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CONDUCT OF THE FRENCH IN THEIR ENDEAVOURS
TO CONVERT THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS TO CHRISTIANITY.
It is recorded of Francis I., that wishing to rival Charles V. in the New World, as he had already rivalled him in the Old, he observed, “My brothers the kings of Spain and Portugal have divided America between them, but I should like to know what clause in the last will of Adam bequeaths it to them, and disinberits me.” To support, therefore, his claim to a share in the heritage, and disregarding the papal bull of the Pontiff Alexander VI., who had granted in full right the whole continent of America, together with all its islands, to Ferdinand and Isabella, Francis sent Giovanni Verazano, a Florentine captain, with four ships, across the Atlantic to make discoveries; and, in his name, to take formal possession of as much of the Western hemisphere as his two brothers had not yet laid hold of. Verazano accordingly set out on his destination in the year 1524, making three successive voyages, and planting the arms of the king of France on various parts of the American coast,
from the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the St. Lawrence. It does not appear, however, that his labours, in any other respect, met with success. In his third voyage, Verazano, as stated by some Spanish writers, was seized at the Canaries by a band of Biscayans, and hanged as a pirate ; while some French authors, with still less probability, say that he and all his crew were caught and eaten by the American savages. At all events, from the time of his third expedition, neither Verazano nor any of the companions of his voyage were ever heard of.
About ten years after this period, the same monarch sent out Jacques Cartier, a captain from St. Malo, with three ships, on a similar errand. Cartier, after coasting along the shores of Newfoundland, crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Baye des Chaleurs, and landed upon the American continent, where he took nominal possession of the country in that quarter for his royal master. " In his second voyage, he pushed his discoveries up the St. Lawrence as far as the island where Montreal now stands, taking similar possession of the newly. discovered countries on the shores of that river, then called the Grand River of Canada. . In the year 1541, Monsieur de Roberval was appointed by the king to be his viceroy over a great extent of North America, and Francis gave him 45,000 livres to pay the expenses of his outfit. Cartier was com
missioned to accompany him as captain-general, and chief pilot of the expedition. They had with them a squadron of five ships, and were directed to commence the regular occupation and settlement of Canada. In these appropriations, the inhabitants of the country-at that time very numerous—were, of course, never consulted. The bull of Pope Paul III. indeed, had at length, among other more important matters, acknowledged the natives of America as real men-utpote veros homines—and not monkeys, as appears to have been long conjectured. But
yet Francis seems to have entertained no very flattering opinion of his new transatlantic subjects, if we are to judge, at least, from the expressions contained in the royal commission granted by him to Cartier : “ Francis, by the grace of God, King of France, to all to whom these letters shall come, greeting : to acquire a due knowledge of several countries, possessed by savages living without the knowledge of God, and without the use of reason, We have,” &c. &c.* Nor did these Indians receive a much better character in the commissions granted for similar purposes by his successor Henry the Fourth, upwards of half a century afterwards : “ Prompted, above all things, by signal zeal and devout resolution, we have undertaken, with the aid of God, the Author, Distributor, and Protector of all Kingdoms and States, to guide, instruct, and convert to Christianity, and the belief of our Holy Faith, the inhabitants of that country, who are barbarians, atheists, devoid of religion; and to bring them out of their present ignorance and infidelity,” &c.* For this purpose, the Marquis de la Roche was appointed the King's viceroy in America, and was sent over, in 1598, to convert and colonize that country. His expedition, however, appears to have been ill provided with the materials for instructing the heathen, either by precept or example. De la Roche had not with him any clerical person to convert the Indians, nor was much good to be expected from the moral example of the Christian colonists whom he took out to plant among them, as they consisted only of about fifty miserable felons taken from the French prisons. By some blunder, these were landed upon the barren uninhabited Isle de Sable (about thirty leagues from that part of the continent since named Nova Scotia); where, as Charlevoix observes, they were less at their ease than when imprisoned in the dungeons of France. Upon this island of sand the marquis left his colonists; having, as was stated, been himself blown off the coast of America, from whence he returned to Europe. At the end of seven years,
* Lescarbot, Hist. de la Nouvelle France, liv. iii. ch. 30.
Charlevoix, "having heard something of this adventure, directed the pilot Chedotel, who had sailed in the expedition with La Roche, to go and search for the men who had been thus left.” It appears that, after the marquis's departure, these settlers—who had been destined to be an example for the North American savages - began their colony by a mutiny and a massacre. The survivors fortunately discovered the old remains of a Spanish vessel which had been wrecked, by which means they were enabled to build a few huts to shelter themselves. Some sheep and cattle, saved from the wreck, had increased upon the island, and for some time afforded them subsistence; but they afterwards maintained themselves chiefly by fishing. When Chedotel reached the island, only twelve were found to have survived their wretched companions. These were brought away to France, together with a large quantity of skins and peltries which they had collected, and which Chedotel seized upon as his own perquisite. The lords of the soil of the Isle de Sable, however, suspected that the pilot Chedotel had no right "to count upon the skin, when he had not caught the bear;" and they therefore commenced a lawsuit against him in France, which afterwards terminated by a compromise between the parties.* “The King,” continues Charle