John Francis, Lord Roberval’s Voyage

Our primary source is based on John Francis De La Roche, Knight, Lord of Roberval’s voyage to the countries of Canada, Saguenai, and Hochelaga.

  • Who wrote the document and why?

This document was written by “John Francis de la Roche, knight, lord of Roberval.” The document is an account of his voyage to the Americas in attempt to colonize and settle.  He provides a detailed account of his travels and who was with him.  He includes information about the “savages” they are attempting to colonize.  His detailed descriptions of the native peoples and the sickness that the Europeans suffered would have been important to document for future travel to the Americas.

  • Where was the colony located?

According to the passage the colony that was founded as a result of the long journey of lord Roberval was located four leagues westward of the isle of Orleans, somewhat westward above Canada, and high up on a mountain. It was located on the great river of Canada, named “French Prime” by lord Roberval, and was named “France-Roy”.

Modern day information tells us that this is Cap Rouge, Quebec located along the St. Lawrence river at the mouth of the St. Charles river.

  • Who were the settlers who tried to colonize this place?

The settlers were composed of 200 people of French origin; men, women and children, including soldiers, mariners, and common people. They were sent with explorer, John Francis De La Roche on behalf of the king, Francois I, to establish a colony in France’s name.

  • What motivated these people to travel across the Atlantic?

The motivation for the chief navigator on this exhibition, the famed explorer Jacques Cartier, for making this voyage was different from his reasons for making his previous voyages. Instead of making the voyage to find a route to the orient, he made this voyage to find the “Kingdom of Saguenay” and its riches, and also to establish a permanent settlement along the St. Lawrence River in the new world. The main motivation for the leader of this exhibition, the French nobleman Jean-François de Roberval, for making this voyage was he was deeply in debt and wanted to recoup his wealth by organizing a colony in the new world. The rest of the travellers on this voyage were convicts, who didn’t have much choice; priests, who wanted to spread the Catholic faith to the natives in the new world; engineers, who were brought to build and plan the colony; and ladies and gentleman of the court, who’s reasons for going are probably similar to Robervals.

  • With whom did these people come into contact when they arrived in North America?
  • Why did the colony fail?

This colony failed for a few reasons. Like many colonies before them, disease was a leading factor. According to the source, about 50 people died from a certain disease “in their legges, reynes [loins] and stomacke, so that they seemed to bee deprived of all their lymmes”. Another factor seemed to be that their number of settlers was further depleted do to injustices committed by them, which resulted in them being hanged. Further travels also resulted in the colony’s numbers dropping. Monsieur Roberval and several others traveled to Saguenay, leaving only thirty members behind to guard their fort. On this travel eight men and one long boat were lost. It can be noted that this source does not mention any direct threat from the local natives, but that Jacques Cartier was having a difficult time with them. This may be because the local natives were on friendly terms with this local colony, and therefore did not contribute to the failure of this colony.

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