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A letter written by Jeanne Mance rediscovered in Quebec

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jan18,2024

A letter written by Jeanne Mance rediscovered Québec

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Engraving representing Jeanne Mance


Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from written text.

A letter written by Jeanne Mance around 1665 was found in the archives of the Séminaire de Québec associated with the Musée de la civilization.

Originated from Langres, France, Jeanne Mance was the first secular nurse in Montreal and founder of the Hôtel-Dieu. The one who arrived in New France at the age of 34 is considered the co-founder of Montreal with Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve.

Died on June 18, 1673 at the age of 67, she left neither diary nor correspondence, hence the difficulty of reconstructing her story.

In addition, historical documents related to Jeanne Mance are extremely rare, since the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, founded in 1642, suffered three devastating fires (1695, 1721 and 1734) which decimated a large part of the archives of the hospital.

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An extract from Jeanne Mance's letter to Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve.

The several-page missive explains the reasons which pushed Jeanne Mance, in 1653, to give the sum of 22,000 livres to Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve so that he could recruit a hundred colonists in France.

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This sum, which today is equivalent to approximately $730,000, came from patron Angélique Faure de Bullion. This French aristocrat contributed greatly to financing the construction of the Hôtel-Dieu.

At the time, the small colony, destined to become Montreal , was subject to Iroquois attacks.

Such a discovery is extremely stimulating since it opens new avenues of research that will enrich our collective memory. It also confirms the major role played by Jeanne Mance in the founding of Montreal. For more than 30 years, she was able to acquire everyone's trust so that Montreal could develop.

A quote from Paul Labonne, general director of the Musée des Hospitalières de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal

The research also made it possible to uncover a dozen contracts attesting to the engagement, in 1644, of French peasants and artisans by Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière, prosecutor of the Society of Notre-Dame de Montréal.

The contents of the letter :< /p>

Reasons why I took 22,000 pounds from the Montreal hospital foundation to provide housing assistance

In the year 1650, the Iroquois, after their defeat of the Hurons, having become much more proud and insolent than they had previously been, began again to inconvenience us and to attack us so often and so frequently that they did not gave no relaxation. Hardly a day went by that a few pitfalls were not discovered or that there were not a few alarms. They surrounded us and held our houses so closely that they always had a few spies sheltered from some stump and it came to such an extreme that it was necessary to make the inhabitants abandon the houses and remove them and (illegible) the families in the strong.

The Hospital being the only one far from help and which could not be assisted at night if they had made any effort. They did it at another time and set it on fire. They would undoubtedly have either burned or taken and removed the house where I was and everything that was in it, which obliged Mr. the Governor to oblige me to retire to his fort and in order to preserve the house of the hospital and had a squad of soldiers or garrison placed there and had two pieces of cannon brought there and put stones in the windows of the attics and made loopholes everywhere inside the house high and low and in the chapel which served as a store of artillery and almost every day, it received some attacks. This sad state having continued for almost two years and without receiving any strength from France or help, believing us to be in extreme weakness and not being able to receive any from any part of the country, each one finding himself enough to do for himself, the fear and the fear being everywhere, we only spoke of the (illegible) and cruelties that the Iroquois practiced here and everywhere, and which ravaged everything and that the whole country was as if in dire straits and we spoke of nothing other than that all the everyone wanted to leave and he would have been forced to do so if God had not remedied as he did by the means he gave us, inspiring Mr. de Maisonneuve to make a trip to France to ask for help from the Gentlemen of Montreal and that if he could not obtain at least a hundred men, that he would no longer return to the country, but that he would ask me to return to France with all our people and to abandon the place, me reflecting on these things and in great pain and anxiety of mind to see things in such an extremity after having very humbly recommended them to God and to the most Holy Virgin, under whose protection is this habitation begging her very humbly to have pity on us and on all this poor desolate country, it occurred to me that I knew that there were 22,000 # lent to be repaid by Mr de Renty that it would be a good way to take this sum for use to bring me men to preserve this habitation rather than abandon it for lack of help at the mercy of these barbarians, and, and insolent furies who would take this as a reason to despise our God and mock our faith and our religion seeing that he would have thus abandoned us, and that they would be the masters of the place where our God would have been served and adored, that it would be a great shame and an unbearable confusion after what all of the Holy and Illustrious people had done with having thus frustrated them of the hope they had that God would be served and honored by their means in this country.

I believed that Madam the founder of our hospital would receive (?) a unique (?) and unbearable affliction as in her presence, I thought I would give her an indescribable pleasure by offering to take this sum of 22,000 # to keep the poor of this Church two thirds of the good which it made them enjoy, and save a country where God would infallibly be greatly honored, by removing an infinity of souls from the darkness of infidelity in which they were, only when the entire foundation of this good Lady would only serve this one good of having preserved this country it was enough consolation for her, and I felt for then, my mind and my heart so assured and strengthened that she would approve of me doing what I had thought that I had no doubt about it, so I went from there to make the proposal to Mr. Governor, who after thinking about it before God and praying made me the proposal to take and accept for the poor half of the estate that he had arranged for the relief of the poor, I accepted according to its form as it is written and passed in the act which was made and ratified here and in France.

I did not think about making a purchase because I saw very well that it was not worth the sum that I provided but I only had regard to saving the whole by this part, as I have already said, part that the necessity pressing to the last extremity, believing that Mrs. de Montreal would know how to reward the poor. If from the end where the habitation of Montreal was when I performed this act with Mr. Governor here, all those who were here then and who are still alive can give testimony like the Rd P Pigear of the Company of Jesus who then exercised the function of the cure there and was in charge of the lands with the late Rd Father Simon Le Moyne, Mr Les Messieurs who governed here during the absence of Mr de Maisonneuve when he went to France to return here help are worthy of belief. There are all those who were then withdrawn with the families in the fort and the soldiers who were then garrisoned in the Hospital to remain for a year and a half that they had to keep. It would take too long to name them all and there are several married people in this country who are still alive and who can bear witness to them.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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