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- 1636–46.] SOCIETY OF JESUS. asm. The Jesuits, an Order thoroughly and vehemently reactive, had revived in Europe the mediæval type of Christianity, with all its attendant superstitions. Of these the Canadian missions bear abundant marks. Yet, on the whole, the labors of the missionaries tended greatly to the benefit of the Indians. Reclaimed, as the Jesuits tried to reclaim them, from their wandering life, settled in habits of peaceful industry, and reduced to a passive and childlike obedience, they would have gained more than enough to compensate them for the loss of their ferocious and miserable independence. At least, they would have escaped annihilation. The Society of Jesus aspired to the mastery of all New France; but the methods of its ambition were consistent with a Christian benevolence. Had this been otherwise, it would have employed other instruments. It would not have chosen a Jogues or a Garnier. The Society had men for every work, and it used them wisely. It utilized the apostolic virtues of its Canadian missionaries, fanned their enthusiasm, and decorated itself with their martyr crowns. With joy and gratulation, it saw them rival in another hemisphere the noble memory of its saint and hero, Francis Xavier. 1
I have spoken of the colonists as living in a state of temporal and spiritual vassalage. To this there was one exception, — a small class of men whose home was the forest, and their companions savages. They followed the Indians in their roamings, lived with them, grew familiar with their language, allied themselves with their women, and often became oracles in the camp and leaders on the war-path. Champlain's bold interpreter, Étienne Brulé, whose adventures I have recounted elsewhere, may be taken as a type of this class. Of the rest, the most conspicuous were Jean Nicollet, Jacques Hertel, François Marguerie, and Nicolas Marsolet.2 Doubtless, when they returned from their rovings, they often had pressing need of penance and absolution; yet, for the most part, they were good Catholics, and some of them were zealous for the missions. Nicollet and others were at times settled as interpreters at Three Rivers and Quebec. Several of them were men of great intelligence and an invincible courage. From hatred of restraint and love of a wild and adventurous independence, they encountered privations and dangers scarcely less than those to which the Jesuit exposed himself from motives widely different, — he from religious zeal, charity, and the hope of Paradise; they simply because they liked it. Some of the best families of Canada claim descent from this vigorous and hardy stock.
1 Enemies of the Jesuits, while denouncing them in unmeasured terms, speak in strong eulogy of many of the Canadian mission aries. See, for example, Steinmetz, History of the Jesuits, ii. 415.
1 “ Pioneers of France,” 417.
Nicollet, especially, was a remarkable man. As early as 1639, he ascended the Green Bay of Lake Michigan, and crossed to the waters of the Mississippi. This was first shown by the researches of Mr. Shea. See his Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley, xx.
DEVOTEES AND NUNS.
THE HURON SEMINARY. - MADAME DE LA PELTRIE : HER Pious
SCHEMES : HER SHAM MARRIAGE; SHE VISITS THE URSULINES OF TOURS. — MARIE DE SAINT BERNARD. — MARIE DE L'INCARNATION : HER ENTHUSIASM; HER MYSTICAL MARRIAGE; HER DEJECTION; HER MENTAL CONFLICTS; HER Vision; MADE SUPERIOR OF THE URSULINES. – THE HÔTEL-DIEU. - The VoyAGE TO CANADA. — SILLERY. — LABORS AND SUFFERINGS OF THE Nuns. - CHARACTER OF MARIE DE L'INCARNATION. — OF MADAME DE LA PELTRIE.
QUEBEC, as we have seen, had a seminary, a hospital, and a convent, before it had a population. It will be well to observe the origin of these institutions.
The Jesuits from the first had cherished the plan of a seminary for Huron boys at Quebec. The Governor and the Company favored the design; since not only would it be an efficient means of spreading the Faith and attaching the tribe to the French interest, but the children would be pledges for the good behavior of the parents, and hostages for the safety of missionaries and traders in the Indian towns.) In
1 “M. de Montmagny cognoit bien l'importance de ce Seminaire pour la gloire de Nostre Seigneur, et pour le Commerce de ces Messieurs.” — Relation, 1637, 209 (Cramoisy).
the summer of 1636, Father Daniel, descending from the Huron country, worn, emaciated, his cassock patched and tattered, and his shirt in rags, brought with him a boy, to whom two others were soon added; and through the influence of the interpreter, Nicollet, the number was afterwards increased by several more. One of them ran away, two ate themselves to death, a fourth was carried home by his father, while three of those remaining stole a canoe, loaded it with all they could lay their hands upon, and escaped in triumph with their plunder. 1
The beginning was not hopeful; but the Jesuits persevered, and at length established their seminary on a firm basis. The Marquis de Gamache had given the Society six thousand crowns for founding a college at Quebec. In 1637, a year before the building of Harvard College, the Jesuits began a wooden structure in the rear of the fort; and here, within one enclosure, was the Huron seminary and the college for French boys.
Meanwhile the female children of both races were without instructors; but a remedy was at hand. At Alençon, in 1603, was born Marie Madeleine de Chauvigny, a scion of the haute noblesse of Normandy. Seventeen years later she was a young lady, abundantly wilful and superabundantly enthusiastic, — one who, in other circumstances, might perhaps have made a romantic elopement and a mésalliance. But
1 Le Jeune, Relation, 1637, 55–59. Ibid., Relation, 1638, 23. * There is a portrait of her, taken at a later period, of which a
her impressible and ardent nature was absorbed in other objects. Religion and its ministers possessed her wholly, and all her enthusiasm was spent on works of charity and devotion. Her father, passionately fond of her, resisted her inclination for the cloister, and sought to wean her back to the world; but she escaped from the château to a neighboring convent, where she resolved to remain. Her father followed, carried her home, and engaged her in a round of fêtes and hunting parties, in the midst of which she found herself surprised into a betrothal to M. de la Peltrie, a young gentleman of rank and character. The marriage, proved a happy one, and Madame de la Peltrie, with an excellent grace, bore her part in the world she had wished to renounce. After a union of five years, her husband died, and she was left a widow and childless at the age of twenty-two. She returned to the religious ardors of her girlhood, again gave all her thoughts to devotion and charity, and again resolved to be a nun. She had heard of Canada; and when Le Jeune's first Relations appeared, she read them with avidity. “ Alas!” wrote the Father, “is there no charitable and virtuous lady who will come to this country to gather up the blood of Christ, by teaching His word to the little Indian girls ?” His appeal found a photograph is before me. She has a semi-religious dress, hands clasped in prayer, large dark eyes, a smiling and mischievous mouth, and a face somewhat pretty and very coquettish. An engraving from the portrait is prefixed to the “Notice Biographique de Madame de la Peltrie” in Les Ursulines de Québec, i. 348.