Samuel de Champlain

Champlain, SAMUEL DE, French navigator; born in Brouage, France, in 1567. His family had many fishermen and mariners, and he was carefully educated for a navigator. In early life he was in the cavalry of Brittany, and was with his uncle, pilot-general of the fleets of Spain, when that officer conducted back to that country the troops who had served in France. In 1599 he commanded a vessel of the Spanish fleet that sailed to Mexico, and he drew up a faithful account of the voyage. On his return he received a pension from Henry IV. of France; and he was induced by M. de Chastes, governor of Dieppe, to explore and prepare the way for a French colony in America. Chastes had received a charter from the King to found settlements in New France, and the monarch commissioned Champlain lieutenant-general of Canada. With this authority, he sailed from Honfleur on March 5, 1603, with a single vessel, commanded by Pont-Greve, a skilful navigator. In May they ascended the St. Lawrence and landed near the site of Quebec, from which place Pont-Greve and five men ascended the river in a canoe to Lachine Rapids, above Montreal. The Indians at Stadacona yet remembered Cartier’s perfidy (see CARTIER, JACQUES), but were peacable.

Champlain, on his return to France in the autumn, found Chastes dead and his concessions transferred by the King to Pierre de Gast, the Sieur de Monts, a wealthy Huguenot, who had received the commission of viceroy of New France. The latter made a new arrangement with Champlain, and in March, 1604, he sailed with the navigator from France with four vessels. They landed in Nova Scotia, and remained there some time planting a settlement and exploring the neighboring regions; and when de Monts returned to France, he left Champlain to explore the New England coast. He went as far south as Cape Cod, and in 1607 returned to France. Having suggested to DeMonts that a point on the St. Lawrence would be a more eligible site for the seat of the projected new empire, Champlain was sent to the river in 1608 with Pont-Greve, and, at Stadacona, founded Quebec, the Indian name for ” the narrows,” and pronounced Kebec. There the colonists built cabins and prepared to plant. In 1609 Champlain, who had made the Montagnais Indians on the St. Lawrence his friends, marched with them against their enemies, the Iroquois. They were joined by a party of Hurons and Algonquins, and ascended the Sorel to the Chambly Rapids, whence Champlain proceeded in a canoe and discovered a great lake, and gave it his own name. On its borders he fought and defeated the Iroquois, who fled in terror before the fire of his arquebuses. He returned to France, but went back in 1610, and the same year was wounded by an arrow in a fight with the Iroquois. Again returning to France, he, at the age of forty-four years, married a girl of twelve; and in 1612 he went back to Canada, with the title and powers of lieutenant – governor, under the Prince of Conde, who had succeeded De Soilssons, the successor to De Monts, as viceroy.

In 1815 he started on his famous expedition to the Onondaga Indians. He followed Father Le Caron and his party to Lake Huron, to which he gave the name of Mer Douce. Returning across the great forests, he sailed with several hundred canoes down a stream into the Bay of Quinte, and entered the broad Lake Ontario, which he named Lac St. Louis. With a considerable war party, chiefly Hurons, he crossed the lake into the country of the Iroquois, in (present) New York. Hiding their canoes in the forest, they pressed onward to the Indian post on the shore of Onondaga Lake. It was at the time of the maize harvest, and the Iroquois were attacked in the fields. They retired to their town, which was fortified with four rows of palisades. On the inside of these were galleries furnished with stones and other missiles, and a supply of water to extinguish a fire if kindled beneath these wooden walls. The Hurons were rather insubordinate, and the attack was ineffectual. Champlain had constructed a wooden tower, which was dragged near the palisades, and from the top of which his marksmen swept the galleries filled with naked Iroquois. But he could not control the great body of the Hurons, and, in their furious and tumultuous assault upon the palisades, they were thrown back in confusion, and could not be induced to repeat the onset, but resolved to retreat. Champlain, wounded on the leg, was compelled to acquiesce, and he made his way back to Quebec (1616), after a year’s absence. The same year he went to France and organized n fur-trading company.

On his return to Canada he took with him some Recollect priests to minister to the colonists and the pagans. The colony languished until 1620, when a more energetic viceroy gave it a start. Champlain got permission to fortify it, and he returned with the title and power of governor, taking with him his child-wife. Jesuit priests were sent to Canada as missionaries, and Champlain worked energetically for the cause of religion and the expansion of French dominion. In 1628 Sir David Kertk appeared with n English fleet before Quebec and demanded its surrender. Champlain’s bold refusal made Kertk retire, but on his way down the St. Lawrence he captured the French supply-ships. This produced great distress in Quebec; and in July of next year Champlain was compelled to surrender to Kertk’s brothers, and was carried to England. By a treaty in 1632, Canada was restored to the French. Champlain was reinstated as governor, and sailed for the St. Lawrence in 1633. He did not long survive, but worked energetically and faithfully until the last. His wife survived him. She was a Protestant when she was married, but died an Ursuline nun. Champlain’s zeal for the propagation of Christianity was intense. A college was established at Quebec, in which the children of the natives were taught and trained in the habits of civilization. In 1603 Champlain published an account of his first voyage, and, in 1613 and 1619, a continuation of his narrative. In 1632 they were included in a work of his then published, which comprised a history of New France from the time of Verrazani’s discoveries to 1631, entitled Les Voyages a la Nouvelle France Occidentale et Canada. He died in Quebec, Dec. 25, 1635. In 1870 a complete collection of his works, including his voyage to Mexico, with facsimiles of his maps, was published in Quebec, edited by Abbes Laverdiere and Casgrain.