1902 Encyclopedia > Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier
French explorer

JACQUES CARTIER, a French navigator, was born at St Malo, in Brittany, in 1494. According to the custom of the place, even his early youth was passed upon the sea ; and he was probably already acquainted with the coast of Newfoundland when he was appointed by Francis I. to the command of the two ships, which, on the 20th of April 1534, set sail from St Malo, for the purpose of exploring the district beyond the fishing grounds. Cartier first touched at Cape Buonavista, on the east coast of Newfoundland, then passed northward along the coast, and, sailing south-west through the Straits of Belle Isle, discovered the mainland of Canada, which he claimed for France, by erecting a wooden cross with the inscription " Vive le Roy de France." Next year a second expedition was placed under his control to explore the estuary of the St Lawrence. He penetrated as far as Hochelaga, a large fortified village at the foot of a hill, to which he gave the name of Mont Royal, and which is the site of the modern Montreal. But he did nothing more, and returned on the 16th May 1536, disgusted with the climate and with his crew weakened by scurvy, a disease then unknown in Europe. The idea of colonizing Canada was abandoned after this, till in 1540 Jean Francis de la Roche, Seigneur de Roberval, obtained permission to form a settlement. The project was carried out partly at Roberval's and partly at the king's expense ; Cartier was sent out in command of five ships, in the spring of 1541 ; and in the autumn he arrived at the mouth of the St Lawrence. Near the present situation of Quebec he built a fort named Charlesbourg. But the Indians, whose king he had carried off with him on his last voyage, annoyed him so much with their attacks that hô determined to return to France ; and though Roberval arrived at Newfoundland in June 1542, with three ships and a colony of 200 men and women, and commanded him to turn back, he continued his homeward voyage. Whether this was his last expedition is disputed. Some say that he returned to the assistance of Roberval, in the autumn of 1543 ; but if this be so, we know nothing more. The rest of his life was spent in his native town or at the village of Limoilon, of which he was created seigneur by his patron Francis I. He was alive in 1552 ; but the date of his death is not known.

The interesting story of his discoveries and adventures is told in the Brief récit de la navigation faiete ès isles de Canada, &c., Paris, 1545. This work is extremely rare ; but the information it contained is to be found in the Voyage de Jacques Cartier . . . en 1534, a translation from the third volume of Ramusio's Collection (Venice, 1565), which was published at Rouen in 1598, and was reprinted in 1865 ; in Lescarbot's Histoire de la nouvelle France ; in Hakluyt's Voyages (1600, republished by the Hakluyt Society in 1850) ; and in the Voyages de découvertes au Canada, entre les années 1534 et 1542, a collection of reprints published in 1843 by the Historical and Literary Society of Quebec.

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