Lalemant’s Relation from Canada for the year 1647

CANADA. Lalemant, Jérôme, S.J. (1593-1673)

Relation de ce qui s'est passé de plus remarquable és missions des pères de la Compagnie de Jésus, en la Nouvelle France, sur le grand fleuve de S. Laurens en l'année 1647 envoyée au R.P. provincial de la province de France

Paris: Chez Sebastien Cramoisy, imprimeur ordinaire du Roy, & de la Reyne, 1648


Octavo: 17 x 11 cm. [8], 276 p. a4, A-Q8, R4, S8 (-S7-8 blank.)


Bound in contemporary limp vellum, a little stained. Text in very good condition, variable light browning. First four leaves re-margined very small worm-trail in blank lower margin from sig. Q on, one paper repair (no loss), a few trivial spots. Provenance: Adrien Barrère (faded collector’s stamp on title.) This is variant 4 (no. 66) in McCoy's Jesuit relations of Canada, 1632-1673, in which p. 166, last line ends "mon cher amy le" and Lallemant's letter is dated (p. 5) "647."

First edition of this rare and important Jesuit relation from Canada, with an account of the Iroquois, missionary activities and martyrdom of Isaac Jogues in 1647.

“Lalemant begins the Relation proper by describing the treachery of the Iroquois — the Mohawks, who had made peace with the French a year before, being the first to break it, and persuading the other Iroquois tribes to attack the French. Father Jogues goes on a third expedition to the Iroquois, to open a mission among them. Hardly has he reached them, ere he dies by their hands (October 18, 1646). Lalemant proceeds to describe the subsequent incursions of the Iroquois, and their cruel treatment of their captives; on one of these raids, the Christian chief Pieskaret is slain. He also narrates the trial and hardships endured by several Algonkin women who escaped their hands, and succeeded in reaching Quebec. Some Algonkins also succeed, on one occasion, in surprising and killing a party of Iroquois.”(Thwaites, Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. 30)

Born in Paris in 1593, Jérôme Lalemant entered the Society of Jesus in 1610. He first traveled to Canada in 1638, replacing Father Barthélemy Vimont as Jesuit Superior of the Huron missions. He took the first regular census of the Hurons, instituted the organization of the donnés or lay assistants of the missionaries, and re-arranged the different missionary posts making the new establishment of St. Mary's on the Wye the central one. In 1645 he returned to Quebec as general superior. Lalemant returned to France in 1650. IN 1659, he embarked for Canada a second time and assumed the role of Vicar-General of Quebec. He died at Quebec in 1665.

Lalemant’s opening letter to the French Provincial, Estienne Charlet:

“My Reverend Father, The Relation for this year will serve as confirmation that the state of the present life is the reign of instability, of agitation, and of obscurity : and that all times and places are filled with the judgments of God, incomprehensible to our minds; and that the roads and the ways of his Divine Majesty for arriving at a goal, are very different from those which men would have chosen.

“These last two years, the flowers of the peace with the Iroquois, our enemies, had caused us to hope for some agreeable fruits thereof; but the treachery of those barbarians coming unexpectedly thereupon, like hail upon a field ready to reap, seems to have somewhat retarded and set back our hopes.

“The first outburst of this treachery has fallen upon the one who deserved it the least, — that is, Father Isaac Jogues, who, as I sent word last year to your Reverence, left here toward the end of September, 1646, in order to return for the second time to his mission of the Martyrs among the Iroquois, purposing to maintain the peace there, and to manage there the interest and the affairs of Paradise. But hardly had he set foot in the land when, against all divine and human law, he was treated as a captive by those barbarians; he and his companion, who was a young lay Frenchman, were beaten, robbed, and stripped naked, and led in that condition to the next village, where, the day after their arrival, the eighteenth of the same month of October, Father Jogues was murdered, and his companion likewise. And the storm increasing from that on, we were surprised by it before we had perceived it; and entire villages of our Christians and other allied Savages were carried off in it, without speaking of some Frenchmen and Savages who were thus surprised in lonely places.

“Consequently, those perfidious people, resuming their former routes, hold the approaches to the upper nations blocked, which makes me almost despair of being able to receive, this year, the Relation of the Hurons, — at least, soon enough. God, nevertheless, has not permitted that we should be frustrated in the consolation of learning news of them, by way of the nations of the North; news which enables us plainly to see that, if the paths and ways of God are different from those of men, for arriving at an end, they are none the less certain.

“The sufferings and the murder of Father Jogues, and of so many good Christians, both French and Savage, will never appear, to the bleared eyes of nature, a [4] means for arriving at the consummation of our desires; but if, as we have every reason to believe, Our Lord has willed to use them as the price of the Spiritual blessings which he has shed abroad this year on all our Missions, — and among others, the conversion and Baptism of more than six hundred Savages, — what can we desire further ? And have we not cause to adore the Wisdom and power of God, who knows how to draw life out of death, and, from the reprobation of some, the salvation and the perfection of his Elect?

“The letters, then, received from the Hurons, inform us that the fidelity and fervor of their Christians are greater than ever; that they have baptized there more than five hundred persons; that they have re-established or newly established several missions. They say, in short, that the work which they have commenced is beginning to increase, and that the sound of the Gospel resounds continually more and more, and makes itself heard by the more distant Nations. I hope that, sooner or later, we shall see the details thereof. Meanwhile, I find myself in considerable difficulty. They ask me with so much urgency for six of our Fathers, that I cannot refuse them; and, on the other hand, I have much trouble in bringing myself to risk so much all at once. To risk nothing is to lose everything, and one cannot risk with more assurance of profit; the courage and good disposition of those who have come from France these last two years, and who hitherto have not been able to go up, give great weight to the resolution of sending rather more than fewer of them. I pray God that he arrange everything for the best.

“On another side, no opportunity has been allowed to escape, down here, to serve the Master who employs us; this is what your Reverence will be able to see more especially in this Relation. It will, I am assured, convince you that we have more need than ever of the assistance of your Holy Sacrifices and Prayers, and of those of the whole Province, —  to which I commend myself and all our affairs in all humility, to the entire extent of my affection.”

 I.    Of the treachery of the Iroquois.
II.    Some women escape from the country of the Iroquois. 
III.    Some Iroquois surprised after a defeat of Algonquins, a woman kills a Iroquois, and escapes.     
IV.    How Father Isaac Jogues was taken by the Iroquois, and what he suffered on his 3rd entrance into their country.     
V.    God preserves Father Isaac Jogues after the murder of his companion; he instructs him in a very remarkable manner.     
VI.    The Father is given as servant to some hunters, he suffers, he is consoled; he exercises his zeal in his journeys.     
VII.    The Father escapes from the Iroquois and proceeds to France, through the intervention of the Dutch. He returns to Canada; having arrived there, he makes a journey to the country of the Iroquois.     
VIII.    Father Isaac Jogues returns for the third time to the country of the Iroquois, where he is put to death.                                                  

IX.    Of the Christians of Saint Joseph at Sillery.
X.    Of the Mission of the Assumption in the country of the Abnaquiois.
XI.    The coming of the Atticamegues.
XII.    Of the Holy Cross Mission at Tadoussac.
XIII.    Of the Residence of la Conception, at three Rivers.
XIV.    Of the capture and death of a Iroquois, and some other observations which could not find room under the preceding Chapters.
XV.    Of the settlement at Miscou.

Sabin 38694; Bell 33-34; Church 487; McCoy, Jesuit relations of Canada, 1632-1673, variant 4 (no. 66) in which p. 166, last line ends "mon cher amy le" and Lallemant's letter is dated (p. 5) "647."; De Backer-Sommervogel,; IV, column 1401