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- The Fighting Governor - 6/20 -
their ornate and metaphorical language, played with their children, and regretted, through the interpreter Le Moyne, that he was as yet unable to speak their tongue. Never had such pleasant flattery been applied to the vanity of an Indian. At the same time Frontenac did not fail to insist upon his power; indeed, upon his supremacy. As a matter of fact it had involved a great effort to make all this display at Cataraqui. In his discourses, however, he laid stress upon the ease with which he had mounted the rapids and launched barges upon Lake Ontario. The sum and substance of all his harangues was this: 'I am your good, kind father, loving peace and shrinking from war. But you can see my power and I give you fair warning. If you choose war, you are guilty of self-destruction; your fate is in your own hands.'
Apart from his immediate success in building under the eyes of the Iroquois a fort at the outlet of Lake Ontario, Frontenac profited greatly by entering the heart of the Indian world in person. He was able, for a time at least, to check those tribal wars which had hampered trade and threatened to involve the colony. He gained much information at first hand about the pays d'en haut. And throughout he proved himself to have just the qualities which were needed in dealing with a North American Indian--firmness, good-humour, and dramatic talent.
On returning from Lake Ontario to Quebec Frontenac had good reason to be pleased with his summer's work. It still remained to convince Colbert that the construction of the fort at Cataraqui was not an undue expense and waste of energy. But as the initial outlay had already been made, he had ground for hope that he would not receive a positive order to undo what had been accomplished. At Quebec he received Colbert's disparaging comments upon the assembly of the Three Estates and the substitution of aldermen for the syndic who had formerly represented the inhabitants. These comments, however, were not so couched as to make the governor feel that he had lost the minister's confidence. On the whole, the first year of office had gone very well.
A stormier season was now to follow. The battle-royal between Frontenac and Perrot, the governor of Montreal, began in the autumn of 1673 and was waged actively throughout the greater part of 1674.
Enough has been said of Frontenac's tastes to show that he was a spendthrift; and there can be no doubt that as governor of Canada he hoped to supplement his salary by private trading. Soon after his arrival at Quebec in the preceding year he had formed an alliance with La Salle. The decision to erect a fort at Cataraqui was made for the double reason that while safeguarding the colony Frontenac and La Salle could both draw profit from the trade at this point in the interior.
La Salle was not alone in knowing that those who first met the Indians in the spring secured the best furs at the best bargains. This information was shared by many, including Francois Perrot. Just above the island of Montreal is another island, which lies between Lake St Louis and the Lake of Two Mountains. Perrot, appreciating the advantage of a strategic position, had fixed there his own trading-post, and to this day the island bears his name. Now, with Frontenac as a sleeping partner of La Salle there were all the elements of trouble, for Perrot and Frontenac were rival traders. Both were wrathful men and each had a selfish interest to fight for, quite apart from any dispute as to the jurisdiction of Quebec over Montreal.
Under such circumstances the one thing lacking was a ground of action. This Frontenac found in the existing edict against the coureurs de bois-those wild spirits who roamed the woods in the hope of making great profits through the fur trade, from which by law they were excluded, and provoked the special disfavour of the missionary by the scandals of their lives, which gave the Indians a low idea of French morality. Thus in the eyes of both Church and State the coureur de bois was a mauvais sujet, and the offence of taking to the forest without a licence became punishable by death or the galleys.
Though Frontenac was not the author of this severe measure, duty required him to enforce it. Perrot was a friend and defender of the coureurs de bois, whom he used as employees in the collection of peltries. Under his regime Montreal formed their headquarters. The edict gave them no concern, since they knew that between them and trouble stood their patron and confederate.
Thus Frontenac found an excellent occasion to put Perrot in the wrong and to hit him through his henchmen. The only difficulty was that Frontenac did not possess adequate means to enforce the law. Obviously it was undesirable that he should invade Perrot's bailiwick in person. He therefore instructed the judge at Montreal to arrest all the coureurs de bois who were there. A loyal attempt was made to execute this command, with the result that Perrot at once intervened and threatened to imprison the judge if he repeated his effort.
Frontenac's counterblast was the dispatch of a lieutenant and three soldiers to arrest a retainer of Perrot named Carion, who had shown contempt of court by assisting the accused woodsmen to escape. Perrot then proclaimed that this constituted an unlawful attack on his rights as governor of Montreal, to defend which he promptly imprisoned Bizard, the lieutenant sent by Frontenac, together with Jacques Le Ber, the leading merchant of the settlement. Though Perrot released them shortly afterwards, his tone toward Frontenac remained impudent and the issue was squarely joined.
But a hundred and eighty miles of wilderness separated the governor of Canada from the governor of Montreal. In short, before Perrot could be disciplined he must be seized, and this was a task which if attempted by frontal attack might provoke bloodshed in the colony, with heavy censure from the king. Frontenac therefore entered upon a correspondence, not only with Perrot, but with one of the leading Sulpicians in Montreal, the Abbe Fenelon. This procedure yielded quicker results than could have been expected. Frontenac's letter which summoned Perrot to Quebec for an explanation was free from threats and moderate in tone. It found Perrot somewhat alarmed at what he had done and ready to settle the matter without further trouble. At the same time Fenelon, acting on Frontenac's suggestion, urged Perrot to make peace. The consequence was that in January 1674 Perrot acceded and set out for Quebec with Fenelon as his companion.
Whatever Perrot's hopes or expectations of leniency, they were quickly dispelled. The very first conference between him and Frontenac became a violent altercation (January 29, 1674). Perrot was forthwith committed to prison, where he remained ten months. Not content with this success, Frontenac proceeded vigorously against the coureurs de bois, one of whom as an example was hanged in front of Perrot's prison.
The trouble did not stop here, nor with the imprisonment of Brucy, who was Perrot's chief agent and the custodian of the store-house at Ile Perrot. Fenelon, whose temper was ardent and emotional, felt that he had been made the innocent victim of a detestable plot to lure Perrot from Montreal. Having upbraided Frontenac to his face, he returned to Montreal and preached a sermon against him, using language which the Sulpicians hastened to repudiate. But Fenelon, undaunted, continued to espouse Perrot's cause without concealment and brought down upon himself a charge of sedition.
In its final stage this cause celebre runs into still further intricacies, involving the rights of the clergy when accused by the civil power. The contest begun by Perrot and taken up by Fenelon ran an active course throughout the greater part of a year (1674), and finally the king himself was called in as judge. This involved the sending of Perrot and Fenelon to France, along with a voluminous written statement from Frontenac and a great number of documents. At court Talon took the side of Perrot, as did the Abbe d'Urfe, whose cousin, the Marquise d'Allegre, was about to marry Colbert's son. Nevertheless the king declined to uphold Frontenac's enemies. Perrot was given three weeks in the Bastille, not so much for personal chastisement as to show that the governor's authority must be respected. On the whole, Frontenac issued from the affair without suffering loss of prestige in the eyes of the colony. The king declined to reprimand him, though in a personal letter from his sovereign Frontenac was told that henceforth he must avoid invading a local government without giving the governor preliminary notice. The hint was also conveyed that he should not harry the clergy. Frontenac's position, of course, was that he only interfered with the clergy when they were encroaching upon the rights of the crown.
Upon this basis, then, the quarrel with Perrot was settled. But at that very moment a larger and more serious contest was about to begin.
GOVERNOR, BISHOP, AND INTENDANT
At the beginning of September 1675 Frontenac was confronted with an event which could have given him little pleasure. This was the arrival, by the same ship, of the bishop Laval, who had been absent from Canada four years, and Jacques Duchesneau, who after a long interval had been appointed to succeed Talon as intendant. Laval returned in triumph. He was now bishop of Quebec, directly dependent upon the Holy See [Footnote: Laval had wished strongly that the see of Quebec should be directly dependent on
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