Imatges de pàgina

no less than by Portuguese, Spanish, Breton, Basque and Norman fishermen. Fierce strife reigned as a normal condition of affairs between the various fishing fleets. Probably no one particular bone of international contention has maintained its character unimpaired for so many centuries as that of the Newfoundland fisheries. They enter history in an atmosphere of broil and disturbance, and for centuries they have proved a fruitful source of discord to all the nations concerned. Treaty after treaty has dealt with the subject, but to this hour they remain a very difficult element in the threefold relations of England, Canada, and the United States.

To the Newfoundland fisheries, therefore, we must look for the causes which encouraged and stimulated the American voyages of the sixteenth century. The yearly cruises of the fishing vessels, the tales of strange lands brought back by the hardy mariners, created an atmosphere which, especially in England, harmonised well with the new temper of the people. The Reformation was abroad, and the strong religious and political feeling of Elizabeth's age caught and reflected the enthusiasm of the merchant adventurers. The struggle against Rome involved the struggle against Spain, her handmaid, and Spain was at that moment incomparably the most wealthy and prosperous of American Powers. The harassing of Spanish Catholic colonies was, therefore, an obvious policy for a Protestant maritime nation whose very existence was at stake. Hence the increasing preoccupation of England with the New World as her maritime power and her national consciousness soared into being together. But, thanks to the struggle with Spain, the thoughts of England were diverted during the Elizabethan age far from the shores of New England and Canada, to the West Indies and southern portions of the continent, where Philip and his viceroys held sway. France, accordingly, with whom the real struggle for supremacy finally was to be waged in the New World, established herself quietly on the shores of the St. Lawrence without opposition of any kind.

France had entered the field of exploration with the voyage of Verrazano in 1524. Francis the First was in no way minded that his country should be wholly passed over in the race for the New World. Brilliant, dissolute, fickle, proof against the promptings of that spirit of British respectability which possibly may have inspired Henry the Eighth’s spasmodic and unsatisfactory ventures in holy matri- : mony, Francis the First was, nevertheless, a true patron of art and letters

, and his Court was a centre of learning and culture in Europe. His lifelong enmity with Charles the Fifth turned his thoughts to the New World, whence the Spanish monarch was deriving so much of wealth and prestige. "God,' so the King declared caustically, ‘had not created America for Castilians alone,' a judgment which history has fully ratified. Verrazano, therefore, on behalf of Francis the First, went forth to confound the Emperor by the discovery of the North

West Passage, and his exploration of the American seaboard added much to the geographical knowledge of the day. Verrazano was eager to follow up his first voyage, but the moment was thoroughly inauspicious. In 1524 Francis was involved in the humiliations and disasters of the Italian campaign, culminating in his defeat and capture at Pavia. Verrazano disappears from the scene during the confusion and exhaustion of this period, and ten years later the transatlantic enterprise is resumed by that first pioneer of France in the New World, to whom belongs the honour of the discovery of the St. Lawrence.

With Jacques Cartier the exploration of Canada assumes a definite aspect. Not even the greater fame of Champlain should obscure our admiration for this gallant Breton sailor, in whom courage, simplicity, and modesty united to form a character of a singularly attractive nature. From the beginning we find France sending forth two distinct classes of Canadian explorers : on the one hand, worthless courtiers, vain, idle, profligate, reared in the atmosphere of a corrupt Court, and proving a source of unmixed mischief to every expedition with which they were connected ; on the other, those sturdy sailors and adventurers who laid the foundations of New France, and live in history as admirable examples of all that courage and heroism can effect. Many high-born and gallant gentlemen, it is true, went forth in the service of France, and have left distinguished names in Canadian administration. But the professional courtier of the period is one of the most despicable types in history, and the interference of such men from first to last in Canadian affairs brought nothing but ruin and trouble on the struggling settlements.

Jacques Cartier was born at St. Malo in 1491. He was a navigator of tried experience when, in 1534, he set sail for Canada, holding a royal commission. As France began to recover from the exhaustion of the Italian wars, schemes of American exploration were pressed upon Francis the First by Philip de Chabot, Admiral of France, & high-spirited noble and an intimate companion of the king. De Chabot was fired with the idea of French colonies established in America as a counterpoise to the influence of Spain, and in Cartier he found a suitable agent for so great an enterprise. Cartier's first expedition to Canada, which was but a reconnoitring cruise, consisted of two small ships and a company of sixty-one men. Needless to say that, like his predecessors, the great prize on which the leader's hopes were set was the discovery of the North-West Passage. No previous navigator had more solid grounds than Cartier for believing that he had solved the mystery. Sailing to Newfoundland, he passed through the Straits of Belle Isle and made a complete circle of the St. Lawrence

gulf, landing on Gaspé, where he raised the Fleur-de-lis. Misled by Anticosti, he appears to have turned north without actually entering the river itself; but little wonder if his hopes ran high at the discovery of this great waterway to the west, obviously leading into the interior of the continent. The season was too far advanced to admit of further exploration, and Cartier, favoured by westerly winds, made a rapid journey back to France and laid his report before the Court. The scale of the second expedition proves the attention paid to his story by Philip de Chabot and the king.

Cartier's second voyage to Canada, in 1535, is the one with which his fame is principally concerned. First of all Europeans he pushed his way westwards from the lower waters of the Gulf along the actual stream of the St. Lawrence. Cartier's route is that practically traversed by the mail steamers of to-day, and it is one of the most interesting in the world. The St. Lawrence route is eminently the pathway to be followed by all pilgrims who journey for the first time to America. From the moment the Straits of Belle Isle are sighted the traveller is in touch with islands, lands and seas famed in story, and to which the roll-call of both French and British fame bears witness. Cabot, Frobisher, Humphrey Gilbert, Davis, Henry Hudson, are names which rise involuntarily to the memory as the eye rests to the right on the bleak coast of Labrador, and to the left on the famous French shore of Newfoundland. The great waterway itself is no less dignified by memories of the dauntless Frenchmen who won for France an empire in the West, memories Englishmen in these latter days are proud to incorporate with their own in the traditions of a joint people. Whoever has sailed past the peninsula of Gaspé, with its white houses and wooded hills, gazed on the sombre portals of the Saguenay, where the gulf yields place to the river proper, felt in the night the mysterious welcome of a new land as the St. Lawrence bears him right into the heart of an unknown continent, finally awoke at dawn to see the citadel of Quebec revealed by the morning light, has enriched his memories by one of the greatest experiences in travel. Cartier's second expedition, consisting of three ships, provisioned

more than a year, excited the keen hostility of the St. Malo merchants. Royal expeditions to Newfoundland waters were little to their mind, when royal rapacity, as they shrewdly guessed, might result in royal absorption of a lucrative private trade. Cartier, however, was not a man to be turned from his purpose by commercial intrigues, and with the King's commission at his back and de Chabot's support he bore down all obstacles. The expedition, fated to play so great a part in the destinies of France, sailed from St. Malo on the

Cartier with all his company had assembled first in the grey, weather-beaten cathedral to receive the Sacrament and the episcopal blessing. A devout Catholic, the simple faith of this brave sailor is an outstanding feature in his character, and one all the more refreshing in an age when religious fervour was generally allied with religious bigotry.

Cartier met with bad weather : his vessels were dispersed by violent

for a cruise lasting

19th of May 1535.

gales; but all three eventually reached the rendezvous off the Straits of Belle Isle. Cartier hugged the Labrador shores, and on the 10th of August ran for shelter against contrary winds to a land-locked harbour opposite Anticosti. It was the festival of St. Lawrence, and the name given by Cartier in honour of the day to his harbour of refuge gradually extended to both gulf and river. From two Indians met at Gaspé the previous year, who acted as guides and pilots to the present expedition, Cartier learnt that a great river, called the Hochelaga, led into the interior of the continent, and that three kingdoms '— tribal hunting-grounds were the better name-Saguenay, Canada and Hochelaga, lay along its banks. Canada is a Huron Iroquois word signifying town, and the Canada of Cartier's narrative was a district comprising an Indian village named Stadacona, on the site of Quebec, Hochelaga being situated where Montreal now stands. It will be seen in how haphazard a manner the Dominion has acquired its name and that of its great river. The generic word applied to the Indian encampment near Quebec, for some unknown reason, became extended over the whole country, in the same way as the Labrador harbour


its name to the St. Lawrence. Cartier sailed up the river to the Isle of Orleans, and Canada in the early days of September smiled her fairest at him. The beauty of the vegetation, the green meadows and lofty trees, all these things must have rejoiced the hearts of the wanderers as the great rock of Quebec finally came into view. Cartier decided to pass the winter at Quebec, and a camp and stockade were built on the St. Charles River, which falls into the St. Lawrence at this point. Friendly relations were established with the Indians and their chief Donnacona. The success of France in dealing with the aboriginal tribes of North America, and the humanity generally shown by her pioneers in all their relations with the natives, is a remarkable feature of French colonial history. It is to the eternal honour of France that she showed more sympathy towards these hapless races, and won their confidence and affection in a way which has no parallel among the other European colonists, the followers of Penn excepted. Cartier was anxious to pursue his explorations higher up the river and to visit what the Indians called the great town' of Hochelaga. On the 2nd of October his little company reached the Indian hamlet, now covered by the site of Montreal. The journey up the St. Lawrence had necessarily proved in a measure one of disillusion to Cartier, for on reaching fresh water his hopes of the North-West Passage, which had run high in the lower gulf, naturally were shattered. We find, how. ever, that the idea of the North-West Passage in a slightly changed form is at the root of all exploration for many years to come.

As little by little hope of a direct saltwater route to China was aban. doned, a navigable river flowing by an easy course to the western coast of America was sought after with no less diligence.

Cartier landed at Hochelaga, and was received by the Indians with that touching faith and confidence usually extended by the aboriginal tribes to the first advent of the white man. How shameful in most cases was the betrayal of that trust is an ugly page in the history of exploration, on which no European can care to dwell. France, at least in the first instance, is free from this reproach. Cartier visited the native town and was received as some semi-divine personage. The inhabitants crowded round him, entreating that he would touch their sick and suffering and so cure them of their ills. Religion was no matter of state obligation or superstitious observance in this Breton sailor, but the active principle of his life. Moved with infinite compassion for these poor people, he fell on his knees and prayed devoutly for their welfare, before reading aloud to them certain portions of Scripture. For the first time the great and mysterious words of the opening chapter of St. John's Gospel were heard on Canadian soil, and Cartier in his simple way went on to expound the Passion of the Saviour to the silent and attentive natives. 'It was a happy augury for the fair city of future years,' writes Mr. Dawson in the work to which reference has already been made, that the opening words of St. John's Gospel and the recital of the Passion of our Lord inaugurated its appearance on the field of history. Might it perchance be that some charm lingered on the slopes of Mount Royal and spread up the diverging streams of the great valley, for in all that land persecution has never reared its hateful head, and there are no arrears of religious violence and bloodshed in its history to be atoned for.'

Cartier, like all tourists who have succeeded him, ascended the mountain at the base of which was situated the Hochelaga of the sixteenth century and Montreal now stands. Montreal, like Quebec, is fortunate in its natural scenery. The view from the hill to which Cartier gave its name of 'Royal' is superb, ranging from the Laurentian mountains on the north to the Adirondacks to the south. A busy

scene of life and commerce now animates the banks of the stately river, but Cartier looked north, south, east and west on nothing but vast, illimitable forests, the desolate, impenetrable character of which not even the glorious colouring of a Canadian autumn could wholly dispel. Sixty years were to pass before Samuel de Champlain gazed from the same spot over the great wastes of the unknown exterior-sixty precious years lost to France owing to the devastating wars of religion in which the nation was now engulfed. Had Cartier's journey of exploration been followed up at the time (as he hoped) by a definite scheme of colonisation, the French would have established themselves in Canada nearly two generations ahead of the British in New England. What that advantage might have meant to France in the closely contested struggle for supremacy with Great Britain can only remain now as a conjecture of incal

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