American History

#OTD 1534: Jacques Cartier Sailed into St Lawrence River for the First Time In Search of Gold, Spices & Northern Passage to Asia


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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: June.09: 2023:

#AceNewsDesk – Today in History – French navigator Jacques Cartier sailed into the St. Lawrence River for the first time on June 9, 1534: Commissioned by King Francis I of France to explore the northern lands in search of gold, spices, and a northern passage to Asia, Cartier’s voyages underlay France’s claims to Canada.

Grande Hermine, (with cameos of Jacques Cartier & Francis I, King of France in margins). c1923. Prints & Photographs Division

Born in 1491 in the coastal village of Saint-Malo, France, Jacques Cartier was an experienced navigator familiar with the routes that Breton fishermen followed to the New World. In command of the king’s 1534 expedition, Cartier set sail from France on April 20, 1534, with two ships and sixty-one men.

Cartier and his men ventured north through the Belle Isle Straits and across the Bay of St. Lawrence to Prince Edward Island where they made contact with the Native Americans of that region, members of the Iroquois nation.

Cartier forced Native American guides to accompany him and headed northwest to Anticosti Island. After several days of sailing in that area, Cartier believed that he had discovered a new seaway to Asia’s riches, but he returned to France without confirmation.

On his second voyage in 1536, Cartier returned to the St. Lawrence River with additional ships and men and made his way upriver to an Indian village at present-day Quebec. In September, after a brief foray to the area around present-day Montreal, Cartier’s expedition arrived at the La Chine Rapids. When his Indian guides informed him of three additional stretches of rapids beyond La Chine, Cartier abandoned the push forward and returned to his base camp. Unprepared for the severe winter weather, many of his men died of malnutrition. Cartier set sail for France in May 1536.

Lachine Rapids, St. Lawrence River. [Quebec, Canada]. William Henry Jackson, photographer, [between 1890-1901]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Cartier made his third and final voyage to the New World in 1541.

The king named Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval commander of the colonizing expedition but Cartier, commander of his own ship, arrived in the Quebec region before Roberval. Poor relations with Native American tribes jeopardized attempts at settlement. Cartier again returned to France without venturing beyond the rapids, this time flouting Roberval’s orders to return to Quebec. Cartier never ventured to Canada again, but his detailed observations recorded in notes and maps aided subsequent French explorers and settlers who ventured to “New France.”

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