Mr. Parkman's Histories

IT is now nearly twenty-five years since The Conspiracy of Pontiac was first published; The Pioneers of France in the New World followed fifteen years later; in 1867 The Jesuits in North America appeared; in 1869 The Discovery of the Great West; and now in 1874 we have Canada under the Old Régime, in furtherance of the author’s design to present an unbroken series of historical narratives of France and England in North America. This design, though fully formed before the publication of The Conspiracy of Pontiac, began to be realized in The Pioneers of France in the New World, which should be read first in the series of narratives by such as still have before them the great pleasure of reading the entire work. The Jesuits in North America follows; then the present volume of Canada under the Old Régime, and one on the rule of Frontenac, to succeed it; then The Discovery of the Great West, and finally The Conspiracy of Pontiac. Each of these narratives, however, is complete in itself, and in spite of their irregular and unsequent production, there is a perfect unity of intention in them, and from first to last the author is more and more fortunate in fulfilling his purpose of giving a full view of the French dominion in North America. One moral is traced from beginning to end, — that spiritual and political despotism is so bad for men that no zeal, or self-devotion, or heroism can overcome its evil effects; one lesson enforces itself throughout, — that the state which persistently meddles with the religious, domestic, and commercial affairs of its people, dooms itself to extinction. In Canada the Jesuit realized his dream of a church untroubled by a heretic, obedient, faithful, devoted; in Canada the monarchist realized his dream of subjects paternally governed even to the intimate details of social and family life; and these dreams were such long nightmares to the colonists that the English conquest, and the perpetual separation of the colony from the mother-country, was a blessing instinct with life, freedom, and prosperity.

It is in Mr. Parkman’s last volume that these facts, tacitly or explicitly presented in all his books on Canada, are most vividly stated; and we do not know where else one should find any part of the past more thoroughly restored in history. In all this fullness of striking and significant detail, one is never conscious of the literary attitude, and of the literary intent to amuse and impress; Mr. Parkman soberly and simply portrays the conditions of that strange colony of priests, lawyers, and soldiers, without artificial grouping, and reserves his own sense of the artistic charm which the reader will be sure to feel in the work.

The first part of Canada under the Old Régime is a study of the interesting period in which the colony grew from a church to a state, or in which it passed from the Jesuits who founded it, to the prince who caressed it into a kind of sickly secularity. It would be supposing altogether too much to suppose that the power of the priests in things spiritual was broken by the change: indeed, they fought hard for the control of the colony in all things, and kept a good share of it; but they were no longer supreme. The reader of The Atlantic has already seen such chapters of this section as treat of the Jesuit mission at Onondaga, and of the early heroes and martyrs of Montreal. After these comes a chapter telling of the brief struggle between the Jesuits and the Sulpitians for the Bishopric of Quebec, in which the latter were defeated, and Laval, the favorite of the Jesuit party, achieved the triumph which he enjoyed so many years while governors and intendants came and went. He was of noble family, and he was a man of such distinguished virtue and piety that he is revered as little short of a saint; the Laval University of Quebec is named after him, and throughout French Canada his memory is devoutly cherished. In Mr. Parkman’s history he appears a stern, self-sacrificing zealot, clinging to power as to a special charge from God, and crushing opposition without pity, or artfully circumventing it without compunction.

“ On his first arrival in Canada, Mother Marie de l’Incarnation, Superior of the Ursulines . . . describes his austerity of life; how he had but two servants, a gardener—whom he lent on occasion to his needy neighbors — and a valet; how he lived in a small hired house, saying that he would not have one of his own if he could build it for only five sous; and how, in his table, furniture, and bed, he showed the spirit of poverty, even, as she thinks, to excess. His servant, a lay brother named Houssart, testified, after his death, that he slept on a hard bed, and would not suffer it to be changed even when it became full of fleas; and, what is more to the purpose, that he gave fifteen hundred or two thousand francs to the poor every year. Houssart also gives the following specimen of his austerities: ‘ I have seen him keep cooked meat five, six, seven, or eight days in the heat of summer, and when it was all moldy and wormy he washed it in warm water and ate it, and told me that it was very good. ’ . . .

“ Several portraits of Laval are extant. A drooping nose of portentous size; a well-formed forehead; a brow strongly arched; a bright, clear eye; scanty hair, half hidden by a black skull-cap; thin lips, compressed and rigid, betraying a spirit not easy to move or convince; features of that indescribable cast which marks the priestly type: such is Laval, as he looks grimly down on us from the dingy canvas of two centuries ago.”

As soon as he reached Quebec, about the middle of the seventeenth century, his quarrels with the governor began on such points as whether the soldiers should offer the bishop a military salute or kneel to him; whether the priests of the choir should receive incense before the governor; whether the bishop or the governor should first be saluted by the children at “ solemn catechism;” and the representative of the king presently found the discomforts of his place so many that he gave it up and went home. A stiff old soldier succeeded him, and proved so unmanageable concerning matters of precedence and power, as well as the brandy traffic with the Indians, which the Jesuits were resolved to break up, that Laval went to France to procure his recall, and he was recalled. Meanwhile a terrible earthquake throughout Canada had testified the disgust of Heaven with the colonists, who bitterly repented their disobedience to the Jesuits, and ceased to sell brandy to the Indians — for some days or weeks, perhaps. By and by, Laval returned with a governor after his own heart, a certain Saffray de Mézy, major of the town and citadel of Caen, and a chief member of the band of religious zealots to which Laval had himself belonged. These believers were leagued together for the extirpation of Jansenism, for the glory of God, and for the mortification of the flesh, under the guidance of a pious Monsieur de Berniéres, who had retired from the world to a house attached to the Ursuline Convent at Caen, called the Hermitage. Doubtless they were good people, but they do not seem to have been very wise or of very savory observances, if we are to believe the anecdotes that Mr. Parkman quotes concerning them.

Major de Mézy was unquestionably all the better follower of Bernières, from having been rather a bad subject in his youth, and even a Huguenot, “ Among the merits of Mézy, his humility and charity were especially admired; and the people of Caen had more than once seen the town major staggering across the street with a beggar mounted on his back, whom he was bearing dry - shod through the mud in the exercise of those virtues. Laval imagined that he knew him well. Above all others, Mézy was the man of his choice; and so eagerly did he plead for him, that the king himself paid certain debts which the pious major had contracted, and thus left him free to sail for Canada. His deportment on the voyage was edifying, and the first days of his accession were passed in harmony.”

But at so great a distance from the Hermitage, and in a new climate, the governor lost his head, and when Laval confidently proposed to gather the reins of power entirely into his own hands, Mézy resisted with such scandalous obstinacy, that the bishop threatened to deny him the sacraments. He went for comfort to the Jesuits, but he did not find it; in his madness at some episcopal usurpation he appealed to the people. That sufficed. As soon as the news of this sin against the king’s majesty could be carried to France, Mézy was peremptorily recalled, and tormented by his religious fears and his political chagrins, he died before he could leave the colony. It is pleasant to know that he died repentant, and that Laval himself confessed and absolved him.

Laval had hitherto been vicar-apostolic and titular Bishop of Petræa. He now urged at Rome and at Paris his recognition as Bishop of Quebec, and he gained his point. He proposed the establishment of a seminary at Quebec for the education of Canadian priests, and the king sanctioned and confirmed it. He wished to have all curés removable at the pleasure of the bishop, and in Spite of the king’s instructions to the contrary, he had his way also in this. He was really the civil as well as the spiritual head of the colony; he made and unmade governors, and sooner or later his will was law in everything.

“ This father of the Canadian church, who has left so deep an impress on one of the communities which form the vast population of North America, belonged to a type of character to which an even justice is rarely done. . . . Tried by the Romanist standard, his merits were great; though the extraordinary influonce which he exercised in the affairs of the colony was, as already observed, by no means due to his spiritual graces alone. To a saint, sprung from the haute noblesse, earth and heaven were alike propitious. . . . Nor is there any reasonable doubt that, had the bishop stood in the place of Brebeuf or Charles Lalemant, he would have suffered torture and death like them. But it was his lot to strive, not against infidel savages, but against countrymen and Catholics, who had no disposition to burn him, and would rather have done him reverence than wrong. ... To comprehend his actions and motives, it is necessary to know his ideas in regard to the relations of church and state. They were those of the extreme ultramontanes. . . . Christ was to rule in Canada through his deputy the bishop, and God’s law was to triumph over the laws of man. As in the halcyon days of Champlain and Montmagny, the governor was to be the right hand of the church, to wield the earthly sword at her bidding, and the council was to be the agent of her high behests.”

But it was at this moment of the bishop’s confirmed supremacy that Louis XIV. took the fancy to become a father to New France, and to establish there the most intimate system of paternal government that perhaps ever was. The serio-comic history of the experiment forms the second part of Mr. Parkman’s book, which opens with a graphic sketch of the situation in France when in 1661 the young king held his court at Fontainebleau, released from the tutelage of Mazarin, advised and obeyed by Colbert, with feudalism abject before him, and a parliament meekly prompt to register his decrees. “ As king by divine right he felt himself raised immeasurably above the highest of his subjects; but while vindicating with unparalleled haughtiness his claims to supreme authority, he was, at the outset, filled with a sense of the duties of his high place, and fired by an ambition to make his reign beneficent to France, as well as glorious to himself.”

Unhappily for Canada, he chose that colony, always the favorite of the devout, as the field of a peculiar beneficence. He resolved that Canada should be safe from savage invasion, that it should be populous, that it should be prosperous, that it should know all the blessings which the genius of an absolute, fondly paternal government can bestow upon its subjects. It should of course continue religious and obedient; remain ignorant alike of heresy and of political freedom. It should do nothing for itself, except such things as it had first had done for it and had been taught and bidden to do. It should have a complete feudal system, seigneurs and vassals, but a feudal system, bien entendu, with teeth drawn, barons without, franchises, and tenants without obligations. Trade should flourish — the king would see that Commerce took the right direction, and did nothing wrong; industries should spring up — the king would befriend the smallest industry that showed itself; there should be a ready market for all the natural products of the country — the king would compel the various companies dealing in them to take everything offered at a fixed price.

The government was to be administered by a governor and an intendant, the main business of the latter being the espionage and circumvention of the former; the governor was always a noble, the intendant always a lawyer; they always hated one another and quarreled continually. Before the first governor came out, the Marquis de Tracy arrived with one of the finest of the king’s regiments for the purpose of reducing the Iroquois, and on the 13th of June, 1665, landed at Quebec.

“ The broad, white standard, blazoned with the arms of France, proclaimed the representative of royalty; and Point Levi and Cape Diamond and the distant Cape Tourmente roared back the sound of the saluting cannon. All Quebec was on the ramparts or at the landing-place, and all eyes were strained at the two vessels as they slowly emptied their crowded decks into the boats alongside. . . .

“ Tracy was a veteran of sixty-two, portly and tall, ' one of the largest men I ever saw,’ writes Mother Mary; but he was sallow with disease, for fever had seized him, and it had fared ill with him on the long voyage. The Chevalier de Chaumont walked at his side, and young nobles surrounded him, gorgeous in lace and ribbons and majestic in leonine wigs. Twenty-four guards in the king’s livery led the way, followed by four pages and six valets; and thus, while the Frenchmen shouted and the Indians stared, the august procession threaded the streets of the Lower Town, and climbed the steep pathway that scaled the cliffs above, . . . and soon reached the square betwixt the Jesuit college and the cathedral. The bells were ringing in a frenzy of welcome.

“ A prie-dieu had been placed for him (the marquis). He declined it. They offered him a cushion, but he would not have it; and, fevered as he was, he knelt on the bare pavement with a devotion that edified every beholder. Te Deum was sung, and a day of rejoicing followed.”

With the governor and the intendant came more nobles, and more soldiers a little later. The marquis and his troops set about conquering the Iroquois, which they did very promptly, marching down into New York, destroying the fortified towns of the savages, and for the time humbling them thoroughly. Then the marquis went back to France, and most of the young nobles went with him; but the regiment was disbanded in Canada, the soldiers were granted lands and settled in the colony, and it was intimated to the officers that if they wished to please the king they also would remain. The next thing to do was to supply these colonists with wives, and the king had the requisite brides sent out from France at once. “ Girls for the colony were taken from the hospitals of Paris and of Lyons, which were not so much hospitals for the sick as houses of refuge for the poor. . . . Complaints, however, were soon heard that women from cities made indifferent partners; and peasant girls, healthy, strong, and accustomed to field work, were demanded in their place. Peasant girls were therefore sent, but this was not all. Officers as well as men wanted wives; and Talon asked for a consignment of young ladies. His request was promptly answered. In 1667, he writes: ' They send us eighty-four girls from Dieppe and twenty-five from Rochelle; among them are fifteen or twenty of pretty good birth; several of them are really demoiselles, and tolerably well brought up.’

“ Three years later we find him asking for three or four more in behalf of certain bachelor officers. The response surpassed his utmost wishes; and he wrote again: ‘ It is not expedient to send more demoiselles. I have had this year fifteen of them, instead of the four I asked for.’ . . .

“ The character of these candidates for matrimony has not escaped the pen of slander. The caustic La Hontan, writing fifteen or twenty years after, draws the following sketch of the mothers of Canada: ‘ After the regiment of Carignan was disbanded, ships were sent out freighted with girls of indifferent virtue, under the direction of a few pious old duennas, who divided them into three classes. These vestals were, so to speak, piled one on the other in three different halls, where the bridegrooms chose their brides as a butcher chooses his sheep out of the midst of the flock. . . . At the end of a fortnight not one was left. I am told that the plumpest were taken first, because it was thought that, being less active, they were more likely to keep at home, and that they could resist the winter cold better. Those who wanted a wife applied to the directresses, to whom they were obliged to make known their possessions and means of livelihood before taking from one of the three classes the girl whom they found most to their liking. The marriage was concluded forthwith, with the help of a priest and a notary, and the next day the governor-general caused the couple to be presented with an ox, a cow, a pair of swine, a pair of fowls, two barrels of salted meat, and eleven crowns in money.’

“ So far as regards the character of the girls, there can be little doubt that this amusing sketch is for the most part untrue. Since the colony began, it had been the practice to send back to France women of the class alluded to by La Hontan, as soon as they became notorious. . . . Mistakes nevertheless occurred. ‘ Along with the honest people,’ complains Mother Mary, ‘ comes a great deal of canaille of both sexes, who cause a great deal of scandal.’ After some of the young women had been married at Quebec, it was found that they had husbands at home. The priests became cautious in tying the matrimonial knot, and Colbert thereupon ordered that each girl should provide herself with a certificate from the curé or magistrate of her parish to the effect that she was free to marry. Nor was the practical intendant unmindful of other precautions to smooth the path to the desired goal. ‘ The girls destined for this country,’ he writes, ' besides being strong and healthy, ought to be entirely free from any natural blemish or anything personally repulsive.’ ” . . .

These paternally united pairs were encouraged by rewards from the king to multiply the number of his subjects as rapidly as possible. Premiums were offered for early marriages, and for large families. One summer a shipment of young women takes place, and the next year the intendant writes home that nearly all are in a forward way to gratify the king’s wishes; that year seven hundred children are born. The whole chapter devoted to marriage and population is very curious and amusing, and it is lamentable to know that after all the king’s cares and pains the population only increased twenty-five thousand in fifty years. Many children died of the cruel climate and the hard life; of those that grew up, vast numbers found the perfection of church and state intolerable, and escaping into the wilderness became coureurs de bois. But, the impulse once given, the habit of having large families still continues in Canada, where ten, twelve, or fifteen children from one marriage are common, while a meagre three or four constitute a family south of the border.

In his notices of that picturesque offshoot of the Canadian civilization, the coureur de bois, Mr. Parkman has given a picture of the wilderness which affects us like a vigorous sketch made by some quick-eyed, sure-handed painter in the presence of the scene ; the desert breathes from it; the canvas has the very light and darkness of the primeval woods on it: “ Perhaps he could sometimes feel, without knowing that he felt them, the charms of the savage nature that had adopted him. Rude as he was, her voice may not always have been meaningless for one who knew her haunts so well: deep recesses where, veiled in foliage, some wild shy rivulet steals with timid music through breathless caves of verdure; gulfs where feathered crags rise like castle walls, where the noonday sun pierces with keen rays athwart the torrent, and the mossed arms of fallen pines cast wavering shadows on the illumined foam; pools of liquid crystal turned emerald in the reflected green of impending woods; rocks on whose rugged front the gleam of sunlit waters dances in quivering light; ancient trees hurled headlong by the storm to dam the raging stream with their forlorn and savage ruin; or the stern depths of immemorial forests, dim and silent as a cavern, columned with innumerable trunks, each like an Atlas upholding its world of leaves, and sweating perpetual moisture down its dark and channeled rind; some strong in youth, some grisly with decrepit age, nightmares of strange distortion, gnarled and knotted with wens and goitres; roots intertwined beneath like serpents petrified in an agony of contorted strife; green and glistening mosses carpeting the rough ground, mantling the rocks, turning pulpy stumps to mounds of verdure, and swathing fallen trunks as, bent in the impotence of rottenness, they lie outstretched over knoll and hollow, like moldering reptiles of the primeval world, while around and on and through them, springs the young growth that battens on their decay, — the forest devouring its own dead.”

Mr. Parkman gives with the greatest fullness the particulars of that fond despotism which made life in the colony insufferable to all free and generous spirits. The government concerned itself with everything: when the marriages were made and the population produced under its patronage, it took absolute charge of the people. “ If the population does not increase in proportion to the pains I take,” writes the king to one of the intendants, “ you are to lay the blame on yourself for not having executed one of my principal orders,” and the intendants acted up to the spirit of the king’s orders. Early in the eighteenth century the intendant Randot conceived that the Montreal farmers were raising too many horses; he ordered them to raise more sheep and cattle, and to kill off the next year all beyond a certain number of horses. The intendant Bigot forbade farmers to remove to Quebec under pain of the confiscation of their goods, and he forbade the towns-people to let lodgings to them under pain of a hundred livres fine. The king, to prevent subdivision of farms, ordered that no buildings should be put up on lands of less than a certain extent, and that all buildings then standing on such lands should be torn down.

“ The due subordination of households had its share of attention. Servants who deserted their masters were to be set in the pillory for the first offense, and whipped and branded for the second; while any person harboring them was to pay a fine of twenty francs. On the other hand, nobody was allowed to employ a servant without a license.”

“ Public meetings were jealously restricted. Even those held by parishioners under the eye of the curé, to estimate the cost of a new church, seem to have required a special license from the intendant. During a number of years a meeting of the principal inhabitants of Quebec was called in spring and autumn by the council to discuss the price and quality of bread, the supply of fire-wood, and other similar matters. Such assemblies, so controlled, could scarcely, one would think, wound the tenderest susceptibilities of authority; yet there was evident distrust of them, and after a few years this modest shred of self-government is seen no more. The syndic, too, that functionary whom the people of the towns were at first allowed to choose, under the eye of the authorities, was conjured out of existence by a word from the king. Seignior, censitaire, and citizen were prostrate alike in flat subjection to the royal will. They were not free even to go home to France. No inhabitant of Canada, man or woman, could do so without leave; and several intendants express their belief that without this precaution there would soon be a falling off in the population.”

If the government was annoying and vexatious in its interference with social and family life, it was calamitous in its patronage of trade. None of the enterprises which the king encouraged came to anything; the natural commerce of the colony in furs was made ruinous to the merchants by his meddling. A change in the fashion of hats reduced the demand for beaver; but the king had ordered that the monopolists of the furtrade should take every beaver - skin brought them at a certain price, and more than once the hapless merchants, to rid themselves of their unsalable stock, were obliged to burn hundreds of thousands of pounds of furs. At the same time the colony was flooded with worthless currency invented to prevent the return of money to France. The only trade that flourished was the brandy trade with the Indians, and this the Jesuits, the first prohibitionists on our continent, strove unceasingly to destroy. The king would perhaps have been glad to join hands with them in the work, but it was represented to the government that if the French did not sell the Indians brandy, these savage allies would give their friendship to the Dutch and English, and would not even come near enough to be converted by the Jesuits. Besides, the traders were beyond the king’s power, which they evaded or defied. Indeed, under this government, which possessed itself so perfectly of every fact of life that it knew as well as the neighborhood gossips when a wife was about to bless her husband with offspring, peculation and dishonesty of all sorts were rife. Nothing was impossible but decent privacy, free opinion, and independent industry.

We regret that we have not space for comment on the chapters relating to the feudal system in Canada, which we commend specially to the reader’s notice. There is also a most delightful chapter on the morals and manners of the colonists, in which we find this sketch by the Swedish botanist Kalm, who visited Canada in the early half of the last century.

“ The men here (at Montreal) are extremely civil, and take their hats off to every person indifferently whom they meet in the streets. The women in general are handsome; they are well bred and virtuous, with an innocent and becoming freedom. They dress out very fine on Sundays, and though on the other days they do not take much pains with the other parts of their dress, yet they are very fond of adorning their heads, the hair of which is always curled and powdered and ornamented with glittering bodkins and aigrettes. They are not averse to taking part in all the business of housekeeping. . . . Those of Quebec are not very industrious. The young ladies, especially those of a higher rank, get up at seven and dress till nine, drinking their coffee at the same time. When they are dressed they place themselves near a window that opens into the street, take up some needle-work, and sew a stitch now and then, but turn their eyes into the street most of the time. When a young fellow comes in, whether they are acquainted with him or not, they immediately lay aside their work, sit down by him, and begin to chat, laugh, joke, and invent double-entendres, and this is reckoned being very witty. In this manner they frequently pass the whole day, leaving their mothers to do the business of the house. The girls at Montreal are very much displeased that those at Quebec get husbands sooner than they. The reason of this is that many young gentlemen who come over from France with the ships are captivated by the ladies at Quebec and marry them; but, as these gentlemen seldom go up to Montreal, the girls there are not often so happy as those of the former place.”

The final chapter is mainly a comparison of the fortunes of Canada with those of the Puritan colonies to the south of her ; and this is not, as one can easily believe, to the disadvantage of New England. It fitly closes a work winch, freely as we have quoted from it, we have scarcely represented in the fullness with which it pictures the old colonial life of Canada. We may safely say that it leaves untouched no point of interest or significance in that life, and we must again praise the excellent taste of the whole work. If one will think with what good sense and discretion the rich material is managed, in a time when there has been so much meretricious historical writing, disfigured by the wretched egotisms of the writers, and falsified by their literary posturing and their disposition to color whole epochs from a single picturesque event, — in a time when, to say it briefly, Hepworth Dixon has descended directly, however illegitimately, from Thomas Carlyle, — one will be the more grateful to the author who has given us this valuable and charming book. There is material enough in it for innumerable romances, for many volumes of historical sketching, eked out as such things are with plausible conjecture and conscious comment. Mr. Parkman — one readily sees it — does not lack at any moment due sense of the strangeness of the situation he depicts; a lurking smile lights up the gravity of his narrative at times; and it all glows from an imagination which the sublime and poetic facts never fail to kindle. But he addresses himself with direct simplicity to the business of making the reader understand him and discern the characters and events; this accomplished, he leaves the story to the possession of the delighted fancy.

Mr. Parkman has been most fortunate, of course, in his subject. The period which he presents lies comparatively near at hand; its outlines are distinctly marked; its characteristic traits are broad and clear. If his researches have not exhausted the whole material, they have explored everything that was attainable in Canada and France, and they have developed so much fact that the reader may feel full security that nothing essential is lacking. It seems to us that it must be the last word on the subject — except, of course, from those Catholic critics who will disagree with Mr. Parkman’s opinions and inferences, and from whom he will probably not soon hear the last word. But here — we comfort ourselves in a world which is continually rebuilding—seems really to be work that need not be done over again.

We have this feeling in regard to Mr. Parkman’s other histories. He would probably be the last to allow that his efforts had left nothing for future workers in the same field to do; but we believe that whatever may be added to his labors, they will remain undisturbed as thorough, beautiful, and true. He has, no doubt, worked from a purpose inspired by the charm of his theme, and sustained under manifold discouragements and fatigues by a sense of its importance — an importance to us whose race has inherited Canada, and whose polity has shaped its present national existence, far surpassing that of the Spanish American conquests. The story of these conquests will always fascinate us, but their interest is a vulgar one compared with that of the story of the French dominion in North America. Here is no tale of lawless and cruel adventure, but the annals of an attempt so grand and generous that its most comical and most ruinous consequences are never less than heroic. Setting aside such vague episodes as that of the Huguenots in Florida, and beginning with Champlain at Quebec, in 1606, — or with Jacques Cartier nearly a century earlier, — we have an unbroken chain of magnificent errors in colonization, illustrated by every virtue, except tolerance and forbearance, that can ennoble success. The history of the Jesuit martyrdoms and sacrifices, as Mr. Parkman tells it, abounds in testimony to their unselfish and saintly zeal in the attempt to found in the New World a church which should be the state of the whole red race religiously civilized under them. The history of LouisXIV,’s persistent purpose to plant in the frozen wilderness a regenerate monarchical France, free from the seeds of heresy or independent political life, is the record of an ambition almost unexampled in sincere benevolence. The priest was not more determined or well-meaning than the king; it is hard to say which was the more disastrously mistaken, or which did more to prepare the colony, on which so much blood and treasure had been lavished, for conquest by the enemies of both. The time came, with Wolfe, when France was almost glad to be rid of her helpless offspring; but meanwhile there was a long interval, in which such achievements as La Salle’s Discovery of the Great West added to the glory of the French name, and of which Mr. Parkman promises the full narrative. The time came after Wolfe, when the French power, which could alone have preserved the native tribes on the continent, forsook them, and left them to make under their chief Pontiac a last general stand against the English; left them to be driven from place to place, to be trodden out, to linger at this day a feeble and vicious remnant on the Western plains, the scourge of the settlers, the prey of the Indian rings.

If we have objected to nothing in these histories, it is because we have no fault to find with them. They appear to us the fruit of an altogether admirable motive directing indefatigable industry, and they present the evidences of thorough research and thoughtful philosophization. We find their style delightful always.

W. D. Howells.

  1. The Conspiracy of Pontiac. Two volumes. The Pioneers of France in the New World. The Jesuits in North America. The Discovery of the Great West. Canada under the Old Régime. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.