Jacques Cartier - Routes, Facts and Discoveries

Jacques Cartier - Routes, Facts and Discoveries

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In 1534, France’s King Francis I authorized the navigator Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) to lead a voyage to the New World in order to seek gold and other riches, as well as a new route to Asia. Cartier’s three expeditions along the St. Lawrence River would later enable France to lay claim to the lands that would become Canada. Born in Saint-Malo, France, Cartier began sailing as a young man. He gained a reputation as a skilled navigator prior to making his three famous voyages to North America.

Jacques Cartier’s First North American Voyage

Cartier was believed to have traveled to Brazil and Newfoundland before 1534. That year, the government of King Francis I of France commissioned Cartier to lead an expedition to the “northern lands,” as the east coast of North America was then known. The purpose of the voyage was to find a northwest passage to Asia, as well as to collect riches such as gold and spices along the way.

Cartier set sail in April 1534 with two ships and 61 men, and arrived 20 days later. During that first expedition, he explored the western coast of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence as far as today’s Anticosti Island, which Cartier called Assomption. He is also credited with the discovery of what is now known as Prince Edward Island.

Cartier’s Second Voyage

Cartier returned to make his report of the expedition to King Francis, bringing with him two captured Native Americans from the Gaspé Peninsula. The king sent Cartier back across the Atlantic the following year with three ships and 110 men. With the two captives acting as guides, the explorers headed up the St. Lawrence River as far as Quebec, where they established a base camp.

The following winter wrought havoc on the expedition, with 25 of Cartier’s men dying of scurvy and the entire group incurring the anger of the initially friendly Iroquois population. In the spring, the explorers seized several Iroquois chiefs and traveled back to France. Though he had not been able to explore it himself, Cartier told the king of the Iroquois’ accounts of another great river stretching west, leading to untapped riches and possibly to Asia.

Cartier’s Third and Final Voyage

War in Europe stalled plans for another expedition, which finally went forward in 1541. This time, King Francis charged the nobleman Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval with founding a permanent colony in the northern lands. Cartier sailed a few months ahead of Roberval, and arrived in Quebec in August 1541. After enduring another harsh winter, Cartier decided not to wait for the colonists to arrive, but sailed for France with a quantity of what he thought were gold and diamonds, which had been found near the Quebec camp.

Along the way, Cartier stopped in Newfoundland and encountered Roberval, who ordered Cartier to return with him to Quebec. Rather than obey this command, Cartier sailed away under cover of night. When he arrived back in France, however, the minerals he brought were found to have no value. Cartier received no more royal commissions, and would remain at his estate in Saint-Malo, Brittany for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Roberval’s colonists abandoned the idea of a permanent settlement after barely a year, and it would be more than 50 years before France again showed interest in its North American claims.

Jacques Cartier - Routes, Facts and Discoveries - HISTORY

Jacques Cartier was born on December 31, 1491 in the port of Saint Malo, Brittany. He belonged to a family of mariners and became very respectable when he married Mary Catherine des Granches, a member of a family of well-known ship owners. Cartier was among the most frequently chosen as godfather and witness during baptismal celebrations in Saint Malo.

There was no record of significant events in his life prior to 1534, except for the fact that he studied navigation in one of France’s prominent centers for navigation. After his studies, he became a conscientious French navigator and explorer. Historians marked his discovery of the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian coast as his greatest accomplishments.

Early Expeditions

Prior to his first major expedition, it was believed that Cartier travelled to the Americas in 1524. He accompanied Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer, in penetrating South Carolina, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Brazil. The expedition was made with formal commission from the crown.

Jacques Cartier’s first notable voyage was in 1534, at the time when the Edict of Union proclaimed the Duchy of Brittany as legally united with France. On May 10, 1534, Cartier left to sail on two ships with 61 members, among them his brother Jean, under the commission of King Francis I of France.

Cartier searched for the Northwest Passage that would lead him to islands reputed to be rich in gold. He sailed the Atlantic for twenty days and landed in Newfoundland (now the Canadian Atlantic provinces) and crossed Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island. He proceeded to Chaleur Bay and Gaspe Peninsula where he met the Micmac (Meeg-maw) Indians who wanted to befriend them.

His first unexpected encounter with aboriginals ended in trading. His next meeting was somewhat threatening when he saw forty Micmac boats encircling their ships. The Micmac gave peace signs, but Cartier ordered two warning shots which made the Micmac sail away.

On his third encounter at Baie de Gaspe, Cartier set a cross with the words “Long Live the King of France.” He controlled the place and the Iroquoians knew that the possession was under the name of King Francis I.

Old Tactics

Although the historians could not agree whether Cartier indeed kidnapped Taignoagny and Domagaya, the sons of Chief Donnacona, it was definite that the return of the sons was conditional on the bringing of European goods. Cartier came back to France in September 1534, but his brother died during the trip because of severe weather conditions.

Cartier’s second expedition is traced back from 1535 to 1536. The navigation started on May 19, 1935. He had three ships manned with 110 sailors and two native boys. He passed through Belle Isle and sailed to St. Lawrence from the coast westward until reaching Stadacona where he left one of his boats. He continued navigating and reached Hochelaga (now Montreal, Canada) on October 2, 1535.

New Friends & Old Adversaries

Compared to Stadacona, Hochelaga was far more progressive. Iroquoians greeted them by the shore and Cartier stayed with them for two days before returning to Stadacona. As much as they wanted to return to France, they could not do so because the harsh winter prevented this.

As their ships were anchored frozen with ice as thick as 1.8 meters at St. Charles River, they decided to stay in a small town near Quebec. Their situation was exacerbated by the outbreak of scurvy which resulted in the death of 25 of his men. The Hurons from Hochelaga were generous to Cartier and they gave him the remedy for scurvy.

Domagaia suffered from scurvy too but was able to recuperate and told Cartier about the bark of a cedar tree that cured him. True to his words, Cartier’s men survived the illness. Notwithstanding the goodness shown to him, Cartier held 12 Indians and Chief Donnacona as prisoners. Cartier wanted to know more about the Kingdom of Saguenay, which, according to stories, was the land of treasures. They headed back and arrived in France on July 15, 1526.

On May 23, 1541, Cartier sailed on his third voyage as a subordinate under the leadership of Jean-Francois de la Rocque de Roberval. The primary purpose of the expedition was no longer to find passage to Asian countries, but to look for the Kingdom of Saguenay.

Cartier landed at Stadacona but did not bother to settle there because the Iroquoains were unfriendly. He continued to sail and spotted today’s Cap-Rouge, Quebec. The Frenchmen landed and the cattle were let loose. They started to plant cabbage and lettuce. They built a fort for protection purposes. Thus, Cartier managed to establish a settlement there.

Precious Stones

The Frenchmen were able to collect gold and diamonds. However, these treasures turned out to be mere iron pyrites and quartz crystals, respectively. This incident gave birth to the French expression, “As false as Canadian diamonds.” Even so, the discoveries were taken back home.

Cartier left for Saguenay on September 7, 1541. He failed on his journey because of the bad weather that confronted him plus the rapids that blocked his way all throughout the Ottawa River. He resolved to return to Charlesbourg-Royal but he found the situation rather menacing. The Iroquoians gave him unfriendly greetings and they advanced towards him in a suspicious manner.

Return to France

According to other sailors, they were attacked by the natives, and around 35 men were killed. The Frenchmen were outnumbered and unable to protect their settlement. In despair, Cartier left for France and met Roberval on the coast of Newfoundland. Roberval persisted in accompanying him to Saguenay but Cartier took off at night to return to France believing that what he possessed were treasures of diamond and gold. In the meantime, Roberval headed towards Charlesbourg-Royal but concluded the expedition after they were dispelled by the natives.

Cartier arrived in France in October 1541. After his three major North American expeditions, the King gave him no further commissions. It is believed that he spent the last years of his life in Portugal as an interpreter. During an epidemic in 1557, Cartier died of typhus at the age of 66, albeit historians recorded the cause of his death as officially unknown. His remains are laid in St. Vincent’s Cathedral.

Early Life of Jacques Cartier

  • Cartier was born in 1491 in Saint-Malo. During his early childhood he would hear stories of the great Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and the exploits of the Spanish Conquistadors.
  • His homeland France was relatively inactive in the exploits of the New World. Instead it was embroiled in the European wars with the Holy Roman Empire, England and Spain. Cartier grew and began to study navigation and over time became an excellent mariner.
  • In a feudal society talents were often overlooked and superseded by political standing. Cartier did not get the attention he deserved until he married Mary Catherine who was a daughter in a wealthy and politically influential family.

Jacques Cartier - Routes, Facts and Discoveries - HISTORY

Jacques Cartier was a French explorer who was famous for exploring areas in what is now modern day Canada. This explorer embarked on three journeys in his lifetime to try and find a land full of gold, jewels, and other treasurers. There is lot to learn about this early explorer. Here, we will tell you more about Jacques Cartier, his voyages, and his discoveries:

1. On December 31, 1491, Cartier was born in Saint-Malo, a town located in Brittany, France. He would also die there in 1557.

2. Dieppe was the city where Cartier received his training on navigation.

3. Cartier was actually a skilled navigator, not so much a commissioned explorer. He was so good, however, that he was commissioned to help parties exploring the New World.

4. In 1524, Cartier was sent on a journey to explore the new world with French explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano. It was not until 3 years later when he would return to France.

5. Around 1534, Cartier set out on his first solo expedition journey. During this journey, he began to explore the St. Lawrence River in Canada and claimed parts of Canada on behalf of the French. This journey was meant to be one where Cartier looked for gold and riches on behalf of the French crown.

6. Just a year later (1535) Cartier went on his second expedition. In addition to riches, he was also looking for a passage through the continent to Asia.

7. This expedition saw Cartier explore more of the area around Mount Royal, the St. Lawrence Bay and St. Lawrence River. They also explored the area where modern day Quebec is located.

8. During the second expedition, Cartier and his group tried to stay in the Quebec area for the winter. They made friends with the local Iroquois tribe during this time and even returned to France in the spring with a few of them.

9. The Iroquois told the French king, King Francis, stories of a city full of treasures in the area.

10. Cartier then headed up another journey to establish a permanent colony. He thought he found gold and diamonds and promptly abandoned the settlement and settlers to go back to France. However, his treasures were not real. Cartier’s expeditions would not be funded anymore.

11. During this third journey, the local natives also turned on the French potential settlers.

12. It was around 50 years until France would again explore this area of the New World.

Second Voyage

Cartier set out on a larger expedition the next year, with 110 men and three ships adapted for river navigation. Donnacona's sons had told Cartier about the St. Lawrence River and the “Kingdom of the Saguenay” in an effort, no doubt, to get a trip home, and those became the objectives of the second voyage. The two former captives served as guides for this expedition.

After a long sea crossing, the ships entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then went up the "Canada River," later named the St. Lawrence River. Guided to Stadacona, the expedition decided to spend the winter there. But before winter set in, they traveled up the river to Hochelaga, the site of present-day Montreal. (The name "Montreal" comes from Mount Royal, a nearby mountain Cartier named for the King of France.)

Returning to Stadacona, they faced deteriorating relations with the natives and a severe winter. Nearly a quarter of the crew died of scurvy, although Domagaya saved many men with a remedy made from evergreen bark and twigs. Tensions grew by spring, however, and the French feared being attacked. They seized 12 hostages, including Donnacona, Domagaya, and Taignoagny, and fled for home.

5 Major Accomplishments of Jacques Cartier

The age of discovery has given the world many legends, explorers who changed the perception and understanding of the world in Europe and in a way redrew the map. Jacques Cartier was one such explorer, who perhaps did not have accomplishments as prized as that of Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus or John Cabot but his explorations were valuable nonetheless. Here are some Jacques Cartier major accomplishments that have had the most impact.

1. The 1st French Explorer to the New World

The British and the Portuguese were undisputed leaders in the age of discovery. The Spanish and Italians too embarked on their own missions. Later, it would be the Spanish and the British that would fight for superiority throughout the western hemisphere. The Dutch and the French had robust naval presence but they were slow to respond to the rapid explorations being undertaken by their fellow Europeans. By the time King Francis I commissioned Jacques Cartier to explore the New World many other explorers had already sailed across the Atlantic. All of them wanted a quicker route to Asia and eventually the Orient but none of them succeeded since they were all sailing in the wrong direction. Jacques Cartier sailed across the Atlantic knowing that it was not a route to India or China but to the New World. He was the first French explorer to travel to the New World.

2. Exploring Brazil

Dozens of voyages were embarked upon by Europeans through the fifteenth and sixteenth century. By the time Cartier became a skilled navigator, much about the coasts of the Americas was already documented. He knew the new land was not India and that a shorter route was a distant possibility or perhaps not a possibility at all. His exploration to Brazil allowed him to gain the experience and also the favor of the King to embark on multiple voyages to the north.

3. Exploration of St. Lawrence River

One of the most noteworthy Jacques Cartier major accomplishments is his exploration of the St. Lawrence River. What would be known as Canada much later, the massive northern expanse of the continent was not explored previously. Many explorers had landed at the east coast around Newfoundland and even down south but not many ventured further inward sailing on the rivers. Jacques Cartier was particularly told by the King to look for riches. From gold to spices, the primary focus of the French exploration was not to find quicker routes or find new trading hotspots but to find riches that they could capitalize. That is what Jacques Cartier tried to accomplish.

4. Precursor to French Colonization of Canada

Jacques Cartier made three voyages to Canada. His first was the exploration of the St Lawrence River when he explored Newfoundland, got to Prince Edward Island and then he explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In a way, he founded Canada for the French. His second voyage was longer, he had more provisions including ships and manpower and that took him up to Quebec where he established the first French base. His return trip took him to present day Montreal before he sailed back to France. The two voyages lead Cartier to believe that there were potential riches further inland and that there could be a river route to Asia farther west. Unfortunately for him and the French, both presumptions were found to be absolutely inaccurate.

By the time Cartier embarked on the third voyage, he had started believing himself that finding a river route or any kind of passage to Asia was not possible. He succeeded at establishing a French settlement along the St. Lawrence River. Later, French colonists would take the same route and establish their presence along the way. Cartier did not assist in the colonization of Canada. Instead, he fled to France where he lost the King’s favor. However, he had paved the way for French colonies across Canada and he also lead to the founding of the country along with its naming.

5. Cartier Legacy

Cartier did not have astounding accomplishments. The Jacques Cartier major accomplishments are not as significant as many other explorers of the time but there are two significant fallouts. Cartier got France into the game of exploration. France was embroiled in wars with the Romans and the British. The then King was obsessed with riches, which would also further his interests in the wars. By shifting focus to exploration, Cartier did form a legacy of his own, which would later help France to expand and establish its presence, not just in the North Americas but also down south and on many small islands in the Atlantic. The same presence across the Atlantic gave France a strategic advantage in many wars over the centuries, from the tussle between the Americans and the British to the World Wars and others.

Explorations and Discoveries

On May 17, 1673, Marquette and his friend Louis Joliet (also spelled "Jolliet"), a French-Canadian fur trader and explorer, were chosen to lead an expedition that included five men and two canoes to find the direction and mouth of the Mississippi River, which natives had called Messipi, "the Great Water."

Despite sharing a goal to find the river, the two leaders&apos ambitions were different: Joliet, an experienced mapmaker and geographer, was focused on the finding itself, while Marquette wanted to spread the word of God among the people he encountered on the way there.

Marquette&aposs group traveled westward to Green Bay in present-day Wisconsin, ascended the Fox River to a portage that crossed to the Wisconsin River and entered the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien on June 17, 1673. Following the river to the mouth of the Arkansas River — within 435 miles of the Gulf of Mexico — Marquette and Joliet learned that it flowed through hostile Spanish domains. Fearing an encounter with Spanish colonists and explorers, they decided to return homeward by way of the Illinois River in mid-July.

Causes for the Geographical Discoveries

In 1453, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople, the important trade route to the East. Thus, the Turks began to control the European trade with the East. They imposed heavy duties on the goods. On the other hand, the Arab traders continued their trade through the Coasts of India and got huge profits in spice trade. Therefore, the Europeans were forced to find an alternative route to the East.

The Renaissance spirit and the consequent scientific discoveries were also responsible for geographical discoveries. The art of ship-building developed along with the invention of Mariner's Compass. The astronomical and other scientific discoveries raised the hope of the adventurers to explore new sea routes.

The travel accounts of Marco Polo and Nicolo Polo about China and India kindled great enthusiasm among the Europeans about the fabulous wealth of the Eastern countries. Other accounts of the voyages also encouraged explorations. A Merchants Handbook described all known trade routes between Europe and the Far East. Similarly, the Secrets of the Faithful Crusader told about Asiatic cities.

Other factors such as the spirit of adventure, desire for new lands and competition for exploration between European nations had also stimulated the explorers venturing into the seas.

Jacques Cartier - Routes, Facts and Discoveries - HISTORY

The King hoped Cartier would find a new passage to the Orient, by a route around or through the North American continent. If that proved unsuccessful, at least he might find gold, as the Spanish had in South America.

This official voyage may not have been Cartier's first excursion across the Atlantic -- it's possible that he had gone to Newfoundland as a sailor before his voyages of discovery. But on April 20th, 1534, Cartier left St. Malo on a sure course for Newfoundland.

Arriving on May 10, he passed through the fishing waters off its shores, then went north, through the Straits of Belle Isle. Cartier was in new territory now, searching for a waterway that he presumed would deliver him to Asia, but he could barely penetrate Northern America's eastern coast.


Cartier -- shown in profile in one portrait, as hawk-nosed, dressed as a nobleman, almost scowling -- had a poor opinion of the new land. "I am rather inclined to believe that this is the land God gave to Cain," Cartier wrote in his first, famous, impression of the country. He couldn't see a cartload of soil it was a barren, unwelcoming place.

Cartier meticulously marked each new bay and promontory on his charts: Baie des Chasteaux, Ile de l'Assumption, Baie du St. Laurent. He also noted the native people he met at each new place.

"There are people on this coast, whose bodies are fairly well formed, but they are wild and savage folk," he wrote, possibly of the Micmac, who approached them to trade.

"As soon as they saw us they began. making signs. that they had come to barter with us. and held up some skins of small value, with which they clothe themselves."

Cabot Map, 1544

"We likewise made signs to them that we wished them no harm," Cartier wrote in the ship's log, "and sent two men ashore, to offer them some knives and other iron goods, and a red cap to give to their chief. they bartered all they had to such an extent that all went back naked without anything on them and they made signs to us that they would return on the morrow with more skins."

Learn More

On June 9, 1902, Woodrow Wilson was unanimously elected president of Princeton University, a position he held until he resigned in 1910 to run for governor of New Jersey. As university president, Wilson exhibited both the idealistic integrity and the occasional lack of political acumen that marked his tenure as the twenty-eighth president of the United States (1913-21).

Wilson graduated from Princeton in 1879 and next studied law at the University of Virginia for one year. He then attended Johns Hopkins University where he received his Ph.D. in political science in 1886. His dissertation, “Congressional Government,” was published. Wilson remains the only U.S. president to have earned a doctoral degree.

Wilson served on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University before joining the Princeton faculty as professor of jurisprudence and political economy in 1890. A popular teacher and respected scholar, Wilson delivered an oration at Princeton’s sesquicentennial celebration (1896) entitled “Princeton in the Nation’s Service External .” In this famous speech, he outlined his vision of the university in a democratic nation, calling on institutions of higher learning “to illuminate duty by every lesson that can be drawn out of the past.”

In his inaugural address as Princeton’s president, Wilson further developed these themes, attempting to strike a balance that would please both populists and aristocrats in the audience.

Princeton University. Haines Photo Co., c1909. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division Class Day, Princeton Univ. R.H. Rose & Son, c1904. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division.

Wilson began a fund-raising campaign to bolster the university corporation. The curriculum guidelines that he developed during his tenure as president of Princeton proved among the most important innovations in the field of higher education. He instituted the now common system of core requirements followed by two years of concentration in a selected area. When he attempted to curtail the influence of the elitist “social clubs,” however, Wilson met with resistance from trustees and potential donors. He believed that the system was smothering the intellectual and moral life of the undergraduates. Opposition from wealthy and powerful alumni further convinced Wilson of the undesirability of exclusiveness and moved him towards a more populist position in his politics.

Princeton Student, with Letter P on Sweater… John E. Sheridan, artist Wash. D.C.: Andrew B. Graham, photo-lith. Potomac Press, c1901. Posters: Artist Posters. Prints & Photographs Division

While attending a recent Lincoln celebration I asked myself if Lincoln would have been as serviceable to the people of this country had he been a college man, and I was obliged to say to myself that he would not. The process to which the college man is subjected does not render him serviceable to the country as a whole. It is for this reason that I have dedicated every power in me to a democratic regeneration. The American college must become saturated in the same sympathies as the common people. The colleges of this country must be reconstructed from the top to the bottom. The American people will tolerate nothing that savors of exclusiveness.

Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University, “Address to Alumni,” April 16, 1910.

Through his published commentary on contemporary political matters, Wilson developed a national reputation and, with increasing seriousness, considered a public service career. In 1910, he received an unsolicited nomination for the governorship of New Jersey, which he eagerly accepted. As governor, he developed a platform of progressive liberalism in matters of domestic political economy. In 1912, the Democratic Party nominated him as their presidential candidate.

During Wilson’s presidency, first the civil war in Mexico and then World War I, drew his attention away from domestic issues. His health suffered during his campaign to promote the Fourteen Points—an outline for peace that proposed an international League of Nations.

Woodrow Wilson. [1913?]. Prints & Photographs Division.

Watch the video: Jacques Cartier: French Explorer That Named Canada - Fast Facts. History


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