|A Year of Colonial American Frontier History|
After King Francis I commissioned him, Jacques Cartier departed on the first of his great voyages of discovery. He sailed from the port of Saint-Malo, Brittany.
Jacques Cartier (December 31, 1491 - September 1, 1557)
Geseline Jansart presented her husband, Jamet Cartier, with a son on December 31, 1491 in St. Malo, France. We know very little of Jacques' childhood. Historians suspect that he received navigator training at Dieppe, France. Many think he sailed with Giovanni Da Verazzano during his 1534 explorations along the Brazil coast. It is certain that he had gotten valuable sailing experience somewhere. He had gained enough experience to give Jean le Veneur, bishop of Saint-Malo confidence in him. The Bishop introduced him to King Francis I during a meeting at the Manoir de Brion in Normandy. During the meeting he cited previous voyages to New Foundland and Brazil as proof he had the ability to lead an expedition.
Commission From the King
The impression on the king must have been favorable. King Francis I had already met with famed Florentine explorer Giovanni Da Verazzano. The king decided instead to commission Cartier. The European powers at the time searched diligently for the fabled "Northwest Passage." By this time, they knew that North America was a large continent that lay in the way of their desired route to Asia and the riches it possessed. Francis desired to become the first European king to discover it. It was for this purpose that he commissioned Cartier, to explore the "Northern Lands" to find a way through them. His commission directed him to find this passage and collect gold, silver and spices along the way.
Cartier’s' expedition consisted of two ships and sixty-one men. They set sail from St. Malo on April 20, 1534. The port, Cartier’s' home, is on the northwest coast of France in the English Channel. After a voyage of twenty days, he reached New Foundland. After exploring Newfoundland, he sailed his ships into St. Lawrence Bay. He discovered Prince Edward Island and Anticosti Island along the way. Anticosti Island was his furthest penetration west on this voyage. His route was a loop that entered the Bay through the Straits of Belle Island between New Foundland and the mainland. The ships sailed along the western coast of New Foundland and then southwest to Magdalene Islands. At Prince Edward Island, they headed north to Anacosti Island, then back out the Straits to return to France.
Contact With the Native Tribes
He had three contacts with the Amerindian tribes on this voyage. Two occurred in Chaleur Bay. These were on the north shore of the bay, currently a part of New Brunswick. There was a minimal amount of trading during these encounters. The third encounter was in Gaspe Bay on the Gaspe Peninsula. Here they encountered a party of St. Lawrence Iroquoians. Here he set up a cross inscribed "Long Live the King of France." He then claimed the area for the King of France. The crew also kidnapped two of the Iroquois before leaving. It was during this encounter that he probably first used the name Canada for this new lands. The Iroquois called a village or settlement "kanata." Cartier adopted the name for the new land, which eventually extended to all Canada.
Return to France
By September 1534, Cartier returned to France carrying his two Amerindian captives and the belief that he had been in Asia.
A Year of Colonial American Frontier History
© Paul Wonning 2016