Lawrence Day responded to my last post with a comment about my research for my new historical novel-in-progress, The Jigonsaseh, and his response was so interesting I felt it deserved to be reproduced as a post of its own. So here it is, in its entirety, and thanks, Lawrence, for dropping by!:
I find it delightful that your era of research should begin to overlap with my own (Jan 19 1592-1632). The reason one must abandon the mainstream is well explained by Jeffrey Sawyer in a 1990 book “Printed Poison”, an academic study of censorship and propaganda in France during Louis XIII’s reign. Richelieu’s censorship was strict: capital punishment for printing, disseminating or posting any unapproved book or pamphlet. The propaganda office also churned out lies, including a revised Canadian history, palpably false but the only history available after books by Joseph Le Caron, Pierre Biard, Jean Nicollet etc had been burnt and the library at Chantilly of former Viceroy Montmorency “pruned” after his beheading. The era of the fourth fire was bloody and traumatic so it is understandable that myth was substituted for the true history and the mainstream lost its way. I found this quirk in our “histories” by reading primary sources in chronological order, coming upstream as it were.
The last trustworthy document may be a thick letter from the first Jesuit Superior at Quebec, Charles L’Allement addressed to his brother in France and published in Paris in 1627. The letter is dated August 1626 and includes in it a commendation for Brule who has taught him a lot of the Wendat language over the winter of 1626, will be accompanying Amantacha back to France, and is expected to return to Canada to accomplish great things.
In this letter Father Charles reveals that Amantacha, who is the right age to be Brule’s first offspring, also calls him “Father”. Golly, do you think the boy may have been conceived in sin? Soranhes is his mother’s husband.
In any case, Brule remains white-hatted (modern research unearthed his contract to truchement for the King in 1628) until Richelieu’s revised history in which he is demonized, as you quote: “scandalous and licentious lifestyle”.
But he is also a convenient scapegoat as Richelieu had blundered away a continent and his investors fortunes to Huguenot privateer Captains Kirke. In reality, rather than greed or treason, all of Brule’s motivation could have been safely returning Amantacha to his mother in Wendake. The boy/Prince was due back in 1627.
According to some recent research by John Steckley (Ontario History, Autumn 2012) there are 270 Huron names mentioned in the Jesuit Relations and only Amantacha has the letter M used. This mystery would be explained if he were unique in being the first Ontario Metis, later known as the “Bois Brule”. In oral tradition one of Brules daughters became a medicine woman. But Brule was not a Jesuit, he was a truchement mediator ambassador explorer fur merchant etc
Fascinating stuff, Lawrence! A “truchement”, by the way, for those who are unfamiliar with the term was someone (the word means “helper”) recruited by the missionaries to interpret for them, often using a mixture of mime and gesture. As Lawrence points out, they often became involved directly in the fur trade and held larger roles. Count Frontenac often accused the Jesuits of situating their missions beside trading posts so that they could engage in the fur trade directly, and there is much to suggest that it was the Jesuits who funded Radisson’s trading post at Hudson’s Bay, rather than London investors as is commonly believed.
Pierre Boucher and Nicolas Marsolet are two examples of young (and poor) Frenchmen who came to New France and took on this “helping” role. Both were supported financially by the missionaries, who also provided them with an education . Pierre Boucher went on to become the governor of Trois-Rivières and founded Boucherville, while Nicolas Marsolet was granted a seigneury.