Rival Traders thwart the Plans of the Discoverers—Entangled in Lawsuits, the two French Explorers go to England—The Organization of the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company—Radisson the Storm-centre of International Intrigue—Boston Merchants in the Struggle to capture the Fur Trade
Henceforth Radisson and Groseillers were men without a country. Twice their return from the North with cargoes of beaver had saved New France from ruin. They had discovered more of America than all the other explorers combined. Their reward was jealous rivalry that reduced them to beggary; injustice that compelled them to renounce allegiance to two crowns; obloquy during a lifetime; and oblivion for two centuries after their death. The very force of unchecked impulse that carries the hero over all obstacles may also carry him over the bounds of caution and compromise that regulate the conduct of other men. This was the case with Radisson and Groseillers. They were powerless to resist the extortion of the French governor. The Company of One Hundred Associates had given place to the Company of the West Indies. This trading venture had been organized under the direct patronage of the king. It had been proclaimed from the pulpits of France. Privileges were promised to all who subscribed for the stock. The Company was granted a blank list of titles to bestow on its patrons and servants. No one else in New France might engage in the beaver trade; no one else might buy skins from the Indians and sell the pelts in Europe; and one-fourth of the trade went for public revenue. In spite of all the privileges, fur company after fur company failed in New France; but to them Radisson had to sell his furs, and when the revenue officers went over the cargo, the minions of the governor also seized a share under pretence of a fine for trading without a license.
Groseillers was furious, and sailed for France to demand restitution; but the intriguing courtiers proved too strong for him. Though he spent 10,000 pounds, nothing was done. D’Avaugour had come back to France, and stockholders of the jealous fur company were all-powerful at court. Groseillers then relinquished all idea of restitution, and tried to interest merchants in another expedition to Hudson Bay by way of the sea. He might have spared himself the trouble. His enthusiasm only aroused the quiet smile of supercilious indifference. His plans were regarded as chimerical. Finally a merchant of Rochelle half promised to send a boat to Isle Percee at the mouth of the St. Lawrence in 1664. Groseillers had already wasted six months. Eager for action, he hurried back to Three Rivers, where Radisson awaited him. The two secretly took passage in a fishing schooner to Anticosti, and