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PUBLISHED MONTHLY AT FIVE DOLLARS PER ANNUM-JNO. R. THOMPSON, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
RICHMOND, DECEMBER, 1848.
| labor appears to increase with the exigency which EARLY VOYAGES TO AMERICA. *
demands it, and instead of merely giving a volume
of " Annals” carefully prepared, commencing with We learn from the modest and unassuming pre- the first seulement at Jamestown, he has pushed face to the work before us, that upon the revival of his researches to a period much earlier, and has the Virginia Historical and Philosophical Society, presented to the world a work which, taken as the in December 1847, the report of the Executive first fruits of the Historical Society, our own State Committee, announced as a part of their plan, their may be justly proud of, and which we predict will intention “to publish, in chronological order, what. I be eagerly sought afier by all who take an interest ever master relating to our history, it might deem in the general history of our country. worthy of poblication”: that “in preparing the mat- Before proceeding to examine the work before ter for the press a careful examination would be us, we will remark, that, in our humble judgment made not only of Smith, Beverley, Slith, Burk and Mr. Robinson has performed the true duty of a hisother books with which a Virginian is familiar, but corian in giving us a statement of facts so far as he of other works hitherto not accessible in this state': has been able to ascertain them from the most authat it would be "a leading object to prepare the thentic sources, rather than his deductions from matter with such fullness that in each volume, pub- those facis, however acute and profound such delished by the Society, may be found all that is of ductions might be. He has obviously had no theovalue in the period of our history embraced by it, ry to support, and consequently we have no apprewhile at the same time it would be attempted to hension of his coloring any representation so as to make the volumes less repulsive to the general advance it. He leaves his reader to draw his own reader than collections of Historical Societies usu- conclusions instead of saving him that labor by furally are.” It was added that the plan of preparing nishing those of the author: and while we know the matter in the order of time would conduce to that many will insist that the pursuance of such a this, and entitle the volumes to the name which system reduces History to a mere chronicle, we would be given them of • Annals of Virginia.'" confess that this constitutes no objection in our
The important task of commencing the execu- mind; and we believe that if all historians had contion of this plan of the Committee was fortunately tented themselves with honestly discharging this confided to their chairman, whose reputation for duty, while the world might have lost many brilindomitable perseverance in the investigation of liant essays, History itself would have occupied, facts and for clear and discriminating judgment, are as it would deserve, a much higher portion in the not confined to the limits of his own State, and belief of mankind than it now does, or perhaps ever furnished a guarantee for the fidelity and ability can do. What, we would ask, would be the conwith which the duty, undertaken by him, would be sequences if the sacred Historian, instead of givperformed. The Committee, as we learn, had no ing us the simple and sublime narrative of facts, in the first instance expected Mr. Robinson to do which now commands the reverence and belief of more than to prepare a volume of such a character so large a portion of civilized man, had merely furas was called for by their promise to the public, be- nished us with his deductions from those facts, ing well aware that the important and absorbing colored and distorted to subserve his purposes, howduty of revising the laws of the Commonwealth, ever pure and beneficent they may have been ? It with which he had in part been intrusted, was suf- is belter to be ignorarit than to believe in error, and ficient to occupy all the time which any other per we would have the historian who is unable to find out son than himself could afford to bestow upon intel- the truth, honestly to say so, and not to conjecture lectual labor. But Mr. Robinson is not like many his facts and then reason upon them to his concluother men in this particular, for his capacity for sions. This, as we conceive, is not history, but
speculation. An Account of Discoveries in the West until 1519, and A comparison of Mr. Robinson's volume, with on the Voyages to and along the Atlantic Coast of North the history of the United States, by Dr. Graham, America from 1520 to 1573. Prepared for “The Virginia to which, as the author informs us, in his preface, Historical and Philosophical Society, by Conway Robin. he had devoted "more than eleven years of eager son, Chairman of its Executive Committee and published research, intense meditation, industrious composiby the Society.” Richmond. Printed by Shepherd and lion and solicitous revisal,” affords some striking Colin. 1848.
illustrations of our idea.
In the first chapter of his first book, (page 5, of an address to Henry VIII. of England, orging the edition of 1845) Dr. Grahame informs us that upon that monarch that, with a small number of " Cabot, disappointed in his main object of finding ships, new lands might be discovered, and that the a western passage to India, returned to England 10 way of discovery was to the North. This letter is relate the discoveries he had already accomplish in the first volume of Hakluyt's Collection, page 212. ed—without altempting, either by settlement or “ Historians ofien tell us that Henry VIII. made conquest, 10 gain a fooling on the American Conti no attempt to explore or setile North America. nent”: thai" he would willingly have resumed his This is a mistake. In the nineteenth year of his exploratory enterprise in the service of England, reign, Henry sent forth iwo ships on a voyage to but he found in his absence the king's ardor for ter- the West, one called the Samson, of which a Mr. ritorial discovery had greatly abated"; and he then Grubbs was master, the other the Mary of Guilford, proceeds to allege many good and sufficient rea-commanded by John Reet. They sailed in 1527; sons why “ Henry (the Seventh) had abandoned all it was the 201h of May, according to Hakluyt, that colonial projects, &c.” Now here we have an in- they set forth out of the Thames, and the 10th of stance of speculation absolutely unfounded on fact; June, according to Purchas, that they sailed from for it had entirely escaped Dr. Grahame's research, Plymouth. On the way they were separated by a (and this was undoubtedly great,) that “ Letters pat- storm. A letter is extant from Reet to King Henry, ent had been granted by Henry VII., on the 19th of written the 3rd of August, 1527, in which he states March, in the 16th year of his reign, (to wit, March that the Mary, in fifty-two degrees, fell in with the 1500-1) to Richard Warde, Thomas Ashhurst, and main land, and within two leagues thereof met John Thomas, of Bristol, and others, authorizing with a great island of ice, and went the 21st of discoveries to all parts, regions and ends of the sea: July into Cape de Bas, a good harbor, where he East, West, South and Norih,”—that a subse- stopped ten days, and then going South entered the quent patent, with very similar powers, had been 3rd of August into a good harbour called St. John, granted on the 9th of December, in the 18th year where he found eleven sail of Normans, and one of the same reign (1502) to three of the previous Britain, and one Portugal bark, all fishing. patentees, with the addition of Hugh Elliott, and “A lelter to the same effect was written from St. that in fact the are entries account of the John on the 10th of August 1527, by Albert de privy purse expenses of Henry VII., showing that Prato, who we may infer is the person alluded to there was for a while actually some intercourse by Hakluyt when he says, 'that a canon of Saint with the newly discovered region. These entries Paul, in London, which was a great mathematician are very curious, and we subjoin them :
and a man endowed with wealth, did much advance "17 November 1503. To one that brought the action, and went therein himself in person.' hawks from the New founded island £i.
The letter of Albert de Prato, it is supposed, was " 8 April 1504. To a preste (supposed to be a to Cardinal Wolsey." priest) that goeih to the new island £2.
Again, at page 371 of the work before us, we “25 August 1505. To Clay's going to Richmond have an account (extracted from the third volume with wild cats and popinjays of the new found of Hakluyt's Collection) of a voyage performed by island, for his costs 13s. 4d.
Mr. Hore and others from England to the North“To Portuguese that brought popinjays and cats west in 1536, the 28th year of the reign of Henry of the mountain with other stuff to the King's VITI. “ being assisted by the King's favor and good
countenance," and which voyage Mr. Biddle says, We are indebted to the research of Mr. Richard in his Memoir of Cabot, p. 278,"evidently contemBiddle for these facts, to whose · Memoir of Caborsplated an adventurous range of research.” Mr. Robinson refers in the 11th chapter of the 1st We could multiply these illustrations, but we Book, p. 115 of the work before us. Surely they have no desire to do so. They are sufficient for furnish evidence, Dr. Graham's reasons to the con- our purpose to show how very prone the most hontrary notwithstanding, that Henry VII. had not est historians are to substitute their conjectures for “abandoned all colonial projects.”
truth. Again, Dr. Grahame, (Vol. 1, page 7,) supposing We do not think there is any danger to be apprethat" until the reign of Elizabeth, no fixed ideas were hended from the mere narrative of facts becoming entertained, nor any deliberate purpose evinced in dry and uninteresting, and thus repelling, instead of England of occupying territory or establishing inviting readers. We should be reluctant to pay colonies in America,” attributes this circumstance so poor a compliment to the virtue and intelligence to the absorbing agitation produced during the of mankind. Who has not felt the superior charm reign of Henry VIII. by the Reformation. His and freshness that recommend a narrative which, reasoning is quite conclusive if the fact were not although homely, is true ? And who would not preotherwise.
fer it to fiction, however ornale? The nearer the “ Robert Thorne,” says Mr. Robinson, “ besides writer of fiction approaches to the resemblance of writing to the English ambassador, at Spain, sent'truth, the more highly is ho esteemed. What bat
this imparts to the pages of De Foe, the wonderful | made by Columbus when he first discovered that fascination that charms us alike in youth and in continent. age? He dips his pencil in the hues of truth, and Now while all must be willing 10 accord to the so skilfully are they spread upon the canvass, so former navigator every credit for his adventurous naturally do the effects which he describes appear daring and his lofty enterprise, justice demands to flow from the causes he enumerates, that the that he should have no more than his fair meed of most learned have been deceived and regarded as applause, and not the least interesting portion of historical facts, incidents which existed only in the Mr. Robinson's work is that in which he demonimagination of the writer. If the adage that“ truth strates that those discoveries, by Columbus and is stranger than fiction” be as just as it is trite, even Cabot, were in fact in the same year, and so nearly the lovers of the marvellous need not apprehend contemporaneous that it was impossible that either disappointment in pursuing her sacred path, and we of the great navigators could have had the benefit think that the volume before us affords abundant of the experience of the others : Cabot's discovery evidence to justify the remark.
being on the 24th of June 1498, and that of CoIn pursuance of Mr. Robinson's plan to give an lumbus on the 2nd of August in the same year. account of the discoveries in this Western hemis. The error which has so long prevailed upon this phere until the invasion of Mexico in 1519, and the subject arises from a neglect on the part of historivoyages to and along the Atlantic coast of North ans to allow for the change made in the commenceAmerica down to 1573, the present work com- ment of the year by the Act of the British Parliamences with an interesting glance at the "alleged ment passed in 1751. discovery of America by the Northmen in the “An act of the English Parliament,” says Mr. eleventh, by the Welch in the twelfth, and by Nich. Robinson, "passed in 1751, (after March) enacted olas and Antonio Zeno in the fourteenth century." that the year should thereafter begin on the 1st of The enquiry into the truth or falsehood of these January; and the following 1st of January, and the alleged discoveries, is perhaps more curious than succeeding days to the 25th of March, were conseuseful. As to the first, they may be regarded, in quently dated as 1752, which otherwise would have the language of the elegant biographer of Colum- been 1751. bus, cited by Mr. Robinson, as "very confident de- “In respect to any matter happening (under the ductions drawn from very vague and questionable authority of England) before the 1st of January, facts, and as having led, if true, to no more result 1752, there has often been confusion in describing than would the interchange of communication be the year of the event, where it happened between tween the natives of Greenland and the Esqui- the 31st of December and the 25th of March. A maux. The knowledge of them appears not 10 day during the intervening iwo months and twentyhave extended beyond their own nation, and to have four days which one would mention as in 1497, and been soon neglected and forgotten by themselves.” correctly so niention, if regard was had to the legal The story of the voyage of the Welch Prince Ma- year in England, another would mention as in 1498 doc in 1170, rests on a mere tradition, and the al- and with equal correctness, if regard was had to leged discovery by the Zeni appears to be little the year as it prevailed in Catholic countries genbetter than an impudent pretension founded in false- erally, or as it was usually understood in historical hood and sustained by fraud.
Chronology. This might be so to the 24th of No American ever wearies with the oft told tale March inclusive, while the very next day (the 25th of the struggles of Columbus, the wonderful ge- of March) and every subsequent day to the 31st of nius and energies which sustained him and the bril- December would have to be described by all as in Jiant success which crowned his enterprise. Mr. 1498. Hence any matter happening within the Robinson, in preparing this portion of his work, has two months and twenty-four days, has to be exenriched its pages with copious extracts from the pressed with care io prevent misconception. This pen of Washington Irving, whose biography of the should be done by placing two figures at the end; illustrious Genoese has, if possible, added to the thus March 5, 1495-6; the former figure (5 in this fame of its author, and is, or ought to be familiar case) indicating the English legal year at that peto every one who boasts the name of American. riod, and the latter figure (6 in this case) indicating
It is very well known that the imperishable re- the year generally referred to in historical chronown acquired by Columbus, aroused the jealousy nology and the same that is now used in our calof various nations, and that numerous allempis endar. were inade during his life and after his death to di " To apply these remarks. The first return of ininish the merit of his bold achievement. To this Columbus from America was in March 1493; conspirit may be ascribed the pretensions of the Zeni sidering the year as having commenced (as it did adverted to above, and a still more formidable claim in Spain and Portugal) on the 1st of January. The has long been set up in favor of Sebastian Cabot, patent granted by Henry VII. was (as has been alto whom has been attributed the discovery of the ready stated) in the eleventh year of his reign. Continent of America, a year before the voyage “ This king having ascended the throne on the
22nd of August 1485, the grant in his eleventh no sufficient ground for inferring that Cahot had year was between August 1495, and August 1496, put on the map, that he made the discovery the 24th and being in March, was of course in the March of June 1497. He may have put on it in one which was after August 1495, and before August place Prima Vista, and in another St. John; and 1496, that is to say, in March 1496, according to he may in some way have communicated the fact the calendar as then used in Spain and Portugal, that the discovery was on the 24th of June, at five and as now used in England and America. The A. M. But the statement that the discovery was in grant was therefore about three years after the re-1497 is the mistake probably of some other person. turn of Columbus from America, instead of two as “Of the fact that the discovery was not in 1497, Dr. Robertson and Dr. Grahame have supposed. but in 1498, there is farther evidence. The time There being no error in stating the grant iu Cabot of the departure from Bristol is in the Chronicle of to have been on the 5th of March 1495 (according Robert Fabian, (referred to in Hakluyt's voyages, to the legal year as it then was) it is not surprising as in the custody of John Stow,) stated to be in the that this grant should have been mentioned as iwo beginning of May, in the thirteenth year of King years after the return of Columbus in March 1493: Henry VII., which was May, 1498, and is in hot it is not the less a mistake.
Stow's Andals, (referred to by Mr. Biddle, in his · The mistake is continued in respect to the year menoir of Cabot, *) stated to be in 1498, in the of the discovery of North America by Cabot. It mayoralty of William Purchas, which mayoralty is correcily stated that Cabot did not set out on his Mr. Biddle states to have extended from the 28th voyage for two years afier the grant; but taking of October, 1497, to the 28th of October, 1498. this to be so, the May that he embarked was not In the Chronicle of Fabian, there is mention May 1497, but May 1498. This is established also in the time of William Purchas being may. by the document called by Mr. Biddle in his Me. or, of three men taken in the new found island. moir of Cabot, (and by others who have adopted. These,' he says, ' were clothed in beasts', skins his idea) a second patent.
and did eat raw flesh and spake such speech that " This document is a license granted by Henry no man could understand them, and in their deVII., on the 3rd day of February, in the thirteenth meanor like to brute beasts, whoin the king kept 3 year of his reign, to John Cabot, to take, in any time after; of the which, upon two years after, I place in England, six English ships of the bur- saw iwo apparalled, after the manner of Englishthen of two hundred tons or under, with the neces- men, in Westminster palace which that time, I sary apparel, and receive into the said slips such could not discern from Englishmen till I was learsmariners and other subjects as of their own free ed what they were, but as for speech, I heard none will would go with him. The thirteenth year of them otter one word.' The statement in Hakof the reign in which this license issued, com- luyt is that the three savages were brought home menced on the 22nd of August 1497, and ended on by Cabot, and presented to the king in the fourthe 21st of August 1498. The license, therefore, teenth year of the reign, that is during the year issued on the 3rd day of February next after Au- ending the 21st day of August, 1499. Mr. Biddle gust 1497, and next before August 1498. This supposes the presentation to the King to have been 3rd day of February was in 1497, merely by rea- in the seventeenth year of the reign. Bat this is son of the fact that the year then ended on the entirely consistent with the fact that they were not 24th of March : the May following was May 1498. brought to England till in or after 1498. Yet it having been seen that the license issued * The conclusion that the first discovery of land in February 1497, and that the ships sailed the May by any of the Cabots was on the 24th of June, following, the error has constantly been committed 1498, is sustained by Mr. Home. His History of of stating that they sailed in May 1497.
England was published in 1761, only nine years “ Thus, at page six of the third volume of Hak- after the commencement of the year was changed luyi, it is stated that in the year 1497 John Cabot and when for that reason the effect of the change and his son Sebastian, (with an English fleet set was more likely to occur to him than to others out from Bristol,) discovered that land which no who have written at a later period. In his twene man before thal time had attempted, on the 24th of 1y.fifih chapter, after referring to the accideat June, about five o'clock, early in the morning. The by which England was deprived of the serviaccount proceeds: This land he called Prima ces of Columbus, he says : Henry was not disVista, that is to say, first seen, because, as I sup. couraged by this disappointment. He filled out pose, it was that part whereof they had the first Sebastian Cabot, a Venetian settler in Bristol, and sight from sea. That island which lieth out before sent him westward in 1498 in search of new coonthe land, he called the Island of St. John, upon ries. Cabot discovered the main land of Amerithis occasion, as I think, because it was discovered ca, towards the sixtieth degree of northern latitude : upon the day of John the Baptist.' Although the he sailed southward along the coast, and discovermaiter here stated is mentioned in Hakluyt, as * Page 43. laken out of the map of Sebastian Caboi, there is Hakluyt, vol. 3rd, p. 9-10.
ed Newfoundland and other countries, but relurned a base very large and massive, and surmounted by to England without making any conquest or set- turrets; that the village was paved with hollow tlement.'”
stones, the streets rising at the sides and descendWe have given the foregoing extract, although ing in the middle, which was paved entirely with perhaps rather too long for our limits, as a speci- large stones; that the sides were occupied by the men of the research and close reasoning, as well houses of the inhabitants, constructed of stones as of the fairness of our author.
from the foundation to half the height of the walls, Passing over many interesting chapters, the at- and covered with straw; and that judging by the tention of the reader will be arrested by the account buildings, these Indians were very ingenious. Other in chapter xxxiii of the discovery of Yucatan, by villages are described on the coast; one so large, Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, in 1517, and of that Seville would not have appeared more considthe voyage thither by Juan de Grijalva in 1518, in erable nor better. And mention is made of a very which were seen and described some of those re- beautiful tower on a point of land which they were markable edifices, the remains of which have been told was inhabited by women who lived without rendered familiar to us by the labors of Stephens men. They went to see the cacique Lazaro, who and others. We extract a portion of this chap- had given an honorable reception to Francisco ter
Hernandez. The Indians seem, however, not to “ Several years had elapsed in the manner men- have desired their company; they told them to tioned in chapter twenty-fourth, when in 1517 intel- quit the country, and this not being done quick ligence was brought to the province where Aguilar enough, there was a passage of arms, in which was, of the arrival on the neighboring coast of great forty of the Spaniards were wounded and one killed. vessels of wonderful construction, filled with white The Spaniards re-embarked and quitted the counand bearded men. It was in fact the squadron of try of this cacique the 29th of March. The last Francisco Hernandez de Cordova. Yucatan was day of May they discovered a very good port, to discovered this year by him, and by the pilot, Juan which they gave the name of Port Désiré. Here Alaminos, a native of Palos, who had accompanied they made some cabins of boughs, and remained Columbus in his fourth voyage. Cordova was for iwelve days; after which they went to reconnoiter some time along the coast of Yucatan, and lost another country named Mulua, which having done many men in his different rencontres with the na- they proceeded on their route the first day of July. lives. The heart of Jeronimo de Aguilar beat quick They saw a large river, from which sweet water with hope when he heard of European ships at goes into the sea for six miles : they gave to it hand. He was distant from the coast, however, the name of the river Grijalva : the province was and was too closely watched by the Indians to have named Protonià. They saw a river having two any chance of escape. After Cordova left this mouths, out of which came sweet water; and they coast, he was driven by a storm upon the shore of gave to it the name of St. Barnabas, because they Florida ; thence he returned to Cuba, where he arrived the day of the feast of this Saint. Near died ten days after his arrival.
the mountains they anchored at a little isle, to “A new expedition was determined on. Diégo which they gave the name of the Isle of SacrafiVelasquez chose to command it Juan de Grijalva, cos. They saw some very high edifices built with a native of Cuellar, who had distinguished himself lime, and a monument like a round tower, fifteen in several expeditions against the Indians of Cuba. steps broad; at its summit was a block of marble, On the first of March, 1518, his fleet set out from such as is found in Castile, surmounted by an aniCuba. He saw on the 4th, houses on a promon- mal like a lion, sculptured in marble, in whose tory, and gave to this land the name of Saint Croix. head there was a hole wherein to put perfumes. The next day he reconnoitered the coast of Yuca. The natives in different parts of Yucatan wore tan and the isle of Cuzamil. In the account of cotton cloth. They gave to the Spaniards vases this voyage it is mentioned that some Indians, of gold and mantles or coverings of cotton, so woamong whom was the chief of their village, ap- ven as to represent figures of birds and animals of proaching the vessels, the Spaniards asked news different kinds. They are described as being very of the Christians whom Francisco Hernandez had civilized, and as having laws and public edifices left in Yucatan, and was told in reply that one of dedicated to the administration of justice. This them was dead and the other still alive ; that they account is stated to have been published in Italian followed the coast to find the survivor, and on the at Venice in 1522." 6th went on land, but at first saw no one ; that they The novelty, if not interest, of the volume bemounted upon a tower there with a circumserence fore us increases considerably in that portion of it of one hundred and eighty feel, planted the stand- where Mr. Robinson has collected the various acard npon one of the fronts, and took possession in counts of voyages to and along the Atlantic coast the name of the King ; that afterwards they saw of North America from 1529 to 1573. In doing some Indians and went into their village ; that this, he has availed himself of the valuable work amongst the houses were five well constructed, with published by H. Ternaux-Compans, at Paris, in