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A History of American Christianity by Bacon

The Mississippi had been discovered and explored


The

comparison between the Spanish and the French methods of colonization and missions in America is at almost every point honorable to the French. Instead of a greedy scramble after other men's property in gold and silver, the business basis of the French enterprises was to consist in a widely organized and laboriously prosecuted traffic in furs. Instead of a series of desultory and savage campaigns of conquest, the ferocity of which was aggravated by the show of zeal for the kingdom of righteousness and peace, was a large-minded and far-sighted scheme of empire, under which remote and hostile tribes were to be combined by ties of mutual interest and common advantage. And the missions, instead of following servilely in the track of bloody conquest to assume the tutelage of subjugated and enslaved races, were to share with the soldier and the trader the perilous adventures of exploration, and not so much to be supported and defended as to be themselves the support and protection of the settlements, through the influence of Christian love and self-sacrifice over the savage heart. Such elements of moral dignity, as well as of imperial grandeur, marked the plans for the French occupation of North America.

To a wonderful extent those charged with this enterprise were worthy of the task. Among the military and civil leaders of it, from Champlain to Montcalm, were men that would have honored the best days of French chivalry. The energy and daring of the

French explorers, whether traders or missionaries, have not been equaled in the pioneer work of other races. And the annals of Christian martyrdom may be searched in vain for more heroic examples of devotion to the work of the gospel than those which adorn the history of the French missions in North America. What magnificent results might not be expected from such an enterprise, in the hands of such men, sustained by the resources of the most powerful nation and national church in Christendom!

From the founding of Quebec, in 1608, the expansion of the French enterprise was swift and vast. By the end of fifty years Quebec had been equipped with hospital, nunnery, seminary for the education of priests, all affluently endowed from the wealth of zealous courtiers, and served in a noble spirit of self-devotion by the choicest men and women that the French church could furnish; besides these institutions, the admirable plan of a training colony, at which converted Indians should be trained to civilized life, was realized at Sillery, in the neighborhood. The sacred city of Montreal had been established as a base for missions to the remoter west. Long in advance of the settlement at Plymouth, French Christianity was actively and beneficently busy among the savages of eastern Maine, among the so-called "neutral nations" by the Niagara, among the fiercely hostile Iroquois of northern New York, by Lake Huron and Lake Nipissing, and, with wonderful tokens of success, by the Falls of St. Mary. "Thus did the religious zeal of the French bear the cross to the banks of the St. Mary and the confines of Lake Superior, and look wistfully toward the homes of the Sioux in the valley of the Mississippi, five years before the New England Eliot had addressed the tribe of Indians that dwelt within six miles of Boston harbor."[21:1]

Thirty years more passed, bringing the story down to the memorable year 1688. The French posts, military, commercial, and religious, had been pushed westward to the head of Lake Superior. The Mississippi had been discovered and explored, and the colonies planted from Canada along its banks and the banks of its tributaries had been met by the expeditions proceeding direct from France through the Gulf of Mexico. The claims of France in America included not only the vast domain of Canada, but a half of Maine, a half of Vermont, more than a half of New York, the entire valley of the Mississippi, and Texas as far as the Rio Bravo del Norte.[21:2] And these claims were asserted by actual and almost undisputed occupancy.


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