Early Governors General of Canada

The Early Governors General of Canada collection focuses on Canada's historic viceregal personalities—from Samuel de Champlain, Governor of New France in 1608, to the Duke of Devonshire, Governor General during a very turbulent and defining period in Canada's history—the First World War (1914-1918). Here you will find dozens of biographies as well as documentary records (letters, journals, and memoirs) of the Governors General, rich with their impressions of a young and growing Canada.

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Samuel de Champlain, geographer, founder of Quebec and first Governor of New France (1608-1629, 1633-1635) left a considerable amount of written material relating his voyages of exploration which took place between 1603 and 1632 throughout the Saint Lawrence River valley, the Saguenay region, the Acadian et Maine coastal regions, as well as in the area surrounding the Great Lakes. His Voyages provide the only source of information we have for the first fifteen years of the Quebec colony. In them, Champlain describes his military campaigns and the attack on Quebec by the Kirke brothers in 1629, as well as the landscape and the nature, the aboriginal customs and the fur-trade network. The first Canadian edition of the Voyages is that of Charles-Honoré Laverdière entitled Les Oeuvres de Champlain (6 vol., 1870), the great scientific value of which is still recognized today.

Discover Frontenac's challenges as Governor General of New France in the late 1600s in Charles Colby's aptly-titled The Fighting Governor: A Chronicle of Frontenac. See how Frontenac dealt with the various Iroquois attacks on New France. Find out whether his planned attack on New England and the colony of New York succeeded, and discover what led to his being recalled to France in 1682.

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil was the last Governor General of New France (1755-1760) and the only Canadian-born to hold that position. In his Lettres au chevalier de Lévis (commander of the colonial troops), you can follow the daily military operations in the Seven Years’ War which led to the siege and capitulation of Quebec. Share their view of the British and French troop movements along with their aboriginal allies, their problems related to resupplying, shortages and desertions, their moments of hope and despair and the negotiations preceding the cession of the colony to Great Britain.

Discover how James Murray attempted to secure Quebec after its fall to British forces in 1759. How did this Scotsman (soon to become Canada's 19th Governor General) and his army face the challenges of a severe Canadian winter and the constant threat of attack from the French army? In his Journal of the siege of Quebec, 1760, Murrays describes his struggle to maintain the fortified city. Recorded within are the extreme measures taken to ensure the supply of firewood, the suffering of hundreds of his men from frostbite, and how British soldiers were trained in the art of snowshoeing.

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