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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The Marchioness of Guercheville


For

a long while expeditious and attempts at French colonization had been directed towards Canada. James Cartier, in 1535, had taken possession of its coasts under the name of New France. M. de Roberval had taken thither colonists agricultural and mechanical; but the hard climate, famine, and disease had stifled the little colony in the bud; religious and political disturbances in the mother-country were absorbing all thoughts; it was only in the reign of Henry IV., when panting France, distracted by civil discord, began to repose, for the first time since more than a century, beneath a government just, able, and firm at the same time, that zeal for distant enterprises at last attracted to New France its real founder. Samuel de Champlain du Brouage, born in 1567, a faithful soldier of the king's so long as the war lasted, was unable to endure the indolence of peace. After long and perilous voyages, he enlisted in the company which M. de Monts, gentleman of the bed-chamber in ordinary to Henry IV., had just formed for the trade in furs on the northern coast of America; appointed viceroy of Acadia, a new territory, of which the imaginary limits would extend in our times from Philadelphia to beyond Montreal, and furnished with a commercial monopoly, M. de Monts set sail on the 7th of April, 1604, taking with him, Calvinist though he was, Catholic priests as well as Protestant pastors. "I have seen our priest and the minister come to a fight over questions of faith," writes Champlain
in his journal; "I can't say which showed the more courage, or struck the harder, but I know that the minister sometimes complained to Sieur de Monts of having been beaten." This was the prelude to the conversion of the savages, which was soon to become the sole aim or the pious standard of all the attempts at colonization in New France.

[Illustration: Champlain----190]

M. de Monts and his comrades had been for many years struggling against the natural difficulties of their enterprise, and against the ill-will or indifference which they encountered in the mother-country; religious zeal was reviving in France; the edict of Nantes had put a stop to violent strife; missionary ardor animated the powerful society of Jesuits especially. At their instigation and under their direction a pious woman, rich and of high rank, the Marchioness of Guercheville, profited by the distress amongst the first founders of the French colony; she purchased their rights, took possession of their territory, and, having got the king to cede to her the sovereignty of New France, from the St. Lawrence to Florida, she dedicated all her personal fortune to the holy enterprise of a mission amongst the Indians of America. Beside the adventurers, gentlemen or traders, attracted by the hope of gain or by zeal for discovery, there set out a large number of Jesuits, resolved to win a new empire for Jesus Christ. Champlain accompanied them. After long and painful explorations in the forests and amongst the Indian tribes, after frequent voyages to France on the service of the colony, he became at last, in 1606, the first governor of the nascent town of Quebec.

Never was colony founded under more pious auspices; for some time past the Recollects had been zealously laboring for the conversion of unbelievers; seconded by the Jesuits, who were before long to remain sole masters of the soil, they found themselves sufficiently powerful to forbid the Protestant sailors certain favorite exercises of their worship: "At last it was agreed that they should not chant the psalms," says Champlain, "but that they should assemble to make their prayers." A hand more powerful than that of Madame de Guercheville or of the Jesuits was about to take the direction of the affairs of the colony as well as of France: Cardinal Richelieu had become premier minister.


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