Imágenes de páginas

innumerable errors with which it abounds. But these notes fell into the hands of a writer in Paris, who held a ready pen, and was endowed with a most fertile imagination; and he infused his own inventions so copiously into the text of Tonty, that the task would now be utterly hopeless of selecting the true from the false, the real from the fictitious, except so far as any particular passages may be confirmed by other authorities. There are perpetual conflicts and transpositions of dates, and blunders in geography, which could not have escaped from a writer on the spot, engaged in the scenes he describes. For instance, Tonty is made to say, that, with twenty men in canoes, he passed in three days from Niagara through the Lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan, to the River St. Joseph. Mistakes of this sort often occur. It may be added, moreover, that Tonty himself, who lived several years after the publication of this work, declared to Iberville and Father Marest, that it was not written by him, but by a “Parisian adventurer," whose stimulating motive was money.*

An account of La Salle's last voyage, and its disastrous results, was published twenty-six years after his death, as drawn up by Joutel, one of

* Charlevoix's Hist. de la Nouv. France, Vol. II. p. 260. - Biog. Univer. Art. Tonty.

his companions. Although he wrote chiefly from recollection, yet he is allowed the merit of fidelity in relating what he saw, and internal evidence sanctions this award. The narrative of Father Anastase, contained in the second volume of Le Clercq, supplies many interesting particulars, which did not come under the observation of Joutel.

The principal events in the life of La Salle are related by Charlevoix in different parts of his History of New France. This historian had access to authentic materials, and, in the main, he was doubtless an honest chronicler; yet he possessed one foible from which greater minds have not always been free. His opinions on some subjects were tinged with the jaundiced hues of prejudice. He belonged to the order of Jesuits, and through his optics the labors and writings of such ecclesiastics, as did not come within the pale of this renowned fraternity, appeared diminutive and worthy of little notice. Now, all the missionaries, who accompanied La Salle, from the beginning to the end of his discoveries, and who wrote concerning them, were of the Franciscan order. If Charlevoix ever read their books, it was in so superficial a manner, that he derived little profit from them in the composition of his History. By thus avoiding to consult the only authors, except Joutel, who wrote from personal knowledge, he has fallen into anachronisms and errors, in his sketches of the life of La Salle, which an unbiased judgment, and a research conducted upon a more liberal spirit, would have enabled him to escape

Some important facts have been derived from original papers procured in the archives of the Marine Department at Paris. A translation of two of these papers is contained in the Appendix.



First Discovery of the Mississippi. Robert Cavelier de la Salle. Passes eight Years in Canada.

Obtains Letters Patent from the King. Builds Fort Frontenac. Obtains additional Letters Patent for making new Discoveries.

MORE than half a century had elapsed, from the time of the first settlements in Canada, before French enterprise extended itself to the westward of the Great Lakes. At an early day the pious zeal of the missionaries had planted the cross among the Hurons, on the southern shores of the lake of that name, but it was long before the tide of civilization advanced beyond the Island of Montreal. Unceasing wars with the powerful nations of the Iroquois employed the attention and exhausted the resources of the colonial government. Led by a spirit of adventure, as well as of gain, a few traders penetrated



the interior, crossed the lakes, and brought back intelligence of the Indians, who wandered over the boundless regions of the west.

At length, in the year 1665, the resolute ardor of Father Allouez, a Jesuit missionary, prompted him to undertake the hazardous experiment of executing his mission in these remote and unknown countries. Arrived at the Falls of St. Mary, he threw himself boldly among the savages, relying on his powers of persuasion to win their confidence, and the purity of his motives to secure success. His hopes were not disappointed. He visited the tribes on the southern borders of Lake Superior, and was everywhere received with kindness. Three years afterwards, he was joined by Marquette and Dablon; and, during the five succeeding years, these courageous missionaries explored the territory between Lake Superior and the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, fulfilling their vocation as messengers of Christianity with a devotedness and self-sacrifice rarely surpassed, preaching to numerous native tribes, and subduing their wild hearts by gentleness of manners, and by inculcating the mild precepts of the Gospel. They likewise established the posts of Mackinac, St. Mary's, and Green Bay, which soon became the first rallying points of civilization on the upper lakes.

« AnteriorContinuar »