Samuel De Champlain, a French navigator, founder of Quebec and first governor of New France, born at Brouage, in Saintonge, in 1567, died Dec. 25, 1635. He was of a family long connected with the sea as fishers and mariners, his father being a ship captain. He evidently received a careful education as a navigator, but early in life entered the army and rose to the rank of quartermaster of cavalry in the army of Brittany against the league. His uncle was pilot general of the fleets of the Spanish king, and as such conducted back to Spain the troops who had served in France. Champlain went with him, and took command of the St. Julien, which sailed in January, 1590, for Mexico, as one of a Spanish fleet, returning to Spain in March, 1601. Of his voyage he drew up a faithful report, with views and charts. This Bref discours was printed for the first time at Quebec in 1870, although a translation had appeared in the publications of the Hakluyt society. On his return he received a pension from Henry IV., and was urged by the commander De Chaste, governor of Dieppe, to explore and prepare to found a colony in territories in North America which had been granted to him by the king.
He accordingly sailed March 15, 1603, in the ship of Pontgrave, an experienced navigator of St. Malo. They anchored at Tadoussac, where the Saguenay enters the St. Lawrence, May 24. He then, with Pontgrave and a few men, ran up the river in a light boat till they were stopped by the sault St. Louis rapids above Montreal. He then returned to Tadoussac, carefully examining both shores of the river. While the Indian trade was going on, he explored the river St. Lawrence down to Gaspe, preparing a map, and collecting information as to mines said to exist in Acadia. He then returned to France, where in 1603 appeared his first volume, Des sauvages, giving an account of his exploration. His patron, the commander De Chaste, had died meanwhile, and his privileges had been transferred to Du Guay, sieur de Monts. Champlain was too important to be overlooked. De Monts made an engagement with him, and resolving to form a settlement in Acadia, they sailed together, and reached Sable island May 1, 1604. They then ran along the coast of Nova Scotia, and finally began a settlement on the island of St. Croix, in a river of the same name, between what is now Maine and New Brunswick. Finding it inconvenient, after wintering there they removed to Port Royal, near the present Annapolis. During the years 1604-'6 Champlain explored the coast as far as Cape Cod, making careful surveys and maps.
In 1607 he returned to France. Having suggested to De Monts the greater security of a post on the St. Lawrence, and its greater importance from its commanding the trade of a large inland territory he was sent out in 1608 with Pontgrave. After reaching Tadoussac he ran up the St. Lawrence, and arriving on July 3 at the place called Quebec, or the Narrows, by the Algon-quins, he decided to make the settlement there. They had scarcely begun to clear the ground and build when a plot was formed by five wretches to assassinate Champlain and escape to a foreign ship at Tadoussac. This was happily thwarted, and the ringleader punished on the spot. In 1609 Champlain, who had gained the good will of the Montagnais on the St. Lawrence, joined them in an expedition against the Iroquois. A party of Algonquins and IIu-rons met them, and the combined force ascended the Sorel river to the Chambly rapids. Here Champlain sent back his boat and crew, and proceeding on in a canoe, entered and named Lake Champlain. Meeting a large Iroquois force on the lake, both parties landed and threw up bulwarks of trees. They engaged next day, and Champlain, killing two Iroquois chiefs and mortally wounding another with his arquebuse, decided the day.
The Iroquois tied, and were pursued by the allies, who killed and took many. By this step Canada became a party to the Iroquois war, which lasted with occasional intermissions till the end of the French rule. In September Champlain returned to France, leaving Pierre Chavin of Dieppe in command at Quebec. De Monts had lost some of his privileges, but not his zeal for exploring America. Champlain sailed back in March, 1610, with a number of mechanics. The Montagnais again called for his aid, which he gave, to obtain their cooperation in his explorations. An Iroquois force on the Sorel was attacked and their fort stormed, Champlain receiving a severe wound in the action. Hastening back to France again in 1011, he left I)u Pare in his place, and married Helen Boulle, a girl of 12, who was then a Protestant, but who outlived him to die as an Ursu-line nun. He made a short visit to Canada, but returned to France to labor for it there. De Monts had lost his influence, the merchants interested had grown tired of the expense, and the whole scheme of colonization was about to be abandoned.
Champlain induced the count de Soissons to take the matter in hand, and that nobleman obtained a commission appointing him governor and lieutenant general of New France, Oct. 8, 1612. Champlain was appointed his lieutenant a week later, and received the same position under the prince de Conde, who shortly after succeeded to the rights of De Soissons. He sent over some vessels, but in 1613 sailed himself to explore the Ottawa, which one Vignau pretended to have ascended to a lake, and thence to the North sea, where he had seen the wreck of an English ship. He left St. Helen's island, near Montreal, so called in honor of his child wife, May 27, 1013; but on entering the Ottawa he soon discovered Vignau's fraud. Champlain however arranged better terms for the fur trade, and returning to France formed a trading company, and in 1015 brought over Pere Denis Jamay and two other Recollect priests, with a lay brother, to attend to the spiritual concerns of the new colony. One of these, Pere Caron, immediately set out for the country of the Hurons on Georgian bay. Champlain followed by the tedious Ottawa route, and taking command of a force entered the present New York territory to attack the palisaded town of the Entouohonoron, members or allies of the Iroquois league.
Owing to the insubordination of his Hurons he was repulsed in his assault, and received two wounds in the knee and leg. He was carried back to their town, and on his recovery visited the Tionontates and Ottawas, and in the spring returned to Quebec and France. For some years Canada languished, and Champlain was actively engaged on both sides of the Atlantic to save it from utter extinction. When the duke de Montmorency succeeded Conde in 1620, Champlain grew more sanguine, and brought over his young wife, who remained till 1624, often experiencing great hardship. The De Caens, merchants, had now acquired the trade; Quebec was fortified and began actually to increase, when the duke de Ventadour in 1025 acquired the viceroyalty, and went energetically to work to build up Canada, and sent over the first Jesuit missionaries to aid the Recollects in winning the natives to Christianity. A new danger menaced the struggling colony. In July, 1028, an English fleet under David Kirk and his two brothers, born in France though of English origin, summoned Champlain to surrender Quebec. His answer was so bold that Kirk retired after committing some depredations. The Canada company, formed by Cardinal Richelieu, had just sent out settlers and provisions.
On these Champlain depended, but Kirk intercepted and captured the fleet; and Champlain, alter wintering at Quebec in great distress, surrendered to Louis and Thomas Kirk July 19, 102!). He was nearly recaptured on his way down the St. Lawrence by Emery de Caen, but was carried to England, and subjected to some harsh treatment. By the treaty of St. Ger-main-en-Laye, concluded in 10:32, Canada was restored; and Champlain, reinstated as governor, sailed from Dieppe in 1633, with three vessels, well equipped. He was welcomed by the settlers and the Indians. The Jesuit missionaries resumed their labors among the Indians, while he did all in his power to develop the colony and strengthen it against future attack, establishing a post on Richelieu island, and founding Three Rivers. He did not long survive, dying two years after his arrival, and leaving Bras de Fer de Chateaufort to direct the colony till the arrival of a new governor. - Champlain, apart from his merits as a discoverer, was a noteworthy man. His zeal for the propagation of Christianity was great. A saying of his is preserved, that the salvation of one soul is of more importance than the founding of a new empire.
While in Canada he devoted himself wholly to the duties of his position, and apparently with a single eye to benefit his patrons. Although traffic with the Indians was very lucrative, he never engaged in it. His views of justice were stern and upright, yet tempered with mercy. He has been accused of credulity in repeating the stories told him by the Indians, but he does not express his own belief in them. Besides the volume Dea sauvages, in 1003, he published Voyages in 1613, with very valuable charts of the New England coast; Voyages, Kill) (reprinted 1027); and in 1632 a volume containing a very badly executed abridgment of the previous voyages', without their valuable maps, and a continuation from 1619. The volume contains also a catechism in Huron, and prayers in Montagnais. Some copies bear date 1640. It was reprinted at Paris in 1830, without maps. As scholars required all the voyages to know what Champlain really wrote, two clergymen of Quebec, the abbes Laverdiere and Casgrain, well known for their historical studies, in 1870 published the whole series, including his Mexican voyage, in 0 vols. 4to, with notes and facsimiles of all the maps and illustrations.
There is also in the Mercure Frangais, vol. xix., his account, apparently, of the voyage of 1033.