How Richelieu Spun his Web
The Jesuits were already preaching in the forests. A British fleet lurked on the horizon, ready to pounce on the defenseless French settlements. And in the background, the clever, old young cardinal was twisting Champlain's colony to his own ambitious purpose
The White and the Gold BY THOMAS B. COSTAIN Part Two
AN ENGLISH expedition headed by John Cabot discovered the eastern coast of Canada in 1497. A French expedition led by Jacques Cartier discovered the true inland Kanada of the Indians in 1534. Many Canadians, more familiar with the shape than with the details of their nation’s early history, recollect the next two hundred and fifty years as a period of unremitting struggle between the two great European powers for a sub-continent whose strategic importance and material wealth both saw clearly from the start. This is far from the truth. The struggle for Canada did not begin to take its ultimate form until nearly a century after Cartier, and even then it began almost invisibly, like the faint stirring of silken drapes at the court of Fontainebleau and priestly cassocks rustling through the silent forests beside Georgian Bay.
In the foreground were the dedicated Jesuits, preaching, colonizing and dying on the fringes of the New World. In the background was a more sinister figure in a blood-red gown, the cold-eyed Cardinal Richelieu who, more than any man, was to fix the autocratic pattern by which France would govern her new colony.
Henry IV of F’rance came under the influence of the Jesuits in his final years and decided to attach Father Pierre Biard, a professor of theology at Lyons and a zealous Jesuit, to the first Acadian colony. The leaders of the venture shared the suspicion general in France that the order was a Spanish institution and closely allied to the Inquisition. By some skilful contriving the ship which was supposed to take Father Biard to America managed to leave him behind in the port of Bordeaux and there he remained for a year in mounting indignation and wrath. He succeeded finally in getting himself aboard another ship and reaching Acadia.
After the death of Henry a coterie of court ladies carried on the movement to place spiritual control of Canada in the hands of the Jesuits. The Queen Regent was among these Jesuit sympathizers, as was also one of Henry’s mistresses and, of more importance still as t hings turned out, a very lovely and virtuous lady with whom the amorous King had been deeply but unsuccessfully in love, Antoinette de Pons, Marquise de Guercheville. The marquise was the possessor of great wealt h with which she was prepared to support the followers of Loyola in the New World.
In 1625 the Duc de Ventadour assumed the post of Viceroy of Canada in succession to his uncle, the Duc de Montmorency, and in the new incumbent the determined women found a most willing ally. This deeply religious young man was titular head of the colony for a short time only, but he left his mark on the colony.
When De Ventadour took the reins of the vice-royalty he was already convinced that religious teaching in New France should be done exclusively by Jesuits. It has been said, in fact, that it was on the advice of Father Philibert Noyrot, his confessor and a Jesuit, that he had assumed the post. Shortly thereafter Father Noyrot himself joined the Jesuit group in Canada, where the work of ministering to Samuel de Champlain’s tiny white colony at Quebec and another small French settlement in Acadia and of converting the Indian tribes to Christ ianity had been begun by the equally dedicated but less militant Récollets Fathers. It had been apparent for some time that the Récollets were not strong enough to carry on the work unaided; Ventadour saw to it that the chief burden was t ransferred to the willing shoulders of the Jesuits.
Three truly remarkable men formed the Jesuit advance guard: Charles
Lalemant, Jean de Brébeuf and Enemond Massé. Filled with courage and burning with a zeal which nothing could daunt, they were to play great parts in the early history of New France. They arrived without ostentation and found that no provision had been made for their reception, Champlain being in France and the Huguenot Emery de Caen acting in his place. It was necessary for them to live temporarily with the Récollets on the St. Charles River. Although the kindly friars knew they would be relegated to a secondary part they welcomed the newcomers cordially.
The vigorous intent of the order became apparent when two more priests arrived with ample supplies provided by the unfailing purse of the widowed marquise and accompanied by a corps of workmen. They built a simple but stout house behind a palisade of tall timbers near the Récollets. Impatient to be about the work which had brought them to the New World, and thirsting perhaps for the martyrdom which beckoned, the staunch fathers set forth into the wilds as soon as their base had been established. Lalemant and Brébeuf went to live with the Hurons where they labored and suffered for many years. Soon Brébeuf was writing to the General of the Society in Rome: “They (the Indians) are frightened by the torment of hell. Enticed by the joys of paradise, they open their eyes to the light of truth . . . We have baptized more than ninety.”
The Jesuits in the wilderness felt close to Cod. Their solitude added to their mysticism. Even Father Brébeuf, a giant physically and a man of simple and gentle spirit, began to have visions. Once he saw a great cross in the sky. This was in 1640 when the Iroquois had declared open war on the French and were stalking the forests. The cross was in the south, above the land where the men of the Long House dwelt. It seemed to be moving toward him.
He called his comrades and told them what he Continued on page 53 could see. “How large is it?” asked one, after gazing in the direction indicated and seeing nothing.
Father Brébeuf did not reply at once. He continued to stare into the sky and finally he sighed deeply.
“It is large enough,” he said, in a low voice, “to crucify all of us.”
It was at Brébeuf’s direction that the Huron mission centred its activities at Ihonatiria, and here was built a chapel which was a constant source of wonder to the dark-skinned people. It was thirty feet long, sixteen wide and twenty-four high, and the vestments were costly and beautiful. In the otherwise bare house of the priests were many objects which caused astonishment among the credulous men of the woods. There was, for instance, the clock which they began to call the
Captain. The priests were willing to capitalize on the effect produced by the striking of the clock. If it happened to be ten they would cry out immediately after the tenth stroke, “Stop!” and when the Captain obeyed the red men would slap their thighs with horny palms and shake their heads in delighted wonder. “What does it eat?” they asked, convinced that the mechanism was alive. Some years before a young Hbron named Savignon had been taken to France as a hostage. Savignon came back full of awe and reported that he had seen the golden cabin of the French King rolling along the ground, pulled by eight moose without horns, and that he had also seen a machine which spoke and told the time of day. Here was a proof of his veracity and one of the reasons why the Hurons examined the clock with particular interest.
Every piece of equipment was equally potent, a magnifying glass in particular. The dusky visitors never tired of looking through it and crying out when the figures of ants and bugs grew to an unbelievable size before their eyes. They watched the magnet with due awe, believing that a manatu of great power dwelt within it and compelled objects to draw near.
There was one occasion when, like the Connecticut Yankee at the court of King Arthur, the Jesuits made capital of an eclipse. There was this difference in the two incidents, that far up in the Huron country it was the light of the moon and not the sun which was conveniently dimmed. This happened during the night of December 31, 1638. Idle priests consulted their books and told the members of their flock to watch for what was coming. The fading out of the light at the moment predicted raised a panic among the natives; and ever after they believed the Black Gowns capable of commanding the coming and the going of light. This anecdote was contained in a letter written by Father François Joseph le Mercier from the Huron village of Ossossané.
The history of these early years is based to a great extent on the long letters the priests faithfully indited and sent to their superiors in France and Rome, and to an even greater extent the knowledge which exists about life among the Indian tribes. It is from these priestly epistles that most of the story of the long and ferocious Indian wars is drawn. They told the bloodchilling incidents of a great Huron victory.
According to custom, the victorious Hurons, returning with booty and prisoners, carried upright sticks in their canoes to signify the number of prisoners; and for good measure they placed on the ends of the sticks the scalps they had taken. The exultant squaws, old men and children were driven to a frenzy by the fact a hundred poles had been raised in the canoes.
The torturing of the prisoners began at once and as each man died his remains were roasted and devoured. The priests strove desperately to stop the slaughter but found their charges so carried away over their victory that they paid no attention. They protested so long that finally the Indians became angry and tossed the hand of one of the victims through the door of the mission lodge. The Jesuits had been allowed to baptize each prisoner before he was led out to the stake and so the hand was sorrowfully buried in consecrated ground.
The most regular correspondent to France was Father Paul le Jeune who became the Superior at Quebec. His letters, filled with stories of their trials and triumphs, began to attract attention in France. This gentle priest had a sense of humor as well as a burning zeal and he told many stories which added to the interest in his reports. He did not hesitate, for instance, to tell of one difficulty they encountered in learning Indian languages. A habit of some interpreters was to teach obscene words in place of the right ones which resulted in the unwitting priests sending their listeners into spasms of mirth.
The priests had no conception at first of the interest these epistles were creating in France, not knowing of a daring experiment which had been decided upon by the Superior of the Society in France. The latter made up his mind that the letters of Father le Jeune should be published so that they would be made available to everyone, and accordingly he effected an arrangement with Sébastien Cramoisy, the most prominent of the printers of Paris. The printer produced the letters with the utmost care in vellum-bound volumes, small octavo in size, and put them on the market at twenty sols. Sales proved phenomenal. Distribution was so great, in fact, that it was decided to put out a volume a year and to call the series the Relations. Publication was kept up for over forty years, the scope of the series being extended to take in all letters from priests and many incidental papers relating to affairs in Canada.
Not since publication of the De Imitatione Christi, two hundred years before, had such a wave of spiritual fervor been evoked. Paul le Jeune received his first intimation of what was happening when a vessel from France arrived at Quebec and delivered huge packets of letters. They were from people who had read the Relations whose concern in the work of the missions had been so stimulated that they desired to help.
To his great astonishment Father le Jeune discovered he had become famous. He was clearheaded enough to realize a checkrein was going to be needed. He wrote to the Father Provincial in France, “They (the Ursuline mothers) write me with such ardor that if the door were open a city of nuns would be formed and there would be found ten sisters to one pupil.” He was equally aware of the poor quality of the settlers being sent to the colony. On this point he wrote, “Every year the ship brings us many people; this number like coin is of mingled gold and base alloy; it is composed of choice and well-selected souls, and of others indeed base and degraded.”
The success of the Relations stimulated the missionaries to further efforts. More priests were sent to join the hardworked fathers. Sometimes workmen were sent with them. Nearly a score of artisans were imported into the Huron country to build the chapel at Ibonati ria.
It was thus made abundantly clear that the Jesuits were of all men the best-fitted for missionary work among the Indians, individually they were brave, resolute, unflinching and ready for any sacrifice. As a body they were backed by great wealth and influence.
Quebec had continued to grow in the meantime but very slowly. The population was slightly in excess of one hundred but the settlement was not self-supporting. Champlain, adroit and resourceful though he was, could not make useful citizens out of the dregs sent by his profit-mad partners. These misfits and unfortunates hunted and fished sporadically; they loafed, they drank, they diced; and continued as hostile to honest toil as they had been when plucked from the stews and prisons of Paris.
The truth of the situation finally reached Che one man in France who was capable of finding the solution. Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu, the young Bishop of Luçon, had left his mean episcopal palace and had attached himself to the service of the lumpish, lazy and vindictive Queen Regent. Richelieu, who was presently to receive the red hat from Rome and to be called thereafter “the cardinal,” moved with consummate skill through the conspiracies of the corrupt court and in time gained a complete ascendency over the weakling son of Henry IV who had succeeded to the throne as Louis XIII.
The King took little interest in affairs of state, except for sudden gusts of unpredictable energy which made it necessary for the cardinal to exercise all his skill to retain his hold on the reins. Ordinarily the capricious young King concerned himself with boyish fancies. He was interested in cookery and became quite expert in making garlic spreads for bread and salades with sauce rousse. Ina court noted for the beauty and immorality of its women, the young king showed no tendency to emulate the gallantry of his father. He took little or no interest in the affairs of New France.
Richelieu soon became convinced that the control of the French colony must be assumed by the government and he acted with characteristic vigor. He sat behind his desk on a gusty April 29, in 1627. Before him lay a document from which the title seemed to spring out: Acte pour L'Establissement de la Compagnie des Cent Associés.
The Company of One Hundred Associates! This organization, with the euphonious name which has impressed itself firmly on the pages of Canadian history, was the answer which Richelieu was supplying for the problem of Canada.
The man behind the desk was thin and austere. His face fell away from a line wide brow to a chin so delicate and pointed under its small beard that it suggested a sensitive nature (which was completely misleading); and the result would have been to give his ample nose too much prominence if it had been possible to notice anything about this extraordinary man but his unblinking pale eyes. The Richelieu eyes, it was currently believed, could look through anything; the most astute politician who might face him, the walls which surrounded him, the knotty problems lie had to solve. There was uncanniness also in this man’s gift for knowing what went on about him, for knowing instinctively the right course to pursue, for the perfection of his choice of words in convincing those about him, for his unerring judgment of men. He was utterly unscrupulous and, of course, without kindness or pity. No other great minister of state ever quite equalled him; not Wolsey or Fouquet or Colbert, not Bismarck or Disraeli.
The slender forefinger which rested on the front page of the charter had assisted in cutting with vigorous surety through all obstacles in the way of the measure. The cardinal had abolished the office of Admiral of France and had set up a new post, the Grand Master and Superintendent of Navigation and Commerce, assuming the duties himself. The prevailing charter to gather furs and launch new settlers in NewFrance had been revoked; the noble Champlain’s grasping backers were through.
This bold measure may have originated in the brain of another man, that strange figure who stood so often at the shoulder of the cardinal and whispered in his ear—François Leclerc du Tremblay, the Capuchin who was called by the populace Father Joseph of Paris and sometimes L'Eminence Grise, Grey Eminence. The memorandum, offered the King, on sea-power and the need for colonies, is said to have been his work although his name was not attached to it. Father Joseph became the “familiar spirit’’ of Richelieu, his sword blade in diplomacy, his director of intelligence and spying. He followed the great minister every where; but whereas Richelieu traveled in state with a long train of prancing horses, the silent, glowering Capuchin followed on foot, striding tirelessly on bare feet over the rough and muddy roads. A man of the most intense faith, he was nevertheless (lie most consistent exponent of the theory that the end justifies the means. Created Apostolic Commissary of Missions by Pope Urban VIII, his influence can-be detected in the course which Richelieu was now following.
It is probable that in the long room where the cardinal worked were some of the men who had already agreed to become members of the new organization. They were a mixed lot. All men of ministerial rank were included, some of the nobility, some merchants, some men in holy orders. The name of Cardinal Richelieu headed the list. Somewhere, far down on the page, no doubt, was a man too far away to be consulted, Samuel de Champlain. Each member was obligated to pay three thousand livres.
The act conferred on the company the whole of the North American con-
tinent. 'Fhe fur trade was to belong lo the Associates exclusively for all time and they were to control the trade of the colony, with the exception of the coast fisheries, for a term of fifteen years. In return the Associates engaged to send three hundred people to Canada each year and to bring the total to four thousand by the expiration of the fifteen years; supporting the settlers, moreover, for three years and providing each community with three priests.
No point seemingly had been overlooked in this thorough document. All settlers sent to Canada were to be
French and Catholic. The government was to stand back of the company and to provide immediately two warships fully equipped for service.
Richelieu was creating for himself and for his master the King, and the kings who would succeed him. the absolute power in which he believed. Canada was to be governed by rules laid down in the cabinets of the new autocracy. Documents signed with the flourish of busy and supercilious pens would determine the lives of the men and women who braved the rigors of pioneering across the seas.
Champlain’s reaction to the formation of the new company was one of complete accord and delight in the magnitude of the new conception of things. With the news of the sweeping changes Richelieu had initiated came word that a fleet of twenty transports was being gathered and that four ships of war, under the command of Admiral de Roquemont, would convoy the flotilla to Quebec. The transports were to be filled with the right kind of settlers, family men with wives and children and trained to a trade or to work on the soil, and loaded with suplilies of all kinds. One hundred and fifty cannon were to be sent for the protection of new settlements.
It is doubtful if Champlain perceived dangers in the ambitious planning of the cardinal. Richelieu had fixed a pattern from which France would never thereafter deviate in the handling of New France. Regimentation would go hand in hand with colonization. The habitant would never be allowed to work out his own destiny, to do with his life as be pleased. Even marrying and giving in marriage would be subject to king-made restrictions and controls.
Richelieu was unequalled as a statesman and organizer but he lacked in knowledge of the human heart. He did not realize that the impetus to great deeds springs from the spirits of men who control their own destinies, that the feet of strong men who go out to reclaim the wilderness and win the far frontiers of the earth must be unfettered.
England’s Realistic Approach
While the pioneers of Quebec were still fighting for an existence around the great rock, dependent on the support of profit-mad merchants, the English had been establishing themselves in the warmer lands of the south. In 1607 the London Company, operating under a charter granted by that great dispenser of charters James I of England, landed a party of settlers at Virginia which they loyally named Jamestown. After a rigorous first year, the colony came under the direction of one John Smith, sailor, soldier and adventurer extraordinary, with a penchant for writing books. Smith is best remembered through the association of his name with that of Pocahontas, the daughter of an Indian chief. A captive of the tribe, Smith was rescued from death by the intercession of the lovely Pocahontas. Even at this early stage there was a realistic note to the colonial operations of the English, a determination to consolidate their holdings and to concern themselves more with driving the Indians out than in catering to their immortal souls.
The second great venture in colonization came thirteen years later. A party of religious Separatists, now called Pilgrims, had been driven from England by intolerance. They set sail from Holland in the year 1620 in a ship called the Mayflower, an earnest and utterly inexperienced body of men and women numbering no more than a hundred. Rad weather drove them off their course and they landed at what is now Provincetown on the long arm of Cape Cod.
then still another sinking of the roots of colonization occurred north of Boston Bay. The town of Boston, so named in 1630, grew with more rapidity than any of the other settlements and gradually became the centre of the lands which are now New England. Thus Quebec had a flourishing rival. Boston, small and stern and determined, faced Quebec, which shared all these qualities; and it was inevitable that in course of time the two would clash.
The United Netherlands claimed the country along the Hudson in 1609 as a result of the explorations of Henry Hudson in the Halfmoon. In 1626 Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Indians and Fort Amsterdam was erected there. 'The arrival of the Dutch made the rivalry for possession of North America a triangular one.
King James of England had a way (which he shared with the French) of granting vast claims to such of his subjects as desired to venture into the west. On the authority of one such charter an English sea captain named Samuel Argali (the same commander who abducted Pocahontas in Virginia and allowed a member of his crew. John Rolfe, to marry her) cruised up the coast from Massachusetts to expel the French from their Acadian possessions. He had no difficulty capturing them as the French were taken by surprise. The buildings at Port Royal were burned and some fourteen members of the colony were carried off as prisoners.
The Argali raid was the first open conflict between the English and the French and then two pedantic Scots brought about the first fighting on a large scale—James I and Sir William Alexander. Of the pair it was said that “James was a king who tried to he a poet and Alexander was a poel who tried to be a king.” It may he stated at the outset that both failed.
Alexander was a man of vision. His eyes had become fixed on the west and it was partly as a result of his urging that King James elected to make his liberal gestures of annexation. In 1621 the King made a grant to Alexander of all Nova Scotia which was assumed al the time to include Newfoundland. Cape Breton, Acadia, Maine, New Brunswick and a large slice of Quebec. In a later confirmation Alexander was empowered to “erect cities, appoint fairs, hold courts, grant lands and coin money.”
To finance this grandiose plan, King ! James created a new order, the Knights Baronet of Nova Scotia. Any gentleman or man of property who could make a voyage to that country, or pay down instead the sum of a hundred and fifty pounds sterling, would get his title and a grant of land six miles by three. He would have the right to wear about his neck “an orange tawney ribbon from which shall hang pendant in an escutcheon argent a saltire azure with the arms of Scotland.”
Nothing much came of this save the settling of small groups here and there I around the Bay of Fundy and the i creation of much ill-feeling between the newcomers and the French at Port Royal. After the death of James the Company of Merchant Adventurers was founded in London by Sir William and a number of London financiers and merchants. The company had an ambitious purpose, the seizure by force of arms of all Canada. War had broken out between England and France because of Richelieu’s determination to break the back of Huguenot solidarity. The new dictator of France struck at the heart of Calvinism by besieging La Rochelle. King Charles 1 of England took the side of the Huguenots.
They Swept the Seas
When the war began the Company of Merchant Adventurers raised the sum of sixty thousand pounds to equip an expedition against the French in Canada. Three ships set out early in 1627 under the command of Captain David Kirke. Word had reached England that the armada promised Champlain by the Company of One Hundred Associates was ready to start. Kirke made his first objective the interception and capture of the fleet,.
Kirke and his two brothers, Lewis and Thomas, found Admiral de Roquemont and his armada in Gaspé Bay where he had been compelled to take refuge by heavy storms. It was clear to the English captains that the French admiral had been taken by surprise. All his ships were deep in the water with the weight of the cargoes they carried. The new guns were lashed in the holds of the bigger ships and the few that were ready for action were of j small calibre. Even the decks of the four warships were black with the pas1 sengers they were bringing out—men, women and children, soldiers and mechanics and Jesuit priests. To see English sails on the horizon was the last thing the admiral had expected.
Roquemont looked about him with a desperate anxiety. The bay was dotted with sails for, in addition to the four convoy ships, he had twenty transports in his charge. Everything that the colony at Quebec needed had been loaded into the holds. Roquemont was a good sailor and a brave man. He decided not to give up without a struggle and the order to prepare for defense was hastily flown from his masthead. The struggle, however, was a brief one. The three English ships came in under a spread of canvas, but otherwise stripped for action, the shrouds filled with musketeers, the muzzles of heavy cannon protruding from the portholes. David Kirke brought his ship alongside that of the admiral and raked the hull of the French flagship with a broadside. Throwing out their grappling irons, a boarding party of the English came over, their cutlasses in their teeth. With the most valorous of intentions, the French found themselves unable to put up any effective resistance. To spare the lives of his helpless passengers, Roquemont had to
strike his colors. The other French vessels, seeing the uselessness of further resistance, surrendered also.
Kirke burned some of the transports and took the rest, heavily loaded with the spoils of victory into Newfoundland harbors. From here he sailed back to England, taking the most prominent of his prisoners with him.
England hailed the victors with delight. France seethed with indignation and dismay. Stuffed effigies of the three Kirke brothers were burned on the Place de la Grève.
A despairing Champlain paced the ramparts of the citadel on the heights after receiving this bitter news. He had learned of the capture and destruction of Roquemont’s ships from Indian scouts. The French colony, he was convinced, was now doomed. There was nothing to prevent the English from seizing Quebec and expelling all the French settlers. Old and bent and unhappy, he kept an eye on the eastern reaches of the river, expecting the sails of the English ships. He was fully aware of the weakness of his position. Never an engineer, he had proven himself a poor builder. The houses he had raised among the walnut trees had been flimsy and had fallen into dilapidation and disrepair in the course of a few years. His great pride, the stone citadel, was now going the same way. The walls showed signs of decay and insecurity, the masonry had developed dangerous fissures, two of the corner towers had collapsed, filling the moat with rubble over which an attacking force could scramble with the ease of Joshua and his men charging into Jericho. The mouths of his few cannon, protruding above the battlements, looked little more dangerous than broomsticks poking out from the white walls of a boy’s snow castle.
Expecting attack, Champlain had moved the people of Quebec into the fort. The food supplies were inadequate for a siege and so he had found it necessary to reduce the daily ration to a small supply of pease and “turkey corn,” as the Indian maize was called. The people grumbled and in their hearts perhaps hoped that the English would come soon to free them from such privations.
But the English did not come. Wint er settled in. With the freezing of the streams and the falling of the snow, the sufferings of the little garrison became pitiful. When spring came at last the daily ration had been cut to seven ounces of pounded pease per person. The settlers were gaunt, the children thin and spiritless in their patched and ragged clothes.
Throughout the winter the unhappy colony had been cut off from the outside world. The Kirkes held control of the waters about Newfoundland and the gulf. Champlain did not know, therefore, that the defeat had precipitated a serious situation in France. The Company of One Hundred Associates hovered on the brink of bankruptcy.
There had been talk of equipping more ships for the relief of Canada but the preparations were proceeding with great slowness. Champlain, unaware of all this, still expected relief in the spring.
The settlers do not seem to have shared his optimism. The men of the colony, no longer content to exist on starvation rations and anxious to ease matters for their families, began to scatter into the woods. Some joined bands of roving Indians, some took to boats and vanished down the river in the direction of the fishing banks. Their wives and children remained in the fort, begging piteously for the food which the unhappy commander could not supply. Champlain was left with siiteen men in addition to the priests or the St. Charles.
Then two ships hove into sight from behind the Isle of Orleans, flying the English flag. David Kirke had returned from England with four ships, two of which had been sent to attack the citadel, no difficult task. There was no man in the fort save the stooped and sal-eyed commander, all of his sixteen men being in the woods in a desperate search for food. Champlain, standing despondently on the battlements, watched an English officer climb up the narrow path under a white flag. The moment he had foreseen with so much dread had arrived.
The sails of the ships had been seen from the woods on the high declivity,
however, and now the men of the garrison were hurrying back. As they straggled in, they were ordered to go at once to their posts. When the English officer reached the summit, he found the fort manned. Soldiers with muskets paced the crumbling ramparts and the sound of sharp military orders reached his ears. But it was only a brave pretense.
Realizing that to offer defense would be futile, Champlain nevertheless held out for terms. He insisted that the commander of the attacking force must first show his commission from the English King, that no effort be made to come ashore until all terms had been agreed to, and that one of the two ships be used to convey his people back to their own country, including all of the priests and two Indians; and above, everything he demanded that fair and courteous treatment be accorded to all.
The commander of the English agreed courteously to these terms. And so, on August 9, 1629, Champlain formally surrendered Quebec to the invaders. It is worth noting that the company of English officers and men who came ashore and raised their flag over the citadel found no food in the place except one tub of potatoes and roots.
Champlain’s Great Welcome
What thoughts filled the mind of Samuel de Champlain watching the fluttering of the fleur-de-lis as it was hauled down from the flagpole on the battlements? Was he remembering the struggles of the long years, the disappointments, the triumphs? Perhaps he was too old and tired, too beaten down by the seeming finality of the blow, to experience the poignancy of such regrets. Perhaps he said to himself no more than, “This, then, is the end of it all,” as he turned and hobbled down the uneven stone steps to the cobbled courtyard of the citadel where his word had been law for so many years.
Champlain could not guess, in that sad hour, that this was neither the end of New France nor of his governorship. In less than three years King Charles was to return the colony to France for the strangest of reasons: as a bribe to the French government to pay him the balance of the dowry of his queen, Princess Henrietta-Maria of France. The amount was eight hundred thousand crowns.
Champlain received a tumultuous welcome from the remnant of the population when he returned to the city he had founded. In spite of his advanced years he went briskly to work to repair the damages of war and to expand Quebec with new structures.
In the fall of 1635 he was stricken with paralysis. He died on Christmas Day. The unhappy colonists would have restrained their tears, which flowed so freely and generously, if they had known that the death of the founder was a release from impending humiliation. As Champlain lay dying, the Company of One Hundred Associates was meeting in Paris to choose his successor. Why it was thought necessary to replace the man who had devoted his life to New France and whose faith alone had kept the fleur-de-lis flying over the high eminence of Quebec has never been explained. ★