NOËL (Nouel), JACQUES, nephew of Jacques Cartier and brother of Étienne Noël, explorer and trader; baptized 30 May 1519 at Saint-Malo, France, son of Jean Noël and Jeanne Cartier (the explorer’s sister).
Two nephews of Jacques Cartier took part in the exploration of the St. Lawrence: Étienne and Jacques Noël. Étienne is believed to have sailed on the voyage in 1535, if the provisional muster-roll of 31 March 1535 can be relied upon; in any event he took part in the 1541 voyage. He arrived on 23 August and already by 2 September he was on his way back to France with Macé Jalobert, both of them being described in the narration as excellent pilots.
Even though certain historians call him a great-nephew of Cartier and give 1551 (which is much too late) as his year of birth, Jacques Noël was a nephew of the famous native of Saint-Malo, as is affirmed by his baptismal record. Jacques Noël, who owned a chart by Cartier and had himself made a sketch, knew Canada well from having been there in 1585 at least; he had seen the ruins of his uncle’s forts, had gone as far as the rapids of Hochelaga (Montreal), and had climbed Mount Royal to try to see what lay beyond the horizon. During the voyage he had brought back to France an indigenous person, who subsequently returned to his own country.
In 1587 Jacques Noël’s two sons, Jean and Michel, sailed into the St. Lawrence, where they lost four luggers in the course of a battle between rival traders.
As a result of this expedition Jacques Noël asked for the monopoly of the mines and the fur trade; he was at that time in partnership with Étienne Chaton de La Jannaye, a sea captain who had distinguished himself at La Rochelle and in Brittany, but who had never been to Canada. Alleging that Cartier had recommended to him “the continuation of his enterprise,” Noël pointed to his past experience and undertook to build forts and settle the country if his request were favourably received. In conferring the monopoly on 12 Jan. 1588 Henri III declared that the commission granted to Cartier on 17 Oct. 1540 would have the same effect as if Noël and La Jannaye were named in it; he authorized the handing-over to them of 60 prisoners for Canada each year.
The following month the bourgeois of Saint-Malo, and after them the states of the province of Brittany, contested this privilege: to their mind La Jannaye could in no way make use of the name Cartier. As for Noël, they said, he was exaggerating his previous role; he was Cartier’s heir only “in very small part,” and the country was “not at all fertile.” Finally, the bourgeois preferred not to ask for the monopoly for themselves, as they would have to build and keep up forts. The inhabitants of Saint-Malo in 1588 wanted to profit from the St. Lawrence without the expenses of colonization. However, Henri III revoked his decision. By 9 July Noël and La Jannaye no longer held anything but the right to exploit the mines that they might discover. They waived their right, and thus ended the last activity by the Cartier family in the St. Lawrence. This dispute in 1588 was also the first episode in a long conflict which was to oppose the partisans of trade to the partisans of colonization. For the first time the historic dilemma arose: colonization sustained by an exclusive monopoly, or freedom of trade and no colony. In 1588 the partisans of trade had won out and the scheme for colonization advanced by Cartier’s nephew was not followed up.
Biggar, Documents relating to Cartier and Roberval, 53–56. Jacques Cartier, documents nouveaux, éd. F. Joüon Des Longrais (Paris, 1888), 131, 145–48, 152–58, 160. Alfred Ramé, Documents inédits sur le Canada (Paris, 1865), 24–51. Voyages of Jacques Cartier (Biggar), 251–53, 313ff., App. VI. N.-E. Dionne, La Nouvelle-France, de Cartier à Champlain, 1540–1603 (Québec, 1891), 124f.
Revisions based on:
Arch. Départementales, Ille-et-Vilaine (Rennes, France), “Reg. paroissiaux et état civil,” Saint-Malo, 30 mai 1519: archives-en-ligne.ille-et-vilaine.fr/thot_internet/FrmSommaireFrame.asp (consulted 15 Nov. 2018).