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Book V: the French in Canada. (A. D. 1534-1536.)

The extracts from Cartier's narratives are taken from an old translation, to be found in Hakluyt's ‘Voyages’ (edition of 1810), vol. 3, pp. 250, 257, 259, 266-269, 271-274.

A most interesting description of Cartier's adventures, including those here described, may be found in Parkman's ‘Pioneers of France in the New World,’ p. 81. Another account of the same events, illustrated by the maps of the period, will also be found in Kohl's valuable ‘History of the Discovery of the East Coast of North America’ (Maine Historical Society, 2d series, vol. I), p. 320.


I.—Cartier's visit to Bay of Chaleur.

[Jacques Cartier was born in 1494, at St. Malo, a principal port of Brittany, France. He was bred to the sea; and, having made fishing-voyages to the Grand banks of Labrador, he desired to make an exploration farther west. For this purpose an expedition was fitted out by King Francis I. Of France, as is described below.]

The first relation1 of Jacques Cartier of St. Malo, of the new land called New France,2 newly discovered in the year of our Lord 1534. . . .

After that, Sir Charles of Mouy, Knight, Lord of Meilleraie, and Vice-Admiral of France, had caused the captains, masters, and mariners of the ships to be sworn to behave themselves faithfully in the service of the most Christian King of France. Under the charge of the said Cartier, we departed from the Port of St. [100] Malo with two ships of threescore tons' apiece burden, and sixty-one well-appointed men in each one. . . .

[Cartier sailed first to Newfoundland, and then made further discoveries.]

Upon Thursday, being the 8th of the month,3 because the wind was not good to go out with our ships, we set our boats in a readiness to go and discover the said bay; and that day we went twenty-five leagues within it. The next day, the wind and weather being fair, we sailed until noon, in which time we had notice of a great part of said bay, and how that over the low lands, there were other lands with high mountains: but, seeing that there was no passage at all, we began to turn back again, taking our way along the coast; and, sailing, we saw certain wild men that stood upon the shore of a lake, that is among the low grounds, who were making fires and smoke. We went thither, and found that there was a channel of the sea that did enter into the lake; and, setting our boats at one of the banks of the channel, the wild men with one of their boats came unto us, and brought up pieces of seals ready sodden,4 putting them upon pieces of wood; then retiring themselves, they would make signs unto

Jacques Cartier.

[101] us that they did give them us. We sent two men unto them with hatchets, knives, beads, and other such like ware, whereat they were very glad; and by and by in clusters they came to the shore where we were, with their boats, bringing with them skins and other such things as they had, to have of our wares.

They were more than three hundred men, women, and children. Some of the women which came not over we might see stand up to the knees in water, singing and dancing. The other that had passed the river where we were came very friendly to us, rubbing our arms with their own hands; then would they lift them up towards heaven, showing many signs of gladness. And in such wise were we assured one of another, that we very familiarly began to traffic for whatsoever they had, till they had nothing but their naked bodies, for they gave us all whatsoever they had; and that was but of small value. We perceived that this people might very easily be converted to our religion. They go from place to place. They live only with fishing. They have an ordinary5 time to fish for their provision. The country is hotter than the country of Spain, and the fairest that can possibly be found, altogether smooth and level. There is no place, be it never so little, but it hath some trees, yea, albeit it be sandy; or else is full of wild corn, that hath an ear like unto rye. The corn is like oats, and small peas as thick as if they had been sown and ploughed, white and red gooseberries, strawberries, blackberries, white and red roses, with many other flowers of very sweet and pleasant smell. There be also many goodly meadows full of [102] grass, and lakes wherein great plenty of salmons be. They call a hatchet in their tongue, cochi;and a knife bacon:we named it the bay of heat.6

Ii.—Cartier sets up a cross.

Upon the 24th of the month,7 we caused a fair high cross to be made of the height of thirty feet, which was made in the presence of many of them, upon the point of the entrance of the said haven,8 in the midst whereof we hanged up a shield with three fleurde-lis9 in it; and in the top was carved in the wood with antique letters this posy,10 Vive le Roi de France. Then before them all we set it upon the said point. They with great heed11 beheld both the making and setting of it up. So soon as it was up, we all together kneeled down before them, with our hands toward heaven, yielding God thanks; and we made signs unto them, showing them the heavens, and that all our salvation dependeth only on Him which in them dwelleth: whereat they showed a great admiration, looking first one at another, and then upon the cross. And, after we were returned to our ships, their captain, clad with an old bear's-skin, with three of his sons and a brother of his with him, came unto us in one of their boats; but they came not so near us as they were wont to do. There he made a long oration unto us, showing us the cross we had set up, and making a cross with his two fingers. Then did he show us all the country [103] about us, as if he would say that all was his, and that we should not set up any cross without his leave.

His talk being ended, we showed him an axe, feigning that we would give it him for his skin, to which he listened, for by little and little he came near our ships. One of our fellows that was in our boat took hold on theirs, and suddenly leaped into it, with two or three more, who enforced them to enter into our ships, whereat they were greatly astonished. But our captain did straightway assure them that they should have no harm, nor any injury offered them at all, and entertained them very friendly, making them eat and drink. Then did we show them with signs, that the cross was only set up to be as a light and leader which ways to enter into the port,12 and that we would shortly come again, and bring good store of iron-wares and other things; but that we would take two of his children with us, and afterward bring them to the said port again. And so we clothed two of them in shirts and colored coats, with red caps, and put about every one's neck a copper chain, whereat they were greatly contented. Then gave they their old clothes to the fellows that went back again; and we gave to each one of those three that went back, a hatchet and some knives, which made them very glad After these were gone, and had told the news unto their fellows, in the afternoon there came to our ships six boats of them, with five or six men in every one, to take their farewells of those two we had detained to take with us, and brought them [104] some fish, uttering many words which we did not understand, making signs that they would not remove the cross we had set up.

Iii.—Cartier ascends the St. Lawrence as far as Quebec.

[this took place on Cartier's second voyage. He sailed from St. Malo, may 19, 1535, and reached the mouth of the St. Lawrence, which he ascended, hoping to find a passage to the west.]

Our captain then caused our boats to be set in order, that with the next tide he might go up higher into the river to find some safe harbor for our ships; and we passed up the river, against the stream, about ten leagues, coasting the said island, at the end where---of we found a goodly and pleasant sound, where is a little river and haven, where, by reason of the flood, there is about three fathoms water. This place seemed very fit and commodious to harbor our ships therein; and so we did very safely. We named it the Holy Cross;13 for on that day we came thither. Near unto it there is a village, whereof Donnacona is lord; and there he keepeth his abode: it is called Stadacona,14 as goodly a plot of ground as possibly may be seen, and therewithal very fruitful, full of goodly trees even as in France, as oaks, elms, ashes, walnut trees, maple-trees, citrons, vines, and white-thorns, that bring forth fruit as big as any damsons, and many other sorts of trees, [105] under which groweth as fair tall hemp as any in France, without any seed, or any man's work or labor at all. Having considered the place, and finding it fit for our purpose, our captain withdrew himself on purpose to return to our ships. But behold! as we were coming out of the river, we met coming against us one of the lords of said village of Stadacona, .accompanied with many others, as men, women, and children, who, after the fashion of their country, in sign of mirth and joy, began to make a long oration, the women still singing and dancing, up to the knees in water. Our captain, knowing their good — will and kindness toward us, caused the boat wherein they were to come unto him, and gave them certain trifles, as knives, and beads of glass, whereat they were marvellous glad; for being gone about three leagues from them, for the pleasure they conceived of our coming, we might hear them sing, and see them dance, for all they were so far. . . .

The next day, we departed with our ships, to bring them to the place of the Holy Cross; and on the 14th of that month15 we came thither; and the Lord Donnacona, Taignoagny, and Domagaia,16 with twenty-five boats full of those people, came to meet us, coming from the place whence we were come, and going toward Stadacona, where their abiding is. And all came to our ships, showing sundry and divers gestures of gladness and mirth, except those two that we had brought; to wit, Taignoagny and Domagaia,17 who seemed to have altered and changed their mind and purpose; [106] for by no means they would come unto our ships, albeit sundry times they were earnestly desired to do it, whereupon we began to distrust somewhat. Our captain asked them, if, according to promise, they would go with him to Hochelaga.18 They answered yea, for so they had purposed; and then each one withdrew himself. The next day, being the 15th of the month, our captain went on shore, to cause certain poles and piles to be driven into the water, and set up, that the better and safelier we might harbor our vessels there. . . . .

The day following, we brought our two great ships within the river and harbor, where the waters, being at the highest, are three fathoms deep, and, at the lowest, but half a fathom. We left our pinnace19 without the road, to the end we might bring it to Hochelaga. So soon as we had safely placed our ships, behold! we saw Donnacona, Taignoagny, and Domagaia, with more than five hundred persons, men, women, and children; and the said lord, with ten or twelve of the chiefest of the country, came aboard of our ships, who were all courteously received, and friendly entertained both of our captain and of us all; and divers gifts of small value were given them.

Then did Taignoagny tell our captain that his lord did greatly sorrow that he would go to Hochelaga, and that he would not by any means permit that any of them should go with him, because the river was of no importance. Our captain answered him, that, for all his saying, he would not leave off his going thither, if, by any means, it were possible; for that he was commanded by his king to go as far as possibly he could; [107] and that if he—that is to say, Taignoagny—would go with him, as he had promised, he should be very well entertained: beside that, he should have such a gift given him as he should well content himself; for he should do nothing else but go with him to Hochelaga, and come again. To whom Taignoagny answered, that he would not by any means go; and thereupon they suddenly returned to their houses. The next day, being the 17th of September, Donnacona and his company returned even as at the first . . . .

After that, our captain caused the said children to be put in our ships, and caused two swords and copper basins—the one wrought, the other plain—to be brought unto him; and them he gave to Donnacona, who was therewith greatly contented, yielding most hearty thanks unto our captain for them. And presently, upon that, he commanded all his people to sing and dance, and desired our captain to cause a piece of artillery to be shot off, because Taignoagny and Domagaia made great brags of it, and had told them marvellous things, and also, because they had never heard nor seen any before. To whom our captain answered that he was content. And by and by he commanded his men to shoot off twelve cannons charged with bullets into the wood that was hard by those people and ships, at whose noise they were greatly astonished and amazed; for they thought that heaven had fallen upon them, and put themselves to flight, howling and crying and shrieking; so that it seemed hell was broken loose.


IV.—How the Indians tried to frighten Cartier.

The next day, being the 18th of September, these men still endeavored themselves to seek all means possible to hinder and let our going to Hochelaga, and devised a pretty guile,20 as hereafter shall be showed.

Indians Trying to Frighten Cartier.

They went and dressed three men like devils, wrapped in dogs' skins, white and black, their faces besmeared as black as any coals, with horns on their heads more than a yard long, and caused them secretly to be put in one of their boats, but came not near our ships, as [109] they were wont to do. For they lay hidden within the wood for the space of two hours, looking for the tide, to the end the boat wherein the devils were might approach and come near us, which, when [the] time was, came, and all the rest issued out of the wood coming to us, but yet not so near as they were wont to do. Then began Taignoagny to salute our captain, who asked him if he would have the boat to come for him. He answered, not for that time, but after a while he would come unto our ships. Then presently came that boat rushing out, wherein the three counterfeit devils were, with such long horns on their heads; and the middlemost came, making a long oration, and passed along our ships without turning, or looking toward us, but, with the boat, went toward the land. Then did Donnacona with all his people pursue them, and lay hold on the boat and devils, who, so soon as the men were come to them, fell prostrate in the boat, even as if they had been dead. Then were they taken up, and carried into the wood, being but a stone's cast off. Then every one withdrew himself into the wood, not one staying behind with us, where being they began to make a long discourse, so loud, that we might hear them in our ships, which lasted about half an hour. And, being ended, we began to espy Taignoagny and Domagaia coming towards us, holding their hands upward, joined together, carrying their hats under their upper garment, showing a great admiration. And Taignoagny, looking up to heaven, cried three times, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!’ and Domagaia, doing as his fellow had done before, cried, ‘Jesus Maria, James Cartier.’

Our captain, hearing them, and seeing their gestures [110] and ceremonies, asked of them what they ailed, and what was happened or chanced anew. They answered, that there were very ill tidings befallen, saying in French, ‘Nenni est il bon;’ that is to say, it was not good. Our captain asked them again what it was. Then answered they, that their god Cudruaigny had spoken in Hochelaga; and that he had sent those three men to show unto them that there was so much ice and snow in that country, that whosoever went thither should die; which words when we heard, we laughed and mocked them, saying, that their god Cudruaigny was but a fool and a noddy; for he knew not what he did or said. Then bade we them show his messengers from us, that Christ would defend them from all cold, if they would believe in him. Then did they ask of our captain if he had spoken with Jesus. He answered, No; but that his priests had, and that he had told them he should have fair weather; which words when they had heard, they thanked our captain, and departed toward the wood to tell those news unto their fellows, who suddenly came, all rushing out of the wood, seeming to be very glad for those words that our captain had spoken. And to show that thereby they had had and felt great joy, so soon as they were before our ships, they all together gave out three great shrieks, and thereupon began to sing and dance as they were wont to do. But, for a resolution21 of the matter, Taignoagny and Domagaia told our captain that their Lord Donnacona would by no means that any of them should go with him to Hochelaga, unless he would leave him some hostage to stay with him. Our captain [111] answered them, that, if they would not go with him with a good will, they should stay; and that for all them he would not leave off his journey thither.

V.—How Cartier reached Hochelaga, now Montreal, at last.

So soon as we were come near to Hochelaga, there came to meet us about a thousand persons, men women, and children, who afterward did as friendly and merrily entertain and receive us as any father would do his child which he had not of long time seen, —the men dancing on one side, the women on another, and likewise the children on another. After that [they] brought us great store of fish, and of their bread made of millet, casting them into our boats so thick, that you would have thought it to fall from heaven; which when our captain saw, he, with many of his company, went on shore. So soon as ever we were a-land,22 they came clustering about us, making very much of us, bringing their young children in their arms only to have our captain and his company to touch them, making signs and shows of great mirth and gladness, that lasted more than half an hour. Our captain, seeing their loving-kindness and entertainment of us, caused all the women orderly to be set in array, and gave them beads made of tin, and other such small trifles; and to some of the men he gave knives. Then he returned to the boats to supper; and so passed that night, all which while all those people [112] stood on the shore, as near our boats as they might, making great fires, and dancing very merrily, still crying, ‘Aguiaze,’ which in their tongue signifieth mirth and safety.

Our captain, the next day, very early in the morning, having very gorgeously attired himself, caused all his company to be set in order to go to see the town and habitation of those people, and a certain mountain that is somewhat near the city; with whom went also five gentlemen and twenty mariners, leaving the rest to keep and look to our boats. We took with us three men of Hochelaga to bring us to the place. All along, as we went, we found the way as well beaten and frequented as can be; the fairest and best country that possibly can be seen, full of as goodly great oaks as are in any wood in France, under which the ground was all covered over with fair acorns. After we had gone about four or five miles, we met by the way one of the chiefest lords of the city, accompanied with many more, who, so soon as he saw us, beckoned, and made signs upon us, that we must rest us in that place where they had made a great fire; and so we did. After that we had rested ourselves there a while, the said lord began to make a long discourse, even as we have said above they are accustomed to do, in sign of mirth and friendship, showing our captain and all his company a joyful countenance and good-will, who gave him two hatchets, a pair of knives, and a cross, which he made him to kiss, and then put it about his neck, for which he gave our captain hearty thanks. This done, we went along; and, about a mile and a half farther, we began to find goodly and large fields, full of such corn as the country [113] yieldeth. It is even as the millet of Brazil, as great and somewhat bigger than small peas, wherewith they live even as we do with ours.

In the midst of those fields is the city of Hochelaga, placed near, and as it were joined, to a great mountain, that is tilled round about very fertile, on the top of which you may see very far. We named it Mount Royal.23 The city of Hochelaga is round, compassed about with timber, with three course of rampires,24 one within another, framed like a sharp spire, but laid across above. The middlemost of them is made and built as a direct line, but perpendicular. The rampires are framed and fashioned with pieces of timber, laid along on the ground, very well and cunningly joined together after their fashion. This enclosure is in height about two rods. It hath but one gate or entry thereat, which is shut with piles, stakes, and bars. Over it, and also in many places of the wall, there be places to run along, and ladders to get up, all full of stones for the defence of it.

There are in the town about fifty houses about fifty paces long, and twelve or fifteen broad, built all of wood, covered over with the bark of the wood as broad as any boards, very finely and cunningly joined together. Within the said houses there are many rooms, lodgings, and chambers. In the midst of every one there is a great court, in the middle whereof they make their fire. They live in common together: then do the husbands, wives, and children, each one retire themselves [114] to their chambers. They have also on the top of their houses certain garrets, wherein they keep their corn to make their bread withal. They call it carraconny,which they make as hereafter shall follow. They have certain pieces of wood, made hollow like those whereon we beat our hemp; and with certain beetles of wood they beat their corn to powder; then they make paste of it, and of the paste, cakes or wreaths. Then they lay them on a broad and hot stone, and then cover it with hot stones; and so they bake their bread, instead of ovens.

Vi.—The festivities at Hochelaga.

So soon as we were come near the town, a great number of the inhabitants thereof came to present themselves before us, after their fashion, making very much of us. We were by our guides brought into the midst of the town. They have in the middlemost part of their houses a large square place, being from side to side a good stone's-cast, whither we were brought, and there with signs were commanded to stay. Then suddenly all the women and maidens of the town gathered themselves together, part of which had their arms full of young children; and as many as could came to rub our faces, our arms, and what part of the body soever they could touch, weeping for very joy that they saw us, showing us the best countenance that possibly they could, desiring us with their signs that it would please us to touch their children. That done, the men caused the women to withdraw themselves back; then they every one sat down on the ground round about us, as if [115] they would have shown and rehearsed some comedy or other show; then presently came the women again, every one bringing a large square mat, in manner of carpets; and, spreading abroad on the ground in that place, they caused us to sit upon them.

That done, the lord and king of the country was brought upon nine or ten men's shoulders,—whom in their tongue they call Agouhanna,—sitting upon a great stag's skill; and they laid him down upon the foresaid mats, near to the captain, every one beckoning unto us that he was their lord and king. This Agouhanna was a man about fifty years old: he was no whit better apparelled than any of the rest, only except he had a certain thing made of the skins of hedgehogs, like a red wreath; and that was instead of his crown. He was full of the palsy; and his members shrunk together. After he had with certain signs saluted our captain and all his company, and by manifest tokens bid all welcome, he showed his legs and arms to our captain, and with signs desired him to touch them; and so he did, rubing them with his own hands. Then did Agouhanna take the wreath or crown he had about his head, and gave it unto our captain; that done, they brought before him divers diseased men,—some blind, some cripple, some lame and impotent, and some so old that the hair of their eyelids came down, and covered their cheeks, —and laid them all along before our captain, to the end they might of him be touched; for it seemed unto them that God was descended and come down from heaven to heal them.

Our captain, seeing the misery and devotion of this poor people, recited the Gospel of St. John, that is to [116] say, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ touching every one that were diseased, praying to God that it would please him to open the hearts of this poor people, and to make them know his holy word, and that they might receive baptism and Christendom. That done, he took a service-book in his hand, and with a loud voice read all the passion25 of Christ, word by word, that all the standers-by might hear him; all which while this poor people kept silence, and were marvellously attentive; looking up to heaven, and imitating us in gestures. Then he caused the men all orderly to be set on one side, the women on another, and likewise the children on another: and to the chiefest of them he gave hatchets; to the other, knives; and to the women, beads, and such other small trifles. Then, where the children were, he cast rings, counters, and brooches made of tin, whereat they seemed to be very glad. That done, our captain commanded trumpets and other musical instruments to be sounded, which when they heard, they were very merry.

Then we took our leave, and went to our boat. The women, seeing that, put themselves before, to stay us, and brought us out of their meats that they had made ready for us, as fish, pottage, beans, and such other things, thinking to make us eat and dine in that place. But, because the meats had no savor at all of salt, we liked them not, but thanked them, and with signs gave them to understand that we had no need to eat. When we were out of the town, divers of the men and women followed us, and brought us to the top of the foresaid mountain, which we named Mount Royal: it is about a [117] league from the town. When as we were on the top of it, we might discern and plainly see thirty leagues about. On the north side of it there are many hills to be seen, running west and east, and as many more on the south, amongst and between the which the country is as fair and as pleasant as possibly can be seen; being level, smooth, and very plain, fit to be husbanded and tilled. And in the midst of these fields we saw the river, farther up, a great way, than where we had left our boats, where was the greatest and the swiftest fall of water that anywhere hath been seen, and as great, wide, and large as our sight might discern, going south-west along three fair and round mountains that we saw, as we judged, about fifteen leagues from us.

Those which brought us thither told and showed us, that, in the said river, there were three such falls of water more, as that was where we had left our boats; but, because we could not understand their language, we could not know how far they were one from another. Moreover, they showed us with signs, that, the said three falls being past, a man might sail the space of three months more alongst that river; and that along the hills that are on the north side there is a great river, which— even as the other—cometh from the west: we thought it to be the river that runneth through the country of Saguenay.

[Cartier afterwards returned to the harbor of the Holy Cross, where he and his men passed the winter of 1535-36 with much suffering. They were the first Europeans to pass the winter in the northern part of North America. The French claim to the possession of this continent was founded on Cartier's discoveries. The expedition reached St. Malo, on its return, July 16, 1536.]


1 Description.

2 In the map of Ortelius, published in 1572, the name of New France is applied to the whole of both North and South America. ‘The application of this name dates back to a period immediately after the voyage of Verrazzano; and the Dutch voyagers are especially free in their use of it, out of spite to the Spaniards.’—Parkman.

3 July.

4 Boiled.

5 Regular.

6 1 Chaleur,signifying heat in French.

7 July, 1534.

8 Gaspe Bay.

9 The arms of France.

10 Motto.

11 Attention.

12 The object of the cross was to take possession of the country for the King of France; but Cartier did not hesitate to deceive the natives by saying that it was only for a beacon.

13 The St. Croix River, now called St. Charles. The first name was given because Cartier reached it on the festival of the Holy Cross.

14 Now Quebec.

15 September.

16 These were the two young indians whom Cartier had carried off with him the year before.

17 These were the two young indians whom Cartier had carried off with him the year before.

18 This village was where Montreal now stands.

19 A small vessel.

20 An ingenious trick.

21 Explanation.

22 On land, as we say, ‘ashore.’

23 Montreal.

24 Ramparts or palisades: they were made of trunks of trees, the outer and inner row inclining toward each other till they met, and the third row standing upright between, to support them.

25 Crucifixion.

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