Canadian History The Birth Of Montreal
We come now to an enterprise as singular in its character a...
There are antinomies in politics as in philosophy, problems w...
Massachusetts Attacks Quebec
Like Montreal, Quebec transformed itself in time lost much ...
The Governors-general: Lord Elgin
The year which intervened between Metcalfe's departure and th...
Massacre Of The Devil's Hole
After the conquest of Canada, there was a general uprising ...
A Winter Raid
While Johnson was building Fort William Henry at one end of...
The Canadian Community
To understand the political evolution of Canada it is essenti...
The Governors-general: Lord Metcalfe
A surrender of the official Imperial position so unexpected a...
The Consequences Of Canadian Autonomy
A change so informally achieved, and yet so decisive, as the ...
Siege Of Fort Niagara
The River Niagara was known to the Jesuits as early as 1640...
Siege And Massacre Of Fort William Henry
Having failed to take Fort William Henry by surprise, the F...
British Opinion And Canadian Autonomy
While these great modifications were being made in the form a...
A Military Mission
Quebec was without a governor. Who should succeed Champlain...
The Governors-general: Sir Charles Bagot
Sir Charles Bagot, the second governor-general of United Cana...
Battle Of Lake George
For more than a century after the death of Jogues, Lakes Ge...
The Governors-general: Lord Sydenham
Between 1839 and 1854, four governors-general exercised autho...
Infancy Of Quebec
Champlain was the founder of this old capital of French Can...
A Legend Of Ticonderoga
Mention has been made of the death of Major Duncan Campbell...
Discovery Of Lake George
It was thirty-three years since Champlain had first attacke...
Discovery Of Lake Champlain
This beautiful lake owes its name to Samuel de Champlain, t...
A Military Mission
Quebec was without a governor. Who should succeed Champlain? and would
his successor be found equally zealous for the Faith, and friendly to
the mission? These doubts, as he himself tells us, agitated the mind of
the Father Superior, Le Jeune; but they were happily set at rest, when,
on a morning in June, he saw a ship anchoring in the basin below, and,
hastening with his brethren to the landing-place, was there met by
Charles Huault de Montmagny, a Knight of Malta, followed by a train of
officers and gentlemen. As they all climbed the rock together, Montmagny
saw a crucifix planted by the path. He instantly fell on his knees
before it; and nobles, soldiers, sailors, and priests imitated his
example. The Jesuits sang Te Deum at the church, and the cannon roared
from the adjacent fort. Here the new governor was scarcely installed,
when a Jesuit came in to ask if he would be godfather to an Indian about
to be baptized. "Most gladly," replied the pious Montmagny. He repaired
on the instant to the convert's hut, with a company of gayly apparelled
gentlemen; and while the inmates stared in amazement at the scarlet and
embroidery, he bestowed on the dying savage the name of Joseph, in honor
of the spouse of the Virgin and the patron of New France. Three days
after, he was told that a dead proselyte was to be buried, on which,
leaving the lines of the new fortification he was tracing, he took in
hand a torch, De Lisle, his lieutenant, took another, Repentigny and
St. Jean, gentlemen of his suite, with a band of soldiers, followed, two
priests bore the corpse, and thus all moved together in procession to
the place of burial. The Jesuits were comforted. Champlain himself had
not displayed a zeal so edifying.
A considerable reinforcement came out with Montmagny, and among the rest
several men of birth and substance, with their families and dependants.
"It was a sight to thank God for," exclaims Father Le Jeune, "to behold
these delicate young ladies and these tender infants issuing from their
wooden prison, like day from the shades of night." The Father, it will
be remembered, had for some years past seen nothing but squaws, with
pappooses swathed like mummies and strapped to a board.
Both Montmagny and De Lisle were half churchmen, for both were Knights
of Malta. More and more the powers spiritual engrossed the colony. As
nearly as might be, the sword itself was in priestly hands. The Jesuits
were all in all. Authority, absolute and without appeal, was vested in a
council composed of the governor, Le Jeune, and the syndic, an official
supposed to represent the interests of the inhabitants. There was no
tribunal of justice, and the governor pronounced summarily on all
complaints. The church adjoined the fort; and before it was planted a
stake bearing a placard with a prohibition against blasphemy,
drunkenness, or neglect of mass and other religious rites. To the stake
was also attached a chain and iron collar; and hard by was a wooden
horse, whereon a culprit was now and then mounted by way of example and
warning. In a community so absolutely priest-governed, overt offences
were, however, rare; and, except on the annual arrival of the ships
from France, when the rock swarmed with godless sailors, Quebec was a
model of decorum, and wore, as its chroniclers tell us, an aspect
In the year 1640, various new establishments of religion and charity
might have been seen at Quebec. There was the beginning of a college and
a seminary for Huron children, an embryo Ursuline convent, an incipient
hospital, and a new Algonquin mission at a place called Sillery, four
miles distant. Champlain's fort had been enlarged and partly rebuilt in
stone by Montmagny, who had also laid out streets on the site of the
future city, though as yet the streets had no houses. Behind the fort,
and very near it, stood the church and a house for the Jesuits. Both
were of pine wood; and this year, 1640, both were burned to the ground,
to be afterwards rebuilt in stone.
Aside from the fur trade of the Company, the whole life of the colony
was in missions, convents, religious schools, and hospitals. Here on the
rock of Quebec were the appendages, useful and otherwise, of an
old-established civilization. While as yet there were no inhabitants,
and no immediate hope of any, there were institutions for the care of
children, the sick, and the decrepit. All these were supported by a
charity in most cases precarious. The Jesuits relied chiefly on the
Company, who, by the terms of their patent, were obliged to maintain
Quebec wore an aspect half military, half monastic. At sunrise and
sunset, a squad of soldiers in the pay of the Company paraded in the
fort; and, as in Champlain's time, the bells of the church rang morning,
noon, and night. Confessions, masses, and penances were punctiliously
observed; and, from the governor to the meanest laborer, the Jesuit
watched and guided all. The social atmosphere of New England itself was
not more suffocating. By day and by night, at home, at church, or at his
daily work, the colonist lived under the eyes of busy and over-zealous
priests. At times, the denizens of Quebec grew restless. In 1639,
deputies were covertly sent to beg relief in France, and "to represent
the hell in which the consciences of the colony were kept by the union
of the temporal and spiritual authority in the same hands."
The very amusements of this pious community were acts of religion. Thus,
on the fete-day of St. Joseph, the patron of New France, there was a
show of fireworks to do him honor. In the forty volumes of the Jesuit
Relations there is but one pictorial illustration; and this represents
the pyrotechnic contrivance in question, together with a figure of the
Governor in the act of touching it off. But, what is more curious, a
Catholic writer of the present day, the Abbe Faillon, in an elaborate
and learned work, dilates at length on the details of the display; and
this, too, with a gravity which evinces his conviction that squibs,
rockets, blue-lights, and serpents are important instruments for the
saving of souls. On May-Day of the same year, 1637, Montmagny planted
before the church a May-pole surmounted by a triple crown, beneath which
were three symbolical circles decorated with wreaths, and bearing
severally the names, Iesus, Maria, Ioseph; the soldiers drew up
before it, and saluted it with a volley of musketry.
On the anniversary of the Dauphin's birth there was a dramatic
performance, in which an unbeliever, speaking Algonquin for the profit
of the Indians present, was hunted into Hell by fiends. Religious
processions were frequent. In one of them, the Governor in a court
dress and a baptized Indian in beaver-skins were joint supporters of the
canopy which covered the Host. In another, six Indians led the van,
arrayed each in a velvet coat of scarlet and gold sent them by the King.
Then came other Indian converts, two and two; then the foundress of the
Ursuline convent, with Indian children in French gowns; then all the
Indian girls and women, dressed after their own way; then the priests;
then the Governor; and finally the whole French population, male and
female, except the artillery-men at the fort, who saluted with their
cannon the cross and banner borne at the head of the procession. When
all was over, the Governor and the Jesuits rewarded the Indians with a
Now let the stranger enter the church of Notre-Dame de la Recouvrance,
after vespers. It is full, to the very porch: officers in slouched hats
and plumes, musketeers, pikemen, mechanics, and laborers. Here is
Montmagny himself; Repentigny and Poterie, gentlemen of good birth;
damsels of nurture ill fitted to the Canadian woods; and, mingled with
these, the motionless Indians, wrapped to the throat in embroidered
moose-hides. Le Jeune, not in priestly vestments, but in the common
black dress of his Order, is before the altar; and on either side is a
row of small red-skinned children listening with exemplary decorum,
while, with a cheerful, smiling face, he teaches them to kneel, clasp
their hands, and sign the cross. All the principal members of this
zealous community are present, at once amused and edified at the grave
deportment, and the prompt, shrill replies of the infant catechumens;
while their parents in the crowd grin delight at the gifts of beads and
trinkets with which Le Jeune rewards his most proficient pupils.
The methods of conversion were simple. The principal appeal was to fear.
"You do good to your friends," said Le Jeune to an Algonquin chief, "and
you burn your enemies. God does the same." And he painted Hell to the
startled neophyte as a place where, when he was hungry, he would get
nothing to eat but frogs and snakes, and, when thirsty, nothing to drink
but flames. Pictures were found invaluable. "These holy
representations," pursues the Father Superior, "are half the instruction
that can be given to the Indians. I wanted some pictures of Hell and
souls in perdition, and a few were sent us on paper; but they are too
confused. The devils and the men are so mixed up, that one can make out
nothing without particular attention. If three, four, or five devils
were painted tormenting a soul with different punishments,--one applying
fire, another serpents, another tearing him with pincers, and another
holding him fast with a chain,--this would have a good effect,
especially if everything were made distinct, and misery, rage, and
desperation appeared plainly in his face."
The preparation of the convert for baptism was often very slight. A
dying Algonquin, who, though meagre as a skeleton, had thrown himself,
with a last effort of expiring ferocity, on an Iroquois prisoner, and
torn off his ear with his teeth, was baptized almost immediately. In the
case of converts in health there was far more preparation; yet these
often apostatized. The various objects of instruction may all be
included in one comprehensive word, submission,--an abdication of will
and judgment in favor of the spiritual director, who was the interpreter
and vicegerent of God.
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