The French Jesuits had worked tirelessly in the Far North of North America, in Canada and Quebec. It had been hard work – with few converts, long journeys and bitterly harsh climate. However they had achieved more success further south in the colony of Louisiana and New Orleans. The Jesuits used the great river of the Mississipi to penetrate the interior, thanks to the mapping and explorations of Fr Marquette. This pattern of penetration they were to repeat in the period of their restoration. A turning point in the mission had been the arrival in 1727 of Nicolas de Beaubois. Practical, imaginative, if not a little impatient, the successes came quickly. Mills were built, canals were planned, much was achieved even though they were working against resistance from within the church (the Capuchins) and from without (the English Colonists who were vying with the French).
Back in Europe there was a great spiritual battle being wage between the Church and the Enlightenment. The Philosophes had the Society in its sights, and a languid Louis XV would not stand in their way. The Society was losing the battle for hearts and minds at home against Voltaire and co. The Jansenists whose hostility to the Jesuits was short-sighted, because they didn’t realise they were less well-equipped with their antiquated Augustiniasm to take on the fanatics of the Enlightenment – unbelief would be the outcome not their stricter form of Catholicism. Clement X banned letters from missionaries why? In the past the letters of Brebeuf and Jogue had created many admirers in the parlours of Paris and the taverns of Marseille. These reports of their heroism and fortitude had inspired vocations and won for the Society many influential supporters. Now this popular tide had turned against them in France thanks to the writings of Voltaire and Pascale.
It is striking that in France the suppression, and hostility to the Jesuits was fuelled more by ideas, rather than the power grabs of the Portuguese and the Spanish. However the losses of these intellectual battles in Paris where to hit hard, far away in the missions. To some extent the shifting boundaries of the colonial powers (French Canada had been ceded to the British) affected the status of the Jesuits. However even though Louisiana had been turned over to Spain in 1762 by a secret treaty – the French Kings order would be carried out. The exiles set sail from New Orleans, their boat ran aground in the Bahamas, but eventually they reached Spain on Apr 6th.