[Footnote: This word (Acadia) has sometimes been traced to the Micmac akade, which, appended to place-names, signifies an abundance of something. More probably, however, it is a corruption of Arcadia. The Acadia of De Monts' grant in 1604 extended from the parallel of 40 degrees to that of 46 degrees north latitude, but in the light of actual occupation the term can hardly be made to embrace more than the coast from Cape Breton to Penobscot Bay.]
The early settlements of the French in America were divided into two zones by the Gulf of St Lawrence. Considered from the standpoint of colonization, this great body of water has a double aspect. In the main it was a vestibule to the vast region which extended westward from Gaspe to Lake Michigan and thence to the Mississippi. But while a highway it was also a barrier, cutting off Acadia from the main route that led to the heart of the interior. Port Royal, on the Bay of Fundy, was one centre and Quebec another. Between them stretched either an impenetrable wilderness or an inland sea. Hence Acadia remained separate from the Laurentian valley, which was the heart of Canada—although Acadia and Canada combined to form New France. Of these two sister districts Canada was the more secure. The fate of Acadia shows how much less vulnerable to English attack were Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal than the seaboard settlements of Port Royal, Grand Pre, and Louisbourg.
It is a striking fact that Champlain had helped to found Port Royal before he founded Quebec. He was not the pioneer of Acadian colonization: De Monts deserves the praise of turning the first sod. But Champlain was a leading figure in the hard fight at St Croix and Port Royal; he it was who first charted in any detail the Atlantic seaboard from Cape Breton to Cape Cod; and his narrative joins with that of Lescarbot to preserve the story of the episode.
Although unprosperous, the first attempt of the French to colonize Acadia is among the bright deeds of their colonial history. While the death of De Chastes was most inopportune, the future of the French race in America did not hinge upon any one man. In 1603 fishing on the Grand Bank off Newfoundland was a well-established occupation of Normans and Bretons, the fur trade held out hope of great profit, and the spirit of national emulation supplied a motive which was stronger still. Hence it is not surprising that to De Chastes there at once succeeds De Monts.
As regards position they belonged to much the same class. Both were men of standing, with enough capital and influence to organize an expedition. In respect, however, of personality and circumstance there were differences. By reason of advanced age De Chastes had been unable to accompany his ships, whereas De Monts was in his prime and had already made a voyage to the St Lawrence. Moreover, De Monts was a Huguenot. A generation later no Huguenot could have expected to receive a monopoly of the fur trade and a royal commission authorizing him to establish settlements, but Henry IV, who had once been a Protestant, could hardly treat his old co-religionists as Richelieu afterwards treated them. The heresy of its founder was a source of weakness to the first French colony in Acadia, yet through a Calvinist it came into being.
Like De Chastes, De Monts had associates who joined with him to supply the necessary funds, though in 1604. the investment was greater than on any previous occasion, and a larger number were admitted to the benefits of the monopoly. Not only did St Malo and Rouen secure recognition, but La Rochelle and St Jean de Luz were given a chance to participate. De Monts' company had a capital of 90,000 livres, divided in shares—of which two-fifths were allotted to St Malo, two-fifths to La Rochelle and St Jean de Luz conjointly, and the remainder to Rouen. The personal investment of De Monts was somewhat more than a tenth of the total, as he took a majority of the stock which fell to Rouen. Apart from Sully's unfriendliness, the chief initial difficulty arose over religion. The Parlement of Normandy refused to register De Monts' commission on the ground that the conversion of the heathen could not fitly be left to a heretic. This remonstrance was only withdrawn after the king had undertaken to place the religious instruction of the Indians in the charge of priests—a promise which did not prevent the Protestant colonists from having their own pastor. The monopoly contained wider privileges than before, including both Acadia and the St Lawrence. At the same time, the obligation to colonize became more exacting, since the minimum number of new settlers per annum was raised from fifty to a hundred.
Champlain's own statement regarding the motive of De Monts' expedition is that it lay in the desire 'to find a northerly route to China, in order to facilitate commerce with the Orientals.' After reciting a list of explorations which began with John Cabot and had continued at intervals during the next century, he continues: 'So many voyages and discoveries without results, and attended with so much hardship and expense, have caused us French in late years to attempt a permanent settlement in those lands which we call New France, in the hope of thus realizing more easily this object; since the voyage in search of the desired passage commences on the other side of the ocean and is made along the coast of this region.'
A comparison of the words just quoted with the text of De Monts' commission will serve to illustrate the strength of Champlain's geographical instinct. The commission begins with a somewhat stereotyped reference to the conversion of the heathen, after which it descants upon commerce, colonies, and mines. The supplementary commission to De Monts from Montmorency as Lord High Admiral adds a further consideration, namely, that if Acadia is not occupied by the French it will be seized upon by some other nation. Not a word of the route to the East occurs in either commission, and De Monts is limited in the powers granted to a region extending along the American seaboard from the fortieth parallel to the forty-sixth, with as much of the interior 'as he is able to explore and colonize.'
This shows that, while the objects of the expedition were commercial and political, Champlain's imagination was kindled by the prospect of finding the long-sought passage to China. To his mind a French colony in America is a stepping-stone, a base of operations for the great quest. De Monts himself doubtless sought honour, adventure, and profit—the profit which might arise from possessing Acadia and controlling the fur trade in 'the river of Canada.' Champlain remains the geographer, and his chief contribution to the Acadian enterprise will be found in that part of his Voyages which describes his study of the coast-line southward from Cape Breton to Malabar.
But whether considered from the standpoint of exploration or settlement, the first chapter of French annals in Acadia is a fine incident. Champlain has left the greatest fame, but he was not alone during these years of peril and hardship. With him are grouped De Monts, Poutrincourt, Lescarbot, Pontgrave, and Louis Hebert, all men of capacity and enterprise, whose part in this valiant enterprise lent it a dignity which it has never since lost. As yet no English colony had been established in America. Under his commission De Monts could have selected for the site of his settlement either New York or Providence or Boston or Portland. The efforts of the French in America from 1604. to 1607 are signalized by the character of their leaders, the nature of their opportunity, and the special causes which prevented them from taking possession of Norumbega.
[Footnote: There appears in Verrazano's map of 1529 the word Aranbega, as attached to a small district on the Atlantic seaboard. Ten years later Norumbega has become a region which takes in the whole coast from Cape Breton to Florida. At intervals throughout the sixteenth century fables were told in Europe of its extraordinary wealth, and it was not till the time of Champlain that this myth was exposed. Champlain himself identifies 'the great river of Norumbega' with the Penobscot.]
De Monts lacked neither courage nor persistence. His battle against heartbreaking disappointments shows him to have been a pioneer of high order. And with him sailed in 1604 Jean de Biencourt, Seigneur de Poutrincourt, whose ancestors had been illustrious in Picardy for five hundred years. Champlain made a third, joining the expedition as geographer rather than shipmaster. Lescarbot and Hebert came two years later.
The company left Havre in two ships—on March 7, 1604, according to Champlain, or just a month later, according to Lescarbot. Although De Monts' commission gave him the usual privilege of impressing convicts, the personnel of his band was far above the average. Champlain's statement is that it comprised about one hundred and twenty artisans, and there were also 'a large number of gentlemen, of whom not a few were of noble birth.' Besides the excitement provided by icebergs, the arguments of priest and pastor diversified the voyage, even to the point of scandal. After crossing the Grand Bank in safety they were nearly wrecked off Sable Island, but succeeded in reaching the Acadian coast on May 8. From their landfall at Cap de la Heve they skirted the coast-line to Port Mouton, confiscating en route a ship which was buying furs in defiance of De Monts' monopoly.
Rabbits and other game were found in abundance at Port Mouton, but the spot proved quite unfit for settlement, and on May 19 De Monts charged Champlain with the task of exploring the coast in search of harbours. Taking a barque of eight tons and a crew of ten men (together with Ralleau, De Monts' secretary), Champlain set out upon this important reconnaissance. Fish, game, good soil, good timber, minerals, and safe anchorage were all objects of search. Skirting the south-western corner of Nova Scotia, the little ship passed Cape Sable and the Tusquet Islands, turned into the Bay of Fundy, and advanced to a point somewhat beyond the north end of Long Island. Champlain gives at considerable length the details of his first excursion along the Acadian seaboard. In his zeal for discovery he caused those left at Port Mouton both inconvenience and anxiety. Lescarbot says, with a touch of sharpness: 'Champlain was such a time away on this expedition that when deliberating about their return [to France] they thought of leaving him behind.' Champlain's own statement is that at Port Mouton 'Sieur de Monts was awaiting us from day to day, thinking only of our long stay and whether some accident had not befallen us.'
De Monts' position at Port Mouton was indeed difficult. By changing his course in mid-ocean he had missed rendezvous with the larger of his two ships, which under the command of Pontgrave looked for him in vain from Canseau to the Bay of Islands. Meanwhile, at Port Mouton provisions were running low, save for rabbits, which could not be expected to last for ever. The more timid raised doubts and spoke of France, but De Monts and Poutrincourt both said they would rather die than go back. In this mood the party continued to hunt rabbits, to search the coast north-easterly for Pontgrave, and to await Champlain's return. Their courage had its reward. Pontgrave's ship was found, De Monts revictualled, Champlain reappeared, and by the middle of June the little band of Colonists was ready to proceed.
As De Monts heads south-west from Port Mouton it is difficult to avoid thoughts regarding the ultimate destiny of France in the New World. This was the predestined moment. The Wars of Religion had ended in the reunion of the realm under a strong and popular king. The French nation was conscious of its greatness, and seemed ready for any undertaking that promised honour or advantage. The Huguenots were a sect whose members possessed Calvinistic firmness of will, together with a special motive for emigrating. And, besides, the whole eastern coast of America, within the temperate zone, was still to be had for the taking. With such a magnificent opportunity, why was the result so meagre?
A complete answer to this query would lead us far afield, but the whole history of New France bears witness to the fact that the cause of failure is not to be found in the individual French emigrant. There have never been more valiant or tenacious colonists than the peasants of Normandy who cleared away the Laurentian wilderness and explored the recesses of North America. France in the age of De Monts and Champlain possessed adequate resources, if only her effort had been concentrated on America, or if the Huguenots had not been prevented from founding colonies, or if the crown had been less meddlesome, or if the quest of beaver skins farther north had not diverted attention from Chesapeake Bay and Manhattan Island. The best chance the French ever had to effect a foothold in the middle portion of the Atlantic coast came to them in 1604, when, before any rivals had established themselves, De Monts was at hand for the express purpose of founding a colony. It is quite probable that even if he had landed on Manhattan Island, the European preoccupations of France would have prevented Henry IV from supporting a colony at that point with sufficient vigour to protect it from the English. Yet the most striking aspect of De Monts' attempt in Acadia is the failure to seize a chance which never came again to the French race. In 1607 Champlain sailed away from Port Royal and the English founded Jamestown. In 1608 Champlain founded Quebec, and thenceforth for over a century the efforts of France were concentrated on the St Lawrence. When at length she founded Louisbourg it was too late; by that time the English grasp upon the coast could not be loosened.
Meanwhile De Monts, to whom the future was veiled, left Port Mouton and, creeping from point to point, entered the Bay of Fundy—or, as Champlain calls it, 'the great Baye Francoise, so named by Sieur de Monts.' The month was June, but no time could be lost, for at this juncture the aim of exploration was the discovery of a suitable site, and after the site had been fixed the colonists needed what time remained before winter to build their houses. Hence De Monts' first exploration of the Baye Francoise was not exhaustive. He entered Annapolis Basin and glanced at the spot which afterwards was to be Port Royal. He tried in vain to find a copper-mine of which he had heard from Prevert of St Malo. He coasted the Bay of St John, and on June 25 reached St Croix Island. 'Not finding any more suitable place than this island,' says Champlain, the leaders of the colony decided that it should be fortified: and thus was the French flag unfurled in Acadia.
The arrangement of the settlement at St Croix was left to Champlain, who gives us a drawing in explanation of his plan. The selection of an island was mainly due to distrust of the Indians, with whom, however, intercourse was necessary. The island lay close to the mouth of a river, now also called the St Croix. As the choice of this spot proved most unfortunate, it is well to remember the motives which prevailed at the time. 'Vessels could pass up the river,' says Champlain, 'only at the mercy of the cannon on this island, and we deemed the location most advantageous, not only on account of its situation and good soil, but also on account of the intercourse which we proposed with the savages of these coasts and of the interior, as we should be in the midst of them. We hoped to pacify them in course of time and put an end to the wars which they carry on with one another, so as to derive service from them in future and convert them to the Christian faith.'
De Monts' band was made up largely of artisans, who at once began with vigour to erect dwellings. A mill and an oven were built; gardens were laid out and many seeds planted therein. The mosquitoes proved troublesome, but in other respects the colonists had good cause to be pleased with their first Acadian summer. So far had construction work advanced by the beginning of autumn that De Monts decided to send an exploration party farther along the coast to the south-west. 'And,' says Champlain, 'he entrusted me with this work, which I found very agreeable.'
The date of departure from St Croix was September 2, so that no very ambitious programme of discovery could be undertaken before bad weather began. In a boat of eighteen tons, with twelve sailors and two Indian guides, Champlain threaded the maze of islands which lies between Passamaquoddy Bay and the mouth of the Penobscot. The most striking part of the coast was Mount Desert, 'very high and notched in places, so that there is the appearance to one at sea as of seven or eight mountains extending along near each other.' To this island and the Isle au Haut Champlain gave the names they have since borne. Thence advancing, with his hand ever on the lead, he reached the mouth of the Penobscot, despite those 'islands, rocks, shoals, banks, and breakers which are so numerous on all sides that it is marvellous to behold.' Having satisfied himself that the Penobscot was none other than the great river Norumbega, referred to largely on hearsay by earlier geographers, he followed it up almost to Bangor. On regaining the sea he endeavoured to reach the mouth of the Kennebec, but when within a few miles of it was driven back to St Croix by want of food. In closing the story of this voyage, which had occupied a month, Champlain says with his usual directness: 'The above is an exact statement of all I have observed respecting not only the coasts and people, but also the river of Norumbega; and there are none of the marvels there which some persons have described. I am of opinion that this region is as disagreeable in winter as that of our settlement, in which we were greatly deceived.'
Champlain was now to undergo his first winter in Acadia, and no part of his life could have been more wretched than the ensuing eight months. On October 6 the snow came. On December 3 cakes of ice began to appear along the shore. The storehouse had no cellar, and all liquids froze except sherry. 'Cider was served by the pound. We were obliged to use very bad water and drink melted snow, as there were no springs or brooks.' It was impossible to keep warm or to sleep soundly. The food was salt meat and vegetables, which impaired the strength of every one and brought on scurvy. It is unnecessary to cite here Champlain's detailed and graphic description of this dreadful disease. The results are enough. Before the spring came two-fifths of the colonists had died, and of those who remained half were on the point of death. Not unnaturally, 'all this produced discontent in Sieur de Monts and others of the settlement.'
The survivors of the horrible winter at St Croix were not freed from anxiety until June 15, 1605, when Pontgrave, six weeks late, arrived with fresh stores. Had De Monts been faint-hearted, he doubtless would have seized this opportunity to return to France. As it was, he set out in search of a place more suitable than St Croix for the establishment of his colony, On June 18, with a party which included twenty sailors and several gentlemen, he and Champlain began a fresh voyage to the south-west. Their destination was the country of the Armouchiquois, an Algonquin tribe who then inhabited Massachusetts.
Champlain's story of his first voyage from Acadia to Cape Cod is given with considerable fulness. The topography of the seaboard and its natural history, the habits of the Indians and his adventures with them, were all new subjects at the time, and he treats them so that they keep their freshness. He is at no pains to conceal his low opinion of the coast savages. Concerning the Acadian Micmacs he says little, but what he does say is chiefly a comment upon the wretchedness of their life during the winter. As he went farther south he found an improvement in the food supply. At the mouth of the Saco he and De Monts saw well-kept patches of Indian corn three feet high, although it was not yet midsummer. Growing with the corn were beans, pumpkins, and squashes, all in flower; and the cultivation of tobacco is also noted. Here the savages formed a permanent settlement and lived within a palisade. Still farther south, in the neighbourhood of Cape Cod, Champlain found maize five and a half feet high, a considerable variety of squashes, tobacco, and edible roots which tasted like artichokes.
But whether the coast Indians were Micmacs or Armouchiquois, whether they were starving or well fed, Champlain tells us little in their praise. Of the Armouchiquois he says:
I cannot tell what government they have, but I think
that in this respect they resemble their neighbours,
who have none at all. They know not how to worship or
pray; yet, like the other savages, they have some
superstitions, which I shall describe in their place.
As for weapons, they have only pikes, clubs, bows and
arrows. It would seem from their appearance that they
have a good disposition, better than those of the
north, but they are all in fact of no great worth.
Even a slight intercourse with them gives you at once
a knowledge of them. They are great thieves, and if
they cannot lay hold of any thing with their hands,
they try to do so with their feet, as we have oftentimes
learned by experience. I am of opinion that if they
had any thing to exchange with us they would not give
themselves to thieving. They bartered away to us their
bows, arrows, and quivers for pins and buttons; and
if they had had any thing else better they would have
done the same with it. It is necessary to be on one's
guard against this people and live in a state of
distrust of them, yet without letting them perceive it.
This passage at least shows that Champlain sought to be just to the savages of the Atlantic. Though he found them thieves, he is willing to conjecture that they would not steal if they had anything to trade.
The thieving habits of the Cape Cod Indians led to a fight between them and the French in which one Frenchman was killed, and Champlain narrowly escaped death through the explosion of his own musket. At Cape Cod De Monts turned back. Five of the six weeks allotted to the voyage were over, and lack of food made it impossible to enter Long Island Sound. Hence 'Sieur de Monts determined to return to the Island of St Croix in order to find a place more favourable for our settlement, as we had not been able to do on any of the coasts which he had explored during this voyage.'
We now approach the picturesque episode of Port Royal. De Monts, having regained St Croix at the beginning of August, lost no time in transporting his people to the other side of the Bay of Fundy. The consideration which weighed most with him in establishing his headquarters was that of trade. Whatever his own preferences, he could not forget that his partners in France expected a return on their investment. Had he been in a position to found an agricultural colony, the maize fields he had seen to the south-west might have proved attractive. But he depended largely upon trade, and, as Champlain points out, the savages of Massachusetts had nothing to sell. Hence it was unwise to go too far from the peltries of the St Lawrence. To find a climate less severe than that of Canada, without losing touch with the fur trade, was De Monts' problem. No one could dream of wintering again at St Croix, and in the absence of trade possibilities to the south there seemed but one alternative—Port Royal.
In his notice of De Monts' cruise along the Bay of Fundy in June 1604, Champlain says: 'Continuing two leagues farther on in the same direction, we entered one of the finest harbours I had seen all along these coasts, in which two thousand vessels might lie in security. The entrance is 800 paces broad; then you enter a harbour two leagues long and one broad, which I have named Port Royal.' Here Champlain is describing Annapolis Basin, which clearly made a deep impression upon the minds of the first Europeans who saw it. Most of all did it appeal to the imagination of Poutrincourt, who had come to Acadia for the purpose of discovering a spot where he could found his own colony. At sight of Port Royal he had at once asked De Monts for the grant, and on receiving it had returned to France, at the end of August 1604, to recruit colonists. Thus he had escaped the horrible winter at St Croix, but on account of lawsuits it had proved impossible for him to return to Acadia in the following year. Hence the noble roadstead of Port Royal was still unoccupied when De Monts, Champlain, and Pontgrave took the people of St Croix thither in August 1605. Not only did the people go. Even the framework of the houses was shipped across the bay and set up in this haven of better hope.
The spot chosen for the settlement lay on the north side of the bay. It had a good supply of water, and there was protection from the north-west wind which had tortured the settlers at St Croix. 'After everything had been arranged,' says Champlain, 'and the majority of the dwellings built, Sieur de Monts determined to return to France, in order to petition His Majesty to grant him all that might be necessary for his undertaking.' Quite apart from securing fresh advantages, De Monts at this time was sore pressed to defend his title against the traders who were clamouring for a repeal of the monopoly. With him returned some of the colonists whose ambition had been satisfied at St Croix. Champlain remained, in the hope of making further explorations 'towards Florida.' Pontgrave was left in command. The others numbered forty-three.
During the autumn they began to make gardens. 'I also,' says Champlain, 'for the sake of occupying my time made one, which was surrounded with ditches full of water, in which I placed some fine trout, and into which flowed three brooks of very fine running water, from which the greater part of our settlement was supplied. I made also a little sluice-way towards the shore, in order to draw off the water when I wished. This spot was entirely surrounded by meadows, where I constructed a summer-house, with some fine trees, as a resort for enjoying the fresh air. I made there, also, a little reservoir for holding salt-water fish, which we took out as we wanted them. I took especial pleasure in it and planted there some seeds which turned out well. But much work had to be laid out in preparation. We resorted often to this place as a pastime; and it seemed as if the little birds round took pleasure in it, for they gathered there in large numbers, warbling and chirping so pleasantly that I think I have never heard the like.'
After a busy and cheerful autumn came a mild winter. The snow did not fall till December 20, and there was much rain. Scurvy still caused trouble; but though twelve died, the mortality was not so high as at St Croix. Everything considered, Port Royal enjoyed good fortune—according to the colonial standards of the period, when a winter death-rate of twenty-six per cent was below the average.
At the beginning of March 1606 Pontgrave fitted out a barque of eighteen tons in order to undertake 'a voyage of discovery along the coast of Florida'; and on the 16th of the month a start was made. Favoured by good weather, he and Champlain would have reached the Hudson three years before the Dutch. But, short of drowning, every possible mischance happened. They had hardly set out when a storm cast them ashore near Grand Manan. Having repaired the damage they made for St Croix, where fog and contrary winds held them back eight days. Then Pontgrave decided to return to Port Royal 'to see in what condition our companions were whom we had left there sick.' On their arrival Pontgrave himself was taken ill, but soon re-embarked, though still unwell. Their second start was followed by immediate disaster. Leaving the mouth of the harbour, two leagues distant from Port Royal, they were carried out of the channel by the tide and went aground. 'At the first blow of our boat upon the rocks the rudder broke, a part of the keel and three or four planks were smashed and some ribs stove in, which frightened us, for our barque filled immediately; and all that we could do was to wait until the sea fell, so that we might get ashore... Our barque, all shattered as she was, went to pieces at the return of the tide. But we, most happy at having saved our lives, returned to our settlement with our poor savages; and we praised God for having rescued us from this shipwreck, from which we had not expected to escape so easily.'
This accident destroyed all hope of exploration to the southward until word came from France. At the time of De Monts' departure the outlook had been so doubtful that a provisional arrangement was made for the return of the colonists to France should no ship arrive at Port Royal by the middle of July. In this event Pontgrave was to take his people to Cape Breton or Gaspe, where they would find trading ships homeward bound. As neither De Monts nor Poutrincourt had arrived by the middle of June, a new barque was built to replace the one which had been lost on April 10. A month later Pontgrave carried out his part of the programme by putting aboard all the inhabitants of Port Royal save two, who were induced by promise of extra pay to remain in charge of the stores.
Thus sorrowfully the remnant of the colonists bade farewell to the beautiful harbour and their new home. Four days later they were nearly lost through the breaking of their rudder in the midst of a tempest. Having been saved from wreck by the skill of their shipmaster, Champdore, they reached Cape Sable on July 24. Here grief became rejoicing, for to their complete surprise they encountered Ralleau, De Monts' secretary, coasting along in a shallop. The glad tidings he gave them was that Poutrincourt with a ship of one hundred and twenty tons had arrived. From Canseau the Jonas had taken an outer course to Port Royal, while Ralleau was keeping close to the shore in the hope of intercepting Pontgrave. 'All this intelligence,' says Champlain, 'caused us to turn back; and we arrived at Port Royal on the 25th of the month, where we found the above-mentioned vessel and Sieur de Poutrincourt, and were greatly delighted to see realized what we had given up in despair.' Lescarbot, who arrived on board the Jonas, adds the following detail: 'M. de Poutrincourt ordered a tun of wine to be set upon end, one of those which had been given him for his proper use, and gave leave to all comers to drink freely as long as it lasted, so that there were some who made gay dogs of themselves.'
Wine-bibbing, however, was not the chief activity of Port Royal. Poutrincourt at once set men to work on the land, and while they were sowing wheat, rye, and hemp he hastened preparations for an autumn cruise 'along the coast of Florida.' On September 5 all was ready for this voyage, which was to be Champlain's last opportunity of reaching the lands beyond Cape Cod. Once more disappointment awaited him. 'It was decided,' he says, 'to continue the voyage along the coast, which was not a very well considered conclusion, since we lost much time in passing over again the discoveries made by Sieur de Monts as far as the harbour of Mallebarre. It would have been much better, in my opinion, to cross from where we were directly to Mallebarre, the route being already known, and then use our time in exploring as far as the fortieth degree, or still farther south, revisiting upon our homeward voyage the entire coast at pleasure.'
In the interest of geographical research and French colonization Champlain was doubtless right. Unfortunately, Poutrincourt wished to see for himself what De Monts and Champlain had already seen. It was the more unfortunate that he held this view, as the boats were victualled for over two months, and much could have been done by taking a direct course to Cape Cod. Little time, however, was spent at the Penobscot and Kennebec. Leaving St Croix on September 12, Poutrincourt reached the Saco on the 21st. Here and at points farther south he found ripe grapes, together with maize, pumpkins, squashes, and artichokes. Gloucester Harbour pleased Champlain greatly. 'In this very pleasant place we saw two hundred savages, and there are here a large number of very fine walnut trees, cypresses, sassafras, oaks, ashes and beeches....There are likewise fine meadows capable of supporting a large number of cattle.' So much was he charmed with this harbour and its surroundings that he called it Le Beauport. After tarrying at Gloucester two or three days Poutrincourt reached Cape Cod on October 2, and on the 20th he stood off Martha's Vineyard, his farthest point.
Champlain's chronicle of this voyage contains more detail regarding the Indians than will be found in any other part of his Acadian narratives. Chief among Poutrincourt's adventures was an encounter with the natives of Cape Cod. Unlike the Micmacs, the Armouchiquois were 'not so much hunters as good fishermen and tillers of the land.' Their numbers also were greater; in fact, Champlain speaks of seeing five or six hundred together. At first they did not interfere with Poutrincourt's movements, even permitting him to roam their land with a body of arquebusiers. After a fortnight, however, their suspicions began to become manifest, and on October 15 four hundred savages set upon five Frenchmen who, contrary to orders, had remained ashore. Four were killed, and although a rescue party set out at once from the barque, the natives made their escape.
To pursue them was fruitless, for they are marvellously
swift. All that we could do was to carry away the dead
bodies and bury them near a cross which had been set
up the day before, and then to go here and there to
see if we could get sight of any of them. But it was
time wasted, therefore we came back. Three hours
afterwards they returned to us on the sea-shore. We
discharged at them several shots from our little brass
cannon, and when they heard the noise they crouched
down on the ground to escape the fire. In mockery of
us they pulled down the cross and disinterred the
dead, which displeased us greatly and caused us to go
for them a second time; but they fled, as they had
done before. We set up again the cross and reinterred
the dead, whom they had thrown here and there amid
the heath, where they kindled a fire to burn them. We
returned without any result, as we had done before,
well aware that there was scarcely hope of avenging
ourselves this time, and that we should have to renew
the undertaking when it should please God.
With a desire for revenge was linked the practical consideration that slaves would prove useful at Port Royal. A week later the French returned to the same place, 'resolved to get possession of some savages and, taking them to our settlement, put them to grinding corn at the hand-mill, as punishment for the deadly assault which they had committed on five or six of our company.' As relations were strained, it became necessary to offer beads and gewgaws, with every show of good faith. Champlain describes the plan in full. The shallop was to leave the barque for shore, taking
the most robust and strong men we had, each one having
a chain of beads and a fathom of match on his arm;
and there, while pretending to smoke with them (each
one having an end of his match lighted so as not to
excite suspicion, it being customary to have fire at
the end of a cord in order to light the tobacco), coax
them with pleasing words so as to draw them into the
shallop; and if they should be unwilling to enter,
each one approaching should choose his man and, putting
the beads round his neck, should at the same time put
the rope on him to draw him by force. But if they
should be too boisterous and it should not be possible
to succeed, they should be stabbed, the rope being
firmly held; and if by chance any of them should get
away, there should be men on land to charge upon them
with swords. Meanwhile, the little cannon on our barque
was to be kept ready to fire upon their companions in
case they should come to assist them, under cover of
which firearms the shallop could withdraw in security.
This plot, though carefully planned, fell far short of the success which was anticipated. To catch a redskin with a noose required more skill than was available. Accordingly, none were taken alive. Champlain says: 'We retired to our barque after having done all we could.' Lescarbot adds: 'Six or seven of the savages were hacked and hewed in pieces, who could not run so lightly in the water as on shore, and were caught as they came out by those of our men who had landed.'
Having thus taken an eye for an eye, Poutrincourt began his homeward voyage, and, after three or four escapes from shipwreck, reached Port Royal on November 14.
Champlain was now about to spend his last winter in Acadia. Mindful of former experiences, he determined to fight scurvy by encouraging exercise among the colonists and procuring for them an improved diet. A third desideratum was cheerfulness. All these purposes he served through founding the Ordre de Bon Temps, which proved to be in every sense the life of the settlement. Champlain himself briefly describes the procedure followed, but a far more graphic account is given by Lescarbot, whose diffuse and lively style is illustrated to perfection in the following passage:
To keep our table joyous and well provided, an order
was established at the board of the said M. de
Poutrincourt, which was called the Order of Good Cheer,
originally proposed by Champlain. To this Order each
man of the said table was appointed Chief Steward in
his turn, which came round once a fortnight. Now, this
person had the duty of taking care that we were all
well and honourably provided for. This was so well
carried out that though the epicures of Paris often
tell us that we had no Rue aux Ours over there, as a
rule we made as good cheer as we could have in this
same Rue aux Ours, and at less cost. For there was no
one who, two days before his turn came, failed to go
hunting or fishing, and to bring back some delicacy
in addition to our ordinary fare. So well was this
carried out that never at breakfast did we lack some
savoury meat of flesh or fish, and still less at our
midday or evening meals; for that was our chief banquet,
at which the ruler of the feast or chief butler, whom
the savages called Atoctegic, having had everything
prepared by the cook, marched in, napkin on shoulder,
wand of office in hand, and around his neck the collar
of the Order, which was worth more than four crowns;
after him all the members of the Order carrying each
a dish. The same was repeated at dessert, though not
always with so much pomp. And at night, before giving
thanks to God, he handed over to his successor in the
charge the collar of the Order, with a cup of wine,
and they drank to each other. I have already said that
we had abundance of game, such as ducks, bustards,
grey and white geese, partridges, larks, and other
birds; moreover moose, caribou, beaver, otter, bear,
rabbits, wild-cats, racoons, and other animals such
as the savages caught, whereof we made dishes well
worth those of the cook-shop in the Rue aux Ours, and
far more; for of all our meats none is so tender as
moose-meat (whereof we also made excellent pasties)
and nothing so delicate as beaver's tail. Yea, sometimes
we had half a dozen sturgeon at once, which the savages
brought us, part of which we bought, and allowed them
to sell the remainder publicly and to barter it for
bread, of which our men had abundance. As for the
ordinary rations brought from France, they were
distributed equally to great and small alike; and, as
we have said, the wine was served in like manner.
The results of this regime were most gratifying. The deaths from scurvy dropped to seven, which represented a great proportionate decrease. At the same time, intercourse with the Indians was put on a good basis thereby. 'At these proceedings,' says Lescarbot, 'we always had twenty or thirty savages—men, women, girls, and children—who looked on at our manner of service. Bread was given them gratis, as one would do to the poor. But as for the Sagamos Membertou, and other chiefs who came from time to time, they sat at table eating and drinking like ourselves. And we were glad to see them, while, on the contrary, their absence saddened us.'
These citations bring into view the writer who has most copiously recorded the early annals of Acadia—Marc Lescarbot. He was a lawyer, and at this date about forty years old. Having come to Port Royal less as a colonist than as a guest of Poutrincourt, he had no investment at stake. But contact with America kindled the enthusiasm of which he had a large supply, and converted him into the historian of New France. His story of the winter he passed at Port Royal is quite unlike other narratives of colonial experience at this period. Champlain was a geographer and preoccupied with exploration. The Jesuits were missionaries and preoccupied with the conversion of the savages. Lescarbot had a literary education, which Champlain lacked, and, unlike the Jesuits, he approached life in America from the standpoint of a layman. His prolixity often serves as a foil to the terseness of Champlain, and suggests that he must have been a merciless talker. Yet, though inclined to be garrulous, he was a good observer and had many correct ideas—notably the belief that corn, wine, and cattle are a better foundation for a colony than gold or silver mines. In temperament he and Champlain were very dissimilar, and evidence of mutual coolness may be found in their writings. These we shall consider at a later stage. For the present it is enough to note that both men sat at Poutrincourt's table and adorned the Order of Good Cheer.
Meanwhile De Monts was in France, striving with all the foes of the monopoly. Thanks to the fur trade, his company had paid its way during the first two years, despite the losses at St Croix. The third season had been much less prosperous, and at the same moment when the Dutch and the Basques [Footnote: Traders from the extreme south of France, whose chief port was St Jean de Luz. Though living on the confines of France and Spain, the Basques were of different racial origin from both Spaniards and French. While subject politically to France, their remoteness from the main ports of Normandy and Brittany kept them out of touch with the mariners of St Malo and Havre, save as collision arose between them in the St Lawrence. Among the Basques there were always interlopers, even when St Jean de Luz had been given a share in the monopoly. They are sometimes called Spaniards, from their close neighbourhood to the Pyrenees.] were breaking the monopoly by defiance, the hatters of Paris were demanding that it should be withdrawn altogether. To this alliance of a powerful guild with a majority of the traders, the company of De Monts succumbed, and the news which Poutrincourt received when the first ship came in 1607 was that the colony must be abandoned. As the company itself was about to be dissolved, this consequence was inevitable. Champlain in his matter-of-fact way states that De Monts sent letters to Poutrincourt, 'by which he directed him to bring back his company to France.' Lescarbot is much more outspoken. Referring to the merits and struggles of De Monts, he exclaims:
Yet I fear that in the end he may be forced to give
it all up, to the great scandal and reproach of the
French name, which by such conduct is made a
laughing-stock and a byword among the nations. For as
though their wish was to oppose the conversion of
these poor Western peoples, and the glory of God and
of the King, we find a set of men full of avarice and
envy, who would not draw a sword in the service of
the King, nor suffer the slightest ill in the world
for the honour of God, but who yet put obstacles in
the way of our drawing any profit from the province,
even in order to furnish what is indispensable to the
foundation of such an enterprise; men who prefer to
see the English and Dutch win possession of it rather
than the French, and would fain have the name of God
remain unknown in those quarters. And it is such
godless people who are listened to, who are believed,
and who win their suits. O tempora, O mores!
On August 11, 1607, Port Royal was abandoned for the second time, and its people, sailing by Cape Breton, reached Roscou in Brittany at the end of September. The subsequent attempt of Poutrincourt and his family to re-establish the colony at Port Royal belongs to the history of Acadia rather than to the story of Champlain. But remembering the spirit in which he and De Monts strove, one feels glad that Lescarbot spoke his mind regarding the opponents who baffled their sincere and persistent efforts.