Early Voyages, French Settlement in America

Americanist History, George Bancroft’s History of the United States

PART I: The English People Found a Nation in America (1492 to 1660)
Chapter 1: Early Voyages, French Settlements in America

THE enterprise of Columbus, the most memorable maritime enterprise in the history of the world, formed between Europe and America the communication which will never cease.

Nearly three centuries before the Christian era, Aristotle, following the lessons of the Pythagoreans, had taught that the earth is a sphere, and that the water which bounds Europe on the west washes the eastern shores of Asia. Instructed by him, the Spaniard Seneca believed that a ship, with a fair wind, could sail from Spain to the Indies in a few days. The opinion was revived in the middle ages by Averroes, the Arab commentator of Aristotle. Science and observation assisted to confirm it; and poets of ancient and of more recent times had foretold that empires beyond the ocean would one day be revealed to the daring navigator. The genial country of Dante and Buonarotti gave birth to Christopher Columbus, by whom these lessons were so received and weighed that he gained the glory of fulfilling the prophecy. Accounts of the navigation from the eastern coast of Africa to Arabia had reached the western kingdoms of Europe; and adventurous Venetians, returning from travels beyond the Ganges, had filled the world with dazzling descriptions of the wealth of China as well as marvelous reports of the outlying island empire of Japan. It began to be believed that the continent of Asia stretched over far more than a hemisphere, and that the remaining distance round the globe was comparatively short. Yet from the early part of the fifteenth century the navigators of Portugal had directed their explorations to the coast of Africa; and, when they had ascertained that the torrid zone is habitable even under the equator, the discovery of the islands of Madeira and the Azores could not divert them from the purpose of turning the southern capes of that continent and steering past them to the land of spices, which promised untold wealth to the merchants of Europe, new dominions to its princes, and heathen nations to the religion of the cross. Before the year 1474, and perhaps as early as 1470, Columbus was attracted to Lisbon, which was then the great center of maritime adventure. He came to insist with immovable resoluteness that the shortest route to the Indies lay across the Atlantic. By the words of Aristotle, received through Averroes, and by letters from Toscanelli, the venerable cosmographer of Florence who had drawn a map of the world with eastern Asia rising over against Europe, he was riveted in his faith, and lived only in the idea of laying open the western path to the Indies.

After more than ten years of vain solicitations in Portugal, he left the banks of the Tagus to seek the aid of Ferdinand and Isabella, rich in nautical experience, having watched the stars at sea from the latitude of Iceland to near the equator at Elmina. Though yet longer baffled by the skepticism which knew not how to comprehend the clearness of his conceptions, or the mystic trances which sustained his inflexibility of purpose, or the unfailing greatness of his soul, he lost nothing of his devotedness to the sublime office to which he held himself elected from his infancy by the promises of God. When half resolved to withdraw from Spain, traveling on foot, he knocked at the gate of the monastery of La Rabida, at Palos, to crave the needed charity of food and shelter for himself and his little son whom he led by the hand, the destitute and neglected seaman, in his naked poverty, was still the promiser of kingdoms; holding firmly in his grasp “the keys of the ocean sea,” claiming, as it were from Heaven, the Indies as his own, and “dividing them as he pleased.” It was then that through the prior of the convent his holy confidence found support in Isabella, the queen of Castile; and in 1492, with three poor vessels, of which the largest only was decked, embarking from Palos for the Indies by way of the west, Columbus gave a New World to Castile and Leon, “the like of which was never done by any man in ancient or in later times.”

Successive popes of Rome had already conceded to the Portuguese the undiscovered world from Cape Bojador in Africa easterly to the Indies. To prevent collision between Christian princes, on the fourth of May, 1493, Alexander VI published a bull, in which he drew an imaginary line from the north pole to the south a hundred leagues west of the Azores, assigning to Spain all that lies to the west of that boundary, while all to the east of it was confirmed to Portugal.

The commerce of the middle ages, concentrated upon the Mediterranean Sea, had enriched the Italian republics, and had been chiefly engrossed by their citizens. After the fall of the Byzantine empire the Christian states desired to escape the necessity of strengthening the Ottoman power by the payment of tribute on all intercourse with the remoter east. Maritime enterprise, transferring its home to the borders of the Atlantic, set before itself as its great problem the discovery of a pathway by sea to the Indies; and England, which like Spain and Portugal looked out upon the ocean, became a competitor for the unknown world.

The wars of the houses of York and Lancaster had terminated with the intermarriage of the heirs of the two families; the spirit of commercial activity began to be successfully fostered; and the marts of England were frequented by Lombard adventurers. The fisheries of the north had long tempted the merchants of Bristol to an intercourse with Iceland; and had matured the nautical skill that could buffet the worst storms of the Atlantic. Nor is it impossible that some uncertain traditions respecting the remote discoveries which Icelanders had made in Greenland toward the north-west, “where the lands nearest meet,” should have excited “firm and pregnant conjectures.” The achievement of Columbus, revealing the wonderful truth of which the germ may have existed in the imagination of every thoughtful mariner, won the admiration which belonged to genius that seemed more divine than human; and “there was great talk of it in all the court of Henry VII.” A feeling of disappointment remained, that a series of disasters had defeated the wish of the illustrious Genoese to make his voyage of essay under the flag of England. It was, therefore, not difficult for John Cabot, a denizen of Venice, residing at Bristol, to interest that politic king in plans for discovery. On the fifth of March, 1496, he obtained under the great seal a commission empowering himself and his three sons, or either of them, their heirs, or their deputies, to sail into the eastern, western, or northern sea with a fleet of five ships, at their own expense, in search of islands, provinces, or regions hitherto unseen by Christian people; to affix the banners of England on city, island, or continent; and, as vassals of the English crown, to possess and occupy the territories that might be found. It was further stipulated in this “most ancient American state paper of England,” that the patentees should be strictly bound, on every return, to land at the port of Bristol, and to pay to the king one fifth part of their gains; while the exclusive right of frequenting all the countries that might be found was reserved to them and to their assigns, without limit of time.

John Cabot

Under this patent, which, at the first direction of English enterprise toward America, embodied the worst features of monopoly and commercial restriction, John Cabot, taking with him his son Sebastian, embarked in quest of new islands and a passage to Asia by the north-west. After sailing prosperously, as he reported, for seven hundred leagues, on the twenty-fourth day of June, 1497, early in the morning, almost fourteen months before Columbus on his third voyage came in sight of the main, and more than two years before Amerigo Vespucci sailed west of the Canaries, he discovered the western continent, probably in the latitude of about fifty-six degrees, among the dismal cliffs of Labrador. He ran along the coast for many leagues, it is said even for three hundred, and landed on what he considered to be the territory of the Grand Cham. But he encountered no human being, although there were marks that the region was inhabited. He planted on the land a large cross with the flag of England, and, from affection for the republic of Venice, he added the banner of St. Mark, which had never before been borne so far. On his homeward voyage he saw on his right hand two islands, which for want of provisions he could not stop to explore. After an absence of three months the happy discoverer re-entered Bristol harbor, where due honors awaited him. The king gave him money, and encouraged him to continue his career. The people called him the great admiral; he dressed in silk; and the English, and even Venetians who chanced to be at Bristol, ran after him with such zeal that he could enlist for a new voyage as many as he pleased.

A second time Columbus had brought back tidings from the isles which to the end of his life he steadfastly believed to be the outposts of India. It appeared to be demonstrated that ships might pass by the west into those rich eastern realms where, according to the popular belief, the earth teemed with spices, and imperial palaces glittered with pearls and rubies, with diamonds and gold. On the third day of the month of February next after his return, “John Kaboto, Venician,” accordingly obtained a power to take up ships for another voyage, at the rates fixed for those employed in the service of the king, and once more to set sail with as many companions as would go with him of their own will. With this license every trace of John Cabot disappears. He may have died before the summer; but no one knows certainly the time or the place of his end, and it has not even been ascertained in what country this finder of a continent first saw the light.

His second son, Sebastian Cabot, probably a Venetian by birth, a cosmographer by profession, succeeded to the designs of his father. He reasoned justly, that, as the degrees of longitude decrease toward the north, the shortest route to China and Japan lies in the highest practicable latitude; and with youthful fervor he devoted himself to the experiment. In May, 1498, Columbus, radiant with a glory that shed a lustre over his misfortunes and griefs, calling on the Holy Trinity with vows, and seeing paradise in his dreams, embarked on his third voyage to discover the main land, and to be sent back in chains. In the early part of the same month Sebastian Cabot, then not much more than twenty-one years of age, chiefly at his own cost, led forth two ships and a large company of English volunteers, to find the north-west passage to Cathay and Japan. A few days after the English navigator had left the port of Bristol, Vasco da Gama, of Portugal, as daring and almost as young, having turned the Cape of Good Hope, cleared the Straits of Mozambique, and sailed beyond Arabia Felix, came in sight of the mountains of Hindostan; and his happy crew, decking out his little fleet with flags, sounding trumpets, praising God, and full of festivity and gladness, steered into the harbor of Calicut. Meantime Cabot proceeded toward the north till icebergs compelled him to change his course. The coast to which he was now borne was unobstructed by frost. He saw there stags larger than those of England; and bears that plunged into the water to take fish with their claws. The fish swarmed in such shoals they seemed even to stay the speed of his vessels, so that he gave to the country the name of Bacallaos, a word of German origin, which still lingers on the eastern side of Newfoundland, and has passed into the language of the Italians, as well as the Portuguese and Spanish, to designate the cod. Coasting the shore, he found the natives of those regions clad in skins of beasts; but they were not without the faculty of reason, and in many places were acquainted with the use of copper. In the early part of his voyage he had been so far to the north that in the month of July the light of day was almost continuous; before he turned homeward, in the late autumn, he believed he had attained the latitude of the Straits of Gibraltar and the longitude of Cuba. A gentle westerly current appeared to prevail in the northern sea.

Such is the meager account given by Sebastian Cabot, through his friend Peter Martyr, the historian of the ocean, of that great voyage which was undertaken by the authority of “the most wise” Prince Henry VII, and made known to England a country “much larger than Christendom.”

Thus the year 1498 stands singularly famous in the annals of the sea. In May, Vasco da Gama reached Hindostan by way of the Cape of Good Hope; in August, Columbus discovered the firm land of South America and the river Oronoco, which seemed to him to flow from some large empire, or perhaps even from the terrestrial paradise itself; and, in the summer, Cabot, the youngest of them all, made known to the world the coast line of the present United States as far as the entrance to the Chesapeake. The fame of Columbus was embalmed in the poetry of Tasso; Da Gama is the hero of the national epic of Portugal; but the elder Cabot was so little celebrated that even the reality of his voyage has been denied; and Sebastian derived neither benefit nor immediate renown from his expedition. His main object had been the discovery of a north-western passage to Asia, and in this respect his voyage was a failure; while Da Gama was cried up by all the world for having found the way by the south-east. For the next half century it was hardly borne in mind that the Venetian and his son had, in two successive years, reached the continent of North America, before Columbus came upon the low coast of Guiana. But England acquired through their energy such a right to North America as this priority could confer. The successors of Henry VII recognized the claims of Spain and Portugal only so far as they actually occupied the territories to which they laid pretension; and, at a later day, the English parliament and the English courts derided a title founded not upon occupancy, but upon the award of a Roman pontiff.

“Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” were the words of Columbus, as on Ascension Day, 1506, he breathed his last. His great discovery was the triumph of free mind. In the year of his death, Copernicus, like him, emancipated from authority, attained the knowledge of the true theory of our solar system.

For nearly sixty years, during a period while marine adventure engaged the most intense public curiosity, Sebastian Cabot, from whom England derived a claim to our shores, was reverenced for his knowledge of cosmography and his skill in navigation. On the death of Henry VII he was called out of England by the command of Ferdinand, the Catholic king of Castile, and was appointed one of the council for the New Indies, ever cherishing the hope to discover “that hidden secret of nature,” the direct passage to Asia. In 1518 he was named Pilot Major of Spain, and no one could guide a ship to the Indies whom he had not first examined and approved. He attended the congress which in April, 1524, assembled at Badajoz to decide on the respective pretensions of Portugal and Spain to the islands of the Moluccas. A company having been formed at Seville for commerce with the Indies, in April, 1526, he took command of an expedition with plans of passing into the Pacific, examining the south-western coast of the American continent, and opening a trade with the Moluccas. His larger purposes being defeated by a mutiny, he entered the Plata, and discovered the Parana and Paraguay. Returning to Seville in July, 1530, he was reinstated in his high office by the Emperor Charles V.

Manuel, king of Portugal in its happiest years, grieving at his predecessor’s neglect of Columbus, was moved by emulation to despatch an expedition for west and north-west discovery. In the summer of 1501 two caravels, under the command of Gaspar Cortereal, ranged the coast of North America for six or seven hundred miles, till, somewhere to the south of the fiftieth degree, they were stopped by ice. Of the country along which he sailed he admired the verdure, and the stately forests in which pines, large enough for masts and yards, promised an object of gainful commerce. But, with the Portuguese, men were an article of traffic; and Cortereal freighted his ships with more than fifty Indians, whom, on his return in October, he sold as slaves. The name of Labrador, transferred from the territory south of the St. Lawrence to a more northern coast, is perhaps the only permanent trace of Portuguese adventure within the limits of North America.

The French competed without delay for the New World. Within seven years of the discovery of the continent the fisheries of Newfoundland were known to the hardy sailors of Brittany and Normandy, and they continued to be frequented. The island of Cape Breton took its name from their remembrance of home; and in France it was usual to esteem them the discoverers of the country. A map of the Gulf of St. Lawrence was drawn in 1506 by Denys, a citizen of Honfleur.

In 1508, savages from the north-eastern coast had been brought to France; ten years later plans of colonization in North America were suggested by De Lery and Saint-Just.

There exists a letter to Henry VIII, from St. John, Newfoundland, written in August, 1527, by an English captain, in which he declares he found in that one harbor eleven sail of Normans and one Breton, engaged in the fishery. The French king, engrossed by the unsuccessful rivalry with Charles V, could hardly respect so humble an interest. But Chabot, admiral of France, a man of bravery and influence, acquainted by his office with the fishermen on whose vessels he levied some small exactions for his private emolument, interested Francis in the design of exploring and colonizing the New World. James Cartier, a seaman of St. Malo, was selected to lead the expedition. His several voyages had a permanent effect in guiding the attention of France to the region of the St. Lawrence. On the twentieth of April, 1534, he, with two ships, left the harbor of St. Malo; and prosperous weather brought him on the tenth of May to the coasts of Newfoundland. Having almost circumnavigated the island, he turned to the south, and, crossing the gulf, entered the bay, which he called Des Chaleurs, from the heats of midsummer. Finding no passage to the west, in July he sailed along the coast, as far as the smaller inlet of Gaspe. There, upon a point of land at the entrance of the haven, a lofty cross was raised, bearing a shield with the lilies of France and an appropriate inscription. Leaving the bay of Gaspe, Cartier in August discovered the great river of Canada, and ascended it till he could discern land on either side. As he was unprepared to remain during the winter, on the ninth of that month he steered for Europe, and on the fifth of September his fleet entered the harbor of St. Malo. His native city and France were filled with the fame of his discoveries.

The court listened to the urgency of the friends of Cartier; a new commission was issued; three well-furnished ships were provided by the king; and some of the young nobility of France volunteered to join the new expedition. The whole company, repairing to the cathedral, received absolution and the bishop’s blessing, and in May, 1535, sailed for the New World, full of hopes of discoveries and plans of colonization.

After a stormy voyage they arrived within sight of Newfoundland. Carried to the west of it by a route not easily traced, in August, on the day of Saint Lawrence, they gave the name of that martyr to a part of the noble gulf which opened before them; a name which has gradually extended to the whole, and to the river. After examining the isle of Anticosti, they reached in September a pleasant harbor in the isle since called Orleans. The natives, Indians of Algonkin descent, received them with unsuspecting hospitality. After exploring the island and adjacent shore, Cartier moved his two large vessels safely into the deep water of the river now known as the St. Charles, and in his galiot sailed up the majestic stream to the chief Indian settlement on the Island of Hochelaga. The language of its inhabitants proves them to have been of the Huron family of tribes. The town lay at the foot of a hill, which he climbed. As he reached the summit he was moved to admiration by the prospect before him of woods and waters and mountains. Imagination presented it as the emporium of inland commerce, and the metropolis of a continental province; filled with bright anticipations, he called the hill Mont-Real, and time, that has transferred the name to the island, is realizing his visions. Cartier gathered from the Indians some indistinct account of the countries now contained in northern Vermont and New York; of a cataract at the west end of Lake Ontario; and of the waters now known as the bay of Hudson. Rejoining his ships, the winter, rendered frightful by the ravages of the scurvy, was passed where they were anchored. At the approach of spring, a cross, erected upon the land, bore a shield with the arms of his country, and an inscription declaring Francis to be the rightful king of this new-found realm, to which the Breton mariner gave the name of New France. On the sixth of July, 1536, he regained St. Malo.

The description which Cartier gave of the country on the St. Lawrence furnished arguments against attempting a colony. The severity of the climate terrified even the inhabitants of the north of France; and no mines of silver and gold, no veins abounding in diamonds and precious stones, had been promised by the faithful narrative of the voyage. Three or four years, therefore, elapsed before plans of colonization were renewed. Yet imagination did not fail to anticipate the establishment of a state upon the fertile banks of a river which surpassed all the streams of Europe in grandeur, and flowed through a country situated between nearly the same parallels as France. Soon after a short peace had terminated the third desperate struggle between Francis I and Charles V, attention to America was again awakened; men at court deemed it unworthy a gallant nation to abandon the acquisition; and in January, 1540, a nobleman of Picardy, Francis de la Roque, Lord of Roberval, a man of provincial distinction, sought and obtained a commission as lord of the unknown land then called Norimbega, and viceroy, with full regal authority, over the immense territories and islands which lie near the gulf or along the river St. Lawrence. But the ambitious nobleman could not dispense with the services of the former naval commander, who possessed the confidence of the king. Cartier was accordingly in October appointed captain-general and chief pilot of the expedition; he was directed to collect persons of every trade and art; to repair with them to the newly discovered territory; and to dwell there among the natives. To make up the complement of his men, he might take from the prisons whom he would, excepting only those arrested for treason or counterfeiting money. The enterprise was watched with jealousy by Spain.

The division of authority between Cartier and Roberval defeated the undertaking. Roberval was ambitious of power; and Cartier desired the exclusive honor of discovery. They neither embarked in company nor acted in concert. In May, 1541, Cartier sailed from St. Malo. Arrived at the scene of his former adventures, near the site of Quebec, he built a fort; but no considerable advances in geographical knowledge appear to have been made. The winter passed in sullenness and gloom. In June, 1542, he and his ships returned to France, just before Roberval arrived with a considerable re-enforcement. Unsustained by Cartier, Roberval accomplished no more than a verification of previous discoveries. Remaining about a year in America, he abandoned his immense viceroyalty. Perhaps the expedition on its return entered the bay of Massachusetts.

For the next years no further discoveries were attempted by the government of a nation which was rent by civil wars and the conflict with Calvinism. Yet the number and importance of the fishing stages increased; in 1578 there were one hundred and fifty French Vessels at Newfoundland, and exchanges with the natives brought good returns.

When, under the mild and tolerant reign of Henry IV, the star of France emerged from the clouds which had long eclipsed her glory, the purpose of founding a French empire in America was renewed, and in 1598 an ample commission was issued to the Marquis de la Roche, a Catholic of Brittany. Sweeping the prisons of France of their inmates, he established then, on the desolate isle of Sable. After some years the few survivors received a pardon and were brought back to their native country.

The prospect of gain prompted the next adventure. In 1600, a monopoly of the fur trade, with an ample patent, was obtained by Chauvin; and Pontgrave, a merchant of St. Malo, shared the traffic. The voyage was repeated, for it was lucrative. The death of Chauvin prevented his settling a colony.

A firmer hope of success was entertained when, in 1603, a company of merchants of Rouen was formed by the governor of Dieppe; and Samuel Champlain of Brouage, an able marine officer and a man of science, was selected to direct the expedition. By his natural disposition “delighting marvellously in these enterprises,” in the last year of the sixteenth century he had for a season engaged in the service of Spain, that he might make a voyage to regions into which no Frenchman could otherwise have entered. He was in Porto Rico and St. Domingo and Cuba, visited the city of Mexico, and foreshadowed the benefits of joining the two oceans by a canal to Panama. He possessed a clear and penetrating understanding with a spirit of cautious inquiry; untiring perseverance with great mobility; indefatigable activity with fearless courage. The account of his first expedition to Canada gives proof of sound judgment, accurate observation, and historical fidelity. It is full of details on the manners of the savage tribes, not less than the geography of the country; and Quebec was selected as the appropriate site for a fort.

In November, 1603, just after Champlain had returned to France, an exclusive patent was issued to a Calvinist, the able, patriotic, and honest De Monts. The sovereignty of Acadia and its confines, from the fortieth to the forty-sixth degree of latitude, that is, from Philadelphia to beyond Montreal; a still wider monopoly of the fur trade; the exclusive control of the soil, government, and trade; freedom of religion for Huguenot emigrants—these were the privileges which his charter conferred.

In March, 1604, two ships left the shores of France, not to return till a permanent settlement should be made in America. The summer glided away, while the emigrants trafficked with the natives and explored the coasts. The harbor called Annapolis after its conquest by Queen Anne, an excellent harbor though difficult of access, possessing a small but navigable river which abounded in fish and is bordered by beautiful meadows, so pleased Poutrincourt, a leader in the enterprise, that he sued for a grant of it from De Monts, and, naming it Port Royal, determined to reside there with his family. The company of De Monts made their first attempt at a settlement on the island of St. Croix, at the mouth of the river of the same name. The island proved so ill suited to their purposes that, in spring, 1605, they removed to Port Royal.

For an agricultural colony a milder climate was more desirable; in view of a settlement at the south, De Monts in the same year explored and claimed for France the rivers, especially the Merrimac, the coasts and the bays of New England, as far, at least, as Cape Cod. The numbers and hostility of the savages led him to delay a removal, since his colonists were so few. Yet the purpose remained. Thrice, in the spring of 1606, did Dupont, his lieutenant, attempt to complete the discovery. Twice he was driven back by adverse winds; and, in August, at the third attempt, his vessel was wrecked. Poutrincourt, who had visited France and returned with supplies, himself renewed the design; but, in November, meeting with disasters among the shoals of Cape Cod, he, too, returned to Port Royal.

The possessions of Poutrincourt were, in 1607, confirmed by Henry IV; in the next year the apostolic benediction of the Roman pontiff followed families which exiled themselves to evangelize infidels; Mary of Medici herself contributed money to support the missions, which the Marchioness de Guercheville protected; and in 1610, by a compact with De Biencourt, the proprietary’s son, the order of the Jesuits was enriched by an imposition on the fisheries and fur trade.

The arrival of Jesuit priests in June, 1611, was signalized by conversions among the natives. In the following year De Biencourt and Father Biart explored the coast as far as the Kennebec, and ascended that river. The Canibas, Algonkins of the Abenaki nations, touched by the confiding humanity of the French, listened reverently to the message of redemption; and, already hostile toward the English who had visited their coast, the tribes between the Penobscot and the Kennebec became the allies of France, and were cherished as a barrier against English encroachments.

A French colony was soon established, under the auspices of Madame De Guercheville and Mary of Medici; in 1613 the rude intrenchments of St. Saviour were raised by De Saussaye on the eastern shore of Mount Desert isle. The conversion of the heathen was the motive to the settlement; the natives venerated Biart as a messenger from Heaven; and, under the summer sky, round a cross in the centre of the hamlet, matins and vespers were regularly chanted.

Meantime the remonstrances of French traders had effected the revocation of the monopoly of De Monts, and a company of merchants of Dieppe and St. Malo had founded Quebec. The design was executed by Champlain, who aimed not at the profits of trade, but at the glory of creating a state. On the third day of July, 1608, he raised the white flag over Quebec, where rude cottages were soon framed, a few fields cleared, and one or two gardens planted. The next year the bold adventurer, attended by two Europeans, joined a mixed party of Hurons from Montreal and Algonkins from Quebec, in an expedition against the Iroquois, or Five Nations, in the north of New York. He ascended the Sorel, and explored the lake which bears his name. A battle with the Five Nations was fought near Ticonderoga.

The death of Henry IV, in 1610, deprived the Huguenots of their protector. Yet De Monts survived, and he quickened the courage of Champlain. After the short supremacy of Charles de Bourbon, the prince of Conde, an avowed protector of the Calvinists, became viceroy of New France; through his intercession merchants of St. Malo, Rouen, and La Rochelle, obtained in 1615 a colonial patent from the king; and Champlain, now sure of success, embarked once more for the New World, accompanied by monks of the order of St. Francis. Again he invaded the territory of the Iroquois in New York. Wounded and repulsed, and destitute of guides, he spent the first winter after his return to America in the country of the Hurons; and, wandering among the forests, carried his language, religion, and influence even to the hamlets of Algonkins, near Lake Nipising.

Religious disputes combined with commercial jealousies to check the progress of the colony; yet in July, 1620, in obedience to the wishes of Montmorenci, the new viceroy, Champlain began a fort. The merchants grudged the expense. “It is not best to yield to the passions of men,” was his reply; “they sway but for a season; it is a duty to respect the future;” and in 1624 the castle St. Louis, so long the place of council against the Iroquois and against New England, was durably built on “a commanding cliff.”

In the same year the viceroyalty was transferred to the religious enthusiast, Henry de Levi; and through his influence, in 1625, just a year after Jesuits had reached the sources of the Ganges and Thibet, the banks of the St. Lawrence received priests of the order, which was destined to carry the cross to Lake Superior and the west.

The presence of Jesuits and Calvinists led to dissensions. The savages caused disquiet. But the persevering founder of Quebec appealed to the royal council and to Richelieu, who had been created Grand Master of Navigation; and, though disasters intervened, Champlain successfully established the authority of the French on the banks of the St. Lawrence, in the territory which became his country. Dying on Christmas day, 1635, “the father of New France” was buried in the land which he colonized. The humble industry of the fishermen of Normandy and Brittany promised their country the acquisition of an empire.


This version of Bancroft’s History of the United States, with modernized spelling, italics added, and photos, Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.