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Following the actions of coureurs des bois Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers in the creation of the English Hudson's Bay Company, France's leaders, especially New France Intendant Jean Talon, felt called to clearly establish the French claim to North America. Talon gave the task "to extend God's glory and to promote the king of France," to a French army officer under his command, Simon-François Daumont de Saint-Lusson.
Saint-Lusson sent word into the pays d'en haut for each Native nation of the Great Lakes region to send delegates to the falls (Sault Ste Marie) in June. Fourteen different nations were in attendance, most with their head leaders.
The ceremony was started by Claude-Jean Allouez. A large cross was erected, festooned with an escutcheon of Louis XIV. Allouez led the assembly in the Te Deum followed by prayers. De St. Lusson symbolically raised a handful of dirt and his sword and proclaimed that all the lands "contiguous and adjacent" to all the waters flowing into or out of the Great Lakes, "discovered as to be discovered," "bounded on the one side by the Northern and Western Seas and on the other side by the South Sea including all its length and breadth" was by right claimed by Louis XIV, King of France, that other states encroaching upon this claim would be enemies of the King, and that those who traded with the enemies would incur the displeasure of the King. He ended his speech with shouts of "vive le roi!" St. Lusson ended the pageant with the distribution of gifts as was expected.
The Pageant of Sault is important in French colonial history as it marks the claim of New France. The French did not know the extent of the English claim at Hudson's Bay. They had heard rumors of the "Big River" to the west, and suspected that it flowed out of the Great Lakes (the "Big River" or "Mississippi" did not). But they also knew that a colony from sea to sea, north to south, would block in the English on the Atlantic seaboard, and to the "Western Sea" would block Spanish expansion from the south. It was an expansive claim, almost impossible to enforce, but nonetheless, by the middle of the eighteenth century, a hundred years after the Pageant, the French had sent explorers, traders, and settlers into most of this claim.
Léopold Lamontagne, "Daumont de Saint-Lusson, Simon-FranÇois," Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2000).
Winsor, Justin, ed. French Exploration and Settlements in North America, and Those of the Portuguese, Dutch, and Swedes, 1500-1700. Windor's History of America. Bostor: Houghton, Mifflin, 1884. p. 174.
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