Imágenes de página


SECT. attempts to find out what was called a north-west passage thereto, the minds of the nation seem to 1549. have been at this time turned towards a discovery of what was called the north-east passage. This was, in all probability, a more preponderating cause which induced them to hold Mr. Cabot's talents in such high request; and this strange infatuation of the nation about these passages might probably also be one cause of preventing their attention at this time to the more substantial and practicable pursuits of Cabot's discoveries in America.


In the reign of Queen Mary, her marriage with Philip, king of Spain, necessarily put a stop to any thing whatever, that might possibly interfere with the affairs of that nation in America. Thus, from a singular series of causes, did sixty years elapse from the time when the English first discovered North America, before they had made any effectual efforts to avail themselves of the advantages result. ing from that discovery.


The reign of Elizabeth favourable to maritime adventures-Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the first conductor of an English colony to America -Letters Patent to him for that purpose-Characteristic incidents relative to Sir Humphrey Gilbert-his first voyage unsuccessfulsails a second time for America-takes possession of Newfoundhand-is lost on his return to England.



The reiga

beth fa

A VARIETY of concurrent circumstances, SECT. contributed to render the reign of Elizabeth favourable to the growth of the maritime power of Eng. land. The intercourse which had subsisted for of Eliza some time between the English and Spanish na-vourable tions, through the alliance of their monarchs, espe-time adcially in the reign of Mary, immediately preceding, had diffused among the English a considerable knowledge, not only of the general naval affairs of Spain, but more particularly of their American dis

* The author had prepared a distinct section, to be inserted here, containing a sketch of the attempts of the French protestants, under the direction and patronage of admiral Coligny, to plant colonies, about this time, in that part of the continent of America, now called South Carolina, in consequence of the oppressions which these protestants experienced from the civil war then raging in France. The emigration of the French Hugonots, under Ribaut and Laudonniere-the cruel massacre of them by the Spanish catholics, under Menendez, and the just retaliation inflicted upon the Spaniards by the Chevalier de Gorgues, form a very interesting part of American history. But as the reader would probably consider these events, as bearing but a slight relation to the history to which this volume is intended as an introduction, it has been thought most proper to suppress that section.

to mari




SECT. coveries and settlements. The wealth, which was supposed to flow in upon the Spanish nation, from that source, would naturally allure the English to some endeavours to participate in these advantages. The accession of Elizabeth to the throne of England, together with the restoration of the reformed religion, in the course of a few years placed the two nations in a state of hostility towards each other. Queen Elizabeth early foresaw this, and neglected nothing that might keep up and promote a maritime spirit among her people. She therefore, in a particular manner, manifested her approbation of the naval exploits of captain Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and other great mariners. It must be observed here, that soon after the discovery of the northern part of America by Cabot, and especially that part of it, denominated by him Newfoundland, divers other European nations resorted to that coast, for the great emoluments to be derived from the fishery on its banks. Insomuch, indeed, that some of them affected to claim the right of the first discovery of that country. But, as that claim appeared to be without foundation, and as the advantages of the fishery, would be much enhanced to any nation that might have possession of that island, the able ministry of that politic princess, could not be insensible to the advantages of making a settlement thereon. Added to this, the extensive progress, which the Spanish nation had now made in the colonisation of South America, could not fail to excite the ardent emulation of the English, in following their example by a like colonisation of the north. Indeed, the danger of anticipation must have been


now urgent; for, it appears by an account publish- SECT. ed in the year 1578,* that there were fifty sail of English ships, one hundred sail of Spaniards, fifty 1558. of Portuguese, and one hundred and fifty French, employed in that year, in the fishery on that coast. It was evident, therefore, that so extensive and inviting a continent as North America, could not now remain much longer without some attempts by some nation, to fix settlements thereon.


Sir Hum

phrey Gil

bert the

of the

first En

ny to

At this period then, Sir Humphrey Gilbert is mentioned by historians, with the distinction due to the conductor of the first English colony to Ame- conductor rica. He was a native of Devonshire; inherited a good estate, and had early rendered himself conspi-glish colocuous by his military services in France, Ireland, America. and Holland. Having afterwards turned his attention to naval affairs, he published a discourse concerning the probability of a north-west passage to the Indies; which discovered no inconsiderable portion, both of learning and ingenuity, mingled with the enthusiasm, the credulity, and sanguine expectations which incite men to new and hazardous undertakings. With the honourable desire of in

By a Mr. Barkhurst. See Harris's Voyages, Vol. 2,

p. 198.

† Robertson's Hist. of America, Vol. 4, p. 159. Tindal's edit. of Rapin's Hist. of England, Vol. 7, p. 387. Leland's Hist. of Ireland, Vol. 2, p. 252. In confirmation of the above character of Sir Humphrey, from Robertson, it may be mentioned, that Sir Humphrey was, a few years before this, (between the years 1571 and 1574,) engaged with the learned Sir Thomas Smith, in some visionary schemes of alchymy, through which means they expected to accumulate sudden wealth, by the transmutation of iron into copper. They were

SECT. Creasing his private fortune, by the pursuit of the II. public service, he applied to Elizabeth for permis1578. sion to carry his schemes into effect. He repre

sented to her the expediency of settling all those
countries upon the continent of America, which had
been formerly discovered by Cabot, because other-
wise it was not at all unlikely, that the French, who
had often reviewed those places, would be desirous
of supplanting the English, and because it was very
far from being improbable, that those countries
abounded with very rich minerals.* Upon these
suggestions, he easily obtained from the queen,
letters patent, vesting in him sufficient powers for

It has been observed, that this being the first
charter to a colony granted by the crown of En-
gland, the articles of it merit particular attention,
as they unfold the ideas of that age with respect to
the nature of such settlements.†
"She thereby

men of such reputation for talents and genius, that they drew in secretary Cecil and the earl of Leicester, to join them in the scheme. The project eventuated, as other delusive dreams of alchymy have generally done-in the ruin of the projectors. Sir Thomas smarted very severely in his purse, and Sir Humphrey was impoverished by it. The former sought to recruit his finances by planting colonies in Ireland, and the latter by the like proceedings in America. It is, however, one among many instances, wherein the very errors of philosophers have been consequentially productive of great good to mankind. See a biographical account of the life of Sir Thomas Smith, published in the Pennsylvania Magazine for January, 1776.

* Harris's Voyages, Vol. 2, p. 199.

Although this observation is made by Robertson, (Ibid.

« AnteriorContinuar »