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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part I

In honor of the 400th anniversary of Champlain's voyages and explorations in the New World, America's Historic Lakes is featuring Volume II of Champlain's 1613 Voyages. Volume II highlights the explorer's journey of discovery from Cape Breton to Cape Cod, along the St. Lawrence, up what is now known as the Richelieu River and along the lake that bears his name- Lake Champlain...

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain

This is the first of a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

Volume II

Of Saintonge, Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine.


made in the exploration of New France, describing not only the countries, coasts, rivers, ports, and harbors, with their latitudes and the various deflections of the Magnetic Needle, but likewise the religious belief of the inhabitants, their superstitions, mode of life and warfare; furnished with numerous illustrations.

Together with two geographical maps: the first for the purposes of navigation, adapted to the compass as used by mariners, which deflects to the north-east; the other in its true meridian, with longitudes and latitudes, to which is added the Voyage to the Strait north of Labrador, from the 53d to the 63d degree of latitude, discovered in 1612 by the English when they were searching for a northerly course to China.

Rue St. Jean de Beauvais, at the Flying Horse, and at his store in the Palace, at the gallery of the Prisoners.



Your Majesty has doubtless full knowledge of the discoveries made in your service in New France, called Canada, through the descriptions, given by certain Captains and Pilots, of the voyages and discoveries made there during the past eighty years. These, however, present nothing so honorable to your Kingdom, or so profitable to the service of your Majesty and your subjects, as will, I doubt not, the maps of the coasts, harbors, rivers, and the situation of the places described in this little treatise, which I make bold to address to your Majesty, and which is entitled a Journal of Voyages and Discoveries, which I have made in connection with Sieur de Monts, your Lieutenant in New France. This I do, feeling myself urged by a just sense of the honor I have received during the last ten years in commissions, not only, Sire, from your Majesty, but also from the late king, Henry the Great, of happy memory, who commissioned me to make the most exact researches and explorations in my power. This I have done, and added, moreover, the maps contained in this little book, where I have set forth in particular the dangers to which one would be liable. The subjects of your Majesty, whom you may be pleased hereafter to employ for the preservation of what has been discovered, will be able to avoid those dangers through the knowledge afforded by the maps contained in this treatise, which will serve as an example in your kingdom for increasing the glory of your Majesty, the welfare of your subjects, and for the honor of the very humble service, for which, to the happy prolongation of your days, is indebted,


Your most humble, most obedient,
and most faithful servant and subject,



Of all the most useful and excellent arts, that of navigation has always seemed to me to occupy the first place. For the more hazardous it is, and the more numerous the perils and losses by which it is attended, so much the more is it esteemed and exalted above all others, being wholly unsuited to the timid and irresolute. By this art we obtain knowledge of different countries, regions, and realms. By it we attract and bring to our own land all kinds of riches, by it the idolatry of paganism is overthrown and Christianity proclaimed throughout all the regions of the earth. This is the art which from my early age has won my love, and induced me to expose myself almost all my life to the impetuous waves of the ocean, and led me to explore the coasts of a part of America, especially of New France, where I have always desired to see the Lily flourish, and also the only religion, catholic, apostolic, and Roman. This I trust now to accomplish with the help of God, assisted by the favor of your Majesty, whom I most humbly entreat to continue to sustain us, in order that all may succeed to the honor of God, the welfare of France, and the splendor of your reign, for the grandeur and prosperity of which I will pray God to attend you always with a thousand blessings, and will remain,

Your most humble, most obedient,
and most faithful servant and subject,


By letters patent of the KING, given at Paris the ninth of January, 1613, and in the third year of our reign, by the King in his Council, PERREAU, and sealed with the simple yellow seal, it is permitted to JEAN BERJON, printer and bookseller in this city of Paris, to print, or have printed by whomsoever it may seem good to him, a book entitled _The Voyages of Samuel de Champlain of Saintonge, Captain in ordinary for the King in the Marine, &c._, for the time and limit of six entire consecutive years, from the day when this book shall have been printed up to the said time of six years. By the same letters, in like manner all printers, merchant booksellers, and any others whatever, are forbidden to print or have printed, to sell or distribute said book during the aforesaid time, without the special consent of said BERJON, or of him to whom he shall give permission, on pain of confiscation of so many of said books as shall be found, and a discretionary fine, as is more fully set forth in the aforesaid letters.  




The inclinations of men differ according to their varied dispositions; and each one in his calling has his particular end in view. Some aim at gain, some at glory, some at the public weal. The greater number are engaged in trade, and especially that which is transacted on the sea. Hence arise the principal support of the people, the opulence and honor of states. This is what raised ancient Rome to the sovereignty and mastery over the entire world, and the Venetians to a grandeur equal to that of powerful kings. It has in all times caused maritime towns to abound in riches, among which Alexandria and Tyre are distinguished, and numerous others, which fill up the regions of the interior with the objects of beauty and rarity obtained from foreign nations. For this reason, many princes have striven to find a northerly route to China, in order to facilitate commerce with the Orientals, in the belief that this route would be shorter and less dangerous.

In the year 1496, the king of England commissioned John Cabot and his son Sebastian to engage in this search. [1] About the same time, Don Emanuel, king of Portugal, despatched on the same errand Gaspar Cortereal, who returned without attaining his object. Resuming his journeys the year after, he died in the undertaking; as did also his brother Michel, who was prosecuting it perseveringly. [2] In the years 1534 and 1535, Jacques Cartier received a like commission from King Francis I., but was arrested in his course. [3] Six years after, Sieur de Roberval, having renewed it, sent Jean Alfonse of Saintonge farther northward along the coast of Labrador; [4] but he returned as wise as the others. In the years 1576, 1577, and 1578, Sir Martin Frobisher, an Englishman, made three voyages along the northern coasts. Seven years later, Humphrey Gilbert, also an Englishman, set out with five ships, but suffered shipwreck on Sable Island, where three of his vessels were lost. In the same and two following years, John Davis, an Englishman, made three voyages for the same object; penetrating to the 72d degree, as far as a strait which is called at the present day by his name. After him, Captain Georges made also a voyage in 1590, but in consequence of the ice was compelled to return without having made any discovery. [5] The Hollanders, on their part, had no more precise knowledge in the direction of Nova Zembla.

So many voyages and discoveries without result, and attended with so much hardship and expense, have caused us French in late years to attempt a permanent settlement in those lands which we call New France, [6] in the hope of thus realizing more easily this object; since the voyage in search of the desired passage commences on the other side of the ocean, and is made along the coast of this region. [7] These considerations had induced the Marquis de la Roche, in 1598, to take a commission from the king for making a settlement in the above region. With this object, he landed men and supplies on Sable Island; [8] but, as the conditions which had been accorded to him by his Majesty were not fulfilled, he was obliged to abandon his undertaking, and leave his men there. A year after, Captain Chauvin accepted another commission to transport Settlers to the same region; [9] but, as this was shortly after revoked, he prosecuted the matter no farther.

After the above, [10] notwithstanding all these accidents and disappointments, Sieur de Monts desired to attempt what had been given up in despair, and requested a commission for this purpose of his Majesty, being satisfied that the previous enterprises had failed because the undertakers of them had not received assistance, who had not succeeded, in one nor even two years' time, in making the acquaintance of the regions and people there, nor in finding harbors adapted for a settlement. He proposed to his Majesty a means for covering these expenses, without drawing any thing from the royal revenues; viz., by granting to him the monopoly of the fur-trade in this land. This having been granted to him, he made great and excessive outlays, and carried out with him a large number of men of various vocations. Upon his arrival, he caused the necessary number of habitations for his followers to be constructed. This expenditure he continued for three consecutive years, after which, in consequence of the jealousy and annoyance of certain Basque merchants, together with some from Brittany, the monopoly which had been granted to him was revoked by the Council to the great injury and loss of Sieur de Monts, who, in consequence of this revocation, was compelled to abandon his entire undertaking, sacrificing his labors and the outfit for his settlement.

But since a report had been made to the king on the fertility of the soil by him, and by me on the feasibility of discovering the passage to China, [11] without the inconveniences of the ice of the north or the heats of the torrid zone, through which our sailors pass twice in going and twice in returning, with inconceivable hardships and risks, his Majesty directed Sieur de Monts to make a new outfit, and send men to continue what he had commenced. This he did. And, in view of the uncertainty of his commission, [12] he chose a new spot for his settlement, in order to deprive jealous persons of any such distrust as they had previously conceived. He was also influenced by the hope of greater advantages in case of settling in the interior, where the people are civilized, and where it is easier to plant the Christian faith and establish such order as is necessary for the protection of a country, than along the sea-shore, where the savages generally dwell. From this course, he believed the king would derive an inestimable profit; for it is easy to suppose that Europeans will seek out this advantage rather than those of a jealous and intractable disposition to be found on the shores, and the barbarous tribes. [13]


1. The first commission was granted by Henry VII. of England to John Cabot and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius, March 5, 1496.-- _Rymer's Foedera_, Vol. XII. p. 595. The first voyage, however, was made in 1497. The second commission was granted to John Cabot alone, in 1498.--_Vide Hakluyt_, 1600, London, ed. 1810, Vol. III. pp. 25-31.

2. Cortereal made two voyages under the patronage of Emmanuel, King of Portugal, the first in 1500, the second in 1501. In the latter year, he sailed with two ships from Lisbon, and explored six hundred miles or more on our northern coast. The vessel in which he sailed was lost; and he perished, together with fifty natives whom he had captured. The other vessel returned, and reported the incidents of the expedition. The next year, Michael Cortereal, the brother of Gaspar, obtained a commission, and went in search of his brother; but he did not return, and no tidings were ever heard of him.

3. Jacques Cartier made three voyages in 1534, 1535, and 1540, respectively, in which he effected very important discoveries; and Charlevoix justly remarks that Cartier's Memoirs long served as a guide to those who after him navigated the gulf and river of St. Lawrence. For Cartier's commission, see _Hazard's State Papers_, Vol. I. p. 19.

4. Roberval's voyage was made in 1542, and is reported by Jean Alfonse.-- _Vide Hakluyt_, 1600, London, ed. 1810, Vol. III. p. 291. On an old map, drawn about the middle of the sixteenth century, Roberval is represented in a full-length portrait, clad in mail, with sword and spear, at the head of a band of armed soldiers, penetrating into the wilds of Canada, near the head-waters of the Saguenay. The name, "Monsr. de Roberual," is inserted near his feet,--_Vide Monuments de la Géographie_, XIX., par M. Jomard, Paris.

5. For the narrative of the voyages of Frobisher, Gilbert, and Davis, _vide Hakluyt_, Vol. III. Of the fleet of five vessels commanded by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in 1583, the Ralegh put back to England, on account of sickness on board; the Golden Hinde returned safely to port; the _Swallow_ was left at Newfoundland, to bring home the sick; the _Delight_ was lost near Sable Island; and the _Squirrel_ went down on its way to England, some days after leaving Sable Island. Thus two only were lost, while a third was left.

There must have been some error in regard to the voyage of Captain Georges. There is no printed account of a voyage at that time by any one of this name. There are two theories on which this statement may be explained. There may have been a voyage by a Captain Georges, which, for some unknown reason, was never reported; or, what is more likely, Champlain may refer to the voyage of Captain George Weymouth, undertaken in 1602 for the East Ind. Company, which was defeated by the icebergs which he encountered, and the mutiny of his men. It was not uncommon to omit part of a name at that period. Of Pont Gravé, the last name is frequently omitted by Champlain and by Lescarbot. The report of Weymouth's voyage was not printed till after Champlain wrote; and he might easily have mistaken the date.

6. The name of New France, _Novus Francisca_, appears on a map in Ptolemy published at Basle in 1530.

7. The controlling object of the numerous voyages to the north-east coast of America had hitherto been to discover a shorter course to India. In this respect, as Champlain states above, they had all proved failures. He here intimates that the settlements of the French on this coast were intended to facilitate this design. It is obvious that a colonial establishment would offer great advantages as a base in prosecuting searches for this desired passage to Cathay.

8. For some account of this disastrous expedition, see _Memoir_, Vol. I.

9. _Vide Memoir_, Vol. I.

10. It will be observed that Champlain does not mention the expedition sent out by Commander de Chastes, probably because its object was exploration, and not actual settlement.--_Vide_ an account of De Chastes in the _Memoir_, Vol. I.

11. In Champlain's report of the voyage of 1603, after obtaining what information he could from the natives relating to the St. Lawrence and the chain of lakes, he says they informed him that the last lake in the chain was salt, and he therefore believed it to be the South Sea. He doubtless enlarged verbally before the king upon the feasibility of a passage to China in this way.

12. The commission here referred to was doubtless the one renewed to him in 1608, after he had made his searches on the shores of New England and Nova Scotia, and after the commission or charter of 1603 had been revoked.

Champlain is here stating the advantages of a settlement in the interior, on the shores of the St. Lawrence, rather than on the Atlantic coast.

13. In this chapter, Champlain speaks of events stretching through several years; but in the next he confines himself to the occurrences of 1603, when De Monts obtained his charter.

This is the conclusion of Chapter 1 of Voyages
Click here for Chapter 2

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Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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