Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada
Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons
Bust of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons © Parks Canada/T. Bunbury
A bronze bust of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons rests on a grassy knoll overlooking the Annapolis River at Fort Anne National Historic Site. The memorial’s prominence is symbolic of the bold accomplishments made by this French explorer, merchant and visionary. His expedition here in 1604, which included navigator and cartographer Samuel de Champlain, played a major role in motivating France’s interest in exploring North America, and in providing a base of knowledge that would greatly influence the development of Canada. Predating the founding of both Quebec and the English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, the region—under de Mons’ energetic guidance— became home to one of the first permanent European settlements north of Florida and a critical portal to European exploration and settlement in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Born into the French aristocracy, de Mons had fought for Henry IV, had served as an administrator and knew how to work with investors. These factors became the pivotal mix when he and Champlain approached the king in 1603 to promote a plan to explore North America. Able to convince private investors to finance the colonization in return for a monopoly over the fur trade, de Mons focused on Acadia. The region rested along the same latitude as his home province of Saintonge, a place with mild winters and fertile soil.
While the choice to settle on Saint Croix Island resulted in tragedy, it was no doubt instructive in understanding the region’s natural variations. Prior to Saint Croix, de Mons had explored the sheltered harbour Marc Lescarbot credits him with naming Port-Royal and it became his next choice. Once ashore, the settlers wasted no time in building a settlement there and a base for further discovery. Between 1605 and 1607, the French in Port-Royal set about expanding the fur trade, exploring and mapping the Atlantic coastline, searching for valuable minerals, and developing an agricultural colony. Most importantly, they learned to live peacefully with the Mi’kmaq, who repeatedly demonstrated their friendship.
Referring to the task undertaken by de Mons to promote a French settlement, explore the land and expand commerce, Marc Lescarbot writes in the dedication of his poem Adieu à la France (1606):
“… 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.”
In 1607, Henri IV, in response to the protests of rival French merchants, revoked de Mons’ fur trade monopoly forcing him to order his Port-Royal settlers back to France. In the ensuing years, Sieur de Mons continued to aid and support Champlain in developing New France. Forward thinking and open-minded, he made a substantial contribution to the development of Canada by proving that Europeans could live here and sustain themselves successfully.
For more information on Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons please go to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.