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PREFACE TO VOL. XL
Following is a synopsis of the documents contained in the present volume:
LXXXIII. Bressani's Breve Relatione, begun in Vol. XXXVIII., and continuing through Vol. XXXIX., is here completed. He relates — abridging from the Relation of 1650 — the martyrdoms of the Huron missionaries, Garnier and Chabanel, and gives sketches of their lives. , The final chapter of this document recounts '' the desolationof the Huron country, and removal of the Huron mission,tn Kebek." This also is largely compiled from RagueneatPs Relation of 1650. Bressani concludes with an expression of the hope still entertained by the missionaries that, at some future time, they may resume their labors among the Western savages.
LXXXIV. This is the Relation of 1652-53, sent by the new superior, Francois le Mercier, and dated at Quebec, October 29, 1653. The first chapter, written by the Paris editor, recounts the capture by an English vessel of the ship on which was conveyed Father du Peron and the Canadian mail to France. The Father's papers are seized and carelessly flung about by the soldiers; he rescues what he can, but some are lost, and the Relation for this year is not, in consequence, complete.
Le Mercier mentions the unusual aid sent to Montreal this year — a hundred artisans, who are not only versed in their trades, but brave in war. The Fathers residing there recommend special devotions to the Virgin, for aid in repelling the Iroquois; as a result, " God's hand was so heavy upon the enemy that they sued for peace."
Three Rivers is harassed all summer by attacks of the enemy, which are graphically described — especially an attempt to capture that village by surprise, which is foiled by the vigilance and resolution of the French. The Iroquois finally begin friendly negotiations, and go away, leaving hostages with the French for the return of Father Poncet and a companion, who were captured, a few days before, by one of the Iroquois bands. His seizure and deliverance are described — mainly as written by himself, at the command of his superior. The two French prisoners are taken to the Iroquois country, where they are tormented — in like manner, but not as cruelly, as had been Jogues and Bressani. Poncet is given, after a few days, to an old woman in place of her brother; he is then treated with the utmost kindness, and adopted into the family. His young French companion is, however, burned to death. Soon afterward, Poncet is released by his captors, who take him first to Fort Orange (Albany), to obtain some European garments from the Dutch, who treat him most generously and hospitably; then to Three Rivers, where he is surrendered to his countrymen.
Le Mercier now relates in detail the preliminary negotiations for peace — with the accompanying speeches, presents, and ceremonies — between the Iroquois and the French. This result has been secured by the providence of God, and, next, by the influence of Father Poncet. All the five tribes join in this peace — the Mohawks consenting last of all. Father Poncet returns, somewhat later, and confirms the statements of the Iroquois envoys that their people desire peace; the ratification of the treaty will be made in the following spring.
In November, 1652, a party of Sillery Algonkins had captured some prisoners of a tribe not named, but probably one of the Abenaki tribes. As a result of this event, a treaty of peace is made between this distant people and those of Sillery, which also is described in full. Le Mercier recounts the injuries suffered by the French and their savage allies from the Iroquois war which has just ended. The fur trade, which had amounted to two or three hundred thousand livres annually, has been ruined; '' for a year, the Montreal warehouse has not bought a single Beaver-skin from the Savages." In consequence, the whole country is in distress. News is brought from the far West, that the Algonkins and Hurons who have fled thither from the Iroquois are preparing to come down to the French next year for trade; and several young Frenchmen plan to go to these tribes for the same purpose. These prospects are especially enticing, because the beaver and other furbearing animals, having been left undisturbed for several years, have multiplied enormously; and a rich harvest of furs is consequently expected. Another resource of Canada is in its fertile soil; and agriculture there is now becoming successful. The eel-fishery is also highly productive, and enables the people to live when all else fails; other fish also abound — "indeed, this country is the Kingdom of water and of fish.'' The climate is very healthful — "an especial blessing."
The peace made with the Iroquois, detailed in the preceding chapters, fills the missionaries with joy, and great hope for the extension of their field of labor. Le Mercier finds especial encouragement in the prospect of establishing a mission in the enemy's country, on or near Lake Ontario. The Onondagas invite the Jesuits to do this. The final chapter — summarizing several letters from Canada which have come to the Paris editor — mentions that the Hurons who took refuge at Quebec have cleared and planted 300 arpents of land, thus providing food for themselves. Some of them have been clothed through gifts received from France, from friends of the mission. Several instances of the piety of these neophytes are recounted, as also of their virtuous resistance to temptation.
R. G. T.
Madison, Wis., February, 1899.