The Compagnie Montmorency

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The Compagnie Montmorency.
In 1621, the duke, dissatisfied with the man-

agement of the trade with Canada, conferred

the monopoly of that trade upon a body of mer-

chants to be known as the Compagnie Montmor-

ency. At the head of this company was Guill-

aume de Caen, sieur de la Mothe, a Huguenot

of Dieppe. 1 De Caen was at once an enter-

prising merchant and an experienced navigator.

Bred to the sea, he had already made many a

trip, under his father's direction, to the banks of

Newfoundland. His able administration soon

raised the new company to a height of prosperity

such as none of its predecessors had reached.

Royal favors were showered upon it. Privilege

after privilege was granted, in utter disregard

of the rights previously conferred upon the

older associations. A fleet was. created for its
1 Son of Guillaume de Caen and Marie Langlois his wife,

(Gosselin: Nouvelles Glanes Historiques Normandes.)

service, with De Caen as its admiral, under the

title of General of the Fleet of New France.

Secure of government patronage, the company

spent vast sums in building ships and store-

houses, and in 1627 boasted of an annual rev-

enue of one hundred thousand francs.

The Jesuits enter Canada.
Among the conditions upon which the com-

pany held its monopoly, was that of transport-

ing to Canada and there maintaining six friars of

the order of St. Francis, for the religious instruc-

tion of the colonists and the natives. De Caen

was faithful to this engagement, but he claimed

for himself and for his fellow-religionists all the

liberty which the Edict of Nantes secured to

them, of conducting worship according to the

Reformed rite. No great objection seems to

have been made to this, until, five years later,

three Jesuit fathers came to reenforce the band

of Franciscans. De Caen and his fellow-traders

gave them but a cold reception. True to their

character, the new comers lost no time in stirring

up strife with the hated heretics. Complaints

were made to the viceroy that the Huguenot

sailors at Quebec were regularly assembled by

order of De Caen, for prayer, and the singing of

psalms. It was represented that even Roman-

ists in the company's employ, were forced to be

present at these services. The most objection-

able part of this heretical worship, was the sing-

ing. The followers of Loyola especially de-

tested it. Their own rule exempted them from

the chants and other choral services observed

by religious orders in the Roman Catholic


Church. "They do not sing," said the enemies

Of the Jesuits; "birds of prey never do."1 The

governor of Quebec was instructed to forbid

these disorderly practices. No public saying of

prayers or singing of psalms was to be tolerated

on the river St. Lawrence. But the company's

men, and especially the crews of their vessels,

refused to comply with these orders, and threat-

ened mutiny. "At last," says Champlain, " it

was agreed that they might meet to pray, but

should not sing psalms. A bad bargain, yet it

was the best we could do."

Company of New France.
But the time was now drawing near, when the

powerful Society of Jesus could carry its plans in-

to effect, and Canada, closed against heresy,

could be held as an exclusive field of missions

for the Church of Rome. Another change in the

vice-regency of New France took place ; and

Montmorency was succeeded by his nephew, the

young Duke de Ventadour. At once, the new

viceroy, who was a devoted friend of the Jesuits,

sent over five members of the order. A few

months later, the monopoly of trade was with-

drawn from the Huguenot De Caen, and a com-

pany was formed, to be known as the Company

of New France. At the head of this organization,

upon which exclusive commercial and proprietary

rights were conferred, was Cardinal Richelieu, the

energetic and sagacious minister of Louis the

Thirteenth. In return for the extraordinary

privileges and powers granted to it, the com-
1 Miscellanies, by William R. Williams. The Jesuits as a

Missionary Order. New York: 1850. P. 175.

pany bound itself to transport emigrants to the

New World, to give them lands, and to main-

tain them for three years after their arrival. But

every emigrant must profess the Roman Catholic

faith. From this vast region --the whole conti-

nent of North America, as claimed by France

--heresy was to be rigidly and forever excluded.
To the statesman and to the Jesuit alike, this

exclusion appeared a master-stroke of policy.

Richelieu, who had but lately taken his place in

the royal council, was already maturing his plans

for the depression of the Huguenot power in

France. At this moment he was engaged in re-

ducing La Rochelle, the political center of that

power, with whose fall, a few months later, the

hopes of the party were to be extinguished. The

time had not yet come for a legalized and sys-

tematic persecution of the adherents of the Re-

formed faith. But meanwhile it was the object

of the government to weaken and humiliate them.

To throw open the colonies to the Calvinists,

with their superior thrift and enterprise, would

be to offer them enlarged opportunities of en-

richment and advancement. On the other hand,

their exclusion would increase the odium which

it was for the interest of the king to connect

with the Huguenot name.

Triumph of the Jesuits.
The Jesuits, equally anxious to extirpate

heresy at home, and to shut it out from their

mission fields abroad, hailed this measure as a

signal triumph. By a curious coincidence, their

recall to power had followed closely upon the

grant made to De Monts for the settlement of

New France. They had viewed with an evil eye

the broad provisions of that grant, which con-

tained no discrimination in favor of the Roman

Catholic religion, but admitted Huguenots to the

privileges of trade and the ownership of land, upon

the same footing with the sons of the true Church.

The Jesuit historian Sagard deplores the spirit

of toleration and indifference that was exhibited

by the first settlers under De Monts' charter, and

relates an indent that illustrates at once their

rough pleasantry, and their freedom from relig-

ious animosity. "It happened in the course of

those beginnings of the French in Acadia 1 that a

priest and a minister died about the same time.

The sailors, who buried them laid them both in

one grave, to see if they who could not agree

whilst alive would dwell together in peace when

dead. In short," he adds, "everything was

made a matter of jest. The undevout Catholics

readily accommodated themselves to the humor

of the Huguenots; and these malicious heretics

kept on, unrestrained, in their loose way of liv-

A better feeling had sprung up in France

between the adherents of the two religions, at

the close of the civil wars. The Edict of Nantes

imposed some restraint upon the virulence of the

Roman clergy ; and the banishment of the

Jesuits had already removed for the time the

most zealous agents of religious agitation. An
1 " En ces commencemens que les Francois furent vers


2 Sagard, Histoire du Canada, I., p. 26.


old writer, depicting the state of things then

prevalent, tells us that at Caen, in Normandy,

"Catholic and Huguenot lived side by side in

a perfect understanding. They ate together,

drank together, played together, enjoyed each

other's society, and parted company without the

slightest offense, the one to go to mass, the other

to attend preaching." 1 The return of the fathers

from their temporary exile broke up these amica-

ble relations. Though in Caen, as in many other

places, a strong opposition was made by Catholics

and Protestants alike, to their admission, yet no

sooner had this opposition been overcome, than

the presence of the order was felt in sowing dis-

cord and fomenting strife. The reign of good

feeling was at an end. Awaiting the time when

severer means could be used to crush out heresy

in the land, the Jesuits employed themselves in

rousing the popular mind to suspicion, envy, and

bitter resentment. Frequent infractions of the

Edict of Nantes occurred. The government it-

self, whilst professing to maintain the Edict,

winked at many violations of its provisions.
In the meantime, no compromise with heresy

must be suffered, in that vast territory which the

Jesuits now controlled in the New World.

Canada was to be the patrimony of the Church

of Rome. Its savage population must be won

to the true faith, through the labors of an army

of devoted missionaries, trained in the school of
1 Essai sur l'histoire de 1’Eglise reformee de Caen, par

Sophronyme Beaujour. Caen : 1877. P. 208.

Ignatius Loyola. And the coming generations

of its colonists must be shielded from the malign

influences that had been at work in France,

ever since the days of Calvin.

England enters the lists. Sept. 1621
At the last moment, however, the prize

seemed about to elude the hands that were

stretched out to grasp it. Heretic England en-

tered the lists for the acquisition of Canada.

While Richelieu was organizing the Company

of New France, a project was entertained at the

British court, having in view the conquest of the

French possessions in the western hemisphere.

England still claimed the North American con-

tinent by right of discovery: and in 1621, James

the First, acting upon this assumption, made

over to one of his subjects, a Scottish gentle-

man, Sir William Alexander --afterward Earl of

Stirling --the whole territory east of the St. Croix

river, and south of the St. Lawrence. The grant

included all Acadia ; and the peninsula, with the

lands conveyed on the main --now forming the

province of New Brunswick --was to be known

as Nova Scotia. For several years, however,

little was done, either by the king or by the

nobleman, to make good these pretensions to a

region already held, and held with a clearer title

certainly, by the French. France and England

were at peace; and the question of proprietor-

ship in a distant wilderness was not important

enough to provoke a conflict. But in 1627 a

sudden war --soon to terminate --broke out.

Charles the First, declaring himself the protec-

tor of the persecuted Protestants of France, sent
a fleet under the command of his favorite the

Duke of Buckingham, for the relief of La

Rochelle, then blockaded by the troops of Louis

XIII. The ill-contrived and ill-conducted expe-

dition ended ignominiously. Buckingham was

no match for Richelieu. The starving inhabi-

tants of La Rochelle saw a second and a third

fleet approach their city only to sail away after a

few feeble demonstrations ; and on the twenty-

eighth day of October, 1628, La Rochelle

was taken.
Huguenots join the expedition.
Better success attended another enterprise of

the English in the course of the same brief war.

The patentee of Nova Scotia, Sir William

Alexander, saw the opportunity to obtain pos-

session of his grant; and under his auspices, a

squadron was fitted out for the conquest of New

France. It was easy to find good material for

the expedition. England was now the refuge of

many brave Huguenot seamen and soldiers, well

qualified, and more than ready for such an adven-

Among the refugees were three brothers, David,

Louis, and Thomas Kirk, natives of Dieppe in

Normandy. To David, as admiral, the com-

mand of the expedition was given, his brothers

serving under him. The sailing master was one

Jacques Michel, a "furious Calvinist," who had

been in the employ of Guillaume de Caen, and

was forward in promoting the present enterprise.

Many other Huguenots joined it, all eager for

the conquest of New France. Acadia fell an

easy prey to the invaders. After taking pos-


session of Port Royal, and capturing a French

fleet on its way to Canada with supplies for

Champlain's colony, Kirk returned to England

with flying colors, and the next year sailed for

the St. Lawrence. Anchoring with the body of

his fleet at the port of Tadoussac, the commander

sent his brother Louis up the river, with three

ships, for the capture of Quebec. The little fort,

held by a mere handful of soldiers under Cham-

plain, and utterly without provisions, was in no

condition to withstand an assault. On the twen-

tieth day of July, 1629, Quebec surrendered.

The Huguenot officer in command of the English

force took possession of the place; and the

Jesuit fathers, who had lately come to occupy the

mission field which they hoped to secure against

the intrusion of heresy, found themselves prison-

ers in the hands of the very men against whom

they purposed to close Canada forever.
The war, however, was already over, and peace

had been signed between France and England

three months before the capture of Quebec.

Canada must revert to its original proprietors ;

and after three years of negotiations, during

which Louis Kirk remained in command, the

English yielded Quebec to the French. The

Huguenot governor won the respect and confi-

dence of the inhabitants by his lenient course,

and his courteous manners. He was, according

to Champlain, a thorough Frenchman, though the

son of a Scotchman who had married in Dieppe;

and he did all in his power to induce the French

families, whose company he preferred to that of

the English, to remain in Quebec. He permitted

the Jesuit fathers to say mass, and entertained

them at his table, to the great displeasure of his

sailing master Captain Michel, who could scarcely

restrain himself from coming to blows with the

members of the hated fraternity. The death of

this stubborn heretic, which occurred a few days

later, was regarded as a judgment, in view of his

violent abuse of "the good fathers;" and dying

in his pretended religion, I do not doubt, says

Champlain, that his soul is now in hell. 1
Singularly enough, the agent whom France

now appointed to receive back her American

province, was likewise a Huguenot. This agent

was Emery de Caen, the son 2 of Guillaume, sieur

de la Mothe. Emery had been associated with

his father in the company holding the monopoly

of the Canadian fur-trade ; and to indemnify him

for the losses he had sustained in the late war,

he was permitted to enjoy the benefits of that

monopoly during a single year. At the expira-

tion of this term, the Company of New France

entered upon the full possession of its rights.

It was on the twenty-third day of May, 1633,

that Champlain, again appointed governor, took

1 Voyage de Champlain, II., p. 313. "Deux ou trois jours

apres ledit Jacques Michel estant saisid'un grand assoupisse-

ment fut 35 heures sans parler, au bout duquel temps il

mourut rendant 1' ame, laquelle si on peut juger par les

ceuvres et actions qu'il a faites, et qu'il fit le jour auparavant;

et mourant en sa religion pretendue, je ne doute point

qu'elle ne soit aux enfers."

2 The First English Conquest of Canada, with some

account of the Earliest Settlements in Nova Scotia and New-

foundland. By Henry Kirk, M.A. London, 187 1. P. 69.
from the hands of the Protestant De Caen, the

keys of the fort of Quebec. Two Jesuit mission-

May aries, who had come over with De Caen, were

already in possession of their convent, built

shortly before the capture of the place by Kirk.
From this time forth, Canada was formally

closed to the Protestant colonist. The heretic

trader continued to be tolerated, but he was

jealously watched, and restricted in his inter-

course with the inhabitants. The privilege of a

permanent residence was granted to none but to

Frenchmen professing the Roman Catholic faith.
The doom pronounced.
In this prohibition, religious intolerance pro-

nounced the doom of the French colonial system

in America. The exclusion of the Huguenots

from New France, was one of the most stupen-

dous blunders that history records. The re-

pressive policy pursued by the French govern-

ment for the next fifty years, culminating in the

revocation of the Edict of Nantes, tended more

and more to awaken and to strengthen among

the Protestants a disposition to emigrate to

foreign lands. Industrious and thrifty, and

anxious at any sacrifice to enjoy the liberty of

conscience denied them at home, they would

have rejoiced to build up a French state in the

New World. No other desirable class of the

population of France was inclined for emigra-

tion. It was with great difficulty that from

time to time the feeble colony could be re-

cruited, at vast expense, and with inferior

material. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of

expatriated Huguenots carried into the Protest-
ant countries of Northern Europe, and into the

British colonies of America, the capital, the in-

dustrial skill, the intelligence, the moral worth,

that might have enriched the French posses-

sions, and secured to the Gallic race a vast do-

main upon the North American continent. 1

There is reason to believe that in spite of
1 The enlightened author of the Histoire du Canada depuis

sa Decouverte jusqu’ a nos yours, has fully recognized the

greatness of this mistake. " Le dix-septieme siecle fut pour

la France l'epoque la plus favorable pour coloniser, a cause

des luttes religieuses du royaume, et du sort des vaincus,

assez triste pour leur faire desirer d' abandonner une patrie

qui ne leur presentait plus que l'image d' une persecution

finissant souvent par 1' echafaud ou le bucher. Si Louis

XIII. et son successeur eussent ouvert 1' Amerique a cette

nombreuse classe d'hommes, le Nouveau Monde compterait

aujourd'hui un empire de plus, un empire francais ! . . . .

Richelieu fit done une grande faute, lorsqu'il consentit a. ce

que les protestans fussent exclus de la Nouvelle-France ;

s' il fallait expulser une des deux religions, il aurait mieux

vallu, dans 1' interet de la colonie, faire tomber cette exclu-

sion sur les catholiques qui emigraient peu ; il portait un

coup fatal au Canada en en fermant 1' entree aux Huguenots

d' une maniere formelle par 1' acte d' etablissement de la

compagnie des cent associes Le systeme colonial

francais eut eu un resultat bien different, si on eut leve les

entraves qu' on mettait pour eloigner ces sectaires du pays,

et si on leur en eut laisse les portes ouvertes Et

pourtant c' etait dans le temps meme que les Huguenots

sollicitaient comme une faveur la permission d' aller s' etab-

lir dans le Nouveau-Monde, ou ils promettaient de vivre en

paix a 1' ombre du drapeau de leur patrie, qu'ilsnepouvaient

cesser d' aimer ; e'etait dans le temps, dis-je, qu' on leur

refusait une priere dont la realisation eut sauve le

Canada, et assure pour toujours ce beau pays a la France.

Mais Colbert avait perdu son influence a la cour, et etait

mourant. Tant que ce grand homme avait ete au timon des

affaires, il avait protege les calvinistes qui ne troublaient

plus la France, mais 1' enrichissaient." --Histoire du Canada

depuis sa Decouverte jusqu' a nos Jours. Par F. X.

Garneau. Quebec: 1845. Tome I., pp. 155, 156, 157, 493.
prohibitory laws and ecclesiastical vigilance,

Huguenot settlers succeeded from time to time

in establishing themselves in Canada. We may

infer as much from the boasted success of the

Jesuits in their efforts to convert heretics whose

presence in the colony was detected. 1 Sixteen

1 Tanguay, Dictionnaire Genealogique des Families Cana-

diennes, depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu' a nos

jours, mentions the following instances of abjuration prior to

the year 1700 :

David Beaubattu, baptized 1668, son of Jean Beaubattu

and Marie Champagne, of Lairac, [Layrac,] near Agen,

[Lot-et-Garonne]. Soldier in the company of M. de Muy.

Abjured Calvinism, Jan. 6, 1686, at Pointe-aux-Trembles,


Francois Bibaud, baptized 1642, son of Francois Bibaud,

of La Rochelle, [a Protestant : comp. La France Protest-

ante, s. v.,] was living in Quebec in 167 1.

Charles-Gabriel Chalifour, born in 1636 in La Rochelle,

after spending some years in New England, went to

Montreal, where he abjured Calvinism and was baptized

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