Jacques Cartier Biography

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About this sample


Words: 1485 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1485|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Life and Motives
  3. The Second Voyage and the Discovery of St. Lawrence River
  4. Challenges and Cartier's Third Voyage
  5. The Fateful Return and Legacy
  6. Conclusion


The exploration and colonization of North America in the 15th and 16th centuries marked a transformative period in history, with explorers from various European nations seeking to establish their foothold in the New World. One such explorer who played a pivotal role in the early discovery and exploration of Canada was Jacques Cartier (1491-1557). In this essay, we will delve into Cartier's three voyages to the New World, examining their motives, interactions with indigenous peoples, and the lasting impact of his discoveries on the development of Canada.

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Early Life and Motives

Jacques Cartier was born in St. Malo, France, just a year before Christopher Columbus's historic voyage to the Americas. This period of burgeoning exploration had a profound influence on Europe, igniting a fervor for discovery and conquest. Growing up in a coastal region where fishing and sailing were integral to daily life, Cartier developed an affinity for the sea and navigation. His expertise as a sailor and leader caught the attention of King Francis I, who granted him permission, financial support, and resources for an expedition to the New World.

In 1534, King Francis I dispatched Cartier on his first voyage to search for gold and precious metals. Cartier set sail with two ships and 61 men, reaching Newfoundland. During this voyage, he discovered numerous islands, naming them in honor of France, and came across a bay he called 'Chaleur Bay.' His interactions with the indigenous Micmac Indians proved significant, as Cartier engaged in diplomacy by firing cannons to display French power, leading to the exchange of animal pelts and gifts between the two parties. This diplomatic approach continued as Cartier encountered the Iroquoian tribe, building friendly relations through the exchange of goods.

On July 24, 1534, Cartier planted a wooden cross with French inscriptions and declared the Gaspe Peninsula in the name of King Francis I. He even convinced Chief Donnacona to allow his two sons to accompany him back to France, intending to impress the King with these 'savages' and help them learn the French language. During this interaction, Cartier learned that the natives referred to their village as 'kanata,' which would later become the name 'Canada.'

The Second Voyage and the Discovery of St. Lawrence River

Jacques Cartier's successful first voyage laid the foundation for further exploration. His return to France was met with enthusiasm for a second expedition, which was influenced by Admiral Philippe de Brion-Chabot, a companion of King Francis I. The King, eager to spread Christianity during the rise of Protestantism, entrusted Cartier, a devout Catholic, with this significant mission.

In 1535, Cartier embarked on his second voyage with three ships and over 100 men. This time, his journey was fraught with challenges, as they faced harsh weather conditions and storms that extended the voyage to nearly two months. Cartier's main objective was to find the village of Stadacona and establish a French presence in the New World. Along the way, he discovered the St. Lawrence River, one of his most significant findings.

Continuing his exploration, Cartier aimed to locate the village of Hochelaga based on the descriptions given by Chief Donnacona's sons. Despite the Chief's efforts to discourage him, Cartier pressed on and arrived at Hochelaga in 1535. The natives welcomed him with feasts and introduced him to tobacco, while Cartier introduced them to Christianity, a faith they readily accepted. During his visit, Cartier climbed Mont Real (Mount Royal/Montreal), recognizing its strategic significance, although he noted the impassable rapids at Lachine, which dampened his initial enthusiasm for settlement.

Challenges and Cartier's Third Voyage

Jacques Cartier's contributions to France's vision of North America were significant, but his desire for further exploration faced challenges. France was on the brink of war with Spain, leaving King Francis I with limited resources for Cartier's third voyage. Additionally, Admiral Brion-Chabot had fallen out of favor in the King's court, making it harder for Cartier to gain support. Fearing he might never return to the New World, Cartier embarked on a different path, becoming a privateer for four years, capturing enemy ships and engaging in fishing.

In October 1540, King Francis I finally granted Cartier permission for his third voyage to Newfoundland, albeit with a different role. Cartier was named captain-general under Jean-Francois de la Rocque (Sieur de Roberval). In May 1541, Cartier set sail with five ships, two years' worth of supplies, livestock, and priests for the conversion of Native Americans to Christianity. Roberval's delayed departure meant that Cartier was on his own for a year.

Cartier established a settlement called 'Charlesbourg Royal' at Cap Rouge, opting to avoid staying with the Iroquoians due to lingering tensions stemming from the kidnapping of ten natives and Chief Donnacona during his second voyage. However, rumors of planned native attacks persisted, resulting in frequent, albeit small, raids that claimed the lives of more than 30 of Cartier's men.

The Fateful Return and Legacy

In 1542, disease and extreme cold plagued Cartier's settlement. Facing these hardships, Cartier decided to abandon Charlesbourg Royal and return to France in June 1542. On their way back, they encountered Roberval's ships, and despite Cartier's protests, Roberval ordered him to return. In the end, Cartier defied Roberval's orders and sailed away with his ships under the cover of night.

Jacques Cartier's discoveries went beyond gold and precious stones. He found valuable natural resources, including animal skins that continued to be traded after his voyages. These resources contributed significantly to Europe's wealth and laid the groundwork for Canada's economic development. After Cartier's expeditions, French expeditions led to the colonization of eastern Canada, giving rise to 'New France,' which played a pivotal role in shaping Canada's history, language, and culture.


Jacques Cartier's voyages in the 16th century hold immense historical significance. His exploration and discoveries not only expanded European knowledge of the New World but also laid the foundation for the future colonization and development of Canada. Cartier's diplomatic approach with indigenous peoples, his navigational expertise, and his contributions to European knowledge about North America's natural resources all contribute to his lasting legacy.

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Today, Canada stands as a testament to the enduring impact of Cartier's voyages. Its vast territory, economic prominence, and cultural richness owe much to the early explorations of this intrepid French navigator. Jacques Cartier's legacy continues to shape the history and identity of Canada, making his expeditions a crucial chapter in the story of the North American continent.


  1. Delâge, D. (1993). The first French-Indian War: Cartier’s voyages to Canada (1534-1542). University of Toronto Press.
  2. Eccles, W. J. (1998). The Canadian frontier, 1534-1760. University of New Mexico Press.
  3. Trigger, B. G. (1976). The children of Aataentsic: A history of the Huron people to 1660. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP.
  4. Quinn, D. B. (1992). North America from earliest discovery to first settlements: The Norse voyages to 1612. Harper & Row.
  5. Bouchard, G., & Kennedy, J. (1999). Achieving the Quebec connections: Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage to Gaspe. American Anthropologist, 101(4), 727-742.
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Jacques Cartier Biography. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Jacques Cartier Biography.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
Jacques Cartier Biography. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Jacques Cartier Biography [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Mar 12 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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