Pictures and Illustrations.
APPENDIX A. Biographical sketch of Nicolas Perrot; condensed from the notes of Father Tailhan.
[The following sketch of Perrot's life is condensed from Tailhan's notes on the explorer's narrative, pages 257-279, 301-308 (see present work, volume i, note 178), and 319-336, of the original publication. This account is given as far as possible in Tailhan's own language, and includes all his statements of facts; but his long citations from La Potherie and others are omitted, as also various unimportant comments and details.]
"We would know [from his memoirs] absolutely nothing about the family of our author, the year and the place of his birth, his youth, and his first expeditions among the savages of the west, if Charlevoix and La Potherie had not, at least in part, made amends for his silence. In this note I have brought together the somewhat scanty records for which we are indebted to them, and of which they too often leave us in ignorance of the exact date. Nicolas Perrot, born in 1644, came (I know not in what year) to New France. He belonged to a respectable but not wealthy family; accordingly, after he had obtained some smattering of knowledge he found that he must break off his studies, in order to enter the service of the missionaries. The Jesuits, at that time dispersed afar among the savage peoples whom war and famine vied in destroying, had soon realized that they could not without rashness place themselves, as regards their subsistence, at the mercy of the poor Indians in the midst of whom they were living. It was therefore necessary for them, as well as for their neophytes, to seek their daily food from hunting, fishing, and agriculture. These toils, to which their earlier education had left them strangers, were besides incompatible with the functions of their ministry. The few European coadjutor brethren who were included in their number being almost as unskilled in these pursuits as were the missionaries themselves, the latter took as associates some young men of the country, who, either gratuitously or for a salary, consented to share their dangers, fatigues, and privations, and made provision for their needs. Fathers Mesnard (Relation of 1663, chap. viii), Allouez (id of 1667, chap. xvi), Marquette (Récit, chap. i), and
250many others before or after them, had for companions of their apostolic journeys a certain number of these donnés or engagés. It is among these latter that Perrot was enrolled, which gave him the opportunity to visit most of the indigenous tribes and to learn their languages (Charlevoix, Histoire, vol. i, 437). What was the exact duration of this sort of apprenticeship? I do not know, but it could not have lasted very long. We know, indeed, through La Potherie (Histoire, vol. ii, 88, 89) that Perrot was the first to visit the Poutéouatamis, in order to trade with them in ‘iron’ -- that is, in arms and munitions of war. At that time, therefore, he had already quitted the service of the missionaries. But this voyage could not have been made later than 1665; since, on the one hand, Perrot went from the Poutéouatamis and arrived among the Outagamis in the very year following the settlement of this latter tribe in the neighborhood of the Sakis and the Bay (La Potherie, Histoire, vol. ii, 99), and, on the other, this migration of the Outagamis was accomplished by the year 1665 (Relation of 1667, chap. x). We are then necessarily led to assign to Perrot's engagement a length of only four or five years at most (from 1660 to 1664 or 1665); for we can hardly suppose that Perrot became companion to the missionaries before his sixteenth year." The statement that he was the first Frenchman to visit the Poutéouatamis (who had been settled at the entrance to Green Bay since 1638) seems to conflict with the other one (Relation of 1660, chap. iii) that they had been visited by two Frenchmen in 1654; but La Potherie may refer to only one of the villages of that tribe, the one farthest up the bay. But, however that may be, "it is certain that before 1670 Perrot made several journeys among the various tribes of the Bay of Puans and of Wisconsin. . . Perrot was not a common trader, occupied solely with his own interests and those of his employers. From the beginning of his career he realized how important it was to the Colony and to France to see all the peoples of the west united together against their common enemy, the Iroquois. Accordingly, having learned on his arrival among the Poutéouatamis that hostilities had already broken out between those Indians and their neighbors the Maloumines or wild-rice people, from whom his hosts feared an attack -- all the more to be dreaded just then because all their warriors were at Montreal trading -- he offered to go in person to negotiate peace with their enemies. This proposition was welcomed with gratitude by the old men of the tribe, and Perrot immediately set out to execute his mission." (See La Potherie's Histoire,
251vol. ii, 90-98, for account of this embassy and its success, and Perrot's welcome by the grateful Poutéouatamis.) "These attentions, these marks of honor, and these enthusiastic demonstrations were not as disinterested as might be supposed. Perrot somewhere observes that in their traffic with Europeans the savages are such only in name, and can employ more skilfully than they the means most certain for securing their own ends. The object which in this case they proposed to attain was to gain the confidence of Perrot and the merchants of the colony, to bring the French among themselves to the exclusion of other peoples, and thus to become the necessary middlemen for the commerce of New France with all the Indians of the west. It was with this purpose that they sought to prevent, as far as possible, the establishment of direct relations between Perrot and the more remote tribes, by hastening to send deputies to those tribes, commissioned to inform them of the alliance of the Poutéouatamis with the French, the voyage of the former to Montreal, and their return with a great quantity of merchandise -- for which they invited those distant peoples to come and exchange their furs. But if they had an object Perrot had also his own, from which he did not allow himself to turn aside. His patriotism and his adventurous spirit urged him on to visit for himself the various tribes of the Bay and of adjoining regions; and in dealing with them personally he endeavored to attach them to himself and to France, and he accomplished this in the course of the following years.
"The Outagamis or Renards, driven from their ancient abodes by fear of the Iroquois, had taken refuge at a place called Ouestatinong, twenty-five or thirty leagues from the Bay of Puans, toward the southwest (Relation of 1670, chap. xii). The exact time of this migration is not known to us. What is certain is, that (1) it took place after 1658, since the Outagamis do not figure in the enumeration of the peoples of the Bay and of Mechingan given in the Relation of that year (chap. v); and (2) that it was already made at the end of 1665 (cf. supra). This tribe, of Algonquin race, were relatives and allies of the Sakis, whose language they spoke (Relation of 1667, chap. x; id. of 1670, chap. xii; Perrot, 154). This is why they sent, in the spring of the year which followed their new settlement, deputies commissioned to announce to the latter tribe their arrival. The Sakis, in their turn, resolved to despatch some chiefs as ambassadors to congratulate the Outagamis on their coming to that region, and to entreat them not to move any farther. Perrot did not let slip this
252opportunity to visit a tribe which until then had had no intercourse with the French (La Potherie, Histoire, vol. ii, 99, 173). It will be easy for us to follow him, thanks to Fathers Allouez and Dablon, who soon afterward made the same voyage, and have given us a curious and circumstantial narrative of their itinerary (Relation of 1670, chap. xii; id. of 1671, 3rd part, chap. v)." This voyage was up the Fox River to Lake Winnebago, thence up the upper Fox and the Wolf Rivers to the Outagami village. Perrot also made a journey to the Maskoutens and Miamis, who had fled for refuge to the upper Fox River, above the Wolf. "It is to be believed that, in the course of these few years, Perrot made still other voyages; but the two which I have just narrated are the only ones on which the old historians of Canada have furnished me any information. I will content myself, therefore, with adding to what has gone before the fact that when Perrot returned to the colony with the Ottawa fleet , he had already visited the greater number of the savage tribes of the west; and that he had gained their confidence so far that he persuaded them to do whatever he wished (Charlevoix, Histoire, vol. i, 436). The Algonquins loved and esteemed him (Perrot, 119); and the various tribes of the bay honored him as their father (La Potherie, Histoire, vol. ii, 173, 175). In a word, he was the man best prepared in all New France for discharging the mission which Monsieur de Courcelles was soon to entrust to him (Charlevoix, ut supra)."
"After this very inglorious campaign  Perrot actually returned to the Puante River, in the seigniory of Becancourt, where from 1681 (as the census of that year shows us) he had possessed a dwelling and a land-grant of eighteen arpents. At that same time Perrot had been married about ten years, since the eldest of his six children was then fully nine years old. Although Perrot had inherited, in right of his wife, Madeleine Raclos, a considerable amount of property, his affairs were none the less much embarrassed in the present year 1684. We allow him to explain the matter himself, in a letter to Monsieur de Saint Martin, one of his creditors, and notary-royal at Cap de la Madeleine:
From the Puante River, this twentieth of August, 1684. MONSIEUR: I have received your letter, by which I see that you demand what is quite just. I would not have delayed so long to visit you and all those to whom I am indebted, if I had brought in the peltries which I left behind on account of the orders given me to come to the war... if I had those in my possession, I would be bolder than I
253am to go to find my creditors; but as I brought back nothing, even to pay for the merchandise [that I carried out], for fear of being punished for disobedience, I am ashamed. That will not prevent me from going down to Quebec to procure merchandise; if I bring back goods that suit you, you will dispose of them; if not, I will try to satisfy your claim in some other way, if I can. I am not the only one who has come down without bringing back anything. I expected to go to the Cap [de la Madeleine], in order to give you proof of what I am writing to you; but Monsieur de Villiers is sending me with some letters to Quebecq, which obliges me to give up going to see you until after my return. Believe me, I intend to give you satisfaction, or I could not do so. Your very humble servant, N. PERROT.
In the course of the following years, the condition of affairs caused only more troubles for Perrot and for many others. The Iroquois closed all the passages, and no longer permitted the fleets of the Ottawas and the Canadian voyageurs to come down to the colony with their peltries, from which sprang universal poverty and misery. Monsieur de Champigny, intendant of New France, wrote in his despatch of August 9, 1688 (in the archives of the Marine): ‘The merchants are still in a most deplorable condition; all their wealth has been in the woods for the last three or four years. It is impossible for them to avoid being considerably indebted in France; and, in a word, when the fur-trade fails for one year, very fortunate is he who has bread.’, While awaiting a favorable opportunity for transporting to Montreal the produce of his trading, Perrot had deposited it in the buildings of St. François Xavier mission, at the Bay of Puans; but while he followed the Marquis de Denonville in his expedition against the Tsonnontouan Iroquois, a fire consumed the church, the adjoining buildings, and the 40,000 livres' worth of peltries which Perrot had left there (La Potherie, Histoire, vol. ii, 209)." [For Perrot's activities in 1685-1686, see volume i, note 178 -- ED.]
On returning to the colony, Perrot endeavored to retrieve his ruinous losses of property by a new trading voyage to the west; and he obtained from Denonville the same office, with nearly the same authority, as that which La Barre had conferred on him. Probably in the autumn of 1687, he went to Green Bay, and thence to the upper Mississippi, to the fort which he had built there a few years before. While there, he traded with the Dakotas, and persuaded them to permit his taking possession of that region for France (1689). He returned to Montreal, on the way stopping at Michillimakinak and procuring the release of some Iroquois prisoners whom the Ottawas were about to burn at the stake; and the latter sent with him one of
254their chiefs to deliver the rescued captives to the governor. But soon after their arrival at Montreal an Iroquois army surprised (Aug. 25, 1689) the village of Lachine, massacred or captured Its inhabitants, and ravaged Montreal Island. The French and the friendly Indians were overcome with fear, and the savages of the upper country were filled with contempt for the French, and the desire to protect themselves from danger by concluding a peace with the Iroquois and the English; knowing that this would be ruinous to the French colony, La Durantaye and the Jesuit missionaries at Michillimakinak labored to retain the Indians in the French alliance. Fortunately at this crisis, Count de Frontenac arrived at Quebec (Oct. 12, 1689), and immediately formed a plan to draw all the Algonquian tribes into an offensive alliance with the French against the Iroquois; to gain over to this the tribes of the northwest, he sent Perrot (May 22, 1690) with presents as his envoy to them -- an undertaking in which the latter was successful. Frontenac sent armies against the Iroquois, into their own country, and thus broke up their previous mastery of the St. Lawrence route; so that in 1693 a fleet of two hundred Ottawa canoes brought down to Montreal 800,000 livres worth of peltries. In 1692, Perrot received orders to go to reside among the Miamis of the Marameg River, at the same time, however, apparently retaining his authority over the tribes about Green Bay; he was sent thither "on account of its being important to maintain that post against the new expeditions which the Iroquois might make in that quarter" (Letter of CalliÄres, Oct. 27, 1695). Indeed, in that very year a band of Iroquois had endeavored to surprise the Miamis there; but the latter, with the aid of the French at the post (under command of Courtemanche) had repulsed the enemy. In the summer of the same year Perrot had gone to Montreal with chiefs of the various tribes under his control, who were received in audience by Frontenac. The governor urged the Miamis of the Marameg to unite with their tribesmen on the St. Joseph; under the influence of Frontenac and Perrot they seem to have consented, although somewhat reluctantly, to this removal. During the next few years Perrot had much to do with the western tribes, and encountered many adventures and even dangers. "The principal occupation of our author was, as before, to maintain harmony and peace among those tribes, always ready to tear one another in pieces, and to urge them to wage war against the Iroquois. That was a work as thankless as difficult, because it was hardly accomplished when it became necessary to begin it again on some new ground, so inconstant
255and fickle is the will of those peoples, whose ‘wild young men, who are braves without discipline or any appearance of subordination, at the first glance or the first brandy debauch overthrow all the deliberations of the old men, who are no longer obeyed’ (Letter of Denonville, May 8, 1686)." This fickleness was often displayed against even Perrot, whose property was seized by them, and who even was in danger of being burned at the stake by the Maskoutens (about 1693) and again by the Miamis (in 1696). In the latter case, chiefs from the other tribes offered their services to Frontenac to avenge the injuries of Perrot; but he knew their hatred to the Miamis, and discreetly declined this proposal. The governor was a firm friend of Perrot, and if he had lived would doubtless have enabled him to recoup his losses; but the death of Frontenac (November 28, 1698) deprived Perrot of a protector, and about the same time the court of France abolished the trading permits and ordered that the posts at Michillimakinak and St. Joseph be abandoned, and all the French soldiers and traders recalled to the colony (Letter of Champigny, Oct. 15, 1698; in archives of the Marine). As a result, Perrot was "completely ruined, and harassed by numerous creditors;" and his appeals to both the colonial and the royal governments were rejected -- although CalliÄres suggested that the latter grant a small pension to relieve the poverty of the unfortunate explorer, a request which seems to have been entirely ignored. But the same neglect was experienced by other faithful servants of the French cause -- for instance, La Durantaye and Jolliet, who were reduced to the same extremity (see Raudot's "List of those interested in the Company of Canada," 1708; in archives of the Marine).
In the summer of 1701 Perrot was called to act as interpreter at a general conference of the Indian tribes that was held there. On this occasion those of the west who had been under his command entreated the governor to send him back to them, and displayed the utmost esteem and affection for him; this request was made by the Potawatomi chief, Ounanguissé, the Outagami chief, Noro, and the orator of the Ottawas and their allies, but was met only by vague promises, which were never fulfilled. See La Potherie, Histoire, vol. iv, 212-214, 257. The Marquis de Vaudreuil, who succeeded CalliÄres as governor, was fortunately always a warm friend of Perrot and his family, and seems to have conferred on the former a command in the militia of the seigniories on the St. Lawrence, which carried with it a small salary and comparatively light duties. The leisure thus obtained by Perrot
256was spent largely in writing his various memoirs. He was still living in 1718, as is evident from his allusion at the end of chap. xxvii to Louvigny's expeditions (1716, 1717) to punish and afterward pacify the Outagamis. Further information regarding Perrot's later years is not available. "In his humble sphere, he always proved himself brave, loyal, and devoted; and as a writer he was, although without doubt unpolished and unskilful, yet honest -- one who has in his memoirs known how to speak of himself without boasting, and of others without fawning, without jealousy, and without vilification." "The memoir that we have just published is the only one of all Perrot's writings which has reached us." From allusions therein, it is evident that he also wrote (1) a memoir on the Outagamis, addressed to Vaudreuil; and (2) several memoirs on the wars between the Iroquois and the western tribes, and on the various acts of treachery committed by the Indians, especially by the Hurons and Ottawas. -- TAILHAN.
An interesting and well-written sketch of Perrot's life forms no. 1 of the Parkman Club Papers (Milwaukee, 1896); it was prepared by Gardner P. Stickney. He has based it mainly on Tailhan's notes, but has collected other mention and minor details from Charlevoix, Parkman, Neill, and other writers. -- ED.