THE CONQUEST OF CANADA.
THE AUTHOR OF "HOCHELAGA."
IN TWO VOLUMES.
NEW YORK: HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, 82 CLIFF STREET. 1850.
England and France started in a fair race for the magnificent prize of supremacy in America. The advantages and difficulties of each were much alike, but the systems by which they improved those advantages and met those difficulties were essentially different. New France was colonized by a government, New England by a people. In Canada the men of intellect, influence, and wealth were only the agents of the mother country; they fulfilled, it is true, their colonial duties with zeal and ability, but they ever looked to France for honor and approbation, and longed for a return to her shores as their best reward. They were in the colony, but not of it. They strove vigorously to repel invasion, to improve agriculture, and to encourage commerce, for the sake of France, but not for Canada.
The mass of the population of New France were descended from settlers sent out within a short time after the first occupation of the country, and who were not selected for any peculiar qualifications. They were not led to emigrate from the spirit of adventure, disappointed ambition, or political discontent; by far the larger proportion left their native country under the pressure of extreme want or in blind obedience to the will of their superiors. They were then established in points best suited to the interests of France, not those best suited to their own. The physical condition of the humbler emigrant, however, became better than that of his countrymen in the Old World; the fertile soil repaid his labor with competence; independence fostered self-reliance, and the unchecked range of forest and prairie inspired him with thoughts of freedom. But all these elevating tendencies were fatally counteracted by the blighting influence of feudal organization. Restrictions, humiliating as well as injurious, pressed upon the person and property of the Canadian. Every avenue to wealth and influence was closed to him and thrown open to the children of Old France. He saw whole tracts of the magnificent country lavished upon the favorites and military followers of the court, and, through corrupt or capricious influences, the privilege of exclusive trade granted for the aggrandizement of strangers at his expense.
France founded a state in Canada. She established a feudal and ecclesiastical frame-work for the young nation, and into that Procrustean bed the growth of population and the proportions of society were forced. The state fixed governments at Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec; there towns arose. She divided the rich banks of the St. Lawrence and of the Richelieu into seigneuries; there population spread. She placed posts on the lakes and rivers of the Far West; there the fur-traders congregated. She divided the land into dioceses and parishes, and appointed bishops and curates; a portion of all produce of the soil was exacted for their support. She sent out the people at her own cost, and acknowledged no shadow of popular rights. She organized the inhabitants by an unsparing conscription, and placed over them officers either from the Old Country or from the favored class of seigneurs. She grasped a monopoly of every valuable production of the country, and yet forced upon it her own manufactures to the exclusion of all others. She squandered her resources and treasures on the colony, but violated all principles of justice in a vain endeavor to make that colony a source of wealth. She sent out the ablest and best of her officers to govern on the falsest and worst of systems. Her energy absorbed all individual energy; her perpetual and minute interference aspired to shape and direct all will and motive of her subjects. The state was every thing, the people nothing. Finally, when the power of the state was broken by a foreign foe, there remained no power of the people to supply its place. On the day that the French armies ceased to resist, Canada was a peaceful province of British America.
A few years after the French crown had founded a state in Canada, a handful of Puritan refugees founded a people in New England. They bore with them from the mother country little beside a bitter hatred of the existing government, and a stern resolve to perish or be free. One small vessel—the Mayflower—held them, their wives, their children, and their scanty stores. So ignorant were they of the country of their adoption, that they sought its shores in the depth of winter, when nothing but a snowy desert met their sight. Dire hardships assailed them; many sickened and died, but those who lived still strove bravely. And bitter was their trial; the scowling sky above their heads, the frozen earth under their feet, and sorest of all, deep in their strong hearts the unacknowledged love of that venerable land which they had abandoned forever.
But brighter times soon came; the snowy desert changed into a fair scene of life and vegetation. The woods rang with the cheerful sound of the ax; the fields were tilled hopefully, the harvest gathered gratefully. Other vessels arrived bearing more settlers, men, for the most part, like those who had first landed. Their numbers swelled to hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. They formed themselves into a community; they decreed laws, stern and quaint, but suited to their condition. They had neither rich nor poor; they admitted of no superiority save in their own gloomy estimate of merit; they persecuted all forms of faith different from that which they themselves held, and yet they would have died rather than suffer the religious interference of others. Far from seeking or accepting aid from the government of England, they patiently tolerated their nominal dependence only because they were virtually independent. For protection against the savage; for relief in pestilence or famine; for help to plenty and prosperity, they trusted alone to God in heaven, and to their own right hand on earth.
Such, in the main, were the ancestors of the men of New England, and, in spite of all subsequent admixture, such, in the main, were they themselves. In the other British colonies also, hampered though they were by charters, and proprietary rights, and alloyed by a Babel congregation of French Huguenots, Dutch, Swedes, Quakers, Nobles, Roundheads, Canadians, rogues, zealots, infidels, enthusiasts, and felons, a general prosperity had created individual self-reliance, and self-reliance had engendered the desire of self-government. Each colony contained a separate vitality within itself. They commenced under a variety of systems; more or less practicable, more or less liberal, and more or less dependent on the parent state. But the spirit of adventure, the disaffection, and the disappointed ambition which had so rapidly recruited their population, gave a general bias to their political feelings which no arbitrary authority could restrain, and no institutions counteract. They were less intolerant and morose, but at the same time, also, less industrious and moral than their Puritan neighbors. Like them, however, they resented all interference from England as far as they dared, and constantly strove for the acquisition or retention of popular rights.
The British colonists, left at first, in a great measure, to themselves, settled on the most fertile lands, built their towns upon the most convenient harbors, directed their industry to the most profitable commerce, raised the most valuable productions. The trading spirit of the mother country became almost a passion when transferred to the New World. Enterprise and industry were stimulated to incredible activity by brilliant success and ample reward. As wealth and the means of subsistence increased, so multiplied the population. Early marriages were universal; a numerous family was the riches of the parent. Thousands of immigrants, also, from year to year swelled the living flood that poured over the wilderness. In a century and a half the inhabitants of British America exceeded nearly twenty-fold the people of New France. The relative superiority of the first over the last was even greater in wealth and resources than in population. The merchant navy of the English colonies was already larger than that of many European nations, and known in almost every port in the world where men bought and sold. New France had none.
The French colonies were founded and fostered by the state, with the real object of extending the dominion, increasing the power, and illustrating the glory of France. The ostensible object of settlement, at least that holding the most prominent place in all Acts and Charters, was to extend the true religion, and to minister to the glory of God. From the earliest time the ecclesiastical establishments of Canada were formed on a scale suited to these professed views. Not only was ample provision made for the spiritual wants of the European population, but the labors of many earnest and devoted men were directed to the enlightenment of the heathen Indians. At first the Church and the civil government leaned upon each other for mutual support and assistance, but after a time, when neither of these powers found themselves troubled with popular opposition, their union grew less intimate; their interests differed, jealousies ensued, and finally they became antagonistic orders in the community. The mass of the people, more devout than intelligent, sympathized with the priesthood; this sympathy did not, however, interfere with unqualified submission to the government.
The Canadians were trained to implicit obedience to their rulers, spiritual and temporal: these rulers ventured not to imperil their absolute authority by educating their vassals. It is true there were a few seminaries and schools under the zealous administration of the Jesuits; but even that instruction was unattainable by the general population; those who walked in the moonlight which such reflected rays afforded, were not likely to become troublesome as sectarians or politicians. Much credit for sincerity can not be given to those who professed to promote the education of the people, when no printing-press was ever permitted in Canada during the government of France.
Canada, unprovoked by Dissent, was altogether free from the stain of religious persecution: hopelessly fettered in the chains of metropolitan power, she was also undisturbed by political agitation. But this calm was more the stillness of stagnation than the tranquillity of content. Without a press, without any semblance of popular representation, there hardly remained other alternatives than tame submission or open mutiny. By hereditary habit and superstition the Canadians were trained to the first, and by weakness and want of energy they were incapacitated for the last.
Although the original charter of New England asserted the king's supremacy in matters of religion, a full understanding existed that on this head ample latitude should be allowed; ample latitude was accordingly taken. She set up a system of faith of her own, and enforced conformity. But the same spirit that had excited the colonists to dissent from the Church of England, and to sacrifice home and friends in the cause, soon raised up among them a host of dissenters from their own stern and peculiar creed. Their clergy had sacrificed much for conscience' sake, and were generally "faithful, watchful, painful, serving their flock daily with prayers and tears," some among them, also, men of high European repute. They had often, however, the mortification of seeing their congregations crowding to hear the ravings of any knave or enthusiast who broached a new doctrine. Most of these mischievous fanatics were given the advantage of that interest and sympathy which a cruel and unnecessary persecution invariably excites. All this time freedom of individual judgment was the watch-word of the persecutors. There is no doubt that strong measures were necessary to curb the furious and profane absurdities of many of the seceders, who were the very outcasts of religion. On considering the criminal laws of the time, it would also appear that not a few of the outcasts of society, also, had found their way to New England. The code of Massachusetts contained the description of the most extraordinary collection of crimes that ever defaced a statute-book, and the various punishments allotted to each.
In one grand point the pre-eminent merit of the Puritans must be acknowledged: they strove earnestly and conscientiously for what they held to be the truth. For this they endured with unshaken constancy, and persecuted with unremitting zeal.
The suicidal policy of the Stuarts had, for a time, driven all the upholders of civil liberty into the ranks of sectarianism. The advocates of the extremes of religious and political opinion flocked to America, the furthest point from kings and prelates that they could conveniently reach. Ingrafted on the stubborn temper of the Englishman, and planted in the genial soil of the West, the love of this civil and religious liberty grew up with a vigor that time only served to strengthen; that the might of armies vainly strove to overcome. Thus, ultimately, the persecution under the Stuarts was the most powerful cause ever yet employed toward the liberation of man in his path through earth to heaven.
For many years England generally refrained from interference with her American colonies in matters of local government or in religion. They taxed themselves, made their own laws, and enjoyed religious freedom in their own way. In one state only, in Virginia, was the Church of England established, and even there it was accorded very little help by the temporal authority: in a short time it ceased to receive the support of a majority of the settlers, and rapidly decayed. On one point, however, the mother country claimed and exacted the obedience of the colonists to the imperial law. In her commercial code she would not permit the slightest relaxation in their favor, whatever the peculiar circumstances of their condition might be. This short-sighted and unjust restriction was borne, partly because it could not be resisted, and partly because at that early time the practical evil was but lightly felt. Although the principle of representation was seldom specified in the earlier charters, the colonists in all cases assumed it as a matter of right: they held that their privileges as Englishmen accompanied them wherever they went, and this was generally admitted as a principle of colonial policy.
In the seventeenth century England adopted the system of transportation to the American colonies. The felons were, however, too limited in numbers to make any serious inroad upon the morals or tranquillity of the settlers. Many of the convicts were men sentenced for political crimes, but free from any social taint; the laboring population, therefore, did not regard them with contempt, nor shrink from their society. It may be held, therefore, that this partial and peculiar system of transportation introduced no distinct element into the constitution of the American nation.
The British colonization in the New World differed essentially from any before attempted by the nations of modern Europe, and has led to results of immeasurable importance to mankind. Even the magnificent empire of India sinks into insignificance, in its bearings upon the general interests of the world, by comparison with the Anglo-Saxon empire in America. The success of each, however, is unexampled in history.
In the great military and mercantile colony of the East an enormous native population is ruled by a dominant race, whose number amounts to less than a four-thousandth part of its own, but whose superiority in war and civil government is at present so decided as to reduce any efforts of opposition to the mere outbursts of hopeless petulance. In that golden land, however, even the Anglo-Saxon race can not increase and multiply; the children of English parents degenerate or perish under its fatal sun. No permanent settlement or infusion of blood takes place. Neither have we effected any serious change in the manners or customs of the East Indians; on the other hand, we have rather assimilated ours to theirs. We tolerate their various religions, and we learn their language; but in neither faith nor speech have they approached one tittle toward us. We have raised there no gigantic monument of power either in pride or for utility; no temples, canals, or roads remain to remind posterity of our conquest and dominion. Were the English rule over India suddenly cast off, in a single generation the tradition of our Eastern empire would appear a splendid but baseless dream, that of our administration an allegory, of our victories a romance.
In the great social colonies of the West, the very essence of vitality is their close resemblance to the parent state. Many of the coarser inherited elements of strength have been increased. Industry and adventure have been stimulated to an unexampled extent by the natural advantages of the country, and free institutions have been developed almost to license by general prosperity and the absence of external danger. Their stability, in some one form or another, is undoubted: it rests on the broadest possible basis—on the universal will of the nation. Our vast empire in India rests only on the narrow basis of the superiority of a handful of Englishmen: should any untoward fate shake the Atlas strength that bears the burden, the superincumbent mass must fall in ruins to the earth. With far better cause may England glory in the land of her revolted children than in that of her patient slaves: the prosperous cities and busy sea-ports of America are prouder memorials of her race than the servile splendor of Calcutta or the ruined ramparts of Seringapatam. In the earlier periods the British colonies were only the reflection of Britain; in later days their light has served to illumine the political darkness of the European Continent. The attractive example of American democracy proved the most important cause that has acted upon European society since the Reformation.
Toward the close of George II.'s reign England had reached the lowest point of national degradation recorded in her history. The disasters of her fleets and armies abroad were the natural fruits of almost universal corruption at home. The admirals and generals, chosen by a German king and a subservient ministry, proved worthy of the mode of their selection. An obsequious Parliament served but to give the apparent sanction of the people to the selfish and despotic measures of the crown. Many of the best blood and of the highest chivalry of the land still held loyal devotion to the exiled Stuarts, while the mass of the nation, disgusted by the sordid and unpatriotic acts of the existing dynasty, regarded it with sentiments of dislike but little removed from positive hostility. A sullen discontent paralyzed the vigor of England, obstructed her councils, and blunted her sword. In the cabinets of Europe, among the colonists of America, and the millions of the East alike, her once glorious name had sunk almost to a by-word of reproach. But "the darkest hour is just before the dawn:" a new disaster, more humiliating, and more inexcusable than any which had preceded, at length goaded the passive indignation of the British people into irresistible action. The spirit that animated the men who spoke at Runnymede, and those who fought on Marston Moor, was not dead, but sleeping. The free institutions which wisdom had devised, time hallowed, and blood sealed, were evaded, but not overthrown. The nation arose as one man, and with a peaceful but stern determination, demanded that these things should cease. Then, for "the hour," the hand of the All Wise supplied "the man." The light of Pitt's genius, the fire of his patriotism, like the dawn of an unclouded morning, soon chased away the chilly night which had so long darkened over the fortunes of his country.
But not even the genius of the great minister, aided as it was by the awakened spirit of the British people, would have sufficed to rend Canada from France without the concurrent action of many and various causes: the principal of these was, doubtless, the extraordinary growth of our American settlements. When the first French colonists founded their military and ecclesiastical establishments at Quebec, upheld by the favor and strengthened by the arms of the mother country, they regarded with little uneasiness the unaided efforts of their English rivals in the South. But these dangerous neighbors rose with wonderful rapidity from few to many, from weak to powerful. The cloud, which had appeared no greater than "a man's hand" on the political horizon, spread rapidly wider and wider, above and below, till at length from out its threatening gloom the storm burst forth which swept away the flag of France.
As a military event, the conquest of Canada was a matter of little or no permanent importance: it can only rank as one among the numerous scenes of blood that give an intense but morbid interest to our national annals. The surrender of Niagara and Quebec were but the acknowledgment or final symbol of the victory of English over French colonization. For three years the admirable skill of Montcalm and the valor of his troops deferred the inevitable catastrophe of the colony: then the destiny was accomplished. France had for that time played out her part in the history of the New World; during one hundred and fifty years her threatening power had served to retain the English colonies in interested loyalty to protecting England. Notwithstanding the immense material superiority of the British Americans, the fleets and armies of the mother country were indispensable to break the barrier raised up against them by the union, skill, and courage of the French.
Montcalm's far-sighted wisdom suggested consolation even in his defeat and death. In a remarkable and almost prophetic letter, which he addressed to M. de Berryer during the siege of Quebec, he foretells that the British power in America shall be broken by success, and that when the dread of France ceases to exist, the colonists will no longer submit to European control. One generation had not passed away when his prediction was fully accomplished. England, by the conquest of Canada, breathed the breath of life into the huge Frankenstein of the American republic.
The rough schooling of French hostility was necessary for the development of those qualities among the British colonists which enabled them finally to break the bonds of pupilage and stand alone. Some degree of united action had been effected among the several and widely-different states; the local governments had learned how to raise and support armies, and to consider military movements. On many occasions the provincial militia had borne themselves with distinguished bravery in the field; several of their officers had gained honorable repute; already the name of WASHINGTON called a flush of pride upon each American cheek. The stirring events of the contest with Canada had brought men of ability and patriotism into the strong light of active life, and the eyes of their countrymen sought their guidance in trusting confidence. Through the instrumentality of such men as these the American Revolution was shaped into the dignity of a national movement, and preserved from the threatening evils of an insane democracy.
The consequences of the Canadian war furnished the cause of the quarrel which led to the separation of the great colonies from the mother country. England had incurred enormous debt in the contest; her people groaned under taxation, and the wealthy Americans had contributed in but a very small proportion to the cost of victories by which they were the principal gainers. The British Parliament devised an unhappy expedient to remedy this evil: it assumed the right of taxing the unrepresented colonies, and taxed them accordingly. Vain was the prophetic eloquence of Lord Chatham; vain were the just and earnest remonstrances of the best and wisest among the colonists: the time was come. Then followed years of stubborn and unyielding strife; the blood of the same race gave sterner determination to the quarrel. The balance of success hung equally. Once again France appeared upon the stage in the Western world, and La Fayette revenged the fall of Montcalm.
However we may regret the cause and conduct of the Revolutionary war, we can hardly regret its result. The catastrophe was inevitable: the folly or wisdom of British statesmen could only have accelerated or deferred it. The child had outlived the years of pupilage; the interests of the old and the young required a separate household. But we must ever mourn the mode of separation: a bitterness was left that three quarters of a century has hardly yet removed; and a dark page remains in our annals, that tells of a contest begun in injustice, conducted with mingled weakness and severity, and ended in defeat. The cause of human freedom, perhaps for ages, depended upon the issue of the quarrel. Even the patriot minister merged the apparent interests of England in the interests of mankind. By the light of Lord Chatham's wisdom we may read the disastrous history of that fatal war, with a resigned and tempered sorrow for the glorious inheritance rent away from us forever.
The reaction of the New World upon the Old may be distinctly traced through the past and the present, but human wisdom may not estimate its influence on the future. The lessons of freedom learned by the French army while aiding the revolted colonies against England were not forgotten. On their return to their native country, they spread abroad tidings that the new people of America had gained a treasure richer a thousand-fold than those which had gilded the triumphs of Cortes or Pizarro—the inestimable prize of liberty. Then the down-trampled millions of France arose, and with avaricious haste strove for a like treasure. They won a specious imitation, so soiled and stained, however, that many of the wisest among them could not at once detect its nature. They played with the coarse bawble for a time, then lost it in a sea of blood.
Doubtless the tempest that broke upon France had long been gathering. The rays that emanated from such false suns as Voltaire and Rousseau had already drawn up a moral miasma from the swamps of sensual ignorance: under the shade of a worthless government these noxious mists collected into the clouds from whence the desolating storm of the Revolution burst. It was, however, the example of popular success in the New World, and the republican training of a portion of the French army during the American contest, that finally accelerated the course of events. A generation before the "Declaration of Independence" the struggle between the rival systems of Canada and New England had been watched by thinking men in Europe with deep interest, and the importance to mankind of its issue was fully felt. While France mourned the defeat of her armies and the loss of her magnificent colony, the keen-sighted philosopher of Ferney gave a banquet to celebrate the British triumph at Quebec, not as the triumph of England over France, but as that of freedom over despotism.
The overthrow of French by British power in America was not the effect of mere military superiority. The balance of general success and glory in the field is no more than shared with the conquered people. The morbid national vanity, which finds no delight but in the triumphs of the sword, will shrink from the study of this checkered story. The narrative of disastrous defeat and doubtful advantage must be endured before we arrive at that of the brilliant victory which crowned our arms with final success. We read with painful surprise of the rout and ruin of regular British regiments by a crowd of Indian savages, and of the bloody repulse of the most numerous army that had yet assembled round our standards in America before a few weak French battalions and an unfinished parapet.
For the first few years our prosecution of the Canadian war was marked by a weakness little short of imbecility. The conduct of the troops was indifferent, the tactics of the generals bad, and the schemes of the minister worse. The coarse but powerful wit of Smollett and Fielding, and the keen sarcasms of "Chrysal," convey to us no very exalted idea of the composition of the British army in those days. The service had sunk into contempt. The withering influence of a corrupt patronage had demoralized the officers; successive defeats, incurred through the inefficiency of courtly generals, had depressed the spirit of the soldiery, and, were it not for the proof shown upon the bloody fields of La Feldt and Fontenoy, we might almost suppose that English manhood had become an empty name.
Many of the battalions shipped off to take part in the American contest were hasty levies without organization or discipline: the colonel, a man of influence, with or without other qualifications, as the case might be; the officers, his neighbors and dependents. These armed mobs found themselves suddenly landed in a country, the natural difficulty of which would of itself have proved a formidable obstacle, even though unenhanced by the presence of an active and vigilant enemy. At the same time, there devolved upon them the duties and the responsibilities of regular troops. A due consideration of these circumstances tends to diminish the surprise which a comparison of their achievements with those recorded in our later military annals might create.
Very different were the ranks of the American army from the magnificent regiments whose banners now bear the crowded records of Peninsular and Indian victory; who, within the recollection of living men, have stood as conquerors upon every hostile land, yet never once permitted a stranger to tread on England's sacred soil but as a prisoner, fugitive, or friend. In Cairo and Copenhagen; in Lisbon, Madrid, and Paris; in the ancient metropolis of China; in the capital of the young American republic, the British flag has been hailed as the symbol of a triumphant power or of a generous deliverance. Well may we cherish an honest pride in the prowess and military virtue of our soldiers, loyal alike to the crown and to the people; facing in battle, with unshaken courage, the deadly shot and sweeping charge, and, with a still loftier valor, enduring, in times of domestic troubles, the gibes and injuries of their misguided countrymen.
In the stirring interest excited by the progress and rivalry of our kindred races in America, the sad and solemn subject of the Indian people is almost forgotten. The mysterious decree of Providence which has swept them away may not be judged by human wisdom. Their existence will soon be of the past. They have left no permanent impression on the constitution of the great nation which now spreads over their country. No trace of their blood, language, or manners may be found among their haughty successors. As certainly as their magnificent forests fell before the advancing tide of civilization, they fell also. Neither the kindness nor the cruelty of the white man arrested or hastened their inevitable fate. They withered alike under the Upas-shade of European protection and before the deadly storm of European hostility. As the snow in spring they melted away, stained, tainted, trampled down.
The closing scene of French dominion in Canada was marked by circumstances of deep and peculiar interest. The pages of romance can furnish no more striking episode than the battle of Quebec. The skill and daring of the plan which brought on the combat, and the success and fortune of its execution, are unparalleled. There a broad, open plain, offering no advantages to either party, was the field of fight. The contending armies were nearly equal in military strength, if not in numbers. The chiefs of each were men already of honorable fame. France trusted firmly in the wise and chivalrous Montcalm; England trusted hopefully in the young and heroic Wolfe. The magnificent stronghold which was staked upon the issue of the strife stood close at hand. For miles and miles around, the prospect extended over as fair a land as ever rejoiced the sight of man; mountain and valley, forest and waters, city and solitude, grouped together in forms of almost ideal beauty.
The strife was brief, but deadly. The September sun rose upon two gallant armies arrayed in unbroken pride, and noon of the same day saw the ground where they had stood strewn with the dying and the dead. Hundreds of the veterans of France had fallen in the ranks, from which they disdained to fly; the scene of his ruin faded fast from Montcalm's darkening sight, but the proud consciousness of having done his duty deprived defeat and death of their severest sting. Not more than a musket-shot away lay Wolfe; the heart that but an hour before had throbbed with great and generous impulse, now still forever. On the face of the dead there rested a triumphant smile, which the last agony had not overcast; a light of unfailing hope, that the shadows of the grave could not darken.
The portion of history here recorded is no fragment. Within a period comparatively brief, we see the birth, the growth, and the catastrophe of a nation. The flag of France is erected at Quebec by a handful of hardy adventurers; a century and a half has passed, and that flag is lowered to a foreign foe before the sorrowing eyes of a Canadian people. This example is complete as that presented in the life of an individual: we see the natural sequence of events; the education and the character, the motive and the action, the error and the punishment. Through the following records may be clearly traced combinations of causes, remote, and even apparently opposed, uniting in one result, and also the surprising fertility of one great cause in producing many different results.
Were we to read the records of history by the light of the understanding instead of by the fire of the passions, the study could be productive only of unmixed good; their examples and warnings would afford us constant guidance in the paths of public and private virtue. The narrow and unreasonable notion of exclusive national merit can not survive a fair glance over the vast map of time and space which history lays before us. We may not avert our eyes from those dark spots upon the annals of our beloved land where acts of violence and injustice stand recorded against her, nor may we suffer the blaze of military renown to dazzle our judgment. Victory may bring glory to the arms, while it brings shame to the councils of a people; for the triumphs of war are those of the general and the soldier; increase of honor, wisdom, and prosperity are the triumphs of the nation.
The citizens of Rome placed the images of their ancestors in the vestibule, to recall the virtues of the dead, and to stimulate the emulation of the living. We also should fix our thoughts upon the examples which history presents, not in a vain spirit of selfish nationality, but in earnest reverence for the great and good of all countries, and a contempt for the false, and mean, and cruel even of our own.
[Footnote 1: See Appendix, No. I. (see Vol II)]
THE CONQUEST OF CANADA.
The philosophers of remote antiquity acquired the important knowledge of the earth's spherical form; to their bold genius we are indebted for the outline of the geographical system now universally adopted. With a vigorous conception, but imperfect execution, they traced out the scheme of denoting localities by longitude and latitude: according to their teaching, the imaginary equatorial line, encompassing the earth, was divided into hours and degrees.
Even at that distant period hardy adventurers had penetrated far away into the land of the rising sun, and many a wondrous tale was told of that mysterious empire, where one third of our fellow-men still stand apart from the brotherhood of nations. Among the various and astounding exaggerations induced by the vanity of the narrators, and the ignorance of their audience, none was more ready than that of distance. The journey, the labor of a life; each league of travel a new scene; the day crowded with incident, the night a dream of terror or admiration. Then, as the fickle will of the wanderer suggested, as the difficulties or encouragement of nature, and the hostility or aid of man impelled, the devious course bent to the north or south, was hastened, hindered, or retraced.
By such vague and shadowy measurement as the speculations of these wanderers supplied, the sages of the past traced out the ideal limits of the dry land which, at the word of God, appeared from out the gathering together of the waters.
The most eminent geographer before the time of Ptolemy places the confines of Seres—the China of to-day—at nearly two thirds of the distance round the world, from the first meridian. Ptolemy reduces the proportion to one half. Allowing for the supposed vast extent of this unknown country to the eastward, it was evident that its remotest shores approached our Western World. But, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the dark and stormy waters of the Atlantic forbade adventure. The giant minds of those days saw, even through the mists of ignorance and error, that the readiest course to reach this distant land must lie toward the setting sun, across the western ocean. From over this vast watery solitude no traveler had ever brought back the story of his wanderings. The dim light of traditionary memory gave no guiding ray, the faint voice of rumor breathed not its mysterious secrets. Then poetic imagination filled the void; vast islands were conjured up out of the deep, covered with unheard-of luxuriance of vegetation, rich in mines of incalculable value, populous with a race of conquering warriors. But this magnificent vision was only created to be destroyed; a violent earthquake rent asunder in a day and a night the foundations of Atlantis, and the waters of the Western Ocean swept over the ruins of this once mighty empire. In after ages we are told, that some Phoenician vessels, impelled by a strong east wind, were driven for thirty days across the Atlantic: there they found a part of the sea where the surface was covered with rushes and sea-weed, somewhat resembling a vast inundated meadow. The voyagers ascribed these strange appearances to some cause connected with the submerged Atlantis, and even in later years they were held by many as confirmation of Plato's marvelous story.
In the Carthaginian annals is found the mention of a fertile and beautiful island of the distant Atlantic. Many adventurous men of that maritime people were attracted thither by the delightful climate and the riches of the soil; it was deemed of such value and importance that they proposed to transfer the seat of their republic to its shores in case of any irreparable disaster at home. But at length the Senate, fearing the evils of a divided state, denounced the distant colony, and decreed the punishment of death to those who sought it for a home. If there be any truth in this ancient tale, it is probable that one of the Canary Islands was its subject.
Although the New World in the West was unknown to the ancients, there is no doubt that they entertained a suspicion of its existence; the romance of Plato—the prophecy of Seneca, were but the offsprings of this vague idea. Many writers tell us it was conjectured that, by sailing from the coast of Spain, the eastern shores of India might be reached; the length of the voyage, or the wonders that might lie in its course, imagination alone could measure or describe. Whatever might have been the suspicion or belief of ancient time, we may feel assured that none then ventured to seek these distant lands, nor have we reason to suppose that any of the civilized European races gave inhabitants to the New World before the close of the fifteenth century.
To the barbarous hordes of Northeastern Asia America must have long been known as the land where many of their wanderers found a home. It is not surprising that from them no information was obtained; but it is strange that the bold and adventurous Northmen should have visited it nearly five hundred years before the great Genoese, and have suffered their wonderful discovery to remain hidden from the world, and to become almost forgotten among themselves.
In the year 1001 the Icelanders touched upon the American coast, and for nearly two centuries subsequent visits were repeatedly made by them and the Norwegians, for the purpose of commerce or for the gratification of curiosity. Biorn Heriolson, an Icelander, was the first discoverer: steering for Greenland, he was driven to the south by tempestuous and unfavorable winds, and saw different parts of America, without, however, touching at any of them. Attracted by the report of this voyage, Leif, son of Eric, the discoverer of Greenland, fitted out a vessel to pursue the same adventure. He passed the coast visited by Biorn, and steered southwest till he reached a strait between a large island and the main land. Finding the country fertile and pleasant, he passed the winter near this place, and gave it the name of Vinland, from the wild vine which grew there in great abundance. The winter days were longer in this new country than in Greenland, and the weather was more temperate.
Leif returned to Greenland in the spring; his brother Thorvald succeeded him, and remained two winters in Vinland exploring much of the coast and country. In the course of the third summer the natives, now called Esquimaux, were first seen; on account of their diminutive stature the adventurers gave them the name of Skraelingar. These poor savages, irritated by an act of barbarous cruelty, attacked the Northmen with darts and arrows, and Thorvald fell a victim to their vengeance. A wealthy Icelander, named Thorfinn, established a regular colony in Vinland soon after this event; the settlers increased rapidly in numbers, and traded with the natives for furs and skins to great advantage. After three years the adventurers returned to Iceland enriched by the expedition, and reported favorably upon the new country. Little is known of this settlement after Thorfinn's departure till early in the twelfth century, when a bishop of Greenland went there to promulgate the Christian faith among the colonists; beyond that time scarcely a notice of its existence occurs, and the name and situation of the ancient Vinland soon passed away from the knowledge of man. Whether the adventurous colonists ever returned, or became blended with the natives, or perished by their hands, no record remains to tell.
Discoveries such as these by the ancient Scandinavians—fruitless to the world and almost buried in oblivion—can not dim the glory of that transcendant genius to whom we owe the knowledge of a New World.
The claim of the Welsh to the first discovery of America seems to rest upon no better original authority than that of Meridith-ap-Rees, a bard who died in the year 1477. His verses only relate that Prince Madoc, wearied with dissensions at home, searched the ocean for a new kingdom. The tale of this adventurer's voyages and colonization was written one hundred years subsequent to the early Spanish discoveries, and seems to be merely a fanciful completion of his history: he probably perished in the unknown seas. It is certain that neither the ancient principality nor the world reaped any benefit from these alleged discoveries.
In the middle of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth centuries, the Venetian Marco Polo and the Englishman Mandeville awakened the curiosity of Europe with respect to the remote parts of the earth. Wise and discerning men selected the more valuable portions of their observations; ideas were enlarged, and a desire for more perfect information excited a thirst for discovery. While this spirit was gaining strength in Europe, the wonderful powers of the magnet were revealed to the Western World. The invention of the mariner's compass aided and extended navigation more than all the experience and adventure of preceding ages: the light of the stars, the guidance of the sea-coast, were no longer necessary; trusting to the mysterious powers of his new friend, the sailor steered out fearlessly into the ocean, through the bewildering mists or the darkness of night.
The Spaniards were the first to profit by the bolder spirit and improved science of navigation. About the beginning of the fourteenth century, they were led to the accidental discovery of the Canary Islands, and made repeated voyages thither, plundering the wretched inhabitants, and carrying them off as slaves. Pope Clement VI. conferred these countries as a kingdom upon Louis de la Cerda, of the royal race of Castile; he, however, was powerless to avail himself of the gift, and it passed to the stronger hand of John de Bethancourt, a Norman baron. The countrymen of this bold adventurer explored the seas far to the south of the Canary Islands, and acquired some knowledge of the coast of Africa.
The glory of leading the career of systematic exploration belongs to the Portuguese: their attempts were not only attended with considerable success, but gave encouragement and energy to those efforts that were crowned by the discovery of a world: among them the great Genoese was trained, and their steps in advance matured the idea, and aided the execution of his design. The nations of Europe had now begun to cast aside the errors and prejudices of their ancestors. The works of the ancient Greeks and Romans were eagerly searched for information, and former discoveries brought to light. The science of the Arabians was introduced and cultivated by the Moors and Jews, and geometry, astronomy, and geography were studied as essential to the art of navigation.
In the year 1412, the Portuguese doubled Cape Non, the limit of ancient enterprise. For upward of seventy years afterward they pursued their explorations, with more or less of vigor and success, along the African coast, and among the adjacent islands. By intercourse with the people of these countries they gradually acquired some knowledge of lands yet unvisited. Experience proved that the torrid zone was not closed to the enterprise of man. They found that the form of the continent contracted as it stretched southward, and that it tended toward the east. Then they brought to mind the accounts of the ancient Phoenician voyagers round Africa, long deemed fabulous, and the hope arose that they might pursue the same career, and win for themselves the magnificent prize of Indian commerce. In the year 1486 the adventurous Bartholomew Diaz first reached the Cape of Good Hope; soon afterward the information gained by Pedro de Covilham, in his overland journey, confirmed the consequent sanguine expectations of success. The attention of Europe was now fully aroused, and the progress of the Portuguese was watched with admiration and suspense. But during this interval, while all eyes were turned with anxious interest toward the East, a little bark, leaky and tempest-tossed, sought shelter in the Tagus. It had come from the Far West—over that stormy sea where, from the creation until then, had brooded an impenetrable mystery. It bore the richest freight that ever lay upon the bosom of the deep—the tidings of a New World.
It would be but tedious to repeat here all the well-known story of Christopher Columbus; his early dangers and adventures, his numerous voyages, his industry, acquirements, and speculations, and how at length the great idea arose in his mind, and matured itself into a conviction; then how conviction led to action, checked and interrupted, but not weakened, by the doubts of pedantic ignorance, and the treachery, coolness, or contempt of courts. On Friday, the 3d of August, 1492, a squadron of three small, crazy ships, bearing ninety men, sailed from the port of Palos, in Andalusia. Columbus, the commander and pilot, was deeply impressed with sentiments of religion; and, as the spread of Christianity was one great object of the expedition, he and his followers before their departure had implored the blessing of Heaven upon the voyage, from which they might never return.
They steered at first for the Canaries, over a well-known course; but on the 6th of September they sailed from Gomera, the most distant of those islands, and, leaving the usual track of navigation, stretched westward into the unknown sea. And still ever westward for six-and-thirty days they bent their course through the dreary desert of waters; terrified by the changeless wind that wafted them hour after hour further into the awful solitude, and seemed to forbid the prospect of return; bewildered by the altered hours of day and night, and more than all by the mysterious variation of their only guide, for the magnetic needle no longer pointed to the pole. Then strange appearances in the sea aroused new fears: vast quantities of weeds covered the surface, retarding the motion of the vessels; the sailors imagined that they had reached the utmost boundary of the navigable ocean, and that they were rushing blindly into the rocks and quicksands of some submerged continent.
The master mind turned all these strange novelties into omens of success. The changeless wind was the favoring breath of the Omnipotent; the day lengthened as they followed the sun's course; an ingenious fiction explained the inconstancy of the needle; the vast fields of sea-weed bespoke a neighboring shore; and the flight of unknown birds was hailed with happy promise. But as time passed on, and brought no fulfillment of their hopes, the spirits of the timid began to fail; the flattering appearances of land had repeatedly deceived them; they were now very far beyond the limit of any former voyage. From the timid and ignorant these doubts spread upward, and by degrees the contagion extended from ship to ship: secret murmurs rose to conspiracies, complaints, and mutiny. They affirmed that they had already performed their duty in so long pursuing an unknown and hopeless course, and that they would no more follow a desperate adventurer to destruction. Some even proposed to cast their leader into the sea.
The menaces and persuasions that had so often enabled Columbus to overcome the turbulence and fears of his followers now ceased to be of any avail. He gave way to an irresistible necessity, and promised that he would return to Spain, if unsuccessful in their search for three days more. To this brief delay the mutineers consented. The signs of land now brought almost certainty to the mind of the great leader. The sounding-line brought up such soil as is only found near the shore: birds were seen of a kind supposed never to venture on a long flight. A piece of newly-cut cane floated past, and a branch of a tree bearing fresh berries was taken up by the sailors. The clouds around the setting sun wore a new aspect, and the breeze became warm and variable. On the evening of the 11th of October every sail was furled, and strict watch kept, lest the ships might drift ashore during the night.
On board the admiral's vessel all hands were invariably assembled for the evening hymn; on this occasion a public prayer for success was added, and with those holy sounds Columbus hailed the appearance of that small, shifting light, which crowned with certainty his long-cherished hope, turned his faith into realization, and stamped his name forever upon the memory of man.
It was by accident only that England had been deprived of the glory of these great discoveries. Columbus, when repulsed by the courts of Portugal and Spain, sent his brother Bartholomew to London, to lay his projects before Henry VII., and seek assistance for their execution. The king, although the most penurious of European princes, saw the vast advantage of the offer, and at once invited the great Genoese to his court. Bartholomew was, however, captured by pirates on his return voyage, and detained till too late, for in the mean while Isabella of Castile had adopted the project of Columbus, and supplied the means for the expedition.
Henry VII. was not discouraged by this disappointment: two years after the discoveries of Columbus became known in England, the king entered into an arrangement with John Cabot, an adventurous Venetian merchant, resident at Bristol, and, on the 5th of March, 1495, granted him letters patent for conquest and discovery. Henry stipulated that one fifth of the gains in this enterprise was to be retained for the crown, and that the vessels engaged in it should return to the port of Bristol. On the 24th of June, 1497, Cabot discovered the coast of Labrador, and gave it the name of Primavista. This was, without doubt, the first visit of Europeans to the Continent of North America, since the time of the Scandinavian voyages. A large island lay opposite to this shore: from the vast quantity of fish frequenting the neighboring waters, the sailors called it Bacallaos. Cabot gave this country the name of St. John's, having landed there on St. John's day. Newfoundland has long since superseded both appellations. John Cabot returned to England in August of the same year, and was knighted and otherwise rewarded by the king; he survived but a very short time in the enjoyment of his fame, and his son Sebastian Cabot, although only twenty-three years of age, succeeded him in the command of an expedition destined to seek a northwest passage to the South Seas.
Sebastian Cabot sailed in the summer of 1498: he soon reached Newfoundland, and thence proceeded north as far as the fifty-eighth degree. Having failed in discovering the hoped-for passage, he returned toward the south, examining the coast as far as the southern boundary of Maryland, and perhaps Virginia. After a long interval, the enterprising mariner again, in 1517, sailed for America, and entered the bay which, a century afterward, received the name of Hudson. If prior discovery confer a right of possession, there is no doubt that the whole eastern coast of the North American Continent may be justly claimed by the English race.
Gaspar Cortereal was the next voyager in the succession of discoverers: he had been brought up in the household of the King of Portugal, but nourished an ardent spirit of enterprise and thirst for glory, despite the enervating influences of a court. He sailed early in the year 1500, and pursued the track of John Cabot as far as the northern point of Newfoundland; to him is due the discovery of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and he also pushed on northward, by the coast of Labrador, almost to the entrance of Hudson's Bay. The adventurer returned to Lisbon in October of the same year. This expedition was undertaken more for mercantile advantage than for the advancement of knowledge; timber and slaves seem to have been the objects; no less than fifty-seven of the natives were brought back to Portugal, and doomed to bondage. These unhappy savages proved so robust and useful, that great benefits were anticipated from trading on their servitude; the dreary and distant land of their birth, covered with snow for half the year, was despised by the Portuguese, whose thoughts and hopes were ever turned to the fertile plains, the sunny skies, and the inexhaustible treasures of the East.
But disaster and destruction soon fell upon these bold and merciless adventurers. In a second voyage, the ensuing year, Cortereal and all his followers were lost at sea: when some time had elapsed without tidings of their fate, his brother sailed to seek them; but he too, probably, perished in the stormy waters of the North Atlantic, for none of them were ever heard of more. The King of Portugal, feeling a deep interest in these brothers, fitted out three armed vessels and sent them to the northwest. Inquiries were made along the wild shores which Cortereal had first explored, without trace or tidings being found of the bold mariner, and the ocean was searched for many months, but the deep still keeps it secret.
Florida was discovered in 1512 by Ponce de Leon, one of the most eminent among the followers of Columbus. The Indians had told him wonderful tales of a fountain called Bimini, in an island of these seas; the fountain possessed the power, they said, of restoring instantly youth and vigor to those who bathed in its waters. He sailed for months in search of this miraculous spring, landing at every point, entering each port, however shallow or dangerous, still ever hoping; but in the weak and presumptuous effort to grasp at a new life, he wasted away his strength and energy, and prematurely brought on those ills of age he had vainly hoped to shun. Nevertheless, this wild adventure bore its wholesome fruits, for Ponce de Leon then first brought to the notice of Europe that beautiful land which, from its wonderful fertility and the splendor of its flowers, obtained the name of Florida.
The first attempt made by the French to share in the advantages of these discoveries was in the year 1504. Some Basque and Breton fishermen at that time began to ply their calling on the Great Bank of Newfoundland, and along the adjacent shores. From them the Island of Cape Breton received its name. In 1506, Jean Denys, a man of Harfleur, drew a map of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Two years afterward, a pilot of Dieppe, named Thomas Aubert, excited great curiosity in France by bringing over some of the savage natives from the New World: there is no record whence they were taken, but it is supposed from Cape Breton. The reports borne back to France by these hardy fishermen and adventurers were not such as to raise sanguine hopes of riches from the bleak northern regions they had visited: no teeming fertility or genial climate tempted the settler, no mines of gold or silver excited the avarice of the soldier; and for many years the French altogether neglected to profit by their discoveries.
In the mean time, Pope Alexander VI. issued a bull bestowing the whole of the New World upon the kings of Spain and Portugal. Neither England nor France allowed the right of conferring this magnificent and undefined gift; it did not throw the slightest obstacle in the path of British enterprise and discovery, and the high-spirited Francis I. of France refused to acknowledge the papal decree.
In the year 1523, Francis I. fitted out a squadron of four ships to pursue discovery in the west; the command was intrusted to Giovanni Verazzano, of Florence, a navigator of great skill and experience, then residing in France: he was about thirty-eight years of age, nobly born, and liberally educated; the causes that induced him to leave his own country and take service in France are not known. It has often been remarked as strange that three Italians should have directed the discoveries of Spain, England, and France, and thus become the instruments of dividing the dominions of the New World among alien powers, while their own classic land reaped neither glory nor advantage from the genius and courage of her sons. Of this first voyage the only record remaining is a letter from Verazzano to Francis I., dated 8th of July, 1524, merely stating that he had returned in safety to Dieppe.
At the beginning of the following year Verazzano fitted out and armed a vessel called the Dauphine, manned with a crew of thirty hands, and provisioned for eight months. He first directed his course to Madeira; having reached that island in safety, he left it on the 17th of January and steered for the west. After a narrow escape from the violence of a tempest, and having proceeded for about nine hundred leagues, a long, low line of coast rose to view, never before seen by ancient or modern navigators. This country appeared thickly peopled by a vigorous race, of tall stature and athletic form; fearing to risk a landing at first with his weak force, the adventurer contented himself with admiring at a distance the grandeur and beauty of the scenery, and enjoying the delightful mildness of the climate. From this place he followed the coast for about fifty leagues to the south, without discovering any harbor or inlet where he might shelter his vessel; he then retraced his course and steered to the north. After some time Verazzano ventured to send a small boat on shore to examine the country more closely: numbers of savages came to the water's edge to meet the strangers, and gazed on them with mingled feelings of surprise, admiration, joy, and fear. He again resumed his northward course, till, driven by want of water, he armed the small boat and sent it once more toward the land to seek a supply; the waves and surf, however, were so great that it could not reach the shore. The natives assembled on the beach, by their signs and gestures, eagerly invited the French to approach: one young sailor, a bold swimmer, threw himself into the water, bearing some presents for the savages, but his heart failed him on a nearer approach, and he turned to regain the boat; his strength was exhausted, however, and a heavy sea washed him, almost insensible, up upon the beach. The Indians treated him with great kindness, and, when he had sufficiently recovered, sent him back in safety to the ship.
Verazzano pursued his examination of the coast with untiring zeal, narrowly searching every inlet for a passage through to the westward, until he reached the great island known to the Breton fishermen—Newfoundland. In this important voyage he surveyed more than two thousand miles of coast, nearly all that of the present United States, and a great portion of British North America.
A short time after Verazzano's return to Europe, he fitted out another expedition, with the sanction of Francis I., for the establishment of a colony in the newly-discovered countries. Nothing certain is known of the fate of this enterprise, but the bold navigator returned to France no more; the dread inspired by his supposed fate deterred the French king and people from any further adventure across the Atlantic during many succeeding years. In later times it has come to light that Verazzano was alive thirteen years after this period: those best informed on the subject are of opinion that the enterprise fell to the ground in consequence of Francis I. having been captured by the Emperor Charles V., and that the adventurer withdrew himself from the service of France, having lost his patron's support.
The year after the failure of Verazzano's last enterprise, 1525, Stefano Gomez sailed from Spain for Cuba and Florida; thence he steered northward in search of the long-hoped-for passage to India, till he reached Cape Race, on the south-eastern extremity of Newfoundland. The further details of his voyage remain unknown, but there is reason to suppose that he entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence and traded upon its shores. An ancient Castilian tradition existed that the Spaniards visited these coasts before the French, and having perceived no appearance of mines or riches, they exclaimed frequently, "Aca nada;" the natives caught up the sound, and when other Europeans arrived, repeated it to them. The strangers concluded that these words were a designation, and from that time this magnificent country bore the name of CANADA.
[Footnote 2: "La sphericite de la terre etant reconnue, l'etendue de la terre habitee en longitude determine, en meme temps la largeur de l'Atlantique entre les cotes occidentales d'Europe et d'Afrique et les cotes orientales d'Asie par differens degres de latitude. Eratosthene (Strabo, ii., p. 87, Cas.) evalue la circonference de l'equateur a 252,000 stades, et la largeur de la chlamyde du Cap Sacre (Cap Saint Vincent) a l'extremite de la grande ceinture de Taurus, pres de Thinae a 70,000 stades. En prolongeant la distance vers le sud est jusque au cap des Coliaques qui, d'apres les idees de Strabon sur la configuration de l'Asie, represente notre Cap Comorin, et avance plus a l'est que la cote de Thinae, la combinaison des donnees d'Eratosthene offre 74,600 et meme 78,000 stades. Or, en reduisant, par la difference de latitude, le perimetre equatorial au parallele de Rhodes, des portes Caspiennes et de Thinae c'est a dire, au parallele de 36 deg. 0' et non de 36 deg. 21', on trouve 203,872 stades, et pour largeur de la terre habitee, par le parallele de Rhodes, 67,500 stades. Strabon dit par consequence avec justesse, dans le fameux passage ou il semble predire l'existence du Nouveau Continent, en parlant de deux terres habitees dans la meme zone temperee boreale que les terres occupent plus du tiers de la circonference du parallele qui passe par Thinae. Par cette supposition la distance de l'Iberie aux Indes est au dela de 236 deg. a peu pres 240 deg.. Ou peut etre surpris de voir que le resultat le plus ancien est aussi le plus exact de tous ceux que nous trouvons en descendant d'Eratosthene par Posidonius aux temps de Marin de Tyr et de Ptolemee. La terre habitee offre effectivement, d'apres nos connaissances actuelles, entre les 36 deg. et 37 deg. 130 degres d'etendue en longitude; il y a par consequent des cotes de la Chine au Cap Sacre a travers l'ocean de l'est a l'ouest 230 degres. L'accord que je nommerai accidentel de cette vraie distance et de l'evaluation d'Eratosthene atteint done dix degres en longitude. Posidonius 'soupconne (c'est l'expression de Strabon, lib. ii., p. 102, Cas.), que la longueur de la terre habitee laquelle est, selon lui, d'environ 70,000 stades, doit former la moitie du cercle entier sur lequel le mesure se prend, et qu' ainsi a partir de l'extremite occidentale de cette meme terre habitee, en naviguant avec un vent d'est continuel l'espace de 70,000 autres stades, ou arriverait dans l'Inde."—Humboldt's Geographie du Nouveau Continent.]
[Footnote 3: "La longueur de la terre habitee comprise entre les meridiens des iles Fortunees et de Sera etoit, d'apres Marin de Tyr (Ptol., Geogr., lib. i., cap. 11) de 15 heures ou de 225 deg.. C'etoit avancer les cotes de la Chine jusqu'au meridien des iles Sandwich, et reduire l'espace a parcourir des iles Canaries aux cotes orientales de l'Asie a 135 deg., erreur de 86 deg. en longitude. La grande extension de 23-1/2 deg. que les anciens donnoient a la mer Caspienne, contribuoit egalement beaucoup a augmenter la largeur de l'Asie. Ptolemee a laisse intacte, dans l'evaluation de la terre habitee, selon Posidonius, la distance des iles Fortunees au passage de l'Euphrate a Hierapolis. Les reductions de Ptolemee ne portent que sur les distances de l'Euphrate a la Tour de Pierre et de cette tour a la metropole des Seres. Les 225 deg. de Marin de Tyr deviennent, selon l'Almagest (lib. ii., p. 1) 180 deg., selon la Geographie de Ptolemee (lib. i., p. 12) 177-1/4 deg.. Les cotes des Sinae reculent donc du meridien des iles Sandwich vers celui des Carolines orientales, et l'espace a parcourir par mer en longitude n'etoit plus de 135 deg., mais de 180 deg. a 182-3/4 deg.. Il etoit dans les interets de Christophe Colomb de preferer de beaucoup les calculs de Marin de Tyr a ceux de Ptolemee et a force de conjectures Colomb parvient a restreindre l'espace de l'Ocean qui lui restait a traverser des iles du cap Vert au Cathay de l'Asie orientale a 128 deg." (Vida del Almirante).—Humboldt's Geographie du Nouveau Continent, vol. ii., p. 364.]
[Footnote 4: In opposition to the opinion of Malte Brun and M. de Josselin, Mr. Hugh Murray is considered to have satisfactorily proved the correctness of Ptolemy's assertion that the Seres or Sinae are identical with the Chinese.—See Trans. of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. viii., p. 171.]
[Footnote 5: That the vast waters of the Atlantic were regarded with "awe and wonder, seeming to bound the world as with a chaos," needs no greater proof than the description given of it by Xerif al Edrizi, an eminent Arabian writer, whose countrymen were the boldest navigators of the Middle Ages, and possessed all that was then known of geography. "The ocean," he observes, "encircles the ultimate bounds of the inhabited earth, and all beyond it is unknown. No one has been able to verify any thing concerning it, on account of its difficult and perilous navigation, its great obscurity, its profound depth, and frequent tempests; through fear of its mighty fishes and its haughty winds; yet there are many islands in it, some peopled, others uninhabited. There is no mariner who dares to enter into its deep waters; or if any have done so, they have merely kept along its coasts, fearful of departing from them. The waves of this ocean, though they roll as high as mountains, yet maintain themselves without breaking; for if they broke it would be impossible for ship to plow them."—Description of Spain, by Xerif al Edrizi: Conde's Spanish translation. Madrid, 1799.—Quoted by Washington Irving.]
[Footnote 6: Aristotle, Strabo, Pliny, and Seneca arrived at this conclusion. The idea, however, of an intervening continent never appears to have suggested itself.—Humboldt's Cosmos.]
[Footnote 7: In the Atlantic Ocean, over against the Pillars of Hercules, lay an island larger than Asia and Africa taken together, and in its vicinity were other islands. The ocean in which these islands were situated was surrounded on every side by main-land; and the Mediterranean, compared with it, resembled a mere harbor or narrow entrance. Nine thousand years before the time of Plato this island of Atlantis was both thickly settled and very powerful. Its sway extended over Africa as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as the Tyrrhenian Sea. The further progress of its conquests, however, was checked by the Athenians, who, partly with the other Greeks, partly by themselves, succeeded in defeating these powerful invaders, the natives of Atlantis. After this a violent earthquake, which lasted for the space of a day and a night, and was accompanied with inundations of the sea, caused the islands to sink; and for a long period subsequent to this, the sea in that quarter was impassable by reason of the slime and shoals.—Plato, Tim., 24-29, 296; Crit., 108-110, 39, 43. The learned Gessner is of opinion that the Isle of Ceres, spoken of in a poem of very high antiquity, attributed to Orpheus, was a fragment of Atlantis. Kircher, in his "Mundus Subterraneus," and Beckman, in his "History of Islands," suppose the Atlantis to have been an island extending from the Canaries to the Azores; that it was really ingulfed in one of the convulsions of the globe, and that those small islands are mere fragments of it. Gosselin, in his able research into the voyages of the ancients, supposes the Atlantis of Plato to have been nothing more nor less than one of the nearest of the Canaries, viz, Fortaventura or Lancerote. Carli and many others find America in the Atlantis, and adduce many plausible arguments in support of their assertion.—Carli, Letters Amer.; Fr. transl., ii., 180. M. Bailly, in his "Letters sur l'Atlantide de Platon," maintains the existence of the Atlantides, and their island Atlantis, by the authorities of Homer, Sanchoniathon, and Diodorus Siculus, in addition to that of Plato. Manheim maintains very strenuously that Plato's Atlantis is Sweden and Norway. M. Bailly, after citing many ancient testimonies, which concur in placing this famous isle in the north, quotes that of Plutarch, who confirms these testimonies by a circumstantial description of the Isle of Ogygia, or the Atlantis, which he represents as situated in the north of Europe. The following is the theory of Buffon: after citing the passage relating to the Atlantis, from Plato's "Timaeus," he adds, "This ancient tradition is not devoid of probability. The lands swallowed up by the waters were, perhaps, those which united Ireland to the Azores, and the Azores to the Continent of America; for in Ireland there are the same fossils, the same shells, and the same sea bodies as appear in America, and some of them are found in no other part of Europe."—Buffon's Nat. Hist., by Smellie, vol. i., p. 507.]
[Footnote 8: The first authentic description of the Mar di Sargasso of Aristotle is due to Columbus. It spreads out between the nineteenth and thirty-fourth degrees of north latitude. Its chief axis lies about seven degrees to the westward of the Island of Corvo. The smaller bank, on the other hand, lies between the Bermudas and Bahamas. The winds and partial currents in different years slightly affect the position and extent of these Atlantic "sea-weed meadows." No other sea in either hemisphere displays a similar extent of surface covered by plants collected in this way. These meadows of the ocean present the wonderful spectacle of a collection of plants covering a space nearly seven times as large as France.—Humboldt's Cosmos.]
[Footnote 9: See Appendix, No. II. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 10: See Aristotle, De Mirab. Auscult., cap. lxxxiv., 84, p. 836, Bekk. This work, "A Collection of Wonderful Narratives," is attributed to Aristotle; the real compiler is unknown. According to Humboldt, it seems to have been written before the first Punic war.—Diodorus of Sicily, vol. xix. Aristotle attributes the discovery of the island to the Carthaginians; Diodorus to the Phoenicians. The occurrence is said to have taken place in the earliest times of the Tyrrhenian dominion of the sea, during the contest between the Tyrrhenian Pelasgi and the Phoenicians. The Island of the Seven Cities (see Appendix, No. II.) was identified with the island mentioned by Aristotle as having been discovered by the Carthaginians, and was inserted in the early maps under the name of Antilla. Paul Toscanelli, the celebrated physician of Florence, thus writes to Columbus: "From the Island of Antilia, which you call the Seven Cities, and of which you have some knowledge," &c. In the Middle Ages conjectures were religiously inscribed upon the maps, as is proved by Antilia, St. Borondon (see Appendix), the Hand of Satan, Green Island, Maida Island, and the exact form of vast southern regions. Humboldt refers the name of Antilia so far back as the fourteenth century. The earliest date given by Ferdinand Columbus is 1436. "Beyond the Azores, but at no great distance toward the west, occurs the Ysola de Antilia, which we may conclude, even allowing the date of the map to be genuine (in the library of St. Mark, at Venice, date 1436), to be a mere gratuitous or theoretic supposition, and to have received that strange name because the obvious and natural idea of antipodes has been anathematized by Catholic ignorance." He elsewhere says that "some Portuguese cosmographers have inserted the island described by Aristotle in maps under the name of Antilia."—Hist. of the Discovery of America, by Don Ferdinand Columbus, in Ker, vol. iii., p. 3-29.
The origin of the name Antilla, or Antilia, is still a matter of conjecture. Humboldt attributes to a "litterateur distingue" the solution of the enigma, from a passage in Aristotle's "De Mundo," which speaks of the probable existence of unknown lands opposite to the mass of continents which we inhabit. These countries, be they small or great, whose shores are opposed to ours, were marked out by the word porthornoi, which in the Middle Ages was translated by antinsulae. Humboldt says that this translation is totally incorrect; however, the idea of the "litterateur distingue" is evidently the same as Ferdinand Columbus's. The following is the hypothesis favored by Humboldt: "Peut-etre meme le nom d'Antilia qui parait pour la premiere fois sur une carte Venitienne de 1436 n'est il qu'une forme Portuguaise donnee a un nom geographique des Arabes. L'etymologie que hasarde M. Buace me parait tres ingenieuse.... La syllabe initiale me parait la corruption de l'article Arabe. D'al Tinnin et d'Al tin on aura fait peu a peu Antinna et Antilla, comme par un deplacement analogue de consonnes, les Espagnols ont fait de crocodilo, corcodilo et cocodrilo. Le Dragon est al Tin, et l'Antilia est peut-etre, l'ile des dragons marins."—Humboldt's Ex. Crit., vol. ii., 211.
Oviedo applies the relation of Aristotle to the Hesperian Islands, and asserts that they were the "India" discovered by Columbus. "Perche egli (Colombo) conobbe come era in effetto che queste terre che egli ben ritrovava scritte, erano del tutto uscite dalla memoria degli uomin; e io per me non dubito che si sapissero, e possedessero anticamente dalli Re de Spagna: e voglio qui dire quello che Aristotele in questo caso ne scrisse, &c.... io tengo che queste Indie siano quelle autiche e famose Isole Hesperide cose dette da Hespero 12 Re di Spagna. Or come la Spagna e l'Italia tolsero il nome da Hespero 12 Re di Spagna cosi anco da questo istesso ex torsero queste isole Hesperidi, che noi diciamo, onde senza alcun dubbio si de tenere, che in quel tempe questo isole sotto la signoria della Spagna stessero, e sotto un medesmo Re, che fu (come Beroso dice) 1658 anni prima che il nostro Salvatore nascesse. E perche al presente siamo nel 1535 della salute nostra, ne segue che siano ora tre milo e cento novantatre anni che la Spagna e'l suo Re Hespero signoreggiavano queste Indie o Isole Hesperidi. E come cosa sua par che abbia la divina giustizia voluto ritornargliele."—Hist. Gen. dell' Indie de Gonzalo Fernando d'Oviedo, in Ramusio, tom. iii., p. 80.]
[Footnote 11: "It is very possible that in the same temperate zone, and almost in the same latitude as Thinae (or Athens?), where it crosses the Atlantic Ocean, there are inhabited worlds, distinct from that in which we dwell."—Strabo, lib. i., p. 65, and lib. ii., p. 118. It is surprising that this expression never attracted the attention of the Spanish authors, who, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, were searching every where in classical literature with the expectation of finding some traces of acquaintance with the New World.]
[Footnote 12: "The idea of such a locality in a continuation of the long axis of the Mediterranean was connected with a grand view of the earth by Eratosthenes (generally and extensively known among the ancients), according to which the entire ancient continent, in its widest expanse from west to east, in the parallel of about thirty-six degrees, presents an almost unbroken line of elevation."—Humboldt's Cosmos.]
[Footnote 13: "D'Anville a dit avec esprit que la plus grande des erreurs dans la geographie de Ptolemee a conduit les hommes a la plus grande decouverte de terres nouvelles c'est, a dire la supposition que l'Asie s'etendait vers l'est, au dela du 180 degre de longitude."
Both Strabo and Aristotle speak of "the same sea bathing opposite shores," Strabo, lib. i., p. 103; lib. ii., p. 162. Aristotle, De Caelo, lib. ii., cap. 14, p. 297. The possibility of navigating from the extremity of Europe to the eastern shores of Asia is clearly asserted by the Stagirite, and in the two celebrated passages of Strabo. Aristotle does not suppose the distance to be very great, and draws an ingenious argument in favor of his supposition from the geography of animals. Strabo sees no obstacle to passing from Iberia to India, except the immense extent of the Atlantic Ocean. It is to be remembered that Strabo, as well as Eratosthenes, extend the appellation of Atlantic Sea to every part of the ocean.—Humboldt's Geog. du Nouveau Continent.]
[Footnote 14: See Appendix, No. III. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 15: "Au milieu de tant de discussions acerbes qu'une curieuse malignite et le gout d'une fausse erudition classique firent naitre sur le merite de Christophe Colomb, parmi ses contemporains, personne n'a pense aux navigations des Normands comme precurseurs des Genois. Cette idee ne se presenta que soixante quatre ans apres la mort du grand homme. On savait par ces propres recits 'qu'il etoit alle a Thule' mais alors ce voyage vers le nord ne fit naitre aucun soupcon sur la priorite, de la decouverte.... Le merite d'avoir reconnu la premiere decouverte de l'Amerique septentrionale par les Normands appartient indubitablement au geographe Ortelius, qui annonca cette opinion des l'annee 1570. 'Christophe Colomb, dit Ortelius, a seulement mis le Nouveau Monde en rapport durable de commerce et d'utilite avec l'Europe' (Theatr. Orbis Terr., on p. 5, 6). Ce jugement est beaucoup trop severe."—Humboldt's Geog. du Nouveau Continent.]
[Footnote 16: "Biorn first saw land in the Island of Nantucket, one degree south of Boston, then in New Scotland, and lastly in Newfoundland."—Carl Christian Rafn, Antiquitates Americanae, 1845, p. 4, 421; Humboldt's Cosmos.
"The country called 'the good Vinland' (Vinland it goda) by Leif, included the shore between Boston and New York, and therefore parts of the present states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, between the parallels of latitude of Civita, Vecchia and Terracina, where, however, the average temperature of the year is between 46 deg. and 52 deg. (Fahr.). This was the chief settlement of the Normans. Their active and enterprising spirit is proved by the circumstance that, after they had settled in the south as far as 41 deg. 30' north latitude, they erected three pillars to mark out the boundaries near the eastern coast of Baffin's Bay, in the latitude of 72 deg. 55', upon one of the Women Islands northwest of the present most northern Danish colony of Upernavik. The Runic inscription upon the stone, discovered in the autumn of 1824, contains, according to Rask and Finn Magnusen, the date of the year 1135. From this eastern coast of Baffin's Bay, the colonists visited, with great regularity, on account of the fishery, Lancaster Sound and a part of Barrow's Straits, and this occurred more than six centuries before the bold undertakings of Parry and Ross. The locality of the fishery is very accurately described; and Greenland priests, from the diocese of Gardar, conducted the first voyage of discovery in 1266. These northwestern summer stations were called the Kroksjardar, heathen countries. Mention was early made of the Siberian wood, which was then collected, as well as of the numerous whales, seals, walrus, and polar bears."—Rafn, Antiq. Amer., p. 20, 274, 415-418, quoted by Humboldt.]
[Footnote 17: One of the objections brought forward by Robertson against the Norman discovery of America is, that the wild vine has never since been found so far north as Labrador; but modern travelers have ascertained that a species of wild vine grows even as far north as the shores of Hudson's Bay. Since Robertson's time, however, the locality of the first Norman settlement has been moved further south, and into latitudes where the best species of wild vines are abundant.]
[Footnote 18: Sir A. Mackenzie's Travels in Iceland, 1812. Preliminary Dissertation by Dr Holland, p. 46.]
[Footnote 19: Rafn, Antiq. Amer.]
[Footnote 20: The Esquimaux were at that time spread much further south than they are at present.—Humboldt's Cosmos, vol. ii., p. 268.]
[Footnote 21: Eric Upsi, a native of Iceland, and the first Greenland bishop, undertook to go to Vinland as a Christian missionary in 1121.]
[Footnote 22: "The learned Grotius founds an argument for the colonization of America by the Norwegians on the similarity between the names of Norway and La Norimbegue, a district bordering on New England."—Grotius, De Origine Gentium Americanarum, in quarto, 1642. See, also, the Controversy between Grotius and Jean de Laet.]
[Footnote 23: Accurate information respecting the former intercourse of the Northmen with the Continent of America reaches only as far as the middle of the fourteenth century. In the year 1349 a ship was sent from Greenland to Markland (New Scotland) to collect timber and other necessaries. Upon their return from Markland, the ship was overtaken by storms, and compelled to land at Straumfjord, in the west of Iceland. This is the last account of the "Norman America," preserved for us in the ancient Scandinavian writings. The settlements upon the west coast of Greenland, which were in a very flourishing condition until the middle of the fourteenth century, gradually declined, from the fatal influence of monopoly of trade, by the invasion of the Esquimaux, by the black death which depopulated the north from the year 1347 to 1351, and also by the arrival of a hostile fleet, from what country is not known.
By means of the critical and most praiseworthy efforts of Christian Rafn, and the Royal Society for Northern Antiquities in Copenhagen, the traditions and ancient accounts of the voyage of the Normans to Helluland (Newfoundland), to Markland (the mouth of the River St. Lawrence at Nova Scotia), and at Winland (Massachusetts), have been separately printed and satisfactorily commented upon. The length of the voyage, the direction in which they sailed, the time of the rising and setting of the sun, are accurately laid down. The principal sources of information are the historical narrations of Erik the Red, Thorfinn Karlsefne, and Snorre Thorbrandson, probably written in Greenland itself, as early as the twelfth century, partly by descendants of the settlers born in Winland.—Rafn, Antiq. Amer., p. 7, 14, 16. The care with which the tables of their pedigrees was kept was so great, that the table of the family of Thorfinn Karlsefne, whose son, Snorre Thorbrandson, was born in America, was kept from the year 1007 to 1811.
The name of the colonized countries is found in the ancient national songs of the natives of the Faroe Islands.—Humboldt's Cosmos, vol. ii., p. 268-452.]
[Footnote 24: See Appendix, No. IV. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 25: See Appendix, No. V. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 26: See Appendix, No. VI. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 27: See Appendix, No. VII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 28: The numerous data which have come down to us from antiquity, and an acute examination of the local relations, especially the great vicinity of the settlements upon the African coast, which incontestably existed, lead me to believe that Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, and probably even the Etruscans, were acquainted with the group of the Canary Islands.—Humboldt's Cosmos, vol. ii., p. 414.
"Porro occidentalis navigatio, quantum etiam fama assequi Plinius potuit, tantum ad Fortunatas Insulas cursum protendit, earumque praecipuam a multitudine canum Canariam vocatam refert."—Acosta, De Natura Novi Orbis, lib. i., cap. ii.
Respecting the probability of the Semitic origin of the name of the Canary Islands, Pliny, in his Latinizing etymological notions, considered them to be Dog Islands! (Vide Credner's Biblical Representation of Paradise, in Illgen's Journal for Historical Theology, 1836, vol. vi., p. 166-186.)—Humboldt's Cosmos, vol. ii., p. 414.
The most fundamental, and, in a literary point of view, the most complete account of the Canary Islands, that was written in ancient times, down to the Middle Ages, was collected in a work of Joachim Jose da Costa de Macedo, with the title "Memoria cem que se pretende provar que os Arabes nao connecerao as Canarias autes dos Portuguesques, 1844." (See, also, Viera y Clavigo, Notic. de la Hist. de Canaria.)—Humboldt's Cosmos.]
[Footnote 29: See Appendix, No. VIII. (see Vol II)]
[Footnote 30: "Jean de Bethancourt knew that before the expedition of Alvaro Beccara, that is to say, before the end of the fourteenth century, Norman adventurers had penetrated as far as Sierra Leone (lat. 8 deg. 30'), and he sought to follow their traces. Before the Portuguese, however, no European nation appears to have crossed the equator."—Humboldt.
"Les Normands et les Arabes sont les seules nations qui, jusqu'au commencement du douzieme siecle, aient partage la gloire des grandes expeditions maritimes, le gout des aventures etranges, la passion du pillage et des conquetes ephemeres. Les Normands ont occupe successivement l'Islande et la Neustrie, ravage les sanctuaires de l'Italie, ravage la Pouille sur les Grecs, inscrit leurs caracteres runiques jusque sur les flancs d'un des lions que Morosini enleva au Piree d'Athenes pour en orner l'arsenal de Venise."—Humboldt's Geog. du Nouveau Continent, vol. ii., p. 86.]
[Footnote 31: "No nation," says Southey, "has ever accomplished such great things in proportion to its means as the Portuguese." Its early maritime history does, indeed, present a striking picture of enterprise and restless energy, but the annals of Europe afford no similar instance of rapid degeneracy. There was an age when less than forty thousand armed Portuguese kept the whole coasts of the ocean in awe, from Morocco to China; when one hundred and fifty sovereign princes paid tribute to the treasury of Lisbon. But in all their enterprises they aimed at conquest, and not at colonization. The government at home exercised little control over the arms of its piratical mariners; the mother country derived no benefit from their achievements. To the age of conquest succeeded one of effeminacy and corruption.—Merivale's Lectures on Colonization, vol. i., p. 44.]