FRANCE IN THE NEW WORLD
WHEN the Pope, in 1493, divided the world between the Spanish and the Portuguese, he did so without knowledge of what lay to the north of the Indies; and when in 1494 the demarcation line was moved 270 leagues farther west, North America was, unbeknownst to the negotiating powers, given its first political boundary. As a consequence of arbitration, ownership rights to Newfoundland, Canada and the west coast of Greenland went to Spain before Renaissance Europe knew of the existence of the St. Lawrence.
For almost forty years after Columbus' first expedition, no European state seriously opposed the claims of Spain, and Anglo-French searches for a North-West Passage were merely cautious attempts to avoid the Spanish monopoly. With full papal support, the Spaniards tried to exclude the adventurers of all other nations from the coasts of North America, and short shrift was given to such Normans, Bretons or Englishmen who happened to be caught in the neighbourhood of the Caribbean. Further south, the Portuguese were equally ruthless in their efforts to preserve a monopoly in Brazil, and few Frenchmen survived the first South American settlement which was swept away in 1504.
Nevertheless, despite the pretensions of Spain and Portugal, Francis I of France optimistically demanded his share of the 'heritage of Adam'. He sent Verrazzano to search for new lands to the north-west, and ten years after Verrazzano disappeared into the mists he sent a Breton sailor, Jacques Cartier. In 1534 Cartier entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and poked his way along the southern coast as far as Chaleur Bay and Anticosti Island. In the following year he returned and followed the St. Lawrence River into the interior until he was stopped by the rapids above Montreal, some 980 miles from the Atlantic. He climbed to the summit of the neighbouring mountain "which was named by us 'Mount Royal'," and was obviously moved by