The St Lawrence Valley
The founding of Quebec.—In 1608 De Monts obtained a renewal of his patent for one year, and, after consulting Champlain, he decided to found a settlement at Quebec. Champlain was appointed his lieutenant with full powers, and with two vessels he arrived at Quebec on July 3. A storehouse and dwelling were built surrounded by a palisade and ditch. Of the twenty-eight men who began the settlement, only eight survived the first winter, but considerable reinforcements arrived in the spring. In the summer of 1609 Champlain accompanied a war party of Algonquins and Hurons up the Richelieu River to the lake which bears his name, where a successful attack was made upon the Iroquois. The consequences of this act were far reaching, for from that time the Iroquois confederation was hostile to the French, crippling the colony for many years.
A new company formed.—De Monts's exclusive privileges were not renewed, but he was allowed to retain his position of king's representative. Seeing no chance for profit, he withdrew from further activities in the New World. Another company was at once formed, composed of traders of Rouen and St. Malo. Champlain was retained by the new company.
Champlain's explorations.—In 1613 Champlain explored the Ottawa River to a point about one hundred miles above the modern capital of Canada. In 1615 four Recollet friars were induced to come to Quebec, this being the beginning of missionary activities in New France. The same year Champlain joined a Huron war party, passed up the Ottawa to Lake Nipissing, thence by the French River to Georgian Bay, being the first white man to find the way which eventually became the regular fur trader's route to the interior. Lake Ontario was also seen and crossed for the first time on this expedition. Fur trading was actively carried on, but because of dishonest dealings the company gradually lost influence with the Indians, a condition which also hampered the missionaries. As the Recollets met with little success, in 1625 the Jesuits were induced to send out five representatives, thus beginning the activities of that order in New France.
The Company of the Hundred Associates.—In spite of all the efforts which had been made, the financial results were trifling. So badly were affairs going that Richelieu determined to change the organization; in 1627 he established the Company of the Hundred Associates, who were to send out annually from two to three hundred settlers and a sufficient number of clergy to meet the needs. The company was to possess all lands between Florida and the Arctic Circle, and from Newfoundland as far west as it was able to take possession. With the exception of the cod and whale fisheries, the company was granted a complete monopoly of trade.
The English occupation.—Before the company could land colonists, difficulties arose between France and England, and a fleet of privateers under Captain David Kirke raided the French possessions off Gaspé, capturing eighteen vessels which were carrying colonists and supplies to Quebec; after destroying the settlements in Acadia, Kirke sailed for England. The following year he landed at Tadoussac and sent three vessels to Quebec to demand its surrender. The place capitulated and over a hundred of the inhabitants were sent to England. Upon their arrival, it was found that peace had been made. Negotiations were terminated in 1632, Canada and Acadia being restored to France.
Last years of Champlain. Nicolet.—Upon his return Champlain immediately repaired the buildings at Quebec, and established a fort at Three Rivers to protect the Hurons against the Iroquois. From time to time Champlain had heard of a great waterway in the west. Believing that it might be a route to China, in 1634 he sent Nicolet on an exploring expedition. Nicolet passed up the Ottawa, traversed Georgian Bay, and reached Sault Ste. Marie. He then explored the south shore of the upper peninsula of Michigan, and reached the southern extremity of Green Bay. From the Winnebagoes he learned of a "great water" three days' journey toward the south. After visiting the Illinois country, he returned without having reached the Mississippi. In 1635 Champlain died; there was no master mind to direct operations, and the colony languished.
The Jesuits.—The first Jesuit superior was Father Le Jeune, who in 1632 was stationed at Quebec in the residence of Notre Dame des Anges, the parent establishment of the missions of New France. Le Jeune ministered to the Algonquins of the neighborhood. In 1633 Bréboeuf headed a group of missionaries to the Huron villages at the southern end of Georgian Bay, and in 1641 a mission was founded at Sault Ste. Marie, but it was not permanent. Pestilence and the war parties of the Iroquois gradually destroyed the Hurons; the Jesuits toiled amid scenes of famine, disease, and death, several succumbing to the hardships, others suffering martyrdom. So constant were the attacks of the Iroquois, that in 1649 it was determined to establish a more sheltered mission on the Island of St. Joseph in Georgian Bay. The missions on the mainland being destroyed by the Iroquois, and the Hurons having been greatly reduced in numbers, in 1650 the Jesuits abandoned that region. Attempts to establish missions among the Iroquois also failed completely at this time. In the settlements the Jesuits were the most important social factor, until 1665 practically controlling the life of the people. At Quebec they established schools for Huron and French boys, and at their suggestion the Ursulines opened a convent. Private endowments made possible a school for girls near Quebec and a hospital at Montreal.
The French in Canada, 17th Century.
The founding of Montreal.—For the purpose of founding an evangelical colony, a group of religious persons at Paris formed an association called the Association of Montreal. The island on which the city now stands was purchased, and in 1641 De Maisonneuve, with a Jesuit priest and thirty-seven laymen, sailed from La Rochelle. After taking formal possession of the island, the party wintered at Quebec, and the following spring founded the town of Montreal.
The New Company.—The Hundred Associates not having fulfilled their agreement regarding settlers, and the colony having proved a financial failure, an arrangement was made in 1645 between the company and the inhabitants acting as a corporation, henceforth known as the New Company. The old company retained its governmental rights, but the fur trade was thrown open to the New Company on condition that it would assume the expenses of civil administration, defence, and religion, that it would bring in twenty settlers annually, and would pay to the old company a thousand pounds of beaver skins every year.
Coureurs de bois.—Up to this time the fur trade had been carried on mainly at the settlements, but after the New Company was formed a larger number of men began to frequent the forests, giving rise to the type known as coureurs de bois. These were of two classes, those who merely traded with the Indians for peltries, and those who attached themselves to native tribes. This latter class lapsed into barbarism and became a lawless element which gave great annoyance to the officials. Later a third class of traders appeared when the governors were allowed to grant licenses to frequent the forests. Great abuses crept into the fur trade, large quantities of spirits being sold to the Indians, who were roundly cheated when intoxicated. It was the intention of the French government to restrict the trade to the settlements, but the officials usually winked at violations of the law, and some of them shared in the illicit trading. The most famous of the fur traders of this period were Radisson and Groseilliers, who, in 1658-1659 and possibly earlier, traded and explored in the country at the western end of Lake Superior.
Next: Reorganization And The Iroquois Wars