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Samuel de Champlain

Samuel Champlain was born around 1567, at a small seaport town of Brouage in the old province of Saintonge, France. Little is known of Champlain's life. It is known, however, that Champlain learned the ways of the sea from his uncle.Champlain's first substantial voyage was one to Spain with his uncle. This voyage led him to be on a chartered French vessel which went to the "West Indians and New Spain with the annual fleet." On his return to France two years later, the 32 year old Champlain was to link up with Francis Gravé, Sieur du Pont (Pontgravé), a merchant, fur trader, and a citizen of St. Malo. The two of them, Pontgravé and Champlain, in 1603, voyaged together up the "rivière de Canada." Champlain, it would appear had no official position in this trading voyage. Pontgravé's business was at the trading post which had been established at Tadoussac. Leaving Pontgravé to his business, Champlain explored. He went "12 leagues" up the Saguenay; and then further up the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal passing Quebec on his way, a place which he spent most of his life. Before the summer was out, Champlain embarked with Pontgravé for the return trip to France.

It was during this trip that Champlain was to consider the advantages of Acadia. Not much was known of the North American seaboard below the eastern shores of present day Nova Scotia. It was known to slope westward and explorers like Champlain thought that following the American coast, southwest, might lead to the great western sea and the oriental riches beyond. What Champlain likely concluded was that explorations in the southern parts of Acadia may lead to the discovery of a route to Asia, if not directly, then overland. Going up the St. Lawrence seem to lead to the thicker part of the continental barrier; and to Champlain's geographical eyes the continent seem to thin out as one went south.

Champlain came over with the de Monts expedition in 1605. A narrative of Champlain's adventures in Acadia is contained in my history of Acadia, in one of its very first chapters, "The Founding of Port Royal." Sufficient at this place to say that Champlain spent his first three winters in New France in Acadia. By September of 1607, Champlain and his fellow colonists in Acadia, due to lack of support from their French backers, returned to France. In July, 1608, however, Champlain was to be back up the St. Lawrence, having seemingly lost his optimism in respect to the possibilities of Acadia, taking with him a number of French colonists. Thus, Champlain, in 1608, founded Quebec, a French colony which, while slow to develop, was to become the French capital in North America.Champlain died on December 25th, 1635.

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