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And so Gourgues's mission was fulfilled. Like a whirlwind he came; like a whirlwind he went. He bade the Indians demolish the fort, and not one stone was left upon another. He sailed, and all was to be begun again.
Mr. Parkman, having wrought out all the exciting narra tive of these coasts with the most sedulous care, yet with the most picturesque narration, turns to the events further north in the valley of the St. Lawrence. The narrative of these begins a few years earlier than those we have been tracing; but the main movement of the story is of a later date. Examining the question, whether the Basque fishermen knew of the Newfoundland cod-fishery before Columbus, Mr. Parkman follows along the history of French exploration through the century. The earliest description of the United States known to exist, is the report of one of these explorations, that made by Verrazzano, as early as 1524, which he wrote from Dieppe to the king on the 8th of July of that year. Jacques Cartier's first reconnoissance was made in 1534; his second more careful voyage, in 1535. In this expedition, Stadaconé and Hochelaga, where now stand Quebec and Montreal, were discovered; and the winter of 1535-36, in the horrors of a Quebec climate, where men, wholly unprepared for such adventure, met scurvy, famine, and cold, witnessed the dreadful failure of the first European colony north of Mexico. So many such failures must be made, alas! before men could learn the art of colonization. Two more dreadful winters, at or near the same spot, marked the winters of 1541 and 1542; but, in the summer of 1543, what was left of the colony was taken back to Europe. So all was to be begun again.
The next beginning was made, as we have seen, at Port Royal. That at Fort Caroline was the next. Each ended almost as soon as it began. The French fishermen followed the fisheries every year. It must be, that one or another spent the winter by some accident or adventure here, sometimes; as the New London whalers now winter, of choice, on the shores of Davis's Straits opposite Greenland. But there is no narrative of such adventure. As late as 1598, the
Marquis de la Roche, a Catholic nobleman of Brittany, asked for a patent to colonize New France, and obtained it. That winter he landed forty convicts on Sable Island, still one of the most desolate regions of our coast. He sailed further himself to search for more genial home, but either lost or deserted the convict colonists. They spent five years of misery there, living on seals, foxes, fish, and whortleberries; and then the twelve who were left were rescued, and, for Sable Island, all was to be begun again. These wretches seem to have been the only white persons in America north of Mexico, when the seventeenth century came in.
The new history of French effort in America comes in with the manhood of Samuel de Champlain, one of the most striking and interesting characters of history. It seems that he trained himself for his great enterprise in the best school of his day, namely, in the Spanish service; and Mr. Parkman, with his usual diligence in detail, has even studied the manuscript history of the first adventure which Champlain made westward, under the orders of Francisco Colombo, a Spanish admiral, in the year 1600. The manuscript of the journal he then wrote is still preserved in Dieppe. So soon as Champlain was of an age and position to undertake such adventure, he sought American employment under the auspices of France. By a fortunate alliance with De Chastes, he obtained the patent which all parties then thought so necessary, and, with Pontgravé, sailed in 1604 for New France.
We must not trace the detail of this adventure, more than we have attempted to do the others to which we have alluded. It is because it introduces Champlain, the hero, par excellence, of these early romantic days, that that particular voyage differs from earlier or later experiments of failure. Not in this voyage, but in one and another expedition, only ending with his death, he penetrates the unknown world into recesses which, to this hour, are the home of native Indians almost as savage now as they were then. He brought all that was worth bringing of chivalry into the conflicts with the giants and infidels and wild enchantments of the New World. With a spirit always young, he essayed every adventure most
cheerfully. He brought such civilization as the world had to the wilderness, and seems never to have disgraced the name of civilization. He won the love of the Indians, even their respect and obedience, and does not seem to have forfeited it by any intentional disloyalty to his promise. Let us add, that, in the most attractive contrast to all Puritan adventurers, he told his story with animation and spirit. He let us see what he saw, and hear what he heard. We will do all fit honor to Winslow and Bradford and Winthrop and Morton, and the rest of our own annalists. But if their fathers had led them to some altar, and bade them swear never to reveal to posterity the familiar method of their lives, and of the lives of those around them, how they did what they did, how the new landscape impressed them, what were the manners of the men they met, and what their own sensations as they exchanged the Old World for the New, had their fathers done this, and sometimes we think they did bind them to such awful secrecy, they would not have left us fewer traces than they did of their daily lives, or of the impressions, which, for all their taciturnity, we believe must have been overwhelming, of a life so completely new. Let us do honor to Samuel de Champlain, that, while he did well, he could tell what he did as well; while he saw well, he could tell what he saw; and how fortunate for us, that the tracing out his work has fallen now into the hands of so successful a narrator!
But we have not yet come to successful colonizing. Acadie (the land of the pollock fish, whose Indian name is aquoddie) was first settled, at the mouth of the St. Croix, in the expedi tion of 1604. The next spring, the colony was removed to Port Royal, now Annapolis, in Nova Scotia. In 1608, Champlain, acting with De Monts, settled at Quebec again. The Acadian colony had endless hardships and misadventures. In 1614, they essayed a plantation at Frenchman's Bay, when Argall, an English seaman, acting on pure buccaneer law, swept down on them and afterwards on Port Royal, and carried all Frenchmen away captive, although, in pretence, France was at peace with England. Jesuits and Huguenots,
courtiers and merchants, great noblemen and great ladies, soldiers, adventurers, fishermen, and traders, mix themselves up in the narrative with the most fascinating blending of colors and of voices. With the background of the brilliant array made by such a chorus, there is, however, always in the front a duo, sometimes even a trio or quatuor, of leading men, with just a glimpse of Madame de Guercheville, whom we may fairly call a leading woman, and of Madame de Champlain. Such men as Poutrincourt, as Biencourt, as De Monts, and the hero of chivalry whom we have named, will not let the chorus clamor run into chaos. They steadily rebuild burned forts, re-establish deserted sites, out-manœuvre the most crafty antagonists; and, for that generation, Acadie and Canada are established on foundations which are sure.
The reader will readily judge how interesting a narrative might be wrought out of such adventures, if only the narrators condescend to leave some memoirs of them behind. Mr. Parkman's rare zeal, of which we are to speak again, has brought out what is really large store of material for the reproduction of such history. Merchants, soldiers, and priests had the French tact at “mémoires pour servir." And so the dull page of the history of poor, starving, fishing settlements is lighted up with gleams of human pathos, and becomes as wild and affecting as the story should be which is the beginning of the history of nations.
With the winter following the lawless raid of Argall on Acadie, Mr. Parkman turns from that province to the St. Lawrence, and follows the fortunes of Champlain and of his
ony there. We have spoken of the man. The scenes of his adventures were the St. Lawrence, the lake which is his fit monument because it bears his noble name, all the great lakes but Lake Superior, and all the waters between them. The people with whom he had to do were mostly the Iroquois Indians; a variety of the Indian race much more interesting than our dead and stolid Algonquins were. Shall we say that the talkative, adventurous, and sociable Iroquois was the Frenchman of America; and that the dull, stoical, morose Penobscot or Massachusetts man was its Englishman? Mr.
Parkman will rule us out of court for such a dashing generalization. But none the less is this true, that, in his hands and in Champlain's narratives, the Iroquois and the Hurons are far more interesting companions than Roger Williams or John Eliot ever make out our "red-skins" here to be.
We have attempted the briefest possible sketch of this curiously varied narrative, simply to direct the attention of the reader to the volume itself, in which it is so thoroughly digested. Under the title which we have quoted, Mr. Parkman presents to us now this interesting study of every suc cessive effort which France made in America, by way of introduction to his study of the rivalry of France and England on this continent, a study for which he is particularly well prepared, of a subject of the first interest and importance. We must not leave our sketch without direct acknowledgment of the picturesque interest of the narrative, and of the solid and manly style in which the work is done.
Although it is evident that the history of the attempts of an absolute civic rule and an armed hierarchy to establish themselves over a domain so vast, and a population so utterly unaccustomed to and unfit for the restraints of organized society, must be sought for and found, if at all, in many places, and in scattered and fragmentary condition, yet it is surprising to find how much of written authority remains upon which to base it. The earlier period of the history of New France was, it appears, very prolific of a class of publications of much historical value, but of which many are now exceedingly rare. Of these most important tributaries to the work which he had in hand, Mr. Parkman is able to say in his introductory note, "The writer, however, has at length gained access to them all." This "all" includes a vast amount of unpublished matter, like the early records of the colonies in the archives of France, and other documents of important bearing upon the subjects, treasured in public and private libraries in France and in Canada. Besides these more hidden authorities, there is the published matter with regard to this history; but even that is much scattered and little known. Captain Jean Ribaut's account of his voyage to Florida, in