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Jacques-René de Brisay Denonville
(JACQUES-RENE DE BRISAY, SEIGNEUR AND MARQUIS DE DENONVILLE)
Born in 1638 at Denonville in the department of Eure-et-Loir, France; died 1710. Nothing is known of him prior to his arrival in Canada, except that he was colonel of a regiment of dragoons and in 1668 had married Catherine Courtin, daughter of Germain Courtin, Seigneur de Tanqueux, Beauval, Moncel, etc., and of Catherine Laffemas. Appointed governor of New France, Denonville, accompanied by his wife and two young daughters, left La Rochelle early in June, 1685, and arrived at Quebec 1 August. His special mission was to win the sympathies of the Indians, establish peace with them, and make war upon the Tsonnontouans, a branch of the Iroquois who were even more to be feared than the Agniers. Denonville soon realized that he did not have troops enough at his disposal, and asked assistance from France. Moreover, a powerful enemy confronted him in the person of Thomas Dongan, Governor of New York, who was constantly urging the Iroquois against the French. During the winter of 1686-87 preparations were under way for a campaign in the following summer; forts were put in a state of defence, and the savage allies of the French, such as the Miami, the Illinois, and the Ottawas, were asked to send warriors to Niagara there to join the main body in the early part of July. In the spring of 1687, 800 naval recruits reached Quebec under the command of the Chevalier de Vaudreuil, and on 11 June about 2000 men, under Denonville, repaired to Catarocony, thence to invade the country of the Tsonnontouans. Had he been less humane Denonville could have completely subjected the Tsonnontouans, but he erred by allowing them too much liberty. The position of the colony was consequently still insecure, and the other Iroquois tribes, affected but little or not at all by the routing of the Tsonnontouans, continued their attacks and depredations. Denonville believed that the Iroquois would come of their own accord and propose peace. But Sir Edmund Andros, governor of New England, still less tractable than Governor Dongan, had agitated the question of boundaries between the possessions of the King of England and those of France, the climax to his claims being his seizure of Fort Saint-Castin (1688). New peace negotiations took place between the French and the Iroquois, but the diplomacy of a Huron chief Tionnontate, called Kondiaronk, or the "Rat", upset everything. By the autumn of 1688 the colony was in a lamentable state, sickness had decimated its troops, 1400 of the 12,000 who formed the entire population of New France had fallen victims to the destructive scourge, and the forts were abandoned.
The winter of 1688-89 was one of wild alarms, especially in the vicinity of Montreal, which was easiest of access to the Iroquois, and during the summer these merciless barbarians, to the number of 1400, invaded the island of Montreal and slew the inhabitants of Lachine. This onslaught caused the utmost consternation among the colonists. Great joy prevailed when it was announced that the Comte de Frontenac, who had already governed the colony for ten years (1672-82), would replace the Marquis de Denonville. When Denonville left the country he was looked upon as lacking in ability to deal with the savages, besides being too much inclined to follow every one's advice; nevertheless, he was a fine soldier, a good Christian, and a governor admirably disposed towards the colony, which he was most eager to rescue from the clutches of the Iroquois. On his return to France the king gave him further proof of his confidence by appointing him assistant tutor to the children of the royal household.
N. E. Dionne.