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Master of Arts (MA)




Author's original abstract: A study was made of the Jesuit missionary, Sebastien Rale, and his role in New England-New France relations. French and English primary and secondary materials were examined to give the broadest possible view of the man and to place him in historical context.

It was found that Sebastien Rale was not an agent of New France. The conflicting opinions surrounding the mission of Norridgewock and the border war of the 1720's were traced to the problems of Massachusetts-Abnaki relations. Rale's frequent and testy letters to the government of the Bay Colony were blunt reactions to what he viewed as religious and territorial threats against his mission.

The frontier conflict between 1713 and 1722 was not the result of French Imperial policy. The French insisted that the Abnakis were allies but refused active participation in the Indians' quarrel with New England. Policy was developed in Maine by the Jesuits. The missionaries were only secondarily interested in Quebec's desire to prevent Massachusetts' settlement of the Kennebec. With the declaration of war in July, 1722, however, the Jesuits left the Abnakis in the hands of the governor and the intendant of New France on whom the Indians relied for vital war supplies.

Finally, the controversial attack on Norridgewock was appraised. It was found that no secondary account had fully evaluated the sources. Examination led to the discovery of crucial inconsistencies in the primary accounts of New England. The French sources were found to be based on the understandably confused impressions of the fleeing Indians. In large measure the English sources present the more valid picture: the sudden attack, the panicked confusion, and Sebastien Rale dying with gun in hand. After Rale's death the war drew to a close. Without Sebastien Rale's persuasion and determination, the Abnakis were not able to present a united front against colonial expansion.

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