SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN: Father of New France by Samuel Eliot Morison

SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN: Father of New France

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The life of Samuel de Champlain (1570?-1635) in a lively narrative. After his first trading voyage to Canada and a failed effort to make Acadia the center of New France, he founded Quebec and continued his explorations -- finding nothing worthwhile on the New England coast. As Morison stresses, he was both a wise administrator and a brave adventurer. He married a Parisian and returned to Canada for western exploration and Indian fighting. At home there were intrigues like those surrounding foreign trade at the court of Elizabeth; but unlike the English and their settlements, ""almost nobody in France cared a tinker's dam about making poor Canada anything but a string of summertime trading posts."" Some of the most interesting material deals with the Indians: Champlain used friendly local tribes as ""a hedge"" against Iroquois attacks; he often said some Canadian tribes would make good French peasants -- and then there was one proud Algonquin tribe which ""had no idea of giving up their strategic position [on the Ottawa] comparable to that of the medieval robber barons on the Rhine."" Morison has navigated some of these waters himself while in search of Champlain, but the emphasis is less aquatic then moralistic, with praise for Champlain's personal virtues and denunciations of today's youth. Though it boasts no fullblown ""thesis,"" there are passing historical corrections of, for instance, the notion that the British wooed the Mohawks while Champlain alienated them, and the representation in Champlain's battle drawings of Indians fighting naked (""they never did""). These drawings, Champlain's maps, and the other illustrations are very engaging -- the book may even succeed in inducing the reader to look into Champlain's own writings, described in the text and the bibliography.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1972
Publisher: Little, Brown