European Explorers: The French explorers
France, too, wished to find trade routes to Asia and establish colonies in the New World. In 1524, the French king sponsored an expedition to the New World seeking the elusive Northwest Passage. The expedition was led by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (c. 1485–c. 1528), who explored the East Coast of the present-day United States from what is now North Carolina up to Nova Scotia, Canada. He reported on the New York and Narragansett Bays upon his return. From 1534 to 1541, Jacques Cartier (1491–1557) made three voyages to Canada, discovering the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River.
In 1603, French explorer Samuel de Champlain (c. 1567–1635), who became known as the “father of New France” (which later became Canada), first set out for the North American coast. Upon his return, he convinced the French king that North America had potential for settlement and commercial development, particularly in fur trading. In his many journeys to New France, Champlain established the settlement of Quebec. He explored the Atlantic coast from present-day Nova Scotia down to Massachusetts, as well as Vermont, northern parts of New York, and the Great Lakes region.
In 1672, explorer Louis Jolliet (1645–1700) led a French-Canadian expedition to explore the Mississippi River and to discover whether it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette (1637–1675) was chosen to go along as the expedition’s interpreter because he spoke several Indian languages fluently.
Jolliet’s account of the expedition was lost in a canoe accident, and Marquette’s journal became the only first-person record of the historic trip. In 1682, explorer Sieur René Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643–1687) navigated the Mississippi River all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed for France the vast territory known as Louisiana.
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