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CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.
THE CASTLE OF ST. LEWIS-ITS FOUNDATION-CAPTURE BY KERTK -REMARKABLE SCENE THEREIN
-DESCRIBED BY LA POTHERIE-AND BY CHARLEVOIX-DESTRUCTION BY FIRE.
Few circumstances of discussion and enquiry are more interesting than the history and fate of ancient buildings, especially if we direct our attention to the fortunes and vicissitudes of those who were connected with them. The temper, genius and pursuits of an historical era are frequently
delineated in the features of remarkable edifices: nor can any one contemplate them without experiencing curiosity concerning those who first formed the plan, and afterwards created and tenanted the structure. These observations apply particularly to the subject of this chapter.
The history of the ancient Castle of St. Lewis, or Fort of Quebec, for above two centuries the seat of government in the Province, affords subjects of great and stirring interest during its several periods. The hall of the old Fort, during the weakness of the colony, was often a scene of terror and despair at the inroads of the persevering and ferocious Iroquois ; who, having passed or overthrown all the French outposts, more than once threatened the Fort itself, and massacred some friendly Indians within sight of its walls. There,
on Stone By Sproule from an Original By S Sewoll
for Hawkins Acture of Orebro. CASTLE OF ST LEWIS,QUEBEC.
destroyed by Fire Jar 291 1834.
too, in intervals of peace, were laid those benevolent plans for the religious instruction and conversion of the savages, which at one time distinguished the policy of the ancient Governors. At a later era, when, under the protection of the French Kings, the Province had acquired the rudiments of military strength and power, the Castle of St. Lewis was remarkable, as having been the site whence the French Governors exercised an immense sovereignty, extending from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, along the shores of that noble river, its magnificent lakes, -and down the course of the Mississippi, to its outlet below New Orleans. The banner which first streamed from the battlements of Quebec, was displayed from a chain of forts, which protected the settlements throughout this vast extent of country : keeping the English Colonies in constant alarm, and securing the fidelity of the Indian nations. During this period, the council chamber of the Castle was the scene of many a midnight vigil-many a long deliberation and deep-laid project,--to free the continent from the intrusion of the ancient rival of France, and assert throughout the supremacy of the Gallic lily. At another era, subsequent to the surrender of Quebec to the British arms, and until the recognition of the independence of the United States, the extent of empire, of the government of which the Castle of Quebec was the principal seat, comprehended the whole American continent, north of Mexico! It is astonishing to reflect for a moment, to how small, and, as to size, comparatively insignificant an island in the Atlantic ocean, this gigantic territory was once subject !
Here also was rendered to the representative of the French King, with all its ancient forms, the fealty and homage of the noblesse, and military retainers, who held possessions in the Province under the Crown—a feudal ceremony, suited to early times, which imposed a real and substantial obligation on those who performed it, not to be violated without forfeiture and dishonor. The King of Great Britain having succeeded to the rights of the French Crown, this ceremony is still maintained.*
In England, it is also still performed by the Peers at the coronation of our Kings, in Westminster Abbey, although the ceremony is much curtailed of its former impressive observances.
The Castle of St. Lewis was in early times rather a strong hold of defence, than an embellished ornament of royalty. Seated on a tremendous precipice,
On a rock whose haughty brow
Frown'd o'er St. Lawrence' foaming tideand looking defiance to the utmost boldness of the assailant, nature lent her aid to the security of the position. The cliff on which it stood rises nearly two hundred feet in perpendicular height above the
* Fealty and homage is rendered at this day by the Seigniors to the Governor, as the representative of the Sovereign in the following form : His Excellency being in full dress and seated in a state chair, surrounded by his staff, and attended by the Attorney General, the Seignior, in an evening dress and wearing a sword, is introduced into his presence by the Inspector General of the Royal Domain and Clerk of the Land Roll, and having delivered up his sword, and kneeling upon one knee before the Governor, places his right hand between his, and repeats the ancient oath of fidelity ; after which a solemo act is drawn up in a register, kept for that purpose, which is signed by the Governor and the Seignior, and countersigned by the proper officers.