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- Memoir - 6/7 -


Not only has divine Providence often delivered me in like dangers that I can call to mind, but also we were protected in the tempest which we experienced in the beginning of December, 1823, when we were coming from America to France. If I have been exposed to danger on the sea, I have also on land, but God made the elements; He dwells therein, He is their master. I have fallen three times from the back of a horse, at great risk of being killed or of breaking a limb, and I have twice been robbed by thieves who broke into the house in which I usually resided; they took the little money I had, my clothes, etc., but I was absent from home when they executed their evil deed. God permitted it, may His holy name be blessed!

There are in the parish of Tracadie and its environs twenty or thirty-six families of negroes, of whom the greater number are Protestants. Besides being heretics they are rascals, given to all kinds of vice. I have often visited them, and upon every occasion that offered, tried to instruct them in spite of the danger that I ran of being ill-treated and perhaps killed by them, for there are some among them who are bad at heart and capable of evil deeds. I had some experience of this when I lived near them.

Recently one of these negroes, remarkable among the others for his age and his pretended learning, fell ill. I went to see him thinking that my visit would not displease him. There were a number of blacks round his bed, who were singing hymns and praying. They offered me a chair. I seated myself near the sick man and commenced to speak to him of death, of judgment and of the truth faith, of the only true religion in which we can save ourselves. Finally I said to him that he would be dammed if he died in his false belief. At these words the other negroes turned on me with fury; by their animated features, by their eyes flashing with anger, and by their horrible cries, I knew that I was not safe with them, and that I could do no good there, so I left the house. They followed me, crying out against the priests. A young ecclesiastic who accompanied me was very frightened, and I myself expected to be assaulted by them. There was one in particular more enraged than the others, and who screamed most loudly. He said that if a hundred or a thousand priests should speak to him of religion he would not believe one of them. I returned there some days afterwards with another priest who was conversant with English (for the sick man could not speak French). After some hours conversation with the missionary, the sick man asked him if he would come to him again when he sent for him. Soon after this I left the country, but I have reason to think that he sent for me. I do not know what is the result for his soul, whether he is converted or whether he remains in error, for the above incident occurred just before my return to France.

During the five years and a half that I have spent at Tracadie, which is in Nova Scotia, I have had the consolation of seeing four or five families of these Protestant negroes embrace the Catholic religion. Many other persons also of different nations and sects have changed their faith, to the great edification of the children of the true Church.

It has been found necessary to build new churches and to enlarge others, to enable them to hold their congregations, which have so increased in number, either by conversions, by the multiplying of the old Catholic families, or by the number of strangers who came every day to settle in this country, and who bring the true faith with them. For some time I was the only missionary there, and obliged to traverse forty or fifty leagues by land and by sea. I found every where colonies who were Catholic, as well as many persons who were not. If some zealous priests would go to carry spiritual help to all these people who are in a measure abandoned, they would perform a great act of charity and win much merit; but they must be prepared to suffer many miseries, hunger, cold, persecution, poverty, &c, and to risk their lives often both on land and sea. The principal nourishment of the people of the country consists of potatoes and salt meat, water or spruce beer (biere de Pruche) is their ordinary drink. They love rum which is common enough, and is not expensive-- but on the other hand it is dangerous and unhealthful to soul and body. A very small quantity of this liquor will make a man lose his reason, and quite inebriate him. It is this unhappy and deadly drink that ruins the Indians in this country as in all others.

The climate of Nova Scotia and of Cape Breton is very cold during the winter (which lasts six months), and sometimes very hot in summer. From time to time we hear of persons having their hands and feet frozen, and even parts of their faces. I myself have seen many who were obliged to have their hands or feet amputated, they having mortified from the effects of the cold. Another danger that one has to face is that of being surrounded by the snow when it is drifted by the wind, as sometimes happens on the Alps, on the side of Mont Cenis and Simplon. This is what is called a "snow storm." In these eddies of snow one cannot see the road on which to travel, not even a house fifteen feet distant The snow, driven with force by the wind, fills your eyes, nostrils and mouth, and prevents you from breathing, so that you are really in danger of perishing. Every winter a tremendous quantity of snow falls, so that one is obliged to use snow-shoes in order to travel. In spite of all these drawbacks it is a healthy country, and one which produces all necessary grain and vegetables, such as wheat, bearded wheat, rye, kidney beans, beans, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, &c, and even good fruit, such as apples, pears and plums. As to the fruit, in some townships it is very good, in others it is small, while as to vegetables, potatoes succeed the best. These latter are very fine in Nova Scotia and in Cape Breton.

A proof of the country not being a bad one is, that every one lives well there. Strictly speaking, there are no poor, for one never sees a beggar. It has been remarked that those who work well, and are rather industrious, live in comfort, without being exactly rich. Again, the people have fish at their doors, for living as they do near the sea and the lakes, they can have all kinds, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, eels and codfish in abundance. It is true that the winter is long and severe, but there is plenty of wood with which to keep warm.

A consideration that ought to overweigh all the troubles and dangers which have been mentioned, is the great work that may be here done for religion among so many souls that are abandoned and given over to ignorance for want of priests to instruct them. More particularly among the Indian people, who deserve that we should try to save them, because of their good faith and fine natural character. It occurred to me to group them into villages as soon as I got to know them well; for that purpose I have bought a large tract of land near the sea, there to form a religious establishment which will serve to civilize them and to make them still better Christians. They will establish themselves near us, and we will be at hand to see them and to instruct them. I have built a house on this land, hoping that the Government or some charitable and generous soul will assist in erecting a chapel and some other buildings, that we shall need, in order to carry out our project, and to effect the good that we hope for. My Superior consents, and encourages me to return to America for this laudable undertaking, and in order to work for the salvation of those Indians who know not God, such as the Esquimaux. These latter are a barbarous and cannibalistic people. Recently they made a descent on some European fisherman in the woods that they inhabit, which are not far from the banks of Newfoundland, a little to the north. The Indians having let fly several arrows at the fishermen, the latter replied by some shots from their guns. One of the Indians was killed, the others saved themselves by flight. Our fishermen seized a squaw who remained near the dead body of the Indian; probably they had lived together, and she regarded him as her husband. She was taken to St John's Newfoundland, and the Governor having been notified gave orders to the merchants of the town to allow this Indian woman such wearing material as pleased her. It was noticed that she fancied everything of the most gaudy description. The colors, red in particular, pleased and delighted her, consequently the material she chose was principally red. They prepared something for her to eat and offered her food which had been cooked; she, however, scorned that, and seized upon a raw fowl which she devoured without removing the feathers. A Frenchman who was there and saw her, told me that her nails and teeth were extremely long. Instead of keeping her among civilized beings, she was taken to the woods where she had been found. This was probably by order of the Governor. It is very difficult to civilize this kind of Indian. They are very fierce, and their language, which is not the same as that of the Micmacs, seems to present great difficulties. Still these souls have been created by God and bought by Jesus Christ, and the more abandoned, and the further from the religion of heaven they seem to be, so much the more do they call for our compassion. We have succeeded in civilizing many barbarous nations and in rendering them Christian and Catholic, we may equally, with the help of God, bring others to the knowledge of the true religion, and since pretended philosophers have abandoned the faith, it must, according to the divine oracle, go to other men. If this faith is extinguished for many, who have deserved the misfortune in closing their eyes to its light, it goes to others who will render themselves worthy by allowing this divine truth to enlighten them. Thus faith is never lost, if it leaves us, it is our own fault.

To return to our Micmacs of Nova Scotia,--it does one good to reflect on what they were formerly and what they are now. Formerly they were ferocious idolaters, now they are gentle and they know the true God. If the Government had chosen to help us we could have done for the Esquimaux what the early missionaries did for the people of which we speak; and even these latter for whom we have worked would, without doubt, have become much more civilized. We would have ventured to promise to make of them, not only well instructed and perfect Christians, but also good laborers and good workmen, in a word, good citizens who would be useful to society and not a burden to the State as they have hitherto been. The way in which they have profited by the few lessons that they have received from us on agriculture is a proof of the success that we should have had. We have worked with them and our example has encouraged them. It is well that they know how to farm a little, for instance, how to plant potatoes, for the country is beginning to be populous, and they do not find enough game to subsist upon, and there are times when they cannot fish. It is then charitable as well as necessary to teach them to gain their livelihood in some other way. But all that is only a small part of the good that we propose to do; to work efficaciously at the saving of their souls, to render them humble, sober, industrious, charitable, &c., from religious principles which is the way by which we hope to complete and perfect the good work. Not having succeeded so far in making an establishment of any consequence, by reason of want of means, we have contented ourselves with forming a little school for girls, more especially for the young Micmac squaws. This school is taught by three excellent women, natives of the place, who live as religious of the third order of La Trappe, until such time as they can establish a house of the first order. They have already gone through a year of novitiate at the convent of the Ladies of the Congregation of Montreal, in Canada, which congregation was founded by Sister Bourgeoys, as one reads in the history of the discovery of that great country. These three women are stationed in the parish of Pomquete, one of the three parishes with which I am especially charged, and of which mention has been made at the beginning of this narrative. It is a good little parish, composed of French people, born most of them at St Malo, Dinan or Grandville. When I left these poor people in order to return to France, they were inconsolable, fearing they would have no priest. They called a meeting to discuss what they should do in the event of so sad a situation. Many were resolved to follow me with the


Memoir - 6/7

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