[Statue of Frontenac at the National Assembly of Quebec]
Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac (May 12, 1622 to November 28, 1698) was the Governor General of New France from 1672 to 1682 and from 1689 to his death in 1698.
For his second term in New France, Frontenac, at 70 years of age, had instructions from the King to make war on the English and their Iroquois allies to conquer the English colonies in America. He was able to make a successful guerrilla campaign against the Iroquois and English settlements which resulted in the elimination of the Iroquois threat against New France.
On May 11, 1690, Sir William Phips, not yet made governor of Massachusetts, allowed the French governor at Port Royal to surrender on terms. “…the people were offered their lives and property on the condition of taking the oath to be loyal subjects of William and Mary. This many of them did and were left unmolested. It was a bloodless victory. But Phips, the Puritan crusader, was something of a pirate. He plundered private property and was himself accused of taking not merely the silver forks and spoons of the captive Governor but even his wigs, shirts, garters, and night caps. The Boston Puritans joyfully pillaged the church at Port Royal, and overturned the high altar and the images. The booty was considerable and by the end of May, Phips, a prosperous hero, was back in Boston.”*
On October 16, 1690, Sir William Phips, with twenty-two hundred men in forty ships reached Quebec with the intention to conquer it. Little did Phips know that Frontenac was a genius for the dramatic.
“When a boat under a flag of truce put out from the English ships, Frontenac arranged quickly for four canoes to meet it. The English envoy was placed blindfold in one of these canoes and was paddled to the shore. There two soldiers took him by the arms and led him over many obstacles up the steep ascent to the Chateau St. Louis. He could see nothing but could hear the beating of drums, the blowing of trumpets, the jeers and shouting of a great multitude in a town which seemed to be full of soldiers and to have its streets heavily barricaded. When the bandage was taken from his eyes he found himself in a great room of the Chateau. Before him stood Frontenac, in brilliant uniform, surrounded by the most glittering array of officers which Quebec could muster. The astonished envoy presented a letter from Phips. It was a curt demand in the name of King William of England for the unconditional surrender of all "forts and castles" in Canada, of Frontenac himself, and all his forces and supplies.
“On such conditions Phips would show mercy, as a Christian should. Frontenac must answer within an hour. When the letter had been read the envoy took a watch from his pocket and pointed out the time to Frontenac. It was ten o'clock. The reply must be given by eleven. Loud mutterings greeted the insulting message. One officer cried out that Phips was a pirate and that his messenger should be hanged. Frontenac knew well how to deal with such a situation. He threw the letter in the envoy's face and turned his back upon him. The unhappy man, who understood French, heard the Governor give orders that a gibbet should be erected on which he was to be hanged. When the Bishop and the Intendant pleaded for mercy, Frontenac seemed to yield. He would not take, he said, an hour to reply, but would answer at once. He knew no such person as King William. James, though in exile, was the true King of England and the good friend of the King of France. There would be no surrender to a pirate. After this outburst, the envoy asked if he might have the answer in writing. "No!" thundered Frontenac. "I will answer only from the mouths of my cannon and with my musketry!"”
Phips was unable to take Quebec despite his efforts. Nature in combination with French regulars who fought with militia and Indians to drive off his forces; and Phips ran short of ammunition. Then on October 23rd he sailed away to avoid the dangers of the St. Lawrence in late autumn.
“Frontenac led more than two thousand men in July, 1696 through the forest to destroy the villages of the Onondaga and the Oneida tribes of the Iroquois. On the journey from the south shore of Lake Ontario, the old man of seventy-five was unable to walk over the rough portages and fifty Indians shouting songs of joy carried his great canoe on their shoulders. When the soldiers left the canoes and marched forward to the fight, they bore Frontenac in an easy chair. He did not destroy his enemy, for many of the Indians fled, but he burned their chief village and taught them a new respect for the power of the French. It was the last great effort of the old warrior. In the next year, 1697, was concluded the Peace of Ryswick; and on November 28, 1698 Frontenac died at the Chateau St. Louis in his seventy-ninth year, a hoary champion of France's imperial designs.”**
Quebec’s most famous building and landmark, the Chateau Frontenac (on the location of the former Chateau St. Louis) is named after him.
[Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City]
TO BE CONTINUED
The Conquest of New France, Vol 10, by George M. Wrong, 1918, pp. *17, 19-21, **23.
Photo Credits: wikipedia.