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- The Voyage of Verrazzano - 5/30 -


which the king was hastening, and had not reached, on his way to the scene of war in the southern portion of his kingdom, could have come into the possession of this document in less than a month after it purports to have been written for the king in a port far in the north, on the coast of Normandy. It obviously could not have been delivered to him personally by Verrazzano, who had not been at Lyons, nor could it have been transmitted to him by the navigator, who had not yet presented himself before the king, and could have had no authority to communicate it to any person. It was an official report, addressed to the king, and intended for his eye alone, until the monarch himself chose to make it public. It related to an enterprise of the crown, and eminently concerned its interests and prerogatives, in the magnitude and importance of the new countries; and could not have been sent by Verrazzano, without permission, to a private person, and especially a foreigner, without subjecting himself to the charge of disloyalty, if not of treason, which there is no other evidence to sustain. On the other hand it could not have been delivered by the king to this Carli. It is not probable, even if such a letter could have come into the hands of Francis, absent from his capital in the midst of warlike preparations, engaged in forming his army and en route for the scene of the invasion, that he could have given it any consideration. But if he had received it and considered its import, there was no official or other relation between him and Carli, or any motive for him to send it forward in advance of his coming to Lyons, to this young and obscure alien. There was no possibility, therefore, of Carli obtaining possession of a private copy of the letter through Verrazzano or the king.

The only way open to him, under the most favorable circumstances, would have been through some publicity, by proclamation or printing, by order of the king; in which case, it would have been given for the benefit of all his subjects. It is impossible that it could have been seen and copied by this young foreigner alone and in the city of Lyons, and that no other copies would have been preserved in all France. The idea of a publication is thus forbidden.

No alternative remains except to pronounce the whole story a fabrication. The Carli letter is untrue. It did not inclose any letter of Verrazzano of the character pretended. And as it is the only authority for the existence of any such letter, that falls with it.

III.

THE LETTER UNTRUE. I. NO VOYAGE OR DISCOVERY MADE FOR THE KING OF FRANCE, AS IT STATES.

All the circumstances relating to the existence of the Verrazzano letter thus prove that it was not the production of Verrazzano at the time and place it purports to have been written by him. We pass now to the question of its authenticity, embracing the consideration of its own statements and the external evidence which exists upon the subject.

The letter professes to give the origin and results of the voyage; that is, the agency of the king of France in sending forth the expedition, and the discoveries actually accomplished by it. In both respects it is essentially untrue. It commences by declaring that Verrazzano sailed under the orders and on behalf of the king of France, for the purpose of finding new countries, and that the account then presented was a description of the discoveries made in pursuance of such instructions. That no such voyage of discoveries were made for that monarch is clearly deducible from the history of France. Neither the letter, nor any document, chronicle, memoir, or history of any kind, public or private, printed or in manuscript, belonging to that period, or the reign of Francis I, who then bore the crown, mentioning or in any manner referring to it, or to the voyage and discovery, has ever been found in France; and neither Francis himself, nor any of his successors, ever acknowledged or in any manner recognized such discovery, or asserted under it any right to the possession of the country; but, on the contrary, both he and they ignored it, in undertaking colonization in that region by virtue of other discoveries made under their authority, or with their permission, by their subjects.

I. That no evidence of the Verrazzano discovery ever existed in France, is not only necessarily presumed from the circumstance that none has ever been produced, but is inferentially established by the fact that all the French writers and historians, who have had occasion to consider the subject, have derived their information in regard to it from the Italian so-called copies of the letter, and until recently from that in Ramusio alone. No allusion to the discovery, by any of them, occurs until several years after the work of Ramusio was published, when for the first time it is mentioned in the account written by Ribault, in 1563, of his voyage to Florida and attempted colonization at Port Royal in South Carolina, in the previous year. Ribault speaks of it very briefly, in connection with the discoveries of Sebastian Cabot and others, as having no practical results, and states that he had derived his information in regard to it, from what Verrazzano had written, thus clearly referring to the letter. He adds that Verrazzano made another voyage to America afterwards, "where at last he died." As Ramusio is the only authority known for the latter statement, it is evident that Ribault must have had his work before him, and consequently his version of the letter, when he prepared this account. [Footnote: The original narrative of Ribault, in French, has never appeared in print. It was probably suppressed at the time for political reasons, as the colony was intended for the benefit of the protestants of France. It was, however, translated immediately into English and printed in 1563, under the following title: "The whole and true discoverye of Terra Florida &c never found out before the last year, 1562. Written in French by Captain Ribault &c and now newly set forthe in Englishe the XXX of May, 1563. Prynted at London, by Rowland Hall, for Thomas Hacket." This translation was reprinted by Hakluyt in his first work, Divers Voyages, in 1582; but was omitted by him in his larger collections, and the account by Laudoniere, who accompanied Ribault, of that and the two subsequent expeditions, substituted in its stead.] In the relation written by Laudoniere in 1566, but not printed until 1586, of all three of the expeditions sent out from France, for the colonization of the French protestants, mention is again made of the discoveries of Verrazzano. Laudoniere gives no authority, but speaks of them in terms which show that he made his compend from the discourse of the French captain of Dieppe, published by Ramusio in the same volume, in connection with the Verrazzano letter. He says that Verrazzano "was sent by King Francis the First and Madame the Regent, his mother, into these new countries." In thus associating the queen mother with the king in the prosecution of the enterprise Laudoniere commits the same mistake as is made in the discourse in that respect. Louise did not become regent until after the return of Verrazzano is stated to have taken place, and after both his letter and that of Carli are represented to have been written. [Footnote: The edict appointing Louise regent, was dated at Pignerol, the 17th of October, 1524, when Francis was en route for Milan. Isambert, Recueil, &c., tom. XII, part I, p. 230.] In adopting this error it is plain that Laudoniere must have taken it from the work of Ramusio, as the discourse of the French captain is found in no other place, and therefore used that work. He also speaks of the discovered country being called Francesca, as mentioned in the discourse. [Footnote: Basanier, L'Histoire notable de la Floride. (Paris, 1586), fol. l-3. Hakluyt, III, p. 305. Ramusio, III, fol. 423. (Ed. 1556.)]

The Verrazzano discovery is referred to, for the first time, in any work printed in France, in 1570, in a small folio volume called the Universal History of the World, by Francois de Belleforest, a compiler of no great authority. In describing Canada, he characterizes the natives as cannibals, and in proof of the charge repeats the story, which is found in Ramusio only, of Verrazzano having been killed, roasted and eaten by them, and then proceeds with a short account of the country and its inhabitants, derived, as he states, from what Verrazzano had written to King Francis. [Footnote: L'Histoire Universelle du Monde. Par Francois de Belleforest. (Paris 1570, fol. 253-4.)] He does not mention where he obtained this account, hut his reference to the manner in which Verrazzano came to his death, shows that he had consulted the volume of Ramusio. Five years later the same writer gave to the world an enlarged edition of his work, with the title of The Universal Cosmography of the World, in three ponderous folios, in which he recites, more at length, the contents of the Verrazzano letter, also without mentioning where he had found it, but disclosing nevertheless that it was in Ramusio, by his following the variations of that version, particularly in regard to the complexion of the natives represented to have been first seen, as they will be hereafter explained. [Footnote: La Cosmographie Universelle de tout le Monde, tom. II, part II, 2175-9. (Paris, 1575.)] This publication of Belleforest is the more important, because it is from the abstract of the Verrazzano letter contained in it, that Lescarbot, thirty-four years afterwards, took his acount of the voyage and discovery, word for word, without acknowledgment. [Footnote: Hist. de la Nouvelle France, p. 27, et seq. (ed. 1609). In a subsequent portion of his history (p. 244) Lescarbot again refers incidentally to Verrazzano in connection with Jacques Cartier, to whom he attributes a preposterous statement, acknowledging the Verrazzano discovery. He states that in 1533 Cartier made known to Chabot, then admiral of France, his willingness "to discover countries, as the Spanish had done, in the West Indies, and as, nine years before, Jean Verrazzano (had done) under the authority of King Francis I, which Verrazzano, being prevented by death, had not conducted any colony into the lands he had discovered, and had only remarked the coast from about the THIRTIETH degree of the erre-neuve, which at the present day they call Florida, as far as the FORTIETH. For the purpose of continuing his design, he offered his services, if it were the pleasure of the king, to furnish him with the necessary means. The lord admiral having approved these words, represented then to his majesty, &c." Lescarbot gives no authority for this statement, made by him seventy-five years after the voyage of Cartier. It is absurd on its face and is contratdicted by existing records of that voyage. No authority has ever confined the Verrazzano discovery within the limits here mentioned. Cartier is represented as saying to the admiral that in order to complete Verrazzano's design of carrying colonials to the country discovered by him, that is, within those limits, he would go himself, if the king would accept his services. The documents recently published from the archives of St. Malo, show that the voyage of Cartier proposed by Cartier, was for the purpose of passing through the straits of Belle Isle, in latitude 52 Degrees, far north of the northern limit of the Verrazzano discovery, according to either version of the letter, and not with a design of planting a colony, or going to any part of the Verrazzano explorations, much less to a point south of the fortieth degree. (Rame, Documents inedits sur Jacques Cartier et le Canada, p. 3, Tross, Paris, 1865.) Besides, neither in the commissions to Cartier, nor in any of the accounts of his voyages, is there the slightest allusion to Verrazzano.] The latter writer has accordingly been cited by subsequent authors as an original authority on the subject, among others by Bergeron, [Footnote: Traiete des Navigations, p. 103, par. 15.] and the


The Voyage of Verrazzano - 5/30

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