For two more days he delayed putting this plan into operation; and when attempted it was badly managed. Frontenac had despatched Sainte-Helene with three hundred sharpshooters to oppose any landing on the Beauport shore, a force which was unequal to the task; for Major Walley, though harassed by their fire, succeeded in making his way at the head of 1300 men to the ford on the river St. Charles.
Phipps, however, instead of co-operating with the land force, had made a premature movement, and leaving his moorings had sailed up the channel opposite the city, there to engage in a terrific duel with the guns of Fort St. Louis and the several batteries of Upper Town. Cannon and mortars belched forth their missiles with the rapidity of musketry, making an uproar as of a great battle. The English gunners made poor practice, however, and the projectiles falling within the city did almost no damage. Twenty-six cannon-balls dropped harmlessly in the garden of the Ursuline convent, and furnished new ammunition for the garrison. On the other hand, the decks of the attacking vessels were swept by fire from the cliffs. One shot carried away the ensign of the flag-ship, and another tore away her rigging and shattered her mizzen, and the rest of the fleet was similarly battered.
[Footnote 16: Of the gallant Le Moyne family, of whom also was d'Iberville, the soldier, explorer, and governor.]
This unequal cannonade continued for two days before Phipps realised its futility. On shore, Walley persisted for three days in attempting to force his way across the St. Charles; but his field-pieces were half buried in the mud, sickness had attacked his camp, and the rain and sleet of an early winter completed his discomfiture. Seeing, moreover, that their admiral had now ceased to fight, and that Frontenac was thus able to concentrate defence upon the landward side, the militiamen felt the hopelessness of further assault and returned to the ships. After this rebuff Phipps weighed anchor and dropped down stream with his battered armada.
Quebec had been saved, though not without dire peril and sore straits; for before the withdrawal of the enemy the crowded city had already felt the pinch of famine, and the violence of the batteries had all but emptied her magazines. Throughout the bombardment a picture of the Holy Family had hung inviolate on the spire of the Basilica, defying the heretical cannonade; and in cloister and chapel the beleaguered citizens had ceaselessly invoked their favourite saints. To one and all the victory was of Heaven, and in the midst of her rejoicing Quebec did not forget to redeem her vows. The little chapel of Notre Dame de la Victoire, hidden among the quaint windings of the streets below the Terrace, still stands as a monument to that religious fidelity with which the citizens of Quebec had faced another of their many perils.
THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY
The great strength of its natural position had enabled the city to withstand the late siege; but Frontenac saw clearly that the defences would not be sufficient to meet a resolute assault, and it was resolved to reconstruct the fortifications on a larger scale. The great engineer Vauban furnished plans which were carried out under Frontenac's personal direction. For twenty leagues around the habitants were pressed into this service, and such was the general anxiety to make the city impregnable, that even the gentilhommes gave themselves to pick and spade. A line of solid earthworks soon extended on the flank of the city from Cape Diamond to the St. Charles; and at the summit of the Cape, now for the first time embraced within the fortifications, a strong redoubt with sixteen cannon was constructed to command both the river and the Upper Town.
A copper plate bearing the following inscription in Latin was deposited in the stone foundation:—
"In the year of Grace, 1693, under the reign of the Most August, Most Invincible, and Most Christian King, Louis the Great, Fourteenth of that name, the Most Excellent and Most Illustrious Lord, Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, twice Viceroy of all New France, after having three years before repulsed, routed, and completely conquered the rebellious inhabitants of New England, who besieged this town of Quebec, and who threatened to renew the attack this year, constructed, at the charge of the King, this citadel, with the fortifications therewith connected, for the defence of the country and the safety of the people, and for confounding yet again a people perfidious towards God and towards its lawful king. And he has laid this first stone."
[Footnote 17: Discovered at the demolition of the old wall in 1854.]
The repulse of Phipps, while postponing indefinitely any further undertakings of the New England government against Quebec, had conveyed no lesson to the implacable Iroquois. These fatal hornets of the woods continued to harass the settlements, roving through the forest in small marauding bands. A large force also established a camp on the Ottawa to intercept the furs destined for Quebec, and their blockade was so effective that the city soon felt the pinch of want, and the trading ships sailed empty back to France. So bold were the assaults that many settlers fled from their farms to Montreal, Three Rivers, or Quebec; while those who had the hardihood to remain went about in armed groups to reap their harvests. The massacre of La Chesnaye was a typical incident; but perhaps the most characteristic story of these troublous years is the Recit de Mlle. Magdelaine de Vercheres, well known through a renowned historical narrative.
The seigneury of Vercheres lay upon the south shore of the St. Lawrence, seven leagues below Montreal, and from its exposed position as well as from its former tribulation, had earned the name of Castle Dangerous. Its history dated back to the disbandment of the Carignan-Salieres regiment, when M. de Vercheres, a dashing officer of Savoy, took possession of the fief, building there a fort and blockhouse.
It was already late October, 1692. The seigneur had gone down to Quebec for duty, and the lady of the manor was in Montreal. Their three children, Madeleine aged fourteen, and the two boys aged twelve and ten, had been left behind protected by the feeble garrison of the fort, consisting of two soldiers and an old man of eighty, the servants and censitaires being busy with the autumn work of the fields.
One morning as Madeleine was playing near the water's edge, she was startled by the sound of firing. A band of Iroquois had fallen upon the field-workers. Commending herself to the Holy Virgin, the girl ran towards the fort. Bullets whistled past her as she flew towards the palisade crying "To arms! To arms!" The two soldiers had already fled in terror to the blockhouse, but by her resolute words she shamed them into a defence of the fort; and picking up a gun, she said to her two young brothers:—
"Let us fight to the death. We are fighting for our country and our religion; remember that our father has taught you that gentlemen are born to shed their blood for God and the King."
Taking their positions at the loopholes, the little company maintained such a vigilant defence that the Iroquois were completely deceived as to the strength of the garrison.
[Footnote 18: The narrative has been preserved in the heroine's own words, through the care of the Marquis de Beauharnois, sometime Governor of Canada.]
"After sunset," continues the narrative, "a violent north-east wind began to blow, accompanied by snow and hail, which told us that we should have a terrible night. The Iroquois were all this time lurking about us; and I judged by their movements that, instead of being deterred by the storm, they would climb into the fort under cover of the darkness. I assembled all my troops, that is to say, six persons, and spoke to them thus: 'God has saved us to-day from the hands of our enemies, but we must take care not to fall into their snares to-night. As for me, I want you to see that I am not afraid. I will take charge of the fort with an old man of eighty, and another who never fired a gun; and you, Pierre Fontaine, with La Bonte and Gachet, will go to the blockhouse with the women and children, because that is the strongest place; and if I am taken do not surrender, even if I am cut to pieces and burned before your eyes. The enemy cannot hurt you in the blockhouse if you make the least show of fight.' I placed my young brothers on two of the bastions, the old man on the third, and I took the fourth; and all night, in spite of wind, snow, and hail, the cries of 'All's well' were kept up from the blockhouse to the fort, and from the fort to the blockhouse. One would have thought the place was full of soldiers. The Iroquois thought so, and were completely deceived, as they confessed afterwards to Monsieur de Callieres, whom they told that they had held a council to make a plan for capturing the fort in the night, but had done nothing because such a constant watch was kept....
"At last the daylight came again; and as the darkness disappeared our anxieties seemed to disappear with it. Everybody took courage except Mademoiselle Marguerite, the wife of the Sieur Fontaine, who, being extremely timid, as all Parisian women are, asked her husband to carry her to another fort.... He said, 'I shall never abandon this fort while Mademoiselle Madeleine is here.' I answered him that I would never abandon it; that I would rather die than give it up to the enemy; and that it was of the greatest importance that they should never get possession of any French fort.... I may say with truth that I did not eat or sleep for twice twenty-four hours. I did not go once into my father's house, but kept always on the bastion, or went to the blockhouse to see how the people there were behaving. I always kept a cheerful and smiling face, and encouraged my little company with the hope of speedy succour.
"We were a week in constant alarm, with the enemy always about us. At last Monsieur de la Monnerie, a lieutenant sent by Monsieur de Callieres, arrived in the night with forty men. As he did not know whether the fort was taken or not, he approached as silently as possible. One of our sentinels hearing a slight sound, cried 'Qui vive?' I was dozing at the time, with my head on the table and my gun lying across my arms. The sentinel told me that he heard a voice from the river. I went up at once to the bastion to see whether it was Indians or Frenchmen. I asked, 'Who are you?' One of them answered, 'We are Frenchmen; it is La Monnerie, who comes to bring you help.'
"I caused the gate to be opened, placed a sentinel there, and went down to the river to meet them. As soon as I saw Monsieur de la Monnerie, I saluted him, and said, 'Monsieur, I surrender my arms to you.' He answered gallantly, 'Mademoiselle, they are in good hands.' 'Better than you think,' I returned.
"La Monnerie inspected the fort and found everything in good order, and a sentinel on each bastion. 'It is time to relieve them, Monsieur,' I said; 'we have not been off our bastions for a week.'"
The inner politics of Quebec shared fully the unrest of this critical time. The place had all the intrigue of an Italian republic; and with its political, religious, and social cleavages, the wonder is that a city so divided against itself was able to stand in the hour of outward adversity. To make clear the underlying causes of such civil strife, it is necessary to go back to the year 1659, when the most notable ecclesiastic in the history of New France arrived in Quebec.
[Footnote 19: Parkman's Frontenac c.14 (quoting from Collection de l'Abbe Ferland).]
Francois-Xavier Laval was born in 1622 at Montigny-sur-Avre. Brought up at the College of the Jesuits at Lafleche, a prolonged sojourn in the famous Hermitage of Caen set the seal of a militant mysticism upon his life. While still young the death of an elder brother had made him heir to the title and wealth of one of the most distinguished families in France; but the ardent student renounced these feudal glories that he might devote himself entirely to the service of God. To him this service consisted of a perpetual mortification of the flesh, practised chiefly in the hovels of the poor, or by beds of loathsome disease.
Of a mind and temper so austere, he seemed to the Jesuits the heaven-called head for the Canadian Church; and it was doubtless through their influence, acting upon the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin, that Laval was appointed titular Bishop of Petraea, in partibus infidelium, and Vicar-Apostolic of all New France.
The first bishop of Canada was welcomed by pealing bells and general applause; but the excitement of his advent had scarcely subsided before a sharp ecclesiastical quarrel occurred. M. l'Abbe de Queylus, a Sulpitian priest, had lately been appointed spiritual head of Quebec by the Archbishop of Rouen, who had been wont to regard Canada as a part of his own diocese; and the Sulpitian so vigorously refused to be superseded by the new bishop, that Governor D'Argenson, acting upon the King's orders, had him arrested and sent back to France. The quarrel, however, was not so soon decided, and supremacy was not finally conceded to Laval until both contestants had referred the matter to the Pope and the Grand Monarch.
Success in this churchman's conflict, however, had not softened the autocratic temper of the new bishop. In France he had already supported the contention of the Jesuits against the Jansenists that the power of the Pope was above that of the King, and that the Church was superior to the State. Laval insisted that his acolytes should precede the Governor in receiving the consecrated bread, in the distribution of boughs on Palm Sunday, in the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, and in the presentation of holy water. For a time the gallant old soldier D'Argenson did his best to live in harmony with the Vicar-Apostolic, even under the annoying conditions created by the churchman's imperious temper. But the forbearance of the Governor was not sufficient to save him from his opponent's powerful friends at Court, who finally compassed his recall. His successors, the Baron D'Avaugour and M. de Mezy, however, soon took up the intermitted quarrel on behalf of the State, until the new order of government in 1663.
The institution of royal government in that year had a visible effect upon the ecclesiastical power. Louis XIV. had declared himself to be the State, and thus acquired a personal and selfish interest in the controversy. Moreover, Talon, the skilled agent of Colbert, wishing to readjust and balance the disproportionate elements of the body politic, had written in 1670 advising the re-introduction of the Recollet priests, who arrived eight years later to counterbalance the Jesuit forces.
The advent of Frontenac, likewise, had been a severe blow to the priestly autocracy, his strong and reckless character stamping him as a man who required careful handling. In fact, Laval and the Jesuits preferred a vicarious warfare, and confined themselves to supporting the Intendant Duchesneau in his quarrels with the Governor.
Notwithstanding these rebuffs, however, the great prelate accomplished a lasting work. To this day a daily procession of schoolboys walks through the streets of Upper Town arresting attention by their singular dress—a battalion similar to that which, two hundred years ago, appeared in the like quaint costume. These are the boys of the Seminaire de Laval. This seminary of Quebec was Laval's most notable foundation; and though many generations have slipped away since it began, the classic school above the Sault-au-Matelot still remains to recruit and train the ranks of a priesthood whose attainments, piety, and character are honoured throughout the Catholic world.
Late in the afternoon fourscore of these youthful devotees swing out along the Rue St. Jean to the Ste. Foye road for recreation. They go in orderly rows, from the youngest and smallest back to the two priests, in black soutanes and broad-brimmed hats, who bring up the rear. Regimes have come and gone, but this perennial column still marches out of the past incongruously garbed in peaked caps, black frockcoats faced with green braid, and girt at the waist with a green woollen scarf. This is the daily memorial of the eccentric, despotic, but beneficent bishop, who lived a life of almost abject poverty, devoting the revenues of the most wealthy seigneury in New France to the maintenance of his beloved Seminaire. He has left his name also to the splendid university which completes the work so well begun by the Seminaire.
[Footnote 20: Laval was the owner of the Seigneury of Beauport and the Isle d'Orleans, which by royal edict had been freed from feudal burdens. By the census of 1667 it was found to contain more than one-fourth of the entire population of Canada.]
For almost forty years Laval had dominated the Church of New France, the whole period of his supremacy being disturbed by the never-ending quarrel between Church and State. The Bishop proposing to alter the ecclesiastical system of the colony by the institution of movable priests, both the King and Colbert objected strongly to a scheme which would have centralized all spiritual power in the hands of one man, and he a spiritual despot, however sincere and high-souled. But the inflexible Laval contrived for a time to evade or disobey the royal instructions that were sent to him, until at length, in 1688, he asked to be relieved of his office, and the King freely granted his request. Thereupon, he handed over the episcopal office to Saint-Vallier, and retired to the seclusion of his cherished school.
The destruction of the college by fire in 1701 almost broke the heart of the venerable prelate; but with invincible energy and spirit he began at once the work of restoration. In four years the new building was completed, and in it he passed the evening of his days, until, at the age of eighty-six, he closed his eyes for ever on the scene of a strenuous, stormy, and holy life.
Time and events meanwhile had been treating Frontenac with equal sternness. The danger from New England had for a time relieved him of domestic troubles; but with the failure of Sir William Phipps, his clerical enemies at Quebec once more began their machinations, in spite of which the versatile old Governor still contrived to hold his way and course. Politically, the city was divided on the question of keeping control of the far west; for while some saw danger in dissipating the strength of the colony, and therefore advised the maintenance of a smaller but more compact territory, Frontenac, the fur traders, and the coureurs de bois, on the other hand, were determined to hold the West and to maintain the allegiance of the Indian allies.
Such, up to the last, was the attitude of the martial Governor, who, at the age of seventy-six, was ready once more to undertake the punishment of the Iroquois. He would fain have walked and toiled like the rest of the twenty-two hundred men who composed his column; but the Indian allies, unable to see him endure the hardships of the march, bore him triumphantly on their shoulders. Their faith in the great Onontio was without measure, and French prestige among them was now at its highest point. The Onondagas fled before their advance; the Oneidas begged for peace. The villages of the enemy were given to the flames, and the savages, thus rendered homeless, became a charge upon the friendly English settlements, only to increase the enmity which already marked the relations of the latter with the French colony.
Frontenac returned once more in triumph to Quebec, and a semblance of peace reigned in North America—the ominous calm before a storm which was soon to shake the Continent. The Castle of St. Louis now became a centre of gaiety, despite the grey hairs of its distinguished occupant, whose spirits and buoyancy were still unquenched. Quebec was giving unmistakable signs of a social revolt against the rigorous subjection in which the Church had held her. Exiled from Fontainebleau, the officers of the Governor's suite did their best to improvise a counterpart, and the ladies of the ambitious noblesse were not loth to join in the crude but brilliant revels of the castle. The winter carnival, then, as now, afforded merriment to a gay company, the King's representative being as keen a pleasure-seeker as the rest. On Frontenac's suggestion, private theatricals were added to the polite diversions of Quebec. The Marquis de Tracy's ball far back in 1667 had given grievous offence to the Jesuits, and the unholy acting of plays was now declared an open profanity. Nicomede and Mithridate were condemned as immoral; but when Tartuffe, Moliere's mordant satire upon religious hypocrisy, was put upon the boards, the limits of endurance were reached and overpassed.
La Motte Cadillac, a staff officer, thus describes the excitement raised by these performances: "The clergy beat their alarm drums, armed cap-a-pie, and snatched their bows and arrows. The Sieur Glandelet was the first to begin, and preached two sermons in which he tried to prove that nobody could go to a play without mortal sin. The Bishop issued a mandate, and had it read from the pulpits, in which he speaks of certain impious, impure, and noxious comedies, insinuating that those which had been acted were such. The credulous and infatuated people, seduced by the sermons and the mandate, began already to regard the count as a corrupter of morals and a destroyer of religion. The numerous party of the pretended devotees mustered in the streets and public places, and presently...persuaded the Bishop to publish a mandate in the church whereby the Sieur de Mareuil, a half-pay lieutenant, was interdicted the use of the sacraments."
In the midst of it all, death was slowly creeping upon the central figure of so many stormy scenes. The treaty concluded at Ryswick in 1697, and proclaimed in Canada, improved the position of the French in America, encouraging them to new aspirations of conquest. Already on the brink of the grave, the indomitable Frontenac cast his challenge in the teeth of New England, claiming the Iroquois as the recalcitrant subjects of Louis XIV. The gage was duly taken, and although the challenger could not await the issue, his visor remained closed till the end. Even in death Count Frontenac set his face against the Jesuits, for he was buried in the Recollet Chapel. When he was laid to rest the province was stricken with genuine grief, for all men felt that the best bulwark of New France had been laid in mortal ruin.
Frontenac's best legacy to Quebec and to Canada was the pacification of the Indian tribes. Under his stern rule the prestige of France had been restored, and to the new Governor, De Callieres, was left the duty of arranging the formalities of peace with the ancient enemy, the Iroquois. A treaty, however, was only concluded in the face of strenuous opposition from New England, which now beheld with grave concern the changed front of the "Five Nations," who, for the space of a hundred years, had been the sharpest thorn in the side of New France, and whose territory had been as armour-plate about their own settlements.
In opportune time the Treaty of Ryswick had nominally settled all points of contention between France and England in both hemispheres, and it was soon followed by the cessation of hostilities between the whites and Indians. The Governor of New France summoned deputies from all the tribes to a grand council, at which, after many days of debate, he skilfully persuaded them to bury the hatchet and submit their internecine differences to Quebec for arbitration. Belts of wampum were exchanged, and the calumet of peace was passed forthwith between the followers and colleagues of De Callieres and the painted chiefs of a dozen tribes.
The conclusion of this treaty was a fortunate stroke of French diplomacy, as not many months were to pass before Europe became once more involved in a war, into which the colonies of the rival powers were naturally drawn. Apart from the recognition of the English Pretender in France, the immediate cause of war in Europe was the question of the Spanish succession; for while Louis XIV. claimed the throne for his grandson, Philip of Anjou, England, on the other hand, recognised that this union of France and Spain would upset the balance of power on both sides of the Atlantic, and that her American possessions would be exposed to a cross fire from both north and south.
The great battles of Blenheim, Ramilies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet of the European conflict had their counterpart in the petite guerre which was waged by the opposing colonies in America. French privateers issuing from Port Royal swept along the coast of New England, the settlements of Acadia suffering reprisals in kind. At last the ruthless destruction of the little village of Haverhill on the Merrimac by a Canadian war-party roused the English colonists to fury, and they loudly demanded the conquest of Canada. The authorities were already predisposed to this large undertaking by the arguments of one Samuel Vetch, whom the Governor of Massachusetts had formerly despatched on a special mission to Canada. Vetch soon perceived that the defences of Quebec and Montreal were not too formidable to be overcome by a well-devised assault; and proceeding to England he made representations to the advisers of Queen Anne, who, in 1709, sent him back to Boston with command to contrive an expedition against the fortress of Canada. A land force from New England was to proceed northward by way of the Richelieu, and to co-operate with an English fleet on the St. Lawrence.
Once more, however, fortune intervened to save Quebec. England long delayed in sending the promised fleet, and it was already late autumn before the colonial forces were ready to set out. While Colonel Nicholson, its leader, perceived the hopelessness of so unseasonable an assault upon the city, he was yet unwilling to remain inactive. Moreover, Acadia lay close by, and the stronghold of Port Royal challenged his arms. He determined on its subjection. The brave highspirited Subercase was commandant of the town, and although his garrison was ill-provisioned and almost destitute of ammunition, the fort was defended with the utmost boldness against the overwhelming force of the besiegers. Subercase saw the hopelessness of his situation from the first, but in the end his invincible courage secured an honourable capitulation, and, with a pomp and circumstance contrasting strangely with their starved faces and ragged uniforms, the little garrison of Port Royal marched proudly out of the fort. Nicholson took possession of the stronghold and changed its name to Annapolis in honour of the British sovereign. So fell the first of these fortresses, which were the counters in that long game played on the chess-board of a continent.
The capture of Port Royal strengthened the determination of the English colonists to drive the French out of Canada by destroying their grim stronghold upon the St. Lawrence. The home government fell in readily with the project, and despatched seven regiments of the line, fresh from Marlborough's campaigns, together with a fleet of fifteen warships under Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker. This powerful auxiliary to the strength of the colonies arrived duly at Boston, where the details of the invasion of Canada were arranged; and when at length all was ready, the English admiral sailed from Boston for the St. Lawrence, Nicholson at the same time setting out overland for Montreal with a force of twelve thousand men.
[Footnote 21: This was the officer who, years before, had striven to rescue the victims of the massacre of Lachine.]
In the meanwhile Vaudreuil had succeeded De Callieres as Governor at Quebec, a post which long military experience in Canada fitted him to hold in the warfare now enveloping New France. At this time the total population of the country was not much more than fifteen thousand souls, and of fighting men—those whose ages ranged from fifteen years to sixty—Montreal possessed twelve hundred, Three Rivers four hundred, and the district of Quebec twenty-two hundred. On the other hand, the population of the New England colonies was something over one hundred thousand, the colony of New York alone twice outnumbering New France.
Such disparity in the populations of the warring colonies was, however, somewhat discounted by another consideration; for while the power of New France was well organised and capable of skilful direction, the English colonists could carry out no enterprise with the undisciplined soldiery at their disposal. This explains why the French were able to survive for more than half a century the attacks of antagonists richer, more numerous, and not less valorous than themselves. It further shows why, throughout their continuous border warfare, the more audacious and better-trained soldiery of New France triumphed so often over the raw levies of Connecticut and New York.
* * * * *
Sir Hovenden Walker's armada set sail from Boston harbour on the 30th of July, 1711, fore-doomed, through the incapacity of its leader, to the most ignominious failure yet befalling any expedition against Quebec. By reason of his former mission to Canada, Colonel Vetch had been commanded to accompany the fleet, and his Journal of a Voyage Designed to Quebec furnishes the mournful details of this ill-fated enterprise.
By the Admiral's direction, Vetch was on board the Sapphire, the smallest of the frigates, with orders to pick out the safe channel for the rest of the fleet; and although but a landsman, he did his best to act as a pilot. All went well until they reached the wide mouth of the St. Lawrence. There, instead of depending upon one of the smaller ships to lead the way, the Admiral imprudently sailed with his flag-ship in the van. By a singular want of judgment, moreover, he chose to follow the channel north of the Island of Anticosti.
In the fairest of weathers this reef-strewn passage is full of peril, and a dense fog enveloped the fleet on that disastrous August evening. Although advised to anchor until the fog should lift, the Admiral scoffed at fear. Driven by a whistling wind, the ships of the line leaped forward, shaping a course north-north-west, until suddenly the sound of breakers burst upon them; and as if in relentless mockery, the rising moon lit up the angry reefs of Egg Island. Helms were put hard down, and the Admiral's vessel swung round to the wind; but eight of the tall battleships were too late to avoid their doom. Eight hundred and eighty-four persons were drowned, thirty-four of these being women.
A council of war was held three days later, but instead of pressing on up the river with the rest of the ships, Sir Hovenden Walker and Brigadier Hill, the commander of the forces, decided to abandon the expedition. The Sapphire was despatched to Boston to recall the land force; and on the shores of Lake Champlain these inglorious orders overtook the sturdy Nicholson, who regretfully led his column back to Albany.
Meanwhile, Quebec had awaited this her third siege in a fever of anxiety. Vaudreuil had disposed a thousand men, under De Ramezay, at the new stone fort at Chambly to check the invasion by land, and strengthened the city with all available forces, regular and irregular. The habitants of the long Cote de Beaupre had hidden away their goods, and flocked within the walls of the city with all the provisions they could transport. Prayers for deliverance rose unceasingly from the altars of the churches and convents, while the nuns devoted themselves to a nine days' Mass at Notre Dame de Pitie.
[Footnote 22: Brigadier John Hill was the brother of Mrs. Masham, Queen Anne's favourite, to whom, and not to his merit, he owed his appointment.]
Upon this anxiety came the tidings of the wreck at Egg Island. Once more Providence had intervened to save them, and Quebec was delirious with joy. Every belfry in New France pealed forth its hymn of thanksgiving. The little church on the Lower Town market-place changed its name from Notre Dame de la Victoire to Notre Dame des Victoires, and the citizens added a portico in token of their exultation and gratitude.
* * * * *
The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which brought the war of the Spanish succession to a close, deprived France of many of her American possessions. Chief of these were Acadia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson's Bay Territory, all of which were now ceded to England. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, France retained only the Isle Royale, Isle of St. John, and the two tiny rocks of St. Pierre and Miquelon. New France was, however, unwilling to give up her hold on the Atlantic seaboard, and procured a grant of thirty million francs from the home government to build the fortress of Louisbourg at the entrance to the river St. Lawrence. Vauban, the great French engineer, drew the plans of that vast fortification on the rocky headland of Cape Breton, which was destined to play so important a part in the final storm then gathering over the American continent.
[Footnote 23: Now called Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island respectively.]
In the meantime New France had entered upon a season of unexpected peace—unexpected because for at least two generations the conflict with the English colonists had been so continuous that Quebec had almost come to regard warfare as her normal state. The respite following upon the Treaty of Utrecht was the more welcome; and in that breathing space of almost thirty years it seemed as if a real prosperity had at last visited the St. Lawrence. The cultivation of flax and hemp and the weaving of cloth, which had been but a feeble industry since the days of Talon, now assumed real importance. Furs were still the main resource of the colony; but grain, fish, oil, and leather also found their way to France in increasing quantities. Quebec became the centre of a considerable shipping trade, and sea-going vessels were launched from the stocks on the bank of the little St. Charles.
Moreover, the energies of the people presently found another and alluring field. In 1716 a missionary to the Sault Indians discovered the gensing root, which, as a medical drug, was quoted in European markets at its weight in silver. At first its price in Quebec was only forty sols per pound, but when the people saw its value rising to almost as many livres, the rush of searchers to the woods left all other industries at a standstill. Agriculture furnished a slow road to wealth by comparison with the hunt of the gensing plant, and Quebec passed through the fever of a modern gold-rush. Natural and economic conditions, however, had provided their own remedy; and in time the glut of the market and the extirpation of the gensing plant sent the feverish botanists back to their wonted pursuits. Then ensued a period of peace and quiet progress, of patriotic co-operation of the officials and the people for the good of the land.
In 1725 the long and beneficent rule of the first Vaudreuil came to an end, and the Marquis de Beauharnois succeeded to the governorship of Quebec. The features of this and the succeeding administrations were the further expansion westward of New France and the construction of that chain of forts by which she sought finally to fasten her grip upon the continent. One by one these fortresses rose up in the far wilderness to hem in the English between the sea and the Alleghanies, and one by one they were demolished, as England and her colonies slowly rolled down the curtain on the drama of French dominion in North America.
Nearer home, also, that is to say, nearer to Quebec, French enterprise had taken the form of building and manning forts; and as the fate of these scattered strongholds closely affects the story of Quebec, a brief outline of their location is here given.
Port Royal had passed for ever out of French hands, and to take its place the giant bastions of Louisbourg had risen on a ridge of rock which made one arm of Gabarus Bay. On the river Missaguash, which the French claimed to mark the northern boundary of English Acadia, stood Fort Beausejour. Chambly, Sorel, and St. Therese, on the Richelieu, were Indian forts of old foundation; and as a further defence against the English, Beauharnois built Crown Point at the narrows of Lake Champlain. The stronghold of Carillon was situated a few miles beyond. On the Alleghany river, Forts Venango and Le Boeuf barred the westward growth of Pennsylvania; and Fort Duquesne, begun as an English fort by the Ohio Company, guarded the junction of the Alleghany and the Monongahela. Fort Niagara, near one end of Lake Ontario, and Fort Frontenac at the other, were also to figure in the closing stages of the conflict.
The exploit of the Sieur de la Verendrye, which marked this period, was perhaps the most picturesque achievement Quebec had witnessed since the days of La Salle. In the spring of 1731, La Verendrye, with his three sons and a handful of adventurous coureurs de bois, set off from the trading post of Michillimackinac to take possession of the West. By a long succession of paddles and portages. La Verendrye came to the Lake of the Woods. Then, threading his way through its myriad islands, he found and followed a wild stream which bore him down to Lake Winnipeg. From here he passed into the Red River, and at its junction with the Assiniboine built Fort Rouge. From this base the bold explorers made their way as far north as the forks of the Saskatchewan; and by 1743 the distant peaks of the Rocky Mountains had rewarded the vision of a younger La Verendrye. To no avail: for this wide dominion was destined to pass to hands firmer to hold, if slower to acquire.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
The growing power of England, on the sea, in America, and in India, was only equalled by the increasing jealousy of the Catholic nations of Europe, and especially of her ancient rival France. The question of the Austrian succession, in which these two conspicuous opposites stood for and against Maria Theresa, supplied a pretext for war; yet it hardly concealed the real purpose of each power to destroy the other; and the battles of Fontenoy, Nollwitz, and Dettingen, though fought in the heart of Europe, were as decisive for an Eastern and a Western empire as was the warfare on the frontiers of India, or the sullen conflict in the Ohio valley.
Across the Atlantic, France, as usual, dealt the first blow. With a thousand soldiers from Louisbourg, Du Vivier assailed Annapolis Royal; but neither by investment nor assault could the French overcome the small but indomitable garrison; and at length, after weeks of useless cannonade, the besiegers stole back to their stronghold in Cape Breton. This gallant repulse of a desperate attempt to regain Acadia prompted New England to an expedition against the strong fortress of Louisbourg—the standing menace to peaceful colonial development. Were it but reduced, the English seaboard would be henceforth free from all danger of French attack.
Such large considerations fired the English colonists with an enthusiasm which took little thought for the grave dangers attending such an enterprise. Excepting the citadel of Quebec itself, there was no fortress on the American continent to compare in strength with Louisbourg. Built on a narrow rocky cape which projected out into the Atlantic, the ocean girded it on three sides, and on the fourth side a morass made it difficult of approach. A powerful fortification, known as the Island Battery, protected the mouth of the harbour, and the guns of Grand Battery frowned over the inner basin. The French garrison numbered thirteen hundred chosen men. Such was the fortress which Governor Shirley of Massachusetts planned to destroy, and against which the daring Pepperell presently threw the ill-trained levies of New England.
One night, when the citadel of Louisbourg was brilliant with festivity, the colonists dancing and all unconscious of danger, a hundred transports from New England entered Gabarus Bay. The citizens would have held it a foolish dream that any attempt could be made to capture Louisbourg, but there, in the early morning of April 30th, 1745, Pepperell's army was disembarking before their eyes, and in the offing Commodore Warren, with four British battleships, stood blockading the harbour. The bells of the martial little town rang madly in alarm, and the booming of cannon at once brought the dismayed citizens to the ramparts.
Without loss of time Pepperell began to make his way across the marshes lying between his camp and Louisbourg, erecting batteries as he went to answer the cannonade of the garrison. Each morning saw the intrepid besiegers closer to the walls, having advanced their intrenchments under cover of the darkness. A daring assault had meanwhile carried the grand battery, and from a salient post on Light-house Point Pepperell's guns were soon able to silence the island redoubt at the mouth of the harbour. The battle swayed from side to side as the desperate garrison made a sortie, or the besiegers impetuously rushed to the attack. But even the walls of Louisbourg could not for long withstand that furious and ceaseless cannonade, which shattered the heaviest bastions; and when the gallant fort could hold out no longer, a white flag fluttered from the broken ramparts, and the brave Duchambon, his veteran garrison decimated, marched out with the honours of war.
The loss of Louisbourg was the severest blow yet sustained by New France, and without delay a powerful expedition was organised to recapture the fortress and take revenge upon the enemy. No such formidable and menacing armada had ever left the shores of France as now sailed out of Rochelle, under command of the Duc d'Anville. Thirty-nine ships of the line convoyed transports bearing a veteran army westward; and the English colonists trembled for its coming. However, the advance tidings of this terrible flotilla were all that reached the New World; for hardly had D'Anville lost sight of the French coast before two of his ships fell a prey to British gunboats, and a succession of storms scattered the rest in all directions.
At length, after weeks of delay, the surviving vessels struggled one by one into the harbour of Chedabucto. In deadly dejection, D'Anville had succumbed to apoplexy; moreover, his successor, the Admiral D'Estournelle, had committed suicide; and the new commander was La Jonquiere, a distinguished naval officer, then on his way to Quebec to assume the office of Governor-General. His sorry fleet notwithstanding, La Jonquiere decided to strike a blow at Annapolis. Thither he shaped his course; but again a violent storm overtook them on the way, and the ships, unable to weather the tempest, steered straight for France once more.
Even in the face of these dark disasters France was unwilling to abandon Louisbourg, and in 1747 another powerful naval force under La Jonquiere set out for Acadia. Like its magnificent but hapless predecessor, this fleet had hardly cleared the Bay of Biscay before it came to grief. Falling in with a British squadron under Admiral Anson off Cape Finisterre, it was almost totally destroyed.
In other quarters, however, France had received amends from fortune, and in the following year the European powers signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Louisbourg being restored to France in exchange for the Indian province of Madras, which had passed from English hands during the war. To New England, whose blood and valour had achieved the demolition of the frowning fortress, this restitution was a sorrowful blow. But only ten years were to pass before this menace was removed for ever.
La Jonquiere, Governor-designate of Quebec, had been taken prisoner at the naval battle of Finisterre; and, pending his release, the Marquis de la Galissoniere presided over the fortunes, or misfortunes, of New France. The indefiniteness of the western boundary between French and English territory was perhaps the chief source of his perplexity; and to put an end to persistent English encroachments in the valley of the Ohio, Galissoniere sent Celoron de Bienville, a colonial captain, to establish a formal boundary line. This expedition nominally accomplished its purpose; but, judging from the report submitted to the Governor of Quebec, its chief result was a painful revelation. It was shown that, in spite of an expensive chain of fortified posts, the great West was fast slipping from the martial grasp of New France, and passing under the stronger influence of English trade. The huge, unwieldy empire was clearly falling to pieces, and La Jonquiere's arrival in Quebec brought no improvement to the situation. Of high merit as a naval officer, the new Governor had less distinction in morals, and he had frankly come to Canada to mend his fortune. His administration marks the advent of that official robbery which disgraced Quebec and sapped the remaining vitality of the country. Though the country had prospered materially under Vaudreuil, the subsequent war had stopped all progress, and the people were dreaming of empire when they needed bread.
To-day, walking down Palace Hill and turning near the bottom into the Rue St. Vallier, you will find yourself close to the site of the ancient intendancy, where the official ruin of New France began. Here it was that Francois Bigot, the evil genius of Quebec, held corrupt sway in the guise of a royal minister. Here stood, in mordant comment, the Palais de Justice, so wickedly profaned by the last of the intendants. Through several fires and two sieges of later generations parts of this ancient structure persisted in surviving. Only a few years ago the heavier timber still hanging together was called "The King's Wood-yard." But nothing now remains of it, and imagination only summons the haunting spirit of this creature of La Pompadour, whose mischievous influence lost Louis XV his colonial empire, and whose infamies sealed the fate of the Bourbons.
Francois Bigot arrived at Quebec in 1748, a year in which the fortunes of New France had reached so low an ebb that nothing but the most loyal administration might now save her. Even then a strong honest man might possibly have weathered the storm already lowering over this New World dominion; but, with pitiable perverseness, every trait in Bigot's character helped it on to ruin. In private life vain, selfish, heartless, extravagant to the point of folly; in public life mercenary and venal beyond shame—such were the characteristics of the man whom Louis's favourite chose to be civil administrator at Quebec, where the patriotic faith and labour of a gallant and high-hearted people were rewarded by plunder, mis-rule, and that neglect which gave them at last into the hands of the conqueror.
On his arrival, the Intendant speedily surrounded himself by sycophants and knaves who joined him in the reckless pursuit of pleasure, and became ready instruments to further his darker designs. A man of ability, adroitness, and culture, Bigot might have won public favour, but his habits instantly estranged the better people of the colony. The honnetes gens, a party which included the great Montcalm, the brave Bougainville, La Corne de St. Luc, M. de Levis, and M. de Saint-Ours, would have nothing to do with him, and he was left in the hands of servile flatterers, ready enough to serve him. Deschenaux, his fidus Achates, was a cobbler's son, whom experience alone had educated and fate and unscrupulousness had advanced. Cadet, his commissary-general, was the gross son of a butcher, and had spent his dissatisfied youth in the pasture-fields of Charlesbourg. Hughes Pean was the town major of Quebec, but his chief hold on Bigot lay in the beauty of his wife, the charming Angelique des Meloises. This woman, whose beauty, wit, and diablerie are a subject of popular tradition, possessed a fascination which gave her an influence at the intendancy analogous to that exerted at Versailles by her notorious contemporary, La Pompadour.
Ruled by this coterie of dark spirits, Quebec became the scene of a profligacy unparalleled in her history. The Palace, instead of being a hall of justice, was the abode of debauchery and gambling; and the mad revellers, whom a cynical fate had placed at the head of affairs, allowed the ship of state to drift upon the rocks. Even the fine palace within the city gave too little scope for the diversion of the Intendant and his confederates, and, accordingly, a rustic chateau was built near the high hill of Charlesbourg. Here they paused when tired of the chase, and the revels of the mysterious Maison de la Montagne added sad but vivid colouring to the closing decade of French rule. To-day there is an air of pathetic interest about the picturesque ruin of Chateau Bigot. The high walls are covered with ivy, and its graded walks and beds of flowers have disappeared long since. The immense thickness of the walls has enabled "Beaumanoir" to elude destroying Time, but only enough now remains to suggest the hapless revels of a bygone day.
These things, however, are of the private sins of Bigot and his entourage. Their public malefactions were more flagrant. The Intendant's salary could by no means meet his appalling extravagances, and he therefore robbed the country and the King by falsifying official accounts as they passed through his hands. As Intendant it was his duty to supply the needs of those chains of forts by which France held her vast dominion; but while he shamelessly neglected these outposts, he did not fail to debit the royal treasury for supplies which were never forwarded. In this way he and his intriguing friends enriched themselves. They presently adopted another and more contemptible device. Constant hostility towards the British had deprived the farms of their cultivators, and the supply of wheat was greatly reduced throughout the colony. Every day the land grew more distressed, and it was not difficult to foresee a time of famine. Not far from Le Palais stood a huge building which went by the name of the King's Storehouse, and the Intendant resolved to fill this with wheat. He had an ancient precedent in Egyptian history, but his motive was not that of provident Joseph. Fixing the price of grain by an edict, and imposing penalties on those who refused to sell, his agents went through the country gathering up maize and wheat; and when famine came at length, the starving people flocked to the warehouse in Lower Town, and were compelled to buy back their grain at exorbitant prices. They called this warehouse La Friponne—the Cheat—and they cursed the name of Bigot who had so deceived them.
The interesting legend of Le Chien d'Or has its origin in the mercenary practices of this last Intendant of Quebec. Among the merchants of the city was one Nicholas Jaquin, dit Philibert, whose warehouse stood at the top of Mountain Hill, on the site of the present Post-Office. Philibert was one of the honnetes gens, and he devoted his wealth and energy to a commercial battle with La Friponne, determined to supply the people with food at low prices. The enmity between Philibert and the Intendant was common talk, and over his doorway the merchant had hung, beneath the figure of a dog in bas-relief, the following whimsical quatrain:—
"Je suis un chien qui ronge l'os, En le rongeant je prends mon repos; Un jour viendra, qui n'est pas venu, Que je mordrai qui m'aura mordu."
The bitter conflict continued until Philibert was murdered in the street. The escape of the assassin was well contrived; but there was no avoiding the vengeance of Philibert's son, who, after years of searching, struck down his father's slayer in far-off Pondicherry.
* * * * *
Meanwhile the walls and bastions of Louisbourg were rising stronger than ever upon their old foundations, and the French Acadians, relying upon the Cape Breton stronghold and the nearer fortress of Beausejour, grew more and more restless beneath the English yoke. By founding Halifax in 1749, England had taken faster hold upon the peninsula, and through every possible means she had endeavoured to secure the true allegiance of her Acadian subjects. In spite of all these efforts, however, Acadia was sown with treason, and when at last disloyalty became intolerable and dangerous, the innocent as well as the guilty must reap the harvest of tears and bitterness. There could only be one end to it all; and however hard the fate, the land of Acadia now ceased to be the home of its makers, who had been goaded and inveigled into covert rebellion and treason.
"This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman? Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers, Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands, Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven? Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers for ever departed! Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean— Nought but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand Pre."
So sang Longfellow in his sorrowful tale of Evangeline; and the cold page of history is hardly less mournful.
The 5th of September, 1755, was a day memorable alike to the Acadians and to those whose bitter duty it was to carry out King George's orders for their expulsion from the peninsula. At three o'clock in the afternoon the peasants of Grand Pre, Piziquid, Chipody, and the other parishes assembled in their chapels to listen to a royal proclamation declaring their lands and houses forfeited to the Crown, and themselves condemned to exile. The scenes following this unexpected order wrung the hearts of the rugged soldiers who were sent to execute the sentence. Reluctantly and forbearingly they carried out the royal command, and soon six thousand Acadians, who had persistently refused allegiance to the English in the vain belief that New France would regain the peninsula, found themselves transported to the English colonies farther south. Those who swore allegiance were left undisturbed; while many, escaping both deportation and the oath of subjection, fled to Quebec. These were doomed, however, to misery far greater than that of their comrades who were set down as strangers among the English colonists. Quebec, which had fomented and abetted their treason, now declined to share the burden of their misfortune.
The years of Bigot's regime were the lean years of the city, and this influx of a thousand new starvelings was a most unwelcome addition to the population. Yet even the unfavourable circumstances of the time cannot justify the official neglect and the cruel inhospitality with which the miserable exiles were received in the capital of New France. "In vain," says a chronicler, "they asked that the promises they had received should be kept, and they pleaded the sacrifices they had made for France. All was useless. The former necessity for their services had passed away. They were looked upon as a troublesome people, and if they received assistance they were made to feel that it was only granted out of pity. They were almost reduced to die of famine. The little food they obtained, its bad quality, their natural want of cleanliness, their grief, and their idleness caused the death of many. They were forced to eat boiled leather during the greater part of the winter, and to wait for spring in the hope that their condition would be bettered. On this point they were deceived."
"To supplement a miserable daily ration of four ounces of bread and horseflesh," says another writer, "they were obliged to seek scraps in the gutters; and those who survived starvation were brought low with a virulent smallpox, which carried off whole families in its loathsome tumbril."
[Footnote 24: Archives of Nova Scotia.]
* * * * *
In the meantime, a series of events had happened in the Ohio valley which set the New World on fire. Celoron de Bienville had indeed staked out his boundary line, but the new Governor of Quebec, the Marquis Duquesne, saw clearly that a line of bayonets was the only limit which English expansionists would respect. Accordingly, a strong French force marched into the troublesome valley, and established themselves at a new post called Fort Le Boeuf.
The report of this incursion was evil news for Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia, the most diligent and watchful of the thirteen governors of the English colonies. Having never ceased to regard Lake Erie as a northern boundary of British territory, this latest invasion on the part of the French was to him beyond endurance, and he forthwith despatched the Adjutant-General of the Virginia Militia to deliver England's protest to the French commander. The messenger was a tall handsome youth of twenty-one, and the message was the first important commission of George Washington.
In spite of the studied courtesy of his reception by Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, the English envoy saw the hopelessness of his errand, and hastened back to Williamsburg with his report. Dinwiddie thereupon resolved to meet force with force. Although he scarcely persuaded the disunited colonies to take a serious view of the French invasion, he was presently able to send George Washington back again into the Ohio valley at the head of a company of regulars and three hundred soldiers of the Old Dominion.
Meanwhile the French had seized an English trading-post at the junction of the Ohio and Monongahela rivers, and named it Fort Duquesne. This post was Washington's immediate objective, and as he approached it his advance-guard met a French reconnoitring party under Jumonville, sent, it is alleged, by the commandant of Fort Duquesne to warn the Virginians off French soil. The precise purpose served by this handful of Frenchmen has never, however, been fully determined. Jumonville's movements are certainly hard to reconcile with the theory of a peaceful mission, and to Major Washington they certainly appeared hostile. In the sharp fight which followed, Jumonville and nine others were killed, while of the remaining twenty-three only one escaped. By the English, the affair was described as a successful skirmish, by the French as the "Assassinat de Jumonville"; for all it meant precipitation of the death-struggle for North America.
Anticipating the French attack, Washington fell back upon Great Meadows, and the hasty and inadequate intrenchments which he there threw up received the name of Fort Necessity. Here he awaited an assault with a short supply of ammunition and almost no provisions. Nor was his patience long tried; for nine hundred Frenchmen under Coulon de Villiers, brother of the unfortunate Jumonville, were already marching against him through the woods. Wishing to entice them to an immediate attack, Washington had arrayed his men on the open meadow before the fort; but as his opponent declined to be drawn from the cover of the surrounding hills, the Virginians also took shelter in their shallow intrenchments. A blind fusillade now began in torrents of rain and was maintained for nine hours, punctuated by the booming of a few light swivel guns upon the ramparts.
At nightfall, however, the French proposed a parley, and having weighed the chances of his little army against such overwhelming numbers, Washington agreed to capitulate. Next day the English marched out of Fort Necessity with beating drums and flying colours; but heart-sick and weary they toiled back over the mountains to Virginia, leaving the valley of the Ohio in the full possession of the enemy. Moreover, the defeat at Fort Necessity was a double blow, for it threw the fickle Indians back into the arms of the French, a consideration of great weight in border warfare.
In Europe the rival powers were still maintaining the semblance of peace, while yet secretly abetting the open enmity of their American colonies. The despatch of Major-General Braddock with two regiments of the line, although accounted for by the lips of diplomacy, was, with equally pacific assurances, promptly checkmated by France. Eighteen ships of war, carrying the six battalions of La Reine, Bourgogne, Languedoc, Guienne, Artois, and Bearn, and convoyed by an auxiliary squadron of nine battleships, were hurried off to New France under the joint command of Baron Dieskau and the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the new Governor of Quebec. As in the case of former expeditions on so large a scale, some of the vessels failed to reach their destination, and two frigates fell into the hands of Admiral Boscawen, who had secret orders to intercept this French flotilla.
Braddock and his thousand regulars were now regarded as the salvation of the English colonies, whose representatives had at last agreed upon a scheme for defending their frontiers. The English general, it was decided, should destroy Fort Duquesne, Governor Shirley attacking the French fort of Niagara; while Colonel William Johnson, a settler of the Upper Hudson, and chiefly remarkable for his influence with the Mohawks, was to proceed against Crown Point. None of these intentions was fulfilled in its entirety, although Johnson, in the course of his operations in the district of Lake Champlain, was able to inflict a crushing defeat upon the French under Dieskau, and on the scene of his triumph to erect Fort William Henry.
The feature of the summer campaign of 1755 was, however, the fate of Braddock and his column. Setting out from Fort Cumberland on the Potomac, the English General made his way north-westward at the head of twenty-two hundred men, four hundred and fifty of these being veteran Virginians under the command of Colonel George Washington. But the overweening Braddock considered these raw colonials to be the least effective of his troops. From the first the progress of this imposing force was painfully slow. "Instead of pushing on with vigour without regarding a little rough road," writes George Washington, "we were halted to level every mole-hill, and compelled to erect bridges over every brook, by which means we were four days in getting twelve miles." Declining colonial advice, Braddock preferred to regulate his motions by the text-book of war; and as he knew nothing of the country through which he made his way, and still less of the tactics of his foe, the sequel was almost inevitable.
"It was the 10th of June," says Parkman, "before the army was well on its march. Three hundred axemen led the way, to cut and clear the road; and the long train of pack-horses, waggons, and cannon toiled on behind, over the stumps, roots, and stones of the narrow track, the regulars and provincials marching in the forest close on either side. Squads of men were thrown out on the flanks, and scouts ranged the woods to guard against surprise; for, with all his scorn of Indians and Canadians, Braddock did not neglect reasonable precautions. Thus, foot by foot, they advanced into the waste of lonely mountains that divided the streams flowing into the Atlantic from those flowing into the Gulf of Mexico—a realm of forests ancient as the world. The road was but twelve feet wide, and the line of march often extended four miles. It was like a thin, long, parti-coloured snake, red, blue, and brown, trailing slowly through the depth of leaves, creeping round inaccessible heights, crawling over ridges, moving always in dampness and shadow, by rivulets and waterfalls, crags and chasms, gorges and shaggy steeps. In glimpses only, through jagged boughs and flickering leaves, did this wild primeval world reveal itself, with its dark green mountains, flecked with the morning mist, and its distant peaks pencilled in dreamy blue. The army passed the main Alleghany, Meadow Mountain, and traversed the funereal pine-forest afterwards called the Shadows of Death."
Meanwhile, French scouts had brought news of the approaching column, and Beaujeu, an officer at Fort Duquesne, conceiving the idea of attacking Braddock as he came up a deep wooded ravine lying about eight miles from the fort, repaired thither with a force of nine hundred men, including French regulars, Canadians, and Indians.
The English troops toiled on, and when the defenceless vanguard was well advanced up the pass, Beaujeu gave the signal which sent down a hail of deadly bullets upon them. Still the redcoats held their ground bravely, firing steady volleys against the hidden foe. By this time the main army also had entered the pass, only to be thrown into instant confusion, their solid ranks offering a target to the French sharpshooters. Bewildered by the converging fire, the column huddled together at the bottom of the pass, while the bullets mowed them down pitilessly. The brave but headstrong general exhorted them to preserve the order of their ranks, and when they would have fled in terror, he beat them back into line with his own sword. The Virginians alone knew how to avert a massacre, and spreading out quickly into skirmish order, they took cover behind the trees and rocks to meet their wily foe on even terms. But the brave and stubborn Braddock was blind to so obvious an expedient, and with oaths he ordered the irregulars back into the death-line.
[Footnote 25: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, vol. i. chap. vii.]
All the long July afternoon the carnage continued. Four horses fell dead beneath the indomitable General, and two were killed under the gallant Washington who, with his Virginian rangers, covered the retreat of Braddock's miserable remnant when at last they resolved on flight. Only six hundred escaped out of that fatal valley, while the General himself, in spite of his command that they should leave him where he fell, was borne away fatally wounded in the lungs.
So ended the summer campaign of 1755; and even Johnson's brilliant success at Fort William Henry could not offset the terrible disaster which had befallen British arms in the valley of the Ohio.
LIFE UNDER THE ANCIEN REGIME
For all its sombre background bright threads run through the warp and woof of the ancien regime. From Normandy, Brittany, and Perche they came, these simple folk of the St. Lawrence, to brave the dangers of an unknown world and wrestle with primeval nature for a livelihood. If their hands were empty their hearts were full, Gallic optimism and child-like faith in their patron saints bringing them through untold misfortunes with a prayer or a song upon their lips. The savage Indian with his reeking tomahawk might break through and steal, the moth and rust of evil administration might wear away the fortunes of New France, yet the habitant ever found joy in labour and made light of hard circumstance.
In every language there is a pensive attraction in the words "the good old days"; and even to-day the phrase brings a tear to the eye of the French Canadian as his mind dwells on the time before the Conquest; for while conscious of his growth in freedom and wealth, the sentiment for past days and vanished glory obscures in his mind the thought of these material blessings. Spirits of the ancien regime still haunt the dreamy firesides of the Province, yet their presence does not impair the loyalty of these adopted sons of Britain.
When Wolfe came to Quebec, the flight of a century and a half had transformed Champlain's "Habitation" and its clustering huts into the strongest and fairest city of the New World. Churches, convents, and schools huddled together, and composed a varied picture upon the uneven summit of a towering rock; cannon thrust their black muzzles through the girdling walls of stone; and the bastioned citadel rose over all, commanding the river, the city, and the graceful country rolling inland from high Cape Diamond.
Sunshine reflected from the spires and towers of the town made a beacon of hope to the peasant as he laboured on the seigneuries leagues and leagues away. Far down the Cote de Beaupre, beyond the Mont Ste. Anne, from the rich farms of Orleans, and across on the Levi shore, the glistening light on the city roofs by day, and at night the twinkling candles in the windows, were as guiding stars to these children in the wilderness. Twice in the early days, so their folklore told them, miraculous intervention had saved their city from the invader; and was she not impregnable still? And as he gazed happily across the uplands towards his Mecca, the habitant could conceive of no power which might prevail against her stony ramparts. To this day the emblems of their faith abound, scattered along the wayside; and here and there a little wooden cross, set on with two or three rough steps, invites the wayfarer to pause and pray. Bareheaded, the pilgrim waits before the holy symbol to whisper an Ave or to tell his beads. Rough bushmen cease from riot and laughter, and touch their caps as they pass. All down the cotes, these casual shrines exhort the simple peasant to his twofold duty—to God and to his neighbour. Throughout the river parishes the size and richness of the churches contrasts strangely with the poverty of the rough-cast cottages, revealing the devout spirit of the villagers, to whom the church stands before all else.
Seven leagues below the city of Quebec is the greatest of all these shrines, L'Eglise de la bonne Ste. Anne. In the foreground, the wide bosom of the St. Lawrence stretches across to the Isle of Orleans, while Mont Ste. Anne rises in graceful lines upon the flank, making a green background for the stone Basilica, which draws nearly two hundred thousand pilgrims every year to its healing altars. Perhaps, as you enter the village, the rich chimes of Ste. Anne are ringing a processional, and the cripples are thronging through the pillared vestibule. Some of these pious sufferers have come a thousand miles to wait, like those in days of old, for the moving of the waters. Inside the church, the pillars are covered with cast-off crutches, which faithful pilgrims leave behind when they go forth healed.
The history of the shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre goes back almost to the time of Champlain. A traditional account of its foundation relates that some Breton mariners, being overtaken by a violent storm on the St. Lawrence, vowed a sanctuary to Ste. Anne if she would but bring them safe to shore. Their prayers were heard, and forthwith they raised a little wooden chapel at Petit-Cap, seven leagues below Quebec. History, however, gives 1658 as the date of the first chapel of Ste. Anne; and it was while engaged in its construction that Louis Guimont became the subject of the first miraculous cure. Other cures rapidly followed, and soon the shrine became renowned for its miracles. The Marquis de Tracy made two pilgrimages; and Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV. accorded her patronage, sending to the little chapel a vestment embroidered by herself.
During two and a half centuries the church of Ste. Anne has been several times rebuilt. The present imposing structure dates from 1886, and has been raised by the Pope to the rank of a Basilica Minor. Beaupre has become the Lourdes of the New World, where the halt, the maimed, the sick, and the blind piously contend together in effort to reach the healing shrine.
In the old days once or twice a week, according to the season and the distance of the city, the peasant made his way to Quebec, to take up his stand on the market-place, and sell his produce to the townspeople. The practice still survives, and on a Saturday half the women of Upper Town busily drive their bargains outside St. John's Gate, while at the river's brink Champlain Market is equally alive.
When the ancient Seigneur came to town his sword was upon his thigh, and he wore his smartest toilet of peruke, velvet, and lace. The Chateau upon the cliff was his Versailles, and hither came the quality of the district to pay their court and attend the receptions of the Governor. The Seigneur's wife was gowned according to the latest intelligence from Paris, with coiffe poudre, court-plaster, ribbons, and fan. She could curtsey with fine grace and dance the stately minuet; and her sprightly conversation was the amazement of those visitors who have recorded their impressions of Quebec. La Potherie, in 1698, and Charlevoix, in 1720, both remarked upon the purity of the French language as spoken in these salons of the far-distant West.
In spite of clerical anathema, the first ball in Canada was given at Fort St. Louis as early as 1646, and from that time forward social life at Quebec steadily progressed. The Marquis de Tracy with his suite of nobles and the regiment of Carignan-Salieres brought unwonted lustre to the remote court; and when a native order of noblesse was founded a few years later, the Chateau on the St. Lawrence reflected the elegance and gaiety of France itself.
The account of Madame de Vaudreuil's reception at Versailles in 1709, or the Duc de Saint-Simon's comment upon that lady's wit and deportment, affords a high certificate of the savoir vivre of the old fortress town; and the letters of the Marquis de Montcalm, keen connoisseur of social arts, show that the drawing-rooms of the Rue du Parloir were far from uncongenial. Moreover, the fascinating Angelique des Meloises was something more in the history of New France than the prototype of the heroine in Le Chien d'Or.
Towards the close of the French period Quebec had a population of about seven thousand, of whom more than half lived in the Lower Town. Here, on the narrow strand beneath the cliff, the tenements stood in irregular groups, parted by winding streets. Up the hill, too, these tortuous pathways ran, changing, now and then, to breakneck stairs where the declivity was specially steep. The graded slope of Mountain Street zigzagged from the harbour up to the Castle, while on the St. Charles side the ascent was commonly made by way of Palace Hill. The Upper Town was chiefly occupied by public buildings, which comprised the Chateau, the Cathedral, churches, schools, and convents. Here also the streets followed no definite plan, but ambled hither and thither along the uneven summit. Out through the city gates ran the roads of St. Louis and St. John, highways to the straggling suburbs, which yet hung close to the protecting ramparts.
The houses were built of wood or of grey stone, usually to the height of one story, being also surmounted by a tall, steep roof, through which the tiny dormer windows peeped in picturesque disorder. Inside, a slight partition divided the dwelling into two chambers. In the end of the living-room stood a large open fireplace, the household cooking-pots swinging from an iron crane. A sturdy table occupied the centre of the floor, and benches or blocks of wood were ranged as chairs around the walls. The inevitable cradle, consecrated to the service of two, three, or four generations, pounded monotonously to and fro upon the uneven floor, and by the low-set window the thrifty housewife wove her flaxen homespun in a venerable loom. Saints, in pictures of fervid tints, looked down serenely from low, unplastered walls, while from the rafters of the ceiling were hung the weapons of the family arsenal—flint-lock muskets and hilted hunting-knives, and sometimes too an ancestral sword or silver-handled pistol.
In the matter of dress, social distinctions were punctiliously regarded. The gentilhomme was as careful as his wife to follow the latest vogue at Versailles. His hair was curled, powdered, and tied in a queue, his headgear was the ceremonious three-cornered hat. A stately, coloured frockcoat, an embroidered waistcoat, knee-breeches, silk stockings, and high-heeled buckled shoes completed the toilette of the Canadian seigneur.
"The dress of the Habitants," says an observer of a much later date than Saint-Simon or Montcalm, "is simple and homely; it consists of a long-skirted cloth or frock, of a dark grey colour, with a hood attached to it, which in winter time or wet weather he puts over his head. His coat is tied round the waist by a worsted sash of various colours, ornamented with beads. His waistcoat and trousers are of the same cloth. A pair of moccasins, or swamp boots, complete the lower part of his dress. His hair is tied in a thick long queue behind, with an eelskin; and on each side of his face a few straight locks hang down like what are vulgarly called 'rat's tails.' Upon his head is a bonnet rouge, or in other words, a red night-cap. The tout ensemble of his figure is completed by a short pipe, which he has in his mouth from morning till night. A Dutchman is not a greater smoker than a French Canadian.
"The visage of the Habitant is long and thin, his complexion sunburnt and swarthy, and not unfrequently of a darker hue than that of the Indian. His eyes, though rather small, are dark and lively; his nose prominent, and inclined to the aquiline or Roman form; his cheeks lank and meagre; his lips small and thin; his chin sharp and projecting."
[Footnote 26: Lambert, Travels, vol i. p. 158.]
In winter, rich and poor alike were wrapped in homespun blanket paletots, whose vivid colours made a charming picture, as the wayfarers trudged over the deep white snow-fields on their buoyant snow-shoes, or coasted through the clear and bracing air on swift toboggans. In the evening they flocked to a chosen rendezvous, where a home-bred violinist tuned them through gay quadrilles; and anon the lonely violin would be drowned in the lusty voices of the dancers, who suited a folk-song to their steps—
"Malbrouck s'en va-t-en guerre, Mironton, mironton, mirontaine; Malbrouck s'en va-t-en guerre, Ne sait quand reviendra. Il reviendra z-a Paques Ou a la Trinite. La Trinite se passe, Malbrouck ne revient pas."
Moreover, winter, the idle half of the year, was the season of social visits; and in these courtesies the habitants were assiduous. Between Christmas and Ash Wednesday they strove, it would seem, to fill themselves with gaiety against the coming grey season of Lent. An unbidden throng of visitors would drive to a selected house, and sheer bankruptcy would indeed have been the housewife's portion if this welcome invasion had been wholly unexpected; but to meet such an emergency cooked meats and pies stood ready upon her pantry shelves, while croquignoles and sweet pasties needed only a few moments in the oven before a meal was ready. Thus during the days of snow they went gaily from homestead to homestead, all being victimised in turn by these "surprise parties." For la haute noblesse also, the winter season was the gayest of the year. Their quaint carrioles sped jingling over the snow from one manor-house to another; here a dinner-party, there a dance, and everywhere a frugal happiness.
In Les Anciens Canadiens De Gaspe portrays the life of this seigneurial class to which he himself belonged. The manor-house was usually a long, low, stone-built structure, surmounted by overhanging gables and a lofty roof. A wing was sometimes added at right angles, and always a group of strongly-built outhouses, stables, and sheds clustered near by; among them standing a stone mill which had perhaps served as a tower of refuge in the troublous times of the Iroquois raids, but which the censitaires now used merely to grind their grain. If the Seigneur was possessed of power to execute high, middle, and low justice, a gallows and a pillory might be found within the precincts; but towards the close of the ancien regime these crude implements of punishment had happily fallen into disuse. The parish church was never far away, the Seigneur being at all times the patron of the presbytere, as well as the potent bulwark of the feudal village springing up within sight of his manor-house.
These country mansions were much the same as those of Quebec, and there was little difference in the manner of living within and without the city walls. At eight o'clock the gentilhomme and his family breakfasted on rolls, white wine, and coffee; while dinner was served at noon, and supper at seven in the evening. The dining-room of a fashionable household was tastefully arranged. One end of the room was completely occupied by the massive side-board, filled with ancestral silver and china. Upon a shelf apart stood cut-glass decanters for the table service, and as a coup d'appetit cordials were handed round in the drawing-room. On coming into the dining-room the guest might, if he chose, rinse his hands in a blue and white porcelain water-basin, which stood upon a pedestal in one corner of the room. Arrived at the table, he found his couvert to consist of a napkin, plate, silver goblet, fork and spoon, being expected to supply his own knife. For these occasions men usually carried knives in their pockets, the ladies wearing them in a leathern, silken, or birch-bark sheath. This peculiar custom caused some embarrassment to those English officers who were billeted in French houses after the capture of the city.
[Footnote 27: Captain Knox's Journal of the Siege.]
The maple sugar season brought to the habitants their first relaxation from the severities of Lent. Huge caldrons of sap hung on poles over the roaring fires, and the children gathered round to taste the syrup, and salute with songs of welcome the coming of jocund spring. May-day soon followed, "the maddest merriest day" in all the calendar. In the early morning the habitant repaired to the seigneury to assist in erecting the May-pole. Almost every one he knew—man, woman, or child—was there with similar intent. Presently the tall fir-tree, stripped of its bark, was firmly planted in the farmyard, and a deputation waited upon the Seigneur to beg his acceptance of this homage. A fusillade of blank musket shots was now kept up until the May-pole was thoroughly blackened. This done, the doors of the manor-house were thrown wide open in welcome; and the rest of the day was one long banquet. The Seigneur's tables groaned beneath burdens of roasted veal, mutton, and pork, huge bowls of stew, pies, and cakes, to which was added white whiskey and tobacco. Songs, stories, and homely wit sped the day until the banqueters were weak in flesh and spirit. Baptisms, betrothals, and weddings also were occasions of feasting; and the long-suffering Seigneur hardly escaped standing godfather to every child born within seven leagues of the manor.