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- Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Voyage to Newfoundland - 1/8 -


Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Voyage to Newfoundland

by Edward Hayes

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the founder of the first English colony in North America, was born about 1539, the son of a Devonshire gentleman, whose widow afterward married the father of Sir Walter Raleigh. He was educated at Eton and Oxford, served under Sir Philip Sidney's father in Ireland, and fought for the Netherlands against Spain. After his return he composed a pamphlet urging the search for a northwest passage to Cathay, which led to Frobisher's license for his explorations to that end.

In 1578 Gilbert obtained from Queen Elizabeth the charter he had long sought, to plant a colony in North America. His first attempt failed, and cost him his whole fortune; but, after further service in Ireland, he sailed again in 1583 for Newfoundland. In the August of that year he took possession of the harbor of St. John and founded his colony, but on the return voyage he went down with his ship in a storm south of the Azores.

The following narrative is an account of this last voyage of Gilbert's, told by Edward Hayes, commander of "The Golden Hind," the only one to reach England of the three ships which set out from Newfoundland with Gilbert.

The settlement at St. John was viewed by its promoter as merely the beginning of a scheme for ousting Spain from America in favor of England. The plan did not progress as he hoped; but after long delays, and under far other impulses than Gilbert ever thought of, much of his dream was realized.

SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT'S VOYAGE TO NEWFOUNDLAND

A report of the Voyage and success thereof, attempted in the year of our Lord 1583, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Knight, with other gentlemen assisting him in that action, intended to discover and to plant Christian inhabitants in place convenient, upon those large and ample countries extended northward from the Cape of Florida, lying under very temperate climes, esteemed fertile and rich in minerals, yet not in the actual possession of any Christian prince. Written by Mr. Edward Hayes, gentleman, and principal actor in the same voyage,[*] who alone continued unto the end, and, by God's special assistance, returned home with his retinue safe and entire.

[*] Hayes was captain and owner of the /Golden Hind/, Gilbert's Rear- Admiral.

Many voyages have been pretended, yet hitherto never any thoroughly accomplished by our nation, of exact discovery into the bowels of those main, ample, and vast countries extended infinitely into the north from thirty degrees, or rather from twenty-five degrees, of septentrional latitude, neither hath a right way been taken of planting a Christian habitation and regiment (government) upon the same, as well may appear both by the little we yet do actually possess therein, and by our ignorance of the riches and secrets within those lands, which unto this day we know chiefly by the travel and report of other nations, and most of the French, who albeit they cannot challenge such right and interest unto the said countries as we, neither these many years have had opportunity nor means so great to discover and to plant, being vexed with the calamities of intestine wars, as we have had by the inestimable benefit of our long and happy peace, yet have they both ways performed more, and had long since attained a sure possession and settled government of many provinces in those northerly parts of /America/, if their many attempts into those foreign and remote lands had not been impeached by their garboils at home.

The first discovery of these coasts, never heard of before, was well begun by John Cabot the father and Sebastian his son, an Englishman born, who were the first finders out of all that great tract of land stretching from the Cape of Florida, into those islands which we now call the Newfoundland; all which they brought and annexed unto the crown of England. Since when, if with like diligence the search of inland countries had been followed, as the discovery upon the coast and outparts thereof was performed by those two men, no doubt her Majesty's territories and revenue had been mightily enlarged and advanced by this day; and, which is more, the seed of Christian religion had been sowed amongst those pagans, which by this time might have brought forth a most plentiful harvest and copious congregation of Christians; which must be the chief intent of such as shall make any attempt that way; or else whatsoever is builded upon other foundation shall never obtain happy success nor continuance.

And although we cannot precisely judge (which only belongeth to God) what have been the humours of men stirred up to great attempts of discovering and planting in those remote countries, yet the events do shew that either God's cause hath not been chiefly preferred by them, or else God hath not permitted so abundant grace as the light of His word and knowledge of Him to be yet revealed unto those infidels before the appointed time. But most assuredly, the only cause of religion hitherto hath kept back, and will also bring forward at the time assigned by God, an effectual and complete discovery and possession by Christians both of those ample countries and the riches within them hitherto concealed; whereof, notwithstanding, God in His wisdom hath permitted to be revealed from time to time a certain obscure and misty knowledge, by little and little to allure the minds of men that way, which else will be dull enough in the zeal of His cause, and thereby to prepare us unto a readiness for the execution of His will, against the due time ordained of calling those pagans unto Christianity.

In the meanwhile it behoveth every man of great calling, in whom is any instinct of inclination unto this attempt, to examine his own motions, which, if the same proceed of ambition or avarice, he may assure himself it cometh not of God, and therefore cannot have confidence of God's protection and assistance against the violence (else irresistible) both of sea and infinite perils upon the land; whom God yet may use as an instrument to further His cause and glory some way, but not to build upon so bad a foundation. Otherwise, if his motives be derived from a virtuous and heroical mind, preferring chiefly the honour of God, compassion of poor infidels captived by the devil, tyrannizing in most wonderful and dreadful manner over their bodies and souls; advancement of his honest and well-disposed countrymen, willing to accompany him in such honourable actions; relief of sundry people within this realm distressed; all these be honourable purposes, imitating the nature of the munificent God, wherewith He is well pleased, who will assist such an actor beyond expectation of many. And the same, who feeleth this inclination in himself, by all likelihood may hope or rather confidently repose in the preordinance of God, that in this last age of the world (or likely never) the time is complete of receiving also these gentiles into His mercy, and that God will raise Him an instrument to effect the same; it seeming probable by event of precedent attempts made by the Spaniards and French sundry times, that the countries lying north of Florida God hath reserved the same to be reduced into Christian civility by the English nation. For not long after that Christopher Columbus had discovered the islands and continent of the West Indies for Spain, John and Sebastian Cabot made discovery also of the rest from Florida northwards to the behoof of England.

And whensoever afterwards the Spaniards, very prosperous in all their southern discoveries, did attempt anything into Florida and those regions inclining towards the north, they proved most unhappy, and were at length discouraged utterly by the hard and lamentable success of many both religious and valiant in arms, endeavouring to bring those northerly regions also under the Spanish jurisdiction, as if God had prescribed limits unto the Spanish nation which they might not exceed; as by their own gests recorded may be aptly gathered.

The French, as they can pretend less title unto these northern parts than the Spaniard, by how much the Spaniard made the first discovery of the same continent so far northward as unto Florida, and the French did but review that before discovered by the English nation, usurping upon our right, and imposing names upon countries, rivers, bays, capes, or headlands as if they had been the first finders of those coasts; which injury we offered not unto the Spaniards, but left off to discover when we approached the Spanish limits; even so God hath not hitherto permitted them to establish a possession permanent upon another's right, notwithstanding their manifold attempts, in which the issue hath been no less tragical than that of the Spaniards, as by their own reports is extant.

Then, seeing the English nation only hath right unto these countries of America from the Cape of Florida northward by the privilege of first discovery, unto which Cabot was authorised by regal authority, and set forth by the expense of our late famous King Henry the Seventh; which right also seemeth strongly defended on our behalf by the powerful hand of Almighty God withstanding the enterprises of other nations; it may greatly encourage us upon so just ground, as is our right, and upon so sacred an intent, as to plant religion (our right and intent being meet foundations for the same), to prosecute effectually the full possession of those so ample and pleasant countries appertaining unto the crown of England; the same, as is to be conjectured by infallible arguments of the world's end approaching, being now arrived unto the time of God prescribed of their vocation, if ever their calling unto the knowledge of God may be expected. Which also is very probable by the revolution and course of God's word and religion, which from the beginning hath moved from the east towards, and at last unto, the west, where it is like to end, unless the same begin again where it did in the east, which were to expect a like world again. But we are assured of the contrary by the prophecy of Christ, whereby we gather that after His word preached throughout the world shall be the end. And as the Gospel when it descended westward began in the south, and afterward begun in the south countries of America, no less hope may be gathered that it will also spread into the north.

These considerations may help to suppress all dreads rising of hard events in attempts made this way by other nations, as also of the heavy success and issue in the late enterprise made by a worthy gentleman our countryman, Sir Humfrey Gilbert, Knight, who was the first of our nations that carried people to erect an habitation and government in those northerly countries of America. About which albeit he had consumed much substance, and lost his life at last, his people also perishing for the most part: yet the mystery thereof we must leave unto God, and judge charitably both of the cause, which was just in all pretence, and of the person, who was very zealous in


Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Voyage to Newfoundland - 1/8

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