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CHAP. tradition, that at a remote period the Icelanders had dis
covered a country to the west of their island. 1497. Cabot and his son Sebastian sailed almost due west,
and before long discovered the American continent, it is supposed near the fifty-sixth degree of north latitude. What must have been their surprise to find, in the latitude of England, a land dreary with snow and ice, barren rocks, frowning cliffs, polar bears, and wild savages ! This discovery was made more than a year before Columbus, on his third voyage, saw the South American coast, at the mouth of the Orinoco.
Thus the Western continent was discovered by private enterprise alone. The next year a voyage was undertaken for the purposes of trade, and also to ascertain if the country was suitable for making settlements. The king now ventured to become a partner in the speculation, and defrayed some of the expense. Sebastian Cabot sailed, with a company of three hundred men, for Labrador, and landed still further north than at his first voyage. Tbe severity of the cold, though it was the commencement of summer, and the barrenness of the country, deterred him from remaining any length of time. He sailed to the South and explored the coast, till want of provisions forced him to return home. The family of the Cabots derived no benefit from their discovery, as the trade to those barren regions amounted to nothing.
It is a matter of regret that so little is known of the many voyages of Sebastian Cabot. Around his name there lingers a pleasing interest. He is represented as being very youthful, not more than twenty years of age, when he went on his first voyage. Mild and courteous in his manners ; determined in purpose, and persevering in execution ; with a mind of extraordinary activity ; daring in his enterprises, but never rash or imprudent ; he won the hearts of his sailors by his kindness, and commanded their respect by his skill. Such was the
VOYAGE OF VERRAZZANI.
man who, for more than fifty years, was the foremost in CHAP. maritime adventure. He explored the eastern coast of South America ; sailed within twenty degrees of the North 1497. Pole, in search of the North-Western passage ; and at different times explored the eastern coast of this continent, from Hudson's straits to Albemarle sound.
The Cabots had noticed the immense shoals of fish 1524 which frequented the waters around Newfoundland. The English prosecuted these fisheries, but to no great extent, as they continued to visit the Icelandic seas. French fishermen, however, availed themselves of the way opened by their rivals, and prosecuted them with great vigor. Plans for planting colonies in those regions were often proposed in France, yet nothing was done beyond the yearly visits of the fishermen. Francis I. was finally induced to attempt further explorations. For this purpose he employed Verrazzani, a native of Florence, in Italy, a navigator of some celebrity, to take charge of an expedition. This was the first voyage, for the purpose of discovery, undertaken at the expense of the French government.
Verrazzani sailed south to the Madeira Isles, and thence due west, in quest of new countries. On the passage ho battled a terrible tempest, but at length saw land in the latitude of Wilmington, North Carolina. No good harbor could be found as he coasted along to the south for one hundred and fifty miles. Then turning north, he cast anchor from time to time and explored the coast. The surprise of the natives and that of the voyagers was mutual ; the one wondered at the white strangers, their ships and equipments; the other at the “russet color” of the simple natives; their dress of skins set off with various rudo ornaments and gaudy-colored feathers. The imagination of the voyagers had much to do with the report they made of their discoveries. The groves, they said, bloomed with flowers, whose fragrance greeted them far from the shore,
CHAP. reminding them of the spices of the East; the reddish
color of the earth was, no doubt, caused by gold. 1524. The explorers examined carefully the spacious harbors
of New York and Newport ; in the latter they remained fifteen days. They noticed the fine personal appearance of the natives, who were hospitable, but could not be induced to trade, and appeared to be ignorant of the use of iron. They continued their voyage along the then nameless shores of New England to Nova Scotia, and still further north. There the natives were hostile ; they had learned, by sad experience, the cruelty and treachery of white men. Gaspar Cortereal, a Portuguese, some years before, had visited their coast, stolen some of their friends, and sold them into slavery. They were willing to trade for instruments of iron or steel, but were very cautious, fearful of being again entrapped.
After his return, Verrazzani published a narrative of his voyage, giving much more information of the country than had hitherto been known. On the ground of his discoveries, France laid claim to the territory extending from South Carolina to Newfoundland.
Ten years after, an expedition was sent, under James Cartier, a mariner of St. Malo, to make further discoveries. with the ultimate design of founding a colony. His voyage was very successful ; he reached Newfoundland in twenty days ; passed through the Straits of Belleisle ; sailed to the south-west across a gulf and entered a bay; which, from the extreme heat of the weather, he named Des Chaleurs. Coasting along still further west, he landed at the inlet called Gaspé, where he took formal possession of the country, in the name of his sovereign. This he did by planting a cross, surmounted by the lilies of France, and bearing a suitable inscription. Continuing his course still further west, he entered the mouth of a great estuary, into which he ascertained flowed an immense river, larger by far than any river in Europe. These explorations were
VOYAGE OF CARTIER.
made during the months of July and August. It was now CHAP. necessary for him to return home.
His account of the climate as “hotter than that of 1534. Spain," and of the country as “the fairest that can possibly be found ;” of its “sweet-smelling trees ;” of its “strawberries, blackberries, prunes and wild corn;" its “figs, apples and other fruits,” together with his description of the great gulf and noble river, excited in France the most intense interest.
Immediately plans were devised to colonize the country. The court entered into the scheme. Some of the young nobility volunteered to become colonists. By the following May the arrangements were completed. Cartier, “who was very religious,” first conducted his company to the cathedral, where they received the bishop's blessing, then set sail, with high hopes of founding a State in what was then called New France.
After a somewhat stormy passage, he reached the northern part of the gulf, on the day of St. Lawrence the 1535, Martyr, in honor of whom it was named-in time, the name was applied to river also.
The strangers were received hospitably by the natives. Cartier ascended the river in a boat to an island, on which was the principal Indian settlement. It was in the mild and pleasant month of September. He ascended a hill, at the foot of which lay the Indian village; he was enraptured by the magnificent scene; the river before him evidently drained a vast territory ; the natives told him “ that it went so far to the west, that they had never heard of any man who had gone to the head of it.” He named the hill Mont-Real, Royal-Mount; a name since transferred to the island, and to the city.
This country was in the same latitude with France ; he thought its climate must be equally mild, its soil equally fertile ; and that it might become the home of a happy and industrious people, and this beautiful island the centre of
CHAP. an almost unbounded commerce. He did not know that IV.
God had sent the warm waters of the south through the 1535. Gulf Stream to the west of Europe ; that they warmed
the bleak west winds, and made the delightful climate of his native France different from that in the same latitude in North America.'
A rigorous winter dissipated his visions. His honest narrative of the voyage, and of the intense coldness of the climate, deterred his countrymen from making further attempts to colonize the country. There was no gold nor silver to be found—no mines of precious stones. What inducement was there for them to leave their fertile and beautiful France, with its mild and healthful climate, to
shiver on the banks of the St. Lawrence ? 1540. Thus it remained for four years. Among many who
thought it unworthy a great nation not to found a State on the shores of the magnificent gulf and river of the New World, was a nobleman of Picardy, Francis de la Roque, lord of Roberval. He obtained a commission from Francis I. to plant a colony, with full legal authority as viceroy over the territories and regions on or near the Gulf and River of St. Lawrence. These were to be known in history under the ambitious name of Norimbega.
Cartier was induced by Roberval to receive a commission as chief pilot of the expedition. They did not act in concert; both were tenacious of honor and authority, and they
were jealous of each other. 1540.
Cartier sailed the following spring, passed up the river, and built a fort near where Quebec now stands. To establish a prosperons colony, virtue, industry, and perseverance must be found in the colonists. The first enterprise, com
1 “The quantity of heat discharged over the Atlantic from the waters of the Gulf Stream in a winter's day, would be sufficient to raise the whole column of atmosphere that rests upon France and the British Isles, from the freezing point to summer heat.”
Maury's Physical Geography of the Sea, p. 61.