The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. — Marcus Aurelius

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The French in Canada

Columbus had been dead for nearly fifty years, and yet people were only just beginning to explore that part of the New World which is occupied by our country. But the coast of South America was quite well known by this time, and already clearly outlined on maps, while North America was still a mystery.

Most people still fancied that North America was only a narrow strip of land, like Central America. They also thought that somewhere north of the Gulf of Mexico there must be a strait, by means of which it would be easy to pass into the Pacific Ocean, and thereby reach India without taking the long journey all around South America.

The navigators who visited the coast of North America in search of this strait, spoke, on their return, of the great quantities of fish they had seen. Even the Cabots had found many fish there. Now, all the Christian people in western Europe were Roman Catholics in those days, and so ate fish instead of meat on fast days, which were so many that they took up about one third of the time. Fish was therefore in great demand.

As the rivers did not supply enough, fishing soon became a paying trade for those who lived by the sea; and because many fish were found on the coasts of Brittany, in France, the Breton fishermen did a good business. Still, when they heard of great schools of codfish on the Banks of Newfoundland, which could be caught and salted very easily, these bold fishermen were anxious to secure them. They therefore began to make fishing trips across the Atlantic, and before long gave their name to Cape Breton.

France and Spain often waged costly wars, and seeing that the Spaniards received much gold from the New World, the French longed to have some of it, too. Their king, therefore, said that he had as good a right to any undiscovered land as the Spaniards, and that the latter should not be allowed to keep the New World all to themselves.

Next, he sent out an expedition under Verrazano, who explored the coast of North America from what is now North Carolina to Newfoundland. Some historians say that this captain finally fell into the hands of cannibal Indians, who devoured him in the sight of his helpless crew; but others declare that Verrazano was caught by the Spaniards during a war with France, and hanged as a pirate.

The French were not discouraged, however. A few years after the death of Verrazano they sent out another expedition, in charge of Cartier. After sailing nearly all the way around Newfoundland, this explorer, in 1534, came to the mainland, set up a huge wooden cross, and took possession of the country, in the name of France. The next year he came back, and, sailing up the St. Lawrence River, gave it that name because it was Saint Lawrence's day in the calendar. He visited the place where Quebec now stands, and went on up the stream until he came to an Indian village, composed of several long houses surrounded by a palisade.

Niagara Falls

Near this village there was a hill which Cartier climbed, and when his eyes rested upon the beautiful view at his feet, he exclaimed that this was truly a Montreal, or royal mountain. A city built some time after on this very spot still bears the name he gave the place.

After spending a short time on the St. Lawrence, Cartier went back to France, taking several Indians with him.. Some of these savages died, and when Cartier returned without them, and tried to establish a colony, he had trouble with their relatives. Cartier gave the name of Canada to part of the country, and in talking with the Indians learned that far inland there was a huge waterfall, whose roar could be heard many miles away. Indeed, some of the Indians called it Niagara, which in English means "The Thunder of Waters."

Although Cartier longed to see this wonder, he had no time to visit it, and as the climate proved too cold for his men, he went back to France, saying it would not be possible to plant a colony so far north. For the next few years, therefore, the French had only a few trading posts along the St. Lawrence River, where the Indians came at certain times to exchange the furs of the animals they had killed for the beads and trinkets they loved so well.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell