Pierre and Jacques now made ready the canoe, and the journey to Michilimackinac began. When they reached Lake Michigan Marquette was only half conscious. While he lay on the robes piled in the bottom of the canoe, his faithful henchmen paddled furiously to reach their destination. But their efforts were in vain; Marquette saw that his end was approaching and bade them turn the canoe to land. And on May 19, 1675, on the bleak shore of Lake Michigan, this hero of the Cross, the greatest of the missionary explorers, entered into his rest. He was only thirty-eight; he had not finished his work; he had not realized his ambitions; but his memory lives, a force for good, as that of one who dared and endured and passionately followed the path of the setting sun.
THE LAST PHASE
The priests laboured on in their mission-fields from Cape Breton to the Mississippi and north towards Hudson Bay, wherever there were Indians. In the Iroquois country alone did they fail to establish themselves securely. The nearest neighbours of the Iroquois, the English of New York and New England, stirred by French and Indian raids on their borders and regarding all Frenchmen as enemies, did what they could to destroy the influence of the French priests and keep them out of the country. Lord Bellomont, governor of New York, even threatened to hang any priest found in his colony. Yet the Jesuits made another attempt in 1702; but it did not succeed, and a few years later the Iroquois mission was abandoned.
Among the Algonquin tribes the old dread of the priests had vanished and they were everywhere hailed as friends. They were no longer in danger of assassination, and, apart from the hardships inevitable to wilderness life, their lot was not an unpleasant one. Perhaps their worst enemy was the brandy traffic carried on by the coureurs de bois, which brought in its wake drunkenness, disease, licentiousness, and crime. The missionaries fought this evil, with the wholehearted support of Laval, the great bishop of Quebec, and of his successors. But for their opposition it is probable that the Indians in contact with the French would have been utterly swept away; as it was, brandy thinned their numbers quite as much as war. Some of the coureurs de bois, who displayed their wares and traded for furs at the mission stations, were almost as obnoxious to the priests as the brandy which they offered. Among them were many worthy men, like the great Du Lhut; but the majority were ‘white savages,’ whose conduct went far to nullify the teaching and example of the missionaries.
Thus the missions went on until the British came. For more than fifty years the conflict between the two nations for mastery continued intermittently; and finally in 1760 the French struck their flag and departed. The victors viewed the religious orders with distrust; they regarded the priests as political agents; and they passed an edict that such Jesuits and Recollets as were in Canada might remain and ’die where they are, but they must not add to their number.’ Of the Jesuits only twelve remained, and the last of these, Father Casot, died in 1800.