To me, it is simply astounding—and that is putting it mildly—that any one pretending to have read Radisson’s Journal can accuse him of “claiming” to have “descended to the salt sea” (Gulf of Mexico). Radisson makes no such claim; and to accuse him of such is like building a straw enemy for the sake of knocking him down, or stirring up muddy waters to make them look deep. The exact words of Radisson’s narrative are: “We went into ye great river that divides itself in 2, where the hurrons with some Ottauake . . . had retired. . . . This nation have warrs against those of the Forked River . . . so called because it has 1 branches the one towards the west, the other towards the South, wch. we believe runns towards Mexico, by the tokens they gave us . . . they told us the prisoners they take tells them that they have warrs against a nation . . . that have great beards and such knives as we have” . . . etc., etc., etc. . . . “which made us believe they were Europeans.” This statement is no claim that Radisson went to Mexico, but only that he met tribes who knew tribes trading with Spaniards of Mexico. And yet, on the careless reading of this statement, one historian brands Radisson as a liar for “having claimed he went to Mexico.” The thing would be comical in its impudence if it were not that many such misrepresentations of what Radisson wrote have dimmed the glory of his real achievements.
The Success of the Explorers arouses Envy—It becomes known that they have heard of the Famous Sea of the North—When they ask Permission to resume their Explorations, the French Governor refuses except on Condition of receiving Half the Profits—In Defiance, the Explorers steal off at Midnight—They return with a Fortune and are driven from New France
Radisson was not yet twenty-six years of age, and his explorations of the Great Northwest had won him both fame and fortune. As Spain sought gold in the New Word, so France sought precious furs. Furs were the only possible means of wealth to the French colony, and for ten years the fur trade had languished owing to the Iroquois wars. For a year after the migration of the Hurons to Onondaga, not a single beaver skin was brought to Montreal. Then began the annual visits of the Indians from the Upper Country to the forts of the St. Lawrence. Sweeping down the northern rivers like wild-fowl, in far-spread, desultory flocks, came the Indians of the Pays d’en Haut. Down the Ottawa to Montreal, down the St. Maurice to Three Rivers, down the Saguenay and round to Quebec, came the treasure-craft,—light fleets of birch canoes laden to the water-line with beaver skins. Whence came the wealth that revived the languishing trade of New France? From a vague, far Eldorado