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- The Fighting Governor - 5/20 -


of his office.

On the 17th of September Frontenac presided for the first time at a meeting of the Sovereign Council; [Footnote: In the minutes of this first meeting of the Sovereign Council at which Frontenac presided the high-sounding words 'haut et puissant' stand prefixed to his name and titles.] and the formal inauguration of his regime was staged for the 23rd of October. It was to be an impressive ceremony, a pageant at which all eyes should be turned upon him, the great noble who embodied the authority of a puissant monarch. For this ceremony the governor summoned an assembly that was designed to represent the Three Estates of Canada.

The Three Estates of clergy, nobles, and commons had existed in France from time immemorial. But in taking this step and in expecting the king to approve it Frontenac displayed his ignorance of French history; for the ancient meetings of the Three Estates in France had left a memory not dear to the crown. [Footnote: The power of the States-General reached its height after the disastrous battle of Poitiers (1356). For a short period, under the leadership of Etienne Marcel, it virtually supplanted the power of the crown.] They had, in truth, given the kings moments of grave concern; and their representatives had not been summoned since 1614. Moreover, Louis XIV was not a ruler to tolerate such rival pretensions as the States-General had once put forth.

Parkman thinks that, 'like many of his station, Frontenac was not in full sympathy with the centralizing movement of his time, which tended to level ancient rights, privileges and prescriptions under the ponderous roller of the monarchical administration.' This, it may be submitted, is only a conjecture. The family history of the Buades shows that they were 'king's men,' who would be the last to imperil royal power. The gathering of the Three Estates at Quebec was meant to be the fitting background of a ceremony. If Frontenac had any thought beyond this, it was a desire to unite all classes in an expression of loyalty to their sovereign.

At Quebec it was not difficult to secure representatives of clergy and commons. But, as nobles seldom emigrated to Canada, some talent was needed to discover gentlemen of sufficient standing to represent the aristocracy. The situation was met by drawing upon the officers and the seigneurs. The Estates thus duly convened, Frontenac addressed them on the glory of the king and the duty of all classes to serve him with zeal. To the clergy he hinted that their task was not finished when they had baptized the Indians. After that came the duty of converting them into good citizens.

Frontenac's next step was to reorganize the municipal government of Quebec by permitting the inhabitants to choose two aldermen and a mayor. Since these officials could not serve until they had been approved by the governor, the change does not appear to have been wildly radical. But change of any kind was distasteful to the Bourbon monarchy, especially if it seemed to point toward freedom. So when in due course Frontenac's report of these activities arrived at Versailles, it was decided that such innovations must be stopped at once. The king wished to discourage all memory of the Three Estates, and Frontenac was told that no part of the Canadian people should be given a corporate or collective status. The reprimand, however, did not reach Canada till the summer of 1673, so that for some months Frontenac was permitted to view his work with satisfaction.

His next move likewise involved a new departure. Hitherto the king had discouraged the establishment of forts or trading-posts at points remote from the zone of settlement. This policy was based on the belief that the colonists ought to live close together for mutual defence against the Iroquois. But Frontenac resolved to build a fort at the outlet of Lake Ontario. His enemies stated that this arose out of his desire to make personal profit from the fur trade; but on public grounds also there were valid reasons for the fort. A thrust is often the best parry; and it could well be argued that the French had much to gain from a stronghold lying within striking distance of the Iroquois villages.

At any rate, Frontenac decided to act first and make explanations afterwards. On June 3, 1673, he left Quebec for Montreal and beyond. He accommodated himself with cheerfulness to the bark canoe--which he described in one of his early letters as a rather undignified conveyance for the king's lieutenant--and, indeed, to all the hardships which the discharge of his duties entailed. His plan for the summer comprised a thorough inspection of the waterway from Quebec to Lake Ontario and official visits to the settlements lying along the route. Three Rivers did not detain him long, for he was already familiar with the place, having visited it in the previous autumn. On the 15th of the month his canoe came to shore beneath Mount Royal.

Montreal was the colony's farthest outpost towards the Iroquois. Though it had been founded as a mission and nothing else, its situation was such that its inhabitants could not avoid being drawn into the fur trade. To a large extent it still retained its religious character, but beneath the surface could be detected a cleavage of interest between the missionary zeal of the Sulpicians and the commercial activity of the local governor, Francois Perrot. And since this Perrot is soon to find place in the present narrative as a bitter enemy of Frontenac, a word concerning him may fitly be written here. He was an officer of the king's army who had come to Canada with Talon. The fact that his wife was Talon's niece had put him in the pathway of promotion. The order of St Sulpice, holding in fief the whole island of Montreal, had power to name the local governor. In June 1669 the Sulpicians had nominated Perrot, and two years later his appointment had been confirmed by the king. Later, as we shall see, arose the thorny question of how far the governor of Canada enjoyed superiority over the governor of Montreal.

The governor of Montreal, attended by his troops and the leading citizens, stood at the landing-place to offer full military honours to the governor of Canada. Frontenac's arrival was then signalized by a civic reception and a Te Deum. The round of civilities ended, the governor lost no time in unfolding the real purpose of his visit, which was less to confer with the priests of St Sulpice than to recruit forces for his expedition, in order that he might make a profound impression on the Iroquois. The proposal to hold a conference with the Iroquois at Cataraqui (where Kingston now stands) met with some opposition; but Frontenac's energy and determination were not to be denied, and by the close of June four hundred French and Indians were mustered at Lachine in readiness to launch their canoes and barges upon Lake St Louis.

If Montreal was the outpost of the colony, Lachine was the outpost of Montreal. Between these two points lay the great rapid, the Sault St Louis, which from the days of Jacques Cartier had blocked the ascent of the St Lawrence to seafaring boats. At Lachine La Salle had formed his seigneury in 1667, the year after his arrival in Canada; and it had been the starting-point for the expedition which resulted in the discovery of the Ohio in 1671. La Salle, however, was not with Frontenac's party, for the governor had sent him to the Iroquois early in May, to tell them that Onontio would meet his children and to make arrangements for the great assembly at Cataraqui.

The Five Nations, remembering the chastisement they had received from Tracy in 1666, [Footnote: See The Great Intendant, chap. iii.] accepted the invitation, but in dread and distrust. Their envoys accordingly proceeded to the mouth of the Cataraqui; and on the 12th of July the vessels of the French were seen approaching on the smooth surface of Lake Ontario. Frontenac had omitted from his equipage nothing which could awe or interest the savage. He had furnished his troops with the best possible equipment and had with him all who could be spared safely from the colony. He had even managed to drag up the rapids and launch on Lake Ontario two large barges armed with small cannon and brilliantly painted. The whole flotilla, including a multitude of canoes arranged by squadron, was now put in battle array. First came four squadrons of canoes; then the two barges; next Frontenac himself, surrounded by his personal attendants and the regulars; after that the Canadian militia, with a squadron from Three Rivers on the left flank, and on the right a great gathering of Hurons and Algonquins. The rearguard was composed of two more squadrons. Never before had such a display been seen on the Great Lakes.

Having disclosed his strength to the Iroquois chiefs, Frontenac proceeded to hold solemn and stately conference with them. But he did not do this on the day of the great naval procession. He wished to let this spectacle take effect before he approached the business which had brought him there. It was not until next day that the meeting opened. At seven o'clock the French troops, accoutred at their best, were all on parade, drawn up in files before the governor's tent, where the conference was to take place. Outside the tent itself large canopies of canvas had been erected to shelter the Iroquois from the sun, while Frontenac, in his most brilliant military costume, assumed all the state he could. In treating with Indians haste was impossible, nor did Frontenac desire that the speech-making should begin at once. His fort was hardly more than begun, and he wished the Iroquois to see how swiftly and how well the French could build defences.

When the proceedings opened there were the usual long harangues, followed by daily negotiations between the governor and the chiefs. It was a leading feature of Frontenac's diplomacy to reward the friendly, and to win over malcontents by presents or personal attention. Each day some of the chiefs dined with the governor, who gave them the food they liked, adapted his style of speech to


The Fighting Governor - 5/20

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