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Cartier, Jacques (1491-1557)

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557)

French explorer and navigator

Sources

Early Career. Born in 1491, Jacques Cartier was a French mariner who sailed out of the port city of St. Malo. His early life remains a mystery, although we know he undertook voyages of exploration to Newfoundland and Brazil during the early decades of the sixteenth century. His success on those trips brought him to the attention King Francis I of France, who hoped to discover either New World wealth or a passage to the Far East. Francis consequently subsidized two exploratory trips by Cartier to North America in the mid 1530s.

First Voyage. Cartiers first voyage to mainland North America took place in 1534. After crossing the Atlantic and charting the western shore of Newfoundland, he sailed into Chaleur Bay, where he met a party of Micmac Indians in canoes. Already experienced in the fur trade, the Micmacs eagerly swapped their beaver skins for French manufactured goods such as kettles and knives. Later, in Gaspé Bay, Cartier encountered members of the Stadacona tribe, who had traveled down the St. Lawrence River to fish. Cartier initially enjoyed warm relations with the Stadaconans and their leader, Donnacona, but soon upset the Indians by erecting a cross on land the tribe regarded as its own. The Frenchman further antagonized the Stadaconans by kidnapping Donnaconas two sons, Taignoagny and Domagaya, so that they could learn French and serve as interpreters on his next voyage. While these heavy-handed and offensive acts angered Donnacona, his desire for trade and need for allies in the Stadaconans struggle with the powerful Micmacs compelled him to tolerate the French actions.

Second Voyage. Cartiers second voyage to mainland North America engendered even greater hostility between the French and the Stadaconans. Sailing in 1535, he had Taignoagny and Domagaya guide him up the St. Lawrence River to the Stadaconans village near the site of present-day Quebec. Happy that Cartier had returned with Donnaconas sons, the Stadaconans welcomed the French warmly and treated them as close allies. Conflicting aims and cultural differences, however, soon resulted in animosity between the Europeans and Stadaconans. Much of this hostility stemmed from Donnaconas desire to establish an exclusive trading relationship that would allow his tribe to monopolize the fur trade in the St. Lawrence valley. Cartiers insistence on traveling upriver to visit the rival Hochelaga Indians consequently angered the Stadaconan headman greatly. The Indians tendency to carry off items in accordance with their belief that unused articles were free for the taking, along with Cartiers construction of a small fort on tribal land and the outbreak of a deadly disease among the Stadaconans further poisoned relations and left the two sides on the brink of hostilities. Even Cartiers departure generated ill will because of his decision to kidnap Donnacona and nine other Native Americans in hopes that a new Stadaconan leader would be more favorably disposed to the French. None of the abducted Indians ever returned to their native land.

Third Voyage. While relations had become increasingly antagonistic during Cartiers first two visits, the French and the Stadaconans had managed to avoid outright hostilities. Such was not the case when Cartier returned to the St. Lawrence valley in 1541 under orders from Viceroy Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval to establish a permanent trading settlement. Sailing up-river past the Stadaconan villages, Cartier founded the fortified colony of Charlesbourg-Royal on a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River. At first the Indians traded with the French settlement. Cartiers appropriation of Stadaconan territory, his failure to return the Native Americans he had taken in 1536, and his decision to deny the tribe a trading monopoly infuriated the Stadaconans, however, and led them to war with the French. Concluding that Charlesbourg-Royal was too strong for a frontal assault, the Stadaconans opted for an Indian-style war of attrition in which they ambushed Frenchmen foraging for food or firewood. Their strategy proved highly effective: during the winter of 15411542, they killed thirty-five of Cartiers men. Along with Robervals failure to arrive with reinforcements, unending Indian hostility persuaded Cartier to abandon Charlesbourg-Royal in June 1542.

France-Roy. Just a month after Cartier departed, Roberval sailed up the St. Lawrence with 150 new colonists and established a fortified hilltop colony called France-Roy near the site of Charlesbourg-Royal. The new French settlement did not face Stadaconan attacks because Roberval kept his men from antagonizing the Indians and because his colony was larger and better armed than Cartiers. Much of the Indians earlier animosity toward Cartier, moreover, was personal in nature. Continued cold relations with the Indians nonetheless helped persuade Roberval to abandon France-Roy in the spring of 1543.

Temporary End. Unlike Hernando de Soto, neither Cartier nor Roberval ventured to North America expressly looking for conflict with the Indians. They hoped, rather, to avoid hostilities with the Native Americans while they established trading relations and searched for valuable mineral deposits. Sharp cultural differences, French appropriation of lands that the Indians regarded as their own, trade disputes, individual acts of depredation, and the French habit of kidnapping Native Americans nonetheless ensured that, good intentions aside, they ended up warring with the Stadaconans. Such conflicts proved especially costly for the French because they were not strong enough to establish colonies in North America in the face of Indian hostility. France, in fact, was to mount no further attempt to colonize the St. Lawrence valley until after 1600. Once again, therefore, the Indians of North America proved themselves able to defeat a sizable, well-supported European invasion.

Sources

Bruce G. Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, 2 volumes (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1976);

Wilcomb E. Washburn, ed., Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 4: History of Indian-White Relations (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1988).

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Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557), French explorer and navigator, may truly be said to have discovered Canada. His voyages were the key to the cartography of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and he named the land around it "Canada."

Born in Saint-Malo in Brittany, Jacques Cartier probably had already been on trading and exploring missions to Brazil and Newfoundland when Francis I of France first approached him about a French expedition to the New World in 1532. In April 1534 Cartier set out in two ships to discover, if he could, "certain islands and lands where it is said that a great quantity of gold and other precious things are to be found."

Cartier had a remarkably good run, reaching Newfoundland after a mere 20 days. It says much about Cartier's skill as navigator as well as about 16th-century navigation that his calculation of the latitude of Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, was only about 11 miles off its true latitude. West of the Strait of Belle Isle, Cartier encountered a French ship from La Rochelle. It is clear from his account that French and Portuguese fishermen had frequented these coasts for some time past. It is altogether probable that western European fishermen had been fishing around Newfoundland well before even John Cabot's voyage of 1497.

Cartier disliked the inhospitable look of the land on the south coast of Labrador and turned southward along the west coast of Newfoundland, crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sighted the fertile Prince Edward Island, and arrived in mid-July 1534 at Gaspé on the mainland. After exploring Anticosti Island in the St. Lawrence estuary but, because of bad weather, missing the St. Lawrence River, he returned to France, arriving in Saint-Malo in September 1534.

Almost at once he was recommissioned by Francis I for a more imposing expedition in 1535, this time with three ships, including the Grande Hermine. Leaving Saint-Malo in the middle of May, Cartier went straight for the estuary of the St. Lawrence where he had left off the year before. Using information gained from natives, he went up the great river, nothing how the water turned gradually from salt to fresh, and arrived at the site of the Iroquois village of Stadacona (modern Quebec City) early in September 1535. He continued up the river, anchored his ship, the Emérillon, at Lake St. Peter, and made the rest of his way to the native village of Hochelaga (modern Montreal) by longboat. There he arrived in October and found a thriving, fortified Iroquois village nestled at the foot of a hill which he called Mont Réal. From the top of this hill he could see the rapids, later to be called Lachine, that blocked further navigation westward.

Cartier spent the winter of 1535-1536 back at Stadacona, where his men had built a primitive fort. It was a cold winter even by Canadian standards. From mid-November until mid-April Cartier's ships were icebound. Worse still was scurvy, brought on by absence of fresh fruit and vegetables-basically the lack of vitamin C. Of Cartier's 110 men, only 10 were still well by February 1536, and 25 men eventually died. The the native peoples had a remedy for scurvy which Cartier learned about just in time: an infusion made from the bark of white cedar which produced massive quantities of vitamin C and by which the men were quickly restored.

Cartier returned to France in May 1536 and took 10 Indians (including 4 children) with him, promising to bring them back to Canada on his next voyage. However, all but one of them had died by the time the next expedition got under way in 1541. This time the expedition was under the leadership of Jean François de la Rocque de Roberval, and it was much larger than the earlier ones, with settlers included among about 1,500 men and with eight ships. Cartier left before Roberval, who was waiting for his guns, and arrived in August 1541 at Stadacona.

This time Cartier set up camp a few miles above Stadacona, wintered more comfortably than before, and, finding no sign of Roberval in the spring, set off for France in June 1542. At St. John's harbor, Newfoundland, Cartier met Roberval, who ordered him to return to Quebec. For a variety of reasons, some of them related doubtless to deteriorating relations with the native population, Cartier preferred not to return and slipped away for France under the cover of darkness. He settled down at a country estate not far from Saint-Malo. In 1520 he had married Catherine des Granches, but they had no children. Cartier died on Sept. 1, 1557, at Saint-Malo.

Further Reading

H. P. Biggar edited Cartier's record of his explorations, The Voyages of Jacques Cartier (1924). Biographical accounts of Cartier are in John Bartlet Brebner, The Explorers of North America, 1492-1806 (1933); Lawrence J. Burpee, The Discovery of Canada (1944); and Alida Sims Malkus, Blue-Water Boundary: Epic Highway of the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence (1960). Cartier is discussed in Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages (1971), a readable and well-documented study. □

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Cartier, Jacques (1491–1557)

Cartier, Jacques (14911557)

A French explorer and the first European to navigate the interior of Canada, Cartier was born in the port of Saint Malo in Brittany, then a duchy independent of the king of France. He earned a reputation as an able mariner and, in 1534, set out on his first voyage of exploration with two ships and 120 crew members. He made short work of the Atlantic crossing, arriving off the coast of Newfoundland after a voyage of just twenty days. He sailed north to the Strait of Belle Isle, and explored what are now known as Prince Edward Island and the Magdalen Islands. After returning south as far as the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, and taking two Iroquois boys named Domagaya and Taignoagny hostage, he returned to France. Cartier was then rewarded with a commission to return to North America. He set out with his young Iroquois guides and three ships in May 1535, and sailed up the Saint Lawrence, still determined to find a northerly route to the Spice Islands as well as a legendary land of blond men and mineral riches the local Indians knew as Sanguenay. The expedition sailed past the site of Quebec, where Cartier reunited the boys with their father, Chief Donnaconna, and then sailed as far as a large village of Huron Indians, Hochelaga at a site named Mont Royal (Montreal) by Cartier. The expedition wintered along the river, but many members took sick from scurvy. The company was saved by the use of white cedar bark, a remedy provided by Domagaya.

On a third voyage, in 1541, Cartier sailed with five ships to the mouth of the River Cap Rouge. He had brought farmers and convicts to establish a productive farming settlement; his instructions were to assist Jean-Francois de la Rocque in his attempt to found a permanent North American colony for the French king. Cartier built a winter fort at Charlesbourg-Royal, skirmished with the Hurons, and waited for de la Rocque to make his appearance. The settlement was decimated by scurvy and Indian attacks; Cartier finally abandoned it in the spring of 1542. While sailing off the coast of Newfoundland, he finally crossed paths with de la Rocque but decided to return immediately to France. On returning to France after this voyage, he settled in a country house near Saint Malo. Cartier's exploration of the Saint Lawrence and surrounding land opened this region to settlement and colonization by France; the French-speaking province of Quebec has since this time kept its ties to France despite the dominance of the rest of eastern North America by English-speaking settlers from Great Britain.

See Also: Caboto, Giovanni

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Cartier, Jacques

Jacques Cartier (zhäk kärtyā´), 1491–1557, French navigator, first explorer of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and discoverer of the St. Lawrence River. He made three voyages to the region, the first two (1534, 1535–36) directly at the command of King Francis I and the third (1541–42) under the sieur de Roberval in a colonization scheme that failed. On the first voyage he entered by the Strait of Belle Isle, skirted its barren north coast for a distance and then coasted along the west shore of Newfoundland to Cape Anguille. From there he discovered the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island and, sailing to the coast of New Brunswick, explored Chaleur Bay, continued around the Gaspé Peninsula, and landed at Gaspé to take possession for France. Continuing to Anticosti Island, he then returned to France. Hitherto the region had been considered cold and forbidding, interesting only because of the Labrador and Newfoundland fisheries, but Cartier's reports of a warmer, more fertile region in New Brunswick and on the Gaspé and of an inlet of unknown extent stimulated the king to dispatch him on a second expedition. On this voyage he ascended the St. Lawrence to the site of modern Quebec and, leaving some of his men to prepare winter quarters, continued to the native village of Hochelaga, on the site of the present-day city of Montreal, and there climbed Mt. Royal to survey the fertile valley and see the Lachine Rapids and Ottawa River. On his return he explored Cabot Strait, ascertaining Newfoundland to be an island. His Brief Récit et succincte narration (1545), a description of this voyage, was his only account to be published in France during his life. On his third trip he penetrated again to the Lachine Rapids and wintered in the same region, but gained little new geographical information. Roberval did not appear until Cartier was on his way home, and Cartier refused to join him. Although Cartier's discoveries were of major geographical importance and the claims of the French to the St. Lawrence valley were based on them, he failed in his primary object, the discovery of the Northwest Passage and natural resources. The region remained virtually untouched until the early 17th cent. The best edition of the voyages is H. P. Biggar, The Voyages of Jacques Cartier (1924).

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Cartier, Jacques

Cartier, Jacques (1491–1557) French explorer who discovered the St Lawrence River (1535). He sailed up the river to what is now Québec and continued on foot to Hochelaga (now Montréal). He laid the basis for French settlements in Canada.

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