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His enemies stated that this arose out of his desire to make personal profit from the fur trade; but on public grounds also there were valid reasons for the fort. A thrust is often the best parry; and it could well be argued that the French had much to gain from a stronghold lying within striking distance of the Iroquois villages. At any rate, Frontenac decided to act first and make explanations afterwards.
On June 3, , he left Quebec for Montreal and beyond.
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He accommodated himself with cheerfulness to the bark canoe--which he described in one of his early letters as a rather undignified conveyance for the king's lieutenant--and, indeed, to all the hardships which the discharge of his duties entailed. His plan for the summer comprised a thorough inspection of the waterway from Quebec to Lake Ontario and official visits to the settlements lying along the route.
Three Rivers did not detain him long, for he was already familiar with the place, having visited it in the previous autumn. On the 15th of the month his canoe came to shore beneath Mount Royal. Montreal was the colony's farthest outpost towards the Iroquois. Though it had been founded as a mission and nothing else, its situation was such that its inhabitants could not avoid being drawn into the fur trade. To a large extent it still retained its religious character, but beneath the surface could be detected a cleavage of interest between the missionary zeal of the Sulpicians and the commercial activity of the local governor, Francois Perrot.
And since this Perrot is soon to find place in the present narrative as a bitter enemy of Frontenac, a word concerning him may fitly be written here. He was an officer of the king's army who had come to Canada with Talon. The fact that his wife was Talon's niece had put him in the pathway of promotion. The order of St Sulpice, holding in fief the whole island of Montreal, had power to name the local governor. In June the Sulpicians had nominated Perrot, and two years later his appointment had been confirmed by the king. Later, as we shall see, arose the thorny question of how far the governor of Canada enjoyed superiority over the governor of Montreal.
The governor of Montreal, attended by his troops and the leading citizens, stood at the landing-place to offer full military honours to the governor of Canada. Frontenac's arrival was then signalized by a civic reception and a Te Deum. The round of civilities ended, the governor lost no time in unfolding the real purpose of his visit, which was less to confer with the priests of St Sulpice than to recruit forces for his expedition, in order that he might make a profound impression on the Iroquois. The proposal to hold a conference with the Iroquois at Cataraqui where Kingston now stands met with some opposition; but Frontenac's energy and determination were not to be denied, and by the close of June four hundred French and Indians were mustered at Lachine in readiness to launch their canoes and barges upon Lake St Louis.
If Montreal was the outpost of the colony, Lachine was the outpost of Montreal. Between these two points lay the great rapid, the Sault St Louis, which from the days of Jacques Cartier had blocked the ascent of the St Lawrence to seafaring boats. At Lachine La Salle had formed his seigneury in , the year after his arrival in Canada; and it had been the starting-point for the expedition which resulted in the discovery of the Ohio in La Salle, however, was not with Frontenac's party, for the governor had sent him to the Iroquois early in May, to tell them that Onontio would meet his children and to make arrangements for the great assembly at Cataraqui.
Their envoys accordingly proceeded to the mouth of the Cataraqui; and on the 12th of July the vessels of the French were seen approaching on the smooth surface of Lake Ontario. Frontenac had omitted from his equipage nothing which could awe or interest the savage. He had furnished his troops with the best possible equipment and had with him all who could be spared safely from the colony. He had even managed to drag up the rapids and launch on Lake Ontario two large barges armed with small cannon and brilliantly painted.
The whole flotilla, including a multitude of canoes arranged by squadron, was now put in battle array. First came four squadrons of canoes; then the two barges; next Frontenac himself, surrounded by his personal attendants and the regulars; after that the Canadian militia, with a squadron from Three Rivers on the left flank, and on the right a great gathering of Hurons and Algonquins. The rearguard was composed of two more squadrons. Never before had such a display been seen on the Great Lakes.
Having disclosed his strength to the Iroquois chiefs, Frontenac proceeded to hold solemn and stately conference with them.
But he did not do this on the day of the great naval procession. He wished to let this spectacle take effect before he approached the business which had brought him there. It was not until next day that the meeting opened.
At seven o'clock the French troops, accoutred at their best, were all on parade, drawn up in files before the governor's tent, where the conference was to take place. Outside the tent itself large canopies of canvas had been erected to shelter the Iroquois from the sun, while Frontenac, in his most brilliant military costume, assumed all the state he could.
In treating with Indians haste was impossible, nor did Frontenac desire that the speech-making should begin at once.
Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV
His fort was hardly more than begun, and he wished the Iroquois to see how swiftly and how well the French could build defences. When the proceedings opened there were the usual long harangues, followed by daily negotiations between the governor and the chiefs. It was a leading feature of Frontenac's diplomacy to reward the friendly, and to win over malcontents by presents or personal attention. Each day some of the chiefs dined with the governor, who gave them the food they liked, adapted his style of speech to their ornate and metaphorical language, played with their children, and regretted, through the interpreter Le Moyne, that he was as yet unable to speak their tongue.
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