Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The New Acadia

FRANCE, EUROPE'S WEALTHIEST AND MOST populous nation, did not enter the race for new lands until 1522. Prior to that time, France's economic and political interests remained centered in the Mediterranean area. Spurred by accounts of Magellan's success in circling the globe, the French sought to become the first European nation to discover the shortcut to the spice-rich Orient. In 1523 Giovanni de Verrazano, an Italian navigator, sailed under the French flag and explored the North American coast from Virginia to Newfoundland, but reported that he could not find a passage to the East.

French motivation for discovery and exploration in North America was predicated primarily on finding both a short route to the Orient and great amounts of precious metals. These motives, which remained constant during much of the French presence in North America, help to explain most of the differences between the French and English colonization efforts. No English colony was founded to secure a passageway to the East, while the French constantly kept probing the interior regions in an effort to find such a route. French efforts were also aided by geography. While the English remained clustered along the Atlantic coast, barred from westward expansion by the seemingly impenetrable Appalachian Mountain Range, the French faced no such obstacle. Following the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, French voyagers and explorers used highways of rivers to advance rapidly into the interior of North America.

Eleven years after Verrazano's voyage, Jacques Cartier made the first of his three ventures to the New World in search of the “Northwest Passage” to China. While sailing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, he encountered Iroquois Indians whom he assumed had had previous meetings with whites because upon his arrival they displayed furs to trade and hid all their young women. Returning to France, Cartier received financial backing for another voyage. On this second trip, in 1535, Cartier revisited the Iroquois village of Stadacona (Quebec) bringing with him two sons of

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