The Fighting Governor - A Chronicle of Frontenac
by Charles W. Colby
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Frontispiece: FRONTENAC ANSWERING PHIPS'S MESSENGER, 1690. From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys]



A Chronicle of Frontenac






Copyright in all Countries subscribing to the Berne Convention




I. CANADA IN 1672 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 II. LOUIS DE BUADE, COMTE DE FRONTENAC . . . . . . . . . . . 17 III. FRONTENAC'S FIRST YEARS IN CANADA . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 IV. GOVERNOR, BISHOP, AND INTENDANT . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 V. FRONTENAC'S PUBLIC POLICY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 VI. THE LURID INTERVAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 VII. THE GREAT STRUGGLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 VIII. FRONTENAC'S LAST DAYS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164



FRONTENAC ANSWERING PHIPS'S MESSENGER, 1690 . . . . Frontispiece From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys.

LADY FRONTENAC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Facing page 22 From a painting in the Versailles Gallery.

JEAN BAPTISTE COLBERT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 26 From an engraving in the Chateau de Ramezay.

ROBERT CAVELIER DE LA SALLE . . . . . . . . . . . . " 40 From an engraving by Waltner, Paris.

FIGURE OF FRONTENAC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 80 From the Hebert Statue at Quebec.

PIERRE LE MOYNE, SIEUR D'IBERVILLE . . . . . . . . . " 118 From an engraving in the John Ross Robertson Collection, Toronto Public Library.




The Canada to which Frontenac came in 1672 was no longer the infant colony it had been when Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates. Through the efforts of Louis XIV and Colbert it had assumed the form of an organized province.[1] Though its inhabitants numbered less than seven thousand, the institutions under which they lived could not have been more elaborate or precise. In short, the divine right of the king to rule over his people was proclaimed as loudly in the colony as in the motherland.

It was inevitable that this should be so, for the whole course of French history since the thirteenth century had led up to the absolutism of Louis XIV. During the early ages of feudalism France had been distracted by the wars of her kings against rebellious nobles. The virtues and firmness of Louis IX {2} (1226-70) had turned the scale in favour of the crown. There were still to be many rebellions—the strife of Burgundians and Armagnacs in the fifteenth century, the Wars of the League in the sixteenth century, the cabal of the Fronde in the seventeenth century—but the great issue had been settled in the days of the good St Louis. When Raymond VII of Toulouse accepted the Peace of Lorris (1243) the government of Canada by Louis XIV already existed in the germ. That is to say, behind the policy of France in the New World may be seen an ancient process which had ended in untrammelled autocracy at Paris.

This process as it affected Canada was not confined to the spirit of government. It is equally visible in the forms of colonial administration. During the Middle Ages the dukes and counts of France had been great territorial lords—levying their own armies, coining their own money, holding power of life and death over their vassals. In that period Normandy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Toulouse, and many other districts, were subject to the king in name only. But, with the growth of royal power, the dukes and counts steadily lost their territorial {3} independence and fell at last to the condition of courtiers. Simultaneously the duchies or counties were changed into provinces, each with a noble for its governor—but a noble who was a courtier, holding his commission from the king and dependent upon the favour of the king. Side by side with the governor stood the intendant, even more a king's man than the governor himself. So jealously did the Bourbons guard their despotism that the crown would not place wide authority in the hands of any one representative. The governor, as a noble and a soldier, knew little or nothing of civil business. To watch over the finances and the prosperity of the province, an intendant was appointed. This official was always chosen from the middle class and owed his position, his advancement, his whole future, to the king. The governor might possess wealth, or family connections. The intendant had little save what came to him from his sovereign's favour. Gratitude and interest alike tended to make him a faithful servant.

But, though the crown had destroyed the political power of the nobles, it left intact their social pre-eminence. The king was as supreme as a Christian ruler could be. Yet {4} by its very nature the monarchy could not exist without the nobles, from whose ranks the sovereign drew his attendants, friends, and lieutenants. Versailles without its courtiers would have been a desert. Even the Church was a stronghold of the aristocracy, for few became bishops or abbots who were not of gentle birth.

The great aim of government, whether at home or in the colonies, was to maintain the supremacy of the crown. Hence all public action flowed from a royal command. The Bourbon theory required that kings should speak and that subjects should obey. One direct consequence of a system so uncompromisingly despotic was the loss of all local initiative. Nothing in the faintest degree resembling the New England town-meeting ever existed in New France. Louis XIV objected to public gatherings of his people, even for the most innocent purposes. The sole limitation to the power of the king was the line of cleavage between Church and State. Religion required that the king should refrain from invading the sphere of the clergy, though controversy often waxed fierce as to where the secular ended and the spiritual began.


When it became necessary to provide institutions for Canada, the organization of the province in France at once suggested itself as a fit pattern. Canada, like Normandy, had the governor and the intendant for her chief officials, the seigneury for the groundwork of her society, and mediaeval coutumes for her laws.

The governor represented the king's dignity and the force of his arms. He was a noble, titled or untitled. It was the business of the governor to wage war and of the intendant to levy taxes. But as an expedition could not be equipped without money, the governor looked to the intendant for funds, and the intendant might object that the plans of the governor were unduly extravagant. Worse still, the commissions under which both held office were often contradictory. More than three thousand miles separated Quebec from Versailles, and for many months governor and intendant quarrelled over issues which could only be settled by an appeal to the king. Meanwhile each was a spy as well as a check upon the other. In Canada this arrangement worked even more harmfully than in France, where the king could make himself felt without great loss of time.


Yet an able intendant could do much good. There are few finer episodes in the history of local government than the work of Turgot as intendant of the Limousin.[2] Canada also had her Talon, whose efforts had transformed the colony during the seven years which preceded Frontenac's arrival. The fatal weakness was scanty population. This Talon saw with perfect clearness, and he clamoured for immigrants till Colbert declared that he would not depopulate France to people Canada. Talon and Frontenac came into personal contact only during a few weeks, but the colony over which Frontenac ruled as governor had been created largely by the intelligence and toil of Talon as intendant.[3]

While the provincial system of France gave Canada two chief personages, a third came from the Church. In the annals of New France there is no more prominent figure than the bishop. Francois de Laval de Montmorency had been in the colony since 1659. {7} His place in history is due in large part to his strong, intense personality, but this must not be permitted to obscure the importance of his office. His duties were to create educational institutions, to shape ecclesiastical policy, and to represent the Church in all its dealings with the government.

Many of the problems which confronted Laval had their origin in special and rather singular circumstances. Few, if any, priests had as yet been established in fixed parishes—each with its church and presbytere. Under ordinary conditions parishes would have been established at once, but in Canada the conditions were far from ordinary. The Canadian Church sprang from a mission. Its first ministers were members of religious orders who had taken the conversion of the heathen for their chosen task. They had headquarters at Quebec or Montreal, but their true field of action was the wilderness. Having the red man rather than the settler as their charge, they became immersed, and perhaps preoccupied, in their heroic work. Thus the erection of parishes was delayed. More than one historian has upbraided Laval for thinking so much of the mission that he neglected the spiritual needs of the colonists. However {8} this may be, the colony owed much to the missionaries—particularly to the Jesuits. It is no exaggeration to say that the Society of Jesus had been among the strongest forces which stood between New France and destruction. Other supports failed. The fur trade had been the corner-stone upon which Champlain built up Quebec, but the profits proved disappointing. At the best it was a very uncertain business. Sometimes the prices in Paris dwindled to nothing because the market was glutted. At other times the Indians brought no furs at all to the trading-posts. With its export trade dependent upon the caprice of the savages, the colony often seemed not worth the keeping. In these years of worst discouragement the existence of the mission was a great prop.

On his arrival in 1672 Frontenac found the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and the Recollets all actively engaged in converting the heathen. He desired that more attention 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 {9} 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 {10} 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 {11} 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 {12} 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,[4] 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 {15} 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.[5] 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 {16} 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.

[1] See The Great Intendant in this Series.

[2] Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-81), a statesman, thinker, and philanthropist of the first order. It was as intendant of Limoges that Turgot disclosed his great powers. He held his post for thirteen years (1761-74), and effected improvements which led Louis XVI to appoint him comptroller-general of the Kingdom.

[3] See The Great Intendant.

[4] 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.

[5] For example, Harvard College was founded in 1636, and there was a printing-press at Cambridge, Mass., in 1638.




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) Geoffrey 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 {18} Louis XIII;[1] and Frontenac himself was a godson and a namesake of the king.

While fortune thus smiled upon the cradle of Louis de Buade, some important favours were denied. Though nobly born, Frontenac did not spring from a line which had been of national importance for centuries, like that of Montmorency or Chatillon. Nor did he inherit large estates. The chief advantage which the Buades possessed came from their personal relations with the royal family. Their property in Guienne was not great, and neither Geoffrey, Antoine, nor Henri had possessed commanding abilities. Nor was Frontenac the boyhood friend of his king as his father had been, for Louis XIV was not born till 1638. Frontenac's rank was good enough to give him a chance at the French court. For the rest, his worldly prosperity would depend on his own efforts.

Inevitably he became a soldier. He entered the army at fifteen. It was one of the greatest moments in French history. Richelieu was prime minister, and the long {19} strife between France and the House of Hapsburg had just begun to turn definitely in favour of France. Against the Hapsburgs, with their two thrones of Spain and Austria,[2] stood the Great Cardinal, ready to use the crisis of the Thirty Years' War for the benefit of his nation—even though this meant a league with heretics. At the moment when Frontenac first drew the sword France (in nominal support of her German allies) was striving to conquer Alsace. The victory which brought the French to the Rhine was won through the capture of Breisach, at the close of 1638. Then in swift succession followed those astounding victories of Conde and Turenne which destroyed the military pre-eminence of Spain, took the French to the gates of Munich, and wrung from the emperor the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

During the thirteen years which followed Frontenac's first glimpse of war it was a glorious thing to be a French soldier. The events of such an era could not fail to leave {20} their mark upon a high-spirited and valorous youth. Frontenac was predestined by family tradition to a career of arms; but it was his own impetuosity that drove him into war before the normal age. He first served under Prince Frederick Henry of Orange, who was then at the height of his reputation. After several campaigns in the Low Countries his regiment was transferred to the confines of Spain and France. There, in the year of Richelieu's death (1642), he fought at the siege of Perpignan. That he distinguished himself may be seen from his promotion, at twenty-three, to the rank of colonel. In the same year (1643) Louis XIV came to the throne; and Conde, by smiting the Spaniards at Rocroi, won for France the fame of having the best troops in Europe.

It was not the good fortune of Frontenac to serve under either Conde or Turenne during those campaigns, so triumphant for France, which marked the close of the Thirty Years' War. From Perpignan he was ordered to northern Italy, where in the course of three years he performed the exploits which made him a brigadier-general at twenty-six. Though repeatedly wounded, he survived twelve years of constant fighting with no {21} more serious casualty than a broken arm which he carried away from the siege of Orbitello. By the time peace was signed at Muenster he had become a soldier well proved in the most desperate war which had been fought since Europe accepted Christianity.

To the great action of the Thirty Years' War there soon succeeded the domestic commotion of the Fronde. Richelieu, despite his high qualities as a statesman, had been a poor financier; and Cardinal Mazarin, his successor, was forced to cope with a discontent which sprang in part from the misery of the masses and in part from the ambition of the nobles. As Louis XIV was still an infant when his father died, the burden of government fell in name upon the queen-mother, Anne of Austria, but in reality upon Mazarin. Not even the most disaffected dared to rebel against the young king in the sense of disputing his right to reign. But in 1648 the extreme youth of Louis XIV made it easy for discontented nobles, supported by the Parlement of Paris, to rebel against an unpopular minister.

The year 1648, which witnessed the Peace of Westphalia and the outbreak of the Fronde, was rendered memorable to Frontenac by his marriage. It was a runaway match, which {22} began an extraordinary alliance between two very extraordinary people. The bride, Anne de la Grange-Trianon, was a daughter of the Sieur de Neuville, a gentleman whose house in Paris was not far from that of Frontenac's parents. At the time of the elopement she was only sixteen, while Frontenac had reached the ripe age of twenty-eight. Both were high-spirited and impetuous. We know also that Frontenac was hot-tempered. For a short time they lived together and there was a son. But before the wars of the Fronde had closed they drifted apart, from motives which were personal rather than political.

Madame de Frontenac then became a maid of honour to the Duchesse de Montpensier, daughter of Gaston d'Orleans[3] and first cousin to Louis XIV. This princess, known as La Grande Mademoiselle, plunged into the politics of the Fronde with a vigour which involved her whole household—Madame de Frontenac included—and wrote Memoirs in which her adventures are recorded at full length, to the pungent criticism of her foes and the {23} enthusiastic glorification of herself. Madame de Frontenac was in attendance upon La Grande Mademoiselle during the period of her most spectacular exploits and shared all the excitement which culminated with the famous entry of Orleans in 1652.

Madame de Frontenac was beautiful, and to beauty she added the charm of wit. With these endowments she made her way despite her slender means—and to be well-born but poor was a severe hardship in the reign of Louis XIV. Her portrait at Versailles reflects the striking personality and the intelligence which won for her the title La Divine. Throughout an active life she never lacked powerful friends, and Saint-Simon bears witness to the place she held in the highest and most exclusive circle of court society.

Frontenac and his wife lived together only during the short period 1648-52. But intercourse was not wholly severed by the fact of domestic separation. It is clear from the Memoirs of the Duchesse de Montpensier that Frontenac visited his wife at Saint-Fargeau, the country seat to which the duchess had been exiled for her part in the wars of the Fronde. Such evidence as there is seems to show that Madame de Frontenac considered herself {24} deeply wronged by her husband and was unwilling to accept his overtures. From Mademoiselle de Montpensier we hear little after 1657, the year of her quarrel with Madame de Frontenac. The maid of honour was accused of disloyalty, tears flowed, the duchess remained obdurate, and, in short, Madame de Frontenac was dismissed.

The most sprightly stories of the Frontenacs occur in these Memoirs of La Grande Mademoiselle. Unfortunately the Duchesse de Montpensier was so self-centred that her witness is not dispassionate. She disliked Frontenac, without concealment. As seen by her, he was vain and boastful, even in matters which concerned his kitchen and his plate. His delight in new clothes was childish. He compelled guests to speak admiringly of his horses, in contradiction of their manifest appearance. Worst of all, he tried to stir up trouble between the duchess and her own people.

Though Frontenac and his wife were unable to live together, they did not become completely estranged. It may be that the death of their son—who seems to have been killed in battle—drew them together once more, at least in spirit. It may be that with the Atlantic between them they appreciated each {25} other's virtues more justly. It may have been loyalty to the family tradition. Whatever the cause, they maintained an active correspondence during Frontenac's years in Canada, and at court Madame de Frontenac was her husband's chief defence against numerous enemies. When he died it was found that he had left her his property. But she never set foot in Canada.

Frontenac was forty-one when Louis XIV dismissed Fouquet and took Colbert for his chief adviser. At Versailles everything depended on royal favour, and forty-one is an important age. What would the young king do for Frontenac? What were his gifts and qualifications?

It is plain that Frontenac's career, so vigorously begun during the Thirty Years' War, had not developed in a like degree during the period (1648-61) from the outbreak of the Fronde to the death of Mazarin. There was no doubt as to his capacity. Saint-Simon calls him 'a man of excellent parts, living much in society.' And again, when speaking of Madame de Frontenac, he says: 'Like her husband she had little property and abundant wit.' The bane of Frontenac's life at this time was his extravagance. He lived like a {26} millionaire till his money was gone. Not far from Blois he had the estate of Isle Savary—a property quite suited to his station had he been prudent. But his plans for developing it, with gardens, fountains, and ponds, were wholly beyond his resources. At Versailles, also, he sought to keep pace with men whose ancestral wealth enabled them to do the things which he longed to do, but which fortune had placed beyond his reach. Hence, notwithstanding his buoyancy and talent, Frontenac had gained a reputation for wastefulness which did not recommend him, in 1661, to the prudent Colbert. Nor was he fitted by character or training for administrative duty. His qualifications were such as are of use at a post of danger.

His time came in 1669. At the beginning of that year he was singled out by Turenne for a feat of daring which placed him before the eyes of all Europe. A contest was about to close which for twenty-five years had been waged with a stubbornness rarely equalled. This was the struggle of the Venetians with the Turks for the possession of Crete.[4] To Venice {27} defeat meant the end of her glory as an imperial power. The Republic had lavished treasure upon this war as never before—a sum equivalent in modern money to fifteen hundred million dollars. Even when compelled to borrow at seven per cent, Venice kept up the fight and opened the ranks of her nobility to all who would pay sixty thousand ducats. Nor was the valour of the Venetians who defended Crete less noble than the determination of their government. Every man who loved the city of St Mark felt that her fate was at stake before the walls of Candia.

Year by year the resources of the Venetians had grown less and their plight more desperate. In 1668 they had received some assistance from French volunteers under the Duc de la Feuillade. This was followed by an application to Turenne for a general who would command their own troops in conjunction with Morosini. It was a forlorn hope if ever there was one; and Turenne selected Frontenac. {28} Co-operating with him were six thousand French troops under the Duc de Navailles, who nominally served the Pope, for Louis XIV wished to avoid direct war against the Sultan. All that can be said of Frontenac's part in the adventure is that he valiantly attempted the impossible. Crete was doomed long before he saw its shores. The best that the Venetians and the French could do was to fight for favourable terms of surrender. These they gained. In September 1669 the Venetians evacuated the city of Candia, taking with them their cannon, all their munitions of war, and all their movable property.

The Cretan expedition not only confirmed but enhanced the standing which Frontenac had won in his youth. And within three years from the date of his return he received the king's command to succeed the governor Courcelles at Quebec.

Gossip busied itself a good deal over the immediate causes of Frontenac's appointment to the government of Canada. The post was hardly a proconsular prize. At first sight one would not think that a small colony destitute of social gaiety could have possessed attractions to a man of Frontenac's rank and {29} training. The salary amounted to but eight thousand livres a year. The climate was rigorous, and little glory could come from fighting the Iroquois. The question arose, did Frontenac desire the appointment or was he sent into polite exile?

There was a story that he had once been a lover of Madame de Montespan, who in 1672 found his presence near the court an inconvenience. Others said that Madame de Frontenac had eagerly sought for him the appointment on the other side of the world. A third theory was that, owing to his financial straits, the government gave him something to keep body and soul together in a land where there were no great temptations to spend money.

Motives are often mixed; and behind the nomination there may have been various reasons. But whatever weight we allow to gossip, it is not necessary to fall back on any of these hypotheses to account for Frontenac's appointment or for his willingness to accept. While there was no immediate likelihood of a war involving France and England,[5] and {30} consequent trouble from the English colonies in America, New France required protection from the Iroquois. And, as a soldier, Frontenac had acquitted himself with honour. Nor was the post thought to be insignificant. Madame de Sevigne's son-in-law, the Comte de Grignan, was an unsuccessful candidate for it in competition with Frontenac. For some years both the king and Colbert had been giving real attention to the affairs of Canada. The Far West was opening up; and since 1665 the population of the colony had more than doubled. To Frontenac the governorship of Canada meant promotion. It was an office of trust and responsibility, with the opportunity to extend the king's power throughout the region beyond the Great Lakes. And if the salary was small, the governor could enlarge it by private trading. Whatever his motives, or the motives of those who sent him, it was a good day for Frontenac when he was sent to Canada. In France the future held out the prospect of little but a humiliating scramble for sinecures. In Canada he could do constructive work for his king and country.

Those who cross the sea change their skies but not their character. Frontenac bore with {31} him to Quebec the sentiments and the habits which befitted a French noble of the sword.[6] The more we know about the life of his class in France, the better we shall understand his actions as governor of Canada. His irascibility, for example, seems almost mild when compared with the outbreaks of many who shared with him the traditions and breeding of a privileged order. Frontenac had grown to manhood in the age of Richelieu, a period when fierceness was a special badge of the aristocracy. Thus duelling became so great a menace to the public welfare that it was made punishable with death; despite which it flourished to such an extent that one nobleman, the Chevalier d'Andrieux, enjoyed the reputation of having slain seventy-two antagonists.

Where duelling is a habitual and honourable exercise, men do not take the trouble to restrain primitive passions. Even in dealings with ladies of their own rank, French nobles often stepped over the line where rudeness {32} ends and insult begins. When Malherbe boxed the ears of a viscountess he did nothing which he was unwilling to talk about. Ladies not less than lords treated their servants like dirt, and justified such conduct by the statement that the base-born deserve no consideration. There was, indeed, no class—not even the clergy—which was exempt from assault by wrathful nobles. In the course of an altercation the Duc d'Epernon, after striking the Archbishop of Bordeaux in the stomach several times with his fists and his baton, exclaimed: 'If it were not for the respect I bear your office, I would stretch you out on the pavement!'

In such an atmosphere was Frontenac reared. He had the manners and the instincts of a belligerent. But he also possessed a soul which could rise above pettiness. And the foes he loved best to smite were the enemies of the king.

[1] As an illustration of their intimacy, there is a story that one day when Henry IV was indisposed he had these two boys on his bed, and amused himself by making them fight with each other.

[2] Charles V held all his Spanish, Burgundian, and Austrian inheritance in his own hand from 1519 to 1521. In 1521 he granted the Austrian possessions to his brother Ferdinand. Thenceforth Spain and Austria were never reunited, but their association in politics continued to be intimate until the close of the seventeenth century.

[3] Gaston d'Orleans was the younger brother of Louis XIII, and heir-presumptive until the birth of Louis XIV in 1638. His vanity and his complicity in plots to overthrow Richelieu are equally famous.

[4] This was not the first time that Frontenac had fought against the Turks. Under La Feuillade and Coligny he had taken part in Montecuculli's campaign in 1664 against the Turks in Hungary, and was present at the great victory of St Gothard on the Raab. The regiment of Carignan-Salieres was also engaged on this occasion. In the next year it came to Canada, and Lorin thinks that the association of Frontenac with the Carignan regiment in this campaign may have been among the causes of his nomination to the post of governor.

[5] By the Treaty of Dover (May 20, 1670) Charles II received a pension from France and promised to aid Louis XIV in war with Holland.

[6] Frontenac's enemies never wearied of dwelling upon his uncontrollable rage. A most interesting discussion of this subject will be found in Frontenac et Ses Amis by M. Ernest Myrand (p. 172). For the bellicose qualities of the French aristocracy see also La Noblesse Francaise sous Richelieu by the Vicomte G. d'Avenel.




Frontenac received his commission on April 6, 1672, and reached Quebec at the beginning of September. The king, sympathetic towards his needs, had authorized two special grants of money: six thousand livres for equipment, and nine thousand to provide a bodyguard of twenty horsemen. Gratified by these marks of royal favour and conscious that he had been assigned to an important post, Frontenac was in hopeful mood when he first saw the banks of the St Lawrence. His letters show that he found the country much less barbarous than he had expected; and he threw himself into his new duties with the courage which is born of optimism. A natural fortress like Quebec could not fail to awaken the enthusiasm of a soldier. The settlement itself was small, but Frontenac reported that its situation could not be more favourable, even if this spot were to become the capital of a great empire. It was, indeed, {34} a scene to kindle the imagination. Sloping down to the river-bank, the farms of Beauport and Beaupre filled the foreground. Behind them swept the forest, then in its full autumnal glory.

Awaiting Frontenac at Quebec were Courcelles, the late governor, and Talon the intendant. Both were to return to France by the last ships of that year; but in the meantime Frontenac was enabled to confer with them on the state of the colony and to acquaint himself with their views on many important subjects. Courcelles had proved a stalwart warrior against the Iroquois, while Talon possessed an unrivalled knowledge of Canada's wants and possibilities. Laval, the bishop, was in France, not to return to the colony till 1675.

The new governor's first acts went to show that with the king's dignity he associated his own. The governor and lieutenant-general of a vast oversea dominion could not degrade his office by living like a shopkeeper. The Chateau St Louis was far below his idea of what a viceregal residence ought to be. One of his early resolves was to enlarge and improve it. Meanwhile, his entertainments surpassed in splendour anything Canada had yet {35} seen. Pomp on a large scale was impossible; but the governor made the best use of his means to display the grace and majesty of his office.

On the 17th of September Frontenac presided for the first time at a meeting of the Sovereign Council;[1] 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.[2] They had, in truth, given the kings {36} 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 {37} 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 {38} 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 {39} 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 {40} 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, {41} 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,[3] 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 {42} 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 {43} 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 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 {44} 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 {45} 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 {46} 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 {47} 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 Carton, 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 {48} 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 {49} 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 storehouse at He 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 {50} 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] See The Great Intendant, chap. iii.




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[1] and not upon the king of France. Duchesneau came to Canada with the reputation of having proved a capable official at Tours.

By temper and training Frontenac was ill-disposed to share authority with any one. In the absence of bishop and intendant he had filled the centre of the stage. Now he must become reconciled to the presence at Quebec {52} of others who held high rank and had claims to be considered in the conduct of public affairs. Even at the moment of formal welcome he must have felt that trouble was in store. For sixteen years Laval had been a great person in Canada, and Duchesneau had come to occupy the post which Talon had made almost more important than that of governor.

Partly through a clash of dignities and partly through a clash of ideas, there soon arose at Quebec a conflict which rendered personal friendship among the leaders impossible, and caused itself to be felt in every part of the administration. Since this antagonism lasted for seven years and had large consequences, it becomes important to examine its deeper causes as well as the forms which under varying circumstances it came to assume.

In the triangular relations of Frontenac, Laval, and Duchesneau the bishop and the intendant were ranged against the governor. The simplest form of stating the case is to say that Frontenac clashed with Laval over one set of interests and with Duchesneau over another; over ecclesiastical issues with the bishop and over civil interests with the intendant. In the Sovereign Council these {53} three dignitaries sat together, and so close was the connection of Church with State that not a month could pass without bringing to light some fresh matter which concerned them all. Broadly speaking, the differences between Frontenac and Laval were of more lasting moment than those between Frontenac and Duchesneau. In the end governor and intendant quarrelled over everything simply because they had come to be irreconcilable enemies. At the outset, however, their theoretical grounds of opposition were much less grave than the matters in debate between Frontenac and Laval. To appreciate these duly we must consider certain things which were none the less important because they lay in the background.

When Frontenac came to Canada he found that the ecclesiastical field was largely occupied by the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and the Recollets. Laval had, indeed, begun his task of organizing a diocese at Quebec and preparing to educate a local priesthood. Four years after his arrival in Canada he had founded the Quebec Seminary (1663) and had added (1668) a preparatory school, called the Little Seminary. But the three missionary orders were still the mainstay of the Canadian {54} Church. It is evident that Colbert not only considered the Jesuits the most powerful, but also thought them powerful enough to need a check. Hence, when Frontenac received his commission, he received also written instructions to balance the Jesuit power by supporting the Sulpicians and the Recollets.

Through his dispute with Perrot, Frontenac had strained the good relations which Colbert wished him to maintain with the Sulpicians. But the friction thus caused was in no way due to Frontenac's dislike of the Sulpicians as an order. Towards the Jesuits, on the other hand, he cherished a distinct antagonism which led him to carry out with vigour the command that he should keep their power within bounds. This can be seen from the earliest dispatches which he sent to France. Before he had been in Quebec three months he reported to Colbert that it was the practice of the Jesuits to stir up strife in families, to resort to espionage, to abuse the confessional, to make the Seminary priests their puppets, and to deny the king's right to license the brandy trade. What seemed to the Jesuits an unforgivable affront was Frontenac's charge that they cared more for beaver skins than for the conversion of the savages. This {55} they interpreted as an insult to the memory of their martyrs, and their resentment must have been the greater because the accusation was not made publicly in Canada, but formed part of a letter to Colbert in France. The information that such an attack had been made reached them through Laval, who was then in France and found means to acquaint himself with the nature of Frontenac's correspondence.

Having displeased the Sulpicians and attacked the Jesuits, Frontenac made amends to the Church by cultivating the most friendly relations with the Recollets. No one ever accused him of being a bad Catholic. He was exact in the performance of his religious duties, and such trouble as he had with the ecclesiastical authorities proceeded from political aims rather than from heresy or irreligion.

Like so much else in the life of Canada, the strife between Frontenac and Laval may be traced back to France. During the early years of Louis XIV the French Church was distracted by the disputes of Gallican and Ultramontane. The Gallicans were faithful Catholics who nevertheless held that the king and the national clergy had rights which the Pope must respect. The Ultramontanes {56} defined papal power more widely and sought to minimize, disregard, or deny the privileges of the national Church.

Between these parties no point of doctrine was involved,[2] but in the sphere of government there exists a frontier between Church and State along which many wars of argument can be waged—at times with some display of force. The Mass, Purgatory, the Saints, Confession, and the celibacy of the priest, all meant as much to the Gallican as to the Ultramontane. Nor did the Pope's headship prove a stumbling-block in so far as it was limited to things spiritual. The Gallican did, indeed, assert the subjection of the Pope to a General Council, quoting in his support the decrees of Constance and Basel. But in the seventeenth century this was a theoretical contention. What Louis XIV and Bossuet strove for was the limitation of papal power in matters affecting property and political rights. The real questions upon which Gallican and Ultramontane differed were the {57} appointment of bishops and abbots, the contribution of the Church to the needs of the State, and the priest's standing as a subject of the king.

Frontenac was no theorist, and probably would have written a poor treatise on the relations of Church and State. At the same time, he knew that the king claimed certain rights over the Church, and he was the king's lieutenant. Herein lies the deeper cause of his troubles with the Jesuits and Laval. The Jesuits had been in the colony for fifty years and felt that they knew the spiritual requirements of both French and Indians. Their missions had been illuminated by the supreme heroism of Brebeuf, Jogues, Lalemant, and many more. Their house at Quebec stood half-way between Versailles and the wilderness. They were in close alliance with Laval and supported the ideal and divine rights of the Church. They had found strong friends in Champlain and Montmagny. Frontenac, however, was a layman of another type. However orthodox his religious ideas may have been, his heart was not lowly and his temper was not devout. Intensely autocratic by disposition, he found it easy to identify his own will to power with a defence {58} of royal prerogative against the encroachments of the Church. It was an attitude that could not fail to beget trouble, for the Ultramontanes had weapons of defence which they well knew how to use.

Having in view these ulterior motives, the acrimony of Frontenac's quarrel with Laval is not surprising. Rightly or wrongly, the governor held that the bishop was subservient to the Jesuits, while Colbert's plain instructions required the governor to keep the Jesuits in check. From such a starting-point the further developments were almost automatic. Laval found on his return that Frontenac had exacted from the clergy unusual and excessive honours during church services. This furnished a subject of heated debate and an appeal by both parties to the king. After full consideration Frontenac received orders to rest content with the same honours which were by custom accorded the governor of Picardy in the cathedral of Amiens.

More important by far than this argument over precedence was the dispute concerning the organization of parishes. Here the issue hinged on questions of fact rather than of theory. Beyond question the habitants were entitled to have priests living permanently in {59} their midst, as soon as conditions should warrant it. But had the time come when a parish system could be created? Laval's opinion may be inferred from the fact that in 1675, sixteen years after his arrival in Canada, only one priest lived throughout the year among his own people. This was the Abbe de Bernieres, cure of Notre Dame at Quebec. In 1678 two more parishes received permanent incumbents—Port Royal and La Durantaye. Even so, it was a small number for the whole colony.

Frontenac maintained that Laval was unwilling to create a normal system of parishes because thereby his personal power would be reduced. As long as the cures were not permanently stationed they remained in complete dependence on the bishop. All the funds provided for the secular clergy passed through his hands. If he wished to keep for the Seminary money which ought to go to the parishes, the habitants were helpless. It was ridiculous to pamper the Seminary at the expense of the colonists. It was worse than ridiculous that the French themselves should go without religious care because the Jesuits chose to give prior attention to the souls of the savage.


Laval's argument in reply was that the time had not yet come for the creation of parishes on a large scale. Doubtless it would prove possible in the future to have churches and a parochial system of the normal type. Meanwhile, in view of the general poverty it was desirable that all the resources of the Church should be conserved. To this end the habitants were being cared for by itinerant priests at much less expense than would be entailed by fixing on each parish the support of its cure.

Here, as in all these contests, a mixture of motives is evident. There is no reason to doubt Frontenac's sincerity in stating that the missions and the Seminary absorbed funds of the Church which would be better employed in ministration to the settlers. At the same time, it was for him a not unpleasant exercise to support a policy which would have the incidental effect of narrowing the bishop's power. After some three years of controversy the king, as usual, stepped in to settle the matter. By an edict of May 1679 he ordained that the priests should live in their parishes and have the free disposition of the tithes which had been established under an order of 1667. Thus on the subject of the {61} cures Frontenac's views were officially accepted; but his victory was rendered more nominal than real by the unwillingness or inability of the habitants to supply sufficient funds for the support of a resident priesthood.

In Frontenac's dispute with the clergy over the brandy question no new arguments were brought forward, since all the main points had been covered already. It was an old quarrel, and there was nothing further to do than to set forth again the opposing aspects of a very difficult subject. Religion clashed with business, but that was not all. Upon the prosecution of business hung the hope of building up for France a vast empire. The Jesuits urged that the Indians were killing themselves with brandy, which destroyed their souls and reduced them to the level of beasts. The traders retorted that the savages would not go without drink. If they were denied it by the French they would take their furs to Albany, and there imbibe not only bad rum but soul-destroying heresy. Why be visionary and suffer one's rivals to secure an advantage which would open up to them the heart of the continent?

Laval, on the other hand, had chosen his side in this controversy long before Frontenac {62} came to Canada, and he was not one to change his convictions lightly. As he saw it, the sale of brandy to the Indians was a sin, punishable by excommunication; and so determined was he that the penalty should be enforced that he would allow the right of absolution to no one but himself. In the end the king decided it otherwise. He declared the regulation of the brandy trade to fall within the domain of the civil power. He warned Frontenac to avoid an open denial of the bishop's authority in this matter, but directed him to prevent the Church from interfering in a case belonging to the sphere of public order. This decision was not reached without deep thought. In favour of prohibition stood Laval, the Jesuits, the Sorbonne, the Archbishop of Paris, and the king's confessor, Pere La Chaise. Against it were Frontenac, the chief laymen of Canada,[3] the University of Toulouse, and Colbert. In extricating himself from this labyrinth of conflicting opinion Louis XIV was guided by reasons of general policy. He had never seen the Mohawks raving drunk, and, like Frontenac, {63} he felt that without brandy the work of France in the wilderness could not go on.

Such were the issues over which Frontenac and Laval faced each other in mutual antagonism.

Between Frontenac and his other opponent, the intendant Duchesneau, the strife revolved about a different set of questions without losing any of its bitterness. Frontenac and Laval disputed over ecclesiastical affairs. Frontenac and Duchesneau disputed over civil affairs. But as Laval and Duchesneau were both at war with Frontenac they naturally drew together. The alliance was rendered more easy by Duchesneau's devoutness. Even had he wished to hold aloof from the quarrel of governor and bishop, it would have been difficult to do so. But as an active friend of Laval and the Jesuits he had no desire to be a neutral spectator of the feud which ran parallel with his own. The two feuds soon became intermingled, and Frontenac, instead of confronting separate adversaries, found himself engaged with allied forces which were ready to attack or defend at every point. It could not have been otherwise. Quebec was a small place, and the three belligerents were brought into the closest official contact by {64} their duties as members of the Sovereign Council.

It is worthy of remark that each of the contestants, Frontenac, Laval, and Duchesneau, has his partisans among the historians of the present day. All modern writers agree that Canada suffered grievously from these disputes, but a difference of opinion at once arises when an attempt is made to distribute the blame. The fact is that characters separately strong and useful often make an unfortunate combination. Compared with Laval and Frontenac, Duchesneau was not a strong character, but he possessed qualifications which might have enabled him in less stormy times to fill the office of intendant with tolerable credit. It was his misfortune that circumstances forced him into the thankless position of being a henchman to the bishop and a drag upon the governor.

Everything which Duchesneau did gave Frontenac annoyance—the more so as the intendant came armed with very considerable powers. During the first three years of Frontenac's administration the governor, in the absence of an intendant, had lorded it over the colony with a larger freedom from restraint than was normal under the French {65} colonial system. Apparently Colbert was not satisfied with the result. It may be that he feared the vigour which Frontenac displayed in taking the initiative; or the quarrel with Perrot may have created a bad impression at Versailles; or it may have been considered that the less Frontenac had to do with the routine of business, the more the colony would thrive. Possibly Colbert only sought to define anew the relations which ought to exist between governor and intendant. Whatever the motive, Duchesneau's instructions gave him a degree of authority which proved galling to the governor.

Within three weeks from the date of Duchesneau's arrival the fight had begun (September 23, 1675). In its earliest phase it concerned the right to preside at meetings of the Sovereign Council. For three years Frontenac, 'high and puissant seigneur,' had conducted proceedings as a matter of course. Duchesneau now asked him to retire from this position, producing as warrant his commission which stated that he should preside over the Council, 'in the absence of the said Sieur de Frontenac.' Why this last clause should have been inserted one finds it hard to understand, for Colbert's subsequent letters {66} place his intention beyond doubt. He meant that Duchesneau should preside, though without detracting from Frontenac's superior dignity. The order of precedence at the Council is fixed with perfect clearness. First comes the governor, then the bishop, and then the intendant. Yet the intendant is given the chair. Colbert may have thought that Duchesneau as a man of business possessed a better training for this special work. Clearly the step was not taken with a view to placing an affront upon Frontenac. When he complained, Colbert replied that there was no other man in France who, being already a governor and lieutenant-general, would consider it an increase of honour to preside over the Council. In Colbert's eyes this was a clerk's work, not a soldier's.

Frontenac saw the matter differently and was unwilling to be deposed. Royal letters, which he produced, had styled him 'President of the Council,' and on the face of it Duchesneau's commission only indicated that he should preside in Frontenac's absence. With these arguments the governor stood his ground. Then followed the representations of both parties to the king, each taxing the other with misdemeanours both political and {67} personal. During the long period which must elapse before a reply could be received, the Sovereign Council was turned into an academy of invective. Besides governor, bishop, and intendant, there were seven members who were called upon to take sides in the contest. No one could remain neutral even if he had the desire. In voting power Laval and Duchesneau had rather the best of it, but Frontenac when pressed could fall back on physical force; as he once did by banishing three of the councillors—Villeray, Tilly, and Auteuil—from Quebec (July 4, 1679).

Incredible as it may seem, this issue regarding the right to preside was not settled until the work of the Council had been disturbed by it for five years. What is still more incredible, it was settled by compromise. The king's final ruling was that the minutes of each meeting should register the presence of governor and intendant without saying which had presided. Throughout the controversy Colbert remonstrated with both Frontenac and Duchesneau for their turbulence and unwillingness to work together. Duchesneau is told that he must not presume to think himself the equal of the governor. Frontenac is told that the intendant has very important {68} functions and must not be prevented from discharging them. The whole episode shows how completely the French colonial system broke down in its attempt to act through two officials, each of whom was designed to be a check upon the other.

Wholly alienated by this dispute, Frontenac and Duchesneau soon found that they could quarrel over anything and everything. Thus Duchesneau became a consistent supporter of Laval and the Jesuits, while Frontenac retaliated by calling him their tool. The brandy question, which was partly ecclesiastical and partly civil, proved an excellent battle-ground for the three great men of Canada; and, as finance was concerned, the intendant had something to say about the establishment of parishes. But of the manifold contests between Frontenac and Duchesneau the most distinctive is that relating to the fur trade. At first sight this matter would appear to lie in the province of the intendant, whose functions embraced the supervision of commerce. But it was the governor's duty to defend the colony from attack, and the fur trade was a large factor in all relations with the Indians. A personal element was also added, for in almost every letter to the {69} minister Frontenac and Duchesneau accused each other of taking an illicit profit from beaver skins.

In support of these accusations the most minute details are given. Duchesneau even charged Frontenac with spreading a report among the Indians of the Great Lakes that a pestilence had broken out in Montreal. Thereby the governor's agents were enabled to buy up beaver skins cheaply, afterwards selling them on his account to the English. Frontenac rejoined by accusing the intendant of having his own warehouses at Montreal and along the lower St Lawrence, of being truculent, a slave to the bishop, and incompetent. Behind Duchesneau, Frontenac keeps saying, are the Jesuits and the bishop, from whom the spirit of faction really springs. Among many of these tirades the most elaborate is the long memorial sent to Colbert in 1677 on the general state of Canada. Here are some of the items. The Jesuits keep spies in Frontenac's own house. The bishop declares that he has the power to excommunicate the governor if necessary. The Jesuit missionaries tell the Iroquois that they are equal to Onontio. Other charges are that the Jesuits meddle in all civil affairs, that their revenues {70} are enormous in proportion to the poverty of the country, and that they are bound to domineer at whatever cost.

When we consider how Canada from end to end was affected by these disputes, we may well feel surprise that Colbert and the king should have suffered them to rage so long. By 1682 the state of things had become unbearable. Partisans of Frontenac and Duchesneau attacked each other in the streets. Duchesneau accused Frontenac of having struck the young Duchesneau, aged sixteen, and torn the sleeve of his jacket. He also declared that it was necessary to barricade his house. Frontenac retorted by saying that these were gross libels. A year earlier Colbert had placed his son, Seignelay, in charge of the Colonial Office. With matters at such a pass Seignelay rightly thought the time had come to take decisive action. Three courses were open to him. The bishop and the Jesuits he could not recall. But both the governor and the intendant came within his power. One alternative was to dismiss Frontenac; another, to dismiss Duchesneau. Seignelay chose the third course and dismissed them both.

[1] Laval had wished strongly that the see of Quebec should be directly dependent on the Papacy, and his insistence on this point delayed the formal creation of the diocese.

[2] The well-known relation of the Jansenist movement to Gallican liberties was not such that the Gallican party accepted Jansenist theology. The Jesuits upheld papal infallibility and, in general, the Ultramontane position. The Jansenists were opposed to the Jesuits, but Gallicanism was one thing and Jansenist theology another.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse