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EARLY ADVENTURES IN NORTH AMERICA.
The exploits of Columbus having excited a great sensation among the English merchants, and at the Court of Henry VII., the adventurous spirit of John Cabot, heightened by the ardor of his son Sebastian, led him to propose to the King to undertake a voyage of discovery, with the twofold object of becoming acquainted with new territories, and of realizing the long-desired object of a western passage to China and the Indies. A commission was accordingly granted, on the 5th of March, 1497, to him and his three sons, giving them liberty to sail to all parts of the east, west, and north, under the royal banners and ensigns, to discover countries of the heathen, unknown to Christians; to set up the King's banners there; to occupy and possess, as his subjects, such places as they could subdue; giving them the rule and jurisdiction of the same, to be holden on condition of paying to the King one fifth part of all their gains. By virtue of this commission, a small fleet was equipped, partly at the King's expense, and partly at that of private individuals, in which the Cabots embarked with a company of three hundred mariners. Our knowledge of this voyage is collected from many detached and imperfect notices of it in different authors, who, while they establish the general facts in the most unquestionable manner, differ in many particular circumstances. The most probable account is, that Cabot sailed north-west a few weeks, until his progress was arrested by floating icebergs, when he shaped his course to the south-west, and soon came in sight of a shore named by him Prima Vista, and generally believed to be some part of Labrador, or Newfoundland. Thence he steered northward again to the sixty-seventh degree of latitude, where he was obliged to turn back by the discontent of his crew. He sailed along the coast in search of an outlet as far as the neighborhood of the Gulf of Mexico, when a mutiny broke out in the ship's company, in consequence of which the farther prosecution of the voyage was abandoned. Cabot reached England with several savages and a valuable cargo, although some writers deny that he ever landed in America, and it is certain that he did not attempt any conquest or settlement there.
This voyage was not immediately followed by any important conse quences; but it is memorable as being the first that is certainly ascertained to have been effected to this continent, and as constituting the title by which the English claimed the territories that they subsequently acquired here. Through a singular succession of causes, during more than sixty years from the time of this discovery of the northern division of the continent by the English, their monarchs gave but little attention to this country, which was destined to be annexed to their crown, and to be one principal source of British opulence and power, till, in the march of events, it should rise into an independent empire. This remarkable neglect is in some measure accounted for by the frugal maxims of Henry VII., and the unpropitious circumstances of the reign of Henry VIII., of Edward VI., and of the bigoted Mary; reigns peculiarly adverse to the extension of industry, trade, and navigation.
While English enterprise slumbered, both France and Spain were active and successful. Francis I. sent a vessel called the Dauphin, to the American coast, commanded by Juan Verazzano, a Florentine, who had distinguished himself by his successful cruises against the Spaniards. In this voyage he discovered Florida, and sailed seven hundred leagues on the North American coast, which he named New France. He made another
voyage in the following year, when he landed with some of his crew, was seized by the savages, and killed and devoured in the presence of his companions on board, who sought in vain to give him any assistance. The gloomy impression produced by the tragic fate of Verazzano seems to have deterred others, for some time, from such enterprises, and for several succeeding years neither the King nor the nation seems to have thought any more of America.
After a lapse of ten years, these enterprises were renewed, and Jacques Cartier, a bold seaman of Malo, who proposed another voyage, was rea. dily supplied with two ships under the direction of the Vice-Admiral of France. His first voyage resulted in the discovery of the Baye des Chaleurs, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the following spring, a large expedition was equipped, and proceeded direct to Newfoundland. Discovering the river afterwards called the St. Lawrence, he sailed up this stream three hundred leagues, to a great and swift fall, made friends of the natives on its banks, took possession of the territory, built a fort, and wintered in the country, which he called New France. The next spring Cartier returned with the remains of his crew, which had been much diminished by the scurvy. He carried with him Donnacona, the Indian King of the country, whom he had made captive partly by force, and partly by stratagem. On his return, he represented to the King the immense advantages which might result from a settlement in that coun. try, for the purpose of carrying on the fur trade; but his advice was slighted, and the proposed establishment delayed. Francis I. afterwards became aware of the importance of the enterprise, and dispatched Cartier with the appointment of Captain-General, and with five ships. After a long and boisterous passage, Cartier arrived at Newfoundland, thence proceeded to Canada, and on the 23d of August, 1535, arrived at the harbor of St. Croix. But this enterprise was also infelicitous in its issue, and for half a century the French made no further attempt to esta. blish themselves in Canada.
To give a brief narrative of the Spanish attempts at colonization in North America, it was in the year 1528 that Pamphilo de Narvaez, hav. ing obtained from Charles V. the grant of all the land lying from the River of Palms to the Cape of Florida, sailed from Cuba, in March, with five ships, on board of which were four hundred foot, and twenty horse, for the conquest of the country. Landing at Forida, he marched :0 Apalache, a village consisting of forty cottages, where he arrived on the 5th of June. Having lost many of his men by the natives, who harassed the troops on their march, and with whom they had a sharp engagement, he was obliged to direct his course towards the sea. Sailing to the westward, he was lost, with many others, in a violent storm, about the middle of November, and the enterprise was frustrated. Calamitous as was the issue of this expedition, it did not extinguish the Spanish passion for adventure, and Fernando de Soto, a distinguished companion of Pizarro, was created Adelantado of Florida, combining the offices of Govemor-General, and Commander in chief. On the 18th of May, 1539, Soto set sail from Havana on this expedition, with nine vessels, nine hundred soldiers, two hundred and thirteen horse, and a herd of swine. This army met with various disasters, and suffered much from disease and the attacks of the savages. Soto died, and to conceal his loss from the Indians, his body was put into a hollowed oak, and sunk in a river. The small remains of his army, consisting of three hundred and eleven men, arrived at Panaco on the 10th of September, 1543, and all concerned in this great expedition were reduced to poverty and distress.
About the year 1562, the Huguenots made an effort to colonize Florida, but after suffering deeply from shipwreck, sickness, and Spanish cruelty, they were completely destroyed. The expeditions of Laudonniere and Ribault entirely failed. Ribault was massacred with his troops, by the Spaniards, after a pledge of safety, and their bodies were not only covered with repeated wounds, but were cut in pieces and treated with the most shocking indignities. A number of the mangled limbs of the victims were then suspended to a tree, to which was attached the following inscription :-"Not because they are Frenchmen, but because they are heretics, and enemies of God.” To revenge this barbarous massacre, Dominique de Gourgues determined to devote himself and his fortune.
He found means to equip three small vessels, and to put on board of them eighty sailors, and one hundred and fifty troops. Having crossed the Atlantic, he sailed along the coast of Florida, and landed at a river about fifteen leagues distance from the May. The Spaniards, to the number of four hundred, were well fortified, principally at the great fort, begun by the French, and afterwards repaired by themselves. Two leagues lower towards the river's mouth, they had made two smaller forts, which were defended by a hundred and twenty soldiers, well supplied with artillery and ammunition. Gourgues, though informed of their strength, proceeded resolutely forward, and, with the assistance of the natives, r iade a vigorous and desperate assault. Of sixty Spaniards in the first fort, there escaped but fifteen; and all in the second fort were slain. After a company of Spaniards, sallying out from the third fort, nad been intercepted, and killed on the spot, this last fortress was easily taken. All the surviving Spaniards were led away prisoners, with the fifteen who escaped the massacre at the first fort; and, after having been shown the injury that they had done to the French nation, were hung on the boughs of the same trees on which the Frenchmen had been previ. ously suspended. Gourgues, in retaliation for the label Menendez had attached to the bodies of the French, placed over the corpses of the Spaniards the following declaration :-“I do not this as to Spaniards, nor as to mariners, but as to traitors, robbers, and murderers.” Having razed the three forts, he hastened his preparation to return; and on the 3d of May, embarked all that was valuable in the forts, and set sail for La Rochelle. In that Protestant capital he was received with the loud. est acclamations. At Bordeaux these were reiterated, and he was ad. vised to proceed to Paris, where, however, he met with a very different reception. Philip had already an embassy demanding his head, which Charles and Catharine were not disinclined to give, and had taken steps for bringing him to trial, but they found the measure so excessively un popular, that they were obliged to allow him to retire into Normandy. Subsequently he regained royal favor, and found ample employment in the service of his country.
Tous terminated the attempts of the French Protestants to colonize Florida. Had the efforts of Ribault or Laudonniere been supported by the Government, France might have had vast colonial dependencies betone Britain had established a single settlement in the New World, insuzad of inscribing on the pages of history a striking instance of the ruinous and enduring effects of religious hatred, alike on individual and national fortune.
One of the most important objects of maritime enterprise in the reign of Elizabeth, was the discovery of a passage to India by the north of America ; but notwithstanding the utmost exertions of the most eminent naval characters, Frobisher, Davis, an] Hudson, the attempt proved utterly abortive. In the same year, however, in which Frobisher's third voyage terminated so unsuccessfully, Sir Walter Raleigh, with his half brother and kindred spirit, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, projected the establishment of a colony in that quarter of America which the Cabots had visited in the reign of Henry VII., and a patent for this purpose was procured without difficulty, from Elizabeth. One enterprise under Gilbert failed, from tempestuous weather, but by the aid of Sir George Peckham, Sir Walter Raleigh, and other persons of distinction, he was enabled to equip another expedition, with which, in 1583, he again put to sea.
On the 30th of July, Gilbert discovered land in about fifty-one degrees north latitude; but, finding nothing but bare rocks, he shaped his course to the southward, and on the 3d of August arrived at St. John's harbor, at Newfoundland. There were at that time in the harbor, thirty-six ves. sels, belonging to various nations, and they refused him entrance; but, on sending his boat with the assurance that he had no ill design, and that he had a commission from Queen Elizabeth, they submitted, and he sailed into the port. Having pitched his tent on shore, in sight of all the shipping, and being attended by his own people, he summoned the merchants aná masters of vessels to be present at the ceremony of his taking possession of the island. When assembled, his commission was . read and interpreted to the foreigners. A turf and twig were then delivered to him; and proclamation was immediately made, that, by virtue of his commission from the Queen, he took possession of the harbor of St. John, and two hundred leagues every way around it, for the crown of England