In 1599, Pierre Dugua de Mons, Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnenuit and Samuel de Champlain traveled to North America on behalf of Henri IV, King of France and Navarre, also called le bon roi (the good King).Henri IV wanted France to harvest the rich pelts it could find in Northeastern America. Henri also asked Du Gua de Mons to create a settlement in what are now the Maritime provinces of Canada. Officially, Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal) is the first French settlement in North America. It was settled in 1604, four years before Champlain settled Quebec City. However, to be precise, Tonnetuit’s trading post was the first French settlement in North America, and it was located in the present-day Québec, one of the two provinces of New France. The other was Acadie. Henri IV had been a Protestant, a Huguenot, and so were the above-mentioned explorers.
Huguenots, a popular term used since 1560 to designate French Protestants, some of whom became involved in the Newfoundland fishery and Canadian fur trade, and in abortive colonization attempts in Canada (1541-42), Brazil (1555) and the Carolinas (1562-64).
Champlain was a secretive Huguenot, but Pierre Dugua de Mon(t)s wasn’t. As for Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit, his occupation, fur trading, was that of a Huguenot. So, if his trading post was the first French settlement in the Americas, the very first French settlement in the Americas was a Huguenot settlement. In fact, although Champlain did not reveal his religious affiliation, he founded Quebec-City in New France’s Huguenot times. But matters changed in 1627. New France was governed by the Company of One Hundred Associates and its first shareholder was Cardinal Richelieu.
More permanent was the fur-trade. The French in Canada tended to their thirty acres, but many had to go to the countries above, les pays d’en haut. They were voyageurs or coureurs des bois. Coureurs des bois did not have a licence, so if caught, the pelts they had harvested were confiscated.
I love Pierre Chauvin’s trading post. New France would have its legendary voyageurs. They would be Catholics. But Pierre Chauvin’s trading post was a Huguenot settlement.
When Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnentuit returned to France, he left sixteen (16) men at Tadoussac. It was a settlement. Only six (6) survived.
Several visitors to North America have left precious accounts of their trips as well as fine analysis of the people whose lands they visited. For instance, in recent years, Alexis de Tocqueville‘s (29 July 1805, Paris – 16 April 1859, Cannes) two-volume Democracy in America(De la démocratie en Amérique), published in 1840 and 1845, has received a great deal of attention.
Every year the Jesuits working in Canada sent a report (une relation) to their superiors in France. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia,
“[a]s a result of Cardinal Richelieu‘s decision to enlist the Jesuits in colonizing FrenchNorth America, the early history of settlement was systematically and colourfully documented by priests attempting to convert the Indians and also to attract support at home for their project.”[iii]
Compilation and publication
The Jesuit Relationswere compiled by missionaries “in the field,” (The Canadian Encyclopedia), edited by their Quebec superior and sent to the Paris office of the Society of Jesus. They were printed in France by Sébastien Cramoisy. These texts constitute the finest and most complete account of life in Nouvelle-France (New France) beginning in 1632, under Richelieu and Louis XIII, and ending in 1672, twelve years after Louis XIV ascended to the throne (1660).
Documents were sent after 1672, but not systematically.
Contents of the Jesuit Relations: a mixture
The Jesuits told everything. Wikipedia lists: “Marriages and Marriage Customs, Courtship, Divorce, Social Status of Women, Songs and Singing, Dances, and Games and Recreation.” The Relations are a mélange (mixture) blending the activities of Amerindians, the progress of missionaries and the daily life of settlers. Moreover, they include accounts of explorers.
Jacques Marquette, S. J. and Louis Jolliet: Explorations down the Mississippi River
Among accounts of explorers, the Jesuit Relations include a relation by Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette (1 June 1637 – 18 May 1675), who was allowed to accompany French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet (21 September 1645 – last seen May 1700). They founded Sault Ste. Marie (now in Ontario, Canada) and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan, in the current United States. They reported the first accurate data on the course of the Mississippi. Two years later, Père Marquette and other missionaries were the first Europeans to spend a winter near Chicago.[iv]
They left from St. Ignace on 18 May 1673 with two canoes and five voyageurs of French-Amerindian ancestry (Métis) and entered the Mississippi on 19 June 1673. They travelled down the Mississippi, nearly reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Two years later, Père Marquette was exposed to dysentery and died prematurely. As for Jolliet, he was not heard of after May 1700.
the “bon sauvage”
The Jesuit Relations are, therefore, eclectic, and they were widely read in the 18th century as “exciting travel literature.” They are the birthplace of the “Bon Sauvage,” who will be used later to provide a silent, yet eloquent, indictment of French society. They constitute invaluable “ethnographic and documentary sources.”[v]
Yesterday, I had a conversation with an educated French Canadian. It was an eye-opener. This gentleman is convinced that the arrival in Quebec of immigrants with multicultural backgrounds will ultimately lead to the disappearance of the French milieu in Quebec. Moreover, he is certain that Nouvelle-France was conquered, which negates the choice the French made in 1763, the year the Treaty of Paris was signed.
He emphasized that Britain had long wanted to add Nouvelle-France to its colonies, forgetting, for instance, that when Pierre-Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law, Médard des Groseillers, known as “Radishes and Gooseberries,” discovered the Hudson Bay and returned to Canada with a flotilla of a hundred canoes filled with pelts, they were treated as coureurs de bois rather than explorers. Unlike coureurs de bois, voyageurs were hired and had a license to travel and fetch fur west of what is now Quebec.
Because the fur he had brought to Montreal was confiscated, Radisson went to England and obtained the support of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, KG, PC, FRS (17 December 1619 – 29 November 1682). Prince Rupert financed an expedition to the current Hudson Bay. In 1668-1669, the Nonsuch sailed across the Atlantic. Radisson was right. Large boats could travel to the inner part of Canada, from the North. This way fur traders would not need canoes as much as they had to previously. Yet, let it be known that canoes manned by nimble voyageurscontinued to do the better job of gathering precious pelts.
The fact remains, however, that when the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded, in 1670, Britain acquired Rupert’s Land. It was a vast chunk of North America which the French had an opportunity of acquiring, except that Louis XIV was building a castle at Versailles, which French peasants would have to pay for.
At the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, France’s financial circumstances were strained. In October 1776, Louis XVI appointed Swiss-born Jacques Necker director-general of the finances, but despite a degree of success, Necker could not prevent the French Revolution. In other words, in 1673, not only had France lost battles, but it was poor. Nouvelle-France being a financial burden, France chose to keep sugar rich Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Of course, Britain wanted to appropriate Nouvelle-France, i.e. Canada and Acadie, but France itself could not fight back. It seems that, in the end, the more prosperous nation won. At one point, France owned nearly two-thirds of North-America. It lost New France in 1763 and, in 1803, it sold Louisiana. Napoleon (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) needed money.
Battles do play an important role in history but, occasionally, there is a “bottom line.” New France fell to Britain, but in this particular demise, only a richer France could have kept New France. The puzzling element in the Treaty of Paris is Britain’s willingness not to take away from its new French-speaking subjects their farms, their seigneuriesand their religion. Moreover, at the time of the French Revolution, Britain made it possible for émigrés priests to move to Quebec where they would not be idle and that many became educators.
I will conclude by expressing doubts as to the possibility of teaching their true history to those Québécois who have chosen to think that New France was conquered, that there were no ‘patriots’ killed in Toronto (see Upper Canada Rebellion), and that Canada is not an officially bilingual country promoting the use of French.
I would also like to stress that if French-speaking Quebecers want to keep their language, they should make it their personal duty to do so. Speaking French as well as possible begins at home. As for the Quebec Government, it would be my opinion that, with respect to the survival and growth of French, it ought to make it its main mission to encourage Québécois to speak and write their language more correctly. It would give itself a positive and attainable goal. Québécois should feel motivated to perfect their French.
At any rate, there was no “conquest” of New France. France had lost battles, but the truth remains that it chose to part with New France because it was not bringing in a profit.
Letter from Louis XIV to Montrealers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the weekend, I attended a dinner in Montreal. The men wore tuxedos and the ladies, one of the fine gowns Donkeyskin asked her father to give her. I was surrounded by multilingual and multicultural individuals of every race. The men wore tuxedos and the ladies, one of the fine gowns Donkeyskin asked her father to give her. I was surrounded by multilingual and multicultural individuals of every race. Everyone was on an equal footing. So this was the Montreal I like.
I remarked to the gentleman sitting across from me, a lawyer, that it had saddened me to learn that investors had taken 50% of their money out of Quebec after the election of Madame Pauline Marois to the Premiership of Province of Quebec. This lawyer is a bilingual Québécois. He told me there was more and then mentioned 1977, the year after Parti Québécois leader, charismatic René Lévesque, was elected into office. After his election, on 15 November 1976, there was an exodus. We then moved on to another subject.
Rue Saint-Dominique, 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
However, after I returned home, I remembered Saint Francis Xavier University (StFX) once again. This time, I was not thinking about Dr Cecil MacLean. In my thoughts were the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame (the CNDs) who owned a convent and a residence for female students on the campus of StFX. I had just been in Montreal where Marguerite Bourgeoys (17 April 1620 – 12 January 1700) founded the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. In this respect, you may remember that many of the filles du roy were taught to cook and to sew by members of the fledgling Congrégation. Several filles du roy had not been taught skills that would be required of the young women who would marry settlers to New France and raise large families.
Losing their residence for women must have been devastating to my colleagues who were members of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, but imagine their also losing their convent. Who would help them? The order had suffered losses during the Quiet Revolution, or Révolution tranquille, so to what extent could they be helped by their weakened Quebec motherhouse. Until the 1960s, convents run by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame (CND) and other religious orders had flourished in Quebec, but during the Révolution tranquille, the Quebec government laicized education and healthcare, which dealt a blow to Catholic institutions.
(Please click on the image to enlarge it. Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A separation of Church and State was inevitable, but the work of the Dames de la Congrégation was linked with the founding of Montreal, not to mention both the preservation and growth of the French language in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec may have been a “priest-ridden” province, but without its various religious orders and, among them, the Dames de la Congrégation, one wonders whether or not there would have been a Quebec to “reform.” As indicated in the Canadian Encyclopedia, “[u]nder Jean Lesage the Québec Liberal Party had developed a coherent, wide-ranging reform platform. The main issue of the election was indicated by the Liberal slogan, “It’s time for a change.” I wonder, however, whether Premier Jean Lesage (10 June 1912 – 12 December 1980) realized that, in the case of Quebec, the line between Church and State was so very blurred that his “coherent, wide-ranging reform platform” could broaden to include an ideology that rivalled religion: sovereignty or separatism, as it was then called.
The Church in Quebec
As I wrote above although the separation of Church and State was unavoidable, Quebec’s ancien régime, metaphorically speaking, had been the Seigneurial system which was replaced by what could be called the Parochial system (my term). Quebec had parishes and, when cities started to sprout, they were a collection of parishes each of which had its schools, one for girls and one for boys, etc. Therefore, how would religious orders be replaced? There was too profound a gap to fill.
I am told that the formerly “priest-ridden” province is now a union-ridden province, which could be the case. I should think, however, that the dream of a sovereign province may also have helped replace the Parochial system. History has yet to render its verdict, but the Révolution tranquille may well have supplied ample room to French-speaking Quebecers who had wanted an independent Quebec since the Act of Union was promulgated, in 1841. That year the patriotes lost their Lower Canada which they believed was truly theirs. At any rate, the changes were more extensive than Premier Lesage had foreseen. There had long been nationalists among Québécois but, as of the 1960s, these nationalists were active separatists and among them there were terrorists. Therefore, it may be that sovereignty or separatism filled the profound gap I mentioned.
24 June 1968
The gentleman I escorted to Saturday’s elegant dinner told me that, on 24 June 1968, he was standing a few feet away from Pierre Bourgault (23 January 1934 – 16 June 2003), a leading séparatiste. June 24th is Quebec’s national holiday: the Saint-Jean-Baptiste. When the yearly parade reached parc La Fontaine, in Montreal, my friend personally saw a group of hooligans join Pierre Bourgault who started the riot by screaming “le Québec aux Québécois,”“le Québec aux Québécois,” (Quebec for Quebecers). The hooligans, he said, first lifted a police car and put it on its head. There were 292 arrests and 123 persons were injured, 43 of whom were members of the police force. Some of the police horses were also injured. Pierre Elliott Trudeau (18 October 1919 – 28 September 2000), the Prime Minister of Canada, was in attendance and refused to be taken away to safety.
It’s been 45 years. Although Pierre Bourgault later revealed his role in the riot, he was never charged for the criminal behaviour I just described. Rioters may have been targeting Pierre Trudeau, but the 1968 riot was, so to speak, self-inflicted terrorism, which is puzzling. Moreover, when bombs were placed in mailboxes, these could cause injury to anyone, including Québécois and, perhaps, separatists. I then remembered the 1970 October Crisis. On 5 October 1970, Quebec terrorists abducted James Cross, CMG, but the person they assassinated was Pierre Laporte (25 February 1921 – 17 October 1970), Quebec’s very own Labour Minister. Given the above, it could well be that separatism, later called souveraineté-association and souveraineté, did replace the Church, not altogether, but to a greater or lesser extent. Only crusaders are capable of such intensity and somewhat incomprehensible behaviour.
And now, Quebec is losing investors. Matters were worse in 1977, just after René Lévesque (24 August 1922 – 1 November 1987), was elected to the Premiership of Quebec. But, financially, Quebecers are nevertheless suffering, which they may not realize. Yet, Canada is an officially bilingual country where the rights of French-speaking Canadians are respected.
As for my colleagues who were losing their residence and convent, that loss reflects, first and foremost, the needs of a new generation of students. More modern residences had been built. However, I believe my colleague’s losses are also linked to the weakening of religious orders in Quebec. The Congrégation de Notre-Dame is a Montreal religious order. Quebec remembers its founders, but the Church is no longer the powerful institution it had been since the seventeenth century.
I am providing links to French-language videos showing the 24 June 1968 Saint-Jean-Baptiste day riot. It seems these cannot be embedded. But I am also inserting a little video showing patriotesbeing taken to the gallows. The music is “À la claire fontaine,” perhaps the most Québécois of Québécois songs: an unofficial anthem.
In seventeenth-century France, it was of the utmost importance for the nobility to be in Paris. France was ruled not by Dukes, the highest rank among the nobility, and other aristocrats, but by chief ministers: Richelieu (9 September 1585 – 4 December 1642) and Mazarin (14 July 1602 – 9 March 1661). Aristocrats therefore feared losing power. Consequently, they lived close to court and they rebelled. La Fronde(des nobles and des parlements) was a series of civil wars that took place in France between 1648 and 1653.
To be seen by the king
When Louis XIV ascended the throne, in 1661, after Mazarin death, aristocrats were further humiliated. Louis refused to have a chief minister: “L’État, c’est moy.” As for members of his Conseil d’en haut (FR),en haut meant upstairs at Versailles, they were not members of the aristocracy. Louis’s closest advisors, le Conseil d’en haut, were members of the bourgeoisie.
Aristocrats therefore made sure they had a home in Paris as well as a carriage and fine horses. They wore clothes that had been purchased from the “bonnefaiseuse,” (designer clothes or the right brand of clothes [faiseur; faiseuse: maker]) so they would be allowed at court. The term “bonne faiseuse” is used in Molière’sPrécieuses ridicules (18 November 1659). Louis XIV lived publicly and according to a protocol. It was a privilege for courtiers to be present when Louis got up in the morning, le petit lever et le grand lever, and when he went to bed: the petit coucher, le grand coucher.
Therefore, as mentioned in an earlier article, the seventeenth century saw a gradual impoverishment of France’s aristocracy, which made it increasingly difficult for the nobility to provide dowries for several daughters. Moreover, there were affluent bourgeois who wanted a daughter to marry an aristocrat so they would leave the bourgeoisie, but could not afford to endow more than one daughter. Impoverished aristocrats marrying middle-class women did so in order to live in a style befitting their rank. In fact, marrying the right bourgeois could also be very expensive. Many were rich and some, very rich.
Molière’s Bourgeois gentilhomme,The Middle-Class Aristocrat (10 October 1670), provides a fine example of a bourgeois, monsieur Jourdain, who wants his daughter to marry an aristocrat so he will be an aristocrat. In order to marry Lucille, Jourdain’s daughter who loves him, Cléonte has to stage a turquerie, a play-within-a-play designed to fool monsieur Jourdain into believing his daughter is marrying the son of the Sultan of Turkey. We already know about turqueries.
For many of these young women, relegated to a cul de couvent, the hellhole of a convent,[i] going to New France was their chance to live a normal life. So far from being filles de joie, some filles du roy were almost literally filles du roy. Others were the daughters of a bourgeois who had paid so dearly for marrying a daughter to an aristocrat or an affluent bourgeois that other daughters had to enter a convent or marry “sans dot,” without a dowry, a husband who may not have been of their choosing. Moreover, there were poor bourgeois and orphaned or illegimate daughters who also had to be given an inexpensive roof: a convent.
So the Filles du Roy were not filles de joie. They came from convents. What they did not know is that they would live a difficult life in New France as would, two hundred years later, English-Canadian Susannah Moodie (6 December 1803 – 8 April 1885). When I first read Margaret Atwood‘s Journals of Susannah Moodie, I thought of the filles du roy.
In the Jesuit Relations and in the accounts of other missionaries, the Amerindian is often described as morally superior to Europeans and, especially, to the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants) inhabiting New France: Canada and Acadie. Therefore, before we discuss the nineteenth-century sentimentalist portrait of the Noble Savage or bon Sauvage, we should remember the missionaries to New France: the Récollets, and the Jesuits.
The Récollets or Recollects
The Récollets were the first missionaries to travel to New France. Brother Gabriel Sagard(fl. 1614–1636) arrived in New France on 28 June 1623 and was sent to accompany Father Viel. They travelled to Lake Huron to join Récollets, who had come to New France in 1615. Sagard wrote Le grand voyage au pays des Hurons (Paris, 1632), an Histoire du Canada (1636), in which Le grand voyage is retold, and a Dictionary of the Huron Language.
John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen) (b.c. 1760s Scotland (?)- d.after 1826, likely born and educated in Scotland, had a Scottish mother and a father who was born Cherokee in Tennessee but raised from boyhood with the English.
We know that “savages” were not always “noble savages.” The Iroquois tribes (SENECA, CAYUGA, ONEIDA, ONONDAGA and MOHAWK) were enemies of French-speaking settlers. I should note, therefore, that the five Amerindians who took Jolliet and Marquette down the Mississippi were bons sauvages. In fact, they were French Amerindians, or Métis.
So it would appear that métissage occurred from the earliest days of New France and that it may have occurred because Amerindians were bons sauvages. They were the voyageur‘s guides. How would the voyageurs have succeeded in their mission had the Amerindians not been “Noble Savages” who actually prepared their food: sagamité? Such were the Amerindians Jacques Marquette and Gabriel Sagard attempted to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Métissage itself provides proof of affinities not only between Canadiens and Amerindians, but also between British settlers and Amerindians. Although métissage was less frequent between the British and Amerindians, it happened. John Norton, a Métis born in Scotland to an Amerindian father, a Cherokee, and a Scottish mother, became a Mohawk Chief.
In the accounts of missionaries, the Amerindian is not always a bon sauvage. On the contrary. Amerindians tortured and killed several missionaries, but they were sometimes confused about their role. Converting Amerindians could become a moral dilemma. Why convert a people whose behaviour was different, but morally acceptable? The ambivalence of missionaries towards Amerindians and that of Amerindians towards the missionaries is central to Black Robe, a film mentioned below.
I admire the many “Black Robes” who learned Amerindian languages or otherwise expressed true devotion towards members of their little flock. I also admire such men as François de Laval (30 April 1623 – 6 May 1708), the first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec and a member of the distinguished Montmorency family, who threatened to excommunicate and probably did excommunicate French fur traders who gave alcohol to Amerindians in exchange for precious pelts.
Black Robe, a novel and a film,was discussed by one of my WordPress colleagues. But I cannot find the relevant blog. Black Robe is a 1991 film directed by Australian Bruce Beresford. The screenplay was written by Irish-Canadian author Brian Moore, who adapted it from his novel of the same name. The film stars Lothaire Bluteau and can be watched online. It was produced by an Australian and Canadian team and filmed in Quebec. I used to show it to my students. Below is part of the film. It is not the video I used previously. It featured French composer Georges Delerue (12 March 1925 – 20 March 1992), and it was exquisite, but it was removed.
From the story of Madeleine de Verchères, we know that among Amerindians, there were “Noble Savages” and “Savages” who were not so noble. We know moreover that Madeleine’s father was a member of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. However, the story of Madeleine de Verchères has not told us about the Carignan-Salières Regiment itself, whose members started to protect New France in 1665. Nor has it told us that, during the 1660s, France sent women to Canada. This matter was discussed in a post entitled Richelieu & Nouvelle-France, but is again relevant. We therefore require more information.
In the above-mentioned post, I wrote that “between 1663 and 1673, 500 to 900 Frenchwomen, the King’s Daughters (les filles du Roy), were given a dowry by king Louis XIV and sent to Nouvelle-France, if they were deemed sufficiently healthy to survive the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.”
The 1660’s were the early years of Louis XIV’s reign and he became interested in France’s North-American colonies. Since 1628, the Company of One Hundred Associates had ruled New France, but it was forced out of business in 1663 and Louis took charge. He in fact created a “Royal Government whereby France would run the government of New France through a Sovereign Council.” The Sovereign Council comprised a GOUVERNEUR (governor), a bishop, an INTENDANT and 5 councillors.[i]
In other words, to quote the Canadian Encyclopedia,
[i]n 1663 Louis XIV equipped the colony with a complete administrative system modelled on those used to govern French provinces.
However, hostile Amerindians, the Iroquois, were threathening the life of settlers. Attacks, such as the attack that would make Madeleine de Verchères a heroine in 1692, were becoming a genuine obstacle to the growth of the colony. How would the Filles du Roy and their husbands survive? The remedy consisted in the deployment of the Carignan-Salières Regiment.
(please click on the picture to enlarge it)
Le Régiment de Carignan-Salières
The Carignan-Salières Regiment combined two regiments, the Régiment de Carignan and the Balthasar Regiment. However, after the death of Balthasar, in 1665, the Régiment became the Régiment de Carignan-Salières. These were informal mergers. (Carignan-Salières Regiment, Wikipedia)
The Régiment de Carignan-Salières had fought against the Ottoman Turks in Hungary in 1664, but its main enemy as Régiment de Carignan-Balthasar had been the Spanish However, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), France no longer needed a large military force. Consequently, in 1665, the soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment were deployed to New France to protect the settlers from attacks by not-so-noble “savages.”
By November 1665, forts had been built along the Richelieu River, considered as the main invasion route. The French and Canadiens attacked the Mohawk Country in February 1666. Men were ambushed and the expedition had to retreat losing some 60 men on its return journey to Quebec City. It was midwinter, which seriously jeopardized the success of military operations.
The French attacked again in September 1666, but no Iroquois was to be found in Mohawk Country. Soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment burned the villages and cornfields and took possession of the Mohawk Country. Alexandre de Prouville, Marquis de Tracy was ruthless. He forced the Iroquois to convert to Roman Catholicism and to speak French as taught by the Jesuit missionaries. A mission village was set up for Catholic Mohawks at Kahnawake, south of Montreal.[iii]
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia “[i]n July 1667 the Iroquois finally came to terms. The regiment was recalled to France in 1668, but some 400 officers and men chose to remain and settled on seigneuries along the Rivière Richelieu, greatly strengthening the colony’s defences, military ethos, and economy.”[iv]
Back to Madeleine de Verchères
Those 400 officers and men proved a godsend to a previously feeble New France. It protected the colony, but they also settled New France. François Jarret de Verchères, Madeleine de Verchères’s father, was among the 400 officers and men who decided to stay behind. He was given a seigneury, married Marie Perrot, and built the fort his daughter defended on 22 October 1691.[v]
The Iroquois were defeated, but a defeated Iroquois may well be a more dangerous enemy than a victorious one.
My next post is a continuation of the Noble Savage, but I will pause briefly and deal with not-so-noble Amerindians by telling the story of Madeleine de Verchères[i] (3 March 1678 – 8 August 1747). Given the discrepancies between versions of this story, accuracy may remain a goal.
Madeleine de Verchères
In 1691, the Iroquois, the most ferocious among Amerindians and allies to the English, grew particularly aggressive. On 22 October 1692, at eight in the morning, the Iroquois captured about twenty settlers working in the fields, as was Madeleine. One caught up with Madeleine and grabbed her by her scarf. Madeleine untied her kerchief and got away.
Madeleine was the fourteen-year-old daughter of a seigneur. According to one account, she lived in a castle, but it appears she lived in a fort with other settlers, soldiers and cattle. Her father, François Jarret de Verchères[ii] had been a soldier with the Régiment de Carignan-Salières and would have built a fort, not a castle. On the day of the attack, 22 October 1692, only one soldier was at the fort.
Madeleine’s mother is described as a 33-year-old widow in one account, but according to another report, she and her husband were not at the fort on an infamous day. They had gone to purchase supplies.
Having entered the fort, Madeleine went to the bastions where there was a cannon. Madeleine fired the cannon to warn others and to call for reinforcement. (Madeleine de Verchères, Wikipedia)
She then asked the settlers and the soldier to make a massive noise so the Iroquois would be fooled into thinking the fort was well protected, and she started firing. She drove the Iroquois away, but they took the men they had captured.
According to Wikipedia, at one point, Madeleine noticed that settlers, the Fontaine family, were in a canoe returning to the fort. The soldier was too afraid to run to the landing dock and lead the Fontaine inside the fort, so Madeleine ran out and took them in.
In the Wikipedia entry, it is also reported that, when evening came, the cattle returned. Fearing that Iroquois were behind the cattle, Madeleine and her two brothers went out of the fort, under cover of darkness, to make sure there were no Iroquois dressed as cattle. The cattle had returned on their own and walked into the fort.
As for the captured settlers, they were tortured, which means that they were burned. It appears that these unfortunate captives were saved by a party of friendly Amerindians who found them in the region of Lake Champlain. It was possible to survive torture, depending on the severity of the wounds, the length of time the victim was tortured and resistance on the victim’s part. Pierre-Esprit Radisson was captured and tortured by Amerindians and survived.[iii]
However, an alternate and merciful account has a different ending. The day after the attack, reinforcement arrived, and the settlers were released. Madeleine reported that there were two deaths.
* * *
Despite differences, the accounts of Madeleine de Verchères tell of a young woman who saved a fort. Madeleine Jarret de Verchères is a Canadian heroine. Madeleine’s story was recorded by historian Claude Charles Le Roy de La Potherie.[iv]
Yesterday, I went to my Gmail account and read posts written by people who are following my blog. It was an education and I am not finished. At least two of my readers are investigating their French-Canadian and French ancestry.
The story of the French in North America is a lengthy tale and although Quebec is home to the largest concentration of French-speaking North Americans, French Canadians are everywhere in North America and a large number are in the United States. Let us raise that curtain.
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
The first to leave New France and find a home in the United States are the Huguenots (Reformed Church of France or Calvinist Protestants). There were many Huguenots in New France. They left when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, in October 1685.[ii]For instance, whenever the Bourbeau family, my mother’s family, has a reunion, most “relatives” comes from the United States. The Bourbeau family was a Huguenot family. Three Bourbeau families found refuge in Canada, but two left for the United States in 1685 so they could remain Huguenots. One Bourbeau family converted to Catholicism. They stayed in New France and are my ancestors.
In an early edition of his Histoire du Canada, written between 1845 and 1848, François-Xavier Garneau expressed the view that New France was weakened when the Huguenots left. However, he had to delete these comments to avoid condemnation on the part of the Church. His Histoire would have been à l’Index, or on the List of Prohibited Books.
The Tonquin in 1811 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many Canadiens who worked as voyageurs were employed by German- and Waldensian– born John Jacob Astor (July 17, 1763 – March 29, 1848).[iii] Upon retirement, they settled in Minnesota, but many moved to other parts of the United States.
In fact, John Jacob Astor so trusted one of his voyageurs, Gabriel Franchère (3 Nov. 1786 in Montreal – 12 April 1863 in St Paul, Minn), that he asked him to take voyageurs from New York to Fort Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, in the Oregon Country. These voyageurs, some of whom were employees of the North West Company, based in Montreal, traveled on the Tonquin around Cape Horn. The Tonquin was purchased by American John Jacob Astor on August 23, 1810, the day John Jacob founded the Pacific Fur Company. It left New York on September 8, 1810 and reached its destination on March 22, 1811.
Gabriel Franchère returned to Montreal, married and wrote his memoirs for his family and friends. However his manuscript was edited and published by Michel Bibaud in 1820. After spending several years in Montreal, Franchère went back to the United States and died in St Paul, Minnesota.
It is possible to follow the path of Canadiens voyageurs who worked for John Jacob Astor. They gave French names to rivers, forts and other locations. For example, it has been suggested that Ozark comes from aux arcs, at the arches, because of bends in a river. I heard this on A&E.
Other inhabitants of New France who became Americans are Acadians deported in 1755. Some boats did not sail down the Thirteen Colonies, but some did. The deportees stayed aboard until one of the colonies, Georgia, allowed them to leave their ships. A few of these Acadians found their way back to Canada’s current Atlantic provinces, but many traveled from Georgia to Louisiana, another province of New France, and are known as Cajuns.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882) immortalized the Great Expulsion (le grand dérangement [the great disturbance]) by creating a fictional Évangéline whom Acadians transformed into their héroïne. The mythic Évangéline is alive in the mind of Acadians.
French Canadians and Acadians: US Migration
Moreover, close to a million French Canadians and Acadians left Quebec or Acadie because they could not find employment in Canada. This period of Canadian history, the USA Migration FR (1840-1930), is often referred to as l’Exode. I have an American grandfather. He could not find work in Canada. My grandmother stayed in Canada, but my grandfather rebuilt his life in Massachusetts. I would never have met him had my mother not decided that her children would have at least one grandfather. Her father had died.
In fact, many of the voyageurs were French Canadians or Canadiens who could not find employment on the shores of the St Lawrence. The thirty acres of land they had rented from a seigneur since the seventeenth century could no longer be divided. Some retired near the Red River in Manitoba, but the voyageurs who had been in the employ of John Jacob Astor became Americans. These could be considered exode French-Canadians.
The above seem the main groups of Canadiens who became Americans. But there may be others. For instance, the people of Louisiana, other than the Cajuns, were also French, but traditionally Canada and Acadie have been considered the provinces of New France. Until recently, Louisiana was not looked upon as a province of New France.
Therefore, the French-speaking inhabitants of Louisiana are the descendants of the French who settled in Louisiana and did not return to France after the Louisiana Purchase (1803). They are not descendants of French-Canadians. Acadiens, called Cajuns, are the descendants of Acadiens who were deported and settled in or near Baton Rouge when Louisiana was still a French colony. Other French-Canadians are descendants of voyageurs, or French-speaking Canadians who left New France to avoid religious persecutions or migrated south because they could no longer earn a living in Canada.
I will conclude by saying that French Canada and the United States are inextricably linked because of migrations from New France and Canada to the United States. Many, if not most, Americans of French-Canadian descent do not speak French, but we share cultural affinities and a collective memory. Historical events have linked Americans and French-Canadians. There is a brotherhood among us, a brotherhood I celebrate.
[ii] The Edict of Nantes, an edict of tolerance, was issued on 13 April 1598, by Henri IV, king of France and Navarre. Henri IV had been a Huguenot. He is famous for have said that “Paris (being King) was well worth a mass” (Paris vaut bien une messe). The first expeditions to Canada, Acadie to be precise, were undertaken during his reign by Pierre Du Gua de Monts (c. 1558 – 1628) a Huguenot, and Champlain, also a Huguenot but less visibly.
This blog is a continuation of my blog on Patrice Lacombe’s Terre paternelle. It also deals with regionalism in Quebec literature. However, the author of the novel we will peruse, Charles Guérin (online text, in French) was is a prominent Canadian who helped lead Canada into confederation and was Quebec’s first Premier, among other achievements listed in Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau: Biographical Notes. His novel is well written, but it reflects a facet of its author’s imagination that suggests a divided man. This novel is the expression of the subconcious mind. In other words, there was a public Pierre-Joseph-Oliver Chauveau, but Charles Guérin is the portrait of the very private author of Charles Guérin.
Charles Guérin is a roman du terroir, a regionalistic novel, published the same year as Patrice Lacombe’s Terre paternelle. However, with Chauveau, the plot of our story of regionalism takes on new dimensions. Although it is a roman du terroir, Charles Guérin is nevertheless the work of a major public figure and a leader. However, the subconscious has its dictates that may be at odds with the dictates of the conscious self and I doubt very much that we can draw too wide a line between our public self and our innermost private self. We are the sum total of our private and public selves.
We are in the 1830s. Charles Guérin is the story of two brothers, Charles and Pierre, who, having completed their études classiques, realize that there are very few careers French-Canadians can enter. Students pursued their étudesclassiques in a Petit Séminaire, a private teaching establishment. Only the études classiques gave access to University studies. The études classiques have now been replaced by a two-year tuition-free programme taught in a CEGEP (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel). Students enter a Cegepafter grade eleven and upon completion of the two-year programme, they can then enroll in a university.
Two Brothers: a Dilemma
Realizing that their choices are the priesthood (le Grand Séminaire), law, and medicine, one brother, Pierre Guérin, who has thought of becoming a businessman leaves for France. As for Charles, he decides to study Law. In Quebec City, Charles falls in love with Marichette,[i] a peasant’s daughter. However, during a study break he goes home and meets Clorinde, an Englishman’s daughter and his mother’s tenant, Mr Wagnaër. Madame Guérin is a widow who needs to rent part of her SEIGNEURIE in order to pay for her son’s education.
Charles meets Clorinde
During a break, Charles meets Clorinde and is smitten. He falls in love with her and acts as though he does not already have a lady friend, Marichette. Wagnaër would like to own the SEIGNEURIE, located on the south side of the St Lawrence river. At first, he hopes to woo Madame Guerin, but she will not marry him.
Charles loses the ancestral Seigneurie
However, given that Charles is in love with his daughter, Wagnaër sees and seizes the opportunity he needed. He has an accomplice in Henri Voisin, a disloyal friend. A plot is hatched. Wagnaër manages to make our love-stricken Charles sign lettres de créance (letters of credit), making Charles his debtor. Charles loses the ancestral SEIGNEURIE, his inheritance.
Charles’s salvation: Agriculture
As in LaTerre Paternelle, the second son returns. Pierre has become a priest and cannot help his brother financially, but they are at least reunited. Charles is also reunited with Marichette. They inherit land from Charles’ employer, Monsieur Dumont, and live there with friends who do not want to leave Canada. So, once again, all is well that ends well. A farmer is not a SEIGNEUR but, in the Quebec of Chauveau’s youth, or the Bas-Canada of the 1830s, one could not do better than till the land, as had been Richelieu‘s wish. Québécois are depicted as hereditary cultivateurs: farmers.
“Agriculture : Cette grande et noble occupation, seule base de la prospérité des peuples, est suivie par la très grande majorité des habitants du Canada.” (p. 676) (Farming: this grand and noble occupation, on which is altogether founded the prosperity of nations, is the one the majority of the inhabitants of Canada [Quebec] choose.)
The Shrinking 30 Acres
However, the habitant’s 30 acres are shrinking, so the time has come for the habitant‘s son to move to the city. That was nightmarish for the inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. The Canadien was unskilled and those who tried to become businessmen usually lost their business. Moreover, there were very few factories in Quebec.
As a politician, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau sold farming land at very low prices because French-Canadians had started moving to the United States, where there were factories. Consequently, nearly a million French-Canadians and Acadians left the Dominion of Canada. They could not find work.
Those among you who have read Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine or my post on Maria Chapdelaine,[ii] know that Maria makes the “patriotic” choice, although unknowingly, when she chooses to marry Eutrope Gagnon, who is a “cultivateur.” She could have married Lorenzo Surprenant and lived an easier life in the United States.
Quebec is a large province, but only part of its vast territory can be used as farmland. Making land (faire de la terre), as the Curé Labelle advocated, was to a large extent an unrealistic proposition. How does one turn rock into arable land, which is what Maria Chapdelaine’s father has chosen to do?
At that time in history, the birthrate in Quebec was very high, but as soon as they had reached adulthood, men had to go where they could make a living: the United States, even if this choice was deemed unpatriotic.
Let us listen to Charles Guérin. Just outside the Church, where parishioners gather, Charles preaches to those who will not hear that there is cowardice (lâcheté) in leaving one’s country, that one may lose one’s faith (perdre sa foi) and traditional values [moral values and customs, or les mœurs] in a foreign land (à l’étranger).
Charles rassembla à la porte de l’église tous les fugitifs et il leur fit un magnifique sermon en trois points sur la lâcheté qu’il y avait d’abandonner son pays, sur les dangers que l’on courait de perdre sa foi et ses mœurs à l’étranger, sur l’avantage et le patriotisme de fonder de nouveaux établissements sur les terres fertiles de notre propre pays. (pp. 608-609)
Here again, as in La Terre Paternelle, farming is the preferred occupation for patriotic Québécois. So, despite losing the ancestral SEIGNEURIE, Charles and Marichette are fortunate. They inherit land and Marichette is an early portrait of Maria Chapdelaine. The dominant ideology is one occupation: farming; one language: French; and one religion: Catholicism. It resembles French absolute monarchy: one language, one religion, except that the monarch is a farmer.
However, the cast of this novel includes an Englishman to whom Charles loses the ancestral land. So, although there was only a treaty, the Treaty of Paris (1763), not altogether a “conquest,” Charles reenacts the loss of his land to the British and the Englishman happens to be an “ugly” Englishman. Losing one’s land becomes the national plight and in Chauveau’s Charles Guérin the land is lost to a conniving Englishman. They therefore re-lives the Battle of the Plains of Abraham down to the ethnicity of the “conqueror.”
In a letter his mother does not read until after he has left, Pierre Guérin writes that he would like to be a businessman, but not a Wagnaër, as Mr Wagnaër and people of his ilk destroy the forests as though there were no tomorrow. The forest is the land. Once the foreigner conquers the land, he destroys it.
Moreover, Charles Guérin,in discussions with his friends, says that he fears the Canadien will lose his language, a language he cannot dissociate from the Canadien‘s religion.
Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau was a brilliant and enormously successful man. He was as accomplished as an individual can be. So I will end by saying that the author of Charles Guérin is and is not Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau. Chauveau’s novel reveals a dispossessed innermost self: the fictitious Charles. Yet, the author or public Charles was the Honourable Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, the first premier of the Province of Quebec.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify the artist whose art work I have used. These are lovely works of art. Chauveau was a member of the École littéraire de Québec and members, including historian François-Xavier Garneau, a close friend, met at Crémazie’s Bookstore, la Boutique à Crémazie Chauveau was born in Charlesbourg near Quebec City. There were years he had to spend in Ottawa, but he lived in Quebec City and Quebec City is where he died.