The Founder of New France - A Chronicle of Champlain
by Charles W. Colby
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[Frontispiece: THE ORDER OF GOOD CHEER—PORT ROYAL, 1606-7. From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys]



A Chronicle of Champlain






Copyright in all Countries subscribing to the Berne Contention




I. CHAMPLAIN'S EARLY YEARS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 II. CHAMPLAIN IN ACADIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 III. CHAMPLAIN AT QUEBEC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 IV. CHAMPLAIN IN THE WILDERNESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 V. CHAMPLAIN'S LAST YEARS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 VI. CHAMPLAIN'S WRITINGS AND CHARACTER . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155



THE ORDER OF GOOD CHEER—PORT ROYAL, 1606-7 . . . . Frontispiece From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys.

PORTRAIT OF CHAMPLAIN ASCRIBED TO MONCORNET. (See Bibliographical Note, p. 154) . . . . . . . Facing page 4 From Laverdiere's 'Champlain' in M'Gill University Library.

COASTS EXPLORED BY CHAMPLAIN, 1604-7 . . . . . . . . " 36 Map by Bartholomew.

CHAMPLAIN'S DRAWING OF THE HABITATION AT QUEBEC . . " 64 From Laverdiere's 'Champlain' in M'Gill University Library.

HENRI DE BOURBON, PRINCE DE CONDE, VICEROY OF NEW FRANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 74 From Laverdiere's 'Champlain' in M'Gill University Library.

THE DISCOVERY OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN, 1609 . . . . . . . " 86 From a drawing by J. D. Kelly in the Chateau de Ramezay, Montreal.

CHAMPLAIN'S ROUTE, 1615-16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 106 Map by Bartholomew.




Were there a Who's Who in History its chronicle of Champlain's life and deeds would run as follows:

Champlain, Samuel de. Explorer, geographer, and colonizer. Born in 1567 at Brouage, a village on the Bay of Biscay. Belonged by parentage to the lesser gentry of Saintonge. In boyhood became imbued with a love of the sea, but also served as a soldier in the Wars of the League. Though an enthusiastic Catholic, was loyal to Henry of Navarre. On the Peace of Vervins (1598) returned to the sea, visiting the Spanish West Indies and Mexico. Between 1601 and 1603 wrote his first book—the Bref Discours. In 1603 made his first voyage to the St Lawrence, which he ascended as far as the Lachine Rapids. From 1604 to 1607 was actively engaged in the attempt of De Monts to establish a French colony in Acadia, at the same time exploring the seaboard from Cape Breton to Martha's Vineyard. Returned to the St Lawrence in 1608 and founded Quebec. In 1609 discovered Lake Champlain, and fought his first battle with the Iroquois. In 1613 ascended the Ottawa to a point {2} above Lac Coulange. In 1615 reached Georgian Bay and was induced to accompany the Hurons, with their allies, on an unsuccessful expedition into the country of the Iroquois. From 1617 to 1629 occupied chiefly in efforts to strengthen the colony at Quebec and promote trade on the lower St Lawrence. Taken a captive to London by Kirke in 1629 upon the surrender of Quebec, but after its recession to France returned (1633) and remained in Canada until his death, on Christmas Day 1635. Published several important narratives describing his explorations and adventures. An intrepid pioneer and the revered founder of New France.

Into some such terms as these would the writer of a biographical dictionary crowd his notice of Champlain's career, so replete with danger and daring, with the excitement of sailing among the uncharted islands of Penobscot Bay, of watching the sun descend below the waves of Lake Huron, of attacking the Iroquois in their palisaded stronghold, of seeing English cannon levelled upon the houses of Quebec. It is not from a biographical dictionary that one can gain true knowledge of Champlain, into whose experience were crowded so many novel sights and whose soul was tested, year after year, by the ever-varying perils of the wilderness. No life, it is true, can be fitly sketched in a chronological {3} abridgment, but history abounds with lives which, while important, do not exact from a biographer the kind of detail that for the actions of Champlain becomes priceless. Kant and Hegel were both great forces in human thought, yet throughout eighty years Kant was tethered to the little town of Koenigsberg, and Hegel did not know what the French were doing in Jena the day after there had been fought just outside a battle which smote Prussia to her knees. The deeds of such men are their thoughts, their books, and these do not make a story. The life of Champlain is all story. The part of it which belongs to the Wars of the League is lost to us from want of records. But fortunately we possess in his Voyages the plain, direct narrative of his exploits in America—a source from which all must draw who would know him well.

The method to be pursued in this book is not that of the critical essay. Nor will these pages give an account of Champlain's times with reference to ordinances regulating the fur trade, or to the policy of French kings and their ministers towards emigration. Such subjects must be touched on, but here it will be only incidentally. What may be taken to concern us is the spirited action of {4} Champlain's middle life—the period which lies between his first voyage to the St Lawrence and his return from the land of the Onondagas. Not that he had ended his work in 1616. The unflagging efforts which he continued to put forth on behalf of the starving colony at Quebec demand all praise. But the years during which he was incessantly engaged in exploration show him at the height of his powers, with health still unimpaired by exposure and with a soul that courted the unknown. Moreover, this is the period for which we have his own narrative in fullest detail.

Even were we seeking to set down every known fact regarding Champlain's early life, the task would not be long. Parkman, in referring to his origin, styles him 'a Catholic gentleman,' with not even a footnote regarding his parentage.[1] Dionne, in a biography {5} of nearly three hundred pages, does indeed mention the names of his father and mother, but dismisses his first twenty years in twenty lines, which say little more than that he learned letters and religion from the parish priest and a love of the sea from his father. Nor is it easy to enlarge these statements unless one chooses to make guesses as to whether or not Champlain's parents were Huguenots because he was called Samuel, a favourite name with French Protestants. And this question is not worth discussion, since no one has, or can, cast a doubt upon the sincerity of his own devotion to the Catholic faith.

In short, Champlain by birth was neither a peasant nor a noble, but issued from a middle-class family; and his eyes turned towards the sea because his father was a mariner dwelling in the small seaport of Brouage.

Thus when a boy Champlain doubtless had lessons in navigation, but he did not become a sailor in the larger sense until he had first {6} been a soldier. His youth fell in the midst of the Catholic Revival, when the Church of Rome, having for fifty years been sore beset by Lutherans and Calvinists, began to display a reserve strength which enabled her to reclaim from them a large part of the ground she had lost. But this result was not gained without the bitterest and most envenomed struggle. If doctrinal divergence had quickened human hatreds before the Council of Trent, it drove them to fury during the thirty years that followed. At the time of the Massacre of St Bartholomew Champlain was five years old. He was seventeen when William the Silent was assassinated; twenty when Mary Stuart was executed at Fotheringay; twenty-one when the Spanish Armada sailed against England and when the Guises were murdered at Blois by order of Henry III; twenty-two when Henry III himself fell under the dagger of Jacques Clement. The bare enumeration of these events shows that Champlain was nurtured in an age of blood and iron rather than amid those humanitarian sentiments which prevail in an age of religious toleration.

Finding his country a camp, or rather two camps, he became a soldier, and fought for ten {7} years in the wretched strife to which both Leaguers and Huguenots so often sacrificed their love of country. With Henry of Valois, Henry of Navarre, and Henry of Guise as personal foes and political rivals, it was hard to know where the right line of faith and loyalty lay; but Champlain was both a Catholic and a king's man, for whom all things issued well when Henry of Navarre ceased to be a heretic, giving France peace and a throne. It is unfortunate that the details of these adventurous years in Champlain's early manhood should be lost. Unassisted by wealth or rank, he served so well as to win recognition from the king himself, but beyond the names of his commanders (D'Aumont, St Luc, and Brissac) there is little to show the nature of his exploits.[2] In any case, these ten years of campaigning were a good school for one who afterwards was to look death in the face a thousand times amidst the icebergs of the North Atlantic, and off the rocky coast of Acadia, and in the forests of the Iroquois.

With such parentage and early experiences as have been indicated Champlain entered upon his career in the New World. It is {8} characteristic that he did not leave the army until his services were no longer needed. At the age of thirty-one he was fortunate enough to be freed from fighting against his own countrymen. In 1598 was signed the Peace of Vervins by which the enemies of Henry IV, both Leaguers and Spaniards, acknowledged their defeat. To France the close of fratricidal strife came as a happy release. To Champlain it meant also the dawn of a career. Hastening to the coast, he began the long series of voyages which was to occupy the remainder of his life. Indeed, the sea and what lay beyond it were henceforth to be his life.

The sea, however, did not at once lead Champlain to New France. Provencal, his uncle, held high employment in the Spanish fleet, and through his assistance Champlain embarked at Blavet in Brittany for Cadiz, convoying Spanish soldiers who had served with the League in France. After three months at Seville he secured a Spanish commission as captain of a ship sailing for the West Indies. Under this appointment it was his duty to attend Don Francisco Colombo, who with an armada of twenty galleons sailed in January 1599 to protect Porto Rico from the English. In the maritime strife of Spain {9} and England this expedition has no part that remains memorable. For Champlain it meant a first command at sea and a first glimpse of America.

The record of this voyage was an incident of no less importance in Champlain's fortunes than the voyage itself. His cruisings in the Spanish Main gave him material for a little book, the Bref Discours; and the Bref Discours in turn advanced his career. Apart from any effect which it may have had in securing for him the title of Geographer to the King, it shows his own aspiration to be a geographer. Navigation can be regarded either as a science or a trade. For Champlain it was plainly a science, demanding care in observation and faithfulness of narrative. The Bref Discours was written immediately upon his return from the West Indies, while the events it describes were still fresh in mind. Appearing at a time when colonial secrets were carefully guarded, it gave France a glimpse of Spanish America from French eyes. For us it preserves Champlain's impressions of Mexico, Panama, and the Antilles. For Champlain himself it was a profession of faith, a statement that he had entered upon the honourable occupation of navigator; in other words, that {10} he was to be classed neither with ship-captains nor with traders, but with explorers and authors.

It was in March 1601 that Champlain reached France on his return from the West Indies. The next two years he spent at home, occupied partly with the composition of his Bref Discours and partly with the quest of suitable employment. His avowed preference for the sea and the reputation which he had already gained as a navigator left no doubt as to the sphere of his future activities, but though eager to explore some portion of America on behalf of the French crown, the question of ways and means presented many difficulties. Chief among these was the fickleness of the king. Henry IV had great political intelligence, and moreover desired, in general, to befriend those who had proved loyal during his doubtful days. His political sagacity should have led him to see the value of colonial expansion, and his willingness to advance faithful followers should have brought Champlain something better than his pension and the title of Geographer. But the problems of France were intricate, and what most appealed to the judgment of Henry was the need of domestic reorganization after a {11} generation of slaughter which had left the land desolate. Hence, despite momentary impulses to vie with Spain and England in oversea expansion, he kept to the path of caution, avoiding any expenditure for colonies which could be made a drain upon the treasury, and leaving individual pioneers to bear the cost of planting his flag in new lands. In friendship likewise his good impulses were subject to the vagaries of a mercurial temperament and a marked willingness to follow the line of least resistance. In the circumstances it is not strange that Champlain remained two years ashore.

The man to whom he owed most at this juncture was Aymar de Chastes. Though Champlain had served the king faithfully, his youth and birth prevented him from doing more than belongs to the duty of a subaltern. But De Chastes, as governor of Dieppe, at a time when the League seemed everywhere triumphant, gave Henry aid which proved to be the means of raising him from the dust. It was a critical event for Champlain that early in 1603 De Chastes had determined to fit out an expedition to Canada. Piety and patriotism seem to have been his dominant motives, but an opening for profit was also {12} offered by a monopoly of the Laurentian fur trade. During the civil wars Champlain's strength of character had become known at first hand to De Chastes, who both liked and admired him. Then, just at the right moment, he reached Fontainebleau, with his good record as a soldier and the added prestige which had come to him from his successful voyage to the West Indies. He and De Chastes concluded an agreement, the king's assent was specially given, and in the early spring of 1603 the founder of New France began his first voyage to the St Lawrence.

Champlain was now definitely committed to the task of gaining for France a foothold in North America. This was to be his steady purpose, whether fortune frowned or smiled. At times circumstances seemed favourable; at other times they were most disheartening. Hence, if we are to understand his life and character, we must consider, however briefly, the conditions under which he worked.

It cannot be said that Champlain was born out of his right time. His active years coincide with the most important, most exciting period in the colonial movement. At the outset Spain had gone beyond all rivals in the {13} race for the spoils of America. The first stage was marked by unexampled and spectacular profits. The bullion which flowed from Mexico and Peru was won by brutal cruelty to native races, but Europe accepted it as wealth poured forth in profusion from the mines. Thus the first conception of a colony was that of a marvellous treasure-house where gold and silver lay piled up awaiting the arrival of a Cortez or a Pizarro.

Unhappily disillusion followed. Within two generations from the time of Columbus it became clear that America did not yield bonanza to every adventurer. Yet throughout the sixteenth century there survived the dream of riches to be quickly gained. Wherever the European landed in America he looked first of all for mines, as Frobisher did on the unpromising shores of Labrador. The precious metals proving illusive, his next recourse was to trade. Hawkins sought his profit from slaves. The French bought furs from the Indians at Tadoussac. Gosnold brought back from Cape Cod a mixed cargo of sassafras and cedar.

But wealth from the mines and profits from a coasting trade were only a lure to the cupidity of Europe. Real colonies, {14} containing the germ of a nation, could not be based on such foundations. Coligny saw this, and conceived of America as a new home for the French race. Raleigh, the most versatile of the Elizabethans, lavished his wealth on the patriotic endeavour to make Virginia a strong and self-supporting community. 'I shall yet live to see it an English nation,' he wrote—at the very moment when Champlain was first dreaming of the St Lawrence. Coligny and Raleigh were both constructive statesmen. The one was murdered before he could found such a colony as his thought presaged: the other perished on the scaffold, though not before he had sowed the seed of an American empire. For Raleigh was the first to teach that agriculture, not mines, is the true basis of a colony. In itself his colony on Roanoke Island was a failure, but the idea of Roanoke was Raleigh's greatest legacy to the English race.

With the dawn of the seventeenth century events came thick and fast. It was a time when the maritime states of Western Europe were all keenly interested in America, without having any clear idea of the problem. Raleigh, the one man who had a grasp of the situation, entered upon his tragic imprisonment in the {15} same year that Champlain made his first voyage to the St Lawrence. But while thought was confused and policy unsettled, action could no longer be postponed. The one fact which England, France, and Holland could not neglect was that to the north of Florida no European colony existed on the American coast. Urging each of these states to establish settlements in a tract so vast and untenanted was the double desire to possess and to prevent one's neighbour from possessing. On the other hand, caution raised doubts as to the balance of cost and gain. The governments were ready to accept the glory and advantage, if private persons were prepared to take the risk. Individual speculators, very conscious of the risk, demanded a monopoly of trade before agreeing to plant a colony. But this caused new difficulty. The moment a monopoly was granted, unlicensed traders raised an outcry and upbraided the government for injustice.

Such were the problems upon the successful or unsuccessful solution of which depended enormous national interests, and each country faced them according to its institutions, rulers, and racial genius. It only needs a table of events to show how fully the English, the {16} French, and the Dutch realized that something must be done. In 1600 Pierre Chauvin landed sixteen French colonists at Tadoussac. On his return in 1601 he found that they had taken refuge with the Indians. In 1602 Gosnold, sailing from Falmouth, skirted the coast of Norumbega from Casco Bay to Cuttyhunk. In 1603 the ships of De Chastes, with Champlain aboard, spent the summer in the St Lawrence; while during the same season Martin Pring took a cargo of sassafras in Massachusetts Bay. From 1604 to 1607 the French under De Monts, Poutrincourt, and Champlain were actively engaged in the attempt to colonize Acadia. But they were not alone in setting up claims to this region. In 1605 Waymouth, sailing from Dartmouth, explored the mouth of the Kennebec and carried away five natives. In 1606 James I granted patents to the London Company and the Plymouth Company which, by their terms, ran athwart the grant of Henry IV to De Monts. In the same year Sir Ferdinando Gorges sent Pring once more to Norumbega. In 1607 Raleigh, Gilbert, and George Popham made a small settlement at the mouth of the Sagadhoc, where Popham died during the winter. As a result of his death this colony {17} on the coast of Maine was abandoned, but 1607 also saw the memorable founding of Jamestown in Virginia. Equally celebrated is Champlain's founding of Quebec in 1608. In 1609 the Dutch under an English captain, Henry Hudson, had their first glimpse of Manhattan.

This catalogue of voyages shows that an impulse existed which governments could not ignore. The colonial movement was far from being a dominant interest with Henry IV or James I, but when their subjects saw fit to embark upon it privately, the crown was compelled to take cognizance of their acts and frame regulations. 'Go, and let whatever good may, come of it!' exclaimed Robert de Baudricourt as Joan of Arc rode forth from Vaucouleurs to liberate France. In much the same spirit Henry IV saw De Monts set sail for Acadia. The king would contribute nothing from the public purse or from his own. Sully, his prime minister, vigorously opposed colonizing because he wished to concentrate effort upon domestic improvements. He believed, in the second place, that there was no hope of creating a successful colony north of the fortieth parallel. Thirdly, he was in the pay of the Dutch.


The most that Henry IV would do for French pioneers in America was to give them a monopoly of trade in return for an undertaking to transport and establish colonists. In each case where a monopoly was granted the number of colonists was specified. As for their quality, convicts could be taken if more eligible candidates were not forthcoming. The sixty unfortunates landed by La Roche on Sable Island in 1598 were all convicts or sturdy vagrants. Five years later only eleven were left alive.

For the story of Champlain it is not necessary to touch upon the relations of the French government with traders at a date earlier than 1599. Immediately following the failure of La Roche's second expedition, Pierre Chauvin of Honfleur secured a monopoly which covered the Laurentian fur trade for ten years. The condition was that he should convey to Canada fifty colonists a year throughout the full period of his grant. So far from carrying out this agreement either in spirit or letter, he shirked it without compunction. After three years the monopoly was withdrawn, less on the ground that he had failed to fulfil his contract than from an outcry on the part of merchants who desired their share of the trade. To {19} adjudicate between Chauvin and his rivals in St Malo and Rouen a commission was appointed at the close of 1602. Its members were De Chastes, governor of Dieppe, and the Sieur de la Cour, first president of the Parlement of Normandy. On their recommendation the terms of the monopoly were so modified as to admit to a share in the privilege certain leading merchants of Rouen and St Malo, who, however, must pay their due share in the expenses of colonizing. Before the ships sailed in 1603 Chauvin had died, and De Chastes at once took his place as the central figure in the group of those to whom a new monopoly had just been conceded.[3]

We are now on the threshold of Champlain's career, but only on the threshold. The {20} voyage of 1603, while full of prophecy and presenting features of much interest, lacks the arduous and constructive quality which was to mark his greater explorations. In 1603 the two boats equipped by De Chastes were under the command of Pontgrave[4] and Prevert, both mariners from St Malo. Champlain sailed in Pontgrave's ship and was, in fact, a superior type of supercargo. De Chastes desired that his expedition should be self-supporting, and the purchase of furs was never left out of sight. At the same time, his purpose was undoubtedly wider than profit, and Champlain represented the extra-commercial motive. While Pontgrave was trading with the Indians, Champlain, as the geographer, was collecting information about their character, their customs, and their country. Their religious ideas interested him much, and also their statements regarding the interior of the continent. Such data as he could collect between the end of May and the middle of August he embodied in a book called Des Sauvages, which, true to its title, deals {21} chiefly with Indian life and is a valuable record, although in many regards superseded by the more detailed writings of the Jesuits.

The voyage of 1603 added nothing material to what had been made known by Jacques Cartier and the fur traders about Canada. Champlain ascended the St Lawrence to the Sault St Louis[5] and made two side excursions—one taking him rather less than forty miles up the Saguenay and the other up the Richelieu to the rapid at St Ours. He also visited Gaspe, passed the Isle Percee, had his first glimpse of the Baie des Chaleurs, and returned to Havre with a good cargo of furs. On the whole, it was a profitable and satisfactory voyage. Though it added little to geographical knowledge, it confirmed the belief that money could be made in the fur trade, and the word brought back concerning the Great Lakes of the interior was more distinct than had before been reported. The one misfortune of the expedition was that its author, De Chastes, did not live to see its success. He had died less than a month before his ships reached Havre.

[1] It is hard to define Champlain's social status in a single word. Parkman, besides styling him 'a Catholic gentleman,' speaks of him elsewhere as being 'within the pale of the noblesse.' On the other hand, the Biographie Saintongeoise says that he came from a family of fishermen. The most important facts would seem to be these. In Champlain's own marriage contract his father is styled 'Antoine de Champlain, Capitaine de la Marine.' The same document styles Champlain himself 'Samuel de Champlain.' A petition in which he asks for a continuation of his pension (circ. 1630) styles him in its opening words 'Le Sieur de Champlain' and afterwards 'le dit sieur Champlain' in two places, while in six places it styles him 'le dit sieur de Champlain.' Le Jeune calls him 'Monsieur de Champlain.' It is clear that he was not a noble. It is also clear that he possessed sufficient social standing to warrant the use of de. On the title-page of all his books after 1604 he is styled the 'Sieur de Champlain.'

[2] He served chiefly in Brittany against the Spanish allies of the League, and reached the rank of quartermaster.

[3] The history of all the companies formed during these years for trade in New France is the same. First a monopoly is granted under circumstances ostensibly most favourable to the Government and to the privileged merchants; then follow the howls of the excluded traders, the lack of good voluntary colonists, the transportation to the colony of a few beggars, criminals, or unpromising labourers; a drain on the company's funds in maintaining these during the long winter; a steady decrease in the number taken out; at length no attempt to fulfil this condition of the monopoly; the anger of the Government when made aware of the facts; and finally the sudden repeal of the monopoly several years before its legal termination.—H. P. Biggar, Early Trading Companies of New France, p. 49.

[4] Francois Grave, Sieur du Pont, whose name, strictly speaking, is Dupont-Grave, one of the most active French navigators of the seventeenth century. From 1600 to 1629 his voyages to the St Lawrence and Acadia were incessant.

[5] Now called the Lachine Rapids. An extremely important point in the history of New France, since it marked the head of ship navigation on the St Lawrence. Constantly mentioned in the writings of Champlain's period.




The early settlements of the French in America were divided into two zones by the Gulf of St Lawrence. Considered from the standpoint of colonization, this great body of water has a double aspect. In the main it was a vestibule to the vast region which extended westward from Gaspe to Lake Michigan and thence to the Mississippi. But while a highway it was also a barrier, cutting off Acadia from the main route that led to the heart of the interior. Port Royal, on the Bay of Fundy, was one centre and Quebec another. Between them stretched either an impenetrable wilderness or an inland sea. Hence Acadia remained separate from the Laurentian {23} valley, which was the heart of Canada—although Acadia and Canada combined to form New France. Of these two sister districts Canada was the more secure. The fate of Acadia shows how much less vulnerable to English attack were Quebec, Three Rivers, and Montreal than the seaboard settlements of Port Royal, Grand Pre, and Louisbourg.

It is a striking fact that Champlain had helped to found Port Royal before he founded Quebec. He was not the pioneer of Acadian colonization: De Monts deserves the praise of turning the first sod. But Champlain was a leading figure in the hard fight at St Croix and Port Royal; he it was who first charted in any detail the Atlantic seaboard from Cape Breton to Cape Cod; and his narrative joins with that of Lescarbot to preserve the story of the episode.

Although unprosperous, the first attempt of the French to colonize Acadia is among the bright deeds of their colonial history. While the death of De Chastes was most inopportune, the future of the French race in America did not hinge upon any one man. In 1603 fishing on the Grand Bank off Newfoundland was a well-established occupation of Normans and Bretons, the fur trade held out hope of great {24} profit, and the spirit of national emulation supplied a motive which was stronger still. Hence it is not surprising that to De Chastes there at once succeeds De Monts.

As regards position they belonged to much the same class. Both were men of standing, with enough capital and influence to organize an expedition. In respect, however, of personality and circumstance there were differences. By reason of advanced age De Chastes had been unable to accompany his ships, whereas De Monts was in his prime and had already made a voyage to the St Lawrence. Moreover, De Monts was a Huguenot. A generation later no Huguenot could have expected to receive a monopoly of the fur trade and a royal commission authorizing him to establish settlements, but Henry IV, who had once been a Protestant, could hardly treat his old co-religionists as Richelieu afterwards treated them. The heresy of its founder was a source of weakness to the first French colony in Acadia, yet through a Calvinist it came into being.

Like De Chastes, De Monts had associates who joined with him to supply the necessary funds, though in 1604 the investment was greater than on any previous occasion, and a {25} larger number were admitted to the benefits of the monopoly. Not only did St Malo and Rouen secure recognition, but La Rochelle and St Jean de Luz were given a chance to participate. De Monts' company had a capital of 90,000 livres, divided in shares—of which two-fifths were allotted to St Malo, two-fifths to La Rochelle and St Jean de Luz conjointly, and the remainder to Rouen. The personal investment of De Monts was somewhat more than a tenth of the total, as he took a majority of the stock which fell to Rouen. Apart from Sully's unfriendliness, the chief initial difficulty arose over religion. The Parlement of Normandy refused to register De Monts' commission on the ground that the conversion of the heathen could not fitly be left to a heretic. This remonstrance was only withdrawn after the king had undertaken to place the religious instruction of the Indians in the charge of priests—a promise which did not prevent the Protestant colonists from having their own pastor. The monopoly contained wider privileges than before, including both Acadia and the St Lawrence. At the same time, the obligation to colonize became more exacting, since the minimum number of new settlers per annum was raised from fifty to a hundred.


Champlain's own statement regarding the motive of De Monts' expedition is that it lay in the desire 'to find a northerly route to China, in order to facilitate commerce with the Orientals.' After reciting a list of explorations which began with John Cabot and had continued at intervals during the next century, he continues: 'So many voyages and discoveries without results, and attended with so much hardship and expense, have caused us French in late years to attempt a permanent settlement in those lands which we call New France, in the hope of thus realizing more easily this object; since the voyage in search of the desired passage commences on the other side of the ocean and is made along the coast of this region.'

A comparison of the words just quoted with the text of De Monts' commission will serve to illustrate the strength of Champlain's geographical instinct. The commission begins with a somewhat stereotyped reference to the conversion of the heathen, after which it descants upon commerce, colonies, and mines. The supplementary commission to De Monts from Montmorency as Lord High Admiral adds a further consideration, namely, that if Acadia is not occupied by the French it will {27} be seized upon by some other nation. Not a word of the route to the East occurs in either commission, and De Monts is limited in the powers granted to a region extending along the American seaboard from the fortieth parallel to the forty-sixth, with as much of the interior 'as he is able to explore and colonize.'

This shows that, while the objects of the expedition were commercial and political, Champlain's imagination was kindled by the prospect of finding the long-sought passage to China. To his mind a French colony in America is a stepping-stone, a base of operations for the great quest. De Monts himself doubtless sought honour, adventure, and profit—the profit which might arise from possessing Acadia and controlling the fur trade in 'the river of Canada.' Champlain remains the geographer, and his chief contribution to the Acadian enterprise will be found in that part of his Voyages which describes his study of the coast-line southward from Cape Breton to Malabar.

But whether considered from the standpoint of exploration or settlement, the first chapter of French annals in Acadia is a fine incident. Champlain has left the greatest fame, but he was not alone during these years {28} of peril and hardship. With him are grouped De Monts, Poutrincourt, Lescarbot, Pontgrave, and Louis Hebert, all men of capacity and enterprise, whose part in this valiant enterprise lent it a dignity which it has never since lost. As yet no English colony had been established in America. Under his commission De Monts could have selected for the site of his settlement either New York or Providence or Boston or Portland. The efforts of the French in America from 1604 to 1607 are signalized by the character of their loaders, the nature of their opportunity, and the special causes which prevented them from taking possession of Norumbega.[2]

De Monts lacked neither courage nor persistence. His battle against heartbreaking disappointments shows him to have been a pioneer of high order. And with him sailed in 1604 Jean de Biencourt, Seigneur de Poutrincourt, whose ancestors had been illustrious in {29} Picardy for five hundred years. Champlain made a third, joining the expedition as geographer rather than shipmaster. Lescarbot and Hebert came two years later.

The company left Havre in two ships—on March 7, 1604, according to Champlain, or just a month later, according to Lescarbot. Although De Monts' commission gave him the usual privilege of impressing convicts, the personnel of his band was far above the average. Champlain's statement is that it comprised about one hundred and twenty artisans, and there were also 'a large number of gentlemen, of whom not a few were of noble birth.' Besides the excitement provided by icebergs, the arguments of priest and pastor diversified the voyage, even to the point of scandal. After crossing the Grand Bank in safety they were nearly wrecked off Sable Island, but succeeded in reaching the Acadian coast on May 8. From their landfall at Cap de la Heve they skirted the coast-line to Port Mouton, confiscating en route a ship which was buying furs in defiance of De Monts' monopoly.

Rabbits and other game were found in abundance at Port Mouton, but the spot proved quite unfit for settlement, and on May 19 De Monts charged Champlain with {30} the task of exploring the coast in search of harbours. Taking a barque of eight tons and a crew of ten men (together with Ralleau, De Monts' secretary), Champlain set out upon this important reconnaissance. Fish, game, good soil, good timber, minerals, and safe anchorage were all objects of search. Skirting the south-western corner of Nova Scotia, the little ship passed Cape Sable and the Tusquet Islands, turned into the Bay of Fundy, and advanced to a point somewhat beyond the north end of Long Island. Champlain gives at considerable length the details of his first excursion along the Acadian seaboard. In his zeal for discovery he caused those left at Port Mouton both inconvenience and anxiety. Lescarbot says, with a touch of sharpness: 'Champlain was such a time away on this expedition that when deliberating about their return [to France] they thought of leaving him behind.' Champlain's own statement is that at Port Mouton 'Sieur de Monts was awaiting us from day to day, thinking only of our long stay and whether some accident had not befallen us.'

De Monts' position at Port Mouton was indeed difficult. By changing his course in mid-ocean he had missed rendezvous with the {31} larger of his two ships, which under the command of Pontgrave looked for him in vain from Canseau to the Bay of Islands. Meanwhile, at Port Mouton provisions were running low, save for rabbits, which could not be expected to last for ever. The more timid raised doubts and spoke of France, but De Monts and Poutrincourt both said they would rather die than go back. In this mood the party continued to hunt rabbits, to search the coast north-easterly for Pontgrave, and to await Champlain's return. Their courage had its reward. Pontgrave's ship was found, De Monts revictualled, Champlain reappeared, and by the middle of June the little band of colonists was ready to proceed.

As De Monts heads south-west from Port Mouton it is difficult to avoid thoughts regarding the ultimate destiny of France in the New World. This was the predestined moment. The Wars of Religion had ended in the reunion of the realm under a strong and popular king. The French nation was conscious of its greatness, and seemed ready for any undertaking that promised honour or advantage. The Huguenots were a sect whose members possessed Calvinistic firmness of will, together with a special motive for emigrating. And, {32} besides, the whole eastern coast of America, within the temperate zone, was still to be had for the taking. With such a magnificent opportunity, why was the result so meagre?

A complete answer to this query would lead us far afield, but the whole history of New France bears witness to the fact that the cause of failure is not to be found in the individual French emigrant. There have never been more valiant or tenacious colonists than the peasants of Normandy who cleared away the Laurentian wilderness and explored the recesses of North America. France in the age of De Monts and Champlain possessed adequate resources, if only her effort had been concentrated on America, or if the Huguenots had not been prevented from founding colonies, or if the crown had been less meddlesome, or if the quest of beaver skins farther north had not diverted attention from Chesapeake Bay and Manhattan Island. The best chance the French ever had to effect a foothold in the middle portion of the Atlantic coast came to them in 1604, when, before any rivals had established themselves, De Monts was at hand for the express purpose of founding a colony. It is quite probable that even if he had landed on Manhattan Island, the European {33} preoccupations of France would have prevented Henry IV from supporting a colony at that point with sufficient vigour to protect it from the English. Yet the most striking aspect of De Monts' attempt in Acadia is the failure to seize a chance which never came again to the French race. In 1607 Champlain sailed away from Port Royal and the English founded Jamestown. In 1608 Champlain founded Quebec, and thenceforth for over a century the efforts of France were concentrated on the St Lawrence. When at length she founded Louisbourg it was too late; by that time the English grasp upon the coast could not be loosened.

Meanwhile De Monts, to whom the future was veiled, left Port Mouton and, creeping from point to point, entered the Bay of Fundy—or, as Champlain calls it, 'the great Baye Francoise, so named by Sieur de Monts.' The month was June, but no time could be lost, for at this juncture the aim of exploration was the discovery of a suitable site, and after the site had been fixed the colonists needed what time remained before winter to build their houses. Hence De Monts' first exploration of the Baye Francoise was not exhaustive. He entered Annapolis Basin and glanced at {34} the spot which afterwards was to be Port Royal. He tried in vain to find a copper-mine of which he had heard from Prevert of St Malo. He coasted the Bay of St John, and on June 25 reached St Croix Island. 'Not finding any more suitable place than this island,' says Champlain, the leaders of the colony decided that it should be fortified: and thus was the French flag unfurled in Acadia.

The arrangement of the settlement at St Croix was left to Champlain, who gives us a drawing in explanation of his plan. The selection of an island was mainly due to distrust of the Indians, with whom, however, intercourse was necessary. The island lay close to the mouth of a river, now also called the St Croix. As the choice of this spot proved most unfortunate, it is well to remember the motives which prevailed at the time. 'Vessels could pass up the river,' says Champlain, 'only at the mercy of the cannon on this island, and we deemed the location most advantageous, not only on account of its situation and good soil, but also on account of the intercourse which we proposed with the savages of these coasts and of the interior, as we should be in the midst of them. We hoped to pacify them in course of time and put an end to the wars {35} which they carry on with one another, so as to derive service from them in future and convert them to the Christian faith.'

De Monts' band was made up largely of artisans, who at once began with vigour to erect dwellings. A mill and an oven were built; gardens were laid out and many seeds planted therein. The mosquitoes proved troublesome, but in other respects the colonists had good cause to be pleased with their first Acadian summer. So far had construction work advanced by the beginning of autumn that De Monts decided to send an exploration party farther along the coast to the south-west. 'And,' says Champlain, 'he entrusted me with this work, which I found very agreeable.'

The date of departure from St Croix was September 2, so that no very ambitious programme of discovery could be undertaken before bad weather began. In a boat of eighteen tons, with twelve sailors and two Indian guides, Champlain threaded the maze of islands which lies between Passamaquoddy Bay and the mouth of the Penobscot. The most striking part of the coast was Mount Desert, 'very high and notched in places, so that there is the appearance to one at sea as of seven or eight mountains extending along {36} near each other.' To this island and the Isle au Haut Champlain gave the names they have since borne. Thence advancing, with his hand ever on the lead, he reached the mouth of the Penobscot, despite those 'islands, rocks, shoals, banks, and breakers which are so numerous on all sides that it is marvellous to behold.' Having satisfied himself that the Penobscot was none other than the great river Norumbega, referred to largely on hearsay by earlier geographers, he followed it up almost to Bangor. On regaining the sea he endeavoured to reach the mouth of the Kennebec, but when within a few miles of it was driven back to St Croix by want of food. In closing the story of this voyage, which had occupied a month, Champlain says with his usual directness: 'The above is an exact statement of all I have observed respecting not only the coasts and people, but also the river of Norumbega; and there are none of the marvels there which some persons have described. I am of opinion that this region is as disagreeable in winter as that of our settlement, in which we were greatly deceived.'

Champlain was now to undergo his first winter in Acadia, and no part of his life could have been more wretched than the ensuing {37} eight months. On October 6 the snow came. On December 3 cakes of ice began to appear along the shore. The storehouse had no cellar, and all liquids froze except sherry. 'Cider was served by the pound. We were obliged to use very bad water and drink melted snow, as there were no springs or brooks.' It was impossible to keep warm or to sleep soundly. The food was salt meat and vegetables, which impaired the strength of every one and brought on scurvy. It is unnecessary to cite here Champlain's detailed and graphic description of this dreadful disease. The results are enough. Before the spring came two-fifths of the colonists had died, and of those who remained half were on the point of death. Not unnaturally, 'all this produced discontent in Sieur de Monts and others of the settlement.'

The survivors of the horrible winter at St Croix were not freed from anxiety until June 15, 1605, when Pontgrave, six weeks late, arrived with fresh stores. Had De Monts been faint-hearted, he doubtless would have seized this opportunity to return to France. As it was, he set out in search of a place more suitable than St Croix for the establishment of his colony. On June 18, with a party {38} which included twenty sailors and several gentlemen, he and Champlain began a fresh voyage to the south-west. Their destination was the country of the Armouchiquois, an Algonquin tribe who then inhabited Massachusetts.

Champlain's story of his first voyage from Acadia to Cape Cod is given with considerable fulness. The topography of the seaboard and its natural history, the habits of the Indians and his adventures with them, were all new subjects at the time, and he treats them so that they keep their freshness. He is at no pains to conceal his low opinion of the coast savages. Concerning the Acadian Micmacs he says little, but what he does say is chiefly a comment upon the wretchedness of their life during the winter. As he went farther south he found an improvement in the food supply. At the mouth of the Saco he and De Monts saw well-kept patches of Indian corn three feet high, although it was not yet midsummer. Growing with the corn were beans, pumpkins, and squashes, all in flower; and the cultivation of tobacco is also noted. Here the savages formed a permanent settlement and lived within a palisade. Still farther south, in the neighbourhood of Cape Cod, {39} Champlain found maize five and a half feet high, a considerable variety of squashes, tobacco, and edible roots which tasted like artichokes.

But whether the coast Indians were Micmacs or Armouchiquois, whether they were starving or well fed, Champlain tells us little in their praise. Of the Armouchiquois he says:

I cannot tell what government they have, but I think that in this respect they resemble their neighbours, who have none at all. They know not how to worship or pray; yet, like the other savages, they have some superstitions, which I shall describe in their place. As for weapons, they have only pikes, clubs, bows and arrows. It would seem from their appearance that they have a good disposition, better than those of the north, but they are all in fact of no great worth. Even a slight intercourse with them gives you at once a knowledge of them. They are great thieves, and if they cannot lay hold of any thing with their hands, they try to do so with their feet, as we have oftentimes learned by experience. I am of opinion that if they had any thing to exchange with us they would not give themselves to thieving. They bartered away to us their bows, arrows, and quivers for pins and buttons; and if they had had any thing else better they would have done the same with it. It is necessary to be on one's guard against this people and live in a state of distrust of them, yet without letting them perceive it.

{40} This passage at least shows that Champlain sought to be just to the savages of the Atlantic. Though he found them thieves, he is willing to conjecture that they would not steal if they had anything to trade.

The thieving habits of the Cape Cod Indians led to a fight between them and the French in which one Frenchman was killed, and Champlain narrowly escaped death through the explosion of his own musket. At Cape Cod De Monts turned back. Five of the six weeks allotted to the voyage were over, and lack of food made it impossible to enter Long Island Sound. Hence 'Sieur de Monts determined to return to the Island of St Croix in order to find a place more favourable for our settlement, as we had not been able to do on any of the coasts which he had explored during this voyage.'

We now approach the picturesque episode of Port Royal. De Monts, having regained St Croix at the beginning of August, lost no time in transporting his people to the other side of the Bay of Fundy. The consideration which weighed most with him in establishing his headquarters was that of trade. Whatever his own preferences, he could not forget that his partners in France expected a return {41} on their investment. Had he been in a position to found an agricultural colony, the maize fields he had seen to the south-west might have proved attractive. But he depended largely upon trade, and, as Champlain points out, the savages of Massachusetts had nothing to sell. Hence it was unwise to go too far from the peltries of the St Lawrence. To find a climate less severe than that of Canada, without losing touch with the fur trade, was De Monts' problem. No one could dream of wintering again at St Croix, and in the absence of trade possibilities to the south there seemed but one alternative—Port Royal.

In his notice of De Monts' cruise along the Bay of Fundy in June 1604, Champlain says: 'Continuing two leagues farther on in the same direction, we entered one of the finest harbours I had seen all along these coasts, in which two thousand vessels might lie in security. The entrance is 800 paces broad; then you enter a harbour two leagues long and one broad, which I have named Port Royal.' Here Champlain is describing Annapolis Basin, which clearly made a deep impression upon the minds of the first Europeans who saw it. Most of all did it appeal to the imagination of Poutrincourt, who had come to Acadia for the {42} purpose of discovering a spot where he could found his own colony. At sight of Port Royal he had at once asked De Monts for the grant, and on receiving it had returned to France, at the end of August 1604, to recruit colonists. Thus he had escaped the horrible winter at St Croix, but on account of lawsuits it had proved impossible for him to return to Acadia in the following year. Hence the noble roadstead of Port Royal was still unoccupied when De Monts, Champlain, and Pontgrave took the people of St Croix thither in August 1605. Not only did the people go. Even the framework of the houses was shipped across the bay and set up in this haven of better hope.

The spot chosen for the settlement lay on the north side of the bay. It had a good supply of water, and there was protection from the north-west wind which had tortured the settlers at St Croix. 'After everything had been arranged,' says Champlain, 'and the majority of the dwellings built, Sieur de Monts determined to return to France, in order to petition His Majesty to grant him all that might be necessary for his undertaking.' Quite apart from securing fresh advantages, De Monts at this time was sore pressed to defend his title against the traders who were {43} clamouring for a repeal of the monopoly. With him returned some of the colonists whose ambition had been satisfied at St Croix. Champlain remained, in the hope of making further explorations 'towards Florida.' Pontgrave was left in command. The others numbered forty-three.

During the autumn they began to make gardens. 'I also,' says Champlain, 'for the sake of occupying my time made one, which was surrounded with ditches full of water, in which I placed some fine trout, and into which flowed three brooks of very fine running water, from which the greater part of our settlement was supplied. I made also a little sluice-way towards the shore, in order to draw off the water when I wished. This spot was entirely surrounded by meadows, where I constructed a summer-house, with some fine trees, as a resort for enjoying the fresh air. I made there, also, a little reservoir for holding salt-water fish, which we took out as we wanted them. I took especial pleasure in it and planted there some seeds which turned out well. But much work had to be laid out in preparation. We resorted often to this place as a pastime; and it seemed as if the little birds round took pleasure in it, for they gathered there in large {44} numbers, warbling and chirping so pleasantly that I think I have never heard the like.'

After a busy and cheerful autumn came a mild winter. The snow did not fall till December 20, and there was much rain. Scurvy still caused trouble; but though twelve died, the mortality was not so high as at St Croix. Everything considered, Port Royal enjoyed good fortune—according to the colonial standards of the period, when a winter death-rate of twenty-six per cent was below the average.

At the beginning of March 1606 Pontgrave fitted out a barque of eighteen tons in order to undertake 'a voyage of discovery along the coast of Florida'; and on the 16th of the month a start was made. Favoured by good weather, he and Champlain would have reached the Hudson three years before the Dutch. But, short of drowning, every possible mischance happened. They had hardly set out when a storm cast them ashore near Grand Manan. Having repaired the damage they made for St Croix, where fog and contrary winds held them back eight days. Then Pontgrave decided to return to Port Royal 'to see in what condition our companions were whom we had left there sick.' On their {45} arrival Pontgrave himself was taken ill, but soon re-embarked, though still unwell. Their second start was followed by immediate disaster. Leaving the mouth of the harbour, two leagues distant from Port Royal, they were carried out of the channel by the tide and went aground. 'At the first blow of our boat upon the rocks the rudder broke, a part of the keel and three or four planks were smashed and some ribs stove in, which frightened us, for our barque filled immediately; and all that we could do was to wait until the sea fell, so that we might get ashore.... Our barque, all shattered as she was, went to pieces at the return of the tide. But we, most happy at having saved our lives, returned to our settlement with our poor savages; and we praised God for having rescued us from this shipwreck, from which we had not expected to escape so easily.'

This accident destroyed all hope of exploration to the southward until word came from France. At the time of De Monts' departure the outlook had been so doubtful that a provisional arrangement was made for the return of the colonists to France should no ship arrive at Port Royal by the middle of July. In this event Pontgrave was to take his people {46} to Cape Breton or Gaspe, where they would find trading ships homeward bound. As neither De Monts nor Poutrincourt had arrived by the middle of June, a new barque was built to replace the one which had been lost on April 10. A month later Pontgrave carried out his part of the programme by putting aboard all the inhabitants of Port Royal save two, who were induced by promise of extra pay to remain in charge of the stores.

Thus sorrowfully the remnant of the colonists bade farewell to the beautiful harbour and their new home. Four days later they were nearly lost through the breaking of their rudder in the midst of a tempest. Having been saved from wreck by the skill of their shipmaster, Champdore, they reached Cape Sable on July 24. Here grief became rejoicing, for to their complete surprise they encountered Ralleau, De Monts' secretary, coasting along in a shallop. The glad tidings he gave them was that Poutrincourt with a ship of one hundred and twenty tons had arrived. From Canseau the Jonas had taken an outer course to Port Royal, while Ralleau was keeping close to the shore in the hope of intercepting Pontgrave. 'All this intelligence,' says Champlain, 'caused us to turn back; and we arrived at {47} Port Royal on the 25th of the month, where we found the above-mentioned vessel and Sieur de Poutrincourt, and were greatly delighted to see realized what we had given up in despair.' Lescarbot, who arrived on board the Jonas, adds the following detail: 'M. de Poutrincourt ordered a tun of wine to be set upon end, one of those which had been given him for his proper use, and gave leave to all comers to drink freely as long as it lasted, so that there were some who made gay dogs of themselves.'

Wine-bibbing, however, was not the chief activity of Port Royal. Poutrincourt at once set men to work on the land, and while they were sowing wheat, rye, and hemp he hastened preparations for an autumn cruise 'along the coast of Florida.' On September 5 all was ready for this voyage, which was to be Champlain's last opportunity of reaching the lands beyond Cape Cod. Once more disappointment awaited him. 'It was decided,' he says, 'to continue the voyage along the coast, which was not a very well considered conclusion, since we lost much time in passing over again the discoveries made by Sieur de Monts as far as the harbour of Mallebarre. It would have been much better, in my opinion, {48} to cross from where we were directly to Mallebarre, the route being already known, and then use our time in exploring as far as the fortieth degree, or still farther south, revisiting upon our homeward voyage the entire coast at pleasure.'

In the interest of geographical research and French colonization Champlain was doubtless right. Unfortunately, Poutrincourt wished to see for himself what De Monts and Champlain had already seen. It was the more unfortunate that he held this view, as the boats were victualled for over two months, and much could have been done by taking a direct course to Cape Cod. Little time, however, was spent at the Penobscot and Kennebec. Leaving St Croix on September 12, Poutrincourt reached the Saco on the 21st. Here and at points farther south he found ripe grapes, together with maize, pumpkins, squashes, and artichokes. Gloucester Harbour pleased Champlain greatly. 'In this very pleasant place we saw two hundred savages, and there are here a large number of very fine walnut trees, cypresses, sassafras, oaks, ashes and beeches.... There are likewise fine meadows capable of supporting a large number of cattle.' So much was he charmed with this harbour and {49} its surroundings that he called it Le Beauport. After tarrying at Gloucester two or three days Poutrincourt reached Cape Cod on October 2, and on the 20th he stood off Martha's Vineyard, his farthest point.

Champlain's chronicle of this voyage contains more detail regarding the Indians than will be found in any other part of his Acadian narratives. Chief among Poutrincourt's adventures was an encounter with the natives of Cape Cod. Unlike the Micmacs, the Armouchiquois were 'not so much hunters as good fishermen and tillers of the land.' Their numbers also were greater; in fact, Champlain speaks of seeing five or six hundred together. At first they did not interfere with Poutrincourt's movements, even permitting him to roam their land with a body of arquebusiers. After a fortnight, however, their suspicions began to become manifest, and on October 15 four hundred savages set upon five Frenchmen who, contrary to orders, had remained ashore. Four were killed, and although a rescue party set out at once from the barque, the natives made their escape.

To pursue them was fruitless, for they are marvellously swift. All that we could do was to carry away the dead bodies and bury them near a cross {50} which had been set up the day before, and then to go here and there to see if we could get sight of any of them. But it was time wasted, therefore we came back. Three hours afterwards they returned to us on the sea-shore. We discharged at them several shots from our little brass cannon, and when they heard the noise they crouched down on the ground to escape the fire. In mockery of us they pulled down the cross and disinterred the dead, which displeased us greatly and caused us to go for them a second time; but they fled, as they had done before. We set up again the cross and reinterred the dead, whom they had thrown here and there amid the heath, where they kindled a fire to burn them. We returned without any result, as we had done before, well aware that there was scarcely hope of avenging ourselves this time, and that we should have to renew the undertaking when it should please God.

With a desire for revenge was linked the practical consideration that slaves would prove useful at Port Royal. A week later the French returned to the same place, 'resolved to get possession of some savages and, taking them to our settlement, put them to grinding corn at the hand-mill, as punishment for the deadly assault which they had committed on five or six of our company.' As relations were strained, it became necessary to offer beads {51} and gewgaws, with every show of good faith. Champlain describes the plan in full. The shallop was to leave the barque for shore, taking

the most robust and strong men we had, each one having a chain of beads and a fathom of match on his arm; and there, while pretending to smoke with them (each one having an end of his match lighted so as not to excite suspicion, it being customary to have fire at the end of a cord in order to light the tobacco), coax them with pleasing words so as to draw them into the shallop; and if they should be unwilling to enter, each one approaching should choose his man and, putting the beads round his neck, should at the same time put the rope on him to draw him by force. But if they should be too boisterous and it should not be possible to succeed, they should be stabbed, the rope being firmly held; and if by chance any of them should get away, there should be men on land to charge upon them with swords. Meanwhile, the little cannon on our barque was to be kept ready to fire upon their companions in case they should come to assist them, under cover of which firearms the shallop could withdraw in security.

This plot, though carefully planned, fell far short of the success which was anticipated. To catch a redskin with a noose required more skill than was available. Accordingly, {52} none were taken alive. Champlain says: 'We retired to our barque after having done all we could.' Lescarbot adds: 'Six or seven of the savages were hacked and hewed in pieces, who could not run so lightly in the water as on shore, and were caught as they came out by those of our men who had landed.'

Having thus taken an eye for an eye, Poutrincourt began his homeward voyage, and, after three or four escapes from shipwreck, reached Port Royal on November 14.

Champlain was now about to spend his last winter in Acadia. Mindful of former experiences, he determined to fight scurvy by encouraging exercise among the colonists and procuring for them an improved diet. A third desideratum was cheerfulness. All these purposes he served through founding the Ordre de Bon Temps, which proved to be in every sense the life of the settlement. Champlain himself briefly describes the procedure followed, but a far more graphic account is given by Lescarbot, whose diffuse and lively style is illustrated to perfection in the following passage:

To keep our table joyous and well provided, an order was established at the board of the said M. de Poutrincourt, {53} which was called the Order of Good Cheer, originally proposed by Champlain. To this Order each man of the said table was appointed Chief Steward in his turn, which came round once a fortnight. Now, this person had the duty of taking care that we were all well and honourably provided for. This was so well carried out that though the epicures of Paris often tell us that we had no Rue aux Ours over there, as a rule we made as good cheer as we could have in this same Rue aux Ours, and at less cost. For there was no one who, two days before his turn came, failed to go hunting or fishing, and to bring back some delicacy in addition to our ordinary fare. So well was this carried out that never at breakfast did we lack some savoury meat of flesh or fish, and still less at our midday or evening meals; for that was our chief banquet, at which the ruler of the feast or chief butler, whom the savages called Atoctegic, having had everything prepared by the cook, marched in, napkin on shoulder, wand of office in hand, and around his neck the collar of the Order, which was worth more than four crowns; after him all the members of the Order carrying each a dish. The same was repeated at dessert, though not always with so much pomp. And at night, before giving thanks to God, he handed over to his successor in the charge the collar of the Order, with a cup of wine, and they drank to each other. I have already said that we had abundance of game, such as ducks, bustards, grey and white geese, partridges, larks, and other birds; moreover moose, caribou, beaver, otter, bear, rabbits, wild-cats, racoons, and other animals such as the savages caught, whereof {54} we made dishes well worth those of the cook-shop in the Rue aux Ours, and far more; for of all our meats none is so tender as moose-meat (whereof we also made excellent pasties) and nothing so delicate as beaver's tail. Yea, sometimes we had half a dozen sturgeon at once, which the savages brought us, part of which we bought, and allowed them to sell the remainder publicly and to barter it for bread, of which our men had abundance. As for the ordinary rations brought from France, they were distributed equally to great and small alike; and, as we have said, the wine was served in like manner.

The results of this regime were most gratifying. The deaths from scurvy dropped to seven, which represented a great proportionate decrease. At the same time, intercourse with the Indians was put on a good basis thereby. 'At these proceedings,' says Lescarbot, 'we always had twenty or thirty savages—men, women, girls, and children—who looked on at our manner of service. Bread was given them gratis, as one would do to the poor. But as for the Sagamos Membertou, and other chiefs who came from time to time, they sat at table eating and drinking like ourselves. And we were glad to see them, while, on the contrary, their absence saddened us.'

These citations bring into view the writer who has most copiously recorded the early {55} annals of Acadia—Marc Lescarbot. He was a lawyer, and at this date about forty years old. Having come to Port Royal less as a colonist than as a guest of Poutrincourt, he had no investment at stake. But contact with America kindled the enthusiasm of which he had a large supply, and converted him into the historian of New France. His story of the winter he passed at Port Royal is quite unlike other narratives of colonial experience at this period. Champlain was a geographer and preoccupied with exploration. The Jesuits were missionaries and preoccupied with the conversion of the savages. Lescarbot had a literary education, which Champlain lacked, and, unlike the Jesuits, he approached life in America from the standpoint of a layman. His prolixity often serves as a foil to the terseness of Champlain, and suggests that he must have been a merciless talker. Yet, though inclined to be garrulous, he was a good observer and had many correct ideas—notably the belief that corn, wine, and cattle are a better foundation for a colony than gold or silver mines. In temperament he and Champlain were very dissimilar, and evidence of mutual coolness may be found in their writings. These we shall consider at a {56} later stage. For the present it is enough to note that both men sat at Poutrincourt's table and adorned the Order of Good Cheer.

Meanwhile De Monts was in France, striving with all the foes of the monopoly. Thanks to the fur trade, his company had paid its way during the first two years, despite the losses at St Croix. The third season had been much less prosperous, and at the same moment when the Dutch and the Basques[3] were breaking the monopoly by defiance, the hatters of Paris were demanding that it should be withdrawn altogether. To this alliance of a powerful guild with a majority of the traders, the company of De Monts succumbed, and the news which Poutrincourt received when the first ship came in 1607 was that the colony must be abandoned. As the company itself was about to be dissolved, this consequence {57} was inevitable. Champlain in his matter-of-fact way states that De Monts sent letters to Poutrincourt, 'by which he directed him to bring back his company to France.' Lescarbot is much more outspoken. Referring to the merits and struggles of De Monts, he exclaims:

Yet I fear that in the end he may be forced to give it all up, to the great scandal and reproach of the French name, which by such conduct is made a laughing-stock and a byword among the nations. For as though their wish was to oppose the conversion of these poor Western peoples, and the glory of God and of the King, we find a set of men full of avarice and envy, who would not draw a sword in the service of the King, nor suffer the slightest ill in the world for the honour of God, but who yet put obstacles in the way of our drawing any profit from the province, even in order to furnish what is indispensable to the foundation of such an enterprise; men who prefer to see the English and Dutch win possession of it rather than the French, and would fain have the name of God remain unknown in those quarters. And it is such godless people who are listened to, who are believed, and who win their suits. O tempora, O mores!

On August 11, 1607, Port Royal was abandoned for the second time, and its people, sailing by Cape Breton, reached Roscou in Brittany at the end of September. The {58} subsequent attempt of Poutrincourt and his family to re-establish the colony at Port Royal belongs to the history of Acadia rather than to the story of Champlain. But remembering the spirit in which he and De Monts strove, one feels glad that Lescarbot spoke his mind regarding the opponents who baffled their sincere and persistent efforts.

[1] This word has sometimes been traced to the Micmac akade, which, appended to place-names, signifies an abundance of something. More probably, however, it is a corruption of Arcadia. The Acadia of De Monts' grant in 1604 extended from the parallel of 40 deg. to that of 46 deg. north latitude, but in the light of actual occupation the term can hardly be made to embrace more than the coast from Cape Breton to Penobscot Bay.

[2] There appears in Verrazano's map of 1529 the word Aranbega, as attached to a small district on the Atlantic seaboard. Ten years later Norumbega has become a region which takes in the whole coast from Cape Breton to Florida. At intervals throughout the sixteenth century fables were told in Europe of its extraordinary wealth, and it was not till the time of Champlain that this myth was exposed. Champlain himself identifies 'the great river of Norumbega' with the Penobscot.

[3] Traders from the extreme south of France, whose chief port was St Jean de Luz. Though living on the confines of France and Spain, the Basques were of different racial origin from both Spaniards and French. While subject politically to France, their remoteness from the main ports of Normandy and Brittany kept them out of touch with the mariners of St Malo and Havre, save as collision arose between them in the St Lawrence. Among the Basques there were always interlopers, even when St Jean de Luz had been given a share in the monopoly. They are sometimes called Spaniards, from their close neighbourhood to the Pyrenees.




From the Island of Orleans to Quebec the distance is a league. I arrived there on the third of July, when I searched for a place suitable for our settlement, but I could find none more convenient or better than the point of Quebec, so called by the savages, which was covered with nut-trees. I at once employed a portion of our workmen in cutting them down, that we might construct our habitation there: one I set to sawing boards, another to making a cellar and digging ditches, another I sent to Tadoussac with the barque to get supplies. The first thing we made was the storehouse for keeping under cover our supplies, which was promptly accomplished through the zeal of all, and my attention to the work.

Thus opens Champlain's account of the place with which his name is linked imperishably. He was the founder of Quebec and its preserver. During his lifetime the results seemed pitifully small, but the task once undertaken was never abandoned. By steadfastness he prevailed, and at his death had created a {60} colony which became the New France of Talon and Frontenac, of La Salle and D'Iberville, of Brebeuf and Laval. If Venice from amid her lagoons could exclaim, Esto perpetua, Quebec, firm based upon her cliff, can say to the rest of Canada, Attendite ad petram undo excisi estis—'Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn.'

Champlain's Quebec was very poor in everything but courage. The fact that it was founded by the men who had just failed in Acadia gives proof of this virtue. Immediately upon his return from Port Royal to France, Champlain showed De Monts a map and plan which embodied the result of his explorations during the last three years. They then took counsel regarding the future, and with Champlain's encouragement De Monts 'resolved to continue his noble and meritorious undertaking, notwithstanding the hardships and labours of the past.' It is significant that once more Champlain names exploration as the distinctive purpose of De Monts.

To expect a subsidy from the crown was futile, but Henry felt compunction for his abrupt recall of the monopoly. The result was that De Monts, in recognition of his losses, {61} was given a further monopoly—for the season of 1608 only. At the same time, he was expressly relieved from the obligation to take out colonists. On this basis De Monts found partners among the merchants of Rouen, and three ships were fitted out—one for Acadia, the others for the St Lawrence. Champlain, as lieutenant, was placed in charge of the Laurentian expedition. With him went the experienced and invaluable Pontgrave.

Nearly seventy-five years had now passed since Jacques Cartier first came to anchor at the foot of Cape Diamond. During this period no one had challenged the title of France to the shores of the St Lawrence; in fact, a country so desolate made no appeal to the French themselves. Roberval's tragic experience at Cap Rouge had proved a warning. To the average Frenchman of the sixteenth century Canada meant what it afterwards meant to Sully and Voltaire. It was a tract of snow; a land of barbarians, bears, and beavers.

The development of the fur trade into a staple industry changed this point of view to a limited extent. The government, as we have seen, considered it desirable that colonists should be established in New France {62} at the expense of traders. For the St Lawrence, however, the first and only fruits of this enlightened policy had been Chauvin's sixteen derelicts at Tadoussac.

The founding of Quebec represents private enterprise, and not an expenditure of money by Henry IV for the sake of promoting colonization. De Monts and Champlain were determined to give France a foothold in America. The rights upon which the venture of 1608 was financed did not run beyond the year. Thenceforth trade was to be free. It follows that De Monts and his partners, in building a station at Quebec, did not rely for their expenses upon any special favours from the crown. They placed their reliance upon themselves, feeling confident of their power to hold a fair share of the trade against all comers. For Champlain Quebec was a fixed point on the way to the Orient. For De Monts it was a key to the commerce of the great river. None of his rivals would begin the season of 1609 with a permanent post in Canada. Thus part of the anticipated profits for 1608 was invested to secure an advantage in the approaching competition. The whole success of the plan depended upon the mutual confidence of De Monts and Champlain, both {63} of whom unselfishly sought the advancement of French interests in America—De Monts, the courageous capitalist and promoter; Champlain, the explorer whose discoveries were sure to enlarge the area of trading operations.

Pontgrave sailed from Honfleur on April 5, 1608. Champlain followed eight days later, reaching Tadoussac at the beginning of June. Here trouble awaited him. The Basque traders, who always defied the monopoly, had set upon Pontgrave with cannon and muskets, killing one man and severely wounding two others, besides himself. Going ashore, Champlain found Pontgrave very ill and the Basques in full possession. To fight was to run the risk of ruining De Monts' whole enterprise, and as the Basques were alarmed at what they had done, Darache, their captain, signed an agreement that he would not molest Pontgrave or do anything prejudicial to the rights of De Monts. This basis of compromise makes it clear that Pontgrave was in charge of the season's trade, while Champlain's personal concern was to found the settlement.

An unpleasant dispute was thus adjusted, but the incident had a still more unpleasant sequel. Leaving Tadoussac on June 30, {64} Champlain reached Quebec in four days, and at once began to erect his storehouse. A few days later he stood in grave peril of his life through conspiracy among his own men.

The ringleader was a locksmith named Jean Duval, who had been at Port Royal and narrowly escaped death from the arrows of the Cape Cod Indians. Whether he framed his plot in collusion with the Basques is not quite clear, but it seems unlikely that he should have gone so far as he did without some encouragement. His plan was simply to kill Champlain and deliver Quebec to the Basques in return for a rich reward, either promised or expected. Some of the men he had no chance to corrupt, for they were aboard the barques, guarding stores till a shelter could be built. Working among the rest, Duval 'suborned four of the worst characters, as he supposed, telling them a thousand falsehoods and presenting to them prospects of acquiring riches.' The evidence subsequently showed that Champlain was either to be strangled when unarmed, or shot at night as he answered to a false alarm. The conspirators made a mutual promise not to betray each other, on penalty that the first who opened his mouth should be poniarded.


Out of this deadly danger Champlain escaped through the confession of a vacillating spirit named Natel, who regretted his share in the plot, but, once involved, had fears of the poniard. Finally he confessed to Testu, the pilot, who immediately informed Champlain. Questioned as to the motive, Natel replied that 'nothing had impelled them, except that they had imagined that by giving up the place into the hands of the Basques or Spaniards they might all become rich, and that they did not want to go back to France.' Duval, with five others, was then seized and taken to Tadoussac. Later in the summer Pontgrave brought the prisoners back to Quebec, where evidence was taken before a court-martial consisting of Champlain, Pontgrave, a captain, a surgeon, a first mate, a second mate, and some sailors. The sentence condemned four to death, of whom three were afterwards sent to France and put at the discretion of De Monts. Duval was 'strangled and hung at Quebec, and his head was put on the end of a pike, to be set in the most conspicuous place on our fort, that he might serve as an example to those who remained, leading them to deport themselves correctly in future, in the discharge of their {66} duty; and that the Spaniards and Basques, of whom there were large numbers in the country, might not glory in the event.'

It will be seen from the recital of Duval's conspiracy that Champlain was fortunate to escape the fate of Hudson and La Salle. While this cause celebre was running its course to a tragic end, the still more famous habitation grew day by day under the hands of busy workmen. As fruits of a crowded and exciting summer Champlain could point to a group of three two-storeyed buildings. 'Each one,' he says, 'was three fathoms long and two and a half wide. The storehouse was six fathoms long and three wide, with a fine cellar six feet deep. I had a gallery made all round our buildings, on the outside, at the second storey, which proved very convenient. There were also ditches, fifteen feet wide and six deep. On the outer side of the ditches I constructed several spurs, which enclosed a part of the dwelling, at the points where we placed our cannon. Before the habitation there is a place four fathoms wide and six or seven long, looking out upon the river-bank. Surrounding the habitation are very good gardens.'

Three dwellings of eighteen by fifteen feet each were a sufficiently modest starting-point {67} for continental ambitions, even when supplemented by a storehouse of thirty-six feet by eighteen. In calling the gardens very good Champlain must have been speaking with relation to the circumstances, or else they were very small, for there is abundant witness to the sufferings which Quebec in its first twenty years might have escaped with the help of really abundant gardens. At St Croix and Port Royal an attempt had been made to plant seeds, and at Quebec Champlain doubtless renewed the effort, though with small practical result. The point is important in its bearing on the nature of the settlement. Quebec, despite such gardens as surrounded the habitation, was by origin an outpost of the fur trade, with a small, floating, and precarious population. Louis Hebert, the first real colonist, did not come till 1617.

Lacking vegetables, Quebec fed itself in part from the river and the forest. But almost all the food was brought from France. At times there was game, though less than at Port Royal. The river supplied eels in abundance, but when badly cooked they caused a fatal dysentery. The first winter was a repetition of the horrors experienced at St Croix, with even a higher death-rate. Scurvy began {68} in February and lasted till the end of April. Of the eighteen whom it attacked, ten died. Dysentery claimed others. On June 5, 1609, word came that Pontgrave had arrived at Tadoussac. Champlain's comment is eloquent in its brevity. 'This intelligence gave me much satisfaction, as we entertained hopes of assistance from him. Out of the twenty-eight at first forming our company only eight remained, and half of these were ailing.'

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