Jacques Cartier was a brave and experienced sea captain from St. Malo. In 1534, Cartier made a preliminary voyage of exploration. Touching at Newfoundland, he sailed through the straits of Belle Isle and explored the east shore of the island, a region which for the barrenness of its soil and the severity of its climate seemed the very spot whither Cain had been banished. The coast of New Brunswick held out a more inviting prospect. The fertility of the soil reminded the voyagers of their native Brittany, and one field there seemed worth more than the whole of Newfoundland. Thence Cartier sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and would have explored the great river of Canada, but storms arose and he deemed it prudent to return to France before bad weather set in. His report of the country was encouraging. The soil, as we have seen, promised well, and the voyagers had not yet learned the terrors of a Canadian winter. The natives were rude in their habits, but they were uniformly peaceful and ready to trade on easy terms for such goods as they possest. There seemed good reason to hope, too, that they might be converted to Christianity, and one of them had shown confidence enough in the strangers to trust them with his two children, who were easily reconciled to their captivity by the gift of red caps and colored shirts.

In the next year Cartier again went forth with three ships. After confessing and taking the sacrament in the church of St. Malo, the adventurers set sail on Whit Sunday. Among them was the cup-bearer to the Dauphin, Claudius de Pont-Briand. As before, the strangers were well received by the Indians, and landed safely at Quebec. There Cartier left his sailors with instructions to make a fortified camp, while he himself, with the greater part of his men-at-arms and his two Indian captives of the year before, should explore the upper banks of the St. Lawrence, and penetrate, if possible, to the great Indian city of Hochelaga.2 The Indians, tho outwardly friendly, seem either to have distrusted the French, or else grudged their neighbors at Hochelaga such valuable allies, and would have dissuaded Cartier from his expedition. When their remonstrances proved useless, the savages tried to work on the fears of the visitors. Three canoes came floating down the river, each containing a fiendish figure with horns and blackened face. The supposed demons delivered themselves of a threatening harangue, and then paddled to the shore, and whether to complete the performance, or through honest terror, fell fainting in their boats. The Indians then explained to Cartier that their god had sent a warning to the presumptuous strangers, bidding them refrain from the intended voyage. Cartier replied that the Indian god could have no power over those who believed in Christ. The Indians acquiesced, and even affected to rejoice in the approaching discomfiture of their deity. Cartier and his followers started on the voyage.

After a fortnight's journey they came in sight of the natural citadel of Hochelaga, the royal mount, as they fitly called it, which has since given its name to the stately city below. The site of that city was then filled by a village surrounded by maize fields and strongly fortified after the Iroquois manner. There the French were received with hospitality and with a reverence which seemed to imply that they were something more than mortal. The sick were laid before them to be healed, and when Cartier read portions of the Gospel in French, the savages listened reverently to the unknown sounds. On his return, Cartier found his fort securely palisaded, and decided there to await the winter. So far all had gone well, but the settlers were soon destined to see the unfavorable side of Canadian life. The savages, after their fickle nature, began to waver in their friendship. A worse danger was to come. Scurvy broke out, and before long twenty-five men had died, and not more than three or four remained well. At length the leaf of a tree whose virtues were pointed out by the Indians restored the sufferers to health. When winter disappeared and the river again became navigable, Cartier determined to return. He was anxious that the French king should learn the wonders of the country from the mouths of its own people. Accordingly, with a characteristic mixture of caution, subtlety, and conciliation, he allured the principal chief Donnacona, and some of his followers into the fort. There they were seized and carried to the ships, nominally as honored guests, like Montezuma among the followers of Cortez. Cartier then set sail with his captives, and in July reached St. Malo. The Indians, as was usually the fate of such captives, pined under a strange sky, and when Cartier sailed again not one was alive.

Four years elapsed before another voyage was undertaken. In 1540 a fleet of five ships was made ready at the expense of the king, who reserved to himself a third of the profits of the voyage. Cartier was appointed captain-general, with instructions to establish a settlement and to labor for the conversion of the savages. With Cartier was associated a man of high birth, the Sieur de Roberval, who was appointed Viceroy and Lieutenant-general of Newfoundland, Labrador, and all the territory explored by Cartier, with the title of Lord of Norumbega. This division of command seems to have led to no good results. Another measure which probably contributed to the failure of the expedition was the mode employed for raising the necessary crews. Cartier, like Frobisher, was empowered to search the prisons for recruits. Even before the voyage began things took an unfavorable turn. Roberval's ammunition was not ready at the stated time, and the departure of the fleet was thereby hindered.

At length, lest further delay should give offense at court, Cartier sailed, leaving Roberval to follow. The first interview with the savages was a source of some fear, as it was doubtful how they would receive the tidings of Donnacona's death. Luckily, the chief to whom the news was first told was Donnacona's successor, and, as might have been expected, he showed no dissatisfaction at Cartier's story. The French then settled themselves in their old quarters at Quebec. Two of the four ships were sent home to France to report safe arrival of the expedition, while Cartier himself, with two boats, set out to explore the river above Hochelaga. After his departure the relations between the settlers and the Indians became unfriendly, a change probably due in part to the loss of Donnacona and his companions. Whatever the cause, the danger seemed so serious that Cartier on his return decided to abandon the colony and to make for France. From later events it would seem as if Cartier had no friendly feeling toward Roberval, and jealousy may have had some share in leading him to forsake the enterprise for which he had endured and risked so much. On his homeward voyage he put into the harbor of St. John, in Newfoundland. There he met Roberval with three ships and 200 men. Their meeting seems to have been friendly, but Cartier, instead of obeying Roberval's orders and returning with him to Canada, quietly weighed anchor in the night and sailed away to France.

With this inglorious departure ends the career of the first great French colonizer. Roberval resumed his voyage and landed above Quebec. There he built a single abode for the whole colony, on the model of a college or monastery, with a common hall and kitchen. Of the doings of the settlers we have but scanty accounts, but we learn enough to see that the colony was ill-planned from the outset, and that either Roberval was unfit for command or singularly unfortunate in his subjects. The supplies were soon found to be inadequate, and scurvy set in, the colonists became disorderly, and Roberval ruled them with a rod of iron. Trifling offenses were punished with fearful severity; men and women were flogged, and if we may believe one account, the punishment of death was inflicted with no sparing hand. How long the colony lingered on is unknown. Roberval himself returned to France only, it is said, to die a violent death in the streets of Paris. There is nothing to tell us whether his colonists returned with him or whether, like White's unhappy followers, they were left to fall victims to the horrors of the wilderness. Whatever was their fate, no attempt was made to restore the colony, and the St. Lawrence was left for more than fifty years to the savages and wild beasts.

1From Doyle's "English Colonies in America." By permission of the publishers, Henry Holt & Co. Jacques Cartier was born at St. Malo, France, in 1494, and died some time after 1552. He made three voyages to Canada, the first in 1534, the second in 1535, the third in 1541.
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2The site is now occupied by Montreal.
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