenac and Duchesneau soon found that they could quarrel over anything and everything. Thus Duchesneau became a consistent supporter of Laval and the Jesuits, while Frontenac retaliated by calling him their tool. The brandy question, which was partly ecclesiastical and partly civil, proved an excellent battle-ground for the three great men of Canada; and, as finance was concerned, the intendant had something to say about the establishment of parishes. But of the manifold contests between Frontenac and Duchesneau the most distinctive is that relating to the fur trade. At first sight this matter would appear to lie in the province of the intendant, whose functions embraced the supervision of commerce. But it was the governor's duty to defend the colony from attack, and the fur trade was a large factor in all relations with the Indians. A personal element was also added, for in almost every letter to the minister Frontenac and Duchesneau accused each other of taking an illicit profit from beaver skins.
In support of these accusations the most minute details are given. Duchesneau even charged Frontenac with spreading a report among the Indians of the Great Lakes that a pestilence had broken out in Montreal. Thereby the governor's agents were enabled to buy up beaver skins cheaply, afterwards selling them on his account to the English. Frontenac rejoined by accusing the intendant of having his own warehouses at Montreal and along the lower St Lawrence, of being truculent, a slave to the bishop, and incompetent. Behind Duchesneau, Frontenac keeps saying, are the Jesuits and the bishop, from whom the spirit of faction really springs. Among many of these tirades the most elaborate is the long memorial sent to Colbert in 1677 on the general state of Canada. Here are some of the items. The Jesuits keep spies in Frontenac's own house. The bishop declares that he has the power to excommunicate the governor if necessary. The Jesuit missionaries tell the Iroquois that they are equal to Onontio. Other charges are that the Jesuits meddle in all civil affairs, that their revenues are enormous in proportion to the poverty of the country, and that they are bound to domineer at whatever cost.
When we consider how Canada from end to end was affected by these disputes, we may well feel surprise that Colbert and the king should have suffered them to rage so long. By 1682 the state of things had become unbearable. Partisans of Frontenac and Duchesneau attacked each other in the streets. Duchesneau accused Frontenac of having struck the young Duchesneau, aged sixteen, and torn the sleeve of his jacket. He also declared that it was necessary to barricade his house. Frontenac retorted by saying that these were gross libels. A year earlier Colbert had placed his son, Seignelay, in charge of the Colonial Office. With matters at such a pass Seignelay rightly thought the time had come to take decisive action. Three courses were open to him. The bishop and the Jesuits he could not recall. But both the governor and the intendant came within his power. One alternative was to dismiss Frontenac; another, to dismiss Duchesneau. Seignelay chose the third course and dismissed them both.
As was said long ago, every one has the defects ef his qualities. Yet, in justice to a man of strong character and patriotic aim, the chronicler should take care that constructive work is given its due place, for only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
During his first term of office Frontenac had many enemies in the higher circles of society. His quarrel with Laval was a cause of scandal to the devout. His deadlock with Duchesneau dislocated the routine of government. There was no one who did not feel the force of his will. Yet to friends and foes alike his recall at sixty-two must have seemed the definite, humiliating close of a career. It was not the moment to view in due perspective what he had accomplished. His shortcomings were on the lips of every one. His strength had been revealed, but was for the time forgotten. When he left Quebec in 1682 he must have thought that he would never see it again. Yet when need came he was remembered. This fact is a useful comment on his first term, extenuating much that had seemed ground for censure in less troubled days.
Let us now regard Frontenac's policy from his own point of view, and attempt to estimate what he had accomplished down to the date of his recall.
However closely Laval and Duchesneau might seek to narrow Frontenac's sphere of action, there was one power they could not deny him. As commander of the king's troops in Canada he controlled all matters relating to colonial defence. If his domestic administration was full of trouble, it must also be remembered that during his first term of office there was no war. This happy result was due less to accident than to his own gifts and character. It is true that the friendship of Louis XIV and Charles II assured peace between New France and New England. But Canada could thank Frontenac for keeping the Iroquois at arm's length.
We have seen how he built the stronghold at Cataraqui, which was named Fort Frontenac. The vigour and the tact that he displayed on this occasion give the keynote to all his relations with the Indians. Towards them he displayed the three qualities which a governor of Canada most needed—firmness, sympathy, and fair dealing. His arrogance, so conspicuous in his intercourse with equals or with refractory subordinates, disappears wholly when he comes into contact with the savages. Theatrical he may be, but in the forest he is never intolerant or narrow-minded. And behind his pageants there is always power.
Thus Frontenac should receive personal credit for the great success of his Indian policy. He kept the peace by moral ascendancy, and to see that this was no light task one need only compare the events of his regime with those which marked the period of his successors, La Barre and Denonville. This we shall do in the next chapter. For the present it is enough to say that throughout the full ten years 1672-82 Canada was free from fear of the Iroquois. Just at the close of Frontenac's first term (1680-82) the Senecas were showing signs of restlessness by attacking tribes allied to the French, but there is abundant reason to suppose that had Frontenac remained in office he could have kept these inter-tribal wars under control.
Bound up with the success of Frontenac's Indian policy is the exploration of the West—an achievement which adds to this period its chief lustre. Here La Salle is the outstanding figure and the laurels are chiefly his. None the less, Frontenac deserves the credit of having encouraged all endeavours to solve the problem of the Mississippi. Like La Salle he had large ideas and was not afraid. They co-operated in perfect harmony, sharing profits, perhaps, but sincerely bent on gaining for France a new, vast realm. The whole history of colonial enterprise shows how fortunate the French have been in the co-operation of their explorers with their provincial governors. The relations of La Salle with La Barre form a striking exception, but the statement holds true in the main, and with reference to Algiers as well as to Canada.
La Salle was a frank partisan of Frontenac throughout the quarrel with Perrot and Fenelon. On one occasion he made a scene in church at Montreal. It was during the Easter service of 1674. When Fenelon decried magistrates who show no respect to the clergy and who use their deputed power for their own advantage, La Salle stood up and called the attention of the leading citizens to these words. Frontenac, who was always a loyal ally, showed that he appreciated La Salle's efforts on his behalf by giving him a letter of recommendation to the court in which La Salle is styled 'a man of intelligence and ability, more capable than any one else I know here to accomplish every kind of enterprise and discovery which may be entrusted to him.'
The result of La Salle's visit to Versailles (1674) was that he gained privileges which made him one of the most important men in Canada, and a degree of power which brought down on him many enemies. He received the seigneury of Fort Frontenac, he was made local governor at that post, and, in recognition of services already performed, he gained a grant of nobility. It is clear that La Salle's forceful personality made a strong impression at court, and the favours which he received enabled him, in turn, to secure financial aid from his wealthy relatives at Rouen.
What followed was the most brilliant, the most exciting, and the most tragic chapter in the French exploration of America. La Salle fulfilled all the conditions upon which he had received the seigneury at Fort Frontenac, and found financial profit in maintaining the post. The original wooden structure was replaced by stone, good barracks were built for the troops, there were bastions upon which nine cannon announced a warning to the Iroquois, a settlement with well-tilled land sprang up around the fort, schooners were built with a draught of forty tons. But for La Salle this was not enough. He was a pathfinder, not a trader. Returning to France after two years of labour and success at Fort Frontenac, he secured a royal patent authorizing him to explore the whole continent from the Great Lakes to Mexico, with the right to build forts therein and to enjoy a monopoly of the trade in buffalo skins. The expenses of the undertaking were, of course, to be borne by La Salle and his associates, for the king never invested money in these enterprises. However, the persuasiveness which enabled La Salle to secure his patent enabled him to borrow the necessary funds. At the close of 1678 he was once more at Fort Frontenac and ready for the great adventure.
How La Salle explored the country of the Illinois in company with his valiant friend, Henri de Tonty 'of the iron hand,' and how these two heroic leaders traversed the continent to the very mouth of the Mississippi, is not to be told here. But with its risks, its hardships, its tragedies, and its triumphs, this episode, which belongs to the period of Frontenac's administration, will always remain a classic in the records of discovery. The Jesuits, who did not love La Salle, were no less brave than he, and the lustre of his achievements must not be made to dim theirs. Yet they had all the force of a mighty organization at their back, while La Salle, standing alone, braved ruin, obloquy, and death in order to win an empire for France. Sometimes he may have thought of fame, but he possessed that driving power which goes straight for the object, even if it means sacrifice of self. His haughtiness, his daring, his self-centred determination, well fitted him to be the friend and trusted agent of Frontenac.
Another leading figure of the period in western discovery was Daniel Greysolon du Lhut. Duchesneau calls him the leader of the coureurs de bois. There can be no doubt that he had reached this eminence among the French of the forest. He was a gentleman by birth and a soldier by early training. In many ways he resembled La Salle, for both stood high above the common coureurs de bois in station, as in talent. Du Lhut has to his credit no single exploit which equals La Salle's descent of the Mississippi, but in native sagacity he was the superior. With a temperament less intense and experiences less tragic, he will never hold the place which La Salle securely occupies in the annals of adventure. But few Frenchmen equalled him in knowledge of the wilderness, and none displayed greater force of character in dealing with the Indians.
What the mouth of the Mississippi was to La Salle the country of the Sioux became to Du Lhut—a goal to be reached at all hazards. Not only did he reach it, but the story of how he rescued Father Hennepin from the Sioux (1680) is among the liveliest tales to be found in the literature of the wilderness. The only regrettable circumstance is that the story should have been told by Hennepin instead of by Du Lhut—or rather, that we should not have also Du Lhut's detailed version instead of the brief account which he has left. Above all, Du Lhut made himself the guardian of French interests at Michilimackinac, the chief French post of the Far West—the rendezvous of more tribes than came together at any other point. The finest tale of his courage and good judgment belongs to the period of La Barre's government—when, in 1684, at the head of forty-two French, he executed sentence of death on an Indian convicted of murder. Four hundred savages, who had assembled in mutinous mood, witnessed this act of summary justice. But they respected Du Lhut for the manner in which he had conducted the trial, and admired the firmness with which he executed a fair sentence.
Du Lhut's exploits and character make him the outstanding figure of the war which Duchesneau waged against the coureurs de bois. The intendant certainly had the letter of the law on his side in seeking to clear the woods of those rovers who at the risk of their own lives and without expense to the government were gaining for France an unequalled knowledge of the interior. Not only had the king decreed that no one should be permitted to enter the forest without express permission, but an edict of 1676 denied even the governor the right to issue a trading pass at his unrestrained discretion. Frontenac, who believed that the colony would draw great profit from exploration, softened the effect of this measure by issuing licences to hunt. It was also within his power to dispatch messengers to the tribes of the Great Lakes. Duchesneau reported that Frontenac evaded the edict in order to favour his own partners or agents among the coureurs de bois, and that when he went to Montreal on the pretext of negotiating with the Iroquois, his real purpose was to take up merchandise and bring back furs. These charges Frontenac denied with his usual vigour, but without silencing Duchesneau. In 1679 the altercation on this point was brought to an issue by the arrest, at the intendant's instance, of La Toupine, a retainer of Du Lhut. An accusation of disobeying the edict was no trifle, for the penalty might mean a sentence to the galleys. After a bitter contest over La Toupine the matter was settled on a basis not unfavourable to Frontenac. In 1681 a fresh edict declared that all coureurs de bois who came back to the colony should receive the benefit of an amnesty. At the same time the governor was empowered to grant twenty-five trading licences in each year, the period to be limited to one year.
The splendid services of Du Lhut, covering a period of thirty years, are the best vindication of Frontenac's policy towards him and his associates. Had Duchesneau succeeded in his efforts, Du Lhut would have been severely punished, and probably excluded from the West for the remainder of his life. Thanks to Frontenac's support, he became the mainstay of French interests from Lake Ontario to the Mississippi. Setting out as an adventurer with a strong taste f or exploration, he ended as commandant of the most important posts—Lachine, Cataraqui, and Michilimackinac. He served the colony nobly in the war against the Iroquois. He has left reports of his discoveries which disclose marked literary talent. From the early years of Frontenac's regime he made himself useful, not only to Frontenac but to each succeeding governor, until, crippled by gout and age, he died, still in harness. The letter in which the governor Vaudreuil announces Du Lhut's death (1710) to the Colonial Office at Paris is a useful comment upon the accusations of Duchesneau. 'He was,' says Vaudreuil, 'a very honest man.' In these words will be found an indirect commendation of Frontenac, who discovered Du Lhut, supported him through bitter opposition, and placed him where his talents and energy could be used for the good of his country.
It will be remembered that Frontenac received orders from Colbert (April 7, 1672) to prevent the Jesuits from becoming too powerful. In carrying out these instructions he soon found himself embroiled at Quebec, and the same discord made itself felt throughout the wilderness.
Frontenac favoured the establishment of trading-posts and government forts along the great waterways, from Cataraqui to Crevecoeur. [Footnote: Fort Crevecoeur was La Salle's post in the heart of the Illinois country.] He sincerely believed that these were the best guarantees of the king's power on the Great Lakes and in the valley of the Mississippi. The Jesuits saw in each post a centre of debauchery and feared that their religious work would be undone by the scandalous example of the coureurs de bois. What for Frontenac was a question of political expediency loomed large to the Jesuits as a vital issue of morals. It was a delicate question at best, though probably a peaceable solution could have been arranged, but for the mutual agreement of Frontenac and the Jesuits that they must be antagonists. War having once been declared, Frontenac proved a poor controversialist. He could have defended his forest policy without alleging that the Jesuits maintained their missions as a source of profit, which was a slander upon heroes and upon martyrs. Moreover, he exposed himself to a flank attack, for it could be pointed out with much force that he had private motives in advocating the erection of forts. Frontenac was intelligent and would have recommended the establishment of posts whether he expected profit from them or not, but he weakened his case by attacking the Jesuits on wrong grounds.
During Frontenac's first term the settled part of Canada was limited to the shores of the St Lawrence from Lachine downward, with a cluster of seigneuries along the lower Richelieu. In this region the governor was hampered by the rights of the intendant and the influence of the bishop. Westward of Lachine stretched the wilderness, against whose dusky denizens the governor must guard the colony. The problems of the forest embraced both trade and war; and where trade was concerned the intendant held sway. But the safety of the flock came first, and as Frontenac had the power of the sword he could execute his plans most freely in the region which lay beyond the fringe of settlement. It was here that he achieved his greatest success and by his acts won a strong place in the confidence of the settlers. This was much, and to this extent his first term of office was not a failure.
As Canada was then so sparsely settled, the growth of population filled a large place in the shaping of public policy. With this matter, however, Duchesneau had more to do than Frontenac, for it was the intendant's duty to create prosperity. During the decade 1673-83 the population of Canada increased from 6705 to 10,251. In percentage the advance shows to better advantage than in totals, but the king had hardened his heart to the demand for colonists. Thenceforth the population of Canada was to be recruited almost altogether from births.
On the whole, the growth of the population during this period compares favourably with the growth of trade. In 1664 a general monopoly of Canadian trade had been conceded to the West India Company, on terms which gave every promise of success. But the trading companies of France proved a series of melancholy failures, and at this point Colbert fared no better than Richelieu. When Frontenac reached Canada the West India Company was hopelessly bankrupt, and in 1674 the king acquired its rights. This change produced little or no improvement. Like France, Canada suffered greatly through the war with Holland, and not till after the Peace of Nimwegen (1678) did the commercial horizon begin to clear. Even then it was impossible to note any real progress in Canadian trade, except in a slight enlargement of relations with the West Indies. During his last year at Quebec Duchesneau gives a very gloomy report on commercial conditions.
For this want of prosperity Frontenac was in no way responsible, unless his troubles with Laval and Duchesneau may be thought to have damped the colonizing ardour of Louis XIV. It is much more probable that the king withheld his bounty from Canada because his attention was concentrated on the costly war against Holland. Campaigns at home meant economy in Canada, and the colony was far from having reached the stage where it could flourish without constant financial support from the motherland.
In general, Frontenac's policy was as vigorous as he could make it. Over commerce, taxes, and religion he had no control. By training and temper he was a war governor, who during his first administration fell upon a time of peace. So long as peace prevailed he lacked the powers and the opportunity to enable him to reveal his true strength; and his energy, without sufficient vent, broke forth in quarrels at the council board.
With wider authority, Frontenac might have proved a successful governor even in time of peace, for he was very intelligent and had at heart the welfare of the colony. As it was, his restrictions chafed and goaded him until wrathfulness took the place of reason. But we shall err if we conclude that when he left Canada in discomfiture he had not earned her thanks. Through pride and faults of temper he had impaired his usefulness and marred his record. Even so there was that which rescued his work from the stigma of failure. He had guarded his people from the tomahawk and the scalping-knife. With prescient eye he had foreseen the imperial greatness of the West. Whatever his shortcomings, they had not been those of meanness or timidity.
We have seen that during Frontenac's first term of office no urgent danger menaced the colony on the frontier. The missionary and the explorer were steadily pressing forward to the head of the Great Lakes and into the valley of the Mississippi, enlarging the sphere of French influence and rendering the interior tributary to the commerce of Quebec. But this peaceful and silent expansion had not passed unnoticed by those in whose minds it aroused both rivalry and dread. Untroubled from without as New France had been under Frontenac, there were always two lurking perils—the Iroquois and the English.
The Five Nations owed their leadership among the Indian tribes not only to superior discipline and method but also to their geographical situation. The valley of the St Lawrence lay within easy reach, either through Lake Champlain or Lake Ontario. On the east at their very door lay the valley of the Mohawk and the Hudson. From the western fringe of their territory they could advance quickly to Lake Erie, or descend the Ohio into the valley of the Mississippi. It was doubtless due to their prowess rather than to accident that they originally came into possession of this central and favoured position; however, they could now make their force felt throughout the whole north-eastern portion of the continent.
Over seventy years had now passed since Champlain's attack upon the Iroquois in 1609; but lapse of time had not altered the nature of the savage, nor were the causes of mutual hostility less real than at first. A ferocious lust for war remained the deepest passion of the Iroquois, to be satisfied at convenient intervals. It was unfortunate, in their view, that they could not always be at war; but they recognized that there must be breathing times and that it was important to choose the right moment for massacre and pillage. Daring but sagacious, they followed an opportunist policy. At times their warriors delighted to lurk in the outskirts of Montreal with tomahawk and scalping-knife and to organize great war-parties, such as that which was arrested by Dollard and his heroic companions at the Long Sault in 1660. At other times they held fair speech with the governor and permitted the Jesuits to live in their villages, for the French had weapons and means of fighting which inspired respect.
The appearance of the Dutch on the Hudson in 1614 was an event of great importance to the Five Nations. The Dutch were quite as ready as the French to trade in furs, and it was thus that the Iroquois first procured the firearms which they used in their raids on the French settlements. That the Iroquois rejoiced at having a European colony on the Hudson may be doubted, but as they were unable to prevent it, they drew what profit they could by putting the French and Dutch in competition, both for their alliance and their neutrality.
But, though the Dutch were heretics and rivals, it was a bad day for New France when the English seized New Amsterdam (1669) and began to establish themselves from Manhattan to Albany. The inevitable conflict was first foreshadowed in the activities of Sir Edmund Andros, which followed his appointment as governor of New York in 1674. He visited the Mohawks in their own villages, organized a board of Indian commissioners at Albany, and sought to cement an alliance with the whole confederacy of the Five Nations. In opposition to this France made the formal claim (1677) that by actual residence in the Iroquois country the Jesuits had brought the Iroquois under French sovereignty.
Iroquois, French, and English thus formed the points of a political triangle. Home politics, however—the friendship of Stuart and Bourbon—tended to postpone the day of reckoning between the English and French in America. England and France were not only at peace but in alliance. The Treaty of Dover had been signed in 1670, and two years later, just as Frontenac had set out for Quebec, Charles II had sent a force of six thousand English to aid Louis XIV against the Dutch. It was in this war that John Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, won his spurs—fighting on the French side!
None the less, there were premonitions of trouble in America, especially after Thomas Dongan became governor of New York in 1683. Andros had shown good judgment in his dealings with the Iroquois, and his successor, inheriting a sound policy, went even further on the same course. Dongan, an Irishman of high birth and a Catholic, strenuously opposed the pretensions of the French to sovereignty over the Iroquois. When it was urged that religion required the presence of the Jesuits among them, he denied the allegation, stating that he would provide English priests to take their place. A New England Calvinist could not have shown more firmness in upholding the English position. Indeed, no governor of Puritan New England had ever equalled Dongan in hostility to Catholic New France.
Frontenac's successor, Lefebvre de la Barre, who had served with distinction in the West Indies, arrived at Quebec in September 1682. By the same ship came the new intendant, Meulles. They found the Lower Town of Quebec in ruins, for a devastating fire had just swept through it. Hardly anything remained standing save the buildings on the cliff.
La Barre and Meulles were soon at loggerheads. It appears that, instead of striving to repair the effects of the fire, the new governor busied himself to accumulate fortune. He had indeed promised the king that, unlike his predecessors, he would seek no profit from private trading, and had on this ground requested an increase of salary. Meulles presently reported that, far from keeping this promise, La Barre and his agents had shared ten or twelve thousand crowns of profit, and that unless checked the governor's revenues would soon exceed those of the king. Meulles also accuses La Barre of sending home deceitful reports regarding the success of his Indian policy. We need not dwell longer on these reports. They disclose with great clearness the opinion of the intendant as to the governor's fitness for his office.
La Barre stands condemned not by the innuendoes of Meulles, but by his own failure to cope with the Iroquois.
The presence of the Dutch and English had stimulated the Five Nations to enlarge their operations in the fur trade and multiply their profits. The French, from being earliest in the field, had established friendly relations with all the tribes to the north of the Great Lakes, including those who dwelt in the valley of the Ottawa; and La Salle and Tonty had recently penetrated to the Mississippi and extended French trade to the country of the Illinois Indians. The furs from this region were being carried up the Mississippi and forwarded to Quebec by the Lakes and the St Lawrence. This brought the Illinois within the circle of tribes commercially dependent on Quebec. At the same time the Iroquois, through the English on the Hudson, now possessed facilities greater than ever for disposing of all the furs they could acquire; and they wanted this trade for themselves.
The wholesome respect which the Iroquois entertained for Frontenac kept them from attacking the tribes under the protection of the French on the Great Lakes; but the remote Illinois were thought to be a safe prey. During the autumn of 1680 a war-party of more than six hundred Iroquois invaded the country of the Illinois. La Salle was then in Montreal, but Tonty met the invaders and did all he could to save the Illinois from their clutches. His efforts were in vain. The Illinois suffered all that had befallen the Hurons in 1649. [Footnote: See The Jesuit Missions in this Series, chap. vi.] The Iroquois, however, were careful not to harm the French, and to demand from Tonty a letter to show Frontenac as proof that he and his companions had been respected.
Obviously this raid was a symptom of danger, and in 1681 Frontenac asked the king to send him five or six hundred troops. A further disturbing incident occurred at the Jesuit mission of Sault Ste Marie, where an Illinois Indian murdered a Seneca chieftain. That Frontenac intended to act with firmness towards the Iroquois, while giving them satisfaction for the murder of their chief, is clear from his acts in 1681 no less than from his general record. But his forces were small and he had received particular instructions to reduce expenditure. And, with Duchesneau at hand to place a sinister interpretation upon his every act, the conditions were not favourable for immediate action. Then in 1682 he was recalled.
Such, in general, were the conditions which confronted La Barre, and in fairness it must be admitted that they were the most serious thus far in the history of Canada. From the first the Iroquois had been a pest and a menace, but now, with the English to flatter and encourage them, they became a grave peril. The total population of the colony was now about ten thousand, of whom many were women and children. The regular troops were very few; and, though the disbanded Carignan soldiers furnished the groundwork of a valiant militia, the habitants and their seigneurs alone could not be expected to defend such a territory against such a foe.
Above all else the situation demanded strong leadership; and this was precisely what La Barre failed to supply. He was preoccupied with the profits of the fur trade, ignorant of Indian character, and past his physical prime; and his policy towards the Iroquois was a continuous series of blunders. Through the great personal influence of Charles Le Moyne the Five Nations were induced, in 1683, to send representatives to Montreal, where La Barre met them and gave them lavish presents. The Iroquois, always good judges of character, did not take long to discover in the new governor a very different Onontio from the imposing personage who had held conference with them at Fort Frontenac ten years earlier.
The feebleness of La Barre's effort to maintain French sovereignty over the Iroquois is reflected in his request that they should ask his permission before attacking tribes friendly to the French. When he asked them why they had attacked the Illinois, they gave this ominous answer: 'Because they deserved to die.' La Barre could effect nothing by a display of authority, and even with the help of gifts he could only postpone war against the tribes of the Great Lakes. The Iroquois intimated that for the present they would be content to finish the destruction of the Illinois—a work which would involve the destruction of the French posts in the valley of the Mississippi. La Barre's chief purpose was to protect his own interests as a trader, and, so far from wishing to strengthen La Salle's position on the Mississippi, he looked upon that illustrious explorer as a competitor whom it was legitimate to destroy by craft. By an act of poetic justice the Iroquois a few months later plundered a convoy of canoes which La Barre himself had sent out to the Mississippi for trading purposes.
The season of 1684 proved even less prosperous for the French. Not only Dongan was doing his best to make the Iroquois allies of the English; Lord Howard of Effingham, the governor of Virginia, was busy to the same end. For some time past certain tribes of the Five Nations, though not the confederacy as a whole, had been making forays upon the English settlers in Maryland and even in Virginia. To adjust this matter Lord Howard came to Albany in person, held a council which was attended by representatives of all the tribes, and succeeded in effecting a peace. Amid the customary ceremonies the Five Nations buried the hatchet with the English, and stood ready to concentrate their war-parties upon the French.
It must not be inferred that by an act of reconciliation these subtle savages threw themselves into the arms of the English, exchanging a new suzerainty for an old. They always did the best they could for their own hand, seeking to play one white man against the other for their own advantage. It was a situation where, on the part of French and English, individual skill and knowledge of Indian character counted for much. On the one hand, Dongan showed great intelligence and activity in making the most of the fact that Albany was nearer to the land of the Five Nations than Quebec, or even Montreal. On the other, the French had envoys who stood high in the esteem of the Iroquois—notably Charles Le Moyne, of Longueuil, and Lamberville, the Jesuit missionary.
But for the moment the French were heavily burdened by the venality of La Barre, who subordinated public policy to his own gains. We have now to record his most egregious blunder—an attempt to overawe the Iroquois with an insufficient force—an attempt which Meulles declared was a mere piece of acting—not designed for real war on behalf of the colony, but to assist the governor's private interests as a trader. From whatever side the incident is viewed it illustrates a complete incapacity.
On July 10, 1684, La Barre left Quebec with a body of two hundred troops. In ascending the river they were reinforced by recruits from the Canadian militia and several hundred Indian allies. After much hardship in the rapids the little army reached Fort Frontenac. Here the sanitary conditions proved bad and many died from malarial fever. All thought of attack soon vanished, and La Barre altered his plans and decided to invite the Iroquois to a council. The degree of his weakness may be seen from the fact that he began with a concession regarding the place of meeting. An embassy from the Onondagas finally condescended to meet him, but not at Fort Frontenac. La Barre, with a force such as he could muster, crossed to the south side of Lake Ontario and met the delegates from the Iroquois at La Famine, at the mouth of the Salmon River, not far from the point where Champlain and the Hurons had left their canoes when they had invaded the Onondaga country in 1615.
The council which ensued was a ghastly joke. La Barre began his speech by enumerating the wrongs which the French and their dependent tribes had recently suffered from the Iroquois. Among these he included the raid upon the Illinois, the machinations with the English, and the spoliation of French traders. For offences so heinous satisfaction must be given. Otherwise Onontio would declare a war in which the English would join him. These were brave words, but unfortunately the Iroquois had excellent reason to believe that the statement regarding the English was untrue, and could see for themselves the weakness of La Barre's forces.
This conference has been picturesquely described by Baron La Hontan, who was present and records the speeches. The chief orator of the Onondagas was a remarkable person, who either for his eloquence or aspect is called by La Hontan, Grangula, or Big Mouth. Having listened to La Barre's bellicose words and their interpretation, 'he rose, took five or six turns in the ring that the French and the savages formed, and returned to his place. Then standing upright he spoke after the following manner to the General La Barre, who sat in his chair of state:
'Onontio, I honour you, and all the warriors that accompany me do the same. Your interpreter has made an end of his discourse, and now I come to begin mine. My voice glides to your ear. Pray listen to my words.
'Onontio, in setting out from Quebec, you must have fancied that the scorching beams of the sun had burnt down the forests which render our country inaccessible to the French; or else that the inundations of the lake had surrounded our cottages and confined us as prisoners. This certainly was your thought; and it could be nothing else but the curiosity of seeing a burnt or drowned country that moved you to undertake a journey hither. But now you have an opportunity of being undeceived, for I and my warriors come to assure you that the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks are not yet destroyed. I return you thanks in their name for bringing into their country the calumet of peace, which your predecessor received from their hands. At the same time I congratulate you on having left under ground the tomahawk which has so often been dyed with the blood of the French. I must tell you, Onontio, that I am not asleep. My eyes are open, and the sun which vouchsafes the light gives me a clear view of a great captain at the head of a troop of soldiers, who speaks as if he were asleep. He pretends that he does not approach this lake with any other view than to smoke the calumet with the Onondagas. But Grangula knows better. He sees plainly that Onontio meant to knock them on the head if the French arms had not been so much weakened…
'You must know, Onontio, that we have robbed no Frenchman, save those who supplied the Illinois and the Miamis (our enemies) with muskets, powder, and ball… We have conducted the English to our lakes in order to trade with the Ottawas and the Hurons; just as the Algonquins. conducted the French to our five cantons, in order to carry on a commerce that the English lay claim to as their right. We are born freemen and have no dependence either upon the Onontio or the Corlaer [the English governor]. We have power to go where we please, to conduct whom we will to the places we resort to, and to buy and sell where we think fit… We fell upon the Illinois and the Miamis because they cut down the trees of peace that served for boundaries and came to hunt beavers upon our lands. …We have done less than the English and French, who without any right have usurped the lands they are now possessed of.
'I give you to know, Onontio, that my voice is the voice of the five Iroquois cantons. This is their answer. Pray incline your ear and listen to what they represent.
'The Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks declare that they buried the tomahawk in the presence of your predecessor, in the very centre of the fort, and planted the Tree of Peace in the same place. It was then stipulated that the fort should be used as a place of retreat for merchants and not a refuge for soldiers. Be it known to you, Onontio, that so great a number of soldiers, being shut up in so small a fort, do not stifle and choke the Tree of Peace. Since it took root so easily it would be evil to stop its growth and hinder it from shading both your country and ours with its leaves. I assure you, in the name of the five nations, that our warriors will dance the calumet dance under its branches and will never dig up the axe to cut it down—till such time as the Onontio and the Corlaer do separately or together invade the country which the Great Spirit gave to our ancestors.'
[Footnote: Grangula's speech is an example in part of
Indian eloquence, and in part of the eloquence of Baron
La Hontan, who contributes many striking passages to our
knowledge of Frontenac's period.]
When Le Moyne and the Jesuits had interpreted this speech La Barre 'retired to his tent and stormed and blustered.' But Grangula favoured the spectators with an Iroquois dance, after which he entertained several of the Frenchmen at a banquet. 'Two days later,' writes La Hontan, 'he and his warriors returned to their own country, and our army set out for Montreal. As soon as the General was on board, together with the few healthy men that remained, the canoes were dispersed, for the militia straggled here and there, and every one made the best of his way home.'
With this ignominious adventure the career of La Barre ends. The reports which Meulles sent to France produced a speedy effect in securing his dismissal from office. 'I have been informed,' politely writes the king, 'that your years do not permit you to support the fatigues inseparable from your office of governor and lieutenant- general in Canada.'
La Barre's successor, the Marquis de Denonville, arrived at Quebec in August 1685. Like La Barre, he was a soldier; like Frontenac, he was an aristocrat as well. From both these predecessors, however, he differed in being free from the reproach of using his office to secure personal profits through the fur trade. No governor in all the annals of New France was on better terms with the bishop and the Jesuits. He possessed great bravery. There is much to show that he was energetic. None the less he failed, and his failure was more glaring than that of La Barre. He could not hold his ground against the Iroquois and the English.
It has been pointed out already that when La Barre assumed office the problems arising from these two sources were more difficult than at any previous date; but the situation which was serious in 1682 and had become critical by 1685 grew desperate in the four years of Denonville's sway. The one overshadowing question of this period was the Iroquois peril, rendered more and more acute by the policy of the English.
The greatest mistake which Denonville made in his dealings with the Iroquois was to act deceitfully. The savages could be perfidious themselves, but they were not without a conception of honour and felt genuine respect for a white man whose word they could trust. Denonville, who in his private life displayed many virtues, seemed to consider that he was justified in acting towards the savages as the exigency of the moment prompted. Apart from all considerations of morality this was bad judgment.
In his dealings with the English Denonville had little more success than in his dealings with the Indians. Dongan was a thorn in his side from the first, although their correspondence opened, on both sides, with the language of compliment. A few months later its tone changed, particularly after Dongan heard that Denonville intended to build a fort at Niagara. Against a project so unfriendly Dongan protested with emphasis. In reply Denonville disclaimed the intention, at the same time alleging that Dongan was giving shelter at Albany to French deserters. A little later they reach the point of sarcasm. Denonville taxes Dongan with selling rum to the Indians. Dongan retorts that at least English rum is less unwholesome than French brandy. Beneath these epistolary compliments there lies the broad fact that Dongan stood firm by his principle that the extension of French rule to the south of Lake Ontario should not be tolerated: He ridicules the basis of French pretensions, saying that Denonville might as well claim China because there are Jesuits at the Chinese court. The French, he adds, have no more right to the country because its streams flow into Lake Ontario than they have to the lands of those who drink claret or brandy. It is clear that Dongan fretted under the restrictions which were imposed upon him by the friendship between England and France. He would have welcomed an order to support his arguments by force. Denonville, on his side, with like feelings, could not give up the claim to suzerainty over the land of the Iroquois.
The domain of the Five Nations was not the only part of America where French and English clashed. The presence of the English in Hudson Bay excited deep resentment at Quebec and Montreal. Here Denonville ventured to break the peace as Dongan had not dared to do. With Denonville's consent and approval, a band of Canadians left Montreal in the spring of 1686, fell upon three of the English posts—Fort Hayes, Fort Rupert, Fort Albany—and with some bloodshed dispossessed their garrisons. Well satisfied with this exploit, Denonville in 1687 turned his attention to the chastisement of the Iroquois.
The forces which he brought together for this task were greatly superior to any that had been mustered in Canada before. Not only were they adequate in numbers, but they comprised an important band of coureurs de bois, headed by La Durantaye, Tonty, Du Lhut, and Nicolas Perrot—men who equalled the Indians in woodcraft and surpassed them in character. The epitaph of Denonville as a governor is written in the failure of this great expedition to accomplish its purpose.
The first blunder occurred at Fort Frontenac before mobilization had been completed. There were on the north shore of Lake Ontario two Iroquois villages, whose inhabitants had been in part baptized by the Sulpicians and were on excellent terms with the garrison of the fort. In a moment of insane stupidity Denonville decided that the men of these settlements should be captured and sent to France as galley slaves. Through the ruse of a banquet they were brought together and easily seized. By dint of a little further effort two hundred Iroquois of all ages and both sexes were collected at Fort Frontenac as prisoners—and some at least perished by torture. But, when executing this dastardly plot, Denonville did not succeed in catching all the friendly Iroquois who lived in the neighbourhood of his fort. Enough escaped to carry the authentic tale to the Five Nations, and after that there could be no peace till there had been revenge. Worst of all, the French stood convicted of treachery and falseness.
Having thus blighted his cause at the outset, Denonville proceeded with his more serious task of smiting the Iroquois in their own country. Considering the extent and expense of his preparations, he should have planned a complete destruction of their power. Instead of this he attempted no more than an attack upon the Senecas, whose operations against the Illinois and in other quarters had made them especially objectionable. The composite army of French and Indians assembled at Irondequoit Bay on July 12—a force brought together at infinite pains and under circumstances which might never occur again. Marching southwards they fought a trivial battle with the Senecas, in which half a dozen on the French side were killed, while the Senecas are said to have lost about a hundred in killed and wounded. The rest of the tribe took to the woods. As a result of this easy victory the triumphant allies destroyed an Iroquois village and all the corn which it contained, but the political results of the expedition were worse than nothing. Denonville made no attempt to destroy the other nations of the confederacy. Returning to Lake Ontario he built a fort at Niagara, which he had promised Dongan he would not do, and then returned to Montreal. The net results of this portentous effort were a broken promise to the English, an act of perfidy towards the Iroquois, and an insignificant success in battle.
In 1688 Denonville's decision to abandon Fort Niagara slightly changed the situation. The garrison had suffered severe losses through illness and the post proved too remote for successful defence. So this matter settled itself. The same season saw the recall of Dongan through the consolidation of New England, New York, and New Jersey under Sir Edmund Andros. But in essentials there was no change. Andros continued Dongan's policy, of which, in fact, he himself had been the author. And, even though no longer threatened by the French from Niagara, the savages had reason enough to hate and distrust Denonville.
Yet despite these untoward circumstances all hope of peace between the French and the Five Nations had not been destroyed. The Iroquois loved their revenge and were willing to wait for it, but caution warned them that it would not be advantageous to destroy the French for the benefit of the English. Moreover, in the long course o their relations with the French they had, as already mentioned, formed a high opinion of men like Le Moyne and Lamberville, while they viewed with respect the exploits of Tonty, La Durantaye, and Du Lhut.
Moved by these considerations and a love of presents, Grangula, of the Onondagas, was in the midst of negotiations for peace with the French, which might have ended happily but for the stratagem of the Huron chief Kondiaronk, called 'The Rat.' The remnant of Hurons and the other tribes centring at Michilimackinac did not desire a peace of the French and Iroquois which would not include themselves, for this would mean their own certain destruction. The Iroquois, freed of the French, would surely fall on the Hurons. All the Indians distrusted Denonville, and Kondiaronk suspected, with good reason, that the Hurons were about to be sacrificed. Denonville, however, had assured Kondiaronk that there was to be war to the death against the Iroquois, and on this understanding he went with a band of warriors to Fort Frontenac. There he learned that peace would be concluded between Onontio and the Onondagas—in other words, that the Iroquois would soon be free to attack the Hurons and their allies. To avert this threatened destruction of his own people, he set out with his warriors and lay in ambush for a party of Onondaga chiefs who were on their way to Montreal. Having killed one and captured almost all the rest, he announced to his Iroquois prisoners that he had received orders from Denonville to destroy them. When they explained that they were ambassadors, he feigned surprise and said he could no longer be an accomplice to the wickedness of the French. Then he released them all save one, in order that they might carry home this tale of Denonville's second treachery. The one Iroquois Kondiaronk retained on the plea that he wished to adopt him. Arrived at Michilimackinac, he handed over the captive to the French there, who, having heard nothing of the peace, promptly shot him. An Iroquois prisoner, whom Kondiaronk secretly released for the purpose, conveyed to the Five Nations word of this further atrocity.
The Iroquois prepared to deliver a hard blow. On August 5, 1689, they fell in overwhelming force upon the French settlement at Lachine. Those who died by the tomahawk were the most fortunate. Charlevoix gives the number of victims at two hundred killed and one hundred and twenty taken prisoner. Girouard's examination of parish registers results in a lower estimate—namely, twenty-four killed at Lachine and forty-two at La Chesnaye, a short time afterwards. Whatever the number, it was the most dreadful catastrophe which the colony had yet suffered.
Such were the events which, in seven years, had brought New France to the brink of ruin. But she was not to perish from the Iroquois. In October 1689 Frontenac returned to take Denonville's place.
During the period which separates his two terms of office Frontenac's life is almost a blank. His relations with his wife seem to have been amicable, but they did not live together. His great friend was the Marechal de Bellefonds, from whom he received many favours of hospitality. In 1685 the king gave him a pension of thirty-five hundred livres, though without assigning him any post of dignity. Already a veteran, his record could hardly be called successful. His merits were known to the people of Canada; they believed him to be a tower of strength against the Iroquois. At Versailles the fact stood out most plainly that through infirmities of temper he had lost his post. His pension might save him from penury. It was far too small to give him real independence.
Had either La Barre or Denonville proved equal to the government of Canada, it is almost certain that Frontenac would have ended his days ingloriously at Versailles, ascending the stairs of others with all the grief which is the portion of disappointed old age. Their failure was his opportunity, and from the dreary antechambers of a court he mounts to sudden glory as the saviour of New France.
There is some doubt, as we have seen, concerning the causes which gave Frontenac his appointment in 1672. At that time court favour may have operated on his behalf, or it may have seemed desirable that he should reside for a season out of France. But in 1689 graver considerations came into play. At the moment when the Iroquois were preparing to ravage Canada, the expulsion of James II from his throne had broken the peace between France and England. The government of New France was now no post for a court favourite. Louis XIV had expended much money and effort on the colony. Through the mismanagement of La Barre and Denonville everything appeared to be on the verge of ruin. It is inconceivable that Frontenac, then in his seventieth year, should have been renominated for any other cause than merit. Times and conditions had changed. The task now was not to work peaceably with bishop and intendant, but to destroy the foe. Father Goyer, the Recollet who delivered Frontenac's funeral oration, states that the king said when renewing his commission: 'I send you back to Canada, where I expect you will serve me as well as you did before; I ask for nothing more.' This is a bit of too gorgeous rhetoric, which none the less conveys the truth. The king was not reappointing Frontenac because he was, on the whole, satisfied with what he had done before; he was reappointing him because during his former term of office and throughout his career he had displayed the qualities which were called for at the present crisis.
Thus Frontenac returned to Quebec in the autumn of 1689, just after the Iroquois massacred the people of Lachine and just before they descended upon those of La Chesnaye. The universal mood was one of terror and despair. If ever Canada needed a Moses this was the hour.
It will be seen from the dates that Denonville's recall was not due to the Lachine massacre and the other raids of the Iroquois in 1689, for these only occurred after Frontenac had been appointed. Denonville's dismissal was justified by the general results of his administration down to the close of 1688. Before Frontenac left France a plan of campaign had been agreed upon which it was now his duty to execute. The outlines of this plan were suggested by Callieres, the governor of Montreal, [Footnote: Louis Hector de Callieres-Bonnevue was a captain of the French army who became governor of Montreal in 1684, and succeeded Frontenac as governor of Canada in 1698. He received the Cross of St Louis for distinguished service against the Iroquois. Frontenac could not have had a better lieutenant.] who had been sent home by Denonville to expound the needs of the colony in person and to ask for fresh aid. The idea was to wage vigorous offensive warfare against the English from Albany to New York. Success would depend upon swiftness and audacity, both of which Frontenac possessed in full measure, despite his years. Two French warships were to be sent direct to New York in the autumn of 1689, while a raiding party from Canada should set out for the Hudson as soon as Frontenac could organize it.
In its original form this plan of campaign was never carried out, for on account of head winds Frontenac reached Quebec too late in the autumn. However, the central idea remained in full view and suggested the three war-parties which were sent out during the winter of 1690 to attack the English colonies.
Louis XIV had given Denonville important reinforcements, and with war clouds gathering in Europe he was unwilling or unable to detach more troops for the defence of Canada. Hence, in warring against the Iroquois and the English Frontenac had no greater resources than those at the disposal of Denonville when he attacked the Senecas. In fact, since 1687 there had been some wastage in the number of the regulars from disease. The result was that Frontenac could not hope for any solid success unless he received support from the Canadian militia.
In this crisis the habitants and their seigneurs accepted with courage the duties laid upon them. In the narrower sense they were fighting for their homes, but the spirit which they displayed under Frontenac's leadership is not merely that which one associates with a war of defence. The French soldier, in all ages, loved to strike the quick, sharp blow, and it was now necessary for the salvation of Canada that it should be struck. The Iroquois had come to believe that Onontio was losing his power. The English colonies were far more populous than New France. In short, the only hope lay in a swift, spectacular campaign which would disorganize the English and regain the respect of the Iroquois.
The issue depended on the courage and capacity of the Canadians. It is to their honour and to the credit of Frontenac that they rose to the demand of the hour. The Canadians were a robust, prolific race, trained from infancy to woodcraft and all the hardships of the wilderness. Many families contained from eight to fourteen sons who had used the musket and paddle from early boyhood, and could endure the long tramps of winter like the Indians themselves. The frontiersman is, and must be, a fighter, but nowhere in the past can one find a braver breed of warriors than mustered to the call of Frontenac. Francois Hertel and Hertel de Rouville, Le Moyne d'Iberville with his brothers Bienville and Sainte-Helene, D'Aillebout de Mantet and Repentigny de Montesson, are but a few representatives of the militiamen who sped forth at the call of Frontenac to destroy the settlements of the English.
What followed was war in its worst form, including the massacre of women and children. The three bands organized by Frontenac at the beginning of 1690 set out on snowshoes from Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. The largest party contained a hundred and fourteen French and ninety- six Indians. It marched from Montreal against Schenectady, commanded by D'Aillebout de Mantet and Le Moyne de Sainte-Helene. The second party, proceeding from Three Rivers and numbering twenty-six French and twenty-nine Indians under the command of Francois Hertel, aimed at Dover, Pemaquid, and other settlements of Maine and New Hampshire. The Quebec party, under Portneuf, comprised fifty French and sixty Indians. Its objective was the English colony on Casco Bay, where the city of Portland now stands. All three were successful in accomplishing what they aimed at, namely the destruction of English settlements amid fire and carnage. All three employed Indians, who were suffered, either willingly or unwillingly, to commit barbarities.
It is much more the business of history to explain than to condemn or to extenuate. How could a man like Francois Hertel lead one of these raids without sinking to the moral level of his Indian followers? Some such question may, not unnaturally, rise to the lips of a modern reader who for the first time comes upon the story of Dover and Salmon Falls. But fuller knowledge breeds respect for Francois Hertel. When eighteen years old he was captured by the Mohawks and put to the torture. One of his fingers they burned off in the bowl of a pipe. The thumb of the other hand they cut off. In the letter which he wrote on birch-bark to his mother after this dreadful experience there is not a word of his sufferings. He simply sends her his love and asks for her prayers, signing himself by his childish nickname, 'Your poor Fanchon.' As he grew up he won from an admiring community the name of 'The Hero.' He was not only brave but religious. In his view it was all legitimate warfare. If he slew others, he ran a thousand risks and endured terrible privations for his king and the home he was defending. His stand at the bridge over the Wooster river, sword in hand, when pressed on his retreat by an overwhelming force of English, holding the pass till all his men are over, is worthy of an epic. He was forty-seven years old at the time. The three eldest of his nine sons were with him in that little band of twenty-six Frenchmen, and two of his nephews. 'To the New England of old,' says Parkman 'Francois Hertel was the abhorred chief of Popish malignants and murdering savages. The New England of to-day will be more just to the brave defender of his country and his faith.'
The atrocities committed by the French and Indians are enough to make one shudder even at this distance of time. As Frontenac adopted the plan and sent forth the war-parties, the moral responsibility in large part rests with him. There are, however, some facts to consider before judgment is passed as to the degree of his culpability. The modern distinction between combatants and non-combatants had little meaning in the wilds of America at this period. When France and England were at open war, every settler was a soldier, and as such each man's duty was to keep on his guard. If caught napping he must take the consequences. Thus, to fall upon an unsuspecting hamlet and slay its men-folk with the tomahawk, while brutal, was hardly more brutal than under such circumstances we could fairly expect war to be.
The massacre of women and children is another matter, not to be excused on any grounds, even though Schenectady and Salmon Falls are paralleled by recent acts of the Germans in Belgium. Still, we should not forget that European warfare in the age of Frontenac abounded with just such atrocities as were committed at Schenectady, Dover, Pemaquid, Salmon Falls, and Casco Bay. The sack of Magdeburg, the wasting of the Palatinate, and, perhaps, the storming of Drogheda will match whatever was done by the Indian allies of Frontenac. These were unspeakable, but the savage was little worse than his European contemporary. Those killed were in almost all cases killed outright, and the slaughter was not indiscriminate. At Schenectady John Sander Glen, with his whole family and all his relations, were spared because he and his wife had shown kindness to French prisoners taken by the Mohawks. Altogether sixty people were killed at Schenectady (February 9, 1690), thirty-eight men, ten women, and twelve children. Nearly ninety were carried captive to Canada. Sixty old men, women, and children were left unharmed. It is not worth while to take up the details of the other raids. They were of much the same sort—no better and no worse. Where a garrison surrendered under promise that it would be spared, the promise was observed so far as the Indians could be controlled; but English and French alike when they used Indian allies knew well that their excesses could not be prevented, though they might be moderated. The captives as a rule were treated with kindness and clemency when once the northward march was at an end.
Meanwhile, Frontenac had little time to reflect upon the probable attitude of posterity towards his political morals. The three war-parties had accomplished their purpose and in the spring of 1690 the colony was aglow with fresh hope. But the English were not slow to retaliate. That summer New York and Massachusetts decided on an invasion of Canada. It was planned that a fleet from Boston under Sir William Phips should attack Quebec, while a force of militia from New York in command of John Schuyler should advance through Lake Champlain against Montreal. Thus by sea and land Canada soon found herself on the defensive.
Of Schuyler's raid nothing need be said except that he reached Laprairie, opposite Montreal, where he killed a few men and destroyed the crops (August 23, 1690). It was a small achievement and produced no result save the disappointment of New York that an undertaking upon which much money and effort had been expended should terminate so ingloriously. But the siege of Quebec by Phips, though it likewise ended in failure, is a much more famous event, and deserves to be described in some detail.
The colony of Massachusetts mustered its forces for a great and unusual exploit. Earlier in the same year a raid upon the coasts of Acadia had yielded gratifying results. The surrender of Port Royal without resistance (May 11, 1690) kindled the Puritan hope that a single summer might see the pestiferous Romanists of New France driven from all their strongholds. Thus encouraged, Boston put forth its best energies and did not shrink from incurring a debt of 50,000 pounds, which in the circumstances of Massachusetts was an enormous sum. Help was expected from England, but none came, and the fleet sailed without it, in full confidence that Quebec would fall before the assault of the colonists alone.
The fleet, which sailed in August, numbered thirty-four ships, carrying twenty-three hundred men and a considerable equipment. Sir William Phips, the leader of the expedition, was not an Englishman by birth, but a New Englander of very humble origin who owed his advancement to a robust physique and unlimited assurance. He was unfitted for his command, both because he lacked experience in fighting such foes as he was about to encounter, and because he was completely ignorant of the technical difficulties involved in conducting a large, miscellaneous fleet through the tortuous channels of the lower St Lawrence. This ignorance resulted in such loss of time that he arrived before Quebec amid the tokens of approaching winter. It was the 16th of October when he rounded the island of Orleans and brought his ships to anchor under the citadel. Victory could only be secured by sudden success. The state of the season forbade siege operations which contemplated starvation of the garrison.
Hopeful that the mere sight of his armada would compel surrender, Phips first sent an envoy to Frontenac under protection of the white flag. This messenger after being blindfolded was led to the Chateau and brought before the governor, who had staged for his reception one of the impressive spectacles he loved to prepare. Surrounding Frontenac, as Louis XIV might have been surrounded by the grandees of France, were grouped the aristocracy of New France—the officers of the French regulars and the Canadian militia. Nothing had been omitted which could create an impression of dignity and strength. Costume, demeanour, and display were all employed to overwhelm the envoy with the insulted majesty of the king of France. Led into this high presence the messenger delivered his letter, which, when duly interpreted, was found to convey a summary ultimatum. Phips began by stating that the war between France and England would have amply warranted this expedition even 'without the destruction made by the French and Indians, under your command and encouragement, upon the persons and estates of their Majesties' subjects of New England, without provocation on their part.' Indeed, 'the cruelties and barbarities used against them by the French and Indians might, upon the present opportunity, prompt unto a severe revenge.' But seeking to avoid all inhumane and unchristian-like actions, Phips announces that he will be content with 'a present surrender of your forts and castles, undemolished, and the King's and other stores, unimbezzled, with a seasonable delivery of all captives; together with a surrender of all your persons and estates to my dispose; upon the doing whereof, you may expect mercy from me, as a Christian, according to what shall be found for their Majesties' service and the subjects' security. Which, if you refuse forthwith to do, I am come provided and am resolved, by the help of God in whom I trust, by force of arms to revenge all wrongs and injuries offered, and bring you under subjection to the Crown of England, and, when too late, make you wish you had accepted of the favour tendered. Your answer positive in an hour, returned by your own trumpet, with the return of mine, is required upon the peril that will ensue.'
To this challenge Frontenac at once returned the answer which comported with his character. When Phips's envoy took out his watch to register the hour permitted by the ultimatum, Frontenac rejoined that he required no time for deliberation, but would return his answer by the mouth of the cannon. The ground which he assigned for the invasion of New England was that its people had rebelled against their lawful prince, the ally of France. Other more personal observations were directed towards the manner in which Phips had behaved at Port Royal. No word in writing would Frontenac send. The envoy (who was only a subaltern) received his conge, was blindfolded and led back to his boat.
Compliments having been thus exchanged, it remained for Phips to make good his challenge. If we compare the four English and American sieges of Quebec, the attack by Phips will be seen to have little in common with those of Kirke and Montgomery, but to resemble rather strikingly the attack by Wolfe. Without fighting, Kirke swooped down upon a garrison which was exhausted by starvation. Arnold and Montgomery operated without a fleet. But while Phips's attempt is unlike Wolfe's in that it ended in failure, the presence of the fleet and the attempt to effect a landing below the mouth of the St Charles present features of real similarity. It is clear that Phips received intelligence from prisoners of a possible landing above the town, at the spot where Wolfe carried out his daring and desperate coup de main. But, anticipating Wolfe in another quarter, he chose to make his first attack on the flats rather than on the heights.
The troops ordinarily stationed at Quebec were increased just after Phips's arrival by a force of seven hundred regulars and militiamen under Callieres, who had come down from Montreal with all possible haste. So agile were the French and so proficient in irregular warfare that Phips found it difficult to land any considerable detachment in good order. Thirteen hundred of the English did succeed in forming on the Beauport Flats, after wading through a long stretch of mud. There followed a preliminary skirmish in which three hundred French were driven back with no great loss, after inflicting considerable damage on the invaders. But though the English reached the east bank of the St Charles they could do no more. Phips wasted his ammunition on a fruitless and ill-timed bombardment, which was answered with much spirit from the cliffs. Meanwhile the musketeers on the bank of the St Charles were unable to advance alone and received no proper supply of stores from the ships. Harassed by the Canadians, wet, cold, and starving, they took to the boats, leaving behind them five cannon. After this nothing happened, save deliberations on the part of Phips and his officers as to whether there remained anything that could be done other than to sail for home, beaten and humiliated, with a heavy burden of debt to hang round the neck of a too ambitious Massachusetts. Thus ended the second siege of Quebec (October 23, 1690).
Frontenac had lost two of his best soldiers—Sainte-Helene, of the fighting Le Moynes, and the Chevalier de Clermont; but, this notwithstanding, the victory was felt to be complete. The most precious trophy was the flag of Phips's ship, which a shot from the ramparts had knocked into the river, whence it was rescued and brought ashore in triumph. Best of all, the siege had been too short to bring famine in its train. The loss of life was inconsiderable, and in prestige the soldiery of New France now stood on a pinnacle which they had never before attained. When we consider the paucity of the forces engaged, this repulse of the English from Quebec may not seem an imposing military achievement. But Canada had put forth her whole strength and had succeeded where failure would have been fatal. In the shouts of rejoicing which followed Phips's withdrawal we hear the cry of a people reborn.
The siege of Quebec and Schuyler's raid on Laprairie open up a subject of large and vital moment—the historical antagonism of New France and New England. Whoever wishes to understand the deeper problems of Canada in the age of Frontenac should read John Fiske's volumes on the English colonies. In the rise of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts one sees the certain doom which was impending over New France. It may be too much to say that Richelieu by conquering Alsace threw away America. Even had the population of Canada been increased to the extent called for by the obligations of Richelieu's company in 1627, the English might have nevertheless prevailed. But the preoccupation of France with the war against Austria prevented her from giving due attention to the colonial question at the critical moment when colonists should have been sent out in large numbers. And it is certain that by nothing short of a great emigration could France have saved Canada. As it was, the English were bound to prevail by weight of population. When the conflict reached its climax in the days of Montcalm and Wolfe, two and a half million English Americans confronted sixty-five thousand French Canadians. On such terms the result of the contest could not be doubtful. Even in Frontenac's time the French were protected chiefly by the intervening wilderness and the need of the English colonists to develop their own immediate resources. The English were not yet ready for a serious offensive war. In fact they, too, had their own Indian question.
It is a matter of some interest to observe how the conquest of Canada was postponed by the lack of cohesion among the English colonies. Selfishness and mutual jealousy prevented them from combining against the common foe. Save for this disunion and fancied conflict of interest, New France must have succumbed long before the time of Montcalm. But the vital significance of the conflict between New England and New France lies in the contrast of their spirit and institutions. The English race has extended itself through the world because it possessed the genius of emigration. The French colonist did his work magnificently in the new home. But the conditions in the old home were unfavourable to emigration. The Huguenots, the one class of the population with a strong motive for emigrating, were excluded from Canada in the interest of orthodoxy. The dangers of the Atlantic and the hardships of life in a wintry wilderness might well deter the ordinary French peasant; moreover, it by no means rested with him to say whether he would go or stay. But, whatever their nature, the French race lost a wonderful opportunity through the causes which prevented a healthy, steady exodus to America.
England profited by having classes of people sufficiently well educated to form independent opinions and strong enough to carry out the programme dictated by these opinions. While each of the English colonies sprang from a different motive, all had in common the purpose to form an effective settlement. The fur trade did France more harm than good. It deflected her attention from the middle to the northern latitudes and lured her colonists from the land in search of quick profits. It was the enemy to the home. On the other hand, the English came to America primarily in search of a home. Profits they sought, like other people, but they sought them chiefly from the soil.
Thus English ideas took root in America, gained new vitality, and assumed an importance they had not possessed in England for many centuries. And, while for the moment the organization of the English colonies was not well suited to offensive war, as we may judge from the abortive efforts of Phips and Schuyler, this defect could be corrected. Arising, as it did arise, from a lack of unity among the colonies, it was even indicative of latent strength. From one angle, localism seems selfishness and weakness; from another, it shows the vigorous life of separate communities, each self-centred and jealous of its authority because the local instinct is so vitally active. It only needed time to broaden the outlook and give the English colonies a sense of their common interest. Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts, by striking their roots each year more deeply into the soil of America, became more and more self-supporting states in everything save name and political allegiance; while New France, which with its austere climate would have developed more slowly in any case, remained dependent on the king's court.
Thus Frontenac's task was quite hopeless, if we define it as the effort to overthrow English power in America. But neither he nor any one of that age defined his duties so widely. In 1689 Canada was in extremes, with the Iroquois at Lachine and Dongan threatening an attack from New York. Frontenac's policy was defensive. If he struck first, it was because he considered audacity to be his best safeguard. No one knew better than Frontenac that a successful raid does not mean conquest.
Though the English might withdraw from Quebec, New France always had the Iroquois with her. We must now pursue the thread of Frontenac's dealings with the savages from the moment when he replaced Denonville.
It requires no flight of the imagination to appreciate the rage Frontenac must have felt when, on returning to Canada, he saw before his eyes the effects of La Barre's rapacity and Denonville's perfidy, of which the massacres of Lachine and La Chesnaye furnished the most ghastly proofs. But in these two cases the element of tragedy was so strong as to efface the mood of exasperation. There remained a third incident which must have provoked pure rage. This was the destruction of Fort Frontenac, blown up, at Denonville's order, by the French themselves (October 1689). The erection and maintenance of this post had been a cardinal point in Frontenac's Indian policy; and, more particularly to aggravate the offence, there was the humiliating fact that Denonville had ordered it demolished to comply with a demand from the Iroquois. This shameful concession had been made shortly before Frontenac reached Canada. It was Denonville's last important act in the colony. On the chance that something might have occurred to delay execution of the order, Frontenac at once countermanded it and sent forward an expedition of three hundred men. But they were too late. His beloved fortress was gone. The only comfort which Frontenac could derive from the incident was that the work of destruction had been carried out imperfectly. There remained a portion of the works which could still be used.
Thus with regard to the Iroquois the situation was far worse in 1689 than it had been when Frontenac came to Canada in 1672. Everything which he had done to conciliate the Five Nations had been undone; and Dongan's intelligent activities, coinciding with this long series of French mistakes, had helped to make matters worse. Nor was it now merely a question of the Iroquois. The whole Indian world had been convulsed by the renewal of strife between Onontio and the Five Nations. Tribes long friendly to the French and in constant trade with them were being alienated. The Indian problem as Frontenac saw it in 1690 resolved itself to this: either peace with the Iroquois on terms which would prove impressive to the Hurons, the Ottawas, and even to the savages of the Mississippi; or else uncompromising war. For under no circumstances could the French afford to lose their hold upon the tribes from whom they derived their furs.
Obviously an honourable peace would be preferable to the horrors of a forest war, and Frontenac did his best to secure it. To undo, as far as possible, Denonville's treachery at Fort Frontenac and elsewhere, he had brought back with him to Quebec the Iroquois who had been sent to France—or such of them as were still alive. First among these was a Cayuga chief of great influence named Ourehaoue, whose friendship Frontenac assiduously cultivated and completely won. Towards the close of January 1690 an embassy of three released Iroquois carried to Onondaga a message from Ourehaoue that the real Onontio had returned and peace must be made with him if the Five Nations wished to live. A great council was then held at which the English, by invitation, were represented, while the French interest found its spokesman in a Christian Iroquois named Cut Nose. Any chance of success was destroyed by the implacable enmity of the Senecas, who remembered the attempt of the French to check their raids upon the Illinois and the invasion of their own country by Denonville. Cannehoot, a Seneca chieftain, rose and stated that the tribes of Michilimackinac were ready to join the English and the Iroquois for the destruction of New France; and the assembly decided to enter this triple alliance. Frontenac's envoys returned to Quebec alive, but with nothing to show for their pains. A later effort by Frontenac was even less successful. The Iroquois, it was clear, could not be brought back to friendship by fair words.
War to the knife being inevitable, Frontenac promptly took steps to confirm his position with the hitherto friendly savages of the Ottawa and the Great Lakes. When Cannehoot had said that the tribes of Michilimackinac were ready to turn against the French, he was not drawing wholly upon his imagination. This statement was confirmed by the report of Nicolas Perrot, who knew the Indians of the West as no one else knew them—save perhaps Du Lhut and Carheil. [Footnote: Etienne de Carheil was the most active of the Jesuit missionaries in Canada during the period of Frontenac. After fifteen years among the Iroquois at Cayuga (1668-83) he returned for three years to Quebec. He was then sent to Michilimackinac, Where he remained another fifteen years. Shortly after the founding of Detroit (1701) he gave up life in the forest. Despite the great hardships which he endured, he lived to be ninety-three. None of the missionaries was more strongly opposed to the brandy trade.]
The French were now playing a desperate game in the vast region beyond Lake Erie, which they had been the first of Europeans to explore. The Ottawas and the Hurons, while alike the hereditary foes of the Iroquois, were filled with mutual jealousy which must be composed. The successes of the Iroquois in their raids on the French settlements must be explained and minimized. 'The Rat' Kondiaronk, the cleverest of the western chieftains, must be conciliated. And to compass all these ends, Perrot found his reliance in the word that Frontenac had returned and would lead his children against the common foe. Meanwhile, the Iroquois had their own advocates among the more timid and suspicious members of these western tribes. During the winter of 1689-90 the French and the Iroquois had about an even chance of winning the Indians who centred at Michilimackinac. But the odds were against the French to this extent—they were working against a time limit. Unless Frontenac could quickly show evidence of strength, the tribes of the West would range with the Iroquois.
In the spring of 1690 Frontenac dispatched a force of a hundred and fifty men to reinforce the garrison at Michilimackinac. On their way westward these troops encountered a band of Iroquois and fortunately killed a number of them. The scalps were an ocular proof of success; and Perrot, who was of the party, knew how to turn the victory to its best use by encouraging the Ottawas to torture an Iroquois prisoner. The breach thus made between the Ottawas and the Five Nations distinctly widened as soon as word came that the French had destroyed Schenectady. Thus this dreadful raid against the English did not fail of its psychological effect, as may be gathered from one of the immediate consequences. Early in August there appeared on Lake St Louis a vast flotilla of canoes, which at first caused the afflicted habitants to fear that the Iroquois were upon them again. Instead of this it was a great band of friendly savages from the West, drawn from all the trading tribes and bringing a cargo of furs of far more than the usual value. Frontenac himself chanced to be in Montreal at this fortunate moment. The market was held and concluded to mutual satisfaction, but the crowning event of the meeting was a council, at which, after an exchange of harangues, Frontenac entered into the festivities of the savages as though he were one of themselves (August 1690). The governor's example was followed by his leading officers. Amid the chanting of the war-song and the swinging of the tomahawk the French renewed their alliance with the Indians of the West. All were to fight until the Iroquois were destroyed. Even the Ottawas, who had been coquetting with the Senecas, now came out squarely and said that they would stand by Onontio.
Here, at last, was a real answer to the Lachine massacre. The challenge had been fairly given, and now it was not a Denonville who made the reply. There followed three years of incessant warfare between the Iroquois and the French, which furnished a fair test of the strength that each side could muster when fighting at its best. The Five Nations had made up their minds. The cares of diplomacy they threw to the winds. They were on the war-path, united and determined. The French, on their side, had Frontenac for leader and many outrages to avenge. It was war of the wilderness in its most unrelenting form, with no mercy expected or asked. The general result can be quickly stated. The Iroquois got their fill of war, and Frontenac destroyed their power as a central, dominating, terrorizing confederacy.
The measure of this achievement is to be sought in the difficulties which were overcome. Despite the eighty years of its existence the colony was still so poor that regularity in the arrival of supplies from France was a matter of vital importance. From the moment war began English cruisers hovered about the mouth of the St Lawrence, ready to pounce upon the supply-ships as they came up the river. Sometimes the French boats escaped; sometimes they were captured; but from this interruption of peaceful oversea traffic Canada suffered grievously. Another source of weakness was the interruption of agriculture which followed in the train of war. As a rule the Iroquois spent the winter in hunting deer, but just as the ground was ready for its crop they began to show themselves in the parishes near Montreal, picking off the habitants in their farms on the edge of the forest, or driving them to the shelter of the stockade. These forays made it difficult and dangerous to till the soil, with a corresponding shrinkage in the volume of the crop. Almost every winter famine was imminent in some part of the colony, and though spring was welcome for its own sake, it invariably brought the Iroquois. A third calamity was the interruption of the fur trade. Ordinarily the great cargoes descended the Ottawa in fleets of from one hundred to two hundred canoes. But the savages of the West well knew that when they embarked with their precious bales upon a route which was infested by the Iroquois, they gave hostages to fortune. In case of a battle the cargo was a handicap, since they must protect it as well as themselves. In case they were forced to flee for their lives, they lost the goods which it had cost so much effort to collect. In these circumstances the tribes of Michilimackinac would not bring down their furs unless they felt certain that the whole course of the Ottawa was free from danger. In seasons when they failed to come, the colony had nothing to export and penury became extreme. At best the returns from the fur trade were precarious. In 1690 and 1693 there were good markets; in 1691 and 1692 there were none at all.
From time to time Frontenac received from France both money and troops, but neither in sufficient quantity to place him where he could deal the Iroquois one final blow. Thus one year after another saw a war of skirmishes and minor raids, sufficiently harassing and weakening to both sides, but with results which were disappointing because inconclusive. The hero of this border warfare is the Canadian habitant, whose farm becomes a fort and whose gun is never out of reach. Nor did the men of the colony display more courage than their wives and daughters. The heroine of New France is the woman who rears from twelve to twenty children, works in the fields and cooks by day, and makes garments and teaches the catechism in the evening. It was a community which approved of early marriage—a community where boys and girls assumed their responsibilities very young. Youths of sixteen shouldered the musket. Madeleine de Vercheres was only fourteen when she defended her father's fort against the Iroquois with a garrison of five, which included two boys and a man of eighty (October 1692).
A detailed chronicle of these raids and counter-raids would be both long and complicated, but in addition to the incidents which have been mentioned there remain three which deserve separate comment—Peter Schuyler's invasion of Canada in 1691, the activities of the Abnakis against New England, and Frontenac's invasion of the Onondaga country in 1696.
We have already seen that in 1690 an attempt was made by John Schuyler to avenge the massacre at Schenectady. The results of this effort were insignificant, but its purpose was not forgotten; and in 1691 the Anglo-Dutch of the Hudson attempted once more to make their strength felt on the banks of the St Lawrence. This time the leader was Peter Schuyler, whose force included a hundred and twenty English and Dutch, as against the forty who had attacked Canada in the previous summer. The number of Indian allies was also larger than on the former occasion, including both Mohawks and Mohegans. Apart from its superior numbers and much harder fighting, the second expedition of the English was similar to the first. Both followed Lake Champlain and the Richelieu; both reached Laprairie, opposite Montreal; both were forced to retreat without doing any great damage to their enemies. There is this notable difference, however, that the French were in a much better state of preparation than they had been during the previous summer. The garrison at Laprairie now numbered above seven hundred, while a flying squadron of more than three hundred stood ready to attack the English on their retreat to the Richelieu. On the whole, Schuyler was fortunate to escape as lightly as he did. Forty of his party were killed in a hot battle, but he made his retreat in good order after inflicting some losses on the French (August 1, 1691). Although Schuyler's retreat was skilfully conducted, his original object had been far more ambitious than to save his men from extermination. The French missed a chance to injure their foe more seriously than they had done at Schenectady. At the same time, this second English invasion was so far from successful that the New France of Frontenac suffered no further attack from the side of Albany.
While Callieres and Valrennes were repulsing Peter Schuyler from Laprairie, the French in another part of Frontenac's jurisdiction were preparing for the offensive. The centre of this activity was the western part of Acadia—that is, the large and rugged region which is watered by the Penobscot and the Kennebec. Here dwelt the Abnakis, a tribe of Algonquin origin, among whom the Jesuits had established a mission and made many converts. Throughout Acadia the French had established friendly relations with the Indians, and as the English settlements began to creep from New Hampshire to the mouth of the Kennebec, the interval between the rival zones of occupation became so narrow as to admit of raiding. Phips's capture of Port Royal had alarmed some of the Abnakis, but most of them held fast to the French connection and were amenable to presents. It soon proved that all they needed was leadership, which was amply furnished by the Baron de Saint-Castin and Father Thury.
Saint-Castin was a very energetic French trader, of noble birth, who had established himself at Pentegoet on Penobscot Bay—a point which, after him, is now called Castine. Father Thury was the chief of the mission priests in the western part of Acadia, but though an ecclesiastic he seems to have exalted patriotism above religion. That he did his best to incite his converts against the English is beyond question. Urged on by him and Saint-Castin, the savages of the Penobscot and the Kennebec proceeded with enthusiasm to destroy the English settlements which lay within their reach. In the course of successive raids which extended from 1692 to 1694 they descended upon York, Wells, and Oyster Bay, always with the stealth and swiftness which marked joint operations of the French and Indians. The settlements of the English were sacked, the inhabitants were either massacred or carried into captivity, and all those scenes were re-enacted which had marked the success of Frontenac's three war-parties in 1690. Thus New England was exposed to attack from the side of Acadia no less than from that of Canada. Incidentally Canada and Acadia were drawn into closer connection by the vigour which Frontenac communicated to the war throughout all parts of his government.
But the most vivid event of Frontenac's life after the defence of Quebec against Phips was the great expedition which he led in person against the Onondagas. It was an exploit which resembles Denonville's attack upon the Senecas, with the added interest that Frontenac was in his seventy-seventh year when he thus carried the war into the heart of the enemy's country. As a physical tour de force this campaign was splendid, and it enables us, better than any other event, to appreciate the magnificent energy which Frontenac threw into the fulfilment of his task. With over two thousand men, and an equipment that included cannon and mortars, he advanced from the south shore of Lake Ontario against the chief stronghold of the Iroquois. At the portage the Indians would not permit their aged, indomitable Onontio to walk, but insisted that he should remain seated in his canoe, while they carried it from the pool below the fall to the dead water above. All the French saw of the stronghold they had come to attack was the flame which consumed it. Following the example of the Senecas, the Onondagas, when they saw that the invader was at hand, set fire to their palisade and wigwams, gathered up what property was portable, and took to the woods. Pursuit was impossible. All that could be done was to destroy the corn and proceed against the settlement of the Oneidas. After this, with its maize, had been consumed, Frontenac considered whether he should attack the Cayugas, but he decided against this extension of the campaign. Unlike Denonville, he was at war with the English as well as with the Iroquois, and may have thought it imprudent to risk surprise at a point so far from his base. While it was disappointing that the Onondagas did not wait to be destroyed by the cannon which with so much effort had been brought against them, this expedition was a useful proof of strength and produced a good moral effect throughout the colony as well as among the western tribes.
The events of 'William and Mary's War,' as it was known in New England, show how wide the French zone in North America had come to be. Frontenac's province extended from Newfoundland to the Mississippi, from Onondaga to Hudson Bay. The rarest quality of a ruler is the power to select good subordinates and fill them with his own high spirit. Judged by this standard Frontenac deserves great praise, for he never lacked capable and loyal lieutenants. With Callieres at Montreal, Tonty on the Mississippi, Perrot and Du Lhut at Michilimackinac, Villebon and Saint-Castin in Acadia, Sainte-Helene at the siege of Quebec, and Iberville at Hudson Bay, he was well supported by his staff. At this critical moment the shortcomings of the French in America were certainly not due to lack of purpose or driving power. The system under which they worked was faulty, and in their extremity they resorted to harsh expedients. But there were heroes in New France, if courage and self-sacrifice are the essence of heroism.
The Peace of Ryswick, which was signed in the year after Frontenac's campaign against the Onondagas, came as a happy release to Canada (1697). For nine years the colony had been hard pressed, and a breathing space was needed. The Iroquois still remained a peril, but proportionately their losses since 1689 had been far heavier than those of the French and English. Left to carry on the war by themselves, they soon saw the hopelessness of their project to drive the French from the St Lawrence. The English were ready to give them defensive assistance, even after word came from Europe that peace had been signed. In 1698 the Earl of Bellomont, then governor of New York, wrote Frontenac that he would arm every man in his province to aid the Iroquois if the French made good their threat to invade once more the land of the Five Nations. Frontenac, then almost on his death-bed, sent back the characteristic reply that this kind of language would only encourage him to attack the Iroquois with the more vigour. The sequel shows that the English at Albany overplayed their part. The reward of their protection was to be suzerainty, and at this price protection proved unacceptable to the Iroquois, whose safety lay in the equipoise of power between the rival whites. Three years later the Five Nations renewed peace with Onontio; and, though Frontenac did not live to see the day, he it was who had brought it to pass. His daring and energy had broken the spirit of the red man. In 1701 Callieres, then governor of New France, held a great council at Montreal, which was attended by representatives from all the Indian tribes of the West as well as from the Iroquois. There, amid all the ceremonies of the wilderness, the calumet was smoked and the hatchet was interred.
But the old warrior was then no more. On returning to Quebec from his war against the Onondagas he had thrown himself into an active quarrel with Champigny, the intendant, as to the establishment and maintenance of French posts throughout the West. To the last Frontenac remained an advocate of the policy which sought to place France in control of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. Champigny complained of the expense and the Jesuits lamented the immorality which life in the forest encouraged among young men. It was an old quarrel renewed under conditions which Made the issue more important than ever, for with open war between French and English it became of vital moment to control points which were, or might be, strategic.
This dispute with Champigny was the last incident in Frontenac's stormy life. It remains to the credit of both governor and intendant that their differences on matters of policy did not make them irreconcilable enemies. On the 28th of November 1698 Frontenac died at the Chateau St Louis after an illness of less than a month. He had long been a hero of the people, and his friendship with the Recollets shows that he had some true allies among the clergy. No one in Canada could deny the value of his services at the time of crisis—which was not a matter of months but of years. Father Goyer, of the Recollets, delivered a eulogy which in fervour recalls Bossuet's funeral orations over members of the royal family. But the most touching valedictory was that from Champigny, who after many differences had become Frontenac's friend. In communicating to the Colonial Office tidings of the governor's death, Champigny says: 'On the 28th of last month Monsieur le Comte de Frontenac died, with the sentiments of a true Christian. After all our disputes, you will hardly believe, Monseigneur, how truly and deeply I am touched by his death. He treated me during his illness in a manner so obliging that I should be utterly devoid of gratitude if I did not feel thankful to him.'
There is a well-known portrait of Madame de Frontenac, which may still be seen at Versailles. Of Frontenac himself no portrait whatever exists. Failing his likeness from brush or pencil, we must image to ourselves as best we may the choleric old warrior who rescued New France in her hour of need. In seeking to portray his character the historian has abundant materials for the period of his life in Canada, though we must regret the dearth of information for the years which separate his two terms of office. There is also a bad gap in our sources for the period which precedes his first appointment as governor. What we have from Madame de Montpensier and Saint-Simon is useful, but their statements are far from complete and provoke many questions which must remain unanswered. His letters and reports as governor of Canada exist in considerable numbers, but it must remain a source of lasting regret that his private correspondence has perished.
Some one has said that talent should be judged at its best and character at its worst; but this is a phrase which does not help us to form a true estimate of Frontenac. He touched no heights of genius and he sank to no depths of crime. In essential respects his qualities lie upon the surface, depicted by his acts and illustrated by his own words or those of men who knew him well. Were we seeking to set his good traits against his bad, we should style him, in one column, brave, steadfast, daring, ambitious of greatness, far-sighted in policy; and in the other, prodigal, boastful, haughty, unfair in argument, ruthless in war. This method of portraiture, however, is not very helpful. We can form a much better idea of Frontenac's nature by discussing his acts than by throwing adjectives at him.
As an administrator he appears to least advantage during his first term of office, when, in the absence of war, his energies were directed against adversaries within the colony. Had he not been sent to Canada a second time, his feud with Laval, Duchesneau, and the Jesuits would fill a much larger space in the canvas than it occupies at present. For in the absence of great deeds to his credit obstinacy and truculence might have been thought the essentials rather than the accidents of his character. M. Lorin, who writes in great detail, finds much to say on behalf of Frontenac's motives, if not of his conduct, in these controversies. But viewing his career broadly it must be held that, at best, he lost a chance for useful co-operation by hugging prejudices and prepossessions which sprang in part from his own love of power and in part from antipathy towards the Jesuits in France. He might not like the Jesuits, but they were a great force in Canada and had done things which should have provoked his admiration. In any case, it was his duty to work with them on some basis and not dislocate the whole administration by brawling. As to Duchesneau, Frontenac was the broader man of the two, and may be excused some of the petulance which the intendant's pin-pricks called forth.
Frontenac's enemies were fond of saying that he used his position to make illicit profits from the fur trade. Beyond question he traded to some extent, but it would be harsh to accuse him of venality or peculation on the strength of such evidence as exists. There is a strong probability that the king appointed him in the expectation that he would augment his income from sources which lay outside his salary. Public opinion varies from age to age regarding the latitude which may be allowed a public servant in such matters. Under a democratic regime the standard is very different from that which has existed, for the most part, under autocracies in past ages. Frontenac was a man of distinction who accepted an important post at a small salary. We may infer that the king was willing to allow him something from perquisites. If so, his profits from the fur trade become a matter of degree. So long as he kept within the bounds of reason and decency, the government raised no objection. Frontenac certainly was not a governor who pillaged the colony to feather his own nest. If he took profits, they were not thought excessive by any one except Duchesneau. The king recalled him not because he was venal, but because he was quarrelsome.
Assuming the standards of his own age, a reasonable plea can also be made on Frontenac's behalf respecting the conduct of his wars. 'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn' in our own day no less than in the seventeenth century; while certain facts of recent memory are quite lurid enough to be placed in comparison with the border raids which, under Frontenac, were made by the French and their Indian allies. It is dreadful to know that captured Iroquois were burned alive by the French, but after the Lachine massacre and the tortures which French captives endured, this was an almost inevitable retaliation. The concluding scenes of King Philip's War prove, at any rate, that the men of New England exercised little more clemency towards their Indian foes than was displayed by the French. The Puritans justified their acts of carnage by citations from the Old Testament regarding the Canaanites and the Philistines. The most bitter chronicler of King Philip's War is William Hubbard, a Calvinist pastor of Ipswich. On December 19, 1675, the English of Massachusetts and Connecticut stormed the great stronghold of the Narragansetts. To quote John Fiske: 'In the slaughter which filled the rest of that Sunday afternoon till the sun went down behind a dull gray cloud, the grim and wrathful Puritan, as he swung his heavy cutlass, thought of Saul and Agag, and spared not. The Lord had delivered up to him the heathen as stubble to his sword. As usual the number of the slain is variously estimated. Of the Indians probably not less than a thousand perished.'
For the slaughter of English women and children by French raiders there was no precedent or just provocation. Here Frontenac must be deemed more culpable than the Puritans. The only extenuating circumstance is that those who survived the first moments of attack were in almost all cases spared, taken to Canada, and there treated with kindness.
Writers of the lighter drama have long found a subject in the old man whose irascibility is but a cloak for goodness of heart. It would be an exaggeration to describe Frontenac as a character of this type, for his wrath could be vehement, and benevolence was not the essential strain in his disposition. At the same time, he had many warm impulses to his credit. His loyalty to friends stands above reproach, and there are little incidents which show his sense of humour. For instance, he once fined a woman for lampooning him, but caused the money to be given to her children. Though often unfair in argument, he was by nature neither mean nor petty. In ordinary circumstances he remembered noblesse oblige, and though boastfulness may have been among his failings, he had a love of greatness which preserved him from sordid misdemeanours. Even if we agree with Parkman that greatness must be denied him, it yet remains to be pointed out that absolute greatness is a high standard attained by few. Frontenac was a greater man than most by virtue of robustness, fire, and a sincere aspiration to discharge his duty as a lieutenant of the king.
He doubtless thought himself ill-used in that he lacked the wealth which was needed to accomplish his ambitions at court. But if fortune frowned upon him at Versailles, she made full compensation by granting him the opportunity to govern Canada a second time. As he advanced in years his higher qualities became more conspicuous. His vision cleared. His vanities fell away. There remained traces of the old petulance; but with graver duties his stature increased and the strong fibre of his nature was disclosed. For his foibles he had suffered much throughout his whole life. But beneath the foibles lay courage and resolve. It was his reward that in the hour of trial, when upon his shoulders rested the fate of France in America, he was not found wanting.
Of the literature on Frontenac and his period the greater part is in French. The books in English to which attention may be specially called are:
Parkman, Francis: 'Count Frontenac and New France
under Louis XIV.'
Le Sueur, William Dawson: 'Count Frontenac' in the
'Makers of Canada' series.
Winsor, Justin: 'Cartier to Frontenac.'
Stewart, George: 'Frontenac and his Times' in the 'Narrative and Critical History of America,' edited by Justin Winsor, vol. iv.
In French the most important works are:
Lorin, Henri: 'Le Comte de Frontenac.'
Myrand, Ernest: 'Frontenac et ses Amis; Phips devant
Rochemonteix, Le Pere Camille de: 'Les Jesuites et la
Nouvelle France,' vol. iii.
Gosselin, L'Abbe: 'La Vie de Mgr Laval.'
Sulte, B.: 'Histoire des Canadiens-Francais.'
Ferland, L'Abbe: 'Cours d'Histoire du Canada.'
Faillon, L'Abbe: 'Histoire de la Colonie Francaise en
Canada,' vol. iii.
Gagnon, Ernest: 'Le Fort et le Chateau Saint-Louis.'
Garneau, F.-X.: 'Histoire du Canada,' edited by Hector
Among the original sources for this period the following are likely to be found in any large library:
'Jugements et Deliberations du Conseil Souverain.'
'Edits et Ordonnances.'
'Relations des Jesuites.' Ed. Thwaites.
'Memoires et Documents pour servir a l'histoire des origines francaises des pays d'outre-mer,' ed. P. Margry.
'Les Lettres de La Hontan.'
'Histoire de l'Hotel-Dieu de Quebec, par la mere
Juchereau de Saint-Denis.'