Champlain, Samuel de

views updated May 11 2018

Champlain, Samuel de

[Image not available for copyright reasons]

c. 1567

Brouage, France

December 25, 1635

Quebec, New France (now Canada)

French explorer

" . . . I went to Quebec, wither some Algonquin savages came, expressing their regret at not being present at the defeat of their enemies, and presenting me with some furs, in consideration of my having gone there and assisted their friends."

Samuel de Champlain.

In 1608 the French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited New France, a French colony in North America that became the province of Quebec, Canada. Within four years he had convinced the French government that the land in North America had great potential for settlement and commercial development. Champlain made twelve journeys to New France to explore and consolidate French holdings in the New World (a European term for North and South America). He wrote six books about his expeditions and the importance of the new French settlement. Serving for a time as the king's lieutenant in New France, he lived to see Quebec established on both shores of the St. Lawrence River. Today Champlain is considered the father of New France and the founder of Quebec.

Becomes a navigator

Samuel de Champlain was born in the small seaport town of Brouage on the west coast of France in about 1567. It is believed that he was born a Protestant and at some point converted to Roman Catholicism during the Wars of Religion (also known as Hugenot Wars; 1562–98). This period of bitter rivalry between Protestants (members of the Protestant Christian religion, which was formed in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church) and Catholics (members of the Roman Catholic Church, a Christian religion based in Rome, Italy, and headed by a pope who has supreme authority in all church affairs) would determine the dominant religion in France. At an early age, Champlain went to sea to learn navigation and cartography (the drafting of maps and charts). Until 1598 he fought as a sergeant on the side of Protestant king Henry IV in the religious wars. After his military service, he worked as a navigator on a voyage to the West Indies. Although Champlain was born a commoner (one who is not of noble rank), his reputation as a navigator earned him an honorary title in Henry's court.

Joins expedition to New France

In 1603 Champlain was invited to join the expedition of François Gravé Du Pont to visit the river of Canada, now known as the St. Lawrence River. The expedition party landed at Tadoussac, a summer trading post where the Saguenay River runs into the St. Lawrence. Champlain sailed with the expedition past the sites of present-day Quebec, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal. He immediately realized that these lands could be colonized by French citizens and provide France with many resources and great wealth. Champlain also learned of the existence of the Great Lakes. The French found the land sparsely inhabited by Native Americans, some of whom were friendly toward the Europeans while others were hostile. Champlain wrote about the customs of the Native Americans in a report that was published in France.

Returning to Tadoussac, the expedition sailed around the Gaspé Peninsula into a region Champlain called Acadia (probably named for Arcadia, the mythical paradise of the ancient Greeks). Champlain urged the French government to explore Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia. The region reportedly had rich mineral deposits and some speculated it might even be the key to finding the elusive Northwest Passage (the water route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that the major world powers had long been seeking).

As a result of his impressive efforts in New France, Champlain was chosen in 1604 to be the geographer on an expedition to Acadia to find the best site for settlement. Led by Lieutenant-General Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, who had a monopoly (exclusive possession or control) on the fur trade in the region, the party of settlers sailed to Acadia. Traveling down the coast of New Brunswick, they stopped at the St. Croix River and built a small fort on a site that is now almost exactly on the border between the United States and Canada. The first winter was a near disaster for the expedition party. Besides the harsh weather, nearly half the party died of scurvy (a disease caused by lack of Vitamin C in the diet). The following winter they moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal, now called Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. This was to become the main settlement for the French Acadians.

Explores present-day New England

During the next three years Champlain traveled on his own, trying to find an ideal site for colonization. He sailed along the coast of present-day Maine and journeyed as far as 150 miles inland. On another trip, he sailed down the coast of New England to the island that is now Martha's Vineyard, off Cape Cod. Although the English were exploring in the same area and eventually established the Plymouth Colony in 1620, Champlain was the first European to give a detailed account of the region. He is also credited with discovering Mount Desert Island as well as most of the major rivers in Maine.

Since the French could not find a suitable area for settlement, they returned to Acadia to build a more permanent fort at Port Royal. De Monts returned to France and Champlain stayed with the settlers in Acadia. In September 1606, he made another journey to the south as far as the present-day state of Rhode Island. During the following winter the French made the best of their isolated situation by forming the Order of Good Cheer, which sponsored banquets and games and amateur shows. In 1607, when Henry IV canceled de Monts's trading privileges, the entire colony was forced to return to France. Before he left the New World, Champlain had accurately charted the Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy to Cape Cod.

Founds Quebec City

Champlain was determined to return to New France, this time on his own terms. By 1608 he had secured financial backing for his most ambitious project in the New World, the beginning of a permanent settlement at Quebec City. Arriving in July, the party, which included thirty-two colonists, built a fort and faced their first hard winter. Only nine people survived to welcome the reinforcements who arrived in June of the following year. That spring, Champlain continued his exploration of Canada by traveling up the St. Lawrence and Richelieu Rivers to a lake that now bears his name, Lake Champlain. In 1609 he joined the Huron tribe and their allies in a great battle against a marauding (raiding) band of Iroquois on Lake Champlain near present-day Crown Point, New York. The French and Hurons defeated the Iroquois, thus beginning 150 years of hostilities between the French and the Iroquois, one of the most powerful tribal nations in North America.

Named lieutenant in New France

In 1612 Champlain returned to France. On the basis of his report, the king decided to make Quebec the center for French fur trading in North America. Champlain provided an account of this meeting in Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604–1618 (published by Scribner, 1907). He wrote:

I reported to him in detail all that had transpired in regard to the winter quarters and our new explorations, and my hopes for the future in view of the promises of the savages called Ochasteguins [Hurons] . . . . After I had concluded my interview with His Majesty, Sieur de Monts determined to go to Rouen to meet his associates. . . . They resolved to continue the settlement, and finish the explorations up the great river St. Lawrence, in accordance with the promises of the Ochasteguins.

Around the time of his meeting with the king, Champlain married Hélène Broullé, the daughter of the secretary to the king's chamber. During the next few years, he frequently traveled back and forth between Quebec and France. While in New France he pursued further exploration and tried to nurture the colony in Quebec, but the many political intrigues (secret schemes) in France demanded all his diplomatic skills and much of his time and energy. For example, when the fur trade faltered, he had to muster support for the colony. He came out of this skirmish the victor, having been made a lieutenant in New France by the new king, Louis XIII.

Champlain describes torture

In his Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604–1618 Champlain provides a detailed account of the aftermath of the successful battle the Hurons and their allies waged against the Iroquois in 1609. He describes the torture of an Iroquois prisoner by the Hurons, a common practice among Native Americans in the seventeenth century. As the Hurons proceed to torture the man, Champlain lists the various techniques they used, including branding, scalping, and mutilation. Champlain admits that it was difficult to watch another human being suffer, but he also describes with admiration the strength of the victim who displayed "such firmness that one would have said, at times, that he suffered hardly any pain at all." Evidently it was customary among warriors on both sides to resist displaying any reaction to pain.

When Champlain turned his back on the torture, the Hurons allowed him to kill the prisoner by shooting him with a musket. Afterwards, they performed perform ritualistic mutilations of the dead body that included cutting off the head, legs, and arms. Champlain explains that following the ritual "we set out on our return with the rest of the prisoners, who kept singing as they went along, with no better hopes for the future than he had had who was so wretchedly treated." Despite his feelings about the brutal spectacle, Champlain concludes his account by saying that when the French, Iroquois, and Hurons went their separate ways, they parted "with loud protestations of mutual friendship."

When Champlain returned to Canada in 1613, he explored the Ottawa River to present-day Allumette Island, opening the route that was to become the main river route to the Great Lakes for the next two centuries. By this time the French had made favorable treaties with many Native American tribes, and the fur trade prospered. Champlain then turned his attention to other aspects of governing the colony. In 1615 he returned from France with the first Roman Catholic missionaries, who came to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. During that summer he saw the Great Lakes for the first time.

Position threatened by politics

The Iroquois presented a real danger to the French colonists. When the French, allied with the Hurons and Algonquins, unsuccessfully attacked an Iroquois stronghold at a site in what is now modern-day New York, Champlain was seriously wounded. He spent the winter recuperating among the Huron people. When he returned to France in 1616, he found that political intrigues at court had once again weakened his position, and he lost the rank of lieutenant in New France. In order to regain what he had lost, he proposed an ambitious plan to colonize Quebec, establish agriculture, and search for the Northwest Passage. He gained the king's support and spent part of 1618 in Quebec.

Champlain's problems in France, however, were not yet over. Plagued by lawsuits and political intrigue, he again appealed to the king to keep his power. This time Champlain was appointed commander of the colony and spent the following years trying to strengthen New France. His authority strengthened when the most powerful man in the French government, Cardinal de Richelieu, formed the company of One Hundred Associates to rule New France with Champlain in charge.

Quebec becomes stable

In 1629 Quebec was attacked and forced to surrender to a party of English privateers (sailors on a private ship transporting goods). Champlain was exiled to England, where he spent the next four years defending the importance of New France and writing accounts of his life. When a peace treaty was signed between England and France in 1632, Champlain was restored to his former post and returned to New France. In 1634 he sent Jean Nicolet, a French trapper and trader, to the west to extend French claims in the region that is now Wisconsin. Westward expansion was made possible through Champlain's friendly relationship with the Hurons. Even though southward movement was still impossible because of the British, Quebec was a stable French settlement. It was stronger, in fact, than the English settlement of Jamestown, in the modern-day state of Virginia (see John Smith entry). This progress was the result of Champlain's success as an explorer and diplomat. Having suffered from various health problems since 1633, Champlain died in Quebec on December 25, 1635.

Jean Nicolet makes peace with the Winnebago tribe

Jean Nicolet was a Frenchman who had been living among the Huron, Algonquin, and Nipissing tribes since 1618, working as a trapper and trader. In 1634 French explorer Samuel de Champlain sent Nicolet on a diplomatic mission to the Winnebago tribe, living on the shores of Green Bay in the present-day state of Wisconsin. Because the Winnebagos were enemies of the Algonquins, it was feared that they would trade with the English instead of the French. Since it was believed that the route to the Great Lakes might also lead to China, Nicolet wore an embroidered Chinese robe.

Nicolet began his journey in July 1634 and traveled via the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing, and the French River to Lake Huron, where he passed through the straits of Michilimackinac to Lake Michigan, then proceeded down to Green Bay. He was the first European to follow this route, which eventually became the passage for French fur traders to the west. One of the great scenes of North American exploration is Nicolet coming ashore in Green Bay dressed in his Chinese robe. Impressing the tribesmen with his elaborate costume, Nicolet successfully completed his mission by signing a peace treaty between the Winnebagos and the French.

For further research

Armstrong, Joe C. W. Champlain. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1987.

Champlain, Samuel de. Voyages of Samuel de Champlain. W. L. Grant, ed. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1952.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. Samuel de Champlain, Father of New France. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1972.

"Samuel de Champlain's 1607 Map." http://lcweb.locgov/exhibits/treasures/trr009.html Available July 13, 1999.

Samuel de Champlain

views updated May 29 2018

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain (ca. 1570-1635) was a French geographer and explorer whose mission was to establish a joint French and Native American agricultural and fur-trading colony. In 21 voyages to New France he laid the foundations for modern Canada.

Samuel de Champlain was born at Brouage, a small Huguenot seaport town in Saintonge. He was probably born a Protestant, but sometime before 1603 he embraced the Roman Catholic faith. He had served against the Catholic League in the army of Henry IV until 1598. By 1601 he was indulging his love of travel and the sea and extending his expertise in navigation.

Early Travels

Champlain spent time during 1601-1603 on voyages as far as the West Indies, working out of Spain. In 1603 he went, probably as an observer, with François Gravédu Pont, whom Aymar de Chaste, holder of the trade monopoly for New France from King Henry IV, was sending on an expedition to the St. Lawrence.

Gravé du Pont's ships arrived at Tadoussac, at the mouth of the Saguenay River on the St. Lawrence, some 120 miles below Quebec, on May 26, 1603. Champlain and Gravé du Pont reached Montreal that summer; by questioning natives through an interpreter, Champlain made astonishingly accurate guesses about the network of the Great Lakes, including Niagara Falls. Both men were back in France by the end of September.

Champlain, however, had acquired some interest and curiosity about Acadia (the area of Newfoundland and around the St. Lawrence), where he hoped to find mines and perhaps a more effective route into the interior. De Chaste died and was succeeded in the monopoly by Pierre du Gua de Monts. De Monts was interested in finding a site with a warmer climate and invited Champlain to accompany a new expedition as geographer. Early in May 1604 the expedition made landfall at Port Mouton on what is now the southeast coast of Nova Scotia, some 100 miles southwest of Halifax. Champlain was asked to choose a temporary base for settlement, and he explored the south coast of Nova Scotia; the Bay of Fundy, including the Annapolis Basin; and the St. John River. De Monts, however, chose an island in the estuary of the St. Croix, now called Dochet Island.

The winter of 1604/1605 was a bad one, the cold being exceptionally severe, and the island became surrounded by treacherous half-broken ice floes, making it more a prison than a place of safety. Scurvy was prevalent, but Champlain, as was to be usual with him, seems to have been hardy enough to have escaped it.

In the summer of 1605 De Monts and Champlain explored the American coast as far south as Cape Cod. Although one or two English explorers had preceded Champlain on this coast, he made such precise and excellent charts of it that he really deserves the title of the first cartographer of the New England coast. The winter of 1605/1606 was spent comparatively easily in the Annapolis Basin, in a fort protected from the savagely cold northwest winds by the long high ridge that lies between the basin and the Bay of Fundy. In 1606 new arrivals turned up, with whom Champlain again explored southward along the American coast, this time as far as Martha's Vineyard.

The winter of 1606/1607 was mild and easy, for the new arrivals, Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, Marc Lescarbot, and others, had brought supplies and wine. In May 1607 the whole colony returned to France, stopping en route to explore the area of Canso at the eastern end of Nova Scotia.

In 1608 Champlain received his first official position. Up to now all his work had been as observer or geographer on an informal basis. Now he was made lieutenant to De Monts. This new expedition went once more to the St. Lawrence. Arriving in the St. Lawrence in June 1608, they began the construction of a fort at the site of what is now the Lower Town of Quebec City. In the summer of 1609 Champlain cemented the fateful alliance between the French and the Hurons by an expedition against the Iroquois, up the Richelieu River toward Lake Champlain. This alliance dated from about 1603; if the French wanted furs, they had to support the Native Americans who supplied the furs, or at least controlled access to them. Thus they were compelled to support the Hurons and Algonquins against their enemies.

Champlain was back in France over the winter 1609/1610, making a report to De Monts and the king. The story of Champlain's relations with a number of French backers is long and complicated. There were a variety of them and a good deal of quarreling between various groups seeking to get control of the fur trade. Champlain had less interest in money than in exploration and in the development of a colony. With immense patience and seemingly unwearying persistence, he traveled back and forth across the Atlantic for the next 2 decades. In all he made some 21 voyages across the Atlantic.

Travel to the Interior

In 1615 Champlain made his boldest and most spectacular venture into the interior of Canada. Bound, as he believed himself to be, by promises to the Hurons to help them against the Iroquois and driven by his own considerable curiosity, he began his epic voyage to the Huron country with two Frenchmen and Native American canoeists. He left Montreal in July 1615. Traveling up the Ottawa River and a tributary, he reached Lake Nipissing, continuing down the French River to the northeastern corner of Lake Huron. He was probably the first white man to see it. By August 1 he was in Huronia, a fertile, well-watered country, populated by Huron villages, between the foot of Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, some 40 miles southeast.

They met with the Huron raiding party at the main village of Cahiagué, on the north side of Lake Simcoe. On September 1 they canoed down the Trent River system to Lake Ontario, and then via the Oswego River to the Iroquois village at the eastern end of Lake Onondaga, not far from present-day Syracuse. Huron impatience and lack of discipline made a coherent assault on the Iroquois fort impossible. Champlain was wounded in the knee by an Iroquois arrow, and with support failing to come from the Susquehannas, the Huron allies, the raiders had to return home. Champlain, unable to walk, was at times carried like a baby on the back of a Huron.

Champlain was obliged to winter in the disagreeable habitat of a Huron village but continued his inveterate habit of travel and exploration, visiting other tribes that were neighbors of the Hurons. In addition, and perhaps more important, he provided a detailed and informed account of the Native American ways of living, one of the earliest and best available. He returned to France in 1616.

In 1619 enforced leisure owing to legal complications gave him opportunity to write accounts of his voyages, which he illustrated with sketches and maps. In 1620, as lieutenant to the viceroy of New France, the Duc de Montmorency, Champlain set out again for Canada, this time with his wife, some 30 years younger than he. In 1627 Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII's chief minister, established the Company of One Hundred Associates, chartered to run the fur trade and organize settlement. Champlain was a member and became, in fact, the commander of the colony under Cardinal Richelieu.

All would have gone well but for the outbreak of war between England and France in 1627. A London company formed to get at the St. Lawrence trade financed, and Charles I of England commissioned, an expedition under David Kirke and his brothers to displace the French from Canada. They took four critically important French supply ships off Gaspé and thus almost stopped the life of the colony. By the summer of 1629, with no relief in sight, Champlain was compelled to surrender to the English and leave.

Not until 1632, with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, did England agree to restore Quebec (and Port Royal in Acadia) to France. In 1633 Champlain returned to New France, again under the aegis of a revived Company of One Hundred Associates. He died at Quebec, the town he founded, on Christmas Day, 1635.

Champlain was physically a resilient, tough, capable man. He also had the moral essentials for his role, courage and indomitableness. He was good-natured and kind and a man of his word, which explains his considerable success with Native Americans. But he also could be ruthless. When, in 1608, there was a plot against his life by the locksmith Duval, Champlain formed a council that tried Duval and his accomplices. Duval was executed on the spot and his head stuck on a pike at the fort at Quebec.

Champlain was a man of large ideas; his aim was to establish a joint French and Native American agricultural and furtrading colony. He contemplated the Christianizing of Native Americans and their intermarriage with the French. He is, of all the explorers, the real founder of Canada, and he himself would have been pleased to be thought so. It was certainly what he set out to do.

Further Reading

H. P. Biggar edited Champlain's writings: The Works of Samuel de Champlain (6 vols., 1922-1936). Two lively and well-written biographies are Samuel Eliot Morison, Samuel de Champlain: Father of New France (1972), and Morris Bishop, Champlain: The Life of Fortitude (1948). □

Champlain, Samuel de

views updated May 23 2018

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who helped colonize New France in the New World in the seventeenth century. He made over twenty voyages between Europe and the New World, founded the French settlement at Quebec, and wrote six books about his adventures.

Early life

Champlain was born in the seaport town of Brouage in France around 1567. Parish records are missing, so his exact birth date is unknown. Historians suggest that Champlain was raised as a Protestant (see Protestantism ) but he converted to Catholicism sometime before 1603. Not much else is known about his childhood.

Growing up in a seaport town, Champlain learned navigation and mapmaking as a youth. He fought as a sergeant in religious wars on the side of Protestant king Henry IV (1553–1610) until 1598. After that, he went on a voyage to the West Indies, now called the Caribbean, for over two years.


In 1603, Champlain joined an expedition to the River of Canada, which was later renamed the St. Lawrence River. The expedition also explored the area that Champlain called Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia). Champlain realized that the areas they explored had valuable resources, especially animals. Investors from France could get animal furs in trade with Native Americans to sell back in Europe. Champlain learned from the local natives about the existence of the Great Lakes, which he thought might be a northwest passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Back in France, Champlain was chosen to be the geographer on an expedition to Acadia led by Pierre du Gua de Monts (c. 1558–1628), to whom the French king had given a monopoly on fur trade in the region. (See Fur Traders and Mountain Men .) The voyagers spent their first winter at a fort they built along the Saint Croix River, near the future border between the United States and Canada. About half of them died, largely from scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C.

For the second winter, the expedition moved its base across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal (present-day Annapolis Royal). This was the main settlement for Acadia until 1607, when Henry IV canceled de Mont's trading privileges. Champlain spent three years sailing and mapping the region, including present-day Maine ; Cape Cod, Massachusetts ; and Rhode Island . The expedition returned to France in 1607.


By 1608, Champlain had found investors to finance another expedition to the New World. Arriving in July, thirty-two voyagers built a fort at the settlement called Quebec City. Champlain would spend the rest of his life building the settlement into a profitable colony for France.

From before 1603, French explorers had been trading with the Algonquian and the Montagnais tribes. The Huron tribe to the west, in the region around Quebec, was an ally of the Algonquians and the Montagnais. To develop fur trading in the region, Champlain formed alliances with these tribes. In July 1609, Champlain and the other settlers joined the Hurons in a battle with the Hurons’ enemy to the south, the Iroquois confederacy. This began over 150 years of hostility between France and the Iroquois.

Champlain faced regular challenges over the next two decades as politics in France altered colonial authority in the New World. He spent much time in France negotiating with government officials and financial investors for the support he needed for his efforts. When he was around forty years old, he married twelve-year-old Hélène Boullé (1598–1654), the daughter of the secretary to the king's chamber. Exploring the New World in 1615, Champlain reached as far as Lake Huron, probably making him the first European to see it.

Back in France between 1616 and 1618, Champlain crafted a comprehensive plan for colonization of New France. Quebec would be a permanent customs station for trading in the region. Military posts would protect France's interests. Explorers would sail the Great Lakes searching for the Northwest Passage, and missionaries would work to convert the native tribes to Christianity to give France greater control over the area's resources. The plan received the governmental and financial support necessary to send Champlain back to Quebec in 1618.

Later years

Champlain worked hard over the next decade to explore New France and to establish profitable trade with native tribes. After war erupted between England and France in 1627, English vessels arrived at Quebec in 1629, forcing the undersupplied French settlers to surrender.

Champlain was back in Europe for the next four years. He worked during this period to get England to return Quebec to France. He also spent time writing about the adventures of his life.

After England and France reached peace in 1632, England returned Quebec to France, and Champlain returned in 1633 to command the area. He spent the final years of his life, often sick, in Quebec, dying there on December 25, 1635.

Champlain, Samuel de, Explorations of

views updated May 21 2018


CHAMPLAIN, SAMUEL DE, EXPLORATIONS OF. Born about 1567 in the small French Atlantic port of Brouage, Samuel de Champlain had most likely already been to Spanish America when, in 1603, he embarked as an observer on a trading expedition to the St. Lawrence Valley. Hoping to find a shorter route to the Orient, he questioned Native people, notably Algonquins, whom he met at the summer trading rendezvous at Tadoussac, about the hydrography of the interior. They subsequently took him on a trip some fifty miles up the Saguenay River before showing him the St. Lawrence as far as the Lachine Rapids above present-day Montreal. The following year, Champlain joined Sieur de Monts, Newly invested with the monopoly of the fur trade, as geographer on a venture to Acadia. After exploring parts of the Nova Scotia coastline, the party spent a difficult winter at Sainte-Croix

(later St. Croix Island, Maine), before moving to Port-Royal (later Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). On two expeditions in 1605 and 1606, Champlain mapped the coast as far as Nantucket Sound, returning to France only in 1607.

Having convinced de Monts that the St. Lawrence Valley was more promising than Acadia for trade, exploration, and settlement, Champlain—along with a few dozen artisans and workers—established a base of operations at Quebec in 1608. The colony they founded would remain essentially a commercial and missionary outpost in the explorer's lifetime. (He died in 1635.) In 1609 Champlain and two compatriots accompanied a Native war party on a foray into Mohawk Iroquois territory, emerging victorious from an engagement at the southern end (near Crown Point, New York) of the lake to which Champlain gave his name. In 1613, the Algonquins invited Champlain to visit their country in the middle reaches of the Ottawa River. In 1615 and 1616, a similar invitation from the powerful Hurons took him east and south of Lake Huron and, on the occasion of a raiding party, to Iroquois villages probably situated between Lakes Oneida and Onondaga. While the allies permitted him to see their own and some of their neighbors' or enemies' territory, they refused him access to other parts of the interior, including the route northward to Hudson Bay he had learned about. Thus aided and constrained, Champlain explored much of the lower Great Lakes region. An energetic promoter of his colony, which he saw as a future customs station for the China trade, he published his Voyages in installments, illustrating them with carefully drafted maps. The 1632 cumulative edition of the Voyages, containing a remarkable map of New France, summarized the geographic and ethnographic observations of a long career.

In the history of French exploration in North America, Champlain is a pivotal figure, for it is with him that this enterprise began to venture inland toward the Great Lakes region and beyond. This great aboriginal domain he saw as the threshold to Asia and impatiently claimed as New France. To gain entry to it, Champlain had no choice but to obtain the permission and assistance of its Native inhabitants within the framework of the broader military and commercial alliance. Champlain was forced, aided above all by a few interpreters sent to live with the allied nations, to embark on explorations that were as much diplomatic as territorial.


Champlain, Samuel de. The Works of Samuel de Champlain. Edited by H. P. Biggar. 6 vols. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1922–1936.

Heidenreich, Conrad. "Early French Exploration in the North American Interior." In North American Exploration. Vol. 2, A Continent Defined. Edited by John Logan Allen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. "A Continent Revealed: Assimilation of the Shape and Possibilities of North America's East Coast, 1524–1610." In North American Exploration. Vol. 1, A New World Disclosed. Edited by John Logan Allen. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Trigger, Bruce. Natives and New comers: Canada's "Heroic Age" Reconsidered. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1985.

Trudel, Marcel. "Champlain, Samuel de." Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 1, 1000–1700. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966.

———. Histoire de la Nouvelle-France. Vol. 2, Le comptoir 1604-1627. Montreal: Fides, 1966.


See alsoExploration of America, Early ; Explorations and Expeditions: French .

Champlain, Samuel de

views updated Jun 08 2018

Champlain, Samuel de (1567–1635) French explorer, founder of New France (Canada). Following the discoveries of Jacques Cartier, he made 12 visits to New France. Besides seeking a Northwest Passage, he encouraged settlement and the fur trade, established friendly relations with Algonquin peoples (at the cost of antagonizing the Iroquois), and vastly increased geographical knowledge during his extensive travels. In 1608, he founded Québec.

About this article

Samuel de Champlain

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic