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De Monts, Sieur (Pierre De Gast)

was a wealthy Huguenot, who was commissioned viceroy of New France, with full powers to settle and rule in a region extending over six degrees of latitude, from Cape May to Quebec. The domain was named Cadie in the charter (see Acadia). Vested with the monopoly of the fur-trade in the region of the river and gulf of St. Lawrence, they attempted to make a settlement on the former. Making arrangements with Champlain as chief navigator, De Monts sailed from France in March, 1604, with four ships, well manned, accompanied by his bosom friend, the Baron de Poutrincourt, and Pont-Greve as his lieutenants; and finding the St. Lawrence icebound, on his arrival early in April, he determined to make a settlement farther to the southward. The ships also bore a goodly company of Protestant and Roman Catholic emigrants, with soldiers, artisans, and convicts. There were several Jesuits in the company. Passing around Cape Breton and the peninsula of Nova Scotia into the Bay of Fundy, they anchored in a fine harbor on the northern shore of that peninsula early in May. Poutrincourt was charmed with the country, and was allowed to remain with a part of the company, while De Monts, with the remainder, seventy in number, went to Passamaquoddy Bay, and on an island near the mouth of the St. Croix, built a fort, and there spent a terribly severe winter, that killed half of them.

In the spring they returned to Poutrincourt's settlement, which he had named Port Royal—now Annapolis, N. S. Early the next autumn De Monts and Poutrincourt returned to France, leaving Champlain and Pont-Greve to make further explorations. There was a struggle for rule and existence at Port Royal for a few years. Poutrincourt returned to France for recruits for his colony. Jesuit [81] priests who accompanied him on his return to Acadia (Nova Scotia) claimed the right to supreme rule by virtue of their holy office. Poutrincourt resisted their claim stoutly, saying, “It is my part to rule you on earth; it is your part to guide me to heaven.” When he finally left Port Royal (1612) in charge of his son, the Jesuit priests made the same claim on the fiery young Poutrincourt, who threatened them with corporal punishment, when they withdrew to Mount Desert Island and set up a cross in token of sovereignty. They were there in 1613, when Samuel Argall, a freebooter of the seas, went, under the sanction of the governor of Virginia, to drive the French from Acadia as intruders on the soil of a powerful English company. The Jesuits at Mount Desert, it is said, thirsting for vengeance, piloted Argall to Port Royal. He plundered and burned the town, drove the inhabitants to the woods, and broke up the settlement. Unable to contend with the English company, De Monts abandoned Acadia and proposed to plant a colony on the St. Lawrence River, under the direction of Champlain and Pont-Greve. But his monopoly was partially revoked in 1608. Under the auspices of a company of merchants at Dieppe and St. Malo, settlements were begun at Quebec and Montreal. Soon afterwards the fortune of De Monts was so much reduced that he could not pursue his scheme of colonization, and it was abandoned.

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