When his career in Canada began in 1603, on a voyage up the St Lawrence with François Gravé Du Pont, he still had no official position. He published an account of this voyage, the first detailed description of the St Lawrence since Jacques CARTIER'S explorations. By this time the Algonquins had taken over the area from the Iroquoians, but nothing in this account suggested a program of colonization at any place in the valley.
In 1604 Champlain sailed to Acadia with the Sieur de MONTS, who planned to establish a French colony there. Champlain had no position of command at either of the Acadian settlements at Ste-Croix or PORT-ROYAL (Annapolis Royal, NS). As a cartographer, he was given responsibility for investigating the coast in search of an ideal location for settlement. Twice, in 1605 and 1606, he explored the coastline of what is now New England, going as far south as Cape Cod. Still the leaders of Acadia chose no location. Finally deciding on the St Lawrence instead, de Monts in 1608 sent Champlain to establish a settlement at QUÉBEC, where the fur trade with native peoples in the interior could be controlled more easily.
Champlain established and developed a vast trade network by forming alliances with the Montagnais of the St Lawrence, the nations on the Ottawa River and the Hurons of the Great Lakes. This system obliged him to support his allies in their traditional wars against the IROQUOIS, whose territory was to the south of Lake Ontario; he participated in military campaigns (one in 1609 on Lake Champlain and one in 1615 in Iroquois territory); he spent the winter of 1615-16 in HURONIA. On one journey into the interior in 1613 he lost his astrolabe, yet was still able to produce accurate readings and maps. The astrolabe was discovered in 1867 and acquired in 1989 by the Department of Communications for the Canadian Museum of Civilization from a museum in New York.
Despite opposition from the various merchant companies that employed him and found it more profitable to be involved only in the fur trade, Champlain vowed to make Québec the centre of a powerful colony. In a 1618 report, he outlined its commercial, industrial and agricultural opportunities. His dream seemed about to come true in 1627 when the COMPAGNIE DES CENTS-ASSOCIÉS was founded. But then war broke out and Québec was taken by the KIRKE brothers and occupied by the English 1629-32.
Appointed governor by Cardinal Richelieu, Champlain returned in 1633 to Québec, where he had time to see the promising beginnings of the colony he had planned. Paralyzed in the fall of 1635, he died the following Dec. His remains, buried under the Champlain chapel which adjoined Notre-Dame-de-la-Recouvrance, may today lie under Notre- Dame-de-Québec, though they have not been identified. In 1610 he had married a young Protestant woman, Hélène Boullé, who was not yet 12 years old but who brought him a useful dowry. This marriage was to prove disappointing for Champlain. His young wife deserted him, returned reluctantly and was not with him in Canada except 1620-24.
Champlain left behind a considerable body of writing, largely relating to his voyages. The most important editions of his work are the ones prepared by C.H. Laverdière (1870) and the bilingual edition of H.P. BIGGAR (The Works of Samuel de Champlain, 1922-36). Champlain's works are the only account of the Laurentian colony during the first quarter of the 17th century. As a geographer and "artist" (as a factum states), he illustrated his accounts with numerous maps, of which the most important and the last was that of 1632. It includes a list of place names not found on the map as well as unpublished explanations and it presents everything known about North America at that time.
Author MARCEL TRUDEL
Links to Other Sites
Allan Gregg: David Hackett Fischer on Samuel de Champlain
View Allan Gregg's interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian David Hackett about his new book, "Champlain's Dream", which is devoted to explorer Samuel de Champlain. From TVO.
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
This extensive Canadian Museum of Civilization resource details the exploits of Canada’s early explorers from the 16th to the 18th century. With many maps and illustrations.
Living in Canada in the Time of Champlain
This website documents Samuel de Champlain’s role in the exploration and development of New France. Includes maps, artifacts, and related notes about Pierre Du Gua de Monts. Part of the Virtual Museum of New France.
Champlain: Travels in the Canadian Francophonie
An interactive website about the the places and people Samuel de Champlain encountered in his exploration of the new world. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site
This Parks Canada site is dedicated to the Fortifications of Québec City. Includes nicely illustrated historical notes about the French and British contributions to the fortifications.
Fort Chambly National Historic Site of Canada
The website for the Fort Chambly National Historic Site of Canada. Features a history of the region with references to Samuel de Champlain, New France, the fur trade, the Seven Years' War, and related topics.
Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada
This national historic site features a reconstruction of early 17th- century buildings representing the former colony of the French who settled for a time along the Nova Scotia coast. Costumed interpreters and period demonstrations help recreate the look and feel of Port-Royal, one of the earliest settlements in North America. A Parks Canada website.
New France, New Horizons
An informative and entertaining multimedia website about the founding and development of New France. Features abundant illustrations, documents and multimedia clips. A Canada/France collaboration.
Indepth: Champlain Anniversary
This CBC site chronicles Samuel de Champlain's adventures in North America during the early part of the 17th century.
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
Learn about Saint Croix Island and the remarkable story of the early French settlements in North America. Includes maps and other historic documents. From Parks Canada.
Search The Champlain Society digital collection for full text documents about Canadian history. Features first-hand accounts of Samuel de Champlain's voyages in New France and much more.
Champlain in Acadia
Explore 200 years of tumultuous Acadian history, from the time of Samuel de Champlain to the deportation of the Acadians in the 18th century. Features colourful illustrations, maps and videos. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall
"Face to Face" features outstanding Canadians whose ideas and contributions have transformed this country. Click on the photos in "Meet the Personalities" to see their biographies. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Québec Fortified City: Geological and Historical Heritage
A well-illustrated Geological and Historical Heritage Fieldtrip Guidebook for the fortified City of Québec. See the glossary at the end of this document for a definition of key geological terms. From Natural Resources Canada.