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The reign of Elizabeth favourable to maritime adventures-Sir Hum-phrey Gilbert, the first conductor of an English colony to America -Letters Patent to him for that purpose-Characteristic incidents relative to Sir Humphrey Gilbert-his first voyage unsuccessful— sails a second time for America-takes possession of Newfoundland-is lost on his return to England.
A VARIETY of concurrent circumstances, SECT. contributed to render the reign of Elizabeth favourable to the growth of the maritime power of Eng-1558. land. The intercourse which had subsisted for of Eliza some time between the English and Spanish na- vourable tions, through the alliance of their monarchs, espe- tome adcially in the reign of Mary, immediately preceding, ventures. had diffused among the English a considerable knowledge, not only of the general naval affairs of Spain, but more particularly of their American dis
* The author had prepared a distinct section, to be inserted here, containing a sketch of the attempts of the French protestants, under the direction and patronage of admiral Coligny, to plant colonies, about this time, in that part of the continent, of America, now called South Carolina, in consequence of the oppressions which these protestants experienced from the civil war then raging in France. The emigration of the French Hugonots, under Ribaut and Laudonniere—the cruel massacre of them by the Spanish catholics, under Menendez, and the just retaliation inflicted upon the Spaniards by the Chevalier de Gorgues, form a very interesting part of American history. But as the reader would probably consider these events, as bearing but a slight relation to the history to which this volume is intended as an introduction, it has been thought most proper to suppress that section.
SECT. coveries and settlements. The wealth, which was supposed to flow in upon the Spanish nation, from that source, would naturally allure the English to some endeavours to participate in these advantages. The accession of Elizabeth to the throne of England, together with the restoration of the reformed religion, in the course of a few years placed the two nations in a state of hostility towards each other. Queen Elizabeth early foresaw this, and neglected nothing that might keep up and promote a maritime spirit among her people. She therefore, in a particular manner, manifested her approbation of the naval exploits of captain Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and other great mariners. It must be observed here, that soon after the discovery of the northern part of America by Cabot, and especially that part of it, denominated by him Newfoundland, divers other European nations resorted to that coast, for the great emoluments to be derived from the fishery on its banks. Insomuch, indeed, that some of them affected to claim the right of the first discovery of that country. But, as that claim appeared to be without foundation, and as the advantages of the fishery, would be much enhanced to any nation that might have possession of that island, the able ministry of that politic princess, could not be insensible to the advantages of making a settlement thereon. Added to this, the extensive progress, which the Spanish nation had now made in the colonisation of South America, could not fail to excite the ardent emulation of the English, in following their example by a like colonisation of the north. Indeed, the danger of anticipation must have been
now urgent; for, it appears by an account publish- SECT. ed in the year 1578,* that there were fifty sail of
English ships, one hundred sail of Spaniards, fifty 1558.
1578. Sir Hum
At this period then, Sir Humphrey Gilbert is mentioned by historians, with the distinction due to phrey Gilthe conductor of the first English colony to Ame- conductor rica. He was a native of Devonshire; inherited arst Engood estate, and had early rendered himself conspi-glish colocuous by his military services in France, Ireland, America. and Holland. Having afterwards turned his attention to naval affairs, he published a discourse concerning the probability of a north-west passage to the Indies; which discovered no inconsiderable portion, both of learning and ingenuity, mingled with the enthusiasm, the credulity, and sanguine expectations which incite men to new and hazardous undertakings. With the honourable desire of in
By a Mr. Barkhurst. See Harris's Voyages, Vol. 2, p. 198.
+ Robertson's Hist. of America, Vol. 4, p. 159. Tindal's edit. of Rapin's Hist. of England, Vol. 7, p. 387. Leland's Hist. of Ireland, Vol. 2, p. 252. In confirmation of the above character of Sir Humphrey, from Robertson, it may be mentioned, that Sir Humphrey was, a few years before this, (between the years 1571 and 1574,) engaged with the learned Sir Thomas Smith, in some visionary schemes of alchymy, through which means they expected to accumulate sudden 'wealth, by the transmutation of iron into copper. They were
SECT. creasing his private fortune, by the pursuit of the II. public service, he applied to Elizabeth for permis. 1578. sion to carry his schemes into effect. He represented to her the expediency of settling all those countries upon the continent of America, which had been formerly discovered by Cabot, because otherwise it was not at all unlikely, that the French, who had often reviewed those places, would be desirous of supplanting the English, and because it was very far from being improbable, that those countries abounded with very rich minerals.* Upon these suggestions, he easily obtained from the queen, letters patent, vesting in him sufficient powers for this purpose.
It has been observed, that this being the first charter to a colony granted by the crown of England, the articles of it merit particular attention, as they unfold the ideas of that age with respect to the nature of such settlements.† "She thereby
men of such reputation for talents and genius, that they drew in secretary Cecil and the earl of Leicester, to join them in the scheme. The project eventuated, as other delusive dreams of alchymy have generally done-in the ruin of the projectors. Sir Thomas smarted very severely in his purse, and Sir Humphrey was impoverished by it. The former sought to recruit his finances by planting colonies in Ireland, and the latter by the like proceedings in America. It is, however, one among many instances, wherein the very errors of philosophers have been consequentially productive of great good to mankind. See a biographical account of the life of Sir Thomas Smith, published in the Pennsylvania Magazine for January, 1776.
• Harris's Voyages, Vol. 2, p. 199.
✦ Although this observation is made by Robertson, (Ibid.
grants to him, and to his heirs and assigns, for ever, SECT. license to discover and view such remote heathen and barbarous lands, countries, and territories, as were not actually possessed by any Christian prince Letters or people, and the same to hold, occupy, and enjoy patent for to him, his heirs, and assigns for ever, with all com- pose. modities, jurisdiction, and royalties, both by sea and land; and the said Sir Humphrey, and all such, as from time to time, by royal license, should go and travel thither, to inhabit or remain there, the statutes or acts of parliament made against fugitives, or any other act, statute, or law whatever, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.* And that he might take and lead in the same voyages, to travel thitherward, or to inhabit there with him, such, and so many of her subjects as should willingly accompany him, so that none of them be such as thereafter should be specially restrained by her. And further, that he, his heirs, and assigns, should have, hold, occupy, and enjoy forever, all the soil of all such lands, &c. with the rights, royalties, and jurisdictions, as well marine as other, within the said lands, with full power to dispose thereof, or part thereof, in fee sim
last cited,) yet there seems to be no sound reason, why the letters patent granted by Henry VII, in the year 1502, to Hugh Elliott and others, merchants of Bristol, as before mentioned, should not be called a charter to a colony, as well as this to Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The former, after granting license to the patentees to discover new countries, grants them license also, to take out with them, any English subjects to inhabit and settle in those countries so discovered—“ et in eisdem inhabitare." No permanent settlement in America was ever formed under either of the charters.