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

unspeakably edifying.

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

religious worship.

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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