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- The Voyage of Verrazzano - 6/30 -

commissioners of the king of France, in the controversy with his Britannic majesty in relation to the limits of Acadia; [Footnote: Memoires des Commissaires du Roi, &c., I, 29.] but, as this plagiarism proves, without reason. Charlevoix, with a proper discrimination, refers directly to Ramusio as the sole source from whence the account of the discovery is derived, as do the French writers who have mentioned it since his time, except M. Margry, who, in his recent work on the subject of French voyages, quotes from the Carli version. It is thus seen that no other authority is given by the French historians than one or other of the Italian versions. [Footnote: Andre Thevet, who published a work with the title of Cosmographie Universelle, in two volumes, large folio, in rivalry apparently with Belleforest, and in the same year, 1575, is referred to sometimes as an authority on this subject. Speaking of the cruel disposition of the people of Canada, he mentions in illustration of it, the fate at their hands of some colonists whom Verrazzano took to that country. The fact is thus related by him in connection with this voyage, for which he gives no authority or indication of any. "Jean Verazze, a Florentine, left Dieppe, the SEVENTEENTH OF MARCH, one thousand five hundred and twenty-four, by command of King Francis, and coasted the whole of Florida, as far as the thirty- fourth degree of latitude, and the three hundredth of longitude, and explored all this coast, and PLACED HERE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE TO CULTIVATE IT, who in the end were all killed and massacred by this barbarous people" (fol. 1002 B.). This statement seems to justify what the President De Thou, the contemporary of Thevet, says of him, that he composed his books by putting "the uncertain for the certain, and the false for the true, with an astonishing assurance." (Hist. Univ., tom. II,651, Loud., 1734.) Thevet had published before this, in 1557, another book, called Les Singularites de la France Antarctique, autrement nommee Amerique, in which he describes all the countries of America as far north as Labrador, and says that he ran up the coast to that region on his way home from Brazil, where he went in 1555, with Villegagnon. In this earlier work he makes no mention of Verrazzano; but does say that Jacques Cartier told him that he (Cartier) had made the voyage to America twice (fol. 148-9). It is thus evident that Thevet had not heard of Verrazzano in 1557, or he would necessarily have mentioned him, as he had the subject distinctly before him; and if he is to be believed in regard to his intimacy with Cartier, with whom he says he spent five months at his house in St. Malo (Cos. Univ., fol. 1014, B.), and from whom he received much information, it is quite as clear that Cartier knew nothing of the Verrazzano discovery, or he would have mentioned it to Thevet.] It must, therefore, as regarded as confessed by them, that no original authority for the discovery has never existed in France.

If any voyage had taken place, such as this is alleged to have been, it is morally impossible, in the state of learning and art at that time in France, and with the interest which must necessarily have attached to the discovery, that no notice should have been taken of it in any of the chronicles or histories of the country, and that the memory of it should not have been preserved in some of the productions of its press. According to the letter itself, it was one of the grandest achievements in the annals of discovery, and promised the most important results to France. It was an enterprise of her king, which had been successfully accomplished. There had been discovered a heathen land, nearly three thousand miles in extent, before unknown to the civilized world, and, therefore, open to subjugation and settlement; healthy, populous, fertile and apparently rich in gold and aromatics, and, therefore, an acquisition as great and valuable as any discovery made by the Spaniards or Portuguese, except that of Columbus. Silence and indifference in regard to such an event were impossible. Printing introduced long previously into the principal cities in France, had early in this reign reached its highest state of perfection, as the works issued from the presses of Henri Estienne and others attest. In 1521 twenty-four persons practiced the art in Paris alone. [Footnote: Didot in Harrisse Bib. Am. Vet., 189.] The discoveries in the new world by other nations excited as much attention in France as they did in the other countries of Europe. The letters of Columbus and Vespucci, describing their voyages and the countries they had found, were no sooner published abroad than they were translated into French and printed in Paris. From 1515 to 1529 several editions of the Italian collection of voyages, known as the Paesi novamente ritrovati, containing accounts of the discoveries of Columbus, Cortereal, Cabral and Vespucci in America, and in 1532 the Decades of Peter Martyr, were translated and published in Paris, in the French language. Cartier's account of his voyage in 1535-6, undertaken by order of Francis, in which he discovered Canada, was printed in the same city in 1545, during the reign of that monarch. These publications abundantly prove the interest which was taken in France in the discoveries in the new world, and the disposition and efforts of the printers in the country at that time to supply the people with information on the subject; and also, that the policy of the crown allowed publicity to be given to its own maritime enterprises. Of the enlightened interest on the part of the crown in the new discoveries, a memorable instance is recorded, having a direct and important bearing upon this question. A few months only after the alleged return of Verrazzano, and at the darkest hour in the reign of Francis, when he was a captive of the emperor in Spain, Pigafetta, who had accompanied the expedition of Magellan and kept a journal of the voyage, presented himself at the court of France. Louise was then exercising the powers and prerogatives of her son, and guarding his interests and honor with maternal zeal. Pigafetta came to offer her a copy of the manuscript which he had prepared, and which told of the discovery of the newly discovered route to the Moluccas and Cathay. It was written in Italian; and the queen mother caused it to be translated into French by Antoine Fabre, and printed by Simon de Colines, the successor of Estienne. The book bears no date, but bibliographers assign it that of 1525, the year of the regency. Certain it is, it was printed in Paris during the life of Francis, as Colines, whose imprint it bears, died before the king. Thus by the instrumentality of the crown of France was the account of the discovery of Magellan, written by one who belonged to the expedition, first given to the world. It is not probable that the queen mother, exercising the regal power immediately after the alleged return of Verrazzano, would have left entirely unnoticed and unpublished an account of his discovery, so interesting to the subjects of the king and so glorious to France, and yet have caused to be put forth within his realm in its stead, the history of a like enterprise, redounding to the glory of the great rival and enemy of her son. [Footnote: The little book of Pigafetta, a copy of which, by the kindness of Mrs. John Carter Brown, of Providence, is now in our hands, bears the title of Le voyage et navigation faict par les Espaignols es Isles de Molucques, &c. It is fully described by M. Harrisse in his Bib. Vet. Am. The concluding paragraph contains the statement that this manuscript was presented to the queen regent. Ramusio (vol. I, 346), mentions the fact that it was given by her to Fabre to be translated. The particulars are detailed by Amoretti Primo Viaggio, Introd. XXXVII. Premier Voyage, XLIV.]

II. Conclusive as the silence of the history of France is against the assertion that the Verrazzano voyage and discovery were made by direction of her king, the life of Francis is a complete denial of it. He was released from his captivity early in 1526, and lived and reigned over France for more than twenty years afterwards, active in promoting the greatness of his kingdom; encouraging science and art among his people, and winning the title of father of letters; awake to whatever concerned his royal rights and prerogatives, and maintaining them with might and vigor abroad as well as at home; and willing and able to obtain and occupy new countries inhabited by the heathen. That he was not insensible to the advantages to his crown and realm of colonies in America, and not without the ability and disposition to prosecute discoveries there for the purpose of settlement, is proven by his actually sending out the expeditions of Jacques Cartier in 1534 and 1535 and Cartier and Roberval in 1541-2, for the purpose of exploring and developing the region beyond the gulf of St. Lawrence, through the icy way of the straits of Belle Isle, in latitude 52 Degrees N.

Yet he never recognized by word or deed the voyage or discovery of Verrazzano. If any one in France could have known of them, surely it would have been he who had sent forth the expedition. If Verrazzano were dead, when Francis returned to his kingdom, and the letter had miscarried and never come to his hands, the knowledge of the discovery still would have existed in the bosom of fifty living witnesses, who composed the crew, according to the story; and through them the results of the voyage would have been communicated to the king. But Verrazzano was not dead, at that time, but was alive, as will appear hereafter, in 1527. There is good reason to believe that he was well known then to the royal advisers. One of the first acts of the king after his return from Spain was to create Phillipe Chabot, Sieur de Brion, the admiral of France, whereby that nobleman became invested on the 23d of March, 1526, with the charge of the royal marine. [Footnote: Pere Anselme, IV, 57l.] A document has recently been brought to light from among the manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, purporting to be an agreement made by Chabot in his official capacity, with Jean Ango, of Dieppe, and other persons, including Jehan de Varesam, for a voyage to the Indies with two vessels belonging to the king, and one to Ango, to be conducted by Varesam, as master pilot, for the purpose ostensibly of bringing bask a cargo of spices. [Footnote: M. Margry. Navigations Francaises, p. 194. See Appendix.] This instrument has no date, but on its face belongs to Chabot's administration of the admiralty, and must, therefore, have been drawn up in the year 1526 or that of Verrazzano's death, in 1527. If it be genuine, it proves not only that Verrazzano was alive in that period, but was known to the admiral, and, consequently, that any services which he had previously rendered must have been in the possession of the crown. In either case, however, whether Verrazzano were dead or alive when Francis resumed his royal functions, there is no reason why the discovery, if it had ever taken place, should not have been known by him.

In sending forth the expeditions of Jacques Cartier and the joint expeditions of Cartier and Roberval, Francis not only showed his interest in the discovery of new countries, but he acted in perfect ignorance of the Verrazzano discovery. If it were known to him, upon what rational theory would he have attempted new voyages of discovery in a cold and inhospitable region, on an uncertain search, instead of developing what had been found for him? What could he have expected to have accomplished by the new expeditions that had not been already fully effected by Verrazzano? And, especially after the way to Canada was found out by Cartier, what was there more inviting in that unproductive quarter than was promised in the temperate climate, fertile soil, and mineral lands, which the Florentine had already discovered in his name, that he should have sent Cartier and Roberval to settle and conquer the newer land? [Footnote: The letters issued to Roberval have been recently published, for the first time, by M. Harrisse, from the archives of France, in his Notes pour servir a l'histoire de la Nouvelle France, p. 244, et seq. (Paris, 1872.) They are dated the 16th of February 1540. Cartier's commission for the same service is dated in October, 1540. Charlevoix, misled probably by the letters granted by Henry IV to the Marquis de la Roche in 1598, in which the letters to Roberval are partially recited, asserts that Roberval is styled in them lord of Norumbega. The letters now published show that he was in error; and that France limited the authority of Roberval to the countries west of the gulf of St. Lawrence (Canada and Ochelaga), so far as

The Voyage of Verrazzano - 6/30

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