In this sweeping, enthralling biography, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize–winner David Hackett Fischer magnificently brings to life the visionary adventurer who has straddled our history for 400 years. Champlain’s Dream reveals, with rare immediacy and drama, the story of a remarkable man: a leader who dreamed of humanity and peace in a world riven by violence; a man of his own time who nevertheless strove to build a settlement in Canada that would be founded on harmony and respect.
With consummate narrative skill and comprehensive scholarship, Fischer unfolds a life shrouded in mystery, a complex, elusive man among many colorful characters. Born on France’s Atlantic coast, Samuel de Champlain grew up in a country bitterly divided by religious wars. But, like Henry IV, one of France’s greatest kings whose illegitimate son he may have been and who supported his travels from the Spanish Empire in Mexico to the St. Lawrence and the unknown territories, Champlain was religiously tolerant in an age of murderous sectarianism. Soldier, spy, master mariner, explorer, cartographer, and artist, he maneuvered his way through court intrigues in Paris, supported by Henri IV and, later, Louis XIII, though bitterly opposed by the Queen Regent Marie de Medici and the wily Cardinal Richelieu. But his astonishing dedication and stamina triumphed….
Champlain was an excellent navigator. He went to sea as a boy, acquiring the skills that allowed him to make 27 Atlantic crossings between France and Canada, enduring raging storms without losing a ship, and finally bringing with him into the wilderness his young wife, whom he had married in middle age. In the place he called Quebec, on the beautiful north shore of the St. Lawrence, he founded the first European settlement in Canada, where he dreamed that Europeans and First Nations would cooperate for mutual benefit. There he played a role in starting the growth of three populations — Québécois, Acadian, and Métis — from which millions descend.
Through three decades, on foot and by ship and canoe, Champlain traveled through what are now six Canadian provinces and five American states, negotiating with more than a dozen Indian nations, encouraging intermarriage among the French colonists and the natives, and insisting, as a Catholic, on tolerance for Protestants. A brilliant politician as well as a soldier, he tried constantly to maintain a balance of power among the Indian nations and his Indian allies, but, when he had to, he took up arms with them and against them, proving himself a formidable strategist and warrior in ferocious wars.
Drawing on Champlain’s own diaries and accounts, as well as his exquisite drawings and maps, Fischer shows him to have been a keen observer of a vanished world: an artist and cartographer who drew and wrote vividly, publishing four invaluable books on the life he saw around him.
This superb biography (the first full-scale biography in decades) by a great historian is as dramatic and richly exciting as the life it portrays. Deeply researched, it is illustrated throughout with 110 contemporary images and 37 maps, including several drawn by Champlain himself.
From the Hardcover edition.