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pose of sweeping condemnation. He has (at times) praise for the valor of the coureur, and accepts as truthful, his tales of life in the forest.


It is otherwise when the Jesuit essays to describe the acts of this reprobate, which he does in the severest terms of censure.

"What hope can we have,” exclaim these good men, "of bringing the Indians to Christ, when all the sinners of the colony are permitted to come here and give Christianity the lie by their open exhibition of bad morals!' Particularly at the time of Frontenac does the vehement protest of the Fathers become charged with grief and upbraiding. From the missionary's standpoint the coureur was bad enough, even when the government opposed him; but, whether rightly or wrongly, it was said that Frontenac and these vagabonds “understood each other” very well, if indeed there was not a definite alliance between them, for Frontenac was a man who preferred himself before "priests, potentates and

Hence the Jesuits in the far west felt their position threatened by a compact between two forces, both inimical to them, either of which might well have caused them serious concern. They realized that no sooner had the missionary begun to lead the savage into the right path, than an unscrupulous French trader appears on the scene with his brandy bottle and his demoralizing example. There is little difference in the character of the charges brought against the coureur de bois by his enemies. When the advanced races first come into contact with their retarded brethren, the white man's burden" is usually a bag of bullion, or a pack of beaver skins.



Theft, falsehood and cruelty are the stepping stones over which, too often, the adventurous European has advanced to the control of distant continents. But in the case of the coureur de bois there is no proof that the worst sins were perpetrated. He was not absolutely vicious. Carheil, the Jesuit missionary at Mackinac, sent in to the governor who succeeded Frontenac a long indictinent, which contains a lengthy list of damaging details, principal among them being the license to use and sell the soul destroying brandy and rum.

“If that license be not revoked,” he writes, “by positive orders, we need no longer remain in any of our missions in this country, to waste the remainder of our lives and all our efforts in useless labor, under the dominion of continual drunkenness and of universal immorality." It is a safe conclusion to draw, therefore, from the statements of La Hontan, Carheil and others, that the coureur de bois stood not only “on the fringe'' of respectable society in New France, but quite outside the line of demarkation. When one reflects upon the austere piety of the first settlers, it does not appear in the least strange that these wild tales from the forest should have at first astonished and shocked their moral sensibilities. But unfortunately, there seems to be a spice of permeating evil that causes it to linger in the memory of even the most "proper.” Hence there was in the courieur an element of fascination, which caused a glamour to overspread the profane and disreputable, and to add a savory odor to his misdeeds.

“As if h'all de devil way down below, was

tak' heem some fancy ride,' as Drummond has it. His recklessness kindles a spark of admiration, and the turmoil of his adventures contrasted sharply with the tameness of the life beneath the shadow of the church, and the monotony of the simple habitant's occupation. We hear something about the coureur de bois from the early pioneers of Monroe county, for in the Rivière aux Raisins country, the attractions that drew the hunter and trapper were most alluring, game was abundant, the animals which were clothed in the furs that found ready market at the best prices, from the aristocratic beaver to the humble musquash, were here in their natural habitat, and it is easily imagined that the coureur de bois found here and in the great forests his element. The good Fathers who exercised the influence which kept all lawlessness in check, were sometimes sorely perplexed and at their wits end to keep them under restraint, though we do not at this time, hear of any serious infractions of discipline or troubles due to their presence in the territory hereabouts.


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But in considering the coureur de bois as a factor and a social type we are perforce, brought face to face with the fur trade. As we have noticed, in viewing the characteristics of the early French settlers, who, in their savage environments of the rugged wilderness, they did not at first feel the impulse to laborious efforts in clearing the land any further than to enable them to grow on the small clearings which they made sufficient for their subsistence through each year, but relied more upon the rifle, musket or trap, a much more congenial and profitable occupation, for in the days of the coureur de bois, profits ruled high. Throughout the territory the beaver skin was the unit of value, being freely exchangeable for the “coins of the realm.'' When two beaver skins, bought at Frenchtown or Detroit for a comh or a looking glass, or a string of beads or a pint of red rum could be sold in Montreal or Three Rivers for a guinea (or twenty shillings sterling) sometimes more, it is no wonder that the trade in furs flourished at the expense of agriculture. (In 1690 the Hudson Bay Company paid a dividend of seventy-five per cent.) The fur trade, it is true had its vicissitudes, for the biography of La Salle shows what disappointments it could bring to the adventurer who trafficked with the Indians of the pays d'en haut. Nevertheless, it was not, we may surmise, that the coureur de bois would enter the wilderness solely in the expectation of great gains; but in reality the excitement of the game counted for something—perhaps for as much as the money consideration. He bore the reputation of being neither virtuous nor poetical nor practical and it is quite believable that the best pay he received was the opportunity to test his powers in wrestling with the obstacles he encountered. Had there been restraint, the attraction, the fascination would have disappeared; but to escape from the stifling restrictions of government control to indulge in the liberty and license of the forest—was not that temptation enough? Where else was there held out such promise of exciting and congenial pleasures? The coureur de bois was a product of Canada, and of the times in which he flourished --and the first risk which he ran was that of being punished by the government. In a community where wealth could be gained in no other way than through the fur trade, every one wished to traffic with the Indians. A large part of the trade thus carried on was an infringement of the monopoly, and therefore a breach of law.


A wise or consistent policy was not always followed in dealing with offenders, but it always placed restrictions of some kind on bartering for peltries, ranging from a complete prohibition of private trading, to the granting of a license at the Governor's discretion. As the King had a long arm, defiance of his authority and commands necessarily involved grave danger. Still, the coureur de bois had something to say in justification of his side of the argument, when told that he must not hunt in the forests at a distance of more than two or three miles from his hut, he reasonably asked how the King expected to extend his authority over the continent if no one explored it, and obviously exploration could not proceed without the help of trade. Whoever entered the lands of the Indian must carry presents, and unless the permission were given to trade, how could the costs of the expedition be met? Likewise, when the Church hurled anathemas at him for selling fire water, he replied: "If you prevent me from taking good brandy to the Indians is it that you want them to buy bad rum from the English and the Dutch ?”

One of the most ingenious arguments related to the question of faith. Addressing the missionaries he would say: “By making the Indians go south for rum, by cutting off the brandy you will throw them into the arms of the Calvinists. Therefore it is your fault if they become heretics.'


What ever the threats of the Governor and the Intendant, the official who stood next to the imperial ruler, they could never prevent a considerable part of the population from 'taking to the woods." Duchesneau (Intendant in 1680), who disliked the coureur de bois with an intensity amounting to hatred, stated that they numbered nearly eight hundred, which was one third the total number of adult males in the Province, which is thought to be an error or an exaggeration. Still, it must be remembered that the demand for stalwart men among the popu-. lation made it seem an unmitigated wrong that a man should desert civilization for the hardships of life in the wilderness. If he remained at home, he would found a family and raise up valiant sons to resist the Iroquois and English. Both church and state were very much more concerned that there should be a progeny of valiant habitants at home than that Wisconsin and Michigan and the country around the great lakes should be peopled with a "mongrel” race.

Just how far the glories of nature appealed to the coureur in reality, is a matter difficult to determine. When these swearing, hard drinking Frenchmen of the seventeenth century careered over the grand waters of Huron and Superior and plowed their way in batteaux through the manifest streams and bays that abound in the west and entered the vast natural temples and archways of the primeval forests, they probably were not moved by emotions aroused by the grandeur of the scenes through which they passed. But they loved the wilderness, and paid it the compliment of living there until their health failed or death ended it.

Parkman, who gave to the woods the intense affection of an enthusiastic lover of nature, and wrote some of his most admirable lyrics upon the theme, concluded, after a study in his most earnest manner, that "the coureur de bois loved the woods because there he was emancipated from restraint." Probably he was right.


One naturally seeks for a representative of any type which may interest him, and in the type of the coureur de bois, there suggests very forcibly a man who stands for the best characteristic, and almost alone, but who is the preeminent choice of those who wish to believe in the best

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of this unique personality. This is Daniel Grésolon, Sieur DuLhut, (known to the reader of today, as Duluth, the founder of that thriving city at the head of the unsalted seas.'') In the city of Montreal, in one of the best quarters of the city, on the Place d'Armes, upon a prominent building near Notre Dame church, there is to be seen a bronze tablet bearing this inscription: “In 1675, here lived Daniel de Grésolon, Sieur DuLhut, one of the explorers of the Upper Mississippi; after whom the city of Duluth is named.

Here DuLhuť settled after his arrival from his birthplace, St. Germain-en-Laye, France, where he was enrolled in the Royal Guard, a regiment whose privates even, were required to show quarterings on their crests. At the noted battle of Senef, he won honors for gallantry, beside his compatriot, Louis Hennepin, another of the adventurous Frenchmen who were attracted to New France and who was the first white man to gaze upon the wonders of Niagara, and who, also, wrote his impression of the varied attractions of Rivière aux Raisins, if, indeed it was not him who bestowed that poetic name upon the Frenchmen's well loved stream.

DuLhut, continuing to hold his military rank, and to draw half pay, settled in Montreal and lived like a well-to-do citizen who had abandoned the career of a soldier, for business. Suddenly he sold his house and disappeared into the wilderness. His record is a good one and though he was a coureur de bois in the truer sense of the word than the young men who were given that name, he was evidently not in the forests solely for his health; he was a trader and an honorable one; he would neither cheat on his own part nor permit cheating by others, when he could prevent it; and so he won the confidence of the red men with whom he was constantly thrown. LaSalle, for some reason did not like DuLhut, and though they were in the same expedition, LaSalle was always inclined to belittle the efforts and achievements of DuLhut and magnify the importance and brilliancy of his own, manifesting a spirit of jealousy and injustice that seems foreign to the character of that great explorer.

After all, the coureur de bois seems to belong in a special sense to the young man who has about reached his majority, his impetuous haste to plunge into the unknown forest, and deal with the elements of nature at first hands, to indulge in the adventures and meet the perils of the grim woods, and to meet face to face with the mysteries which inhabited them-all these symptoms point to the facť that it was the young men who were found among the adventurous, lawless and dissolute of the coureurs de bois. If we follow the subject to investigate further, we shall discover other examples, besides DuLhut, who may come nearer the model which our minds or imaginations have set up, like Radisson, Grosseltius or Nicholas Perrot, Père and LeSueur and even some of the later days, who flourished along the Rivière aux Raisins, like young Daveneau, Pierre Nadeau and Papreau Duvall.


Of a type different from the courieur de bois, though resembling him in some of his characteristics, is the Voyageur, who, instead of being a "rover of the woods,” pursued his vocation of roaming over the waters of the northwest, the great lakes, and the streams which attended the adventurous explorers in search of advantageous sites for the fur trade, for the establishment of missions by the Jesuit missionaries, or for settlement by permanente habitants. The thoroughfares of these lakes and streams were constantly peopled by this moving throng of explorers, who, as Stevenson says, seemed to have a taste for "high, and what we call,

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JEAN BOUCHER A mail carrier between Sault Ste. Marie and Detroit in the primitive daysAn early day voyageur and guide. A half breed Chippewa born at Sault Ste. Marie.

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