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Cartier Explores Canada


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Canada, An Early History, Cartier Explores Canada, French Attempts at Colonization Edited by: Robert Guisepi, 2002


Author: Miles, H. H.

Cartier Explores Canada, French Attempts At Colonization


Early in the sixteenth century, when France, after the Hundred Years' War
with England, had begun to be a notable European power, the nation, under the
young and brilliant Francis I, took up the project of prosecuting New World
discovery and obtaining a firm footing on the mainland of America. The French
King's attention had been directed to the enterprise by his grand admiral,
Philip de Chabot, who seems to have been interested in the hardy mariner and
skilled navigator, Jacques Cartier, and wished to place him at the head of an
expedition to the New World, to prosecute discovery on the northeastern coast
of America. This was in the year A.D. 1534, ten year after Verrazano had been
in the region and named it New France, in honor of the French King. On April
20, 1534, Cartier, with two small vessels of about sixty tons each, set sail
from the Britanny port of St. Malo for Newfoundland, on the banks of which
Cartier's Breton and Norman countrymen had long been accustomed to fish. The
incidents of this and the subsequent voyages of the St. Malo mariner, with an
account of the expedition under the Viceroy of Canada, the Sieur de Roberval,
will be found appended in Dr. Miles' interesting narrative.

Canada was discovered in the year 1534, by Jacques Cartier (or Quartier),
a mariner belonging to the small French seaport St. Malo. He was a man in
whom were combined the qualities of prudence, industry, skill, perseverance,
courage, and a deep sense of religion. Commissioned by the King of France,
Francis I, he conducted three successive expeditions across the Atlantic for
the purpose of prosecuting discovery in the western hemisphere; and it is well
understood that he had previously gained experience in seamanship on board
fishing-vessels trading between Europe and the Banks of Newfoundland.

He was selected and recommended to the King for appointment as one who
might be expected to realize, for the benefit of France, some of the
discoveries of his predecessor, Verrazano, which had been attended with no
substantial result, since this navigator and his companions had scarcely done
more than view, from a distance, the coasts of the extensive regions to which
the name of New France had been given. It was also expected of Cartier that,
through his endeavors, valuable lands would be taken possession of in the
King's name, and that places suitable for settlement, and stations for
carrying on traffic, would be established. Moreover, it was hoped that the
precious metals would be procured in those parts, and that a passage onward to
China (Cathay) and the East Indies would be found out. And, finally, the
ambitious sovereign of France was induced to believe that, in spite of the
pretensions of Portugal and Spain, ^1 he might make good his own claim to a
share in transatlantic territories.

[Footnote 1: The courts of Spain and Portugal had protested against any fresh
expedition from France to the west, alleging that, by right of prior
discovery, as well as the Pope's grant of all the western regions to
themselves, the French could not go there without invading their privileges.
Francis, on the other hand, treated these pretensions with derision, observing
sarcastically that he would "like to see the clause in old Father Adam's will
by which an inheritance so vast was bequeathed to his brothers of Spain and

With such objects in view, Jacques Cartier set sail from St. Malo, on
Monday, April 20, 1534. ^1 His command consisted of two small vessels, with
crews amounting to about one hundred twenty men, and provisioned for four or
five months.

[Footnote 1: The dates in this and subsequent pages are in accordance with the
"old style" of reckoning.]

On May 10th the little squadron arrived off Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland;
but, as the ice and snow of the previous winter had not yet disappeared, the
vessels were laid up for ten days in a harbor near by, named St. Catherine's.
From this, on the 21st, they sailed northward to an island northeast of Cape
Bonavista, situated about forty miles from the mainland, which had been called
by the Portuguese the "Isle of Birds." Here were found several species of
birds which, it appears, frequented the island at that season of the year in
prodigious numbers, so that, according to Cartier's own narrative, the crews
had no difficulty in capturing enough of them, both for their immediate use
and to fill eight or ten large barrels (pippes) for future consumption. Bears
and foxes are described as passing from the mainland, in order to feed upon
the birds as well as their eggs and young.

From the Isle of Birds the ships proceeded northward and westward until
they came to the Straits of Belle-Isle, when they were detained by foul
weather, and by ice, in a harbor, from May 27th until June 9th. The ensuing
fifteen days were spent in exploring the coast of Labrador as far as Blanc
Sablon and the western coast of Newfoundland. For the most part these
regions, including contiguous islands, were pronounced by Cartier to be unfit
for settlement, especially Labrador, of which he remarks, "it might, as well
as not, be taken for the country assigned by God to Cain." From the shore of
Newfoundland the vessels were steered westward across the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and about June 25th arrived in the vicinity of the Magdalen Islands.
Of an island named "Isle Bryon," Cartier says it contained the best land they
had yet seen, and that "one acre of it was worth the whole of Newfoundland."
Birds were plentiful, and on its shores were to be seen "beasts as large as
oxen and possessing great tusks like elephants, which, when approached, leaped
suddenly into the sea." There were very fine trees and rich tracts of ground,
on which were seen growing quantities of "wild corn, peas in flower, currants,
strawberries, roses, and sweet herbs." Cartier noticed the character of the
tides and waves, which swept high and strong among the islands, and which
suggested to his mind the existence of an opening between the south of
Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

Toward the end of June the islands and mainland of the northwest part of
the territory now called New Brunswick came in sight, and, as land was
approached, Cartier began at once to search for a passage through which he
might sail farther westward.

The ships' boats were several times lowered, and the crews made to row
close inshore in the bays and inlets, for the purpose of discovering an
opening. On these occasions natives were sometimes seen upon the beach, or
moving about in bark canoes, with whom the French contrived to establish a
friendly intercourse and traffic, by means of signs and presents of hatchets,
knives, small crucifixes, beads, and toys. On one occasion they had in sight
from forty to fifty canoes full of savages, of which seven paddled close up to
the French boats, so as to surround them, and were driven away only by
demonstrations of force. Cartier learned afterward that it was customary for
these savages to come down from parts more inland, in great numbers, to the
coast, during the fishing season, and that this was the cause of his finding
so many of them at that time. On the 7th day of the month a considerable body
of the same savages came about the ships, and some traffic occurred. Gifts,
consisting of knives, hatchets, and toys, along with a red cap for their head
chief, caused them to depart in great joy.

Early in July, Cartier found that he was in a considerable bay, which he
named "La Baie des Chaleurs." He continued to employ his boats in the
examination of the smaller inlets and mouths of the rivers flowing into the
bay, hoping that an opening might be discovered similar to that by which, a
month before, he had passed round the north of Newfoundland into the gulf.
After the 16th the weather was boisterous, and the ships were anchored for
shelter close to the shore several days. During this time the savages came
there to fish for mackerel, which were abundant, and held friendly intercourse
with Cartier and his people. They were very poor and miserably clad in old
skins, and sang and danced to testify their pleasure on receiving the presents
which the French distributed among them.

Sailing eastward and northward, the vessels next passed along the coast
of Gaspe, upon which the French landed and held intercourse with the natives.
Cartier resolved to take formal possession of the country, and to indicate, in
a conspicuous manner, that he did so in the name of the King, his master, and
in the interests of religion. With these objects in view, on Friday, July
24th, a huge wooden cross, thirty feet in height, was constructed, and was
raised with much ceremony, in sight of many of the Indians, close to the
entrance of the harbor; three fleurs-de-lys being carved under the cross, and
an inscription, "Vive le Roy de France." The French formed a circle on their
knees around it, and made signs to attract the attention of the savages,
pointing up to the heavens, "as if to show that by the cross came their
redemption." These ceremonies being ended, Cartier and his people went on
board, followed from the shore by many of the Indians. Among these the
principal chief, with his brother and three sons, in one canoe, came near
Cartier's ship. He made an oration, in course of which he pointed toward the
high cross, and then to the surrounding territory, as much as to say that it
all belonged to him, and that the French ought not to have planted it there
without his permission. The sight of hatchets and knives displayed before
him, in such a manner as to show a desire to trade with him, made him approach
nearer, and, at the same time, several sailors, entering his canoe, easily
induced him and his companions to pass into the ship. Cartier, by signs,
endeavored to persuade the chief that the cross had been erected as a beacon
to mark the way into the harbor; that he would revisit the place and bring
hatchets, knives, and other things made of iron, and that he desired the
friendship of his people. Food and drink were offered, of which they partook
freely, when Cartier made known to the chief his wish to take two of his sons
away with him for a time. The chief and his sons appear to have readily
assented. The young men at once put on colored garments, supplied by Cartier,
throwing out their old clothing to others near the ship. The chief, with his
brother and remaining son, were then dismissed with presents. About midday,
however, just as the ships were about to move farther from shore, six canoes,
full of Indians, came to them, bringing presents of fish, and to enable the
friends of the chief's sons to bid them adieu. Cartier took occasion to
enjoin upon the savages the necessity of guarding the cross which had been
erected, upon which the Indians replied in unintelligible language. Next day,
July 25th, the vessels left the harbor with a fair wind, making sail northward
to 50 degrees latitude. It was intended to prosecute the voyage farther
westward, if possible; but adverse winds, and the appearance of the distant
headlands, discouraged Cartier's hopes so much that on Wednesday, August 5th,
after taking counsel with his officers and pilots, he decided that it was not
safe to attempt more that season. The little squadron, therefore, bore off
toward the east and northeast, and made Blanc Sablon on the 9th. Continuing
thence their passage into the Atlantic, they were favored with fair winds,
which carried them to the middle of the ocean, between Newfoundland and
Bretagne. They then encountered storms and adverse winds, respecting which
Cartier piously remarks: "We suffered and endured these with the aid of God,
and after that we had good weather and arrived at the harbor of St. Malo,
whence we had set out, on September 5, 1534." Thus ended Jacques Cartier's
first voyage to Canada. As a French-Canadian historian of Canada has
observed, this first expedition was not "sterile in results"; for, in addition
to the other notable incidents of the voyage, the two natives whom he carried
with him to France are understood to have been the first to inform him of the
existence of the great river St. Lawrence, which he was destined to discover
the following year.

It is not certainly known how nearly he advanced to the mouth of that
river on his passage from Gaspe Bay. But it is believed that he passed round
the western point of Anticosti, subsequently named by him Isle de
l'Assumption, and that he then turned to the east, leaving behind the entrance
into the great river, which he then supposed to be an extensive bay, and,
coasting along the shore of Labrador, came to the river Natachquoin, near
Mount Joli, whence, as already stated, he passed eastward and northward to
Blanc Sablon.

Cartier and his companions were favorably received on their return to
France. The expectations of his employers had been to a certain extent
realized, while the narrative of the voyage, and the prospects which this
afforded of greater results in future, inspired such feelings of hope and
confidence that there seems to have been no hesitation in furnishing means for
the equipment of another expedition. The Indians who had been brought to
France were instructed in the French language, and served also as specimens of
the people inhabiting his majesty's western dominions. During the winter the
necessary preparations were made.

On the May 19, 1535, Cartier took his departure from St. Malo on his
second expedition. It was in every way better equipped than that of the
preceding year, and consisted of three ships, manned by one hundred ten
sailors. A number of gentlemen volunteers from France accompanied it. Cartier
himself embarked on board the largest vessel, which was named La Grande
Hermine, along with his two interpreters. Adverse winds lengthened the
voyage, so that seven weeks were occupied in sailing to the Straits of
Belle-Isle. Thence the squadron made for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, so named
by Cartier in honor of the day upon which he entered it. Emboldened by the
information derived from his Indian interpreters, he sailed up the great
river, at first named the River of Canada, or of Hochelaga. The mouth of the
Saguenay was passed on September 1st, and the island of Orleans reached on the
9th. To this he gave the name "Isle of Bacchus," on account of the abundance
of grape-vines upon it.

On the 16th the ships arrived off the headland since known as Cape
Diamond. Near to this, a small river, called by Cartier St. Croix, now the
St. Charles, was observed flowing into the St. Lawrence, intercepting, at the
confluence, a piece of lowland, which was the site of the Indian village
Stadacona. Towering above this, on the left bank of the greater river, was
Cape Diamond and the contiguous highland, which in after times became the site
of the Upper Town of Quebec. A little way within the mouth of the St. Croix,
Cartier selected stations suitable for mooring and laying up his vessels; for
he seems, on his arrival at Stadacona, to have already decided upon wintering
in the country. This design was favored, not only by the advanced period of
the season, but also by the fact that the natives appeared to be friendly and
in a position to supply his people abundantly with provisions. Many hundreds
came off from the shore in bark canoes, bringing fish, maize, and fruit.

Aided by the two interpreters, the French endeavored at once to establish
a friendly intercourse. A chief, Donacona, made an oration, and expressed his
desire for amicable relations between his own people and their visitors.
Cartier, on his part, tried to allay apprehension, and to obtain information
respecting the country higher up the great river. Wishing also to impress
upon the minds of the savages a conviction of the French power, he caused
several pieces of artillery to be discharged in the presence of the chief and
a number of his warriors. Fear and astonishment were occasioned by the sight
of the fire and smoke, followed by sounds such as they had never heard before.
Presents, consisting of trinkets, small crosses, beads, pieces of glass, and
other trifles, were distributed among them.

Cartier allowed himself a rest of only three days at Stadacona, deeming
it expedient to proceed at once up the river with an exploring party. For
this purpose he manned his smallest ship, the Ermerillon, and two boats, and
departed on the 19th of September, leaving the other ships safely moored at
the mouth of the St. Charles. He had learned from the Indians that there was
another town, called Hochelaga, situated about sixty leagues above. Cartier
and his companions, the first European navigators of the St. Lawrence, and the
earliest pioneers of civilization and Christianity in those regions, moved
very slowly up the river. At the part since called Lake St. Peter the water
seemed to become more and more shallow. The Ermerillon, was therefore left as
well secured as possible, and the remainder of the passage made in the two
boats. Frequent meetings, of a friendly nature, with Indians on the river
bank, caused delays, so that they did not arrive at Hochelaga until October

As described by Cartier himself, this town consisted of about fifty large
huts or cabins, which, for purposes of defence, were surrounded by wooden
palisades. There were upward of twelve hundred inhabitants, ^1 belonging to
some Algonquin tribe.

[Footnote 1: It has not been satisfactorily settled to what tribe the Indians
belonged who were found by Cartier at Hochelaga. Some have even doubted the
accuracy of his description in relation to their numbers, the character of
their habitations, and other circumstances, under the belief that allowance
must be made for exaggeration in the accounts of the first European visitors,
who were desirous that their adventures should rival those of Cortes and
Pizarro. It has also been suggested that the people were not Hurons, but
remnants of the Iroquois tribes, who might have lingered there on their way
southward. At any rate, when the place was revisited by Frenchmen more than
half a century afterward, very few savages were seen in the neighborhood, and
these different from those met by Cartier, while the town itself was no longer
in existence. Champlain, upward of seventy years after Jacques Cartier,
visited Hochelaga, but made no mention in his narrative either of the town or
of inhabitants.]

At Hochelaga, as previously at Stadacona, the French were received by the
natives in a friendly manner. Supplies of fish and maize were freely offered,
and, in return, presents of beads, knives, small mirrors, and crucifixes were
distributed. Entering into communication with them, Cartier sought
information respecting the country higher up the river. From their imperfect
intelligence it appears he learned the existence of several great lakes, and
that beyond the largest and most remote of these there was another great river
which flowed southward. They conducted him to the summit of a mountain behind
the town, whence he surveyed the prospect of a wilderness stretching to the
south and west as far as the eye could reach, and beautifully diversified by
elevations of land and by water. Whatever credit Cartier attached to their
vague statements about the geography of their country, he was certainly struck
by the grandeur of the neighboring scenery as viewed from the eminence on
which he stood. To this he gave the name of Mount Royal, whence the name of
Montreal was conferred on the city which has grown up on the site of the
ancient Indian town Hochelaga.

According to some accounts, Hochelaga was, even in those days, a place of
importance, having subject to it eight or ten outlying settlements or

Anxious to return to Stadacona, and probably placing little confidence in
the friendly professions of the natives, Cartier remained at Hochelaga only
two days, and commenced his passage down the river on October 4th. His wary
mistrust of the Indian character was not groundless, for bands of savages
followed along the banks and watched all the proceedings of his party. On one
occasion he was attacked by them and narrowly escaped massacre.

Arriving at Stadacona on the 11th, measures were taken for maintenance
and security during the approaching winter. Abundant provisions had been
already stored up by the natives and assigned for the use of the strangers. A
fence or palisade was constructed round the ships, and made as strong as
possible, and cannon so placed as to be available in case of any attack.
Notwithstanding these precautions, it turned out that, in one essential
particular, the preparations for winter were defective. Jacques Cartier and
his companions being the first of Europeans to experience the rigors of a
Canadian winter, the necessity for warm clothing had not been foreseen when
the expedition left France, and now, when winter was upon them, the procuring
of a supply was simply impossible. The winter proved long and severe. Masses
of ice began to come down the St. Lawrence on November 15th, and, not long
afterward, a bridge of ice was formed opposite to Stadacona. Soon the
intensity of the cold - such as Cartier's people had never before experienced
- and the want of suitable clothing occasioned much suffering. Then, in
December, a disease, but little known to Europeans, broke out among the crew.
It was the scurvy, named by the French mal-de-terre.

As described by Cartier, it was very painful, loathsome in its symptoms
and effects, as well as contagious. The legs and thighs of the patients
swelled, the sinews contracted, and the skin became black. In some cases the
whole body was covered with purple spots and sore tumors. After a time the
upper parts of the body - the back, arms, shoulders, neck, and face - were all
painfully affected. The roof of the mouth, gums, and teeth fell out.
Altogether, the sufferers presented a deplorable spectacle.

Many died between December and April, during which period the greatest
care was taken to conceal their true condition from the natives. Had this not
been done, it is to be feared that Donacona's people would have forced an
entrance and put all to death for the purpose of obtaining the property of the
French. In fact, the two interpreters were, on the whole, unfaithful, living
entirely at Stadacona; while Donacona, and the Indians generally, showed, in
many ways, that, under a friendly exterior, unfavorable feelings reigned in
their hearts.

But the attempts to hide their condition from the natives might have been
fatal, for the Indians, who also suffered from scurvy, were acquainted with
means of curing the disease. It was only by accident that Cartier found out
what those means were. He had forbidden the savages to come on board the
ships, and when any of them came near the only men allowed to be seen by them
were those who were in health. One day, Domagaya was observed approaching.
This man, the younger of the two interpreters, was known to have been sick of
the scurvy at Stadacona, so that Cartier was much surprised to see him out and
well. He contrived to make him relate the particulars of his recovery, and
thus found out that a decoction of the bark and foliage of the white
spruce-tree furnished the savages with a remedy. Having recourse to this
enabled the French captain to arrest the progress of the disease among his own
people, and, in a short time, to bring about their restoration to health.

The meeting with Domagaya occurred at a time when the French were in a
very sad state - reduced to the brink of despair. Twenty-five of the number
had died, while forty more were in expectation of soon following their
deceased comrades. Of the remaining forty-five, including Cartier and all the
surviving officers, only three or four were really free from disease. The dead
could not be buried, nor was it possible for the sick to be properly cared

In this extremity, the stout-hearted French captain could think of no
other remedy than a recourse to prayers and the setting up of an image of the
Virgin Mary in sight of the sufferers. "But," he piously exclaimed, "God, in
his holy grace, looked down in pity upon us, and sent to us a knowledge of the
means of cure." He had great apprehensions of an attack from the savages, for
he says in his narrative: "We were in a marvellous state of terror lest the
people of the country should ascertain our pitiable condition and our
weakness," and then goes on to relate artifices by which he contrived to
deceive them.

One of the ships had to be abandoned in course of the winter, her crew
and contents being removed into the other two vessels. The deserted hull was
visited by the savages in search of pieces of iron and other things. Had they
known the cause for abandoning her, and the desperate condition of the French,
they would have soon forced their way into the other ships. They were, in
fact, too numerous to be resisted if they had made the attempt.

At length the protracted winter came to an end. As soon as the ships
were clear of ice, Cartier made preparations for returning at once to France.

On May 3, 1536, a wooden cross, thirty-five feet high, was raised upon
the river bank. Donacona was invited to approach, along with his people. When
he did so, Cartier caused him, together with the two interpreters and seven
warriors, to be seized and taken on board his ship. His object was to convey
them to France and present them to the King. On the 6th, the two vessels
departed. Upward of six weeks were spent in descending the St. Lawrence and
traversing the gulf. Instead of passing through the Straits of Belle-Isle,
Cartier this time made for the south coast of Newfoundland, along which he
sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean. On Sunday, July 17, 1536, he arrived at
St. Malo.

By the results of this second voyage, Jacques Cartier established for
himself a reputation and a name in history which will never cease to be
remembered with respect. He had discovered one of the largest rivers in the
world, had explored its banks, and navigated its difficult channel more than
eight hundred miles, with a degree of skill and courage which has never been
surpassed; for it was a great matter in those days to penetrate so far into
unknown regions, to encounter the hazards of an unknown navigation, and to
risk his own safety and that of his followers among an unknown people.
Moreover, his accounts of the incidents of his sojourn of eight months, and of
the features of the country, as well as his estimate of the two principal
sites upon which, in after times, the two cities, Quebec and Montreal, have
grown up, illustrate both his fidelity and his sagacity. His dealings with
the natives appear to have been such as to prove his tact, prudence, and sense
of justice, notwithstanding the objectionable procedure of capturing and
carrying off Donacona with other chiefs and warriors. This latter measure,
however indefensible in itself, was consistent with the almost universal
practice of navigators of that period and long afterward. Doubtless Cartier's
expectation was that their abduction could not but result in their own benefit
by leading to their instruction in civilization and Christianity, and that it
might be afterward instrumental in producing the rapid conversion of large
numbers of their people. However this may be, considering the inherent
viciousness of the Indian character, Cartier's intercourse with the Indians
was conducted with dignity and benevolence, and was marked by the total
absence of bloodshed - which is more than can be urged in behalf of other
eminent discoverers and navigators of those days or during the ensuing two
centuries. Cartier was undoubtedly one of the greatest sea-captains of his
own or any other country, and one who provided carefully for the safety and
welfare of his followers, and, so far as we know, enjoyed their respect and
confidence; nor were his plans hindered or his proceedings embarrassed by
disobedience on their part or the display of mutinous conduct calculated to
mar the success of a maritime expedition. In fine, Jacques Cartier was a noble
specimen of a mariner, in an age when a maritime spirit prevailed.

A severe disappointment awaited Cartier on his return home from his
second voyage. France was now engaged in a foreign war; and at the same time
the minds of the people were distracted by religious dissensions. In
consequence of these untoward circumstances, both the court and the people had
ceased to give heed to the objects which he had been so faithfully engaged in
prosecuting in the western hemisphere. Neither he nor his friends could
obtain even a hearing in behalf of the fitting out of another expedition, for
the attention of the King and his advisers was now absorbed by weightier cares
at home. Nevertheless, from time to time, as occasion offered, several
unsuccessful attempts were made to introduce the project of establishing a
French colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence. Meanwhile, Donacona, and the
other Indian warriors who had been brought captives to France, pined away and

At length, after an interval of about four years, proposals for another
voyage westward, and for colonizing the country, came to be so far entertained
that plans of an expedition were permitted to be discussed. But now, instead
of receiving the unanimous support which had been accorded to previous
undertakings, the project was opposed by a powerful party at court, consisting
of persons who tried to dissuade the King from granting his assent. These
alleged that enough had already been done for the honor of their country; that
it was not expedient to take in hand the subjugation and settlement of those
far-distant regions, tenanted only by savages and wild animals; that the
intensely severe climate and hardships such as had proved fatal to one-fourth
of Cartier's people in 1535, were certain evils, which there was no prospect
of advantage to outweigh; that the newly discovered country had not been shown
to possess mines of gold and silver; and, finally, that such extensive
territories could not be effectively settled without transporting thither a
considerable part of the population of the kingdom of France.

Notwithstanding the apparent force of these objections, the French King
did eventually sanction the project of another transatlantic enterprise on a
larger scale than heretofore.

A sum of money was granted by the King toward the purchase and equipment
of ships, to be placed under the command of Jacques Cartier, having the
commission of captain-general. ^1 Apart from the navigation of the fleet, the
chief command in the undertaking was assigned to M. de Roberval, who, in a
commission dated January 15, 1540, was named viceroy and lieutenant-general
over Newfoundland, Labrador, and Canada. Roberval was empowered to engage
volunteers and emigrants, and to supply the lack of these by means of
prisoners to be taken from the jails and hulks. Thus, in about five years
from the discovery of the river St. Lawrence, and, six years after, of Canada,
measures were taken for founding a colony. But from the very commencement of
the undertaking, which, it will be seen, proved an entire failure,
difficulties presented themselves. Roberval was unable to provide all the
requisite supplies of small arms, ammunition, and other stores, as he had
engaged to do, during the winter of 1540. It also was found difficult to
induce volunteers and emigrants to embark. It was, therefore, settled that
Roberval should remain behind to complete his preparations, while Cartier,
with five vessels, provisioned for two years, should set sail at once for the
St. Lawrence.

[Footnote 1: Commission dated October 20, 1540. In this document the French
King's appreciation of Cartier's merits is strongly shown in the terms
employed to express his royal confidence "in the character, judgment, ability,
loyalty, dignity, hardihood, great diligence, and experience of the said
Jacques Cartier." Cartier was also authorized to select fifty prisoners" whom
he might judge useful," etc.]

On May 23, 1541, Cartier departed from St. Malo on his third voyage to
Canada. After a protracted passage of twelve weeks, the fleet arrived at
Stadacona. Cartier and some of his people landed and entered into
communication with the natives, who flocked round him as they had done in
1535. They desired to know what had become of their chief, Donacona, and the
warriors who had been carried off to France five years before. On being made
aware that all had died, they became distant and sullen in their behavior.
They held out no inducements to the French to reestablish their quarters of
Stadacona. Perceiving this, as well as signs of dissimulation, Cartier
determined to take such steps as might secure himself and followers from
suffering through their resentment. Two of his ships he sent back at once to
France, with letters for the King and for Roberval, reporting his movements,
and soliciting such supplies as were needed. With the remaining ships he
ascended the St. Lawrence as far as Cap-Rouge, where a station was chosen
close to the mouth of a stream which flowed into the great river. Here it was
determined to moor the ships and to erect such storehouses and other works as
might be necessary for security and convenience. It was also decided to raise
a small fort or forts on the highland above, so as to command the station and
protect themselves from any attack which the Indians might be disposed to
make. While some of the people were employed upon the building of the fort,
others were set at work preparing ground for cultivation. Cartier himself, in
his report, bore ample testimony to the excellent qualities of the soil, as
well as the general fitness of the country for settlement. ^1

[Footnote 1: His description is substantially as follows: "On both sides of
the river were very good lands filled with as beautiful and vigorous trees as
are to be seen in the world, and of various sorts. A great many oaks, the
finest I have ever seen in my life, and so full of acorns that they seemed
like to break down with their weight. Besides these there were the most
beautiful maples, cedars, birches, and other kinds of trees not to be seen in
France. The forest land toward the south is covered with vines, which are
found loaded with grapes as black as brambleberries. There were also many
hawthorn-trees, with leaves as large as those of the oak, and fruit like that
of the medlar-tree. In short, the country is as fit for cultivation as one
could find or desire. We sowed seeds of cabbage, lettuce, turnips, and others
of our country, which came up in eight days."]

Having made all the dispositions necessary for the security of the
station at Cap-Rouge, and for continuing, during his absence, the works
already commenced, Cartier departed for Hochelaga on September 7th, with a
party of men, in two barges. On the passage up he found the Indians whom he
had met in 1535 as friendly as before. The natives of Hochelaga seemed also
well disposed, and rendered all the assistance he sought in enabling him to
attempt the passage up the rapids situated above that town. Failing to
accomplish this, he remained but a short time among them, gathering all the
information they could furnish about the regions bordering on the Upper St.
Lawrence. He then hastened back to Cap-Rouge. On his way down he found the
Indians, who a short time before were so friendly, changed and cold in their
demeanor, if not actually hostile. Arrived at Cap-Rouge, the first thing he
learned was that the Indians had ceased to visit the station as at first, and,
instead of coming daily with supplies of fish and fruit, that they only
approached near enough to manifest, by their demeanor and gestures, feelings
decidedly hostile toward the French. In fact, during Cartier's absence,
former causes of enmity had been heightened by a quarrel, in which, although
some of his own people had, in the first instance, been the aggressors, a
powerful savage had killed a Frenchman, and threatened to deal with another in
like manner.

Winter came, but not Roberval with the expected supplies of warlike
stores and men, now so much needed, in order to curb the insolence of the
natives. Of the incidents of that winter passed at Cap-Rouge, there is but
little reliable information extant. It is understood, however, that the
Indians continued to harass and molest the French throughout the period of
their stay, and that Cartier, with his inadequate force, found it difficult to
repel their attacks. When spring came round, the inconveniences to which they
had been exposed, and the discouraging character of their prospects, led to a
unanimous determination to abandon the station and return to France as soon as
possible. ^1

[Footnote 1: Early in the spring of 1542 Cartier seems to have made several
small excursions in search of gold and silver. That these existed in the
country, especially in the region of the Saguenay, was intimated to him by the
Indians; and this information probably led Roberval afterward to undertake his
unfortunate excursion to Tadousac. Cartier did find a yellowish material,
which he styled "poudre d'or," and which he took to France, after exhibiting
it to Roberval when he met him at Newfoundland. It is likely that this was
merely fine sand intermixed with particles of mica. He also took with him
small transparent stones, which he supposed to be diamonds, but which could
have been no other than transparent crystals of quartz.]

At the very time that Cartier, in Canada, was occupied in preparations
for the reembarkation of the people who had wintered at Cap-Rouge, Roberval,
in France, was completing his arrangements for departure from Rochelle with
three considerable ships. In these were embarked two hundred persons,
consisting of gentlemen, soldiers, sailors, and colonists, male and female,
among whom was a considerable number of criminals taken out of the public
prisons. The two squadrons met in the harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland,
when Cartier, after making his report to Roberval, was desired to return with
the outward-bound expedition to Canada. Foreseeing the failure of the
undertaking, or, as some have alleged, unwilling to allow another to
participate in the credit of his discoveries, Cartier disobeyed the orders of
his superior officer. Various accounts have been given of this transaction,
according to some of which, Cartier, to avoid detention or importunity,
weighed anchor in the night-time and set sail for France.

Roberval resumed his voyage westward, and by the close of July had
ascended the St. Lawrence to Cap-Rouge, where he at once established his
colonists in the quarters recently vacated by Cartier.

It is unnecessary to narrate in detail the incidents which transpired in
connection with Roberval's expedition, as this proved a signal failure, and
produced no results of consequence to the future fortunes of the country. It
is sufficient to state that, although Roberval himself was a man endowed with
courage and perseverance, he found himself powerless to cope with the
difficulties of his position, which included insubordination that could be
repressed only by means of the gallows and other extreme modes of punishment;
disease, which carried off a quarter of his followers in the course of the
ensuing winter; unsuccessful attempts at exploration, attended with
considerable loss of life; and finally famine, which reduced the surviving
French to a state of abject dependence upon the natives for the salvation of
their lives. Roberval had sent one of his vessels back to France, with urgent
demands for succor; but the King, instead of acceding to his petition,
despatched orders for him to return home. It is stated, on somewhat doubtful
authority, that Cartier himself was deputed to bring home the relics of the
expedition; and, if so, this distinguished navigator must have made a fourth
voyage out to the regions which he had been the first to make known to the
world. Thus ended Roberval's abortive attempt to establish a French colony on
the banks of the St. Lawrence.

Of the principal actors in the scenes which have been described, but
little remains to be recorded. Roberval, after having distinguished himself
in the European wars carried on by Francis I, is stated to have fitted out
another expedition, in conjunction with his brother, in the year 1549, for the
purpose of making a second attempt to found a colony in Canada; but he and all
with him perished at sea. The intrepid Cartier, by whose services in the
western hemisphere so extensive an addition had been made to the dominions of
the King of France, was suffered to retire into obscurity, and is supposed to
have passed the remainder of his days on a small estate possessed by him in
the neighborhood of his native place, St. Malo. The date of his decease is
unknown. ^1

[Footnote 1: Cartier was born December 31, 1494. He was therefore in the
prime of life when he discovered Canada, and not more than forty-nine years of
age at the time when he returned home from his last trip to the west.]

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