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Document Number: AJ-027
Author: Cartier, Jacques, 1491-1557
Title: Shorte and Briefe Narration (Cartier's Second Voyage), 1535-1536
Source: Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 35-88.
Pages/Illustrations: 56 / 3 (tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-027/

Author Note

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was a Breton sailor who visited Brazil and may have accompanied Giovanni da Verrazzano during his exploration of the North American coast in 1524. In 1533 he inquired about further exploration of North America and received permission from the crown to pursue his idea. He made voyages in 1534, 1535-1536, and 1541-1542, and may have returned once more in 1543. Cartier died in September 1557 at or near his home in St. Malo, France.

Cartier’s Second Voyage, 1535-1536

On May 19, 1535, Jacques Cartier’s expedition set out from St. Malo, France, to discover the riches rumored to exist in the three western “kingdoms” of Saguenay, Canada, and Hochelaga. Accompanied by many gentlemen and treasure seekers, Cartier’s expedition encountered severe storms and finally arrived at Newfoundland on July 7, 1535. While mapping the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the lower river valley from Funk Island to present day Montreal, they made notes regarding the geography, natural history, and ethnography. Their notes are the earliest documentation of animal and plant life found in the St. Lawrence River Valley, and the different appearances and customs of the native peoples living there.

The expedition spent the fall and winter at a compound built at modern Quebec. The account describes the native people’s extensive cultivation of corn (maize), melons, gourds, peas, tobacco, and beans harvested in the fall. During the winter, twenty-five local Indians died from a disease outbreak and members of the French crew suffered from scurvy. The Indians showed the French a remedy for this disease that involved making tea from the bark and leaves of the sassafras tree.

When spring arrived, the French met with one of the local chiefs who told them of lands further inland along lakes where jewels and gold were readily available and the inhabitants wove cloth. The French traded metal pans and hatchets for furs, and eventually set sail for France, May 16, 1536, returning to St. Malo, July 6, 1536.

Document Note

A report of Cartier’s second expedition was published in France in 1545 under the title Brief récit, & succincte narration de la nauigation faicte es ysles de Canada, Hochelage & Sauguenay & autres.... This anonymous account may have been compiled from one of three manuscripts now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Giovanni Battista Ramusio published the Brief Récit in Italian in the third volume of his Delle navigationi et viaggi... (Venice, 1556). The text presented here is a translation of Ramusio, presented by Richard Hakluyt in his The Third and Last Volume of the Voyages, Navigations, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation… (London, 1600).

Other Internet or Reference Sources

The standard modern edition of Cartier’s writings is The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, Published from the Originals with Translations edited by Henry P. Bigger (Toronto, 1924). A book-length biography of the explorer, written in 1916 by Stephen Leacock, is available from Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/

The National Library of Canada has created “Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada” at http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/2/24/h24-220-e.html with a wealth of background information, images, and excerpts from primary sources on the country's early history that provide biographical and historical summaries. Other contemporary primary documents can be found at the Early Canadiana Online project, www.canadiana.org

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