Jacques Cartier

Cartier, JACQUES, French navigator; born at St. Malo, France, Dec. 31, 1494; was commissioned by Francis I., King of France, to command an expedition to explore the Western Continent. On April 20, 1534, after appropriate ceremonies in the cathedral at St. Malo, he sailed from that port with two ships, having each a crew of 120 men, and, after a prosperous voyage of twenty days, they arrived at Newfoundland. Sailing northward, he entered the Strait of Belle Isle, and, touching the. coast of Labrador, he formally took possession of the country in the name of his king, and erected a cross, upon which he hung the arms of France. Turning southward, he followed the west coast of Newfoundland to Cape Race. Then he explored the Bay of Chaleurs, landed in Gaspe Bay, held friendly intercourse with the natives, and induced a chief to allow two of his sons to go with him to France, promising to return them the next year. There, also, he planted a cross with the French arms upon it, and, sailing thence northeast across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, entered the branch of the St. Lawrence River north of Anticosti Island. Unconscious of having discovered a magnificent river, he turned and sailed for France to avoid the autumn storms, and arrived at St. Malo on Sept. 5, 1534.

Encouraged by the success of this voyage, the King placed Cartier in command of three ships, which left St. Malo at the middle of May, 1535, bearing some of the young nobility of France. Separated by storms, they met at the appointed rendezvous, in the Strait of Belle Isle, in July, and sailed up the St. Lawrence to the mouth of a river (now St. Charles) at the site of Quebec, which they reached on September 14. His squadron consisted of the Great Hermine, 120 tons; Little Hermine, 60 tons; and L’Emerillon, a small craft. On the day after their arrival, they were visited by Donnaconna,” King of Canada,” who received them with the greatest kindness, and, through the two young men whom Cartier had brought back, they were enabled to converse. Mooring the larger vessels in the St. Croix (as Cartier named the St. Charles), he went up the river in the smaller one, with two or three volunteers, and, with a small boat, they reached the Huron village called Hochelaga, on the site of Montreal. He called the mountain back of it Mont Real (Royal Mountain), hence the name of Montreal. There he enjoyed the kindest hospitality, and bore away with him a pretty little girl, eight years old, daughter of one of the chiefs, who lent her to him to take to France. Returning to Stadacona (now Quebec) early in October, the Frenchmen spent a severe winter there, during which twenty-five of them died of scurvy. Nearly every one of them had the disease. When Cartier was prepared to leave for France, in the spring, the Little Hermine was found to be rotten and unseaworthy, and, as the other two vessels could carry his reduced company, she was abandoned. He formally took possession of the country in the name of his King, and, just before his departure (May 9, 1536), he invited Donnaconna and eight chiefs on board the flag-ship to a feast. They came, and Cartier treacherously sailed away with them to France as captives, where they all died of grief. Cartier reached St. Malo July 16.

There was now a pause in this enterprise, but finally Francis de la Roque, Lord of Roberval, Picardy, prevailed upon the King to appoint him viceroy and lieutenant-general of the new territory, and Cartier captain-general and chief pilot of the royal ships. Five vessels were fitted out, and Cartier, with two of them, sailed from St. Malo in May, 1541. Late in August these reached Stadacona. The people there eagerly pressed to the ships to welcome their monarch, whom Cartier had promised to bring back. They shook their heads incredulously when he told them Donnaconna was dead. To show his good faith, he showed them the pretty little Huron maiden whom he was to return to her friends at Hochelaga. But they grew more sullen every hour, and became positively hostile. After visiting Hochelaga, Cartier returned to Stadacona, and on an island (Orleans) just below, he caused a fort to be built for protection through the ensuing winter, where he waited patiently for the viceroy, but he came not. Towards the end of May the ice moved out of the St. Lawrence, and Cartier departed for France. He ran into the harbor of St. Johns, Newfoundland, where he found De la Roque on his way to the St. Lawrence. Cartier tried to induce him to turn back by giving him most discouraging accounts of the country, but he ordered the navigator to go back with him to the great river. Cartier disobeyed and sailed for France. The viceroy went above the site of Quebec, where he built a fort and spent the next winter in great suffering, returning to France in the autumn of 1543. Cartier had arrived the previous summer, and did not make another voyage. He died in 1555.