A History of Canada: Dominion of the North

By Donald Creighton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
FUR TRADE AND EMPIRE

1

ON A MARCH DAY in 1661 Cardinal Mazarin lay dying in his palace at Vincennes. It was the end of a whole era in the history of the French monarchy. Richelieu's wars of conquest had been triumphantly concluded by the Treaty of Westphalia and the Peace of the Pyrenees. The religious divisions within the country had been ended, the last baronial revolts had been crushed; and a united nation accepted the absolute and centralized rule of the Bourbon monarchy. The young King, Louis XIV, who was not yet twenty-three years old, looked confidently forward to a long future of achievement. He was to hold ambitions far more grandiose than those of Richelieu and Mazarin. He was to drive, and harry, and exhaust the French people in his frantic efforts to reach these unattainable objectives. But the gift of the dying Mazarin was peace. There was an interval, brief and evanescent, which separated the wars of Richelieu and Mazarin from the wars of Louis XIV. For a moment the rulers of France could survey the whole position of the monarchy in the world at large. They looked abroad, towards the cast and across the Atlantic, and they discovered their neglected colonial empire.

The man who typified this first constructive period in the reign of Louis XIV was Jean Baptiste Colbert. He never

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