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Ch. 9: The Close of Cartier's Career

Great doubt and uncertainty surround the ultimate fate
of Roberval's attempted colony, of which Cartier's
expedition was to form the advance guard. Roberval, as
already seen, had stayed behind in France when Cartier
sailed in 1541, because his equipment was not yet ready
for the voyage. Nor does he seem to have finally started
on his expedition for nearly a year after the departure
of Cartier. It has been suggested that Roberval did set
sail at some time in the summer of 1541, and that he
reached Cape Breton island and built a fort there. So,
at least, a tradition ran that was repeated many years
later by Lescarbot in his Histoire de la Nouvelle France.
If this statement is true, it must mean that Roberval
sailed home again at the close of 1541, without having
succeeded in finding Cartier, and that he prepared for
a renewed expedition in the spring of the coming year.
But the evidence for any such voyage is not conclusive.

What we know is that on April 16, 1542, Roberval sailed
out of the port of Rochelle with three tall ships and a
company of two hundred persons, men and women, and that
with him were divers gentlemen of quality. On June 8,
1542, his ships entered the harbour of St John's in
Newfoundland. They found there seventeen fishing vessels,
clear proof that by this time the cod fisheries of the
Newfoundland Banks were well known. They were, indeed,
visited by the French, the Portuguese, and other nations.
Here Roberval paused to refit his ships and to replenish
his stores. While he was still in the harbour, one day,
to his amazement, Cartier sailed in with the five ships
that he was bringing away from his abandoned settlement
at Charlesbourg Royal. Cartier showed to his superior
the 'diamonds' and the gold that he was bringing home
from Canada. He gave to Roberval a glowing account of
the country that he had seen, but, according to the meagre
details that appear in the fragment in Hakluyt's Voyages,
he made clear that he had been compelled to abandon his
attempt at settlement. 'He could not with his small
company withstand the savages, which went about daily to
annoy him, which was the cause of his return into France.'

Except what is contained in the few sentences of this
record we know nothing of what took place between Roberval
and Cartier. But it was quite clear that the latter
considered the whole enterprise as doomed to failure. It
is more than likely that Cartier was dissatisfied with
Roberval's delay, and did not care to continue under the
orders of a leader inferior to himself in capacity. Be
this as it may, their final parting stands recorded in
the following terms, and no historical document has as
yet come to light which can make the exact situation
known to us. 'When our general [Roberval], being furnished
with sufficient forces, commanded him [Cartier] to go
back with him, he and his company, moved as it seems with
ambition, because they would have all the glory of the
discovery of those parts themselves, stole privily away
the next night from us, and, without taking their leaves,
departed home for Brittany.' The story, it must be
remembered, comes from the pen of either Roberval or one
of his associates.

The subsequent history of Roberval's colony, as far as
it is known, can be briefly told. His ships reached the
site of Charlesbourg Royal late in July 1542. He landed
stores and munitions and erected houses, apparently on
a scale of some magnitude, with towers and fortifications
and with great kitchens, halls, and living rooms. Two
ships were sent home in the autumn with news of the
expedition, their leader being especially charged to find
out whether the rock crystals carried back by Cartier
had turned out to be diamonds. All the other colonists
remained and spent the winter in this place. In spite of
their long preparation and of their commodious buildings,
they seem to have endured sufferings as great as, or even
greater than, those of Cartier's men at Stadacona seven
years before. Supplies of food ran short, and even in
the autumn before the stern winter had begun it was
necessary to put the whole company on carefully measured
rations. Disease broke out among the French, as it had
broken out under Cartier, and about fifty of their number
perished before the coming of the spring. Their lot was
rendered more dreadful still by quarrelling and crime.
Roberval could keep his colonists in subjection only by
the use of irons and by the application of the lash. The
gibbet, reared beside the fort, claimed its toll of their
number.

The winter of their misery drew slowly to its close. The
ice of the river began to break in April. On June 5,
1543, their leader, Roberval, embarked on an expedition
to explore the Saguenay, 'leaving thirty persons behind
in the fort, with orders that if Roberval had not returned
by the first of July, they were to depart for France.'
Whither he went and what he found we do not know. We read
that on June 14. certain of his company came back with
messages to the fort: that five days later still others
came back with instructions that the company at the fort
were to delay their departure for France until July 19.
And here the narrative of the colony breaks off.

Of Roberval's subsequent fate we can learn hardly anything.
There is some evidence to show that Cartier was dispatched
from France to Canada to bring him back. Certain it is
that in April 1544 orders were issued for the summons of
both Cartier and Roberval to appear before a commission
for the settling of their accounts. The report of the
royal auditors credits Cartier apparently with a service
of eight months spent in returning to Canada to bring
Roberval home. On the strength of this, it is thought
likely that Cartier, returning safely to France in the
summer of 1542, was sent back again at the king's command
to aid in the return of the colonists, whose enterprise
was recognized as a failure. After this, Roberval is lost
to sight in the history of France. Certain chroniclers
have said that he made another voyage to the New World
and perished at sea. Others have it that he was assassinated
in Paris near the church of the Holy Innocents. But
nothing is known.

Cartier also is practically lost from sight during the
last fifteen years of his life. His name appears at
intervals in the local records, notably on the register
of baptisms as a godfather. As far as can be judged, he
spent the remainder of his days in comfortable retirement
in his native town of St Malo. Besides his house in the
seaport he had a country residence some miles distant at
Limoilou. This old house of solid and substantial stone,
with a courtyard and stone walls surrounding it, is still
standing. There can be no doubt that the famous pilot
enjoyed during his closing years a universal esteem. It
is just possible that in recognition of his services he
was elevated in rank by the king of France, for in certain
records of St Malo in 1549, he is spoken of as the Sieur
de Limoilou. But this may have been merely the sort of
courtesy title often given in those days to the proprietors
of small landed estates.

It was sometimes the custom of the officials of the port
of St Malo to mark down in the records of the day the
death of any townsman of especial note. Such an entry as
this is the last record of the great pilot. In the margins
of certain documents of September 1, 1557, there is
written in the quaint, almost unreadable penmanship of
the time: 'This said Wednesday about five in the morning
died Jacques Cartier.'

There is no need to enlarge upon the greatness of Cartier's
achievements. It was only the beginning of a far-reaching
work, the completion of which fell to other hands. But
it is Cartier's proud place in history to bear the title
of discoverer of a country whose annals were later to be
illumined by the exploits of a Champlain and a La Salle,
and the martyrdom of a Brebeuf; which was to witness,
for more than half a century, a conflict in arms between
Great Britain and France, and from that conflict to draw
the finest pages of its history and the noblest inspiration
of its future; a country upon whose soil, majestic in
its expanse of river, lake, and forest, was to be reared
a commonwealth built upon the union and harmony of the
two great races who had fought for its dominion.

Jacques Cartier, as much perhaps as any man of his time,
embodied in himself what was highest in the spirit of
his age. He shows us the daring of the adventurer with
nothing of the dark cruelty by which such daring was
often disfigured. He brought to his task the simple faith
of the Christian whose devout fear of God renders him
fearless of the perils of sea and storm. The darkest hour
of his adversity in that grim winter at Stadacona found
him still undismayed. He came to these coasts to find a
pathway to the empire of the East. He found instead a
country vast and beautiful beyond his dreams. The enthusiasm
of it entered into his soul. Asia was forgotten before
the reality of Canada. Since Cartier's day four centuries
of history have hallowed the soil of Canada with memories
and associations never to be forgotten. But patriotism
can find no finer example than the instinctive admiration
and love called forth in the heart of Jacques Cartier by
the majestic beauty of the land of which he was the
discoverer.

 

ITINERARY OF CARTIER'S VOYAGES

Adapted from Baxter's 'Memoir of Jacques Cartier'

 


 

VOYAGE OF 1534

April 20 Monday Cartier leaves St Malo. May 10 Sunday Arrives at Bonavista. '' 21 Thursday Reaches Isle of Birds. '' 24 Sunday Enters the harbour of Kirpon. June 9 Tuesday Leaves Kirpon. '' 10 Wednesday Enters the harbour of Brest. '' 11 Thursday St Barnabas Day. Hears Mass and explores coast in boats. '' 12 Friday Names St Anthoine, Servan; plants cross and names river St Jacques, and harbour Jacques Cartier. '' 13 Saturday Returns to ships. '' 14 Sunday Hears Mass. '' 15 Monday Sails toward north coast of Newfoundland. '' 16 Tuesday Follows the west coast of Newfoundland and names the Monts des Granches. June 17 Wednesday Names the Colombiers, Bay St Julien, and Capes Royal and Milk. '' 18 Thursday Stormy weather to 24th; explores coast between Capes Royal and Milk. '' 24 Wednesday Festival of St John the Baptist. Names Cape St John. '' 25 Thursday Weather bad; sails toward the west and and south-west; discovers Isles Margaux, Brion, and '' 26 Friday Cape Dauphin. '' 27 Saturday Coasts toward west-south-west. '' 28 Sunday Reaches Cape Rouge. '' 29 Monday Festival of St Peter. Names Alezay and Cape St Peter, and continues course west-south-west. '' 30 Tuesday Towards evening describes land appearing like two islands. July 1 Wednesday Names Capes Orleans and Savages. '' 2 Thursday Names Bay St Leonarius. '' 3 Friday Continues northerly course and names Cape Hope. '' 4 Saturday Arrives at Port Daniel; remains there until 12th. July 16 Thursday Enters Gaspe Bay, and remains until 25th on account of storm. '' 22 Wednesday Lands and meets savages. '' 24 Friday Plants a cross. '' 25 Saturday Sets sail with good wind toward Anticosti. '' 27 Monday Approaches coast. '' 28 Tuesday Names Cape St Louis. '' 29 Wednesday Names Cape Montmorency and doubles East Cape of Anticosti. Aug. 1 Saturday Sights northern shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence. '' 8 Saturday Approaches west coast of Newfoundland. '' 9 Sunday Arrives at Blanc Sablon, and makes preparations to return home. '' 15 Saturday Festival of the Assumption. Hears Mass and sets sail for France. Sept. 5 Saturday Arrives at St Malo.

SECOND VOYAGE, 1535

May 16 Sunday First Pentecost. The crew commune at Cathedral and receive Episcopal Benediction. '' 19 Wednesday Departure from St Malo. '' 26 Wednesday Contrary winds. June 25 Friday Ships separated by storm. July 7 Wednesday Cartier reaches the Isle of Birds. '' 8 Thursday Enters Strait of Belle Isle. '' 15 Thursday Reaches the rendezvous at Blanc Sablon. '' 26 Monday Ships meet. '' 29 Thursday Follows north coast and names Isles St William. '' 30 Friday Names Isles St Marthy. '' 31 Saturday Names Cape St Germain. Aug. 1 Sunday Contrary winds; enters St Nicholas Harbour. '' 8 Sunday Sails toward the southern coast. '' 9 Monday Contrary wind; turns toward north and stops in Bay St Lawrence. '' 13 Friday Leaves Bay St Lawrence, approaches Anticosti, and doubles the western point. '' 15 Sunday Festival of the Assumption. Names Anticosti, Isle of the Assumption. '' 16 Monday Continues along coast. '' 17 Tuesday Turns toward the north. '' 19 Thursday Arrives at the Seven Islands. '' 20 Friday Ranges coast with his boats. '' 21 Saturday Sails west, but obliged to return to the Seven Islands owing to head winds. Aug. 24 Tuesday Leaves the Seven Islands and sets sail toward south. '' 29 Sunday Martyrdom of St John Baptist. Reaches harbour of Isles St John. Sept. 1 Wednesday Quits the harbour and directs his course toward the Saguenay. '' 2 Thursday Leaves the Saguenay and reaches the Bic Islands. '' 6 Monday Arrives at Isle-aux-Coudres. '' 7 Tuesday Reaches Island of Orleans. '' 9 Thursday Donnacona visits Cartier. '' 13 Monday Sails toward the River St Charles. '' 14 Tuesday Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Reaches entrance of St Charles River. '' 15 Wednesday Plants buoys to guide his ships. '' 16 Thursday Two ships are laid up for the winter. '' 17 Friday Donnacona tries to dissuade Cartier from going to Hochelaga. '' 18 Saturday Donnacona's stratagem to deter Cartier from going to Stadacona. '' 19 Sunday Cartier starts for Hochelaga with his pinnace and two boats. Sept. 28 Tuesday Enters Lake St Peter. '' 29 Wednesday Leaves his pinnace, and proceeds with his boats. Oct. 2 Saturday Arrives at Hochelaga. '' 3 Sunday Lands and visits town and mountain, which he named Mount Royal, and leaves Sunday. '' 4 Monday Regains his pinnace. '' 5 Tuesday Takes his way back to Stadacona. '' 7 Thursday Stops at Three Rivers, and plants cross upon an island. '' 11 Monday Arrives at the anchorage beside Stadacona. '' 12 Tuesday Donnacona visits Cartier. '' 13 Wednesday Cartier and some of his men visit Stadacona.

1536

April 16 Sunday Easter Sunday. The river clear of ice. '' 22 Saturday Donnacona visits Cartier with large number of savages. '' 28 Friday Cartier sends Guyot to Stadacona. May 3 Wednesday Festival of the Holy Cross. A cross planted; Cartier seizes Donnacona. May 5 Friday The people of Stadacona, bring provisions for Cartier's captives. '' 6 Saturday Cartier sails. '' 7 Sunday Arrives at Isle-aux-Coudres. '' 15 Monday Exchanges presents with the savages. '' 22 Monday Reaches Isle Brion. '' 25 Thursday Festival of the Ascension. Reaches a low, sandy island. '' 26 Friday Returns to Isle Brion. June 1 Thursday Names Capes Lorraine and St Paul. '' 4 Sunday Fourth of Pentecost. Names harbour of St Esprit. '' 6 Tuesday Departs from the harbour of St Esprit. '' 11 Sunday St Barnabas Day. At Isles St Pierre. '' 16 Friday Departs from Isles St Pierre and makes harbour at Rougenouse. '' 19 Monday Leaves Rougenouse and sails for home. July 6 Friday Reaches St Malo.

THIRD VOYAGE, 1541

May 23 Monday Cartier leaves St Malo with five ships. Aug. 23 Tuesday Arrives before Stadacona. '' 25 Thursday Lands artillery. Sept. 2 Friday Sends two of his ships home. '' 7 Wednesday Sets out for Hochelaga. '' 11 Sunday Arrives at Lachine Rapids.

(The rest of the voyage is unknown.)

 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

A Great many accounts of the voyages of Jacques Cartier have been written both in French and in English; but the fountain source of information for all of these is found in the narratives written by Cartier himself. The story of the first voyage was written under the name of 'Relation Originale du Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en 1534.' The original manuscript was lost from sight for over three hundred years, but about half a century ago it was discovered in the Imperial Library (now the National Library) at Paris. Its contents, however, had long been familiar to English readers through the translation which appears in Hakluyt's 'Voyages,' published in 1600. In the same collection is also found the narrative of the second voyage, as translated from the 'Bref Recit' written by Cartier and published in 1545, and the fragment of the account of the third voyage of which the rest is lost. For an exhaustive bibliography of Cartier's voyages see Baxter, 'A Memoir of Jacques Cartier' (New York, 1906). An exceedingly interesting little book is Sir Joseph Pope's 'Jacques Cartier: his Life and Voyages' (Ottawa, 1890). The student is also recommended to read 'The Saint Lawrence Basin and its Borderlands,' by Samuel Edward Dawson; papers by the Abbe Verreau, John Reade, Bishop Howley and W. F. Ganong in the 'Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada;' the chapter, 'Jacques Cartier and his Successors,' by B. F. de Costa, in Winsor's 'Narrative and Critical History of America,' and the chapter 'The Beginnings of Canada,' by Arthur G. Doughty, in the first volume of 'Canada and its Provinces' (Toronto, 1913).

 

 

Stephen Leacock

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