Samuel de Champlain
French Explorer

~1570 - 1635

Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who founded the Canadian city of Quebec. He helped colonize French North America, once known as New France, and is often called the Father of New France [Canada.]

Champlain was born in Brouage, France, near Rochefort. His father, a sea captain, taught him navigation. Champlain joined the French Army at the age of about 20 and served until 1598. The next year, he sailed to the Spanish colonies in America on a French trading ship. From 1599 to 1601, he made several voyages to the West Indies, Mexico, and Panama.

Champlain returned to France in 1601 and wrote a book about his voyages. He described the splendor of Mexico City and was one of the first people to propose the construction of a canal across Panama. Champlain's book interested King Henry IV, who was eager for France to acquire wealth in America. Henry also hoped the French could find a "Northwest Passage"--that is, a waterway through North America to Asia.

In 1603, Champlain sailed to Canada and explored the St. Lawrence River for the king. Champlain also became one of the first Europeans to write about Niagara Falls. He sailed back to Canada in 1604 and then explored the New England coast. In 1605, Champlain helped found the settlement of Port Royal (later moved to the present site of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). In 1605 and 1606, he made two more voyages along the New England coast in search of a better site for the settlement.

Champlain returned to Canada in 1608 to establish a fur-trading post. He chose a site along the St. Lawrence River and named it Quebec. It became the first permanent settlement in New France. Champlain and his men built a fort and storehouse. The first winter was extremely cold, and only 8 of the 24 settlers survived.

Champlain became friendly with the Algonquin and Huron Indians living near Quebec. He believed his friendship could prevent Indian attacks on the settlement and that peaceful relations would make it easier to trade furs with the Indians and to explore the country. In 1609, Champlain and two French companions joined the Algonquin and Huron in a raid on the Iroquois, who lived in what is now New York. Champlain and his friends had muskets and easily defeated the Iroquois, who knew nothing about firearms. On this raid, he became the first European to reach Lake Champlain, which he named for himself. He won the lasting friendship of the Algonquin and the Huron by helping them.

From 1610 to 1624, Champlain made several trips to France to obtain aid for Quebec. He also explored Lake Ontario and the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron.

War broke out between France and England in 1626, and the English began to seize French settlements in Canada. In 1628, an English fleet cut off supplies to Quebec and ordered Champlain to surrender the fort. The settlers held out for a year but finally surrendered after they ran out of food. The English took Champlain to England but allowed him to return to France in 1629. In 1632, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye returned Quebec to France. Champlain sailed back to Quebec in 1633 and rebuilt the fort, where he lived until his death.

Contributor: Franklin L. Ford, L.H.D., McLean Prof. of History Emeritus, Harvard Univ.

Additional resources

Armstrong, Joe C. Champlain. Macmillan (Toronto), 1987.

Bishop, Morris. Champlain: The Life of Fortitude. Octagon, 1979. First published in 1948.

Garrod, Stan. Samuel de Champlain. Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Markham, Ont.), 1981. For younger readers.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. Samuel de Champlain: Father of New France. Little, Brown, 1972. Includes Champlain's drawings.


Use Browser « Back Button To Return To Last Page Visited
Copyright (1998 - 2000): Concord Learning Systems, Concord, NC.
All rights reserved. For details and contact information:
See License Agreement, Copyright Notice.