Cartier, Jacques

views updated May 14 2018

Cartier, Jacques

December 31, 1491

Saint-Malo, France

September 1, 1557

Saint-Malo, France

French explorer

" . . . the said unknown sickness began to spread itself amongst us after the strangest sort that ever was either heard of or seen. . . . "

Jacques Cartier.

Jacques Cartier was a French explorer who made three voyages to Canada during the mid-sixteenth century. His expeditions were inspired by the belief that a natural waterway leading to Asia could be found through the continents of North America and South America. At the time, numerous explorers searched for this route, which became known as the Northwest Passage. During his first voyage, in 1534, Cartier explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After the second voyage, a trip up the St. Lawrence River in 1535, he returned to France and claimed that the river could be the passage to Asia. In 1541 the king of France ordered Cartier to establish a colony in North America. His attempts were unsuccessful, however, and France did not explore the New World (a European term for North America and South America) again for more than fifty years.

Sent to find gold

Jacques Cartier was born in 1491 in the port of Saint-Malo in the province of Brittany in France. Little is known about his early life, but it is clear that he made several sea voyages. According to some accounts, he may have been a crew member on two expeditions to America led by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (see entry) in 1524 and 1528. In 1532 the bishop of Saint-Malo proposed to King François I of France that the king sponsor an expedition to the New World and that Cartier lead it. To sway the king, the bishop pointed out that Cartier had already been to Brazil and the island of Newfoundland. After François I approved the nomination on April 20, 1534, Cartier set off from Saint-Malo with two ships and sixty-one men. His mission was "to discover certain islands and lands where it is said that a great quantity of gold, and other precious things, are to be found." From the outset it was clear that Cartier was expected to find mineral wealth, such as gold and silver.

Explores Gulf of St. Lawrence

Cartier's fleet sailed to the northern tip of Newfoundland, and entered the Strait of Belle Isle, which was known to lead to open waters beyond. In order to avoid the barren northern coast, Cartier headed south along the western shore of Newfoundland, naming many rivers and harbors. The party continued along the western coast until they came to the channel, now called Cabot Strait, that connects the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the Atlantic Ocean. Since Cartier did not enter Cabot Strait, he did not discover that it separates Newfoundland from Cape Breton Island and thus provides a better route for entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence than the Strait of Belle Isle.

In the course of exploring the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Cartier was the first European to report on the Magdalen Islands (Iles de la Madeleine) and Prince Edward Island. His party then sailed on to the coast of New Brunswick, where he explored Chaleur Bay. Heading north along the coast to Gaspé Bay, he claimed the Gaspé Peninsula for France. From Gaspé, Cartier continued to Anticosti Island, but he did not travel far enough beyond Anticosti to discover the St. Lawrence River. After he went ashore to claim the land for France, he encountered the Iroquois chief Donnacona. When Cartier left, he took two of the chief's sons with him as guests (some historians say as prisoners) on the return trip to France.

Begins second voyage

Upon his arrival in Saint-Malo on September 5, 1534, Cartier received a hero's welcome. Although he had not found any gold, he brought reports of a warm climate and fertile land in New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula. The region had previously been considered suitable for fishing but certainly not for settlement and commercial trade. Intrigued by Cartier's report, the king planned a second voyage. The following year he provided Cartier with three ships for a return trip to Canada. Cartier left Saint-Malo on May 15, 1535, taking with him Donnacona's two sons, who had learned French in order to serve as translators.

This proved to be Cartier's most important voyage. Guided by the Iroquois, he sailed west from Anticosti and, on August 13, entered the great estuary (a water passage) of the St. Lawrence. The river would become the main gateway for French exploration in North America for the next two centuries. Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence past the Saguenay River to the village of Stadacona, on the site of present-day Quebec City. After meeting with Donnacona he traveled farther up the river to the village of Hochelaga, where the city of Montreal is now located. When Cartier encountered dangerous rapids, he ordered the ships not to travel any farther. He was informed by the Iroquois, however, that the St. Lawrence River extended further west to a region where gold and silver could be found.

Describes epidemic

During his stay in Canada, Cartier climbed Mount Royal to view the St. Lawrence valley. He also saw the Lachine Rapids and the Ottawa River. After planting a cross at Hochelaga, Cartier's party returned to Stadacona in October, where they settled for the winter. Cartier and his men were the first Europeans to spend the winter in Canada, and they were surprised at the extreme cold. Despite growing tension between the French and the Iroquois, the Native people helped Cartier's party survive an epidemic of scurvy (a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C). In February 1536, Cartier wrote an account of the difficult winter, describing the rapid decline of his men:

In the month of December we understood that the pestilence [a devastating contagious epidemic disease] was come among the people of Stadacona [the Iroquois], in such sort that before we knew it, according to their confession, there were dead above 50; whereupon we charged them neither to come near our fort, nor about our ships, or us. And albeit [even though] we had driven them from us, the said unknown sickness began to spread itself amongst us after the strangest sort that ever was either heard of or seen, insomuch as some did lose all their strength and could not stand on their feet; then did their legs swell, their sinews [tendons] shrink as black as any coal. Others also had all their skins spotted with spots of blood of a purple colour; then did it ascend up to their ankles, knees, thighs, shoulders, arms, and neck; their mouth became stinking, their gums so rotten that all the flesh did fall off, even to the roots of the teeth, which did also almost all fall out.

Cartier's report continued:

With such infection did this sickness spread itself in our three ships that about the middle of February, of 110 persons that we were, there were not ten whole, so that one could not help the other—a most horrible and pitiful case. As more men died, an autopsy was ordered on twenty-two-year-old Philip Rougemont, in the hope of finding a cure. Rougemont was found to have his heart white but rotten and more than a quart of red water about it; his liver was indifferent fair, but his lungs black and mortified; his blood was altogether shrunk about the heart so that, when he was opened, a great quantity of rotten blood issued out from about his heart.

This chilling account is only one example of the terrible symptoms that all of the scurvy victims of the Cartier party experienced that winter.

Iroquois provide cure

Fortunately, there was good news for the sick men. Cartier met with the Iroquois and remarked at how one of them, a man named Domagaia, appeared to be cured of the disease. When questioned, Domagaia responded "that he had taken the juice and sap of the leaves of a certain tree and therewith had healed himself, for it is a singular remedy against that disease." The cure consisted of the bark and leaves of the Iroquois ameda tree (possibly a sassafras tree), boiled together and consumed every other day. After cutting down a huge tree, the Frenchmen were able to prepare enough of the remedy to cure all of their men. Cartier remarked on the effectiveness of the simple cure, observing that all the doctors in the modern world could not "have done so much in one year as that tree did in six days."

Embarks on final voyage

When Cartier left Stadacona for France on May 6, 1536, he took Donnacona with him. They arrived in France on July 16. Cartier's second voyage had been a great success. He had found a major waterway that might be the sought-after route to Asia, and he even brought back a few pieces of gold. François wanted to send Cartier back to Canada immediately. But war broke out between France and the Holy Roman Empire, so Cartier was unable to leave the country. In the meantime, the rights to colonize Canada had been granted to a French nobleman, Jean-François de La Rocque, Sieur de Roberval. Cartier was assigned to return and gather informa tion for Roberval's voyage the following year.

The expedition reached Stadacona on August 23, 1541. Donnacona had died in France, but his death probably made it easier for Cartier to deal with Donnacona's successor, Agona, who now did not have to worry about his rival. While build ing a camp at the present-day town of Charlesbourg, north of Quebec, Cartier found some minerals he thought were dia monds. After making a brief trip back to Hochelaga, he returned to spend the winter at Charlesbourg. Once again the Frenchmen suffered through a harsh winter. They were also faced with the growing hostility of the Iroquois, so in the spring Cartier and his party decided to head back to France.

Cartier's party left Stadacona in June 1542 and traveled to the port of St. John's, Newfoundland. During the entire trip Cartier had not seen Roberval, but the two men finally met as Cartier was preparing to sail. Cartier received instructions to return to Canada with Roberval and help him found the new colony. However, in the dark of night he and his men slipped away and sailed for France, leaving Roberval to fend for him self. When Cartier arrived back in Saint-Malo, he found him self in a lot of trouble. The "gold" he was carrying was discov ered to really be iron pyrite and the "diamonds" were quartz crystals. Furthermore, Cartier had once again failed to explore far enough up the St. Lawrence River because of the dangerous rapids. Finally, when Roberval returned without settling a new colony, the king was disappointed. The French did not explore the New World again for more than fifty years.

Spends final years in France

Cartier is one of the best-known explorers in North American history. However, historians cite three factors that diminish his stature. First, he failed to thoroughly explore the St. Lawrence River. It is believed that he could easily have sailed beyond the rapids at Hochelaga and made his way to Lake Ontario and possibly Lake Erie. Second, Cartier is criticized for his dealings with the Iroquois. It is debatable whether he took Donnacona and his sons back to France as guests or as prisoners. Finally, his conduct toward Roberval is questionable. Even though he was not punished for leaving Roberval behind, Cartier was never again granted a commission by France. Cartier spent his remaining years in Saint-Malo as a prosperous businessman. His book about his second voyage to Newfoundland was published in 1545. Cartier died in Saint-Malo on September 1, 1557.

For further research

Coulter, Tony, and William H. Goetzmann, eds. Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain and the Explorers of Canada. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1993.

"Jacques Cartier." Available July 13, 1999.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Trudel, Marcel. "Jacques Cartier." Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

Cartier, Jacques (1491-1557)

views updated May 21 2018

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557)

French explorer and navigator


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.


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).

Jacques Cartier

views updated May 29 2018

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. □

Cartier, Jacques

views updated May 11 2018

Cartier, Jacques

A mariner from Saint-Malo in Brittany, France, Jacques Cartier had probably visited Brazil and Newfoundland before receiving a commission from King François I (1494–1547) in 1534 to undertake a voyage in search of treasure and a sea route to Asia. Following the established routes of French fishermen, Cartier sailed west to Newfoundland and then entered the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He was consistently suspicious of the natives he encountered, referring to them as "wild and savage folk" and firing on them when they approached to trade.

Cartier's most important encounter occurred at Gaspé, where some Iroquoians from the Saint Lawrence River, led by Donnacona (d. ca. 1539), had established a summer fishing camp. Cartier's men erected a cross there with the king's coat of arms and gave presents to the Indians. The latter appeared to object strenuously to the captain's attempt to claim their land. Cartier attempted to assure them that his aims were friendly and then kidnapped two of Donnacona's sons before setting sail for France with them on board.

A new expedition set out in 1535 with the two Iroquoian boys pressed into service as interpreters and guides. They showed Cartier the entrance to the great river and led him up to their village, Stadacona, on the site of present-day Quebec City. Donnacona's people seemed intent on cementing an alliance and trade connection with the French; they actively discouraged them from further explorations that might undermine their own exclusive access to European goods. Brushing aside objections, Cartier took his men upstream in small boats to visit the large town of Hochelaga on the site of Montreal. Returning to Stadacona, the French built a fort and prepared to wait until spring.

The winter of 1535 to 1536 turned out to be cold beyond anything they could imagine; scurvy set in, and one by one the crew succumbed to the disease until Donnacona's son showed them how to brew an effective remedy from white cedar. Through this time of hunger and disease, Cartier remained suspicious of the Indians, ordering his men to go armed at all times, much to the consternation of his hosts. On leaving Stadacona in the spring, he took the precaution of seizing the two boys once again, along with Donnacona and a handful of others; hostages, guides, and living museum exhibits, the captive Iroquoians might have been useful to a future expedition had any of them survived.

Cartier did not return to Canada until 1541, when a third voyage was launched, much more ambitious than the others. Five ships carrying fifteen hundred men took part, and they came equipped to establish a French settlement colony. For obvious reasons, Cartier chose a site some distance to the west of Stadacona and ordered his men to fortify their settlement against the increasingly hostile natives of the country. The next spring, Jean-François de la Roque de Roberval (ca. 1500–1560), arrived to take charge of the colony and Cartier hastily deserted, carrying to France a cargo of worthless stones he thought were diamonds. The subsequent history of the colony, obscurely documented, appears to have been short and disastrous. The French would only return sixty years later to the country on which Cartier had bestowed the name Canada.

see also Empire, French; European Explorations in North America


Braudel, Fernand, ed. Le monde de Jacques Cartier: L'aventure au XVIe siècle. Montreal: Libre-expression, 1984.

Cook, Ramsay, ed. The Voyages of Jacques Cartier. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993.

Gagnon, François Marc. Jacques Cartier et la découverte du Nouveau Monde. Quebec: Musée du Québec 1984.

Trudel, Marcel. "Cartier, Jacques." Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 1, 154-172. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966.

Trudel, Marcel. The Beginnings of New France, 1524–1663. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973.

Cartier, Jacques (1491–1557)

views updated May 29 2018

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

Jacques Cartier

views updated May 23 2018

Jacques Cartier


French Navigator and Explorer

Jacques Cartier is the adventurer who is often credited with discovering Canada. He was the first European to locate the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River, and was the first to venture deep into the northern wilderness of the North American continent. The accounts he made of his journeys became the basis for the first maps of the area. Those maps opened the major routes followed by later French explorers into Canada.

Born in the port of Saint-Malo, in the French province of Brittany in 1491, Cartier began his seafaring career with a number of voyages to Brazil, Newfoundland and perhaps even to America as a member of Giovanni da Verrazzano's crew in the 1520s. His first recorded journey, however, was his expedition to the New World in 1534. He received command of the voyage after the bishop of Saint-Malo recommended Cartier to King François I. Cartier set sail with two ships and five dozen men in April 1534. Their mission was to find gold and other valuable minerals. Less than three weeks after they left Saint-Malo, Cartier's ships reached Newfoundland at a point only 11 miles (17.7 km) from their set destination. They continued south to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, recording the first European accounts of many sites along the way, including Prince Edward and Anticosti islands, and the Bay of Gaspe. Although he was near the St. Lawrence River, Cartier either didn't reach it or missed it due to poor weather conditions. He returned from his six-month journey to a hero's welcome in Saint-Malo.

With the success of the 1534 voyage, Cartier embarked on another expedition in the spring of 1535. He took three ships this time, along with a full crew plus two Native Americans he had brought back with him to France on his previous voyage. The Native Americans, who had learned the French language during their stay overseas, served as interpreters for Cartier on his 1535 visit. With information garnered from the Native Americans, Cartier was able to locate the St. Lawrence estuary and by September to travel up the river to a village named Stadacona, located at the present-day Quebec. A month later, by longboat rather than in his sailing ship, he arrived in a village named Hochelaga. Cartier named the hill near the village Mont Réal. The area is now known as the major Canadian city of Montreal.

Cartier set sail for his next voyage to the New World in 1541. He served as chief pilot for the expedition under Jean François de la Rocque de Roberval, who commanded the eight-ship, 1,500-man voyage. Cartier's ship arrived in Canada early and overwintered apart from the other ships north of Quebec. Cartier rejoined Roberval in June, but disobeyed Roberval's orders to return to Quebec and instead made his way back to France. There, Cartier lived the rest of his life outside Saint-Malo. He died on September 1, 1557.


Cartier, Jacques

views updated Jun 08 2018

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.

About this article

Jacques Cartier

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic