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CHAP. that the inhabitants were few, and lived by hunting. They wandered two hundred miles further west; then 1541. turned to the south, and went nearly as far, among Indians who were an agricultural people, living in villages, and subsisting upon the produce of the soil.
In this region another winter was passed. It was now almost three years since De Soto had landed at Tampa bay. With all his toil and suffering, he had accomplished 1542. nothing. In the spring, he descended the Wachita to the Red river, and thence once more to the Mississippi. There he learned that the country, extending to the sea, was a waste of swamps, where no man dwelt.
His cup of disappointment was full; his pride, which had hitherto sustained him, must confess that his enterprise had been a failure. He had set out with higher hopes than any Spanish conqueror of the New World; now his faithful band was wasted by disease and death. He was far from aid; a deep gloom settled upon his spirit; his soul was agitated by a conflict of emotions; a violent fever was induced; and when sinking rapidly, he called his followers around him, they, faithful to the last, implored him to appoint a successor: he did so. The next day De Soto was no more. His soldiers mourned for him; the priests performed his funeral rites; with sad hearts they wrapped his body in a mantle, and, at the silent hour of midnight, sunk it beneath the waters of the Mississippi.
His followers again wandered for awhile, in hopes of getting to Mexico. Finally they halted upon the banks of the Mississippi; erected a forge; struck the fetters off their Indian captives, and made the iron into nails to build boats; killed their horses and swine, and dried their flesh for provisions. When the boats were finished they launched them upon the river, and floated down its stream to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the lapse of one hundred and thirty years, the Mississippi was again visited by white men of another nation
THE REFORMATION AND ITS EFFECTS.
FROM this period we find interwoven with the early his- CHAP. tory of our country a class of persons who were not mere adventurers, seekers after gold or fame-but who sought 1517. here a home, where they might enjoy civil and religious liberty, and who held the principles of which we see the result in the institutions of the United States, so different in some respects from those of any other nation. This difference did not spring from chance, but was the legitimate effect of certain influences. What has made this younger member of the great family of governments to differ so much from the others? What were the principles, what the influences, which produced such men and women as our revolutionary ancestors? The world has never seen their equals for self-denying patriotism; for enlightened views of government, of religious liberty, and of the rights of conscience.
When great changes are to be introduced among the nations of the earth, God orders the means to accomplish them, as well as the end to be attained. He trains the people for the change. He not only prepared the way for the discovery of this continent, but for its colonization by a Christian people. Fifty years before the first voyage of Columbus, the art of printing was invented-and twentyfive years after the same voyage, commenced the Reformation in Germany under Martin Luther. The art of printing, by multiplying books, became the means of diffusing
CHAP. knowledge among men, and of awakening the human mind from the sleep of ages. One of the consequences of this 1517. awakening, was the Reformation. The simple truths of the Gospel had been obscured by the teachings of men. The decrees of the church had drawn a veil between the throne of God and the human soul. The priesthood had denied to the people the right of studying for themselves the word of God. The views of the Reformers were the reverse of this. They believed that God, as Lord of the conscience, had given a revelation of his will to man, and that it was the inherent right and privilege of every human being to study that will, each one for himself. They did not stop here: they were diligent seekers for truth; the advocates of education and of free inquiry. Throwing aside the traditions of men, they went directly to the Bible, and taught all men to do the same.
On the continent, the Reformation began among the learned men of the universities, and gradually extended to the uneducated people. In England, the common people were reading the Bible in their own language, long before it was the privilege of any nation on the continent.* Thus the English were prepared to enter into the spirit of the Reformation under Luther. Soon persecutions of the Reformers arose; with civil commotions and oppressions involving all Europe in war. These troubles drove the Huguenot from France and the Puritan from England, to seek homes in the wilderness of the New World.
From the Bible they learned their high and holy principles; fiery trials taught them endurance. They brought with them to our shores the spirit of the Reformation, the recognition of civil rights and religious liberty. These principles have been transmitted to us in our national institutions and form of government.
* D'Aubigné's Hist. of the Reformation, Vol. V.
THE HUGUENOTS IN THE SOUTH.
Their settlement destroyed.-The Colony of St. Augustine.-De Gourges.
WHILE these contests were going on in Europe between CHAP the friends of religious liberty and the Roman Catholics, Coligny, the high-admiral of France, a devoted Protestant, 1562. conceived the idea of founding a colony in the New World, to which his persecuted countrymen might flee, and enjoy that which was denied them in their native land; the inestimable privilege of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience, enlightened by his holy word.
The French government took no interest in the matter. Those influences were then at work, which a few years 1572. later produced their dire effect in the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Coligny, however, easily obtained a commission from Charles IX. Preparations were soon made, and the expedition sailed under the direction of John Ribault, a worthy man, and a sincere Protestant.
They knew the character of the country and of the climate in the latitude of the St. Lawrence, and they wished to find a region more fertile and a climate more genial. They made land in the vicinity of St. Augustine, Florida; then continued further north along the coast, and landed at Port Royal entrance. They were delighted with the country, its fine climate, its magnificent forests, fragrant
CHAP. with wild flowers; but above all with the capacious har bor, which was capable of floating the largest ships. Here 1562. it was determined to make a settlement: a fort was built
on an island in the harbor, and in honor of their sovereign called CAROLINA. Leaving twenty-five men to keep possession of the country, Ribault departed for France, with the intention of returning the next year with supplies and more emigrants. He found France in confusion; civil war was raging with all its attendant horrors. In vain the colonists looked for reinforcements and supplies-none ever came. Disheartened, they resolved to return home ; they hastily built a brigantine, and with an insufficiency of provisions, set sail. They came near perishing at sea by famine, but were providentially rescued by an English bark. Part of these colonists were taken to France, and part to England, there they told of the fine climate and the rich soil of the country they had attempted to colonize. We shall yet see the effect of this information in directing English enterprise.
Two years after, there was a treacherous lull in the storm of civil discord in France; Coligny again attempted to found a colony. The care of this expedition was intrusted to Laudonière, a man of uprightness and intelligence, who had been on the former voyage. The healthfulness of the climate of Florida was represented to be wonderful: it was believed, that under its genial influence, human life was extended more than one-half, while the stories of the wealth of the interior still found credence. Unfortunately proper care was not exercised in selecting the colonists from the numerous volunteers who offered. Some were chosen who were not worthy to be members of a colony based on religious principles, and founded for noble purposes.
They reached the coast of Florida, avoided Port Royal, 1564. the scene of former misery, and found a suitable location for a settlement on the banks of the river May, now called