Frobisher explores the Arctic Seas—1576. Magellan —Drake—Sir Humphrey
Gilbert—Raleigh's unsuccessful Colony at Roanoke—1585. Chauvin plants a
trading post at Tadousac—1600. Champlain's first voyage to Canada—1603.
Poutrincourt founds Port Royal-1605. Champlain founds Quebec -1608.
Discovers Lakes Huron, Simcoe, and Ontario—1613. The Company of the
Hundred Associates organized—1627. Kirk's Conquest of Quebec—1629.
Quebec Restored by the Treaty of St. Ger-main-en-Laye—1632. Death of
For fifty years after
the failure of Roberval there was no further attempt to colonize Canada.
France, engaged in her prolonged struggle with Spain and Austria, and
convulsed by the civil wars of religion, had neither men nor means to
spare for foreign settlement.
The hope of finding a
north-west passage to the Indies continued to be a strong incentive to
North American exploration. In 1576, Martin Frobisher, an English
mariner, in a vessel of only five and twenty tons, reached the straits
still known by his name, and took possession of the adjacent country in
the name of Queen Elizabeth.
A Portuguese sailor was
the first to circumnavigate the 1591 and has left his name stamped
forever upon the geography of the earth, and emblazoned in the
constellations of the skies. The gallant Drake, an Englishman, explored
the western coast of America as far north as Oregon, and followed in
Magellan's wake around the world.
In 1583, Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, step-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, reasserted England's claim,
by right of discovery, to Newfoundland, by taking possession of the
island, with feudal ceremony, in the name of the virgin Queen. On its
return, the little fleet was shattered by a tempest. The pious admiral,
in the tiny pinnace Squirrel, of only ten tons burden, foundered in
mid-ocean. As he sat in the stern of the doomed vessel, with his Bible
in his hand, he called aloud to the crew of his consort, "Fear not,
shipmates; heaven is as near by sea as by land."
Undeterred by the fate
of his gallant kinsman, Sir Walter Raleigh sent out an expedition which
planted the first English colony in America, on Roanoke Island, off* the
coast of North Carolina; but disaster, imprudence, and conflicts with
the natives, soon led to its abandonment.
We now return to the
narrative of early French colonization. In the year 1599, Chauvin, a
naval officer, obtained a monopoly of the fur trade, on condition of
settling five hundred colonists in Canada. With the aid of Pontgrave, a
merchant of St. Malo, he built a trading post at the mouth of the
Saguenay, and established a lucrative traffic ifi furs. In 1603,
Champlain, a naval officer in the service of the company, and the future
founder of Quebec, ascended the St. Lawrence as far as Hochelaga, but
saw no trace of the Indian town existing there sixty years before.
Chauvin dying this year, Des Monts, a Huguenot noble, obtained the
much-coveted trading monopoly. Acadia was selected for colonization, on
account of the supposed mildness of its climate, ease of access, and
abundance of furs. A settlement was made, in 1605, at Port Royal, a
grant of which was given to Poutrincourt, who was appointed Governor.2
After three years of busy industry, the colony was abandoned on account
of the seizure of its store of peltries by the Dutch, and the revocation
of its charter. In 1610 it was replanted; but was, in 1613, utterly
destroyed by an armed expedition from Virginia, under Captain Argall.
Des Monts meanwhile
abandoned Acadia for Canada. In 1608, Champlain, as his lieutenant,
sailed with two vessels for the St. Lawrence. On the 3rd of July he
reached Quebec, and, beneath the tall cliff of Cape Diamond, laid the
foundations of one of the most famous cities of the New World. J The
colonists were soon comfortably housed, but before winter was over many
of them had died of scurvy. The severe discipline observed by the
Governor provoked a conspiracy for his murder. It was discovered; the
ringleader was hanged, and his fellow-conspirators were shipped in
chains to France.' Champlain, in the spring, yielded to the
solicitations of the friendly Algonquins to join in an attack upon their
hereditary foes, the Iroquois. With his savage allies, Champlain
advanced up the river Richelieu and the beautiful lake which now bears
his name. The strange appearance of the armed Europeans, only three in
number, and the novel terror of the death-dealing firearms, soon put the
enemy to flight. This was an unfortunate expedition, as the Iroquois
became, for one hundred and fifty years, the implacable foes of the
French, and terribly avenged, by many a murder and ambuscade, the death
of every Indian slain in this battle.
After the death, in
this year, of Henry IV., the patron "of Des Monts, the latter was
obliged to admit private adveuturers to share the profits of the fur
.trade, on condition of their promoting his schemes of colonization. The
powerful Prince of Conde, Admiral Montmorency, and the Duke of Ventadour,
became successively Viceroys of Canada; but the valour, and fidelity,
and zeal of Champlain commanded the confidence of them all. With the
prescience of a founder of empire, he selected the Island of Montreal as
the site of a fort protecting the fur trade and commanding the two great
water-ways of the country, the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa.
In order to verify the
story of the existence of a great northern sea, which would probably
give access to China and India, Champlain, with a few companions,
ascended the rapid Ottawa, as far as the Isle of Allumettes. When even
the Indians refused to escort him further on his perilous way, he
returned, disappointed but undaunted, to Quebec, and thence to France,
to urge the fortunes of the colony.
With a desire for gain,
and for extending the dominions of France in the New World, was blended
also a zeal for the conversion of the savages to the Catholic faith. On
Champlain's return to Canada, in 1615, he brought with the new company
of colonists four Recollet friars, the first of a brave band of
missionaries who toiled amid the wilderness to win the wandering pagans
to the doctrines of the cross.
Joining a party of
Algonquin and Huron Indians about to wage war against the Iroquois, he
proceeded up the Ottawa and over almost countless portages, and reached,
by way of Lake Nipissing and French River, Lake Huron, to which he gave
the name Mer Douce—the Fresh Water Sea. Coasting down its rugged eastern
shore, and threading a forest trail, Champlain and his companions
reached at length a place of rendezvous, on the narrows of Lake
Couchiching, near where the village of Orillia now stands.
Here a war party of two
thousand plumed and painted Indian braves was assembled. Sailing, with
several hundred canoes, through Lake Simcoe, and traversing the
picturesque Balsam, Sturgeon, Pigeon, and Rice Lakes, with their
intervening portages, they glided down the devious windings of the
Otonabee and Trent Rivers, and reached the beautiful Bay of Quinte, now
adorned with smiling villages and cheerful farms. The Huron fleet then
entered. Lake Ontario, to which Champlain gave the name—which it long
retained—of Lac St. Louis. Boldly crossing the lake, they reached the
country of the Iroquois, and pressed onward some thirty leagues to the
Seneca towns near Lake Canandaigua. The tumultuous onset of the Hurons
was ineffective. They were soon thrown into disorder, in spite of the
efforts of Champlain, who was himself seriously wounded by the arrows of
the savages, and were compelled to retreat.
Champlain had been
promised an escort down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, but, daunted by
their defeat, the Hurons refused to keep their engagement. He was
therefore, although severely wounded, compelled to return with his
savage allies. After long delays, he traversed on snow-shoes the wintry
forest, beneath a crushing load, through what are now the counties of
Hastings, Peterborough, and Victoria, and on Christmas eve reached Lake
Couchiching. He remained four months with his savage hosts, sharing in
their councils, their feasts, and their hunts, and hearing strange tales
of the vast lakes and rivers of the far west. His arrival at Quebec,
after a year's absence, was greeted almost as a resurrection from the
In the fall he returned
to France, only to find his patron; Conde, disgraced and imprisoned.
Admiral de Montmorency, in 1620, purchased the vice-royalty, and the
same year Champlain brought out his youthful wife, who was received by
the Indians with reverential homage, as if a being of superior race. The
impolicy of Champlain's Indian wars was soon manifested by the first of
those Iroquois attacks which so often afterwards harassed the colony.
Quebec was as yet surrounded only by wooden walls. To strengthen its
defences, the energetic Governor built a stone fort in the lower town,
and on the magnificent heights overlooking the broad St. Lawrence, one
of the noblest sites in the world, he began the erection of the Castle
of St. Louis, the residence of successive Governors of Canada down to
1834, when it was destroyed by fire.
In consequence of
disputes in the Trading Company of 1621 Prance> its charter was
suspended and its privileges transferred to the Sieurs De Caen, uncle
and nephew, zealous Huguenots. Many resident traders left the country in
disgust, so that the population was reduced to forty-eight persons.
1625 Montmorency soon
surrendered his vice-royalty to the Duke de Ventadour, a nobleman who,
wearied of the follies of the court, had entered a monastic order, and
was full of zeal for the extension of the Roman Catholic faith in the
New World. Amid the religious and commercial rivalries by which it was
distracted, the infant colony languished. The Iroquois became more bold
in their attacks, and even cruelly tortured a French prisoner. The De
Caens furnished inadequate supplies of food, clothing, and ammunition,
so that at times the colony was reduced to great extremities. Everything
withered under their monopoly.
Cardinal Richelieu, one
of the greatest statesmen who ever swayed the destinies of France, was
now in power. He straightway annulled the charter of the De Caens, and
organized the Company of the Hundred Associates, with the absolute
sovereignty of the whole of New France, and with the complete monopoly
of trade. It was required to settle four thousand Catholic colonists
within fifteen years, and to maintain and permanently endow the Roman
Catholic Church in New France; and all Huguenots were banished from the
But a new misfortune
befel the colony. Charles I., King of England, had made an ineffectual
attempt to relieve the Huguenots, besieged in Rochelle, and had declared
war against France. The conquest of Canada was decreed, and the task was
assigned to Sir David Kirk, a Huguenot refugee. In the summer of 1628 he
reached the St. Lawrence, and sent a summons to Champlain to surrender.
The Governor ostentatiously feasted the messengers, although the town of
Quebec was on an allowance of only seven ounces of bread per day, and
returned a gallant defiance to Kirk. The latter cruised in the Gulf, and
captured the transports laden with the winter's provisions for the
colony. The sufferings of the French were intense. With the early 1699
spring the famishing population burrowed in the forests for edible
roots. But the heroic spirit of Champlain sustained their courage. Still
the expected provision ships from France came not. At length, toward the
end of July, hungry eyes discovered from the Castle St. Louis three
vessels rounding the headland of Point Levi. But they were English ships
of war, and the little garrison of sixteen famine-wasted men were
compelled to surrender.
As peace had been
declared before the surrender of Quebec, the French demanded its
restoration. By the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, the whole of Canada,
Cape Breton and Acadia, was restored to the French, and the red cross
banner of England, after waving for three years from the Castle of St.
Louis, gave place to the lilied flag of France.
Champlain returned to
the colony as Governor, with two hundred emigrants and soldiers. He
established forts at Three Rivers, and at the mouth of the Richelieu,3
to protect the fur trade and check the inroads of the Iroquois, and
greatly promoted the prosperity of the colony. But the labours of his
busy life were drawing to a close. In October, 1635, he was smitten with
his mortal illness. On Christmas day the brave soul passed away, and the
body of the honoured founder of Quebec was buried beneath the lofty
cliff which overlooks the scene of his patriotic toil. For thirty years
he laboured without stint and against almost insuperable difficulties
for the struggling colony. A score of times he'^crossed the Atlantic in
the tardy, incommodious, and often scurvy-smitten vessels of the period,
in order to advance its interests. His name is embalmed in the history
of his adopted country, and still lives in the memory of a grateful
people, and in the designation of the beautiful lake on which he, first
of white men, sailed. His account of his voyage and his history of New
France bear witness to his literary skill and powers of observation ;
and his summary of Christian doctrine, written for the native tribes, is
a touching monument of his piety.