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Chapter 6



William Dampier; or a Sea-King of the Seventeenth Century.

William Dampier was born in 1612 at East Coker, and by the death of his parents was from his childhood left to his own control. Not possessing any great taste for study, he preferred running wild in the woods, and fighting with his companions, to remaining in his place on the school benches. While still young he was sent to sea as cabin-boy on board merchant ships. After a voyage to Newfoundland and a campaign in the East Indies, he took service in the Naval Marine, and being wounded in a battle, returned to Greenwich to be nursed. Free from any prejudices, Dampier forgot his engagement when he left the Military Hospital, and started for Jamaica in the position of manager of a plantation. It did not require a long trial to discover that this occupation was not to his taste. So he abandoned his negroes at the end of six months, and went on board a ship bound for the Bay of Campeachy, where he worked for three years at gathering in woods for dyeing.

At the end of that period he is again found in London, but the laws and the officers charged with compelling their observance are too strict for his comfort. He goes back to Jamaica, where he speedily puts himself into communication with those famous buccaneers and corsairs, who at that time did so much harm to the Spaniards.

These English or French adventurers, established in the Island of Tortuga, off the coast of San Domingo, had sworn implacable hatred to Spain. Their ravages were not confined to the Gulf of Mexico: they crossed the Isthmus of Panama and devastated the coast of the Pacific Ocean from the Strait of Magellan to California. Terror exaggerated the exploits of these pirates, which however presented something of the marvellous.

It was amongst these adventurers, then commanded by Harris, Sawkins, and Shays, that Dampier enrolled himself. In 1680 we find him in Darien, where he pillages Santa Maria, endeavours in vain to surprise Panama, and with his companions, on board of some wretched canoes stolen from the Indians, captures eight vessels well armed, which were at anchor not far from the town. In this affair the losses of the corsairs are so great in the fight, and the spoil is so poor, that they separate from each other. Some go back to the Gulf of Mexico, while others establish themselves upon the island of Juan Fernandez, whence shortly after they attack Arica. But here again they were so roughly handled that a new secession takes place, and Dampier is sent to Virginia, where his captain hoped to make some recruits. There Captain Cook was fitting out a vessel, with the intention of reaching the Pacific by the Strait of Magellan, and Dampier joins the expedition. It begins by privateering upon the African coast, in the Cape de Verd Islands, at Sierra Leone, and in the River Scherborough, for this is the route habitually taken by the ships going to South America. In 36 degrees south latitude, Dampier, who notes in his journal every interesting fact, remarks that the sea is become white or rather pale, but of this he cannot explain the reason, which he might easily have done had he made use of the microscope. The Sebaldine Islands are passed without incident, the Strait of Le Maire is traversed, Cape Horn is doubled on the 6th February, 1684, and as soon as he can escape from the storms which usually assail ships entering the Pacific, Captain Cook arrives at the island of Juan Fernandez, where he hopes to revictual. Dampier wondered if he would find a Nicaraguan Indian there, who had been left behind in 1680 by Captain Sharp. "This Indian had remained alone upon the island for more than three years. He had been in the woods hunting goats when the English captain had ordered his men to re-embark, and they had set sail without perceiving his absence. He had only his gun and his knife, with a small horn of powder and a little lead; when his powder and lead were exhausted he had contrived to saw the barrel of his gun into small pieces with his knife, and out of them to make harpoons, spears, fish hooks and a long knife. With these instruments he obtained all the supplies which the island afforded: goats and fish. At the distance of half a mile from the sea, he had a small hut covered with goat skins. He had no clothes left, but an animal's skin covered his loins." We have dwelt at some length upon this involuntary hermit because he served Daniel de Foe as the original of his "Robinson Crusoe," a romance which has formed the delight of every child.

We shall not relate minutely all the expeditions in which Dampier participated. Suffice it to mention that in this campaign he visited the Gallapagos Islands. In 1686, Dampier was serving on board of Captain Swan's ship, who, seeing that the greater part of his enterprises failed, went to the East Indies, where the Spaniards were less upon their guard, and where the corsairs reckoned upon seizing the Manilla galleon. But when our adventurers arrived at Guaham, they had only three days' provisions, and the sailors had plotted if the voyage should be prolonged, to eat in turn all those who had declared themselves in favour of the voyage, and to begin with the captain who had proposed it. Dampier's turn would have come next. "Thus it came to pass," says he very humourously, "that after having cast anchor at Guaham, Swan embraced him and said: 'Ah Dampier, you would have made them but a sorry meal.' He was right," he adds, "for I was as thin and lean, as he was fat and plump." Mindanao, Manilla, certain parts of the Chinese coasts, the Moluccas, New Holland, and the Nicobar Islands, were the places visited and plundered by Dampier in this campaign. In the last-named archipelago he became separated from his companions, and was discovered half dead upon the coast of Sumatra.

During this voyage, Dampier had discovered several hitherto unknown islands, and especially the Baschi group. Like the thorough adventurer he was, immediately he recovered his health he travelled over the south of Asia, Malacca, Tonkin, Madras, and Bencoolen, where he enrolled himself as an artilleryman in the English service. Five months afterwards he deserted and returned to London. The narrative of his adventures and his privateering obtained for him a certain amount of sympathy amongst the higher classes, and he was presented to the Earl of Oxford, Lord High Admiral. He speedily received the command of the ship Roebuck to attempt a voyage of discovery in the seas which he had already explored. He left England on the 14th January, 1699, with the intention of passing through the Strait of Magellan, or of making the tour of Tierra del Fuego, so as to commence his discoveries on the coasts of the Pacific, which had hitherto received the visits of a comparatively small number of travellers. After crossing the line on the 10th March, he sailed for Brazil, where the ship was revictualled. Far from being able again to descend the coast of Patagonia, he beheld himself driven by the wind to forty-eight miles south of the Cape of Good Hope, whence he steered east-south-east towards New Holland, a long passage which was not signalized by any adventure. On the 1st August, Dampier saw land, and at once sought for a harbour in which to land. Five days later he entered the Bay of Sea-Dogs upon the western coast of Australia; but he only found there a sterile soil, and met with neither water nor vegetation. Until the 31st August, he sailed along this coast without discovering what he sought. Once when he landed, he had a slight skirmish with some of the inhabitants, who seemed to be very thinly scattered over the country. Their chief was a young man of middle height, but quick and vigilant; his eyes were surrounded by a single ring of white paint, while a stripe of the same colour descended from the top of his forehead to the end of his nose; his chest and arms were likewise striped with white. His companions were black, fierce in aspect, their hair woolly, and in shape they were tall and slender.

For five weeks Dampier hovered near land, and found neither water nor provisions; however, he would not give in, and intended to continue to ascend the coast northwards, but the shallows which he incessantly encountered, and the monsoon from the north-west which was soon due, obliged him to give up the enterprise, after having discovered more than 900 miles of the Australian continent. He afterwards steered towards Timor, where he intended to repose and recruit his crew, exhausted by the long voyage. But he knew little of these parts, and his charts were quite insufficient. He was therefore obliged to make a reconnaissance of it, as if the Dutch had not already been long settled there. Thus he discovered a passage between Timor and Anamabao, in a locality in which his map only indicated a bay. The arrival of Dampier in a port known only to themselves, astonished and greatly displeased the Dutch. They imagined that the English could only have reached it by means of charts taken on board a ship of their own. However, in the end they recovered from their fright and received the strangers with kindness.

Although the precursors of the monsoon were making themselves felt, Dampier again put to sea, and steered towards the western coast of New Guinea, where he arrived on the 4th February, 1700, near to Cape Maho of the Dutch. Amongst the things which struck him, Dampier notices the prodigious quantities of a species of pigeon, bats of extraordinary size, and scallops, a kind of shell fish, of which the empty shell weighed as much as 258 lbs. On the 7th of February he approaches King William's Island and runs to the east, where he soon sights the Cape of Good Hope of Schouten, and the island named after that navigator. On the 24th the crew witnessed a curious spectacle: "Two fish, which had accompanied the vessel for five or six days, perceived a great sea serpent, and began to pursue it. They were about the shape and size of mackerel, but yellow and green in colour. The serpent, who fled from them with great swiftness, carried his head out of the water, and one of them attempted to seize his tail. As soon as he turned round, the first fish remained in the rear, and the other took his place. They retained their wind for a long time, always heedful to defend themselves by flight, until they were lost to view."

On the 25th, Dampier gave the name of Saint Matthias to a mountainous island, thirty miles long, situated above and to the east of the Admiralty Islands. Further on at the distance of twenty-one or twenty-four miles, he discovered another island, which received the name of Squally Island, on account of violent whirlwinds which prevented him from landing upon it. Dampier believed himself to be on the coast of New Guinea, while he was in reality sailing along that of New Ireland. He endeavoured to land there, but he was surrounded by canoes carrying more than 200 natives, and the shore was covered by a large crowd. Seeing that it would be imprudent to send a boat on shore, Dampier ordered the ship to be put about. Scarcely was the order given, when the ship was assailed by showers of stones, which the natives hurled from a machine of which Dampier could not discover the shape, but which caused the name of Slingers' Bay to be given to this locality. A single discharge of cannon stupefied the natives, and put an end to hostilities. A little further on, at some distance from the coast of New Ireland, the English discover the Islands of Denis and St. John. Dampier is the first to pass through the strait which separates New Ireland from New Britain, and discovers Vulcan, Crown, G. Rook, Long Reach and Burning Islands.

After this long cruise, distinguished by important discoveries, Dampier again steered towards the west, reached Missory Island, and at length arrived at the Island of Ceram, one of the Moluccas, where he made a somewhat long stay. He went afterwards to Borneo, passed through the Strait of Macassar, and on the 23rd of June anchored at Batavia, in the Island of Java. He remained there until the 17th of October, when he set out for Europe. On arriving at the Island of Ascension on the 23rd of February, 1701, his vessel had so considerable a leak that it was impossible to stop it. It was necessary to run the ship aground and to put the crew and cargo on shore. Happily there was no want of water, turtles, goats, and land-crabs, which prevented any fear of dying of hunger before some ship should call at the island, and transport the shipwrecked sailors to their country. For this they had not long to wait, for on the 2nd of April an English vessel took them on board and carried them to England. We shall have occasion again to speak of Dampier with relation to the voyages of Wood Rodgers.



Hudson and Baffin--Champlain and La Sale--The English upon the coast of the Atlantic--The Spaniards in South America--Summary of the information acquired at the close of the 17th century--The measure of the terrestrial degree--Progress of cartography--Inauguration of Mathematical Geography.

Although the attempts to find a passage by the north-west had been abandoned by the English for twenty years, they had not, however, given up the idea of seeking by that way, for a passage which was only to be discovered in our own days, and of which the absolute impracticability was then to be ascertained. A clever sailor, Henry Hudson, of whom Ellis says, "that never did any one better understand the seafaring profession, that his courage was equal to any emergency, and that his application was indefatigable," concluded an agreement with a company of merchants to search for the passage by the north-west. On the 1st of May, 1607, he sailed from Gravesend in the Hopewell, a craft about the size of one of the smallest of modern collier brigs, and having on board a crew of twelve men; and on the 13th of June, reached the eastern coast of Greenland at 73 degrees, and gave it a name answering to the hopes he entertained, in calling it Cape Hold with Hope. The weather here was finer and less cold than it had been ten degrees southwards. By the 27th of June, Hudson had advanced 5 degrees more to the north, but on the 2nd of July, by one of the sudden changes which so frequently occur in those countries, the cold became severe. The sea, however, remained free, the air was still, and drift wood floated about in large quantity. On the 14th of the same month, in 33 degrees 23 minutes, the master's mate and the boatswain of the vessel landed upon a shore which formed the northern part of Spitzbergen. Traces of musk oxen, and foxes, great abundance of aquatic birds, two streams of fresh water, one of them being warm, proved to our navigators that it was possible to live in these extreme latitudes at this period of the year. Hudson, who had re-embarked without delay, found himself arrested at the height of 82 degrees, by thick pack ice, which he endeavoured in vain to penetrate or sail round. He was compelled to return to England, where he arrived on September 15th, after having discovered an island, which is probably that of Jan Mayen. The route followed in this first voyage having had no result towards the north, Hudson would try another, and accordingly set sail on April 21st in the following year, and advanced between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla; but he could only follow for a certain distance the coast of that vast land, without being able to attain as high an elevation as he had wished. The failure of this second attempt was more complete than that of the voyage of 1607. In consequence, the English Company, which had defrayed the expenses of both attempts, declined to proceed further. This was doubtless the reason which decided Hudson to take service in Holland.

The Company of Amsterdam gave him, in 1609, the command of a vessel, with which he set sail from the Texel at the beginning of the year. Having doubled the North Cape, he advanced along the coasts of Nova Zembla; but his crew, composed of English and Dutch, who had made voyages to the East Indies, were soon disheartened by the cold and ice. Hudson found himself forced to change his route, and to propose to his sailors, who were in open mutiny, to seek for a passage, either by Davis' Strait, or the coasts of Virginia, where, according to the information of Captain Smith, who had frequently visited them, an outlet must surely be found. The choice of this crew, little accustomed to discipline, could not be doubtful. In order not to render the outlay of the Company completely abortive, Hudson was obliged to make for the Faröe Islands, to descend southward as low as 44 degrees, and to search on the coast of America for the strait, of the existence of which he had been assured. On July 18th, he disembarked on the continent, in order to replace his foremast, which had been broken in a storm; and he took the opportunity of bartering furs with the natives. But his undisciplined sailors, having by their exactions roused the indignation of the poor and peaceable natives, compelled him again to set sail. He continued to follow the coast until August 3rd, and then landed a second time. At 40 degrees 30 minutes, he discovered a great bay which he explored in a canoe for more than 150 miles. In the meantime, his provisions began to run short, and it was impossible to procure supplies on land. The crew, which appears to have imposed its wishes on its captain during this whole voyage, assembled; some proposed to winter in Newfoundland, in order to resume the search for the passage in the following year; others wished to make for Ireland. This latter proposition was adopted; but when they approached the shores of Great Britain, the land proved so attractive to his men, that Hudson was obliged, on November 7th, to cast anchor at Dartmouth.

The following year, 1610, notwithstanding all the mortifications which he had experienced, Hudson tried to renew his engagement with the Dutch company. But the terms which they named as the price of their concurrence compelled him to renounce the project, and induced him to submit to the requirements of the English Company. This company imposed on Hudson as a condition, that he should carry on board, rather as an assistant than as a subordinate, a clever seaman, named Coleburne, in whom they had full confidence. It is easy to understand how mortifying this condition was to Hudson. Accordingly, he took the earliest opportunity of ridding himself of the superintendent who had been imposed upon him. He had not yet left the Thames when he sent Coleburne back to shore with a letter for the Company, in which he endeavoured to palliate and justify this certainly very strange proceeding.

Towards the end of May, when the ship had cast anchor in one of the ports of the island, the crew formed on the subject of Coleburne, its first conspiracy, which was repressed without difficulty, and when Hudson quitted the island on June 1st, he had re-established his authority. After having passed Frobisher's Strait, he sighted the land of Desolation of Davis, entered the strait which has received his name, and speedily penetrated into a wide bay, the entire western coast of which he examined until the beginning of September. At this epoch, one of the inferior officers, continuing to excite revolt against his chief, was superseded; but this act of justice only exasperated the sailors. In the early part of November, Hudson, having arrived at the extremity of the bay, sought for an appropriate spot to winter in, and having soon found one, drew up the ship on dry land. It is difficult to understand such a resolution. On the one hand, Hudson had left England with provisions for six months only, which had already been largely reduced, and he could scarcely reckon, considering the barrenness of the country, upon procuring a further supply of nourishment; on the other, the crew had exhibited such numerous signs of mutiny, that he could hardly rely upon its discipline and good will. Nevertheless, although the English were often obliged to content themselves with scanty rations, they did not, owing to the arrival of great numbers of birds, pass a very distressing winter. But, on the return of spring, as soon as the ship was prepared to resume her route to England, Hudson found that his fate was decided. He made his arrangements accordingly, distributed to each his share of biscuit, paid the wages due, and awaited the course of events. He had not long to wait. The conspirators seized their captain, his son, a volunteer, the carpenter, and five sailors, put them on board a boat, without arms, provisions, or instruments, and abandoned them to the mercy of the ocean. The culprits reached England again, but not all; two were killed in an encounter with the Indians, another died of sickness, while the others were sorely tried by famine. Eventually, no prosecution was commenced against them. Only, the Company, in 1674, procured employment, on board a vessel, for the son of Henry Hudson, "lost in the discovery of the North-west," the son being entirely destitute of resources.

The expeditions of Hudson were followed by those of Button and of Gibbons, to whom we owe, if not new discoveries, important observations on the tides, the variation of the weather and the temperature, and on a number of natural phenomena.

In 1615, the English Company entrusted to Byleth, who had taken part in the last voyages, the command of a vessel of fifty tons. Her name, the Discovery, was of good augury. She carried, as pilot, the famous William Baffin, whose renown has eclipsed that of his captain. Setting sail from England on April 13th, the English explorers sighted Cape Farewell by the 6th of May, passed from the Island of Desolation to the Savage Islands, where they met with a great number of natives, and ascended north-westward as high as 64 degrees. On July 10th, land appeared on the starboard, and the tide flowed from the north; from which they conceived so much hope of the passage sought for, that they gave to the cape, discovered on this spot, the name of Comfort. It was probably Cape Walsingham, for they ascertained, after doubling it, that the land inclined towards the north-east, and the east. It was at the entry of Davis' Strait, that their discoveries came to an end for this year. They returned to Plymouth on September 9th, without having lost a single man.

So strong were the hopes entertained by Byleth and Baffin, that they obtained permission to put to sea again in the same vessel the following year. On May 14th, 1616, after a voyage in which nothing worthy of remark occurred, the two captains penetrated into Davis' Strait, sighted Cape Henderson's Hope, the extreme point formerly reached by Davis, and ascended as high as 72 degrees 40 minutes to the Women's Island, thus named after some Esquimaux females whom they met with. On June 12th, Byleth and Baffin were forced by the ice to enter a bay on the coast. Some Esquimaux brought them a great quantity of horns, without doubt tusks of walruses, or horns of musk oxen; from which they named the bay Horn Sound. After remaining some days in this place, they were able to put to sea again. On setting out from 75 degrees 40 minutes, they encountered a vast expanse of water free from ice, and penetrated, without much danger, beyond the 78 degree of latitude, to the entrance of the strait, which prolonged northwards the immense bay which they had just traversed, and which received the name of Baffin. Then turning to the west, and afterwards to the south-west, Byleth and Baffin discovered the Carey Islands, Jones Strait, Coburg Island, and Lancaster Strait, and afterwards they descended along the entire western shore of Baffin's Bay as far as Cumberland Land. Despairing then of being able to carry his discoveries further, Byleth, who had several men among his crew afflicted with scurvy, found himself obliged to return to the shores of England, where he disembarked at Dover, on August 30th.

If this expedition terminated again in failure, in the sense that the north-west passage was not discovered, the results obtained were nevertheless considerable. Byleth and Baffin had prodigiously increased the knowledge of the seas and coasts in the quarters of Greenland. The captain and the pilot, in writing to the Director of the Company, assured him that the bay which they had visited was an excellent spot for fishing, in which thousands of whales, seals, and walruses, disported themselves. The event could not be long in amply proving the correctness of this information.

Let us now descend again upon the coast of America, as far as Canada, and see what had happened since the time of Jacques Cartier. This latter, we may remember, had made an attempt at colonization, which had not produced any important results. Nevertheless, some Frenchmen had remained in the country, had married there, and founded families of colonists. From time to time, they received reinforcements brought by fishing vessels from Dieppe or St. Malo. But it was difficult to establish a current of emigration. It was under these circumstances that a gentleman, named Samuel de Champlain, a veteran of the wars of Henry IV., and who, for two years and a half, had frequented the East Indies, was engaged by the Commander of Chastes with the Sieur de Pontgravé, to continue the discoveries of Jacques Cartier, and to choose the situations most favourable for the establishment of towns and centres of population. This is not the place for us to consider the manner in which Champlain understood the business of a colonizer, nor his great services, which might well entitle him to be called the father of Canada. We will, therefore, advisedly leave this aspect of his undertaking, not the least brilliant, in order simply to occupy ourselves with the discoveries which he effected in the interior of the continent.

Setting sail from Honfleur, on March 15th, 1603, the two chiefs of the enterprise first ascended the St. Lawrence, as far as the harbour of Tadoussac, 240 miles from its mouth. They were welcomed by the populations, which had, however, "neither faith, nor law, and lived without God, and without religion, like brute beasts." At this place they quitted their ships, which could not have advanced further without danger, and reached in a boat the Fall of St. Louis, where Jacques Cartier had been stopped; they even penetrated a little into the interior, and then returned to France, where Champlain printed a narrative of the voyage for the king.

Henry IV. resolved to continue the enterprise. In the meantime M. de Chastes having died, his privilege was transferred to M. de Monts, with the title of Vice-admiral and Governor of Acadia. Champlain accompanied M. de Monts to Canada, and passed three whole years, whether in aiding by his counsels and his exertions the efforts of colonization, or in exploring the coasts of Acadia, the bearings of which he took beyond Cape Cod, or in making excursions into the interior and visiting the savage tribes which it was important to conciliate. In 1607, after a new voyage to France to recruit colonists, Champlain returned again to New France, and founded, in 1608, a town which was to become Quebec. The following year was devoted to again ascending the St. Lawrence, and ascertaining its course. On board of a pirogue, with two companions only, Champlain penetrated, with some Algonquins, to the Iroquois, and remained conqueror in a great battle fought on the borders of a lake which has received his name; he then descended the river Richelieu, as far as the St. Lawrence. In 1610, he made a fresh incursion into the territory of the Iroquois, at the head of his allies, the Algonquins, whom he had the greatest possible difficulty in making observe the European discipline. In this campaign he employed instruments of warfare which greatly astonished the savages, and easily secured him the victory. For the attack of a village, he constructed a cavalier of wood, which 200 of the most powerful men "carried before this village to within a pike's length, and displayed three arquebusiers well protected from the arrows and stones which might be shot or launched at them." A little later, we see him exploring the river Ottawa, and advancing, in the north of the continent, to within 225 miles of Hudson's Bay. After having fortified Montreal, in 1615, he twice ascended the Ottawa, explored Lake Huron, and arrived by land at Lake Ontario, which he crossed.

It is very difficult to divide into two parts a life so occupied as Champlain's. All his excursions, all his reconnaissances, had but one object, the development of the work to which he had consecrated his existence. Thus detached from what gives them their interest, they appear to us unimportant; and yet if the colonial policy of Louis XIV. and his successor had been different, we should possess in America a colony which assuredly would not yield in prosperity to the United States. Notwithstanding our abandonment, Canada has preserved a fervent love for the mother country.

We must now leap over a period of forty years, to arrive at Robert Cavelier de la Sale. During this time, the French establishments have acquired some importance in Canada, and have extended themselves over a great part of North America. Our hunters and trappers scour the woods, and bring, every year, with their load of furs, new information respecting the interior of the continent. In this latter task they are powerfully seconded by the missionaries, in the first rank of whom we must place Father Marquette, whom the extent of his voyages on the great lakes and as far as the Mississippi marks out for special acknowledgment. Two men, besides, deserve to be mentioned for the encouragements and facilities which they afforded to the explorers, viz., M. de Frontenac, Governor of New France, and Talon, intendant of justice and police. In 1678, there arrived in Canada, without any settled purpose, a young man named Cavelier de la Sale. "He was born at Rouen," says Father Charlevoix, "of a family in easy circumstances; but having passed some years with the Jesuits, he had had no share in the inheritance of his parents. He had a cultivated mind, he wished to distinguish himself, and he felt within himself sufficient genius and courage to ensure success. In reality, he was not deficient in resolution to enter upon, nor in perseverance to follow up, an undertaking, nor in firmness in contending against obstacles, nor in resource to repair his losses; but he knew not how to make himself loved, nor how to manage those of whom he stood in need, and when he had attained authority, he exercised it with harshness and arrogance. With such defects he could not be happy, and in fact he was not."

Father Charlevoix's portrait appears to us somewhat too black, and he does not seem to estimate at its true value the great discovery which we owe to Cavelier de la Sale; a discovery, which has nothing like it, we do not say equal to it, except that of the river Amazon, by Orellana, in the 16th century, and that of the Congo, by Stanley, in the 19th. However this may be, no sooner had he arrived in the country, than he set himself, with extraordinary application, to study the native idioms, and to associate with the savages in order to render himself familiar with their manners and habits. At the same time he gathered from the trappers a mass of information on the situation of the rivers and lakes. He communicated his projects of exploration to M. de Frontenac, who encouraged him, and gave him the command of a fort constructed at the outlet of the lake into the St. Lawrence. In the meantime, one Jolyet arrived at Quebec. He brought the news that in company with Father Marquette and four other persons, he had reached a great river called the Mississippi, flowing towards the south. Cavelier de la Sale very soon understood what advantage might be derived from an artery of this importance, especially if the Mississippi had, as he believed, its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. By the lakes and the Illinois, an affluent of the Mississippi, it was easy to effect a communication between the St. Lawrence, and the Sea of the Antilles. What marvellous profit would France derive from this discovery! La Sale explained the project which he had conceived to the Count of Frontenac, and obtained from him very pressing letters of recommendation to the Minister of Marine. On arriving in France, La Sale learned the death of Colbert; but he remitted to his son, the Marquis of Seignelay, who had succeeded him, the despatches of which he was the bearer. This project, which appeared to rest upon solid foundations, could not fail to please a young minister. Accordingly, Seignelay presented La Sale to the king, who caused letters of nobility to be prepared for him, granted him the Seignory of Catarocouy, and the government of the fort which he had built, with the monopoly of commerce in the countries which he might discover.

La Sale had also found means to procure the patronage of the Prince de Conti, who asked him to take with him the Chevalier Tonti, son of the inventor of the Tontine, in whom he felt an interest. He was for La Sale a precious acquisition. Tonti, who had made a campaign in Sicily, where his hand had been carried off by the explosion of a grenade, was a brave and skilful officer, who always showed himself extremely devoted.

La Sale and Tonti embarked at Rochelle, on July 14th, 1678, carrying with them about thirty men, workmen and soldiers, and a Recollet (monk), Father Hennepin, who accompanied them in all their voyages.

Then La Sale, being conscious that the execution of his project required more considerable resources than those which were at his disposal, constructed a boat upon the Lake Erie, and devoted a whole year to scouring the country, visiting the Indians, and carrying on an active trade in furs, which he stored in his fort of Niagara, while Tonti pursued the same course in other directions. At length, towards the middle of August, of the year 1679, his boat, the Griffon, being prepared for sailing, he embarked on the Lake Erie, with thirty men, and three Fathers, Recollets, for Machillimackinac. In crossing the lakes St. Clair and Huron, he experienced a violent storm, which caused the desertion of some of his people, whom, however, Tonti brought back to him. La Sale arrived at Machillimackinac, and very soon entered the Green Bay. But during this time his creditors at Quebec had sold all that he possessed, and the Griffon, which he had despatched, laden with furs, to the fort of Niagara, was either lost or pillaged by the Indians; which of these took place has never been precisely ascertained. For himself, although the departure of the Griffon had displeased his companions, he continued his route, and reached the river St. Joseph, where he found an encampment of Miamis, and where Tonti speedily rejoined him. Their first care was to construct a fort on this spot. Then they crossed the dividing line of the water between the basin of the great lakes, and that of the Mississippi; they subsequently reached the river of the Illinois, an affluent on the left of that great river. With his small band of followers, upon whose fidelity he could not entirely depend, the situation of La Sale was critical, in the midst of an unknown country, and among a powerful nation, the Illinois, who, at first allies of France, had been prejudiced and excited against us by the Iroquois and the English, jealous of the progress of the Canadian colony.

Nevertheless, it was necessary, at all cost, to attach to himself these Indians, who from their situation, were able to hinder all communication between La Sale and Canada. In order to strike their imagination, Cavelier de la Sale proceeds to their encampment, where more than 3000 men are assembled. He has but twenty men, but he traverses their village haughtily, and stops at some distance. The Illinois, who have not yet declared war, are surprised. They advance towards him, and overwhelm him with pacific demonstrations. So versatile is the spirit of the savages! Such an impression does every mark of courage make upon them! Without delay, La Sale takes advantage of their friendly dispositions, and erects upon the very site of their camp, a small fort, which he calls Crèvecoeur, in allusion to the troubles which he has already experienced. There he leaves Tonti with all his people, and he himself, anxious about the fate of the Griffon, returns with three Frenchmen and one Indian, to the fort of Catarocouy, separated by 500 leagues from Crèvecoeur. Before setting out, he had detached with Father Hennepin, one of his companions named Dacan, on a mission to reascend the Mississippi beyond the river of the Illinois, and if possible, to its source. "These two travellers," says Father Charlevoix, "set out from the fort of Crèvecoeur, on February 28th, and having entered the Mississippi, ascended it as far as 46 degrees of north latitude. There they were stopped by a considerable waterfall, extending quite across the river, to which Father Hennepin gave the name of St. Anthony of Padua. Then they fell, I know not by what mischance, into the hands of the Sioux, who kept them for a long time prisoners."

On his journey back to Catarocouy, La Sale, having discovered a new site appropriate to the construction of a fort, summoned Tonti thither, who immediately set to work, while La Sale continued his route. This is Fort St. Louis. On his arrival at Catarocouy, La Sale learned news which would have broken down a man of a less hardy temperament. Not only had the Griffon, on board of which he had furs of the value of 10,000 crowns, been lost, but a vessel which was bringing him from France a cargo worth 880l. had been shipwrecked, and his enemies had spread a report of his death. Having no further business at Catarocouy, and having proved by his presence that the reports of his disappearance were all false, he arrived again at the fort of Crèvecoeur, where he was much astonished to find no one.

This is what had happened. While the Chevalier Tonti was employed in the construction of Fort St. Louis, the garrison of Fort Crèvecoeur had mutinied, had pillaged the magazines, had done the same at Fort Miami, and then fled to Machillimackinac. Tonti, almost alone in face of the Illinois, who were roused against him by the depredations of his men, and judging that he could not resist in his fort of Crèvecoeur, had left it on September 11th, 1680, with the five Frenchmen who composed his garrison, and had retired as far as the bay of the Lake Michigan. After having placed a garrison at Crèvecoeur and at Fort St. Louis, La Sale came to Machillimackinac, where he rejoined Tonti, and together they set out again from thence towards the end of August for Catarocouy, whence they embarked on the Lake Erie with fifty-five persons, on August 28th, 1681. After a journey of 240 miles along the frozen river of the Illinois, they reached Fort Crèvecoeur, where the water, free from ice, permitted the use of their canoes. On February 6th, 1682, La Sale arrived at the confluence of the Illinois and the Mississippi. He descended the river, sighted the mouth of the Missouri, and that of the Ohio, where he raised a fort, penetrated into the country of the Arkansas, of which he took possession in the name of France, crossed the country of the Natchez, with whom he made a treaty of friendship, and finally passed out into the Gulf of Mexico on April 9th, after a navigation of 1050 miles in a mere bark. The anticipations so skilfully conceived by Cavelier de la Sale, were realized. He immediately took formal possession of the country, to which he gave the name of Louisiana, and called the immense river which he had just discovered the St. Louis.

La Sale's return to Canada occupied not less than one year and a half. There is no ground for astonishment, when all the obstacles scattered in his path are considered. What energy, what strength of mind were requisite in one of the greatest travellers of whom France has reason to be proud, to succeed in such an enterprise!

Unhappily, a man, otherwise well intentioned, but who allowed himself to be prejudiced against La Sale by his numerous enemies, M. Lefèvre de la Barre, who had succeeded M. de Frontenac as governor of Canada, wrote to the Minister of Marine, that the discoveries of La Sale were not to be regarded as of much importance. "This traveller," he said "was actually, with about twenty French vagabonds and savages, at the extremity of the bay, where he played the part of sovereign, plundered and ransomed those of his own nation, exposed the people to the incursions of the Iroquois, and covered all these acts of violence with the pretext of the permission, which he had from His Majesty, to carry on commerce alone in the countries which he might be able to discover."

Cavelier de la Sale could not allow himself to remain exposed to these calumnious imputations. On the one side, honour prompted him to return to France to exculpate himself; on the other, he would not leave others to reap the profit of his discoveries. He set out, therefore, and received from Seignelay a kindly welcome. The minister had not been much influenced by the letters of M. de la Barre; he was aware that men could not accomplish great achievements without wounding much self-love, nor without making numerous enemies. La Sale took the opportunity to explain to him his project of discovering the mouth of the Mississippi by sea, in order to open a way for French vessels, and to found an establishment there. The minister entered into these views, and gave him a commission which placed Frenchmen and savages under his orders, from Fort St. Louis to the sea. At the same time the commandant of the squadron which was to transport him to America, was to be under his authority, and to furnish him on his disembarkation with all the succours which he might require, provided that nothing was done to the prejudice of the king. Four vessels, one of them a frigate of forty guns, commanded by M. de Beaujeu were to carry 280 persons, including the crews, to the mouth of the Mississippi, to form the nucleus of the new colony. Soldiers and artisans had been very badly chosen, as was perceived when too late, and no one knew his business. Setting sail from La Rochelle, on July 24th, 1684, the little squadron was almost immediately obliged to return to port, the bowsprit of the frigate having broken suddenly in the very finest weather. This inexplicable accident was the commencement of misunderstanding between M. de Beaujeu and M. de la Sale. The former could scarcely be pleased to see himself subordinated to a private individual, and did not forgive Cavelier this. Nothing however would have been more easy than to decline the command. La Sale had not the gentleness of manner and the politeness necessary to conciliate his companions. The disagreement did but gather force during the voyage by reason of the obstacles raised by M. de Beaujeu to the rapidity and secrecy of the expedition. The annoyances of La Sale had indeed become so great when he arrived at St. Domingo, that he fell seriously ill. He recovered, however, and the expedition set sail again on November 25th. A month later, it was off Florida; but, as "La Sale had been assured that in the Gulf of Mexico, all the currents bore eastwards, he did not doubt that the mouth of the Mississippi must be far to the west; an error which was the source of all his misfortunes."

La Sale then steered to the west, and passed by, without perceiving it, without deigning even to attend to certain signs which he was asked to observe, the mouth of the Mississippi. When he perceived his mistake, and entreated M. de Beaujeu to turn back, the latter would no longer consent. La Sale, seeing that he could make no impression upon the contradictory mind of his companion, decided to disembark his men and his provisions in the Bay of St. Bernard. Yet, in this very last act, Beaujeu manifested an amount of culpable ill-will, which did as little honour to his judgment as to his patriotism. Not only was he unwilling to land all the provisions, under the pretext that certain of them being at the bottom of the hold, he had no time to change his stowage, but further he gave shelter on board his own ship to the master and crew of the transport, laden with the stores, utensils, and implements necessary for a new establishment, people whom everything seems to convict of having purposely cast their vessel upon shore. At the same time, a number of savages took advantage of the disorder caused by the shipwreck of the transport, to plunder everything on which they could lay their hands. Nevertheless, La Sale, who had the talent of never appearing depressed by misfortune, and who found in his own genius resources adapted to the circumstances of the case, ordered the works of the establishment to be begun. In order to give courage to his companions, he more than once took part with his own hands in the work; but very slow progress was made, in consequence of the ignorance of the workmen. Struck with the resemblance of the language and habits of the Indians of these parts to those of the Mississippi, La Sale was very soon persuaded that he was not far distant from that river, and made several excursions in order to approach it. But, if he found a country beautiful and fertile, he did not make progress towards what he was in search of. He returned each time to the fort more gloomy and more harsh; and this was not the way to restore calm to spirits embittered by sufferings and the inutility of their efforts. Grain had been sown; but scarcely any came up for want of rain, and what had sprung up was soon laid waste by the savages and the deer. The hunters who wandered far from the camp were massacred by the Indians, and sickness found an easy prey in men overwhelmed with ennui, disappointment, and misery. In a short time, the number of the colonists fell to thirty-seven. At length, La Sale resolved to try a last effort to reach the Mississippi, and in descending the river to seek help from the nations with which he had made alliance. He set out on January 12th, 1687, with his brother, his two nephews, two missionaries, and twelve colonists. He was approaching the country of the Shawnees, when, in consequence of an altercation between one of his nephews and three of his companions, these latter assassinated the young man and his servant during their sleep, and resolved immediately to do the same with the chief of the enterprise. De la Sale, uneasy at not seeing his nephew return, set out to seek him on the morning of the 19th, with Father Anastase. The assassins, seeing him approach, lay in ambush in a thicket, and one of them shot him in the head, and stretched him on the ground stark dead. Thus perished Cavelier de la Sale, "a man of a capacity," says Father Charlevoix, "of a largeness of mind, of a courage and firmness of soul, which might have led him to the achievement of something great, if with so many great qualities, he had known how to master his gloomy and atrabilious disposition, and to soften the severity or rather the harshness of his nature...." Many calumnies had been spread abroad against him; but it is necessary so much the more to be on our guard against all these malevolent reports "as it is only too common to exaggerate the defects of the unfortunate, to impute to them even some which they had not, especially when they have given occasion for their misfortune, and have not known how to make themselves beloved. What is sadder for the memory of this celebrated man, is that he has been regretted by few persons, and that the ill-success of his undertakings--only of his last--has given him the air of an adventurer, among those who judge only by appearances. Unhappily, these are usually the most numerous, and in some degree the voice of the public."

We have but little to add to these last wise words. La Sale knew not how to obtain pardon for his first success. We have related subsequently by what concurrence of circumstances his second enterprise miscarried. He died, the victim it may be said, of the jealousy and malevolence of the Chevalier de Beaujeu. It is to this slight cause that we owe the failure to found in America a powerful colony, which would very soon have been found in a condition to compete with the English establishments.

We have narrated the beginning of the English colonies. The events which took place in England were highly favourable to them. The religious persecutions, the revolutions of 1648 and 1688, furnished numerous recruits, who, animated by an excellent spirit, set themselves to work, and transported to the other side of the Atlantic the arts, the industry, and in a short time the prosperity, of the mother country. Very soon, the immense forests which covered Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Carolina, fell beneath the hatchet of the "Squatter," and the soil became cleared, while the hunters of the woods, driving back the Indians, made the interior of the country better known, and prepared the work of civilization.

In Mexico, in the whole of Central America, in Peru, in Chili, and on the shores of the Atlantic, a different state of things prevailed. The Spaniards had extended their conquests; but, far from acting like the English, they had reduced the Indians to slavery. Instead of applying themselves to the cultivation appropriate to the variety of the climates and of the countries of which they had made themselves masters, they sought only in the produce of the mines the resources and prosperity which they should have endeavoured to obtain from the land. If a country can thus rapidly attain prodigious wealth, yet this factitious system cannot last long. With the mines a prosperity which does not renew itself, must ere long become exhausted. The Spaniards could not fail to experience the sad result.

Thus then, at the end of the seventeenth century, a great part of the new world was known. In North America, Canada, the shores of the Atlantic and of the Gulf of Mexico, the valley of the Mississippi, the coasts of California and of New Mexico, were discovered or colonized. All the central part of the continent, from Rio del Norte, as far as Terra Firma, was subject, at least nominally, to the Spaniards. In the south, the savannahs and the forests of Brazil, the pampas of the Argentine, and the interior of Patagonia, escaped the observation of the explorers, as they were destined to do for a long time yet.

In Africa, the long line of coasts, which are washed by the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, had been patiently followed and observed by navigators. At some points only, colonists and missionaries had tried to penetrate the mystery of this vast continent. Senegal, Congo, the valley of the Nile, and Abyssinia, were all that were known with some degree of detail and of certainty.

If many of the countries of Asia, surveyed by the travellers of the middle ages, had not been revisited since that epoch, we had carefully explored the whole anterior part of that continent, India had been revealed to us, we had even founded some establishments there, China had been touched by our missionaries, and Japan, that famous Cipango which had exercised so great an attraction for our travellers of the preceding age, was at length known to us. Only Siberia and the whole north-east angle of Asia had escaped our investigations, and it was not yet known whether America was not connected with Asia, a mystery which was before long to be cleared up.

In Oceania, a number of archipelagos, of islands and separate islets, remained still to be discovered, but the islands of Sunda were colonized, the coasts of Australia and of New Zealand had been partially revealed, and the existence of that great continent which, according to Tasman, extended from Tierra del Fuego to New Zealand, began to be doubted; but it still required the long and careful researches of Cook to banish definitely into the domain of fable a chimera so long cherished.

Geography was on the point of transforming itself. The great discoveries made in astronomy were about to be applied to geography. The labours of Fernel and above all of Picard, upon the measure of a terrestrial degree between Paris and Amiens, had made it clear that the globe is not a sphere, but a spheroid, that is to say, a ball flattened at the poles and swollen at the equator, and thus were found at one stroke the form and the dimensions of the world which we inhabit. At length the labours of Picard, continued by La Hire and Cassini, were completed at the commencement of the following century. The astronomical observations, rendered possible by the calculation of the satellites of Jupiter, enabled us to rectify our maps. If this rectification had been already effected with regard to certain places, it became indispensable when the number of points of which the astronomical position had been observed, had been considerably increased; and this was to be the work of the next century. At the same time, historical geography was more studied; it began to take for its foundation the study of inscriptions, and archæology was about to become one of the most useful instruments of comparative geography.

In a word, the seventeenth century is an epoch of transition and of progress; it seeks and it finds the powerful means which its successor, the eighteenth century, was destined to put into operation. The era of the sciences has already opened, and with it the modern world commences.



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Jules Verne

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