List Of Contents | Contents of The Jesuit Missions, by Thomas Guthrie Marquis
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faced his tormentors till death freed him. Bressani
escaped death only because an old squaw adopted him; but
so mangled were his hands, so burned and broken was his
body, that she deemed her slave of little value and sent
him with her son to Fort Orange to be sold. The Dutch
acted generously; paid a liberal ransom; and gave Bressani
passage on a Dutch vessel, which landed him at La Rochelle
on November 15, 1644. But, like Jogues, his one thought
was to return to New France; and in the following year
we find him in Huronia, his mutilated hands, torn and
broken by the enemies of the Hurons, mute but efficacious
witnesses of his courage.

For a time the hopes of the Jesuits for a mission among
the Iroquois were damped by the experiences of Jogues
and Bressani. But in 1645 an incident took place that
opened the way for an attempt to carry the Gospel to this
savage people. A band of Algonquins captured several
Mohawks and brought them to Sillery. The captives fully
expected to be tortured and burned; but the Jesuits at
Quebec and the governor, Montmagny, were desirous of
winning the goodwill of the Iroquois. They persuaded the
Algonquins to free the prisoners, then treated them
kindly, and sent one of them home on the understanding
that he would try to make peace between his people and
the French and their allies. On the advice of Guillaume
Couture, who was still among the Mohawks and was much
esteemed and trusted by them, the Mohawks sent ambassadors
to Three Rivers to consult with the governor. The result
was a temporary peace; the Mohawks agreed to bury the
hatchet; and early in the following spring (1646) Montmagny
decided to send to them a special messenger who might
make the peace permanent and set up among them a mission.

Isaac Jogues, having returned to Canada after his brief
rest in France, was now stationed at Ville Marie. His
knowledge of the Mohawk language and character made him
the most fitting person to send as envoy to the Mohawks,
in the twofold capacity of diplomat and missionary. At
first, as his sufferings rose before his mind, he shrank
from the task, but only for a moment. He would go fearlessly
to these people, though they lived in his memory only by
the tortures they had inflicted on him. He set out; and
on arriving at the Mohawk towns he found the savages
friendly. Everywhere the Mohawks bade him welcome. They
listened attentively to the message from the governor,
and accepted the wampum belts and gifts which he bore.
Apparently the Mohawks were eager for the amity of the
French. To both Jogues and Couture it seemed that at last
the time was ripe for an Iroquois mission--the Mission
of the Martyrs. Before saying farewell to the Mohawks
Jogues left with his hosts, as a pledge that he would
return, a locked box; and by the end of June he was back
in Quebec to report the success of his journey. He then
prepared to redeem his pledge to the Mohawks. He left
Quebec towards the end of August, with a lay brother
named Lalande and some Hurons. He had forebodings of
death, for on the eve of the journey he wrote to a friend
in France: Ibo et non redibo, I shall go and shall not
return. Arrived at the Richelieu, he was told by some
friendly Indians that the attitude of the Mohawks had
changed. They were in arms, and were once more breathing
vengeance against the French and their allies. At this
Jogues's Huron companions deserted him, but he and Lalande
pressed on to their destination. The alarm was only too
well founded. The Mohawks at once crowded round them,
scowling and threatening. They stripped Jogues and his
comrade of their clothing, beat them, and repeated the
tortures which Jogues had suffered four years before.

The innocent cause of this outbreak of Mohawk fury was
the box which Jogues had left behind him. From this box,
as the ignorant savages thought, had come the drought
and a plague of grasshoppers, which had destroyed the
crops, and also the pest which was now raging in the
Mohawk towns. Some Huron captives among the Mohawks, no
doubt to win favour with their masters, had maligned
Jogues, proclaiming him a sorcerer who had previously
brought disaster to the Hurons, and had now come to
destroy the Mohawks. Undoubtedly, they declared, it was
from the box that had come all the ills which had befallen
them. Jogues protested his innocence; but as well might
he have tried to reason with a pack of wolves. They
demanded his death, and the inevitable blow soon fell.
On the 18th of October, as he sat wounded and bruised
and starving in a wigwam, a chief approached and bade
him come to a feast. He knew what the invitation meant;
it was a feast of death; but he calmly rose, his spirit
steeled for the worst. His guide entered a wigwam and
ordered him to follow; and, as he bent his head to enter,
a savage concealed by the door cleft his skull with a
tomahawk. On the following day Lalande shared a similar
fate. Their heads were chopped off and placed on the
palisades of the town, and their bodies thrown into the
Mohawk river. The Mission of the Martyrs was at an end
for the time being.

Ten years were to pass before missionary work was renewed
among the Iroquois--ten years of disaster to the Jesuits
and to the colony. In these years, as we have already
seen, the Hurons, Petuns, and Neutrals were destroyed or
scattered, and the French and Indian settlements along
the St Lawrence were continually in danger. There was no
safety outside the fortified posts, and agriculture and
trade were at a standstill. The year 1653 was particularly
disastrous; a horde of Mohawks were abroad, hammering at
the palisades of every settlement and spreading terror
even in the strongly guarded towns of Ville Marie, Three
Rivers, and Quebec. But light broke when all seemed
darkest. The western Iroquois--the Oneidas, Onondagas,
and Senecas--were at war with the Eries. While thus
engaged it seemed to them good policy to make peace with
the French, and they dispatched an embassy to Ville Marie
to open negotiations. The Mohawks, too, fearing that
their western kinsmen might gain some advantage over
them, sent messengers to New France. A grand council was
held at Quebec. But even while making peace the Iroquois
were intent on war. They desired nothing short of the
utter extermination of the Huron nation, and viewed with
jealousy the Huron settlement under the wing of the French
on the island of Orleans. Both Onondagas and Mohawks
plotted to destroy this community. The proposed peace
was merely a ruse to open a way to attack the Hurons in
order to kill them or to adopt them into the Five Nations,
which, on account of losses in war, needed recruits. The
Mohawks requested that the Hurons be removed to the Mohawk
villages; the Onondagas stipulated for a French colony
in their country, in the hope that the Hurons would be
attracted to such a settlement, and that then both French
and Hurons would be in their power. The governor of New
France, now Jean de Lauzon, a weak old man who thought
more of the profits of the fur trade and of land-grants
for himself and his family than of the welfare of the
colony, knew not how to act. A negative answer he dared
not give; and he equally feared the effect of a definite
promise. On the one hand was the certainty that war would
break out again in all its fury; on the other the equal
certainty that the fate which had befallen the Hurons in
Huronia would almost inevitably overtake the poor remnant
of Christian Hurons whom it was his duty to protect.

The Jesuits, however, were anxious to labour among the
Iroquois, and at their request the governor adopted a
temporizing policy. Before giving a final reply it was
deemed wise to send an ambassador to the Five Nations to
spy out the land and confirm the peace. This dangerous
task was assigned to the veteran missionary Father Simon
Le Moyne. In the spring of 1654 Le Moyne visited the
Onondagas. His diplomacy and eloquence succeeded with
them, but the Mohawks still continued their raids on the
settlements. Nevertheless in 1655 the Mohawks again sent
messengers to Quebec professing friendship. Le Moyne once
more took up the task of diplomat and journeyed to the
Mohawk country in the hope of making a binding treaty
with the fiercest and most inveterate foes of New France.
In this same year a large deputation of Onondagas arrived
at Quebec. They wished the French to take immediate action
and establish a mission and colony in their midst. Once
more their sincerity seemed doubtful; and Fathers Chaumonot
and Dablon were dispatched to Onondaga to ascertain the
temper and disposition of the Indians there. After spending
the winter of 1655-56 in the country, where they had
conferences in the great council-house of the Five Nations
with representatives of all the tribes, the two fathers
believed that the time was ripe for a mission. A colony,
too, in their judgment, would be advisable; it would
serve at once as a centre of civilization for the Iroquois
and a barrier against the Dutch and English of New York,
who hitherto had monopolized the trade of the Iroquois.
In the spring of 1656 Dablon returned to Quebec to advise
the governor to accept the terms of the Onondagas, while
Chaumonot remained at Onondaga to watch over his new
flock both as missionary and as political agent.

An expedition, the entire expense of which fell on the
Jesuits, was at once fitted out. The town major of Quebec,
Zachary du Puys, took military command of the party,
which consisted of ten soldiers, thirty or forty white
labourers, four Jesuit fathers--Menard, Le Mercier,
Dablon, and Fremin--two lay brothers, and a number of
Hurons, Senecas, and Onondagas. On the 17th of May the
colonists left Quebec in two large boats and twelve
canoes. They began their journey with forebodings as to
their fate, for the Mohawks were once more haunting the
St Lawrence. Scarcely had Du Puys and his men passed out
of sight of Quebec when they were attacked. The Mohawks,
however, pretended that they had supposed the party to
be Hurons, expressed regret for the attack, and allowed
the expedition to proceed. At Montreal the boats were
discarded in favour of canoes for the difficult navigation
of the upper St Lawrence. Save for Le Moyne, Chaumonot,
and Dablon, these colonists were the first whites to
ascend the St Lawrence between Montreal and Lake Ontario;
the first to toil up against the current of those swift
waters and to portage past the turbulent rapids; the
first to view the varied beauty of the lordly river, its
broad stretches of sparkling blue waters, its fairyland
mazes of islands, and its great forests rising everywhere
from the shore to the horizon. At length they reached
Lake Ontario and skirted its southern shore until they
entered the Oswego river. Ascending this river they were
met by Chaumonot and an Onondaga delegation. On Lake
Onondaga the canoes formed four abreast behind the canoe
of the leader, from which streamed a white silk flag with
the name Jesus woven on it in letters of gold. Then, with
measured stroke of paddle and song of praise, the flotilla
swept ashore to the site which Chaumonot had chosen for
the headquarters of the colony. Here, from the crest of
a low hill, commanding a beautiful view of one of the
most picturesque of inland lakes, they cleared the trees
and erected a commodious and substantial house, with
smaller buildings about it, all enclosed in the usual

The Jesuits announced that they had come not as traders
but as 'messengers of God,' seeking no profit; and they
began work under most favourable conditions. Owing to
Chaumonot's exertions the Onondagas seemed genuinely
friendly. The fathers, too, found in every village many
adopted Hurons, from their old missions in Huronia, who
still professed Christianity. Indeed, one whole village
was composed largely of Hurons and Petuns. The mission
was not confined to the Onondagas; the Cayugas, Senecas,
and Oneidas were included; and the new field seemed rich
in promise.

But it soon became evident that the fickle Iroquois were
not to be trusted. The Mohawks continued their raids on
the Hurons at Quebec and carried off captives from under
the very walls of Fort St Louis. Learning of this, the
Onondagas sent an expedition to Quebec to demand that
some Hurons should be given to them also, and the weak
administrator of the colony, Charles de Lauzon-Charny,
being too cowardly to resist, complied with this demand.
On the way back to Onondaga the Indians slew some of the
captives. On arriving at home they tortured and burned
others, among them women and helpless children. The
colonists at Onondaga frequently witnessed such scenes,
but they were powerless to interfere. Presently they
learned that it was with evil intentions that they had
been invited to Onondaga. A statement made to one of the
missionaries by a dying convert served only to confirm
the rumour already current, namely, that the death of
the colonists had been decreed from the first, and that
the Jesuits were to meet the fate which had befallen
Jogues and their brothers in Huronia.

Prompt action was necessary. Orders were sent to the
missionaries in the outlying points to return to
headquarters, and towards the end of March the colonists,
fifty-three in all, were behind the palisades of their
houses on Lake Onondaga. But they had slight chance of
escape, for they had not canoes enough to carry more than
half the party. Moreover, they were closely watched:
Onondaga warriors had pitched their wigwams about the
palisades and several had stationed themselves immediately
in front of the gate. The greatest need of the French,
however, being adequate means of transportation, they
addressed themselves to this problem. In the principal
dwelling was a large garret, and here they built two
strong boats, each capable of bearing fifteen men. But
the difficulty still remained of getting these boats to
the lake without the knowledge of the savages.

Among the colonists was a young man, Pierre Esprit
Radisson, who three years before had been a prisoner
among the Iroquois and who was afterwards to figure
prominently in the history of the Canadian wilderness.
He was unscrupulous but resourceful; and on this occasion
his talents came into good use. He knew the Indians well
and he knew that they could not resist a feast, especially
a feast of a semi-religious character. He persuaded a
young man of the mission to feign illness and to invite
the Onondagas to aid in his cure by attending a festin
a manger tout--a feast where everything must be eaten.
To sanction this no doubt went much against the grain of
the Jesuits, who had been upbraiding the Indians for
their superstition and gluttony; but in this case the
end seemed assuredly to justify the means. The Onondagas
attended the banquet. In huge iron pots slung over fires
outside the gate of the palisades the French boiled an
immense quantity of venison, game, fish, and corn. They
had brought with them to the colony a number of hogs,
and these they slew to add to the feast. The Indians
squatted about the kettles, from which the soldiers,

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