Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

By Arthur R. M. Lower | Go to book overview

3: The foundation stones
of New France

NEW FRANCE AS A COLONY, as distinct from a mere trading post, dates from after the first English occupation, under the Kirke brothers, which ended in 1632. As a trading post, there is little reason to think that Quebec would have advanced much beyond the later English posts on Hudson Bay. It is true that it was surrounded by a fair amount of arable land and had a not impossible climate, but a mere trading post, whatever the nature of the country around it, is unlikely by itself to change into a community. The parallel in the Hudson's Bay territories to what was to happen at Quebec after 1632 is to be found in Red River in 1812, when at last there appeared a man, Lord Selkirk, to whom the founding of a colony was all in all.

Here again we come to Champlain. No Champlain, no Quebec. Few men in the face of the dissipation of his life's work which the Kirkes' occupation accomplished, would have had the heart to begin all over again. That, however, is what he did. Without his insistence, France probably would not have persisted in her stipulations for the return of the colony, and when it was returned, it took him to nurse it back to life again. This task he had just nicely begun when death overtook him ( 1635), and it was left to his successors to carry on. The line he had struck out had apparently become plain, for after this there was no turning back: France was on the St. Lawrence to stay.

To one other man must go a large share also for the survival of French power in North America. This was the great Cardinal Richelieu. It was Richelieu who put behind colonization projects, and for the first time, the official power of France. Until his death in 1642, his aid and support continued to be given to the colony. Richelieu, though a cardinal, was not primarily interested in the missionary side of French colonial

-18-

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