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MONSEIGNEUR DE LAVAL, of
the noble house of MontmorencyLaval, was one of the foremost men of the heroic age of New France. The history of his life is told by his works, lasting monuments, which stand to this day in the Province of Quebec. He ranks with Samuel de Champlain who laid the foundation of the political society, as the organizer of religious life in the new dominions of the King of France. The influence of the first bishop of Quebec went beyond his natural atmosphere, for, as member of the Conseil Souverain, he took an active part in shaping the political destinies of the country. It may be well
surmised that in this Council his views did not always coincide with those of his associates. This embryo Government was composed of the Governor,
the Bishop, the Intendant (who was a sort of Minister of Justice), and of several other members.
Long and desperate was his struggle with the Governors de Mesy, d'Avaugour, and d'Argenson. This antagonism reached its highest point when Laval came in contact with the haughty and tyrannical de Frontenac. These two opponents were well matched. If the master-mind of the Bishop, speaking in the interests of a superior order, could not be bent, neither would Frontenac, who, like Louis XIV., seemed to say: "L'Etat, c'est moi," make the least concession on the liquor question of the day. The Governor held that, in order to secure the fur trade with the Indians, it was necessary to let the colonist barter eau-de-vie for peltries, otherwise the savages would take their
stock over to New York and New England. Such an argument very naturally aroused the indignation of Laval, who considered the success of French trade, bought at the sacrifice of the poor Indian's soul, as immoral in the highest degree.
Four times did he cross the ocean to plead his case before the king,- the case of a client who would have rejoiced at an adverse decision. His success was only partial; the liquor traffic was restricted to the French settlements, and the Coureurs de bois forbidden to take any "fire water" with them in the forests for trade purposes. The honour cf having been the first Canadian prohibitionist can safely, we think, be claimed for Monseigneur de Laval.
It is not our purpose to set forth all the good works achieved by this great man. This study must be confined to the educator, to the founder of the institution which developed into the Laval University. The field opened to his zeal was immense. The diocese of Quebec stretched over a country larger than Europe: from the Atlantic shores to the boundless West, with undefined frontiers northwards. Numerous auxiliaries were required to conquer a new kingdom to Christianity. Education up to Laval's time had been in the hands of the Recollet fathers, Ursulines nuns, and the Sisters of La Congregation de Montreal. With these the requirements of the increasing colony could not be supplied, and the year 1663 saw the foundation of the classical institution of Le petit Seminaire de Quebec, to which was added a few years later the Grand Seminaire, where theology was taught, and which became later one of the faculties of the first Catholic University in America. Within the walls of this great institution a host of distinguished men have received their education: bishops, statesmen, men of letters, and members of parliament. Laval's activity and zeal knew no bounds, and his farseeing intelligence went forward to meet the wants of the country. In 1685 a model farm and a training
school for arts and trades, at St. Joachin, some thirty miles below Quebec, opened their doors, under his care and at his expense, to the youth of the colony. His affections were chiefly centered in the Quebec seminary, which he endowed in a princely manner. Among the lands willed over to his creation were the Seigniory of Beaupre, extending from the Montmorency River to la Riviere du Gouffre at Baie St. Paul, the Seigniory of the Isle Jesus, now the larger part of the County of Laval.
For thirty years after the laying of the corner-stone of the seminary fortune had smiled on Laval undertakings; the young institution was in a flourishing state when the wind of misfortune began to batter its walls. Just at the beginning of the eighteenth century a disastrous fire left nothing but the ruins of the work of the great bishop. It had hardly been rebuilt when it again (1705) became a prey to the devouring element. This double calamity saddened the declining years of Laval, who passed away in 1708.
There is still in existence a part of the Quebec seminary built during Mgr. de Laval's days. The walls are six feet thick, and strong enough to stand a siege- not against modern war engines though. The first two stories are arch-roofed, and the Seminary's archives are kept in that safe place. The late F. Parkman had access to them, and considered them most valuable. The author of l'Histoire de l'Amerique Septentrionde, Bacqueville de la Potherie, who wrote in 1722, has left us a description of this noble edifice, which was very large and very fine for a colonial institution. The old plan of Quebec, which we reproduce here, is taken from La Potherie.
We have now come to the darkest days in the history of the Quebec Seminary; the institution was most seriously involved; no help could be had from France; and what could be expected from the colony which, during the first half of the eighteenth century, was engaged in three wars with the neighbouring colonies! The last,
The Seven Years' War, with its six bloody campaigns, left the country in a desperate state; and after the capitulation of Montreal, when French power came to an end in Canada, when the civil government, and all those who could afford it, followed the Fleur de Lis flag to the Motherland, the destitution of Canada was beyond description. For many years after, the directors of the Quebec Seminary had to cope with such difficulties that posterity will wonder how they were successfully overcome. More than once famine stared the courageous priests in the face, and they had to reduce their scanty fare in order that the pupils' table might be supplied with food.
In the midst of their labours at home, the directors of the Seminary were untiring in their efforts to spread, far and wide, faith and education as well as French influence. Their zeal knew no bounds. In 1698 the unknown region of the West opened a vast field to their activity. On one fine July morning
the lower town of Quebec was all astir. The whole population had gathered on the river shore to witness the departure for the Illinois country of Messrs. de Montigny, Davion and Saint-Come, who were under orders to go and establish missions among the savages of that far-away land. Other apostles followed later on, and the cross was planted for the first time in the Illinois region, on the shores of the Ohio and of Mississippi. Forts Natchez and St. Louis, further south, were subsequently established by Messrs. Thaumur de la Source and Lemercier. Of these priests the celebrated historian Charlevoix wrote in 1772, "Formerly my disciples, they could to-day be my masters."
Towards the beginning of the last century it became Louisiana's turn to receive religious pioneers, hailing from New France. The parishes of SainteFamille and Sainte-Anne are indebted to Laval's foundation for their earliest
pastors. These migrations from north
to south continued until the year 1754, or almost up to the Seven Years' War. Louisiana was a dependency of the apostolic see of Quebec, and the bond which connected the city of Champlain with New Orleans was broken only after the Declaration of Independence. The Quebec Seminary had extensive properties in the South, but their rights to it were contested; to settle this difficulty, in 1857 the Seminary ceded all their claim to these lands to the bishop of Alton.
In Acadia, which was nearer home, Laval's disciples sent some of their members to different stations, such as Miramichi, Chedebouctou, Isle Royale.
Trouble and work increased with time. The Jesuits' College having been suppressed after the conquest of Canada, and the Sulpician's Seminary
not being yet in existence (it was only opened in 1773), the task of supplying superior education to the whole country devolved altogether on Laval's successors. Obstacles cropped up on all sides. In 1783 the Government propounded a scheme to establish a Protestant university, with the object of denationalizing the king's new subjects. To attempt to suppress a nation's language is to attack its very soul; and it became the duty of the patriotic followers of Laval to defeat this cruel project. The triumph was theirs, but how dearly bought!
Difficulties of many other kinds they had to encounter. Intercourse with France had been completely broken off after the conquest, and this want of communication with the parent country, coupled with the povertystricken state of Canada, brought on a scarcity of French books. Only the most important ones could be had. As to many classics, the pupils would bring them into the college copied by their own hand. The writer of this article remembers having perused, whilst a student of Laval in 1866, a manuscript translation of Homer's Iliad, the work of Joseph Papineau, father of the celebrated tribune. It was written in old French style, with round letters, but very legible. A sort of rough leather binding, evidently home-made, kept the leaves together.
It was also the custom in those days among the people to pay for board and tuition in nature. During the first September week it was no uncommon sight to see a habitant winding his way up Mountain Hill, accompanied by his son, both urging ahead of them a pair of steers towards the seminary, where
they were intended to represent the price of instruction of a future professional man or priest.
Better days, however, were in store for the oldest educational establishment in Canada. With the general development of the country, the resources of the Quebec Seminary increased, and its directors then carried out a long cherished scheme, the creation of a great Catholic University. This matter had long been discussed by the bishops and superiors of various institutions. As though foreseeing obstacles that were to loom up at no distant date, the Quebec priests expressed the opinion that Montreal, by far the richest and most populous city of Lower Canada, should be the seat of the university in preference to Quebec. But Montreal would not listen to this argument. The honour of dispensing the highest education, it was said, belonged to Quebec, the first harbour of Catholicity in North America, the mother of all churches in this hemisphere north of Mexico. Half persuaded, the directors of the seminary went to work with a will; all their resources, their wealth were thrown into the enterprise. Their simple life made this sacrifice very light, as every one will understand when they hear that, no matter what amount of money may stand to the credit of the institution, the directors and professors of Laval are entitled to an indemnity of only one hundred dollars a year, out of which they are expected to keep up their wardrobe.
In 1852 there arrived in Quebec a royal charter, giving life to the Laval University such as it exists to-day. In very little time four faculties were inworking or
der under the direction of the late Louis-Jacques Casault, its first rector, and the man who had been instrumental, with Lord Elgin's assistance, in obtaining Her Majesty's consent to the foundation of the new institution. Professors learned in law were sent to France to study. Doctors in medicine went from Quebec to London, Edinburgh and Paris to better qualify themselves in their new role. Following this general impetus given to science, regents in the classes of belleslettres crossed the ocean to attend lectures and conferences at la Sorbonne and other centres of learning. Within five years over a million dollars had been expended in buildings, fitting up museums, completing libraries, and making other improvements.
In a large main building commanding a most magnificent view of the St. Lawrence and St. Charles Rivers, with