I’ve just been reading, studying, and taking notes on a very good biography of Samuel de Champlain, and If I didn’t have so many other good books waiting for me, I’d read this book again right away.    The author *  was able to use contemporary accounts,  eyewitness reports, and Champlain’s own journals and essays to put this biography together, and in doing so avoided the late 20th century ideological “necessity” of tearing down the reputations of those who came before our times.

ch shallop  Champlain, as you probably know was the French explorer who traveled all over the American coastline in the very early 17th century, from the Caribbean to the northern Canadian Atlantic coast, and on into the Great Lakes region.   Because of political factors,  France ended up with what we  now call Canada;  French Canada,  Nouvelle France.   Europeans were fascinated with the Native American nations that were discovered, and Champlain was among those who admired them, respected them, and wrote about their many good qualities.   These people also thought the Native Americans were as human as they were, and thus had souls to save.

Champlain was one of the most successful explorers, achieving good relations and mutual respect with the Native Americans.   It was thought that they both could live together on the same land, since there was plenty of open and unclaimed land to go around.   The details of this relationship were interesting to read about in this biography, but one of the several things that struck me most was Champlain’s skill and talent as a leader of the men involved in French Canada.

By all accounts,  Champlain evidenced:  “Principled leadership in the cause of humanity.”

We’ve probably all been called upon to be a “leader” once or twice or more in some temporary circumstance.   What kind of leader did you make?    What kind of leadership did people see in you?    Or perhaps, for the future,  how would you want people to speak of you after you’ve been “leader” for a while?  (Me too!   I ask these questions of myself.)

ch himself

From Champlain’s journals and from the writings of men who knew him:

“Above all, leadership is an ethical idea.   A good leader keeps his word in any agreement, for anyone who does not keep his word is a coward and forfeits his honor and his reputation, however a valiant fighter he may be,  and no confidence is ever placed in him.”

“Leadership is about treating other people with humanity.  He should be liberal according to his opportunities and courteous even to his enemies, granting them all the rights to which they are entitled.”

“He should not practice cruelty or vengeance.”

“He makes use of his success with courtesy and moderation.”

That’s just a little of what Champlain wrote in his letters and in his essay on leadership.   A very thoughtful, self-aware man, dedicated to the principles taught to him by his Church and faithfully applied, to the best of his ability.

May we all live such “principled” lives! 

* The book is Champlain’s Dreams and the author is David Hackett Fischer.


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  1. loisontheweb Says:

    I REALLY have to get back into reading … I have thousands of books …just don’t read anymore ….

  2. I understand; it’s such a chore sometimes to begin reading, but then if you’ve got a good one, there’s nothing quite like that pleasure!

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