Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Samuel de Champlain


Champlain, Samuel de (1567?1635), explorer and colonizer, was born at Brouage, in Saintonge, France, about 1567, the son of Antoine Champlain and Marguerite LeRoy. During the religious wars, he fought under Henry of Navarre; and, on demobilization in 1598, he took service with the king of Spain, and visited America. In 1601, on his return to France, he was appointed royal geographer; and in 1603 he made his first visit to the gulf of St. Lawrence. In 1604 he accompanied Monts's expedition to Acadia, and he spent the next three years exploring and mapping the coasts of Acadia and northern New England. In 1608 he commanded the expedition which founded the post of Quebec ; and the rest of his life was mainly devoted to making this settlement a success. In 1612 he was appointed commandant in New France ; and in 1627 he became governor of New France under the Company of One Hundred Associates. In 1628 Quebec was captured by the English; but Champlain's efforts resulted in its return to France in 1632, and in his last years he had the satisfaction of seeing the colony firmly established.


His work as an explorer and geographer, was, however, no less noteworthy than his work as a colonizer. In 1613 he visited the upper Ottawa, and in 1615-16 he reached the Georgian bay, by way of the Ottawa and lake Nipissing, spent a winter among the Huron Indians, followed the Trent valley south to lake Ontario, and penetrated into the Iroquois country in northern New York. He had here an encounter with the Iroquois which proved later disastrous for the French; but this result he could hardly have foreseen.


He wrote and published a number of books describing his explorations. These were Des sauvages (Paris, 1604), Les voyages du Sieur de Champlain (Paris, 1613), Voyages et découvertes faites en la Nouvelle-France (Paris, 1619), Les voyages du Sr. de Champlain (Paris, 1620), and Les voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale (Paris, 1632). A Brief récit of his voyage to central America has been preserved in manuscript, and was first printed in the original by the Abbé Laverdière in 1870, and in translation by the Hakluyt Society in 1859.


Champlain died at Quebec on December 25, 1635. He married, in 1610, Hélène, daughter of Nicholas Boullé, secretary of the king's chamber; but had no children.


See N. E. Dionne, Samuel Champlain, fondateur de Québec (2 vols., Quebec, 1891-1906) and Champlain (Toronto, 1905); G. Gravier, Vie de Samuel Champlain (Paris, 1900); H. D. Sedgwick, Samuel de Champlain (Boston, 1902); C. W. Colby, The founder of New France (Toronto, 1915); H. A. Verreau, Samuel de Champlain (Trans. Roy. Soc. Can., 1899); and F. Parkman, The pioneers of France in the new world ( Boston, 1865). The works of Champlain have been edited by the Abbé C. H. Laverdière (6 vols. Quebec, 1870), and are being re-edited by, H. P. Biggar (6 vols., Toronto, The Champlain Society, 1922-); and parts of his works have been translated into English by S. Purchas (London, 1625), by A. Wilmere (London, Hakluyt Society, 1859), by C. P. Otis (3 vols., Boston, The Prince Society, 1878-82), by E. G. and A. N. Bourne (New York, 1906), and by W. L. Grant (New York, 1907). The Champlain Society's edition by H. P. Biggar contains the first English translation of all Champlain's works. For full bibliographical information, see H. Harrisse, Notes pour servir à l'histoire de la Nouvelle France (Paris, 1872) and P. Gagnon, Notes bibliographiques sur les écrits de Champlain (Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Québec, 1908).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 30-31.


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College