CHAPTER III. THE FOUNDING OF NEW FRANCE
Champlain's portrait, attributed to Moncornet, shows us a sturdy, broad-shouldered frame, with features in keeping. Unhappily we have no assurance that it is a faithful likeness. No one, however, can deny that the mariner of Brouage, with his extraordinary perseverance and energy, was admirably fitted to be the pathfinder to a new realm. Not often does one encounter in the annals of any nation a man of greater tenacity and patience. Chagrin and disappointment he had to meet on many occasions, but he was never baffled nor moved to concede defeat. His perseverance, however, was not greater than his modesty, for never in his writings did he magnify his difficulties nor exalt his own powers of overcoming them, as was too much the fashion of his day. As a writer, his style was plain and direct, with, no attempt at embellishment and no indication that strong emotions ever had much influence upon his pen. He was essentially a man of action, and his narrative is in the main a simple record of such a man's achievements. His character was above reproach; no one ever impugned his honesty or his sincere devotion to the best interests of his superiors. To his Church he was loyal in the last degree; and it was under his auspices that the first of the Jesuit missionaries came to begin the enduring work which the Order was destined to accomplish in New France.
On the death of Champlain the Company appointed the Sieur de Montmagny to be governor of the colony. He was an ardent sympathizer with the aims of the Jesuits, and life at Quebec soon became almost monastic in its austerity. The Jesuits sent home each year their Relations, and, as these were widely read, they created great interest in the spiritual affairs of the colony. The call for zealots to carry the cross westward into the wilderness met ready response, and it was amid a glow of religious fervor that the settlement at Montreal was brought into being. A company was formed in France, funds were obtained, and a band of forty-four colonists was recruited for the crusade into the wilderness. The Sieur de Maisonneuve, a gallant soldier and a loyal devotee of the Church, was the active leader of the enterprise, with Jeanne Mance, an ardent young religionist of high motives and fine character, as his principal coadjutor. Fortune dealt kindly with the project, and Montreal began its history in 1642.
A few years later Montmagny gave up his post and returned to France. With the limited resources at his disposal, he had served the colony well, and had left it stronger and more prosperous than when he came. His successor was M. D'Ailleboust, who had been for some time in the country, and who was consequently no stranger to its needs. On his appointment a council was created, to consist of the governor of the colony, the bishop or the superior of the Jesuits, and the governor of Montreal. Henceforth this body was to be responsible for the making of all general regulations. It is commonly called the Old Council to distinguish it from the Sovereign Council by which it was supplanted in 1663.
The opening years of the new administration were marked by one of the greatest of forest tragedies, the destruction of the Hurons. In 1648 a party of Iroquois warriors made their way across Lake Ontario and overland to the Huron country, where they destroyed one large village. Emboldened by this success, a much larger body of the tribesmen returned in the year following and completed their bloody work. A dozen or more Huron settlements were attacked and laid waste with wanton slaughter. Two Jesuit priests, Lalemant and Brebeuf, who were laboring among the Hurons, were taken and burned at the stake after suffering atrocious tortures. The remnants of the tribe were scattered: a few found shelter on the islands of the Georgian Bay, while others took refuge with the French and were given a tract of land at Sillery, near Quebec. To the French colony the extirpation of the Hurons came as a severe blow. It weakened their prestige in the west, it cut off a lucrative source of fur supply, and it involved the loss of faithful allies.
More ominous still, the Iroquois by the success of their forays into the Huron country endangered the French settlement at Montreal. Glorying in their prowess, these warriors now boasted that they would leave the Frenchmen no peace but in their graves. And they proceeded to make good their threatenings. Bands of confederates spread themselves about the region near Montreal, pouncing lynx-like from the forest upon any who ventured outside the immediate boundaries of the settlement. For a time the people were in despair, but the colony soon gained a breathing space, not by its own efforts, but from a diversion of Iroquois enmity to other quarters.
About 1652 the confederated tribes undertook their famous expedition against the Eries, whose country lay along the south shore of the lake which bears their name, and this enterprise for the time absorbed the bulk of the Iroquois energy. The next governor of New France, De Lauzon, regarded the moment as opportune for peace negotiations, on the hypothesis that the idea of waging only one war at a time might appeal to the Five Nations as sound policy. A mission was accordingly sent to the Iroquois, headed by the Jesuit missionary Le Moyne, and for a time it seemed as if arrangements for a lasting peace might be made. But there was no sincerity in the Iroquois professions. Their real interest lay in peaceful relations with the Dutch and the English; the French were their logical enemies; and when the Iroquois had finished with the Eries their insolence quickly showed itself once more.