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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XX, Chapter III
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 twentieth 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



From the Island of Orleans to Quebec the distance is a league. I arrived there on the 3d of July, when I searched for a place suitable for our settlement, but I could find none more convenient or better situated than the point of Quebec, so called by the savages, [309] which was covered with nut-trees. I at once employed a portion of our workmen in cutting them down, that we might construct our habitation there: one I set to sawing boards, another to making a cellar and digging ditches, another I sent to Tadoussac with the barque to get supplies. The first thing we made was the storehouse for keeping under cover our supplies, which was promptly accomplished through the zeal of all, and my attention to the work.

* * * * *



_The figures indicate the fathoms of water_.

_A_. The site where our habitation is built. [Note 1]
_B_. Cleared land where we sow wheat and other grain. [Note 2]
_C_. The gardens.[Note 3]
_D_. small brook coming from marshes. [Note 4]
_E_. River where Jacques Cartier passed the winter, which in his time he called St. Croix, and which name has been transferred to a place fifteen leagues above Quebec. [Note 5]
_F_. River of the marshes. [Note 6]
_G_. Place where was collected the grass for the animals brought here. [Note 7]
_H_. The grand fall of Montmorency, which descends from a height of more than twenty-five fathoms into the river. [Note 8]
_I_. The end of the Island of Orleans.
_L_. A very narrow point on the shore east of Quebec. [Note 9]
_M_. Roaring river which extends to the Etechemins.
_N_. The great river of St. Lawrence.
_O_. Lake in the roaring river.
_P_. Mountains in the interior; bay which I named New Biscay,
_q_. Lake of the great fall of Montmorency. [Note 10]
_R_. Bear Brook. [Note 11]
_S_. Brook du Gendre. [Note 12]
_T_. Meadows overflowed at every tide.
_V_. Mont du Gas, very high, situated on the bank of the river. [Note 13]
_X_. Swift brook, adapted to all kinds of mills.
_Y_. Gravelly shore where a quantity of diamonds are found somewhat better than those of Alanson.
_Z_. The Point of Diamonds.
_9_. Places where the savages often build their cabins. [Note 14]

NOTES. The following notes on Champlain's explanation of his map of Quebec are by the Abbé Laverdière, whose accurate knowledge of that city and its environs renders them especially valuable. They are given entire, with only slight modifications.

1. That is properly the point of Quebec, including what is at present enclosed by La Place, the street Notre Dame, and the river.

2. This first clearing must have been what was called later the Esplanade du Fort, or Grande Place, or perhaps both. The Grande Place became, in 1658, the fort of the Hurons: it was the space included between the Côte of the lower town and the Rue du Fort.

3. A little above the gardens, on the slope of the Côte du Saut au Matelot, a cross is seen, which seems to indicate that at that time the cemetery was where it is said to be when it is mentioned some years later for the first time.

4. According to the old plans of Quebec, these marshes were represented to be west of Mont Carmel, and at the foot of the glacis of the Citadel. The brook pulled eastward of the grounds of the Ursulines and Jésuites, followed for some distance the Rue de la Fabrique as far as the enclosure of the Hôtel Dieu, to the east of which it ran down the hill towards the foot of the Côte de la Canoterie.

5. The river St. Charles. The letter E does not indicate precisely the place where Jacques Quartier wintered, but only the mouth of the river.

6. Judging from the outlines of the shore, this brook, which came from the south-west, flowed into the harbor of the Palais, towards the western extremity of the Parc.

7. This is probably what was called later the barn of the Messieurs de la Compagnie, or simply La Grange, and appears to have been somewhere on the avenue of Mont Carmel.

8. The fall of Montmorency is forty fathoms or two hundred and forty French feet, or even more.

9. Hence it is seen that in 1613 this point had as yet no name. In 1629, Champlain calls it Cap de Lévis: it can accordingly be concluded that this point derives its name from that of the Duc de Ventadour, Henri de Lévis, and that it must have been so named between the years 1625 and 1627, the time when he was regent.

10. The Lake of the Snows is the source of the western branch of the Rivière du Saut.

11. La Rivière de Beauport, which is called likewise La Distillerie.

12. Called later Ruisseau de la Cabaneaux Taupiers. Rivière Chalisour, and finally Rivière des Fous, from the new insane asylum, by the site of which it now passes.

13. Height where is now situated the bastion of the Roi à la Citadelle. This name was given it, doubtless, in memory of M. de Monts, Pierre du Guast.

14. This figure appears not only at the Point du Cap Diamant, but also along the shore of Beauport, and at the end of the Island of Orleans.
* * * * *

Some days after my arrival at Quebec, a locksmith conspired against the service of the king. His plan was to put me to death, and, getting possession of our fort, to put it into the hands of the Basques or Spaniards, then at Tadoussac, beyond which vessels cannot go, from not having a knowledge of the route, nor of the banks and rocks on the way.

In order to execute his wretched plan, by which he hoped to make his fortune, he suborned four of the worst characters, as he supposed, telling them a thousand falsehoods, and presenting to them prospects of acquiring riches.

These four men, having been won over, all promised to act in such a manner as to gain the rest over to their side; so that, for the time being, I had no one with me in whom I could put confidence, which gave them still more hope of making their plan succeed: for four or five of my companions, in whom they knew that I put confidence, were on board of the barques, for the purpose of protecting the provisions and supplies necessary for our settlement.

In a word, they were so skilful in carrying out their intrigues with those who remained, that they were on the point of gaining all over to their cause, even my lackey, promising them many things which they could not have fulfilled.

Being now all agreed, they made daily different plans as to how they should put me to death, so as not to be accused of it, which they found to be a difficult thing. But the devil, blindfolding them all and taking away their reason and every possible difficulty, they determined to take me while unarmed, and strangle me; or to give a false alarm at night, and shoot me as I went out, in which manner they judged that they would accomplish their work sooner than otherwise. They made a mutual promise not to betray each other, on penalty that the first one who opened his mouth should be poniarded. They were to execute their plan in four days, before the arrival of our barques, otherwise they would have been unable to carry out their scheme.

On this very day, one of our barques arrived, with our pilot, Captain Testu, a very discreet man. After the barque was unloaded, and ready to return to Tadoussac, there came to him a locksmith, named Natel, an associate of Jean du Val, the head of the conspiracy, who told him that he had promised the rest to do just as they did; but that he did not in fact desire the execution of the plot, yet did not dare to make a disclosure in regard to it, from fear of being poniarded.

Antoine Natel made the pilot promise that he would make no disclosure in regard to what he should say, since, if his companions should discover it, they would put him to death. The pilot gave him his assurance in all particulars, and asked him to state the character of the plot which they wished to carry out. This Natel did at length, when the pilot said to him: "My friend, you have done well to disclose such a malicious design, and you show that you are an upright man, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But these things cannot be passed by without bringing them to the knowledge of Sieur de Champlain, that he may make provision against them; and I promise you that I will prevail upon him to pardon you and the rest. And I will at once," said the pilot, "go to him without exciting any suspicion; and do you go about your business, listening to all they may say, and not troubling yourself about the rest."

The pilot came at once to me, in a garden which I was having prepared, and said that he wished to speak to me in a private place, where we could be alone. I readily assented, and we went into the wood, where he related to me the whole affair. I asked who had told it to him. He begged me to pardon him who had made the disclosure, which I consented to do, although he ought to have addressed himself to me. He was afraid, he replied, that you would become angry, and harm him. I told him that I was able to govern myself better than that, in such a matter; and desired him to have the man come to me, that I might hear his statement. He went, and brought him all trembling with fear lest I should do him some harm. I reassured him, telling him not to be afraid; that he was in a place of safety, and that I should pardon him for all that he had done, together with the others, provided he would tell me in full the truth in regard to the whole matter, and the motive which had impelled them to it. "Nothing," he said, "had impelled them, except that they had imagined that, by giving up the place into the hands of the Basques or Spaniards, they might all become rich, and that they did not want to go back to France." He also related to me the remaining particulars in regard to their conspiracy.

After having heard and questioned him, I directed him to go about his work. Meanwhile, I ordered the pilot to bring up his shallop, which he did. Then I gave two bottles of wine to a young man, directing him to say to these four worthies, the leaders of the conspiracy, that it was a present of wine, which his friends at Tadoussac had given him, and that he wished to share it with them. This they did not decline, and at evening were on board the barque where he was to give them the entertainment. I lost no time in going there shortly after; and caused them to be seized, and held until the next day.

Then were my worthies astonished indeed. I at once had all get up, for it was about ten o'clock in the evening, and pardoned them all, on condition that they would disclose to me the truth in regard to all that had occurred; which they did, when I had them retire.

The next day I took the depositions of all, one after the other, in the presence of the pilot and sailors of the vessel, which I had put down in writing; and they were well pleased, as they said, since they had lived only in fear of each other, especially of the four knaves who had ensnared them. But now they lived in peace, satisfied, as they declared, with the treatment which they had received.

The same day I had six pairs of handcuffs made for the authors of the conspiracy: one for our surgeon, named Bonnerme, one for another, named La Taille, whom the four conspirators had accused, which, however, proved false, and consequently they were given their liberty.

This being done, I took my worthies to Tadoussac, begging Pont Gravé to do me the favor of guarding them, since I had as yet no secure place for keeping them, and as we were occupied in constructing our places of abode. Another object was to consult with him, and others on the ship, as to what should be done in the premises. We suggested that, after he had finished his work at Tadoussac, he should come to Quebec with the prisoners, where we should have them confronted with their witnesses, and, after giving them a hearing, order justice to be done according to the offence which they had committed.

I went back the next day to Quebec, to hasten the completion of our storehouse, so as to secure our provisions, which had been misused by all those scoundrels, who spared nothing, without reflecting how they could find more when these failed; for I could not obviate the difficulty until the storehouse should be completed and shut up.

Pont Gravé arrived some time after me, with the prisoners, which caused uneasiness to the workmen who remained, since they feared that I should pardon them, and that they would avenge themselves upon them for revealing their wicked design.

We had them brought face to face, and they affirmed before them all which they had stated in their depositions, the prisoners not denying it, but admitting that they had acted in a wicked manner, and should be punished, unless mercy might be exercised towards them; accursing, above all, Jean du Val, who had been trying to lead them into such a conspiracy from the time of their departure from France. Du Val knew not what to say, except that he deserved death, that all stated in the depositions was true, and that he begged for mercy upon himself and the others, who had given in their adherence to his pernicious purposes.

After Pont Gravé and I, the captain of the vessel, surgeon, mate, second mate, and other sailors, had heard their depositions and face to face statements, we adjudged that it would be enough to put to death Du Val, as the instigator of the conspiracy; and that he might serve as an example to those who remained, leading them to deport themselves correctly in future, in the discharge of their duty; and that the Spaniards and Basques, of whom there were large numbers in the country, might not glory in the event. We adjudged that the three others be condemned to be hung, but that they should be taken to France and put into the hands of Sieur de Monts, that such ample justice might be done them as he should recommend; that they should be sent with all the evidence and their sentence, as well as that of Jean du Val, who was strangled and hung at Quebec, and his head was put on the end of a pike, to be set up in the most conspicuous place on our fort.


309. Champlain here plainly means to say that the Indians call the narrow place in the river _Quebec_. For this meaning of the word, viz., narrowing of waters, in the Algonquin language, the authority is abundant. Laverdière quotes, as agreeing with him in this view, Bellenger, Ferland, and Lescarbot. "The narrowing of the river," says Charlevoix, "gave it the name of _Quebeio_ or _Quebec_, which in the _Algonquin_ language signifies _contraction_. The Abenaquis, whose language is a dialect of the Algonquin, call it Quelibec, which signifies something shut up."--_Charlevoix's Letters_, pp. 18, 19. Alfred Hawkins, in his "Historical Recollections of Quebec," regards the word of Norman origin, which he finds on a seal of the Duke of Suffolk, as early as 1420. The theory is ingenious: but it requires some other characteristic historical facts to challenge our belief. When Cartier visited Quebec, it was called by the natives Stadacone. --_Vide Cartier's Brief Récit_, 1545, D'Avezac ed., Paris, 1863, p. 14.

This is the conclusion of Volume II, Part XX, Chapter 3 of Voyages
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Part XXI Chapter 4

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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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