Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix

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Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, S.J.
Pierre François Xavier Charlevoix.jpg
Born (1682-10-29)29 October 1682
Saint-Quentin, Picardy, Kingdom of France
Died 1 February 1761(1761-02-01) (aged 78)
La Flèche, Maine
Kingdom of France
Nationality French
Ethnicity French
Occupation Catholic priest, professor, historian, author, explorer
Known for Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France
Religion Catholic (Society of Jesus)

Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, S.J., (24 October 1682 – 1 February 1761)[1] was a French Jesuit priest, traveller and historian, often distinguished as the first historian of New France,[2] which then occupied much of North America known to Europeans.

According to Louise Phelps Kellogg,[who?] “Charlevoix was not of the temper of the earlier Jesuits of New France. He was by no means a zealot, and had no vocation to deliver himself to a life of suffering and deprivation for the conversion of Indian souls. Rather, he was a man of scholarly temper, interested as an observer in world affairs. […] His was an eager curiosity concerning life, rather than a burning ambition to be himself a moulder of destiny.”[3]

Early life[edit]

Jesuit College in Quebec

Charlevoix was born at Saint-Quentin in the province of Picardy. A descendant from a line of lesser nobility, his father held the post of deputy attorney general, and ancestors had served in positions in “great trust and high responsibility”[4] such as legal officers, aldermen, and mayors.[5] In 1698 at age 16 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Paris.[6] Between 1705 and 1709 Charlevoix was sent for his period of training in the Society called the regency to the Jesuit College in Quebec in the French colony of Canada.[7][8] Upon completion of this stage of his training, he returned to Paris to study at the College Louis-le-Grand before becoming a professor of belles lettres. One of his students was the young Voltaire,[9] who later developed strong views on New France (see A few acres of snow).

Charlevoix was ordained as a priest in 1713. In 1715, he published his first complete work, on the establishment and progress of the Catholic Church in Japan, adding extensive notes on the manners, customs, and costumes of the inhabitants of the Empire and its general political situation, and on the topography and natural history of the region.

Travels[edit]

Charlevoix’ work was halted by a royal commission requesting a survey of the historic boundaries of Acadia, recently lost to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht(1713).[10] However, his knowledge of colonial North America led to an extension of his assignment, now to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. Having recently lost control of the Hudson Bay and lacking funds for a major expedition, the French Crown equipped Charlevoix with two canoes, eight companions, and basic merchandise.[11]

Charlevoix returned to Quebec in 1720. From there, he set out for the colony of Saint-Domingue via the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes to Michilimackinac, where he made an excursion to the bottom of Green Bay. He then voyaged along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, trying to reach the Illinois River by from the Chicago, but the shallowness of the water forced him up the St. Joseph to the headwaters of the Theakiki, whose waters fall into the Illinois River, and then to the Mississippi.

Charlevoix went down this river to its mouth and visited the Illinois country . The ship on which he embarked to go from there to Saint-Domingue was wrecked at the entrance of the Bahama Channel. Charlevoix and his companions returned to Mississippi, along the coast of Florida.

Charlevoix' second trip to Saint-Domingue was more fortunate. He arrived in the colony at the beginning of September 1722, set out again at the end of that month, and landed at Havre on December 24.

Charlevoix' records of local geography were later used to improve regional maps. Ultimately unsuccessful in reaching the Pacific, he reported upon his return in 1722 of two possible routes: by the Missouri River "whose source is certainly not far from the sea”, or by the establishment of a mission in Sioux territory, from which contact with tribes further west may have been possible.[12] The purpose of the voyage, according to Charlevoix, was to “inquire about the Western Sea, but [to] still give the impression of being no more than a traveler or missionary.”[13] Charlevoix kept a record of the entire voyage, the Journal d’un voyage fait par l’ordre du Roi dans l’Amérique Septentrionale de la Nouvelle France”[14]

Later life[edit]

In later years (1733–1755) Charlevoix was one of the directors of the Journal de Trévoux, a monthly journal of literature, history, and science. In 1744 he published his History of New France, drawing on various authors as well as his own observations, thus providing the most comprehensive book on the history and geography of the French colony. His death, at La Flèche on 1 February 1761, prevented him from progressing his history of New France beyond 1736.

Legacy[edit]

Many places are named after him, listed here.

The region of Charlevoix near Quebec City is one, as are and Charlevoix County and its county seat Charlevoix, Michigan in the state of Michigan. A Montreal Metro station named after him.

Works[edit]

Charlevoix' works, enumerated in the Bibliographie des Peres de la Compagnie de Jesus (Bibliography of Jesuit Priests) by Carlos Sommervogel, fall into two groups. Several of his works have maps by the French philosophe (Enlightenment intellectual) and engineer Jacques-Nicolas Bellin, which represent the most accurate material of the time.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-Francois-Xavier De. Journal of a Voyage to North America. London: Dodsley., 1761. XV.
  2. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 1.
  3. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-Francois-Xavier De. Journal of a Voyage to North America. London: Dodsley., 1761. XV.
  4. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 1.
  5. ^ "Pierre François Xavier De Charlevoix." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. Accessed February 19, 2012. http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=35371.
  6. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 1.
  7. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 2.
  8. ^ " The professors all came from France. Scholastics, students of theology, came in their twenties to teach the grammar classes for 2 or 3 years before returning to France. The priests came in their thirties and spent at least a quarter century in New France, alternating between their roles as professor and missionary to the natives. Some devoted themselves entirely to education. The college had among its professors Father Pierre-François-Xavier de CHARLEVOIX, once Voltaire's master, whoseHistoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France was published in Paris in 1744." Collège des Jésuites in The Canadian Encyclopedia]
  9. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 2.
  10. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 2.
  11. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 3.
  12. ^ "Pierre François Xavier De Charlevoix." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2000. Accessed February 19, 2012. http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=35371
  13. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 4.
  14. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 4.
  15. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 6.
  16. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-Francois-Xavier De. Journal of a Voyage to North America. London: Dodsley., 1761. XXIII
  17. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 5.
  18. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 5.
  19. ^ Charlevoix, Pierre-François-Xavier De. History and General Description of New France. Translated by John Gilmary Shea. Vol. 1. New York: John Gilmary Shea, 1866. 4.