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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XVIII, Chapter I
The Voyages to the great river St. Lawrence...

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

This is the eighteenth in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. 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.

The voyages to the great river St. Lawrence, 
made by Sieur de Champlain,
Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine, 
from the year 1608 to that of 1612



Having returned to France after a stay of three years in New France, [283] I proceeded to Sieur de Monts, and related to him the principal events of which I had been a witness since his departure, and gave him the map and plan of the most remarkable coasts and harbors there.

Some time afterward, Sieur de Monts determined to continue his undertaking, and complete the exploration of the interior along the great river St. Lawrence, where I had been by order of the late King Henry the Great [284] in the year 1603, for a distance of some hundred and eighty leagues, commencing in latitude 48° 40', that is, at Gaspé, at the entrance of the river, as far as the great fall, which is in latitude 45° and some minutes, where our exploration ended, and where boats could not pass as we then thought, since we had not made a careful examination of it as we have since done. [285]

Now after Sieur de Monts had conferred with me several times in regard to his purposes concerning the exploration, he resolved to continue so noble and meritorious an undertaking, notwithstanding the hardships and labors of the past. He honored me with his lieutenancy for the voyage; and, in order to carry out his purpose, he had two vessels equipped, one commanded by Pont Gravé, who was commissioned to trade with the savages of the country and bring back the vessels, while I was to winter in the country.

Sieur de Monts, for the purpose of defraying the expenses of the expedition, obtained letters from his Majesty for one year, by which all persons were forbidden to traffic in peltry with the savages, on penalties stated in the following commission:--

HENRY BY THE GRACE OF GOD KING OF FRANCE AND NAVARRE, to our beloved and faithful Councillors, the officers of our Admiralty in Normandy, Brittany, and Guienne, bailiffs, marshals, prevosts, judges, or their lieutenants, and to each one of them, according to his authority, throughout the extent of their powers, jurisdictions, and precincts, greeting:

Acting upon the information which has been given us by those who have returned from New France, respecting the good quality and fertility of the lands of that country, and the disposition of the people to accept the knowledge of God, We have resolved to continue the settlement previously undertaken there, in order that our subjects may go there to trade without hinderance. And in view of the proposition to us of Sieur de Monts, Gentleman in Ordinary of our chamber, and our Lieutenant-General in that country, to make a settlement, on condition of our giving him means and supplies for sustaining the expense of it, [286] it has pleased us to promise and assure him that none of our subjects but himself shall be permitted to trade in peltry and other merchandise, for the period of one year only, in the lands, regions, harbors, rivers, and highways throughout the extent of his jurisdiction: this We desire to have fulfilled. For these causes and other considerations impelling us thereto, We command and decree that each one of you, throughout the extent of your powers, jurisdictions, and precincts, shall act in our stead and carry out our will in distinctly prohibiting and forbidding all merchants, masters, and captains of vessels, also sailors and others of our subjects, of whatever rank and profession, to fit out any vessels, in which to go themselves or send others in order to engage in trade or barter in peltry and other things with the savages of New France, to visit, trade, or communicate with them during the space of one year, within the jurisdiction of Sieur de Monts, on penalty of disobedience, and the entire confiscation of their vessels, supplies, arms, and merchandise for the benefit of Sieur de Monts; and, in order that the punishment of their disobedience may be assured, you will allow, as We have and do allow, the aforesaid Sieur de Monts or his lieutenants to seize, apprehend, and arrest all violators of our present prohibition and order, also their vessels, merchandise, arms, supplies, and victuals, in order to take and deliver them up to the hands of justice, so that action may be taken not only against the persons, but also the property of the offenders, as the case shall require. This is our will, and We bid you to have it at once read and published in all localities and public places within your authority and jurisdiction, as you may deem necessary, by the first one of our officers or sergeants in accordance with this requisition, by virtue of these presents, or a copy of the same, properly attested once only by one of our well-beloved and faithful councillors, notaries, and secretaries, to which it is Our will that credence should be given as to the present original, in order that none of our subjects may claim ground for ignorance, but that all may obey and act in accordance with Our will in this matter. We order, moreover, all captains of vessels, mates, and second mates, and sailors of the same, and others on board of vessels or ships in the ports and harbors of the aforesaid country, to permit, as We have done, Sieur de Monts, and others possessing power and authority from him, to search the aforesaid vessels which shall have engaged in the fur-trade after the present prohibition shall have been made known to them. It is Our will that, upon the requisition, of the aforesaid Sieur de Monts, his lieutenants, and others having authority, you should proceed against the disobedient and offenders, as the case may require: to this end. We give you power, authority, commission, and special mandate, notwithstanding the act of our Council of the 17th day of July last, [287] any hue and cry, Norman charter, accusation, objection, or appeals of whatsoever kind; on account of which, and for fear of disregarding which, it is Our will that there should be no delay, and, if any of these occur, We have withheld and reserved cognizance of the same to Ourselves and our Council, apart from all other judges, and have forbidden and prohibited the same to all our courts and judges: for this is Our pleasure.

Given at Paris the seventh day of January, in the year of grace, sixteen hundred and eight, and the nineteenth of Our reign. Signed, HENRY.

And lower down, By the King, Delomenie. And sealed with the single label of the great seal of yellow wax.

Collated with the original by me, Councillor, Notary, and secretary of the King.

I proceeded to Honfleur for embarkation, where I found the vessel of Pont Gravé in readiness. He left port on the 5th of April. I did so on the 13th, arriving at the Grand Bank on the 15th of May, in latitude 45° 15'. On the 26th, we sighted Cape St. Mary,[288] in latitude 46° 45', on the Island of Newfoundland. On the 27th of the month, we sighted Cape St. Lawrence, on Cape Breton, and also the Island of St. Paul, distant eighty-three leagues from Cape St. Mary.[289] On the 30th, we sighted Isle Percée and Gaspé,[290] in latitude 48° 40', distant from Cape St. Lawrence from seventy to seventy-five leagues.

On the 3d of June, we arrived before Tadoussac, distant from Gaspé from eighty to ninety leagues; and we anchored in the roadstead of Tadoussac,[291] a league distant from the harbor, which latter is a kind of cove at the mouth of the river Saguenay, where the tide is very remarkable on account of its rapidity, and where there are sometimes violent winds, bringing severe cold. It is maintained that from the harbor of Tadoussac it is some forty-five or fifty leagues to the first fall on this river, which comes from the north-north-west. The harbor is small, and can accommodate only about twenty vessels. It has water enough, and is under shelter of the river Saguenay and a little rocky island; which is almost cut by the river; elsewhere there are very high mountains with little soil and only rocks and sand, thickly covered with such wood as fir and birch. There is a small pond near the harbor, shut in by mountains covered with wood. There are two points at the mouth: one on the south-west side, extending out nearly a league into the sea, called Point St. Matthew, or otherwise Point aux Allouettes; and another on the north-west side, extending out one-eighth of a league, and called Point of all Devils.[292] from the dangerous nature of the place. The winds from the south-south-east strike the harbor, which are not to be feared; but those, however, from the Saguenay are. The two points above mentioned are dry at low tide: our vessel was unable to enter the harbor, as the wind and tide were unfavorable. I at once had the boat lowered, in order to go to the port and ascertain whether Pont Gravé had arrived. While on the way, I met a shallop with the pilot of Pont Gravé and a Basque, who came to inform me of what had happened to them because they attempted to hinder the Basque vessels from trading, according to the commission obtained by Sieur de Monts from his Majesty, that no vessels should trade without permission of Sieur de Monts, as was expressed in it; and that, notwithstanding the notifications which Pont Gravé made in behalf of his Majesty, they did not desist from forcibly carrying on their traffic; and that they had used their arms and maintained themselves so well in their vessel that, discharging all their cannon upon that of Pont Gravé, and letting off many musket-shots, he was severely wounded, together with three of his men, one of whom died, Pont Gravé meanwhile making no resistance; for at the first shower of musketry he was struck down. The Basques came on board of the vessel and took away all the cannon and arms, declaring that they would trade, notwithstanding the prohibition of the King, and that when they were ready to set out for France they would restore to him his cannon and ammunition, and that they were keeping them in order to be in a state of security. Upon hearing all these particulars, I was greatly annoyed at such a beginning, which we might have easily avoided.

Now, after hearing from the pilot all these things, I asked him why the Basque had come on board of our vessel. He told me that he came in behalf of their master, named Darache, and his companions, to obtain assurance from me that I would do them no harm, when our vessel entered the harbor.

I replied that I could not give any until I had seen Pont Gravé. The Basque said that, if I had need of any thing in their power, they would assist me accordingly. What led them to use this language was simply their recognition of having done wrong, as they confessed, and the fear that they would not be permitted to engage in the whale-fishery. After talking at length, I went ashore to see Pont Gravé, in order to deliberate as to what was to be done. I found him very ill. He related to me in detail all that had happened. We concluded that we could only enter the harbor by force, and that the settlement must not be given up for this year, so that we considered it best, in order not to make a bad cause out of a just one, and thus work our ruin, to give them assurances on my part so long as I should remain there, and that Pont Gravé should undertake nothing against them, but that justice should be done in France, and their differences should be settled there.

Darache, master of the vessel, begged me to go on board, where he gave me a cordial reception. After a long conference, I secured an agreement between Pont Gravé and him, and required him to promise that he would undertake nothing against Pont Gravé, or what would be prejudicial to the King and Sieur de Monts; that, if he did the contrary, I should regard my promise as null and void. This was agreed to, and signed by each.

In this place were a number of savages who had come for traffic in furs, several of whom came to our vessel with their canoes, which are from eight to nine paces long, and about a pace or pace and a half broad in the middle, growing narrower towards the two ends. They are very apt to turn over, in case one does not understand managing them, and are made of birch bark, strengthened on the inside by little ribs of white cedar, very neatly arranged; they are so light that a man can easily carry one. Each can carry a weight equal to that of a pipe. When they want to go overland to a river where they have business, they carry them with them. From Choüacoet along the coast as far as the harbor of Tadoussac, they are all alike.


283. Champlain arrived on the shores of America on the 8th of May, 1604, and left on the 3rd of September, 1607. He had consequently been on our coast three years, three months, and twenty-five days.

284. _The late King Henry the Great_. Henry IV. died in 1610, and this introductory passage was obviously written after that event, probably near the time of the publication of his voyages in 1613.

285. In the preliminary voyage of 1603, Champlain ascended the St. Lawrence as far as the falls of St. Louis, above Montreal.

286. The contribution by Henry IV. did not probably extend beyond the monopoly of the fur-trade granted by him in this commission.

287. This, we presume, was the act abrogating the charter of De Monts granted in 1603.

288. This cape still retains its ancient name, and is situated between St. Mary's Bay and Placentia Bay.

289. Cape St. Lawrence is the northernmost extremity of the Island of Cape Breton, and the Island of St. Paul is twenty miles north-east of it.

290. The Isle Percée, or pierced island, is a short distance north of the Island of Bonaventure, at the entrance of Mal Bay, near the village of Percée, where there is a government light. Gaspé Bay is some miles farther north. "Below the bay," says Charlevoix, "we perceive a kind of island, which is only a steep rock about thirty fathoms long, ten high, and four in breadth: it looks like part of an old wall, and they say it joined formerly to _Mount Ioli_, which is over against it on the continent. This rock has in the midst of it an opening like an arch, under which a boat of Biscay may pass with its sail up, and this has given it the name of the _pierced island_."--_Letters to the Duchess of Lesdiguières_, by Francis Xavier de Charlevoix, London, 1763, p. 12.

291. The position in the roadstead was south-east of the harbor, so that the harbor was seen on the north-west. Charlevoix calls it Moulin Baude. The reader will find the position indicated by the letter M on Champlain's map of the Port of Tadoussac. Baude Moulin (Baude Mill), directly north of it, was probably a mill _privilege_. Charlevoix, in 1720, anchored there, and asked them to show him the mill; and they showed him some rocks, from which issued a stream of clear water. He adds, they might build a water-mill here, but probably it will never be done.

292. _Pointe de tous les Diables_. Now known as Pointe aux Vaches, _cows_. The point on the other side of the river is still called Pointe aux Alouettes, or Lark Point.

This is the conclusion of Volume II, Part XVIII, Chapter 1 of Voyages
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Part XIX, 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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