Pierre du Gua, Sieur De Monts
Pierre du Gua, Sieur De Monts
De Monts' choice of an island for his first winter settlement was made for reasons of defence, but it proved miserable for the men courtesy (Division of Rare Books and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library).
De Monts was the founder of Port-Royal, the first permanent settlement in Canada. In 1603 King Henri IV gave him a fur-trade monopoly in New France. In return he was required to plant about 60 colonists per year and to convert the local First Nations to Christianity. De Monts proceeded to Acadia in the spring of 1604, accompanied by Samuel de Champlain. The expedition spent its first winter on the island of Ste Croix, where 35 of 80 men died of scurvy. The following summer, de Monts moved the colony to Port-Royal, which became the first permanent settlement in New France.

While de Monts was struggling to gain a foothold in an inhospitable land, jealousies and intrigue were undermining him back in France. De Monts tried to keep his monopoly by promising to redouble his efforts at colonization. He sent a ship to Port-Royal, another to the Saint Lawrence and a last one to Québec. He lost his monopoly in 1611 but continued to participate in the fur trade in Canada until 1617, when he retired to his chateau in Ardennes.

Despite the important contribution made by this far-seeing individual to the development of Canada, he has seldom been given his due in the history books. It was he who made possible so much of what Champlain accomplished. In pursuit of his dream of making a new France in America, he sacrificed personal gain.

The energetic support and encouragement de Monts gave to exploration was a contribution of inestimable value. Marc Lescarbot sang his praises with these words:
“De Monts, it is you whose high courage has traced the way for such a great undertaking, and for this reason, in spite of the attack of time, the leaf of your fame will grow green in an eternal spring.”