The Ideal Colonist

From The Washington Post:

Champlain Samuel de Champlain is little known to most Americans, except as the namesake of a frigid lake. Generally speaking, we’re biased against the French and bored by Canada. In school books, France’s role in the making of our nation doesn’t extend much beyond Lafayette, the French-and-Indian War and the Louisiana Purchase. So it may surprise American readers that Champlain not only founded Quebec City but reached Plymouth Harbor 15 years before the Pilgrims. He explored Cape Cod and Maine and probed upstate New York as far inland as Syracuse. Millions of Americans descend from early settlers who followed Champlain to New France, a domain that in his day extended from Canada to Philadelphia.

Champlain also stands out for the stunning breadth and drama of his career. This is a man who never learned to swim, yet shot American rapids in bark canoes and crossed the Atlantic 27 times without losing a ship. He sought peace with Indians but marched on the Mohawk, defeating them in battle while plucking an arrow from his neck. He was also a talented spy, mapmaker, artist, naturalist and writer — as well as a gourmand who founded the first gastronomic society in America, the Ordre de Bon Temps. In short, it’s hard to imagine a more appealing biographical subject than this French action-figure with high ideals and a taste for moose meat and beaver tail.

More here.