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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

And Lally were passing into the domain of history


the French power in India, after

having for an instant had the dominion over nearly the whole peninsula, was dying out beneath the incapacity and feebleness of its government, at the moment when the heroic efforts of La Bourdonnais, Dupleix, and Lally were passing into the domain of history, a people decimated by war and famine, exhausted by a twenty years' unequal struggle, was slowly expiring, preserving to the very last its hopes and its patriotic devotion. In the West Indies the whole Canadian people were still maintaining, for the honor of France, that flag which had just been allowed to slip from the desperate hands of Lally in the East. In this case, there were no enchanting prospects of power and riches easily acquired, of dominion over opulent princes and submissive slaves; nothing but a constant struggle against nature, still mistress of the vast solitudes, against vigilant rivals and a courageous and cruel race of natives. The history of the French colonists in Canada showed traits and presented characteristics rare in French annals; the ardor of the French nature and the suavity of French manners seemed to be combined with the stronger virtues of the people of the north; everywhere, amongst the bold pioneers of civilization in the new world, the French marched in the first rank without ever permitting themselves to be surpassed by the intrepidity or perseverance of the Anglo-Saxons, down to the day when, cooped up within the first confines of their conquests, fighting for life and liberty, the
Canadians defended foot to foot the honor of their mother-country, which had for a long while neglected them, and at last abandoned them, under the pressure of a disastrous war conducted by a government as incapable as it was corrupt.

For a long time past the French had directed towards America their ardent spirit of enterprise; in the fifteenth century, on the morrow of the discovery of the new world, when the indomitable genius and religious faith of Christopher Columbus had just opened a new path to inquiring minds and daring spirits, the Basques, the Bretons, and the Normans were amongst the first to follow the road he had marked out; their light barks and their intrepid navigators were soon known among the fisheries of Newfoundland and the Canadian coast. As early as 1506 a chart of the St. Lawrence was drawn by John-Denis, who came from Honfleur in Normandy. Before long the fishers began to approach the coasts, attracted by the fur-trade; they entered into relations with the native tribes, buying, very often for a mere song, the produce of their hunting, and , introducing to them, together with the first fruits of civilization, its corruptions and its dangers. Before long the savages of America became acquainted with the fire-water.

Policy was not slow to second the bold enterprises of the navigators. France was at that time agitated by various earnest and mighty passions; for a moment the Reformation, personified by the austere virtues and grand spirit of Coligny, had seemed to dispute the empire of the Catholic church. The forecasts of the admiral became more and more sombre every day; he weighed the power and hatred of the Guises as well as of their partisans; in his anxiety for his countrymen and his religion he determined to secure for the persecuted Protestants a refuge, perhaps a home, in the new world, after that defeat of which he already saw a glimmer.


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