|Writings of Marc Lescarbot, Page 3|
|There are in that country some men of the Church, of good scholarship, whom nothing but their religious zeal has taken there, and who will not fail to do all that piety requires in this respect. Now, for the present, there is no need of any learned Doctors who may be more useful in combating vices and heresies at home. Besides, there is a certain class of men in whom we cannot have complete confidence, who are in the habit of censuring everything that is not in harmony with their maxims, and wish to rule where ever they are. It is enough to be watched from abroad without having these fault-finders, from whom even the greatest Kings cannot defend themselves, come near enough to record every movement of our hearts and souls. And then what would be the use of so many such men over there at present, unless they wanted to devote themselves to the cultivation of the soil? For going there is not all. What they will do, when they get there, must be taken into consideration. As to Sieur de Poutrincourt's residence, he provided himself at his departure with everything that was necessary. But if a few honest people were seized with a desire to advance the cause of the Gospel there, I would advise them to make up five or six parties, each one having a well-equipped ship, and to go and establish colonies in different parts of New France, as at Tadoussac, Gachepé, Campseau, la Héve, Oigoudi, Ste. Croix, Pemptegoet, Kinibeki, and in other places, where there are assemblages of Savages, whom time must lead to the Christian Religion: unless the head of some great family, like the King, wishes to have the sole glory of peopling these lands.
For to think of living as the Savages do seems to me out of all reason. And to prove this, the following is an example of their way of living: From the first land ( which is Newfoundland ) to the country of the Armouchiquois, a distance of nearly three hundred leagues, the people are nomads, without agriculture, never stopping g longer than five or six weeks in a place. Pliny mentions a certain people called Ichthyophagi, i.e., Fish-eaters, living in the Same way. These Savages get their living in this manner during three seasons of the year. For, when Spring comes, they divide intobands upon the shores of the sea, until Winter; and then as the fish withdraw to the bottom of the great salt waters, they seek the lakes and the shades of the forests, where they catch Beavers, upon which they live, and other game, as Elk, Caribou, Deer, and still smaller animals. And yet, sometimes even in Summer, they do not give up hunting: besides, there are an infinite number of birds on certain islands in the months of May, June, July and August.
As to their beds, a skin spread out upon the ground serves as mattress. And in this we have nothing to jest about, for our old Gallic ancestors did the same thing, and even dined from the skins of dogs and wolves, if Diodorus and Strabo tell the truth. But as to the Armouchiquois and Iroquois countries, there is a greater harvest to be gathered there by those who are inspired by religious zeal, because they are not so sparsely populated, and the people cultivate the soil, from which they derive some of the comforts of life. It is true that they do not understand very well how to make bread, not having mills, yeast, or ovens; so they pound their corn in a kind of mortar, and make a paste of it as best they can, and bake it between two stones heated at the fire; or they roast this corn on the ear upon the live coals, as did the old Romans, according to Pliny. Afterwards people learned to bake cakes under the embers; and still later bakers began to make use of ovens. Now these people who cultivate the soil are stationary, not like the others who have nothing of their own, just as the Germans in the time of Tacitus, who has described their ancient way of living. Farther inland, and beyond the Armouchiquois, are the Iroquois tribes, also stationary, because they till the soil, whence they gather maize wheat or Buckwheat), beans, edible roots, and in short all that we have mentioned in describing the Armouchiquois, even more, for from necessity they draw their sustenance from the earth, as they are far from the sea.
However, they have a great lake in their country, of wonderful extent, perhaps about sixty leagues, around which they encamp. In this lake there are large and beautiful islands inhabited by the Iroquois, who are a great people; the farther we penetrate into the country, the more we find it inhabited: so much so that (if we can believe the Spaniards ) in the country called New Mexico, a long distance to the Southwest of these Iroquois, there are regularly built cities and houses of three and four stories, and even domesticated cattle, whence they have named a certain river Rio de las Vaccas, or Cow river, because they saw a large number of them grazing on its banks. And this country is more than five hundred leagues directly to the north of old Mexico, being near, I believe, the end of the great lake of the river of Canada which (according to the Savages ) is a thirty days journey in length. I believe that robust and hardy men could live among these people, and do great work for the advancement of the Christian Religion. But as to the Souriquois and Etechemins, who are nomadic and divided, they must be made sedentary by the cultivation of the land, thus obliging them to remain in one place. For any one who has taken the trouble to cultivate a piece of land does not readily abandon it, but struggles valiantly to keep it.
|But, I think, the execution of this plan will be very slow unless we take hold of it with more zeal, and unless a King, or some rich Prince, take this cause in hand, which is certainly worthy a most Christian kingdom. Great expense and loss of life were once incurred in the re-conquest of Palestine, from which there was little profit; and to-day at slight expense wonders could be accomplished, and an infinite number of people won over to God, without striking a blow: and yet we are touched by an inexplicable apathy in religious matters, which is quite different from the fervid zeal which of old burned in the bosoms of our fathers. If we did not expect any temporal fruit from these labors, I would pardon this human weakness. But there are such well-founded hopes of good usury, that they close the mouths of all the enemies of that country, who decry it in order not to lose the traffic in Beaver and other furs from which they gain a livelihood, and without which they would die of starvation or would not know what to do. But if the King and the Queen Regent, his mother, in whom God has kindled a fire of piety, should be pleased to take an interest in this (as she has certainly done in the report of the Conversion of the Savages, baptized through the instrumentality of Sieur de Poutrincourt) and would leave some memorial of herself, or rather would secure for herself the blessedness of heaven by this most godly act, no one can tell how great would be her future glory in being the first to establish the Gospel in such vast territories, which ( so to speak ) have no bounds.
If Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, had found such a field for good work, she would have greatly preferred to glorify God with living temples, instead of building so many marble edifices, with which she has filled the holy land. And, after all, the hope of temporal profit is not vain. For on one hand Sieur de Poutrincourt will continue to be the servant of the King in the country which his Majesty has granted him; where he would afford a rendezvous and give assistance to all the vessels which go every year to the new [page 89] World, where they encounter a thousand hardships and, as we have seen and heard, great numbers of them are lost. On the other hand, penetrating into the country, we might become familiar with the route to China and the Moluccas, through a mild climate and latitude, establishing a few stations, or settlements, at the Falls of the great Canadian river, then at the lakes which are beyond, the last of which is not far from the great Western sea, through which the Spaniards to-day reach the Orient. Or, indeed, the same enterprise could be carried on through the Saguenay river, beyond which the Savages say there is a sea of which they have never seen the end, which is without doubt that Northern passage that has been so long sought in vain.
So that we could have spices and other drugs without begging them from the Spaniards, and the profits derived from us upon these commodities would remain in the hands of the King, not counting the advantages of having hides, pasturage, fisheries, and other sources of wealth. But we must sow before we can reap. In this work we could give employment to many of the youth of France, a part of whom languish in poverty or in idleness: while others go to foreign countries to teach the trades which in former times belonged strictly and peculiarly to us, and by means of which France was filled with prosperity; whereas, to-day, a long period of peace has not yet been able to restore to her her former glory, as much for the reasons just given, as for the number of idle men, and of able-bodied and voluntary mendicants, whom the public supports. Among these obstacles we may place also the evil of chicanery, which preys upon our nation, and which has always been a reproach to it. This would be somewhat obviated by frequent voyages; for, a part of these pettifoggers would sooner conquer some new land, remaining under the dominion of the King, than. follow up their cause here with so much loss, delay anxiety, and labor. And, in this respect, I consider all these poor savages, whom we commiserate, to be very happy; for pale Envy doth not emaciate them, neither do they feel the inhumanity of those who serve God hypocritically, harassing their fellow-creatures under this mask: nor are they subject to the artifices of those who, lacking virtue and goodness wrap themselves up in a mantle of false piety to nourish their ambition. If they do not know God, at least they do not blaspheme him, as the greater number of Christians do. Nor do they understand the art of poisoning, or of corrupting chastity by devilish artifice.
|There are no poor nor beggars among them. All are rich, because all labor and live. But among us it is very different, for more than half of us live from the labors of the others, having no trades which serve to the support of human life. If that country were settled, there are men who would do there what they have not courage to do here. Here they would not dare to be wood-cutters, husbandmen, vinedressers, etc., because their fathers were pettifoggers, barber-surgeons, and apothecaries But over yonder they would forget their fear of being ridiculed, and would take pleasure in cultivating their land, having a great many companions of as good families as theirs. Cultivating the soil is the most innocent of occupations and the most sure; it was the occupation of those from whom we have all descended, and of those brave Roman Captains who knew how to subjugate, but not how to be subjugated. But now, since pomp and malice have been introduced among men, what was virtue has been turned into reproach, and idlers have risen into favor. However, let us leave these people, and return to Sieur de Poutrincourt, or rather to you, O most Christian Queen, the greatest and most cherished of heaven, whom the eye of the world looks down upon in its daily round about this universe.
You who have the control of the most noble Empire here below, how can you see a Gentleman so full of good will, without employing and helping him ? Will you let him carry off the greatest honor in the world when it might have been yours, and will you let the triumph of this affair remain with him and not share in it yourself? No, no, Madame, all must proceed from you, and as the stars borrow their light from the sun, so upon the King, and upon you who have given him to us, all the great deeds of the French depend. We must then anticipate this glory, and not yield it to another, while you have a Poutrincourt, a loyal Frenchman who served the late lamented King, your Husband (may God give him absolution), in affairs of State which are not recorded in history. In revenge for which his house and property passed through the ordeal of fire. He is not crossing the Ocean to see the country, as have nearly all the others who have undertaken similar voyages at the expense of our Kings. But he shows so plainly what his intentions are, that we cannot doubt them, and your Majesty will risk nothing by employing him in earnest for the propagation of the Christian religion in the eastern lands beyond the sea. You recognize his zeal, your own is incomparable; but you must take thought as to how you may best employ it.
I commend the Princesses and Ladies who for fifteen years have given of their means for the repose of those men or women who wished to sequester themselves from the world. But I believe (under correction) that their piety would shine with greater luster if it were shown in behalf of these poor Western nations, who are in a lamentable condition, and whose lark of instruction cries to God for vengeance against those who might help them to become Christians, and will not. A Queen of Castille caused the Christian religion to be introduced into the lands of the West which belong to Spain; so act, O light of the Queens of the world, that through your instrumentality, the name of God may soon be proclaimed throughout all this new world, where it is not yet known. Now resuming the thread of our History, as we have spoken of the voyage of Sieur de Poutrincourt, it will not be out of place, if, after having touched upon the hardships and tediousness of his journey, which retarded him one year, we say a word about the return of his ship; which will be brief, inasmuch as the voyages from the Western world, this side of the Tropic of Cancer, are usually so.
I have given the reason for this in my History of New France, to which I refer the Reader, where he will also learn why it is that in Summer the sea there is overhung with fogs to such an extent that for one clear day there are two foggy ones; and twice we were in fogs which lasted eight entire days. This is why Sieur de Poutrincourt's son, when he was sent back to France for fresh supplies, was as long in reaching the great Codfish Banks from Port Royal, as in getting to France from the said Banks; and yet from these Banks to the coast of France there are eight hundred good leagues; and thence to Port Royal there are hardly more than three hundred. It is upon these Banks that a great many ships are usually found all the Summer, fishing for Cod, which are brought to France and are called Newfoundland Codfish. So Sieur de Poutrincourt's son ( who is called Baron de Sainct Just), on arriving at these Banks, laid in a supply of fresh meat and fish. While doing this he met a ship from Rochelle and another from Havre de Grace, whence he heard the news of the lamentable death of our late good King, without knowing by whom or how he was killed. But afterwards he met an English ship from which he heard the same thing, certain persons being accused of this parricide whom I will not here name; for they brought this accusation through hatred and envy, being great enemies of those whom they accused.
So in fifteen days Baron de Sainct Just made the distance between the Banks and France, always sailing before the wind ; a voyage certainly much more agreeable than that of the twenty-sixth day of February mentioned above. Sieur de Monts's crew left Havre de Grace nine or ten days after this twenty-sixth of February to go to Kebec, forty leagues beyond the Saguenay river, where Sieur de Monts has fortified himself. But contrary winds compelled them to put into port. And thereupon a report was circulated that Sieur de Poutrincourt was lost in the sea with all his crew. I did not believe this for an instant, trusting that God would help him and would enable him to surmount all difficulties. We have as yet no news from Kebec, but expect to hear from there soon. I can say truly that if ever any good comes out of New France, posterity will be indebted for it to Sieur de Monts, author of these enterprises: and if they had not taken away the license which was granted him to trade in Beaver and other skins, to-day we should have had a vast number of cattle, fruit-trees, people, and buildings in the said province. For he earnestly desired to see everything established there to the honor of God and of France. And, although he has been deprived of the motive for continuing, yet up to the present he does not seem discouraged in doing what he can; for he has had built at Kebec a Fort and some very good and convenient dwellings.
|Here at Kebec this great and mighty river of Canada narrows down and is only a falcon-shot wide; it has as great a supply of fish as any river in the world. As to the country, it is wonderfully beautiful, and abounds in game. But being in a colder region than Port Royal, since it is eighty leagues farther North, the fur there is all the finer. For (among other animals) the Foxes are black and of such beautiful fur that they seem to put the Martens to shame. The Savages of Port Royal can go to Kebec in ten or twelve days by means of the rivers, which they navigate almost up to their sources; and thence, carrying their little bark canoes for some distance through the woods, they reach another stream which flows into the river of Canada, and thus greatly expedite their long Voyages, which we ourselves could not do in the present state of the country. And from Port Royal to Kebec by sea it is more than four hundred leagues, going by way of Cape Breton. Sieur de Monts sent some cows there two years and a half ago, but for want of some village housewife who understood taking care of them, they let the greater part die in giving birth to their calves. Which shows how necessary a woman is in a house, and I cannot understand why so many people slight them, although they cannot do without them.
For my part, I shall always believe that, in any settlement whatsoever, nothing will be accomplished without the presence of women. Without them life is sad, sickness comes, and we die uncaredfor. Therefore I despise those woman-haters who have wished them all sorts of evil, which I hope will overtake that lunatic in particular, who has been placed among the number of the seven Sages, who said that woman is a necessary evil, since there is no blessing in the world to be compare to her. Therefore God gave her as a companion to man, to aid and comfort him: and the Wise Man says:—Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up. And if two lie together, they shall warm one another. If there are some worthless women, we must remember that men are not faultless. Several suffered because of this lack of cows, for when they fell ill they did not have all the comforts that they would have had otherwise, and so they have departed to the Elysian fields. Another, who had been with us on the voyage, did not have the patience to wait for death, but must needs go to heaven by scaling the walls, as soon as he arrived there, by a conspiracy against sieur de Champlein, his Captain.
His accomplices were condemned to the galleys and sent back to France. When Summer came, that is a year ago, Champlein wishing to see the country of the Iroquois, to prevent the Savages from seizing his Fort in his absence, persuaded them to go and make war against them; so they departed with him and two other Frenchmen, to the number of eighty or a hundred, to the lake of the Iroquois, two hundred leagues distant from Kebec. There has always been war between these two nations, as there has been between the Souriquois and Armouchiquois: and sometimes the Iroquois have raised as many as eight thousand men to war against and exterminate all those who live near the great river of Canada: and it seems that they did this, as to-day the language which was spoken in the time of Jacques Cartier, who was there eighty years ago, is no longer heard in that region. When Champlein arrived there with his troops, they could not conceal themselves so well but that they were perceived by the Iroquois, who always have sentinels upon the routes of their enemies: and each side being well fortified, it was agreed among them not to fight that day, but to postpone the affair until the morrow.
The weather then was very clear; so clear that scarcely had Aurora chased away the shadows of the night, than a din was heard throughout the camp. An Iroquois skirmisher having tried to issue from the fortifications, was pierced through, not by one of the arrows of Apollo, nor of the little Archer with the blindfolded eyes, but by a genuine and very painful arrow, which stretched him out upon his back. Thereupon the eyes of the offended were full of ire, and each one takes his place in the line of attack and defense. As the band of Iroquois advances, Champlein, who had charged his musket with two balls, seeing two Iroquois, their heads adorned with feathers, marching on in front, supposed they were two Captains, and wanted to advance and aim at them. But the Kebec Savages prevented him, saying:- "It is not well that they should see thee, for, never having been accustomed to see such people as thou art, they would immediately run away. But withdraw behind our first rank, and when we are ready, thou shalt advance." He did so, and in this way the two Captains were both slain by one musket shot. Victory ensued at once. For they all disbanded, and it only remained to pursue them. This was done with little opposition, and they carried off some fifty of their enemies heads, a triumph which, upon their return, they celebrated with great festivities, consisting of continual Tabagies, dances, and chants, according to their custom.
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