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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De La Salle the glory of the great discoveries of the West


affair of Montreal stood, like that of Quebec; New France was founded, in spite of the sufferings of the early colonists, thanks to their courage, their fervent enthusiasm, and the support afforded them by the religious zeal of their friends in Europe. The Jesuit missionaries every day extended their explorations, sharing with M. de La Salle the glory of the great discoveries of the West. Champlain had before this dreamed of and sought for a passage across the continent, leading to the Southern seas and permitting of commerce with India and Japan. La Salle, in his intrepid expeditions, discovered Ohio and Illinois, navigated the great lakes, crossed the Mississippi, which the Jesuits had been the first to reach, and pushed on as far as Texas. Constructing forts in the midst of the savage districts, taking possession of Louisiana in the name of King Louis XIV., abandoned by the majority of his comrades and losing the most faithful of them by death, attacked by savages, betrayed by his own men, thwarted in his projects by his enemies and his rivals, this indefatigable explorer fell at last beneath the blows of a few mutineers, in 1687, just as he was trying to get back to New France; he left the field open after him to the innumerable travellers of every nation and every language who were one day to leave their mark on those measureless tracts. Everywhere, in the western regions of the American continent, the footsteps of the French, either travellers or missionaries, preceded
the boldest adventurers. It is the glory and the misfortune of France to always lead the van in the march of civilization, without having the wit to profit by the discoveries and the sagacious boldness of her children. On the unknown roads which she has opened to the human mind and to human enterprise she has often left the fruits to be gathered by nations less inventive and less able than she, but more persevering and less perturbed by a confusion of desires and an incessant renewal of hopes.

The treaty of Utrecht had taken out of French hands the gates of Canada, Acadia, and Newfoundland. It was now in the neighborhood of New France that the power of England was rising, growing rapidly through the development of her colonies, usurping little by little the empire of the seas. Canada was prospering, however; during the long wars which the condition of Europe had kept up in America, the Canadians had supplied the king's armies with their best soldiers. Returning to their homes, and resuming without an effort the peaceful habits which characterized them, they skilfully cultivated their fields, and saw their population increasing naturally, without any help from the mother-country. The governors had succeeded in adroitly counterbalancing the influence of the English over the Indian tribes. The Iroquois, but lately implacable foes of France, had accepted a position of neutrality. Agricultural development secured to the country comparative prosperity, but money was scarce, the instinct of the population was not in the direction of commerce; it was everywhere

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