Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- The Fighting Governor - 2/20 -

should be paid to the creation of parishes for the benefit of the colonists. Over this issue there arose, as we shall see by and by, acute differences between the bishop and the governor.

Owing to the large part which religion had in the life of New France the bishop took his place beside the governor and the intendant. This was the triumvirate of dignitaries. Primarily each represented a different interest--war, business, religion. But they were brought into official contact through membership in the Conseil Souverain, which controlled all details of governmental action.

The Sovereign Council underwent changes of name and composition, but its functions were at all times plainly defined. In 1672 the members numbered seven. Of these the governor, the bishop, and the intendant formed the nucleus, the other four being appointed by them. In 1675 the king raised the number of councillors to ten, thus diluting the authority which each possessed, and thenceforth made the appointments himself. Thus during the greater part of Frontenac's regime the governor, the bishop, and the intendant had seven associates at the council-board. Still, as time went on, the king felt that his control over this body was not quite perfect. So in 1703 he changed the name from Sovereign Council to Superior Council, and increased its members to a total of fifteen.

The Council met at the Chateau St Louis on Monday morning of each week, at a round table where the governor had the bishop on his right hand and the intendant on his left. Nevertheless the intendant presided, for the matters under discussion fell chiefly in his domain. Of the other councillors the attorney-general was the most conspicuous. To him fell the task of sifting the petitions and determining which should be presented. Although there were local judges at Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal, the Council had jurisdiction over all important cases, whether criminal or civil. In the sphere of commerce its powers were equally complete and minute. It told merchants what profits they could take on their goods, and how their goods should be classified with respect to the percentage of profit allowed. Nothing was too petty for its attention. Its records depict with photographic accuracy the nature of French government in Canada. From this source we can see how the principle of paternalism was carried out to the last detail.

But Canada was a long way from France and the St Lawrence was larger than the Seine. It is hard to fight against nature, and in Canada there were natural obstacles which withstood to some extent the forces of despotism. It is easy to see how distance from the court gave both governor and intendant a range of action which would have been impossible in France. With the coming of winter Quebec was isolated for more than six months. During this long interval the two officials could do a great many things of which the king might not have approved, but which he was powerless to prevent. His theoretical supremacy was thus limited by the unyielding facts of geography. And a better illustration is found in the operation of the seigneurial system upon which Canadian society was based. In France a belated feudalism still held the common man in its grip, and in Canada the forms of feudalism were at least partially established. Yet the Canadian habitant lived in a very different atmosphere from that breathed by the Norman peasant. The Canadian seigneur had an abundance of acreage and little cash. His grant was in the form of uncleared land, which he could only make valuable through the labours of his tenants or censitaires. The difficulty of finding good colonists made it important to give them favourable terms. The habitant had a hard life, but his obligations towards his seigneur were not onerous. The man who lived in a log-hut among the stumps and could hunt at will through the forest was not a serf. Though the conditions of life kept him close to his home, Canada meant for him a new freedom.

Freest of all were the coureurs de bois, those dare-devils of the wilderness who fill such a large place in the history of the fur trade and of exploration. The Frenchman in all ages has proved abundantly his love of danger and adventure. Along the St Lawrence from Tadoussac to the Sault St Louis seigneuries fringed the great river, as they fringed the banks of its tributary, the Richelieu. This was the zone of cultivation, in which log-houses yielded, after a time, to white-washed cottages. But above the Sault St Louis all was wilderness, whether one ascended the St Lawrence or turned at Ile Perrot into the Lake of Two Mountains and the Ottawa. For young and daring souls the forest meant the excitement of discovery, the licence of life among the Indians, and the hope of making more than could be gained by the habitant from his farm. Large profits meant large risks, and the coureur de bois took his life in his hand. Even if he escaped the rapid and the tomahawk, there was an even chance that he would become a reprobate.

But if his character were of tough fibre, there was also a chance that he might render service to his king. At times of danger the government was glad to call on him for aid. When Tracy or Denonville or Frontenac led an expedition against the Iroquois, it was fortunate that Canada could muster a cohort of men who knew woodcraft as well as the Indians. In days of peace the coureur de bois was looked on with less favour. The king liked to know where his subjects were at every hour of the day and night. A Frenchman at Michilimackinac, [Footnote: The most important of the French posts in the western portion of the Great Lakes, situated on the strait which unites Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. It was here that Saint-Lusson and Perrot took possession of the West in the name of France (June 1671). See The Great Intendant, pp. 115-16.] unless he were a missionary or a government agent, incurred severe displeasure, and many were the edicts which sought to prevent the colonists from taking to the woods. But, whatever the laws might say, the coureur de bois could not be put down. From time to time he was placed under restraint, but only for a moment. The intendant might threaten and the priest might plead. It recked not to the coureur de bois when once his knees felt the bottom of the canoe.

But of the seven thousand French who peopled Canada in 1672 it is probable that not more than four hundred were scattered through the forest. The greater part of the inhabitants occupied the seigneuries along the St Lawrence and the Richelieu. Tadoussac was hardly more than a trading-post. Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal were but villages. In the main the life of the people was the life of the seigneuries--an existence well calculated to bring out in relief the ancestral heroism of the French race. The grant of seigneurial rights did not imply that the recipient had been a noble in France. The earliest seigneur, Louis Hebert, was a Parisian apothecary, and many of the Canadian gentry were sprung from the middle class. There was nothing to induce the dukes, the counts, or even the barons of France to settle on the soil of Canada. The governor was a noble, but he lived at the Chateau St Louis. The seigneur who desired to achieve success must reside on the land he had received and see that his tenants cleared it of the virgin forest. He could afford little luxury, for in almost all cases his private means were small. But a seigneur who fulfilled the conditions of his grant could look forward to occupying a relatively greater position in Canada than he could have occupied in France, and to making better provision for his children.

Both the seigneur and his tenant, the habitant, had a stake in Canada and helped to maintain the colony in the face of grievous hardships. The courage and tenacity of the French Canadian are attested by what he endured throughout the years when he was fighting for his foothold. And if he suffered, his wife suffered still more. The mother who brought up a large family in the midst of stumps, bears, and Iroquois knew what it was to be resourceful.

Obviously the Canada of 1672 lacked many things--among them the stern resolve which animated the Puritans of New England that their sons should have the rudiments of an education. [Footnote: For example, Harvard College was founded in 1636, and there was a printing-press at Cambridge, Mass., in 1638.] At this point the contrast between New France and New England discloses conflicting ideals of faith and duty. In later years the problem of knowledge assumed larger proportions, but during the period of Frontenac the chief need of Canada was heroism. Possessing this virtue abundantly, Canadians lost no time in lamentations over the lack of books or the lack of wealth. The duty of the hour was such as to exclude all remoter vistas. When called on to defend his hearth and to battle for his race, the Canadian was ready.



Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau, was born in 1620. He was the son of Henri de Buade, a noble at the court of Louis XIII. His mother, Anne de Phelippeaux, came from a stock which in the early Bourbon period furnished France with many officials of high rank, notably Louis de Phelippeaux, Comte de Pontchartrain. His father belonged to a family of southern France whose estates lay originally in Guienne. It was a fortunate incident in the annals of this family that when Antoine de Bourbon became governor of Guienne (1555) Geoffroy de Buade entered his service. Thenceforth the Buades were attached by close ties to the kings of Navarre. Frontenac's grandfather, Antoine de Buade, figures frequently in the Memoirs of Agrippa d'Aubigne as aide-de-camp to Henry IV; Henri de Buade, Frontenac's father, was a playmate and close friend of Louis XIII; [Footnote: As an illustration of their intimacy, there is a story that one day when Henry IV was indisposed he had these two

The Fighting Governor - 2/20

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6    7   10   20 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything