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Chrestien Leclercq

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A Franciscan Récollet and one of the most zealous missionaries to the Micmac of Canada, also a distinguished historiographer of Nouvelle France. A Fleming by birth, he joined the province of the Récollets of St. Antoine, in Artois, and went to Canada in 1673; on 11 October of that year he was put in charge of the Micmac mission by Mgr de Laval. He learned the language of that tribe and devoted himself to its evangelization. His superiors sent him to France in 1680 on business connected with the Franciscan missions in Canada ; he returned in the following spring with letters authorizing the foundation of a convent in Montreal, whither he went during the summer of 1681 to carry out this work. In the month of November he went back to the Micmac mission, where he passed in all twelve years of his life. In autumn 1686 he returned finally to France, where he filled various positions of authority in the Artois province of his order. The date of his death, like that of his birth, is unknown, but he was still living in 1698. After his return to France, he completed two works which he published at Paris in 1691. They are:

(1) "Premier établissement de la foy dans la Nouvelle-France", 2 vols. in l2mo. The first volume contains fourteen unnumbered leaves and 559 pages; the second 458 pages. This work is now very rare and commands a high price. It may be divided into three parts. The first contains the early history of Nouvelle-France, the introduction of Catholicism into that country, and describes the labours of the first missionaries in Canada, the Récollets. This part ends at the year 1629 on the taking of Quebec by the English. The second part, from 1632 till 1670 inclusive, continues the history of the colony, relates the spreading of the Faith among the native tribes through the devoted labours of the Jesuit Fathers , and tells of the return of the Récollets to Canada and their new foundation of the convent of Notre-Dame des Anges at Quebec. The third part gives one of the best accounts, and in certain matters the only account of the travels and discoveries of de La Salle, and ends with the victory of the French over the English at the siege of Quebec in 1690. The work has been criticized, Charlevoix complaining that Leclercq treats only of the religious affairs in which the Récollets took part, and even ascribing to Frontenac a share in the authorship of the work; but the authenticity of the documents on which the author relied for his information has never been impugned; and it remains an important source for the history of Canada and of the Catholic Church in North America. An English translation by John Gilmary Shea , was published at New York in 1881, containing an account of the author, portraits, map, views, and facsimile.

(2) "Nouvelle relation de la Gaspésie", 1 vol. in l2mo, also published at Paris, in 1691, by Aurov, contains four unnumbered leaves and 372 pages. This book describes the scenes of the Apostolic labours of the zealous author from 1675 till 1686. It relates the missionary efforts of Leclercq and some other Récollets around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Baie des Chaleurs, and in New Brunswick. But the author describes in particular the life, customs, and beliefs of the savages called by him by the general name of Gaspesians) who then inhabited these regions. It is an important work, though of mere local interest. From it we learn that Leclercq invented a system of writing by which he taught the Micmac Indians to read their own language. Very probably these hieroglyphics have been preserved, and are to be found in the Micmac writings which still exist. It has been translated into English by W.F. Ganong, with an account of the author and illustrations (1 vol., Edinburgh, 1910).

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