1534 Cartier Explores Canada French Attempts At Colonization by H.H. Miles

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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, 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 Portugal."]

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

[Footnote 2: 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 2d.

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, belonging to some Algonquin tribe.

[Footnote 3: 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 villages.

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 for.

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 died.

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. [Fn 4] 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 4: 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.

[Footnote 5: 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.

[Footnote 6: 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.

[Footnote 7: 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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Source: NAC/ANC, Elgin-Grey Papers

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