CHRONICLES OF CANADA
Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
In thirty-two volumes
THE MARINER OF ST MALO
A Chronicle of the Voyages of Jacques Cartier
THE FIRST VOYAGE—NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
THE FIRST VOYAGE—THE GULF OF ST LAWRENCE
THE SECOND VOYAGE—THE ST LAWRENCE
THE SECOND VOYAGE—STADACONA
THE SECOND VOYAGE—HOCHELAGA
THE SECOND VOYAGE—WINTER AT STADACONA
THE THIRD VOYAGE
THE CLOSE OF CARTIER'S CAREER
ITINERARY OF CARTIER'S VOYAGES
In the town hall of the seaport of St Malo there hangs a portrait of
Jacques Cartier, the great sea-captain of that place, whose name is
associated for all time with the proud title of 'Discoverer of Canada.'
The picture is that of a bearded man in the prime of life, standing on
the deck of a ship, his bent elbow resting upon the gunwale, his chin
supported by his hand, while his eyes gaze outward upon the western
ocean as if seeking to penetrate its mysteries. The face is firm and
strong, with tight-set jaw, prominent brow, and the full, inquiring eye
of the man accustomed both to think and to act. The costume marks the
sea-captain of four centuries ago. A thick cloak, gathered by a belt at
the waist, enwraps the stalwart figure. On his head is the tufted
Breton cap familiar in the pictures of the days of the great
navigators. At the waist, on the left side, hangs a sword, and, on the
right, close to the belt, the dirk or poniard of the period.
How like or unlike the features of Cartier this picture in the town
hall may be, we have no means of telling. Painted probably in 1839, it
has hung there for more than seventy years, and the record of the
earlier prints or drawings from which its artist drew his inspiration
no longer survives. We know, indeed, that an ancient map of the eastern
coast of America, made some ten years after the first of Cartier's
voyages, has pictured upon it a group of figures that represent the
landing of the navigator and his followers among the Indians of Gaspe.
It was the fashion of the time to attempt by such decorations to make
maps vivid. Demons, deities, mythological figures and naked savages
disported themselves along the borders of the maps and helped to
decorate unexplored spaces of earth and ocean. Of this sort is the
illustration on the map in question. But it is generally agreed that we
have no right to identify Cartier with any of the figures in the scene,
although the group as a whole undoubtedly typifies his landing upon the
seacoast of Canada.
There is rumour, also, that the National Library at Paris contains an
old print of Cartier, who appears therein as a bearded man passing from
the prime of life to its decline. The head is slightly bowed with the
weight of years, and the face is wanting in that suggestion of
unconquerable will which is the dominating feature of the portrait of
St Malo. This is the picture that appears in the form of a medallion,
or ring-shaped illustration, in more than one of the modern works upon
the great adventurer. But here again we have no proofs of identity, for
we know nothing of the origin of the portrait.
Curiously enough an accidental discovery of recent years seems to
confirm in some degree the genuineness of the St Malo portrait. There
stood until the autumn of 1908, in the French-Canadian fishing village
of Cap-des-Rosiers, near the mouth of the St Lawrence, a house of very
ancient date. Precisely how old it was no one could say, but it was
said to be the oldest existing habitation of the settlement. Ravaged by
perhaps two centuries of wind and weather, the old house afforded but
little shelter against the boisterous gales and the bitter cold of the
rude climate of the Gulf. Its owner decided to tear it down, and in
doing so he stumbled upon a startling discovery. He found a dummy
window that, generations before, had evidently been built over and
concealed. From the cavity thus disclosed he drew forth a large wooden
medallion, about twenty inches across, with the portrait of a man
carved in relief. Here again are the tufted hat, the bearded face, and
the features of the picture of St Malo. On the back of the wood, the
deeply graven initials J. C. seemed to prove that the image which had
lain hidden for generations behind the woodwork of the old Canadian
house is indeed that of the great discoverer. Beside the initials is
carved the date 1704.. This wooden medallion would appear to have once
figured as the stern shield of some French vessel, wrecked probably
upon the Gaspe coast. As it must have been made long before the St Malo
portrait was painted, the resemblance of the two faces perhaps
indicates the existence of some definite and genuine portrait of
Jacques Cartier, of which the record has been lost.
It appears, therefore, that we have the right to be content with the
picture which hangs in the town hall of the seaport of St Malo. If it
does not show us Cartier as he was,—and we have no absolute proof in
the one or the other direction,—at least it shows us Cartier as he
might well have been, with precisely the face and bearing which the
hero-worshipper would read into the character of such a discoverer.
The port of St Malo, the birthplace and the home of Cartier, is
situated in the old province of Brittany, in the present department of
Ille-et-Vilaine. It is thus near the lower end of the English Channel.
To the north, about forty miles away, lies Jersey, the nearest of the
Channel Islands, while on the west surges the restless tide of the
broad Atlantic. The situation of the port has made it a nursery of
hardy seamen. The town stands upon a little promontory that juts out as
a peninsula into the ocean. The tide pours in and out of the harbour
thus formed, and rises within the harbour to a height of thirty or
forty feet. The rude gales of the western ocean spend themselves upon
the rocky shores of this Breton coast. Here for centuries has dwelt a
race of adventurous fishermen and navigators, whose daring is
unsurpassed by any other seafaring people in the world.
The history, or at least the legend, of the town goes back ten
centuries before the time of Cartier. It was founded, tradition tells
us, by a certain Aaron, a pilgrim who landed there with his disciples
in the year 507 A.D., and sought shelter upon the sea-girt promontory
which has since borne the name of Aaron's Rock. Aaron founded a
settlement. To the same place came, about twenty years later, a bishop
of Castle Gwent, with a small band of followers. The leader of this
flock was known as St Malo, and he gave his name to the seaport.
But the religious character of the first settlement soon passed away.
St Malo became famous as the headquarters of the corsairs of the
northern coast. These had succeeded the Vikings of an earlier day, and
they showed a hardihood and a reckless daring equal to that of their
predecessors. Later on, in more settled times, the place fell into the
hands of the fishermen and traders of northern France. When hardy
sailors pushed out into the Atlantic ocean to reach the distant shores
of America, St Malo became a natural port and place of outfit for the
passage of the western sea.
Jacques Cartier first saw the light in the year 1491. The family has
been traced back to a grandfather who lived in the middle of the
fifteenth century. This Jean Cartier, or Quartier, who was born in St
Malo in 1428, took to wife in 1457 Guillemette Baudoin. Of the four
sons that she bore him, Jamet, the eldest, married Geseline Jansart,
and of their five children the second one, Jacques, rose to greatness
as the discoverer of Canada. There is little to chronicle that is worth
while of the later descendants of the original stock. Jacques Cartier
himself was married in 1519 to Marie Katherine des Granches. Her father
was the Chevalier Honore des Granches, high constable of St Malo. In
all probability he stood a few degrees higher in the social scale of
the period than such plain seafaring folk as the Cartier family. From
this, biographers have sought to prove that, early in life, young
Jacques Cartier must have made himself a notable person among his
townsmen. But the plain truth is that we know nothing of the
circumstances that preceded the marriage, and have only the record of
15199 on the civil register of St Malo: 'The nuptial benediction was
received by Jacques Cartier, master-pilot of the port of Saincte-Malo,
son of Jamet Cartier and of Geseline Jansart, and Marie Katherine des
Granches, daughter of Messire Honore des Granches, chevalier of our
lord the king, and constable of the town and city of Saint-Malo.'
Cartier's marriage was childless, so that he left no direct
descendants. But the branches of the family descended from the original
Jean Cartier appear on the registers of St Malo, Saint Briac, and other
places in some profusion during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. The family seems to have died out, although not many years
ago direct descendants of Pierre Cartier, the uncle of Jacques, were
still surviving in France.
It is perhaps no great loss to the world that we have so little
knowledge of the ancestors and relatives of the famous mariner. It is,
however, deeply to be deplored that, beyond the record of his voyages,
we know so little of Jacques Cartier himself. We may take it for
granted that he early became a sailor. Brought up at such a time and
place, he could hardly have failed to do so. Within a few years after
the great discovery of Columbus, the Channel ports of St Malo and
Dieppe were sending forth adventurous fishermen to ply their trade
among the fogs of the Great Banks of the New Land. The Breton boy, whom
we may imagine wandering about the crowded wharves of the little
harbour, must have heard strange tales from the sailors of the new
discoveries. Doubtless he grew up, as did all the seafarers of his
generation, with the expectation that at any time some fortunate
adventurer might find behind the coasts and islands now revealed to
Europe in the western sea the half-fabled empires of Cipango and
Cathay. That, when a boy, he came into actual contact with sailors who
had made the Atlantic voyage is not to be questioned. We know that in
1507 the Pensee of Dieppe had crossed to the coast of Newfoundland and
that this adventure was soon followed by the sailing of other Norman
ships for the same goal.
We have, however, no record of Cartier and his actual doings until we
find his name in an entry on the baptismal register of St Malo. He
stood as godfather to his nephew, Etienne Nouel, the son of his sister
Jehanne. Strangely enough, this proved to be only the first of a great
many sacred ceremonies of this sort in which he took part. There is a
record of more than fifty baptisms at St Malo in the next forty-five
years in which the illustrious mariner had some share; in twenty-seven
of them he appeared as a godfather.
What voyages Cartier actually made before he suddenly appears in
history as a pilot of the king of France and the protege of the high
admiral of France we do not know. This position in itself, and the fact
that at the time of his marriage in 1519 he had already the rank of
master-pilot, would show that he had made the Atlantic voyage. There is
some faint evidence that he had even been to Brazil, for in the account
of his first recorded voyage he makes a comparison between the maize of
Canada and that of South America; and in those days this would scarcely
have occurred to a writer who had not seen both plants of which he
spoke. 'There groweth likewise,' so runs the quaint translation that
appears in Hakluyt's 'Voyages,' 'a kind of Millet as big as peason
[i.e. peas] like unto that which groweth in Bresil.' And later on, in
the account of his second voyage, he repeats the reference to Brazil;
then 'goodly and large fields' which he saw on the present site of
Montreal recall to him the millet fields of Brazil. It is possible,
indeed, that not only had he been in Brazil, but that he had carried a
native of that country to France. In a baptismal register of St Malo is
recorded the christening, in 1528, of a certain 'Catherine of Brezil,'
to whom Cartier's wife stood godmother. We may, in fancy at least,
suppose that this forlorn little savage with the regal title was a
little girl whom the navigator, after the fashion of his day, had
brought home as living evidence of the existence of the strange lands
that he had seen.
Out of this background, then, of uncertainty and conjecture emerges, in
1534, Jacques Cartier, a master-pilot in the prime of life, now sworn
to the service of His Most Christian Majesty Francis I of France, and
about to undertake on behalf of his illustrious master a voyage to the
THE FIRST VOYAGE—NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
It was on April 20, 1534, that Jacques Cartier sailed out of the port
of St Malo on his first voyage in the service of Francis I. Before
leaving their anchorage the commander, the sailing-masters, and the men
took an oath, administered by Charles de Mouy, vice-admiral of France,
that they would behave themselves truly and faithfully in the service
of the Most Christian King. The company were borne in two ships, each
of about sixty tons burden, and numbered in all sixty-one souls.
The passage across the ocean was pleasant. Fair winds, blowing fresh
and strong from the east, carried the clumsy caravels westward on the
foaming crests of the Atlantic surges. Within twenty days of their
departure the icebound shores of Newfoundland rose before their eyes.
Straight in front of them was Cape Bonavista, the 'Cape of Happy
Vision,' already known and named by the fishermen-explorers, who had
welcomed the sight of its projecting headlands after the weary leagues
of unbroken sea. But approach to the shore was impossible. The whole
coastline was blocked with the 'great store of ice' that lay against
it. The ships ran southward and took shelter in a little haven about
five leagues south of the cape, to which Cartier gave the name St
Catherine's Haven, either in fond remembrance of his wife, or, as is
more probable, in recognition of the help and guidance of St Catherine,
whose natal day, April 30, had fallen midway in his voyage. The
harbourage is known to-day as Catalina, and lies distant, as the crow
flies, about eighty miles north-westward of the present city of St
John's in Newfoundland. Here the mariners remained ten days, 'looking
for fair weather,' and engaged in mending and 'dressing' their boats.
At this time, it must be remembered, the coast of Newfoundland was, in
some degree, already known. Ships had frequently passed through the
narrow passage of Belle Isle that separates Newfoundland from the coast
of Labrador. Of the waters, however, that seemed to open up beyond, or
of the exact relation of the Newfoundland coastline to the rest of the
great continent nothing accurate was known. It might well be that the
inner waters behind the inhospitable headlands of Belle Isle would
prove the gateway to the great empires of the East. Cartier's business
at any rate was to explore, to see all that could be seen, and to bring
news of it to his royal master. This he set himself to do, with the
persevering thoroughness that was the secret of his final success. He
coasted along the shore from cape to cape and from island to island,
sounding and charting as he went, noting the shelter for ships that
might be found, and laying down the bearing of the compass from point
to point. It was his intent, good pilot as he was, that those who
sailed after him should find it easy to sail on these coasts.
From St Catherine's Harbour the ships sailed on May 21 with a fine
off-shore wind that made it easy to run on a course almost due north.
As they advanced on this course the mainland sank again from sight, but
presently they came to an island. It lay far out in the sea, and was
surrounded by a great upheaval of jagged and broken ice. On it and
around it they saw so dense a mass of birds that no one, declares
Cartier, could have believed it who had not seen it for himself. The
birds were as large as jays, they were coloured black and white, and
they could scarcely fly because of their small wings and their
exceeding fatness. The modern enquirer will recognize, perhaps, the
great auk which once abounded on the coast, but which is now extinct.
The sailors killed large numbers of the birds, and filled two boats
with them. Then the ships sailed on rejoicing from the Island of Birds
with six barrels full of salted provisions added to their stores.
Cartier's Island of Birds is the Funk Island of our present maps.
The ships now headed west and north to come into touch with land again.
To the great surprise of the company they presently met a huge polar
bear swimming in the open sea, and evidently heading for the tempting
shores of the Island of Birds. The bear was 'as great as any cow and as
white as a swan.' The sailors lowered boats in pursuit, and captured
'by main force' the bear, which supplied a noble supper for the
captors. 'Its flesh,' wrote Cartier, 'was as good to eat as any heifer
of two years.'
The explorers sailed on westward, changing their course gradually to
the north to follow the broad curve of the Atlantic coast of
Newfoundland. Jutting headlands and outlying capes must have
alternately appeared and disappeared on the western horizon. May 24,
found the navigators off the entrance of Belle Isle. After four hundred
years of maritime progress, the passage of the narrow strait that
separates Newfoundland from Labrador remains still rough and dangerous,
even for the great steel ships of to-day. We can imagine how forbidding
it must have looked to Cartier and his companions from the decks of
their small storm-tossed caravels. Heavy gales from the west came
roaring through the strait. Great quantities of floating ice ground to
and fro under the wind and current. So stormy was the outlook that for
the time being the passage seemed impossible. But Cartier was not to be
baulked in his design. He cast anchor at the eastern mouth of the
strait, in what is now the little harbour of Kirpon (Carpunt), and
there day after day, stormbound by the inclement weather, he waited
until June 9. Then at last he was able to depart, hoping, as he wrote,
'with the help of God to sail farther.'
Having passed through the Strait of Belle Isle, Cartier crossed over to
the northern coast. Two days of prosperous sailing with fair winds
carried him far along the shore to a distance of more than a hundred
miles west of the entrance of the Strait of Belle Isle. Whether he
actually touched on his way at the island now known as Belle Isle is a
matter of doubt. He passed an island which he named St Catherine, and
which he warned all mariners to avoid because of dangerous shoals that
lay about it. We find his track again with certainty when he reaches
the shelter of the Port of Castles. The name was given to the anchorage
by reason of the striking cliffs of basaltic rock, which here give to
the shore something of the appearance of a fortress. The place still
bears the name of Castle Bay.
Sailing on to the west, Cartier noted the glittering expanse of Blanc
Sablon (White Sands), still known by the name received from these first
explorers. On June 10 the ships dropped anchor in the harbour of Brest,
which lies on the northern coast of the Gulf of St Lawrence among many
little islands lining the shore. This anchorage seems to have been
known already in Cartier's time, and it became afterwards a famous
place of gathering for the French fishermen. Later on in the sixteenth
century a fort was erected there, and the winter settlement about it is
said to have contained at one time as many as a thousand people. But
its prosperity vanished later, and the fort had been abandoned before
the great conflict had begun between France and Great Britain for the
possession of North America. Cartier secured wood and water at Brest.
Leaving his ships there for the time being, he continued his westward
exploration in his boats.
The careful pilot marked every striking feature of the coast, the
bearing of the headlands and the configuration of the many islands
which stud these rock-bound and inhospitable shores. He spent a night
on one of these islands, and the men found great quantities of ducks'
eggs. The next day, still sailing to the west, he reached so fine an
anchorage that he was induced to land and plant a cross there in honour
of St Servan. Beyond this again was an island 'round like an oven.'
Still farther on he found a great river, as he thought it, which came
sweeping down from the highlands of the interior.
As the boats lay in the mouth of the river, there came bearing down
upon them a great fishing ship which had sailed from the French port of
La Rochelle, and was now seeking vainly for the anchorage of Brest.
Cartier's careful observations now bore fruit. He and his men went in
their small boats to the fishing ship and gave the information needed
for the navigation of the coast. The explorers still pressed on towards
the west, till they reached a place which Cartier declared to be one of
the finest harbours of the world, and which he called Jacques Cartier
Harbour. This is probably the water now known as Cumberland Harbour.
The forbidding aspect of the northern shore and the adverse winds
induced Cartier to direct his course again towards the south, to the
mainland, as he thought, but really to the island of Newfoundland; and
so he now turned back with his boats to rejoin the ships. The company
gathered safely again at Brest on Sunday, June 14, and Cartier caused a
mass to be sung.
During the week spent in exploring the north shore, Cartier had not
been very favourably impressed by the country. It seemed barren and
inhospitable. It should not, he thought, be called the New Land, but
rather stones and wild crags and a place fit for wild beasts. The soil
seemed worthless. 'In all the north land,' said he, 'I did not see a
cartload of good earth. To be short, I believe that this was the land
that God allotted to Cain.' From time to time the explorers had caught
sight of painted savages, with heads adorned with bright feathers and
with bodies clad in the skins of wild beasts. They were roving upon the
shore or passing in light boats made of bark among the island channels
of the coast. 'They are men,' wrote Cartier, 'of an indifferent good
stature and bigness, but wild and unruly. They wear their hair tied on
the top like a wreath of hay and put a wooden pin within it, or any
other such thing instead of a nail, and with them they bind certain
birds' feathers. They are clothed with beasts' skins as well the men as
women, but that the women go somewhat straighter and closer in their
garments than the men do, with their waists girded. They paint
themselves with certain roan colours. Their boats are made with the
bark of birch trees, with the which they fish and take great store of
seals, and, as far as we could understand since our coming thither,
that is not their habitation, but they come from the mainland out of
hotter countries to catch the said seals and other necessaries for
There has been much discussion as to these savages. It has been thought
by some that they were a southern branch of the Eskimos, by others that
they were Algonquin Indians who had wandered eastward from the St
Lawrence region. But the evidence goes to show that they belonged to
the lost tribe of the 'Red Indians' of Newfoundland, the race which met
its melancholy fate by deliberate and ruthless destruction at the hands
of the whites. Cabot had already seen these people on his voyage to the
coast, and described them as painted with 'red ochre.' Three of them he
had captured and taken to England as an exhibit. For two hundred years
after the English settlement of Newfoundland, these 'Red Indians' were
hunted down till they were destroyed. 'It was considered meritorious,'
says a historian of the island, 'to shoot a Red Indian. To "go to look
for Indians" came to be as much a phrase as to "look for partridges."
They were harassed from post to post, from island to island: their
hunting and fishing stations were unscrupulously seized by the invading
English. They were shot down without the least provocation, or captured
to be exposed as curiosities to the rabble at fairs in the western
towns of Christian England at twopence apiece.' So much for the
ill-fated savages among whom Cartier planted his first cross.
On June 15, Cartier, disappointed, as we have seen, with the rugged
country that he found on the northern shore, turned south again to pick
up the mainland, as he called it, of Newfoundland. Sailing south from
Brest to a distance of about sixty miles, he found himself on the same
day off Point Rich on the west coast of Newfoundland, to which, from
its appearance, he gave the name of the Double Cape. For three days the
course lay to the south-west along the shore. The panorama that was
unfolded to the eye of the explorer was cheerless. The wind blew cold
and hard from the north-east. The weather was dark and gloomy, while
through the rifts of the mist and fog that lay heavy on the face of the
waters there appeared only a forbidding and scarcely habitable coast.
Low lands with islands fringed the shore. Behind them great mountains,
hacked and furrowed in their outline, offered an uninviting prospect.
There was here no Eldorado such as, farther south, met the covetous
gaze of a Cortez or a Pizarro, no land of promise luxuriant with the
vegetation of the tropics such as had greeted the eyes of Columbus at
his first vision of the Indies. A storm-bound coast, a relentless
climate and a reluctant soil-these were the treasures of the New World
as first known to the discoverer of Canada.
For a week Cartier and his men lay off the coast. The headland of Cape
Anguille marks the approximate southward limit of their exploration.
Great gales drove the water in a swirl of milk-white foam among the
rocks that line the foot of this promontory. Beyond this point they saw
nothing of the Newfoundland shore, except that, as the little vessels
vainly tried to beat their way to the south against the fierce storms,
the explorers caught sight of a second great promontory that appeared
before them through the mist. This headland Cartier called Cape St
John. In spite of the difficulty of tracing the storm-set path of the
navigators, it is commonly thought that the point may be identified as
Cape Anguille, which lies about twenty-five miles north of Cape Ray,
the south-west 'corner' of Newfoundland.
Had Cartier been able to go forward in the direction that he had been
following, he would have passed out between Newfoundland and Cape
Breton island into the open Atlantic, and would have realized that his
New Land was, after all, an island and not the mainland of the
continent. But this discovery was reserved for his later voyage. He
seems, indeed, when he presently came to the islands that lie in the
mouth of the Gulf of St Lawrence, to have suspected that a passage here
lay to the open sea. Doubtless the set of the wind and current revealed
it to the trained instinct of the pilot. 'If it were so,' he wrote, 'it
would be a great shortening as well of the time as of the way, if any
perfection could be found in it.' But it was just as well that he did
not seek further the opening into the Atlantic. By turning westward
from the 'heel' of Newfoundland he was led to discover the milder
waters and the more fortunate lands which awaited him on the further
side of the Gulf.
THE FIRST VOYAGE—THE GULF OF ST LAWRENCE
On June 25 Cartier turned his course away from Newfoundland and sailed
westward into what appeared to be open sea. But it was not long before
he came in sight of land again. About sixty miles from the Newfoundland
shore and thirty miles east from the Magdalen Islands, two abrupt rocks
rise side by side from the sea; through one of them the beating surf
has bored a passage, so that to Cartier's eye, as his ships hove in
sight of them, the rocks appeared as three. At the present time a
lighthouse of the Canadian government casts its rays from the top of
one of these rocky islets, across the tossing waters of the Gulf.
Innumerable sea-fowl encircled the isolated spot and built their nests
so densely upon the rocks as to cover the whole of the upper surface.
At the base of one of these Bird Rocks Cartier stopped his ships in
their westward course, and his men killed great numbers of the birds so
easily that he declared he could have filled thirty boats with them in
The explorers continued on their way, and a sail of a few hours brought
them to an island like to none that they had yet seen. After the
rock-bound coast of the north it seemed, indeed, a veritable paradise.
Thick groves of splendid trees alternated with beautiful glades and
meadow-land, while the fertile soil of the island, through its entire
length of about six miles, was carpeted with bright flowers, blossoming
peas, and the soft colours of the wild rose. 'One acre of this land,'
said Cartier, 'is worth more than all the New Land.' The ships lay off
the shore of the island all night and replenished the stores of wood
and water. The land abounded with game; the men of St Malo saw bears
and foxes, and, to their surprise they saw also great beasts that
basked upon the shore, with 'two great teeth in their mouths like
elephants.' One of these walruses,—for such they doubtless were,—was
chased by the sailors, but cast itself into the sea and disappeared. We
can imagine how, through the long twilight of the June evening, the
lovely scene was loud with the voices of the exultant explorers. It was
fitting that Cartier should name this island of good omen after his
patron, the Seigneur de Brion, admiral of France. To this day the name
Brion Island,—corrupted sometimes to Byron Island,—recalls the
landing of Jacques Cartier.
From this temporary halting-place the ships sailed on down the west
coast of the Magdalen Islands. The night of June 28 found them at
anchor off Entry Island at the southern end of the group. From here a
course laid to the south-west brought the explorers into sight of
Prince Edward Island. This they supposed to be, of course, the mainland
of the great American continent. Turning towards the north-west, the
ships followed the outline of the coast. They sailed within easy sight
of the shore, and from their decks the explorer and his companions were
able to admire the luxuriant beauty of the scene. Here again was a land
of delight: 'It is the fairest land,' wrote Cartier, 'that may possibly
be seen, full of goodly meadows and trees.' All that it lacked was a
suitable harbour, which the explorers sought in vain. At one point a
shallow river ran rippling to the sea, and here they saw savages
crossing the stream in their canoes, but they found no place where the
ships could be brought to anchor.
July 1 found the vessels lying off the northern end of Prince Edward
Island. Here they lowered the boats, and searched the shore-line for a
suitable anchorage. As they rowed along a savage was seen running upon
the beach and making signs. The boats were turned towards him, but,
seized with a sudden panic, he ran away. Cartier landed a boat and set
up a little staff in the sand with a woollen girdle and a knife, as a
present for the fugitive and a mark of good-will.
It has been asserted that this landing on a point called
Cap-des-Sauvages by Cartier, in memory of the incident, took place on
the New Brunswick shore. But the weight of evidence is in favour of
considering that North Cape in Prince Edward Island deserves the
honour. As the event occurred on July 1, some writers have tried to
find a fortunate coincidence in the landing of the discoverer of Canada
on its soil on the day that became, three hundred and thirty-three
years later, Dominion Day. But the coincidence is not striking. Cartier
had already touched Canadian soil at Brest, which is at the extreme end
of the Quebec coast, and on the Magdalen Islands.
Cartier's boats explored the northern end of prince Edward Island for
many miles. All that he saw delighted him. 'We went that day on shore,'
he wrote in his narrative, 'in four places, to see the goodly sweet and
smelling trees that were there. We found them to be cedars, yews,
pines, white elms, ash, willows, With many other sorts of trees to us
unknown, but without any fruit. The grounds where no wood is are very
fair, and all full of peason [peas], white and red gooseberries,
strawberries, blackberries, and wild corn, even like unto rye, which
seemed to have been sowed and ploughed. This country is of better
temperature than any other land that can be seen, and very hot. There
are many thrushes, stock-doves, and other birds. To be short, there
wanteth nothing but good harbours.'
On July 2, the ships, sailing on westward from the head of Prince
Edward Island, came in sight of the New Brunswick coast. They had thus
crossed Northumberland Strait, which separates the island from the
mainland. Cartier, however, supposed this to be merely a deep bay,
extending inland on his left, and named it the Bay of St Lunario.
Before him on the northern horizon was another headland, and to the
left the deep triangular bay known now as Miramichi. The shallowness of
the water and the low sunken aspect of the shore led him to decide,
rightly, that there was to be found here no passage to the west. It was
his hope, of course, that at some point on his path the shore might
fold back and disclose to him the westward passage to the fabled
empires of the East. The deep opening of the Chaleur Bay, which
extended on the left hand as the ships proceeded north, looked like
such an opening. Hopes ran high, and Cartier named the projecting horn
which marks the southern side of the mouth of the bay the Cape of Good
Hope. Like Vasco da Gama, when he rounded South Africa, Cartier now
thought that he had found the gateway of a new world. The cheery name
has, however, vanished from the map in favour of the less striking one
of Point Miscou.
Cartier sailed across the broad mouth of the bay to a point on the
north shore, now known as Port Daniel. Here his ships lay at anchor
till July 12, in order that he might carry on, in boats, the
exploration of the shore.
On July 6, after hearing mass, the first boat with an exploring party
set forth and almost immediately fell in with a great number of savages
coming in canoes from the southern shore. In all there were some forty
or fifty canoes. The Indians, as they leaped ashore, shouted and made
signs to the French, and held up skins on sticks as if anxious to enter
into trade. But Cartier was in no mind to run the risk of closer
contact with so numerous a company of savages. The French would not
approach the fleet of canoes, and the savages, seeing this, began to
press in on the strangers. For a moment affairs looked threatening.
Cartier's boat was surrounded by seven canoes filled with painted,
gibbering savages. But the French had a formidable defence. A volley of
musket shots fired by the sailors over the heads of the Indians
dispersed the canoes in rapid flight. Finding, however, that no harm
was done by the strange thunder of the weapons, the canoes came
flocking back again, their occupants making a great noise and
gesticulating wildly. They were, however, nervous, and when, as they
came near, Cartier's men let off two muskets they were terrified; 'with
great haste they began to flee, and would no more follow us.' But the
next day after the boat had returned to the ships, the savages came
near to the anchorage, and some parties landed and traded together. The
Indians had with them furs which they offered gladly in exchange for
the knives and iron tools given them by the sailors. Cartier presented
them also with 'a red hat to give unto their captain.' The Indians
seemed delighted with the exchange. They danced about on the shore,
went through strange ceremonies in pantomime and threw seawater over
their heads. 'They gave us,' wrote Cartier, 'whatsoever they had, not
keeping anything, so that they were constrained to go back again naked,
and made us signs that the next day they would come again and bring
more skins with them.'
Four more days Cartier lingered in the bay. Again he sent boats from
the ships in the hope of finding the westward passage, but to his great
disappointment and grief the search was fruitless. The waters were
evidently landlocked, and there was here, as he sadly chronicled, no
thoroughfare to the westward sea. He met natives in large numbers.
Hundreds of them—men, women, and children—came in their canoes to see
the French explorers. They brought cooked meat, laid it on little
pieces of wood, and, retreating a short distance, invited the French to
eat. Their manner was as of those offering food to the gods who have
descended from above. The women among them, coming fearlessly up to the
explorers, stroked them with their hands, and then lifted these hands
clasped to the sky, with every sign of joy and exultation. The Indians,
as Cartier saw them, seemed to have no settled home, but to wander to
and fro in their canoes, taking fish and game as they went. Their land
appeared to him the fairest that could be seen, level as a pond; in
every opening of the forest he saw wild grains and berries, roses and
fragrant herbs. It was, indeed, a land of promise that lay basking in
the sunshine of a Canadian summer. The warmth led Cartier to give to
the bay the name it still bears—Chaleur.
On July 12 the ships went north again. Their progress was slow.
Boisterous gales drove in great seas from the outer Gulf. At times the
wind, blowing hard from the north, checked their advance and they had,
as best they could, to ride out the storm. The sky was lowering and
overcast, and thick mist and fog frequently enwrapped the ships. The
16th saw them driven by stress of weather into Gaspe Bay, where they
lay until the 25th, with so dark a sky and so violent a storm raging
over the Gulf that not even the daring seamen of St Malo thought it
wise to venture out.
Here again they saw savages in great numbers, but belonging, so Cartier
concluded, to a different tribe from those seen on the bay below. 'We
gave them knives,' he wrote, 'combs, beads of glass, and other trifles
of small value, for which they made many signs of gladness, lifting
their hands up to heaven, dancing and singing in their boats.' They
appeared to be a miserable people, in the lowest stage of savagery,
going about practically naked, and owning nothing of any value except
their boats and their fishing-nets. He noted that their heads were
shaved except for a tuft 'on the top of the crown as long as a horse's
tail.' This, of course, was the 'scalp lock,' so suggestive now of the
horrors of Indian warfare, but meaning nothing to the explorer. From
its presence it is supposed that the savages were Indians of the
Huron-Iroquois tribe. Cartier thought, from their destitute state, that
there could be no poorer people in the world.
Before leaving the Bay of Gaspe, Cartier planted a great wooden cross
at the entrance of the harbour. The cross stood thirty feet high, and
at the centre of it he hung a shield with three fleurs-de-lis. At the
top was carved in ancient lettering the legend, 'VIVE LE ROY DE
FRANCE.' A large concourse of savages stood about the French explorers
as they raised the cross to its place. 'So soon as it was up,' writes
Cartier, 'we altogether kneeled down before them, with our hands
towards heaven yielding God thanks: and we made signs unto them,
showing them the heavens, and that all our salvation depended only on
Him which in them dwelleth; whereat they showed a great admiration,
looking first at one another and then at the cross.'
The little group of sailors kneeling about the cross newly reared upon
the soil of Canada as a symbol of the Gospel of Christ and of the
sovereignty of France, the wondering savages turning their faces in awe
towards the summer sky, serene again after the passing storms,—all
this formed an impressive picture, and one that appears and reappears
in the literature of Canada. But the first effect of the ceremony was
not fortunate. By a sound instinct the savages took fright; they
rightly saw in the erection of the cross the advancing shadow of the
rule of the white man. After the French had withdrawn to their ships,
the chief of the Indians came out with his brother and his sons to make
protest against what had been done. He made a long oration, which the
French could not, of course, understand. Pointing shoreward to the
cross and making signs, the chief gave it to be understood that the
country belonged to him and his people. He and his followers were,
however, easily pacified by a few gifts and with the explanation,
conveyed by signs, that the cross was erected to mark the entrance of
the bay. The French entertained their guests bountifully with food and
drink, and, having gaily decked out two sons of the chief in French
shirts and red caps, they invited these young savages to remain on the
ship and to sail with Cartier. They did so, and the chief and the
others departed rejoicing. The next day the ships weighed anchor,
surrounded by boat-loads of savages who shouted and gesticulated their
farewells to those on board.
Cartier now turned his ships to the north-east. Westward on his left
hand, had he known it, was the opening of the St Lawrence. From the
trend of the land he supposed, however, that, by sailing in an easterly
direction, he was again crossing one of the great bays of the coast.
This conjecture seemed to be correct, as the coastline of the island of
Anticosti presently appeared on the horizon. From July 27 until August
5 the explorers made their way along the shores of Anticosti, which
they almost circumnavigated. Sailing first to the east they passed a
low-lying country, almost bare of forests, but with verdant and
inviting meadows. The shore ended at East Cape, named by Cartier Cape
St Louis, and at this point the ships turned and made their way
north-westward, along the upper shore of the island. On August 1, as
they advanced, they came in sight of the mainland of the northern shore
of the Gulf of St Lawrence, a low, flat country, heavily wooded, with
great mountains forming a jagged sky-line. Cartier had now, evidently
enough, come back again to the side of the great Gulf from which he had
started, but, judging rightly that the way to the west might lie beyond
the Anticosti coast, he continued on his voyage along that shore. Yet
with every day progress became more difficult. As the ships approached
the narrower waters between the west end of Anticosti and the mainland
they met powerful tides and baffling currents. The wind, too, had
turned against them and blew fiercely from the west.
For five days the intrepid mariners fought against the storms and
currents that checked their advance. They were already in sight of what
seemed after long searching to be the opening of the westward passage.
But the fierce wind from the west so beat against them that the clumsy
vessels could make no progress against it. Cartier lowered a boat, and
during two hours the men rowed desperately into the wind. For a while
the tide favoured them, but even then it ran so hard as to upset one of
the boats. When the tide turned matters grew worse. There came rushing
down with the wind and the current of the St Lawrence such a turmoil of
the waters that the united strength of the thirteen men at the oars
could not advance the boats by a stone's-throw. The whole company
landed on the island of Anticosti, and Cartier, with ten or twelve men,
made his way on foot to the west end. Standing there and looking
westward over the foaming waters lashed by the August storm, he was
able to realize that the goal of his search for the coast of Asia, or
at least for an open passage to the west, might lie before him, but
that, for the time being, it was beyond his reach.
Turning back, the party rejoined the ships which had drifted helplessly
before the wind some twelve miles down the shore. Arrived on board,
Cartier called together his sailing-master, pilots, and mates to
discuss what was to be done. They agreed that the contrary winds
forbade further exploration. The season was already late; the coast of
France was far away; within a few weeks the great gales of the equinox
would be upon them. Accordingly the company decided to turn back. Soon
the ships were heading along the northern shore of the Gulf, and with
the boisterous wind behind them were running rapidly towards the east.
They sailed towards the Newfoundland shore, caught sight of the Double
Cape and then, heading north again, came to Blanc Sablon on August 9.
Here they lay for a few days to prepare for the homeward voyage, and on
August 15 they were under way once more for the passage of Belle Isle
and the open sea.
'And after that, upon August 15,' so ends Cartier's narrative, 'being
the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, after that we had heard
service, we altogether departed from the port of Blanc Sablon, and with
a happy and prosperous weather we came into the middle of the sea that
is between Newfoundland and Brittany, in which place we were tossed and
turmoiled three days long with great storms and windy tempests coming
from the east, which with the aid and assistance of God we suffered:
then had we fair weather, and upon the fifth of September, in the said
year, we came to the port of St Malo whence we departed.'
THE SECOND VOYAGE—THE ST LAWRENCE
The second voyage of Jacques Cartier, undertaken in the years 1535 and
1536, is the exploit on which his title to fame chiefly rests. In this
voyage he discovered the river St Lawrence, visited the site of the
present city of Quebec, and, ascending the river as far as Hochelaga,
was enabled to view from the summit of Mount Royal the imposing
panorama of plain and river and mountain which marks the junction of
the St Lawrence and the Ottawa. He brought back to the king of France
the rumour of great countries still to be discovered to the west, of
vast lakes and rivers reaching so far inland that no man could say from
what source they sprang, and the legend of a region rich with gold and
silver that should rival the territory laid at the feet of Spain by the
conquests of Cortez. If he did not find the long-sought passage to the
Western Sea, at least he added to the dominions of France a territory
the potential wealth of which, as we now see, was not surpassed even by
the riches of Cathay.
The report of Cartier's first voyage, written by himself, brought to
him the immediate favour of the king. A commission, issued under the
seal of Philippe Chabot, admiral of France, on October 30, 1534,
granted to him wide powers for employing ships and men, and for the
further prosecution of his discoveries. He was entitled to engage at
the king's charge three ships, equipped and provisioned for fifteen
months, so that he might be able to spend, at least, an entire year in
actual exploration. Cartier spent the winter in making his
preparations, and in the springtime of the next year (1535) all was
ready for the voyage.
By the middle of May the ships, duly manned and provisioned, lay at
anchor in the harbour of St Malo, waiting only a fair wind to sail.
They were three in number—the Grande Hermine of 120 tons burden; a
ship of 60 tons which was rechristened the Petite Hermine, and which
was destined to leave its timbers in the bed of a little rivulet beside
Quebec, and a small vessel of 40 tons known as the Emerillon or Sparrow
Hawk. On the largest of the ships Cartier himself sailed, with Claude
de Pont Briand, Charles de la Pommeraye, and other gentlemen of France,
lured now by a spirit of adventure to voyage to the New World. Mace
Jalobert, who had married the sister of Cartier's wife, commanded the
second ship. Of the sailors the greater part were trained seamen of St
Malo. Seventy-four of their names are still preserved upon a roll of
the crew. The company numbered in all one hundred and twelve persons,
including the two savages who had been brought from Gaspe in the
preceding voyage, and who were now to return as guides and interpreters
of the expedition.
Whether or not there were any priests on board the ships is a matter
that is not clear. The titles of two persons in the roll—Dom Guillaume
and Dom Antoine—seem to suggest a priestly calling. But the fact that
Cartier made no attempt to baptize the Indians to whom he narrated the
truths of the Gospel, and that he makes no mention of priests in
connection with any of the sacred ceremonies which he carried out, seem
to show that none were included in the expedition. There is, indeed,
reference in the narrative to the hearing of mass, but it relates
probably to the mere reading of prayers by the explorer himself. On one
occasion, also, as will appear, Cartier spoke to the Indians of what
his priests had told him, but the meaning of the phrase is doubtful.
Before sailing, every man of the company repaired to the Cathedral
Church of St Malo, where all confessed their sins and received the
benediction of the good bishop of the town. This was on the day and
feast of Pentecost in 1535, and three days later, on May 19, the ships
sailed out from the little harbour and were borne with a fair wind
beyond the horizon of the west. But the voyage was by no means as
prosperous as that of the year before. The ships kept happily together
until May 26. Then they were assailed in mid-Atlantic by furious gales
from the west, and were enveloped in dense banks of fog. During a month
of buffeting against adverse seas, they were driven apart and lost
sight of one another.
Cartier in the Grande Hermine reached the coast of Newfoundland safely
on July coming again to the Island of Birds. 'So full of birds it was,'
he writes, 'that all the ships of France might be loaded with them, and
yet it would not seem that any were taken away.' On the next day the
Grande Hermine sailed on through the Strait of Belle Isle for Blanc
Sablon, and there, by agreement, waited in the hope that her consorts
might arrive. In the end, on the 26th, the two missing ships sailed
into the harbour together. Three days more were spent in making
necessary repairs and in obtaining water and other supplies, and on the
29th at sunrise the reunited expedition set out on its exploration of
the northern shore. During the first half of August their way lay over
the course already traversed from the Strait of Belle Isle to the
western end of Anticosti. The voyage along this coast was marked by no
event of especial interest. Cartier, as before, noted carefully the
bearing of the land as he went along, took soundings, and, in the
interest of future pilots of the coast, named and described the chief
headlands and landmarks as he passed. He found the coast for the most
part dangerous and full of shoals. Here and there vast forests extended
to the shore, but otherwise the country seemed barren and uninviting.
From the north shore Cartier sailed across to Anticosti, touching near
what is now called Charleton Point; but, meeting with head winds,
which, as in the preceding year, hindered his progress along the
island, he turned to the north again and took shelter in what he called
a 'goodly great gulf full of islands, passages, and entrances towards
what wind soever you please to bend.' It might be recognized, he said,
by a great island that runs out beyond the rest and on which is 'an
hill fashioned as it were an heap of corn.' The 'goodly gulf' is
Pillage Bay in the district of Saguenay, and the hill is Mount Ste
From this point the ships sailed again to Anticosti and reached the
extreme western cape of that island. The two Indian guides were now in
a familiar country. The land in sight, they told Cartier, was a great
island; south of it was Gaspe, from which country Cartier had taken
them in the preceding summer; two days' journey beyond the island
towards the west lay the kingdom of Saguenay, a part of the northern
coast that stretches westwards towards the land of Canada. The use of
this name, destined to mean so much to later generations, here appears
for the first time in Cartier's narrative. The word was evidently taken
from the lips of the savages, but its exact significance has remained a
matter of dispute. The most fantastic derivations have been suggested.
Charlevoix, writing two hundred years later, even tells us that the
name originated from the fact that the Spaniards had been upon the
coast before Cartier, looking for mines. Their search proving
fruitless, they kept repeating 'aca nada' (that is 'nothing here') in
the hearing of the savages, who repeated the words to the French, thus
causing them to suppose this to be the name of the country. There seems
no doubt, however, that the word is Indian, though whether it is from
the Iroquois Kannata, a settlement, or from some term meaning a narrow
strait or passage, it is impossible to say.
From Anticosti, which Cartier named the Island of the Assumption, the
ships sailed across to the Gaspe side of the Gulf, which they saw on
August 16, and which was noted to be a land 'full of very great and
high hills.' According to the information of his Indian guides, he had
now reached the point beyond which extended the great kingdom of
Saguenay. The northern and southern coasts were evidently drawing more
closely together, and between them, so the savages averred, lay a great
'There is,' wrote Cartier in his narrative, 'between the southerly
lands and the northerly about thirty leagues distance and more than two
hundred fathoms depth. The said men did, moreover, certify unto us that
there was the way and beginning of the great river of Hochelaga, and
ready way to Canada, which river the farther it went the narrower it
came, even unto Canada, and that then there was fresh water which went
so far upwards that they had never heard of any man who had gone to the
head of it, and that there is no other passage but with small boats.'
The announcement that the waters in which he was sailing led inward to
a fresh-water river brought to Cartier not the sense of elation that
should have accompanied so great a discovery, but a feeling of
disappointment. A fresh-water river could not be the westward passage
to Asia that he had hoped to find, and, interested though he might be
in the rumoured kingdom of Saguenay, it was with reluctance that he
turned from the waters of the Gulf to the ascent of the great river.
Indeed, he decided not to do this until he had tried by every means to
find the wished-for opening on the coast of the Gulf. Accordingly, he
sailed to the northern shore and came to the land among the Seven
Islands, which lie near the mouth of the Ste Marguerite river, about
eighty-five miles west of Anticosti,—the Round Islands, Cartier called
them. Here, having brought the ships to a safe anchorage, riding in
twenty fathoms of water, he sent the boats eastward to explore the
portion of the coast towards Anticosti which he had not yet seen. He
cherished a last hope that here, perhaps, the westward passage might
open before him. But the boats returned from the expedition with no
news other than that of a river flowing into the Gulf, in such volume
that its water was still fresh three miles from the shore. The men
declared, too, that they had seen 'fishes shaped like horses,' which,
so the Indians said, retired to shore at night, and spent the day in
the sea. The creatures, no doubt, were walruses.
It was on August 15 that Cartier had left Anticosti for the Gaspe
shore: it was not until the 24th that, delayed by the exploring
expeditions of the boats and by heavy fogs and contrary winds, he moved
out from the anchorage at the Seven Islands to ascend the St Lawrence.
The season was now far advanced. By this time, doubtless, Cartier had
realized that the voyage would not result in the discovery of the
passage to the East. But, anxious not to return home without having
some success to report, he was in any case prepared to winter in the
New Land. Even though he did not find the passage, it was better to
remain long enough to explore the lands in the basin of the great river
than to return home without adding anything to the exploits of the
The expedition moved westward up the St Lawrence, the first week's sail
bringing them as far as the Saguenay. On the way Cartier put in at Bic
Islands, and christened them in honour of St John. Finding here but
scanty shelter and a poor anchorage, he went on without further delay
to the Saguenay, the mouth of which he reached on September 1. Here
this great tributary river, fed from the streams and springs of the
distant north, pours its mighty waters between majestic cliffs into the
St Lawrence—truly an impressive sight. So vast is the flood that the
great stream in its wider reaches shows a breadth of three miles, and
in places the waters are charted as being more than eight hundred and
seventy feet deep. Narrowing at its mouth, it enters the St Lawrence in
an angry flood, shortly after passing the vast and frowning rocks of
Cape Eternity and Cape Trinity, rising to a height of fifteen hundred
feet. High up on the face of the cliffs, Cartier saw growing huge
pine-trees that clung, earthless, to the naked rock. Four canoes danced
in the foaming water at the river mouth: one of them made bold to
approach the ships, and the words of Cartier's Indian interpreters so
encouraged its occupants that they came on board. The canoes, so these
Indians explained to Cartier, had come down from Canada to fish.
Cartier did not remain long at the Saguenay. On the next day, September
2, the ships resumed their ascent of the St Lawrence. The navigation at
this point was by no means easy. The river here feels the full force of
the tide, whose current twists and eddies among the great rocks that
lie near the surface of the water. The ships lay at anchor that night
off Hare Island. As they left their moorings, at dawn of the following
day, they fell in with a great school of white whales disporting
themselves in the river. Strange fish, indeed, these seemed to Cartier.
'They were headed like greyhounds,' he wrote, 'and were as white as
snow, and were never before of any man seen or known.'
Four days more brought the voyagers to an island, a 'goodly and fertile
spot covered with fine trees,' and among them so many filbert-trees
that Cartier gave it the name Isle-aux-Coudres (the Isle of Filberts),
which it still bears. On September 7 the vessels sailed about thirty
miles beyond Isle-aux-Coudres, and came to a group of islands, one of
which, extending for about twenty miles up the river, appeared so
fertile and so densely covered with wild grapes hanging to the river's
edge, that Cartier named it the Isle of Bacchus. He himself, however,
afterwards altered the name to the Island of Orleans. These islands, so
the savages said, marked the beginning of the country known as Canada.
THE SECOND VOYAGE—STADACONA
At the time when Cartier ascended the St Lawrence, a great settlement
of the Huron-Iroquois Indians existed at Quebec. Their village was
situated below the heights, close to the banks of the St Charles, a
small tributary of the St Lawrence. Here the lodges of the tribe gave
shelter to many hundred people. Beautiful trees—elm and ash and maple
and birch, as fair as the trees of France—adorned the banks of the
river, and the open spaces of the woods waved with the luxuriant growth
of Indian corn. Here were the winter home of the tribe and the wigwam
of the chief. From this spot hunting and fishing parties of the savages
descended the great river and wandered as far as the pleasant country
of Chaleur Bay. Sixty-four years later, when Champlain ascended the St
Lawrence, the settlement and the tribe that formerly occupied the spot
had vanished. But in the time of Cartier the Quebec village, under its
native name of Stadacona, seems to have been, next to Hochelaga, the
most important lodgment of the Huron-Iroquois Indians of the St
As the French navigators wandered on the shores of the Island of
Orleans, they fell in with a party of the Stadacona Indians. These,
frightened at the strange faces and unwonted dress of the French, would
have taken to flight, but Cartier's two Indians, whose names are
recorded as Taignoagny and Domagaya, called after them in their own
language. Great was the surprise of the natives not only to hear their
own speech, but also to recognize in Taignoagny and Domagaya two
members of their own tribe. The two guides, so far as we can judge from
Cartier's narrative, had come down from the Huron-Iroquois settlements
on the St Lawrence to the Gaspe country, whence Cartier had carried
them to France. Their friends now surrounded them with tumultuous
expressions of joy, leaping and shouting as if to perform a ceremonial
of welcome. Without fear now of the French they followed them down to
their boats, and brought them a plentiful supply of corn and of the
great pumpkins that were ripening in their fields.
The news of the arrival of the strangers spread at once through the
settlement. To see the ships, canoe after canoe came floating down the
river. They were filled with men and women eager to welcome their
returned kinsmen and to share in the trinkets which Cartier distributed
with a liberal hand. On the next day the chief of the tribe, the lord
of Canada, as Cartier calls him, Donnacona by name, visited the French
ships. The ceremonial was appropriate to his rank. Twelve canoes filled
with Indian warriors appeared upon the stream. As they neared the
ships, at a command from Donnacona, all fell back except two, which
came close alongside the Emerillon. Donnacona then delivered a powerful
and lengthy harangue, accompanied by wondrous gesticulations of body
and limbs. The canoes then moved down to the side of the Grande
Hermine, where Donnacona spoke with Cartier's guides. As these savages
told him of the wonders they had seen in France, he was apparently
moved to very transports of joy. Nothing would satisfy him but that
Cartier should step down into the canoe, that the chief might put his
arms about his neck in sign of welcome. Cartier, unable to rival
Donnacona's oratory, made up for it by causing the sailors hand down
food and wine, to the keen delight of the Indians. This being done, the
visitors departed with every expression of good-will.
Waiting only for a favourable tide, the ships left their anchorage,
and, sailing past the Island of Orleans, cast anchor in the St Charles
river, where it flows into the St Lawrence near Quebec. The Emerillon
was left at anchor out in the St Lawrence, in readiness for the
continuance of the journey, but the two larger vessels were moored at
the point where a rivulet, the Lairet, runs into the St Charles. It was
on the left bank of the Lairet that Cartier's fort was presently
constructed for his winter occupancy. Some distance across from it, on
the other side of the St Charles, was Stadacona itself. Its site cannot
be determined with exactitude, but it is generally agreed that it was
most likely situated in the space between the present Rue de la
Fabrique and the Cote Sainte-Genevieve.
The Indians were most friendly. When, on September 14, the French had
sailed into the St Charles, Donnacona had again met them, accompanied
by twenty-five canoes filled with his followers. The savages, by their
noisy conduct and strange antics, gave every sign of joy over the
arrival of the French. But from the first Cartier seems to have had his
misgivings as to their good faith. He was struck by the fact that his
two Indian interpreters, who had rejoined the ranks of their
countrymen, seemed now to receive him with a sullen distrust, and
refused his repeated invitations to re-enter his ships. He asked them
whether they were still willing to go on with him to Hochelaga, of
which they had told him, and which it was his purpose to visit. The two
Indians assented, but their manner was equivocal and inspired Cartier
The day after this a great concourse of Indians came again to the river
bank to see the strangers, but Donnacona and his immediate followers,
including Taignoagny and Domagaya, stood apart under a point of land on
the river bank sullenly watching the movements of the French, who were
busied in setting out buoys and harbour-marks for their anchorage.
Cartier, noticing this, took a few of his sailors, fully armed, and
marched straight to where the chief stood. Taignoagny, the interpreter,
came forward and entered upon a voluble harangue, telling the French
captain that Donnacona was grieved to see him and his men so fully
armed, while he and his people bore no weapons in their hands. Cartier
told Taignoagny, who had been in France, that to carry arms was the
custom of his country, and that he knew it. Indeed, since Donnacona
continued to make gestures of pleasure and friendship, the explorer
concluded that the interpreter only and not the Indian chief was the
cause of the distrust. Yet he narrates that before Donnacona left them,
'all his people at once with a loud voice cast out three great cries, a
horrible thing to hear.' The Indian war-whoop, if such it was, is
certainly not a reassuring sound, but Cartier and Donnacona took leave
of one another with repeated assurances of good-will.
The following day, September 16, the Indians came again. About five
hundred of them, so Cartier tells us, gathered about the ships.
Donnacona, with 'ten or twelve of the chiefest men of the country,'
came on board the ships, where Cartier held a great feast for them and
gave them presents in accordance with their rank. Taignoagny explained
to Cartier that Donnacona was grieved that he was going up to
Hochelaga. The river, said the guide, was of no importance, and the
journey was not worth while. Cartier's reply to this protest was that
he had been commanded by his king to go as far as he could go, but
that, after seeing Hochelaga, he would come back again. On this
Taignoagny flatly refused to act as guide, and the Indians abruptly
left the ship and went ashore.
Cartier must, indeed, have been perplexed, and perhaps alarmed, at the
conduct of the Stadacona natives. It was his policy throughout his
voyages to deal with the Indians fairly and generously, to avoid all
violence towards them, and to content himself with bringing to them the
news of the Gospel and the visible signs of the greatness of the king
of France. The cruelties of the Spanish conquerors of the south were
foreign to his nature. The few acts of injustice with which his memory
has been charged may easily be excused in the light of the
circumstances of his age. But he could not have failed to realize the
possibilities of a sudden and murderous onslaught on the part of
savages who thus combined a greedy readiness for feasting and presents
with a sullen and brooding distrust.
Donnacona and his people were back again on the morrow, still vainly
endeavouring to dissuade the French from their enterprise. They brought
with them a great quantity of eels and fish as presents, and danced and
sang upon the shore opposite the ships in token of their friendship.
When Cartier and his men came ashore, Donnacona made all his people
stand back from the beach. He drew in the sand a huge ring, and into
this he led the French. Then, selecting from the ranks of his
followers, who stood in a great circle watching the ceremony, a little
girl of ten years old, he led her into the ring and presented her to
Cartier. After her, two little boys were handed over in the same
fashion, the assembled Indians rending the air with shouts of
exultation. Donnacona, in true Indian fashion, improved the occasion
with a long harangue, which Taignoagny interpreted to mean that the
little girl was the niece of the chief and one of the boys the brother
of the interpreter himself, and that the explorer might keep all these
children as a gift if he would promise not to go to Hochelaga.
Cartier at once, by signs and speech, offered the children back again,
whereupon the other interpreter, Domagaya, broke in and said that the
children were given in good-will, and that Donnacona was well content
that Cartier should go to Hochelaga. The three poor little savages were
carried to the boats, the two interpreters wrangling and fighting the
while as to what had really been said. But Cartier felt assured that
the treachery, if any were contemplated, came only from one of them,
Taignoagny. As a great mark of trust he gave to Donnacona two swords, a
basin of plain brass and a ewer—gifts which called forth renewed
shouts of joy. Before the assemblage broke up, the chief asked Cartier
to cause the ships' cannons to be fired, as he had learned from the two
guides that they made such a marvellous noise as was never heard before.
'Our captain answered,' writes Cartier in his narrative, 'that he was
content: and by and by he commanded his men to shoot off twelve cannons
into the wood that was hard by the people and the ships, at which noise
they were greatly astonished and amazed, for they thought the heaven
had fallen upon them, and put themselves to flight, howling, crying and
shrieking, so that it seemed hell was broken loose.'
Next day the Indians made one more attempt to dissuade Cartier from his
journey. Finding that persuasion and oratory were of no avail, they
decided to fall back upon the supernatural and to frighten the French
from their design. Their artifice was transparent enough, but to the
minds of the simple savages was calculated to strike awe into the
hearts of their visitors. Instead of coming near the ships, as they had
done on each preceding day, the Indians secreted themselves in the
woods along the shore. There they lay hid for many hours, while the
French were busied with their preparations for departure. But later in
the day, when the tide was running swiftly outward, the Indians in
their canoes came paddling down the stream towards the ships, not,
however, trying to approach them, but keeping some little distance away
as if in expectation of something unusual.
The mystery soon revealed itself. From beneath the foliage of the river
bank a canoe shot into the stream, the hideous appearance of its
occupants contrasting with the bright autumn tints that were lending
their glory to the Canadian woods. The three Indians in the canoe had
been carefully made up by their fellows as 'stage devils' to strike
horror into Cartier and his companions. They were 'dressed like devils,
being wrapped in dog skins, white and black, their faces besmeared as
black as any coals, with horns on their heads more than a yard long.'
The canoe came rushing swiftly down the stream, and floated past the
ships, the 'devils' who occupied the craft making no attempt to stop,
not even turning towards the ships, but counterfeiting, as it were, the
sacred frenzy of angry deities. The devil in the centre shouted a
fierce harangue into the air. No sooner did the canoe pass the ships
than Donnacona and his braves in their light barques set after it,
paddling so swiftly as to overtake the canoe of the 'devils' and seize
the gunwale of it in their hands.
The whole thing was a piece of characteristic Indian acting, viewed by
the French with interest, but apparently without the faintest alarm.
The 'devils,' as soon as their boat was seized by the profane touch of
the savages, fell back as if lifeless in their canoe. The assembled
flotilla was directed to the shore. The 'devils' were lifted out rigid
and lifeless and carried solemnly into the forest. The leaves of the
underbrush closed behind them and they were concealed from sight, but
from the deck of the ship the French could still hear the noise of
cries and incantations that broke the stillness of the woods. After
half an hour Taignoagny and Domagaya issued from among the trees. Their
walk and their actions were solemnity itself, while their faces
simulated the religious ecstasy of men who have spoken with the gods.
The caps that they had worn were now placed beneath the folds of their
Indian blankets, and their clasped hands were uplifted to the autumn
sky. Taignoagny cried out three times upon the name of Jesus, while his
fellow imitated and kept shouting, 'Jesus! the Virgin Mary! Jacques
Cartier very naturally called to them to know what was the matter;
whereupon Taignoagny in doleful tones called out, 'Ill news!' Cartier
urged the Indian to explain, and the guide, still acting the part of
one who bears tidings from heaven, said that the great god, Cudragny,
had spoken at Hochelaga and had sent down three 'spirits' in the canoe
to warn Cartier that he must not try to come to Hochelaga, because
there was so much ice and snow in that country that whoever went there
should die. In the face of this awful revelation, Cartier showed a
cheerful and contemptuous scepticism. 'Their god, Cudragny,' he said,
must be 'a fool and a noodle,' and that, as for the cold, Christ would
protect his followers from that, if they would but believe in Him.
Taignoagny asked Cartier if he had spoken with Jesus. Cartier answered
no, but said that his priests had done so and that Jesus had told them
that the weather would be fine. Taignoagny, hypocrite still, professed
a great joy at hearing this, and set off into the woods, whence he
emerged presently with the whole band of Indians, singing and dancing.
Their plan had failed, but they evidently thought it wiser to offer no
further opposition to Cartier's journey, though all refused to go with
The strange conduct of Donnacona and his Indians is not easy to
explain. It is quite possible that they meditated some treachery
towards the French: indeed, Cartier from first to last was suspicious
of their intentions, and, as we shall see, was careful after his return
to Stadacona never to put himself within their power. To the very end
of his voyage he seems to have been of the opinion that if he and his
men were caught off their guard, Donnacona and his braves would destroy
the whole of them for the sake of their coveted possessions. The
stories that he heard now and later from his guides of the horrors of
Indian war and of a great massacre at the Bic Islands certainly gave
him just grounds for suspicion and counselled prudence. Some writers
are agreed, however, that the Indians had no hostile intentions
whatever. The new-comers seemed to them wondrous beings, floating on
the surface of the water in great winged houses, causing the thunder to
roll forth from their abode at will and, more than all, feasting their
friends and giving to them such gifts as could only come from heaven.
Such guests were too valuable to lose. The Indians knew well of the
settlement at Hochelaga, and of the fair country where it lay. They
feared that if Cartier once sailed to it, he and his presents—the red
caps and the brass bowls sent direct from heaven—would be lost to them
Be this as it may, no further opposition was offered to the departure
of the French. The two larger ships, with a part of the company as
guard, were left at their moorings. Cartier in the Emerillon, with Mace
Jalobert, Claude de Pont Briand, and the other gentlemen of the
expedition, a company of fifty in all, set out for Hochelaga.
THE SECOND VOYAGE—HOCHELAGA
Nine days of prosperous sailing carried Cartier in his pinnace from
Stadacona to the broad expansion of the St Lawrence, afterwards named
Lake St Peter. The autumn scene as the little vessel ascended the
stream was one of extreme beauty. The banks of the river were covered
with glorious forests resplendent now with the red and gold of the
turning leaves. Grape-vines grew thickly on every hand, laden with
their clustered fruit. The shore and forest abounded with animal life.
The woods were loud with the chirruping of thrushes, goldfinches,
canaries, and other birds. Countless flocks of wild geese and ducks
passed overhead, while from the marshes of the back waters great cranes
rose in their heavy flight over the bright surface of the river that
reflected the cloudless blue of the autumn sky.
Cartier was enraptured with the land which he had discovered,—'as
goodly a country,' he wrote, 'as possibly can with eye be seen, and all
replenished with very goodly trees.' Here and there the wigwams of the
savages dotted the openings of the forest. Often the inhabitants put
off from shore in canoes, bringing fish and food, and accepting, with
every sign of friendship, the little presents which Cartier distributed
among them. At one place an Indian chief—'one of the chief lords of
the country,' says Cartier—brought two of his children as a gift to
the miraculous strangers. One of the children, a little girl of eight,
was kept upon the ship and went on with Cartier to Hochelaga and back
to Stadacona, where her parents came to see her later on. The other
child Cartier refused to keep because 'it was too young, for it was but
two or three years old.'
At the head of Lake St Peter, Cartier, ignorant of the channels, found
his progress in the pinnace barred by the sand bars and shallows among
the group of islands which here break the flow of the great river. The
Indians whom he met told him by signs that Hochelaga lay still farther
up-stream, at a distance of three days' journey. Cartier decided to
leave the Emerillon and to continue on his way in the two boats which
he had brought with him. Claude de Pont Briand and some of the
gentlemen, together with twenty mariners, accompanied the leader, while
the others remained in charge of the pinnace.
Three days of easy and prosperous navigation was sufficient for the
journey, and on October 2, Cartier's boats, having rowed along the
shores of Montreal island, landed in full sight of Mount Royal, at some
point about three or four miles from the heart of the present city. The
precise location of the landing has been lost to history. It has been
thought by some that the boats advanced until the foaming waters of the
Lachine rapids forbade all further progress. Others have it that the
boats were halted at the foot of St Mary's current, and others again
that Nun Island was the probable place of landing. What is certain is
that the French brought their boats to shore among a great crowd of
assembled savages,—a thousand persons, Cartier says,—and that they
were received with tumultuous joy. The Indians leaped and sang, their
familiar mode of celebrating welcome. They offered to the explorers
great quantities of fish and of the bread which they baked from the
ripened corn. They brought little children in their arms, making signs
for Cartier and his companions to touch them.
As the twilight gathered, the French withdrew to their boats, while the
savages, who were loath to leave the spot, lighted huge bonfires on the
shore. A striking and weird picture it conjures up before our
eyes,—the French sailors with their bronzed and bearded faces, their
strange dress and accoutrements, the glare of the great bonfires on the
edge of the dark waters, the wild dances of the exultant savages. The
romance and inspiration of the history of Canada are suggested by this
riotous welcome of the Old World by the New. It meant that mighty
changes were pending; the eye of imagination may see in the background
the shadowed outline of the spires and steeples of the great city of
On the next day, October 3, the French were astir with the first light
of the morning. A few of their number were left to guard the boats; the
others, accompanied by some of the Indians, set out on foot for
Hochelaga. Their way lay over a beaten path through the woods. It
brought them presently to the tall palisades that surrounded the group
of long wooden houses forming the Indian settlement. It stood just
below the slope of the mountain, and covered a space of almost two
acres. On the map of the modern city this village of Hochelaga would be
bounded by the four streets, Metcalfe, Mansfield, Burnside, and
Sherbrooke, just below the site of McGill University. But the visit of
Cartier is an event of such historic interest that it can best be
narrated in the words of his own narrative. We may follow here as
elsewhere the translation of Hakluyt, which is itself three hundred
years old, and seems in its quaint and picturesque form more fitting
than the commoner garb of modern prose.
Our captain [so runs the narrative], the next day very
early in the morning, having very gorgeously attired
himself, caused all his company to be set in order to
go to see the town and habitation of these people, and
a certain mountain that is somewhere near the city; with
whom went also five gentlemen and twenty mariners,
leaving the rest to keep and look to our boats. We took
with us three men of Hochelaga to bring us to the place.
All along as we went we found the way as well beaten
and frequented as can be, the fairest and best country
that can possibly be seen, full of as goodly great oaks
as are in any wood in France, under which the ground
was all covered over with fair acorns.
After we had gone about four or five miles, we met by
the way one of the chiefest lords of the city, accompanied
with many more, who, as soon as he saw us, beckoned and
made signs upon us, that we must rest in that place
where they had made a great fire and so we did. After
that we rested ourselves there awhile, the said lord
began to make a long discourse, even as we have said
above they are accustomed to do in sign of mirth and
friendship, showing our captain and all his company a
joyful countenance and good will, who gave him two
hatchets, a pair of knives and a cross which he made
him to kiss, and then put it about his neck, for which
he gave our captain hearty thanks. This done, we went
along, and about a mile and a half farther, we began to
find goodly and large fields full of such corn as the
country yieldeth. It is even as the millet of Brazil as
great and somewhat bigger than small peason [peas],
wherewith they live as we do with ours.
In the midst of those fields is the city of Hochelaga,
placed near and, as it were, joined to a very great
mountain, that is tilled round about, very fertile, on
the top of which you may see very far. We named it Mount
Royal. The city of Hochelaga is round compassed about
with timber, with three courses of rampires [stockades],
one within another, framed like a sharp spire, but laid
across above. The middlemost of them is made and built
as a direct line but perpendicular. The rampires are
framed and fashioned with pieces of timber laid along
on the ground, very well and cunningly joined together
after their fashion. This enclosure is in height about
two rods. It hath but one gate of entry thereat, which
is shut with piles, stakes, and bars. Over it and also
in many places of the wall there be places to run along
and ladders to get up, all full of stones, for the
defence of it.
There are in the town about fifty houses, about fifty
paces long, and twelve or fifteen broad, built all of
wood, covered over with the bark of the wood as broad
as any board, very finely and cunningly joined together.
Within the said houses there are many rooms, lodgings
and chambers. In the midst of every one there is a great
court in the middle whereof they make their fire.
Such is the picture of Hochelaga as Cartier has drawn it for us.
Arrived at the palisade, the savages conducted Cartier and his
followers within. In the central space of the stockade was a large
square, bordered by the lodges of the Indians. In this the French were
halted, and the natives gathered about them, the women, many of whom
bore children in their, arms, pressing close up to the visitors,
stroking their faces and arms, and making entreaties by signs that the
French should touch their children.
Then presently [writes Cartier] came the women again,
every one bringing a four-square mat in the manner of
carpets, and spreading them abroad in that place, they
caused us to sit upon them. This done the lord and king
of the country was brought upon nine or ten men's
shoulders (whom in their tongue they call Agouhanna),
sitting upon a great stag's skin, and they laid him down
upon the foresaid mats near to the captain, every one
beckoning unto us that he was their lord and king. This
Agouhanna was a man about fifty pears old. He was no
whit better apparelled than any of the rest, only excepted
that he had a certain thing made of hedgehogs [porcupines],
like a red wreath, and that was instead of his crown.
He was full of the palsy, and his members shrunk together.
After he had with certain signs saluted our captain and
all his company, and by manifest tokens bid all welcome,
he showed his legs and arms to our captain, and with
signs desired him to touch them, and so we did, rubbing
them with his own hands; then did Agouhanna take the
wreath or crown he had about his head, and gave it unto
our captain That done, they brought before him divers
diseased men, some blind, some crippled, some lame, and
some so old that the hair of their eyelids came down
and covered their cheeks, and laid them all along before
our captain to the end that they might of him be touched.
For it seemed unto them that God was descended and come
down from heaven to heal them.
Our captain, seeing the misery and devotion of this poor
people, recited the Gospel of St John, that is to say,
'IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD,' touching every one that
were [sic] diseased, praying to God that it would please
Him to open the hearts of the poor people and to make
them know His Holy Word, and that they might receive
baptism and christendom. That done, he took a service-book
in his hand, and with a loud voice read all the passion
of Christ, word by word, that all the standers-by might
hear him; all which while this poor people kept silence
and were marvellously attentive, looking up to heaven
and imitating us in gestures. Then he caused the men
all orderly to be set on one side, the women on another,
and likewise the children on another, and to the chiefest
of them he gave hatchets, to the others knives, and to
the women beads and such other small trifles. Then where
the children were he cast rings, counters and brooches
made of tin, whereat they seemed to be very glad.
Before Cartier and his men returned to their boats, some of the Indians
took them up to the top of Mount Royal. Here a magnificent prospect
offered itself, then, as now, to the eye. The broad level of the island
swept towards the west, luxuriant with yellow corn and autumn foliage.
In the distance the eye discerned the foaming waters of Lachine, and
the silver bosom of the Lake of the Two Mountains: 'as fair and level a
country,' said Cartier, 'as possibly can be seen, being level, smooth,
and very plain, fit to be husbanded and tilled.'
The Indians, pointing to the west, explained by signs that beyond the
rapids were three other great falls of water, and that when these were
passed a man might travel for three months up the waters of the great
river. Such at least Cartier understood to be the meaning of the
Indians. They showed him a second stream, the Ottawa, as great, they
said, as the St Lawrence, whose north-westward course Cartier supposed
must run through the kingdom of Saguenay. As the savages pointed to the
Ottawa, they took hold of a silver chain on which hung the whistle that
Cartier carried, and then touched the dagger of one of the sailors,
which had a handle of copper, yellow as gold, as if to show that these
metals, or rather silver and gold, came from the country beyond that
river. This, at least, was the way that Cartier interpreted the simple
and evident signs that the Indians made. The commentators on Cartier's
voyages have ever since sought some other explanation, supposing that
no such metals existed in the country. The discovery of the gold and
silver deposits of the basin of the Ottawa in the district of New
Ontario shows that Cartier had truly understood the signs of the
Indians. If they had ever seen silver before, it is precisely from this
country that it would have come. Cartier was given to understand, also,
that in this same region there dwelt another race of savages, very
fierce, and continually at war.
The party descended from the mountain and pursued their way towards the
boats. Their Indian friends hung upon their footsteps, showing
evidences of admiration and affection, and even carried in their arms
any of the French who showed indications of weariness. They stood about
with every sign of grief and regret as the sails were hoisted and the
boats bearing the wonderful beings dropped swiftly down the river. On
October 4, the boats safely rejoined the Emerillon that lay anchored
near the mouth of the Richelieu. On the 11th of the same month, the
pinnace was back at her anchorage beside Stadacona, and the whole
company was safely reunited. The expedition to Hochelaga had been
accomplished in twenty-two days.
THE SECOND VOYAGE—WINTER AT STADACONA
On returning to his anchorage before Quebec, Cartier found that his
companions whom he had left there had not been idle. The ships, it will
be remembered, lay moored close to the shore at the mouth of the little
river Lairet, a branch of the St Charles. On the bank of the river,
during their leader's absence, the men had erected a solid
fortification or rampart. Heavy sticks of lumber had been set up on end
and joined firmly together, while at intervals cannon, taken from the
ships, had been placed in such a way as to command the approach in all
directions. The sequel showed that it was well, indeed, for the French
that they placed so little reliance on the friendship of the savages.
Donnacona was not long in putting in an appearance. Whatever may have
been his real feelings, the crafty old chief feigned a great delight at
the safe return of Cartier. At his solicitation Cartier paid a
ceremonial visit to the settlement of Stadacona, on October 13, ten
days after his return. The gentlemen of the expedition, together with
fifty sailors, all well armed and appointed, accompanied the leader.
The meeting between the Indians and their white visitors was similar to
those already described. Indian harangues and wild dancing and shouting
were the order of the day, while Cartier, as usual, distributed knives
and trinkets. The French were taken into the Indian lodges and shown
the stores of food laid up against the coming winter. Other objects,
too, of a new and peculiar interest were displayed: there were the
'scalp locks' of five men—'the skin of five men's heads,' says
Cartier,—which were spread out on a board like parchments. The Indians
explained that these had been taken from the heads of five of their
deadly enemies, the Toudamani, a fierce people living to the south,
with whom the natives of Stadacona were perpetually at war.
A gruesome story was also told of a great massacre of a war party of
Donnacona's people who had been on their way down to the Gaspe country.
The party, so the story ran, had encamped upon an island near the
Saguenay. They numbered in all two hundred people, women and children
being also among the warriors, and were gathered within the shelter of
a rude stockade. In the dead of night their enemies broke upon the
sleeping Indians in wild assault; they fired the stockade, and those
who did not perish in the flames fell beneath the tomahawk. Five only
escaped to bring the story to Stadacona. The truth of the story was
proved, long after the writing of Cartier's narrative, by the finding
of a great pile of human bones in a cave on an island near Bic, not far
from the mouth of the Saguenay. The place is called L'Isle au Massacre
The French now settled down into their winter quarters. They seem for
some time to have mingled freely with the Indians of the Stadacona
settlement, especially during the month which yet remained before the
rigour of winter locked their ships in snow and ice. Cartier, being of
an observing and accurate turn of mind, has left in his narrative some
interesting notes upon the life and ideas of the savages. They had, he
said, no belief in a true God. Their deity, Cudragny, was supposed to
tell them the weather, and, if angry, to throw dust into their eyes.
They thought that, when they died, they would go to the stars, and
after that, little by little, sink with the stars to earth again, to
where the happy hunting grounds lie on the far horizon of the world. To
correct their ignorance, Cartier told them of the true God and of the
verities of the Christian faith. In the end the savages begged that he
would baptize them, and on at least one occasion a great flock of them
came to him, hoping to be received into the faith. But Cartier, as he
says, having nobody with him 'who could teach them our belief and
religion,' and doubting, also, the sincerity of their sudden
conversion, put them off with the promise that at his next coming he
would bring priests and holy oil and cause them to be baptized.
The Stadacona Indians seem to have lived on terms of something like
community of goods. Their stock of food—including great quantities of
pumpkins, peas, and corn—was more or less in common. But, beyond this
and their lodges, their earthly possessions were few. They dressed
somewhat scantily in skins, and even in the depth of winter were so
little protected from the cold as to excite the wonder of their
observers. Women whose husbands died never remarried, but went about
with their faces smeared thick with mingled grease and soot.
One peculiar custom of the natives especially attracted the attention
of their visitors, and for the oddity of the thing may best be recorded
in Cartier's manner. It is an early account of the use of tobacco.
'There groweth also,' he wrote, 'a certain kind of herb, whereof in
summer they make a great provision for all the year, making great
account of it, and only men use it, and first they cause it to be dried
in the sun, then wear it about their necks, wrapped in a little beast's
skin made like a little bag, with a hollow piece of wood or stone like
a pipe. Then when they please they make powder of it, and then put it
in one of the ends of the said cornet or pipe, and laying a coal of
fire upon it, at the other end suck so long that they fill their bodies
full of smoke till that it cometh out of their mouth and nostrils, even
as out of the funnel of a chimney. They say that it doth keep them warm
and in health: they never go without some of it about them. We
ourselves have tried the same smoke, and, having put it in our mouths,
it seemed almost as hot as pepper.'
In spite of the going and coming of the Indians, Cartier from first to
last was doubtful of their intentions. Almost every day in the autumn
and early winter some of them appeared with eels and fish, glad to
exchange them for little trinkets. But the two interpreters endeavoured
to make the Indians believe that the things given them by the French
were of no value, and Donnacona did his best to get the Indian children
out of the hands of the French. Indeed, the eldest of the children, an
Indian girl, escaped from the ships and rejoined her people, and it was
only with difficulty that Cartier succeeded in getting her back again.
Meanwhile a visiting chief, from the country farther inland, gave the
French captain to understand that Donnacona and his braves were waiting
only an opportunity to overwhelm the ships' company. Cartier kept on
his guard. He strengthened the fort with a great moat that ran all
round the stockade. The only entry was now by a lifting bridge; and
pointed stakes were driven in beside the upright palisade. Fifty men,
divided into watches, were kept on guard all night, and, at every
change of the watch, the Indians, across the river in their lodges of
the Stadacona settlement, could hear the loud sounds of the trumpets
break the clear silence of the winter night.
We have no record of the life of Cartier and his followers during the
winter of their isolation among the snows and the savages of Quebec. It
must, indeed, have been a season of dread. The northern cold was soon
upon them in all its rigour. The ships were frozen in at their moorings
from the middle of November till April 15. The ice lay two fathoms
thick in the river, and the driving snows and great drifts blotted out
under the frozen mantle of winter all sight of land and water. The
French could scarcely stir from their quarters. Their fear of Indian
treachery and their ignorance of the trackless country about them held
them imprisoned in their ships. A worse peril was soon added. The
scourge of scurvy was laid upon them—an awful disease, hideous in its
form and deadly in its effect. Originating in the Indian camp, it
spread to the ships. In December fifty of the Stadacona Indians died,
and by the middle of February, of the hundred and ten men that made up
Cartier's expedition, only three or four remained in health. Eight were
already dead, and their bodies, for want of burial, lay frozen stark
beneath the snowdrifts of the river, hidden from the prying eyes of the
savages. Fifty more lay at the point of death, and the others, crippled
and staggering with the onslaught of disease, moved to and fro at their
tasks, their fingers numbed with cold, their hearts frozen with despair.
The plague that had fallen upon them was such as none of them had ever
before seen. The legs of the sufferers swelled to huge, unsightly, and
livid masses of flesh. Their sinews shrivelled to blackened strings,
pimpled with purple clots of blood. The awful disease worked its way
upwards. The arms hung hideous and useless at the side, the mouth
rotted till the teeth fell from the putrid flesh. Chilled with the
cold, huddled in the narrow holds of the little ships fast frozen in
the endless desolation of the snow, the agonized sufferers breathed
their last, remote from aid, far from the love of women, and deprived
of the consolations of the Church. Let those who realize the full
horror of the picture think well upon what stout deeds the commonwealth
of Canada has been founded.
Without the courage and resource of their leader, whose iron
constitution kept him in full health, all would have been lost. Cartier
spared no efforts. The knowledge of his situation was concealed from
the Indians. None were allowed aboard the ships, and, as far as might
be, a great clatter of hammering was kept up whenever the Indians
appeared in sight, so that they might suppose that Cartier's men were
forced by the urgency of their tasks to remain on the ships. Nor was
spiritual aid neglected. An image of the Virgin Mary was placed against
a tree about a bow-shot from the fort, and to this all who could walk
betook themselves in procession on the Sunday when the sickness was at
its height. They moved in solemn order, singing as they went the
penitential psalms and the Litany, and imploring the intercession of
the Virgin. Thus passed the days until twenty-five of the French had
been laid beneath the snow. For the others there seemed only the
prospect of death from disease or of destruction at the hands of the
It happened one day that Cartier was walking up and down by himself
upon the ice when he saw a band of Indians coming over to him from
Stadacona. Among them was the interpreter Domagaya, whom Cartier had
known to be stricken by the illness only ten days before, but who now
appeared in abundant health. On being asked the manner of his cure, the
interpreter told Cartier that he had been healed by a beverage made
from the leaves and bark of a tree. Cartier, as we have seen, had kept
from the Indians the knowledge of his troubles, for he dared not
disclose the real weakness of the French. Now, feigning that only a
servant was ill, he asked for details of the remedy, and, when he did
so, the Indians sent their women to fetch branches of the tree in
question. The bark and leaves were to be boiled, and the drink thus
made was to be taken twice a day. The potion was duly administered, and
the cure that it effected was so rapid and so complete that the pious
Cartier declared it a real and evident miracle. 'If all the doctors of
Lorraine and Montpellier had been there with all the drugs of
Alexandria,' he wrote, 'they could not have done as much in a year as
the said tree did in six days.' An entire tree—probably a white
spruce—was used up in less than eight days. The scourge passed and the
sailors, now restored to health, eagerly awaited the coming of the
Meanwhile the cold lessened; the ice about the ships relaxed its hold,
and by the middle of April they once more floated free. But a new
anxiety had been added. About the time when the fortunes of Cartier's
company were at their lowest, Donnacona had left his camp with certain
of his followers, ostensibly to spend a fortnight in hunting deer in
the forest. For two months he did not return. When he came back, he was
accompanied not only by Taignoagny and his own braves, but by a great
number of savages, fierce and strong, whom the French had never before
seen. Cartier was assured that treachery was brewing, and he determined
to forestall it. He took care that his men should keep away from the
settlement of Stadacona, but he sent over his servant, Charles Guyot,
who had endeared himself to the Indians during the winter. Guyot
reported that the lodges were filled with strange faces, that Donnacona
had pretended to be sick and would not show himself, and that he
himself had been received with suspicion, Taignoagny having forbidden
him to enter into some of the houses.
Cartier's plan was soon made. The river was now open and all was ready
for departure. Rather than allow himself and his men to be overwhelmed
by an attack of the great concourse of warriors who surrounded the
settlement of Stadacona, he determined to take his leave in his own way
and at his own time, and to carry off with him the leaders of the
savages themselves. Following the custom of his age, he did not wish to
return without the visible signs of his achievements. Donnacona had
freely boasted to him of the wonders of the great country far up beyond
Hochelaga, of lands where gold and silver existed in abundance, where
the people dressed like the French in woollen clothes, and of even
greater wonders still,—of men with no stomachs, and of a race of
beings with only one leg. These things were of such import, Cartier
thought, that they merited narration to the king of France himself. If
Donnacona had actually seen them, it was fitting that he should
describe them in the august presence of Francis I.
The result was a plot which succeeded. The two ships, the Grande
Hermine and the Emerillon, lay at anchor ready to sail. Owing to the
diminished numbers of his company, Cartier had decided to abandon the
third ship. He announced a final ceremony to signalize the approaching
departure. On May 3, 1536, a tall cross, thirty-five feet high was
planted on the river bank. Beneath the cross-bar it carried the arms of
France, and on the upper part a scroll in ancient lettering that read,
'FRANCISCUS PRIMUS DEI GRATIA FRANCORUM REX REGNAT' Which means, freely
translated, 'Francis I, by the grace of God King of the French, is
sovereign.' Donnacona, Taignoagny, Domagaya and a few others, who had
been invited to come on board the ships, found themselves the prisoners
of the French. At first rage and consternation seized upon the savages,
deprived by this stratagem of their chief. They gathered in great
numbers on the bank, and their terrifying howls and war-cries resounded
throughout the night. But Donnacona, whether from simplicity or craft,
let himself be pacified with new presents and with the promise of a
speedy return in the year following. He showed himself on the deck of
the captain's ship, and his delighted followers gathered about in their
canoes and swore renewed friendship with the white men, whom they had,
in all likelihood, plotted to betray. Gifts were exchanged, and the
French bestowed a last shower of presents on the assembled Indians.
Finally, on May 6, the caravels dropped down the river, and the
homeward voyage began.
The voyage passed without incident. The ships were some time in
descending the St Lawrence. At Isle-aux-Coudres they waited for the
swollen tide of the river to abate. The Indians still flocked about
them in canoes, talking with Donnacona and his men, but powerless to
effect a rescue of the chief. Contrary winds held the vessels until,
at last, on May 21, fair winds set in from the west that carried them
in an easy run to the familiar coast of Gaspe, past Brion Island,
through the passage between Newfoundland and the Cape Breton shore, and
so outward into the open Atlantic.
'On July 6, 1536,' so ends Cartier's chronicle of this voyage, 'we
reached the harbour of St Malo, by the Grace of our Creator, whom we
pray, making an end of our navigation, to grant us His Grace, and
Paradise at the end. Amen.'
THE THIRD VOYAGE
Nearly five years elapsed after Cartier's return to St Malo before he
again set sail for the New World. His royal master, indeed, had
received him most graciously. Francis had deigned to listen with
pleasure to the recital of his pilot's adventures, and had ordered him
to set them down in writing. Moreover, he had seen and conversed with
Donnacona and the other captive Indians, who had told of the wonders of
their distant country. The Indians had learned the language of their
captors and spoke with the king in French. Francis gave orders that
they should be received into the faith, and the registers of St Malo
show that on March 25, 1538, or 1539 (the year is a little uncertain),
there were baptized three savages from Canada brought from the said
country by 'honnete homme [honest man], Jacques Cartier, captain of our
Lord the King.'
But the moment was unsuited for further endeavour in the New World.
Francis had enough to do to save his own soil from the invading
Spaniard. Nor was it until the king of France on June 15, 1538, made a
truce with his inveterate foe, Charles V, that he was able to turn
again to American discovery. Profoundly impressed with the vast extent
and unbounded resources of the countries described in Cartier's
narrative, the king decided to assume the sovereignty of this new land,
and to send out for further discovery an expedition of some magnitude.
At the head of it he placed Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de
Roberval, whom, on January 15, 1540, he created Lord of Norumbega,
viceroy and lieutenant-general of Canada, Hochelaga, Saguenay,
Newfoundland, Belle Isle, Carpunt, Labrador, the Great Bay, and
Baccalaos. The name Norumbega is an Indian word, and was used by early
explorers as a general term for the territory that is now Maine, New
Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Baccalaos is the name often given by the
French to Newfoundland, the word itself being of Basque origin and
meaning 'codfish,' while Carpunt will be remembered as a harbour beside
Belle Isle, where Cartier had been stormbound on his first voyage.
The king made every effort to further Roberval's expedition. The Lord
of Norumbega was given 45,000 livres and full authority to enlist
sailors and colonists for his expedition. The latter appears to have
been a difficult task, and, after the custom of the day, recourse was
presently had to the prisons to recruit the ranks of the prospective
settlers. Letters were issued to Roberval authorizing him to search the
jails of Paris, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Rouen, and Dijon and to draw from
them any convicts lying under sentence of death. Exception was made of
heretics, traitors, and counterfeiters, as unfitted for the pious
purpose of the voyage. The gangs of these miscreants, chained together
and under guard, came presently trooping into St Malo. Among them, it
is recorded, walked a young girl of eighteen, unconvicted of any crime,
who of her own will had herself chained to a malefactor, as hideous
physically as morally, whose lot she was determined to share.
To Roberval, as commander of the enterprise, was attached Cartier in
the capacity of captain-general and master-pilot. The letters patent
which contain the appointment speak of him as our 'dear and
well-beloved Jacques Cartier, who has discovered the large countries of
Canada and Hochelaga which lie at the end of Asia.' Cartier received
from Roberval about 31,300 livres. The king gave to him for this voyage
the little ship Emerillon and commanded him to obtain four others and
to arm and equip the five. The preparations for the voyage seem to have
lasted throughout the winter and spring of the years 1540-41. The king
had urged Cartier to start by the middle of April, but it was not until
May 23, 1541, that the ships were actually able to set sail. Even then
Roberval was not ready to leave. Cannon, powder, and a varied equipment
that had been purchased for the voyage were still lying at various
points in Normandy and Champagne. Cartier, anxious to follow the king's
wishes, could wait no longer and, at length, he set out with his five
ships, leaving Roberval to prepare other ships at Honfleur and follow
as he might. From first to last the relations of Cartier and Roberval
appear to need further explanation than that which we possess. Roberval
was evidently the nominal head of the enterprise and the feudal lord of
the countries to be claimed, but Cartier seems to have been restless
under any attempt to dictate the actual plan to be adopted, and his
final desertion of Roberval may be ascribed to the position in which he
was placed by the divided command of the expedition.
The expedition left St Malo on May 23, 1541, bearing in the ships food
and victuals for two years. The voyage was unprosperous. Contrary winds
and great gales raged over the Atlantic. The ships were separated at
sea, and before they reached the shores of Newfoundland were so hard
put to it for fresh water that it was necessary to broach the cider
casks to give drink to the goats and the cattle which they carried. But
the ships came together presently in safety in the harbour of Carpunt
beside Belle Isle, refitted there, and waited vainly for Roberval. They
finally reached the harbour of the Holy Cross at Stadacona on August 23.
The savages flocked to meet the ships with a great display of joy,
looking eagerly for the return of their vanished Donnacona. Their new
chief, Agouhanna, with six canoes filled with men, women, and children,
put off from the shore. The moment was a difficult one. Donnacona and
all his fellow-captives, except only one little girl, had died in
France. Cartier dared not tell the whole truth to the natives, and he
contented himself with saying that Donnacona was dead, but that the
other Indians had become great lords in France, had married there and
did not wish to return. Whatever may have been the feeling of the tribe
at this tale, the new chief at least was well pleased. 'I think,' wrote
Cartier, in his narrative of this voyage, 'he took it so well because
he remained lord and governor of the country by the death of the said
Donnacona.' Agouhanna certainly made a great show of friendliness. He
took from his own head the ornament of hide and wampum that he wore and
bound it round the brows of the French leader. At the same time he put
his arms about his neck with every sign of affection.
When the customary ceremonies of eating and drinking, speech-making,
and presentations had ended, Cartier, after first exploring with his
boats, sailed with his ships a few miles above Stadacona to a little
river where good anchorage was found, now known as the Cap Rouge river.
It enters the St Lawrence a little above Quebec. Here preparations were
at once made for the winter's sojourn. Cannon were brought ashore from
three of the ships. A strong fort was constructed, and the little
settlement received the pretentious name Charlesbourg Royal. The
remaining part of the month of August 1541 was spent in making
fortifications and in unloading the ships. On September 2 two of the
ships, commanded by Mace Jalobert, Cartier's brother-in-law and
companion of the preceding voyage, and Etienne Nouel, his nephew, were
sent back to France to tell the king of what had been done, and to let
him know that Roberval had not yet arrived.
As on his preceding voyages, Cartier was greatly impressed by the
aspect of the country about him. All round were splendid forests of oak
and maple and cedar and beech, which surpassed even the beautiful
woodlands of France. Grape vines loaded with ripe fruit hung like
garlands from the trees. Nor was the forest thick and tangled, but
rather like an open park, so that among the trees were great stretches
of ground wanting only to be tilled. Twenty of Cartier's men were set
to turn the soil, and in one day had prepared and sown about an acre
and a half of ground. The cabbage, lettuce, and turnip seed that they
planted showed green shoots within a week.
At the mouth of the Cap Rouge river there is a high point, now called
Redclyffe. On this Cartier constructed a second fort, which commanded
the fortification and the ships below. A little spring supplied fresh
water, and the natural situation afforded a protection against attack
by water or by land. While the French laboured in building the
stockades and in hauling provisions and equipments from the ships to
the forts, they made other discoveries that impressed them more than
the forest wealth of this new land. Close beside the upper fort they
found in the soil a good store of stones which they 'esteemed to be
diamonds.' At the foot of the slope along the St Lawrence lay iron
deposits, and the sand of the shore needed only, Cartier said, to be
put into the furnace to get the iron from it. At the water's edge they
found 'certain leaves of fine gold as thick as a man's nail,' and in
the slabs of black slate-stone which ribbed the open glades of the wood
there were veins of mineral matter which shone like gold and silver.
Cartier's mineral discoveries have unfortunately not resulted in
anything. We know now that his diamonds, still to be seen about Cap
Rouge, are rock crystals. The gold which he later on showed to
Roberval, and which was tested, proved genuine enough, but the quantity
of such deposits in the region has proved insignificant. It is very
likely that Cartier would make the most of his mineral discoveries as
the readiest means of exciting his master's interest.
When everything was in order at the settlement, the provisions landed,
and the building well under way, the leader decided to make a brief
journey to Hochelaga, in order to view more narrowly the rapids that he
had seen, and to be the better able to plan an expedition into the
interior for the coming spring. The account of this journey is the last
of Cartier's exploits of which we have any detailed account, and even
here the closing pages of his narrative are unsatisfactory and
inconclusive. What is most strange is that, although he expressly says
that he intended to 'go as far as Hochelaga, of purpose to view and
understand the fashion of the saults [falls] of water,' he makes no
mention of the settlement of Hochelaga itself, and does not seem to
have visited it.
The Hochelaga expedition, in which two boats were used, left the camp
at Cap Rouge on September 7, 1541. A number of Cartier's gentlemen
accompanied him on the journey, while the Viscount Beaupre was left
behind in command of the fort. On their way up the river Cartier
visited the chief who had entrusted his little daughter to the case of
the French at Stadacona at the time of Cartier's wintering there. He
left two young French boys in charge of this Indian chief that they
might learn the language of the country. No further episode of the
journey is chronicled until on September 11 the boats arrived at the
foot of the rapids now called Lachine. Cartier tells us that two
leagues from the foot of the bottom fall was an Indian village called
Tutonaguy, but he does not say whether or not this was the same place
as the Hochelaga of his previous voyage. The French left their boats
and, conducted by the Indians, walked along the portage path that led
past the rapids. There were large encampments of natives beside the
second fall, and they received the French with every expression of
good-will. By placing little sticks upon the ground they gave Cartier
to understand that a third rapid was to be passed, and that the river
was not navigable to the country of Saguenay.
Convinced that further exploration was not possible for the time being,
the French returned to their boats. As usual, a great concourse of
Indians had come to the spot. Cartier says that he 'understood
afterwards' that the Indians would have made an end of the French, but
judged them too strong for the attempt. The expedition started at once
for the winter quarters at Cap Rouge. As they passed Hochelay—the
abode of the supposed friendly chief near Portneuf—they learned that
he had gone down the river ahead of them to devise means with Agouhanna
for the destruction of the expedition.
Cartier's narrative ends at this most dramatic moment of his
adventures. He seems to have reached the encampment at Cap Rouge at the
very moment when an Indian assault was imminent. We know, indeed, that
the attack, which, from certain allusions in the narrative, seems
presently to have been made, was warded off, and that Cartier's ships
and a part at least of his company sailed home to France, falling in
with Roberval on the way. But the story of the long months of anxiety
and privation, and probably of disease and hostilities with the
Indians, is not recorded. The narrative of the great explorer, as it is
translated by Hakluyt, closes with the following ominous sentences:
'And when we were arrived at our fort, we understood by our people that
the savages of the country came not any more about our fort, as they
were accustomed, to bring us fish, and that they were in a wonderful
doubt and fear of us. Wherefore our captain, having been advised by
some of our men which had been at Stadacona to visit them that there
was a wonderful number of the country people assembled together, caused
all things in our fortress to be set in good order.' And beyond these
words, Cartier's story was never written, or, if written, it has been
THE CLOSE OF CARTIER'S CAREER
Great doubt and uncertainty surround the ultimate fate of Roberval's
attempted colony, of which Cartier's expedition was to form the advance
guard. Roberval, as already seen, had stayed behind in France when
Cartier sailed in 1541, because his equipment was not yet ready for the
voyage. Nor does he seem to have finally started on his expedition for
nearly a year after the departure of Cartier. It has been suggested
that Roberval did set sail at some time in the summer of 1541, and that
he reached Cape Breton island and built a fort there. So, at least, a
tradition ran that was repeated many years later by Lescarbot in his
Histoire de la Nouvelle France. If this statement is true, it must mean
that Roberval sailed home again at the close of 1541, without having
succeeded in finding Cartier, and that he prepared for a renewed
expedition in the spring of the coming year. But the evidence for any
such voyage is not conclusive.
What we know is that on April 16, 1542, Roberval sailed out of the port
of Rochelle with three tall ships and a company of two hundred persons,
men and women, and that with him were divers gentlemen of quality. On
June 8, 1542, his ships entered the harbour of St John's in
Newfoundland. They found there seventeen fishing vessels, clear proof
that by this time the cod fisheries of the Newfoundland Banks were well
known. They were, indeed, visited by the French, the Portuguese, and
other nations. Here Roberval paused to refit his ships and to replenish
his stores. While he was still in the harbour, one day, to his
amazement, Cartier sailed in with the five ships that he was bringing
away from his abandoned settlement at Charlesbourg Royal. Cartier
showed to his superior the 'diamonds' and the gold that he was bringing
home from Canada. He gave to Roberval a glowing account of the country
that he had seen, but, according to the meagre details that appear in
the fragment in Hakluyt's Voyages, he made clear that he had been
compelled to abandon his attempt at settlement. 'He could not with his
small company withstand the savages, which went about daily to annoy
him, which was the cause of his return into France.'
Except what is contained in the few sentences of this record we know
nothing of what took place between Roberval and Cartier. But it was
quite clear that the latter considered the whole enterprise as doomed
to failure. It is more than likely that Cartier was dissatisfied with
Roberval's delay, and did not care to continue under the orders of a
leader inferior to himself in capacity. Be this as it may, their final
parting stands recorded in the following terms, and no historical
document has as yet come to light which can make the exact situation
known to us. 'When our general [Roberval], being furnished with
sufficient forces, commanded him [Cartier] to go back with him, he and
his company, moved as it seems with ambition, because they would have
all the glory of the discovery of those parts themselves, stole privily
away the next night from us, and, without taking their leaves, departed
home for Brittany.' The story, it must be remembered, comes from the
pen of either Roberval or one of his associates.
The subsequent history of Roberval's colony, as far as it is known, can
be briefly told. His ships reached the site of Charlesbourg Royal late
in July 1542. He landed stores and munitions and erected houses,
apparently on a scale of some magnitude, with towers and fortifications
and with great kitchens, halls, and living rooms. Two ships were sent
home in the autumn with news of the expedition, their leader being
especially charged to find out whether the rock crystals carried back
by Cartier had turned out to be diamonds. All the other colonists
remained and spent the winter in this place. In spite of their long
preparation and of their commodious buildings, they seem to have
endured sufferings as great as, or even greater than, those of
Cartier's men at Stadacona seven years before. Supplies of food ran
short, and even in the autumn before the stern winter had begun it was
necessary to put the whole company on carefully measured rations.
Disease broke out among the French, as it had broken out under Cartier,
and about fifty of their number perished before the coming of the
spring. Their lot was rendered more dreadful still by quarrelling and
crime. Roberval could keep his colonists in subjection only by the use
of irons and by the application of the lash. The gibbet, reared beside
the fort, claimed its toll of their number.
The winter of their misery drew slowly to its close. The ice of the
river began to break in April. On June 5, 1543, their leader, Roberval,
embarked on an expedition to explore the Saguenay, 'leaving thirty
persons behind in the fort, with orders that if Roberval had not
returned by the first of July, they were to depart for France.' Whither
he went and what he found we do not know. We read that on June 14.
certain of his company came back with messages to the fort: that five
days later still others came back with instructions that the company at
the fort were to delay their departure for France until July 19. And
here the narrative of the colony breaks off.
Of Roberval's subsequent fate we can learn hardly anything. There is
some evidence to show that Cartier was dispatched from France to Canada
to bring him back. Certain it is that in April 1544 orders were issued
for the summons of both Cartier and Roberval to appear before a
commission for the settling of their accounts. The report of the royal
auditors credits Cartier apparently with a service of eight months
spent in returning to Canada to bring Roberval home. On the strength of
this, it is thought likely that Cartier, returning safely to France in
the summer of 1542, was sent back again at the king's command to aid in
the return of the colonists, whose enterprise was recognized as a
failure. After this, Roberval is lost to sight in the history of
France. Certain chroniclers have said that he made another voyage to
the New World and perished at sea. Others have it that he was
assassinated in Paris near the church of the Holy Innocents. But
nothing is known.
Cartier also is practically lost from sight during the last fifteen
years of his life. His name appears at intervals in the local records,
notably on the register of baptisms as a godfather. As far as can be
judged, he spent the remainder of his days in comfortable retirement in
his native town of St Malo. Besides his house in the seaport he had a
country residence some miles distant at Limoilou. This old house of
solid and substantial stone, with a courtyard and stone walls
surrounding it, is still standing. There can be no doubt that the
famous pilot enjoyed during his closing years a universal esteem. It is
just possible that in recognition of his services he was elevated in
rank by the king of France, for in certain records of St Malo in 1549,
he is spoken of as the Sieur de Limoilou. But this may have been merely
the sort of courtesy title often given in those days to the proprietors
of small landed estates.
It was sometimes the custom of the officials of the port of St Malo to
mark down in the records of the day the death of any townsman of
especial note. Such an entry as this is the last record of the great
pilot. In the margins of certain documents of September 1, 1557, there
is written in the quaint, almost unreadable penmanship of the time:
'This said Wednesday about five in the morning died Jacques Cartier.'
There is no need to enlarge upon the greatness of Cartier's
achievements. It was only the beginning of a far-reaching work, the
completion of which fell to other hands. But it is Cartier's proud
place in history to bear the title of discoverer of a country whose
annals were later to be illumined by the exploits of a Champlain and a
La Salle, and the martyrdom of a Brebeuf; which was to witness, for
more than half a century, a conflict in arms between Great Britain and
France, and from that conflict to draw the finest pages of its history
and the noblest inspiration of its future; a country upon whose soil,
majestic in its expanse of river, lake, and forest, was to be reared a
commonwealth built upon the union and harmony of the two great races
who had fought for its dominion.
Jacques Cartier, as much perhaps as any man of his time, embodied in
himself what was highest in the spirit of his age. He shows us the
daring of the adventurer with nothing of the dark cruelty by which such
daring was often disfigured. He brought to his task the simple faith of
the Christian whose devout fear of God renders him fearless of the
perils of sea and storm. The darkest hour of his adversity in that grim
winter at Stadacona found him still undismayed. He came to these coasts
to find a pathway to the empire of the East. He found instead a country
vast and beautiful beyond his dreams. The enthusiasm of it entered into
his soul. Asia was forgotten before the reality of Canada. Since
Cartier's day four centuries of history have hallowed the soil of
Canada with memories and associations never to be forgotten. But
patriotism can find no finer example than the instinctive admiration
and love called forth in the heart of Jacques Cartier by the majestic
beauty of the land of which he was the discoverer.
ITINERARY OF CARTIER'S VOYAGES
Adapted from Baxter's 'Memoir of Jacques Cartier'
VOYAGE OF 1534
April 20 Monday Cartier leaves St Malo.
May 10 Sunday Arrives at Bonavista.
" 21 Thursday Reaches Isle of Birds.
" 24 Sunday Enters the harbour of Kirpon.
June 9 Tuesday Leaves Kirpon.
" 10 Wednesday Enters the harbour of Brest.
" 11 Thursday St Barnabas Day. Hears Mass and explores
coast in boats.
" 12 Friday Names St Anthoine, Servan; plants cross and
names river St Jacques, and harbour Jacques
" 13 Saturday Returns to ships.
" 14 Sunday Hears Mass.
" 15 Monday Sails toward north coast of Newfoundland.
" 16 Tuesday Follows the west coast of Newfoundland and
names the Monts des Granches.
June 17 Wednesday Names the Colombiers, Bay St Julien, and Capes
Royal and Milk.
" 18 Thursday Stormy weather to 24th; explores coast between
Capes Royal and Milk.
" 24 Wednesday Festival of St John the Baptist. Names Cape St John.
" 25 Thursday Weather bad; sails toward the west and
and south-west; discovers Isles Margaux, Brion, and
" 26 Friday Cape Dauphin.
" 27 Saturday Coasts toward west-south-west.
" 28 Sunday Reaches Cape Rouge.
" 29 Monday Festival of St Peter. Names Alezay and Cape
St Peter, and continues course west-south-west.
" 30 Tuesday Towards evening describes land appearing like
July 1 Wednesday Names Capes Orleans and Savages.
" 2 Thursday Names Bay St Leonarius.
" 3 Friday Continues northerly course and names Cape Hope.
" 4 Saturday Arrives at Port Daniel; remains there until 12th.
July 16 Thursday Enters Gaspe Bay, and remains until 25th on
account of storm.
" 22 Wednesday Lands and meets savages.
" 24 Friday Plants a cross.
" 25 Saturday Sets sail with good wind toward Anticosti.
" 27 Monday Approaches coast.
" 28 Tuesday Names Cape St Louis.
" 29 Wednesday Names Cape Montmorency and doubles East Cape
Aug. 1 Saturday Sights northern shore of the Gulf of
" 8 Saturday Approaches west coast of Newfoundland.
" 9 Sunday Arrives at Blanc Sablon, and makes preparations
to return home.
" 15 Saturday Festival of the Assumption. Hears Mass and sets
sail for France.
Sept. 5 Saturday Arrives at St Malo.
SECOND VOYAGE, 1535
May 16 Sunday First Pentecost. The crew commune at Cathedral
and receive Episcopal Benediction.
" 19 Wednesday Departure from St Malo.
" 26 Wednesday Contrary winds.
June 25 Friday Ships separated by storm.
July 7 Wednesday Cartier reaches the Isle of Birds.
" 8 Thursday Enters Strait of Belle Isle.
" 15 Thursday Reaches the rendezvous at Blanc Sablon.
" 26 Monday Ships meet.
" 29 Thursday Follows north coast and names Isles St William.
" 30 Friday Names Isles St Marthy.
" 31 Saturday Names Cape St Germain.
Aug. 1 Sunday Contrary winds; enters St Nicholas Harbour.
" 8 Sunday Sails toward the southern coast.
" 9 Monday Contrary wind; turns toward north and stops
in Bay St Lawrence.
" 13 Friday Leaves Bay St Lawrence, approaches Anticosti,
and doubles the western point.
" 15 Sunday Festival of the Assumption. Names Anticosti,
Isle of the Assumption.
" 16 Monday Continues along coast.
" 17 Tuesday Turns toward the north.
" 19 Thursday Arrives at the Seven Islands.
" 20 Friday Ranges coast with his boats.
" 21 Saturday Sails west, but obliged to return to the Seven
Islands owing to head winds.
Aug. 24 Tuesday Leaves the Seven Islands and sets sail
" 29 Sunday Martyrdom of St John Baptist. Reaches harbour
of Isles St John.
Sept. 1 Wednesday Quits the harbour and directs his course
toward the Saguenay.
" 2 Thursday Leaves the Saguenay and reaches the
" 6 Monday Arrives at Isle-aux-Coudres.
" 7 Tuesday Reaches Island of Orleans.
" 9 Thursday Donnacona visits Cartier.
" 13 Monday Sails toward the River St Charles.
" 14 Tuesday Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Reaches entrance
of St Charles River.
" 15 Wednesday Plants buoys to guide his ships.
" 16 Thursday Two ships are laid up for the winter.
" 17 Friday Donnacona tries to dissuade Cartier from
going to Hochelaga.
" 18 Saturday Donnacona's stratagem to deter Cartier
from going to Stadacona.
" 19 Sunday Cartier starts for Hochelaga with his
pinnace and two boats.
Sept. 28 Tuesday Enters Lake St Peter.
" 29 Wednesday Leaves his pinnace, and proceeds with
Oct. 2 Saturday Arrives at Hochelaga.
" 3 Sunday Lands and visits town and mountain, which he
named Mount Royal, and leaves Sunday.
" 4 Monday Regains his pinnace.
" 5 Tuesday Takes his way back to Stadacona.
" 7 Thursday Stops at Three Rivers, and plants cross
upon an island.
" 11 Monday Arrives at the anchorage beside Stadacona.
" 12 Tuesday Donnacona visits Cartier.
" 13 Wednesday Cartier and some of his men visit Stadacona.
April 16 Sunday Easter Sunday. The river clear of ice.
" 22 Saturday Donnacona visits Cartier with large number
" 28 Friday Cartier sends Guyot to Stadacona.
May 3 Wednesday Festival of the Holy Cross. A cross planted;
Cartier seizes Donnacona.
May 5 Friday The people of Stadacona, bring provisions for
" 6 Saturday Cartier sails.
" 7 Sunday Arrives at Isle-aux-Coudres.
" 15 Monday Exchanges presents with the savages.
" 22 Monday Reaches Isle Brion.
" 25 Thursday Festival of the Ascension. Reaches a low,
" 26 Friday Returns to Isle Brion.
June 1 Thursday Names Capes Lorraine and St Paul.
" 4 Sunday Fourth of Pentecost. Names harbour
of St Esprit.
" 6 Tuesday Departs from the harbour of St Esprit.
" 11 Sunday St Barnabas Day. At Isles St Pierre.
" 16 Friday Departs from Isles St Pierre and makes
harbour at Rougenouse.
" 19 Monday Leaves Rougenouse and sails for home.
July 6 Friday Reaches St Malo.
THIRD VOYAGE, 1541
May 23 Monday Cartier leaves St Malo with five ships.
Aug. 23 Tuesday Arrives before Stadacona.
" 25 Thursday Lands artillery.
Sept. 2 Friday Sends two of his ships home.
" 7 Wednesday Sets out for Hochelaga.
" 11 Sunday Arrives at Lachine Rapids.
(The rest of the voyage is unknown.)
A Great many accounts of the voyages of Jacques Cartier have been
written both in French and in English; but the fountain source of
information for all of these is found in the narratives written by
Cartier himself. The story of the first voyage was written under the
name of 'Relation Originale du Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en
1534.' The original manuscript was lost from sight for over three
hundred years, but about half a century ago it was discovered in the
Imperial Library (now the National Library) at Paris. Its contents,
however, had long been familiar to English readers through the
translation which appears in Hakluyt's 'Voyages,' published in 1600. In
the same collection is also found the narrative of the second voyage,
as translated from the 'Bref Recit' written by Cartier and published in
1545, and the fragment of the account of the third voyage of which the
rest is lost. For an exhaustive bibliography of Cartier's voyages see
Baxter, 'A Memoir of Jacques Cartier' (New York, 1906). An exceedingly
interesting little book is Sir Joseph Pope's 'Jacques Cartier: his Life
and Voyages' (Ottawa, 1890). The student is also recommended to read
'The Saint Lawrence Basin and its Borderlands,' by Samuel Edward
Dawson; papers by the Abbe Verreau, John Reade, Bishop Howley and W. F.
Ganong in the 'Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada;' the
chapter, 'Jacques Cartier and his Successors,' by B. F. de Costa, in
Winsor's 'Narrative and Critical History of America,' and the chapter
'The Beginnings of Canada,' by Arthur G. Doughty, in the first volume
of 'Canada and its Provinces' (Toronto, 1913).