Colonization, 1562-1753

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Author: Samuel de Champlain  | Date: 1608

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The Founding of Quebec

HAVING returned to France after a stay of three years in New France, I proceeded to Sieur de Monts, and related to him the principal events of which I had been a witness since his departure, and gave him the map and plan of the most remarkable coasts and harbors there.

Some time afterward Sieur de Monts determined to continue his undertaking, and complete the exploration of the interior along the great river St. Lawrence, where I had been by order of the late King Henry the Great in the year 1603, for a distance of some hundred and eighty leagues, commencing in latitude 48° 40’, that is, at Gaspe’, at the entrance of the river, as far as the great fall, which is in latitude 45° and some minutes, where our exploration ended, and where boats could not pass as we then thought, since we had not made a careful examination of it as we have since done.

Now, after Sieur de Monts had conferred with me several times in regard to his purposes concerning the exploration, he resolved to continue so noble and meritorious an undertaking, notwithstanding the hardships and labors of the past. He honored me with his lieutenancy for the voyage; and, in order to carry out his purpose, he had two vessels equipped, one commanded by Pont Grave, who was commissioned to trade with the savages of the country and bring back the vessels, while I was to winter in the country….

I proceeded to Honfleur for embarkation, where I found the vessel of Pont Grave in readiness. He left port on the 5th of April. I did so on the 13th, arriving at the Grand Bank on the 15th of May, in latitude 45° 15’. On the 26th we sighted Cape St. Mary, in latitude 46° 45’, on the Island of Newfoundland. On the 27th of the month we sighted Cape St. Lawrence, on Cape Breton, and also the Island of St. Paul, distant eighty-three leagues from Cape St. Mary. On the 30th we sighted Isle Percee and Gaspe, in latitude 48° 40’, distant from Cape St. Lawrence from seventy to seventy-five leagues.

On the 3d of June we arrived before Tadoussac, distant from Gaspe’ from eighty to ninety leagues; and we anchored in the roadstead of Tadoussac, a league distant from the harbor, which latter is a kind of cove at the mouth of the river Saguenay, where the tide is very remarkable on account of its rapidity, and where there are sometimes violent winds, bringing severe cold.

I set out from Tadoussac the last day of the month to go to Quebec….

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, 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.

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 skillful 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 of 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….

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 Grave 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.

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 Grave 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.

After Pont Grave 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 charge of their duty; and that the Spaniards and Basques 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.

After all these occurrences, Pont Grave set out from Quebec to return to France with the three prisoners. After he had gone, all who remained conducted themselves correctly in the discharge of their duty.

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Chicago: Samuel de Champlain, "The Founding of Quebec," Colonization, 1562-1753 in America, Vol.2, Pp.82-89 Original Sources, accessed December 9, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1FHGJ51VNZRUI3R.

MLA: de Champlain, Samuel. "The Founding of Quebec." Colonization, 1562-1753, in America, Vol.2, Pp.82-89, Original Sources. 9 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1FHGJ51VNZRUI3R.

Harvard: de Champlain, S, 'The Founding of Quebec' in Colonization, 1562-1753. cited in , America, Vol.2, Pp.82-89. Original Sources, retrieved 9 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1FHGJ51VNZRUI3R.