|Orders and Disorders|
|The Politics of Religion|
|Regardless of our own spiritual beliefs, no one can say that Religion did not play an important role in the colonization of the 'New World'. From the Puritans of New England to the Uruslines of Quebec, the religious communities were involved in all the stages of development, from the get go.
Early explorers, though in search of mineral wealth and human cargo; knew that in order to obtain the all-important Papal Authority, they would also have to look for souls to save When Cartier reported that there was a multitude of heathens just begging for spiritual enlightment, all of the Religious sects began to jockey for position. Not since the Crusades, had there been such an interest in religious conversion.
The Recollects arrived in New France in 1615, followed by the Jesuits in 1625; though they had already landed in Acadia more than a decade before. In 1639, the Ursulines arrived to develop Quebec, and by 1657; all groups were involved in a variety of activities, ranging from converting the native peoples, to teaching the children of the first colonists and their descendants. They also cared for the sick and the needy, established missions, instructed young women in domestic and agricultural chores and young men in farming and navigation. In short, all the skills necessary to ensure the continuity of French Canada.
But behind all of this was the politics of religion, administered from home, and French Canadians were often at the mercy of who happened to be wielding the most power at the time.
|The Religious Wars|
|Following the Reformation in the sixteenth century, Europe was embroiled in many religious wars, most between Catholics and Protestants (Hugenots). Many of the early investors in 'New France' , were trying to recoup their losses after contributing heavily to the cause; including Poitrincourt. It comes as no surprise that the hostilities in France would filter through to the colonies, and French Canada was no exception.
But first a brief history of the Religious Wars in France, that began with the Reformation, hit it's peak with the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and ended (though only temporarily), with the Edict of Nantes.
|By the mid sixteenth century, the Bourgeois or merchant class was growing rapidly, and even many former members of the French nobility were turning to trade as a way of maintaining a lifestyle that was becoming very expensive. As such, the Catholic doctrine at the time, went contra to their interests, mainly because of the exorbitant number of 'holidays' or 'feast days' (more than 100 per year), where you had to refrain from commercial activities.|
|As this growing element of French society began to swell the Calvinist ranks, Catholic extremists became alarmed and in 1562, there began a series of conflicts that went down in history as the Religious Wars. One eyewitness account: "It would be impossible to tell you what barbarous cruelties were committed by both sides. When the Huguenot is master, he ruins the images and demolishes the sepulchres and tombs. On the other hand, the Catholic kills, murders, and drowns all those whom he knows to be of that sect, until the river overflows with them" (Holy Horrors; Haught Page 94).|
|Not that the Hugenots didn't also kill and mame. It is said that "They hunted priests like animals, and one Huguenot captain was even reputed to have worn a necklace made out of priests' ears!|
|But without a doubt, the worst unholy event was the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which became a true testament to the intolerance of the time.
The French Queen, Catherine de Medici was becoming concerned that Paris was infested with Huguenots, so she masterminded a plan with her son Charles. First they arranged a marriage between Margaret of Valois, the queen's daughter and the Huguenot, Henry of Navarre. The idea was to lure the military leader of the Huguenots, Gaspard Coligny, to Paris so that he could be assassinated.
Along with Coligny, there were to be many Hugenots attending the ceremony, which took place on the 18th of August 1572; but the celebrations went on for days. Then, in the early hours of the 24th, (St. Bartholomew's Day), the bell of the Palace of Justice rang, which was the signal to the conspirators to begin the attack. The Huguenots were surprised in their sleep, resulting in a mass slaughter.
|"Huguenots in Paris were shot, drowned, hanged and butchered by fanatical Catholics. Nowhere were they safe. They were killed in their beds, shot on the rooftops, and hunted down wherever they sought safety...Women and children were stripped, dragged through the streets and thrown into the Seine. A basketful of babies was also thrown into the river, and pregnant women had their throats cut". (Massacres Author Baily. Pg 30)|
|In Paris alone about 4,000 Huguenots were slain, however, the brutality was not confined to that city, but was initiated throughout the entire country, and ran through to October. Rough estimates are between 70,000 to 100,000 in all.
The head of the slain Coligny was sent to Pope Gregory XIII; who was overjoyed and he and his cardinals held a special thanksgiving mass. He then ordered salvos (simultaneous discharge of artillary) to be fired from the Castel St. Angelo and had a medal struck to commemorate the occasion, the design of which had the profile of Gregory XIII on one side and a representation of an angel of God slaughtering the protestants on the other. And as if that wasn't enough, he also commissioned the painter Giorgio Vasari to paint scenes of the slaughter on the walls of Sala Regia in the Vatican.
|But before we come down too hard on the Catholics, remember that a protestant Oliver Cromwell led a massacre against Irish Catholics in Drogedah, on September 11, 1649; where 4,000 were slaughtered and he himself referred to it as "a righteous judgement of God upon these barbarous wretches.” It was not good time to advertise your religious convictions.
The Religious Wars in France saw a reprieve when Henry of Navarre converted to the Roman Catholic faith and signed the Edict of Nantes, in 1593, which assured freedom of religion.
|Fortunately, nothing on that scale occurred in New France, but religious politics were behind most of the major decisions, regarding the financial interests and future settlement of the French colony.|
|The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John (the Order of Malta)|
|Another important factor in the history of French Canada, is the behind the scenes work of the Order of Malta, a secretive and influential group of Catholics, who provided warriors for the Religious Wars. Many of the early backers of New France, like Aymar De Chastes and Isaac De Razilly, were Knight Commanders of the Order, which required that you be at least eighth generation nobility.
The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John, came into existence about 1080 when a hospital for pilgrims was established by Brother Gerard in Jerusalem, and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Backed by wealthy merchants, the hospital’s administrators were recognized by the Pope as an Order of the Church. Initially they were dedicated to the care of the poor and sick but were soon playing a major role in the defence of the Christian settlements, turning into armed guards, and fighting monks; participating alongside the Crusaders and holding fortresses as well as hospices across the Holy Land.
In 1206 the first Statutes of the Order were issued, which divided the members between priests or chaplains, knights and sergeants (the fighting men were commoners). The Mastership however, was restricted to knights in 1262. Driven from Palestine with the rest of the Catholics in 1291, the Hospitallers of St John took over the island of Rhodes, off the coast of Asia Minor, which became their base for naval operations against Muslim shipping. By 1301, the Order had organized itself in Provence, Auvergne, France, Spain, Italy, England and Germany, ruling from Rhodes until 1522, when they were given the island of Malta.
The Hospitallers owned a large number of estates, which had been given to them over time and allowed lay people to live on these estates, sharing some of the spiritual life of the Order. Other houses were set aside as convents and monasteries.
My own G-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandfather' Jacques Bourgeois, was raised in one of their monasteries, and was under the protection of the Knights of Malta until he reached the legal age of 21. Since their membership was restricted to the nobility, and Jacques was an illegitimate child, it can be assumed that his 'unnamed father' was either a nobleman or member of the clergy. Jacques' sister had married Germain Doucet Sieur de Laverdure, who was a Knight in Order and arrived in Acadia with Isaac de Razilly, in 1632.
Since many of these 'Knights' and 'Knight Commanders' had invested heavily in the Religious Wars in France, they were now looking for a cash cow, and hoped that New France, with it's abudance of natural resources, would be it. Cha-ching
|Richelieu's Foreign Policy and a Catholic New France|
|On August 13, 1624; Jean Armand Duplessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu, became head of the Council with the title “Secretary of State for Commerce and the Marine”.|
|At the time, France's economy was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the Cardinal knew that he would have to find new sources of revenue or risk being swallowed up by the powerful House of Hapsburg.
Some noblemen, who had never paid taxes, now had to do so; though most of the new tax incentives fell to the already hard hit peasant class. Richelieu then hired a small army of tax gatherers, who worked on commission and were instructed to collect the tax with whatever means they had to; and since they only got paid when the peasants antied up, those means were often brutal.
This gave rise to a group of renegades, who became known as the "barefoot boys", who in retaliation, went after the tax collectors, usually slitting their throats.
|So with domestic revenues not looking very promising, he decided to follow the foreign policies of other nations, like Spain, England and Holland; who exploited their colonies to build their trading potential and military strength.|
|Modeling his plans on those of England and Holland, he initiated schemes for colonization, where private companies would do the underwriting, in exchange for state backing and trade monopolies. This had been attempted before, but failed for a variety of reasons; first and foremost, the lure of profit from the lucrative fur trade, and the inability to protect themselves from free traders like the Coureur Des Bois.
However, Richelieu's plans were on a much broader scale. By putting the emphasis on settlement, he hoped to generate a market for French goods, necessary in the building and furnishing of homes; create a militia from the settlers who could police trade and guard against invasion; and provide jobs for out of work French tradesmen and labourers; who would in turn become his market for French export and soldiers for the militia. A win, win, win! Or at least it looked good on paper.
The first thing he did was revoke all previous monopolies and launch a new enterprise; The Company of One Hundred Associates, which was formed in 1627. In return for the monopoly of the fur trade, this syndicate would assume the obligation of financing a migration to Canada of 200 colonists per year. The only stipulation was that that they all be Roman Catholic, so who better to turn to than the Order of St. John of Malta, to recruit wealthy Catholic investors.
|In the aftermath of the Religious Wars, the Huguenot communities had been in retreat and by that time, they had one last stronghold, La Rochelle, which then was under siege. To avoid exporting the conflicts of the Old World to the new land, Richelieu excluded the Hugenots, in hopes of establishing a peaceful and prosperous re-creation of France in an exclusively Roman Catholic colony.
But the Hugenots would get their revenge. Led by the Kirke Brothers, they pirated four ships with 400 Catholic settlers, in 1628; and the following year, sacked the Kebec Habitation and took possession of the area for the King of England. It would be several years before the French could make another attempt to create the proposed 'Ideal Colony'.
|Enter the Jesuits|
|Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in France, launched a Counter-Reformation, in reponse to the challenges of Luther, Calvin, and other reformers; that resembled Puritanism in it's harshness of morality. This catered to a small pious group who felt that mainstream Catholicism had become too lax.|
|One of these groups was the secret and powerful Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, which included numerous highly placed state officials; and another, less militant group, were the Jesuits, a religious order founded in the mid-sixteenth century by a soldier turned evangelist, Ignatius Loyola. The Jesuits would really be able to get their feet wet in French Canada.
By the 1620s they had already achieved renown for their educational and missionary work, by displaying flexibility in both dogma and methods; while still holding onto their military origin. These 'Followers of Jesus', had a fanatical conception of duty and self-sacrifice, revealed in their Relations, which were annual reports of terrible suffering and ghoulish martytdom that circulated among pious members of the French gentry and aristocracy from 1632 to 1673.
These reports generated sympathy for missionary work in New France, and the gruesome details of martyrdom boosted recruitment by encouraging a longing for such treatment in persons enamoured with the idea of achieving their own salvation through suffering. The typical recruit was a son of a wealthy merchant or nobleman seeking an escape from the temptations of immoral living. Such persons welcomed a trial of their acquired strength of character. As one described his own feelings, "people like us do not fear death. Why should we? We believe in God ...and we are assured of eternal happiness in Heaven after our death."
And what better place to achieve this strength of character than Canada? Faced with the relative ease of converting the sedentary Huron-Canadians or the challenges of winning over nomadic groups, like the Montagnais-Canadians; who without agriculture, were in a constant pursuit of food; many chose the latter to 'achieve their own salvation through suffering.
And suffer they did. In his first week among the Montagnais-Canadians, one missionary, Father Le Jeune, found himself overcome by a violent fever. "Being cured," he said he "tried to follow them during the winter, and ...was ill the greater part of the time." He concluded in 1634 that "not much ought to be hoped for from the savages as long as they are wanderers; you will instruct them today, tomorrow hunger snatches your hearers away, forcing them to go and seek their food in the rivers and woods." According to Father Garnier, writing in 1636: "the country of the Huron is the sancta sanctorum. It is of all the country where we are, the field where our fathers hope to establish the most beautiful mission because they are a stable nation and not vagabonds like most of the others."
|Compagnie Du Saint-Sacrement|
|When Kebec was returned to France in 1632; Richelieu was eager to renew his plans for the colony, but many of his former backers were reluctant to sink more money into financing new settlers, until they could show some return on their investment; so once again; the primary concern was profit from the fur-trade.
At the time, the government of France was preoccupied with European wars, leaving an opening for the Roman Catholic Church to fill the void. However, they realized that the only way to achieve a Roman Catholic colony, was to not only restrict settlement to Catholics, but to also convert the large population of Canadians, already there.
|The Jesuits were the first to arrive and establish missionaries, hoping to reach the masses before the arrival of new settlers, who might contradict their teachings of the morality of France.
In 1639, two women's orders, the Ursulines and the Hospitalieres de la Misericorde de Jesus de I' Ordre de Saint Augustin, arrived to establish convents for the instruction of women. But an even more significant reinforcement was the contingent sent by the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement; funded by Charlotte-Marguerite de Montmorency, Princess De Conde; and under the command of Paul de Chomedy, Sieur de Maisonneuve, who was responsible for recruiting Marguerite Bourgeoys.
In 1642, he arrived with fourty faithful followers to establish a mission on the Island of Montreal, which was then referred to by the Jesuit missionaries as the 'Gates of Hell'. This location would prove to be ideal, and though the original interest was evangelical, it turned out to be a great commercial success as well; shifting from merely bringing Christianity to the Canadian people, to building a truly religious society of newcomers in the New World.
|By recruiting noblemen, rather than peasants, they would offer siegneuries, in exchange for their recruitment of labourers and farmers, who would be indentured for a specific length of time. Though it wasn't as successful as they had hoped; between 1642 and 1663, the French population did increase from under 1300 persons to more than 3000.|
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