Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE EARLY DISCOVERERS
 CANADA, which is now bounded by the Atlantic on the east and the Pacific on the west, was at one time a small province
on the St. Lawrence, the name as used by the Indians meaning nothing more than a village.
The history of Canada begins with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, though there are
stories that, as long ago as A.D. 1000, the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia were discovered by Norsemen
who went exploring from their homes in Greenland. There are two old sagas, or songs, of the Icelanders, which
tell of the heroic deeds of these Norsemen, but their adventures belong to the days of legend. Real history
does not begin until Columbus opened to Europe the way to the West.
While Spain, through Columbus, was getting rich
 with the wealth of the West Indies and Central America, England turned her attention to the north of the
wonderful New World that had just been discovered. She was the first to set foot in Canada, little dreaming
that it would in after-centuries become such an important part of the British Empire. John Cabot, an Italian
sailor from Venice, appealed to Henry VII. of England for permission to discover some of the unknown lands in
his name. Cabot had appealed first to the Kings of Spain and of Portugal, but these monarchs had been too much
occupied with the lands they had already discovered to give him any support. Henry VII. was anxious to obtain
a share in the wealth and honour which were being showered upon Spain and Portugal, so he willingly granted a
patent to the bold sailor and his son Sebastian. But, being both cautious and mean, he gave them nothing else.
They were to provide the whole cost of the expedition themselves.
The Cabots set sail from Bristol in the spring of 1497, and discovered Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador.
The next year they started off again, and travelled all down the coast from the bleak shores of Labrador to
South Carolina, finding an open sea in the North which they hoped would lead to Cathay and the spice islands
of the East. These spice islands were the great attraction for all the adventurous spirits of the sixteenth
 were fired with the desire to find a new and quicker way to the wealth of India and China, instead of the long
and dangerous journey round Africa. All classes of people shared their enthusiasm. Kings were eager for new
lands to be added to their dominions, merchants for new openings for trade, sailors for the joy of discovery,
and priests for more souls to be won for Christianity.
England did not follow up the discoveries of the Cabots, and until quite the end of the sixteenth century, did
not trouble to find out more of the North American continent. Her bold sailors spent their energies sailing
round the world, pushing into the Arctic, or fighting Spain among the beautiful islands of the West Indies
which Spain claimed as her own. But in the meantime other countries had been sending out navigators to find
out more of the northern continent. Spain was entirely occupied over her possessions in Central and South
America, finding it work enough to keep her hold upon these. But Portugal, thinking if others were looking for
a better way to her spice islands in the East, she should be the first to discover it, sent Cortereal, who
made his way to Labrador and Newfoundland in the year 1500.
France was slower than her more energetic rivals in Europe in discovering the great importance of the New
World. But when Francis I. came to the throne in 1515, he began to realize the wealth and
 importance that Spain had gained by her vast new possessions. In a letter written by him to his life-long
enemy, the Emperor Charles V., who was also King of Spain, he said he was not aware that "our first father
Adam had made the Spanish and Portuguese Kings his sole heirs to the earth." During the first quarter of the
sixteenth century three voyages were made by French navigators to the region of Canada, but it was not until
1534 that the first great effort was made which gave France a new empire which she was to hold for over two
A daring Breton sailor, Jacques Cartier, left the port of St. Malo in Brittany in the spring of 1534, keen to
add land and glory to France in the New World. He was in the prime of life, a man of good family, and of a
courageous temperament, well suited to the difficult task he had undertaken. He was aided by influence at
Court, where a young nobleman, Philippe de Brion-Chabot, brought his schemes to the notice of King Francis.
Cartier and his crew of 120 men, in two small ships, had an easy voyage across the Atlantic, reaching
Newfoundland on May 10. They sailed through the Straits of Belle Isle on the north of the island, separating
it from Labrador, and came out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After skirting the islands in the Gulf, Cartier
directed his little vessels along the coast of New Brunswick, where he and his men were delighted with the
wonderful beauty of the shore.
 They passed the mouths of many rivers, down to whose banks came forests of maple and pine, and meadows rich
with wild flowers. Travelling to the north the voyagers reached a promontory, which they named Gaspe. Here
Cartier erected upon the shore a huge cross, thirty feet high; to it was affixed a shield, bearing the arms of
France. At this point, Cartier was at the mouth of the great river of Canada, the St. Lawrence, but he was not
aware of it. As the season was advanced he determined to return home at once. He repaid the Indians, who had
been trustful and friendly, with base ingratitude, for he captured two of them and took them with him to
Cartier reached St. Malo at the beginning of September and was welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm. The
spirit of adventure, of curiosity, of lust for wealth, and of ardent religious zeal, so marked in the
sixteenth century, excited the whole nation, and a new expedition was speedily got ready. This time Cartier
was accompanied not merely by brave Breton sailors, but numbered among his company members of some of the
greatest families of France.
JACQUES CARTIER (1491-1557), DISCOVERER OF THE ST. LAWRENCE.
On his second expedition to the New World, in
 the following spring, Cartier did not have such a successful voyage across the Atlantic. Severe storms drove
his three little ships apart, so that the summer was well advanced before they met again at the Straits of
Belle Isle. Cartier, after leaving the straits, kept along the north coast, naming a bay after St. Lawrence,
on whose festal day it was discovered. The name was afterwards given to the whole gulf, and to the river which
empties its vast waters into it. On this occasion Cartier did not turn his back upon the great river, but
sailed up it, he and his companions gazing with wonder at its huge cliffs, and the awesome darkness of its
tributary, the Saguenay. Upon its waters the Frenchmen were met by Indians, who gathered round them in their
light canoes, made of yellow birch-bark. Leaving the Saguenay to be explored later, Cartier continued up the
main stream, passing islands rich in vegetation, till he came to one which he called the Isle of Bacchus,
owing to the masses of wild vines that they found upon it. It has since then been renamed the Ile d'Orleans.
They were soon surrounded by Indians, who came up in their noiseless canoes, but who proved to be quite
friendly. Just beyond the island, near which Cartier had anchored, the river narrowed, running between
precipitous rocks and forming a basin. Towering above it on the northern side was a great shoulder of rock,
the famous promontory, crowned to-day by the city
 of Quebec. A native village, called Stadacona, clustered on the summit of the rock, round which a lazy stream
wound its way to the main river. Donnacona, the chief of the Indians, welcomed the strangers, but tried to
hinder their progress up the river by persuasion and argument, and, finally, by terrible stories of the
disasters that would befall them if they ventured farther. Cartier only laughed, and persisted in his journey,
leaving his two larger vessels behind and going on in the smallest, accompanied by several boats. He pushed on
up the beautiful river until he reached a fertile island rising into a wooded mountain. Under the shelter of
this height was the large Indian village of Hochelaga, surrounded by high palisades, and containing fifty long
bark-covered houses. Cartier and his men were received with great joy, the Indians regarding the strange white
men as wonderful, if not divine. Sick people were brought to them to be cured, and were made happy by being
merely touched. After distributing little presents among the Indians, Cartier got some of them to guide him to
the top of the mountain, from which he gazed far over the surrounding country, all covered with forest, just
beginning to blaze with the beautiful colours of autumn. He named the mountain Mount Royal, a name which now
includes the site of stately Montreal, which stands where the palisaded town of Hochelaga once stood.
 As winter was approaching Cartier went back to Stadacona and built a little fort underneath the cliff of
Quebec, where they were to wait till the spring returned. Cartier did not anticipate a very severe winter, so
that when the terrible snow-storms swept over them, he and his men suffered terrible hardships. Illness broke
out among them, and nearly a quarter of the small company died, the rest becoming so feeble that Cartier was
afraid the Indians might set upon them if they knew how weak they had become. He therefore ordered all who
were well enough to make as much noise as possible, and to hammer on the walls, so that the savages might
think them very active. The Indians, however, were themselves suffering from scurvy, the same illness that had
attacked the Frenchmen, and were not capable of any fighting. One of them eventually told Cartier of a
medicine made from an evergreen, which soon cured his men. Directly spring returned Cartier set sail for
France, taking with him by force the kind chief Donnacona and four other chiefs, to tell of their wonderful
country to the people of France. He told the Indians of Stadacona that the chiefs were anxious to go with him
to see the country from which he had come.
JACQUES CARTIER'S ARRIVAL IN THE ST. LAWRENCE.
Having returned safely to St. Maio in June, 1536, Cartier does not seem to have been anxious to re-visit the
St. Lawrence, after the experiences of the winter. Besides, the chiefs whom he had so
deceit-  fully carried away with him, had all died far away from their home and kindred. As for King Francis, he was
too busy with wars in Europe to think of Canada. But when peace came his mind turned once more to plans of
conquest in the New World, and a new expedition was fitted out. This time a settlement was to be made, the
beginning of a colony from which the heathen should be converted. A French nobleman, De Roberval, was
appointed Governor of Canada, and Cartier was given the post of Captain-General under him.
Cartier started on his third voyage to Canada in May, 1541. He had with him five ships, containing many
intending colonists, and carrying implements and all that was necessary for founding a colony. De Roberval,
who was to follow him at once, did not turn up at Newfoundland, the meeting-place agreed upon, and, after
waiting some time, Cartier went on without him. When he reached Stadacona he told the Indians that Donnacona
was dead, but that the other chiefs were too happy in France to return. Finding that the Indians, though still
outwardly friendly, had begun to suspect and hate him, Cartier did not venture to take up his old quarters at
Stadacona, but went farther up the river to Cap Rouge, where he started building a fort and preparing for a
permanent settlement. The winter which followed was not a severe one, but in the spring, as De Roberval had
not appeared, Cartier put all the
 colonists on board ship and prepared to return to France. At Newfoundland he discovered De Roberval and his
ships, who had arrived just a year late. Cartier pretended to agree to the command of the Governor that he
should turn back to the St. Lawrence, but in the night he went off secretly and got back to France safely.
After this he undertook no more adventurous voyages, but led a life of ease and comfort in his native land.
De Roberval, in the meantime, persisted in his attempt to found a colony on the spot selected by Cartier, who
had called it Charlesbourg Royal. The colonists set to work to parcel out the land and sow crops, and all went
well under the Governor's stern rule until the winter came, when it was found that there were not enough
provisions to last till the spring. Many died, and when the long winter was over De Roberval sailed, with all
that were left, back to France, where he had to confess a miserable tale of failure.
After this, France forgot Canada for half a century. She was busy with religious wars at home, and her only
connection with the New World lay in the daring fishermen from the Bay of Biscay, who ventured across the
Atlantic to engage in the cod-fisheries of Newfoundland.
SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT REFUSES TO LEAVE HIS SINKING SHIP.
At the latter end of the century, England sent out an expedition under Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the half-brother
of Sir Walter Raleigh, to start a
settle-  ment in Newfoundland, which holds the proud position of being England's oldest colony. Gilbert was given a
charter granting him an enormous tract of land, and on arriving at the island in August, 158 3, he took
possession in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Though it had a good start the colony was not a success, because
the colonists were more anxious to search for silver than to plant crops. With winter and scarce food they
began to get afraid, and so forced Gilbert to sail for home. He was in the smallest vessel of his fleet, the
Squirrel, a tiny boat of only ten ton's burden, when, out in the Atlantic a terrific storm arose. But
he refused to leave his tiny craft, saying to his men before the ship went down: "Cheer up, lads; we are as
near heaven by sea as by land."