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Priests and Puritan

 Native American Nations | The Jesuits in North America                    

 

Before passing to the closing scenes of this wilderness drama, we will touch briefly on a few points aside from its main action, yet essential to an understanding of the scope of the mission. Besides their establishments at Quebec, Sillery, Three Rivers, and the neighborhood of Lake Huron, the Jesuits had an outlying post at the island of Miscou, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near the entrance of the Bay of Chaleurs, where they instructed the wandering savages of those shores, and confessed the French fishermen. The island was unhealthy in the extreme. Several of the priests sickened and died; and scarcely one convert repaid their toils. There was a more successful mission at Tadoussac, or Sadilege, as the neighboring Indians called it. In winter, this place was a solitude; but in summer, when the Montagnais gathered from their hunting-grounds to meet the French traders, Jesuits came yearly from Quebec to instruct them in the Faith. Some times they followed them northward, into wilds where, at this day, a white man rarely penetrates. Thus, in 1646, De Quen ascended the Saguenay, and, by a series of rivers, torrents, lakes, and rapids, reached a Montagnais horde called the Nation of the Porcupine, where he found that the teachings at Tadoussac had borne fruit, and that the converts had planted a cross on the borders of the savage lake where they dwelt. There was a kindred band, the Nation of the White Fish, among the rocks and forests north of Three Rivers. They proved tractable beyond all others, threw away their "medicines" or fetiches, burned their magic drums, renounced their medicine-songs, and accepted instead rosaries, crucifixes, and versions of Catholic hymns.

In a former chapter, we followed Father Paul Le Jeune on his winter roamings, with a band of Montagnais, among the forests on the northern boundary of Maine. Now Father Gabriel Druilletes sets forth on a similar excursion, but with one essential difference. Le Jeune's companions were heathen, who persecuted him day and night with their gibes and sarcasms. Those of Druilletes were all converts, who looked on him as a friend and a father. There were prayers, confessions, masses, and invocations of St. Joseph. They built their bark chapel at every camp, and no festival of the Church passed unobserved. On Good Friday they laid their best robe of beaver-skin on the snow, placed on it a crucifix, and knelt around it in prayer. What was their prayer? It was a petition for the forgiveness and the conversion of their enemies, the Iroquois. [Vimont, Relation, 1645, 16.] Those who know the intensity and tenacity of an Indian's hatred will see in this something more than a change from one superstition to another. An idea had been presented to the mind of the savage, to which he had previously been an utter stranger. This is the most remarkable record of success in the whole body of the Jesuit Relations; but it is very far from being the only evidence, that, in teaching the dogmas and observances of the Roman Church, the missionaries taught also the morals of Christianity. When we look for the results of these missions, we soon become aware that the influence of the French and the Jesuits extended far beyond the circle of converts. It eventually modified and softened the manners of many unconverted tribes. In the wars of the next century we do not often find those examples of diabolic atrocity with which the earlier annals are crowded. The savage burned his enemies alive, it is true, but he rarely ate them; neither did he torment them with the same deliberation and persistency. He was a savage still, but not so often a devil. The improvement was not great, but it was distinct; and it seems to have taken place wherever Indian tribes were in close relations with any respectable community of white men. Thus Philip's war in New England, cruel as it was, was less ferocious, judging from Canadian experience, than it would have been, if a generation of civilized intercourse had not worn down the sharpest asperities of barbarism. Yet it was to French priests and colonists, mingled as they were soon to be among the tribes of the vast interior, that the change is chiefly to be ascribed. In this softening of manners, such as it was, and in the obedient Catholicity of a few hundred tamed savages gathered at stationary missions in various parts of Canada, we find, after a century had elapsed, all the results of the heroic toil of the Jesuits. The missions had failed, because the Indians had ceased to exist. Of the great tribes on whom rested the hopes of the early Canadian Fathers, nearly all were virtually extinct. The missionaries built laboriously and well, but they were doomed to build on a failing foundation. The Indians melted away, not because civilization destroyed them, but because their own ferocity and intractable indolence made it impossible that they should exist in its presence. Either the plastic energies of a higher race or the servile pliancy of a lower one would, each in its way, have preserved them: as it was, their extinction was a foregone conclusion. As for the religion which the Jesuits taught them, however Protestants may carp at it, it was the only form of Christianity likely to take root in their crude and barbarous nature.

To return to Druilletes. The smoke of the wigwam blinded him; and it is no matter of surprise to hear that he was cured by a miracle. He returned from his winter roving to Quebec in high health, and soon set forth on a new mission. On the River Kennebec, in the present State of Maine, dwelt the Abenaquis, an Algonquin people, destined hereafter to become a thorn in the sides of the New-England colonists. Some of them had visited their friends, the Christian Indians of Sillery. Here they became converted, went home, and preached the Faith to their countrymen, and this to such purpose that the Abenaquis sent to Quebec to ask for a missionary. Apart from the saving of souls, there were solid reasons for acceding to their request. The Abenaquis were near the colonies of New England,--indeed, the Plymouth colony, under its charter, claimed jurisdiction over them; and in case of rupture, they would prove serviceable friends or dangerous enemies to New France. [Charlevoix, I. 280, gives this as a motive of the mission.] Their messengers were favorably received; and Druilletes was ordered to proceed upon the new mission.

He left Sillery, with a party of Indians, on the twenty-ninth of August, 1646, [Lalemant, Relation, 1647, 51.] and following, as it seems, the route by which, a hundred and twenty-nine years later, the soldiers of Arnold made their way to Quebec, he reached the waters of the Kennebec and descended to the Abenaqui villages. Here he nursed the sick, baptized the dying, and gave such instruction as, in his ignorance of the language, he was able. Apparently he had been ordered to reconnoiter; for he presently descended the river from Norridgewock to the first English trading-post, where Augusta now stands. Thence he continued his journey to the sea, and followed the coast in a canoe to the Penobscot, visiting seven or eight English posts on the way, where, to his surprise, he was very well received. At the Penobscot he found several Capuchin friars, under their Superior, Father Ignace, who welcomed him with the utmost cordiality. Returning, he again ascended the Kennebec to the English post at Augusta. At a spot three miles above the Indians had gathered in considerable numbers, and here they built him a chapel after their fashion. He remained till midwinter, catechizing and baptizing, and waging war so successfully against the Indian sorcerers, that medicine-bags were thrown away, and charms and incantations were supplanted by prayers. In January the whole troop set off on their grand hunt, Druilletes following them, "with toil," says the chronicler, "too great to buy the kingdoms of this world, but very small as a price for the Kingdom of Heaven." [Lalemant, Relation, 1647, 54. For an account of this mission, see also Maurault, Histoire des Abenakis, 116-156.] They encamped on Moosehead Lake, where new disputes with the "medicine-men" ensued, and the Father again remained master of the field. When, after a prosperous hunt, the party returned to the English trading-house, John Winslow, the agent in charge again received the missionary with a kindness which showed no trace of jealousy or religious prejudice.

[Winslow would scarcely have recognized his own name in the Jesuit spelling,--"Le Sieur de Houinslaud." In his journal of 1650 Druilletes is more successful in his orthography, and spells it Winslau.]

Early in the summer Druilletes went to Quebec; and during the two following years, the Abenaquis, for reasons which are not clear, were left without a missionary. He spent another winter of extreme hardship with the Algonquins on their winter roving, and during summer instructed the wandering savages of Tadoussac. It was not until the autumn of 1650 that he again descended the Kennebec. This time he went as an envoy charged with the negotiation of a treaty. His journey is worthy of notice, since, with the unimportant exception of Jogues's embassy to the Mohawks, it is the first occasion on which the Canadian Jesuits appear in a character distinctly political. Afterwards, when the fervor and freshness of the missions had passed away, they frequently did the work of political agents among the Indians: but the Jesuit of the earlier period was, with rare exceptions, a missionary only; and though he was expected to exert a powerful influence in gaining subjects and allies for France, he was to do so by gathering them under the wings of the Church.

The Colony of Massachusetts had applied to the French officials at Quebec, with a view to a reciprocity of trade. The Iroquois had brought Canada to extremity, and the French Governor conceived the hope of gaining the powerful support of New England by granting the desired privileges on condition of military aid. But, as the Puritans would scarcely see it for their interest to provoke a dangerous enemy, who had thus far never molested them, it was resolved to urge the proposed alliance as a point of duty. The Abenaquis had suffered from Mohawk inroads; and the French, assuming for the occasion that they were under the jurisdiction of the English colonies, argued that they were bound to protect them. Druilletes went in a double character,--as an envoy of the government at Quebec, and as an agent of his Abenaqui flock, who had been advised to petition for English assistance. The time seemed inauspicious for a Jesuit visit to Boston; for not only had it been announced as foremost among the objects in colonizing New England, "to raise a bulwark against the kingdom of Antichrist, which the Jesuits labor to rear up in all places of the world,"1 but, three years before, the Legislature of Massachusetts had enacted, that Jesuits entering the colony should be expelled, and if they returned, hanged.2

Nevertheless, on the first of September, Druilletes set forth from Quebec with a Christian chief of Sillery, crossed forests, mountains, and torrents, and reached Norridgewock, the highest Abenaqui settlement on the Kennebec. Thence he descended to the English trading-house at Augusta, where his fast friend, the Puritan Winslow, gave him a warm welcome, entertained him hospitably, and promised to forward the object of his mission. He went with him, at great personal inconvenience, to Merrymeeting Bay, where Druilletes embarked in an English vessel for Boston. The passage was stormy, and the wind ahead. He was forced to land at Cape Ann, or, as he calls it, _Kepane_, whence, partly on foot, partly in boats along the shore, he made his way to Boston. The three-hilled city of the Puritans lay chill and dreary under a December sky, as the priest crossed in a boat from the neighboring peninsula of Charlestown.

Winslow was agent for the merchant, Edward Gibbons, a personage of note, whose life presents curious phases,--a reveller of Merry Mount, a bold sailor, a member of the church, an adventurous trader, an associate of buccaneers, a magistrate of the commonwealth, and a major-general.3 The Jesuit, with credentials from the Governor of Canada and letters from Winslow, met a reception widely different from that which the law enjoined against persons of his profession.4 Gibbons welcomed him heartily, prayed him to accept no other lodging than his house while he remained in Boston, and gave him the key of a chamber, in order that he might pray after his own fashion, without fear of disturbance. An accurate Catholic writer thinks it likely that he brought with him the means of celebrating the Mass. [J. G. Shea, in Boston Pilot.] If so, the house of the Puritan was, no doubt, desecrated by that Popish abomination; but be this as it may, Massachusetts, in the person of her magistrate, became the gracious host of one of those whom, next to the Devil and an Anglican bishop, she most abhorred.

On the next day, Gibbons took his guest to Roxbury,--called _Rogsbray_ by Druilletes,--to see the Governor, the harsh and narrow Dudley, grown gray in repellent virtue and grim honesty. Some half a century before, he had served in France, under Henry the Fourth; but he had forgotten his French, and called for an interpreter to explain the visitor's credentials. He received Druilletes with courtesy, and promised to call the magistrates together on the following Tuesday to hear his proposals. They met accordingly, and Druilletes was asked to dine with them. The old Governor sat at the head of the table, and after dinner invited the guest to open the business of his embassy. They listened to him, desired him to withdraw, and, after consulting among themselves, sent for him to join them again at supper, when they made him an answer, of which the record is lost, but which evidently was not definitive.

As the Abenaqui Indians were within the jurisdiction of Plymouth,5 Druilletes proceeded thither in his character of their agent. Here, again, he was received with courtesy and kindness. Governor Bradford invited him to dine, and, as it was Friday, considerately gave him a dinner of fish. Druilletes conceived great hope that the colony could be wrought upon to give the desired assistance; for some of the chief inhabitants had an interest in the trade with the Abenaquis.6 He came back by land to Boston, stopping again at Roxbury on the way. It was night when he arrived; and, after the usual custom, he took lodging with the minister. Here were several young Indians, pupils of his host: for he was no other than the celebrated Eliot, who, during the past summer, had established his mission at Natick,7 and was now laboring, in the fullness of his zeal, in the work of civilization and conversion. There was great sympathy between the two missionaries; and Eliot prayed his guest to spend the winter with him.

At Salem, which Druilletes also visited, in company with the minister of Marblehead, he had an interview with the stern, but manly, Endicott, who, he says, spoke French, and expressed both interest and good-will towards the objects of the expedition. As the envoy had no money left, Endicott paid his charges, and asked him to dine with the magistrates.

[On Druilletes's visit to New England, see his journal, entitled Narre du Voyage faict pour la Mission des Abenaquois, et des Connoissances tiréz de la Nouvelle Angleterre et des Dispositions des Magistrats de cette Republique pour le Secours contre les Iroquois. See also Druilletes, Rapport sur le Résultat deses Négotiations, in Ferland, Notes sur les Registres, 95.]

Druilletes was evidently struck with the thrift and vigor of these sturdy young colonies, and the strength of their population. He says that Boston, meaning Massachusetts, could alone furnish four thousand fighting men, and that the four united colonies could count forty thousand souls.8 These numbers may be challenged; but, at all events, the contrast was striking with the attenuated and suffering bands of priests, nuns, and fur-traders on the St. Lawrence. About twenty-one thousand persons had come from Old to New England, with the resolve of making it their home; and though this immigration had virtually ceased, the natural increase had been great. The necessity, or the strong desire, of escaping from persecution had given the impulse to Puritan colonization; while, on the other hand, none but good Catholics, the favored class of France, were tolerated in Canada. These had no motive for exchanging the comforts of home and the smiles of Fortune for a starving wilderness and the scalping-knives of the Iroquois. The Huguenots would have emigrated in swarms; but they were rigidly forbidden. The zeal of propagandism and the fur-trade were, as we have seen, the vital forces of New France. Of her feeble population, the best part was bound to perpetual chastity; while the fur-traders and those in their service rarely brought their wives to the wilderness. The fur-trader, moreover, is always the worst of colonists; since the increase of population, by diminishing the numbers of the fur-bearing animals, is adverse to his interest. But behind all this there was in the religious ideal of the rival colonies an influence which alone would have gone far to produce the contrast in material growth.

To the mind of the Puritan, heaven was God's throne; but no less was the earth His footstool: and each in its degree and its kind had its demands on man. He held it a duty to labor and to multiply; and, building on the Old Testament quite as much as on the New, thought that a reward on earth as well as in heaven awaited those who were faithful to the law. Doubtless, such a belief is widely open to abuse, and it would be folly to pretend that it escaped abuse in New England; but there was in it an element manly, healthful, and invigorating. On the other hand, those who shaped the character, and in great measure the destiny, of New France had always on their lips the nothingness and the vanity of life. For them, time was nothing but a preparation for eternity, and the highest virtue consisted in a renunciation of all the cares, toils, and interests of earth. That such a doctrine has often been joined to an intense worldliness, all history proclaims; but with this we have at present nothing to do. If all mankind acted on it in good faith, the world would sink into decrepitude. It is the monastic idea carried into the wide field of active life, and is like the error of those who, in their zeal to cultivate their higher nature, suffer the neglected body to dwindle and pine, till body and mind alike lapse into feebleness and disease.

Druilletes returned to the Abenaquis, and thence to Quebec, full of hope that the object of his mission was in a fair way of accomplishment. The Governor, d'Ailleboust,9 who had succeeded Montmagny, called his council, and Druilletes was again dispatched to New England, together with one of the principal inhabitants of Quebec, Jean Paul Godefroy.10 They repaired to New Haven, and appeared before the Commissioners of the Four Colonies, then in session there; but their errand proved bootless. The Commissioners refused either to declare war or to permit volunteers to be raised in New England against the Iroquois. The Puritan, like his descendant, would not fight without a reason. The bait of free-trade with Canada failed to tempt him; and the envoys retraced their steps, with a flat, though courteous refusal.11

Now let us stop for a moment at Quebec, and observe some notable changes that had taken place in the affairs of the colony. The Company of the Hundred Associates, whose outlay had been great and their profit small, transferred to the inhabitants of the colony their monopoly of the fur-trade, and with it their debts. The inhabitants also assumed their obligations to furnish arms, munitions, soldiers, and works of defense, to pay the Governor and other officials, introduce emigrants, and contribute to support the missions. The Company was to receive, besides, an annual acknowledgement of a thousand pounds of beaver, and was to retain all seigniorial rights. The inhabitants were to form a corporation, of which any one of them might be a member; and no individual could trade on his own account, except on condition of selling at a fixed price to the magazine of this new company.

[Articles accordés entre les Directeurs et Associés de la Compagnie de la Nelle France et les Députés des Habitans du dit Pays, 6 Mars, 1645. MS.]

This change took place in 1645. It was followed, in 1647, by the establishment of a Council, composed of the Governor-General, the Superior of the Jesuits, and the Governor of Montreal, who were invested with absolute powers, legislative, judicial, and executive. The Governor-General had an appointment of twenty-five thousand livres, besides the privilege of bringing over seventy tons of freight, yearly, in the Company's ships. Out of this he was required to pay the soldiers, repair the forts, and supply arms and munitions. Ten thousand livres and thirty tons of freight, with similar conditions, were assigned to the Governor of Montreal. Under these circumstances, one cannot wonder that the colony was but indifferently defended against the Iroquois, and that the King had to send soldiers to save it from destruction. In the next year, at the instance of Maisonneuve, another change was made. A specified sum was set apart for purposes of defense, and the salaries of the Governors were proportionably reduced. The Governor-General, Montmagny, though he seems to have done better than could reasonably have been expected, was removed; and, as Maisonneuve declined the office, d'Ailleboust, another Montrealist, was appointed to it. This movement, indeed, had been accomplished by the interest of the Montreal party; for already there was no slight jealousy between Quebec and her rival.

The Council was reorganized, and now consisted of the Governor, the Superior of the Jesuits, and three of the principal inhabitants. [The Governors of Montreal and Three Rivers, when present had also seats in the Council.] These last were to be chosen every three years by the Council itself, in conjunction with the Syndics of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers. The Syndic was an officer elected by the inhabitants of the community to which he belonged, to manage its affairs. Hence a slight ingredient of liberty was introduced into the new organization.

The colony, since the transfer of the fur-trade, had become a resident corporation of merchants, with the Governor and Council at its head. They were at once the directors of a trading company, a legislative assembly, a court of justice, and an executive body: more even than this, for they regulated the private affairs of families and individuals. The appointment and payment of clerks and the examining of accounts mingled with high functions of government; and the new corporation of the inhabitants seems to have been managed with very little consultation of its members. How the Father Superior acquitted himself in his capacity of director of a fur-company is nowhere recorded.

[Those curious in regard to these new regulations will find an account of them, at greater length, in Ferland and Faillon.]

As for Montreal, though it had given a Governor to the colony, its prospects were far from hopeful. The ridiculous Dauversière, its chief founder, was sick and bankrupt; and the Associates of Montreal, once so full of zeal and so abounding in wealth, were reduced to nine persons. What it had left of vitality was in the enthusiastic Mademoiselle Mance, the earnest and disinterested soldier, Maisonneuve, and the priest, Olier, with his new Seminary of St. Sulpice.

Let us visit Quebec in midwinter. We pass the warehouses and dwellings of the lower town, and as we climb the zigzag way now called Mountain Street, the frozen river, the roofs, the summits of the cliff, and all the broad landscape below and around us glare in the sharp sunlight with a dazzling whiteness. At the top, scarcely a private house is to be seen; but, instead, a fort, a church, a hospital, a cemetery, a house of the Jesuits, and an Ursuline convent. Yet, regardless of the keen air, soldiers, Jesuits, servants, officials, women, all of the little community who are not cloistered, are abroad and astir. Despite the gloom of the times, an unwonted cheer enlivens this rocky perch of France and the Faith; for it is New-Year's Day, and there is an active interchange of greetings and presents. Thanks to the nimble pen of the Father Superior, we know what each gave and what each received. He thus writes in his private journal:--"The soldiers went with their guns to salute Monsieur the Governor; and so did also the inhabitants in a body. He was beforehand with us, and came here at seven o'clock to wish us a happy New-Year, each in turn, one after another. I went to see him after mass. Another time we must be beforehand with him. M. Giffard also came to see us. The Hospital nuns sent us letters of compliment very early in the morning; and the Ursulines sent us some beautiful presents, with candles, rosaries, a crucifix, etc., and, at dinner time, two excellent pies. I sent them two images, in enamel, of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier. We gave to M. Giffard Father Bonnet's book on the life of Our Lord; to M. des Châtelets, a little volume on Eternity; to M. Bourdon, a telescope and compass; and to others, reliquaries, rosaries, medals, images, etc. I went to see M. Giffard, M. Couillard, and Mademoiselle de Repentigny. The Ursulines sent to beg that I would come and see them before the end of the day. I went, and paid my compliments also to Madame de la Peltrie, who sent us some presents. I was near leaving this out, which would have been a sad oversight. We gave a crucifix to the woman who washes the church-linen, a bottle of eau-de-vie to Abraham, four handkerchiefs to his wife, some books of devotion to others, and two handkerchiefs to Robert Hache. He asked for two more, and we gave them to him."

[Journal des Supérieurs des Jésuites, MS. Only fragments of this curious record are extant. It was begun by Lalemant in 1645. For the privilege of having what remains of it copied I am indebted to M. Jacques Viger. The entry translated above is of Jan. 1, 1646. Of the persons named in it, Giffard was seigneur of Beauport, and a member of the Council; Des Châtelets was one of the earliest settlers, and connected by marriage with Giffard; Couillard was son-in-law of the first settler, Hébert; Mademoiselle de Repentigny was daughter of Le Gardeur de Repentigny, commander of the fleet; Madame de la Peltrie has been described already; Bourdon was chief engineer of the colony; Abraham was Abraham Martin, pilot for the King on the St. Lawrence, from whom the historic Plains of Abraham received their name. (See Ferland, Notes sur Registres, 16.) The rest were servants, or persons of humble station.]


1 Considerations for the Plantation in New England.--See Hutchinson, Collection, 27. Mr. Savage thinks that this paper was by Winthrop. See Savage's Winthrop, I. 360, note.

2 See the Act, in Hazard, 550.

3 An account of him will be found in Palfrey, Hist. of New England, II. 225, note.

4 In the Act, an exception, however, was made in favor of Jesuits coming as ambassadors or envoys from their government, who were declared not liable to the penalty of hanging.

5 For the documents on the title of Plymouth to lands on the Kennebec, see Drake's additions to Baylies's History of New Plymouth, 36, where they are illustrated by an ancient map. The patent was obtained as early as 1628, and a trading-house soon after established.

6 The Record of the Colony of Plymouth, June 5, 1651, contains, however the entry, "The Court declare themselves not to be willing to aid them (the French) in their design, or to grant them liberty to go through their jurisdiction for the aforesaid purpose" (to attack the Mohawks).

7 See Palfrey, New England, II. 336.

8 Druilletes, Reflexions touchant ce qu'on peut esperer de la Nouvelle Angleterre contre l'Irocquois (sic), appended to his journal.

9 The same who, with his wife, had joined the colonists of Montreal. See ante, chapter 18 (page 264).]

10 He was one of the Governor's council.--Ferland, Notes sur les Registres, 67.]

11 On Druilletes's second embassy, see Lettre écrite par le Conseil de Quebec aux Commissionaires de la Nouvelle Angleterre, in Charlevoix, I. 287; Extrait des Registres de l'Ancien Conseil de Quebec, Ibid., I. 288; Copy of a Letter from the Commissioners of the United Colonies to the Governor of Canada, in Hazard, II. 183; Answare to the Propositions presented by the honered French Agents, Ibid., II. 184; and Hutchinson, Collection of Papers, 240. Also, Records of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, Sept. 5, 1651; and Commission of Druilletes and Godefroy, in N. Y. Col. Docs., IX. 6.]


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The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, 1867

Jesuits in North America

 

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