[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Early History of Illinois

Sidney Breese

published by E. B. Myers & Company,
Chicago, 1884

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 7
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p98  Chapter VI

La Salle and Hennepin

On Joliet's return to Canada, Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle, a native of Rouen, in Normandy, one of those active, busy and restless spirits, who, having joined the Jesuits, sought fresh fields for adventure in the New World, was settled at the outlet of Lake Ontario, having become, by the king's grant, the lord proprietor of a vast domain there,1 which soon gave proofs of his energy and management in the improvements that flourished around him. He was a man of bold and ardent temperament, had signalized himself as an adventurer, and successful fur trader, and had the fame of one willing to undertake any enterprise which promised to result either in wealth or renown. He, too, like other inquisitive minds of that age, had speculated upon the western passage, but Joliet's narrative  p99 satisfied him that the downward course of the great river led to the Mexican gulf, yet he entertained a notion, that, by ascending it, he might find some stream rising in the north-west interlocking with a stream flowing to the Pacific, and thus he might discover the wished‑for passage, or by tracing the river itself to the gulf, acquire for himself that distinction he coveted, and for the king, his master, an embryo empire, or at least, to share dominion with his rival, Spain, whose banner had floated more than one hundred years over its waters.

To secure the approbation of his sovereign to these his designs, he repaired to France, and by the aid of Jean Baptiste Colbert, then the prime minister of the great monarch, Louis XIV, who was awake to the glory and renown of such an enterprise, he was successful and means furnished him from the royal purse by which to prosecute it, but not with that activity its magnitude demanded, for the old king was involved in expensive wars, and his exchequer far from rich.

Five years were consumed in preliminary arrangements, when in July, 1678, La Salle returned to Canada, and organized that memorable expedition, of which we have all heard, which  p100 has inscribed his name upon our statute book as a memorial of the honor due him; a just tribute to his daring and enterprise, and enrolled him high on the lists of fame.

To take possession of this valley by the authority of a monarch, whose adventurous subject had first entered it, no military array was deemed necessary, inasmuch as at the time the project was matured, frequent visits of the Jesuit missionaries into the upper portions of it had disarmed it of many of its terrors.

A company of thirty men, Canadian voyageurs and hunters for the most part, was the whole force embodied, with the Chevalier Henry de Tonty, who had lost his right hand in battle, and had seen some service in the Italian wars, a brave, hardy, faithful and intrepid soldier, the second in command;2 and three bare-footed, gray-coated friars of the mendicant order of St. Francis: Father Louis Hennepin, the first in rank among them, Gabriel de La Ribourde, venerable for his age, and long and unwearied missionary labors, and the pious and amiable Zénobe Membré, all Recollects, and all eager for such an opportunity to scatter the bread of life among the heathen of this distant hemisphere.

The Editor's Notes:

1 See Appendix B.

[decorative delimiter]

2 See Appendix C.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 11 Sep 16