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The visit of Father Gabriel Druillettes, 1650

In 1650, Plymouth Colony and Governor William Bradford received a visit from a French Jesuit, Father Gabriel Druillettes. Druillettes was a missionary among the Abenakis along the Kennebec River. He was sent by the Governor of Canada (then a French territory) to ask the New England colonies for their assistance in subduing the hostile Iroquois. Druillettes' description of his visit to the New England colonies, Narre du Voyage..., is included in Volume 36 of the "Jesuit Relations" (La Mission des Jesuites chez les Hurons: 1634-1650). Druillettes was kindly received in Boston and Plymouth but his mission was ultimately unsuccessful.

Druillettes' narration of his visit to Plymouth tells how his courteous reception extended as far as a dinner of fish on Friday. This was in deference to Druillettes' Catholicism, even though days of abstinence were a custom abhorred by English Puritans.

I left Boston on the twenty-first of that month, December [1650], for Plimouth, where I arrived on the morrow, with my [-----] who lodged me with one of the five farmers of Koussinoc [Cushnoc], named padis [William Paddy]. The governor of the place, named Jehan Brentford [William Bradford], received me with courtesy, and appointed me an audience the next day; and he invited me to a dinner of fish, which he prepared on my account, knowing that it was Friday. I found considerable favor in this settlement, for the farmers -- and among other the captain, Thomas Willets -- spoke to the governor in advocacy of my negotiation.

A more complete version of Druillettes' interactions with Bradford and other New England notables, from The Narrative of the Journey made in behalf of the Mission of the Abnaquiois, and of information obtained in New England,
by Gabriel Dreuillette of the Society of Jesus, 1651:

" left Quebec for this Mission on the first day of September, by order of my Superior,—and with a passport and leave of absence from Monsieur d'Ailleboust, lieutenant-general of the King, and governor on all the river Saint Lawrence,—accompanied by Noel Negabamat, Captain of Sillery; also charged with credentials enabling me to speak on behalf of the said Sieur to the governors and magistrates of that country…

"I arrived on Michaelmas eve at this highest settlement of the English—which, alike by the English and Savages, is called Coussinoc [
Cucshnoc] … The Agent, named John Winslau [John Winslow], a merchant and a citizen of the Plimouth colony, who has a very kindly disposition, as we shall relate hereinafter, answered… "I will lodge him at my house, and will treat him as my own brother; for I know very well the good that he does among you, and the life which he there leads." This he said because he has a special zeal for the Conversion of the Savages, as also has his brother Edward Winslow,—agent for this New England before the parliament of old England…

"I left Coussinoc by land, with that agent, since the frigate which was to convey us had had some occasion to delay… Contrary winds prevented us from reaching Kepane [
Cape Ann], which forms the Cape of the great bay of Boston, until the fifth of December; for the same reason we were compelled to go partly by land and partly by boat, in order to cross over the great bay to Charleston; we there crossed the river which separates it from Boston, where we arrived on the eighth. The principal men of Charleston, knowing that I came on behalf of the Sieur governor, went ahead to give notice to Major-General Gebin [Edward Gibbon], so that he might be present at my entrance into his abodes… he also gave me a key to an apartment in his house, where I could with complete liberty offer my prayer, and perform my religious exercises; and begged me to take no other lodgings while I should sojourn at Boston… On the thirteenth, the Sieur Governor of Boston and the Magistrates invited me to dine, and, at the close, gave me audience. Besides the Magistrates and the Secretary, there was present a man deputed by the people, whom they call a "representative" …

"In regard to the character which I assumed of ambassador for my Catechumens of the Kenebec, they told me that Boston took no interest therein, and that I must address myself to Plimouth. I left Boston on the twenty-first of that month, December, for Plimouth, where I arrived on the morrow, with my [
blank space] who lodged me with one of the five farmers of Koussinoc, named padis [William Paddy]. The governor of the place, named Jehan Brentford [William Bradford], received me with courtesy, and appointed me an audience for the next day; and he invited me to a dinner of fish, which he prepared on my account, knowing that it was Friday. I found considerable favor in this settlement, for the farmers—and among others the captain, Thomas Willets [Thomas Willett] —spoke to the governor in advocacy of my negotiation…

"I left on the twenty-fourth, and returned to Boston by land, in company with the son and the nephew of my
[blank space], who paid for me during the journey. I arrived at Rosqbray [Roxbury], where the minister, named Master heliot [John Eliot], who was teaching some savages, received me at his house, because night was overtaking me; he treated me with respect and kindness, and begged me to spend the winter with him…

"On the last of the said month, I returned to Rosquebray to ask permission from Sieur Dudley, the Governor, that safe-conduct might be inserted in the letter for the passage of the French who might wish to go through Boston against the Iroquois; and, grasping my hand, he said to me: " Assure Monsieur your governor that we wish to be his good friends and servants, whatever war there may be between the crowns. I am very glad that the governor of Plimout is willing to further the assistance that you desire against the Iroquois: I will aid him with all my power."…

"I went to Salem, to converse with Sieur Indicott [
John Endicott], who speaks and understands French well; he is a good friend to our nation, and desirous that his children should continue in this friendship. Seeing that I had no money, he paid my expenses, and had me eat with the Magistrates, who during eight days gave audience to every one. I left with him, in the form of a letter, a power of attorney which he asked front me, in order to act efficiently during the general Court of Boston, which was to be held on the thirteenth of May. He assured me that he would do his utmost to obtain consent from the colony of Boston, which served as a standard for the others,—telling me that the governor of Plimout had good reason for seeking to obtain that from the colonies…

"On the eighth of February, I depart for the river of Kenebec, where I continue my interrupted mission. All the English who are on this river received me with many demonstrations of friendship. On the thirteenth of April, Monsieur John Winslau my true [blank space], arrived from Plimout and Boston at Koussinoc. He assures me that all the Magistrates and the two Commissioners of Plimout have given their word, and resolved that the other colonies should be urged to join them against the Iroquois in favor of the Abnaquiois, who are under the protection of this colony of Pleymout,—which has the proprietorship of Koussinoc, and for its rights of lordship takes the sixth part of what accrues from the trade. He said, moreover, that Monsieur Brentford, the governor,—who is one of the five merchants, or farmers, who furnish everything necessary for the trade,—had already despatched, by the twentieth of March, Captain Master Thomas Wilhet,—who is greatly attached to the Abnaquiois, with whom he has been acquainted at Koussinoc for several years,—with letters presented in behalf of aid against the Iroquois. He carries these to the governors of Harfort [
Hartford], or Kenetigout [Connecticut], which is on the river of the Sokouckiois, fifty leagues from Pleymout; and of Nieufhaven [New Haven] …

"I think, that we have fairly good prospects of this aid by means of the English, because we have a moral certainty that, of four colonies, three are for consenting... The governor of Pleymout, with all his magistrates, not only consents, but urges this affair in favor of the Abnaquiois, who are under the protection of the Pleymouth Colony. The whole Colony has a very considerable interest therein, because by the right of Proprietorship it takes, each year, the sixth part of all that accrues from the trade on this river of Quinebec. And, in particular, the governor himself, with four others of the most important citizens,—who are, as it were, farmers of this trade,—would lose much, by losing all prospect of the trade of Kennebec and of Kebec, by means of the Abnaquiois,—which will soon inevitably happen if the Iroquois continues to kill it, and to hunt to death those Abnaquiois, as he has been doing for some years… As to what this governor has answered and has done, add that every one affirms that this governor's authority is all-powerful… Boston and Pleymout, which are the two most important colonies, and a sort of standard for the others, urge him on. Besides all that, I have written, with Monsieur John Winslau, to Monsieur Edward Winslau,—the agent in England for the affair of these four Colonies,—in order that he write a word in favor of the Christians and the Savage Catechumens, whom he tenderly loves. A word from him is all-powerful upon the mind of the deputies of these four Colonies. "

Father Druillettes’ hopes were not, however, realized. When his petitions and letters were presented to the United Colonies of New England, the alliance was rejected.
The Records of Plymouth Colony, Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies (PCR, Vol. 110, p. 199-203) report:

"Monsieur Dalliboust Gounr of New France sent Mr. Gabriell Derwellets as his agent about october i650 to treat with the Massachusetts and Plym: Collonies about a league offencive and deffencive but being enformed that the 4 English Collonies are confederate and that all treaties and leagues conserning warr or peace with others naighboring nations or Collonies are now Referred to the Consideracon and conclusion of ye Commissioners who meet yearely in September and the next yeare in course in New haven, hee then Returned …"

The case was presented for an alliance for the purpose of action against the Mohawks and, secondarily, for purposes of trade.

The Commissioners returned this answer: "We give due Credite to youer Deputies and can conceive you may have Just grounds for a warr but wee have yet noe cause of Just quarrell with the Mohaukes nor is it safe for us to engage in a controvery which wee neither doe nor have means satisfyingly to understand, the Mohaukes neither being in subjection to nor in any Confeaderacon with us."

The full narrative of Druillettes' mission to New England is available

The full text of the "Jesuit Relations" is in process

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